Thursday, May 18, 2017

How to Balance Your Life, Part One

Sometimes I get asked how I manage to write books, record albums, play shows, serve on Autism Empowerment's Board of Directors, herd cats, be a single dad, etc., all with what is - most of the time, anyway - a decent amount of proficiency. My answer is usually something along the lines of "sleep is overrated" or "time machine" but the truth is actually a bit more down-to-earth: applied geekery.
Allow me to explain. The above illustration (and I use that term loosely) is what I call "The Life Compass." Inspired by things like the Legend of Zelda's Triforce and Harry Potter's Deathly Hallows symbol, it's what I use to organize and accomplish my tasks on a daily basis while making sure that I maintain a sense of balance between everything I do so that nothing gets neglected.

Here's how it works. Each circle - I like to call them spheres, actually, but I realize that the picture is two-dimensional - represents a facet of life and is divided up into three sections each. The basic idea is to "light up" or "fill in" each section as you go through your day, with the goal of lighting up all nine sections by the time you go to sleep at night. Kind of like a real-life video game, I feel that it's an effective method for those of us who enjoy checking off a list of the quests you need to finish to get to the next level.

This week, I'll go over the bottom circle, which represents "Self" and is divided into the following three sections: physical, mental, and spiritual. It's at the bottom because it represents the foundation of your life - you need to take care of yourself first before you move on to anything else. That may sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised as to how many people neglect this part of the compass while overemphasizing others; e.g. working fifteen-hour days while not eating right, etc.

Lighting up the physical section means doing whatever it is you do to maintain your standard of physical well-being. For me, it's doing a thirty-minute workout with free weights. For others, it might be a jog around the block. Whatever works for you in your own particular situation.
Next, lighting up the mental section involves what I call "getting your head on straight." Making sure you're facing the day with the best possible attitude. It's not always easy - in fact, for me, I find this part more challenging than the physical section - but I think it's important to do whatever you can even when circumstances make it difficult. It can be accomplished by listing everything you have to be thankful for, saying some mantras or affirmations, or even just taking a few deep breaths. I'm not a mental health expert, but my own personal experience has taught me that doing this really helps to set a proper tone for the day, enabling me to be much more productive than I would have been otherwise. (Note: if you're dealing with serious anxiety or depression issues - and I have loved ones who are - please seek professional assistance. I'm just a science fiction writer).
The last section of the Self circle is the spiritual part. That can mean religion, but it doesn't have to. This is just where you do whatever it is you do to understand your place and purpose in the world and achieve some form of comfort and contentment. Maybe it's by saying a prayer. Or meditating. Or performing a good deed.
Now your Self circle has been fully lit up, and you're ready to move on to the other, equally important aspects of your life. For me, I like to get this part done before breakfast, so my usual routine includes getting up (or being woken up by the cats) early, working out, and then doing my mental and spiritual exercises while I'm taking a shower and getting dressed (multitasking in a safe and responsible way is part of the key to getting a lot of things done).

Next week, I'll go over the circle at the top right, which represents "Home."

For more life advice (albeit cleverly hidden within a fun sci-fi/fantasy adventure), check out the Joel Suzuki series, which features a mentor-like character quoting both Thoreau and Axl Rose and a chapter entitled "How to Talk to Girls."

Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell
Joel Suzuki, Volume Two: Mystery of the Moonfire
Joel Suzuki, Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Volume Four Status Update

Despite the flurry of recent activity surrounding the release of Volume Three, I've somehow managed to get some work done on Volume Four. I think it's important to keep writing on a regular basis no matter what, even if all you produce in a day is a single sentence.
No, not that Vol. 4
At the last status update a couple of months ago, I said that I was at 16,000 words. Now, I'm officially at 22,000. However, that doesn't include a bunch of stuff that I wrote, cut, put back in, and then cut again. If you included all of that, I would actually be somewhere around 27,000-28,000.

