Thursday, February 26, 2015

Video Game Update

So while my daughter and I wait patiently for the new Xenoblade and Zelda games - c'mon, Nintendo, announce the release dates already! (okay, I admit, not so patiently) - we've had to fill the gap with alternatives. Fortunately, there are still a few good ones out there.
One of those is Golden Sun, a JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) that was originally released in 2001 for the Game Boy. It was re-released for the Wii U Virtual Console last year, and, after hunting through the eShop, we stumbled upon it in a manner similar to when we found the brilliant and quirky Earthbound. Unlike Earthbound, Golden Sun is pretty standard RPG fare, with swords and magic and so on, but it has a decent storyline, great music, and surprisingly good graphics given its handheld origins. I'm nowhere near done with it yet, but so far, it's been fun, and I'd definitely recommend it.
Have I talked about Child of Light yet? We actually discovered this one on the eShop last December. I was skeptical at first, mainly because I don't really like 2-D side scrollers, but shortly after I started playing it, I was hooked. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and the game itself has a wistful, bittersweet vibe that sets it apart from a lot of other similar titles. The storyline was thoughtful and terrific, and the timing-based combat system was very cool once I got used to it. My only gripe with this game is that it was too short, even with all of the side quests. Highly recommended.
And then, of course, there's the new Kirby title, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. I have to admit - Kirby games, despite their cuteness, are actually quite challenging (to me, anyway), and I find myself yelling and freaking out when I play them more often than with most other games. I've just started on this one, and it's been no different - it took me ten tries to beat Hooplagoon, the boss of the second stage. Aside from that, two things about this game bug me: (1) I'm not sure why it's a Wii U title, rather than a DS one. Because of the stylus-based gameplay, you're so focused on the gamepad screen that the TV display is basically useless. It does allow my daughter to watch - and laugh at - my struggles, though, so I suppose that's a plus. (2) Also because of the stylus-based gameplay, I find that my hand often blocks out important details that I need to be seeing, like upcoming hazards and such. It's not a huge issue, and perhaps it's more user error than anything else (I'm sure more experienced players know a way around this), but it is annoying, nonetheless.

Anyway, that's the latest. I'm pretty sure Golden Sun and Kirby will keep us busy for at least a little while longer, but seriouslyhurryupNintendowereallyreallyneedthosenewXenobladeandZeldagames!!1!11!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm Excited About Book Two. Let's Party

So, I've read the draft of Book Two several more times now, making some minor edits along the way. And what do you know, I still love it. Every time I finish it, I feel a strong sense of "Yeahhh. Now that's the stuff."
It's in the hands of my beta readers now, and after they're done, I'll make some more tweaks based on their feedback, and then I'll send it off to my editor. In the meantime, I've also been working on a mock-up for the front cover, as well the back cover copy. It's looking like I'll be able to launch this thing into the world by the fall of this year, if not sooner.*

What's it going to be called, you ask? Well, if you recall, I announced the title a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - or, more specifically, on March 9, 2013 in this guest blog I wrote for Autism Empowerment. I see that the link is down right now, so here's an excerpt:

"I'm currently hard at work on the second book in the series, which will be titled Mystery of the Moonfire. For those of you who are familiar with the first book, in this next installment Joel and Felicity return to Spectraland to help Fireflower find the source of a strange force that is nullifying the Wavemakers' ability to control the Aura. Or, at least, that's what I think they're doing."

As it turns out, that's sort of what they're doing, as well as a lot more. But regardless, the title is still the same. It actually changed once during the re-writing process, but in the end, it came back to that, which is what I think it should have been all along.

Anyway, when it does come out, there will definitely be a proper launch party (or two, or three - I like parties) that you will all be invited to, so be sure to keep watching this blog for updates and announcements. In the meantime, though, I'm so jazzed that I'd like to do a kind of "First-Draft-Finished Party," which I've decided will take place at the Portland Spring Home & Garden Show this coming weekend, starting TONIGHT (hey, Thursday is close enough to the weekend).

So, here's the deal. I'll be at the show tonight (at the booth for the awesome Northwest Independent Writers Association in the back corner of Hall D) from 6-8pm, tomorrow night from 6-8pm, and Saturday morning from 10am-12pm. Come on down, bring your copy of Book One for me to autograph (if you don't have one - gasp - you can buy one at the show for just ten bucks), and, if you're one of the first five people to tell me "I can't wait for Mystery of the Moonfire!" I will give you a secret code that you can redeem for a FREE COPY of the audiobook version of Book One, narrated by the great Jonathan Murphy! Then afterwards, hang out, meet and talk to some other very cool local authors, and we'll all have a rockin' good time. You know you want to. See you there!

