Thursday, September 21, 2017

Give More 24! And B-Fest!

Today is Give More 24! What is that, you ask? Why, it's 24 hours in which you can make a positive difference in the world by donating to one of 125 nonprofit organizations based in the Southwest Washington area. "Sounds great," you say, "but which organization should I donate to?" Well, each organization is definitely worthy of your support, but allow me to make a suggestion: Autism Empowerment.
Why, you ask? Well, because not only are we dedicated to improving the quality of life for people and families in the autism community both locally and worldwide via our various programs, support groups, events, resources, and more, but also because we promote a global culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.
If that sounds good to you, then simply go this link and make a donation. Even just the minimum of $10 will be greatly appreciated. All donations are 100% tax-deductible, and best of all, giving feels good! I know this first-hand, because not only will I be donating today, but I also donate to Autism Empowerment (on an ongoing basis) one dollar for every Joel Suzuki book that is sold.
Speaking of Joel Suzuki, this Saturday afternoon I will be at the Barnes & Noble in Vancouver as the featured fiction author for the annual B-Fest Teen Book Festival! The event - which is family-friendly and free to attend - will not only include Joel Suzuki, but also writing workshops, trivia, games, prizes, and local poet Shaindel Beers. The fun starts at 1pm and lasts until 6:30 or so (I'll be leaving at around 3 or 4, so get there early). The store is located at 7700 NE Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver WA in the Vancouver Plaza. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Casting Call

In this Spectrums Magazine interview from last winter, I was asked "Why is it important to you that autistic actors be cast in some of the leading roles (of a possible Joel Suzuki movie adaptation)?" Part of my answer included me saying "I'd like to give people in the autism community the opportunity to show off their skills and break into an industry in which people with disabilities in general have been sorely underrepresented." I also said "It would be really cool if Dan Aykroyd and Daryl Hannah, both of whom are on the spectrum, would play roles in the film versions of my books. They're not quite the right fit for Joel and Felicity, of course, but we'd find roles for them for sure!"
So this morning, while thinking in the shower, I asked myself, "Well, what roles would those be? And who else would make a really cool addition to the cast?" Here's what I came up with.

Dan Aykroyd: Chief Raintree
Chief Raintree is the amiable leader of Spearwind village in Spectraland. He appears in all three books so far, and supports the Wavemakers during their conflict with the Silencers. He's not comic relief, but he does have a humorous nature that I think Mr. Aykroyd would be able to portray quite nicely.

Daryl Hannah: Guider of the Worthy
Guider of the Worthy (or just "Guider") is the leader of the Redivision movement in Volume Three. She's strong, fair, and authoritative - qualities that I think Ms. Hannah would have no problem bringing to the role.

Jonathan Cormur: Whitenose
Formerly known as Jonathan Murphy, this is the brilliant young man who narrated the audiobook version of Volume One. Check out his website here. I'm sure he would have no trouble playing a number of different characters from the Joel Suzuki series, but the one that I picture him as most for some reason is Whitenose, the Silencer guard who has a pretty major role in Volume Two and also makes a cameo appearance in Volume Three.

Mickey Rowe: Windblade
The first actor on the spectrum to be cast as Christopher in the stage adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mickey Rowe seems like he would be a good fit for Windblade, one of the members of the Wavemaker Order. As a bonus, he's from Seattle, which is where Joel Suzuki and his family currently reside.

Paddy Considine: Thinker of Deep Thoughts
An English actor - and a musician - who was diagnosed as being on the spectrum at age 36, he has a long list of credits that includes The Bourne Ultimatum and Hot Fuzz. His Wikipedia entry says that "he has played a number of dark, troubled, and morally or mentally ambiguous characters." So let's turn that around and cast him as Thinker of Deep Thoughts from Volume Three!

That's what I have so far. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments or email me at joelsuzukiseries@gmail.com!

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, September 7, 2017

Volume Four Update: Over The Hump Edition

Four is a pretty important number in music - the 4/4 time signature, the Four Chords of Awesome, the Fab Four. There are also a lot of famous foursomes in fiction: the four houses of Hogwarts, the Fantastic Four, the four quadrants of the galaxy in Star Trek, the four main villages of Spectraland, the four...oh, but wait, this isn't an essay about the number four. This is a Volume Four status update!
At the time of the last update three months ago, I was at 28,000 words and said that "I stand an outside chance of finishing the first draft sometime before the holidays." Now, I don't really believe in jinxes anymore (except when it comes to watching professional sports - speaking of which, holy pigskin, Batman, it's football season again), but soon after I said that, some changes in my life occurred which made finding time to write a bit more challenging. Nothing bad or major, mind you, but nevertheless, it did throw a wrench into my normal schedule.

