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:


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
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
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!