Friday, June 23, 2017

A Letter To My Son

Dear Torin,

Congratulations on graduating from high school! I am super proud (pronounced "prood," according to Richard Watterson) of you.
As a newly-minted high school graduate, I'm sure you'll be receiving life advice from a number of different sources, myself included. In fact, if what I've done so far is any indication, you've probably already been inundated with all sorts of guidance and recommendations from teachers and parents and peers and so on and so forth. Why, it was just the other day when I said something along the lines of  "if you follow your feelings, you won't have any regrets, because you'll know that whatever you did was based on what you felt was right at the time." (I might need to work on that one a little.)

Life advice can also come from songs, books, movies, and other popular media. Like, for example, "Do or do not. There is no try" or "Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living" or "Oh well, whatever, never mind." And I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the Joel Suzuki books are no exception - they're practically bursting at the seams with little nuggets of wisdom that I implanted into the story, sometimes subtly, sometimes not. Here are a few of my favorites (imagine these being read over an ambient music track a la "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen"):

"Happiness is a state of mind." - Art, Secret of the Songshell

"Oftentimes, the journey is just as important, if not more so, than the destination." - Fireflower, Mystery of the Moonfire

"Worrying is a waste of time." - Art, Secret of the Songshell

"Don't be afraid to say what's on your mind, or to say how you feel about stuff." - Felicity, Mystery of the Moonfire

"Even though events happen that are beyond our control, ultimately, we are still the ones who decide upon our own direction." - Keeper of the Light, Legend of the Loudstone

"Stay in the moment. Have faith." - Nineteen, Secret of the Songshell

And so on. The thing to remember, though - and this is me giving advice about taking advice - is to listen to all of these messages, digest them, and then decide in the end what is really right for you and your life. Because what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another, and sometimes learning through experience is the best way to go.

Anyway, congratulations again!

- Love, Dad

P.S. I know you already have your own copies of these, but in case anyone else out there wants their own, here's where to get them:

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, June 15, 2017

A Nerd's List of Reasons To Keep On Going

Hi, I'm Art. Some of you may know me as the owner of Art's Guitars, where my pal Joel Suzuki used to work. Some of you may know me as the drummer in Joel's band, or as the guy dating his mom (I know that might sound a little weird, but in case you weren't aware, Joel's mom and I are both 40-something-year-old divorcees). Here's a picture from the movie The Rocker, which sort of approximates Joel's band in that both feature a middle-aged drummer - they have Rainn Wilson, Joel has me - surrounded by incredibly talented teenagers.
Anyway, I'm apparently the guest blogger this week filling in for Mr. Brian Tashima, who said that he was busy working on something called "Volume Four" (no idea what that is). I was originally going to write a long post about philosophy, or about simulated realities, but then I realized that I'm not really a writer, so I'll just give you a list instead.

See, I believe that as a whole, life is good, despite the numerous hardships we all face from time to time, and that there's always something to look forward to, some reasons to keep on going, even if and when you don't feel like it. Now, the kids in the band and I are all heavily into what is called "nerd" or "geek" culture, so this list will contain some reasons specifically tailored for people just like us. And by the way, this list is by no means comprehensive - it's really just the tip of the iceberg. If you have anything you want to add to it, I'm sure Brian won't mind if you leave a comment or two. Enjoy.

A Nerd's List of Reasons to Keep On Going (as of June 15, 2017)

1. Loved ones
2. Spider-Man: Homecoming
3. The Legend of Zelda concert, coming to a town near you
4. Helping others
5. The next Comic-Con
6. Xbox One X
7. Delicious burritos
8. Cat videos
9. Finding out who the 13th Doctor will be
10. The third album by Second Player Score (Brian asked me to include that)
11. The day the Seattle Mariners (or whoever your favorite team is) finally get back to the playoffs (or win another championship, if you're lucky enough to be a fan of a good team)
12. Star Wars Episode VIII
13. Star Wars Episode IX
14: All the Star Wars movies that Disney will undoubtedly continue to produce after that
15. The fact that you are awesome
16. The weekend
17. The sun, if you like the sun, or snow, if you like snow
18. Your next vacation
19. Chocolate (not too much, just enough to keep away the Dementors)
20. Xenoblade Chronicles 2

That's it for now. Thanks for reading!

