A new look for my half birthday

For the past while I have been using the Twenty Fourteen theme from WordPress for my blog. It really suited my style, especially with the thick black border. But that look reminded me of my failure: when I let my blog go down the toilet because I really didn’t care.

Now I have employed the Elegant Grunge theme, which goes well with my new old school header photograph and graphics. With this new design, I want you, my readers, to know that I am serious about this blog now, and I won’t let you down again. This past month I have seen a bit of a rebound in readership and even the creativity I have put out on the table.


 

Goals: I will publish at least three times a week to this blog, no matter the subject or length, or even if its just pictures of something I had done recently. Even a simple list will work, because I also want my blog to have diversity and interest that will keep you coming back to see what is going on.

 

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Hope It – Dream It- Cure It: Relay for Life

Photo courtesy of Chuck Woodcock
Photo courtesy of Chuck Woodcock. Plane flew over Relay for Life as relayers painted HOPE

Firstly, I apologize for my absence. Life happens.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life again. I was the team captain for The Rockin’ Entourage, a team made up of mostly my family and a few close family friends. I chose to do the relay for my senior community service project because of how much the event means to me.

Why do I relay? Originally my mom was part of a team called the Walk N’ Rollers. The team lasted for quite a few years and had even claimed the Top Fundraising Team for two years in a row. My mom had even claimed the prize of Top Individual Fundraiser in 2008. The team was put together because my brother’s aunt got cancer. Although she survived, she was near death many times and still suffers from the damage chemo and radiation did to her body.

Then on June 8 of last year my grand grandpa died of cancer at the age of 90. He was too old to undergo any treatment and he was given a window of the time he had to live. 

I signed up for the event and registered by the first team captains meeting. I was ready to help finish the fight and put an end to cancer. Then cancer struck back.

My journalism teacher, who is definitely one of the greatest people I have ever met, was diagnosed with cancer near the end of the school year. This came just months after another teacher at my school was diagnosed with cancer and had to take leave for the remainder of the year. He was okay, he took the last week of school off and had the cancer removed, but it was just a reminder for me that cancer can strike when you least expect it.

The relay itself was a joy as always. My team dressed up as 1980s hair band members and my tent site was decorated by stringing my family’s ’80s rock t-shirts together. We also made a team sign and sold Epic Donuts (thanks to my neighbors, the owners of Epic Donuts, for donating six dozen to us) and held a raffle on a massive bird house. Our efforts to compete in every spirit activity and to act silly paid off. 

We won Best Decorated Tent for our unique ideas. We didn’t win best baton, but our Aqua Net hairspray was pretty clever too. And, unfortunately, we didn’t win most spirited team, despite our 24-hours of running around the track in zebra-print pants and wigs while doing guitar solos to rock songs. It was still a fun event, and a very important fundraiser. We contributed nearly $2000 to the relay, which isn’t bad for a brand new team. 

I will never forget the Luminaria at the end of the first night, where we remember those who we have lost to cancer and recognize those who are still fighting or who have succeeded in their fight. I will never forget when we painted HOPE on the field and a plane flew overhead to take out picture. The Relay for Life is a very powerful thing.

I really recommend the Relay for Life experience to anyone who has been affected by cancer, or who knows someone who has. Even if you just want to help raise money or just show up to see what relay is all about, it is bound to be an exciting time.

Hope It – Dream It – Cure It. 

As the American Cancer Society puts it, “follow us to a world with more birthdays.” PASS HOPE ON.

Gramophone records

There’s something about pulling the large, black vinyl records out of their sleeves that gets me every time. I place the large disc onto its spot in my turntable and manually move the needle to the start of the record. I push down lightly on the lever, watching the needle slowly make contact with the spinning disc and music begins to play from my large Sony stereo system.

Even at just 17 years old, I love the sound of vinyl records. There is nothing wrong with playing music from a CD, or through my 160GB iPod Classic, which by the way is nearly full. I use my iPod all the time, like I am now. But there is something about the genuine sound of vinyl records that seems superior, even more pleasant to listen to.