What happened was that I reached a point in the story where I thought, "Oh, wait a minute...I don't think I want to go in that direction after all. I want to go in this direction instead!" Which wasn't so much a complete shift as it was more of a "let's keep the plot the same but just with different characters in different settings" sort of change. Still, though, it required that I delete a bunch of stuff and rewrite some earlier passages just to get everything back on track. Trust me, even if you work from an outline, this kind of thing can and will occur. With frightening regularity.

The good news is that I'm still on schedule, possibly even a little ahead. After all, Volume Four isn't due out until 2019. In the meantime, please enjoy Volume Three (and One and Two if you haven't already done so), leave reviews of said volumes on Amazon and Goodreads, join the Wavemaker Order, and do all of the usual cool stuff that you always do. Joel, Felicity, Torin and I really appreciate everyone's support. As Ozzy always says, we love you all.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Star Wars Day Roundtable

Happy May the 4th! To celebrate this great holiday, I decided to get together with Joel and Felicity and have a little Star Wars roundtable discussion. Their friend from Spectraland, Fireflower, just so happened to be in town as well, so I invited her to join us. Without further ado!
Felicity: How long is this going to take?
Brian: I don't know. Do you need to be somewhere?
F: Not really, I'm just bored.
B: We haven't even started yet.
Fireflower: Excuse me, but...
B: Yes?
FF: What, exactly, is this "Star Wars" you talk about?
B: Joel, you wanna field that one?
Joel: Um, well...Star Wars is...it's a whole bunch of things, actually. I'm not really sure where to start.
F: Here, I got it. (tapping on phone) Wikipedia says that it's "an American epic space opera franchise, centered on a film series created by George Lucas."
FF: Thank you, but...I am still not sure what any of that means.
F: It's a story. You know, like that one about the most powerful Wavemaker who ever lived, that sort of thing.
FF: Ah, I see.
B: All right, so how about we start with everyone ranking their favorite episodes.
J: Like, from most to least favorite?
B: Yeah.
J: And are we including Episode VII?
B: Sure.
J: What about Rogue One?
B: Okay.
F: Why don't you go first, since this is your idea.
B: Fine. Four, Five, Seven, Rogue, Six, Three, Two, One. Now, you.
F: Joel, you go. I need to grab a soda.
J: Um, okay. Five, Four, Rogue, Seven, Three, Six, Two, One.
B: Three over Six, eh? Why?
J: The duels at the end of Three were pretty cool. Plus, Ewoks are kind of annoying.
F: (Coming back with soda in one hand, offers Joel a high-five with the other) Well said, dude.
J: (Returning the high-five) Thanks.
B: All right, Felicity, your turn.
F: Hmm...I like One the best. So awesome.
J: What?
F: Dude, I'm kidding. It's Five, Rogue, Three, Seven, Four, and then the rest just sort of blend together.
B: You seem to like all the ones with the least happy endings.
F: (Takes sip of soda) Of course.
FF: This is all truly fascinating, but I really should be returning to Spectraland. I think several months may have passed by over there during my time here...
F: That's a good point, I'll go with you.
J: Um, I probably should, too.
B: But we just got started!
F: And we covered a lot of ground. Later, man.
B: No, wait, I -
FF: (Plays transfer incantation on wavebow. Within seconds, she, Joel, and Felicity all vanish in a cloud of Aura energy.)

Ugh, why can't I ever get them to sit still for more than a few minutes at a time? Well, anyway, I guess that's it for the Star Wars roundtable. Have a great rest of the day, and tune in next week for a Volume Four status update!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

What A Weekend!

As the idiom goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. If that's true, does that mean I could just slap together eighty some odd pictures in place of actually writing Volume Four? I doubt it. But I think for the purposes of this blog post, some pictures will do nicely!

