Thursday, December 31, 2015

Okay, I Really Need To Talk About Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I may have had another topic planned for this post, but since I've seen The Force Awakens three times now, it's practically all I can think about. Does that mean I'm in love with it, like when Dipper laid awake all night thinking about Wendy? Read on!
Obviously, henceforth there will be spoilers. So if you haven't seen the film yet (whaaat), go see it and come back. We'll wait for you.

Okay, so this isn't going to be so much a review as it will be just a random bullet-point collection of my thoughts and reactions to the film. If you want a review, you can probably find maybe one or two floating around on the Internet if you look hard enough. So here we go!

- As I said, I've seen it three times now, and it just gets better each time. I think knowing more about the story before you see it actually helps, because you're not spending brain-processing time in the theater wondering "wait, how is the Resistance related to the Republic again?" and stuff like that. If you're more familiar with the background info, you can just focus on the story.

- The first time I watched it, the similarities to A New Hope actually did start to bug me a little, especially when the Resistance officers were all gathered around the hologram, planning out their attack on Starkiller Base. I was like, seriously? Haven't I seen this before? But the second and third times, it didn't really bug me at all, for some reason.

- Also, the stupidity and/or incompetence of the First Order (haven't you people learned anything from the Death Stars?) didn't bother me as much either upon repeated viewings. In fact, it actually seemed kind of winky-cute in a way, like, of course there's a walkway over a bottomless pit with no handrails!

- The 3-D adds nothing worthwhile, except for one shot where the Finalizer (the First Order's main Star Destroyer) looks like it's sticking out of the screen. At that moment I thought, if there are several more shots like this one, then okay, the 3-D will have been worth the extra money. There weren't.

- Okay, yeah, there are plot holes. But you know what? Who cares! I mean, I'm just as guilty as anyone else for nitpicking, but that's the fun of it. Like the saying goes, never let the truth - or logic - get in the way of a good story.

- Favorite moment, out of many favorites: when the lightsaber goes to Rey instead of Kylo Ren. Totally epic.

- I still couldn't tell when or where Yoda is talking during Rey's flashback scene, even though on my third viewing I was actively listening for it.

- The third time I saw the movie, I went with my son. He had only just watched the original trilogy the week before (his favorite of the three was Return of the Jedi), so I was interested in getting his perspective after we came out of the theater. He said that this one was now his favorite. Also, that it was darker than the original ones (an assessment I agreed with), and that he wasn't surprised that Kylo Ren killed Han Solo (in fact, he said that it would have been "lame" if he didn't). After we got home I half-jokingly said "we should go see it again!" and he responded with "okay, when?" Yessss

- "We'll just use the Force!" "That's not how the Force works!" Hilarious.

- I've heard mixed reviews about Adam Driver's performance. Personally, I thought he was fine. It probably helps that I've never watched the HBO series Girls before. The rest of the main cast (especially Daisy Ridley) was awesome.

- After I saw it the first time, I watched Looper, the sci-fi movie written and directed by Episode XIII writer/director Rian Johnson, and I am happy to report that we are in good hands. Looper was excellent, and little Cid is exactly what Anakin Skywalker should have been (50% kind, 50% creepy, 100% angry and impulsive). Johnson even has the JJ Abrams lens flares down pat!

- He does have at least one challenge, though: how to keep the first forty-five minutes of Episode XIII from being basically people yelling at Luke: "Why didn't you come back?!?" "The First Order is destroying the galaxy and you're off feeling sorry for yourself on some remote island!?!" "Why did you wipe my memory and leave me stranded on Jakku?!?" (the last one is assuming that Rey is, in fact, Luke's daughter)

Those are just a few of the thoughts that have been filling my mind, replacing non-essential things like remembering when to eat, shower, and tend to my kids and pets. The funny thing is, when I read through this list again it almost sounds like I'm criticizing the movie, but honestly, I'm not. It's not perfect, but it is supremely entertaining, and isn't that what a movie like this should be? So I guess I can honestly say that yes, I love The Force Awakens, and I can't wait for May 2017 (Episode XIII's release date) to roll around so I can hear what Luke has to say for himself. In the meantime, Happy New Year everyone!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Book Three Status Update #2, Christmas Eve Edition

So, seen any good movies lately?
Ur on the naughty list
Anyway, I thought it'd be a good time for a quick-'n'-dirty status update on Book Three, which I think I'll start doing on a monthly basis. Or not, if I change my mind.

