Category Archives: Books

I’m on a boat: Romper Stomper

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Previews

Originally published February 2003.

I used to be a big fan of South Park. I watched it every week, and anxiously awaited new episodes.

When I heard that they were making a movie, I was thrilled, and counted down the days until it opened. Of course, while the creators poured all their creative energy into the movie, the weekly content of the TV show suffered dramatically. It felt like filler with no creative soul, and I stopped watching.

So it is with WWDN as of late.

All of my creative energy and focus has gone into rewriting "Just A Geek," and racing to get it done in time for a late March release.

I love WWDN, and really enjoy writing for it, but I have limited resources in my head, and when I have to pick, the website takes a back seat to the book. I hope readers understand.

Having said all that, I'd like to offer a small excerpt from the book, so you can all see what I've been working on.

This is from Chapter three:

Writing about the satisfaction and love I felt when I was with my family came very easily. I didn't have to put on a brave face, or risk revealing how frustrated and tormented I was in my career. When I focused on my family, I felt liberated, and found humor and happiness at every turn.

 

28 August, 2001
Romper Stomper

From an e-mail I got this morning:
Wil:

I'm writing a book about Romper Room and came across a TV appearance of you on a California show with Miss Nancy. You told the hosts you used to watch Romper Room ?religiously."

I'm writing to people who were on the show, or who watched the show, to get their impressions of Romper Room. I'm hoping you can answer some questions. What made you watch it? What's your strongest memory of the program? Were you ever on Romper Room?

My response:

I was never on "Romper Room", but here is my clearest memory from watching it as a kid:

I would sit on the floor of our house (which was really a chicken coop behind my grandparents farmhouse. Yes, we were that poor), my fingers dug deeply into the golden shag carpeting, my tiny fists balled with anticipation, as Miss Nancy would hold up her magic mirror and ask it to tell her, "did our friends have fun at play?" I would sit up straight, stare into the glorious black-and-white 13-inch Zenith TV and wait patiently as she saw Steven and Jody and Tina and Todd and Michael and every-fucking-body except WIL! Hey! Miss Nancy! I'm sitting right here! I've had LOTS of fun at play! I did the DooBee dance! I ran around pretending I was a fireman! I HAD FUN AT PLAY! WHY CAN'T YOU SEE ME?! AM I INVISIBLE?! *pant* *pant*

I never watched TV shows like the ones I did when I was four. Jesus, does anyone?

 

Writing that made me laugh out loud. I hadn't planned on it turning into a rant, but I was doing lots of improv at the time, and I just wrote what came out of my head. I thought it was really funny, so I called my mom as soon as I was done to read it to her. When she picked up the phone, I could hear wind chimes and a waterfall. She was gardening in her backyard.

"Hey, it's your son," I told her.

"Hi Willow! How are you? Are you feeling better?" My mom always sounds happy to hear from me, and her voice is comforting — like a warm blanket, fresh from the dryer.

I was able to answer truthfully. "Yes, much. I wrote something funny for my website and I wanted to read it to you."

"Oh, honey! That's great! Let me turn off the hose." I heard her set the phone down, and I closed my eyes, picturing their backyard: the beautiful redwood deck my dad and brother built, covered with potted flowers and tomato plants, the railing draped with white twinkle lights. I heard the jingle of their dog Kona's collar, as she chased a butterfly, or the water falling from the hose. I saw water cascading into their swimming pool, and recalled the long summer afternoons spent floating in that pool, and the warm summer nights I spent as a teenager sitting in their spa, looking up at the stars. I breathed in, and I could smell the star jasmine which still grows under my old bedroom window.

"Wil? Did you hang up?"

"No, sorry. I was . . . lost in thought. Can I read you what I wrote?"

"Yes!"

I told her about the e-mail I'd gotten, and read her my response. I paused dramatically, and lowered my voice for the final sentence. I eagerly awaited her response.

"Oh, Wil," she said, "why do you need to have such a potty mouth?"

I resisted the urge to tell her that I had no fucking idea.

"It's comedy mom, and it's not always pretty."

"Well, it's very funny. I just wish you didn't have to cuss so much."

I beamed, knowing that I'd made my mom laugh, and — more importantly — made her feel proud of me.

"I gotta go answer emails, mom. I love you."

"I love you too, sweetie. Bye-bye."

 

 

I’m on a boat: Hunter – a short pay-what-you-want Sci-Fi story

I’m on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2, and I’m taking an Internet vacation until I get home. So every day while I’m gone, something from my archives will post here automatically, for your entertainment. I had a lot of fun picking these different things out, and I hope you enjoy them again, or for the first time.

Hunter

Originally published February 2011.

Hunter is a short Sci-Fi story set in a dark and desperate world

Here's a small preview:

Pyke chased the girl down a street still wet with the afternoon’s rainfall. A thin sliver of moon was glowing behind the thinning clouds, but it wasn’t bright enough to pierce the darkness between thefew street lamps that still worked. The girl was fast. He had to stay close, or she’d escape. 

Pyke had let the girl put about 500 feet between them when she ranthrough a bright pool of light and was swallowed by darkness. When she didn’t reappear, Pyke knew he had her, for there was only one place she could have gone. He followed her through a once-ornate gateway into the old city, where the colony had been founded a century before.

