Thursday, October 14, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: The First (Real) Draft Is Complete!

Last time on Volume Six Status Update (which was over FOUR MONTHS AGO, whaaat?) I said that I had reached the 62,000-word mark but then I realized that I was spinning my wheels and was quite possibly building on a flawed foundation so I went back and started again from scratch and got it back up to 28,000 words.

Well now, I'm done.
As in, I've finished the story according to how I originally mapped it out, resulting in a draft that is 90,000 words (approximately 360 pages) long. I know there are still some things that need to be cleaned up, and I'm sure the third act is a bit of a mess, but otherwise, I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. A few weeks ago, I adopted a daily mantra of "it's only the first draft, just write anything," which really helped me get it to the finish line (you would think that, six books into this whole deal, I would've adopted that mantra a lot sooner, but, well, to paraphrase the Doctor, forgetting is a human superpower).

So now, as per the usual process, I'm letting the draft cool off for a little while before I go back and submerge myself in the revision and rewriting process. My guess is that I'll have something ready to send to my editor early next year, which would keep me on track for a late 2022 or early 2023 release, right in line with the overall schedule for the series (i.e. a new volume every other year or so). Editor's note: the draft will be sent for editing in December!

I can say that this volume is probably the most ambitious so far, not only because of its length (which, if it holds, will make it the longest Joel Suzuki book to date) but also because it has so much stuff going on and, as the penultimate entry in the main 7-book story arc, really raises the level of stakes, action, and character development (do Joel and Felicity finally kiss?* You'll just have to wait to find out).

Anyway, stay tuned for more updates!

* Felicity: do we what, now?

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Words & Pictures Festival 2021

This year's Words & Pictures Festival (the 5th annual) will once again be virtual! It worked out really well last year, so I'm confident it will be just as good this time around.
What's changing this year is that it will be two days instead of one, so twice the fun! It's this Saturday, October 9th from 10am-5pm and Sunday, October 10th from 10am-3:15pm. I'll be kicking off the Saturday festivities with an author reading at 10am, followed by Karen Eisenbrey and Kristin Burchell and then a Q&A until 11am. On Sunday, I'll be in a panel called "Marketing & Social Media for Authors, Part 2" along with Heidi Mason and Gretchen McLellan from 11:15am-12:15pm. Of course, there are lots of other great workshops, readings, and events happening for aspiring writers, children, and families, so it's totally worth checking out all day long on both days. And best of all, it's free!

You can see the entire program, bios of all the participating writers and illustrators, and the registration link here. Hope to see your smiling faces (and, perhaps, cats?) on Zoom!

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Joel and Felicity Try Virtual Reality

INT. BRIAN'S LIVING ROOM - DAY

A young man is here, sitting on the couch and watching a baseball game. This is JOEL. After a few moments, a young woman enters, carrying a box. This is FELICITY.

F: Dude, check it out.
J: What?

Felicity opens the box.

F: I got an Oculus Quest 2.
J: Oh, nice. Did you buy it?
F: No, I stole it.
J: You did?
F: Kidding. Of course, I bought it.
J: How?
F: I still have Brian's credit card.
J: Oh.
F: Anyway, c'mon, we should try it out.

MONTAGE: Felicity and Joel setting up the Oculus Quest 2. After they're done -

F: Okay, you can go first.
J: Really?
F: Yes, really.
J: Thanks.

Joel puts the headset on and picks up the controllers. A couple of minutes go by, during which he looks around and moves the controllers, but doesn't say anything. Finally - 

F: Well?
J: Well, what?
F: How is it?
J: It's...okay, I guess.
F: Just okay?
J: To be honest, it's a little boring.
F: Are you trying to be sarcastic?
J: No, I'm not. It's just that...well, I think for an average person who hasn't tried virtual reality before, it would be awesome. But I've traveled through time and dimensions and alternate realities and all of that, so this is actually sort of...what's the word? Anticlimactic.
F: Okay, let me try.

Joel takes off the headset and gives it and the controllers to Felicity. She tries them out for a while.