I only own three records: AC/DC’s ’74 Jailbreak, Def Leppard’s On Through the Night, and Cinderella’s Long Cold Winter. I admit to having all of these in their respective CD forms, but when I saw them at a local antique store I had to have them. Just over a week later I found myself at Target, purchasing my first turntable. What’s special about it, is that it can burn the vinyl records into digital MP3 files on my laptop.

All that I need, more records. Good thing my neighborhood’s twice-annual community garage sale is this weekend. Maybe someone will have a few crates of records I can look through, and at a good price as well. Then, I may hit up 6th Street Records in Tacoma to see what they have. My brother has always said that their deals are the best in the area.

Until next time, listen to some good tunes.

Slang Deluxe Edition

On February 11, the day after my birthday, Def Leppard reissued the album Slang as a deluxe edition. When I first heard the album a few years ago, when I first got into rock music, I was very disappointed. 2010 was a strange year. I had finally made the transition from being a die-hard county music fan to becoming a fully-fledged rocker. My favorite band at the time: Def Leppard. I had fallen in love with the band’s music after borrowing my brother’s 2-disc greatest hits, Rock of Ages, and quickly began to purchase their studio albums. On Through the Night, High ‘n’ Dry, Pyromania, Hysteria, Adrenalize, and Retro Active were in my hands by that Christmas. The next two albums in chronological order were 1996’s Slang and 1999’s Euphoria. My brother owned the latter, but at the time I decided against downloading it to my iTunes because it sounded different. The same could be said of Slang. 

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I couldn’t stand the sound of the album when I decided to listen to it via YouTube and quickly considered it as one of the worst rock albums of all time. Released in 1996, the album was a radical departure from Def Leppard’s traditional glam metal sound made popular with 1983’s Pyromania and 1987’s Hysteria. The album was written during a dark time in the band’s career, following guitarist Steve Clark’s death in the early 1990s and the rise in Grunge music from my home metro area, Seattle. With a majority of the glam acts already being labeled as has-beens and long-time producer “Mutt” Lange out of the picture, the band saw an opportunity to express how they were feeling at the time. The result was a darker theme and more acoustic sounding album that went hand in hand with the ’90’s alternative rock scene. I often wondered if the band could have kept their popularity strong throughout the 1990s if they would have sticked to their heavy metal and glam metal roots that made them one of the best-selling artists of all-time.

After a while I began to accept more styles of rock music and appreciate much of the music that was put out during the ’90s. I gave Euphoria a second listen in late 2011 and decided to download it, noticing that it was an attempt by Def Leppard to reestablish themselves with their ’80s audience. It really didn’t differ much from their older collection, except for the more produced sound. I gave Slang another listen and grew to appreciate a few of the songs, but I still decided against making a purchase. Then in early 2013 I gave it yet another listen. This time, I realized that Slang is truly a masterpiece. While it sounds different than anything Def Leppard had done or has yet to do since, and lacked any major hits or good album sales, it still isn’t bad.

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Slang shows that Def Leppard can strip down the twin-attack-guitar technique and the cut out the metal hooks and still make some good rock music. Right from the start Truth? delivers a heavy, dark-themed punch that continues for much of the album. The backing vocals on the song are much “angrier” and less harmonized. Turn to Dust is probably one of my favorite songs from the album with the experimental instruments in the background and the powerful harmonizing vocals from singer Joe Elliot and the ‘good-ol’ boys. Slang is probably the most produced song on the album, although still more organic sounding than their earlier work. It also appears to be the one song on the album that doesn’t have a deep meaning, though I could be wrong. All I Want is Everything shows a side of Def Leppard no one knew existed before.

Overall, the album takes its place with the band’s earlier work as a great, flawless album through and through. With the exception of Euphoria, Def Leppard has yet to make an album since that matches its greatness (with the disappointing pop-album X  in 2002 and the so-so Songs from the Sparkle Lounge in 2008).

