Category Archives: Books

in a sea black with ink

The greatest reward I can receive as a writer is the knowledge that something I wrote affected someone who read it. Earlier today, a HUNTER reader e-mailed the following:

I'd like to make a request: Please don't make it so dark next time.

I know just how foolish it is to "make a request" about your writing — I'm not your muse, your boss, your editor or your conscience. I understand that the darkness is actually the reason for the actions of the characters in Hunter (i.e. it isn't gratuitous), and that without it, it would have been a completely different story. I understand that the degree of darkness in Hunter is nothing compared to some of the other mainstream fantasy/sci-fi fiction that's out there in bookstores.

I just don't like it. It makes me feel very sad when I read dark stories like that, and it makes me want to curl up and recover from it.

There's enough real evil in the real world; please don't add more fictional evil to it. 

HUNTER is just 2700 words, but it affected this reader so much, he/she/it wrote me this e-mail, and I've been walking on air all day because of it. HUNTER is set in a dark and desperate world, where good and evil is really a matter of perspective, and if readers left that world feeling really good, I either didn't hit the target I was aiming for, or I'm going to keep my distance from that reader if it's at all possible.

Every day, I struggle with the Voice of Self Doubt. When I get a note like this — that isn't condescending, demanding or unkind, but is sincere and thoughtful — I hold onto it, because it's worth +5 to my attacks (and grants 5d20 damage) against The Voice.

Mystery Reader who sent this: Thank you for reading, and thank you for writing. When I visit a world that isn't as dark as Goa, I hope you'll come along for the ride.

various items including: hunter, marketplace, batman, and a show with paul and storm

Various items that may be relevant to your interests begin … NOW!

* I talked to the Marketplace Tech Report recently, and our two interviews are now online.

I'm sure it will surprise you to learn that I'm a huge NPR geek, so getting to talk to John Moe for Marketplace (I did my side of the converstaion from KPCC) was pretty cool.

I am doing a show at Largo with Paul and Storm on Tuesday, March 29th! I'm going to perform stories with and without musical accompaniment, and Paul and Storm are going to play music. Then we'll sing about pirates for two hours. Los Angeles always asks me to do a show, and then nobody ever shows up when I do one here. Don't fucking let me down, Los Angeles; I'm getting tired of defending you to Chicago.

* I know I'm way late to the party on this, but I've been playing Batman: Arkham Asylum recently. It's sort of like being in control of an episode of the Batman animated series, but there are a couple of things that keep taking me out of the experience.

First, there is just way too much backtracking. I really hate it when games do this, because it feels like a cheap way to make a game appear longer than it is, and it's just boring. I already did the complicated zipline batclaw jumpglide across the poison gas room thing, guys. I don't need to do it again.

Second, It's incredibly fun to pretend that I'm Batman, but it's a little silly that I my progress is constantly thwarted by 5-foot high brick walls. And by a little, I mean goddamn fucking ridiculous. I AM THE GODDAMN BATMAN FOR FUCKS SAKE.

Still, those complaints aside, it's a lot (or alot, if you prefer) of fun. Beating up on bad guys requires timing and precision, so it doesn't turn into a button masher (you can try that, if you want, but you won't get very far). There are also two extra games that parallell the main storyline where you try to solve puzzles posed by The Riddler, and you try to find these tablets that reveal the history of Arkham Asylum.

Huh. I just sort of reviewed the game without meaning to. I guess I should grade it, then: B-

* I think it's really important that the story of HBGary, Bank of America, Wikileaks and The Chamber of Commerce doesn't die. This is serious ratfucking and is pretty much a perfect example of the war the ultra-rich and powerful are successfully waging against the middle class in America.

Digital: A Love Story is a computer mystery romance that is set "five minutes into the future in 1988". You read it by using an emulator that looks an awful lot like the Amiga, and it recreates the old BBS experience when 2400 baud was all the baud we needed. The story unfolds via messages. It's just amazing.

* A friend of Anne's makes and sells organic, eco-friendly clothing with positive messages. I really love it, and from time to time I remind the Internet about it, so people will check it out and tell their friends. It's called Capable Arts. Tell them Wil sent you. 

* Many people have asked how HUNTER is selling. Without getting into specifics, I'm delighted that so many people have chosen to give me donations for the story. Most are giving between 1 and 5 dollars, and close to one thousand readers have paid for the story. I stupidly set it up in a way that doesn't let me track individual downloads, so I have no idea what the ratio of downloads to customers is. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and I'm inclined to revisit the world at least once in the future. I'm calling this a success, and I'll do pay-what-you-want again in the future. 