F: Hmm, you know what? You're right.
J: I know.
F: Heh. I mean, yeah, I'm sure this is pretty cool for regular folks, but for us, it's like, we've already experienced stuff like this and more in our real lives.
J: Yeah.
F: Unless...what if our real lives are a simulation?
J: Huh?
F: You know, like in The Matrix. Or that South Park episode from 2014 where the kids were lost in virtual realities.
J: 2014? Isn't it 2013 right now?
F: Dude, it's 2021.
J: It is?
F: That's what I just said. Or maybe it isn't. I dunno, it's hard to tell sometimes. Because, you know, time travel.
J: You might be right, though. It's possible that our lives are just a creation of some other power that dictates our actions and controls our destinies.
F: Right? I get that feeling sometimes, too.
J: In which case, we would be living in a super-advanced version of virtual reality.
F: Like an Oculus Quest 2000.
J: Or 20,000.
F: Or 2 million.

Joel and Felicity trade awkward glances. Then-

J&F, together: NAH

They laugh.

F: Let's download Beat Saber.
J: Okay.

FADE TO BLACK

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Give More 24!

Today is Give More 24! What is that, you ask? Why, it's 24 hours in which you can make a positive difference in the world by donating to any one of the awesome nonprofit organizations based in the Southwest Washington area. "Sounds great," you say, "but which organization should I donate to?" Well, each organization is definitely worthy of your support, but allow me to make a suggestion: Autism Empowerment.
Why, you ask? Well, because not only are we dedicated to improving the quality of life for people and families in the autism community both locally and worldwide via our various programs, support groups, events, resources, and more, but also because we promote a global culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.

If that sounds good to you, then simply go this link and make a donation. Even just the minimum of $10 will be greatly appreciated. All donations are 100% tax-deductible, and best of all, giving feels good! I know this first-hand, because not only will I be donating today, but I also donate to Autism Empowerment (on an ongoing basis) one dollar for every Joel Suzuki book that is sold.

Thank you! Mahalo! Arigatou Gozaimasu! Gracias!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Post That Is Sort Of About Football: 2021 Edition

I know I'm a little late with this, seeing as how the season has already started, but, hey, whatever, right? Initial thoughts and way-too-early snap judgments: (1) I don't care for the 17-game schedule, purely for purist, change-resistant reasons (as they say in Doctor Who, "You've redecorated. I don't like it"), (2) the NFC West looks like a division of juggernauts, amirite? and (3) the quarterback carousel that's going on this year is making my head spin (see multiple notes below). Anyway...

Arizona Cardinals: JUGGERNAUT

Atlanta Falcons: seem to still be suffering from the acute case of Brady-itis that they contracted back in 2017.

Baltimore Ravens: "Raven" seems to be a popular name for fictional characters (Teen Titans, X-Men, That's So Raven, etc.). Kind of like "Finn" (Star Wars, Adventure Time, etc.). And "fins" is a nickname for the Miami Dolphins (see below). Where am I going with this? I have no idea.

Buffalo Bills: I sort-of-predicted that they would be division champs last year, and well, whaddya know? Although this season has sort of started with a thud.

Carolina Panthers: are now starting Sam Darnold at quarterback? I was like, wait, what? When did that happen?

Chicago Bears: are now starting Andy Dalton at quarterback? I was like, wait, what? When did that happen? (although they're probably going to be starting Justin Fields on Sunday)

Cincinnati Bengals: are now starting Joe Burrow - oh, right, he was there last year, he just got hurt. I'm sure they're glad he's back.

Cleveland Browns: could maybe, finally, be starting to turn the corner?

Dallas Cowboys: back in 2016 I described this team (who I used to follow when I lived in Hawaii due mostly to a lack of options) as like "an ex, where you just peripherally take notice of stuff they're up to but you try not to get too involved." I did, however, watch their season opener against Tampa Bay and was actually sort of rooting for them. Oh well.

Denver Broncos: are now starting Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback? I was like, wait, what? When did that happen?

Detroit Lions: are now starting Jared Goff at quarterback? I was like...oh, actually, I knew about that one.

Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers' singer-songwriter State Farm commercial is pretty funny.

Houston Texans: are now starting Tyrod Taylor at quarterback? And supposedly turned down three first-round draft picks for Deshaun Watson? And still won their first game?

Indianapolis Colts: are now starting Carson Wentz at quarterback? Good game on Sunday, by the way (not being sarcastic. Seriously).

Jacksonville Jaguars: are now starting Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, but I knew that because I'm a semi-football nerd who watches the annual draft.

Kansas City Chiefs: I always find it funny when I watch game highlights and they're all like "Patrick Mahomes this, Patrick Mahomes that" but then you find out that the Chiefs only won by several points after finally taking the lead late in the fourth quarter. You would've thought that they had won by ten touchdowns or something. But, well, as a Seahawks fan, I can relate.

