Some Erlebnisse Musings

About a year ago (I think? I honestly can’t remember, but it’s been a while), I started a separate blog dedicated to my quirky book reviews, called Erlebnisse. I started it because I’d written a few reviews on this site, though they didn’t really follow your proper review format. More like ravings and rantings over how the book made me feel (hence the name Erlebnisse). After writing those and how much fun I had in doing so, I thought, You know, maybe I should do this for every book I read. 

So, Erlebnisse was born.

I loved writing these reviews, especially because I wasn’t following any templates or making sure I talked about the characters, the plots, the pace, any of that. I just wanted a space to talk about the book in any way that I needed to talk about it. And it was really fun to write them, especially as, I’ve found, that my reviews tended to mimic the voice or style of the author (was it ever successful? No, probably not, but it was still really fun to try). If it was a positive review, I’d usually tag the author on Twitter and it was always such a pleasant surprise to get a response, whether it was a retweet or a shout out. It was also cool to realize the positive impact reviews had for authors, so I began posting my reviews to Goodreads, too. I started following over Book Review blogs and it was really, really neat.

But it slowly became…not so much.

Blogging on Erlebnisse and writing those book reviews, well…it felt like a job.

I’m not sure what really triggered the switch in my brain, where it switched from fun to work. I think it’s because I lost sight of why I started that blog in the first place. I got so caught up in the idea that I could connect with authors, potentially, by writing honest reviews of their books, so I was constantly wanting to write better reviews (and I still do always want to write quality reviews). I got caught up likes and shares, comments and retweets. I continually got bummed that I’d hardly be getting any traffic. I kept comparing, looking at other book review blogs, at their traffic and the amount of interaction they got from the community and how frequently they posted, and looking at how little I’d post, so I started participating in book tags like Top Ten Tuesday or Waiting on Wednesday, both of which I really enjoyed, but trying to post them every week was becoming a little difficult to balance, on top of everything else.

It wasn’t until I was writing out my To-Do List a few weeks ago and I was listing out everything I wanted to accomplish, for both this blog and Erlebnisse; and feeling overwhelmed, already, at the thought of trying to write two posts here, both those tags on Erlebnisse, plus a review and actually read and comment on blogs I like. It wasn’t until I started at that To-Do List that I thought, You know, you don’t have to write those posts, if you don’t want to. It’s your blog. 

Talk about a “duh” moment.

Don’t get me wrong: I really like participating in book tags or memes. I love writing my quirky reviews and hoping they connect with readers enough to make them interested in reading that book or telling me how they felt if they’ve already read it. Or even making the author of the book smile, knowing they made some random reader stay up until 3am or running late to work (again) with their story. Sure, I love interacting with other bloggers and the community and I love it when a post does well, traffic wise.

But I shouldn’t get so caught up in all of those aspects that I stop enjoying writing those reviews in the first place.

And I have been.

The purpose of Erlebnisse has never been to become this book blog that rivals all others and gets a ton of traffic daily. It’s never meant to be a blog that becomes so big, I get ARCs of the books I’ve been waiting for (though how neat would that be)? I follow some awesome book review blogs that are at that level and guess what: it takes work to get there. A lot of work. It’s not that I’m not willing to put in the work.

I just don’t have the time.

That’s totally okay.

I’m going to keep writing book reviews and posting them at Erlebnisse when I have the time. If there is a week where a book meme has a topic I’m really interested in, I’ll totally participate. But I’m not going to stress as much as I have been about posting consistently at Erlebnisse. While it’d be cool to be a contender in the book review blogging world, that’s never what the aim of Erlebnisse has been. I just want to talk about all the awesome books I’ve read and be unorthodox about it (the more dragon GIFS, the better).

So, that’s what I’m going to do.

Cheers.

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Quest for Happiness: Week Forty Two

Fitness:

  • Long-term Goal: Shape the body I want and become healthier.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Keep working out and enjoying this nice weather while it lasts. Make something new to eat this week.
    • Status: Halfway! I ran/walked 3x last week, which isn’t too shabby at all. Ate pretty well until the weekend (*shrug* I’m getting there) and didn’t end up making any new recipes and not sure I will this week, either, but we’ll see!
  • This Week’s Goal: Keep running despite the cold weather (3x is the goal, this week). Be forgiving if your food intake isn’t the best, especially considering this week officially begins the holiday season.

