Posted by Bob Greenberger on September 26, 2013
As I am finally getting a handle on my school work, my mind has increasingly begun to turn towards writing. I find I miss it and that those muscles cry for exercise. My heart leaps at the prospect of assignments or just getting back to the keyboard for something other email and lesson planning.
My mind, though, and my wife in her role as Greek chorus, point out I should not be looking for anything huge or overly involved with a tight deadline forcing me to make carefully balanced choices. I suppose the simplest solution would merely be to write for myself and Crazy 8 Press without pressure of a deadline, but I also recognize that without a deadline, I tend to meander.
Right now, I have two outstanding assignments on my desk: an essay for a soon-to-be-announced collection from the fine folk at Sequart and an article for Back Issue! Both are nearly done and just need me to sit down and edit them into shape.
There remain my reviews for ComicMix, which certainly keeps my critical skills well worked and my twice-monthly columns at Westfield Comics, which indulges my inner comic book geek.
Beyond that, though, I have a few pitches out that I hope at least one will be approved for writing during the summer break. I’ve also received two interesting offers, one for a short story if I have something to say and can say it by the reasonably tight deadline. The other is longer and creatively challenging, but comes with a tight deadline given the scope of the project. And here I am at inner war, trying to rationalize that I can do it but critically looking at the time and determining if there really is enough time to do it well.
Perhaps the best part of this is that I see where I can do some projects to supplement my school work and make me feel whole. That’s a good thing.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on June 10, 2013
I had no idea how I was going to spend my summer at the keyboard. I knew there would be a story for the third ReDeus anthology but beyond that, I was uncertain. Had After Earth succeeded, there was a possibility Mike, Peter, and I would be quickly pressed back into service. Or a pitch I had sent out might generate work. Or something out of the blue would turn up.
Instead, the answer appears to be None of the Above, which is not the first time I find myself with nothing on the books.
Having now drafted my story, and letting it sit for a day or two before polishing, I look out into the summer months with lots of possibilities. If I am left to my own devices, my instinct says it’s time for my first Crazy 8 Press novel. While I’ve contributed to several releases and have the one short out there, I really should have a book of my own.
There are three possibilities and am not yet certain which one will bubble up to the top.
First, there’s the Young Adult idea I almost did for Actionopolis but when we couldn’t come to terms, they allowed me to keep everything but the title. I’ve got an outline and maybe a third of it written, having received feedback from an actual young adult. It’s been sitting quietly waiting for a few years.
Then there’s the Urban Fantasy that doesn’t involve vampires. Again, there’s an outline of sorts, some character sketches, and I have a bunch of research already completed. It has been suggested I look at James Blish’s Black Easter and Sandman Slim to see similar works, so that will require some more attention.
I wrote a Damon Runyeon-esque story for Mob Magic and always intended to go back and revisit the world and lead character. I envision a series of short stories that could then be collected but the stories themselves have never quite suggested themselves so maybe I just need inspiration.
It’s sort of neat to have these options and finally the time to write for myself. On the other hand, I also know that without a contract and hard deadline, I will procrastinate, poke at the story and let other things distract me. The summer calendar is already filling up with family obligations and social plans so I will need to be more self-disciplined than usual in order to make the most of the time.
Then there’s the specter of a teaching job. This is the month I was told that principals will be calling prospective hires for interviews. Should I actually land a fulltime post the summer will dramatically shift to preparing for that crucial first year. That in itself may be the sort of time lock I need.
Possibilities abound and I like having options but I dislike the uncertainty that comes with it.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on May 3, 2013
The whirlwind beginning of the year is slowing down, at last, and new routines are being established. Looking back, it’s astonishing we listed, sold, bought, packed, moved, unpacked and are settling in just four months. We’re far from done but it’s starting to feel like home.
As you might imagine, my focus and ability to concentrate was shot. I could work in short bursts so things like my semi-monthly Westfield Comics columns were easy to do. I could continue to consult on the After Earth material and even proofread some of the prose works.
But when it came time to actually write a new story for ReDeus: Beyond Borders, I worked in fits and starts so the February deadline came and went. I struggled with parts of the plot which Aaron Rosenberg and Kathleen David helped me with at Farpoint but I was still unhappy with the work or its progress.
