Thursday, February 11, 2016

Letters to Spectraland

Brian Tashima
Prism Valley Press
P.O. Box 87454
Vancouver, WA 98687

February 11, 2016

Joel Suzuki and Felicity Smith
c/o Fireflower
Wavemaker Temple, Spectraland

Dear Joel and Felicity,

I hope the two of you are doing well. Right now over here it is Thursday, February 11, 2016, but I know that with all of the time warp stuff you guys are involved in it's hard to keep track sometimes.

Things back home are good. We got some more recent press coverage, both on TV and in the newspaper, and last Friday I announced that I'll be the special guest author at this year's Readcon at Shahala Middle School. I'll tell you more about Readcon later.

Haven't heard from either of you recently, so I'll assume that you're both really busy. I'm sure that you're having lots of fun practicing your wavebows, making up new lifepod-based recipes, and not getting into any kind of trouble whatsoever.

Felicity - when you get back, let's liveblog some more TV shows. I'm sad that Gravity Falls is ending, but I've gotten into a couple of new things, like Supergirl on CBS (which is fine for kids) and The Magicians on SyFy (which is not).

And Joel, when you get back, we should continue our Most Annoying Zelda Mini-Games series. I think we left off almost a year ago(!) at #6, the STAR game from Twilight Princess. Still not sure when the new Zelda game is coming out, but we might as well just forge ahead in the meantime (the good news is that the live-action series is apparently still on track).

Anyway, just wanted to drop you guys a line. Please say hello to Fireflower for me.

Best (because I know you both get squeamish when I say "Love"),


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Spectraland In The News

The Spectraland Saga continues to make headlines!
This week, Jenica Villamor from KPTV was gracious enough to do an awesome story on us for Good Day Oregon. Check it out at this link!

Also, Michael Tsai from my hometown newspaper, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, wrote a very cool column on us that you can check out here. It's behind a paywall, but existing print subscribers can read it for free, or you can buy a 14-day pass for just $1.99 - cheaper than your morning coffee! (the good kind, anyway)

Since we're on the topic - in case you missed it, here's a roundup of all the other recent news coverage that Joel and company have been receiving:

 - A story that was featured on KATU news last November (here's the print version on their website, does anyone just happen to have a video clip?)

- An article in The Oregonian that now has over 2400 social media shares

- An article in The Mighty, a website focusing on stories about disabilities that has over 80 million readers

A special thanks goes out to Lisa Cohn of Arts Seen and Heard PR, who has done a fantastic job of helping me spread the good word about my little book series and what we're trying to accomplish with regards to the autism community. I would highly recommend her to any indie artists out there who need assistance with their promotion and publicity efforts. Also, be sure to check out Bash and Lucy, the children's book series written by her and her son Michael!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Launch Party Recap And Book Three Status Update

This blog post is brought to you by the number three. Why? Because today, I'll be recapping Launch Party number three, which featured three bands (each with three members) as well as three local authors. Also, I'll be giving you the third status update on Book Three.
Launch Party #3 was, in a word, awesome. Authors April Bullard and Shawna Reppert were there with their books (Roslyn McFarland had a last-minute situation and had to cancel - we missed ya, Ros), Nate and the staff at Shanahan's were super-cool as usual, and there was already a nice crowd assembled by the time I rolled in. Some of my friends even flew in all the way from Los Angeles and Hawaii to attend!
Toxic Kid hit the stage first and rocked the place with their old-school punk rock sound. Second Player Score was up, well, second, and I had a great time jumping around and screaming things into the microphone. Then afterwards, Stab In The Dark were so rockin' that they incited a mosh pit (check it out on our Facebook page - just scroll down a bit)! It was a very smart pit, by the way - whenever someone fell down, everyone stopped and helped them up. Good to see.
John and Karen from Autism Empowerment were also there, and I'm happy to report that I'll be able to make another donation after selling a bunch of books at the party. I'll bring the check over this weekend, John and Karen!

Since we're on the subject of books, I can now smoothly segue into the Book Three status update! Uh huh, that's right, you see what I did there.

At the time of last month's update, I was at 22,000 words. Now I'm at...(drum roll)...33,000 words! Woo! Right on track. This whole no-stopping-to-revise-or-rethink plan is really working wonders so far. Of course, I'm sure there's tons of garbage within those 33,000 words that will get cut or rewritten later, but again, as I learned during the Book Two process, that kind of thing will happen anyway, so there's no sense in slowing myself down during the initial drafting process.

