Thursday, April 16, 2015

Exclusive Interview With Marshall Byle, Part One

(Editor's note: this interview took place four years before the events of Secret of the Songshell. Just thought you'd like to know.)

After the release of their breakthrough third album, Rulers of the Universe, and the subsequent thirteen-month-long world tour, you would think that Marshall Byle, the lead singer and guitarist of the now multi-platinum rock band Biledriver, would want to take a well-deserved break. But you would be wrong. As I found out during this entertaining and enlightening interview, the irrepressible dynamo known affectionately to his fans as "Stack" (as in, a stack of Marshall amplifiers - c'mon, you knew that) was just getting started....
Thanks for talking to me today. I know you must be exhausted after just coming off of that tour.

Oh, not at all. In fact, I feel like I could go another three months, you know? (laughs) I really despise sitting still, it just bores me to death. I have to always be doing something.

I'm sure your fans would love it if you continued touring.

And, believe me, I would love it as well! But, you know, me mates in the band were starting to get a wee down, I suppose is a nice way to put it. They needed a break.

This album has been such a huge success. Is that something you were expecting at all?

Well, to be honest - and I say this in all modesty - yes, I really was. I had a feeling, instinctively, that our first two albums were not as brilliant as they could have been, but with this one, I was quite certain that I had stumbled upon sort of a magic formula, as it were. A way to write songs that really connected with people, at a deep, core emotional level.

Where do you suppose that came from? Was it something that you had been gradually working towards, or was it more of a sudden epiphany?

A little of both. Although, I will admit, there actually was a moment where the switch flipped on, so to speak.

Can you tell us more about that?

No. It's a trade secret. (laughs)

Fair enough. Do you feel any pressure about having to follow it up?

Oh, not at all. In fact, I already have all the songs for our next album written. It's going to blow your (bleeping) mind. I can't wait to get to work on it.

And I can't wait to hear it. Will it be kind of a quasi-concept album, like Rulers of the Universe?

It may be...or not. (laughs) I mean, blimey, mate, I'm not going to give anything away this early, you know? But trust me, it will be amazing.

Coming up in Part Two: Where Marshall gets the inspiration for his songs from, and what the band does on their tour bus after shows....

P.S. Tune in to the Portland Radio Project this coming Saturday (April 18) at 10:30am Pacific to hear a live interview and in-studio acoustic performance with - no, not Marshall Byle - Second Player Score!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Top Nine Thursday

To celebrate the 9th of April (no reason, totally random), here are my top nine most popular blog posts to date:
#9 - The Writing Process and Book Two Update - January 28, 2013

This was the first time Felicity and I spoke live on the blog. Also, this was when I had 17,000 words of Book Two written and I decided to scrap them. It wouldn't be the last time I did that.

#8 - Ian Engelsman, Budding Rock Star - January 2, 2013

After this post came out, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to meet Ian in person. Eventually, he stole the show as the special musical guest at the Book One Relaunch Party in April 2013.

#7 - Video Games - August 16, 2013

Okami and The Last Story are still my top two favorites. Please, Nintendo, bring Okamiden (the DS-only Okami sequel) to the Wii U Virtual Console.

#6 - Book Review: The Speed of Dark - August 29, 2012

One of the better books out there with a protagonist on the spectrum, although I still have a quibble with the ending.

#5 - Ghost Peppers - Yes, Very Scary Indeed - September 17, 2012

My stomach continues to have nightmares about this experience to this very day. By the way, Killer Burger discontinued serving the Marine a while ago.

#4 - Happy National Author's Day! - November 1, 2012

One of my shortest blog posts ever, I think its hits-to-words ratio approaches some kind of infinite divide-by-zero type of anomaly.

#3 - Relaunch Party Guest List Vol. 2 - April 12, 2013

Okay, actually, this post has the craziest hits-to-words ratio ever. I think the fact that I featured a bunch of awesome local authors has something to do with its high traffic.

#2 - Rockin' With Ian - February 8, 2013

The recap of my aforementioned meeting and jam session with the incomparable Mr. Engelsman.

And, the most popular blog post to date is...after the jump!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Special Announcement! Plus Random Updates

First, the Special Announcement: This Saturday, April 4th. Doesn't matter where you live - jump in your car, hop on a plane, run really super fast - however you do it, get yourself to the 4th Annual Autism Empowerment Egg Hunt! You know you want to.
I'll be there, of course, and we'll also have a special guest singing the National Anthem: my good friend and former bandmate, Rich Ray, lead vocalist for the Led Zeppelin tribute band Ramble On. It will be epic.