Las Vegas Raiders: once in a while I find myself wondering, "why doesn't Las Vegas have a MLB and/or NBA team?" Don't ask me why I wonder stuff like that.

Los Angeles Chargers: I'm still not used to them not being in San Diego.

Los Angeles Rams: are now starting Matthew Stafford at JUGGERNAUT

Miami Dolphins: Are also known as the "fish." Dolphins aren't fish. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that.

Minnesota Vikings: According to Wikipedia, "Vikings is the modern name given to seafaring people primarily from Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), who from the late 8th to the late 11th centuries raided, pirated, traded and settled throughout parts of Europe." It's also the name of a historical drama TV series for the History channel.

New England Patriots: last year, I said "the first real test to see if the Patriots are Belichick or Brady." I guess I have my answer.

New Orleans Saints: are now starting Jameis Winston at quarterback? Seriously? I guess it seems to be working out so far.

New York Giants: They Might Be Giants were not kidding - old New York really was once New Amsterdam.

New York Jets: are now starting Zach Wilson at quarterback, but I knew that because I'm a semi-football nerd who watches the annual draft.

Philadelphia Eagles: there's a restaurant near my house called Philly Bilmos that has awesome cheesesteak sandwiches. I haven't been there in a while. I need to go again.

Pittsburgh Steelers: are still starting Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, who is actually somehow younger than Tom Brady.

San Francisco 49ers: JUGGERNAUT

Seattle Seahawks: on the first offensive drive of the game against the Colts, I was like, "this new offense seems a lot like the old offense: run, run, Russell Wilson runs for his life when the pocket collapses and somehow gains a first down, run, run, Russell Wilson chucks it into the end zone and somehow Tyler Lockett comes down with it, touchdown." But I guess more educated football minds than me saw that the run schemes were different (could've fooled me) and as the game went on, there really was more tempo and quick-pass shenanigans. Either way, I liked the end result, which was a strangely low-stress affair. I just hope they can keep this up. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: last year, I said "the first real test to see if the Patriots are Belichick or Brady." I guess I have my answer. Sure wish that dude would retire and give someone else a chance.

Tennessee Titans: they play the Seahawks this coming Sunday, so I will keep my mouth shut.

Washington Football Team: weren't they supposed to have a new name by now?

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Glorified Issue #4 Is Here!

That's right, the fourth installment of Glorified, the manga/comic book series by Second Player Score, is now available!
Print copies are being sent out to select Kickstarter backers soon. Also, the issue is for sale in both print and digital formats at IndyPlanet. Additionally, you can read it (with subscription access) at GlobalComix.

As a reminder, we are donating 50% of the profits from the sale of any issue of Glorified in any format to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. You can find the first three issues at the links below:


Excelsior!

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Anime Roundup

Hey, I'm back with another edition of Anime Roundup! I know, it's been a while, right? Usually I've been doing these every five or six weeks or so, but this time the last one was over three months ago. The main reason for the gap was My Hero Academia, which, after I talked about it the last time, quickly because my new all-time #1 favorite show (sorry, Food Wars) and was basically all I was watching for a while. But once I got caught up (it's still ongoing in Japan, and new episodes only come out once a week) I was able to turn my attention to other stuff, like:

Black Clover
Crunchyroll kept feeding me ads for this one, and I'd heard a lot about it, so I finally decided to give it a shot. And I'm glad I did! I love the premise, which is: in a world where basically everyone has magic, one boy without magic is still determined to become the Wizard King so he can help save the world from demons (and also marry his childhood crush). It's kind of like Piers Anthony's A Spell for Chameleon meets Naruto. I also love the main character's indefatigable spirit and inspiring catchphrase ("Not giving up is my magic!"). It's nice when you discover an anime that you enjoy that is new to you but has a billion episodes already out (actually 170, but close enough) because you know that you'll have something to watch for a long time.

Jujutsu Kaisen
I'd heard that this one was considered the next big thing in manga/anime, being fairly new (the manga started in 2018, the anime in 2020), so I also put it on my post-My Hero Academia list. A fun and watchable mix of a lot of different influences, it's basically about a teenage boy who inadvertently becomes the host of a powerful Curse (like an evil spirit) and then joins a school for something called Jujutsu Sorcerers whose job it is to fight said Curses. You can tell that it sort of follows a Naruto-like template, but it puts its own original spin on it, and the juxtaposition of standard anime-style humor and grotesque horror imagery makes for an interesting contrast.

