Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 31, 2008
The end of the year is always a good time to take stock, look at what has happened and what you want to happen. This usually results in resolutions and promises to one’s self and with luck this year I will return to the gym, lose some weight, read more books, continue to get things organized around the house, and run for re-election to the RTM.
But in looking back, this has been an exceptionally difficulty and rewarding year.
Robbie’s illness and passing certainly overshadows everything. His absence remains keenly felt by his parents, sisters, family, and friends. We’ve all mourned and honored his memory in some wonderful ways.
Professionally, this was my first full year as a freelancer and financially it was possibly my best year ever which was certainly nice. My client list was varied from ACE (Heroes Happen Here and two graphic novels), DelRey Books, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Stone Arch Books, Write Now!, scifi.com, highlyplacedsources.com, Rosen Books, Star Trek magazine, Bill Fawcett & Associates, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and ComicMix. I’ve also consulted for Valiant Entertainment and the New York Comic-Con.
There were professional disappointments including work done for Moonstone Books that will never see the light of day and a number of proposals that are sitting on editors’ desks awaiting thumbs up or down.
Both Famous Monsters and ComicMix experienced cash flow issues that required me to withdraw from day to day contributions. Today’s my last day writing regularly for ComicMix as the site retrenches just a wee bit more before it launches phase three, which I remain convinced will be very cool. With luck, I will be doing more (paying) work for both in the months ahead.
I enter 2009 with one magazine assignment and lots of hope. This is the first dry spell since going freelance in August 2007 and while I intellectually understand this is part of the business, psychologically it’s driving me nuts.
My work variety has certainly been rewarding but perhaps the thing I take the most pride in is Kate. Through some extraordinary circumstances, she completed college, had some time with the family, and then segued into her adult life without skipping a beat. She settled in nicely at her government job, made friends, got rewarded for her diligence and found a nice place to live. She’s learning to budget and balance all her commitments and is doing so with a tremendous smile. Somehow, though all this, we’ve done a good job with her and she’s flying high.
Deb and I are hoping 2009 will be less stressful in every respect but at least we have one another to lean one when things get grim. May everyone have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and may the New Year be a better one for all.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 30, 2008
For obvious reasons, I did not manage the same volume of reading this year as last, but 36 books is still respectable, especially compared with the average American.
Of course, that’s all atop the thousand-plus comic books, daily newspapers and magazines which include Time, The Week, Entertainment Weekly, Smithsonian, Geek, Alter Ego, Back Issue, Starlog, and assorted issues of this and that.
A look over the list shows plenty of my favorite writers turning up such as Robert B. Parker and friends including Keith DeCandido and Peter David. Every year I try and read new authors, usually fiction. I read several works by new non-fiction authors, and particularly liked Cait Murphy’s Crazy ’08 about the 1908 baseball season. For fiction, my fellow Media tie-in writer Crista Faust sneaks in under the wire as my new fiction author.
The To Be Read stack grows faster than I can keep up and hope to hit a better balance in the coming year.
For those who care, the list of works read:
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 26, 2008
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day proved tougher than I imagined. Robbie so delighted in Christmas that his absence was very keenly felt. I was invited to sit in the choir loft with Deb and Kate during the Midnight Mass so I wouldn’t be on my own in the pews. Mike, the hcoir director, had a few seats set aside for strays like me and I admit it was good to be with people. Even so, I hadn’t really been to the church since the funeral and it was hard.
Christmas morning also proved difficult because I kept imagining Robbie in the easy chair, a big grin on his ten year old face, hugging each unwrapped gift, cherishing it as his absolute favorite, until the next package.
Santa was good to the three of us. I got new shirts, socks, and a sweater which were all needed. I also received the 16-CD box set of Monty Python for my viewing pleasure along with the new Yo-Yo Ma CD. My brother gifted me with the complete Banacek so I have plenty to watch.
Deb loved her gifts, as did Kate, although both received things that required us to hit the mall today. Three-plus hours later, we returned, with even more stuff thanks to the unbeatable sales.
Yesterday was spent at my brother-in-law’s house. Jim & Jennifer fed us all day long as we enjoyed Tropic Thunder which we gave his son Zach. It was an Italian feast which was a change in routine, something to distract us. They also gave me this year’s Star Trek ornaments, which Deb reluctantly allowed me to put on the tree last night.
In theory the rest of the weekend should be restful and low key, which I truly am looking forward to.
Was Santa good to everyone else?
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 24, 2008
I delivered my final outstanding freelance assignment a little while ago, updated ComicMix into Sunday morning and can actually enjoy the holidays.
There’s always something more to do, but essentially, I can kick back and be with Deb and Kate and enjoy tonight and tomorrow knowing there’s nothing pressing waiting for me.
It’s been a struggle this month to fit everything in as the Iron Man novel proved a little tougher than I thought plus time lost to proofing other projects, getting more involved in the political life thanks to the Madoff investment mess, and the usual time-consuming holiday stuff.