Her footfalls echoed off rows of empty windows down narrow streets that seemed to turn back on themselves, an ancient trick intended to confuse invaders. When the Gan arrived, they solved this puzzle by simply bombarding most of the buildings and walls from low orbit until there weren’t many places left to hide. Hunters like Pyke—a second-generation Goa colonist who’d grown up in the old city—knew every twist, every turn, every blind alley and every hidden basement.

It wasn’t the first time Pyke had pushed a rebel into the avenues. In the six months he’d been working for the Gan, he’d let dozens of terrified patriots think they were making their escape into the old city’s maze-like streets, only to trap them in one of its countless dead ends, where he’d have a little fun before turning them over to his masters.

He heard a splash just down the block, followed by a yelp. She must have fallen in a puddle, Pyke thought. Shallow craters were everywhere in these streets; filled with water, they made quite effective traps. Pyke slowed to a jog and grinned. It was only a matter of time now.

It is just about 2500 words, which is about the length of a story you'd read in a magazine. I'm not really sure what the appropriate cost is, so I'm experimenting with the Pay What You Want model that seems to be working really well for a lot of artists I respect and admire.

If I sold Hunter to a magazine, I'd probably get around $125 or so (assuming I could get the SFWA professional rate of five cents a word. I figure that at least 125 people will want to read this, so if all of them donated a dollar, I'd feel really good about this, and I'd be able to do it again in the future. If you're interested (and I hope you are) you can downloadHunter and pay what you want (even the low low price of NOTHING AT ALL) at Wil Wheaton Books dot Com.

A couple of FAQs:

Is this about the amazing 80s cop drama HUNTER starring Fred Dryer?

No, it's an original work of fiction set in a world I made up. 

Where could I find out more about HUNTER and Fred Dryer?

Oh, I bet Wikipedia will help you with the show and its star.

Don't you mean "it's"?

No, I don't. This rhyme from Strongbad has served me well: "If you want to be possessive, it's just I-T-S … if you want to use an apostrophe, it's I-T-APOSTROPHE-S!"

Can I use something other than PayPal to give you filthy money?

Not at the moment, no.

But PayPal is evil!

I know. Luckily, you can stick it to me and PayPal at the same time, if you want. Yay!

What about Google Checkout?

I'm working on it. Well slap my fanny, I figured out how to use it. Yes, you can use Google Checkout. The only thing is, I couldn't find an option that lets you set your price, so I set it at $2.00, which seems to be the average people are choosing to pay.

Can I download the artwork and use it for the cover?

Yes! I tried to embed the neat image Will Hindmarch designed into the files, but apparently I haven't unlocked that skill yet.

Are you going to expand this story?

Maybe. I know a lot about the world and other stuff that would be spoilery, because I've thought about it a lot, but I don't know if I'm ready to expand this particular story much more. I think I'll be revisiting

Spoiler:
at some point, though, because it's very intriguing to me.

So I've decided to pay for this. What do you suggest?

A billon dollars seems about right to me, but most people are choosing between 1 and 5 bucks.

Can I print out the PDF?

Yes.

I bought the [mobi | pdf | epub] but now I want [some other format] do I have to pay you again?

Of course not, but thank you for asking. You're a good guy or girl.

Can I give my copy to a friend?

Yes, but I'd prefer you link them to the Hunter page at Wil Wheaton Books dot Com where they can download their own copy. I hope that this will introduce new readers to my work, and if they're at my virtual bookshelf, maybe they'll check out my other work.

Are you doing an audio version?

I don't know. Maybe in the future.

Isn't Wall of Voodoo an amazing band?

Hell yes! I've been listening to The Index Masters pretty much non-stop for three days.

Okay, that just about covers it. If you like this, please tell your friends.

 

From the Vault: “…because Next Generation FUCKING RULES!”

I'm digging into The Vault for stories to tell next week when I perform on JoCoCruiseCrazy 2: The Encrazening, and I caught myself reading this story, which I wrote and published in Dancing Barefoot, when I was a baby writer almost ten years ago. 

This is from The Saga of SpongeBob Vega$ Pants (or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Star Trek) also: Put Some Thought Into What You Name Things, Kids, Because You May Find Yourself Telling a Story With A Stupid Title Ten Years After You Wrote It.

I sit at my table, uncap my sharpie, and put on my gameface. 

My pen hand is strong. I'm ready to be witty, charming and friendly. Although the actual number of autographs I've signed over the years is probably close to half a million, I am ready to make these fans feel like the autograph I'm currently signing is the only one I've signed all day, maybe the only one I've signed in my whole life.

Over the years, I've learned something from this experience: it's never about the signature. It's about that brief moment, that brief encounter with a Star Trek cast member, that is so important to the fans. That 30 seconds or so of hopefully undivided attention is what they're really paying for, and I always do my best to make sure they get their money's worth. Contrary to popular belief, sitting at a table signing hundreds of autographs for several hours without a break is hard. It's not just mindlessly scrawling my name; It's stopping and listening to the always excited, sometimes shaking, always sweating, sometimes scary dude who wants to know exactly why I did “X” on episode “Y” and would I please sign his picture in silver, because Marina signed it in gold and now he wants the men in silver and the women in gold, and I hated your character and here are 25 reasons why and I expect an answer for each one of them and I'm not leaving until I'm satisfied.

