Thursday, June 30, 2016

Book Three Status Update: Hangin' With Felicity Edition

Me: Hey, guess what?

Felicity: Meh

Me: I'm almost done with the second draft of Book Three!
Not the actual cover
F: Well, whoopee for you.

Me: No, seriously, somehow I'm totally ahead of schedule. I just got to 70,000 words, which is, like, 24,000 more than I had at the last status update, and it's 90% of the way through the story outline. I think I might actually finish this thing in July, rather than August or September. Isn't that cool?

F: If that just means I don't have to do any more guest posts, then sure.

Me: I can't guarantee that, of course. But it does mean that I can hopefully, depending on how many revisions I need to make, get this thing out sooner in 2017 than I originally planned.

F: Well, duh. I think that's kind of how time works.

Me: I'm tempted to offer up a launch date right now, but who knows, the draft might actually suck really bad and my editor will hate it and make me do most of it over again. But I really don't think that will happen, because so far I think it's pretty awesome and epic.

F: Wow, you managed to be, like, totally insecure and arrogant almost at the same time there. Good job.

Me: It's just that the story's been flowing really well so far, and all the pieces are coming together nicely. Having an outline really helps. I mean, sure, there are a few things that need to be cleaned up and tightened, but overall I'm super happy with it.

F: Don't you mean "really" happy?

Me: Huh?

F: I dunno, you just say "really" a lot.

Me: I guess I do, don't I? Huh. I never noticed that.

F: Better go check your draft for overuse of "really"s.

Me: I'm sure it's fine. Anyway, since you wanted to know what the book is about - 

F: I never said that.

Me: - all I can say at this point is that it picks up shortly after where Book Two left off, and it goes in some new and unexpected directions that I think fans of the Spectraland Saga and sci-fi/fantasy in general will enjoy. We're approaching the midpoint of the series now, so the stakes get raised, things get bigger, the scope starts to widen. I'll have more details later, but I don't want to reveal too much right now, since obviously I'm still in the draft stage and lots of stuff can change.

F: Just don't change any of the parts where I'm doing something cool. Like punching monsters and stuff.

Me: I'm not sure there's as much of that this time around, but don't worry, you still have your moments.

F: I'd better.

Me: Trust me, you do. Really.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Random Thoughts and Deep Questions

One of the best under-the-radar shows going on (for four years now!) is the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series - okay, okay, cartoon, there, I said it - on Disney XD.
I think I've mentioned before that it contains my favorite version of Deadpool on screen - yes, I like it even better than the Ryan Reynolds one.
Anyway, I watched the latest episode ("The New Sinister Six: Part 2") this past Sunday and I have to say, it was pretty awesome. It contained one of my most favorite tropes ever: the "my name is (whatever)" line. You know, like in The Matrix when Neo says "My name...is Neo," or in Monsters vs. Aliens when Susan says "And the name...is Ginormica." So epic. No matter how many times people do this, I will never get tired of it. I think.
Moving on to the latest installment of Deep Questions, this time around (as compared to the last time) I am actually offering a reward to anyone who wants to chime in with their opinions or comments. And what is that reward, you ask? Why, it's a free mp3 of "Deep," one of the tracks off of Second Player Score's upcoming album! Because, you know, "Deep Questions," "Deep"...yeah, okay, you got it.
Just leave a comment below with your contribution and an e-mail address, and I'll send you the mp3 as soon as I can. Honestly, I will. Or, if you want to remain out of the public eye, feel free to e-mail me c/o The Spectraland Saga at thespectralandsaga@gmail.com.

All right, so here we go! First off - are there any cool admirals in Starfleet, or are they all jerks/bad guys in disguise? I will have to admit here that my Star Trek knowledge is limited to The Original Series, The Next Generation, and most of the movies, so perhaps I missed something along the way, but it always seems to me like the admiral characters are always there to either: (1) order the captains not to do something that is obviously beneficial to everyone involved, (2) collude with the enemy, or (3) basically just be a real pain in the rear. I guess the version of Christopher Pike in Star Trek: Into Darkness was a pretty cool guy, so there's that. Any other examples? (While we're on the subject of Star Trek, R.I.P. Anton Yelchin.)
Next question (I only have two of them this time around): why is everyone suddenly named "Finn"?

