Small Realities

Inside the mind of Lance Schonberg

Please Update Your Links

Or click here.  Or here.  They both lead to the same place, the point being that I’m not updating Small Realities anymore.  I don’t intend to take it down anytime soon, but I think my efforts are best focused in one place and, since I bought domain names (Small Realities wasn’t available), Renaissance Ninja is it.

Be well, everyone.

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On the Writing of Fiction and Why I Do It

Every fiction writer will have a reason for choosing fiction.  You hear and read a lot of them that sound clever and dramatic on the surface of things.  Most of them boil down to one of (or some combination of):

  • I have to.
  • I need to.
  • The voices in my head make me.

I understand all of those, and I’ve felt them all on occasion, but I’m also a huge believer in free will and anything that doesn’t consider it leaves out part of the equation as far as I’m concerned.

The summer I was eight, my uncle pressed a copy of the Lord of the Rings into my hands to keep me busy.  Seems a little excessive, doesn’t it?  “Here kid, have a thousand pages of fantasy fiction.  That ought to keep you quiet for a while.”  Not nearly as long as he hoped, I think.  I’d already read Fellowship at that point, so got through it fairly quickly and tore into Towers by the next day.

And that wasn’t even the beginning.  Dad had plenty of SF and Fantasy lying around when I was a kid in the 70s and I read a lot of classic and not so classic genre fiction.  My school library had more and the local library beat both together.  I discovered McCaffrey early, and Silverberg, and Niven, Le Guin, Pohl, Herbert, Smith, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, and dozens of others.

The 70s moved into the 80s and a couple of years later I became a teenager and my reading expanded deeper into the genres.  Fantasy came into its own and SF got broader than ever before.  Bova, and Feist, and Eddings, Salvatore,Bradley,Jordan, Brooks, Anthony, Pratchett, Alexander, and on and on and on.

The 80s became the 90s and I grew older and kept reading.  By the time we rolled the millennium, I had a wife, a son, and a daughter on the way.  Less time for reading, but I never let it go.  My horizons got broader, but I got pickier at the same time, less forgiving of some things and more understanding of others.  My youngest daughter arrived somewhere in there, too.

These days I read less than I did for myself before the whole family thing happened, and more non-fiction than ever before.  It’s a strange, winding road, but along the way I found a lot of things that had been lost, like Dr. Suess, and picked up things I never would have otherwise, like Harry Potter.  There’s no way I can possibly come up with a guess at how many hours of joy and pleasure reading, and particularly reading Science Fiction and Fantasy, has given me.

And that’s why I write.

Sure, it might satisfy some psychological need I have and maybe the voices in my head like to be let out of my imagination to play through words across the screen, but that’s not why I write.

I write because that’s what I feel it takes for me to pay back all the writers who have gone before me.  If someone reads one of my stories and enjoys it, then I’m thrilled to have added a little joy in reading to someone else’s life, and the hours of work that went into it were more than worthwhile.

Read on and be well.

(Cross-posted from my new website.)

Beware the Ninja!

I’ve occasionally been overheard to say that I have no artistic talent whatsoever, usually adding that I have problems with stick people.  But that’s not quite true.  In fact, it’s all a lie.  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Ahem.  Well, not all, but mostly.  I’m not much of an artist, but I do okay with stick people.  Witness the Renaissance Ninja:

He’s part of a larger work that I’m trying to find a way to squeeze into the header of the new blog/website.  I started sketching the RN when I first picked the title.  I’ve got him sitting at a computer (as above), playing a saxophone, looking through a telescope, trying to clip a Guinea Pig’s toenails… not the easiest thing to draw with my level of talent, I promise you.

But the point is that I drew him myself.

Which is kind of the point of the new blog, or at least part of the point.  It’s a major goal for me to continually try new things and to make sure they add some fun to my life and my family’s.  The kids all find my ninja amusing and even my wife (who’s actually an artist, with talent and stuff) said the larger picture is pretty good.  Made me all warm and tingly.

So the ninja will hang around for a while, but mainly at the new website, where you can see the entire picture the ninja is part of.  Speaking of which, the new sight is where new posts are going to go from now on.  I will crosspost here for a while, but that won’t last forever.

