Talking the Mets, Star Wars, Jupiter Pirates and even ESPN with my friend Will Leitch.
The rather awesome folks at Tosche Station invited me on their podcast to talk about the Clone Wars Episode Guide, the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the road from WSJ.com to freelancing, and more.
Now it can be told!
Over the last nine months I’ve reminded myself again and again not to discuss this book, since it hadn’t been announced. But now it’s been previewed here and is up for pre-order at Amazon. (I was at Book Expo over the weekend and had no idea it was on display.)
Anyway, yes, this is a super-cool deluxe book in the same vein as Jedi Path and Book of Sith. I collaborated on it with Dan Wallace and Ryder Wyndham, two ace Star Wars writers and good friends. (Dan and I co-authored The Essential Atlas, while Ryder and I wrote a Transformers trilogy together.)
Bounty Hunter Code has got lots of bounty hunter goodness, some Mandalorian history, Death Watch propaganda, and an insert or two that will warm the hearts of West End Games fans. Just be careful opening the box — hunters have ways of safeguarding their secrets.
TFN was quick on the Storify draw with this nicely put-together recap of yesterday’s DK TweetChat about the Clone Wars Episode Guide.
You can follow me on Twitter here. You’ll get Star Wars stuff, Mets stuff, bits on writing and digital journalism, and random bursts of irascibility. I’m really selling it, aren’t I?
My latest Star Wars book, The Clone Wars Episode Guide, hits stores today. It covers all five seasons and the Clone Wars movie — and the episodes are listed in chronological order.
You can get yours right here — and if you follow that link, part of the purchase price goes to support the Jason Fry Beer and Mortgage Fund. Either way, thank you!
If you’re a fan who’s familiar with the Season 1 Episode Guide that was released back in 2009 (or the UK-only Seasons 1 & 2 version), this is a rather different animal: think of it as the Clone Wars Character Encyclopedia, but for episodes. It’s a kids’ book, but older fans will also find it an entertaining, useful companion for the show. And as you’d expect from a DK book it’s beautifully designed and full of great art.
I’ll be doing a TweetChat today (June 3) at 3 pm ET about the book — my Twitter handle is jasoncfry, and you can join in by following the hashtag #DKChat. I’ll also be doing some podcasts later this week about the book and my other projects. Either way, see you soon!
This was the third year I got to visit Star Wars Weekends as an author. This time out, we had DK’s new Clone Wars Episode Guide available a week before it hits bookstores (get yours here), lots of fans who came by Darth’s Mall and the Writer’s Stop to get books signed, talk Star Wars or just say hello, and for the time ever I was able to bring my wife and son along. (The Aerosmith rollercoaster was Joshua’s favorite. Good kid.)
If you’ve never been, Star Wars Weekends is awesome — besides Star Tours, there are a ton of people dressed as stormtroopers, Tuskens and other characters from a galaxy far, far away; interviews and shows and parades with Star Wars actors and behind-the-scenes folks; and of course fans bonding excitedly over the latest news, whether it’s Episode VII or those Clone Wars bonus episodes or comics or something else. And the Disney folks do a great job making sure everyone has a good time — it’s practically a cliche to say Disney are masters of customer service and fan experiences, but it shouldn’t be. That stuff’s amazingly important and they don’t lose sight of it, whether a guest is looking for an attraction or waiting in line or ordering from a menu or figuring out when to leave for the airport. The less you need to worry about those things, the more you can think about having fun — and that’s good for Disney but also for you. I really admire their commitment to getting those things right.
Anyway, some quick pictures from the weekend.
There it is — the new book. I’d never actually held one until I got handed the first one to sign, which was both fun and a little funny. As an author, you don’t really think about a book’s endpapers until you need to sign one. Are they glossy, meaning you have to tell people to hold the book open for a few seconds post-signing so the ink doesn’t smudge? Most importantly, what color are they? If they’re black and you don’t have a silver Sharpie, that’s a problem. And if you have a silver Sharpie, do you have another one for when the first one inevitably runs out of ink?
Also: love my sign. A cast member asked (perfectly nicely — she was curious) if I carried one around with me and I said no, Disney makes them. For three years now I’ve been tempted to steal mine at the end of each signing weekend, but have never done so, because I’m a huge wuss.
Author’s view of Darth’s Mall. That’s a giant Darth Vader made out of Lego.
One thing I’ve learned at Star Wars appearances with kids: You can’t compete with stormtroopers, and you really can’t compete with R2-D2. You’re some schlub with a pen who did something involved with a book, and that’s R2-D2 over there beeping and rolling around and being awesome. No contest.
It definitely keeps the ego in check, which is a good thing — honestly, some of our literary darlings could use this lesson. ”Yeah, you won the [whatever] prize, but get over yourself. It’s not like you’re R2-D2.”