The Deluxe Edition also includes some drafts and rough/early mixes of the album tracks. Some of the drafts are actually quite good, such as Raise Your Love, an early version of Slang that may even be better. The album also includes some hard-to-find songs, such as Burn Out, which was released as a b-side for a single from Euphoria, Worlds Collide, All On Your Touch, Can’t Keep Away From the Flame, and Move on Up. 

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Dreams that remain

Sorry for the gap in posts. I have been finishing up another short story that should be posted in the next few days. For now, you can read some of my reflections.  

Have you had those dreams that seem exceptionally long? How about those dreams that feel real and carry more detail than usual? I had one of those nights. I’m not sure if it had anything to do with what has been going on lately, but it seems like a likely candidate.

As it has been for the past two weeks I had some discomfort with going to sleep. I keep trying to blame it on my ear piercings but I doubt that is the cause. Its like my pillow has betrayed me. No matter which way I try to sleep or how many times I flip the pillow over or try to fluff it out a bit I can’t find comfort. I also had a few thoughts on my mind, but that wasn’t what was keeping me from sleeping. January 29 was going to be Culture Day in Spanish 2 and I had to give a presentation. I hadn’t prepared, but I knew I would do fine anyway. I was very knowledgeable on the subject. 

Eventually, I did find my way slipping through the cracks to the sleeping world sometime after 10:15 PM. I am not one to usually have dreams. I know, my psychology friends would kill me for saying that. Fine, I am unable to recall most of my dreams when I wake up. It wasn’t one of those nights. My dream was one of those long-lasting, vivid ones that feel real. Even though everything was twisted from what it should be, as are with dreams, it felt real. The fact that the dream took place on January 29 definitely helped with that. 

Upon waking up to the loud and obnoxious beeping of my alarm clock at 5:25 AM this morning I could recall the dream very well. Waking up almost startled me to be honest. But the important thing about this dream isn’t that it happened, it is what I am going to do with it. The dream provided me with a foundation for a future novel or novella. What happened in that dream will remain between me and my ideas journal for now. 

The dream almost succeed in escaping from its cage within my mind while my attention was turned elsewhere. I was supposed to write it down, but it had led me to forget. I went through the last day of the semester at school without even thinking of the dream, even when a discussion about dreams had been brought up. But now I have it and I am not going to lose it.

I have lost too many dreams. 

Memory meltdown: why I turned onto Writing Street

Sorry for the long post this time, but I think this story has to be told now. I wont usually post anything this long.

Writing has been there for me, even when I don’t want it to be. I love to write, although I’m not sure it loves me back. I frequently develop writer’s block and I always ask myself if this is the right path. I mean, how insane am I to think that writing is my entire future? Pretty crazy. So, maybe I haven’t started to plaster the brown walls of my bedroom with fragments of short stories and maps for my epic fantasy novels, but I have confined them to a large cork board above my desk. I often wonder how I came to this: why I chose writing over trying to become a doctor or an urban planner, yet I already know the answer.

My writing roots

I started writing back when I was in fourth grade. I can remember the exact moment when I found my love for writing. Everyone in my class had to write a short story on a single sheet of poster paper and illustrate it. I wasn’t very creative at the time, after all, I was just beginning to discover who I really was. I wrote a pitiful piece based off of something I had read. It was basically the same plot line, just with myself as the main character and with a new setting. My teacher thought it was great, and I thought that if I continued writing it as a series of short stories , I would be able to impress her even more. So I wrote three short stories based on the same characters living on the same small island in the Caribbean. I shared them with the class to much applause, although my glory was short lived.

One of my classmates, his name was Ricky, was also a young writer. The fact that he was a writer didn’t bother me. I mean, there are lots of writers, right? It was the fact that he was better than me. His stories were twice as long and sophisticated as mine and practically stole the show. I didn’t share any more stories that year, and I stopped writing altogether. Worst of all, Ricky was my friend at the time. We still got along and even I couldn’t get enough of his stories. (I say at the time because it has been 5 years since I have seen him last.)

