Thursday, June 17, 2021

Haiku Hour

Yes, it's time for another Haiku Hour! To recap, a haiku is a Japanese poem that consists of seventeen syllables divided into three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. Traditionally, they include references to seasons and/or have nature as a topic, but, well, whatever. Hajimemashou!
Free donuts, woohoo!
Four kinds of yummy flavors
Twenty-twenty-one

M.H.A. blanket
Guess which character this is
All soft and wrinkled

New to band practice
Keyboards on the next album?
I guess we shall see

Saturday dinner
Salmon, broccoli, and shrooms
Might need more kim chee

Egyptian statue?
Or just two cats relaxing
Write your own caption

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Ten Years of Autism Empowerment!

This month, the awesome and amazing nonprofit organization Autism Empowerment celebrates its tenth anniversary!
I've had the honor of working with them from almost the very beginning, and I'm looking forward to many more years to come. To celebrate this milestone, the organization has put out a special episode of its podcast (that you can listen to here) as well as a feature story in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectrum Life Magazine (that you can read here). While you're at it, be sure to check out previous episodes and issues as well!

(Oh, and by the way - the Joel Suzuki Series is also featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectrum Life. See our article on page 26.)

Happy birthday, AE!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: Plot Holes Edition

Has it really been eight weeks since the last Volume Six Status Update? Yes, yes it has. Since then, a lot has happened. First of all, I got the draft of the manuscript up to about 62,000 words. Second, I discovered plot holes...not only in Volume Six, but *gasp* in an earlier volume of the series as well.
Specifically, Volume Four. Now, as I've mentioned a long time ago, I'm a total nerd when it comes to plot holes, continuity errors, and the like, and I try REALLY REALLY HARD (really) to make my own stuff as air-tight as possible. That said, it's probably inevitable - especially when your plot involves time travel - that some gremlins will sneak through. And sure enough, when I did a recent re-read of Volumes Two through Five (more on that below), I found a minor glitch in Volume Four that can't be explained away with in-universe reasons and probably needs fixing in a future edition. That said, it doesn't detract from the main story (in my opinion, at least) and is relatively hard to catch unless you're paying really close attention (again, in my opinion). If you think you know what it is, I'd love to hear from you, either in the comments below or via email at joelsuzukiseries@gmail.com.

In defense of SOME plot holes, I think sometimes we expect too much from our characters. We think they should know all the answers to every problem right away, but the reality is that sometimes they make mistakes, too. Like when I complained about Voldemort leaving Snape alone in the Shrieking Shack before making sure he was dead...I mean, he's a busy villain, he's got stuff to do and places to be! (By the way, for all you authors out there, JK Rowling has admitted to making mistakes and plot holes in Harry Potter, and she's also fixed some of those mistakes in future editions, so don't feel bad).

Anyway, enough about that. Back to the Status Update! So, when I reached the 62,000 word mark, it was then that I felt like I was starting to spin my wheels and write stuff that had a high probability of being worthless, as opposed to being maybe-probably-good when read back later. It was like the point of diminishing returns, mainly because I was building upon what I suspected to be flaws and plot holes (okay, we haven't left that subject completely). It was then that I decided "okay, now's a good time to go back and patch stuff up from the beginning," and part of that process included a complete re-read of Volumes Two through Five, to get reacquainted with my world-building (since Volume Five was mostly set on Earth, it's actually been years since I was really immersed in the laws of the Spectraland universe). After the re-read was complete, I then went back to the beginning of my Volume Six draft and started building it back up from there. A lot of what I had has been usable so far, especially in the first act, but some of it had to be rewritten entirely - which I was totally expecting, because I've been here before. And now, the draft is back up to 28,000 words and coming along nicely, with less plot holes this time.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Anime Roundup: Crunchyroll Edition

For quite a while, I had been hearing a lot about a service called "Crunchyroll" where supposedly you could see bajillions of different anime, but for the longest time I had been under the impression that it was some kind of sketchy website with illegal uploads, so, as an artist and creator who has sworn not to engage in piracy out of respect to other artists and creators, I avoided it.

But then I started to hear that a lot of the stuff I wanted to watch - that wasn't on Netflix or Amazon Prime - was, in fact, among the bajillions of anime available on Crunchyroll (some of them are on Hulu as well, but like I've said before, heck if I'm signing up for yet another paid streaming service). So, feeling desperate, I looked a little deeper into Crunchyroll, and lo and behold - yes, it used to be sort of sketchy, but has been legit since 2009. And on top of that, it's available as a free (with ads) app!

