Category Archives: Books

The Happiest Days of Our Lives: Deluxe Audio Edition

The Happiest Days of Our Lives by Wil WheatonI’ve been busy recording audiobooks, including a few of my own. Today, I complete the audio trifecta of Original Wil Wheaton Works Read By Me, Wil Wheaton, with the release of The Happiest Days of Our Lives: The Deluxe Audio Edition.

The text is taken from the special deluxe edition that Subterranean Press published in 2009, and includes several new stories that were not included in the original release, plus introductions to each chapter that provide some additional context and interesting background information.

Here’s how we describe the book, in super-fantastic marketing speak:

Readers of Wil Wheaton’s website know that he is a masterful teller of elegant stories about his life. Building on the critical success of Dancing Barefoot and Just A Geek, he has collected more of his own favorite stories in his third book, The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

These are the stories Wil loves to tell, because they are the closest to his heart: stories about being a huge geek, passing his geeky hobbies and values along to his own children, and vividly painting what it meant to grow up in the ’70s and come of age in the ’80s as part of the video game/D&D/BBS/Star Wars figures generation.

Within the pages of The Happiest Days of Our Lives, you will find:

  • “The Butterfly Tree”: how one Back to School night continues to shape Wil’s sense of social justice, thirty years later;
  •  “Blue Light Special”: the greatest challenge a ten year-old could face in 1982: save his allowance, or buy Star Wars figures?
  • “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Geek”: why fantasy role-playing games are such an important part of Wil’s past – and his present;
  • “The Big Goodbye”: a visit to Paramount gives Wheaton a second chance to say farewell to Star Trek . . . properly, this time;
  •  “Let Go”: a moving eulogy for a beloved friend.

In all of these tales, Wheaton brings the reader into the raw heart of the story, holding nothing back, and you are invited to join him on a journey through The Happiest Days of Our Lives.

Pretty swell, right? Yeeeaahhh.

As with Dancing Barefoot and Just A Geek, you can stream the entire book from the website.

Okay, so here’s the thing that’s kind of cool, I think: Bandcamp makes it very easy for me to sell merchandise, in addition to audio files, and because I have some copies of the Special Deluxe Edition in my home office, I’m going to offer a very limited number of them for sale.

There are 20 signed and numbered copies available, and 30 signed and not numbered copies available, so if that’s something you or someone you know would like, grab whatever you want while it’s there. If you get your order placed in the next 24 hours, it should get to you in time for Christmas (in the US, I don’t know about the rest of the world — which I’ve just realized is one of the most cliche American things I could ever say.)

Happy listening!

 

Ten Years After I Published The Book, Dancing Barefoot Gets an Audio Version

Dancing Barefoot by Wil WheatonWhen I was writing my first book, Just A Geek, I ended up with a lot of stories that just didn’t fit within the narrative. I didn’t know what to do with them, until my friend and editor, Andrew, said, “Why don’t you put them in their own book?”

I was hesitant, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a very good idea, so that’s what I did. I asked my friend Ben to draw some illustrations to keep the stories company, and I published it all on my own, before Just A Geek was even completely finished. The book is called Dancing Barefoot.

After I released the audio versions of Just a Geek and The Happiest Days of Our Lives, a lot of people asked me when I was going to do an audio version of Dancing Barefoot, to round out what I’ve just decided to call a trilogy. The truth is, I never intended to do an audio version of it, because I felt like I’d grown as a writer since it was published, and it would sound and feel strange to revisit that book without wanting to rewrite the whole thing.

But something really changed in me when I turned 40 last year, and I stopped worrying so much about things like that. I accepted that it was the best I could do then, and even if it’s a little rough around the edges, it’s because I made it that way.

So about a month ago, I booked some studio time with my favorite audiobook producers, and finally recorded an audio version of Dancing Barefoot.

It felt a little strange to record something I wrote over a decade ago, as I was entering my thirties, and looking into my past in order to understand my future. It was written during a tumultuous and uncertain time, when I was struggling so much just to make it month to month. Reading it now, knowing what my future actually held, both wonderful and terrible, made it a more emotional experience than I expected.

 

Houses_in_motion

From Houses In Motion

I had this weird sense of nostalgia as I read it, like nesting dolls: I remembered the stories that I told, I remembered writing them down on my blog for the first time, then editing them into Dancing Barefoot for the first time, and then shipping thousands of books around the world, out of my living room. I remembered how excited I felt when Anne and I opened the first box of books when they were delivered from the printer, and how happy it still makes me feel when someone hands me one of those books to sign for them.

