The first time I did one of these posts in 2006, it was to secretly collect material I was thinking about including in The Happiest Days of Our Lives. It ended up being a lot of fun to look back at the whole year, though, and it created a nice introduction to my writing (which is one of those things we writers kind of need to have) so I did it again in 2008 (I'm not sure why there's no 2007 entry; I guess nothing happened that year and we all slept through it) and here I am, about to do it again in 2009.
So, without any further parenthetical statements (except for this one), let's begin:
I recalled The Great Wheaton Hockey Scandal of 1991:
My friends at CliqueClack did an interview with Dean Devlin, creator of the sensational new series Leverage. Dean and I played hockey on the same team (with, I've just now remembered, Adam Baldwin, also) from around 1989-1991. He was a forward and I was a goalie. One night in Burbank, our team gave up a breakaway near the redline. I saw it happening when the puck was still in the offensive zone, so I was ready.
When the other guy crossed our blue line, I was already way out of the net, near the bottom of the faceoff circle on my left side. I skated backward with him to force him to shoot on my terms. I guess I was near the crease when I saw him pull his stick back way over his head."Oh good," I thought, "he's just going to try to blast it past me. Those shots almost always go wide, or right into my glove."
The next thing I knew, there was an explosion in the rink, and a bright flash of light before everything went dark. When the lights came back on, I was on my knees, surrounded by a semicircle of skates. I pulled my helmet off, and watched a whole bunch of blood pour down onto the ice.
"Oh, the way it beads up is really neat," I thought. Then, "Wait. That's my blood."
I am not Wesley Crusher, and when someone says, "Wesley Crusher is playing [Some Character], so, you know, go hate [That Character] without even watching him," it is both unfair and profoundly insulting to me. Imagine having something you've worked so hard to create being dismissed out of hand, because of completely unrelated work you did when you were a teenager - work that you had no control over - and you may understand why this is so upsetting to me. This has happened to me for years, and when I read it tonight - especially related to something like Batman, that I'm so proud of, that I know has a big crossover audience - It infuriated me. I've been subjected to this same tired line for 15 years, and I've really had enough of it. Live in the now, man!
My episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold aired, and it was awesome. I didn't know it at the time, but I am the first voice actor to play Ted Kord in an animated capacity.
I went to Phoenix for the 2009 Phoenix Comic-Con, where I did a lot of neat stuff, but nothing was better than the epic awesomeness of playing Rock Band 2 with a bunch of my fellow nerds:
After playing Rock Band 2 for 2 straight hours and struggling though some songs I've never played before, I was worried that when the videos started making their way online, I'd look like an asshole who didn't know how to play fake instruments, and that everyone would laugh at me. But when I watch this video of us doing Livin' on a Prayer, all I see is the evening distilled to its essence: a lot of geeks having a lot of fun pretending to be rock stars on a real stage playing for a real audience, which is exactly what I hoped for when I planned it. I mean, we were up there playing 80s anthems, and there were people dancingin front of the stage. When I sang to a girl in the front row, she screamed like we were at an actual concert. For reals! It was so awesome, it was hard not to get caught up in the fantasy of the thing, and I don't think any of us who played the game spent more than 10 seconds fighting it.
Even though I've been using Twitter since 2007, this was the year it really exploded. For reasons I will never understand, the gang at TwitterHQ put me on some kind of "people you should follow" list, and I watched my follower count double every day for several weeks. It was weird, and I thought it was best to tell everyone how I was going to disappoint them if they followed me:
...if I can make something painfully, embarrassingly clear before I begin: my whole idea here is to manage expectations and explain my own personal limits. I'm not trying to go on and on about how fucking cool I think I am and how you have to follow rules to follow me, or anything like that. I'm saying this now because some of the things down below, you may not want to hear. It's not you, it's me, and I hope you believe that.
After making several improbable saving throws vs. Layoff at Propeller, AOL finally sent me off to the land of wind and ghosts in February. Initially, this was terrifying. I had a kid in college and one about to graduate high school, very little reliable work, and though I wasn't getting rich from AOL, it was at least something I could count on month to month.