Writing:

  • Long-term Goal: Edit all previously written works. Query one.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Write 5x and keep up word count goal.
    • Status: Success!! Though I had two days where I didn’t meet my word count goal, I did write five times, even on the two days where I wasn’t feeling it at all. And the fact that I went from not writing at all to actually writing five days in one week, hell to the yes I’m counting this.
  • This Week’s Goal: Keep up writing (3x, this week, 4x if time allows) progress and remember that this first draft is all about getting the words down, even if they’re shit.

Reading:

  • Long-term Goal: Read 60 books.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Finish Something Beautiful and write review.
    • Status: Success!
  • This Week’s Goal: Read The Tethered Mage and write review.

Relaxation:

  • Long-term Goal: Create and maintain a mindset that taking care of yourself is just as important as everything else.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Enjoy the nice weather before it disappears into misery.
    • Status: Success! 
  • This Week’s Goal: Enjoy Halloween and my birthday!

Blogging:

  • Long-term Goal: Increase output over all three blogs, i.e., post more consistently.
  • Last Week’s Goal:  Keep blogging. Update bio and layout.
    • Status: Success!
  • This Week’s Goal: Write two personal blog posts and one review.

Financial:

  • Long-term Goal: Manage money with more awareness, start retirement fund and build savings.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Continue to stay on top of it. Create a Christmas budget.
    • Status: Success! Though it does feel like I need to get a second job if I’m going to be able to get everyone what I want to get them for Christmas.
  • This Week’s Goal: Continue to stay frugal and be aware of my finances.

It started to feel like winter, this week, and my mindset isn’t really ready for that quite yet. However, not a bad week at all. And as we creep into November this week and only have two months left in the year, I’m hoping to finish strong with these resolutions!

Cheers.


ArcaniA: The Complete Tales: A Review

**So, I started writing this post almost a year ago, but never finished it. It’s a game I really wanted to actually write a proper review for, so I’m finishing it now. It doesn’t get all the details that I wanted to capture, fresh from playing it, but hey, you win some and you lose some.**

One of the most surprising, awesome gems I’ve ever played, I discovered by happenstance.

Lemme tell you the story.

I recently discovered that you can rent video games from my public library (apparently this was a very obvious thing, but I had absolutely no idea). I was pretty stoked. After browsing through the titles, I stumbled across some very popular ones I was surprised they even had (alongside the waiting lists to match), plenty that I had no interest in whatsoever and found a couple that caught my eye.

ArcaniA: The Complete Tales falls into the last category.

I would be lying if the fact that the main dude is hot wasn’t one of the main reason I checked this out.

This game was remastered for the PS4, which includes the DLC Fall of Setarrif. Created by Nordic Games, it is a third-person action RPG, which is my favorite type of game to play. This game had both positive and negatives from me, pretty much akin to the review IGN did back when this game came out, so let’s get right to it.

I will say, however, that I had no idea it was connected to a previous set of games, being the fourth title in the Gothic series, so read this review as you will!

My favorite aspect of it, honestly? Aside from the incredible score that I still find myself listening to (I’m a major fan of the track titled “Temple 1”), my favorite aspect could actually be read as an insult, but I don’t mean it as such: the game’s simplicity.

I’m a fan of games like Dragon AgeMass EffectSkyrim and the like. The heavy-hitters of the RPG brand. Ironically, I love them for their complexity, their open-world awesomeness, their depth of lore and the amount of side quests that consume my life. So when I stumbled upon ArcanciA, you’d think I’d be disappointed in how it felt like–and is–a scaled down version of any of those powerhouses.

But I wasn’t.

Related image

The simplicity of the game was actually really enjoyable. Now, if every RPG was like that, I’d be pretty freakin’ bummed. Especially because I really love RPGs thanks to their complexity and challenges. However, it was nice to have simple mechanics, simple gameplay in an awesome, open world, and just get lost for a couple of hours each afternoon, trying to reach the end.

(Also, being able to count how many times I died with one hand is pretty new experience for me.)

I will say that my main complaint really comes from me being spoiled. I kept getting annoyed with how often the voices we heard wouldn’t match up with the animations on-screen. It wasn’t enough to make me not want to play the game, obviously, but it was enough that I noticed it. Often. It drove me a little bonkers.

But otherwise, this was a really fun game to play. So much fun, in fact, that I actually bought a copy to own after I returned the library’s copy. I haven’t replayed it, but who knows. Maybe this winter, I’ll go back and do it again.

Cheers.