Don't Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro!
A light and airy rom-com about a high school girl who, um, flirts? I guess you could call it? with a shy and quiet otaku (nerdy) upperclassman, this one is, yes, a little racy and un-PC and definitely not for younger or sensitive audiences, but it never really crosses the line and eventually (spoiler alert? sort of?) showcases a wholesome and touching side with themes about love, friendship, and confidence.

Spirited Away
If you're an anime fan, you've probably heard of this Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki classic. On the surface, it's a seemingly simple Alice-In-Wonderland-like tale about a young girl who stumbles into a spirit world and has to find her way out, but there's actually a lot more to it than that, with underlying themes that deal with spiritualism, consumerism, environmentalism, and more. It's deservedly won a boatload of awards (including an Oscar for Best Animated Feature) and was the highest-grossing film in Japanese history for 19 years until it was finally surpassed in 2020 by the Demon Slayer movie that I mentioned in a previous roundup post.

Bananya
Okay, so "nya" is the Japanese equivalent of "meow." Therefore, "Bananya" is a cute and silly show made up of short (two-to-three minute) episodes that feature cat-banana hybrid creatures living in regular households, sometimes alongside regular cats (how that works, I have no idea). Season one showed them in everyday situations (or, as everyday as life can be for cat-banana hybrid creatures), while season two was a little more origin-story-ish and explained where they came from (another planet, sort of) and had magic and science fiction-y elements and other stuff. Lots of lovable fun for those times when you don't want to think too hard. Also, after every episode when the credits started rolling, I was like, "that was SO Japanese."

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Tanjoubi Omedetou, Neko (Happy Birthday, Cats)!

This week, Boots and Mittens are somehow, unbelievably, SEVEN YEARS OLD. Time flies when you're having fun (and waking up humans at 3am).
I've heard that developmentally, cats reach the equivalent of 15 human years by the end of their first year, then 24 by the second, and then four years per year after that, which would make these two...44?? Holy catnip! That then begs the question, do cats have mid-life crises? (My guess is: probably not.)

Anyway, here's to many, many more!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Big In Japan?

I'm excited to announce that Second Player Score has started up a partnership with the Japan-based media company VisualReel Inc.!
As of now, they've produced a Japanese website for us (that you can see here), but there's much more to come. Could this be the Japan-related destiny I talked about in this post from a couple of years ago? Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Four-D Status Update

This is a status update on Four-D. Not Four-D, the music album*, but Four-D, the card game!
If you've been following this blog and are familiar with the SPS-Verse (formerly known as the SPSU), then you know that along with Second Player Score's fourth album (titled Four-D) there will be an accompanying card game that is also called Four-D. We actually designed and tested the base gameplay (which is similar to War or Trumps but with some fun extras) over two years ago but have recently gone back and started polishing up the finer details; most notably, the names of the individual elementals that the players use to "battle" or "challenge" each other (the final verb is still up for debate). With that, we now have an upgraded test deck - hand-scribbled by yours truly - that we have retested and found to be in proper working order. If all goes well, the card game will be released simultaneously with the music album in Summer 2022.

There's also supposed to be an accompanying light novel or novelette or novella that tells the story behind the songs on the album, but so far, that's been a bit more of a challenge... I actually wrote most of one draft, didn't like it, started over and wrote (and finished!) a completely new draft, didn't like it either, and am now wondering what direction it should take. We shall see. Either way, even if something doesn't come out at the same time as the album/card game, it'll eventually take shape and see the light of day in some form or another...

* For a status update on the album, see this post

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The SPS-Verse

If you've been following this blog, then you're probably familiar with something called the SPSU, or Second Player Shared Universe. I first introduced it in this post from October 2018, where I described it as "the connecting hub and overarching umbrella for a number of related franchises that are all loosely centered around my band, Second Player Score." It was mentioned in passing a few more times after that before getting an update post a year later, where I described in further detail the ten different projects that made up the SPSU.
Since then, some of the projects have changed and evolved as their development has continued; for example, Four-D now features a nonbinary cat-person from another planet as its main protagonist, while 200BPM is now called CIVIL and has had its underlying story altered pretty significantly. Also, the SPSU itself has undergone a rebranding - it's now known as the SPS-Verse.