Just like Scalzi, though, getting laid off by AOL ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to get serious about being a full-time writer, and left me no option but to take control of my creative and financial life by writing and publishing more work on my own. I started with Sunken Treasure:
Every year, before the summer convention season gets underway, I pull some 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, and Memories of the Future, but in 2008, I couldn’t excerpt my planned fall release, because it was so top secret, I would have had to print it on self-destructing paper, and while that would have made it a very limited edition, the costs associated were … prohibitive.
The thing about these chapbooks is that you can only get them from me if you come see me at a convention. Since I don't do many conventions, this leaves a lot of you — Europe, Canada, and the East Coast, I'm looking in your direction— without a chance to get your hands on one. Later this week, I will correct this glaring error, by releasing last year's chapbook, Sunken Treasure, via a print on demand system that works like this: you place an order, they print your book, and the service I use ships it to you. A couple of my friends have used the same service I'm using, and they're super happy with the quality of their books, the customer service, and everything about the whole process. Print on demand services used to be kind of sketchy, but they've grown up a lot recently, and I'm willing to give this particular one a try.
If this works the way I think it will, it's going to be super awesome for all of us as I release books in the future: You don't have to worry about me screwing up your order, I don't have to invest in a thousand books at a time, you get your book in a few days instead of a few weeks because I'm not shipping it myself, and I can spend more time creating new stories while remaining independent. Best of all, I'll have the time to write and release more than one or two books a year.
I introduced my son to the joy of a game called Button Men, and reintroduced myself to the even greater joy of playing with him:
I walked out into the living room and found Nolan sitting at our iMac, playing Diablo.
"Hey, it's too dark and cold outside to throw the frisbee," I said, "but at the dining room table, it's perfect for throwing dice."
He spun around in his chair. "Two minutes. Then you are going down."
I walked back into my office, deliberately did not look at my desk, grabbed the bag of Button Men, and a bag of dice. I took them all out to the dining room, and untied the bag. I gleefully watched polyhedra spill out and clatter across the table.
"I hope that the simple act of watching dice fall always makes me this happy," I thought.
I looked up, and saw that Nolan was intently focused on his game. I picked up the bag of Button Men and gently shook it.
The buttons clattered. He did not turn.
I shook the bag harder. Still, he did not turn.
I shook the bag harder still, cleared my throat, and stomped my foot.
I think he's talking to you!
I noticed Nolan's shoulders were twitching just a little bit.
You win this round, kid, but I'll win when it counts.
"Dude! Come on!" I said.
He was smiling as he turned around and walked over to the table.
"I don' t know why you're in such a hurry to get owned," he said.
It's not about the game, it's about playing the game with you.
I told a story about playing T-ball while my dad watched. Well, I told it the way I remember it:
When I was six years old, I set foot onto on a T-ball diamond for the first time.
I was skinny, awkward and unsure of myself - basically a smaller version of the teenager I'd eventually become - and I didn't have very good coordination, but my dad loved baseball, and I knew that if my dad loved it, I loved it too, because that's the way things work when you're six.
It was the spring of 1978, when smog alerts were as common as reality shows are today, and hazy, reddish gold sunlight shone down on the field at Sunland Park. The sounds of other kids playing on the swings and in the giant rocket ship at the playground mingled with the smell of barbecue smoke as I stepped up to the plate to take my first practice swings.
My first swing connected with the middle of the tee. The baseball - in those days of gas lines and national malaise, we didn't have the soft RIF balls my kids got to play with - fell off and landed in the batter's box on the other side of the plate. The other kids giggled while the coach clapped his hands and shouted encouraging words to me as I picked the ball up and put it back on the tee.
I looked up and saw my father's expectant face through the chainlink fence near the dugout. I slowly and deliberately lifted my bat, held it out at arm's length, and aimed at the top of the tee with one eye closed. I stuck out my tongue and furrowed my brow. I tasted sweat on the corners of my mouth, and felt my heart beat in my ears.
The bat touched the ball, and it fell off again. The kids giggled again. The coach clapped again. I replaced the ball on the tee again.
"Come on, Willow," my dad said. "You can do it!"
To be continued in part two...