Author Visit, Thursday April 20th, Mountain View High School
Launch Party #2, Saturday April 22nd, Kazoodles Toy Store
Autism Empowerment's 2nd Annual Bowl-A-Thon, Sunday April 23rd, Husted's Hazel Dell Lanes
Be sure to tune in next week, when I will go back to writing some actual words!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

All Kinds of Cool Stuff Going On

Launch Party #1 for Volume Three was epic! Big thanks to Nate Merritt and everyone at Shanahan's for hosting us, Stab in the Dark and Cellar Door for rocking the house, Jonathan Chase and Shawna Reppert for being our special guest authors, and all of you for coming out and supporting Joel and Autism Empowerment. I had a great time, and I hope you did too.
In other news, we are proud and honored to be the cover story of Spectrums Magazine's Spring 2017 issue! Thanks so much to Karen, John, and everyone at Spectrums for featuring us. Check out the article here.
Later on today, I'll be doing an author visit at my son's school, Mountain View High. Hopefully I'll have some pictures for you in next week's post!

Then this Saturday the 22nd is Launch Party #2. This one is all ages, family friendly, and will take place from 4-6pm at Kazoodles Toy Store, 13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver WA. Bring the kids!

Later that same evening I will be at Shanahan's once again, this time with my other band Walk On Gray to help celebrate the birthday of my friend Dug Cox from The Brinksmen. This might be Walk On Gray's final performance, so check it out!

Then the Sunday after is Autism Empowerment's 2nd Annual Bowl-A-Thon from 12-5pm at Husted's Hazel Dell Lanes, 6300 NE Hwy 99, Vancouver WA. Spots are still open, so sign up here!

Whew - that's a lot of stuff happening (and a lot of sentences that end in exclamation points)! Believe it or not, in between all of this I am also still working on Volume Four, so stay tuned for an upcoming status update...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Volume Three Is Here!

I am happy and proud to announce that Joel Suzuki, Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone, is now officially released!
You can get your copy here. Or, if you happen to be in the Portland/Vancouver area, come to one or both of the upcoming launch parties on April 15th at Shanahan's or April 22nd at Kazoodles, where I will personally sign your copy and, if you so desire, shake your hand with great enthusiasm.

Remember, one dollar for every Joel Suzuki book sold (including Volumes One and Two) is donated to Autism Empowerment, so not only are you getting a fun adventure story to pass some time with, you're also supporting a great cause. And if you're already a fan of the series, don't forget to sign up for the Wavemaker Order here.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Torin and I were recently featured on KGW's Portland Today show as well as in The Columbian. Big mahalos go out to everybody at both fine institutions, including Drew Carney, Shelly Swanke, Scott Hewitt, Sam Wilson, Byron, and Amanda. You guys rock. As do all of you, my loyal blog readers. Hope to see you at the parties!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Launch Party Bands

As always, the adult version of my book launch parties ("adult" meaning it takes place in a 21 and over venue) will feature some killer bands. In case you're not already familiar with them, here's a little primer:
Stab In The Dark
An awesome old-school punk rock outfit (think Social Distortion, the Misfits), I've been watching these guys play for a long time now and they never disappoint. Catchy melodies and lots of energy. Last time they played Shanahan's, they inspired a mosh pit!
Cellar Door
This Portland-based alt-rock group is a mainstay of DJ Kyelzbub's Northwest Exposure program on Neue Regel Radio, and for good reason. They have a great straight-ahead sound that is reminiscent of Pearl Jam, The Doors, and Kings of Leon. Can't wait to see their live show.
Second Player Score
Finishing up the night will be Vancouver, WA's own Second Player Score, a band that the Shanahan's manager has described as sounding like "Bad Religion, if Bad Religion wrote songs about video games." I have it on good authority that in addition to playing fan favorites off of their first two albums, they'll also be debuting some new songs that they've written for their third album, Glorified (due out in 2018).

So what is this 21 and over venue that will feature this awesome lineup, you ask? Well, it's the aforementioned Shanahan's, located at 209 W McLoughlin Blvd, Vancouver WA 98660. These bands and everyone else there will be helping me celebrate the launch of Joel Suzuki, Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone, while also raising funds for Autism Empowerment. The night will start at 8pm and run til the wee hours of the morning (specifically, 1am). There's no cover charge, and these special guest authors will also be in attendance. Hope to see you all there!