Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Spectraland Saga: Origin Story, Part Two

Catch yourself up with the Origin Story by reviewing Part One here.

By June 2010, I had drafted 5500 words that made up the first three chapters of my fledgling story. The first half of chapter one was the deleted scene with Mitch that I shared with you last week, and the remainder of the chapter included characters named Dave (Joel's friend), Clarissa (Joel's crush), Dad (Joel's dad), and Taylor (Joel's sister).
The early beginnings of what became "A Bad Day" (the final version of Book One, Chapter One) could be seen not only in Joel's confrontation with Mitch, but in his other interactions as well: he wanted to start up a band, but Dave didn't play a musical instrument; he was supposed to work on a science project with Clarissa, but she flaked out on him at the last minute; he wanted to just relax when he got home, but he had to help Taylor make a computer-animated version of something called "Cutey the Lovecat" (yes, I really did write that). As anyone who has read Book One knows, Joel's problems eventually became a lot more serious by time I finished the actual story.

In this early draft, Joel just wanted to escape from everything, so he ended up writing a song on the spot that included lyrics about going to a different world. This song, when he played it, was what transported him to the place that eventually evolved into Spectraland.

Once he got there at the beginning of chapter two, he ran into a dog and a cat, both the size of adult humans, who said things to him like "Eezleprogren! Arma boolie sten-sten?" and "Gilthen aboo larma. Orbo jameely gooten groh." I am not kidding. Also, get this: the dog was named "Cain," and the cat was named "Felicity." I believe may have mentioned something about that before. Basically, the only things that survived from that scene were Felicity's name and the fact that music had magical properties.
Anyway, Cain and Felicity were pretty suspicious of Joel, what with him being this ape-like alien and all, so they took him to see...the Mayor (ooo). Oh, what the heck, here's an excerpt:

"Hmm," Cain frowned. "Let's take him to the Mayor."
Felicity nodded at Cain in agreement. "This is quite confusing for us as well," she said, turning to Joel. "I think we all have a lot of questions for each other."
Joel rolled his eyes [ed.: seriously? Joel would never do this now]. "Yeah, you think?"
Felicity made a little growling noise. Apparently, she understood sarcasm.
"Let's head over to the Town Hall," Cain said. "We can talk more on the way there."
"Sure, why not, might as well check out more of this crazy place before I wake up," Joel muttered as he moved to pick up his guitar [ed: the final version of Felicity seemed to have absorbed a lot of her personality from the old version of Joel].
* RRING * A loud chord sounded from Felicity's harp, and a flash of red light burst from its strings, knocking Joel's guitar out of his reach.
"Whoa, wow!" Joel shouted as he jumped back. "Okay, what was that about? I was just trying to get my guitar."
"Should we let him have it?" Felicity asked Cain. " Could be dangerous."

Anyway, that's enough of that for now. More to come!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Guest Post #5: Felicity's Desert Island Discs

(While Brian takes another week off from the blog to work on Book Two, Felicity fills in once again.)

Hey, so, yeah, I'm back. Can you believe it's been over a month since I last filled in for the guy who normally writes this blog? Actually, to be honest, I could've used a little more time off - I mean, c'mon, it's summertime - but, well, whatever, I guess. He promised that he'd have the latest draft of "Book Two" (again, I have no idea what that is) done by early August and that afterwards, he wouldn't bug me and Joel again for a while, so I'm gonna hold him to that.

Okay, so I really had no idea what to talk about today. When I asked that dude for suggestions, he said something about "Desert Island Discs," which, I guess, is like a list of albums that you would want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island. I think that idea came from a radio show on BBC, or maybe even a place called "Tower Records," but, well, who really cares, right? The bottom line is that it gives me something to ramble on about for a few paragraphs so that I can get this post over with and go back to playing Portal 2 - um, I mean, doing some random girlie thing, like, uh, I dunno, shopping for shoes, I guess? Ick. Anyway, here we go....

DID #5 - Strung Out, Blackhawks Over Los Angeles
Okay, if you guys haven't heard of this band, you seriously need to check them out. They're kind of technical, meaning they're really good musicians, and I know that people are sometimes turned off by that kind of thing (the people who like simple 3-chord stuff), but believe me, the songwriting is really good, too. Their earlier albums were kinda straight-up hardcore punk, but as they went along, they added a lot more melodic and metal elements, which really helped to define their sound and make them a band that is totally worth listening to. No sarcasm there, honestly.

