Thursday, December 26, 2013

My Musical History, Episode 1: Origin Story

I started playing the guitar when I was fifteen. I had a black and white Aria Pro II "The Cat" guitar (which I still have today) and a small Peavey combo amp. I was a complete metalhead - my favorite bands were Iron Maiden, Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus, Megadeth and Slayer.

Even though I had some experience playing stringed instruments (the ukulele), for some reason, when I started on guitar, I didn't initially grasp the idea commonly known as "chords." To me, everything was played with single notes. The first thing I taught myself to play was the intro riff to "Piranha" by Exodus, followed closely by the intro and main riffs to Metallica's "Master of Puppets." (I eventually learned that, yes, metal bands did, indeed, use chords in their songs.)

Not long afterwards, I even had my first band. Because it was just me on guitar and a friend on vocals (term used loosely), we didn't consider ourselves a proper band at the time (I learned later in life that there have been bands made up of less.) Anyway, we didn't have a name, but we did write and record two quasi-punk rock songs on a lousy cassette player. One of the songs was called "The Void," which was about watching TV, and the other one featured him cursing in Korean. I really wish I still had that tape.

After that, I was hooked. There was nothing I wanted more than to play guitar in a "real" rock (okay, metal) band. During my first days in college, I met up with another guitar player that I had known from high school, and we started to jam in our respective dorm rooms. He had a 60-watt Crate combo amp that I was insanely jealous of because it sounded so metal (I later bought it off of him and today it sits in my garage.)

We came up with some metal-sounding riffs and named ourselves "Maelstrom" (okay, I named us, he hated it). Of course, every metal band needs a drummer*, so we tracked down another high school classmate and rented out a room in a local rehearsal facility. I had heard that this place had - gasp - full Marshall stacks that you could use, so I was very excited.

Of course, they didn't have full Marshall stacks. I don't really remember now what they had, but I do remember being pretty disappointed. Anyway, we had a little jam session, and I could tell that the drummer - who was much more experienced - was getting a bit bored with us. It was kind of like that scene in Kick-A@@ 2 (title censored, this is a family-friendly blog) where Mindy is beating the stuffing out of Dave during his training. It was embarrassing, uncomfortable, awkward, and at the time, the best musical experience of my life.

Next: The Bathroom Stall Birth of the Legendary R.F.H.

* notice I said nothing about a bassist

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Two Update: Is Your Book Taking Forever Too?

Yes, it's been a few...months...since I've done a Book Two status update. And seriously, I've been working on it - Book Two, that is, not the status update - every day during that time. I've written lots of words, revised and updated outlines, and even worked on the master plan for the entire seven-book saga.

But unfortunately, I don't have much to report, other than to say that I'm almost done with yet another outline that I think may be "the one." No, I don't care if I'm jinxing myself anymore. Frankly, I'm actually really happy that I'm going through this process, because the longer it goes on, the stronger I feel the story is getting. If I had stopped and settled a few months ago, I would've missed out on some plot points that I feel are pretty cool.

With that said, I'll admit that the apparent lack of progress can get a little frustrating at times. If you're a writer in a similar boat, I've compiled a few factoids that should help you feel a little better (I know I did after finding these).

- It took Terry Brooks seven years to write The Sword of Shannara, and then another five years to complete its sequel, The Elfstones of Shannara (after multiple throw-aways and re-writes).

- As Jonathan Murphy alluded to in our recent live radio interview, books in the Song of Ice and Fire series (more commonly known as Game of Thrones) often take years to come out. The first book took five years, as did books Four and Five.

- As everyone probably knows, it took Jo Rowling five years to complete the first draft of Sorceror's Stone.

- Charles Bukowski didn't finish his first novel until he was 49 years old. His second novel didn't come out until four years after that.

- Rick Riordan finished the manuscript for The Lightning Thief in June 1994. It didn't come out until July 2005.

- At the age of 45, Tolkien began writing the story that would become The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The story would not be finished until 12 years later, and would not be published until 6 years after that.