Finally: A Writing Update

I started writing a new book last week.

I was both really excited and really nervous about it. Excited because working on the outline for the novel helped me figure out a lot of details and really understand the story that I want to tell, not to mention the characters who are going to be living through it. I think this is a controversial story, as far as how well people might like it (it’s a tragedy, after all). but it’s still an idea that’s been stuck in my head for a while, so I want to give it a shot. Nervous because it’s been almost a year since I’ve written anything that’s a novel-length work. After being in a rut for so long, it’s been hard to get back into the swing of things again.

Which became even more evident after I started writing again.

I wrote twice last week. Once, last Monday, I believe. I had mapped out some time–two hours each day–where I would dedicate to writing. The goal being at least an hour, but having two mapped out, in case something got in the way and I couldn’t write or I was on a roll and wanted to write longer. So I sat down and started writing.

After roughly an hour and a half, I got 400 words written.

Not bad, really. But I wasn’t feeling it, afterwards. I felt like the words were shit and everything I was doing was wrong. As such, the rest of the week, I kept finding other things to do during the time I blocked out to write, whether it was blogging or reading or emails or figuring out what I want to buy everyone for Christmas. It was obvious I was avoiding opening up that document, because it just felt like shit.

Then, on Thursday, I forced myself to continue working (with a little help from an empty To-Do list).

By the end of the night, I had almost 4,000 words.

Granted, about half of those were recycled from the project that I scrapped that this one is being fleshed out from; same generally premise, only a lot better and more detailed, with different characters and conflict. But I was trying to rewrite a scene that I had the general bone structure for in a previous book. So, I decided to copy that scene over and see if it still fit, with a little more fine tuning.

It took a lot of fine tuning, but I cannot describe how great that felt, writing that night. Not only did I get the first chapter written, but I also discovered that my character has a little bit of snark to him that I wasn’t expecting. And that’s going to have some interesting consequences for the novel and how it plays out.

Writing like that? It was like waking up after a really long nap. Or stretching out and preparing to go for a run after not being able to for months. The muscles I used to hone daily were sore and a little out of shape, but they were still there. They still worked. They just needed a little more encouragement, is all.

How interesting, then, that after a busy weekend, when I finally have time to write again this week, that I’m suddenly apprehensive again; that I’m looking through my fresh To-Do List and trying to decide what I can do first, instead of writing. Those nerves have crept up again, that doubt always lingering attempting to make itself cozy in the forefront of my mind.

I need to do two things:

  1. Stop thinking about publishing. I keep thinking, as I’m writing, about this book’s future. Is it marketable? Will agents like it? How will reader’s response? Is it good enough to query? Yet the plain truth is, none of those questions matter–hell, none of the answers to those questions matter–if the book itself doesn’t get written. I can’t do anything with a blank page. I can’t sell a story that hasn’t been written yet.
  2. Just write. I just need to write the damn thing. If this draft sucks? So what? If this story never gets published? So what? If no one ever reads it but me? Yeah, so what? Even if this story “goes nowhere,” I’ll still learn a lot by writing it. It’s still a story I really want to tell. It’s probably the most challenging thing I’ve written so far and something I really want to figure out. So I’m going to write it and, if it gets published in the future, fantastic. If it doesn’t, it’s still not a waste of my time and right now, the only audience that matters is me.

*tries to think of a clever way to end this post, but fails, so decides to do this instead, so she can actually go write and try and meet her word count goal for the day*

Cheers.


Quest for Happiness: Week Forty One

Fitness:

  • Long-term Goal: Shape the body I want and become healthier.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Keep it up.
    • Status: Success! Combo of running and walking last week, plus ate pretty well. Period hit over the weekend, though, so that definitely wasn’t the best, eating or working out wise, but I’m hormonal, cramping and bleeding. I think I can cut myself some slack, here.
  • This Week’s Goal: Keep working out and enjoying this nice weather while it lasts. Make something new to eat this week.

Writing:

  • Long-term Goal: Edit all previously written works. Query one.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Finish Color Psychology. Write chapter one.
    • Status: SUCCESS. Prolly write a blog post about this, but I’m really stoked that I wrote 4,000 words last week.
  • This Week’s Goal: Write 5x and keep up word count goal.

Reading:

  • Long-term Goal: Read 60 books.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Continue reading KotW. 
    • Status: Success! Finished book, wrote review and started another!
  • This Week’s Goal: Finish Something Beautiful and write review.