The fans come down what amounts to an assembly line, stopping at a table, enjoying their 30 seconds of attention and trading a ticket for an autograph. They move to the next table, and repeat.

I personally think that this “assembly line” method, while the only one that really works, has the potential to totally suck for the fans. 

The first one hundred or so who come through the line will get to see a smiling, effusive, friendly actor, and will leave feeling happy and satisfied. Those unlucky ones who are at the end of the line risk seeing actors who are tired, with cramped hands and degraded signatures. 

It is a challenge for me, but I always remind myself that the last fans through the line have paid as much as the first fans, and they've also waited much longer, so they are the ones that I need to give the most attention to when I am the most drained. I know that as I get toward the end of the line, my humor slows down, and my voice fades. I know that I've let down my fair share of people over the years, but I always do my best. 

I see the first fan walking down the hallway, trading tickets and getting signatures from actors. I watch her as she goes table to table. She's not wearing a spacesuit . . . that's a good sign. She has a witty sci-fi T-shirt on. Also a good sign. 

She arrives at my table, and I cheerfully say, “Hi! How are you doing today?!”

“AWFUL! THIS IS THE WORST CONVENTION I HAVE EVER BEEN TO! I HATE DAVE SCOTT! I HATE LAS VEGAS! I HATE THIS CONVENTION!”

Oh boy. This is not the way I'd hoped to start out.

I try to soothe her. “Uhh . . . I think . . . that . . . this convention . . . just started . . . and . . . uhh . . . I'm sure that if you talk to Dave, everyt–”

“DAVE SCOTT IS AN ARROGANT ASSHOLE!”

“Uh . . . yeah . . . well, you see, the thing is, I'm sort of not exactly involved in the planning of this convention, you know? I'm just, like, a guest . . . maybe you could try talk–”

“THIS IS THE MOST FAN-UNFRIENDLY CONVENTION I HAVE EVER BEEN TO!”

And she storms away, without an autograph, without another word.

I look at Marina, who's one table down from me. Angry Fan has stormed past her, too. Marina shrugs, and I make the international sign for “crazy person” by twirling my finger near my temple.

I hear a man clear his throat, and I look up to see a smiling middle-aged face. He has a dark beard, and is dressed as Commander Riker. 

He gives his autograph ticket to the staffer sitting next to me, and asks me to sign his model of the Enterprise D. He thanks me, and moves along.

And so it is in the world of Star Trek conventions. One person will scream at me, and the next will want to give me a hug. A person will walk up dressed in an elaborate Borg costume, and the next person will be dressed in a T-shirt and Dickies, quietly laughing at “all the weirdos.”

For the next three hours, I sign pictures of the young, geeky Wesley Crusher. I sign posters of the teen heartthrob that I'm told I once was. I sign posters that I'm not even on, in silver because everyone else did, accepting the apologies from the poster owners that I'm not on the poster. I always answer with the same joke: “That's okay, you just can't see me, because I'm on this planet here . . .” They laugh and feel good and so do I.

A group of very attractive German girls comes over next, and two of them tell me, in broken English, how much they love me.

I think, Oh yeah, tell me some more, baby. Tell daddy how you love him. Ich bin ein sexmachiner!

What?

I am so sorry. I have no idea where that came from. I apologize.

There are also 20 Japanese kids who've all come over together from Tokyo. They are all smiles and laughter, excited, and having a great time. The girls ask me to write their names on their picture when I sign it, they giggle and bow and blush and thank me, over and over. For a second, I feel like a rock star. 

One of the Japanese kids is a boy, about my height. When he presents his Wesley Crusher action figure for my signature, he tells me, “My friend all say I am you twin!”

He smiles proudly. “We look just the same!”

Last time I checked, I wasn't Japanese, but I'm not about to tell him that. I look at him for a moment and reply, “Dude. You are so right. It's like I'm looking in a mirror!” 

He turns to his friends, says something in Japanese, and they all share an excited murmur. I pick up my pen, and write: “To Hiroyuki, my long lost twin brother: Don't Panic! -Wil Wheaton.”

He thanks me over and over. His smile is so huge, I fear that his face will turn inside out. As he walks away from my table, I feel happy – I've brought joy into this kid's life, just by signing my name and being friendly. It's one of the few perks (or responsibilities, if you will) that comes with celebrity that I truly enjoy.

ϑ ϑ ϑ

 

About 200 or so people into the day, I have one of those memorable “battlefield” experiences; the kind that we Star Trek actors share during a layover in Chicago, after a convention in Cleveland.

I've just finished signing a poster for a 40-ish man who is wearing a spacesuit that is a little to tight across the waist. He's painted his face blue, and donned a white wig topped with antennae, like the Andorians from the original Star Trek. The next person in line is a woman in her 30s, dressed conservatively.

I say hello, and she smiles at me . . . until she sees my T-shirt. Then she becomes hysterical. She points at my shirt and screeches at me, “You are going to hay-ell! You are going to hay-ell!”

“Why am I going to hell, ma'am?” I ask, trying to figure out if she is joking. I am wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of a hand making rock-and-roll devil horns that says, “Keep Music Evil.” I think it's very funny, and it's a nice counter-point to the squeaky-clean image of Wesley Crusher that is so indelibly burned into these people's minds.

“You're wearing that shirt! And that shirt promotes SATAN!”

Okay, she's definitely not joking.

