Thursday, February 26, 2015

Video Game Update

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

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

Thursday, February 19, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX Venting Post

Confession: I'm a big Seattle Seahawks fan. Have been for a while now, ever since I moved from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest.
Now, I know that getting emotionally invested in spectator sports is silly, especially when life is filled with so many other concerns of actual consequence, but it's also a fun distraction, and that, to me, is the main point of it all. The risk of that emotional investment, however, is that things like what happened on Sunday will sometimes happen.

I wasn't really that upset with the results of Super Bowl XL back in 2006, because - refs or not - it was pretty apparent throughout the entire game that it just wasn't the Seahawks' day. I wasn't even going to be too distressed if the team had lost the NFC Championship game to Green Bay last month, because they got thoroughly outplayed for the first 55 minutes of the game.

What happened on Sunday, though, was downright brutal.

It wasn't just the last-minute nature of the loss that made it so devastating - it was that we, as fans of the team, had come to expect miraculous, deus-ex-machina-like victories, especially after what happened at the aforementioned NFC Championship. With all the positive messages about belief and visualization that the team's coach and quarterback always preach, it almost seemed like the Seahawks had become some kind of legendary superhero who, with the powers of magic and destiny on his side, always managed to save the day, against all odds (no offense, Packers fans.)

So on Sunday, everything appeared as if it were following a familiar script. Seattle fell behind late in the fourth quarter, and now they were driving for the winning score. They even had a how-the-heck-did-he-catch-that moment that set the scene perfectly for the inevitable victory. Everyone knew what was coming next: the happy (at least for 'Hawks fans) ending that stories like this always have.

But then, it didn't. The other team made a good play*, and it was over. Just like that. If you're not a Seahawks fan, I'll tell you how it felt: imagine you're watching Episode IV of Star Wars and, instead of seeing Luke's proton torpedoes entering the exhaust port of the Death Star, you see them just impact on the surface. Then, a moment later, Luke gets shot down by some random TIE Fighter that swerved back around...and the movie abruptly ends. Roll credits. Yeah, now you know what I mean.
Dangit, I knew I should've handed it off to Marshawn
Anyway, congratulations, New England. Good job. And that's my rant about Super Bowl XLIX. Thanks for listening.

* For football nerds: I don't have a problem with Carroll or Bevell or whoever it was calling a pass play on second down at the one yard line. There are a number of articles - I'm not going to link to them all, you can look them up - that say that statistically, it was the correct decision to make. I do think, however, that they should at least have done a play-action fake (I was even yelling "play-action!" at the TV), and maybe given Russell the option to throw or run it in. But, of course, I'm an author and a musician, not a football expert, so what do I know? That's hindsight for ya.