Feel better? You're welcome.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cool Links For Friday

It's Friday, so take a break and read some of these awesome articles:

- Dan Aykroyd has Asperger's - and we wouldn't have had "Ghostbusters" without it.

 - Susan Boyle also has Asperger's. She has sold over 19 million albums worldwide.

- Here's a blog post on the Geek Club Books website about the just-released audiobook version of Secret of the Songshell.

- Jonathan Murphy talks about narrating the audiobook on his blog.

- Karen Krejcha of Autism Empowerment discusses her Autism and Scouting Leadership Training Program on the Autism Speaks website.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Audiobook is Here

I am pleased to announce the official release of Secret of the Songshell, the audiobook version!

Thanks again to Jonathan Murphy, Michael Meyer, and Jodi Murphy for helping make this moment a reality.

You can get your copy at Amazon, Audible, or iTunes. Just in time for holiday shopping! Also, right now Audible is even offering it for FREE with a free 30-day trial membership.

And if you haven't already, check out this recent interview that Jonathan and I did on Autism Empowerment Radio where we talked about the making of the audiobook and even did a live reading.

Party on, Garth!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Autism Empowerment Needs Your Support!

In case you missed my tweet yesterday, December 3rd was Giving Tuesday. What is that, you ask? Simply put, it's a day to celebrate and encourage support of non-profit organizations.

But even if you missed it, it's not too late! Autism Empowerment, the autism advocacy non-profit that I work with, needs your support. I encourage you to please visit their website at this link and consider making a donation. Make it a Giving Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Few Things I've Learned About Creativity

Create for yourself. Write the song you want to hear, or the book you want to read.

Strive toward excellence, but don't become obsessed with perfection. Perfection is not only impossible, but boring as well. Some of the best records or books have obvious mistakes or flaws that make them all the more endearing.

If you're stuck, try changing your surroundings.

Always be on the lookout for new sources of inspiration.

Playing with your band or working on your novel should be fun. It won't always be, but the more that it can be, the better.

Patience and persistence. Patience and persistence. Patience and persistence.

Do something - anything - every day, even if it's just playing random licks on your guitar for five minutes or writing a single paragraph.

Remember: happiness is a state of mind, worrying is a waste of time, and sometimes, you just gotta say, what the heck. And go with it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Special Announcement!

This coming Friday, 11/22, I'll be doing a joint live interview with Jonathan Murphy on Autism Empowerment Radio! Jonathan is the very talented actor who narrated the audiobook version of Book One (to be released very soon).

The interview will take place from 11am - 12pm PST, but will be archived and available for future listening via BlogTalkRadio or iTunes.

We'll be talking about the upcoming audiobook, of course, as well as other projects that we each have going on. We may even do - drum roll - a live reading!

So be sure to tune in at this link or check back later for the archived version. If you tune in live, you can call (602) 753-1530 to listen by phone and ask questions.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Orycon, Write To Publish, SPS, Other Stuffs

Hey, so Orycon was a blast! I was able to meet some fellow NIWA authors for the first time, which is always cool. Like last year, our booth was situated close to the entrance, so we were able to corral greet potential new readers and members as they came in and out of the dealer's room.
Tomorrow night, I'll be at the 2nd Anniversary Party for SW WA/OR Write To Publish at the Brickhouse in downtown Vancouver from 6-10pm. After a workshop presentation from group organizer and published author Linda Stirling, there'll be readings, pitch practices, and general debauchery.

On the music front, Second Player Score has been working hard in the woodshed, refining our sound, preparing to record some demos, and putting together some cool merchandise for y'all to spend your hard-earned money on. More details to come.

And also coming soon: the official release of Secret of the Songshell, the audiobook version!

Art's Quotes of the Day:
"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
"All we need is just a little patience." -- Guns 'N' Roses

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thursday News Flashes

I'll be at Orycon this coming Saturday! In case you don't remember from last year, Orycon is Oregon's premier science fiction convention, now in its 35th year. Come down, hang out all day, check out the cool stuff and interesting panels, and don't forget to swing by the NIWA booth from 11am - noon, when I'll be the featured author. And come back often to see the other awesome indie authors, who will be there all weekend!