“So I'm going to hell because I'm wearing a shirt? Is that right?” I ask her, patiently.

“Yes! You! Are! Going! To! HAY-ELL!”

“Well, as long as I'm not going where you are, ma'am.”

And she leaves, but not without getting my signature, on her collectible plate, in gold ink, not silver, because John DeLancie signed his in silver, so now silver is the color reserved for “Q.” Nobody else can sign in silver. Not even a captain. Well, maybe Captain Picard, but not Captain Janeway.

I am able to contain my giggles until she is out of ear-shot.

“Is it always like this?” the staffer sitting at my table inquires.

“Nope. Sometimes it's really weird.”

We laugh, and the signing goes on.

And on.

And on.

This next part is from when I went on the stage later that same afternoon. It still makes me laugh.

“I have the limited edition Star Trek Monopoly game.” I say.

“Of course, it's a limited edition of 65 million. But it's extremely valuable, because I got a number under 21 million.”

They laugh. It's funny, because it's true.

I go one better. “Plus, it's got a certificate of authenticity signed by Captain Picard!

“Yes, that's right, my Star Trek Monopoly game, which I've rendered worthless by opening, comes with a certificate of authenticity signed in ink by a fictional character.”

I see a guy in the front row say something to his buddy, and they both nod their heads and laugh.

“Cool thing about the game, though, is that there is a Wesley Crusher game piece in it, and the first time we sat down to play it as a family, Ryan grabbed Wesley and proclaimed, as only an 11-year-old can, 'I'm Wil!! I'm Wil!! Nolan!! I'm all-time Wil!! I call it!!'”

I see some people smile. I start to pace the stage. I'm hitting my stride, and the stories flow out of me.

“One time, when we were renegotiating our contracts, we were all asking for raises.

“We all felt a salary increase was appropriate, because The Next Generation was a hit. It was making gobs of money for Paramount,” (I like that word – gobs) “and we felt that we should share in that bounty.

“Of course, Paramount felt otherwise, so a long and annoying negotiation process began.

“During that process, the producers’ first counteroffer was that, in lieu of a raise, they would give my character a promotion, to lieutenant.”

I pause, and look around. I wrinkle my brow, and gaze upward.

“What? Were they serious?”

A fan hollers, “Yeah! Lieutenant Crusher! Woo!” 

I smile back at him.

“My agent asked me what I wanted to do. I told him to call them back and remind them that Star Trek is just a television show.”

Okay, that was risky to say. It's pretty much the opposite of just a television show to these people, but they giggle.

“I imagined this phone call to the bank,” I mime a phone, and hold it to my ear. “Hi . . . Uh, I'm not going to be able to make my house payment this month, but don't worry! I am a lieutenant now.” I pause, listening to the voice on the other end.

“Where? Oh, on the Starship Enterprise.”

I pause.

“Enterprise D, yeah, the new one. Feel free to drop by Ten Forward for lunch someday. We'll put it on my officer's tab!”

Laughter, and applause. My time is up, and Dave Scott stands at the foot of the stage, politely letting me know that it's time for me to go.

The fans see this, and I pretend to not notice him.

“In 2001, startrek.com set up a poll to find out what fans thought the best Star Trek episode of all time was. The competition encompassed all the series. The nominated episode from Classic Trek was City On The Edge Of Forever. The entry for The Next Generation was Best of Both Worlds Part II. DS9 offered Trials and Tribble-ations, and Voyager weighed in with Scorpion II.”

As I name each show, various groups of people applaud and whistle, erasing any doubt as to what their favorite show is.

“Now, look. I know that Star Trek is just a TV show. Matter of fact, I'm pretty sure I just said that five minutes ago, but there was no way I was going to let my show lose. It just wasn't going to happen. Especially not to Voyager – er, V'ger, I mean.”

I pause, and look out at the crowd. I wonder if Mr. “V'ger” is out there.

“So I went into my office, sat at my computer for 72 straight hours, and voted for TNG over and over again.

“I didn't eat, and I didn't sleep. I just sat there, stinky in my own filth, clicking and hitting F5, a Howard Hughes for The Next Generation.

“Some time around the 71st hour, my wife realized that she hadn't seen me in awhile and started knocking on the door to see what I was doing. 

“'Nothing! I'm, uh, working!' I shouted through the door. Click, Click, Click . . . 

'I don't believe you! Tell me what you've been doing at the computer for so long!'

“I didn't want her to know what I was doing – I mean, it was terribly embarrassing . . . I had been sitting there, in crusty pajamas, voting in the Star Trek poll for three days.”

Some people make gagging noises, some people “eeww!” But it's all in good fun. They are really along for the ride, now. This is cool.

“She jiggled the handle, kicked at the bottom of the door, and it popped open!”

The audience gasps.

“I hurriedly shut down Mozilla, and spun around in my chair.

“'What have you been doing on this computer for three days, Wil?' she said.”

I look out across the audience, and pause dramatically. I lower my voice and confidentially say, “I was not about to admit the embarrassing truth, so I quickly said, 'I've been downloading porn, honey! Gigabytes of porn!'”

I have to stop, because the ballroom rocks with laughter. It's a genuine applause break! 

“She was not amused. 'Tell me the truth,' she said.

“I sighed, and told her that I'd been stuffing the ballot box in an online Star Trek poll.

“'You are such a dork. I'd have been happier with the porn.'