This change came about because, in the course of working on Joel Suzuki, Volume Six and Four-D concurrently (and also watching Loki on Disney+), I came to realize that all the different projects in the SPSU actually existed not in a universe, but a multiverse (also, "SPS-Verse" is more catchy and won't be confused with Southern Polytechnic State University).

Along with the new name comes a new description: "the SPS-Verse is a collection of interconnected original intellectual property franchises that each contain four elements: (1) music and media, such as film, TV, books, comics; (2) food & beverage; (3) toys, technology, and merchandise; and (4) philanthropy. The first three elements represent the individual strengths of each cofounder (meaning the guys in my band), while the fourth is a shared passion and interest."

Otherwise, our goal remains the same: to help make the world a more positive place through the proliferation of pop culture!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Album Four Status Update

Hey, I'm back! Where have I been, you ask? Well, last week I was holed up in the recording studio, laying down tracks for my band's next album, Four-D.
We finished four songs (which will collectively be known as "The August Suite"): Game On, Trading Blows, Level Up, and Beat Everyone. Eight more to go! We're trying to push the timeline so that we can get the album - along with, hopefully, the accompanying novelette and card game - out by May/June 2022. Wish us luck!

(P.S. Yes, that is a keyboard you see in the picture. There will be a keyboard part. Seriously.)

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Dream Journal, Entry #1: Battle Brigade

Dreams are fun. They're like short films created by your subconscious. I've decided to start keeping a dream journal, out here, in public, for everyone to see. I have dreams often, usually several each night, and most of the time they're pretty vivid. I've even had lucid dreams before, where I was aware that I was dreaming and could thus control (to some extent) the events of the dream. Unfortunately, I haven't had one of those in a while, nor have I had prophetic visions of the future or helpful conversations with alternate versions of myself like Joel Suzuki and other Wavemakers have had...yet.
Anyway, the other night I dreamt about a logo of sorts that had two letter Bs back to back, one of them inverted (I guess I must like things like that, because the Second Player Score logo has an inverted letter S that also doubles as the number two). The logo then turned into a design for a mask or a helmet or some other such facial covering that included horns on both the top and bottom. My subconscious then proclaimed that this was the mask of a group called "Battle Brigade," which makes sense given, you know, the two letter Bs. I guess this so-called brigade was supposed to be a bunch of fighters or warriors or soldiers in the vein of the Yiga Clan from Breath of the Wild or one of the many types of disposable henchmen from the various tokusatsu shows I used to watch or even perhaps clone troopers/stormtroopers from Star Wars.
After I woke up the next morning, I immediately drew the picture that was in my dream and then looked up "Battle Brigade" on the Internet to check if I had just been channeling an existing intellectual property that I may have seen in passing somewhere. But lo and behold, it was completely original! Or at least I think so*. The only thing close that I found was a video game for the Switch called Battle Chef Brigade that is like a combination of Tetris and Puyo Puyo in a cooking setting (which sounds amazing, by the way) with no mask-helmet-wearing henchmen in sight. So who knows, maybe the Battle Brigade will make an appearance in the SPSU one day.

*There's also The Bad Batch, a Star Wars/Clone Wars spinoff on Disney+ that features a squad of rogue clone troopers called (you guessed it) the Bad Batch whose initials are, obviously, two Bs. It's possible that that show could've been a subliminal influence, but there's no double-B logo or anything like that in it, so I think I'm good.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