Okay, now on to the random updates.

- Video Games: I finished Golden Sun a little quicker than I expected (I will confess, I used a walkthrough), so I've moved on to another cool Gameboy title that was made available on the Wii U eShop: Fire Emblem.
Apparently, this game is the seventh entry in a series of fourteen(!) games that have been around since 1990 and will continue with a new release that is coming out this summer. How did I not know about this?

This game is a RPG with a turn-based tactical combat system that is, frankly, quite addictive. The fact that your weapons have a limited amount of uses, and that any characters who are defeated in battle cannot be used for the rest of the game, lend a real sense of jeopardy to the proceedings (another confession: I use the Wii U Restore Point. A lot.) Combined with an intricate storyline and graphics that are even better than Golden Sun's (for the cutscenes, anyway), Fire Emblem has turned into one of those games that I have a hard time putting down while the hours just fly by.

- Writing: Despite my Fire Emblem preoccupation, I've somehow managed to write a draft of Book 3, Chapter 1. It was actually pretty easy - one morning, while in the shower, I was envisioning the scene in my head, and it just started to write itself, as the old cliche goes. Descriptions of the setting, lines of dialogue, and elements of the plot began flowing through my head, and I couldn't get out of the shower fast enough to write it all down (dripping water on your laptop is not a recommended practice, by the way.) This kind of thing has happened to me before, and I have to say that, despite the fact that it occasionally occurs at inopportune times (like at 3 in the morning), it's such a cool feeling. Now, if I could just replicate that process for the rest of the book....

- TV/Movies: Caught the first episode of Star vs. The Forces of Evil, which I guess already aired on the Disney Channel a couple of months ago but just made its debut on Disney XD. Good stuff, and a fun theme song to sing along to. Also ordered Seasons 3 and 4 of The Legend of Korra on DVD - when I'll find the time to binge watch them, I have no idea, but it will happen. Movies watched recently include Birdman, Whiplash, Big Hero 6, and Song of the Sea. All of them were really good, although not quite as mind-blowing as I thought they would be - perhaps my expectations were set a little high going in. And finally, can't wait for baseball to start back up next week, go Mariners!

- Music: already talked about this last week.

Anyway, hope to see you all on Saturday!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Album Two Status Update

I realized the other day that I've been posting a lot of status updates about Book Two, but none on the other project I've been working on - namely, the second album by my band, Second Player Score.
As you may recall, we released our debut album, Fortress Storm Attack, last November. But the work on our follow-up has actually been going on for quite some time now; in fact, most of the songs for it were already written by the time Album One came out.

So right now, we're currently in the phase of pre-production that we like to call "Boot Camp." This is where we start to really nail down the details of the songs, arrange vocal harmonies, and listen to rough demos until our ears bleed. It's a lot of work, but also a lot of fun (really, it is).

The album is shaping up to be an eleven-song affair that is loosely connected by a concept/story, sort of like Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. It didn't start out that way, but as the songs began to come together over the past year or so, a story just started to suggest itself, and - being fans of that sort of thing - we decided to go with it and see it where it led.

Boot Camp will run through the summer, and hopefully by the fall we'll be able to get back into the studio and start laying down some tracks. The target release date for the whole album is sometime in 2016, but we'd like to be able to get at least one or two advance singles out before then.

So now you know where things stand with both Album Two and Book Two - lucky you! And while you have Second Player Score on your mind, I'd like to formally announce the launch of the official SPS website, where you can listen to tracks from Fortress Storm Attack, see exclusive pictures of the band, purchase some cool merch, and more. We also have some shows lined up for the coming months, so keep watching this space for announcements!

Friday Edit: NeueRegel Radio will be holding their 24 Hours For Autism benefit show starting today (March 27th) at 2pm Pacific Time. Please listen in and donate! I'll be doing a live interview with them at 5pm Pacific to talk about The Spectraland Saga, but stay tuned before and after for some great music and DJs. Hope you can join us - tune in here!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Talkin' With Joel: Most Annoying Zelda Mini-Games (#6 - The STAR Game)

In case you missed reading about it somewhere (like, perhaps, on the Facebook page for The Spectraland Saga), Netflix announced that they are developing a live-action TV series based on The Legend of Zelda. Very exciting news, indeed! So, in light of that announcement, I figured that it's time to continue our discussion of the Most Annoying Zelda Mini-Games with our special guest, Joel Suzuki.