Thinking of anything beyond this story was impossible even though I have a hankering to get back to long form fiction. In April, I managed a draft and sent it, with trepidations, to Aaron. Who promptly read it and explained in detail why it didn’t work. He then suggested the solution which had been eluded my foggy creative mind. A few days later, it finally came together and can be read later this month.
Meantime, the new routines are being established which means walking the dogs four times a day. That’s time away from the desk, but time to think. On one such walk the plot for the next ReDeus story came together which has me excited. I am at work on it as you read this and that feels good.
This break from long stretches at the desk and creative writing may be refreshing or let the creative muscles atrophy, requiring regular exercise to get back into the groove. I have things I want to write for me and Crazy 8 Press and still talk to publishers about other projects so I remain optimistic about the remainder of the year.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on February 6, 2013
Next week at Farpoint I will be doing a series of panels and workshops on being a writer. As a result, I’ve been giving the subject a fair amount of thought of late so I can sound like I know something useful. This morning, I came across a top ten list from Debbie Millman, a designer who doubles as an executive at Sterling Brands, who recently shared it with the Graphic Artists Guild New York Chapter. In looking it over, I realize this applies to all creators, writers included. You will look at the list and nod a lot, saying to yourself, “I know all this.”
Of course, there’s a difference between knowing this and putting it into practice.
Ten Things I Wish I Knew Sooner Rather Than Later
- If you are not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks.
- Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.
- Work very, very hard.
- Ask for opportunities.
- Finish what you start.
- Say yes to almost everything.
- Busy is a decision.
- Don’t censor your dreams before you actually dream.
- In order to strive for a remarkable life, you have to decide you want one.
- It’s only a failure if you accept defeat.
I’ve certainly made my share of mistakes, both on staff and as a writer. I ghosted one of the Time Station Berlin books that Ace put out a million years ago and at the time, I tried a political thriller and while I researched the players in the era, I neglected to complete the task and really research the locale, Berlin, Germany. As it happens, I am currently working on a story also set in Germany and have learned the lesson.
I still have a YA fantasy partially written that pushes me in new directions and is certainly something risky and new for me.
Whenever I surface at the completion of a job, I tend to make a round of contacts, mostly to people I’ve worked with in the past and have remained on friendly terms. While it has not always led to new work, it certainly keeps me on their mind.
I can only think of one time in the last 20 years where I said no to an assignment because the deadline overlapped with an existing work and I was told it couldn’t move. As it turns out, I wound up ghosting two chapters for the book anyway. So, you never know.
I’ve written previously about how I never let defeat slow me down but I can’t say I’ve set out for a remarkable life. Instead, I have built a life and family that sustain me, freeing me to write which in turn lets me work hard, productively using my time.
Give that list a hard look and see how often you address these points.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on January 17, 2013
While I await the spring hiring season for teachers, I’ve been focusing a lot on my freelance writing life. Knowing this period of time was coming, back in October, in time for the New York Comic-Con, I began a regular series of contacts with people I have done work for and others I’ve always wanted to work for.
NYCC is not a good show for casual appointments but, instead, you need specifically target meetings arranged, preferably in advance, so you and your subject set aside time and are prepared for a conversation. The next step is the follow-up. Whatever is decided, you follow-up in writing, confirming your understanding of what was said and politely thanking them for the time, regardless of outcome.
At that show, one editor finally read a pitch and told me she liked it but didn’t like the artist attached. The agent said he had other artists. Since then, the editor has left her company before seeing the revisions from the new artist so we have to wait for things to settle.
I was up for one licensed job, something I was well-suited to write, but the licensee had author approval and nixed me. So much for that although the editor says he still wants to work with me.
I found out an editor at a book house was actively seeking material so followed up with a pitch and today he finally replied, saying thanks, but no thanks. That happens. A lot. So, I accept it and recognize it can always be done at Crazy 8 Press.
Meantime, editors I only waved to at NYCC I sent follow-up e-mails to in October with follow-ups either right before or right after the holidays. While there might not be anything today, you need that casual reminder you are still around, interested, and available. You never know.
