The Year of Celebration

So sometimes life sucks. Believe me, I know. Stuff happens, shit happens, life happens. I had a “nice”, long period where a lot of little and medium sized things built up. Throw in a couple of big things and I was not having a good time for about a year and a half.

Took me a while to come completely back to myself again, but these days I feel pretty good. Human again. Me again.

I’m at least six months on the far side of my funk, and I’ve decided that I don’t want to ever slip that far away from myself again. Whatever is going on, there are always things to balance, or should be, always things to celebrate.

So I am declaring 2013 to be The Year of Celebration. Every day is a holiday or a celebration day somewhere, and there are numerous days that ought to be from a variety of standpoints. I’m going to pick 365 of them and have a great year whether the universe likes it or not. (And experience tells me the universe would have a hard time caring less how I feel about things.)

Some of them will be standards recognized by most people, things like Christmas, New Years, Halloween, and so on.

Some of them will be personal, family birthdays and anniversaries and so on.

Some of them will be important days in the geek pantheon, examples including Towel Day, Pi Day, and Darwin Day.

Some of them will be modern constructs I find entertaining. Talk Like a Pirate Day comes to mind. So does Something on a Stick Day.

When all else fails, I’ll make something up that appeals to me on some level. Chimps in Space Day, for example.

A bit of research and a bit of creativity, and I’ve got 227 days covered off so far. I’m sure I can manage the remaining 138 without too much trouble.

So this is not to say that I’m going to have a party every day next year. Not only would I get nothing else done, I don’t have that kind of stamina. I just thought it would be fun to have a special reason each day to say, “Today is cool because _____.” I’ll torture my friends and family and probably announce each day on Twitter, but most of the time the holiday will just serve to help me be in a good mood, I think. And that’s okay.

Prepare to celebrate.

The New TRQ

So, in the aftermath of World Fantasy, I have a lot of books in the house. Well, I had a lot of books in the house, but now I have exactly 40 more which if my wife learns that number will result in a long series of dirty looks (at the least) since she may have thought by this point she’d mostly weaned me from the book habit. She really should (and certainly does) know better. I’ve just mostly switched to electronic books in the last couple of years. (Oh, wait. That means it’s more than 40 as there was a virtual swag bag as well. Don’t read this, my love.)

After an agony of sorting, I have determined the next 11 books I intend to read, presented here ordered alphabetically by author/editor’s name.

  1. The Warded Man, Peter V. Brett
  2. Tesseracts 15, Julie Czerneda and Susan MacGregor
  3. Rootbound, Tanya Karen Gough
  4. Tesseracts 16, Mark Leslie
  5. The Unremembered, Peter Orullian
  6. Shadow Chaser, Alexey Pehov
  7. The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
  8. The Mongoliad Book 1; Stephenson, Bear, Teppo, deBirmingham, Bear, Brassey, Moo
  9. Ink, Amanda Sun
  10. Tesseracts 4, Lorna Toolis and Michael Skeet
  11. The Emperor’s Knife, Mazarkis Williams

I was particularly happy to find a copy of Tesseracts 4 at the Edge table. It was a missing link in the series for me. Awesome Canadian short fiction. I’m still missing 7 and 9, but my collection nearly complete now.

A couple of these are beyond my normal reading areas, at least one of them well beyond. But that’s one of the ways we discover new things, right? Moving outside of our comfort zones.

Be well, everyone.

World Fantasy Convention 2012, Rough Plans

So World Fantasy Convention, the Toronto 2012 edition, starts on Thursday (ack, the day after tomorrow!), and as I’ve expressed several times, I’m both excited and nervous.

When someone (that’s you, Wendy) talked me off the fence last year, I was nearly at the mental low point of the “my life is far more difficult than I think it needs to be”, and not too far off of when I started shutting off sources of stress and distraction (which ended up being most of the world) to focus my attention on kids and family. I looked at it from a writing career perspective: potential contacts and networking with some awesome panels thrown in.