Let's hear your thoughts!

Coming up next week: an exciting Book Three Update

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Phineas and Ferb Vs. Gravity Falls

Sup. Felicity Smith here, once again filling in for that dude who usually writes this thing. Apparently, it's the last day of school today and Father's Day is this coming Sunday, so he wanted to take the day off or whatever. Anyway, when I asked him what I should write about, he said: "Anything. Gotta run." So I decided that since summer is starting, I would pull Joel in and have a debate with him about which TV series taking place over the course of a hypothetical summer is the best one: Phineas and Ferb or Gravity Falls.
F: Hey, Joel.
J: Um, hello.
F: Okay, so - Phineas and Ferb versus Gravity Falls. Go.
J: Uh, wait...what?
F: Which one is better, and why.
J: Well, I dunno, I like them both. They're both good.
F: Dude, you're doing this wrong.
J:
F: All right, fine, I'll go. Gravity Falls - better theme song.
J: What? No, I mean, yeah, it's good, but the Phineas and Ferb song is pretty cool, too. Bowling For Soup performed it.
F: I already scored the theme song point. You need to come up with something else.
J: Oh, okay. Let's see, uh...Phineas and Ferb had more episodes than Gravity Falls. 222 to 40.
F: I'm not sure that really counts, especially since they did a lot of 11-minute ones, but whatever, I'll give that to you. Okay, so, Gravity Falls had all those ciphers and easter eggs and stuff. I know you like that kind of thing.
J: True. Um...Phineas and Ferb - good catch phrases.
F: "What'cha doin'?"
J: "Ferb, I know what we're gonna do today!"
F: "But - but - but-"
J: "Hey, where's Perry?"
F: Ahem. All right, I got off track there. Gravity Falls - more quotable lines.
J: "That's what they all say."
F: "Soos, these are children."
J: "And then he killed your father!"
F: All right, all right, this could go on forever. Your turn.
J: Well, uh, Phineas and Ferb did those Star Wars and Marvel episodes.
F: Yeah, okay, I guess. Gravity Falls had those references to itself, like when Soos said "I predicted that, like, a year ago." Both shows were pretty meta.
J: And really good too. So can we stop this now?
F: Yeah, I think we filled up enough space. It's not like that dude is paying us by the word or anything.
J: He's paying us?
F: No, I was just kidding.
J: Oh.
F: Later everyone.
J: Bye.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Album Two Status Update

In case you've forgotten, my primary band Second Player Score is hard at work on our sophomore album (does that make the first album a freshman? The third one a junior?) as we prepare it for a planned fall release. What? You have forgotten? All right, here are some reminders.
We just got the final mixdowns for the most recent batch of songs ("Origin Story," "Head of Sin," and "Drink the Poison"), so that makes eight in the can, three more to go. We have studio dates lined up for July, and boot camp is in full swing (there are not many times when it isn't, to be honest). The working title of the album was Nobody's Hero, and now it looks as if that's been promoted from "working" to "actual." Of course, we may still change our minds at the last minute, but that's looking less and less likely.

By the way, we released another single! It's called "Demon's Kiss," and you can hear it on our website. You can also own it before the album comes out, simply by signing up for our Superfans e-mail list. It's free and easy to do - just go to this link. Our drummer Kyle also put together a cool little video blurb for it that you can watch on our Facebook page.

We should have another update for you by the end of the summer as to the exact date when the album will be coming out, along with cover art and more details about the album's story - remember, it's a quasi-concept album. So stay tuned!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Happy 5th Birthday, Autism Empowerment!

Autism Empowerment, the Vancouver, WA-based non-profit organization that I work with, turns five this month. Happy birthday, AE!
In the strange and beautiful way that the universe works, Autism Empowerment was born right around the same time that Book One was, making them peers and classmates for life (I guess they would both be starting kindergarten this fall). Yes, Book One wasn't published as such until 2012, but if you recall, the first draft was completed at the end of April 2011, just two months before the founding of AE. Coincidence? More like serendipity, I think.