In other news, the audio version of Book One is nearing completion, and I can say that it is sounding amazing, thanks to some stellar efforts from voice actor Jonathan Murphy and sound editor Michael Meyer. Much more on this to come soon.

See you this weekend!

Quote of the Day #1: "Don't try." - Charles Bukowski
Quote of the Day #2: "Try not." - Yoda

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hillsboro Author Speed Date

Just wanted to give a quick mahalo to NIWA, Hillsboro Public Library, and Jacobsen's Books for organizing a fun and successful event last night! Also thanks to everyone who came out and chatted with us.

Next up on the event schedule: Orycon! As always, keep watching this space for details...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quick Hits

- I'll be at NIWA's Speed Date an Author event next week Wednesday, October 30, from 6:30-8pm at the Hillsboro Public Library. Check out this link for more details!

- Book Two is making progress. I took some time to step back and work on plots and arcs for the series as a whole, which I feel was a really good decision (after I came up with an idea for one of the future books, I thought to myself, "Boy am I glad I didn't commit to something else in Book Two already!")

- How sweet is this??

- Coming soon for Second Player Score: swag (t-shirts, etc.) and a CD! Stay tuned...

- Currently being played: Wind Waker Wii U (working on the Withered Deku Tree side quest) and Xenoblade Chronicles (just started the Entia Tomb).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Few Childhood Faves

As I may have mentioned in an earlier blog post, I was a voracious reader of fantasy books as a child. During my current search for inspiration and ideas for The Spectraland Saga, my thoughts turned to some of my favorite series from that bygone era...and so now, I present them to you as recommended reading.*

The Deryni Novels
About a race of people with magical psychic powers, at times these books resembled historical fiction with their realistic portrayal of political and religious conflicts in a medieval setting.

The Belgariad

A five-book series with lots of good ol' fashioned swords and sorcery.

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant

Disclaimer: this series consists of ten books, but I only read the first six (the ones that came out before 2004). A bit darker in tone than other series with a protagonist that takes some getting used to, it nevertheless was deeply affecting and influential.

The Xanth Series

Disclaimer Part Two: I read the first, oh, maybe nine or ten books in this series and then stopped after that. I mean, c'mon, there are over thirty of these things! The ones that I did read were - in true Piers Anthony fashion - fun, playfully irreverent, and maybe just a little un-PC.

The Spellsinger Series

A series about a law student/janitor/guitarist who travels to another dimension where he can perform magic by playing rock songs on a special guitar-like instrument. Hey, that sounds kind of familiar! Not to worry, I re-read this before writing Book One and although they share that similar element, they are very different stories (and wavebows function in a more scientific manner than Jon-Tom's duar, which is like - need some kind of transportation? Play "Little Deuce Coupe" by the Beach Boys.)

So there you have it: some of my favorite books from my youth. Keep in mind that - if you're worried about this kind of thing - these books are not as kid-friendly as, say, Harry Potter/Percy Jackson/Joel Suzuki and the like. But they're good reads nonetheless.

* If you, like me, have a backlogged stack of books so large that you have to prioritize your reading, read [shameless self-promotion alert] Book One and other NIWA books first!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

H&G Show Recap and More Upcoming Events

The Portland Fall Home & Garden Show was a huge success as NIWA beat its previous record for book sales in one event! Much mahalos go out to my friend and fellow author Roslyn McFarland (check out her brilliant debut, See No Sea) for organizing everything and being all-around awesome.

Also, Book One has been chosen as the NIWA Indie Book of the Month for October! To celebrate, I'll be having an online author interview & chat session next Tuesday, October 15th from 7pm-8pm, hosted by fellow author Jamie McCracken. The link to join in is here. Thanks to Amber Cook and Pam Bainbridge-Cowan for setting everything up. Check out their books as well!

Then, on October 30th, I'll be at another Author Speed Date event in Hillsboro. Mark your calendar, and keep watching this space for details....

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Portland Fall Home & Garden Show

Another local area event! Come on down to the Portland Fall Home & Garden Show this weekend and head straight to Booth 930, where the ever-awesome Northwest Independent Writers Association will be showcasing and selling books by its esteemed membership.

