Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 31, 2012
Last day of a tough year, made tougher by yesterday’s news that my longtime, close friend Peter David had a stroke. But, the end of the year brings about a chance for reflection, an opportunity to be reminded of the highs and lows.
The highest high is that in May I was awarded my Master’s Degree in Education and the year ended with the state certifying me on the 21st, the last step before employment. I never thought I’d need a Master’s in anything, then again, I didn’t expect to need a second career so change is one of those annoying certainties.
Coupled with those highs were the lows that were the first round of student teaching and the frustration that were my two online courses this summer. Thankfully, the fall student teaching was far more satisfying and useful.
In my other profession, I managed to complete packaging the second graphic novel for the Discovery Channel and Zenescope’s Silver Dragon Books imprint. It turned out well despite the constant revisions that caused us to run late. My long-delayed The Art of Howard Chaykin book finally saw print as did the well-received Star Trek: The Complete Unauthorized History. In the digital world, Crazy 8 Press released my contribution to the Latchkeys universe, The Ugly Little Bloke. The series has such promise but a digital series for YA readers just hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. Then there’s ReDeus: Divine Tales, which debuted in August, got some nice notices and sales, encouraging me, Aaron Rosenberg and Paul Kupperberg to ready two more volumes for 2013. Some people think well enough of my creative work as witnessed by Hallmark inviting me out to lecture on worldbuilding in October. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 30, 2012
This year, I tracked all my reading through Goodreads, which kept me honest and allowed me to keep tabs on things I intend to read sooner or later. According to the site, I exceeded my goal of 75 books by three (presuming I finish Target Lancer by New Year’s). As the site’s popularity has grown, I’ve wound up with 308 friends, so each day my Inbox contains a lengthy report of what people have been reading, lusting to read, and what they generally have to say about the works they’ve consumed. It’s led me to try a few things and one or two to avoid.
Based on the reviews and buzz, I finally sampled Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which was fun. The Art of Fielding was a well-reviewed book using baseball as its background so I eagerly read this and found the ending disappointing and wrong, making me wonder what the fuss was all about. I found Bond Girl lightweight and enjoyable. I also really liked The Last Werewolf and want to read the sequel. And yes, I succumbed and read Fifty Shades of Gray to see what the fuss was all about but had no desire to read books two and three.
While commuting to school in the spring and fall, I once more relied on the Fairfield Library’s audiobooks and continued to work my way through classics I somehow missed through the years. That included Treasure Island and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
I found myself disappointed by several works form people who I had read and enjoyed in the past or were colleagues I knew and liked. The biggest disappointment may have been John Grisham’s The Associate, which contained little in the way of surprises or interesting characterization. Similarly, Greg Rucka’s Alpha was incredibly unsurprising and Grant Morrison’s Supergods was a mess.
The two major biographies I read – Cleopatra and Steve Jobs — were both enlightening and fascinating.
I continue to read plenty of comics, attempting to stretch the types I read as I sample many of the fine offerings from creators at Dark Horse and Image. DC’s New 52 is clearly aimed at an audience that does not entirely include me and what passes for acceptable storytelling is baffling. Marvel Now promised to be a more organic reboot but too often the new teams have entirely ignored what came before so feel disjointed and there are several I’m ready to drop.
I somehow manage to keep up with The Week, Time, Smithsonian and Entertainment Weekly but can’t add another magazine, letting Alter Ego and Back Issue! pile up.
Perhaps the biggest change is the iPad. I have stopped buying physical books to save a bit on money and plenty of space. I read as much as I can on the iPad, including the above magazines. I have adapted pretty well to this and certainly like the portability and lack of weight in my luggage when traveling.
My goal in 2013 is to read a little more, sample more new writers and topics. I want to be a little more interactive on Goodreads, including chatting with readers on my groups so if you’re interested, come find me.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 26, 2012
I was reminded of the simple comforts in life yesterday.
Since Thanksgiving weekend, we’ve been on the go. We spent the weekend down in Maryland then returned home and within 48 hours, a second round of work began on the house. On Friday, we declared the work done and spent the weekend putting things back or cleaning where sawdust crept into cabinets and drawers. It also meant, we finally were able to begin decorating for Christmas and feeling like the holiday season finally arrived on Yarrow Road.
By the end of Sunday, we had managed to decorate and put up the tree plus bake five batches of cookies, going from zero to dozens in a matter of hours. That felt good.
Then Kate arrived Monday morning. We finished the tree, baked pies, did other odds and ends, and finally began to settle in with our traditional seafood and pasta meal. This was followed by the annual viewing of The Muppet Family Christmas before the girls got ready for Midnight Mass, where they were singing with the choir.