-- Art

(Editor's Note: like what Art has to say? You can hear more of his philosophies on life by reading the first three installments of the Joel Suzuki series, listed below.)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Statii Update

What follows is a status update on a number of different things. So would that make this post a "statuses update?" or - as Starfire might say - an "update of the statuses?" or a "statii update"? Statii isn't a real word, but I like how it looks and sounds, so I'm going to go with that.
Starfire, not to be confused with Fireflower
Book Update:
On Tuesday Joel, Felicity and I continued our Epic School Tour '17 with a visit to the awesome and appropriately-named Woodland High School in Woodland, WA. That was the farthest out we've traveled so far for a school visit, if you don't count the ones that we've done via Skype (in which case Sweden is the farthest).
We were there all day and spoke to several different classes, all of whom were terrific. Big thanks go out to Aaron Blackwelder and all the students and staff for hosting us. Hope to be back next year!

Volume Four is progressing at a good clip. At the last update on May 11, I was at 22,000 words, and now I'm at 28,000. I think, if I can stick to my daily schedule, I stand an outside chance of finishing the first draft sometime before the holidays, which would be comfortably ahead of schedule. Wish me luck!

Band Update:
Continuing with the "tour" theme, Second Player Score played its first out-of-town show at the Axe & Fiddle in Cottage Grove, OR a couple of weeks ago, and it was super fun. Everyone there was really cool and welcoming, the crowd (and soundman!) was great, and the other band that we played with - Sojourner, from Eugene, OR - rocked the house. I love their music, you should check them out.
With that show concluded, we turned our attention to Boot Camp 2017 and started tracking demos for the first three songs of Glorified, our upcoming third album. The songs in question are entitled "Eye of the Needle," "Liberty's End," and "Desolation." We have studio time booked in July and can't wait to get these tunes recorded. We've also started some work on the Glorified graphic novel; a draft of the script for the first eight pages has been written. Is anyone out there a comic book/graphic novel artist that can do something along the lines of I Kill Giants? If so, contact us immediately, we want to give you money.

TV Update:
Doctor Who. Loving the new season so far (yes, even last week's fake-out regeneration). Peter Capaldi, why do you have to go? Actually, I'm pretty sure I know why, but it's still a bummer.
Really want to watch The Handmaid's Tale (I've read the book), but don't want to subscribe to Hulu just for that. Maybe I can hold out until the season is over and then just buy it on DVD or something. Maybe.

I don't want to subscribe to Hulu mainly because those budget dollars are already spoken for when I break down and finally subscribe to Netflix so that my daughter and I can watch the second season of Miraculous Ladybug. Which is starting...soon, I think?

Video Game Update (WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BREATH OF THE WILD ALONG WITH RAMBLING RUN-ON SENTENCES):
I defeated Ganon. Mostly by accident. I actually didn't mean to, honestly. The night it happened, I told my daughter "Okay, I'm tired of working so hard, tonight I'm just going to wander around Hyrule Castle and scope it out, you know, do some recon, see what's going on, and then tomorrow or whatever I'll go back and get serious." But then after wandering around for a bit, I somehow found myself in an area called the Sanctum and then Zelda started talking to me and a big swirly thing started to manifest in the middle of the space and I was like whoa am I actually at the final boss fight already how the heck did that happen?
So then I figured, okay, since I'm here I might as well just give it a shot, I'll fight Ganon without looking at the walkthrough and just sort of learn what I need to do the next time I'm back and am actually taking this seriously. I assumed I would just die a quick and frustrating death (or three) and then quit for the evening.

But then something weird happened. Despite not knowing what I was doing most of the time (turns out what I was doing was mostly wrong) I somehow managed to make it past the first stage. And then the second. And then I got thrust into the third stage and by that time I was like "Well all right since I'm here I might as well try and see this whole thing through." And you know what? Despite still continuing to do mostly all the wrong stuff I managed to fake my way through it well enough that I beat him and finished the game. I was not expecting that at all.

Anyway, as it turns out, once you beat Ganon the game gives you a star (woo!) and a completion percentage on the map screen telling you how much of the game you've actually finished. Seeing as how I had 116 of 120 shrines and a decent amount of side quests completed, I thought "Okay, my percentage will probably be somewhere around 60-70%." Right? Um, no. I was at a measly 24%. I guess all the billions of Korok seeds that I haven't yet found might have something to do with it (if there are so many of them, why are they so hard to find? Arrrgh). So the moral of this story is that I have a ways to go still, which thank goodness because I need a game to play until Xenoblade Chronicles 2 comes out "sometime in 2017" (oh Monolift Soft/Nintendo, why do you torture us so?) We finally have our Switch, so we're ready. Let's do this.

P.S. Please consider checking out the books in the Joel Suzuki series because they contain much less run-on sentences (trust me, my editor makes sure of that). Mahalo.

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, June 1, 2017

How to Balance Your Life, Part Three

This three-part series entitled "How to Balance Your Life" talks about how I manage to get stuff done while juggling all the different aspects of my existence. If you haven't read parts one and two yet, either scroll down or go here for part one and here for part two.