* But...probably in the fall. I'm a perfectionist

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gig In Review: Shanahan's 2/7/15

I got down to Shanahan's at around 8ish for load-in. The parking lot was packed, so I found a space on the street nearby. A light rain was falling, which, for some bizarre reason, made me think about the woodsprites from Avatar. Not really sure why. Anyway, it was nothing that I haven't hauled gear through before, but since we were scheduled to be the last band up, I figured I'd go hang out for a while and unload later.
I walked through the front entrance and ran into Kyle, our drummer, as well as the guys from Laurelhurst and Nate, Shanahan's booker. After we discussed logistics for a couple of minutes, I started to head for the stage area. As I was doing so, someone called out "hey" from one of the nearby booths. It was Dan, our bassist, and his girlfriend Molly. I joined them at their table, where we hung out for a while and watched the Blazers blow an nine-point fourth quarter lead with two minutes left (ugh) against the Dallas Mavericks.

The guys from Stab In The Dark arrived soon afterwards. We chatted with them for a while, and then it was approaching showtime. I went to go fetch my gear. While I was doing so, Dan called me and said that one space had opened up in the main lot. Sweet! So I moved my car and unloaded from there. Then, we relocated the party back into the stage area and got ready for Laurelhurst to go on.

I just want to say: I enjoy playing shows with these two bands because: (1) they're cool guys and (2) they rock. They're bands that I would go see even if my own band wasn't on the bill, so the fact that we were is just a nice bonus. Seriously, you should check them out whenever you get the chance.

Anyway, Laurelhurst played a killer set, and they were followed by Stab (we call them Stab for short). At one point, I think I went up in front of the stage and did a half-dance/half-mosh kind of thing - I believe there may be video evidence of such an action floating around on Facebook or something, but I'm not sure.

Then, we (Second Player Score) were up. We blazed through a thirteen-song set that included all ten tracks off of Fortress Storm Attack, two new songs that will be on our second album (titled "Deep" and "Comets"), and our usual punked-up version of the Corey Hart classic "Sunglasses At Night."
After we were done breaking down, we all hung out for a while before it was time to call it a night. I had a lot of fun and, as always, am looking forward to the next time we play at Shanahan's. Much mahalos go out to Nate, Laurelhurst, Stab, and everyone who came out. So anyway, this is Jake Sully signing off - uh, I mean, hope to see you all at the next show!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Venting Post

Confession: I'm a big Seattle Seahawks fan. Have been for a while now, ever since I moved from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest.
Now, I know that getting emotionally invested in spectator sports is silly, especially when life is filled with so many other concerns of actual consequence, but it's also a fun distraction, and that, to me, is the main point of it all. The risk of that emotional investment, however, is that things like what happened on Sunday will sometimes happen.

I wasn't really that upset with the results of Super Bowl XL back in 2006, because - refs or not - it was pretty apparent throughout the entire game that it just wasn't the Seahawks' day. I wasn't even going to be too distressed if the team had lost the NFC Championship game to Green Bay last month, because they got thoroughly outplayed for the first 55 minutes of the game.

What happened on Sunday, though, was downright brutal.

It wasn't just the last-minute nature of the loss that made it so devastating - it was that we, as fans of the team, had come to expect miraculous, deus-ex-machina-like victories, especially after what happened at the aforementioned NFC Championship. With all the positive messages about belief and visualization that the team's coach and quarterback always preach, it almost seemed like the Seahawks had become some kind of legendary superhero who, with the powers of magic and destiny on his side, always managed to save the day, against all odds (no offense, Packers fans.)

So on Sunday, everything appeared as if it were following a familiar script. Seattle fell behind late in the fourth quarter, and now they were driving for the winning score. They even had a how-the-heck-did-he-catch-that moment that set the scene perfectly for the inevitable victory. Everyone knew what was coming next: the happy (at least for 'Hawks fans) ending that stories like this always have.

But then, it didn't. The other team made a good play*, and it was over. Just like that. If you're not a Seahawks fan, I'll tell you how it felt: imagine you're watching Episode IV of Star Wars and, instead of seeing Luke's proton torpedoes entering the exhaust port of the Death Star, you see them just impact on the surface. Then, a moment later, Luke gets shot down by some random TIE Fighter that swerved back around...and the movie abruptly ends. Roll credits. Yeah, now you know what I mean.
Dangit, I knew I should've handed it off to Marshawn
Anyway, congratulations, New England. Good job. And that's my rant about Super Bowl XLIX. Thanks for listening.

* For football nerds: I don't have a problem with Carroll or Bevell or whoever it was calling a pass play on second down at the one yard line. There are a number of articles - I'm not going to link to them all, you can look them up - that say that statistically, it was the correct decision to make. I do think, however, that they should at least have done a play-action fake (I was even yelling "play-action!" at the TV), and maybe given Russell the option to throw or run it in. But, of course, I'm an author and a musician, not a football expert, so what do I know? That's hindsight for ya.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Book Two Status Update: The Journey's End Draws Near

Sometimes, writing a novel is like an epic adventure that mirrors the one your characters are experiencing. You start off at the beginning, all fresh and wide-eyed.
Then, you head out on the journey and encounter all sorts of obstacles and challenges along the way.
Eventually, you may even arrive at a point of false victory where you think you've reached your goal, but in reality, you've got a long, long way to go.
But then, after enough perseverance, you finally get to where you can see the dragon's lair a short distance away, and you know that this is it - the end game is near.
That's where I'm at with Book Two. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I feel confident that it can be launched this year, and I'm sticking to that story. Why, you ask? Because unlike the previous time that I finished a first draft, I've read this particular version over again a couple of times now and I absolutely love it, even in its raw state. As you can see from this post, I wasn't too thrilled about the previous version, and the rewriting grinder couldn't save it, no matter how hard I tried.