If you recall, last month I wrote the first real status update on the next Spectraland Saga installment, and at that point I said that I had an outline and 4,000 words. Which was true. I wasn't lying.

And now, I have...22,000 words?? Um, how the heck did that happen? After all, it's only been six weeks since the last update.

Well, the answer is that I've been applying some of the lessons I learned from my whole Book Two ordeal experience, some of which I thought I had been applying before, but as it turns out...maybe not so much.

Lesson #1: Write from an outline. At one point, I tried winging it with Book Two, but as I told Felicity back on January 28, 2013, that didn't turn out so well.

Lesson #2: Turn off the internal editor. I knew this before, but the point was really driven home after I ended up doing multiple rewrites of multiple sections of Book Two. Now, I'm charging straight ahead and not stopping or looking back at all, even when I'm aware that something I'm currently writing is complete garbage or that I'm directly contradicting something in an earlier chapter.

The goal is to follow the outline, get the story down on paper, and then fix it up later. Because for one, I usually find that what I thought was garbage really wasn't that bad, and two, I'm probably going to end up rewriting it anyway.

It's actually kind of fun and exciting. Really, it is! Why, you ask? Well, since I'm not pausing to endlessly re-read previous chapters or paragraphs, once I'm finished with this initial draft I'll be able to go back and read the whole thing straight through, and it'll all seem fresh and new...almost as if someone else had written it. Can't wait!

And finally, Lesson #3: Write every day. A minimum of 500 new words. If I can do more, then great. This is a lesson I had been applying from the time of Book One, but it did get lost every once in a while during the Book Two process when I wasn't following Lesson #2 and I ended up just replacing 500 words instead of composing additional ones.

Wow, that wasn't really quick-'n'-dirty at all, was it? Anyway, Merry Christmas everyone, I'm off to see The Force Awakens again!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Quick Hits: Launch Party #2 Recap, Doodle Duck, And More Cool Stuff

Launch Party #2 rocked! As a Doctor Who fan, I always enjoy just going to The TARDIS Room to hang out and eat fish 'n' chips, so being able to have my book release event there was absolutely brilliant.
Look who the Doctor regenerated into (my sonic sunglasses are on the amp head)
It had been raining heavily all day, but fortunately it stopped before the party began and basically stayed dry until it was time to go home - which is a very welcome thing when transporting musical gear between car and venue.

Special thanks go out to The TARDIS Room's Dave Shillingford for hosting us, Laurelhurst and Why The Fuss? for playing (both bands were great), the four guest authors - Roslyn McFarland, April Bullard, Adam Copeland, and Amber Cook - for being there and being awesome, and everyone who came out and partied with us (including John and Karen Krejcha from Autism Empowerment and my editor extraordinaire Susan DeFreitas from Indigo Editing - seriously, I highly recommend her to any sci-fi/fantasy authors out there).

Tonight, I and my books will be at the Doodle Duck book launch party at Pietro's Pizza in Beaverton, so come on down and check it out! Doodle Duck is a coloring/story book by child author Gwendalyn Belle and illustrator April Bullard - yes, the same April Bullard who was a guest author at Launch Party #2. She also plays the bass!

Xenoblade Chronicles X was finally released in the USA, and I must say, it is everything that I had hoped for. So far, there's not as much storyline as in the first Xenoblade game, but the graphics, music, gameplay...all of it is eXtremely eXcellent (see what I did there). When I'm playing it, the hours just melt away like butter on a hot plate, or something like that. If you liked the first game, or just JRPGs in general, do yourself a favor and check this one out.

And finally, I am super stoked for The Force Awakens this weekend! I have my tickets, do you? What? You don't? Better hurry, you're gonna make Rey mad...