Relaxation:

  • Long-term Goal: Create and maintain a mindset that taking care of yourself is just as important as everything else.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Enjoy the hell out of hanging out with friends this weekend. Plus, GEOSTORM.
    • Status: Freakin’ success. That was a pretty awesome weekend.
  • This Week’s Goal: Enjoy the nice weather before it disappears into misery.

Blogging:

  • Long-term Goal: Increase output over all three blogs, i.e., post more consistently.
  • Last Week’s Goal:  Keep up blogging routine.
    • Status: Success! 
  • This Week’s Goal: Keep blogging. Update bio and layout.

Financial:

  • Long-term Goal: Manage money with more awareness, start retirement fund and build savings.
  • Last Week’s Goal: Stay frugal.
    • Status: Pretty decent. Spent a little money, but no more than I planned to, this weekend.
  • This Week’s Goal: Continue to stay on top of it. Create a Christmas budget.

Pretty stoked about my progress and things are pushing forward.

Last week, I actually lost half a pound after having a couple weeks in a row stagnant and maintaining (which I can’t complain about, by any means). Definitely going to have to stay on top of my food intake and running routine if I want to lose these last ten pounds to reach my ultimate weight loss goal. Also stoked that I’m finally writing another novel again and, after getting some feedback from a friend, have an idea how to improve my favorite novel that I’ve written. Also stoked to have found some reading grooves again.

Basically, life’s pretty sweet right now, and that’s really freakin’ awesome.

Cheers.


The Priority of Time

Looking up some quotes for another blog post this week, I stumbled across this one:

The site that deprives you of productivity one minute at a time. Replacing productivity with entertainment since 2010.

That…really hit me hard.

Everyone gets 24 hours in a day. It’s not an uncommon mantra for people to complain about–still–not having enough time in the day to get everything done that you want to. I know I certainly do. Every week, it seems, something gets left on my To-List that I really should have gotten done and is carried over to the next week. Or, I struggle to choose between reading that next chapter, playing a video game or watching an episode of TV, because each hour of free time is just so precious and I don’t want to waste it, even though I want to do all of those things. Then there are things that I really want to do–like writing and running–that, when I don’t complete them, my first excuse is, “I didn’t have enough time.”

When I’m really saying, “Eh, it’s just not important enough to me to make time a priority to ensure that gets done.”

Again, it hits really hard, especially with the writing aspect. Because I started a new novel this week. Wrote almost 500 words. But I’ve only written once, even though my plan was to write at least four days this week. My To-Do List wasn’t even as long as it usually was, yet still, writing hasn’t happened. Everything else on my To-Do List has come first.

Including writing and publishing this post.

Then I read that quote and I wonder; I wonder and I reflect, back to a time when I was writing every day, last year. How great it felt. How I do have the capability to make writing a priority, like I claim it to be.

I just need to do it again.

Social media is what I’ve cut back on the most. I don’t have anything on my phone besides Instagram, Spotify, FitBit, Goodreads and my Mint Budgeting App. Only one of those do I interact with anyone else and that is if something likes a picture I posted. I only check Facebook and Twitter and my blog when I’m on my computer. And my computer, I only log into on the weekdays. But even when I log in to check these sites, I could minimize my time scrolling and be doing other things; more productive things, more enjoyable things, less toxic things. Sure, there is the fear that I’ll miss out, especially with Twitter, when it’s how I connect with authors and agents and other writers. But when it’s taking away from some of the time I could be used to write the books I want to connect with them about?

Yeah, I think it’s okay to lessen that impact a little bit by not getting on Twitter as much; by checking Facebook, scrolling through once to catch up and then logging off; by finding other ways to stay in touch with people I care about that don’t involve social media.

Also, learning to actually listen to my alarm might also help give me, oh, I dunno, anywhere between two and three hours back each morning to actually get shit done.

Reading that quote was not only a nice, sucker punch for my own life, to reevaluate the use of my own time, but it made me think about some of the interactions I have with people closest to me and remind me that this is a problem that everyone struggles with. Makes me think about all those times a texting conversation has dropped because someone forgets or doesn’t have time to respond. Or how we run out of time to schedule dates with our friends and family, even though we really want to see them.

I recently sent out a copy of my book to some friends and family closest to me; the “last testing round,” if you were, before I do one more round of revisions and then query. I sent it to maybe…half a dozen people? Maybe a few more? I asked them to try and read it by November 1st, so I could spend the rest of the year editing and then query early next year. I sent it during the end of August/early September.

