Thursday, November 30, 2017

Volume Four Status Update: Draft One Is Done

Yup, you heard right. The first draft of Joel Suzuki, Volume Four is officially complete. At the moment it's clocking in at a robust 77,000+ words, which - based on past experience - should grow to be around 80,000 (i.e., about 320 pages) by the time it's finalized. Woohoo!
May or may not be the actual ending of Volume Four
So right now I'm just going to let it bake for a little while before I come back to it in a few days. After that I'll do some more revisions and cleanups, and then once I have a "Draft 1-A" prepared (probably in a couple of months or so) I'll send that off to my editor for her to savagely rip apart - um, I mean, offer some gentle feedback after lots of careful and sensitive deliberation (Hi Susan!).

Once that part of the process is complete, I'll settle into full-on rewriting mode, which should take somewhere around 6-8 months. Or maybe less. Or maybe more! Either way, the target launch date for Volume Four is April 2019, so I'm still right on schedule.

And what, exactly, is Volume Four about, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Or not! Suffice it to say that there is a time travel element to it (which I previously disclosed) and that the storyline will also be getting progressively darker, a development that was promised here and here. If the first three books in the series were borderline PG/PG-13 (maybe sort of a PG-11 1/2), then this one definitely falls on the PG-13 side of things. There's still no swearing, mind you (Joel hates swearing), but it's sort of like what Goblet of Fire was to the first three Harry Potter books. Uh huh, yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, I'll be disclosing more details in the weeks and months to come, so keep tuning in to this space for the latest updates. And if you haven't starting reading the Joel Suzuki series yet (gasp!), you can catch up right here:

Joel Suzuki, Volume One: Secret of the Songshell
Joel Suzuki, Volume Two: Mystery of the Moonfire
Joel Suzuki, Volume Three: Legend of the Loudstone

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Mahalo! Plus, Small Business Saturday

Today I would like to give thanks to all of you who have supported the Joel Suzuki series, Second Player Score, and, most of all, Autism Empowerment. Whether you're a newcomer to the cause or have been with us since day one, believe me when I say that your efforts, contributions, purchases, and fandom have been and will continue to be greatly and sincerely appreciated.
Anyway, regardless of what you're doing today (eating turkey? watching football? both?) and tomorrow (waking up early to buy socks?), come on down to Vintage Books this Saturday to do some of your holiday shopping. It's all part of Small Business Saturday, and there's a great slate of local authors lined up for the day, including yours truly along with To Catch a Killer author Sheryl Scarborough from 1:30-3:00pm. There will also be giveaways, drawings, swag, cookies, and cats, so hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Movie Roundup: Special MCU Edition

Don't tell anyone, but I spent a portion of last week in a secret Avengers facility located somewhere in southern Nevada. I underwent a rigorous training program that tested the limits of my endurance and skill. It was intense, but when it was over, I emerged with my official Avengers Agent certification.
As part of my initial duties, I have been directed to rank the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies in order, going from my least to most favorite, and to disclose that information to you. Bear in mind that these are just my personal opinions and that they may not match up with yours (in fact, I'm pretty sure they won't). So here we go, and remember: there may be spoilers.

#17 - The Incredible Hulk

I actually haven't seen this one in a while. Maybe I should give it another chance. The thing with MCU movies, though, is that they're all decent at the very least, so the ones at the bottom of my list are still better than a lot of other stuff. I do wish they had some kind of in-universe explanation for why Ed Norton turned into Mark Ruffalo.

#16 - Thor

I found this one to be rather slow and dull, but it's actually better when viewed retrospectively through the lenses of its sequels (see below).

#15 - Iron Man 2

I didn't think this one was as bad as some people say, but hey, I had to fill this slot with something. The final battle scene was kind of anticlimactic, I'll give you that.

#14 - Doctor Strange

Awesome visual effects make up for some uneven pacing and the occasional flat joke. The climax battle was cool.

#13 - Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

I can hear you all gasping from here. "How dare you rank this movie so low!" Again, it's like when you have a really awesome professional sports team whose backups are better than other team's starters.

#12 - Thor: The Dark World

Like Iron Man 2, I actually liked this one more than most people. I often find myself watching it all the way through when it comes on TV.

#11 - Iron Man

Like The Incredible Hulk, I haven't seen this one in a while either, but I do recall liking it a lot.

#10 - Avengers: Age of Ultron

A bit cluttered, this one actually gets better upon repeated viewings as I started to understand more and more about what the heck was going on (during my first viewing, I thought the Hulk's rampage was a Scarlet Witch-induced vision).

#9 - Guardians of the Galaxy

I can hear you all gasping from here. "How dare you rank this movie so low!" Again, it's like the Legend of Zelda games, where even their fifth-best iteration is still better than most other games out there.