2021 MLB Season: The Halfway Mark

Now that we've reached the halfway point in the current Major League Baseball season (which, hilariously, is twenty-one games longer than the entire 2020 season), I thought we'd check in with our in-house baseball experts/die-hard Seattle Mariners fans April Hayashi and Lydia Sanchez.
Brian: Welcome back.
April: Thank you.
Lydia: It feels like we were just here.
Brian: Actually, it's been over three-and-a-half months.
Lydia: Huh. How about that.
Brian: So, anyway, we'll start off with the state of MLB in general. Your preseason World Series favorites, the Dodgers, don't seem to be doing as well as predicted.
April: They've been better lately, though.
Brian: True. It seems weird that the team they're chasing isn't the Padres, but the Giants.
Lydia: There's a lot of season left. Things can still happen.
Brian: So are you both going to stick with your prediction?
April: I am.
Lydia: Sure, why not.
Brian: Okay, moving on. What are your thoughts on the whole umpires-checking-for-foreign-substances thing?
Lydia: It's dumb.
April: I agree.
Lydia: Wow - April Hayashi, voicing an opinion!
April: What are you talking about? I'm always voicing opinions.
Lydia: In private. When you're drunk.
April: Hmm.
Lydia: Anyway, and of course, it had to be a Mariner who was the first one to get ejected.
April: Of course.
Brian: I guess that brings us to the Mariners. It's been a strange season for them so far, don't you think?
Lydia: Oh, totally.
April: At one point, I was convinced that there really is a curse on the team.
Brian: You mean, still is.
April: Huh?
Brian: You know, that whole story about how you and Lydia discovered the source of the curse and then got it removed, or at least you thought you did...
April: No idea what you're talking about. Lyd?
Lydia (shrugs): Doesn't sound familiar to me.
Brian: But...you guys have talked about it before. It's all in that script I wrote. Remember?
April & Lydia: (silence)
Brian: All right, anyway, yeah, things were looking pretty rough there for a while. But then they've started to turn it around as of late.
Lydia: But again, there's still a lot of season left. Plenty of time for more stuff to go south.
Brian: Sounds like you're pretty pessimistic.
April: What happened to the Lydia who was predicting a division title?
Lydia: She's retired. Remember how I said "the bullpen looks better, the Big Maple is back, and we have the reigning Rookie of the Year?" Well, then those last two guys go out and get injured and are out for the season.
April: At least the bullpen is sort of better.
Lydia: Meh. And then I also said that Jarred Kelenic would be Rookie of the Year. Yeah, that didn't quite turn out the way I was hoping. So, I'm through with predictions. And optimism.
April: But you also said that J.P. Crawford would be an All-Star, and he's looking like he has a chance. And other guys have stepped it up, like Kikuchi, and Flexen, and Jake Fraley. And it looks like Logan Gilbert just might stick.
Lydia: I guess.
April: That's my line.
Brian: April, it looks like your prediction for the M's of a third-place finish with a record just over .500 is tracking so far. Are you going to stick to that?
April: Yup.
Brian: Lydia?
Lydia: I told you, I'm done with predictions. For real, this time.
Brian: Fair enough. Okay, well, thanks again for coming in today. Before you go, I just want to point out that this is post number five hundred for this blog!
[cheers and confetti]
April: Who's that cheering?
Lydia: And where's the confetti coming from?
Brian: Yup, we here at the Brian Tashima Blog have now been doing this for five hundred straight weeks now. Or, well, actually a little less, because at one point we did a bunch of posts in a row, but it's close enough. So, thanks for helping us mark this special occasion!
April: Is there cake?
Lydia: And beer?
Brian: Uh, no.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Looking Back On Junes Past

The fun thing about having this blog is that since it's kind of like a diary (albeit one that is publicly assessible by the ENTIRE WORLD), every so often when I'm feeling wistful and nostalgic I can go and check out what I was up to at various points in time. This week, I thought I'd have a look back at the month of June in years past.
June 2013
I announced the production of an audiobook version of what was then called Book One (now Volume One) of the Spectraland Saga (now the Joel Suzuki series). Book One was also selected as the Book of the Week by Indie Writers United. Book Two was slogging its way along. And I gave a speech and reading at the Hillsboro Bards and Brews.

June 2014
My band Second Player Score recorded three songs for our first album. And in my pre-Netflix days I was apparently watching a lot of Teen Titans Go! and How I Met Your Mother.

June 2015
I was playing a game called Splatoon and making Joel and Felicity do my blogging work for me because Book Two was STILL NOT DONE

June 2016
Second Player Score was in the middle of working on our second album, Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls were the shows of the day, and Book Three was coming along at a much faster pace than its predecessor.

June 2017
A very busy month. I did a school visit at Woodland High School, made good progress on Volume Four, played my first out-of-town show with Second Player Score in Cottage Grove, OR, started pre-production for our third album, and finished Breath of the Wild. Also, my son graduated from high school.

June 2018

June 2019
Glorified, both the album and the comic book series, was launched!

June 2020
In the middle of a pandemic, I managed to make some progress on songs for Second Player Score's fourth album and Volumes Five and Six while also taking a screenwriting workshop via Zoom, managing the Kickstarter campaign for Glorified Issue #3, and recording a weekly podcast. I also cooked.

June 2021
I am writing this post.