My writing career, publicly speaking, isn’t really any different than it was a year ago. I haven’t submitted that many stories this year, though I’m working to change that right now, and didn’t send out any last year. But I’m feeling much better about myself and my life these days and I’m making plans for indie publishing and podcasting in a big way. I’m writing every day again, recording some fiction for release into the wild, and plotting out a three year plan for independent publishing of novels and short fiction collections.

But I’m not going to WFC with any networking agenda in mind. People and panels. This is going to be a social/informational convention for me. I’m going for the fun, and I think that’s the way I should have been thinking about it all the way along. I’m going to meet a few people I know only on Twitter and hopefully a bunch of other people, too. I’m going to sit in, and probably record, a whole bunch of panels. I’m going to experience some new food and new places. My hotel is, deliberately, about a 15 minute walk from the convention. It’s a bigger, more comfortable room, and I need to stretch my legs a little since I probably won’t manage anything remotely like the exercise routine I’ve gradually built for myself.

Oh, and panels. There are 21 I want to go to, but surprisingly only 5 conflicts, leaving me with a few tough choices and possibly16 attended. Maybe 16 attended. You see, there are also readings I’d really like to go to, plus the Autograph Reception, the Art show, the Dealer’s room, and a late night open flash fiction reading. It’s going to be a crowded weekend.

But believe it or not, I am a little shy in completely new situations, which this is, being my first literary convention. Someone pull me off the wall, please. I’m pretty friendly after that initial barrier is tossed aside.

Be well, everyone.

I Blame Wil Wheaton

The one thing Gamer Boy and I didn’t go to together at Montreal Comic Con was the Wil Wheaton Q&A session, though he did come with me later to get his autograph.

Mr. Wheaton was an interesting speaker and covered a lot of subjects both on his own and prompted by fan questions, everything from “Stand By Me” to his time on Star Trek TNG to “Table Top” on Geek and Sundry. I have audio and I’ll share when I get the podcast up and running.

Before I get started on what I’m blaming him for, let me be up front about something: I’m not a huge gushing fanboy most of the time (though I do have my moments now and again) and I didn’t trip over myself during the brief conversation at the autograph table, but I was also never a member of the “we hate Wesley” club (though I know people who were). I’m only a year and a half older than he is, more or less just the right age to understand what it was like to be an ostracized geek in high school (though fortunate to have other geeks around me) and I could extend that understanding to the character he had to play on the show. And his character got better, too, just by the way.

So, before the show, there was a screen looping an episode of Table Top, which I’ll admit to never having heard of before. He talked about it during the presentation, too. After the con, I thought I’d check it out. My kids like to play games and it’s tough to find things they’re all interested enough to play. I figured maybe I’d come up with something to try.

I’ve watched every episode of Table Top now, and ordered three games from the earlier episodes that looked like they might appeal: Munchkin, Get Bit, and Tsuro. Of the three, Munchkin is the biggest hit at home. We’ve probably played it 8 out of the last 10 days with a single game stretching over several evenings of an hour or more after I get home from work. All three of the kids are involved and we’ve convinced my non-geek wife to join into the new game, continuing tonight. My kids and I have played the other two and had fun, and will again, but it’s got to be Munchkin right now and we’re probably just about ready for an expansion pack.

My youngest saw me watching an episode of Table Top and asked me if we could maybe make a web show about us playing games. I thought about it for a few seconds, and said, “Why not?” We haven’t yet, but we have brought the cameras out a couple of times to let them roll while we played.

I wish we’d had them running during the epic battle that began with three of us poised to win the game and ended with no one higher than level five. A flurry of cards and excitement. It was awesome.

So, new games, a little more family time, and maybe even a home shot web show about gaming with my kids to come (because I have so much free time). I blame Wil Wheaton.

And when I say ‘blame’, I mean ‘thank’. Thank you, sir.

Be well, everyone.

4 Levels of Failure

My son and I went to Comic Con Montreal in September. We hit some panels, crisscrossed the convention floor several times, saw William Shatner speak and then at the end of the day went to the William Shatner/Patrick Stewart “Reunion of the Generations”. It was a great father-son experience and the only thing at or around the Con we didn’t do together was early in the day when he went to a Mass Effect 3 panel while I went to see Wil Wheaton speak.

