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.
J:
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 mean...live action Zelda!
J:
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 platforms...plus, 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 Pacifica...now 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.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Video Game Update

So while my daughter and I wait patiently for the new Xenoblade and Zelda games - c'mon, Nintendo, announce the release dates already! (okay, I admit, not so patiently) - we've had to fill the gap with alternatives. Fortunately, there are still a few good ones out there.
One of those is Golden Sun, a JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) that was originally released in 2001 for the Game Boy. It was re-released for the Wii U Virtual Console last year, and, after hunting through the eShop, we stumbled upon it in a manner similar to when we found the brilliant and quirky Earthbound. Unlike Earthbound, Golden Sun is pretty standard RPG fare, with swords and magic and so on, but it has a decent storyline, great music, and surprisingly good graphics given its handheld origins. I'm nowhere near done with it yet, but so far, it's been fun, and I'd definitely recommend it.
Have I talked about Child of Light yet? We actually discovered this one on the eShop last December. I was skeptical at first, mainly because I don't really like 2-D side scrollers, but shortly after I started playing it, I was hooked. The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and the game itself has a wistful, bittersweet vibe that sets it apart from a lot of other similar titles. The storyline was thoughtful and terrific, and the timing-based combat system was very cool once I got used to it. My only gripe with this game is that it was too short, even with all of the side quests. Highly recommended.
And then, of course, there's the new Kirby title, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. I have to admit - Kirby games, despite their cuteness, are actually quite challenging (to me, anyway), and I find myself yelling and freaking out when I play them more often than with most other games. I've just started on this one, and it's been no different - it took me ten tries to beat Hooplagoon, the boss of the second stage. Aside from that, two things about this game bug me: (1) I'm not sure why it's a Wii U title, rather than a DS one. Because of the stylus-based gameplay, you're so focused on the gamepad screen that the TV display is basically useless. It does allow my daughter to watch - and laugh at - my struggles, though, so I suppose that's a plus. (2) Also because of the stylus-based gameplay, I find that my hand often blocks out important details that I need to be seeing, like upcoming hazards and such. It's not a huge issue, and perhaps it's more user error than anything else (I'm sure more experienced players know a way around this), but it is annoying, nonetheless.

Anyway, that's the latest. I'm pretty sure Golden Sun and Kirby will keep us busy for at least a little while longer, but seriouslyhurryupNintendowereallyreallyneedthosenewXenobladeandZeldagames!!1!11!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I'm Excited About Book Two. Let's Party

So, I've read the draft of Book Two several more times now, making some minor edits along the way. And what do you know, I still love it. Every time I finish it, I feel a strong sense of "Yeahhh. Now that's the stuff."
It's in the hands of my beta readers now, and after they're done, I'll make some more tweaks based on their feedback, and then I'll send it off to my editor. In the meantime, I've also been working on a mock-up for the front cover, as well the back cover copy. It's looking like I'll be able to launch this thing into the world by the fall of this year, if not sooner.*

What's it going to be called, you ask? Well, if you recall, I announced the title a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - or, more specifically, on March 9, 2013 in this guest blog I wrote for Autism Empowerment. I see that the link is down right now, so here's an excerpt:

"I'm currently hard at work on the second book in the series, which will be titled Mystery of the Moonfire. For those of you who are familiar with the first book, in this next installment Joel and Felicity return to Spectraland to help Fireflower find the source of a strange force that is nullifying the Wavemakers' ability to control the Aura. Or, at least, that's what I think they're doing."

As it turns out, that's sort of what they're doing, as well as a lot more. But regardless, the title is still the same. It actually changed once during the re-writing process, but in the end, it came back to that, which is what I think it should have been all along.

Anyway, when it does come out, there will definitely be a proper launch party (or two, or three - I like parties) that you will all be invited to, so be sure to keep watching this blog for updates and announcements. In the meantime, though, I'm so jazzed that I'd like to do a kind of "First-Draft-Finished Party," which I've decided will take place at the Portland Spring Home & Garden Show this coming weekend, starting TONIGHT (hey, Thursday is close enough to the weekend).

So, here's the deal. I'll be at the show tonight (at the booth for the awesome Northwest Independent Writers Association in the back corner of Hall D) from 6-8pm, tomorrow night from 6-8pm, and Saturday morning from 10am-12pm. Come on down, bring your copy of Book One for me to autograph (if you don't have one - gasp - you can buy one at the show for just ten bucks), and, if you're one of the first five people to tell me "I can't wait for Mystery of the Moonfire!" I will give you a secret code that you can redeem for a FREE COPY of the audiobook version of Book One, narrated by the great Jonathan Murphy! Then afterwards, hang out, meet and talk to some other very cool local authors, and we'll all have a rockin' good time. You know you want to. See you there!

* But...probably in the fall. I'm a perfectionist

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Gig In Review: Shanahan's 2/7/15

I got down to Shanahan's at around 8ish for load-in. The parking lot was packed, so I found a space on the street nearby. A light rain was falling, which, for some bizarre reason, made me think about the woodsprites from Avatar. Not really sure why. Anyway, it was nothing that I haven't hauled gear through before, but since we were scheduled to be the last band up, I figured I'd go hang out for a while and unload later.
I walked through the front entrance and ran into Kyle, our drummer, as well as the guys from Laurelhurst and Nate, Shanahan's booker. After we discussed logistics for a couple of minutes, I started to head for the stage area. As I was doing so, someone called out "hey" from one of the nearby booths. It was Dan, our bassist, and his girlfriend Molly. I joined them at their table, where we hung out for a while and watched the Blazers blow an nine-point fourth quarter lead with two minutes left (ugh) against the Dallas Mavericks.

The guys from Stab In The Dark arrived soon afterwards. We chatted with them for a while, and then it was approaching showtime. I went to go fetch my gear. While I was doing so, Dan called me and said that one space had opened up in the main lot. Sweet! So I moved my car and unloaded from there. Then, we relocated the party back into the stage area and got ready for Laurelhurst to go on.

I just want to say: I enjoy playing shows with these two bands because: (1) they're cool guys and (2) they rock. They're bands that I would go see even if my own band wasn't on the bill, so the fact that we were is just a nice bonus. Seriously, you should check them out whenever you get the chance.

Anyway, Laurelhurst played a killer set, and they were followed by Stab (we call them Stab for short). At one point, I think I went up in front of the stage and did a half-dance/half-mosh kind of thing - I believe there may be video evidence of such an action floating around on Facebook or something, but I'm not sure.

Then, we (Second Player Score) were up. We blazed through a thirteen-song set that included all ten tracks off of Fortress Storm Attack, two new songs that will be on our second album (titled "Deep" and "Comets"), and our usual punked-up version of the Corey Hart classic "Sunglasses At Night."
After we were done breaking down, we all hung out for a while before it was time to call it a night. I had a lot of fun and, as always, am looking forward to the next time we play at Shanahan's. Much mahalos go out to Nate, Laurelhurst, Stab, and everyone who came out. So anyway, this is Jake Sully signing off - uh, I mean, hope to see you all at the next show!