Hope all is well with everyone.

Master of My Domains

So yesterday, for the first time ever, I bought a domain name.  But not just one.  I bought two domain names.  And I attached them to something.  No, I’m not going to tell you what, yet.  It’s a secret.

But it’s cool.

I’ve been thinking a lot about labels and boxes and branding lately.  There’s an often repeated mantra/meme running around that we are each our own brand.  I’m not saying I disagree because there is a certain amount of truth in the statement, but you can’t just leave it there.  Whatever your thoughts on the subject, you do need to choose how to represent yourself, and your public persona is just as important in the online world as in the real one.  The real world is far more important in most ways, because that’s where your family is, where most of us have a job, and where we live and breathe.  (What, you think there’s virtual air?)  But the online world reaches beyond the real world in some ways, letting you make contact with people and businesses and organizations you’d never encounter otherwise.

I’ve taken a big break from online life recently to focus on real life and get my head screwed on straight.  I feel a lot better now, my stress level a lot lower, and I’m slipping back into the world of zeroes and ones.

How does that relate?  Whatever amount of truth you put into being your own brand, it’s far more important that you recognize you are your own person, and a person is far more than a brand.  There is far more to you than the one or pieces of yourself than you’re likely to focus on as your online brand.

If I try to pick a few words to describe what I am, they come easy and it’s hard to stop at two or three.  Husband, father, writer, son, friend, student, teacher, karateka, reader, athlete, philosopher, musician, artist… I’m all of those things and a lot more.    Some are more true than others at any given moment, but each is a part of how I think of myself.  Husband and father are the two big ones, and hard to even consider as separate parts of my personality because they overlay everything else.  I’m less of an athlete these days than a few years back when I was in marathon shape, but karate helps a lot, and if I can get my left calf to start functioning as designed, I might work my way into deserving the label a little more.  Musician is a new thing and an old one.

You are who you want to be, but sometimes you have work to recognize just what it is you want.  I want to be a better me, and maybe shape my parts of the world to leave them just a little bit better than I found them.  I have lots of plans, and maybe I’ll follow through on all of them, some of them, or none of them.  Plans and dreams and hopes and fears.  Those change and grow, too.

So what’s my own personal brand then?  I am.  It’s not separable, though I’ve tried a variety of themes and ideas in the past.  I am my own brand and my brand is me.  I’m not one thing, but a gathering of many and changing all the time.  We all are.  It’s kind of the way humans work.

And what domain names did I buy?  Ah, that would be telling.

Fine, okay.  There really isn’t anything there yet, but you can try typing renaissanceninja.com into your address bar (or click on the link) and see where it leads.  Alternately, lanceschonberg.com will get you to the same spot.  Bookmark it and check back in a few days.  I’m still fitting together the jigsaw puzzle.  There will be much fun and creativity.

Being Comfortable in Your Own Skull

Isn’t always easy.  Life has a way of cluttering up your mind, throwing things at you that you aren’t quite ready for, and setting obstacles in your path you can’t see until you’ve already tripped over them.

A few months back, I wrote about how I haven’t been operating at peak efficiency for a long time.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve had to deal with a lot of real life things, some of them big and some of them small, at least to an external observer, but all of them somehow cumulative.  There’s nothing to be gained at this point by going into details, but my stress level just kept going up and up and I didn’t understand why for a long time.

I found myself obsessing over small things, little tasks that absolutely must be done right now and that would help me ignore the world for hours or days.  I’d obsess over whether or not new friends on Twitter were human or not or who to follow from mentions or shout outs that included me.  I’d spend hours crafting a brilliant blog entry and then not be able to post it.  I’d plot out the schedule for what I wanted to accomplish with my writing for the next five years and then delete it and start over.  Sometimes I’d feel so uncommunicative that I’d drop off the face of everything for a week or two.  Through it all, I’d smile and nod to the people around me, focus on what I needed to do at work or home, and keep on walking.

By summer last year, I felt like I was on edge all the time and things were piling up or building up or backing up in my head.  By fall, I was keeping so much bottled up I was probably half way to a heart attack or an aneurism.  Well, maybe not, but I knew something had to give, and soon, and up to that point I’d hidden things pretty well from pretty much everyone.