It was a really fun day, marred only by a single, short experience.

This picture has four levels of failure in it and two of them are mine. Combining those four levels together has more or less soured me on the whole Photo Op experience which, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t all that keen on to begin with. I’d rather go and listen to someone speak for an hour, even if it’s at the back of the room, than stand in line for the same hour to get my photograph taken with them. Aside from being far cheaper financially, the time investment feels better spent to me. I really enjoy the presentations and Q&A sessions I go to, though I’ll admit that’s probably a lot because I pick the ones I known I’m going to enjoy.

When I really want that personal touch, I go and get an autograph, something I only recently started to consider as part of my fan experience. The minute or so of small talk while you’re picking your photo and it’s being signed is generally enough to give me that inner thrill. Deliver a quick thank you for the work you’ve enjoyed by that person and another for taking the time to sign for you, and sometimes you come away with a quick fist bump or even a handshake. My autograph experiences have been uniformly positive so far. I won’t go when the line is huge as there’s always too much else to see at the Con, but if you’re paying attention, you can often time things really well except for the super big names.

But, as I was saying, four levels of failure.

1. The Convention

Enamored by the vast, insufficiently tapped geek wallet, some power behind the Con decided that it would shove as many people through the photo ops as possible, which makes the experience measurable by a tiny march of seconds. I know this makes a certain kind of financial sense—more photos = more $$ —but it’s also not treating your customer base with respect. More irritated people is going to equal fewer $$ next year for similar events. Sacrificing the long term for the short is never a good business strategy, but it seems to be the way things work lately. Comic Con fail.

2. The Photographer

Either because s/he had no option due to the over-scheduling or because s/he was just too lazy, the Photographer didn’t have enough pride in his/her work to take the extra second or two with each person that would make a good picture. The words “squeeze in” followed by a shuffle to the right by my son was all that was needed. Photographer fail.

3. I’m too Canadian

I could have complained. I should have complained. Yes, I’m far too polite. Yes, it’s a culture stereotype in the Great White North, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. Sometimes you need to complain, even if you know it won’t do any good, and I know it wouldn’t have in this case. How do I know? I saw some of the other photos people were picking up. Ours may not be that great, but there were a lot worse on the table and you can be damned sure the Con wasn’t letting people circle back through for another try. The process isn’t set up to allow it. Personal (cultural?) fail.

4. My inner fanboy is a brainless idiot

How much presence of mind would it have taken to grab my son by the shoulder and pull him closer in? Not much, but I wasn’t just getting my picture taken, I was standing a handful of centimeters from Captain Kirk and Captain Picard. Close enough to be able to put a hand on each shoulder. Oh yes, my inner fan boy was running the show and he has no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world. I’d thought myself evolved enough in parenting that this couldn’t happen. I always pay attention to my kids when there’s anything going on. My purpose is always to ensure that they’re having the best time. Always. Only apparently not always. For just long enough to screw up the photo, I let my proximity to a pair of cultural icons suck all of the brains out of my head. This will not happen again, no matter what the experience is. But it happened this time. Parenting fail.

Rectifying any one of these failures would have resulted in a better photo, a real memento to help crystallize the memory of an awesome moment. As it is, I do have the memory of standing with my son next to a pair of bright, shining beacons of Star Trek, the conversation and time we spent in line and moving through the cattle stalls to get there and the excitement of the picture being taken. But I also have the memory of the disappointment in the photographic evidence.

The disappointment is secondary. We were there and we shared the moment, if not as well as I’d like. Given another opportunity, will I shell out for a better photo? Not for myself, but if he wants it, I’ll stand in line far longer and be far more alert while doing it.

For reference, if the picture taken a ¼ second sooner, my son swears he had a giant smile on his face, and I believe that because he was pretty excited, but he was still half hidden behind Sir Patrick.

Also for reference, the picture my girls had done with Rose McGowan at FanExpo in August turned out spectacularly well.

The Girls With Rose McGowan

Each experience on its own terms. Learn and grow and adapt.

Be well, everyone.

Now That I Have It, What Do I Do With It?