Tuesday morning we slept in. I was up first and settled in with coffee to a peaceful home. Eventually Deb and Kate awoke and we arranged ourselves in the family room, ready for presents. Normally, we do the stuff under the tree and finish with the stockings but this year we reversed things so the final item in Kate’s stocking sent her on a scavenger hunt of the house before finding her big gift.
The stars aligned this year, making it a veritable pop culture/geek fest. My brother sent me the second volume in the Looney Tunes Platinum set, while Kate gave me three new Oscar Peterson CDs. Deb then added the complete Twilight Zone on DVD, the 70th Anniversary edition of Citizen Kane, Superman PJs and then pairs of Superman and Batman argyle socks followed by Superman and Batman socks complete with capes. Tres chic!
Even though we took a visit to Deb’s brother Jim and family, the majority of the day was spent at home. We sat and read or knit. We sipped coffee and munched on cookies. Every now and then, the three of us burst into action and prepped our dinner feast, but with all three of us working, things happened quickly and efficiently.
We ate. I found a small enough turkey to allow us to have our traditional meal without an overwhelming amount of leftovers. We talked and ate and laughed. We cleaned up and sat, chilling, enjoy the peace and relative silence. We ate pie and hung around some more as I completed reading my second book in almost as many days. By 10 we were tired, but happily so, having had the very restful day of nothing we clearly needed.
Recharged, we can complete the year as we each return to a light work week while still enjoying Kate’s company, the best present we could want.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 22, 2012
After a day of chores around the house, I finally settled down to catch up with the world and was disappointed to see the news at Deadline that Leverage is canceled. The series completes it fun five season run on Christmas evening and thankfully producers John Rogers and Dean Devlin decided to hedge their bets and make the season finale the final episode they always wanted to make…just in case.
The ratings have been falling while the budget has tightened and while the show still has a loyal following; it just isn’t enough to sustain it.
The series about con men growing bored with crime and teaming up to do some good was a fresh premise when the show arrived. It had edgy characters, unpredictable situations and marks taken from the headlines so it felt relevant. Along the way, though, the show has also grown a little soft. The characters’ edges have been worn down and while they’re not downright cuddly, they’re certainly warmer and softer, towards one another and the people coming to them for help.
Just a week or two back, Deb noted that the show has definitely lost a step and I had to grudgingly agree. There was less of an element of risk involved and we’ve gotten to predict what the characters would do.
Still, it was one of my favorite series thanks to strong writing, top-notch direction and a very appealing cast. Best, they used a set of recurring, almost ensemble, players from Kari Matchett to Jeri Ryan to Mark A. Sheppard, given the show some depth and showcasing some good actors.
I will watch the show and take solace in the fact that three pals – Matt Forbeck, Greg Cox, and Keith DeCandido – will continue the Leverage action with their 2013 novels.
To the cast, crew, and producers: thanks, it was a wonderful run. What’re you all doing next?
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 20, 2012
Since ending school work last week, the bulk of my desk time has been spent doing After Earth related tasks. And look, the website went live when I wasn’t looking. Beyond the trailer, it begins to dole out information on the characters and their world, much drawn from the film and some drawn from material Peter David, Mike Friedman, and I generated. What I find most refreshing is that there is a tab that opens up a sidebar that allows you to see the tie-in material currently available, from the Dynamite one-shot to the digital short stories. That’s a rare acknowledgement of the licensed prose and thrills me no end. Take a peek and let me know what you think.
Speaking of the short Ghost Stories from Random House, it turns out the original monthly schedule has been accelerated so all six are being rolled out with biweekly precision. Coming on New Year’s Day is my first, Peace. Here are the covers and official blurbs for the remaining five. For just under $6 you can get a real taste for the universe well before the prequel novel or the film itself. Not a bad investment.
On a distant planet called Nova Prime, the United Ranger Corps defends the galaxy’s remaining humans from an alien race known as the Skrel and their genetically engineered predators, the Ursa. But when one Ranger discovers the secret to destroying the enemy, she faces a decision no one should have to make. “Ghost Stories: Birthright” is the third of six eBook short stories that lead up to the events of After Earth, the epic science fiction adventure film directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Jaden Smith and Will Smith.
Peace by me, available January 1
Kevin Diaz’s parents raised him as a pacifist—hence their outrage upon learning their son is joining the Ranger ranks. But Kevin believes that peace is worth fighting for. And fight he must, to withstand a surprise onslaught of Ursa. As Prime Commander Cypher Raige launches a counteroffensive, Kevin arrives in time to watch both comrades and civilians cut down in a nightmare of blood and terror. Suddenly, he understands that being a Ranger, even the best Ranger, isn’t enough against an enemy that can disappear at will, strike with lightning speed, and tear a man in half with one swipe. Kevin took an oath to preserve humanity, but to do so, he’ll have to blaze a path few others have.