I will be there personally (not in spirit - in person) on Friday night from 5-8pm and again on Saturday morning from 10am-1pm. Get your copy of Book One signed (or buy one if you haven't already) and check out other great books by my fellow local authors. See you there!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Jacob's Story

The other day my friend sent me this article (thanks Kara) about a 14-year old boy on the autism spectrum who is working toward earning his PhD in quantum physics. It's an amazing story - I recommend watching the accompanying videos as well.

Jacob Barnett
It reminded me a lot of my buddy Ian Engelsman, who struggled with school and socialization until he started playing the drums (if you missed his story, check it out here.)

Not every autistic child will turn out to be like Jacob or Ian. But the message I take from this is that, as a parent, you should do everything you can to help discover, nurture and encourage your child's special interests - whether they are on the spectrum or not.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saturday Recap

Had a great time at the Hillsboro Farmer's Market on Saturday! Much mahalos go out to: Tina Jacobsen of Jacobsen's Books for hosting me, my stall-neighbor from Blue Raeven Farms for the pie (mmm pie), and everyone who bought a copy of Book One. And don't worry Nathan, we'll get that shrinking machine built one day.

I'll be doing a few more events in October, so keep watching this space for announcements!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This Saturday

For those of you in the Portland/Vancouver area - or anyone else who feels like flying here on a last-minute whim (c'mon, you know you want to) - I'll be at the Hillsboro Farmers' Market this coming Saturday the 21st from 9am-1pm, signing and selling copies of Book One. You can find me in front of Jacobsen's Books at 211 E Main Street in Historic Downtown Hillsboro.

Afterwards, be sure to stick around for the Father and Son Book Launch Party for my friend/fellow author Ray Macalino and his son Damien! Details here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Stuff I'm Excited About

Here are a few things I'm really looking forward to enjoying with my kids (and deriving creative inspiration from) over the next few weeks:

TV Show - The Legend of Korra Season 2

Starts tomorrow night on Nickelodeon! I loved the first season - especially the final episode, which made me cry somewhat emotional in a completely masculine kind of way.

Movie - Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

Okay, the previews do look kinda silly (and no, I'm not a big fan of puns), but c'mon - that whole "Steve/Shrimpanzee/Steve/Shrimpanzee/Shove/Steve!!" routine is epic. And as the author of The Spectraland Saga, I have a moral obligation to check out every island-based adventure story there is*.

Video Game - Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for the Wii U

I never actually finished all of the side quests in the original version of this game, so now I get a chance to redeem myself in glorious HD. I. Cannot. Wait.

* On a semi-related note, when I saw this commercial I immediately thought "Hey that totally looks like Crownrock and the nearby coastline" (if you've read Book One - which I'm sure you have, right? - then you know what I'm talking about.)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Book Two: A Clip Show

One of the fun things about having this blog is that I get to go back and read prior entries about how Book Two is coming along. And by "fun" I mean "holy cow that is just so sad I have to laugh."

Let's take a little journey through time, shall we?

Thursday, August 23, 2012
"The Writing Process"
The earliest documented evidence that I was actually working on Book Two (and I quote: "I'm working on the second one in the series now. Really. I am. Seriously.") In this post, I note that Book One actually took about two-and-a-half years to create from inception to final draft, and then I say the following words: "I'm sure that Book Two won't take that long. I'm sure! I will keep telling myself that!" Ooookay Brian, whatever you say...

Friday, September 7, 2012
"Book Two Status Update"
Wow, this was almost exactly a year ago! Back then I said "Book Two isn't anywhere close to being done yet. Rest assured, I am hard at work on it. Really, I am." Just the fact that I had "Book Two" and "done" in the same sentence at that time makes me snicker. I also said this: "the details of about five chapters are pretty much solid." Almost all of those details no longer exist.

Monday, October 22, 2012
"Monday Awesomeness Alert and Book Two Status Update"
If you read this post you will see that the Awesomeness Alert had nothing to do with Book Two's progress, which was summed up thusly: "I've drafted about 4000 words so far, some of which will get cut, re-written, or otherwised sliced up and used as digital confetti (totally environmentally friendly, I promise)." Ah, how prophetic.