DID #4 - Iron Maiden, Piece Of Mind
Yeah, all right, I like Maiden, just like Joel. But, I mean, can you blame us? C'mon, who doesn't love "The Trooper"? But it's not only that song, this whole album seriously kicks so much butt. Along with everything else that this band produced. At least, up until their eighth album or so....

DID #3 - The Crash Engine, Extravagaria
I actually discovered this album by accident one day when I was snooping, I mean sifting, through Brian's CD collection. Did I really just call him Brian? Anyway, this is apparently some local Portland band that he played a show with a few years ago when he was in some other band called Council Crest, and when I listened to it, I was kinda impressed. Very strong songwriting that you don't hear a lot these days. I mean, anyone can be an awesome musician with so-so tunes (coughMarshallBylecough), but it takes some actual talent to produce music that connects with people on a real, honest emotional level. When I asked the blog-dude about them later, he mumbled something about going to see them at a local club and that they didn't play his favorite song so he was kind of put off by that, but who cares. Still a really good CD.

DID #2 - The Dambuilders, Encendedor
Joel actually turned me on to these guys. Something about they were a band that was originally from Hawaii...or, at least, two of their members were, and then they moved to Boston or something and got signed, and, well, anyway, this album is really pretty cool. I love the violin player and her singing/screaming deal, it's awesome. I don't understand a lot of their references, though. Like, what the heck is "Slo-Mo Kikaida"? Anyway, on to disc number one, which is...hey, you know, I just realized that this whole backwards countdown thing is totally something that Joel would do - I think I might be hanging around that guy a little too much.

DID #1 - In This Moment, The Dream

I can just listen to this album over and over and over again. It's heavy, but melodic and emotional, and...I dunno, I don't have the right words to describe how freakin' awesome it is. Maria Brink is the best frontman ever.

So there you have it, my top five Desert Island Discs, or whatever, at least for this week. By next week, or maybe even by tomorrow, they may change, who knows. But at least I did my job and filled up some blog space - um, I mean, let you all know about some great music that you might not have heard of before, so go and check these albums out. Until next time, I'm Felicity Smith, and you're not.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Status Updates: Splatooooon!!

Video game update: Alert! Alert! We have a distraction! While Nintendo takes their sweet old time adapting Xenoblade X for the Western Hemisphere (RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCED ZOMGG!!!11!!), we finally found something to hold our attention temporarily, at least.
Splatoon is a simple, third-person shooter game that is like a twisted mix of paintball and Dynasty Warriors. I'll leave the official reviews to others, but suffice it to say that my daughter and I find this game to be a satisfactory time-waster in between our repeated binge re-watchings of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Our shared character is up to level 9, so we're still a relative newbie, but we hope to see you in one of the various arenas soon (we'll be the one with the paint roller).

Book Two Update: Over 2/3rds of the way done with re-writes. I'm very, very excited. If all goes according to plan (yes, I know I should stop saying things like that, but at this point I'm pretty much over the whole jinx thing), I should have a completed, revised draft sent in to my editor by early August. The journey continues, but the end is still in sight, and it will be very much worth it, believe me.

Band Update: We just played a really fun show at Shahanan's this past Saturday with Medium Size Kids and our usual gig-mates Stab In The Dark. Check out a live video sample here! As always, we had a great time. Much mahalos to Nate and everyone who came out to hang with us.
As you may already know, we're scheduled to hit the studio next month to record a couple of songs for our upcoming second album, so we'll be entering high-intensity Boot Camp Mode big time over the next few weeks. By the way, our drummer Kyle just landed an awesome DJ gig with Neue Regel Radio, so be sure to check him out when his show kicks off on July 9th!