As I've mentioned in this space before, I'm really happy and grateful for the relationship I've had with AE and its parents, John and Karen Krejcha, over these past five years. Joel, Felicity, and the whole Spectraland Saga wouldn't be where they are today without the help of these wonderful people. So here's to many more awesome birthdays to come!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Random Thought Thursday

Re-watched X-Men: Days of Future Past in preparation for the Apocalypse, which is probably occurring this weekend. Whoa, was that a good movie. Like, super way better than the first time I saw it, which was already pretty good. If anyone is planning on seeing the new one (which I have heard is not so hot), I recommend you do this first, because at the very least, you will be seeing a really awesome flick.
Speaking of awesome things: generic store-brand goods. Seriously, they are like the X-Men movies of groceries. Mostly killer, some, a little bit meh. Killer: prepackaged salad, antihistamines, paper towels, seltzer water. Meh: dental floss, diet cola.

The first-place Seattle Mariners. I will never get tired of saying that. I will keep saying it until it is no longer true. Now if only they could build a winning record at home...

If you're considering getting a cat, get two if you can. It won't be that much more in the way of maintenance, and the allogrooming and the playfights are totally worth it.

Wireless mice: extremely cool (especially if you have cats who like to chew on cords, which are, I think, all cats), but man, do they go through batteries fast. I guess part of that is my fault for not turning them off overnight.

Went to a korean BBQ joint in Portland a week and a half ago. I ate so much that I declared, at the time, that I wouldn't have to eat for several days afterwards. Oddly enough, though, it had the opposite effect; I was actually still hungry after I had my usual suspects for lunch and dinner the following day. Then I realized: isn't that how all those professional eaters train, like, for those 4th of July hot dog eating contests? By eating so much in the days and weeks leading up to it that their stomachs expand? Anyway, this was basically all I could think about for the entire week afterwards.

I am sure there are a lot of people out there in Internet-land who will say "duh" to this, but beating the Chapter 12 boss in Xenoblade Chronicles X is soooooo much easier once you have a superweapon for your Skell. Just saying.

The other day in the car, my son - who was driving, I'm only now getting used to the idea - gave a short polite beep to a motorist in front of him who didn't realize that they had a green arrow. The driver, realizing the error of their ways, made a brief wave of apology before quickly moving along. Several days later, I encountered this exact same situation while driving by myself, so I, too, gave a short polite beep. This particular motorist, however, after looking in their rear-view mirror, decides not only to not go through the green arrow, but to sit there through the entire red light that followed, even though we were turning right and there was no oncoming traffic. Then, when the light finally turned green-green, they slowly inched forward as if they were getting paid by the hour to go wherever it was they were going. Substandard driving skills, or someone trying to be purposefully annoying? You decide.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Three Status Update: When You've Flown As Far As You Can, You're Halfway There

"What did he say?"
"We're halfway there!"
Those are lines from Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, a movie - based on a book series - that my daughter and I enjoyed. We used to quote those lines to each other for fun, which is a thing that me and my kids do when we like a particular show, movie, or book. We even used to quote lines from Book One (in particular, the scene in chapter one where Joel is talking to Taylor) to each other, which is probably the highest form of flattery I can receive from them.

Anyhoo (see what I did there), the reason I thought about those particular lines is that I am over halfway through the story outline for the second draft of Book Three! Translated into word count, I'm at 46,000 words, which is 16,000 more than I had at last month's status update. Super stoked. If all goes according to plan, mwuahahaha, I expect to have this draft completed around August or September.

And why am I so optimistic, you ask? Especially after all the trials and tribulations that went into hammering out Book Two? Well, aside from the fact that I'm working from an outline that includes detailed chapter summaries, I've settled into a pretty good routine when it comes to the writing process for this volume of the Spectraland Saga. Basically, at the start of my writing day (which is usually actually at night), I start off by reading the previous day's (night's) work and doing minor little edits on it. This gets me into the flow of the story and into "writing mode," and from there it's pretty smooth sailing until I hit - or exceed - my word goal for the day (night), which is 500.*

I've discovered that this technique actually works a lot better than some of my other methods of breaking writer's block or getting past that "activation hump," like the one where I would just write any kind of nonsense, not related to the story at all, just to get the creative juices flowing (although I did get some usable material out of that exercise). So for all of you writers out there who haven't settled on an effective anti-block method yet, feel free to try out that idea and see if it works for you!

* I'm actually writing about this so that I have a documented reminder for myself when I start on Book Four