Black Mage Yuna - shuijingling

October 2020 Favorites

Happy Halloween! 🎃 It's the end of the month. Again. How are there only two months left in 2020? To be honest, I wasn't sure I'd be able to write a favorites post for this month. I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety and health problems, and mostly just continuing on with my Spelunky 2 obsession. But I had to give a shoutout to the other game I was obsessed with this month!


Exit/Corners: So, a few months ago, I mentioned watching a Let's Play of Virtue's Last Reward, a horror visual novel/puzzle game. The main reason I didn't play VLR is that I am not very good at solving puzzles. But I really enjoyed that game's story, and when similar games came up in conversation with a friend, I was recommended Exit/Corners. This game has a similar set-up to the Zero Escape games, including (to my initial frustration) puzzles. At first, I wasn't sure if it would live up to the Zero Escape inspiration. Or if my brain could withstand the puzzle stress. But by the time I got to the end and saw the way everything came together, I realized how much I had enjoyed the game. The story felt surprisingly personal to me in parts of the ending I recieved, and I appreciated all the subtle foreshadowing details (even if I missed most of the actual clues while playing). I continued thinking about the story over a week after finishing the game, and I actually started playing again to absorb the foreshadowing more closely and raise my standings with some of the characters to see how that changes the story. If you like Zero Escape, Danganronpa, or any other horror/thriller visual novels, please consider giving this one a try. It's a free browser game! (Play it here!)

*Slightly spoilery trigger warning: Blood and loss of limb. But nothing explicitly gory. Message me if you have any questions or concerns.*
Restless Aang - ushitora_icons

September 2020 Favorites

It's another monthly favorites post! This month included a ton of gaming, a decent amount of reading, and very little editing. But I've been very inspired and writing lots of new scenes for future stories. (See my last post for a writing update.)

Here are some other things I enjoyed this month...

Deity/Covenant Series: I started the Covenant series in 2016, and was really into it, especially the relationship between Alex and Aiden. I named Aiden my favorite new character of 2016 in my year-end wrap up. But as it seems to happen for me way too often, I got distracted and didn't read past the second book until now. And oh, what I was missing! The series does have a bit of a love triangle, which is not always my favorite thing. And the end of the third book leaves you with a lot of questions. But I'm excited to read more, and hopefully, see the series through this time.

Avatar: the Last Airbender: When Avatar premiered 15 years ago, I wasn't sure what to think of it. Was it just a goofy attempt at pseudo-anime? It took until partway through Season 2 for me to start seriously watching. I can be very particular when it comes to humor in stories, but few shows balance the humor with the drama as well as Avatar, in my opinion. The characters are fantastic. The elemental "magic" has been an influence on my own. And Zuko was everything I wanted Draco to be but never was. Rewatching it has been a complete joy. Something I can say about few things these days. (Watch on Netflix.)

Spelunky 2: I thought FFVII Remake was going to be my game of the month - and I played quite a bit of that, too - but I forgot Spelunky 2 was coming out! Spelunky was a surprise favorite for me back in 2016 (is this a pattern?), after watching Patrick Klepek play it on Giant Bomb. I don't have much patience for difficult games, so I never expected it to capture my attention as much as it did. (But I have always enjoyed platformers, so maybe it does make sense.) Spelunkin' with Scoops and playing the game myself (over and over again) was a great escape for me back then. And now, I can enjoy both again.
Free Falling (Serah) - whispyr

Light My Way

I was finishing up my monthly favorites post for tomorrow, and the intro made the post too long, so I thought I'd move (and expand) the writing update portion here.

This month included a ton of gaming, a decent amount of reading, and very little editing. But as usual, letting myself off the hook was exactly was I needed. My inspiration has been swirling, and I've written several new scenes for future stories, plus lots of notes for my various outlines. I've discovered new connections between stories in my universe. Which is always something I love! But even more importantly, some of those connections created meaningful character moments, in ways I never expected.

How a little note about the name of a dragon spirit from an old story turned into a deepening of character journeys in my current (and most beloved) series, I still don't understand. What I do know is that I needed the freedom and the brain space to just do nothing. To not force the creation process. I've known that - and even stated it here - several times. Yet I keep falling into the trap of trying to make my process and writing journey like "everyone else's", instead of embracing what makes my process and journey unique.

I've been feeling so creatively inspired and connected to my universe again. And it's probably been almost two years since I felt this intensely passionate about it. I've had fleeting moments of enjoying the work I was doing, but I've had to fight for them against my anxiety, depression, and fear of judgement. And I know I still will. Things are still rough. I'm dealing with a lot mentally and emotionally. And obviously, there's so much going on in the world as a whole. But finding that little spark of inspiration and letting it lead - letting it light my way - into a magical world bursting with vibrant colors and deep emotions has been everything.

