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Music, Books, & Creativity

It’s Monday as I write this, and it’s been…oh goodness, has it been three weeks? Wow. Things have been a bit crazy/busy around here, and my mind has obviously been elsewhere. I think we’re finally due for a settling-down period though, which is nice. I’m on the last day of a five-day vacation (okay, two last week and one this week) that has helped a lot with the whole mental recovery/reset thing.

We just did two concerts in three days…I tell you what – I may be getting a bit old for that. Interestingly, even though all four bands were headliner status, the first bands on each night were just mediocre (Marilyn Manson & Pop Evil), while the second bands were incredible (Rob Zombie & Disturbed). Which is too bad, because I’ve seen Pop Evil before, and they were really, really good…but they fell flat last night. In their case, I think it was because they were trying to be creative with their arrangements, and changed up a lot of their old songs. It just didn’t work. Manson just phoned it in – it felt like he wasn’t even trying, honestly.

In any case, all that made me think about entertaining and creativity and performing and writing. And how readers are often disappointed when a writer decides to change direction when they’ve been doing one thing well. On the flip side of that coin, ongoing creativity requires change and growth and…something different. Doing what you’ve always done just because you do it well is…boring. But there are ways to use that to your advantage without losing your fan base, as evidenced by Zombie and Disturbed – both of whom have grown and changed over the years (musically and otherwise), but they’ve retained enough of what makes them who they are at the base layer that their fans are happy to come along for the ride.

If I ever get to the point of cultivating an actual “fan base”, I want to remember that. That, it would seem, is the secret to making success last. That, and not getting worse as you get older. Thank goodness writing doesn’t depend on the quality of my physical voice!

I have been thinking a lot about my writing lately, especially given that our local bookstore will be featuring my romance books sometime next month. I’m a little torn by that, honestly. I haven’t published a romance novel (okay, any novels, but let’s focus) in several years, and while I am working on one at the moment, it’s somewhat different than what I was writing earlier. Much like erotica, I’ve sort of lost a lot of my desire to write them. I feel more drawn to the thriller and “alternate reality” genres at this point in my life – that’s what I’m excited about and currently working on. I think my future probably lies more in those realms than in the romance arena, honestly. And that’s okay, I think…but it does make for an odd feeling when my romance books suddenly start getting a little attention.

As I said, I do have another romance in the works, and it’s holding my interest well enough so far. But one of my thriller ideas currently has me by the throat, so to speak, and I’m anxious to keep working on it while the desire is there.

We’ll see, but I suspect my “own name” novels will be taking a back-seat to Alex’s thriller novels for the foreseeable future.

Aside from that, I’ve cut down on games again – only playing Wizards Unite on rare occasions to help a friend with battles, and uninstalled Jurassic World Alive (I was enjoying it, but…just don’t need that many games going at once). So now just Pokemon Go, Pokemon Let’s Go, and Animal Crossing. Occasionally Batman: Arkham Asylum on the PlayStation. Much like…well, anything, games can take up too much head-space too. I need to remember to leave myself space to just think, dream, and ultimately, write.

Fifty words per day. That’s my new minimum for fiction.

Now if I could just remember to change my sheets. Think I’ll set myself a reminder before I go to bed. It’s the little things.


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Good News, Bad News

It’s crazy how much can happen in a week, isn’t it? More good news than bad, though, which is how it should be, methinks.

Good News: My new glasses came in last Tuesday, and I picked them up right away. I’m kind of missing the old bi-focals, because there was a clear demarcation of where the reading lens was vs. the rest of the correction, so it was easy to know where to direct your eyes. Now, I just have this sort of fuzzy area in between that won’t correct either way, and that does kind of drive me a little nuts. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, and I’m happy to have the stronger reading part (that does make a huge difference), even if it is kind of small, but it’s going to take a little more time.

