You may ask yourself, how did I get here?

I’m trying to figure out some stuff about traffic sources, and I feel like my stats package isn’t entirely accurate. If you don’t mind, would you please choose the option below that most accurately reflects how you found out about this post?

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As my thank you for your time, here are my dogs, being good dogs, Brent.


a stranger’s hand, reaching out through time, to touch yours

“We are always getting away from the present moment. Our mental existence, which are immaterial and have no dimensions, are passing along the Time-Dimension with a uniform velocity from the cradle to the grave.” -H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

During last night’s Storytime With Wil, I unexpectedly noticed something pasted into the back cover of the thirty-five year old book. It was a little slip of paper, one of those ditto runoffs that they used in schools in the 80s, and it told us this book belonged to a kid named Dean, who was in Traverse City Junior High School. It was a child’s drawing of Snoopy, laying on his back, like he does on top of his dog house, only he was on the back of a book which was propped up like an open tent. Along the cover of the book long, skinny letters spelled out R. I. F.

R.I.F is Reading Is Fundamental. R.I.F. is a literacy program that makes a real, meaningful, positive difference in kids’ lives. My school didn’t have R.I.F. (it was a private, religious school, so we didn’t have a lot of the cool public school programs my friends had) but we had our own version of it. We read books, we’d accumulate points, and when we had a certain number of points, we could cash them in for a book of our own. I can’t say for certain, but I’d like to imagine that Dean, in 1981, cashed in some R.I.F points to get this particular copy of The Mystery of Chimney Rock.

I got unexpectedly emotional when I saw this little rectangle of paper, pasted into the back of this book, and I struggled to put my finger on exactly why, until someone in the chat said that it was like a time machine. It’s like someone was reaching through time, and touching my hands. It was this tactile, tangible moment, where I and the 480 or so people who were watching got to make a semi-personal connection with this kid, Dean, who owned and read this book in 1981. I wonder: did he make the same choices we made? How many of the 36 endings did he experience? Did he read it aloud? Did he have friends or siblings who he read with or to? Was he like me? Was he shy and awkward, finding escape and comfort and companionship inside the covers of this book and others like it?

I’ll never know, and I don’t want to know. I just love the mystery, and I love the connection. I love the continuity that exists between someone putting this book into Dean’s hands, thirty-six years ago, and it finding its way into my hands, last night.

So I had this idea to encourage the viewers to donate a book to R.I.F., either by purchasing one from their wishlist, or maybe by donating a book from their personal collection to a library, or a school. I just thought it would be cool to take the joy that I (and presumably some of the viewers) indirectly got from this R.I.F. program, and spread it around a little bit. Because the world is overflowing with sadness and despair right now, and we could maybe chip away at it, just a little bit.

I’d love it if you’d do something to promote literacy in your community, or make it possible to give books to some kids who don’t have the privilege and good fortune we have. We have no idea how we can touch and affect and change a life through a simple act of anonymous kindness, but maybe in thirty-six years, someone will pick up a book that one of us helped put into the hands of a child, and experience the same joy we all experienced last night.

that time i met nerf herder

Just a bunch of nerds on a boat.

I’ve been a fan of Nerf Herder since before the first record came out, because my friend had a pre-release. It was right around the time that Weezer stopped being Weezer, and Nerf Herder was all OH HELLO PEOPLE WHO LIKE CATCHY NERD ROCK WANT TO HANG OUT?

When I found out that the band was going to be on this year’s JoCo Cruise, I peed a little. But just a little, because I have moderately decent self control from time to time.

I got to spend some time with every member of the band while we were on the boat, and they are the nicest people, you guys. I also got to stand in the front row when they headlined JoCochella in Lareto, Mexico. I also also got to perform Sloop John B. with them on stage on the last night of the JoCo Cruise.