So this week I'll be wrapping up this trilogy by going over the circle at the top left, which represents - for lack of a better word - "Work" (if you can come up with a better word after reading this post, please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks!)

By "work" I mean not only a job but also your passions and interests, so this circle can include hobbies as well. In my case, my "work" circle is divided into three parts: book, band, and my day occupation as a cat herder UFO watcher financial analyst.

So really, this part is all pretty self-explanatory. My minimum daily "book" goals are (1) writing 500 words, (2) reading a chapter of someone else's book, and (3) doing at least one thing to spread the word about Joel Suzuki (which includes my support for Autism Empowerment). Once those are done, a section gets lit up.
Now, there are days in which unforeseen circumstances (e.g. "life") prevent me from reaching these goals. When that happens, I try to at least do something - write 100 words, read two pages, whatever. And then I make up for it the next day, or the day after that. As long as it all averages out over time.

The same goes for the other two sections. For the band, whatever we have going on at the time usually takes priority, so my daily goal could be changing my strings for an upcoming show, writing lyrics, working on a solo in preparation for recording, etc.
And finally, there's showing up for work (those UFOs aren't gonna watch themselves.)
So that's it! A successful day. I've taken care of self (physical/mental/spiritual), home (family/friends/household), and work (book/band/job), and I'll be ready to do it again tomorrow.

Another benefit of this system I want to mention is that it gives you an incentive to spend at least some time on all the aspects of your life over the course of any particular day. For example, if for whatever reason I skip my daily workout in the morning, then there'll be this glaring empty space in my bottom circle staring at me, and as I get other stuff done it'll still be there, looking lonely and unattended to. So then finally I'll be like, "oh, all right, I guess I've lit up these other sections so I might as well take care of you now."

Anyway, I hope you found this series of posts beneficial, or, at the very least, mildly entertaining and/or informative. I showed you how I apply this system to my own life, but of course it can be adapted to whatever your own individual circumstances are. If you have any questions about it or want to say something completely unrelated, feel free to leave a comment!

Oh, and please consider checking out the Joel Suzuki series if you haven't done so already. If you have, thank you! Now, if you could just leave a review on Amazon (a single sentence will suffice), that would be greatly appreciated as well. Why? Because it's the right thing to do.
(The fast-talking guy at the end of the commercial says: support for the Joel Suzuki series translates directly into support for Autism Empowerment as well as a general culture of acceptance for people of all abilities.)

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, May 25, 2017

How to Balance Your Life, Part Two

This three-part series entitled "How to Balance Your Life" goes into detail about how I get stuff done while juggling all the different aspects of my existence. If you haven't read part one yet, either scroll down or go here.

Ready? Okay, here we go. This week, as promised, I'll go over the circle at the top right, which represents "Home." According to science-y articles and books that I've read, humans are social creatures and need to interact with other humans. We also need, for whatever reason, things like food, water, clothing, and shelter. Thus, this "Home" section is divided up into the following three sections: friends, family, and household.

Lighting up the "friends" section means basically what you would guess it means, which is having contact with people you get along with (unless you guessed that it meant binge-watching reruns of the TV series Friends, in which case you're only sort of correct). Writing is a solitary activity, so for me, there could be days in which I don't actually see any of my friends in person. So that's where social media comes in. Or texting. Or email. Or even an ancient activity known as "calling on the phone." This section can also encompass - gasp - dating-related activities, like swiping right, making awkward small talk with the barista, or chastising yourself for not having the courage to make small talk with the barista (only kidding about that last one. Mostly.)
Moving on! Whereas lighting up the "friends" section means having contact with people you get along with (or could theoretically get along with, if only they would give you their phone number), lighting up the "family" section means having contact with people you don't get along with. Again, I am kidding. Mostly. In my case, this includes taking care of and hanging out with my kids (who, by the way, I do get along with) and my cats (who I get along with 70-75% of the time). For other people, this can include having a date night with your spouse, or playing golf with your siblings.
Finally, lighting up the "household" section means doing all the little things you need to do to maintain your place of residence and everything associated with it, from taking out the rubbish to buying new socks. For me, most of the daily activities in this area (e.g. washing dishes, scooping out the litter box) are on auto-pilot, so I just have a list of the more sporadic tasks - grocery shopping, mowing the lawn - that I'll consult to see if any of them need doing on a particular day.
And there you have it! Two of the circles on the Life Compass have been lit up, so you're well on your way to having a balanced and productive day. Next week, I'll finish up this little trilogy by going over the top left circle, which represents, for lack of a better word, "Work."

Haven't started reading any of the books in the Joel Suzuki series yet? That's okay, I still consider you my friend since you're here, reading this blog. But still, you might want to check them out. Why? Because they're fun, and because for every Joel Suzuki book that is sold, I donate one dollar to Autism Empowerment.

