Thursday, July 21, 2016

Book Three And Album Two Status Update

I know it's only been three weeks since the last status update, but I have exciting news to share: both Book Three and Album Two are done! At least, the heavy lifting parts are.
The second draft of Book Three clocked in at a robust 81,110 words, or roughly about 325 pages. I got all the way through the story outline and am really happy with the results. Now I'll be spending the rest of July polishing it up, and then it's off to my editor come August 1st. There will be, of course, more rounds of rewriting, but at least the initial full draft is complete. And ahead of schedule to boot! Super stoked.

I actually finished the draft last Friday, and then I took the weekend off before hitting the recording studio on Monday and Tuesday to track the last three songs for Second Player Score's upcoming sophomore album, Nobody's Hero. Our engineer will now be hard at work mixing and mastering them, and the cover art is well underway, so we are right on target for a fall release. Feels good to have those done, because we already have some new songs written for the third album that we want to really start diving into.

So that's the latest! Oh, and now would probably be a good time for me to announce some upcoming events that you can catch me at:

Sunday, July 31st, 11am-3pm
Autism Empowerment 2nd Annual Summer Potluck Picnic and Canned Food Drive
Salmon Creek Park/Klineline Pond
1112 NE 17th St
Vancouver, WA 98685
Free to attend, potluck item and/or canned food donations are encouraged
I - and possibly the other members of Second Player Score - will be there to play some acoustic jams for you all. More details here!

Saturday, August 6th, 10am-4pm
Wilsonville Fun In The Park 2016
Town Center Park
29250 SW Parkway Ct
Wilsonville, OR
Free admission
I - along with six other awesome local authors - will be there at the NIWA Children's Author Reading Booth, reading, signing, and selling books. More details here!

Saturday, August 6th (yes, the same day as Fun In The Park), 9pm-12am
The Adarna/The Shrike/Second Player Score at Ash Street Saloon
225 SW Ash St
Portland, OR 97204
I - and definitely the other members of Second Player Score - will be there to play a loud and rockin' set opening for local luminaries The Shrike and, all the way from Seattle, The Adarna. More details here!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Movie Roundup: A Harrowing Age of Seafood Wars

Here we go with another installment of Movie Roundup! In case you've missed some of the previous editions, these posts are where I share my thoughts on movies that I've watched recently, all neatly packaged into nice little easy-to-digest blurbs. They're not really reviews per se, although if you've been following this blog for a while and you find that your tastes run similar to mine, then sure, you might find some value in my opinions. Otherwise, just take what I say with a grain of salt. And, as always, there will be spoilers.

X-Men: Age of Apocalypse
You know what? I loved this movie. I know it got bad reviews. I don't care. Angel listening to Metallica's "Four Horsemen" when Poe Dameron - I mean, Apocalypse - comes to recruit him? Hilarious! That little scene with Jean and Scott and Logan when Scott says "Hope that's the last we see of that guy"? Also hilarious! I also love that they gave Professor X a semi-heroic, plot-related reason for becoming bald, as opposed to just falling asleep in Cerebro one day and accidentally frying off all of his hair.

Finding Dory
Cute, fun, pleasant...I dunno, it was okay, I guess. I think I'm probably the only person in the world who didn't absolutely love love love Finding Nemo (I'm not gonna even link to it because I know you already know all about it). And you think I would have, because it's about a dad and his son and it's a quest story and it has sharks and explosions and stuff. Oh well. I did like the octopus in this new one, though, especially the part when he's driving the car. Kinda reminded me of Octodad.

The Lobster
Since we're on the subject of seafood - I mean, marine life - I figure I'll talk about this one. This is a completely non-kid-friendly film that may also be non-people-in-general-friendly as well if you don't appreciate dark humor or quirky, artsy cinema. Not to sound like a hipster, but I really enjoyed it. Very powerful, poignant stuff that is also very funny in a laugh-at-yourself-because-it's-painfully-true kind of way. There were many moments when I felt like it was actively mocking me. I also snorted at one point. Oh, and weeooo weeooo spoiler alert spoiler alert at no time does an actual lobster appear.

Zootopia
And now back to the kid-friendly portion of our show! Okay, so as opposed to Dory, which got super great reviews but was just meh-all-right-that-wasn't-bad to me, this one got super great reviews that I completely agreed with. Great animation, great story, just...great. No, seriously. Amazing, fun, super-entertaining movie. I got so wrapped up in it that I totally did not see the whole actual-bad-guy twist coming until it had already hit me in the face. Highly, highly recommended.

Warcraft
This movie was very confusing to me, mostly because of two reasons: (1) I've never played the Warcraft game before (I know, gasp), and (2) I went to see it after eating Korean barbecue at J-Town in Portland, so I was falling asleep from time to time. I should probably give it another chance on an empty stomach once it comes out on DVD.

Room
Non-kid-friendly, even though it stars a kid - who does an excellent job, by the way - and contains scenes where he's watching Dora the Explorer. I had read the book so I already kind of knew what to expect, but I was wondering how they were going to pull it off because so much of the story, like The Hunger Games, takes place inside of the protagonist's head. Suffice it to say that they did an excellent job. Twenty minutes in I said to myself, "man, this is harrowing" and later when I looked up reviews of the film, most if not all of them also contained the word "harrowing." Maybe that should have been the title. Hard to watch at times, but brilliant and totally worth it.