So, yeah, it was a pretty big deal for me, and one of those times I stopped to look around and say thank you to the universe for putting me into this timeline (as you can imagine, I spend a lot of time wondering when me from the future will get around to repairing this timeline).



dead trees give no shelter

Last year, a couple of weeks before Halloween, I had this idea to write a short, supernatural horror story. At the time, I was deep in the first draft of the short story that became a novella that really wants to be a novel (which has since been titled “All We Ever Wanted Was Everything”), so switching tracks to work on something different was intended to be a quick detour that would give me something to release for Halloween.

Once I got into it, though, Project Ravenswood took on its own life and it went from being a short story that I expected to finish around 3500 words after a week or so, to something I worked on for several months and just finished yesterday, at a little under 14,000 words. I retitled it “Dead Trees Give No Shelter”, and now I have to decide what I’m going to do with it. Part of me wants to hold onto it and put it out as part of the short collection it was originally intended to be part of, another part of me wants to release it right away as an ebook, still another part of me wants to pitch it to a couple of editors I respect, and still another part of me wants to record and release it as an audiobook original.

So I’m not sure what happens next with this story, because I’ve never worked this long on something that’s this (relatively) short, and I’m in unfamiliar territory right now. I do know that I get to do two things:

  1. I get to erase it from the white board.
  2. I get to go back to work on the novel.

Oh, and I get to release a new work of creative fiction for the first time in years. That’s pretty cool, and feels really good. However I get this story from me to you, I think you’ll enjoy it … or, at least, I hope you do.

The Collapsing Empire

No, it’s not a political post. It’s an audiobook post. But I understand why you may be confused.

My performance of Scalzi’s newest book, The Collapsing Empire, is available today from Audible.

John and I are the same age, grew up in the same area, and have a lot of the same cultural influences. That means that we write and talk in a very similar vernacular. We’re also very good friends, so I’ve heard John talk a whole bunch, and I’ve also heard him read his own work a whole bunch. Put those things together, and what you get is a pretty great team, if I do say so myself.

I’ve been fortunate enough to perform a lot of Scalzi’s books, include Fuzzy Nation, and Redshirts. I love John’s writing, and it’s a joy to perform, so when I was asked to do The Collapsing Empire, I was thrilled. I’m super proud of the work we did on this book, and want to publicly thank my director, Gabrielle de Cuir, who has helped me do the very best audiobook work I can do, on this and other books.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about The Collapsing Empire!

Our universe is ruled by physics, and faster-than-light travel is not possible – until the discovery of The Flow, an extradimensional field we can access at certain points in space-time that transports us to other worlds, around other stars.

Humanity flows away from Earth, into space, and in time forgets our home world and creates a new empire, the Interdependency, whose ethos requires that no one human outpost can survive without the others. It’s a hedge against interstellar war – and a system of control for the rulers of the empire.

The Flow is eternal – but it is not static. Just as a river changes course, The Flow changes as well, cutting off worlds from the rest of humanity. When it’s discovered that The Flow is moving, possibly cutting off all human worlds from faster-than-light travel forever, three individuals – a scientist, a starship captain, and the empress of the Interdependency – are in a race against time to discover what, if anything, can be salvaged from an interstellar empire on the brink of collapse.

Here’s my non-spoiler review, from my Goodreads account:

As delightful and easy to read as Scalzi at his best (Redshirts, Old Man’s War), with characters who are going to stay with you whenever you have to put the book down … which you aren’t going to want to do.

I won’t discuss plot, at all, but I will say this much: like all great SF, and like the SF that has become accepted as classic, The Collapsing Empire works as a wonderful SF tale … but it also has important allegory, metaphor, and commentary on some things that are going on right now, for readers who are open to that sort of thing. For those who aren’t, it doesn’t beat you over the head with it, which is a pretty neat trick.

Yep. It’s a great book, and I’m grateful to be part of its life.

and now, the weather.

My brain’s been doing this really neat thing every night between the time I shut off the light and fall asleep. I can’t recall specifically when it started, but for several weeks, now, before it begins its nightly delivery of nightmares and stress dreams, it opens up this box of memories labeled THINGS YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT, MAKE YOU SAD, OR OTHERWISE UPSET YOU AT SOME POINT that it recently found, pulls one out, and then spends as much time as it can doing a fucking power point presentation about it.