And hey, how about that - the latest word count makes for another "3" reference! 'Cause, you know, 33,000 words...thirty-three thousand is a multiple of three...all right, I'll stop now.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

It's Your Last Chance To Party far as celebrating the release of Book Two is concerned, anyway (there will be many more parties to come in the future, trust me).
In case you haven't heard, the third and final launch party for Mystery of the Moonfire is this coming Saturday, January 23rd, at Shanahan's Pub in lovely downtown Vancouver. In addition to yours truly, we'll have three other local authors in attendance as well: Roslyn McFarland, April Bullard, and Shawna Reppert. And there will be three rockin' bands for your aural pleasure: Toxic Kid, Stab In The Dark, and Second Player Score.

Festivities start at 8pm and will last until 1am or so, or whenever they kick us out. There's no cover charge, but tons of merch will be available for purchase, and as always, a portion of the profits from my book sales will be donated to Autism Empowerment.  It's 21 and over, so make it a date night and leave the kids at home (with their own copies of Book Two to keep them occupied). Beer, books, bands...what more could you ask for?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Things That Are Happening

As the Supreme Dalek is fond of asking, "what is happening?"
Well, the answer is: plenty!

Something that already happened was that this past Sunday, I was a guest at Autism Empowerment's Autism Serves Kids Care Club, where the subject of the month was literacy. I spoke a little bit about the writing and publishing process, and even read a passage from Book One using my (in)famous pseudo-English accent for Marshall's parts. I had a great time! Much mahalos go out to Karen and John for inviting me, and to everyone who was there for being such an awesome audience.
That's me in the corner
Speaking of Book One - this coming Saturday, it will be one of the featured titles on Ripley's Booklist, a subscription list that highlights Young Adult and New Adult fiction e-books that are both good (as Ripley herself says, she's very selective) and cheap (under $5). Book One's regular e-book price is $4.99, but right now it qualifies even more for Ripley's list as - in case you haven't already heard - it's on sale for just 99 cents. So get your copy today!
Speaking of this coming Saturday - I'll be at Autism Empowerment's Tween and Teen Social Club again! It was a lot of fun the last time, with pizza, books, and video games, and I'm looking forward to another great night. It's a closed group, but if you're interested in joining, you can find more information about how to do so here.
Speaking of video games - my band Second Player Score (a video game reference, in case you didn't know) has just released our latest single, "Demon's Kiss." Check it out here!

Speaking of Second Player Score - we'll be playing a couple of shows this month: Saturday, January 30th at the Hawthorne Theatre lounge, and Saturday, January 23rd at Shanahan's Pub. The latter just so happens to be the third and final launch party for Book Two!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Spectraland Saga: Origin Story, Part Four

Missed the previous chapters? Well, here they are:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Picking up where we left off: in December of 2010, I sat down and started writing what would eventually become Secret of the Songshell, Book One of the Spectraland Saga. Ah, I can almost remember it like it was yesterday.
Oddly enough, I have no records of that initial draft. However, I do remember that the book originally started out in the same place, with Joel in the hall of his high school. Only, instead of psyching himself up to talk to Suzi, he had a little run-in with one of the school's football players. Nothing significant, mind you - they basically just bumped into each other because Joel was focused on something else while the football player was, well, he wasn't really looking where he was going - and the resulting first line of the book was:

"Hey, watch it."

And then it quickly moved on to where the story actually now begins. It was a pretty unnecessary moment - not even long enough to be considered a "scene" - so I'm glad I cut it out. So glad, apparently, that I have no saved versions of that particular draft. As a result, I don't really remember exactly what transpired between Joel and Mr. Touchdown.

But I'm going to backtrack for a moment here, because I want to talk about how the whole process of creating the Spectraland Saga in the first place seemed sort of like a real-life hero's journey. I touched on this subject briefly in a previous post, but I don't think I really ever delved into it that deeply. So, here we go!

In case you aren't familiar with the hero's journey, it's basically a narrative structure that involves the main character leaving his or her ordinary world, embarking on a grand adventure, and then returning after winning an epic victory. You can and should read more about it here. It's been the template for many, many stories ranging from The Odyssey to Star Wars (btw, I saw The Force Awakens for a fourth time last week, this time in IMAX 3-D. Still so good!)

Okay, so if you read more about the hero's journey like I just suggested, then you know that the first step is - say it with me, class - the Call to Adventure, in which "the hero begins in a situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown." In my case, this Call to Adventure was the fateful moment when my son came up to me in the upstairs hallway of our house and said, "Hey, Dad - can you write me a book?"