Monday, January 28, 2013
"The Writing Process and Book Two Update"
The first installment of my "Talkin' to Felicity" series, in which I confess to her that 17,000 words are basically destined for the recycle bin.

Thursday, April 4, 2013
"Talkin' to Felicity"
The second (and probably last) installment of this series, in which I tell her that I have 17,000 new words that I like a lot better. Five months later, only about 8,000 of those words still remain.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
"Rolling The Book Two Boulder"
The money quote in this post is "But now I think I'm finally on the right track - cross your fingers - so hopefully we'll have a completed first draft sometime before the end of the year." I need to learn to stop saying things like that.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013
"Book Two Update: Remember, It's Just The First Draft"
This post makes me laugh the most, mainly because of this quote: "So at the risk of jinxing myself, I can say that I now feel like I'm finally back on the right track. Yes, I realize I've said that before, but this time I mean it." Hahahaha

Thursday, August 8, 2013
"Greetings From Spectraland: Day Four"
This was when I cleared my schedule and did nothing but write. I got the word count over 26,000, took a little break, and then submitted it to my editor (me) for review. He said "nope, still not working, try again." Tough SOB, that guy.

And that brings us to today. I have a new storyline and about 11,000 words. Since both the outline and winging-it methods haven't panned out so far, I'm trying something new: a hybrid technique where I wing it for a while, see where that takes me, then outline the next two or three chapters and go from there.

I'm not going to offer any predictions of a completion date or say something like "this time I think I've got it!" It's going to take however long it's going to take. And really, I'm not even halfway into Book One's 2.5-year timeframe yet, so I don't feel that bad. It's all part of the process of writing the best book I possibly can.

And all kidding aside, it really has been fun. In fact, I would say that it's been even more fun than the Book One journey because, this time, I have all of you folks along for the ride. Mahalo for hanging in there, reading my little status updates and waiting patiently for a book that will come out sometime within the next year or so, possibly in the fall of 2014 one day.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Plot Holes

I'll admit it: I'm a nerd when it comes to plot holes, continuity errors, questionable character actions, and the like. I'm fond of pointing them out. I like to discuss them with other nerds as if they were matters of grave importance.

One of my favorites is this: why didn't Voldemort stick around in the Shrieking Shack to make sure that Snape was dead? As important as it was to good ol' Tommy Riddle to take control of the Elder Wand, shouldn't he have at least waited for, like, five or ten minutes and then checked for a pulse or something? But noooo...instead, as soon as Snape fell to the ground, "blood gushing from the wounds in his neck," You-Know-Who just walked out "without a backward glance."

Not dead
Dude...seriously? I mean, yeah, your belief that you had to kill the previous owner of the wand was wrong to begin with, but if that's what you thought, then is it really so hard to just, you know, confirm that the previous owner is actually dead? Especially since the wand has been giving you so much stress up until now? C'mon, Riddle, this is a place of magic! What if Snape had some sort of healing potion tucked away in his cape just in case? What if he, like Arthur Weasley, somehow managed to survive a Nagini attack long enough for someone to rescue him? What if Harry Potter was hiding right outside, sneaked in after you left, got Snape's memories, and...oh, right. That last part really did happen, and it contributed to your downfall.

Seems to me that if Voldemort was a little more detail-oriented, he would have been much more successful. But then if he was, we wouldn't even have a story to begin with.

Now don't get me wrong - for the most part, none of these plot holes or whatever detract from my enjoyment of the books I read, movies I watch, etc. It's part of what makes being a fan so much fun. In fact, most of my nerdiness is reserved for the stuff that I love the most: Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc. (In Episode IV, why did Obi-Wan call Darth Vader "Darth"?)

