The Worst Voicemail Message In Human History


This is my first blog post of 2019, and I’m trying something new: I’m going to end each blog post with an embarrassing anecdote taken from my long and storied writing career. But first, a blatant plug of a new project. To wit:

Over the past few years, I’ve written three LEGO Star Wars books for Scholastic. I hope that I get to write more at some point. My third LSW book, The Official Force Training Manual, came out in October 2018. Recently, Jonita Davis over at the Black Girl Nerds website interviewed me about the three LEGO Star Wars books I’ve written.

Also, here’s an appreciation piece I wrote for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the life and legacy of Stan Lee, shortly after Stan died in November. I knew Stan a little bit (I interviewed him for my book From Krakow to Krypton). Also, I’ve written several children’s books featuring characters he co-created, like Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, The Avengers, and so on. So I think I have a unique perspective on Stan and his work.

And now, my embarrassing anecdote: When I was first starting out as a freelance writer, I was an entertainment journalist for Primedia Youth Entertainment Group. They published various teen and tween magazines, like Teen Beat, Tiger Beat, and BOP. I wrote for all three of those publications.

At a certain point, I discovered I was pretty good at wangling interviews with pop stars (e.g. Justin Timberlake). Because I knew quite a bit about hip-hop and R&B, I interviewed a few rappers for those magazines as well.

And somehow, I got Timbaland’s phone number.

If you don’t know who Timbaland is, well, he’s a rapper, songwriter, and music producer. His real name is Tim Mosley. I think I was trying to interview him for an article I was writing on Destiny’s Child. (Remember, this was a long time ago, when Destiny’s Child was still a thing.) Anyway, I got Timbaland’s phone number. I didn’t know any of Tim’s “people” (e.g. his agent, his manager, his personal assistant). So I had no choice. I just had to call Tim DIRECTLY. Which you’re not really supposed to do when trying to get a hold of a music-industry celebrity. But I had no other choice. So I called him. He didn’t pick up. And I left him the following voicemail message:

“Hi, Tim? Uh, I mean, Timbaland? This is Arie Kaplan. I’m an entertainment journalist and I’m trying to reach Timbaland. Timbaland, I don’t know if this is your direct number or if this is your assistant’s number. But if it’s not Timbaland’s number, I’m trying to get in touch with Timbaland. So if Timbaland could please contact me, I’d really like to interview Timbaland for the cover story I’m writing on Destiny’s Child for Teen Beat. Anyway, if this IS Timbaland, I hope you’re doing well, Timbaland. Thanks for your time, Timbaland!”

Wow. Think I said the word “Timbaland” enough during that painfully long, rambling, awkward, insane voicemail message? BTW, if you’ve never met me and you don’t know what my voice sounds like, please realize that as I kept saying the word “Timbaland” on that voicemail message, I was acutely aware that I sounded about as cool as Larry David would’ve sounded saying it. As I said, Tim never responded to that message. I bet you’re not surprised to hear that.   

Horrifically-Relevant Things I’ve Written (And In One Case, Illustrated)


In honor of Halloween (and totally NOT in honor of me being a shameless self-promoter), here are five of the horror-themed projects I’ve worked on over the years, all of which (except the last one) are on sale now:

1) PARANORMAL STATE: POISON SPRING: As I’ve mentioned on this site’s “Game Writing” page, I wrote the screenplay for the Paranormal State: Poison Spring video game, which was produced by Legacy Games in 2013. You can watch a trailer for the game here

2) THE DOCTOR STRANGE LITTLE GOLDEN BOOK: I’ve written a few Little Golden Books over the past couple of years. The Doctor Strange Little Golden Book was the first one. It was published by Penguin Random House in 2017, and it was illustrated by Michael Atiyeh and Michael Borkowski. 

3) SIMPSONS TREEHOUSE OF HORROR: GRAVEYARD SHIFT: From 2008-2018, I wrote various stories for (the recently-shuttered) comic book publisher Bongo Comics. This was one of them. It was a story published in 2015’s Simpsons Treehouse of Horror #21, and it was called “Graveyard Shift.” “Graveyard Shift” was the cover story in that issue, meaning that the cover depicts a scene from that story. As you might be able to tell, it’s a parody of the 1984 film Gremlins

4) TALES FROM THE CRYPT: JUMPING THE SHARK: As I mentioned on this site’s “Comic Book Writing” page, I wrote the story “Jumping the Shark” for issue #6 of the late 2000s relaunch of Tales from the Crypt, published by Papercutz. You can read the story now in the trade paperback Tales from the Crypt #4: Crypt-Keeping It Real

5) MONSTERFONT: A DECORATIVE TYPEFACE: Okay, this is just something I drew for my own amusement, and it hasn’t been published anywhere. Over the years, I’ve drawn one-panel gag cartoons for various publications (e.g. Nickelodeon Magazine). I haven’t posted any of those cartoons on this site, but I will soon. UNTIL THEN, please enjoy “Monsterfont, A Decorative Typeface.”

“IncrediBuilds: The Flash” Comes Out On October 15th!


Recently, I wrote an IncrediBuilds book about the CW television series The Flash. The book comes with a balsa wood (Jay Garrick) Flash helmet, which you can build and paint. IncrediBuilds: The Flash will be available on Monday October 15, 2018 from Insight Editions. Here are some images of the book’s front and back cover art, as well as the case the book comes in.

The LEGO DC Super Heroes Visual Dictionary Comes Out TOMORROW!


Recently, I co-wrote a book called The LEGO DC Super Heroes Visual Dictionary, which will be published by DK tomorrow, Tuesday September 4th, 2018. (My co-author on that project was Elizabeth Dowsett.) In April, I talked about what it was like working on the book when I was interviewed by the geek culture blog Comics Beat. As of this writing, The LEGO DC Super Heroes Visual Dictionary is the #1 New Release in Children’s Dictionaries on Amazon. And here’s some info on the book from the Penguin Random House site: 

“Celebrate the entire world of LEGO DC Super Heroes with this comprehensive visual guide to all the minifigures, vehicles and sets, including the LEGO Batman Movie sets. Explore every detail of LEGO Batman’s Batcave, look around Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet, examine Lex Luthor’s awesome mech and find out about all the LEGO DC Super Heroes minifigures’ weapons and gadgets. Find out how the awesome sets and amazing video games are created in the Beyond the Brick chapter, which features concept art and an interview with a LEGO designer. LEGO DC Super Heroes: The Visual Dictionary will tell you everything there is to know about LEGO DC Super Heroes.” 

Please contact me if you want to use this for any reason.