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Launch Party #2

Launch Party #1 at Kazoodles was a great success! Mahalo to Mary Sisson and everyone who came out.
Next up: Launch Party #2 this Saturday at the TARDIS Room in Portland! If you are a Doctor Who fan like yours truly, you totally need to be there, if not for anything else but the awesome decor (c'mon, the bathroom door is painted like the TARDIS. What more could you want?)
But besides the decor, there will also be a lot of other awesome stuff going on. For starters: not two, not three, but four other great local authors will be there, in person, to sign their awesome books for you. They are, in no particular order:

Roslyn McFarland
Author of the No Sea Trilogy and Light The Way (part of The Paradisi Chronicles)

Adam Copeland
Author of the Tales of Avalon Series

April Bullard
Author and Illustrator of The Sock Thief, Goody Hepzibah, and more

Amber Cook
Author of What The Faeries Left Behind, Defense Mechanisms, Night of the Victorian Dead, and more

Whew! But wait - that's not all. There will be also three killer live bands as well:

Laurelhurst

Why The Fuss?

and some random outfit called Second Player Score

And did I forget to mention? This will be a benefit show for Autism Empowerment, with all door proceeds and a portion of my book sales (as always) being donated to their awesome cause. So come on down early and party with us! Here are all the details:

Saturday, December 12, 8pm-whenever
The TARDIS Room
1214 N. Killingsworth St.
Portland OR 97217
21 and over

Fantastic! Allons-y! Geronimo!
P.S. When you're looking for me at the party, I'll be the guy who was going for minimalism but came out with magician.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Party Time, Excellent

So now that Book Two is out, party time has officially arrived!
As a prelude, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is holding an online launch party for a bunch of their members' new books. Check them all out at this link! (Mystery of the Moonfire's party is here)

Then, as previously announced, this Saturday will bring the first of three live-action launch parties, this one an all-ages affair at Kazoodles toy store in Vancouver! Here are the details:

Saturday, December 5, 2015
4pm-6pm
Kazoodles
13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd B-3
Vancouver, WA 98684
All ages

It'll be a fun afternoon, with free Moonfire candy (okay, actually round orange-colored butterscotch) while supplies last. So come on down, bring the kids, shop for toys, pick up a copy of Book Two and get it signed by yours truly. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks!

As you may know, The Spectraland Saga got some nice news coverage over the past week, starting with a story on the KATU 11 o'clock news last Thursday, a follow-up article on KATU's website the following day, and then an article in the Oregonian on Tuesday.
A super-handsome dude...and his dad
So, on behalf of Joel, Felicity and company, I'd like to say mahalo to Nick and Monty at KATU news, Amy Wang of the Oregonian, Lisa Cohn of Arts Seen and Heard PR, and everyone who liked, shared, and left supportive comments on the related Facebook posts! You guys are awesome.

By the way, I'll be appearing at Autism Empowerment's November Autism Social/Game Club tomorrow night at 6:30 (click on the link for details). So, if you're in the Vancouver/Portland area (or have access to a private jet and/or a teleportation device of some kind), come on down and have some fun with us.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Exclusive Bonus Book Two Content!

Most of the previous drafts of Book Two contained a prologue. Now, I'm not usually a huge fan of prologues in general, but I had a particular vision of this one in my head that was just screaming to get out. What I wanted to do with it was to create sort of a beginning-of-the-movie effect that set a mysterious tone, dropped you right in the middle of the action, and made you wonder what, exactly, was going on. As it turned out, I may have been a bit too successful.
My editor and my beta readers all had different opinions about different parts of the novel, but one thing in particular that they all agreed on - independently, mind you - is that the prologue was kind of confusing, and mostly unnecessary. They all thought that it made it difficult to "get into" the book from the start, which is basically death if you're an author who, you know, actually wants people to enjoy your work.

So, I took a deep breath and killed my darling, one of the few sections of Book Two that had actually survived multiple deletions and revisions up until that point. And, whaddya know, my editor and beta readers were right - it made a huge difference. Suddenly, the book seemed to flow so much better from the get-go, and I was all, like, "eureka!" Seriously, I actually did say that out loud, which startled my cats.