Just as I hit send, the phone rang with some disappointing news which we’ll talk about another time. Right now, though, I am shutting down and resting. So, to one and all, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukah, and a joyous, safe, restful holiday season.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 23, 2008
It’s said you can judge a person’s life by the quality of their friends. Well, Robbie had a very rich life. His friends all stepped up and did something lovely in his memory.
As previously reported, his friend Naomi had no on to give a stuffed animal to, her father suggested she donate the animal to Yale-New Haven Hospital, she created a Facebook event, and it took off. She was on WEBE-FM, we were interviewed for the Fairfield Citizen-News, and New Haven Register. The Southport Brewing Company set up boxes to collect donations at their five restaurants. Boxes sprouted at the two high schools and his former middle school. And stuff just kept arriving.
This morning, Deb and I filled our minivan with toys along with Naomi’s car, which was stuffed front and back. We headed up to YNHH and were met by the full Child Life team, all pushing carts. And they had to send for more. As we hugged and smiled and laughed, we heard that the donations were more than expected and desperately needed because donations overall have been down given the economy.
As Naomi and Roo followed some of the staff to the 10th floor, nicknamed Santa’s Workshop, Deb and I wheeled a cart to 7-West. We were personally donating some of Robbie’s toys and games to the playroom. Joining us was Jess, his former nurse, who came in on her day off to visit.
Stepping onto 7-West was an odd, familiar feeling, yet different because we were there to be socialable, not look after a patient. It was with mixed feelings we recognized some of the patients after all these months. The feelings were overwhelmed by joy as we hugged one nurse or doctor after another. People broke into surprised smiles as we wheeled the cart down the hallway. Lining one wall, we chatted, playing catch-up. Everyone asked after Kate and we heard about nursing school or new puppies.
After a delay, Dr. Massaro joined us and she eventually took us down to the clinic so we could Dr. Beardsley. It also allowed us to say hi to the staff down there and once more we filled a hallway and did the usual quick catch-up. Of course, with the doctors we talked a bit about Robbie’s case and how difficult it truly was, something we didn’t appreciate at the time.
After a few hours, the doctors and nurses had to work, Jess had to run her errands and it was a working day for us. We left, feeling proud of his friends, and fairly happy to have visited one and all.
Posted by Glenn Hauman on December 19, 2008
As widely reported, Majel Barrett Roddenberry passed away yesterday. That it was covered so thoroughly is a testament to her place in Star Trek and pop culture canon.
I first met Majel at the Committee conventions of the 1970s. She was usually holed up in the bar with Gene so, being underage, my access to her was limited. But she was always pleasant.
Later, when we wound up as guests at the same shows, she was never anything less than gracious. She loved to gossip and sitting between her and Robin Curtis at one event I heard things to make me blush.
She was a good enough actress to be cast in the initial pilot where she fell in love with Roddenberry. They had initially met when he cast her on his previous series, The Lieutenant. Their romance was one of the best things to happen during the years Star Trek was on NBC. Recognizing that parts were getting harder to come by, she wisely launched Lincoln Enterprises which was one of the first outfits to sell merchandise to fans. Trying to stay ahead of pop culture trends, she added Kung Fu and Search although neither did the sort of business Star Trek materials did.
Gene kept casting her in his other pilots and she remained by his side through the lean times.
I always enjoyed talking with her and enjoyed her enthusiasm for being out and among the fans when making appearances. Thankfully, she lent her voice to the new J.J. Abrams film prior to her passing., a fitting link from creator to current caretaker.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 18, 2008
Yesterday was largely a day off and it was divine.
I hurriedly did my ComicMix work and then left for the train station and a day in the city. No sooner did I reach Manhattan then I ran into Paul Kupperberg, and we meandered over to the our luncheon. A group of us in the publishing field have been meeting at the same diner for the last 15+ years and I hadn’t made it in all year. It felt so right sitting there, eating mediocre food with my friends and playing catch up. In fact, rather than everyone scatter after an hour, the luncheon lasted almost two which was a treat.
Paul, Aaron Rosenberg and I began hunting for a Starbucks where we could sip coffee and create. Fortunately, they are so densely packed that every 1.5 blocks or so, we found one and on our fourth try, found one with an empty table. The three of us ordered coffee and spent two hours or so working out an idea we have for a project and we hashed through the business and the content. If this thing takes off, it’d be fun. If it doesn’t, it still leaves us with intellectual property we can use elsewhere.
Paul ran off to see a friend, Aaron went home to Queens so I wandered to Midtown Comics to kill time. Sure enough, Archie writer Alex Simmons happened to be doing a signing so I got to browse and then catch up with him which was a nice way to pass the hours. It Back around 1988, Dick Giordano put me and Alex together since Dick liked Alex’s Indiana Jones-style pitch. We got as far as Gene Colan designing the characters before Paul Levitz indicated he didn’t feel the timing was right and worked ground to a halt. Ah well.
I spent an hour reading at Grand Central then met up with Paul, Charlie Kochman, and Martin Pasko for dinner, something the four of us did on a regular basis. We dined and chatted and laughed and caught up and enjoyed each other’s company immensely. So much so that I missed the 9”07 so caught the 9:37 where I ran into a Fairfielder I hadn’t seen in ages. We chatted the whole way home.