“I brightened. 'Really?'

“'No,' she said. She set a plate of cold food on the desk and walked out, muttering something about nerds.

“I stayed in that office for another ten hours, just to be sure. When my eyes began to bleed, I finally walked away. It took several weeks of physical therapy before I could walk correctly again, but it was all worth it. Best of Both Worlds Part II won by a landslide.”

I pause dramatically, and the theatre is silent.

“And it had nothing to do with my stuffing the box. It's because Next Generation FUCKING RULES!”

I throw my hand into the air, making the “devil horns” salute that adorns my satanic T-shirt, and the audience leaps to their feet, roaring with applause and laughter.

I can't believe it. I started out so badly, but I got the audience back on my side. I say thank you, give the microphone to Dave Scott, who is now sitting on the stage pointedly checking his watch, and exit, stage left.

 

ϑ ϑ ϑ

 

I'm a very different person now than I was when I wrote it, in every single way that matters (and a lot that probably don't). I cringe a little bit at some of the ways I wrote back then, but it's the best I could do at the time, and I'm proud of it, and the 29 year-old who struggled to write it.

Reading this stuff today made me feel strange, but also good, It's sort of like I was looking in a mirror that held a reflection within it for ten years, but let a little bit out today, just for me.

About the writing of the Fawkes issue of The Guild

I thought it may be interesting to some people to know a little bit more about how the Fawkes comic came together.

When we were up in Vancouver for Eureka, I was always bugging Felicia to come hang out with me and Neil Grayston, or to get out of our building and have an adventure. More often than not, she couldn't come play with us because she was writing scripts for The Guild comics. For the record, we had all the fun without her. So there, Felicia. Nyahhh.

At some point, we were having dinner or something and I asked her if she was interested in doing a Fawkes comic together. Because, you know, we didn't have way too much stuff to do already. She thought it would be a fun thing to do, and we started pitching stories to each other.

Eventually, we came upon something that we both thought was awesome, and we started writing it. It was surprisingly easy for us to come up with the story; the real challenge for me was keeping the story tight enough to fit into the pages we had. Luckily for me, I have a number of friends who are professional comic writers, and I was able to steal some of their writing tricks:

  • Keep things simple.
  • Format the script in what we call the Modified Brubaker, which is based on the Brubaker, which is based on the Ellis.
  • Have fun.
  • Do at least 4 pages a day when writing the first draft.
  • Read lots of comics and let them inspire you.

Oh, it also helps to have a co-writer who is a freaking genius and is also one of your best friends.

So the whole thing came together, and we ended up with a script that we both loved. We turned it in to our editor, got his notes, and did a final pass. I think the entire time from closing the deal with Dark Horse to giving our editor the final script was about 5 weeks.

The real fun for me was getting to ask for artists I love: I am crazy about Paul Duffield's work, especially on Freakangels. I loved Emma Rios's work on Osborn. Jamie McKelvie's work on Phonogram and Suburban Glamour belongs in a museum. Oh, he's also a good friend, which made it even cooler that we get to work together.

Paul said yes right away, but getting Emma was more difficult, because we couldn't find her. I asked my friend Kelly Sue (who wrote Osborn) to bug Emma on my behalf, and that whole thing came together pretty fast, too.

So I had two cover artists I was dying to work with, and an interior artist whose work I love so much I want to marry it. I don't know how it all managed to work out, but I'm going to guess that the stars were right and not ask too many questions. When we saw Paul's cover, we realized that we'd never seen Fawkes in game, so I think it's awesome that Paul got to design his avatar, and boy did Emma capture the sexual tension between Fawkes and Codex! I've seen some of Jamie's pages, and I don't know how he managed to get into my head and draw exactly what was there, but he's doing it perfectly.

I can't talk about the story too much, but I can say that I wanted to let Fawkes speak for himself, in his unique way, and see some things about his life that we didn't get to see on screen in The Guild. I'm incredibly proud of what Felicia and I came up with, and I think fans of The Guild are going to be really happy with what we did.

One of my super secret projects isn’t a secret any longer…

FINALLY, I can talk about this, and because a picture is worth a thousand words…

Felicia Day and I wrote a Fawkes story for The Guild comic together. There are two covers, the one above is by Paul Duffield, and this one is by Emma Rios:

 

Jamie McKelvie is drawing the book, which comes out on May 23rd.

Here's how Dark Horse is describing it:

Felicia Day and The Guild are back, along with costar Wil Wheaton, for a brand-new story spotlighting Fawkes, the dashing, debonair, and douchey leader of the evil guild Axis of Anarchy! His relationship with Codex threatened to tear the Knights of Good apart until he was thrown off a balcony for his treatment of her. Set after season 4 of the show, this issue reveals how Fawkes deals with his split from Codex and navigates the aggressive personalities of the Axis, and follows his journey to his surprising state when he returns in season 5!

Felicia and I talked to io9 about it last week, so if you want to know a little bit more, head on over there and check it out.

Because it’s a FAQ: some thoughts on self-publishing

Reader M asked me:

I was wondering what your experience with Lulu.com has been to self-publish your books?

Did you engage (heh) them for marketing? For editing? Or simply for publishing??

This sort of inquiry is pretty much a FAQ at this point, so I thought I'd share a slightly-edited version of my reply to him with the rest of the class:

Hi M,

I've been really happy with Lulu. Everyone I've ever talked with there has easy to work with, and very supportive of my work. 