Birthright by Peter David, available January 14
After watching her husband die in a horrible accident, Mallory McGuiness has only one option: Keep working. Rangers have duties. Responsibilities. Mallory is just that—an ordinary Ranger—until she vanquishes one of the nearly invincible Ursa and realizes she is much, much more. Unfortunately, the power to save the human race from extinction comes riddled with questions, conflicts, and no guarantees, only impossible choices. Frustrated by her suddenly tame assignments, Mallory considers jumping the chain of command, taking her grievance directly to Commanding General Cypher Raige. But she stifles the impulse long enough to tangle with destiny on a desert mission where nothing’s supposed to go wrong . . . and everything does.
Redemption by me, available January 28
Anderson Kincaid was only seven when one of the monstrous killing machines known as the Ursa tore off his arm. It would have killed him, too, had a Ranger not sacrificed her own life to save his. Ever since, Anderson has wanted to be a Ranger. After years of relentless training with an artificial limb, his hopes are crushed the day Cypher Raige himself comes knocking—to explain the Corps’ strict rule against accepting applicants with prosthetics. His dream denied, Anderson joins the Civilian Defense Corps, only to find himself once again face-to-face with an Ursa. No savior in sight, he must rely on himself—and a power he never knew he had—to survive.
Savior by Michael Jan Friedman, available February 11
Ranger Jon Blackburn wakes up from voluntary brain surgery, dazed and confused. He is a hero . . . or at least he will be one, if the delicate operation to remove his sense of fear was successful. Blackburn consented to take part in the experimental initiative to increase the Rangers’ reserve of “Ghosts,” soldiers whose lack of fear renders them invisible to the deadly Ursa. All indications are that it’s a spectacular success—but Blackburn doesn’t feel special; he doesn’t feel honored when Cypher Raige, the Original Ghost, personally thanks him. In fact, he doesn’t really feel much of anything. Doctors say that his fear is gone, but something else is missing, too; something Blackburn may not be able to get back, unless he can piece together this twisted jigsaw puzzle and find a way to become whole again.
Atonement by Michael Jan Friedman, available February 25
Black market divas do not generally swell the ranks of Ranger recruits, and Kat Bellamy is no exception. In fact, Kat’s looking at serious jail time—until she lands a few good ones on the flesh-eating Ursa that busts in during her arrest. Kat’s audacious behavior earns her a get-out-of-jail-free card from Commanding General Cypher Raige, with one stipulation: that she join the Rangers instead. Soon Kat’s a cadet, but while the physical challenges pose no problem, teamwork skills don’t come easily to a loner who trusts no one—especially when small gains are dwarfed by crushing defeats. Torn by doubt and tempted to give up, Kat presses on . . . unaware that the answer’s out there, just an arm’s length from the next Ursa.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 17, 2012
After months and months of work and planning, last week the teaser trailer for After Earth finally debuted around the world both online and in theaters showing The Hobbit. I think it looks pretty cool, demonstrating just enough to hook you.
For those interested, the Facebook page for the film is now being populated with a ton of details from the backstory Peter David, Mike Friedman, and I conjured up. It’s very cool to see it all in place.
Meantime, Peter’s first digital short, “Hunted” just went live. There’s an excerpt over at io9.com and you can pick the digital format of your choice over at Random House’s page. Coming next month will be my first short, “Redemption”.
Let us know what you think.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 14, 2012
For a number of reasons I have not written about student teaching this fall. A lot of it had to do with time. There was less of it this time around and there were other things to blog about. When they warn you at orientation to kiss you family goodbye, not to take a part-time job if you could avoid it, and so on, they are deadly serious. Somehow, there felt like there was more time at Darien but not so much in Stratford.
I spent 61 class days at Flood Middle School in Stratford, a very different environment than Darien. First of all, middle schoolers are undergoing tremendous changes in their body and their personality. Some could pass for high schoolers; others still look way too young for 8th grade and most vacillate between your best pal and your worst enemy depending upon the day or hour.
In my case, I was assigned to an eighth grade Language Arts class and had four Level 1 classes and one Advanced class. My cooperating teacher was an eighteen year veteran and very welcoming of student teachers. She met with me several times before I began, loading me with materials to read, preparing me for that crucial first day.
Along the way, I got to know some of the administration and the rest of the faculty composing Team Eclipse. We had team meetings three-four times a week so we could share common issues and plan ahead. Our science teacher always integrated our current round of vocabulary words into his own comments, reinforcing our efforts. The others, science and social studies, tried as well.
