Category Archives: Books

still just a geek: an (annotated) memoir

 

I wrote a book in 2004 called Just A Geek. Literally dozens of people read it, and a lot of them seemed to like it, but I have felt for years that it’s just been forgotten by pretty much everyone. About two years ago, I wrote a novel, and got it as close to finished as I could. My agent shopped it, and it was universally rejected. Like, it was so rejected, nobody even gave us notes on how to make it better. They were just, like, “NOPE.” I think it’s a neat little story, but clearly capital-P Publishing disagrees. Not gonna lie. I was devastated. But one of those editors remembered Just A Geek. He was also familiar with the writing I’d done since then, my mental health advocacy, and my story of surviving narcissistic abuse and neglect. He had this idea to revisit Just A Geek, annotate it, and include some more recent writing. The whole thing would go together and be an annotated memoir.

So I’ve worked on that for about two years, and today we get to announce that it’s a thing.

My publisher and I have this fantastic plan to do an awesome video announcement for the upcoming release of Still Just A Geek, my annotated memoir, which comes out April 12 in America, and 14 April in the UK.

I had this plan to maybe read a little of it, do some cool video stuff, and be fancy. And then I realized it’s Thursday, which is when all the gardeners come into my neighborhood, and the cacophony of leaf blowers and lawnmowers is just a little too much. I also have a ton of Star Trek: Discovery homework to do for Ready Room tomorrow, and holy crap I suddenly have more things to do than I have hours to get them done.

So that great video idea will be delayed for a little bit. It’ll still happen, I just don’t know when.

Am I just killing it with this book announcement or what? This is how you go viral and get lots of free media attention, y’all.

Really important stuff I want you to know:

I went through the entire text of Just A Geek, and annotated all of it. I feel like I’m only supposed to focus on the stuff I did that’s great, but … well, here’s a little bit from my introduction:

“Many times during the process, I wanted to quit. I kept coming across material that was embarrassing, poorly-written, immature, and worst of all, privileged and myopic. I shared all of this with my editor, my wife, my manager, my literary agent, and anyone else in my orbit who I trusted. “This really ought to be buried and forgotten in that landfill with the E.T. cartridges,” I told them. “Digging it all back up is not going to go well,” I said. They all assured me that confronting and owning that stuff in public, something I’d done privately, was important. I had to confront the parts that still fill me with shame and regret.”

So I did that, and it was uncomfortable, embarrassing, awkward, but ultimately healing and surprisingly cathartic. You may have noticed that I’ve spent much of the last several months remembering and writing about childhood trauma. Now you know why.

I also wrote

“I’m going to be honest: I’m terrified that I didn’t say the right things, take away the right lessons, atone appropriately for the parts of this that are gross. I know that I am not the person I was when I thought it was funny to make a childish, lazy, homophobic, joke. I am not the same person who didn’t even consider that a young woman, doing her job, was worthy of respect and kindness, because she was more useful to my male gaze as a character in a story that isn’t as good as I thought it was. I know I’m not that person, because those things—which are a small but significant part of my origin story—revolted me when I read them for the first time in over a decade. I mean, I physically recoiled from my own book. Those moments, and the privilege and ignorance that fueled them filled me with shame and regret. They still do. But confronting and learning from them allowed me to complete my origin story, as it turns out. It’s another thing I was unaware I needed to do, but, having done it, cannot imagine not doing.”

That’s the first … I don’t know, half, maybe two thirds, of this volume. The rest is new essays and speeches I’ve written in the last few years, which are also annotated.

If it all holds together the way I hope it does, it should tell a story of surviving childhood trauma, surviving a predatory industry, and in the most unexpected way, finding out exactly who I am, versus who I always thought I was supposed to be.

I hope it’s inspiring. I hope it’s entertaining. I hope it doesn’t suck. As you can tell, I am terrified.

I will be doing the audiobook, OBVIOUSLY. It will be released at the same time the print and ebook copies are released. We’re working on a plan to offer signed copies through indie bookshops. We’re talking about a virtual press tour. I’ll give you all more information as it gets locked in.