So now, here I am, having unlocked what feels like an enormous and nearly-bottomless treasure chest filled with toys and treasure that will keep me busy for centuries. Some are shows that I've heard lots about but haven't seen yet, while others are additional seasons of shows that I've seen on Netflix or Amazon, but for only the first season or two (why those services don't carry these additional seasons is beyond me - probably some kind of legal licensing mumbo-jumbo). Anyway, here are the first few:

My Hero Academia
I had heard so much about this show peripherally that I almost felt like I had seen it all before I'd actually seen any of it. Once I started actually watching it, I almost immediately knew why it's so popular and prevalent. The basic gist of it is: (in movie trailer guy's voice): in a world where about 80% of the world's population has some sort of superpower, a boy born without powers but who still wants to become a superhero is discovered by the world's most powerful hero, who then shares his ability with him and gets him enrolled in a prestigious high school that trains students to become professional heroes. Got all that? Essentially, it's like if Harry Potter was a muggle but then Dumbledore somehow gave him magic and then got him into Hogwarts. Anyway, this show checks all the boxes on the "will Brian like this?" list and I seriously could not stop watching it.

Goblin Slayer
This one is like a R-rated Mandalorian in a Dungeons and Dragons world. The story basically goes like this: the Demon Lord, who was slain by the Sword Maiden years ago, has been resurrected and, along with his vast new army, threatens to take over the world - that is, until a Hero arises to defeat him. But wait! That's not actually our story here. While that stuff does happen in the background, what we're watching is just a dude whose sole mission in life is to kill goblins. This is actually way more compelling than it sounds, because the show makes the goblins so foul and despicable that a John Wick-meets-The Crow kind of vengeance tale will definitely have you rooting for the stoic protagonist. Also, buried underneath all the tragedy and gore is the message that sometimes, it's okay to ask for help.

Food Wars! The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Plates
I wrote about the first season of this show in this roundup post, and then I wrote about the second season in this roundup post. If you've read those posts, then you know that I really, really like this show. Really. In fact, after watching seasons three through five (the final season) on Crunchyroll, I think it just might have moved up from #3 on my all-time favorites list to...#1?? Gasp! I don't know, I just finished it, so I'll have to let it sink in for a while. It was funny because season four ended in a place where I thought, "that was pretty epic and wraps things up nicely, so where could they go from here? Could they possibly raise the stakes even higher?" As it turned out, yes, yes they could (I read that even the writer himself considered ending the manga series after the arc that was adapted into season four, but he realized that there was more story to tell).

Cells at Work! Code Black
A darker, gender-swapped spinoff of the original Cells at Work! (covered in this roundup post), this one features the anthropomorphic cells of an alcoholic dude who smokes and engages in other unhealthy activities. There are certain moments that could spill over into gross-out parody territory a la South Park et al, but the show does a good job at keeping its tone from ever reaching that point. It even gets downright dramatic and emotional at times. All I can say after watching this is: the human body is pretty darn amazing, but I sure wouldn't want to be the guy these poor cells have to live and work in.

Himouto! Umaru-Chan
Dan the bass player from Second Player Score recommended this one a while back, but I couldn't watch it because it wasn't on Netflix or Amazon Prime. But after I got Crunchyroll, I thought "it must be there, right?" And sure enough, it was! It's a fun and adorable slice-of-life comedy about a teenage girl who's a complete overachiever at school and in public (popular, attractive, smart, athletic, talented) but once she gets home she immediately morphs into a cola-swilling, junk-food-gorging, video game-playing, anime-binging, manga-reading lazy otaku (nerd) slob, much to the dismay of her older adult brother, who is in charge of the household in lieu of their absentee parents (which, if anime is to be believed, seems to be a common thing in Japan).

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Random Placeholder Post

This is a picture of a cat. A happy, sleeping cat that twitches occasionally because he's dreaming (I assume) of chasing and catching tiny fast-moving things.
This is what you post on your blog when your brain is too tired to come up with anything to write about because all of its Aura energy is being used on the sixth book of your young adult sci-fi/fantasy series as well as beginning boot camp for the next four songs from your band's upcoming fourth album and you have to come up with guitar solos that don't repeat licks from the solos on the previous three-plus albums and also because fourteen months or so into a global pandemic every day is starting to feel the same and it's like didn't I just write a blog post yesterday? No, no, that was last week. But it's all good because cats are awesome and the weather has been nice and have I mentioned that I've really been getting into Rick and Morty lately? I can't believe I haven't been watching that show even though the guys in my band have been huge fans for years (it was kind of the same thing with Stranger Things) but recently I started watching it because Cartoon Network plays reruns of it on Adult Swim at three in the morning which is when my cats have trained me to wake up and did I mention that cats are awesome? Rick and Morty is also awesome, if you haven't seen that show you should check it out because it's creative and brilliant and hilarious and provides good inspiration material for anyone writing a novel that has to deal with multiverses and jumping timelines and alien worlds which is what I'm doing now with that sixth book that I talked about earlier. Adult Swim in general is pretty cool, I've also been watching stuff like Birdgirl and The Boondocks because they usually follow Rick and Morty in the mornings and I ended up downloading their app and they have all kinds of cool stuff like the fifth and final season of Samurai Jack which I did not know was a thing. Anyway if you've made it this far thank you for putting up with my run-on sentences and lack of punctuation and I promise posts like this won't happen too often or maybe they will who knows but next week at least we should probably be back to something more typical. Probably.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