What frustrates me, though, are the editors who never respond. These are people I’ve bought from. Who I’ve worked alongside. I’ve dined with and partied at conventions with. These are friends or friendly enough that one would think a one-line acknowledgement would be forthcoming. While getting some work would be lovely, I’d least like to hear back from them. One of the primary things I was taught and passed on to those I trained at DC was to always acknowledge the freelancer even if it’s a simple, “the package was received, haven’t looked at it but will shortly”. It gives us a sense of comfort.
As a result of such behavior, I find that I need to focus the coming weeks and months on two tracks. First, making certain I have applied to school districts via their websites so I’m in place when they are ready to hire. Secondly, I need to generate addition material on my own, for C8 so I have stuff to sell and a chance to find new readers.
I’m certainly not giving up on my colleagues and contacts in traditional publishing, but their silence speaks volumes.
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.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on September 26, 2012
I haven’t said much about After Earth of late, but trust me, things are happening. First, the comic book prequel After Earth: Innocence will be out in a few weeks. For those who missed it in San Diego, now’s your chance for a look at this new universe.
Also in October, the first of six short stories will be available from Random House. Ghosting is a special ability that a precious few possess, but it’s also the difference between life and death. Cypher Raige, the first to “ghost”, is the character played by Will Smith in the film, but these stories tell of the six others who have managed this feat by the time of the film. Peter David kicks it off and I’ve got two, as does Mike Friedman. We brainstormed the basics while we were together at Farpoint back in the winter and wrote our works over the summer.
Today, I just reviewed the copy edits for my first work so that’s cool and I’m proud of what I accomplished.
Here’s what we’re writing:
After Earth: Ghost Stories: Fond Memories (Peter David)
After Earth: Ghost Stories: Instincts (Peter David)
After Earth: Ghost Stories: Peace (Robert Greenberger)
After Earth: Ghost Stories: Phantom (Robert Greenberger)
After Earth: Ghost Stories: Savior (Michael Jan Friedman)
After Earth: Ghost Stories: Beyond Fire and Water (Michael Jan Friedman
And, now available for pre-order is A Perfect Beast, the prequel novel that Mike, Peter, and I have spent the last few months working on. Here’s the official write-up:
The official prequel novel of the epic film After Earth, directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Will Smith and Jaden Smith
After their exodus from Earth, the last humans settled a remote planet, Nova Prime. When an alien force known as the Skrel descended from the skies, the United Rangers Corps, an elite defense unit, valiantly resisted. Centuries passed without an attack, and many colonists believed that, with other security measures in place, the resources devoted to maintaining their military strength would be better spent elsewhere. Little did they know that trouble was coming to Nova Prime—and it had a taste for blood.
The latest in a long line of decorated warriors, Conner Raige is one of the Rangers’ most promising young cadets, although his brash confidence and tendency to act on instinct have earned him as many skeptics as admirers. Conner’s ancestors were on the front lines of humanity’s victory against the Skrel. But when a deadly ground war breaks out, Conner’s up against an entirely different beast—because, this time, the Skrel have brought a secret weapon: ferocious killing machines designed to eliminate humanity from Nova Prime . . . and the universe.
The book will be out March 26.
Peter’s novelization of the film will be out a month later and is also now available for pre-order.
This has been a tremendously creative and exciting project to work on and hope you agree when you get to read the above works for yourself.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on September 1, 2012
When I completed the first draft of my third of the forthcoming After Earth prequel novel, I noted this on Twitter and Facebook which launched an interesting discussion with a variety of peers from a wide swath of my professional life.
The argument boiled down as to whether or not printing out the work resulted in a better reading and polishing experience. Most argued in favor of investing in the paper and printer ink because there was something unique about seeing the words in cold print rather than on the screen. They said they found more errors and things to correct in the subsequent drafts.
Now, I haven’t printed out any of my work in well over a decade. It used to be I would submit my freelance assignments printed out, matching the style requested from the publisher. Then I was asked to submit the manuscript as both hard copy and on a floppy disc (remember those?). Then came the day I was asked to merely email in the file. I haven’t looked back.