Fifth grade started off a bit rough for me, although it was the year that I really started to find myself. I remember that I was given detention the first week because I forgot my homework, which was a mistake I didn’t dare repeat. A few months into the school year we were asked to pair up at a laptop and write anything we wanted. I was paired with my friend Nicole as we created a story based off of a game we played at recess. It told of a wolf named Shining Radar-Tracker, a cat named Firetail, and a penguin named Gloria. They met at the Four Trees (total rip off from our favorite series at the time, Warriors) so that they could find some legendary salmon near Avalocalmysticwater. This idea paved the way for a book as I began to write on my own again.

The result was a 63-paged, handwritten book on wide-ruled paper. It had the same characters, although it featured a darker plot involving the fight against an evil tiger named Avakt and his armies. That same year a wrote a fan fiction during class based off of a game I played at the time called Club Penguin. I still have both of these, fortunately, so that I may look back upon them (and want to take an ax to them at every other word).

Sixth grade proved a breakthrough year when I was able to finish a 105-paged sequel, which followed Firetail’s search for his ancestry and his encounter with the vampires of the south. My writing had improved a tid bit, although it still lacked the essentials to a good story.

In seventh grade I began to work on a prequel, which only made it to around page 40. I had developed a severe case of writer’s block, which was the first time I had ever experienced it. Seventh grade was also the year that I became my “modern self.” I ditched the glasses for contact lenses, began to grow my hair longer, I dressed in band t-shirts and I gave up my country music roots for the great anthems of rock.

My quest for a novel

Of course my ambitions for writing got the best of me when I entered eighth grade. I wrote an outline for a new sci-fi series but never actually proceeded beyond the first 12 pages of the story. School took a turn I didn’t expect when I moved to honors classes and began to make new friends. Writing was lost in all the changes.

In ninth grade I tried to restart the sci-fi novel, but never did. Instead I proved my writing abilities through in-class short stories. I proved to be pretty good at early literary analysis and theme essays, but when second semester came around I was ready. At the start of every class we would write a short story about the topic or theme that was given to us. I have the notebook of these somewhere in my closet. (My closet isn’t a mess! My 9th grade stuff is just stored in a bin that I would have to sift through.) I might share these at a later time.

My personal writing during the year was nonexistent. I still called myself a writer, although I thought I was lying to everyone and myself. This mindset carried over into my sophomore year. The only writing I was able to accomplish was a rewrite of the first chapter of the sci-fi series, which also went unfinished. I didn’t even have to write much during english class, so my skills got a bit rusty (the exception being AP US History essays, which were rather boring.)

My current writing

I was expecting my junior year to be in the same vain as the past three. I was lying to my friends and teachers when I still claimed to be a writer. Perhaps it was better to say that I was a writer taking a vacation. But, so far my junior year has gone quite well in terms of writing.

In November I took part in my first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo ’13). The goal of NaNo is to write 50k words in 30 days. I was nervous about starting it, already predicting that I would fail. After all, I hadn’t written more than 10 pages in a novel for about three years. I did surprise myself, writing 50,016 words in only 28 days. This proved beneficial in a few ways.

1.) My current novel, Prophecy of Misharedra, is the longest thing I have written thus far

2.) It was the first time I had written a novel using a computer and not by hand (and I love it now)

3.) It is the best piece of work I have written

4.) I got cool winner’s goodies

That leads me to now. I am currently rewriting the novel (and at just over 10,000 words so far) and as soon as a finish a chapter it is being reviewed my a friend who is editing it. I also have another friend drawing a book cover and various illustrations.

My list of favorite book series

As a writer, I am also sort of a fanatical reader. I have my favorite authors and books and become attached to the characters and the plot lines to the point that I will try to seek out the unreleased material on the internet and enter discussions about possible movie adaptions. Books are definitely more than just words on pages, they are the gateways to new worlds.