When I first took my work there, they reached out to me and offered to do some marketing for me, because it was the kind of relationship that made sense for both of us: I got good marketing and support, and they had a moderately high profile example to show prospective self-publishers what their marketing and support could do.

Remember, though, that the responsibility to promote falls on the author's shoulders, and a book will sell as well as you promote it. A publisher can only get you in a place where you'll be seen and then support you once you're there; nothing is guaranteed.

Also, it's a little cart-before-the-horse to be worrying about marketing and publicity when you're on the first draft. All the marketing and publicity in the world won't matter if you don't write a compelling story that engages (ha. ha. ha.) your readers. 

As far as editorial goes, a content editor is a VERY personal and important relationship to have, so I wouldn't grab one at random, or stay with one who doesn't work as hard as you do. You should work with someone who understands what kind of story you want to tell, has experience editing that kind of story, and who has earned your respect. Your editor is someone who you're going to be accountable to, who is going to help you make your work better, make you a better writer, and ultimately be more of a partner than you ever though they would be. Do not rush into an editorial relationship, especially when you're self-publishing.

Copy editors, though just as important as content editors, aren't as personal. You still want someone who is going to let your voice come through, so that's important, but they're mostly going to make sure those inevitable spelling and grammar errors don't end up in your final manuscript.

I've also learned that it's really important to have a designer layout your final book. After publishing a lot of books, I can tell you that we writers are good at putting words together, but we're not as good at laying them out on the page as we think we are. If you're doing an eBook, you can probably do it yourself in Sigil or whatever your preferred markup editor is, but for print, you absolutely want to work with someone who can build you an interior design that looks great. 

I encourage you to make sure your work is available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks, as well, because people read in a lot of different places and formats these days. It's also a really good idea to establish relationships with indie booksellers and librarians, because they are awesome.

If you haven't, I recommend reading Dan Poynter's book on Self Publishing, as well as the Complete Guide to Self Publishing by Tom and Marilyn Ross. If you're on Google Plus, go add Evo Terra to a circle RIGHT NOW because he's the smartest indie publishing guru I've ever listened to. 

I hope this helps you a little bit.

Good luck!

Wil

My only disappointment with Lulu is that the company stopped doing digital files like audio books, but I understand that since they returned their focus to only books, it's been good for their authors. Finding a new place to host and sell my audio books has been a real pain in the ass. The Audible agreement is unacceptable to me, and everything else I've been able to find seems to be geared toward bands, so I'm still mostly in the wilderness at the moment (I say mostly, because Scott Sigler pointed me to what looks like a perfect solution for me, but nothing's been set in stone, yet.)

So there you go. This isn't exhaustive by any means, and while I'm not an expert, I have had a lot of experience so I mostly know what I'm talking about. I hope this is helpful for indie authors who Get Excited and Make Things.

If you have personal experience to share, or advice that's been helpful to you as an indie creator (not just authors), I'd love it if you'd leave a comment.

I’m selling some autographed books next week

Anne and I unloaded a lot of stuff from storage last week, and I discovered that I have a lot of books that probably want to find a new home.

So this is just a heads up: next week, I'm going to offer signed copies of the Games Matter chapbook I made for PAX this year (I have about 40 copies) and 50 copies of the sold out Subterranean Press edition of The Happiest Days of Our Lives. They'll be available on a first come, first served basis. I'll give about 24 hours advance notice so you'll know when I plan to push the Big Red Button.

I'm also working on putting both of those books into the Kindle store, as well as getting all of my eBooks into the Nook store. (BARNES & NOBLE Y U NO MAKE IT AS EASY TO PUBLISH IN NOOK STORE AS AMAZON DOES IN KINDLE STORE?)

I found out last week that Lulu took all audiobooks out of my store (they're only doing books, now, sadly), so at the moment, there's no (legal, support-my-work) way to get them. I'm working on fixing that, too, and hopefully next week will find them available once again.

Yesterday, I turned in the first draft of [AWESOME PROJECT I LOVE AND CAN'T WAIT TO TALK ABOUT], and now I'm going to reward myself by brewing a batch of Stone Pale Ale using the recipe in the Craft of Stone Brewing Co book.

Flash Fiction: The Monster In My Closet

About two hours ago, I thought to myself, "'There's a monster in my closet' would be a neat way to start out one of those scary short stories I loved to read when I was in middle school."

I wrote it down, then wrote a little more and a little more. Right around the time I realized I had no idea how it ended, the ending tapped me on the shoulder and said "boo!"

I've never done this before, but I thought it would be cool to publish it here without the usual editorial and rewrites I do on everything, because the idea of conceiving, writing, and releasing a short story in just a couple of hours is intriguing to me.

Added on 10/19: I made free-free and DRM-free ePub and Kindle versions of this story. You can get them at my virtual bookshelf if you like.

So, without any further introduction, here is my scary short story that I hope 12 year-old me would enjoy…

The Monster In My Closet

by Wil Wheaton

There is a monster in my closet. It’s standing in there behind my clothes, and it wants to come out. I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know how it got in there, but I know that it’s been there for a long time, waiting.

Mum and dad don’t believe in monsters (and until yesterday, neither did I), but during dinner tonight, I had to tell them.