Real quick, before I get to the link for the album, I want to say something to those of you who have been here for a decade, especially those of you who bought Dancing Barefoot so long ago: Thank you. Without your support then, I wouldn’t be here now. There’s a straight line between you buying that book from me, and me working on Eureka, Big Bang Theory, Leverage, and everything else. There’s an even shorter, straighter line between me shipping that book to you from my living room floor, to me writing all my other books, magazine columns, and posts of varying quality on this blog.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is credited with declaring that “there are no second acts in American lives,” and before I began this journey a little over a decade ago, I believed him. But because I people like you kept coming back to read my blog, kept coming to see me perform on stage, and bought my books when I published them, I feel like I may be one of the exceptions to that rule.

I’m incredibly grateful for the life that I have now, the life that I worked so hard to build. Every single day, I’m afraid that I’m going to wake up and discover that it’s just a dream, or a cruel trick in some episode of The Twilight Zone. I worked really hard for what I have now, but I didn’t do it alone. People I’ll never meet took a chance on me and made it possible for me to do what I’m doing now, and I can’t thank you enough.

Okay, I’m rambling, so I’ll just get out of the way. Here’s the product information:

It’s available now on my Bandcamp page, you can listen to the entire thing there for free, or you can buy it for $10 though the weekend, before it goes up to $20 next week. It includes a digital booklet with all the illustrations Ben did, scanned by me from my original author’s copy of the book.

Here’s the description:

Available for the first time in audio, read by the author.

In this wonderful Freshman effort, actor and author Wil Wheaton shares five short-but-true stories about life in the so-called Space Age:

Houses in Motion – Memories fill the emptiness left within a childhood home, and saying goodbye brings them to life.

Ready Or Not Here I Come – A game of hide-n-seek with the kids works as a time machine, taking Wil on a tour of the hiding and seeking of years gone by.

Inferno – Two 15-year-olds pass in the night leaving behind pleasant memories and a perfumed Car Wars Deluxe Edition Box Set.

We Close Our Eyes – A few beautiful moments spent dancing in the rain.

The Saga of SpongeBob VegasPants – A story of love, hate, laughter and the acceptance of all things Trek.

the return of Just A Geek: Teh Audio Book

just_a_geek_audiobook_coverFor almost two years, the only way to get a copy of Just A Geek: Teh Audio Book was to download it from shady websites, or torrent it. I don’t begrudge anyone who picked it up that way, because I wasn’t doing anything to make it easy to get it in a way that put shiny gold coins in my pocket.

Last night, that all changed. Thanks to the fine people at Bandcamp, you can now get your very own, totally legit, guilt-free copy of Just a Geek: Teh Audio Book! You can even listen to the entire thing on the website, and download the first chapter of the book for the low, low price of free.

Here’s the original announcement:

Hey, if you’ve enjoyed my Radio Free Burrito podcasts, I think you may like the audio version of Just A Geek:

This journey is a fascinating read, made even more intimate and fulfilling by Wil’s narrative. This is not just an audio book, it’s a glimpse into the psyche of the man who considers himself… Just a Geek.

A few RFB listeners have commented to me that they picked up the audio book after listening to the podcast, so I thought I’d make it nice and easy for anyone who is interested in checking it out. It’s available as an instantly-downloadable, DRM-free MP3 for just $12.

I’m very proud of the audio book. I’ve talked in the past about what a huge letdown my experience wih O’Reilly was on the print version of the book, and much of the joy I’d hoped to feel with its release has instead come from the recording of the audio version, which ended up being a performance, with asides, commentary, and reflections on the material that aren’t in the print version of the book. I guess it’s like I’m reading the book to you, and occasionally setting it down to give some meta-commentary on various passages.

So if you liked the print book, my PAX keynote, my performance of The Trade, or if you like the podcasts, I’m pretty sure you’ll dig the audiobook.

Here’s all the nifty stuff they put at Amazon about the print version:

Review
“A cleverly constructed and vivid collection of
memoirs with flashes of brilliant wit, this title betters even Dancing
Barefoot.” – Paul Hudson, Linux Format, Nov (top stuff award)

Product Description
Wil Wheaton has never been one to take the conventional path to success. Despite early stardom through his childhood role in the motion picture “Stand By Me”, and growing up on television as Wesley Crusher on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, Wil left Hollywood in pursuit of happiness, purpose, and a viable means of paying the bills. In the oddest of places, Topeka, Kansas, Wil discovered that despite his claims to fame, he was at heart Just a Geek.