So far, three people have started it and another person has read it completely. Time–the lack thereof–is usually the excuse. Trust me, I get that. It is an excuse I go to often and, in many cases, in my mind, is a valid excuse. Especially in a case like this, where those who would read this book would be doing so as an immense favor to me. Still, I cannot help but wonder, if those who haven’t started it changed their language from, “I’m too busy,” or “I just haven’t had time,” to “I’m really sorry, reading your book just isn’t a priority to me right now,” how many people would actually read it or change their mind. Maybe it wouldn’t be a priority. And hey, that’s okay.

Still. It’s a bit enlightening. And perhaps, even a little bit unfair, to put it in that light. It’s easy to feel like shit, after re-framing your mind and looking what how often you use that excuse and when. But, personally, it’s been a real eye-opener, and made me reevaluate what exactly I’m okay with labeling as a priority and what I’m okay with not. At the moment, I’m really glad running and working out has been a priority, as well as blogging. I’m posting more on here than I ever have before. However, I’m really upset that writing and reading are not.

Now, I need to make the changes in my life to rectify that.

Cheers.


Obtaining Feedback: A Query

In order to understand this post, I’m gonna need you to read this post. It’s by Chuck Wendig, who, if you’re familiar with his blog, always writes really awesome posts, told through colorful language, containing webs upon webs of wonderful tangents. If you don’t have time to read his entire post but what to know what I’m referencing in this post, just read his first bullet, titled 1. Fuck Your Critique Groups.

I read the entire post, most of which had me nodding. But it was that first bullet that really had me scratching my head and being genuinely perplexed. I mean, one, he admitted to not being a huge fan of Tolkien, so, you know…

Image result for uruk hai GIF

I’m just kidding, I was not that offended.

Image result for lying cat

Ahem.

Anyway. 

Aside from that revelation, I was really intrigued by Wendig’s discussion. Of course, when he writes about writing advice, he always offers the caveat that tells you to not just assume his word is law because he wrote it or that it will work for you because it works for him, because everyone and their process and writing style are different, so the shit and the advice that works varies. That makes sense. He also warned us that most of the advice he was about to give was labeled “unconventional,” so it wasn’t guaranteed to be popular opinion or belief. Fair enough. But he brought up a particularly interesting point:

And that’s chiefly the problem with a lot of critique groups — they understandably comprise writers, not editors. Their opinions on work are driven from the question of, how would I write this? which is analogous to changing how you have sex because some other weirdo gets off on different peccadillos.

Just ignore that last half (even though it’s hilarious in his post). Reading that, it was sort of like a “duh” moment for me. In the past year and a half, I started actively searching for beta readers and becoming a beta reader for some people. I’ve had some pretty good experiences, but it also made me realize that a lot of the advice I give is based off my own writing style and my own preferences. Which isn’t necessarily always the right call, especially in someone else’s manuscript. Hell, half the time, it isn’t the right call in my own manuscript.

So that leaves me with a question. A query, if you will.

How do I improve my writing?

Say Wendig is onto something and a critique group, if you’re not lucky enough to be in an awesome one that shares your vision and understands your story like you do and is able to point out the weaker points, isn’t the best call. How do you improve your story, after you’ve edited it so many times you either think the entire thing is glorious or you think the entire thing is shit, and another pair of eyes is what you need? Go to a professional editor, sure. But what if you can’t afford that? Do you just do the best you can, query it and hope it’s good enough? Or do you create a group with writers you respect and hope the feedback you get is useful?

Say you go the latter route and join a group. You get a bunch of feedback. How do you avoid the feedback that derails you utterly and ruins what, if you hadn’t received that feedback, actually could have been a really amazing thing? How do you learn to sort through and, to be blunt and honest about it, judge the value of the feedback coming your way and determine its matches your vision of your story?

I’m not really sure what the answer to this is.

Hell, like Wendig has mentioned before, I’m not sure if there even is a one-size-fits-all answer. Once again, it is a case-by-case determination, which I realize, isn’t really helpful. What I have determined, however, is I need to–always–write stories that I enjoy. I want to love my work, even if that work goes against the trend or doesn’t fit into the market. I want it to always be mine and true to my heart, no matter who, if anyone, I go to for advice and feedback.

I’d really love to hear some ideas that spurt from this, either from my post here or Wendig’s post, linked above. How do you navigate the editing waters?

Cheers.