MCU Roundtable Discussion

Hey, Felicity here. Since we're in a short lull between MCU projects, I figured I'd get the gang together to talk about the stuff that's come out since the end of Phase Three as well as all the rest of the Phase Four shows and movies that are on the schedule, especially since Marvel recently came out with a little trailer for all of it. Oh, and if you care, there will be spoilers.
Felicity: Hey, an uncopyrighted Phase Four picture. Nice touch. The Impact font is kinda cheesy, though.
Brian: Oh, so now, you're organizing these discussions!
Felicity: What do you mean by that?
Brian: I mean, the last time, you didn't seem like you wanted to be there.
Felicity: I don't know what you're talking about. Anyway, Phase Four. Go.
Joel: I like Wanda and Sam's new costumes.
Felicity: They are pretty epic.
Fireflower: I am still confused by all the talk of a "cameo" in WandaVision.
Felicity: Let's not get into that.
Joel: I heard that they really did want to have Doctor Strange at the end, but then the idea got nixed.
Felicity: I just wanted Evan Peters to be the actual Quicksilver from the Fox universe.
Brian: Right? Multiverse stuff is fun.
Joel: I'm sure there will be a lot of that in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Fireflower: Personally, I am looking forward to seeing more Skrulls.
Felicity: Oh yeah - shapeshifting green people. Right up your alley.
Joel: They'll probably be in The Marvels. And Secret Invasion.
Brian: Do you guys think Sharon Carter was a Skrull?
Felicity: I actually hope not. I like her as a bad guy.
Fireflower: There are so many things coming out. It is almost overwhelming.
Brian: Are you guys looking forward to any of them in particular?
Felicity: All of them.
Joel: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings looks pretty cool.
Felicity: Yeah, Simu Liu is hot. But, you know, for once I'd like to see an action film with an Asian lead who doesn't know martial arts.
Brian: Well, if Secret of the Songshell gets adapted into a movie, then that would be one.
Felicity: Secret of the what-what?
Joel: What is that?
Brian: Never mind.
Fireflower: I know what the Songshell is. Are you saying that there might be a movie about it?
Brian: Let's move on. So, I believe that all together, there are eleven movies and thirteen television series in Phase Four, including a one-off Guardians of the Galaxy holiday special. That certainly is a lot.
Felicity: Fine with me.
Fireflower: It is amazing how they can produce such a high volume of motion picture stories in a relatively short amount of time.
Joel: I have all their release dates memorized. Want me to list them?
Felicity: No.
Joel: It won't take that long. Five of them are "TBA."
Felicity: Just suffice it to say that we'll have a lot to look forward to in the next couple of years or so. Anyway, let's wrap this up. I'm getting hungry.
Brian: I'm looking forward to the next thing coming up - Loki, on June 11.
Brian: Oh, right. Anyway, that show is supposed to feature the Time Variance Authority, and I love anything featuring time cops and time travel and alternate realities and such. Like in Volumes Four and Six of the Joel Suzuki series.
Joel: The what series?
Felicity: Joel Suzuki series?
Fireflower: There is a series about Joel?
Brian: Ahem. Again, I've said too much.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

A Nerd's List Of Reasons To Keep On Going

Hi! I'm Art, filling in this week for Brian while he works on something called "Volume Six" (no idea what that is). For long-time readers of this blog, you may remember me from the first two installments of "A Nerd's List of Reasons to Keep On Going," published way back on June 15, 2017 and September 27, 2018.
Since that time, I'm sure everyone has had their fair share of challenges in life, including one that we all pretty much have had in common, to varying degrees (I know you know what I'm talking about). But that's the reason behind these posts, which is to show that despite the hardships we inevitably face, there are always lots of reasons to hang in there and keep on going - especially if you're a fan of pop culture like me, Joel, and Felicity. Here are some of mine:

A Nerd's List of Reasons to Keep On Going (as of May 6, 2021)

1. Loki (coming to Disney+ on June 9)
2. All the other MCU shows on Disney+
3. Black Widow (coming - finally - July 9)
4. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3)
5. Rick and Morty, Season 5 (coming June 20)
6. Summer vacation
7. Eternals (November 5)
8. Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17)
9. Being able to see all the aforementioned movies in a theater
10. Four-D: The Autumn Suite, an EP from Second Player Score (Brian asked me to include that)
11. Issue #4 of Glorified, the comic book series, "Liberty's End" (another Brian request)
12. Hugs and handshakes
13. Kim's Convenience, Season 5
14. Venom: Let There Be Carnage (September 24)
15. Delicious food, in a restaurant
16. Traveling
17. Doctor Who, series 13
18. Cats
19. Sporting events
20. Comic-Cons

That's my list of reasons, which is by no means comprehensive. What are some of yours?

-- Art

(Editor's note: you can read more of Art's wisdom in the first five volumes of the Joel Suzuki series, listed below.)