That being said, I tried really hard to make sure Secret of the Songshell was air-tight. Despite my best efforts, I'm sure there's probably a few things in there that I missed. If you've found anything (and/or have a good answer to my Snape question), I'd love to hear from you, you nerd.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Spectraland Soundtrack

One thing I forgot to mention in my last post about video games is that in all of the games I listed, music is a very important part of the overall experience. The games' producers did a great job of adding music in a very cinematic fashion - memorable, soaring main themes; tense and dramatic passages during battle sequences; etc. I like some of the soundtracks so much that I even listen to them while I write.
On a related topic, every so often I think about (and get asked in interviews) what kind of music would be on the soundtrack for a Secret of the Songshell movie. The answer is that I've always envisioned a mix of rock and classical, all with a sort of epic, tribal feel. The general score might sound something like this.

As far as specific songs go, some examples would include We Sing In Time by The Lonely Forest, and Incantation and Dance by John Barnes Chance (a song I used to play with my high school band). I would also love to have an iconic, instantly recognizable main theme in the tradition of Star Wars and Harry Potter (hello John Williams!) And, of course, a few tracks by these guys.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Video Games

I enjoy playing video games, although I wouldn't call myself a hardcore gamer. Most of my gaming time happens when the kids are around, so we tend to stick to the tamer (no "MA" rated-games), Nintendo-centric fare.

My favorite games are the ones with strong stories behind them. Some of them are so well-written that, to me, they're even better from a narrative standpoint than a lot of the books and movies that are out there. A writer looking for some inspiration could very well find it in some of these games. Here are a few of my favorites:

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon

Once I got used to the relatively slower pace of this game, I really enjoyed it. A haunting dystopian tale about a teenage boy searching for companionship in a post-apocalyptic world.


Visually striking with lots of humor, heart and action, this game has one of the best endings I've ever experienced. You can also acquire a couple of special attack moves that are both hilarious and awesome (if you've played this game, then you know what I'm talking about).

The Legend of Zelda

Of course, right? Twilight Princess is probably my favorite entry in this series, although they're all so good it's hard to choose.

The Last Story

My daughter and I were skeptical about this one at first (the trailers looked cluttered and over-the-top-RPGish), but I took a chance on it and boy, am I glad I did. A very epic game. The only problem is, if you call your game "The Last Story," then what do you call the sequel? "The Last Last Story"?

Super Paper Mario

No, I'm not kidding. Despite what Mario's creator says about wanting to keep the plots of Mario games to a minimum, this one actually has a very rich and detailed story full of drama, romance and twists. Apparently Seth Gordon even wanted to make a movie out of it (yes, I know the track record of movies based on video games, but still).

I'm sure there are a lot more that I haven't played yet, so if you have any suggestions, let me know...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Greetings From Spectraland: Day Four

All right, I have a confession to make. Ready? Here goes:

I didn't actually go to Spectraland this week. I know, I know, you're all surprised and shocked and stuff. What really happened was that I cleared my schedule of most of my usual obligations, parked myself and my computer in a secret location, and just wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Non-stop. All day. Every day (except last night, when I had band practice).

It's been an interesting experience so far. Book Two's word count has jumped up quite a bit (over 26k now), while my sanity has taken...well, let's just say that I'm not sure I'll be repeating this exercise again in the near future. I now have a lot of respect (even more than before) for those hardy souls who can pull off NaNoWriMo with any measure of success.

Anyway, that's why I was doing the whole "Greetings From Spectraland" thing - after just one day of doing this, it really felt like I was on vacation in that alternate world. I did end up returning a day earlier than planned when, after about a thousand more words this morning, I realized that my brain was just completely and totally fried (I actually misspelled "Joel" twice - not kidding).

But never fear - after I take a little break to catch my breath (and attend to personal hygiene), I will definitely be back. Probably tomorrow. Because who can stay away from a place like Spectraland for long?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Greetings From Spectraland: Day Three

This trip has definitely taken a very strange turn. Remember that argument that interrupted my live blogging yesterday? Well, things got a little...out of control, and before I knew it, I had been tossed into a sort-of jail cell along with my Wavemaker tour guides.

So, needless to say, not a whole lot has happened today. I did hear some interesting stories from one of my guides, but unfortunately, I don't have the time to relate any of it here (I'm not actually supposed to still have my phone). Rest assured, though, that I will be documenting the whole thing in my next book!