B: Hi, Joel!
J: Um, you know that the news about that announcement came out forty-one days ago, right?
B: Wow, has it been that long? Time sure flies around here.
B: Are you as excited about it as I am?
J: Well, it sounds cool, but according to an article I read, it may not even happen. And if it does, it probably won't be for a long time. And even then, no one is sure if it will be any good or not.
B: Hmm, those are all valid points. But, I action Zelda!
B: Okay, anyway, let's get on with it!

#6 - The STAR Game (from Twilight Princess)
B: The first round of this game is actually not that hard. I was able to get it done in a few tries.
J: Um, okay.
B: The second round is much more annoying, though. More orbs, no, the orbs move around each time you play, so it's not like there's some kind of pattern that you can learn and get better at with practice.
J: True.
B: How many tries did it take you?
J: Two.
B: Wow, nice. Although I guess I shouldn't be surprised at this point.
J: You know you don't have to hit the orbs exactly, right?
B: Yeah, it's just...I dunno, I guess the ticking clock thing freaks me out a little bit, so then I rush and mess up and aim at the wrong spot and stuff.
J: The clock freaks me out, too, but I just try to relax and not think about it.
B: That's some good advice. Man, you're full of wisdom today!
J: Are you being sarcastic?
B: No, I'm not.
J: Okay, just checking. That sounded like something Felicity would say.
B: It did, didn't it? Yeah, sometimes she can be -
F: Hey, I heard someone say my name.
B: Oh - hey, Felicity!
F: 'Sup, man. Hey, Joel.
J: Hello.
F: What are you guys doing?
B: Talking about the most annoying mini-games in the Zelda series.
F: Nerds.
B: What about you, what are you doing here?
F: Just passing through. Looking for a soda, actually.
B: We're out. Someone needs to do a store run.
F: Ugh, fine, whatever.
B: Well, that's all the time we have for today. See you all next time for #5!
F: Who are you talking to?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

One Of The Best Shows On Television Right Now Is...

...Gravity Falls on Disney XD (Felicity knew this way before I did, so hats off to her.) The show's writers do a great job of balancing emotion, action, comedy and suspense, making it something that people of all ages can get into - despite the fact that it's ostensibly a kids' cartoon.
Anyone that writes young adult or middle grade fiction can learn a thing or two from this show. As its creator Alex Hirsch said in a recent interview, "first and foremost, it's a show about characters." That's a lesson that we, as writers, should always keep in mind - that no matter how many powerful spells or big explosions or scary monsters we have in our stories, the human element is really what resonates with our readers or viewers. We may not be able to raise the dead or fight shapeshifters, but Dipper's crush on Wendy, Soos' non-relationship with his father, Mabel's rivalry with those are things that we all can relate to at some level.

Once you have that human element as the backbone for your story, then you can layer on all of the other cool stuff, which Gravity Falls also does an excellent job of doing. For example, the show's theme song is catchy and unique, and a number of episodes use variations of the theme to great effect whenever a certain mood is called for. And the inclusion of ciphers in the credits is a fun idea that engages the more sleuth-y members of the viewership.
I love all of the episodes in both seasons so far, but the last two ("Mansion Noir" and "Not What He Seems") have really taken things to new heights. Especially the ending of "Not What He Seems." Man, that was intense. Anyway, in case you couldn't tell, I strongly recommend checking this show out if you haven't already. I'm glad I did. Globnar!!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Three???

While the draft of Book Two is being reviewed, I've turned my attention for the moment to - gasp - Book Three.
No, not that Book Three
As you may recall, The Spectraland Saga is going to be a seven-book series, for reasons that I discussed in this previous post. I have the general story and character arcs for the entire series sketched out, as well as working titles and basic summaries for each book. That being said, though, there's always a good chance that things will change - maybe significantly - as I do the actual, you know, writing. If you've been following along with this blog, then you know that Book Two underwent a pretty lengthy (okay, very lengthy) process of rewriting and revision to get to the point that it's currently at.

With that in mind, I figured that it's not too early to get a jump on the next installment now, even before Book Two has been finalized. The good news is that, so far, it almost seems to be writing itself - without giving too much away, the events of Book Two lead pretty smoothly into Book Three, even though Two can be read as a mostly self-contained story (just like Book One). At the very least, I'm ahead of my previous pace, when I didn't even really start outlining in earnest until Book One had already been out for two months. See, I'm learning.

So, for a while you'll probably be seeing dual status updates: one for Book Two's progress from draft to finished product (a process that will conclude later this year - yes, I said it again), and one for Book Three's journey from outline onward. I have some really cool things planned for it, so I think it'll be a fun ride.