Finally, we have made a page where you can pre-order right now. Just pick the appropriate link.

Okay. That’s it. That’s the big news. Please tell all your friends.

everything’s coming up wilhouse

About once a year or so, I look back through my blog archives just to see what I’ve written about, and to see where I am now, relative to where I was then. Years ago, I was writing lots of stuff here almost every day, so I got a pretty granular view. For the last couple years, I’ve been working on this book so much, in addition to all my other jobs, I just haven’t made it a priority to post here. When I have a quick thought, and a quick minute to spit it out, Facebook is where it goes.

I hate Facebook. Facebook is evil and bad for humanity, and it should be regulated like tobacco or alcohol. Zuckerberg ought to be shipped off to some island for sociopaths where he can live a life of luxury and whatever, and let someone with actual human emotions and some semblance of a conscience  make the apparently difficult decisions about promoting Fascism and genocide that Zuckerberg seems to really struggle with.

But I’m an entertainer (so what do I know) and it just makes sense to go where the audience is. You can write the most interesting stuff, make the most beautiful music, perform the most incredible entertainment, but if there’s no audience to receive it, it starts to feel a little pointless. Facebook is where the people are, and something I post there is seen by hundreds of thousands of people, while something I post here is seen by a few thousand at best. Facebook is also where the conversation seems to have moved, and I genuinely enjoy the conversation that used to happen in blog comments, way back in the before times.

“And yet you use Facebook. Interesting.”

Yeah. We’re not doing that.

I’ve taken to cross posting here most of the things I consider important enough to have in my own space, instead of a space controlled by a company that can lock me out for telling a Nazi to go fuck themselves, where I’ll always be able to find them when I do my semi-annual mental clip show. The last few days have been fairly consequential, and I’ve been posting pretty regularly about all this stuff on my Facebook thing. I’m adapting those posts into one big post here, with all my glasses, and my shoes, so I can have them.

22 October, 3:22pm. Feeling Anxious.

I should be working, but…

Huge deadline tomorrow. Just under two years of work coming up to the absolute drop dead date. If I miss it, the whole project dies. The last three or so days has just been this epic, high stakes sprint of rewrites and changes that has been at times exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating … essentially everything that the larger process was for two years, just crammed and concentrated into 72 hours. I don’t really need to do it this way ever again, and will absolutely do again because that’s how I’m wired.

I am so close to being finished! I have two significant things remaining to write. Probably about 2500 or 3000 words, total, before I turn this thing in and don’t get to mess with it any more. I feel like I should be excitedly cranking out those words instead of writing this, so I can get it out the door and get it that much closer to your hands. But I’m holding it more tightly than I have at any other point in the process, because I am so afraid to drop this baby off for its first day of preschool. I know that I have to trust my editors, my publisher, my beta readers, when they tell me they enjoyed it, when I used the valuable notes they gave me to make it better. I know I really have to focus on their supportive voices, even though this loud, insistent voice in my head that’s way too familiar, just will not stop screaming at me THEY’RE ALL GONNA LAUGH AT YOU.

I have been writing professionally for about twenty years, but I was today years old when I fully understood what it means when an author says that a book isn’t ever really finished, that it can only be let go. I’m so scared to let this go, y’all. I have this white-hot terror that, if the big, fancy reviewers at the NYT or Publisher’s Weekly or whatever even pay attention to me and this work, that they’re going to be like, “Here’s an extensive examination of all the ways you suck. Zero stars.”

I know a lot of this (okay, all of it) is exclusively in my head and is probably not really supported by an objective reading of the material. I keep reminding myself that all these professionals wouldn’t be supporting this work if my fears and insecurities reflected the material I delivered, instead of just being existential worries inside my skull.

I am doing what I can to get from trembling-with-apprehension to trembling-with-antici-

SAY IT SAY IT SAY IT

…pation. This is a big deal. This is one of those things you work hard for and hope to achieve, and you pour EVERYTHING into it. You work on it so much, it starts to define your days, and on one of those days you look up, realize it’s been two years, and it’s like, “Okay, the work is done and it’s time to put it into the world!”