I still have a soft spot for the prologue, though, and it still makes sense within the context of the remaining story - none of the subsequent revisions that I made to the rest of the book negate or contradict anything that happened within the span of the prologue's 1,093 words. So, I figured, what the heck - I'll just publish it as bonus content on my blog! Does it count as official Spectraland canon, you ask?*

Well, I suppose it does, since I'm the author of both book and blog. Of course, I reserve the right to change stuff in the future - even with the already-published material - but I promise I'll never make Greedo shoot first  Joel into a ten-foot-tall mutant mushroom creature from Neptune, or anything like that.**

So, with that, I present to you in all of its original glory, the deleted prologue from Book Two, Mystery of the Moonfire...after the jump!

* Okay, you probably didn't really ask that, but whatever
** Although that actually sounds like kind of a neat idea

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Three Status Update

Well, here we go with the first...well, uh, actually, second status update for Book Three of the Spectraland Saga. The first was back in March when I started working on Book Three in earnest while I waited for my editor to review the first completed draft of Book Two.
Rolling the boulder once again
At this point, I have an outline and 4,000 words done. This time around, I'm pretty sure that I've learned from my mistakes with all of the Book Two false starts - my outline is solid, I know the direction that the story is going in, and I'm not making any attempts to "pants" it (pantser: noun. a writer who writes by the seat of their pants, meaning that they don't plan anything out in advance).

So, if all goes well, I should be able to get a draft over to my editor sometime next year, which would put me on track to have Book Three out in 2017 - only a two-year gap instead of three! In the meantime, of course, please enjoy the fruits of my previous labor and pick up a copy of Book Two (and Book One, if you don't already have it).

Also, next year will see the release of Second Player Score's second album, which I've laid down some tracks for over the past couple of days (for three songs titled "Demon's Kiss," "Circles," and "Never Let Me Down"). As I may have mentioned before, it's going to be a semi-concept album, so that's sort of like a new book, right?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

BOOK TWO IS HERE

BOOK TWO IS HERE. BOOK TWO IS HERE. BOOK TWO IS HERE.
Where is "here," exactly? Well, it is all of the following links:

Amazon - Paperback
Amazon - Kindle
Smashwords

Order one for yourself, and one for all of your friends (it makes a great holiday gift). And don't forget, in case you don't already have Book One (gasp), you can get a Kindle copy of it now for just 99 cents! Book Two functions just fine as a standalone story, but since all seven books in the series make up one continuous overall arc, it is much more enjoyable if you've already read Book One first.

Also, check out the newly redesigned website here. And after you've finished reading Book Two, feel free to leave a review of it at Amazon and Goodreads!

Now on to Book Three...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Two Release Date! (And New SPS Music Too)

Book Two of the Spectraland Saga, Mystery of the Moonfire, will be officially released and on sale next week Thursday, November 5, 2015! Much mahalos to all my faithful readers who have been waiting patiently these past three years, throughout all of the status updates that seemed, at times, like they would never end.
To help celebrate the release (in addition to the three launch parties), the Kindle version of Book One, Secret of the Songshell, will be available for only 99 cents for a limited time - just in case, for some bizarre reason, you don't already have a copy. And don't forget, a portion of proceeds from all book sales goes to benefit Autism Empowerment.

To add to the good times, Second Player Score has also just released a pair of singles from our upcoming 2016 album! As you may already be aware from past blog posts, they're titled "Deep" and "Comets" and can be heard on our Reverbnation site. Give 'em a listen!
So mark your calendars: Thursday, November 5th, 2015 - the long-awaited release date for Book Two. Check this space on that day for links to where you can get it!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Book Two Cover Unveiled!

If you're coming here from the Spectraland Saga's Facebook page, then you've probably already seen most of the cover. But here it is in its entirety!
Much thanks goes to graphic artist extraordinaire Purnima Prasad Tronson for her awesome work. The back cover copy reads:

"Things are going pretty well for seventeen-year-old Joel Suzuki. He doesn't have a girlfriend yet, but he does have a band, a record deal, and some really cool memories of saving a faraway place called Spectraland a little over six months ago.

But then his old friend Fireflower shows up at one of Joel's concerts and asks for his assistance. Apparently, things are not going quite as well back in Spectraland as they are on Earth.