Cat Update: Growing up fast and getting into all kinds of kitty mischief. Here's Boots having what looks like a really awesome cat-dream:
Wonder what he's dreaming about? Whatever it is, it must be good.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Spectraland Saga: Origin Story, Part One

A couple of days ago, I decided to take a short break from the constant brain-melting grind joyous process of revising Book Two and look all the way back at the very origins of what eventually turned out to be The Spectraland Saga. It was such a fun trip through time that I decided to come back, load you all up on my TARDIS, and take you along for the ride.
The earliest documentation I have about my developmental thought process is an email that I sent to myself on Monday, April 19, 2010. Some of the more interesting notes that I wrote included:

Young teen (14-15) musician (working name: Joel), bullied at school, having a hard time getting a band together and meeting girls, etc.
Idolizes an obscure indie rocker (working name: Marshall)

The parallel world is the Island Nation of Somewhere (working name, obviously)
Maybe there's a crystal that "stores" songs - like a wizardy iPod

As readers of Book One know, the names Joel and Marshall did make it to the final story, while "Island Nation of Somewhere" eventually became Spectraland. Joel got a little older (16), while Marshall got a little more famous (Biledriver became a successful multi-platinum band as opposed to remaining an obscure indie group). And, of course, the so-called "wizardy iPod" evolved into the Songshell.

Over the course of the following month or so, I started to come up with ideas for other characters, themes, and the overall plot of the book. I even wrote some snippets of trial dialogue, some of which are completely hilarious in retrospect:

The mayor had a grim expression on his face. "We will need to organize camping supplies. Even on our fastest steeds, it could take days, even weeks, to make it all the way up to the Dragon's Cave."

"Wait, wait, what? Weeks?" Joel snapped. "So I guess you guys don't have cars or planes or anything like that."

The mayor furrowed his brows at Joel. "What are these things you speak of?"

Joel decided it wasn't worth explaining. "Or what about flying horses, or magic carpets, or something like that? Thestrals, like in Harry Potter? Come on...this is, like, a magic land or whatever - you have to have something that flies."

The mayor pondered Joel with a quizzical look. "You certainly are a strange one, young Jo-el."

Joel sighed. "Again, it's '
Joal', not 'Joe-L."

Now that's Nebula award material right there! But from this, you can see that the whole "nothing in Spectraland can fly" idea was there from the very beginning.

And you all remember Mitch, the bully who was only mentioned, but not seen, in Chapter One? Well, he originally had a much bigger role. Check out this deleted scene, after the jump!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Guest Post #4: Joel Fills In

Hey, uh...I'm Joel. Joel Suzuki. The guy who normally writes this blog said that he was really busy, and Felicity said that she was feeling really lazy also really busy, so they asked me to fill in this week.
I'm not really sure what I'm gonna talk about. They didn't really give me a lot of time to prepare. So, I'm just gonna kind of randomly go on about whatever comes to mind.

In case you don't know me, I like music. A lot. I play the guitar, and I kind of sing, too. I also write songs. I like all kinds of music, but I like rock the most. Especially a lot of old school stuff. Iron Maiden is one of my favorite all-time bands. But I like a lot of other bands too. Who do you like? Who are your top ten favorite bands?

I also like video games. And books. And movies. Science fiction, fantasy, all that kind of stuff. I really like the Legend of Zelda series, which you probably know if you've been reading this blog. The guy who writes this and I do this thing once in a while where we talk about the most annoying Zelda mini-games. By the way, have you ever wondered why it's called Legend of Zelda? I mean, she's a major character and all that stuff, but the player always plays as Link, so shouldn't it be called Legend of Link? Not that I'm trying to be, like, biased toward the male character or whatever, but it just seems like it would make more sense...I mean, they really should make a Legend of Zelda that actually stars Zelda as the main character. I dunno, I'm just saying.

I've been told that I can see little details in things that other people can't see. To be honest, I can't really tell the difference. It all really just seems normal to me. You know what I mean? It's like, when something has been the same way your whole life, it just seems normal to you, like I guess if you were born as a mutant, like in X-Men, and you could always shapeshift, or read people's minds, or whatever, it would seem like, well, shouldn't everyone be able to do this? But then, after a while, you realize that not everyone can do it, and maybe only you can do it, and then it starts to seem a little weird, but then only after other people tell you it's weird. I dunno if I'm explaining this correctly, but hopefully you know what I mean.

Anyway, I'm not sure I have anything else to say right now, but this was actually kind of fun, and if the guy who writes this blog asks me to do it again, I guess I will. (better you than me - xoxo Felicity) So, have a great day everyone, and maybe I'll see you again next week.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

...Aaaaand I'm Back!