Oh, here comes that voice in my head, only this time it’s showing me a meme. Gob Bush: I’ve made a horrible mistake.

Thanks, brain. You’re the best. I love you, buddy. Let me know when you’re ready to get back on team Me.

I gotta get back to work. I’m so close. A lot of people are counting on me to turn this in on time.

Gulp.

I think I get to drop the full announcement later this week. Or maybe it’s early next week. That decision is being made by professionals who know what timing is best, and I’m staying in my lane. I do hope you’ll all pretend to be super surprised whenever it hits your feed.

5:25pm

You are all so kind and supportive. I just did about 1000 extremely important words that had to be just right. I read them, and the whole section they go in, to Anne, and she said, “Oh, that’s so much better. I love that.”

I trust her. She loves me enough to be honest with me, and she knows how much I care about this. So I’m letting that whole section go, and heading into the next one.

7:39pm

Okay, maybe this is a little silly? Like it’s liveblogging the last mile of this epic marathon?

But I just finished a very emotional 1000 words, and I’m down to my final thing.

8:28pm

Frodo_its_done.gif

9:51pm

Okay. So.

I finished the writing I had to do. Earlier today, I thought that I needed to do between 2500 and 3000 words, I think I said?

My super great math skills tell me I did just about 2800. My super great estimation skills are just giving me that ‘sup look. Like, they see me. They never doubted me. (My math skills are the kid from Parenthood, running into a wall with a bucket over his head.)

Anyway. I did all those words, put them where they go, annnnnd … I’m done. I’ve been working on this for a couple of years, and tonight, like just a little bit ago, I finished it. This will be one of the most high profile things I will ever do as a writer, maybe the only high profile thing I ever do as a writer, and … now it is … done.

Honestly, I don’t really feel … anything? It’s a little unsatisfying. It feels like something should happen. Like a confetti cannon should go off or something.
What did happen was I leaned forward in the chair I’d been in for ten hours, took a deep breath, and clicked the save icon (which I hear high school kids don’t know is based on the floppy disk? Or what a floppy disk even is?). Then, I let that breath out, as I fell back and then sank into my chair.

I looked over my shoulder at Anne, who I had asked to come look over the last bit to make sure I didn’t leave anyone out, and I said, “Holy shit, I’m finished,” and we did the best fist bump two suburban middle-aged white people have ever done. And then I went and played Mr. Do! to unwind, because I am a 49 year-old teenager.

But I really did expect to feel … something. Maybe not a huge celebration, but at least maybe relief? Or satisfaction? I don’t exactly feel anything as much as I am aware that there had been this thing in front of me that said FINISH THIS, and now that thing isn’t there any more.

I know it was unrealistic to expect the confetti cannon. That’s on me. I would have had to plan that. I don’t know why I thought it would just show up.

I told Anne that I just hope it all holds together, you know? There are parts that I just love, that I’m so proud of, that I loved writing, rewriting, and polishing. There are parts where I feel like I got it as good as I could get it, and I have to trust that somehow nobody will notice because I’m probably the only one who knows exactly what I was going for. Then there are all the parts in between.

And that’s how a bill becomes a law!

Inside my head, that is the funniest goddamn thing I have written in a long time. Maybe in my whole life.

And that is how I know it’s probably time to go lie down forever for a few hours. I get to do a cool thing tomorrow, and I need to be rested, and way more coherent than I am now.

So all of that happened on Monday. On Tuesday, I worked on Ready Room.

26 October 2:14pm

I did an interview for Ready Room today, in our fancy new set that was built specifically for us!

Without getting into spoilers or breaking my NDA, I can safely share that Ian Alexander and Blu del Barrio (who I got to interview today) are two of the most remarkable humans I have have the pleasure of sharing some space and time with. I had to keep reminding myself that they are decades younger than me, because they are so wise and insightful. I know for a fact I was nowhere close to them, intellectually or otherwise, when I was their age. They are just amazing. And Ian is the most stylish person I think I’ve ever been around. I spent WAY more time picking out my clothes for today than I normally would, because I knew he’d be there, and when he (and Blu) noticed, I had a little moment. It was pretty great.