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.)

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Ten Years of Joel Suzuki

Ten years ago, on this date (well, actually, April 30th, but close enough), I typed "The End" on the first draft of a manuscript called "Secret of the Songshell." Well, actually, I didn't really type "The End," but that was when I had finished it, at any rate.
The ensuing decade has been quite a fun and wild ride. A little over a year after I didn't really type "The End," Secret of the Songshell, Book One of the Spectraland Saga was published on July 17, 2012. This was followed by an audiobook version the following year, a second book (Mystery of the Moonfire) in 2015, a name change from the Spectraland Saga to the Joel Suzuki series, and then three more books - Legend of the Loudstone in 2017, Fable of the Fatewave in 2018, and Ballad of the Bluerock in 2021.

Because of these books, I've had the chance to meet so many wonderful people, and I've had many great experiences, from speaking to schools and autism groups to being a panelist at conferences and everything in between. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me and the series along the way - you're awesome, and, while the list is long, you know who you are.

As for the next ten years? Well, if all goes according to plan, we should see Volume Six in 2023, Volume Seven in 2025, and, quite possibly, Volumes Eight, Nine, and Ten in 2027, 2029, and 2031, respectively (Volume Eleven, the final one, will have to wait for a year during the following decade - meaning the ten years after 2021-2031. Hopefully 2033). Of course, you know what they say about plans, so we'll just have to see how it goes. But I promise that no matter what happens, I will continue to do my absolute best to keep telling Joel's story. Here's to more great years ahead!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Breakfast For Dinner

Just as Saturdays have become Steak Night at my house (as detailed in this previous post), Thursdays - that's today! - have become Breakfast for Dinner Night. Specifically, bacon, scrambled eggs, and rice (hold the eggs for my daughter, who hates them).
As with Steak Night, there's no need for a recipe, as obviously it's very basic. I fry the bacon first so then I can cook the eggs in the bacon oil. Also, I add a bit of milk to the scrambled eggs during the scrambling process. But both things are pretty common, though, right? 

The bonus to this is that the house smells like bacon the next morning. I guess that same effect could be achieved by actually making breakfast for breakfast, and then the house would smell like bacon all day, but whatever.

Another bonus is that for me, scrambled eggs are just a delivery system for my actual favorite foods (besides bacon), which are hot sauce and minced garlic (conveniently dispensed via squeeze bottle).
Also as with Steak Night, we don't do this every week, because too much bacon - oh, who am I kidding, we do this every week. For now, at least. Because, you know, bacon.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Anime Roundup

Here we are with another edition of Anime Roundup! No unifying theme this time, just an assorted grab bag of fun and awesomeness. Hajimemashou!

Code Geass
There's really no simple way to describe this one. It takes multiple genres and tropes (rebellion, mecha, magic, high school), mashes them together, and then weaves the resulting mixture into a complex, morality-questioning, socio-political narrative in such a way that totally shouldn't work...and yet it does. There's one line spoken by the main character in one episode that I think might sum it up best: "I'm trying to run a school festival and a coup d'etat at the same time!" Or I don't know, maybe not. You really have to watch it to understand the full scope, but I'll try again: in an alternate timeline where the Holy Britannian Empire has conquered Japan, an exiled Britannian prince acquires a power called "Geass" (which manifests in him as a sort of Jedi mind trick ability) and then uses it to try to overthrow Britannia as revenge against his Emperor father for letting his mother be killed *deep breath*. By the way, the prince's over-the-top mannerisms reminded me so much of Yuta/Dark Flame Master from Love, Chunibyo, and other Delusions (covered in this Anime Roundup post) that I had to go and rewatch that show. If you've seen both, you know what I'm talking about.

Kuroko's Basketball
A sports drama-comedy that reminded me a little of Haikyuu!! (also covered in this Anime Roundup post), this one is kind of about a high school basketball player (the titular Kuroko) whose only strength is the fact that he's very easy to overlook and so he can pull off these amazing touch passes; otherwise, he can't shoot, dribble, or basically do anything else effectively. However, when paired with a stronger player, this particular skill makes him really valuable. And so, he teams up with one such player and their school goes on to challenge other schools that each contain a former member of Kuroko's middle school team that was nicknamed the "Generation of Miracles" and won three straight championships. I liked how each member of that so-called "Generation" had a certain hair color, a name that matched said color, and an individual strength of cartoonish proportions - they were kind of like "monsters of the week." As with Haikyuu!!, it didn't - spoiler alert - culminate in any kind of typical final championship game, but that's because Netflix only has the first season.