So, I'll be posting a monthly favorites tomorrow with reading, gaming, and watching favs. But honestly, this reconnecting to my creativity is my absolute favorite of the month.
Nobu/Hachi Embrace Music - drazel_jollux

Shuffle Time (September 2020)

I know. The last time I did this was only a few months ago. But when the music shuffle tag pops up somewhere, I can't help wanting to join in. Music is so important to me, and I spend a lot of time listening to my massive music collection on shuffle. I just managed to (mostly successfully) reload my entire collection into Windows Media Player after a library corruption, so this is a particular treat for me right now. (And yes, I know I'm using ancient technology. I'm very set in my ways.)

Rules: Shuffle your favorite playlist or your entire music library and list the first 10 songs that come up. You're free to take this for your own site or blog as you please.

1. Enya - Last Time By Moonlight
2. Nobuo Uematsu - The Great Warrior
3. Avril Lavigne - Slipped Away
4. Years & Years - Memo
5. Christina Perri - Trust
6. Amethystium - Elvensong
7. Poe - Haunted
8. Brandy - Wildest Dreams
9. The Mountains & the Trees - More & More & More
10. Dream - Heart on Wave
Tohru - moonshadow_nal

August 2020 Favorites

Well, it's monthly favorites time again. It's been a busy month, with lots of editing and other stress. I've been obsessing over various manga and anime lately. I finished the Sweet Blue Flowers manga. The Sailor Moon manga continues to be great. And the Fruits Basket manga continues to break my heart in all the best ways. I posted about a dystopian/horror anime that was a bit of love/hate for me, but definitely an obsession. I've also been playing a lot of Switch games, after picking up a new controller and some ports of popular Wii U games.

One Week Friends (Anime): This is one of those shows I loved from the very beginning. It follows a boy trying to befriend a girl who loses the memories of her friends at the beginning of each week. It's sweet and sad, and my only complaint is that, like a lot of anime, it ends too soon. But I guess I have another manga to collect!

Mystic Pop-Up Bar: This show was recommended by a friend, and while I hadn't watched a Korean Drama in some time (and only one all the way through), I got pulled in by the gifs she was sending me and all her praise for the show. And I'm so glad! This show is super cute and fun, while also having a lot of emotional and serious moments. If you're into the found family trope, with a whimsical mystical storyline, this show might be perfect for you! (Watch on Netflix.)

YouTube Favs: I've been watching more old Vlogmas videos and other vlogs from around that season (in 2018). This time, mostly Zoella and ThePatchworkNerd ones. It's funny since I usually dislike Christmas time. But I think this proves that the pressure of Christmas is what ruins it for me. I can appreciate the lights and decorations (and general festivities) if kept at enough of a distance from the anxiety and pressure to be happy. I didn't seek out Christmas 2018 videos to watch right now; I just happen to be that far behind in my Watch Later list. But I'm really enjoying them. Who would've guessed?

What were your favorites from August? Do you have any recommendations for me? Are you sad for the end of summer, or excited for autumn? Or both?
Glasses Girl - Collapsingnight

Make Something You Love

"My gut is telling me that if you make something you love, you should just put it out into the world." - Taylor Swift

I've been inspired by Taylor Swift's songwriting for over five years now. And Cardigan, with its poetic lyrics and magical music video, is my current favorite song. But it was this message that came along with the surprise release of Folklore that touched me most personally.

When you have anxiety, it's hard not to obsess over the idea of perfection. And it's something a lot of us creatives strive for. Writers work so hard to get our writing to match the "perfect" idea in our head. Stories often being torn apart and stitched back together in the name of editing. But I have long believed inspired, heart-felt, raw creation was my personal ideal.

Obviously, everything needs to be cleaned up a little bit. Typos fixed, some wording adjustments. Often a bit of added description to enrich the scene, in my case. But I fear over-editing. I fear losing the heart of a story for the sake of perfection. I want raw emotion over perfect writing "craft". And to cherish the spark that makes my work unique, instead of trying to match genre expectations or proven formulas.

But I worry the world isn't willing to embrace that. And I worry I will never fit in with the writing community, or be able to market my books successfully. I don't want to be a brand. I don't want to be a public figure. I admire those who can keep up with engaging online content, while writing their hearts out and "crushing" their goals. They are amazing humans, who work hard for everything they accomplish.

But that's not me. I can't push myself without breaking. It's not in my nature to compete with others, to challenge myself with deadlines, or to fit in with the crowd. I like talking about writing and stories I love. I like being open and honest with those who read my posts. But I'm a person, not a brand. Writing is not a job to me. I can't handle that pressure. Writing is a soul calling that I desperately need to follow for my own mental health.

So, I'm not here to write you a perfect story, carefully crafted and packaged with an ideal audience in mind. My only goal now is to make something I love and put it out into the world. I promise you I will pour my heart and soul into it. I hope that will be enough.
Nobu/Hachi Embrace Music - drazel_jollux

July 2020 Favorites

This month has flown by. I've been focusing on taking in inspiration and surviving through my mental health struggles. And I've been enjoying so many stories in different forms this month, but I'm saving a few for when I'm further in.