Oh cool, I've just been informed that I've been released on bail - or whatever the Spectraland equivalent of bail is - and will be sent back home for the night. What's that? I have to come back tomorrow? Okay, well, no problem...I didn't want to leave early anyway. I really was having a good time, aside from the whole being-taken-prisoner bit. Hopefully the rest of the week will go a little smoother...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Greetings From Spectraland: Day Two

Okay, so that Chieftain Council thing was totally not what I expected. There was no food or drink, or anything even remotely party-ish. It was just the four Chiefs of the island, sitting around a table, talking to a Wavemaker about some kind of political crisis or whatever...interesting from an anthropological point of view, I suppose, but c'mon, I'm here for a vacation, not research. I did notice a couple of strange-looking villagers that seemed to resemble Joel and Felicity, but...that couldn't have been them, right?

Actual photograph
After that disappointing experience, I went off in search of an actual party. It took a while, but I eventually found a group of island residents sitting around with a vat of lifepod wine. That's right, an entire vat. It was like a hot tub filled with the stuff.

So anyway, today got off to kind of a slow start. I had some strange dreams (or "visions," as the folks here usually call them) about flying blue people with ray guns and Rachel Weisz. Fortunately, my tour guides were nice enough to wait until after lunch before we set out for the Silencer Stronghold. I'm still there as I write this (blogging from my phone - that's right, I'm a techie wizard) and so far, no gift shop. Not giving up hope yet, though. Oops, gotta go - there seems to be some kind of argument going on between one of my tour guides and a Stronghold curator...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Greetings From Spectraland: Day One

For my summer vacation, I decided to take a five-day trip to a little tropical island known as Spectraland. You may have heard of it.

My camera takes good pictures

It really is a pretty amazing place. Although, I have to admit, I've spent the day mostly in the civilized, populated villages of Bluecrest and Headsmouth. I did take a little detour to visit a razorbear den in the hillside above Bluecrest, but fortunately, my Wavemaker tour guides managed to keep me from getting eaten.
Tonight, I'll be attending a Chieftain Council, which is like a meeting of the chiefs of the four main villages. Should be fun. I'm expecting to have some delicious fuzzy roast beef and lifepod juice.

Not actually fuzzy
On the agenda for tomorrow (I like to have my trips planned out in advance) is a place called the Silencer Stronghold. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm assuming it's some cool tourist attraction. I hope they have a gift shop!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

101 Noteworthy ASD Sites

The Spectraland Saga has been featured on the list of 101 Noteworthy Sites on Asperger's and the Autism Spectrum as published by PhD in Special! I am happy and honored to say that Joel, Felicity and the gang are in very good company - check out the entire list here.

PhD in Special Education is a resource to connect students who are interested in teaching those with special needs with online higher education programs that can provide graduate degrees on a flexible schedule. You can find out more information about them here and here.

In other good news, Book Two's word count is back up to 17,600! When you silence the internal editor (at least during the writing of the first draft), good things happen.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Two Update: Remember, It's Just The First Draft

It's been over a month since I wrote a post about Book Two's progress. I re-read that post today and realized, much to my dismay, that my word count is almost exactly the same as it was over a month ago. I feel like I've been writing like crazy (including thinking up plot points in my head), so how in the world is that possible?

Well, for starters, I re-wrote an entire chapter not once, but twice during that period of time. The second re-write was just meant to be a quick clean-up, but it ended up turning into a complete purge-and-start-over, which I seem to be doing more and more often these days.

Also, a lot of the "writing" that I feel like I've been doing has actually been more like "editing," where I'm spending a lot of time re-reading earlier chapters and making minor tweaks and adjustments here and there.

Fortunately, I attended a NIWA social gathering this past Sunday, where I was indirectly reminded of an important concept: your first draft is just that - a first draft. I had forgotten about the method I used to write Book One, which was to turn off the internal editor and just write something, anything, just to get the words down on paper, and then go back and fix it up after the whole draft is done.