In this, his newest book, Wil shares his deeply personal and difficult journey to find himself. You’ll understand the rigors, and joys, of Wil’s rediscovering of himself, as he comes to terms with what it means to be famous, or, ironically, famous for once having been famous. Writing with honesty and disarming humanity, Wil touches on the frustrations associated with his acting career, his inability to distance himself from Ensign Crusher in the public’s eyes, the launch of his incredibly successful web site, wilwheaton.net, and the joy he’s found in writing. Through all of this, Wil shares the ups and downs he encountered along the journey, along with the support and love he discovered from his friends and family.

The stories in Just a Geek include:

  • - Wil’s plunge from teen star to struggling actor
  • - Discovering the joys of HTML, blogging, Linux, and web design
  • - The struggle between Wesley Crusher, Starfleet ensign, and Wil Wheaton, author and blogger
  • - Gut-wrenching reactions to the 9-11 disaster (Author’s note: I didn’t want to include that. I was pushed by the publisher, and I wish I’d pushed back.)
  • - Moving tales of Wil’s relationships with his wife, step-children, and extended family
  • - The transition from a B-list actor to an A-list author

Wil Wheaton–celebrity, blogger, and geek–writes for the geek in all of us. Engaging, witty, and pleasantly self-deprecating, Just a Geek will surprise you and make you laugh.

throwback thursday

Miss Nelson is Missing!

I was drivingparked on the 405 yesterday afternoon, taking 90 minutes to go 18 miles, because it would just ruin Los Angeles if we had useful and efficient public transportation. My brain wandered a little bit (to preserve my sanity, I presume,) and this book sprung into my mind.

I hadn’t thought about it in at least 20 years (probably closer to 30), but I could remember everything about it in an instant.

I loved Miss Nelson Is Missing when I was a kid, and I just wanted to share the nostalgiabomb with those of you who loved it, too.

if you like Joe Hill, Richard Kadrey, or Charlie Huston, you’ll LOVE dead pig collector

dead pig collector
My friend Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Freak Angels, Gun Machine) wrote a short story called Dead Pig Collector that is just fantastic.

“Dead Pig Collector” introduces readers to Mister Sun, a very proficient businessman whose trade is the murder and spotless removal of human beings. Like any businessman, he knows each transaction is only as good as his client—and today’s client, in Los Angeles, has turned out to be so dangerously stupid that Mister Sun’s work and life are now in jeopardy…

It’s available in the usual eBook stores and is only 99 cents.

 

If you like the works of Richard Kadrey, Joe Hill, or Charlie Huston, you’re going to love Dead Pig Collector.

Fraction’s doing an AMA

My friend Matt Fraction is one of the greatest comic writers in the history of comics. He’s also hilarious, and married to one of my favourite people on the planet (who is the wife of Matt Fraction*)

Matt’s got a book coming out with Chip Zdarsky called SEX CRIMINALS that is just phenomenal, and he’s doing an AMA at Reddit to get the word out.

Of course, I had to continue my Warren Ellis Beard Trolling:

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.36.32 AM

I am easily amused.

But the whole reason I made this post was to share this:

Screen Shot 2013-08-06 at 11.34.15 AM

BOOM.

All jokes aside, it’s a great AMA. Matt invited some people who work with him to join in (most notably Hawkeye colorist Matt Hollingsworth) and the AMA is a very cool, intimate look at how comics get made.

*5 of you will get that joke.

I’m in the new Humble eBook Bundle!

So … this is a really big deal for me. I’m in the Humble eBook Bundle with a ton of incredibly talented authors, and their phenomenal books.

Humble eBook Bundle 2

 

The Humble Bundle is really cool: you pay what you want, and you get a bunch of DRM-free things  (in this case, eBooks) that you can download directly, or via Bittorrent. Whatever you choose to pay (from the low low price of free to infinity dollars) goes to charities (in this case EFF, Child’s Play, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), or you can split it up however you want to give some scratch to the authors and humble developers, too.

If you pay over the average, you get access to super neat stuff (in this case The Last Unicorn and Just A Geek) as well as whatever gets added to the bundle later in the week. If you don’t pay over the average, but decide you want to later, you can always top up your contribution anytime before the bundle is done.

Oh, and look at the top contributors at the time of this screenshot:

Humble eBook Bundle StatisticsI <3 me too, mysterious person, but I’ll share me because there’s enough of me to go around.

The Humble Bundle runs for two weeks, and then it vanishes behind a smoke bomb and echoing laughter, so if you want to get your hands on some really awesome stuff and give money to charities at the very same time, you’d better hurry.