Most of the things in this memory box aren’t even recent. Most of the things in this memory box are from years, or even decades, ago, when I was still a little kid. None of them are particularly traumatic; most are things like “remember when this kid was a dick to you?” and “remember that time dad laughed at a thing you cared about?” and “you know, when you were 12, you could have been nicer to that guy…”

Last night, my brain was too tired to be a dick to me, and all I can recall from the few moments between turning off the light and going to sleep is listening to the white noise machine do its thing. My asshole brain didn’t dump a bunch of shitty dreams on me (that I can remember, anyway) and it even let me stay asleep for close to 8 hours before it woke me up.

And then, while I was reading the paper, it was all OH HEY I FORGOT TO BE A DICK TO YOU LAST NIGHT and it unloaded this memory on me.

I was eleven, in sixth grade. Our little private school (which was more about religious indoctrination that education, the way I remember it) gave us kids a chance to take one elective course per semester. We got a list of classes that were offered, accompanied by a slip of paper with places to write our name, grade, and then our first and second choices.

In the first semester, I had put drama as my second choice, even though it was really my first, because I had convinced myself that I wouldn’t get my first choice for some reason related to teacher vindictiveness (which, at least in this instance, wasn’t really a thing, but I was a little too smart for my own good back then). I ended up struggling through Spanish, which was awful, instead of doing improv games and putting on a show. For the second semester, I put my first choice first: Weather Science.

I was and am a weather nerd. The complexity of weather systems, how they are affected by climate, and the ability to understand weather enough to predict it has always interested me. Long before it was a thing I knew other people did, I kept a notebook journal of the weather, so I could compare whatever was happening on any given day to years before. It was fun. It made me feel smart, and even though I knew I was smart back then, I rarely felt smart.

So I put Weather Science first. When my friend, Brian, asked me why I wanted to take that class, which he thought was stupid, I told him, “Because we can be the future Doctor Georges,” referencing a legendary weather reporter from Los Angeles named Doctor George Fishbeck. This did not satisfy Brian, who was taking some kind of religious history (because we didn’t get enough of that in school, apparently).

I got the elective that I wanted, and the first day we went to our elective classes — the first time in my entire academic life that I’d gone to a different classroom for studies — I was beside myself. The writer in me wants to say that I put on a tie for the occasion, but I was probably just in the school uniform. The writer also wants to say that I was surrounded by other misfits and nerds in that class, and tell a story about how being there brought us all together … but not only did that not happen, the only memory I have — specific, or otherwise — from this elective is the one I’m about to relate.

We met in the classroom of a teacher who primarily taught the seventh graders. I remember that he was a little pudgy, wore a giant mustache, tinted eyeglasses, and acted like he was really cool and clever, even though all of us thought he was in a spectrum that ran from corny on one end to a total dick on the other. Now the writer in me wants to go back and give Brian dialog that shows us the way we all felt about this teacher, instead of telling it, now. But I’m trying to stay true to what actually happened, so here we are.

We met in the classroom, and got handouts with things on them like weather symbols on maps (which I already knew) and the Beaufort Scale (which I did not). He showed off a handheld device that in my memory is similar in size and shape to the weird little pop guns they used in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and told us that it could register wind speed and direction. Each of us would be allowed the opportunity, at least once, during the semester to hold this incredible device and record its data for the rest of the class. “Every morning, you will go outside and record the weather,” he said, “you will write down the temperature from a thermometer at your house, you will write down the air pressure if you have a barometer, and you will record the basic conditions, from Cloudy to Partly Cloudy, to Partly Sunny, to Sunny.” We did not own a barometer — as far as I knew, they were expensive bits of hardware that only people like my rich grandparents had in their sitting rooms — but we had a large thermometer outside the kitchen window, and I had already been writing down the weather in my notebook for years! I was extremely excited to be part of this class, and felt like my existing enthusiasm for weather would make me a successful student of Weather Science.