We are members of a very small club, made up of people who were young actors on Star Trek. What are there, like … six? Nine? Of us? It won’t mean to them what it means to me for another decade or so. I hope I still have the privilege of sharing time and space with them when that happens.

I can’t say anything about the episode we shot. That would get me into all sorts of trouble. But I loved every second of it, and I am so grateful.

Sometime between when I posted that, and when we ate dinner, I had a long conversation with my manager about an acting offer I was considering. I’d spent a lot of time talking myself into it and then out of it and then back into it and I just needed some objective counsel from someone who I knew I could trust to have my best interests at heart. I knew he’d help me make the best decision for myself, and for where we hope to steer my professional career in the coming years.

27 October 1:04pm

Okay so I can’t say anything specific about it, but … I just accepted an offer to work a couple days on a network series, even though I’m pretty much retired from on-camera acting.

If you’re familiar with my journey, I think you’ll understand what a big deal it was for me to tell my manager, “I’m really not interested in acting on camera, but I’ll read the script, and if I like it, maybe I’ll do it because I want to, not because I feel like I have to.”

So I did, and I did, and I said yes. On my terms. On my terms, y’all!

What a crazy week this is turning out to be, and it’s only Wednesday.

And because all of this isn’t cool enough already, if everything goes the way we think it will, I’ll get to do a whole book reveal thing tomorrow. It will happen on my Facebook and my Instagram, and eventually find its way here. And then I get to do Ready Room again on Friday. What a crazy week this is turning out to be, and it’s only Wednesday.

everything under the sun is in tune

I wrote this on my Facebook, on Thursday:

Up until about an hour ago, I thought I was going to completely blow a deadline so thoroughly that the project I’ve been working on for most of a year would be canceled.
But I had this great conversation with my team (and indirectly with my editor, via his comments) that showed me a clear and surprisingly simple path to completing this thing by that very same deadline. There’s nothing tricky about it; it’s just a little trick! The Brad Jacobs … something or other …. references aside, the trick was helping me recognize what was important, what could be cut, and what could be finished at a point in the Mysterious Future, in another book.
This means that, instead of having around 20,000 new words to write and edit, I only have 182 pages to edit and rewrite. I did about 94 pages today, which sounds like a lot more than it is, due to the nature of the work, but still feels pretty good. I am totally going to finish this thing! It’s going to come out next year! Hooray!

So, I did the remaining 94 pages, and turned them all in. That left me with these two short things that will bookend the entire text, you could call them an intro and an outro, if you wanted. They’re important. They carry a lot more weight per word than any other part of the book. I have to get them right. I knew that each part would be around 1200 words, so I had two days to do about 2400 words if I was going to make my deadline tomorrow.

This isn’t a regular deadline I can blow through. This is it. If I miss this one, the whole project will be delayed by at least a year. So 2400 words separate me from success or what I will absolutely categorize as a failure. Over a year’s worth of work hangs on those 2400 words.

Those words just refused to come. You know how you try to hold something really still and your hand just trembles harder, because all your fine micro muscle movements are working really hard to do their best work, and they can’t quite figure out how to work together? So you get exactly the opposite of what you’re trying for? It was like that.

Yesterday, I sat down with my brain, and I was, like, “dude, come on. You gotta work with me.” And my brain went, “LOL nope.”
So I emailed my editor and told him that it just wasn’t going to happen. I’d worked so hard for so long, but I just couldn’t get this last bit, which is extremely important, onto the page. I accepted that this thing would be delayed by a year, and … well, the next little bit is basically [SCENE MISSING] because sometime after I wrote that e-mail, I fell into the gravity well of my Writer’s Brain without realizing it, and everything I needed to say came out as if by magic.

Well, one of the two bookends, anyway. The second one, if it matters. I still couldn’t find my way into what will likely be the very first sentence of this whole thing. Just a little bit of pressure.

I did not sleep well last night. I kept waking up, too hot or too cold. My brain seized each opportunity to helpfully throw out ideas at me. None of them were good, but I appreciated that it was doing the work.