Joel agrees to help. But soon after he arrives in Spectraland, the situation takes a turn for the worse: the tropical island's majestic twin moons suddenly burst into flames, and Wavemakers--the people with the power to create magic through music, of which Joel is one--begin to go missing.

Now, Joel must solve the mystery of who is behind these malevolent misdeeds before he falls victim to them as well. Could it be the Silencers, a group of angry individuals who are opposed to the Wavemakers' very existence? Or perhaps another, even more sinister force that no one--including Joel--is expecting..."

Stay tuned to this space for an announcement about the official release date, when you can finally get your hands on a copy of Book Two! (hint: it's before the launch parties)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Free Books!

Want free books? Then come on down this Saturday to beautiful and historic downtown Hillsboro between 10am-1pm! As part of Hillsboro Arts & Culture Month, our friends at Jacobsen's Books are hosting a reader hunt at the Saturday Market.
How does it work, you ask? Simple - just hang around the fountain at the Civic Center Plaza while reading (or, at least, pretending to read) something, and one of a number of local authors will randomly harass approach you with a choice of receiving either (a) a free autographed copy of their book, or (b) a coupon to be redeemed at Jacobsen's. And, yes, you guessed it, one of those local authors will be yours truly, with free copies of Book One while supplies last. Hope to see you there!

P.S. The Book Two cover reveal is coming soon...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Book Two Status Update: Launch Party Announcement!

Get your calendars out, because here's the scoop on the three - yes, three - launch parties that I have planned for Book Two!

Launch Party #1 - Kazoodles
We'll kick things off with a kid-friendly event at Kazoodles toy store in Vancouver. Some of you may remember that I did a signing and reading there for Book One back in 2012. Has it really been three years already? Anyway, here are the details:

Saturday, December 5, 2015
4pm-6pm
Kazoodles
13503 SE Mill Plain Blvd B-3
Vancouver, WA 98684
All ages

Launch Party #2 - The TARDIS Room
Next up, we have a 21+ event at The TARDIS Room in Portland. It's a super cool place with great British food and Doctor Who-themed decor. And it really is bigger on the inside! Second Player Score will be performing, along with others to be announced.

Saturday, December 12, 2015
8pm
The TARDIS Room
1218 N Killingsworth St.
Portland, OR 97217
21+

Launch Party #3 - Shanahan's Pub & Grill
Finally, to brighten up your January, we'll wrap things up with another 21+ event at Shanahan's Pub & Grill in Vancouver. Second Player Score will be performing once more, along with our friends from Stab In The Dark and a third band to be announced.

Saturday, January 23, 2016
8pm
Shanahan's Pub & Grill
209 W McLoughlin Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98660
21+

I know it's still a couple of months away to the first one, so I'll be sending out more reminders and additional details over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stuff That Is Happening

It's that time of year again - the Fall Home & Garden Show is happening this week at the Portland Expo Center! Awesome local authors from the Northwest Independent Writers Association will be on hand, including yours truly (I'll be there Friday evening from 6-8pm, and Saturday from 10am-noon.) So if you're in the area, stop by, hang out, buy some books, get them signed, you know the deal.
Then on Saturday night, Second Player Score will be playing a show at Slim's in Portland, along with Why The Fuss? and Prosody. Show starts at 9pm, and there's no cover. Hope to see you there!
Finally, a Book Two Status Update: I received the line edit back from my editor on Tuesday and am now working on incorporating her feedback, a process that should be done by the end of next week.
The cover art is in process, as is an overhaul of the official Spectraland Saga website. Launch parties (yes, plural) are booked and will be announced soon, so keep watching this space!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Give More 24!

Today, you have a chance to do something awesome! Until midnight tonight (Pacific time), you can help support Autism Empowerment by taking part in Give More 24, an online donation challenge organized by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington.
It's easy - just go to this link to make a donation. Amounts can start as low as $10, and all Give More 24 donations are 100% tax deductible. On behalf of Autism Empowerment, I thank you very much for your support!
video

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Announcements!

If you live in the Portland/Vancouver area and don't already have this event on your schedule for the upcoming weekend, you totally should: the 4th annual Rose City Comic Con.
I've been going every year and, believe me, it is a lot of fun. This year, though, is extra special, because for the first time, members of the Northwest Independent Writers Association - including yours truly - will have our very own vendor table! It will be called "Ripley's Book Booth" and will be in booth 1028.