In the spring, when I decided it really was time to figure out domain names, I thought that because my last name is just a little odd to spell I should probably get something to go with it. After much research and debate, I settled on renaissanceninja.com. That domain, this one, the ultimate front runner from a bunch of options and possibilities I worked out, was actually my second choice. I really liked it and I still do, but there was a domain higher on the list that I couldn’t have: writingdad.com.

Writing Dad has been my twitter handle for four years and I’ve attached it to a bunch of other things as well. More importantly, it’s how I think of myself: a dad who writes. But writingdad.com wasn’t available and it didn’t occur to me to check to see when/if it might be coming available soon, at least not until a few days before Fan Expo when I heard an interview with Nathan Lowell during which he told the story of how he finally got nathanlowell.com after someone had been sitting on it for a long time.

So I checked and there it was, available and unattended, waiting for me to snap it up, which I did and which gave me a new dilemma: now that I had it, what would I do with it?

Since I started this process, I’ve kind of been using renaissanceninja.com as the primary url, not because renaissance is any easier to spell but because no one ever remembers the ‘c’ in my last name. My plan was always to have lanceschonberg.com be the umbrella I’d gather everything else under, I just haven’t gotten there yet. That’s still the plan, but I’ve been thinking about all of the things I want to do creatively, and even more so since the John Rhys-Davies session at Fan Expo (see this post).

I think I’ve got it worked out now. My vision actually requires four domain names, three of which I already have and one more I need to make a final decision on. The basic structure:

lanceschonberg.com -> the master site where you can always find me and get to everything I happen to be doing.

writingdad.com -> the room in the house for all of the fiction and related news, audio, and posted stories, and whatever else seems to fit.

{stilldebating}.com -> for a podcast I’m prepping that will share geek experiences, audio captured from conventions, and potentially interviews. Still debating the actual domain because I’m still trying to figure out just exactly what goes into it.

renaissanceninja.com -> life and fun, rounding me out as a person. Pretty much anything can go here, and will.

So podcasting, both fiction and non, plus life, all under my name. The concept looks sound and familiar: diversification but all under one major brand. Seems almost natural.

Of course, I might be even crazier than my wife thinks I am, but we’ll see how it goes. At least I have a plan, and sometimes that’s a large portion of the battle. Deciding on web hosting almost as we speak.

FanExpo 2012, Day 4

Packing up the room to get things ready to go this morning. Dinner after FanExpo and then the drive home which is sad in an extra way: not only is it the last day of FanExpo, it’s the last day of my vacation. But enough emotional silliness. Today’s roundup of geeky exploits:

Turned Gamer Boy loose first thing to go see the Green Arrow premier (which he said was better than he expected) as neither of his sisters was interested and I’m not quite willing to turn them loose at FanExpo. Walked them around the floor for a while and added a pair of autographs to my collection: Kate Mulgrew and Nana Visitor. Ms. Mulgrew was just as engaging in person and Ms. Visitor was quite talkative as well. Very positive experiences both (which I have to say of all of my Star Trek cast member experiences so far).

The Rose McGowan photo op went very well for the girls. She’s shorter than I expected, but very personable in the few seconds you got to spend with her in the process.

Christopher Lloyd got held up by a few minutes coming from his photo op session, but once the microphone issues were sorted out, he was talkative and interesting, giving us a few quotes and anecdotes as parts of his answers. Before the Q&A, Someone tweeted as a joke that they didn’t think there were so many Taxi fans. Entertaining from my perspective, it proved predictive. Taxi came up a number of times, along with a lot of Back to the Future, and some Star Trek, Camp Nowhere, Piranha, and a couple of other roles.

Sadly, the Billy West autograph line didn’t work out again, and we rushed from the Christopher Lloyd Q&A to attempt a Rose McGowan signing of the picture we’d had taken, but missed her by a few minutes, and so didn’t make the end of what was probably a huge line for his Q&A either.

I took fewer pictures today than yesterday and maybe than the day before, but they were a bit more varied. Since I had three kids to worry about on my own for the first half of the day, that was my focus. Here’s the link to the Facebook album for what I’ve picked out of the stream. I’ll upload to Flickr on the first or second when my storage resets.

Be well, everyone.