Say I Love You (Manga): The anime of this manga was on a previous favorite list. It took a little longer for me to warm up to the manga - the things that bothered me a bit at the beginning of the anime seemed more pronounced and the art can sometimes look a little odd during the "funny" moments - but I'm 7 volumes in and fairly hooked into the story again. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens after the anime ends. Volumes 4 & 5 have been my favorites so far.

YouTube Favs: Whether it's the relaxing TeamSilverSpace playing Super Mario Galaxy or the chaotic Hank & Katherine Green (and sometimes friends) playing New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Mario Let's Plays have been my go-to during my current anxiety episodes. I've also been watching Jackson Bird's old Vlogmas videos, not to mention catching up on some of his other great content. He posts about trans and LGBT+ issues, if that's something you'd like to learn more about, and he tries to "waffle" weird foods in his waffle iron.

If I haven't mentioned this enough, I absolutely love music. It inspires and motivates me more than anything else. Instead of focusing on one artist, I thought I'd list out my 10 favorite songs I've been playing this month. I wrote this list before realizing there would be a clear "winner" at the end of the month. 😅

Music Favs: Aura (Anna Nalick), Playing Dead (CHVRCHES), Voices in My Head (Ashley Tisdale), Start of Time (Gabrielle Aplin), So You Say & Kissing You (Angela Via), Break My Heart & Don't Start Now (Dua Lipa), Echo (CLAVVS), Blue Fires (Delerium). And the crown jewel, Cardigan by Taylor Swift & its gorgeous music video. I'm taking my time with this album, but Cardigan enraptured me from the start.

What favorites have been getting you through hard times?
Water Shine (Kikyo) - fireflys_locket

Detachment

I've never resonated with the idea of detachment. I'm a passionate person. I *want* to be attached (and deeply so) to the things I love, my beliefs, my writing. As I've said about Jane in the past, I love deeply and feel deeply. That's just who I am. And who I want to be.

But when you put so much of your emotional investment into something, failure sometimes feels a bit like death. And what's worse, it feels like the blood is on your hands. You didn't work hard enough or believe hard enough. You didn't push yourself to the breaking point needed to succeed. You let your dreams die. At least that's what my anxiety brain tells me.

Detachment also feels like a death to me. Or maybe never even living. It's not having passion for your work. Which leads to writing that feels lifeless. I pour my soul into everything I create. I want my stories to be full of passion, love, and my own truth. I want it to be so vulnerable that it hurts to create. A cathartic pain.

But it's exactly because I'm so deeply attached to doing what's best for my writing that I *need* to detach from pressure and expectations. I've never been able to be completely untrue to myself. At least not without excruciating emotional pain. But I've tried again and again to adapt myself to the world around me. Maybe if I'm quiet enough, my peers won't attack me. Maybe if I don't make waves, I can blend in better. Even more innocuous stuff, like maybe I can do my own version of NaNoWriMo, make my own rules but still fit in. But it's still adapting. And in the end, it still hurts.

I miss when writing felt more like a sacred calling than a job. I miss the freedom of writing and posting what I wanted, when I wanted, instead of wondering what people would be expecting from me next. I'm tired of feeling like I'm behind everyone else, like I have to work myself harder and harder to even have a chance of catching up.

I'm tired of adapting. I'm tired of juggling plates marked writer and author, when it feels like no one is watching anyway. Maybe I don't want to be an "author" as much as I just want to be a person who writes and shares her work. Maybe I'm an eccentric. Maybe I'll never be "successful".

I'm not giving up. But I have to give in. Let go. And just be.
  • Current Music
    Tiësto - Just Be (Antillas Radio Cut)
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Gina (Book Two) - fireflys_locket

June 2020 Favorites

I don't have a lot of new favorites this month. Mostly continuing with some previous favorites. Lots of Let's Plays, especially. And I'm trying to love my own work again. Both by allowing myself to genuinely enjoy my story and by allowing myself to enjoy time away from working without guilt. When I take down the pressure level, my edits actually become an escape when the stress is overwhelming.

The O.C.: I didn't watch The O.C. when I was a teenager, and now I really wish I had! Much like YA books, teen shows tend to be my thing. But it's especially fun seeing the makeup and technology from 2003-2004! And the music! And also, I ship Ryan/Marissa A LOT! I'm only eight episodes in, but I'm enjoying it so much.

Angela Via: So, going even further back to 2000, a singer named Angela Via had a hit single, at least among the preteens of the time. She had two songs on the Pokemon movie albums. And she recorded a full album that sadly never got released. But as it went back in the time of Napster, the album was leaked, and ten/eleven-year-old me was obsessed with it. Particularly, the song I Don't Care. Angela's album was a major inspiration for Gina, the older version of Jane you'll meet in Book Two. And recently, I tracked down Angela's two released singles from 2000 for my singles collection.

This was another rough month, as I'm sure most of you can agree, and I'm sending so much love out to anyone who is struggling right now. I hope positive change comes out of all this pain. But please, remember to care of yourselves. Change is a long process. We need to replenish ourselves so we can keep moving forward.