I, myself, will be there in person on Saturday from 5-7pm to sign books, talk about Mystery of the Moonfire (Book Two!), and geek out with all of you (I'll be at the Con earlier than that, but I'll be wandering through the aisles trying not to spend too much money.)

Click on this link for more details. Hope to see you there!

***

Our friends over at Geek Club Books have just rolled out Bluebee TeeVee, a webisode series that teaches kids about autism in a fun, clinically correct manner. James Sullivan is the show's host, writer and editor, while Jonathan Murphy - who you may remember as the brilliant voice actor behind the audiobook version of Book One - performs the character voices for the Bluebee Pal co-hosts.

Check it out here!

***

Finally, next week Thursday is GiveMore24, the annual day organized by the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington when people can donate online to their favorite causes. Mine, of course, is Autism Empowerment, and I hope they're yours as well!
So mark it on your calendar, and I'll be talking about it some more next week...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Deep Questions

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road, The Legend of Korra (Seasons 2&3)Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (Mission to Mos Eisley).

This is not a test. These are just nerdy questions that I ask myself while I'm doing stuff like mowing the lawn or taking out the trash. Read 'em through and see if you have any opinions on what the answers might be...

1. What was Furiosa's plan when it came to the War Boys who were with her on the supposed fuel run?
I mean, was she just gonna take them with her to the Green Place? And if so, what then? Was she counting on the Vuvalini to help her eliminate them once they got there? Or was she thinking that either the Buzzards or the Rock Riders were going to kill them - and not her - along the way? It didn't seem like her deal with the latter group included a clause for that.

On a related note, where were the Vuvalini living when Furiosa found them, since the Green Place was no more? Couldn't Furiosa and the Five Wives have just stayed there and moved in? Why did traveling across the salt flats to who-knows-where seem like a better alternative?

2. Shouldn't Eska and Desna have been thrown in jail for attempting to kill Korra?
Or, at the very least, shouldn't they not have been named the new Chiefs of the Northern Water Tribe? I mean, as far as I could tell, the only crime that Zaheer committed before he got locked up the first time was attempting to kidnap - not kill - Korra when she was a kid, and that landed him in long-term solitary confinement. My daughter told me that it has something to do with forgiveness and redemption (like how Zuko ended up being the new Fire Lord after he kidnapped Aang), but I'm not sure it would work that way in real life.

I do like how the show humorously attempted to address the issue, though, in the Season 3 scene where Zuko said "I hired a guy like that to kill the Avatar myself once" and Eska said "that's okay, I tried to kill Korra after she ruined my wedding. It happens."

3. Why does Obi-Wan call Darth Vader "Darth"?
As in, "you can't win, Darth." It just sounds so silly to me now every time I hear it. I've probably talked about this before, but I was reminded of it when I watched the latest episode of Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales and they didn't even make fun of it (they do, however, make a hilarious reference to the fact that both Obi-Wan and Luke didn't change their real last names).

I know that originally Obi-Wan calls Darth Vader "Darth" because at the time, George Lucas hadn't yet decided that "Darth" was a title and not a name. But of all the things that Lucas tinkered with later on, couldn't he have changed that, instead of all the other stuff that people are mad about now (Han shot first, etc.)? I mean, "you can't win, Vader," would have sounded much better.

I suppose it's sort of like saying "you can't win, General," to General Grievous, but "Darth" is not commonly used as a title in either the real world or in any of the various Star Wars media, so it just comes across as a little strange.

Anyway, that concludes this installment of "Deep Questions." If you have any answers you'd like to suggest or point out (like, perhaps I missed something and need to watch Fury Road again - twist my arm), leave a comment below...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Good News, Everyone!

Book Two Status Update: all major revisions are now complete! I'll be turning in the manuscript to my editor after Labor Day for a line edit, which will be done by the end of this month.
After that, I'll just need to make the final tweaks, and then it'll be time to move on to stuff like formatting and getting the cover art together. Unlike previous false alarms, we are actually nearing the finish line this time - for real. I am not kidding! I even have locations lined up for the launch parties. So stay tuned...