So at first, I'll admit, I was flailing a little. Volume Four went untouched for a while as I tried to adjust. I knew that somehow I needed to find a way to get back to it. I found myself wishing I had a Time-Turner or a TARDIS or a DeLorean or a Power Glove, which was funny because - sneak preview alert! - there's a time-travel element to the plot of Volume Four.

But since I couldn't find any of those things, I had to resort to more down-to-earth techniques. I used one that I had previously employed called "writing in my head." I made adjustments to my attitude and my personal routines. I brought in special guests, from this plane of existence as well as others, to fill in on this blog. I sacrificed a few personal enjoyment activities that were basically just self-indulgent time-wasters, like watching the last episode of Doctor Who's season 10 over and over and over again (although I still managed to binge-watch the new Tick, which is hilarious and amazing - the show, that is, not the fact that I binge-watched it). And really, I just kind of doubled down on the self-discipline.

As a result, I was able to mostly get back on track, and so now the first draft of Volume Four stands at - insert drum roll here - a healthy 44,444 words (kidding - it's actually 45,275). I passed the halfway mark in the story outline, which officially puts me over the hump. Finishing the draft before the holidays as I had previously hoped will be a stretch, but the main thing is that it hasn't been derailed altogether. With any luck, I'll be able to finish it before the end of the year, which still puts me comfortably ahead of schedule. That said, though, I would like a time machine anyway, mainly so I can watch "The Doctor Falls" a few more times (I've only memorized about 85% of the dialogue). Can someone help me out with that?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Felicity Tries To Explain Television To Fireflower

Hey, Felicity here, filling in once again while Brian is off doing who-knows-what. Anyway, my friend Fireflower happened to be visiting this week, and she asked me if I could introduce her to some popular Earth-style recreational activities. So I figured, what's more popular than watching TV? And besides, she already gets enough outdoor exercise back in Spectraland running away from elephant-sharks and other assorted beasties.
Felicity: All right, so this is how we do it. We plop ourselves on this thing called a "couch," turn the TV on, and bam. Away we go. Super easy.
Fireflower: And...what did you say this beverage is called, again?
Felicity: Diet cola. Delicious, right?
Fireflower: Um...if you say so.
Felicity: Okay, so this is one of my favorites. Joel likes it too. It's called "Doctor Who."
Fireflower: Remind me again, please, what "it" is.
Felicity: Oh, right. By "it," I mean a show. A program. Which is like a story, but with pictures.
Fireflower: Moving pictures. With actual people.
Felicity: Right. But they're not actually doing whatever it is they're doing.
Fireflower: It seems to me as if they are doing things. Are you trying to tell me that that man is not running away from those...whatever those are?
Felicity: Daleks. And no, yeah, he's really running, but he's not actually in real danger or anything like that. He's acting.
Fireflower: Acting?
Felicity: Pretending. Don't you guys have story time in Spectraland? Like, when someone pretends to be a slimeback or something?
Fireflower: We do, but this looks so...real.
Felicity: I know, right? That's what's awesome about TV. They have, like, props and special effects and makeup and stuff.
Fireflower: I see.
Felicity: Okay, here's another good one. This is the new version of "DuckTales."
Fireflower: Those...those are not real people.
Felicity: Yeah, I know. This is a cartoon.
Fireflower: A cartoon?
Felicity: Animation. It's like when you draw lots of pictures and then show them all in a row, it looks like they're moving.
Fireflower: But the pictures are speaking. And rather oddly, I must say.
Felicity: Only Donald talks like that. Anyway, actual people do the speaking. Someone records them and then they play the recording along with the pictures.
Fireflower: And they are able to match up the words with the movements of the pictures?
Felicity: Yeah.
Fireflower: That is impressive.
Felicity: I guess it is. Oh, here's something else I wanted you to see.
Fireflower: What show is this?
Felicity: It's not really a show. It's a baseball game.
Fireflower: And are those people pretending?
Felicity: No, this is for real. It's a sporting event. Like, you know how you have those wavebow duels back in Spectraland? It's kind of like that, but someone is broadcasting it, showing it to everyone who wants to watch it.
Fireflower: Ah, I see. Quite amazing. So these are two teams competing against each other?
Felicity: You got it.
Fireflower: And based on what I have learned of your written language, it appears as if the team called the "Mariners" is currently losing?
Felicity: Um, yeah. Don't get me started.
Fireflower: Well, Miss Felicity, I thank you for this introduction to your "television" device. Based on what I have seen, I can certainly understand how your people are able to spend many hours watching it.
Felicity: No problem. And hey, if you think that's cool, wait 'til I show you this next thing.
Fireflower: Oh?
Felicity: Yeah, it's called video games.
Fireflower: How exciting. And I think I will have another one of these "diet colas," after all.
Felicity: Now you're really catching on.