Coming up next time, possibly: Life, Animated, The Secret Life of Pets, Ghostbusters, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad, Nine Lives (if I can get my daughter out of the house to see it - I told her "It's about a man who gets magically turned into a cat. A man! Who gets turned into a cat! Don't you want to see this?"), Kubo and the Two Strings (which looks to be part of the grand pantheon of stories that contain magical musical instruments, wink wink I wonder what else I could be talking about), and yes, Sausage Party. Man, it's gonna be a busy summer...

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Completely Kid-Friendly Post About Weeds

The other day I received a letter from my homeowner's association threatening me asking me nicely to remove the weeds that had grown up on the side of my house lest I incur the wrath of Thanos am required to pay a small fine. They even sent me a helpful picture in case I had forgotten what the side of my house looked like.
Not the actual picture, but you get the idea
I removed the weeds, but that got me thinking about the nature of weeds and why we are all so bent on destroying them. I mean, why do we value the other, non-weed portions of our lawns and gardens so much in comparison? Like, take grass, for example. Grass is so notoriously high-maintenance. If I forget to water the lawn for a day or two, the grass is immediately all, like, aaaaagggghhhh and it shrivels up and dies and leaves empty brown spots in my yard. But the weeds are like, "Hey, no worries, bro, it's cool. We're all good here. Water whenever you feel like it. Or don't. Whatever."

Aren't we supposed to be conserving water? I think we are, in which case the weeds are clearly the more desirable denizens of our suburban landscapes. Those things grow like crazy, even without water and in the ninety-degree-plus summer temperatures that absolutely devastate the other flora. They also don't need to be fed with the expensive, chemical-filled fertilizers that, when sprinkled all over our lawns, pose obvious threats to things like pets, feral rabbits, and various types of small defenseless children.*

So why do we hate them so much? (The weeds, that is, not the small children. Remember, this is a kid-friendly post.) Is it because they're ugly? Are we so superficial and judgmental that we have entire industries built around killing these laid-back, easy-to-handle plants? I say we all get rid of our water-sucking, fertilizer-demanding, pretty green patches of grass and replace them with fields of dandelions (which, by the way, were considered to be beautiful not that long ago), buttercups, and broadleaf plantain. I would take the initiative and do it on my own, except that I don't really feel like getting vaporized by the Infinity Gauntlet paying a fine any time soon.

* That is unless, of course, they don't

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Three Status Update: Hangin' With Felicity Edition

Me: Hey, guess what?

Felicity: Meh

Me: I'm almost done with the second draft of Book Three!
Not the actual cover
F: Well, whoopee for you.

Me: No, seriously, somehow I'm totally ahead of schedule. I just got to 70,000 words, which is, like, 24,000 more than I had at the last status update, and it's 90% of the way through the story outline. I think I might actually finish this thing in July, rather than August or September. Isn't that cool?

F: If that just means I don't have to do any more guest posts, then sure.

Me: I can't guarantee that, of course. But it does mean that I can hopefully, depending on how many revisions I need to make, get this thing out sooner in 2017 than I originally planned.

F: Well, duh. I think that's kind of how time works.

Me: I'm tempted to offer up a launch date right now, but who knows, the draft might actually suck really bad and my editor will hate it and make me do most of it over again. But I really don't think that will happen, because so far I think it's pretty awesome and epic.

F: Wow, you managed to be, like, totally insecure and arrogant almost at the same time there. Good job.

Me: It's just that the story's been flowing really well so far, and all the pieces are coming together nicely. Having an outline really helps. I mean, sure, there are a few things that need to be cleaned up and tightened, but overall I'm super happy with it.

F: Don't you mean "really" happy?

Me: Huh?

F: I dunno, you just say "really" a lot.

Me: I guess I do, don't I? Huh. I never noticed that.

F: Better go check your draft for overuse of "really"s.

Me: I'm sure it's fine. Anyway, since you wanted to know what the book is about - 

F: I never said that.

Me: - all I can say at this point is that it picks up shortly after where Book Two left off, and it goes in some new and unexpected directions that I think fans of the Spectraland Saga and sci-fi/fantasy in general will enjoy. We're approaching the midpoint of the series now, so the stakes get raised, things get bigger, the scope starts to widen. I'll have more details later, but I don't want to reveal too much right now, since obviously I'm still in the draft stage and lots of stuff can change.

F: Just don't change any of the parts where I'm doing something cool. Like punching monsters and stuff.

Me: I'm not sure there's as much of that this time around, but don't worry, you still have your moments.

F: I'd better.