This goes on its own line because I want to make sure it gets seen: Thank you to everyone who read Hunter, left me feedback about it, paid something for it, and told friends and Internets about it. This wouldn't have been a success without you.

* Finally, Anne found a home for Velvet Wesley Crusher's Moustache:

IMAG0652

Terrifying Tales from The House of Secrets and The Witching Hour!

When I was in Vancouver for Eureka last year, I got to know downtown pretty well. I had a couple of pubs I loved, two grocery stores that took care of all my food needs, and more great restaurants than I could shake a hockey stick at. I also found a comic shop that was just a few blocks from my apartment, that became a frequent recipient of my per diem.

One day I wandered into the comic shop, and after pulling a few current books and some TPBs, I came across a display near the back where they were selling bags of older comics for a couple of bucks each. I absolutely love these old books, because they remind me of the comics I bought at the drugstore when I was a kid and read until their pages were falling apart. I grabbed a bag of DC Mystery comics, and raced back to my apartment as excitedly as I raced home from Sunland Discount Variety when I was in elementary school.

If I could legally scan the entirety of each issue, just so I could share how wonderful it is with the world, I would, but since that's pretty much frowned upon by, well, everyone, I pulled a few scans to give you a sense of what I loved reading when I was 8 years-old.

You can click all of these images to embiggen them at Flickr.

To 8 year-old me, stories like this were creepy and cool without being too gruesome or corny. To 38 year-old me, they were simply delightful.

Unexpected #205Johnny Peril 1 Johnny Peril 2

Johnny Peril 3 The Witching Hour Bruce the Barbarian

I think the absolute best part of these old comics, though, are the adverts. For many of us in Generation X, these things are as much a part of the comic book experience as the actual stories themselves.

One Page of Adverts Superman Sells Twinkees

This is on the back cover of the magazine. I present it without comment, even though I desperately want to say … things.

Before he killed people, OJ Simpson sold boots

I'd like to thank the people who created these comics for entertaining me 30 years ago as much as they do today. I'd also like to thank DC in advance for not suing me.

HUNTER is here.

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

Will you put this in the Amazon or iBooks store?

Probably not. I'd like to keep it DRM-free and pay-what-you-want.

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

HUNTER is coming…

Check it out:

Hunter-Cover-A

A little excerpt from Hunter can be found in this post. Or you can keep reading here:

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.

Hunter will be released a little later today, and I'm starting to feel some apprehension breaking through the excitement. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I would do this, from putting epub and mobi and pdf files at Lulu and smashwords for 99 cents, to putting it here for free.

Because I've never done anything like this before, I ultimately decided to do the pay what you want model. I hope it works, because I'd like to use it in the future for short fiction projects, until I have enough short works of fiction to make a collection that's worthy of the printed page.

The Day After and Other Stories goes digital

Day_after_ebook_cover tl;dr: The Day After And Other Stories is once again available for download. It's $4.99 at Lulu. Yay!

In December of last year, I released a very short collection of very short stories for a very short time – just ten days, actually – as an experiment in releasing short fiction. It sold fairly well, wildly exceeding my expectations. I got very good feedback from readers, but I'd committed to pulling it off the shelf in its print version at the end of ten days, so that's what I did. I'd always planned to keep the eBook version on sale, but I got busy after I pulled the print version offline, and didn't get around to republishing just the e-version until today.

So, for those of you who want to read a very short collection of very short stories for a very small price ($4.99! Cheap!), now you can.

If you're wondering what this is all about, here's what I wrote back in December:

Last year, I collected a few short stories I'd written and sold them as a chapbook at PAX. It was a scary thing for me to do, because while I feel confident as a narrative non-fiction writer, I am paralyzed with terror whenever I think about releasing something I invented out of nothing more than an idea to the public, and before I actually release it, I hear Carrie's mother screaming at me, "THEY'RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU!"

A couple of things have happened recently, though, that gave me the courage to actually release this short collection of short stories to anyone who wants to buy it. First, Project Do Something Creative Every Day is making me feel less and less afraid of sucking. Like I said recently, the goal isn't to be perfect; the goal is to be creative. I don't think The Day After and Other Stories is perfect, but it is creative, and the few people I have shown it to told me they liked it.

Second, over 400 people expressed an interest in buying an autographed copy of The Happiest Days of Our Lives over the last couple of days. That really blew me away, and made me think, "Well, maybe there aren't as many people out there waiting for an excuse to laugh at you as you think. Also? It's adorable that you think you're that important to anyone, jackass."  

