If you were directed to this site via one of my self-published works (there are some few copies still floating around with the link), the focus of this site has since changed.

Here I still write about writing, and include story prompts and the occasional book review (disclaimer, Amazon and Smashwords affiliate links included where relevant), along with assorted random topics. I am slowly trying to shift the focus towards those reviews and away from the random topics.
The sister site, Pioneers of the Shattered Waters, now bears the focus of my own stories, up to and including Nation Novel Writing Month competition data.

More details on this change can be found on the relevant page, “Migrating Certain Posts

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Workout Week 2–Visibility

Well, my gaming channel is still living up to its name: Unfashionably Late.

 

I figured out last week’s issue with the glaring white TV screen:

This is why you test things first!

As it turns out, simply turning the TV’s backlight down solved that problem. No other changes in setting required.

There is still the matter of the room’s ambient lighting (curtains closed for sake of consistent lighting, but with no overhead fixture my only light sources are movable lamps like the one placed behind the camera in the above photo), and I can’t help but wonder if it’d be worth getting a bigger TV for the purpose (which would first require a bigger entertainment center), but the current setup will do while I continue to explore my options.

 

But the lighting is not the reason for the lack of footage this time around. Instead, I was once again distracted by things that shouldn’t have been distracting under the circumstances.

On Monday, I was told to expect my nephew to come over at some unspecified later point so I could help him with his homework. Instead of getting into a workout and risk the occupational hazard that is being interrupted while I’m recording (forgetting, as always, that these workouts are only a few minutes long so that risk is practically non-existent), I watched some movies with my parents while I waited, and waited, and waited some more for him to let us know that he was done with whatever needed doing at home so he could come over.

He never came over.

And on Wednesday, I spent most of my “not sitting on my butt” time running all of the errands I would have done on Monday in between my planned workouts had I not been waiting around for my nephew, in addition to the ones I would normally do on Wednesday.

 

That doesn’t mean I spent all of my free time sitting around, though. While I still need to work on sticking to the plan for my camera-recordable games, I have gone out on each of my days off and walked another session on Zombies, Run, though my walking speed was somewhat dependent on how icy my road was.

The introductory chapter and the next workout were fairly simple, in terms of weather. The roads were clear, very few patches of ice to navigate, things like that, and my pace was typical of what I walk in the summer. The “w1w2” workout required a bit more care as I kept having to backtrack slightly, alternating from presumably clear pavement, to presumably clear patches of ground on the side of the road, to simply walking on top of the piles of snow. The final workout for the week was the worst, as all of the ground, visibly clear or not, was slippery enough to send me sliding a few times before I regained my footing.

For the record I was wearing trail shoes the entire time. I bought them a couple of years ago to keep my feet dry when I go for walks when it’s raining out, but the soles have proven worthwhile for winter walking… as good as my nicer looking boots, anyway.

 

There is one matter of safety that needed addressing, however. Each of these times I was going outside, walking up and down my road, in light that was dim or foggy due not to the time of day but entirely to the weather. There have been some days that are nice and bright out, but for the most part my walks have been in questionable conditions… grey winter skies, grey winter coat, not really the best combination.

So I needed to find a reflective vest of some kind, maybe even lights that I could use for added visibility.

I didn’t want anything super special; a simple reflective vest, large enough that I could throw on no matter what I was wearing, would suffice, but finding something wasn’t as easy as I expected it to be. Nothing in my store’s sporting goods department (they had plenty of hats and sweaters, but no vests), nothing in hardware (not unless I wanted to take a reflective strip meant for mailboxes and attach it to my coat). When I finally found a bandolier-style vest with straps made for attaching lights, I thought it was perfect!

Until I tried it on.

One size fits all… unless you’re wearing a coat.

The worst part wasn’t even the fit. The worst part was that my dad had to attach the velcro fasteners for me because they’re behind me (seriously, why did someone think that was a good idea?) and I couldn’t reach them with the coat on (not sure if I could reach them without the coat on, to be honest), and relying on the elastic to let me take it off without undoing the velcro resulted in the velcro undoing itself without anyone’s help.

I finally located the more traditional variety of safety vest, easy to fasten and more than large enough to fit over my coat, in my store’s apparel department. I may still visit a sporting goods store to look for other options, but that one will do until I find something I like better.

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Workout Week 1–Footage Fail and the Starting Line

(Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links included where possible and I deem them relevant. I’ll earn a small commission, as described in my privacy policy from eligible purchases made through these links.)

First week in and things are already not going to plan.

First there was the massive migraine I woke up with on Monday. Then I had to help my dad take his recliner to the repair shop one town over. Then I had to take my car in for an oil change, also one town over. While the “few minutes at a time” plan means that I could, realistically, have gotten in a few games between errands, by the time I even thought about trying it was already dinner time, and my brain is programmed to switch to “relax in my pjs” mode afterwards.