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, May 18, 2017

How to Balance Your Life, Part One

Sometimes I get asked how I manage to write books, record albums, play shows, serve on Autism Empowerment's Board of Directors, herd cats, be a single dad, etc., all with what is - most of the time, anyway - a decent amount of proficiency. My answer is usually something along the lines of "sleep is overrated" or "time machine" but the truth is actually a bit more down-to-earth: applied geekery.
Allow me to explain. The above illustration (and I use that term loosely) is what I call "The Life Compass." Inspired by things like the Legend of Zelda's Triforce and Harry Potter's Deathly Hallows symbol, it's what I use to organize and accomplish my tasks on a daily basis while making sure that I maintain a sense of balance between everything I do so that nothing gets neglected.

Here's how it works. Each circle - I like to call them spheres, actually, but I realize that the picture is two-dimensional - represents a facet of life and is divided up into three sections each. The basic idea is to "light up" or "fill in" each section as you go through your day, with the goal of lighting up all nine sections by the time you go to sleep at night. Kind of like a real-life video game, I feel that it's an effective method for those of us who enjoy checking off a list of the quests you need to finish to get to the next level.

This week, I'll go over the bottom circle, which represents "Self" and is divided into the following three sections: physical, mental, and spiritual. It's at the bottom because it represents the foundation of your life - you need to take care of yourself first before you move on to anything else. That may sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised as to how many people neglect this part of the compass while overemphasizing others; e.g. working fifteen-hour days while not eating right, etc.

Lighting up the physical section means doing whatever it is you do to maintain your standard of physical well-being. For me, it's doing a thirty-minute workout with free weights. For others, it might be a jog around the block. Whatever works for you in your own particular situation.
Next, lighting up the mental section involves what I call "getting your head on straight." Making sure you're facing the day with the best possible attitude. It's not always easy - in fact, for me, I find this part more challenging than the physical section - but I think it's important to do whatever you can even when circumstances make it difficult. It can be accomplished by listing everything you have to be thankful for, saying some mantras or affirmations, or even just taking a few deep breaths. I'm not a mental health expert, but my own personal experience has taught me that doing this really helps to set a proper tone for the day, enabling me to be much more productive than I would have been otherwise. (Note: if you're dealing with serious anxiety or depression issues - and I have loved ones who are - please seek professional assistance. I'm just a science fiction writer).
The last section of the Self circle is the spiritual part. That can mean religion, but it doesn't have to. This is just where you do whatever it is you do to understand your place and purpose in the world and achieve some form of comfort and contentment. Maybe it's by saying a prayer. Or meditating. Or performing a good deed.
Now your Self circle has been fully lit up, and you're ready to move on to the other, equally important aspects of your life. For me, I like to get this part done before breakfast, so my usual routine includes getting up (or being woken up by the cats) early, working out, and then doing my mental and spiritual exercises while I'm taking a shower and getting dressed (multitasking in a safe and responsible way is part of the key to getting a lot of things done).

Next week, I'll go over the circle at the top right, which represents "Home."

For more life advice (albeit cleverly hidden within a fun sci-fi/fantasy adventure), check out the Joel Suzuki series, which features a mentor-like character quoting both Thoreau and Axl Rose and a chapter entitled "How to Talk to Girls."

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, May 11, 2017

Volume Four Status Update

Despite the flurry of recent activity surrounding the release of Volume Three, I've somehow managed to get some work done on Volume Four. I think it's important to keep writing on a regular basis no matter what, even if all you produce in a day is a single sentence.
No, not that Vol. 4
At the last status update a couple of months ago, I said that I was at 16,000 words. Now, I'm officially at 22,000. However, that doesn't include a bunch of stuff that I wrote, cut, put back in, and then cut again. If you included all of that, I would actually be somewhere around 27,000-28,000.

What happened was that I reached a point in the story where I thought, "Oh, wait a minute...I don't think I want to go in that direction after all. I want to go in this direction instead!" Which wasn't so much a complete shift as it was more of a "let's keep the plot the same but just with different characters in different settings" sort of change. Still, though, it required that I delete a bunch of stuff and rewrite some earlier passages just to get everything back on track. Trust me, even if you work from an outline, this kind of thing can and will occur. With frightening regularity.

The good news is that I'm still on schedule, possibly even a little ahead. After all, Volume Four isn't due out until 2019. In the meantime, please enjoy Volume Three (and One and Two if you haven't already done so), leave reviews of said volumes on Amazon and Goodreads, join the Wavemaker Order, and do all of the usual cool stuff that you always do. Joel, Felicity, Torin and I really appreciate everyone's support. As Ozzy always says, we love you all.