Bad News: I think I mentioned that I missed budgeting the week before last due to poor planning on my part…and I definitely paid for that (no pun intended) last week. It was a very expensive mistake – one that I really couldn’t afford. So now, more unnecessary expenditures have to be temporarily dropped until I can make up the difference. Sucks, but this is a lesson I *will* learn, no matter how long I need to struggle with it.

Good News: Needless to say, I did get my transaction log downloaded early this past Friday, did my budgeting for the paycheck that should hit my account today, and as long as I’m careful and stick strictly to the budget, I’ll stay in the black. No finger-crossing necessary, just discipline.

I had Thursday and Friday off work last week – Thursday was my birthday, and I kept it all to myself. Friday was just for fun. My weekend was pretty low-key…household stuff, more new routines put into place (some money-saving), and I was more careful than normal with my time, so I got stuff done and didn’t have to rush about it. I am really going to strive to do that more often going forward. Weekends are so much nicer when they aren’t spent rushing to get everything done.

Yesterday wasn’t a vacation day, but a federal holiday, so I spent it writing and knitting. And playing a little, but I did limit close screen time because…

Bad News: I realized something a little depressing during the time I had off, which is that once again, I’m straining my eyes with all the “extracurricular screen time”. Mostly, playing games on my cell. *sigh* My eyes have been incredibly dry lately, and part of that is the extra heat running plus the cold air when we’re out walking, but part of that is my propensity for playing games in the evenings (Pokemon Go & Animal Crossing) rather than just watching TV and crocheting/knitting (or playing a game on the TV screen, which is far less taxing on the eyes than playing on my cell). The switch screen is bigger, and doesn’t seem to bother as much, but Pokemon Let’s Go is still engaging enough that I’ll sit there and stare and *not blink*, which is the killer.

So…along with breaks every hour or so, I also need to build in a few hours in the evening where I’m not visually focusing as hard. I’m using my Neo to write, which is a non-backlit screen with big letters, so that works well, and I’ll just have to make sure to put my cell down after we get back from walking and do something else while I’m watching TV (if not playing big-screen games).

Good News: My weight is slowly (oh, so slowly) dropping with the extra workout time I have with the new morning routine. I have time for weight lifting along with yoga four times per week (Mon/Weds/Thurs/Fri), and adding weight lifting in there has made a big difference. So hooray for that! I’ve lost around 9lbs since last August, and would like to lose another ten or so. We’ll see if the downward trend continues, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

Finally, I am a very small stack of comic books away from being completely caught up on my Harley Quinn backlog. Once that’s done, I only have a smallish stack of Amazing Spider-Man comics to get through, and I will finally be completely caught up with all my comic book series. *And* I got a gift certificate to the comic shop for my birthday, so…I see a restocking trip in my near future.

This week will be short, busy, and end in a haircut, which I really, really need.


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Play With Me

Are you a “gamer”? By that, I mean someone who plays games in their spare time – video, tabletop, cards, mobile – whatever strikes your fancy.

Games have always been sort of a gentle “hum” in my life, though I didn’t realize it until I started writing this post. There were the occasional arcade games while I was growing up (Frogger was my personal favorite, with PacMan a close second), and some simple computer games (Space Invaders on a 5 1/4 inch floppy for the Osborne “portable” computer, anyone?), but other than that, I pretty much stayed away from anything that seemed like a potential time-sink (we never had a game console – they were too expensive). I played the first Civilization iteration on my dad’s PC for nearly an entire weekend one time in high school or college (long ago enough now that I forget which), and promptly decided I didn’t need to be one of those people who lost entire weekends to unproductive things such as that, even though we had a copy of the very early Sims game for PC on hand and I really was interested in trying it out.

When I started my Facebook account, I played FarmTown a lot, and a few other Facebook based games. They were fun for zoning out in the evenings, but eventually I got bored with them and my husband has now taken over my FarmTown acreage.