Love and Lies
A rom-com-dram about a love triangle with a twist: in an alternate reality where the government forces teens and young adults into arranged marriages in order to increase the birth rate, one sixteen-year-old boy confesses his love to his childhood crush and finds out that his feelings are reciprocated, but then he receives a notice that he's been assigned a future wife - who, of course, is someone else. As you might expect, this leads to all kinds of complications. I enjoyed this one (especially with its catchy theme song), even though I felt that it - spoiler alert- didn't take full advantage of its premise and left me with some unanswered questions, like: why in the world would these girls fall in love with such a boring dude? Anyway...

The Way of the Househusband
A vignette comedy about an ex-yakuza boss who retires from crime to become a househusband, this one is so laugh-out-loud hilarious I watched all five episodes on Netflix in one sitting and I want them to keep making more and more of them as quickly as they possibly can.

Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan
This is a spin-off of Jojo's Bizarre Adventure (covered in this Anime Roundup post) that features one of the characters from that manga/anime, the titual Kishibe Rohan, a manga artist with the ability to read and write people like a book (literally). The manga was adapted into four OVA (original video animation - in anime parlance, a direct-to-home-video film or series) episodes, of which Netflix has all four (yay). The simplest way I can describe this show is that it's a horror anthology, which is kind of a unique subgenre for anime but not all that surprising considering its source material. Also, I am very jealous of Rohan's ability.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Volume Six Status Update: Moving Right Along

I'm not sure, but it feels like that with this book, more so than on any of the others (except perhaps Volume One), I've really been sticking to the whole "just write whatever and fix it later" rule. Why do I say that? Because now that I'm coming up for air to assess where I'm at, I've discovered that I've made some pretty good progress, thank you very much.
As of the last status update in January, I was at 22,000 words, or about 88 pages. As of today, I've more than doubled that output, standing at 49,500 words, or about 198 pages. Of course, there's a 100% chance that large chunks of those words are piles of hot steaming garbage that will need to be immediately thrown out, but right now, I don't actually know, because I haven't stopped to re-read hardly any of it. My whole modus operandi has been "plow ahead, don't look back" for weeks now.

But it's all good, because that's how books get written! At least, that's how my books get written. And I think most writing advice will say the same thing: for your first draft, just get words down on the page, and worry about editing and revising and rewriting afterwards (believe me, there will be lots of that going on).

And while I don't know which parts will need the most help (I'm guessing mostly all of it except the first act, which is sort of solid?), I do know that I'll need to be doing a lot of filling in of the middle section, because at the previously-mentioned 49,500 words, I'm already well into the third act, which - according to my outline - wasn't supposed to start until about the 60,000-word mark or so. I sort of expected this to happen (something similar happened with Volume Three), because I've just been speeding along plot-wise, trying to move the story forward without stopping for things like description and exposition. It's like, so here's a new character from an alien planet and a different timeline, what does it look like? Who cares! We'll figure it out later.

Anyway, that's where things stand at the moment. According to my self-imposed schedule, Volume Six isn't due out until 2023, so I'm making good time...for now. As always, stay tuned for more updates!

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Glorified - Great News!

This week, I have good news, even better news, and great news. Okay, first, the good news: Glorified the comic book is going to be adapted into an anime series!
Actually, it's not (yet). April fools! Wouldn't that be cool, though? Anyway, on to the REAL news...no foolin'.

First of all, the Kickstarter campaign for Issue #4 of Glorified was a success!

Much mahalos to all the awesome backers who supported it. We look forward to producing the issue, which will contain the likenesses of the backers who chose the packages that gave them the opportunity to appear as characters. Right now, we're looking at a launch date of sometime in July, so stay tuned for that.

And now, the great news: we've made the decision to donate 50% of the profits from the sale of any issue of Glorified in any format to the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon. Since I was already donating $1 for every sale of a Joel Suzuki book to Autism Empowerment, we figured that it just made sense to do something similar with Glorified in order to help make a positive difference in the world. We hope you'll join us in supporting these great causes, either by purchasing copies of the comic book or by simply making direct donations to the organization. You can find the first three issues of Glorified for sale in either print or digital format at the links below (none of which are rick rolls, I promise):


Arigatou! Gracias! Thank you!