Me: Trust me, you do. Really.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Random Thoughts and Deep Questions

One of the best under-the-radar shows going on (for four years now!) is the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series - okay, okay, cartoon, there, I said it - on Disney XD.
I think I've mentioned before that it contains my favorite version of Deadpool on screen - yes, I like it even better than the Ryan Reynolds one.
Anyway, I watched the latest episode ("The New Sinister Six: Part 2") this past Sunday and I have to say, it was pretty awesome. It contained one of my most favorite tropes ever: the "my name is (whatever)" line. You know, like in The Matrix when Neo says "My name...is Neo," or in Monsters vs. Aliens when Susan says "And the name...is Ginormica." So epic. No matter how many times people do this, I will never get tired of it. I think.
Moving on to the latest installment of Deep Questions, this time around (as compared to the last time) I am actually offering a reward to anyone who wants to chime in with their opinions or comments. And what is that reward, you ask? Why, it's a free mp3 of "Deep," one of the tracks off of Second Player Score's upcoming album! Because, you know, "Deep Questions," "Deep"...yeah, okay, you got it.
Just leave a comment below with your contribution and an e-mail address, and I'll send you the mp3 as soon as I can. Honestly, I will. Or, if you want to remain out of the public eye, feel free to e-mail me c/o The Spectraland Saga at thespectralandsaga@gmail.com.

All right, so here we go! First off - are there any cool admirals in Starfleet, or are they all jerks/bad guys in disguise? I will have to admit here that my Star Trek knowledge is limited to The Original Series, The Next Generation, and most of the movies, so perhaps I missed something along the way, but it always seems to me like the admiral characters are always there to either: (1) order the captains not to do something that is obviously beneficial to everyone involved, (2) collude with the enemy, or (3) basically just be a real pain in the rear. I guess the version of Christopher Pike in Star Trek: Into Darkness was a pretty cool guy, so there's that. Any other examples? (While we're on the subject of Star Trek, R.I.P. Anton Yelchin.)
Next question (I only have two of them this time around): why is everyone suddenly named "Finn"?

Let's hear your thoughts!

Coming up next week: an exciting Book Three Update

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Phineas and Ferb Vs. Gravity Falls

Sup. Felicity Smith here, once again filling in for that dude who usually writes this thing. Apparently, it's the last day of school today and Father's Day is this coming Sunday, so he wanted to take the day off or whatever. Anyway, when I asked him what I should write about, he said: "Anything. Gotta run." So I decided that since summer is starting, I would pull Joel in and have a debate with him about which TV series taking place over the course of a hypothetical summer is the best one: Phineas and Ferb or Gravity Falls.
F: Hey, Joel.
J: Um, hello.
F: Okay, so - Phineas and Ferb versus Gravity Falls. Go.
J: Uh, wait...what?
F: Which one is better, and why.
J: Well, I dunno, I like them both. They're both good.
F: Dude, you're doing this wrong.
J:
F: All right, fine, I'll go. Gravity Falls - better theme song.
J: What? No, I mean, yeah, it's good, but the Phineas and Ferb song is pretty cool, too. Bowling For Soup performed it.
F: I already scored the theme song point. You need to come up with something else.
J: Oh, okay. Let's see, uh...Phineas and Ferb had more episodes than Gravity Falls. 222 to 40.
F: I'm not sure that really counts, especially since they did a lot of 11-minute ones, but whatever, I'll give that to you. Okay, so, Gravity Falls had all those ciphers and easter eggs and stuff. I know you like that kind of thing.
J: True. Um...Phineas and Ferb - good catch phrases.
F: "What'cha doin'?"
J: "Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today!"
F: "But - but - but-"
J: "Hey, where's Perry?"
F: Ahem. All right, I got off track there. Gravity Falls - more quotable lines.
J: "That's what they all say."
F: "Soos, these are children."
J: "And then he killed your father!"
F: All right, all right, this could go on forever. Your turn.
J: Well, uh, Phineas and Ferb did those Star Wars and Marvel episodes.
F: Yeah, okay, I guess. Gravity Falls had those references to itself, like when Soos said "I predicted that, like, a year ago." Both shows were pretty meta.
J: And really good too. So can we stop this now?
F: Yeah, I think we filled up enough space. It's not like that dude is paying us by the word or anything.
J: He's paying us?
F: No, I was just kidding.
J: Oh.
F: Later everyone.
J: Bye.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Album Two Status Update

In case you've forgotten, my primary band Second Player Score is hard at work on our sophomore album (does that make the first album a freshman? The third one a junior?) as we prepare it for a planned fall release. What? You have forgotten? All right, here are some reminders.
We just got the final mixdowns for the most recent batch of songs ("Origin Story," "Head of Sin," and "Drink the Poison"), so that makes eight in the can, three more to go. We have studio dates lined up for July, and boot camp is in full swing (there are not many times when it isn't, to be honest). The working title of the album was Nobody's Hero, and now it looks as if that's been promoted from "working" to "actual." Of course, we may still change our minds at the last minute, but that's looking less and less likely.

By the way, we released another single! It's called "Demon's Kiss," and you can hear it on our website. You can also own it before the album comes out, simply by signing up for our Superfans e-mail list. It's free and easy to do - just go to this link. Our drummer Kyle also put together a cool little video blurb for it that you can watch on our Facebook page.

We should have another update for you by the end of the summer as to the exact date when the album will be coming out, along with cover art and more details about the album's story - remember, it's a quasi-concept album. So stay tuned!