“A monster,” dad said, wiping mashed potatoes off his beard. “Like, with claws and fangs? That kind of monster?”

“I haven’t actually seen it,” I said, “but I know it’s there.”

“How can you know it’s there if you haven’t seen it?” Mum asked.

“It’s like…” I thought for a moment. “It’s like when it’s cloudy, and you can’t see the moon, but it sort of glows behind the clouds, so you know it’s there.”

“So your closet was glowing, eh?” Dad said.

I shook my head. I could tell that they thought I was making the whole thing up. “No, dad,” I said, “but I could feel it in there, and –”

“And what?” He said.

“And if it comes out,” I said, carefully, “It’s going to kill us.”

“Well, I should expect so,” dad said. “Monsters are usually very serious about that sort of thing.”

Mum scowled at him. “Richard! Don’t make fun.”

Then she looked back at me and said, “you can have a night light in your room to keep the monster away.”

“And keep your closet door shut,” dad said, gravely, “everyone knows that monsters can’t open doors.”

“But –”

“But nothing. Now stop all this chattering and eat your peas before they get cold,” mum said.

I’m trying to deal with a monster, and all mum cares about is me eating my peas. Typical parents.

They walked me into my room when it was time for bed. Dad made a big production of opening the closet and looking inside. “Well, it looks like we scared it off,” he said. He didn’t notice that the lid of my toy chest was lifted up slightly, and I didn’t bother telling him. He pushed the door and it shut with a click. He shook the knob and pantomimed looping a chain around it that he secured with a pantomimed pad lock. He swallowed a pantomime key and rubbed his belly.

Mum brought in one of my old night lights, the one with the blue pony on it, and plugged it into the wall next to the bed. “There, sweetheart,” she said as she turned it on, “let’s just leave this on tonight.”

She kissed me goodnight. Then dad kissed me on my forehead.

“There’s a good girl,” he said, “sleep tight! Don’t let the monsters bite!”

“Richard!” Mum smacked him on his arm. “Sorry, sweetie, he’s just having a bit of fun.”

“Good night, mum,” I said. I tried not to frown too much at dad.

I heard them talking as they walked down the stairs.. “She just has a wonderful imagination, doesn’t she?” Mum said.

“She’s a dreamer, that’s for sure,” dad said. I heard ice clink into glasses, then, a moment later,  the creak of their armchairs as they sat down to watch television. 

I was starting to fall asleep when I heard it.

“Psssst.” 

I thought that maybe I was dreaming, but I pulled the covers up to my neck, as tightly as I could, and listened. 

“Psssst.” 

It came from the closet. “Psssst. Hey, kid. Come and open the door, hey?”

I felt my eyes widen, as a chill ran down my spine.

“Come on, kid, I won’t hurt ya, I just want to get out of here. Open the door and I’ll be on my way.”

The voice — its voice — was gruff, but not as gruff as I thought it would be.

“No,” I said in a small voice, barely a whisper. “You… you just stay in there.”

The handle shook a bit, and I screamed. Mum and dad were in the room before I knew it.

“It’s in there!” I cried, “it’s in there and it told me to open the door and let it out!”

They looked at each other. Mum walked across the room to me and sat down on the edge of my bed. “There, there, sweetie,” she said, “you just had a bad dream is all.

“Richard, open the door and show her that there’s nothing inside but clothes and toys.”

“No! Dad! Don’t open it!” I practically screamed.

“Fear not, my petal,” he said, gallantly, “Any monsters inside this closet will get the thrashing of their lives!” He walked to the closet and knocked on the door. “Anyone in there? Hmm?”

He winked at me and shadow boxed the air in front of him.

“Richard, stoppit and just open the door. She’s had an awful fright.”

“Daddy, don’t do it,” I said, suddenly feeling like I was seven years-old again. “Please.”

He smiled and said, “it’s all right, sweetheart. Daddy’s just going to show you that there’s nothing to be afraid of, and then we can all go back to sleep.”

Mum squeezed my hand. An audience laughed on the television downstairs. Dad turned the handle on the closet door and opened it. “Now, see? There’s nothing to–”

The monster was covered in dark scales, like a lizard. Its eyes were jet black, but reflected something red in their centers. It grabbed my dad by his shoulders and bit into his neck with long, sharp, white teeth.

Dad screamed and struggled against it. Clawed hands held onto him and a spray of blood shot across the back of the closet door, black and shiny in the dim light.

It slurped and gurgled and crunched, and in a few seconds, dad stopped moving. I realized that my mum hadn’t made a sound, but had let go of my hand.

She stood up, and walked toward the monster. It dropped my dad’s body to the floor and grinned at her, dad’s blood dripping off of its teeth and running down its chest. They stood over my dad’s body and embraced.

“I’ve missed you, darling,” the monster said to my mum.

“I missed you, too, my sweet,” she said, in the same gruff voice.

“Mu– mum?” I said. She ignored me.

“I would have come sooner, but you know that we can’t open them from the inside,” the monster said.

“Everyone knows that!” Mum said, and they laughed together. She turned to face me. Her skin was starting to crack on her face, revealing dark grey scales beneath it. Her eyes were turning black, reflecting something red in their centers.

“Come on over here and give us a hug,” she said, as sharp white fangs pushed her teeth out of her mouth and onto the floor where they bounced around like marbles. “Come and be mommy’s little monster!”