Gaming ebbs and flows with me, and after a good several months (maybe even a year) off from most games, I just spent the majority of this past weekend playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp on my cell. I have a bit of an addiction-prone personality when it comes to such things, obviously. I thought maybe I’d outgrown that little issue, but apparently not. The hubby and I also spent 2.5 hours playing Uncharted this weekend as well (the first one – Drake’s Fortune). Though one might argue that’s no more a waste of time than staring passively at the TV for the same amount of time (which is what we would have done instead). At least we were actively solving puzzles and shooting our way out of ridiculously annoying gunfights, which requires quite a bit more mental and physical participation.

As an adult, I know my own mental flow better now, and I know the “play every free moment” addiction for Animal Crossing will level off fairly quickly into a far less “needy” routine of checking in a couple times a day (not much choice with work hours off-limits anyways). Uncharted requires a fair amount of mental energy and it’s honestly somewhat physically draining for me as well, so I’m usually needing a break at the 1 – 1.5 hour mark. And I don’t feel the need to play that every day either – one, maybe two sessions a week, and I’m good. It’s fun, it’s stimulating, but it’s not something I feel like I can’t let go of.

Which is good, because the whole reason we got this hand-me-down PlayStation 3 (and a stack of games as well) from my brother-in-law is because I was interested in playing the new Spider-Man game on the PS4, but I didn’t want to spend any money on a console or game unless I knew we might actually use it. Now I know we will, and eventually we’ll shell out the big bucks, but for now, we have that stack of games to get through and I’m in no hurry to drop that kind of cash just yet. Game consoles are spendy! Maybe we’ll see if someone wants to get us one for Christmas…

I downloaded Pokemon: Go a few weeks ago, and I play occasionally because one of my co-workers plays and needed a friend for something or other, but that one isn’t as much of a draw for me because it requires…well…”go-ing”. When I’m out and about, I generally don’t want to be paying attention to my cell (it’s generally in my bag or back pocket, and I don’t generally use it as a phone). So I have to make a special effort to get it out, and then I feel vulnerable and self-conscious standing out there on the sidewalk, swiping to catch pokemon or hit up pokestops for materials, etc.

It’s a battery hog too, and before I started playing, I could go all day on a single charge for my cell with no problem. Now, I need at least one top-off. *sigh* And I may need more than my 4g per month of data, if I do keep playing (before that was *more* than enough).

As for other games, I used to play Smurfs Village all the time until notifications stopped working on my phone. Apparently it’s a known issue, but they haven’t figured out how to fix it yet, and without notifications, there’s no point in planting crops (seriously – I’m not going to put the brainpower into remembering when virtual crops need to be harvested…it’s just a game). So that’s on hold. And a puzzle game I really like is Gardenscapes, but I hit a level I couldn’t get past several months ago, and I’m still stuck there. One of these days I’ll go back to it and see if I can figure that level out. Once the Animal Crossing “newness” has worn off a bit.

I was thinking about all of this the other day while reading an article about a game company I’m thinking about buying stock in and how much money they make with just four of their games and the burgeoning field of “esports”. We (humans, collectively speaking) spend a *lot* of time and money on games and game-related hardware every year. It’s kind of crazy. And naturally, it made me wonder…

Why?

Why do I (or why does anyone) feel drawn to playing games? What is it that they give me? Is it the dopamine hit every time I meet a goal or reach a new level (probably)? The stimulation of making me think? The ability to “zone out” of my own life for awhile and run a campsite where the predominant inhabitants are animals, or create an entire society of little blue gnome-like creatures?

I don’t have the answers to those questions yet, but much like my comic-book reading adventure (which turned into another hobby of sorts that I still enjoy today), this recent spate of gaming is actually research for a book (contemporary romance) I want to write sometime next year. By the time I’m ready to write, I should know why *I* enjoy playing, and what I get out of it, and maybe some insights into why others do too. I find immersion is often the most fun way to learn about…well, anything.

Except murder. And death.

So…anyone else a gamer? What’s your favorite game/game type? Do you know why you play, and/or what you get out of games? Inquiring, writerly minds want to know…


Resolution Check-In
Sleep 6 hrs: Backsliding horribly. *sigh*
Goals check-up: Well, no.

Writer’s Notes