The funny thing is, I really was in a situation of normality at that point. If you've been following this blog for a while and you have some kind of amazing photographic memory (like Joel Suzuki?), then you'll remember that there was a time when I felt like I was at the end of my creative rope. I was ready to give up playing in bands, not only because I was pretty burnt out on that whole scene at that point, but also because I wanted to just stay at home and spend more time with my kids. But as someone with a desire to make stuff up (sometimes we call these people "artists"), I knew I couldn't sit still for long. Fortunately, writing a novel was something that I had always wanted to do, and now I would have the perfect reason and inspiration to do it.

To be continued!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Okay, I Really Need To Talk About Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I may have had another topic planned for this post, but since I've seen The Force Awakens three times now, it's practically all I can think about. Does that mean I'm in love with it, like when Dipper laid awake all night thinking about Wendy? Read on!
Obviously, henceforth there will be spoilers. So if you haven't seen the film yet (whaaat), go see it and come back. We'll wait for you.

Okay, so this isn't going to be so much a review as it will be just a random bullet-point collection of my thoughts and reactions to the film. If you want a review, you can probably find maybe one or two floating around on the Internet if you look hard enough. So here we go!

- As I said, I've seen it three times now, and it just gets better each time. I think knowing more about the story before you see it actually helps, because you're not spending brain-processing time in the theater wondering "wait, how is the Resistance related to the Republic again?" and stuff like that. If you're more familiar with the background info, you can just focus on the story.

- The first time I watched it, the similarities to A New Hope actually did start to bug me a little, especially when the Resistance officers were all gathered around the hologram, planning out their attack on Starkiller Base. I was like, seriously? Haven't I seen this before? But the second and third times, it didn't really bug me at all, for some reason.

- Also, the stupidity and/or incompetence of the First Order (haven't you people learned anything from the Death Stars?) didn't bother me as much either upon repeated viewings. In fact, it actually seemed kind of winky-cute in a way, like, of course there's a walkway over a bottomless pit with no handrails!

- The 3-D adds nothing worthwhile, except for one shot where the Finalizer (the First Order's main Star Destroyer) looks like it's sticking out of the screen. At that moment I thought, if there are several more shots like this one, then okay, the 3-D will have been worth the extra money. There weren't.

- Okay, yeah, there are plot holes. But you know what? Who cares! I mean, I'm just as guilty as anyone else for nitpicking, but that's the fun of it. Like the saying goes, never let the truth - or logic - get in the way of a good story.

- Favorite moment, out of many favorites: when the lightsaber goes to Rey instead of Kylo Ren. Totally epic.

- I still couldn't tell when or where Yoda is talking during Rey's flashback scene, even though on my third viewing I was actively listening for it.

- The third time I saw the movie, I went with my son. He had only just watched the original trilogy the week before (his favorite of the three was Return of the Jedi), so I was interested in getting his perspective after we came out of the theater. He said that this one was now his favorite. Also, that it was darker than the original ones (an assessment I agreed with), and that he wasn't surprised that Kylo Ren killed Han Solo (in fact, he said that it would have been "lame" if he didn't). After we got home I half-jokingly said "we should go see it again!" and he responded with "okay, when?" Yessss

- "We'll just use the Force!" "That's not how the Force works!" Hilarious.

- I've heard mixed reviews about Adam Driver's performance. Personally, I thought he was fine. It probably helps that I've never watched the HBO series Girls before. The rest of the main cast (especially Daisy Ridley) was awesome.

- After I saw it the first time, I watched Looper, the sci-fi movie written and directed by Episode XIII writer/director Rian Johnson, and I am happy to report that we are in good hands. Looper was excellent, and little Cid is exactly what Anakin Skywalker should have been (50% kind, 50% creepy, 100% angry and impulsive). Johnson even has the JJ Abrams lens flares down pat!

- He does have at least one challenge, though: how to keep the first forty-five minutes of Episode XIII from being basically people yelling at Luke: "Why didn't you come back?!?" "The First Order is destroying the galaxy and you're off feeling sorry for yourself on some remote island!?!" "Why did you wipe my memory and leave me stranded on Jakku?!?" (the last one is assuming that Rey is, in fact, Luke's daughter)

Those are just a few of the thoughts that have been filling my mind, replacing non-essential things like remembering when to eat, shower, and tend to my kids and pets. The funny thing is, when I read through this list again it almost sounds like I'm criticizing the movie, but honestly, I'm not. It's not perfect, but it is supremely entertaining, and isn't that what a movie like this should be? So I guess I can honestly say that yes, I love The Force Awakens, and I can't wait for May 2017 (Episode XIII's release date) to roll around so I can hear what Luke has to say for himself. In the meantime, Happy New Year everyone!