And there I am. The shot’s by my pal Chris Wyman of Official Pix, who I hope won’t mind that I swiped it.
First the girl on the left gave me her autograph, which was awesome. Then they asked if I signed arms. Hmm … why the heck not?
A friend of mine joked that they’ll never wash those arms again. I suspect that instead they’ve washed them about 10,000 times since Star Wars Weekends, seeing how a Sharpie is basically a laundry marker. Sorry ladies.
And yeah, that really is my signature. I know it looks ridiculous.
Can’t make San Diego Comic-Con this year, alas, so DK sent me some bookplates to sign — with an invitation to add doodles if I wanted. I like doing that at cons if I have time and think a kid will get a kick out of it. Or if it will annoy an illustrator unfortunate enough to be signing next to me.
Why didn’t I draw Han/Anakin/etc.? Or prequel characters? Because what you see is what I can draw, and I never had weeks worth of study halls where I could learn how to draw prequel stuff.
Well, technically, Hollywood Studios. But still!
I’ll be one of the authors in attendance for this year’s Star Wars Weekends, which if you’ve never been is just amazingly fun. (Last year I rode the new Star Tours with Del Rey’s Erich Schoeneweiss and we both got to be the Rebel Spy.) It’s one of my favorite venues for meeting readers and talking Star Wars, and the Disney folks always do a superb job making everything work.
A bit of cool news: DK has arranged to get copies of the Clone Wars Episode Guide a week before the street date, so Star Wars Weekend guests will get the first crack at this book. As you’d expect from DK it’s beyond beautiful — I’m excited to finally get a chance to hold one myself!
Here’s my schedule:
Friday, May 24: 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Darth’s Mall
Saturday, May 25: 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Writer’s Stop
Sunday, May 26: 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., at Darth’s Mall
Come on out!
Over at the official site, a discussion of the writing of Shadow Conspiracy, my adaptation of a four-part Clone Wars arc. Contains a discussion of the differences between visual and print storytelling, and a contest of sorts for really, really hardcore Star Wars fans.
Years ago, I made walking-around money by interviewing actors who played minor characters in The Phantom Menace — one of whom gave me an offhand bit of advice I’ve never forgotten.
At one point I spoke with the comedian Scott Capurro, who played half of the two-headed announcer that presides over the Podrace on Tatooine. (He was Beed, the green head.) The other head (Fode, the red one) was played by Greg Proops. Proops got to speak English, while Capurro had to jabber in Huttese. The original plan was to composite the actors’ faces onto a CGI body, so the two men spent hours being fitted with heavy makeup and were filmed in blue body suits. Then the footage got tossed — the alien announcer was entirely CGI in the finished movie, with Proops and Capurro supplying voices only. Which they could have done without latex and glue and cameras and a lot of the fuss and bother.
I don’t know if Capurro was tired of answering the same questions about Star Wars, if my versions of the same questions were particularly stupid ones, or if he was just having a bad day. (Maybe it was all three.) Whatever the case, it was a halting, difficult interview — he pretty clearly didn’t want to talk, and I couldn’t find a way to draw him out.
Well, except at the very end.
What Capurro had gone through struck me as a tedious and frustrating experience for an actor, and I stammered something to that effect.
“That’s showbiz, baby!” he replied, sounding equal parts weary and amused.
It turned out to be a useful line.
I first used it with the reporters I managed at The Wall Street Journal Online, when their carping grew excessive about lovingly crafted stories that were held, or spiked because of some new development, or manhandled by some non-simpatico editor up the chain. Eventually most of them took it to heart, and all I had to do was lift an eyebrow to get them to nod and retreat.
Capurro’s advice has been even more useful as a freelancer, where so much more is out of your control.
Most of the projects I work on run smoothly and are fun, and with luck you’ll be able to say the same. But there will be exceptions. Projects you eagerly await will get rethought and morph into ones you endure. Publishing plans will change and stuff you’ve written will vanish into limbo, possibly never to return. Clients will change their minds at the last minute and make everyone scramble. Projects will run the gauntlet successfully, make it to the web or print or video … and utterly fail to connect with an audience.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an actor or a photographer or a writer: Lots of things can go wrong as an idea evolves into a finished product. Most of those things are nobody’s fault. A few of them pretty clearly are somebody’s fault, but there’s rarely any recourse.
Because that’s showbiz, baby.
You can bitch about it — hell, that’s why God invented beer — but you chose this life, in which uncertainties and aggravations compete for space with successes and joys. So keep your bitching brief. And then get back in the chair, let the makeup people do their jobs, make sure you know your lines, get in front of the camera and try again.