But now, after a few more minor tweaks, I'll be able to send this draft off to my editor and beta readers. So, needless to say, I'm pretty excited. Stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Public Service Announcement

We now interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a public service announcement about some really cool things that are going on.

Hey there! It's me, Brian, along with everyone from The Spectraland Saga. First off, we wanted to let you know that our friends at Geek Club Books just released the first edition of The A List, an autism resource guide in e-book format, and we're happy and honored to say that Book One is included in it!
The A List also features other autism-related books and blogs, podcasts, apps, products and services, organizations (including Autism Empowerment - woo), and lots of other awesome stuff. To get your free copy of the guide, all you have to do is go to this link and sign up for their mailing list. Do it now! We'll be waiting here for you...

All done? Great!

So, the next thing you should be checking out is this trailer put together by our friend Ashley Bennett (an early supporter and fan of Book One who happens to be on the spectrum) and his mates in the U.K. for their upcoming movie, Gateway To The Past - Part 1. It looks like a lot of fun!

Now, get your calendars ready, 'cause we'll be telling you about a couple of cool events that are coming up next month:

Saturday, February 7th
Punk Rock Review featuring Second Player Score, Laurelhurst, and Stab In The Dark
Shanahan's Pub & Grill
209 W McLoughlin Blvd, Vancouver WA
9pm No Cover 21+
If you were at SPS's CD release party last November, you saw Laurelhurst and Stab In The Dark, and you know that they totally rock. So don't miss this!

Thursday, February 19th through Sunday, February 22nd
Portland Home & Garden Show
Portland Expo Center
Featuring authors from the Northwest Independent Writers Association, including yours truly
Yes, it's that time again! Come on down and check out works from some awesome local independent authors while you browse the displays that tell you spring is almost here. Seriously, it really is. I will be there to sign copies of Book One (and maybe even spill some secrets about Book Two) on Thursday from 6-8pm, Friday from 6-8pm, and Saturday from 10am-12pm.

So anyway, thanks for listening, and hope to see you soon! We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Liveblogging With Felicity: Gravity Falls

I was going to wait a little while longer before we did another one of these, but I've recently gotten heavily into a show called Gravity Falls on Disney XD (thanks, Star Wars Rebels, for the lead-ins). If you haven't seen it yet, it's an animated series about twin twelve-year olds Dipper and Mabel Pines, who spend their summer at a fictional Oregon (Pacific Northwest, woo) town called Gravity Falls. It's a children's show, but the writing is funny and sharp and there's a lot of subtle adult humor sown in. So, I asked Felicity (co-star of The Spectraland Saga) to do a liveblog of an episode with me.
F: So u finally discovered this show huh
B: Wait, you've seen it already?
F: Ya
B: Why didn't you tell me about it
F: U never asked
B: Touche. Well here we go
B: We'll watch "Carpet Diem"
F: Fine w/me
B: Lol "Calling All Boys Pre-Teen Edition"
B: I bet you had that
F: Shut up
F: I bet you were a nerd like Dipper
B: I still am
F: U said it not me
B: I love this theme song
F: My band can play it
B: Seriously?
F: No
B: You need a fun stick
F: I've had it with the fun stick
B: Good one!
F: Whatever
B: Fight fight fight! I say that when Boots and Mittens are play fighting
F: Where are they anyway
B: Sleeping
F: Of course
B: "Trying too hard - minus 15 suck up points" hilarious
F: U must have like negative one million suck up points
B: oh yeah, well u have negative infinity
F: Ur a suck up ninja
B: no u r
F: I think watching all these shows has turned u into a kid for real
B: Fine with me
B: This is the best freak out scene ever
B: We need a carpet like that so you and Joel can switch bodies
F: No way man. I like being able to swim
B: Swimming is overrated
F: Says the guy that can't swim either
B: "Wolfman Bare Chest" - i bet you read stuff like that
F: "Why am i sweaty" - that's your favorite book
B: Maybe it is
F: Creepy
B: Lol "That's what they all say"
F: Goodbye childhood
B: Ha
F: Shut up old man
B: Ur on fire today
F: Whatever
B: I bet you told off the Calling All Boys phone like that
F: Maybe I did
B: Creepy
F: Look that's how u get a raise
B: I should try that
F: U should
B: But I need that carpet so i can switch bodies with a pig
F: That would be an improvement
B: Walked right into that one, I did
F: See, even women would like you more
B: Ok I think we're done here
F: I win the liveblog!!