How I learned to stop worrying, and love failure

I was inspired to write this post today because of Shane’s guest blog called Start:

One of the loudest voices in my head, the real dick of all the voices, likes to tell me that what I’m making won’t be perfect. It’s an impossible standard to live up to, perfection, and is therefore an effective weapon against my own creativity. I’m often tempted to give up before I begin. But I’ve tried to stop doing that. After 41 years, I’ve finally begun to realize that you have to start. You have to begin to make something before you can worry about how it’s going to end up. If you don’t start, you have nothing.

I want to be like the people who keep pushing forward, in spite of the critics, self doubt, and uncomfortable odds. They try new things. They take risks. They eat shit sometimes. They get back up and try other new things. Their successes are widely embraced. Their misfires are lonely. Most of all, their art is inspiring.

If I’ve learned anything in my shaky life as an artist, it’s that you must stop talking and spinning and whining and start making your thing today. Pick up a camera. Pick up an easel. Open your laptop and turn off your Internet connection while you write. Find a starting point. Ignore the voices. Ignore the critics. Reward yourself for having ideas by valuing them enough to believe in them.

Failure does not exist.

A little over a year ago, I experienced a creative explosion, and wrote more short fiction in the span of a few months than ever before or since. It was a whole lot of fun, and some of the stories that I pulled out of my brain, like Hunter and The Monster In My Closet, totally did not suck.

Since then, I’ve struggled to find the time/inspiration/courage/focus/whatever to cultivate a story idea beyond just being an idea. I was about to say that I wasn’t sure why, but I know why: I was afraid of failure. I’d written a couple of short things that didn’t suck, and was paralyzed by the prospect of writing and publishing anything that could or would or did suck. Besides, it is so much easier to derp around on Reddit all day than it is to get out of the Internet and focus on telling a story, right? There’s nothing quite as safe — and ultimately boring — than not taking a risk, creative or otherwise.

While I was on the JoCo cruise, I sat down with my friend John Scalzi and talked about writing for almost two hours. I miss making things up and making them live, and I desperately want to learn how to break out of the short form narrative non-fiction storytelling that’s been most of my writing for the last decade. I wanted to know how to take an idea that I’d turn into 2000 or so words, and instead work it into something that lasts for 10000 or 30000 or even 50000 words. You know, like a novel. For kids.

We talked a lot about the practicalities of writing, like having a schedule, meeting a word count or maximum time every day (like 3000 words or 2 hours, whatever comes first). We talked about breaking up a long piece of storytelling into several short stories, and then writing the connective tissue to put them together into something longer. We talked about the business of publishing, and for whom self-publishing makes sense, and why.

But the thing that got me out of my creative doldrums was John’s advice about failure. It isn’t for me to share with you what John believes were his failures as a writer (if we’re all lucky, he’ll write about it at Whatever), but I’ll share with you what I took away from it.

Sometimes we set out to do something, like write a novel, and we fail at writing that particular novel. But in the process of failing at that novel, we can actually succeed at writing another. For example, years ago I had this idea to write a book called Do You Want Kids With That? about being a stepfather. I would take some stories about my life with Ryan and Nolan, and wrap them in practical advice for stepparents based on my experiences.

I started working on it, and quickly realized that I was experienced as a stepparent, but profoundly unqualified to talk about it to other stepparents. I concluded that it would be irresponsible to write that book without a psychologist co-author, so I abandoned it. But! I had all these great stories about things I’d done with my kids, about how we’d grown together as a family, and I needed to do something with them, so I ended up building The Happiest Days Of Our Lives around them.

So even though I failed to write a book about being a stepparent, I succeeded in writing an entirely different book, about what it means to be a Gen X geek. I’m really proud of that book; so proud, in fact, that I didn’t even think about the failure that helped birth it until I talked with John on the boat.

There are lots of other examples in my recent history: the first cut of the first episode of Tabletop wasn’t good at all, but we scraped away the failed parts and ended up with one hell of a successful show about the joy of gaming. Almost 10 years ago, my attempt to collect everything from my blog at the time and turn it into a book was a failure that produced Just A Geek and Dancing Barefoot.

I could go on, but I think you get the point: failing at one thing does not mean you fail at all things and that’s the end of it. Failing at something can often be the beginning of succeeding at another thing.

Since I had this long talk with John on the boat, I realized that I have all the tools I need to write stories of any length, even if the longer stories are outside of my comfort zone (and there’s a whole other post coming about how scary and rewarding it was to get way out of my comfort zone — ultimately expanding it quite a bit — when I performed on the cruise). I know how to write a novella or even a novel, but I’ve been afraid to try it and fail. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying that, at any moment, Carrie’s mom will spring out of the closet, covered in knives and shriek at me, “THEY’RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU!!”