#8 - Captain America: The First Avenger

I can do this all day.

#7 - Captain America: Civil War

This one was kind of cluttered (just like Age of Ultron), but the airport fight scene makes up for everything.

#6 - Iron Man 3

My favorite of the three Iron Men (obviously) and the only MCU theme song that I can consistently hum from memory even after not having heard it for a while.

#5 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Like The Dark World, I often watch this one all the way through when it comes on TV, even if I've already seen it not too long ago.

#4 - Thor: Ragnarok

Hilarious and colorful, this one puts an awesome bow on the Thor trilogy and actually elevates its predecessors. I'll have more thoughts on it in the next official Movie Roundup post in January.

#3 - Spider-Man: Homecoming

The best Spider-Man movie to date. Yes, even better than Spider-Man 2.

#2 - Ant-Man

Surprise! I bet you had forgotten about this one as you were reading through this list. I love this movie - it's the only MCU film that makes me tear up (as in watery eyes, not rip-tear-Hulk smash). I think I have some personal bias, though, being a single dad with a daughter.

#1 - Avengers

A pitch-perfect ensemble film, chock-full of memorable one-liners ("It seems to run on some form of electricity!" "Puny god." "Then shawarma after." And so on.)

Can't wait to see where Black Panther, Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel, and the fourth Avengers film end up in this list.

What does your list look like?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Band Names: A Public Service Announcement

'Ello, Marshall Byle here. I'm the lead singer and guitarist of the Grammy Award-winning rock band Biledriver. I'm sure you've heard of us. If not, go on and read these books, they'll tell you all about us. 
I'm here today to talk about band names. Names are important. Especially the name of your band. Your band's name can be the difference between stadium-level rock stardom and never getting out of your bloody basement.

The best band names:

1. Are unique combinations of short and simple words
2. Communicate your sound and/or identity
3. Have some personal meaning for the band members, so it doesn't sound like you all sat down at the corner pub and spent the night coming up with a contrived but unique combination of short and simple words

Here are some examples of band names that I consider to be among the best in all of rock 'n' roll:

- Soundgarden. A unique combination of short and simple words that reflects the band's straightforward, no-frills approach. Also, the name was inspired by a sculpture in Seattle. Perfect.

- Mudhoney. The name alone just sounds like grunge, don't it? It also has that cool assonance thing going on as well. And as the crowning touch, it actually came from a Russ Meyer film.

- Guns N' Roses. Such a rock 'n' roll name. And it was just a combination of two previous bands, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose, so it's free of pretension. Mostly.

- Radiohead. Again, two short and simple words, taken from a Talking Heads song.

- Nine Inch Nails. I don't care much for the three separate words deal, but at least each word is short, not like "Second Player Score" or whatever. And it really conveys the image of the band.

- Biledriver. Of course, the absolute best name in rock, hands down.

There are others, of course, but I think you get my meaning by now. I could also list examples of terrible band names, but I have to see most of those blokes at concert festivals and award ceremonies, so I won't go there. Not today, anyway.

So if you're starting up a new band, keep my advice in mind, and maybe one day I'll see you in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

NaNoWriMo, or How The Sight Was Born

It's November, which means that it's NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month! For those of you who aren't familiar with it, NaNoWriMo is an annual event where people attempt to write an entire 50,000-word manuscript between November 1st and November 30th.
Now, for me, just the thought of writing 50,000 words in thirty days makes me want to tear what's left of my hair out and hide in my room until January, but every year, more and more hardy souls attempt to perform this incredible feat. Some well-known books have even emerged out of it, like Wool by Hugh Howey and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

I will admit that while I was still in the plotting stages for Volume One, I briefly toyed with the idea of trying to write it during the 2010 NaNoWriMo, so I picked up a book called Book in a Month: the Fool-Proof System for Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Dr. Victoria Lynn Schmidt. It was packed full of good ideas and systems, but because of my personal idiosyncrasies, I wasn't quite able to apply it to my own project (I ended up writing the initial draft of Volume One in a little over four months, starting from Christmas Day 2010 and ending on April 30, 2011).

There was one great thing that resulted from my purchase of Dr. Schmidt's book, however. When my son first took a look at its cover, he immediately - like, within one second of glancing at the book - noticed an error that I (and the book's cover designer, apparently?) had completely glossed over. Even after he pointed it out to me, it took a few moments before it actually registered in my brain. That event was the inspiration for the Sight, which, as readers of the Joel Suzuki series know, is Joel's ability to recognize tiny details that most other people seem to miss. On Earth, it's good for things like video games, Easter egg hunts, and Where's Waldo books, but on Spectraland, it's one of the special powers that allows Joel to save the day.

Take a look at the picture above. Can you spot what I'm talking about?