Editor's note: we here at the Brian Tashima blog do not endorse prolonged physical inactivity and would recommend a regular exercise routine as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle

Felicity's note: yeah, whatever

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer of Joel: A Recap

Anyone familiar with the episode of Seinfeld titled "The Summer of George"? Well, this summer has been kind of like that for Joel Suzuki and company, except that we've been super busy while George Costanza basically just sat around in his pajamas the whole time. So I guess the two summers really aren't similar at all. Anyway, on to the recap!

On July 15th, I took part in the inaugural Words and Pictures Festival at Cascade Park Community Library. I did a presentation and a reading and got to meet some really cool fellow authors as well as the fine folks from Vintage Books.
The following week, Joel, Torin and I traveled down to Eugene, Oregon for Family Literacy Night at the Eugene Barnes and Noble. While I was there, I learned that Timothy Zahn, the author of the Thrawn books for the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now called Star Wars Legends), lives in the area and even did a local author visit to the store!

Besides geeking out, I also had a great time hanging with my good friend and fellow author Roslyn McFarland, her daughter (also an author!) Gwendalyn Belle, and Ben Brock (also an author!) from Barnes and Noble. Be sure to check out their books when you get a chance.
Then on August 1st, I got the great news that I'll be a panelist at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs' annual conference in Tampa, FL next year! I'll be joined by three other terrific authors (Naseem Jamnia, Beth Vrabel, and Melissa Hart) and we'll be talking about disability in children's literature. Can't wait!

A couple of weeks later, we headed out to Camp Odakoda, a summer camp for children on the autism spectrum. I did a little introduction and then we were off to the races, because everyone had so many questions! The campers were all so smart and inquisitive, it was really awesome.
A few days after that I took a trek over to Lewiston, Idaho, where I was a featured speaker for The Green Apple Project's Speaker Series at the Lewiston City Library. The Green Apple Project is a wonderful non-profit organization that, similar to Autism Empowerment, strives to promote autism awareness and acceptance through support groups, education, special events, and more.
I really can't say enough about how fantastic everyone I met over there was. Their kindness and generous hospitality really made me feel welcome, and they shared the same passion that I have for creating a culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

And it's not over yet! This weekend I will be at the US Autism and Asperger Association's annual conference, which this year is taking place right here in Portland, Oregon. The conference is open to all, so come on down and check out Autism Empowerment's exhibitor booth.

So as George Costanza might say, "I'm busting, Jerry, I'm busting!"*

* Which, if you're not familiar with the show, is what he would say when he was happy or excited

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reader Feedback

Enough of me talking. Today it's your turn!

If you've been following this blog for a while, then you know that I tend to write about a wide variety of subjects, including music, writing, parenthood, and more. So my question to you is this: is there anything in particular you want me to write about more often? Less often? Should this blog be all about one topic, or is it fine just the way it is?

In case it helps, here are the all-time top five posts in terms of number of views:

5. Happy 5th Birthday, Autism Empowerment!

4. Secret of the Songshell: Celeb Comps

3. Rockin' With Ian

2. Status Update!

1. Status Report!

Based on this, it would seem as if posts that update you on things I've been doing are the most popular...or maybe people just like Star Trek pictures?

Anyway, let me know what you think. There are three ways you can do that:

- Leave a comment on this post
- Email me at joelsuzukiseries@gmail.com
- Contact Joel via Twitter at @joel_suzuki (he'll pass the messages on to me)

We'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stardew Valley (Guest Post By Connie Jasperson)

We continue our series of guest bloggers who are from this particular plane of existence - and not the parallel one inhabited by Joel Suzuki and company - with a post by Connie Jasperson. Connie lives in Olympia, Washington and is the author of the Tower of Bones series, Mountains of the Moon, Huw the Bard, and much more. Be sure to check those books out! Today Connie will be talking about the game Stardew Valley, which just so happens to be one of my daughter's favorites. Take it away, Connie!
#amgaming: Stardew Valley, by Chucklefish Games
by Connie Jasperson


I've mentioned before that I spend a certain amount of time playing computer games, especially when I am trying to avoid doing any serious writing. Just like the books I read when dodging work, I love to talk about whatever game I'm playing.