But yesterday, I sat down and I plotted out a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long, long time. I sat down, thought about my big idea, and then had an incredibly fun time drilling down into that big idea to find the narrative story and character arcs that exist inside it. And the thing about doing that? It was fun. I wrote out a few mile markers to generally move the story forward, so I know what I’m driving toward, and when I got to the end, I discovered something incredibly awesome that I hadn’t even considered in the months I’ve had this idea bouncing around inside my brain. I typed it into my text document, gasped in delight, and clapped my hands like an excited child … which I guess, in that moment, I was.

Today, I start writing that story, unburdened by the fear of failure because I know that, even if I fail in some way, I’ll succeed at taking the risk, and learn something that’ll be helpful and useful for the next thing, or maybe the thing after that.

I owe John a debt of gratitude, because he helped me get most (maybe even all) of my existential dread and angst under control, so I could stop worrying and learn to love failure.

It feels good to be a capital-W Writer again. I’ve been a tourist for far too long.

the quietest and most constant of friends

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” -  Charles William Eliot

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.” 
― John GreenAn Abundance of Katherines

In late 2000 or early 2001, a friend of mine gave me a book. It wasn’t a special occasion, like a birthday, and it wasn’t meant to mark something important, like the closing of a show or a graduation; it was simply a gift.

“This was written by a friend of mine, and I think you’ll really like it,” she said. It was a fairly large book, soft-covered. “It’s weird. There are tons of footnotes, and footnotes of footnotes, and sometimes you have to turn the book upside down to read it.” She opened it and showed me.

I took it from her, thanked her for it, and a few days later opened it up to read it. It didn’t grab me right away, and all I can remember now is being intimidated by the size of it. I set it aside, guiltily, and went on with my life. I kept it, though, through a number of moves and new houses, and always gave it a place of prominence on my bookshelf, so I wouldn’t forget about it.

“I’ll read it someday,” I would tell myself, but I never did.

Over the years, when my friends who had read it saw it on my shelf, they’d excitedly ask me if I’d read it yet. They always wanted to talk about it, and seemed disappointed when I told them I hadn’t gotten to it, yet. It became something of a white whale in my library, and I always seemed to find other things to read, excuses to avoid opening it. I’d waited so long, I thought, what could it hurt to wait a little bit longer?

A few months ago, while I was browsing r/nosleep, I came across r/Slender_Man. I was immediately drawn into the world of Marble Hornets and various other ARGs. I downloaded the Slender Man Mythos and lost myself in that wonderfully creepy and genuinely scary world for hours and then days and then weeks.

Eventually, I exhausted all of the Slender Man material I had, and went looking for something equally spooky and unique. I kept seeing people talk about this book, called House of Leaves, and I realized that I owned that very book. In fact, it had been sitting on my bookshelf since my friend Maureen gave it to me over a decade ago.

So a few nights ago, I opened it up and began reading. It didn’t grab me right away, but I stayed with it long enough to get interested enough to keep reading. Then, right around page 40, I think, it hooked me and hasn’t let go.

I was up late last night, reading all of The Whalestoe Letters, and only stopped when I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. When I woke up this morning, I skipped my usual hour or so at the computer with my coffee and instead spent two hours in the living room, reading my book.

Anne and I went to breakfast, and on the way there I told her all about it. The thing that sort of surprised me, and the reason I sat down just now to write this post, was the revelation that it wasn’t even the story or the way it is told that is so satisfying to me. Instead, it’s the ritualized act of holding an actual book — hundreds of bound pages — in my hands while I sit on the couch or in a chair and give myself over to the words printed inside. And House of Leaves is a rare book that absolutely must be read this way. It will not translate to an eReader, and I’m actually quite grateful for that.

I love my eBooks. I love the convenience of having a book sync across all of my various devices, always at my fingertips wherever I am and whenever I need it (unless I’m on an airplane; a stupid and pointless rule that really needs to be changed). I love the instant gratification that comes with buying a book and reading it within minutes after hearing about it, without ever leaving the chair I was already sitting in. As an author who exists primarily on the Internet, I’ve made a very good living due in no small part to eBooks.

And yet.

And yet there is a romance and a power and a beauty and a permanence and a sense of reality that actual printed books have, which also does not translate to electronic format for me.

I haven’t read nearly as many books this year as I wanted to, partially because I’ve been very busy, partially because I discovered Minecraft, partially because I spend more time creating than I do consuming … but I have to admit it’s all mostly because an eReader sitting on a nightstand doesn’t say “pick me up and read me” the same way a book does … which is exactly what this book next to me is saying right now.