Then on Wednesday I had more errands to run, and while I did manage to record the “character creation” in Wii Fit U (I completely reset my progress just to track it better for the purpose of this resolution), the footage… didn’t turn out very well.

Footage Fail

The plan had been to use my GoPro instead of my phone–4K video versus 2K, don’t you know?–but attach it somewhere to the side (here it’s mounted via a flexible tripod to my Gazelle) so that I could pick up both my movements and whatever’s happening on the TV screen, but as you can see the lighting didn’t pan out for that plan. Not sure if that’s something I need to change with the GoPro, the TV, the ambient lighting (note the closed curtains) or any combination thereof, but it will require testing to find a workable solution.

This is why you test things first!

My 360 Fusion, on the tripod sitting almost directly in front of the entertainment center, fared a little better but the TV image was still mostly white with no ability to actually let my viewers decipher what I’m seeing. Even once I find a fix for that dilemma, there will be the matter of A) copying the video files to my computer so I can edit (two memory cards for the Fusion, and the official app doesn’t like to connect to the camera, so until I find a reader that will take both cards at once I’m stuck waiting for one card to copy over before I can move to the next), and editing them into a useful form. I had planned on using the main GoPro for the “fixed” position that shows me and the gameplay footage, and using the Fusion to let my viewers choose which they’d rather see, but now I need to explore other options unless I can find a way to make this one work.

 

Starting Line

But it’s not a total loss. In addition to finding things that need fixing, I managed to get two walks in on Zombies, Run, and I found a workable option for my “before and after” pictures to show my progress… er, to show what I wish to progress from, that is.

First, there is the entirely unconventional “before” picture that showcases why I wish to lose weight.

We all have our reasons, ranging from those of physical health, to finding out that an outfit you like isn’t available in your size, to simply trying to find clothes that fit, to even body-shyness and (sadly) body shaming.

In the case of this photo, those reasons would be body-shyness combined with a sensory disorder.

Here you see me wearing one of the shirts I bought for work. Nice, decorative, far better than wearing a plain pullover five days a week. I’m not one for “dressing up,” but I like the style enough that I went out and bought a whole bunch like it as soon as my place of employment changed their dress code, and I continue to buy new ones of a similar appearance when I see them in different colors.

But even though they’re physically comfortable, I always, always have trouble finding a nice-looking shirt that doesn’t seem to show off my Dolly Parton lookalikes, and this shirt has a problem that most of my work shirts do not: an extra layer of material underneath, stitched together somewhere in the middle. In the first photo, you see me demonstrating where that stitching is located… right at the top of my spare tire. Even though I know the outer layer covers me fully, the position of that stitching, combined with my sensory disorder, makes me feel like I’m walking around showing off my entire belly, a sensation that is made worse by the fact that the inner layer hangs high enough to show off my skin as demonstrated in the second photo.

Here my weight loss goal can be simply put as: lose enough of that belly (and the Dolly Parton lookalikes) that the shirt would lay flatter against my torso. Hopefully I can lose enough to make the shirt “longer,” so that the inner layer extends past my belly and the stitching at least extends past the spare tire.

 

But the workshort is just a little too baggy to really show off my curves for a proper “before” photo. For that, we have the tank top and shorts combo that I typically wear as pajamas in the summer.

I know, a good “before and after” picture shouldn’t have anything in the background because visual distractions, but my choice of wall decor did serve the unplanned purpose of showing me exactly where to stand for sake of consistency. I plan to move the medal hanger as I slowly declutter, but the other stuff will have to stay put until I can replace my platform bed with a Murphy style.

Both sets of photos were taken with my phone on a Fleximount clip-on smartphone grip and a Bower wireless remote shutter (seen in my left hand). Contrary to the reviews on that link, I found the clip-on grip extremely useful for the purpose–it doesn’t grip the side of my desk quite as well as I’d like, so I have to be careful not to bump it when I’m on that side of the room to, say, make my bed or even sit down or stand up from the computer, but my biggest concern had always been whether or not it would hold the weight of my phone (I have a Note 8 and I used to have a quad-pod that simply toppled over every time I tried to use it), and the neck on this thing is so stiff that there doesn’t seem to be any chance that my phone will weigh it down. The remote… well, it’s easier than using a timer, I think, but I have to remember there’s a slight delay; I had to retake a few photos because the phone didn’t actually snap a picture until after I’d started moving into the next position.

 

And the final starting line is the weight itself.

I had hoped to get a screenshot of just “today” (whether it’s today, today, or Jan 1, I don’t care), but neither the FitBit app nor the website seems to have that option despite “today” literally being listed on the website among the available filters. I guess I’ll just have to keep looking at options.