So at the risk of jinxing myself, I can say that I now feel like I'm finally back on the right track. Yes, I realize I've said that before, but this time I mean it. Seriously. So hopefully, the next time you read a post titled "Book Two Update," I'll feel less like this:

And more like this:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

See No Sea

Last night I had the privilege of being a guest author at the launch party for See No Sea, a terrific YA paranormal romance penned by my good friend and fellow NIWA member Roslyn McFarland.

Good company
It was held at the Hunan Pearl Chinese Restaurant in Lake Oswego, OR, a place I had never been to before (the restaurant, I mean. I've been to Lake Oswego before.) My kids and I liked the food so much, we asked them to open another restaurant closer to our house.

See No Sea is a fun, breezy tale about a fifteen-year-old girl named Lee whose height (six feet) and swimming ability (Olympic-caliber) makes her a target for bullies. Things get even worse when Lee has to spend her summer training in a dreary Canadian town full of polluted air and boring suburban landscapes. Eventually, however, she finds herself drawn into an incredible adventure that quickly turns her bland sort-of-vacation on its head.

The book - Roslyn's debut novel and the first of a trilogy - reads like a reality-based teen-relationship story injected with healthy doses of fantasy-type action, and the blend works together in a way that is seamless and effective. I don't typically read many novels in the paranormal romance genre, but I fully enjoyed this one and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a unique and entertaining book for the summer - or any time of year.

From right to left: Lee Thompson, Courtney Pierce, Roslyn McFarland, some dude
Besides Ros and her family and friends, I also got to hang out with fellow authors/NIWA members Lee Thompson and Courtney Pierce, who, if you recall, were guest authors at my relaunch party back in April. Check out Jeremy's Kiss and Island of Regrets by Lee, and Stitches by Courtney.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat some delicious leftover Szechuan pork...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Speed Date An Author

So, yeah, I like taking long walks through the bookstore, watching the reflection of the sunset in my e-reader, looking for hip little coffee shops to write in, and...wait, what? This isn't that kind of speed dating? Oops...

Last night I had the pleasure of participating in the Speed Date An Author event, presented by the always-awesome Northwest Independent Writers Association and the Tigard Public Library.

The purpose of the event was to give aspiring authors a chance to talk to those of us who are a little further down the indie publishing road. Conducted in a speed dating format (ten minutes at each table), it was a fun way to share our experiences and pass on a little knowledge. I had a great time and met some cool people with some really interesting ideas.

So if you're a writer looking for an opportunity to meet other writers and pick their brains, I highly recommend coming out to this event next year. Or heck, just join NIWA now and start right away!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Finding More Time to Write

Here's a question I get asked a lot: "Where do you find the time to write?" My response is usually one of the following:

(a) I have no idea
(b) Sleep is overrated
(c) Hermione's Time-Turner

Ms. Granger, can I borrow that?
The answer, of course, is (d) All of the above. Seriously, though, one technique that really helps me find extra writing time is something that I like to call "Writing In My Head."

The basic premise is simple: you don't have to be at your computer keyboard in order to write. You can write while you do other things that you have to be doing anyway.

You can write while doing chores. You can write while tending to personal hygiene. You can write while doing thirty minutes on the stationary bike at the gym (okay, technically you could skip the gym and sit in front of your computer instead, but c'mon.)

And how is this done, you ask? Simple - just think about your writing as you do these activities. I often work out plot points in the shower, come up with character motivations while folding laundry, and, yes, even compose lines of prose and dialogue as I walk through the grocery store (important caveat: make sure that these are activities that don't require your full attention and concentration. Folding laundry is okay, because if you fold your t-shirt backwards, no real harm is done. In most cases.)

Basically, just replace whatever idle thoughts you used to have with productive thinking. A side benefit that this technique has had for me is that it keeps my mind off of how terrible the Mariners are yet again. Another benefit is that, often, doing this will get me into the writing "mode." Or "mood." Whatever. Sometimes I'll get so into a groove that once I do sit back down at the keyboard to capture the idea I was thinking about, the words will just continue to flow. For example, I actually wrote this blog post while I was brushing my teeth this morning.

Well, gotta run and take care of other things on my to-do list. Now where did I leave that time-turner...