I've had these files ready to put on LuLu for over a year, and it wasn't until this morning that I screwed up the courage to actually do it. I'm sticking to my original plan, which is to sell the paperback for a limited time (10 days) and then just offer the PDF version. I'm not quite sure why I wanted to do it that way, but it's nontraditional, and a little weird, so there you go.

Here's the introduction:

Every year, before the summer convention season gets underway, I pull a few excerpts from whatever I plan to release in the fall, take them to my local print shop, and make a deliberately lo-fi, limited edition chapbook to take with me on the obligatory summer convention circuit.

I’ve done previews of Dancing Barefoot, The Happiest Days of Our Lives, Memories of the Future, and in 2008, I pulled together a sampler that eventually became Sunken Treasure.

While Memories of the Future is 2009’s “big” fall release, it didn’t make sense to me to release a Memories- based chapbook this summer, because one already exists.

It looked like there wasn’t going to be a 2009 entry in the traditional Wil Wheaton Zine-like Chapbook Extravaganza, until I realized that I have several pieces of unpublished fiction sitting in my office, just waiting to be published.

“Hey,” I said to myself, “people keep asking me to write and release fiction, and I’ve been waiting until I have an actual novel to give them. But these things totally don’t suck, and I bet readers would enjoy them.”

“That is an excellent idea, me,” I said. “And have I mentioned how smart and pretty you are?”

“Oh, stop it. You’re embarrassing me,” I said.

Together, myself and I collected some of my (mostly unpublished) fiction and put it into this chapbook, for safe keeping.

Even though this is limited to just 200 copies, it represents a significant step for me in my life as a writer, because it’s the first time I’ve collected and published stories that I made up. (You know, like a writer does.) I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for your support!

The more astute among you may have noticed that this says it's limited to 200 copies; that's because this was originally offered as a limited chapbook at PAX, and we're using the same files. Think of it as a delightful legacy issue, or something like that, if you must. I don't know how many of these books I'll actually sell, but I doubt the number will be exactly 200. When the paperback goes to the Land of Wind And Ghosts, though, I suppose I can check to see how many were sold, and you can use your very own Red Pen of Doom to put the actual number into your copy. Hey! Look! It's interactive!

I hope I can get this available in .mobi and .epub sooner than later, but I don't have conversion software at the moment (Clibre and Sigil barf on the .pdf, so I have to start over with a .rtf file when I have the free time).

Also, because it's a FAQ: If you want to print it out and make your own book from it for your personal, non-commercial use, you have my permission to do that.

“Storage of corpses is important.”

Warren wrote about having to kill a story:

The lesson is simply this: you just have to recognise that, no matter how much weight you put behind it and how much you tart it up,sometimes a story just doesn’t bloody work, and you have to take it behind the stables and shoot it through the head. No writer is perfect.  We all have dead bodies to our names.

Knowing that someone I respect and admire as much as Warren has had to abandon something that just wasn't working makes me feel less terrible when it happens to me.

I was especially happy when he said,

The corpse gets thrown in the Loose Ideas folder, where one day it will doubtless be cannibalised for its more interesting/less ripoffy parts and interpolated into something new and better.  Storage of corpses is important.  As in life, you never know when bits of them will come in handy.

…because I do precisely that, all the time. Sometimes I have a fully-formed story in my head, and I just write it before it gets away from me. Other times, I have an interesting character I want to explore, or a story about some thing that I want to tell, but once I get down to the path and look up, I realize I've lost myself in the woods, it's getting dark, and I'd better go home before the wolves come out. When that happens, though, I always save whatever I've written to that point; just because it didn't work in this story doesn't mean that it won't work in another one that I don't even know exists, yet. It's reassuring to know that writers I look up to do it, too.

Did I dream you dreamed about me?

Earlier this week, I was talking with my friend Amy Berg, who is one hell of a writer (she's an Executive Producer on Eureka, and created Cha0s when she wrote for Leverage). Amy's been encouraging me to write fiction for years, even when I regularly responded with statements like "I can't" or "I don't know how" or "I've tried and I suck at it" or "They're all going to laugh at me!"

She always told me that I would surprise myself if I just got out of my own way and wrote stories, so at the end of last year, I started Project Do Something Creative Every Day for the Rest of the Year to see if she was right. 