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kat Birthday

Tomorrow, Boots and Mittens turn one year old. Happy birthday, Boots and Mittens!
In case you don't remember, Boots and Mittens are the kittens that my family adopted last December. It's hard to believe that they're already considered "adult" cats. They're big - Boots is over eleven pounds, and Mittens is nine pounds. It seems like just a few days ago that they were tiny scraps of fur that you could hold in one hand. Now, when Boots sleeps on my lap, it's like carrying a bowling ball on my thighs. He's a bowling ball's worth of cat.

It's been a lot of fun having them around. I used to hate it when a fly got in the house, but now I don't mind as much, because it's like a free toy for the cats. They chase it all over the place and have a grand old time. Even when there aren't any flies, they occasionally growl at stare at what, to me, seems like nothing, but I'm pretty sure it's like a poltergeist or something. I am convinced that cats - and animals, in general - can see and sense stuff that we lowly humans cannot. And I'm not just talking about the fact that they have better hearing and can see well in the dark. Pet owners, you know what I'm talking about.

My cats also apparently have short-range teleportation powers, kind of like Deadpool or Nightcrawler. One moment they'll be lying down on the kitchen island, then the next moment they'll appear on the stairs. I swear this is true. It's such a cool thing that I incorporated this ability into Book Two, as you shall see.

Boots is the big eater (as you may have already guessed) and is not very picky at all. Mittens is a bit more finicky; after serving them the same chicken-flavored soft food for months, she started to eat less and less of it, until finally, she started ignoring it altogether. I suspected that it wasn't an appetite issue, as she still enjoyed her dry food just fine, so I switched to a turkey-salmon concoction, and sure enough, she gobbled that right up.

We won't be doing any kind of birthday cake, but at my daughter's suggestion, we will be buying a catnip treat or two. Happy birthday, Boots and Mittens, and here's to many more!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Spectraland Saga: Origin Story, Part Three

Read Part One here.
And Part Two here.

After I finished the first three chapters of my fledgling story in June 2010, I went back and spent another month working on stuff like world-building and backstories. The people who could create magic with music were dubbed "Minstrels," while the alternate world became "Moonland." I put together a ten-page document that included descriptions of Moonland's history and geography, character sketches for Joel and Marshall, and a basic synopsis of the whole story.

Then, one fateful day, I had a horrible realization: the idea of creating magic with music was already done many years earlier by Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger series, which I read when I was a kid.
"Noooo," I cried. All of that work I had done over the past several months - for nothing! So on July 12, 2010, I officially gave up.

But then I realized that I couldn't quit. After all, the whole reason why I started working on this project in the first place was because my son had asked me to write him a book. I couldn't stop now! So, I cycled through a bunch of other ideas, none of which appealed to me. Then, finally, three months later, I told myself: "You know what? I'm just gonna go with it." I figured that even though my original Minstrels/Moonland concept shared a common concept with other novels - namely, the whole music-is-magic idea - I could still create a story that would be unique enough to set it apart from the rest. After all, the fact that there had been books about wizardy boarding schools since the '70s (and probably earlier) didn't stop J.K. Rowling now, did it?

I forged ahead. Two weeks later, my ten-page document had grown to twenty-two pages, as I fleshed out the synopsis, added ideas about themes, and expanded the world-building details. "Minstrels" became "Wavemakers." Cain went away, and Greenseed took his place. Felicity turned into a normal girl from Earth. The concept of the Aura was born, along with the idea that Joel's unique brain waves would combine with the sound waves of music to create magical effects.

Then, during the winter break of December 2010, I sat down and started writing the actual book.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Quickie Status Updates

I'm on summer vacation this week, and my usual guest bloggers (Joel and Felicity) are out of town - back in Spectraland, perhaps? - so we'll make this quick....

Book Two Update: Feedback from editor received, now moving into final revision stage. Getting very close now - still on track for a launch date before the end of the year.
Album Two Update: Tracking for "Deep" and "Comets" is done, just waiting for the mixdowns to be completed. Boot camp on the next three songs - "Demon's Kiss," "Never Let Me Down," and "Circles" - is underway.