I figured out that for some reason I’d been holding onto all the problems and negatives of the past few years without regard to any of the good times.  And there have been plenty of good times, but they’d been swallowed by all the things I couldn’t control

So in early December, I made the completely sane and rational decision to turn off the world.  Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, anything remotely resembling news or current information, all gone.  All on hold.  I needed time to blow the cobwebs out of my brain and get rid of all the stresses in my life.  Re-focus on what I’ve always said is the most important thing: my family.

If I’m home and awake, I belong to my family.  Period.  Those of you with children will laugh because you know that’s not even remotely as easy as it sounds.  Laundry, dishes, chores, work.  Everything gets in the way even when you try hard not to let it.  That’s no reason to stop trying or trying to make life fun for all of them.

That’s been my focus for the past few months: family, fun, stress reduction and avoidance.

I feel better now, more human, though it’s taken a while, and I’m slowly switching things back on.  Brief forays into Twitter & FB.  Cleaning out my personal e-mail.  Now reclaiming the blog.  A little writing and a little polishing.  I’m back, but at a slower, more measured pace because the single most important thing in my life is my family and I’m not interested in losing sight of that for even a moment.

On the agenda for tonight: guitar practice with one child, karate class with another, and trying to tear the third away from an apparently highly addictive video game.

That’s today.  Tomorrow, I’ll start on the hard stuff. Slowly.

Branch Santa, Part 11

“That’s going to take some getting used to.” Eugene stared at Santa as the big guy strapped his skinny frame into the only seat on the Sled that fit him.

“What is?”  Santa fought with the straps, taking forever to get his too-long arms in the right spots for things to snap together.

“The time compression field.  Take a few steps away from the shuttle and we’re outside of it until you come back.  On Earth, Santa would still be gone all night but I didn’t have time to blink in the time you were gone, Chief.”  He held out his hand.  “Here, I need to get the data into the computer.  Were you seen?”

“On the last delivery.  A little girl named Sasha.  I think she was five.”  Santa pulled off his gold belt buckle, just a cover for the real one, and dropped it inEugene’s hand.  The elf immediately plugged it into a special port in the panel next to him and a screen full of numbers appeared.

“We’re good to go, Falco.”  The Sled’s pilot nodded and Santa felt the shuttle lift off the surface. Eugenesmiled at the screen.  “That’s good, Chief.”

“It is?”

“Sure.  Look here.”  He pointed at a section of the screen where the numbers were bigger.  “Deliberate effect of the magic.  See, the field expanded just exactly the distance needed to reach a restless child.  Happens to Santa, Earth’s Santa, a few times every year.  The magic helps the legend along.  Kids have to believe or there’s no point.  I’m glad it translated to you, too.”

“Hmm.  I am too, I suppose.”  Without belief, he was, well, just a guy in a funny suit with strange friends.

Santa looked out the window to watch the Moon base get smaller.  Not much to look at from the outside, a few domes and a couple of hangars, the rest deep underground.  The Christmas facility at the North Pole couldn’t be seen from the surface, but below them lay the concealed future of human space exploration, the first few people leaving the cradle to live on another world.  They brought the spirit of Christmas with them, and Santa came along for the ride.

The Sled sliced through a turn and Santa watched the lunar surface whip past at a disturbing speed only a hundred metres or so below them.  He took his eyes from the window just as a yawn escaped.  Leaning back, Santa closed his eyes and let his mind wander.

On Earth, Santa wouldn’t finish until just before dawn real time but for the Lunar crew Christmas Eve was more or less over. Things could find a less frenzied pace for a few months.  Short as the night had been, it took years of work and sweat to give him his first taste of what it really meant to be Santa, the joy on Sasha’s face.

He sighed.  Years had a way of racing past.  How many more before they needed a Martian Santa?  Probably fewer than they thought, a lot fewer.  Putting a Christmas Town on Mars wouldn’t be nearly as easy as the Moon.  He’d ask Eugene and Jan to look into the idea, but not until after they’d had a little time off.

He wondered if Santa, the first Santa, had mentioned the idea to them already.   They probably had a basic presentation cooked up and ready to go.

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