I am a rather fast reader and have plowed through entire series in just one or two days. I also love to reread my favorite novels, even though I already know how it ends. Because, for me, it isn’t the destination of the book that is interesting, its how the writer takes you there.

So, here are my favorite series of all time:

1.) The Belgariad by David Eddings: The fact that I love David Eddings work is no secret. When reading my novels his influence can be seen in how my world works and how my characters interact. The book series, which was published in the 80s, follows a young farm boy named Garion who lives with his Aunt Pol and works in the kitchens. Garion is the boy in the prophecies, however, and he has to help retrieve the Orb of Aldur and slay the evil god Torak. No spoilers here, its all listed in the summaries on the cover sleeves. I just recently read the series over winter break. I had read other books my David Eddings before this and I found the series so enthralling that I read all 5 books in 3 days.

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2.) The Mallorean by David Eddings: Ah yes, another series by David Eddings. This series of 5 books takes place directly after the events in the Belgariad. Accidentally, I read this series first. I purchased the books at a yard sale for a buck each and fell in love with the writing. It didn’t matter that it was the 2nd series. Eddings gave enough background info to where I knew most of what was happening. This series follows Garion, the boy Errand, and their companions in a new quest against darkness.

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3.) Shannara by Terry Brooks: Okay, I could have split this overarching series into each of its fantastic and very different subseries, but then it would be hard to choose which is the best! With over 20 novels in the series, it will take the reader a long way. It is of course an epic fantasy series, but with an interesting touch. It takes place in the future. Three of the subseries, the Word & the Void, the Genesis of Shannara, and the Legends of Shannara deal with the transition between modern-day Earth and the Four Lands. The series really focuses on the downfall of society, the war between magic and science, and innovation. Even better, Brooks lives in Seattle. I started reading the series when I bought six of the books at the same yard sale mentioned before. Now I have read all of them except for the two newest books that came out in the past year. The first novel, the Sword of Shannara, was published in 1977 and the last subseries is currently in the works.

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4.) The Lord of the Rings by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien: What can I say, LOTR is probably one of the most influential works of the 20th century. I read the books, including the Hobbit in ninth grade after being a fan of Peter Jackson’s movie adaptions for many years. Infact, I saw the Return of the King in theaters when it came out, despite my really young age. Tolkien has inspired practically every modern-day fantasy writer, and as a result his influence has become a bit overused. I don’t mind though, as long as I try to steer my books away from becoming tolkienesque.

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5.) Halo by various authors: Yes, they are based off of Microsoft’s best-selling video game series. But one thing that I have found by reading these are that they are even better in book form. The games follow one perspective (two counting the Arbiter) in a combat-only role and usually only in the presence of some sort of forerunner technology. The novelizations follow other storylines, such as the gap between Halo 3 and Halo 4 through the eyes of the ONI and the troubled peace with the Covenant. Even if you dislike the games, I would give the novels a try.

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A dreamer

I have also had a passion for writing, and as a result it has come to rule my life. I wrote many short stories throughout elementary school, but my ambitions to write bigger and better stories got the best of my sanity. My childhood idea of becoming a doctor was lost in the urge to become a best-selling author. Throughout junior high I wrote a few attempts at novels, all of which fell into the fires of not having the right time or instruction to write well enough for my own needs. Now in high school I am working on a novel inspired by my early elementary work. I have participated in and won National Novel Writing Month 2013 with my novel, Prophecy of Misharedra. The novel is still a work in progress, but it is coming along nicely.

I am interesting person, but for more on that please view the About the writer page right below the picture of me at the top of the page.

This blog will mostly feature updates on my writing and my thoughts on things going on in the world. I will also occasionally post a review on a new album or movie. I am going to try to post twice a week if I can. Feel free to follow my blog and share your opinions on what I discuss.

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