Over the course of the fall, I either had the kids to myself, taking point in the lessons, or had my teacher model a lesson and then let me try it the rest of the day. Throughout, I was receiving frequent handwritten notes on my performance, both good and bad, so there was a chance to improve. And I think I did, day by day.
Where I still need to improve is classroom management. The district has a program, Make your Day, so there’s a uniformity of how bad behavior is handled. Still, wrangling them proved my largest challenge and one that will require greater effort when I finally get a classroom of my own. Back in October, I think, my teacher said, “Oh, you can teach. It’s the discipline that needs work” which was very encouraging.
I got to plan my required Unit, which was teaching Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” which began a short story unit focusing on horror. That allowed me to introduce it all with a presentation on story structure followed by a piece on the history of the genre. After that, we did “The Monkey’s Paw” and then I took over once more to teach them how to take all the elements studied and write their own horror stories. My teacher was very impressed with how invested they became in the process, allowing us to devote more time to the project.
To prepare them for a trip to Boston, I also got the kids studying “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow and it was cool as we walked the streets and watching them marvel at being where these historic events occurred. Better, they recalled details and actually asked our guide to take them by the Green Dragon where the Sons of Liberty met in secret. Very cool.
I tried to get along with all the kids and some gravitated to me, and in time grew to trust me, coming to me with their problems or asking for extra help. While I tried not to play favorites, there were certainly some I was keener on working with than others and of course there were some where we just didn’t get along, which is to be expected when you’re teaching 110 or so kids.
Twice a week I stayed after to work with kids on a program called Flash. Tuesdays we worked on creative writing and Thursdays we tried to put together a school newspaper. None were my regular students so it was fun getting to know others and seeing what really interested them. One was a huge Spider-Man fan so we talked comics now and then, which was cool.
And yesterday it all came to an end. I received a passing grade and nice remarks from my advisor so now I can file the paperwork for certification. It is certainly an odd feeling no longer having to get up, put on a (ugh) tie, and go to school. I will miss working with the faculty and certainly miss more than a few of the kids.
What’s next? Once I receive certification I can begin seeking employment. In the meantime, I am hoping to do more subbing in Fairfield beginning after the holiday break. I’ll certainly have enough to do between Christmas and some After Earth work but do hope to get a little rest.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on December 2, 2012
Yesterday, a writer friend reached out and wrote, “Specifically, how do you handle thinking about opportunities that have gone south? I keep dwelling on all the chances I’ve had at the big dance —chances that have all started out promising, then fizzled for one reason or another. I mean no disrespect, but I know your career has had lots of ups and downs…yet you keep zipping along, making fresh starts. How do you keep from being discouraged? Because I’m feeling kind of discouraged at this point. Any insight you can provide will be much appreciated.”
Earlier in the day, Deb and a neighbor joined me on our weekend morning walk and a similar subject came up so it’s clearly a worthwhile topic to explore.
When I shifted from my day job at Weekly World News to fulltime freelance, I was advised that 80% of my time would be spent seeking work and the remainder actually doing the work. We’re out there selling ourselves constantly – partly it’s why we blog and chat and do conventions and book signings and so on. You need to throw something like five times as many projects out there as there is time to actually write one. Salesmen chase five times the number of leads to bring in the one real sale so it’s all the same.
The difference is: writers are selling pieces of themselves. These are our ideas we’re pitching and we’re invested in these, excited by their possibilities, and would be thrilled to write any of all of them. This is why a rejection of any sort can bring your world crashing down. It can feel incredibly personal, even when it is not. An editor changes jobs, a licensing deal comes to an end, a tie-in program is canceled for low sales, the market conditions change, and so on.
Of course I’m not impervious to this. I get discouraged a lot but I have so much going on, so many ideas to pursue, avenues to explore and contacts to reach out to that there is always the next pitch or idea. And as the song goes, “I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.”
Thanks to self-publishing in this digital age, if someone is not paying me to write, I know I can write for myself and release it through Crazy 8 Press. That’s an avenue that didn’t exist two years ago and really opens up the possibilities. There are no guarantees the work will sell, but it certainly beats sitting around moping. While it awaits an audience, I can always be working on the next project.
Right now, my contract work is done for the year. I have some more work to do on the After Earth bible and I have pitched to some people and await word from others. I have several ideas for Crazy 8 Press percolating in the back of my head so once the student teaching ends, I won’t be bored or stuck for something to do.
In a lot of ways, there are more options now than ever before so there is no real reason for long-term discouragement.