It was terrifying at first, because I really believed all those things I told her (especially the part about everyone laughing at me), but the whole point of Project Do Something Creative Every Day for the Rest of the Year was to stop being afraid and worrying about things never being good enough. The goal wasn't to be perfect, I kept reminding myself, the goal was to be creative.

I guess it worked, because after a couple weeks of Project Do Something Creative Every Day for the Rest of the Year, I found the courage to release The Day After and Other Stories, which was surprisingly well received and sold way more than I ever expected it would, considering its price and length.

When we talked, I mentioned all of this to her. Before I even realized I was saying it, I heard the words, "I don't feel like a fraud anymore when I write fiction."

"That's good!" She said with a laugh. We talked for a few more minutes and when I hung up the phone, those words still hung in the air around me.

"I don't feel like a fraud anymore when I write fiction."

I couldn't believe I actually said it, and that I really believe it. See, I know I'm not the greatest fiction writer in the world, and I have a long way to go before I feel as comfortable writing fiction as I do writing non-fiction. But I have a great time when I make up and write stories, and so far my incredibly unscientific and minuscule sample indicates that people enjoy reading them, too.

So I've been able to keep on doing it, working on various projects a little bit every day, slowly pushing them toward their terrifying release. One of those projects, currently titled "Hunters (this really needs a better title)", is nearly finished. I think Andrew and I have it at a place where I'll be ready to let it go pretty soon, and instead of the stomach-turning fear and anxiety I felt with The Day After and Other Stories, I'm actually excited to publish it.

Anyway, here's a little 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 the few 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 ran through 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 Pykea second-generation Goa colonist who’d grown up in the old cityknew 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.

Oh Pyke, you're a bad, bad man.

The whole thing is about 3000 words, so I'm probably going to try an experiment with it, and make ePub and PDF versions that will cost around a dollar at my Lulu store. I think I'll eventually put it here or my virtual bookshelf for free, too. If I sell enough to make that a viable business model, I'll keep doing that in the future. (Or not. I reserve the right to change my mind and then change it back again.)

librarians are awesome

I was recently invited to participate in an awesome literacy project, and I wanted to share an excerpt from my contribution:

I want to take a moment and say thank you to librarians, because it was a librarian who made me fall in love with reading. In third or fourth grade, part of our curriculum was a monthly trip to a local library in Tujunga, California. One of the librarians would read us a short story, give a short talk about a literacy-related topic, and then let us pick a book off a table of paperbacks that we could keep. We were also allowed – no, encouraged – to check out up to three books, which we would have a month to read.

I was a nerdy, shy, awkward kid who was scared of everything, and the library intimidated me; I never knew where to start, I was afraid I’d pick a book the the Cool Kids would tease me about reading, and I always felt lost in the stacks. This librarian, though, reached out to me. She asked me what sort of things I liked on TV and in the movies, and recommended a few different books based on my answers, including the first real SciFi book I can recall reading, Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O’Brien. I loved it so much, when I went back the next month, she taught me how to use the card catalog to find other books like it, entirely on my own. On that day, the library was transformed from a confusing and intimidating collection of books into a thousand different portals through time and space to fantastic worlds for me to explore.

I don’t remember her name, but I do remember that she was in her fifties, wore epic 1970s polyester pantsuits, huge glasses that hung from a long gold chain around her neck, and had a hairdo that was ten miles high. She was friendly and helpful, and when she reached out to that nerdy little kid, she changed his life. If you’re a librarian today, you probably don’t hear this very often, but thank you. Thank you for making a difference in people’s lives.

Libraries are constantly under attack from people who fear knowledge, politicians who think guns are more important than books, and people who want to ensure that multi-millionaires pocket even more money. As an author, father, and a reader, I beg you: please support your local libraries in any way you can, and if you enjoy reading, take a moment to thank a librarian.

Let’s take a ride out, see what we can find

"If it's true about there being no rest for the wicked, then I must have been very naughty indeed." -Charlie Stross

Yes, I just compared myself to Charlie Stross. It must be the coffee and lack of sleep talking. Go me.

I leave for JoCo Cruise Crazy in just a few days, so I've been too busy preparing to do anything here on the old bloggy-blog-bloggity-blog, but I wanted to take a moment to remind all interested parties that there is just one day left to get a print copy of The Day After And Other Stories

I'm thrilled and delighted that The Day After and Other Stories has sold as well as it has, and I'm relieved and excited to hear such good feedback from so many readers. Writing fiction still feels a little strange, and actually publishing it still scares the shit out of me, but having faced it once now and returned relatively unscathed, it probably won't be quite as scary the next time.