I came home to discover that I was coming down with a cold. I also found a set of second pass proofs for the project that I haven’t talked much about but clearly is far along. I at least I have until the 12th to turn it around.
Otherwise, this week, I have been filling ComicMix and then clearing out correspondence or other activities. Tuesday night, I finally signed 350 Zorro bookplates that were overdue to Moonstone. Finished the Marvel Chronicle which I liked despite some flaws.
With luck, life will grant me more days like Wednesday in 2009.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 14, 2008
Iron Man is off to my editor. This morning I managed to go in and finish the last 60 pages of manuscript polish, adding in some bits I had forgotten, and cleaning up the action a bit. My editor, my pal Steve Saffel, now has to read it and tell me what needs tightening, rewriting, and strengthening before he has to deliver his edited version to DelRey in early January.
Meantime, work has begun on the cover and I just saw first draft cover copy which makes the book sound exciting. With luck, the contents will match.
Overall, I am please with the book and recognize it could be stronger in spots, which is why I always seek to work with a strong editor. Some of the character arcs work well and I think the supporting cast gets there chance to shine. If anyone is underserved its Happy Hogan but not everyone can be the star.
After it’s formally delivered, I’ll riff a bit about the process and choices made in adapting stories and character from a particular moment in Marvel history.
I’m thrilled its delivered, on time no less, because now I can concentrate on the holidays. I have one short thing to deliver to DC and no doubt other little things will crop up, but essentially I can spend my afternoons on things like shopping, wrapping, shipping and then unpacking the home office (at last).
What will January bring for work? Well, that’s an interesting question. I just got a small assignment from Marvel for Marvel Spotlight but beyond that, it depends on which proposals get read or green lit. It may depend more on editors calling me with stuff I haven’t even heard about yet. Since going fulltime freelance, I am approaching my first work slowdown and the timing could be better since it appears emblematic of the general economy’s downturn.
I remain cautiously optimistic I will remain gainfully employed by ComicMix and my other time will be spoken for with paying assignments.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 10, 2008
Now that it has been resolved, let me tell you about my latest skirmish in the world of customer service.
On April 25, I booked three tickets via Travelocity to Indianapolis for my nephew’s bar mitzvah.
On September 5 I called to notify Travelocity that I needed to cancel Robbie’s ticket. I was informed a copy of the death certificate needed to be faxed in. When I followed up, I was informed it had not been received, could I attach a scan of the document. I sent the scan to customer service department, at their repeated request, on September 10, September 12, September 13 and again on the 15th.
On October 9, I spoke with a customer service agent to confirm everything was resolved. The agent said the ticket had definitely been canceled and I’d receive written confirmation within 24 hours.
On November 18, I spoke with a different customer service agent and his supervisor. They had no record of the incident being resolved and in fact, when speaking with an agent at United, the airline had no records.
I wrote a letter the next day to the president of Travelocity and days later, on the 25th, Betty Mangum, Executive Resolution Coordinator, was on the case. I had a letter from her to United Airlines asking them to resolve the matter on their end.
The ever useful Mohammed Khan at United’s web refunds e-mailed me on December 1 and asked for the electronic ticket number, already included on Betty’s letter. He also wanted more details such as our purchase date, departure dates, and other stuff.
This morning, I woke up to an e-mail from Betty stating:
Thank you for taking the time to advise us of the situation you encountered with the airline reservation. Our priority is to offer complete and accurate information as well as superior customer service at all times. Travelocity would like to offer our condolences on your recent loss. We apologize for the delay in responding to your issue.
After a review of your file, Travelocity has contacted United Airlines on your behalf to request a refund of Robert Greenberger Jr.’s ticket. United Airlines has granted a full refund and has processed a credit in the amount of $290.00 to the credit card used for the original purchase.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Please be assured that you are a valued customer and we look forward to your continued patronage. Should you require additional information, or if we may be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Case closed, but did it have to take three months?
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 9, 2008
I’ve spoken often about Robbie and his affect on people. What I haven’t spoken enough about are his amazing friends. They rallied around him in person, through e-mail and through notes and cards for his entire illness.
Even after his passing, they continue to rally. One of his closest friends was Naomi Hagel, As she has written, “Robbie was my little brother, yet somehow my protector.” Every Christmas they would exchange stuffed animals and this year she missed having someone to gift.
“As I told my father this, he suggested I buy a stuffed animal for the Children’s Hospital, for those who can use it,” she wrote and from there, Robbie’s Christmas Stocking took root. She created the Facebook page and invited everyone she knew.
To date, 136 people have graciously agreed to participate in one way or another. Word has spread. Yesterday, she was contacted by the Fairfield Citizen-News and today she did a brief bit for WEBE 107.9 radio. The station donated a $300 gift card to Toys R Us and will broadcast the bit in about three days.
The drive wraps up late next week and I gather we will be helping Naomi and her cohort Roo Bosco schlep a ton of things to Yale-New Haven. I couldn’t be prouder of these people and their efforts.