“WHAT IS HAPPENING? I screamed.

“Stop that horrid racket and say hello to your dad — your real dad,” she said.

I reached around for something, anything, to use as a weapon to protect myself. When I stretched out for the lamp on my night stand, the skin on my arm cracked and split open. There were grey scales underneath it. 

“Oh no. No no no no no,” I said.

I reached up to touch my face, and pulled the soft pink flesh away. I felt the rough scales underneath.

“What’s happening to me?!”

I looked at my mum.

I looked at my dad.

I looked at the body on the floor.

I realized that I was ever so hungry, and my food was getting cold.

I got out of bed and joined my family for dinner.

Copyright 2011 Wil Wheaton. 

Creative Commons License
The Monster In My Closet by Wil Wheaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

You want to accept Anorak’s Invitation. Trust me.

I love narrating audiobooks, because it gives me a rare opportunity to combine my love of reading with my love of performing into something that hopefully entertains people, and gets the Bursar at Ryan's college off my back for another month.

I did a few when I was much younger (Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, and and Why I Left Harry's All-Night Hamburgers), then nothing for about ten years, when I did an audio version of Just A Geek, and then The Happiest Days of Our Lives. I guess someone liked the stuff I'd done recently, because I was invited to perform a story in METAtropolis: Cascadia, and that led to doing a bunch of books for Scalzi, which eventually led to the point of this post: Ernie Cline's upcoming book, Ready Player One.

I first discovered Ernie's work about ten years ago, when I heard him performing his sensational spoken word piece When I Was A Kid. I loved it so much, I submitted it to Fark, where it was greenlit, resulting in fives of album sales for Ernie (You're welcome, Ernie).

Years went by. Ernie wrote Fanboys. I wrote some books, too. Then, on a magical, unicorn-filled day earlier this year, my manager called and said I'd been asked to perform a new book called Ready Player One, by an author named Ernest Cline. I didn't even need to know what it was about; I knew it would be rad because Ernie wrote it, so I said yes right away. I had an incredibly good time reading it, marvelling every day that I was getting paid to read and perform a book that I loved. I counted down the days until August 16th, because that's when it would finally be released.

Knock Knock, Motherfucker: tomorrow's August 16th, and Ready Player One comes out in both print and audio editions. You can hear a sample of me doing my thing right now, though, because that's how we do things around here.

Ready Player One was in the New York Times this weekend, and I urge anyone who is on the fence about the book to go read it. Here, I'll make it easy and all linky.

Seriously? You're still here? Fine. Here's a taste:

With its Pac-Man-style cover graphics and vintage Atari mind-set “Ready Player One” certainly looks like a genre item. But Mr. Cline is able to incorporate his favorite toys and games into a perfectly accessible narrative. He sets it in 2044, when there aren’t many original Duran Duran fans still afoot, and most students of 1980s trivia are zealous kids. They are interested in that time period because a billionaire inventor, James Halliday, died and left behind a mischievous legacy. Whoever first cracks Halliday’s series of ’80s-related riddles, clues and puzzles that are included in a film called “Anorak’s Invitation” will inherit his fortune.

The world Ernie created for Ready Player One will blow your mind, and alternately make you wish you could live there, while being really glad that you don't. You'll want to meet the characters, and challenge them to a game of Galaxian (though they'll probably kick your ass. Damn kids in the future, I swear to god.)

It's already been bought by Warner Brothers, and will eventually be a film. I'm doing my best to call dibs on playing Halliday, but even if that doesn't work out, at least I got to play Wade in the audio version. Which you should totally go buy, because it is awesome.

 

all dressed up with nowhere to go

The audiobook I performed last week is called Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. I don't know how many of you reading this today were around in the old days of WWdN (lots, I hope!), but if you were, you may remember when I linked to Ernie's spoken world on Fark. Ernie told me in an e-mail that he was so overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response, it gave him the courage to start the outline that would eventually become Ready Player One.

So that's kind of awesome.

Ernie wrote on his blog about the process of choosing me to perform the book, which says so many nice things about me, I can't quote it without feeling weird … but I'll happily link to it, in the hopes that at least some of you will explore the rest of his website, because it's full of really great stuff. And, hey, Hipsters? You want to familiarize yourself with Ernie's going to blow up when this book comes out in August, so you can tell everyone that you were into him before that happened. Also, his work is just fucking brilliant.

===

I wanted to take a moment and thank the guys at UPS in Phoenix who worked so hard to find my books when they were lost during Phoenix Comicon. A bunch of drivers stayed after hours to dig though packages looking for it, and the shipping manager there worked when he wasn't on the clock to track them down. A lot of people put in a lot of effort to correct an epic failure, and I didn't find out until after the fact that they weren't in there because I was some guy with a blog, or some guy who is on TV; they were in there because I'm some guy who does a lot of work with the Child's Play charity, and one of them (who probably wants to remain anonymous) has a child who directly benefited from the things Child's Play does.

I'm sure corporate and the UPS PR department wanted this to be resolved, and I'm not going to pretend that that didn't matter, but I also know that the guys who dug through trucks in the Arizona heat on a holiday weekend were the ones who eventually got it done.

So I wanted to publicly say THANK YOU to all of them.

===

One last thing before I go (I'm supposed to be on Internet-vacation until next Saturday): my brother is frakking hilarious.