Video Game Update: Finished High Strangeness a while ago (it was pretty short), and finished Alphadia Genesis - a surprisingly good game despite its mixed reviews - last night, with bouts of Splatoon still mixed in. Next up will be Golden Sun: The Lost Age, which recently came out for the Wii U Virtual Console.
TV Update: The latest episode of Gravity Falls was great, especially when it poked fun at itself ("that was the big twist we've been waiting for??") Can't wait for the new season of Doctor Who next month.
Now where did I put my Mai Tai....

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Why Are Bad Guys Always Single?

Part Two of a not-so-ongoing series. Read Part One, Why Are Mentors Always Single? - here.

Bad guys are bad at a lot of things (as I briefly touched upon in this previous post), like finishing off the hero quickly; coming up with fool-proof plans; etc. On top of that, they also seem to be particularly inept at starting and maintaining romantic relationships. Why is that? After all, isn't there a popular notion that ladies are attracted to the "bad boys"? Shouldn't their dark, brooding natures lead to tons of text messages and right-swipes? Or are they just too busy working on their latest world-domination scheme to even bother?

Here are a few examples off the top of my head:

[Mild spoilers ahead]

Lord Voldemort, aka Tom Riddle - Being a very charismatic guy, you would think that Voldemort would have had a lot of success on the Death Eater Dating circuit. Okay, the lack of a nose may be a little off-putting, but that sure hasn't seemed to stop Bellatrix from developing a big ol' crush on Mr. Riddle - which he doesn't appear to reciprocate in the least. Maybe she's not homicidal enough for him?
"Um, well, I'm kinda busy this weekend."
Emperor Palpatine, aka Darth Sidious - Well, sure, he's not much to look at now, but c'mon, people, he's the ruler of the Galactic Empire! And even before that - when he was still a non-disfigured Senator and Chancellor - wouldn't having someone to bring along to official Republic events have been, at the very least, a helpful cover-up for his long-term machinations? Like, you know, "oh, he can't be the Sith Lord we're looking for, he's a family man!"
"My interests include coming up with convoluted schemes and throwing Jedi out of my office window"
President Snow - At least this guy has a granddaughter. But who knows, maybe she was just some kid he adopted and brainwashed into calling him grandpa, 'cause we never find out any details about his private life, and he's never seen with anyone throughout the entire Hunger Games trilogy. My guess is that he did have a wife or something at some point, but like with most everyone else around him, he didn't trust her and had her thrown into a room with a bowlful of berries.
"Why won't she call me back? Oh, right, I had her executed."
Deus Ex Machina - Okay, fine, he's a machine. But hey, machines can be capable of love, or whatever passes for it, right? And we only saw him at the very end of the trilogy, so maybe he does have a significant something or other back home and we just never got to see...whatever it was.
"The view of the Fetus Fields from my apartment is really awesome, you should come check it out"
Anyway, leave it to the Avatar universe (the Aang/Korra one, not Pandora - Colonel Quaritch: also apparently single!) to turn this trope around. Just like how Tenzin was the only mentor-figure I could think of who was in a relationship, most of Avatar's baddies were also versed in the ways of romance - sort of, at least:

Ozai - Yeah, so Ursa was never really that into him, and she was already long gone by the time the events of the show took place, but hey, at least there was confirmation that he had been married.

Amon - All right, not so much. But he's the only one, out of five.

Unalaq - We never get to see his wife/consort/whatever, but he has two kids, Eska and Desna, who say "how will we explain this to mother?" at the end of the season.

Zaheer - Now we're talking. This dude had a girlfriend, P'Li (who was a powerful combustion bender and part of his Red Lotus gang, to boot), and they couldn't keep their hands off of each other.
Okay, enough already
Kuvira - engaged to Baatar Jr., she really does seem to like him, before she tries to kill him later on after he wimps out on their plan.

So...see, Other Bad Guys? These folks prove that you can find room in your life for both a relationship as well as a devious plot to take over the world. Just open your heart and be a little more trusting, and then maybe you, too, can find true love. Who knows, you may even come to see that having a partner in crime can help your scheme move along that much faster (and maybe they'll even stop you from doing typical dumb bad-guy things!)