Today I am reviewing Stardew Valley, an open-ended country-life RPG which was built by indie programmer, Eric Barone under the alias Concerned Ape, and published by Chucklefish Games. It was released for Microsoft Windows in February 2016, with ports for OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One appearing later that same year.

I love old-school, indie-built RPGs, and Stardew Valley is one of the more absorbing games I've played lately.

But first, the Blurb:
You've inherited your grandfather's old farm plot in Stardew Valley. Armed with hand-me-down tools and a few coins, you set out to begin your new life. Can you learn to live off the land and turn these overgrown fields into a thriving home? It won't be easy. Ever since Joja Corporation came to town, the old ways of life have all but disappeared. The community center, once the town's most vibrant hub of activity, now lies in shambles. But the valley seems full of opportunity. With a little dedication, you might just be the one to restore Stardew Valley to greatness!

My Review:
The art and graphics are excellent and colorful. Each setting is fun to roam around in. If I have any complaint, it's the amount of walking back and forth over the same ground that one has to do to complete the many tasks, and the game clock keeps ticking while you struggle to get your farm up and running. Fortunately, from day one of the game there are many places to forage from, and what you find can be sold to buy more supplies.

In this game, I always play a female character, but you can create a male character just as easily. You can choose one of five farm maps, each with different pros and cons. I prefer the one with extra foraging opportunities, but there is one with more mining resources and another with a fishing river.

In all the scenarios, the farm plot is initially overrun with boulders, trees, stumps, and weeds, and the player must work to clear them to rebuild the farm: you will be tending to crops and livestock to generate revenue so you can further expand the farm's buildings and facilities.

I started over with different characters, once I figured out what I didn't know when setting up the first character. That's how I discovered the joy of having 4 completely different games going at once. (I laugh, but really I'm cringing.) Because I like each of the different storylines, I play whichever game I'm in the mood for, as none of the storylines are finished. I have married each of my characters off to different bachelors, which generates a different storyline and completely different cutscenes every time.

There are ten marriageable characters, and each generates a different storyline. You can marry anyone you choose, male or female. If you marry a member of your own sex, you will be offered the option of adopting children.

Friendships are important, and you can gain a lot of friends by doing odd jobs which will be posted on the community bulletin board. Romance happens slowly because figuring out what the character you are wooing likes can be difficult.

The mines are difficult, with some tough monsters. The creatures are fun, and some are hard to beat, but you do gain strength, and the wise miner brings food, so nothing is impossible. Fishing takes a bit of work, and it's not easy to learn, and figuring out how things work is challenging.

You will spend game time walking from place to place. A day on the farm typically takes 15 minutes of real time. Every task eats time - for instance, a walk to town consumes half an hour of the character's game-day. Added to the challenge is the 3 hours (6-to-9:00 am or longer in game time, not real time) you will devote to trying to get your chores done each morning so you can get going on cutting wood, fishing, or mining. All those tasks are important if you want to improve your farm.

This game contains many adult situations and isn't really for young children. This game also teaches budgeting and planning, real-life skills many adults don't have a great grip on. You do have to be careful with your gold. I suggest you add chickens and cows as soon as possible because, in Stardew Valley, mayonnaise is money - it's the first reliable source of daily income, producing revenue even in the winter.

During recent weeks here at la Casa del Jasperson, the road of real life has been too rocky for me to write. Hence, I've found this game to be quite the enjoyable time-sink. As of this post, I have not completed all the side quests, but since May 13th I have put well over 100 hours into it.

I purchased Stardew Valley on Steam for my PC and play with an X-Box controller, but the game is available for the Sony PS4.

I give Stardew Valley 5 out of 5 stars, as it is an excellent example of indie produced RPG games.

Attributions:

Stardew Valley Screenshot, (c) 2016 Eric Barone, via Wikipedia

This post originally appeared at conniejjasperson.com on July 7, 2017.

P.S. "Mayonnaise is money" is my new mantra