The next day, I went outside before school, and looked up into a cloudy sky. It was late in spring, and the gloomy marine layer of fog and smog hung thick over our house. It was damp and a little drizzly. In my notebook, I wrote down “Cloudy, with fog and drizzle. Calm winds. 56°” I recorded the same information on my school-issued weather homework sheet, and added that the wind was a one on the Beaufort Scale.

My mother took me to school, and my father took my sister to school, because the six year difference between us put us at different campuses, now. I went to my classes and had an uneventful day, that the writer in me wants to invent to provide contrast, and then after lunch I went into my Weather Science elective. We were only in our seats for a few moments when the teacher took us all outside. Because it was our first day outside the classroom, he would hold the mystical weather recording device for the rest of the class. I’m remembering now that we were a relatively small group of only ten or so students, so we easily clustered around him and saw that there was a very light breeze out of the southeast.

“What’s the Beaufort Scale?” He asked us.

“It’s between one and two,” said this girl named Nicole, who I remember moving effortlessly among the various cliques on campus, fitting into all of them but never really belonging to any of them.

“That’s correct,” he said.

“We are going to talk about our weather observations,” he told us, “who would like to begin?”

My arm shot up before I knew I was doing it. I was primed for this. I was ready for this. I’d been preparing for this moment, this opportunity to be smart and impressive, for years.

“Yes, Mister Wheaton,” he said, “what are your observations?”

I was in a phase that made me think Trapper Keepers were slick and futuristic, perfect for the upwardly mobile and mature student, while Pee Chee folders were outdated and better suited to elementary school, so I opened my green Trapper Keeper and pulled out the pale blue ditto sheet inside. “Cloudy, with fog and drizzle. Calm winds. 56°. Beaufort Scale: 1.”

He looked at me like I had just said it was raining unicorns.

“Really?” He said, sarcastically. The other kids laughed nervously, but I was confused.

“Yes,” I replied, earnestly.

He jabbed a stubby finger toward the sky, which was now mostly clear with just a few lingering high clouds. “Does that look cloudy to you?” Before I could answer, he added, “or is there a new definition of ‘cloudy’ that I am not aware of?”

I felt my face flush. My hair got prickly. “Well, um,” I began.

“Um. Um. Um,” he said, mocking.

“That is clear, Mister Wheaton,” he said. “That is not cloudy. That is not even partly cloudy.

Of course it was clear. It was the afternoon, and in Los Angeles we have microclimates everywhere in the county. Right now, less than a quarter of a mile away from me, on the other side of a mountain range, it’s at least ten degrees cooler than it is here. That’s how our weather works.

“We have clear skies,” he said. “Did you even do your homework?”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to respond to an authority figure who was picking on me. My dad had done it my whole life, but I still hadn’t figured it out. I didn’t know how to respond to a teacher who was not just wrong, but who was wrong when I was clearly right. I felt the entire class looking at me.

“Yes, I did,” I said. I did my best to keep my voice neutral and non-challenging. I didn’t know how to explain a microclimate, or the marine layer, or to how to stand up for myself.

“Well I don’t believe you,” he said, extending his hand and snatching my homework sheet from me. He materialized a red pen, clicked it, and wrote an F before handing it back to me. “Try to do better tomorrow.”

The writer in me wants him to have a comeuppance. The writer in me wants to tell you that the smart girl rose to my defense, that the teacher apologized and then everything was better. The writer really wants me to meet Doctor George, tell him the story, and have him tell me that my teacher was wrong and that I was a better weather reporter than he was.The writer in me can’t do that any more than the adult version of me can invent a time machine, go back to that day, and tell the young version of me that he was right and the teacher was a dick. I can’t even remember what happens next, like the film of my memory gets caught in the projector, and melts away leaving nothing more than an empty, white screen.

My brain has been dumping memories like this on me for months, and I don’t know why. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with them.

At 8:05 this morning, It was 59° and mostly clear. The winds were calm. It’s 77° and sunny right now, with a very slight breeze out of the south southeast.