Did you miss me? Felicity really wanted to take a break from filling in for me this week, so I agreed to step back in and take over again for a while. Don't worry, it's cool, I'm still hard at work on the Book Two revisions, and in fact, I'm happy to say that I'm a little ahead of schedule so far. So, I figured I'd give you all an update on what's been going on besides that.

Second Player Score played a couple of great shows this month. On Saturday the 9th, we did Anarchy Radio's 3rd Birthday Party at the Oak Grove Bar and Grill along with our good friends Stab In The Dark and Laurelhurst. Tons of fun, great crowd, and cake! Mmm, cake.
We also played a couple of new songs live for the first time: "Demon's Kiss" and "Origin Story." Both of them will be on our upcoming second album that is due out next year. More on that below!

Then, on Saturday the 16th, we rocked out over at the Adams St. Bar in beautiful downtown Camas. We were joined by our usual showmates Stab In The Dark, along with Kings and Vagabonds and a great band that had just come out of semi-retirement, The Secludes. I'm glad they're playing again, 'cause those guys kick some serious butt.
As for our second album, Boot Camp continued in earnest once those shows were done. What is Boot Camp, you say? Go back and refresh your memory by reading this post from a couple of months ago! We have studio time booked for July, and we're planning on recording two songs: "Deep" and "Comets." So, we set up the good ol' 8-track and made a demo of "Deep" this past Saturday.
Intense guitar face
Then on June 13th, we'll be back at Shanahan's in Vancouver along with Stab In The Dark and another great band, Medium Size Kids, who you should really check out. Seriously, do it now. In fact, here's a link to one of their cool videos. Once you hear them, you're really not gonna want to miss this show. I know I'm looking forward to it.
Video game update: there is none! I stopped playing Fire Emblem after I got to the final-final boss because I had basically screwed up along the way and didn't add the right characters or whatever to be able to beat it, so I gave up. After that, I gave Pier Solar and the Great Architects a try, but it hasn't really caught on for me just yet. I might give it another shot, but in the meantime, I'm really just waiting and waiting for an announcement about the new Xenoblade's release date. C'mon, Nintendo, you're killing us here...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Guest Post #3: Felicity Talks Avatar: The Last Airbender

Yo, Felicity again. I really didn't feel like doing fill-in blog-duty this week, but that dude kept whining and begging and stuff (ed: no I didn't) so finally I felt sorry for him and said fine, whatever. Seriously, I don't know what the heck he's spending so much time working on. It's like he's trying to write a novel, or something.

Anyhoo, I'm just gonna ramble aimlessly until I fill enough space to call it a day. So, last week I was talking to Joel about his favorite female sci-fi/fantasy characters - again, not my idea - and when he mentioned Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender, it brought back some memories about that show, which I actually kinda liked when it was on.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it was a TV show that was on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008, and it was about a kid named Aang who could manipulate - or "bend," as they called it - all four elements (air, water, earth, fire) while other folks could only do one, if that. It was set in kind of an alternate world that was like Earth, but not really, because, you know, of all the bending and stuff, and it had this totally Asian anime-type flavor to it.

There were three seasons, so it was like a trilogy, and the storyline was sort of your basic reluctant-chosen-one-saves-the-world-from-the-evil-warlord kind of deal. But the writing was really good, and there was a nice balance of action and humor and all that stuff that makes things fun to watch. Since I have a black belt in karate, I also appreciated all of the realistic martial arts moves, which I've heard they put a lot of effort into to make them look authentic and stuff.

I also liked how the girls in the show were portrayed. Like Joel said last week, Aang's co-star Katara was a strong character who wasn't just tagging along and healing Aang whenever he got hurt. Well, I mean, she did that too, but she really kicked some serious butt with her own waterbending skills and saved the day on her own more than once (in fact, at times I felt like Aang was a little too dependent on her). And other female characters like Toph (I looove Toph), Suki, and even crazy Azula were independent, powerful ladies who could more than hold their own against anyone.

So, yeah, in case you haven't guessed by now, I would say that if you haven't watched this show yet, you should totally check it out. But don't watch the movie adaptation of it - seriously, just don't. It's bad. Not like the so-bad-it's-good kind of thing - it's just bad.

Well, I think that's enough for this week. Maybe next time I'll do one of those liveblog dealies where I'll watch an episode of this show and talk about it while it goes on. Or maybe not. Laters