When I woke up this morning, about 1200 words and 24 hours away from ultimate success or complete failure, my brain was even less cooperative than it was yesterday. “Come on, man, I just need to find my way in. Once I find my way in, it’ll all come together and I can do something that’s good enough to turn in. Let’s do this together, brain!” And my brain just said, “Bro. I stayed up all night working on ideas for you, and you rejected all of them.” Then it just crossed its little arms, which is a weird image but also kind of adorable, and refused to help.

If you’re going to be a writer, you have to use tools to help you when you run into things like this. You have to work through the total refusal of your brain to be a team player, over and over again. Each time is different, each trick a surprise to me as much as it’s a surprise to my brain. But where to start? What’s going to trick my brain into letting me have the last little bit that I need, the most important bit, the bit that’s shorter than all the words I’ve written and cut already.

I learned a thing in drama school that was intended to be applied to acting. I find that it applies to all creative work: keep it simple. Keep it simple and the nuances will arrive on their own, in their own time. Keep it simple, and stay out of your own way.

Keep it simple. Okay. Let’s try that.

I went all the way back to the basics, from probably middle school, and I made an outline. For 1200 words. A few beats, broken down into a beginning, middle, and end. Not entirely perfect — oh except that phrase, that’s a nice one that’s absolutely going into it — but good enough to get started.

I opened a new text editor and started where my outline said to start.

About fifty words into it, I realized it was all wrong. It was all horribly wrong. I hate this. This isn’t where this thing starts. Oh! Shit! I know! This thing starts at

[SCENE MISSING]

And then it was done. It’s not final, but it’s good enough.

A completed first draft, 24 hours before the drop dead deadline. Success!

You bet your life I’m going to celebrate. I’ll be taking my brain out for ice cream.

Announcing VICARIOUS

Months ago, I had the privilege of narrating about half of an incredible audiobook that comes out today. It’s called VICARIOUS.

Award-winning performers Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next GenerationThe Big Bang Theory, and Ready Player One audiobook) and Katherine McNamara (ShadowhuntersThe Stand, CW’s Arrow) bring this mind-bending, deeply imagined sci-fi tale to life.

The real world is only where you breathe….

In High Earth, digital entertainment is everything. Shows. Virtual worlds. Simulations – there’s something for everybody in a city where working for a living has been rendered obsolete by technological advancements. Even a short walk outside to visit with others is no longer necessary. Just load into the network and you can be with anyone, anywhere.

For Asher Reinhart, nothing compares to Ignis; a live reality show that pushes human beings to their very extremes. As a volunteer director, Asher closely monitors the lives of those living on an interstellar ark, believing they’re the last of humanity.

But when it’s determined that the life of the show’s brightest star, Mission, must be put in danger to boost declining ratings, Asher is forced to choose: the show he loves or the woman whose existence has been the focus of his attention since the day he was born.

From number-one Audible best-selling author and Nebula Award nominee Rhett C. Bruno comes a story about the power of human connection. The Truman Show meets Ready Player One in a novel perfect for fans of Hugh Howey, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Michael Crichton.

The publisher gave me this sample to share:

This story is so fantastic, and I’m super proud of the work we both did with the narration.

VICARIOUS is available today, at Audible.com.

i’m writing a new book

I can’t talk about what, specifically, I’m writing, but I am excited af to say that today, I began work on my next writing project.
It’ll be about a year or so before this project is finished and on shelves, but today, I got into it for the first time.

The beginning is always a slog. I have to just puke up whatever is in my brain, so I can put down a foundation and some framing. I’m doing work that likely won’t be seen by anyone other than my editor, but it’s still vital to the process.

This particular beginning isn’t as tough as I was expecting, which is a blessing. Every book, every essay, every speech, all have their own process, their own discovery, their own expression of my creative self. Each one is different, and each one takes some time to tell me how it’s going to be written. This thing seems to be easier and more fluid than I expected it would be, and the words came very easily this morning.

I expect that I’m going to rewrite and reject a lot of what I’m doing today, but HOLY SHIT does it feel good to be doing it. I haven’t been a capital-w Writer for a long, long time, and though the Writer Outfit is a little wrinkled and musty, it still fits.

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