A Writer's Life - My Xbox and I

This is the first in a series of memoir-style entries I'm titling "A Writer's Life."  This post won't make sense unless I provide some context. Back when I was in college, I was the stereotypical geek. I had (bad) red streaks in my hair, watched 75 episodes of Hikaru No Go (an anime) in two sittings, and dressed up as Kagome (from Inuyasha) on Halloween. I was one of those girls guys discussed mIRC issues with (and I was never asked on a single date). My parents had never been pro-gaming, so I bought a PS2 with my first paycheck almost immediately after moving into my dorm. I then proceeded to work my way through all the games I wanted to play back in highschool.

In college, I had one of those jobs where I was more or less paid to sit in one place and answer questions if the phone ever rang (which it rarely did). Therefore, I had plenty of time to go through an RSS feed filled with posts from Kotaku, Joystiq and CheapAssGamer.com. When left to my own devices, I would do not so smart things such as play Resident Evil 4 for 17 hours straight (with bathroom breaks), and drive my then boyfriend crazy as I created a spreadsheet in order to beat Final Fantasy X. (By the way, I'm not contradicting myself. My then boyfriend, now husband, never actually asked me out on a date. I'll leave that story for another day.)

One of the first joint purchases DH and I made (before we were married) was an Xbox 360 (yes, shortly after launch--and yes, that particular one is now RIP thanks to the red ring of death). We then proceeded to log over 220 hours playing Elder Scrolls 4 - Oblivion. It was a great bonding experience--I designed the character, managed the inventory, beefed up the stats, enchanted the weapons, and created the spells. He got the unpleasant task of fighting those creepy crawly spiders and skeletons (first person fighting gives me vertigo.).

When those lovely college years came to an end (kids, you have no idea how good you have it), my Xbox followed my husband and I to Washington, D.C. I started working the day after graduation, but I still had enough time to feed my gaming habit. Over the next few years, I got 1000 achievement points in Civilization Revolution, filled Albion's coffers in Fable 2, and fell in love with Dragon Age: Origins (lets not bring up Dragon Age 2 right now. It'll spoil my nostalgic mood).

And then I realized I wanted to become an author. It had always been in the back of my mind, but I was too busy making rent and enjoying myself to see the signs (the journals full of scribblings next to the Xbox should have clued me in, but they didn't). I had always been a writer, but trying to turn that passion into a career is an entirely different endeavor. I had to set goals and commit to writing a certain number of hours per week (as opposed to whenever the muse struck). Then there's the pesky problem of finding an epublisher who would take my novellas on, as well as all the  additional responsibilities that comes with signing a contract.

I would describe my current stage of author-dom as the "intern paid in coffee" stage. I make a living off my day-job (which is, unfortunately, no longer of the "sit around and do nothing variety") and work part-time as an author in exchange for indeterminate potential earnings. Combine that with DH's mandatory gym sessions, doing groceries, and having a social life, this more or less leaves just enough time for sleep.

As a result, my relationship with the Xbox fizzled for two years before officially ending about a year ago.  I was relegated to enviously glancing in DH's direction as he beat Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Mass Effect 2, and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. I consciously chose not buy Final Fantasy XIII (the game that once launched my failed "We MUST buy a PS3 campaign"). I wanted to be an author, and some luxuries had to go.

So why am I writing this (and more importantly, why did I tag this post "pep-talk")?

I officially turned-in my "two month notice" yesterday (it was a one year contract, so this was just a formality). Since then, I've been a bit in the doldrums. On top of conjuring horrifying visions of packing up and moving countries (again), only to have to move to another country a year later, the notification brought home the fact that I'll be unemployed (again) as of July 18, 2013.

While I am by no means going to starve on the streets (an unexpected side-effect of becoming an author was lowered expenses), the prospect of no longer having a regular paycheck made me anxious. With the six months of language training DH is trying to sign me up for (which should improve my employment prospects at his onward assignment), my one year in the U.S. is simply not conducive for getting a day job. I'll have a six-week break, followed by classes (hopefully), followed by another four-month gap before we leave the country. Not exactly great fodder for a job interview.

As such, DH and I decided I should simply take this opportunity to write full-time. While I should be jumping up and down with joy, the prospect frightens me. Despite what's been floating around the blogosphere of late, being an erotic romance author (on average) is not some gold-coin laden path to stardom. At this stage, I'd be lucky if my royalties end up  paying for a chocolate coin or two. So yesterday was one of those days when I wasn't exactly depressed, but neither was I my usual cheerful self. I was dreading July and the changes it will bring.

And then all the chatter surrounding the Xbox One caught my eye. Despite what the critics are saying, the prospect of a new generation of consoles brought a smile to my face. I haven't had time to play video games for a year. Don't get me wrong--I love being an erotic romance author. I wouldn't give it up for all the video games in the world. But having something to look forward to reminded me I wasn't simply losing an income--I was trading money for time. Most of it will be spent writing, but some of it I can reserve for just being myself again.

Last year, I didn't follow the E3 announcements. Why bother? They were talking about all the games I wouldn't have time to play. This year, on some days, it might be DH's turn to enviously watch as I sit on the couch with a game controller in hand. Who knows? A certain someone might be persuaded to get me an Xbox One on my birthday. 

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Tara Quan

Globetrotter, lover of languages, and romance author, Tara Quan has an addiction for crafting tales with a pinch of spice and a smidgen of kink. Inspired by her travels, she enjoys tossing her kick-ass heroines and alpha males into exotic contemporary locales, fantasy worlds, and post-apocalyptic futures. Visit Tara at www.taraquan.com

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