The dialogue on my Facebook Wall was an interesting one and given my respect for those advocating for printing out the manuscript, and my own trepidations about delivering as good a draft as possible for something so new, I decided to take the plunge. My third of the book weighed in at 133 pages and some 36,000 words. Late last week I printed it out and over the course of the last seven days, I have been reading through the pages, my red pen at hand. I found typos (despite spell check, lesson learned), I found missing words or the wrong words, and places where I needed to flesh out moments or exchanges.
I always fret over my dialogue, wishing I had the gift of skilled writers like Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, David E. Kelley or others to infuse characters with distinct speech patterns and personalities. I also needed to ensure that the way I wrote After Earth differed from how I wrote Star Trek where I have done the bulk of my fiction writing. I was also concerned that I hadn’t written anything of this length since the Iron Man novel which I wrote some four years back so yeah, there were some butterflies.
While I read through the pages and made my notes, in some cases the rewrites were there or just notes to myself about changes to be made. Meanwhile, I was trying to pay particular attention to the shows I was watching for relaxation, listening to how the characters spoke.
I have now keyed in all the changes, growing the book by about 2000 words, taking out bunches and putting in a whole lot more, which I think has done to improve the overall feel of my section. Right now, Michael Jan Friedman and Peter David are wrapping their thirds and I eagerly await the first cut of the entire novel to see how well things work together.
Meanwhile, this was an invaluable writing experience and editing refresher which I suspect is one to be repeated in the future.
Posted by Bob Greenberger on August 22, 2012
The sun is setting a little earlier and the mornings have that first hint of fall coolness. During lunch, a school bus rumbled down the street, a practice run before classes begin next week. Suddenly the summer season has begun drawing to a close and honestly, it caught me off-guard. I knew it was August and the clues were piling up, but still the week dawned and I was beginning my final full week at home.
It’s been a relaxed and busy summer. There was the travel, three conventions including the unexpected trip to San Diego. This past weekend was the Connecticut show which went exceedingly well. Professionally, these were good events.
Much of July was spent on my two online courses plus work on After Earth. I have written my two Ghost Stories which will be published electronically by Random House in the coming months, dates to be announced. Over the last few weeks I have been at work on my third of the After Earth prequel novel. It’s been ages since I have collaborated in this way with Mike Friedman and Peter David What is different this time around is that we have more integrated chapters as opposed to distinct characters and story arcs. And we’re still figuring out the world we’re setting the story in. It’s been an organic process which will be interesting to see when the three parts are sewn together and we read the book for the first time before polishing begins.
You did notice the After Earth prequel comic is available for order in the current Diamond Preview catalogue, right? Check out the Dynamite Comics section and know that this is a slightly different edition from the one distributed at Comic-Con International. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by Bob Greenberger on August 9, 2012
One of the things about digital publishing is that sometimes you hit glitches that can baffle even the finest of mind. Last October, my short story, “A Matter of Faith”, was posted as a $.99 digital short at Nook and Kindle. It sat there like so many other books. But then in January, Nook pushed it in one of their weekly newsletters and sure enough, there was a smattering of sales. I clicked over to check the Kindle sales and saw that the book’s price vanished.
I contacted the Kindle people and they explored the problem, assured me they found the error and fixed it. Nope, still showing up without a price. Finally, this Spring, Amazon told webmaster Glenn Hauman that it was a digital rights management issue requiring a fresh file. There was no DRM involved but he shrugged and reposted the file. Same problem. Finally, it was fixed on Thursday and the story is finally available for those reading via Kindle.
Meantime, as you may recall, I’m involved in several digital initiatives not only through Crazy 8 Press, but as a member of the HiveMind. Since January, we have been releasing installments in our Young Adult Latchkeys series, which has also languished a bit. The lesson here is that the audience we’re aiming at doesn’t necessarily have Kindles or Kindle apps or permission to buy the books, meaning we need their parents to be aware of the series and think well enough of the premise to buy it for their family. We’re up to book five (all available at C8) and book six will be out in September. Our goal will be to collect the first six as a print book for the rest of the world which should be available this fall, in plenty of time for Christmas.
An ancient, magical house.
Doors that lead to anywhere.
A group of kids charged to protect them.
But from what? An exciting new children’s series that takes you everywhere — and everywhen.
If you like YA fantasy, I urge you to give it a try. And then tell me what you think.