But in any case, the long stretch of almost no change at all comes from the several years in which I didn’t own a FitBit. My very first one, the clip-on style Ultra, broke about a month after the warranty expired and I didn’t have the money to invest in a new one; I bought the Flex 2 just a few years ago when searching for a tracker I could wear in my Aqua Aerobics class, and figured since I already had an account I might as well try another FitBit.

In addition to the account going unused for so long, I also didn’t get in the habit of weighing myself until I found a FitBit Aria (the first model) on clearance, so I don’t really know what my average weight would be, but note that the lowest point on that graph is about ten pounds lighter than my current weight. So another simple-but-complex weight loss goal is to set a new “lowest point” on the graph.

I have no idea what my body fat percentage is (the Aria 1 measured it until the whole device quit working, but my replacement, the Aria Air, does not, and the handheld scanner I bought as a substitute just says I’m so fat that it can’t read me), so it will be a while yet before I can try adding that as stat I’m (hopefully) progressing in.

 

What about you, my readers? How are your New Year’s Resolutions going for the first week? Hopefully you haven’t hit snags like I have, but if nothing else, it’s a reminder that even in our resolutions it’s always important to remain flexible.

 

Suggested Products

Products I personally used and was able to provide Amazon Affiliate links for (with the potential for a small commission):

Specific products I used but was not able to find on Amazon:

  • Flexible tripod (don’t remember the brand, think I bought it from my place of employment, and I didn’t see one on Amazon that looks quite like mine)
  • Remote shutter (as mentioned in the post, I used a Bower brand, also bought from my place of employment; Amazon has some Bower products but I did not see this particular one on there, nor, remarkably, did I see it on Bower’s own website!)
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2021 New Year’s Resolutions, Day 1–Social Media Goals

Don’t worry, I won’t be spamming my followers by writing daily about my resolutions. 😉

Rather, since it is the beginning of the new year, I thought it time to touch on some of those goals as they pertain to my social media and, in theory, to my followers.

 

Schedule

I haven’t yet worked out an actual scheduling plan as of yet, though for the purpose of my “resolutions” I hope to start recording video for my gaming channel (both of the fitness themed playlist and games in general) on Jan 4, and to post that footage as early as Jan 6. Though I might be able to increase that to two days’ worth of content per week later on, if and when I get through the backlog for my other two channels.

Why those days? Or why only two days? Two reasons, and both are to do with my work schedule. I get distracted enough on social media as it is, but I simply don’t play video games on days I work–not before getting ready for work, not after getting home, not at all–not unless you count checking in for some daily bonus and then immediately logging out again. And since my job has me on my feet all day, I won’t bother with any fitness-centric games on those days. So even getting footage in the first place will have to wait until my next day off (barring the aforementioned distractions), after which there will be the matter of editing and uploading. Not only that, but there is the matter of needing decent lighting (I understand natural to be the preferred option) and a suitable outfit for the before-and-after photos; neither my usual hours nor work clothes will be conducive to those criteria so I wouldn’t even try it any time except on a day off.

 

Video Duration

Expect videos to be short, plain and simple. Especially those recorded in VR. No hour-long gaming sessions to be had here, whether it’s a fitness game or not; instead you’ll see things like one song in Beat Saber, one night in FNAF (assuming I survive an entire night), things like that.

On the fitness side of things, the reason is that I’m simply not in shape enough to go out of my way to make long videos. Some day, maybe, before the year is out if I’m very lucky, but it will be a while yet.

And the problem with doing long videos in VR specifically is that I get migraines. I’ve had them most of my life, and while I take treatments for them (a daily dose of feverfew or the smell of peppermint are the best things for me so far, and of course there is the occasional need for a headache strength OTC painkiller), nothing is perfect. Even if I manage to get my VR legs quickly, the weight of the headset is something I cannot deal with for long periods of time. I imagine the headsets for PCVR won’t be as heavy as my Quest, and I might be able to invest in one down the line when I have more floorspace and a better computer, but for now… short sessions it is.

Neither of these problems mean that I won’t have a lot of content for a given day or week–it remains to be seen how many videos I’ll manage with breaks in between–I just don’t expect to play for more than a few minutes at a time. On the plus side, this gives me more time to play a variety of games in a single day instead of focusing on one title.

 

Non-fitness games and SideQuest for Oculus Quest

The first two points above relate to my followers mostly in the sense of what those followers can expect of my videos, and when they can expect to see new content. It also relates, though not as strongly, to fellow fitness seekers who might like to follow my progress and get some ideas on whether fitness games will work for them.

This next point, however, relates almost entirely to those who wish to try the same thing… not just in the pursuit of fitness, but playing VR games–in particular, using a Quest to play non-Quest games–with a focus on entertainment.

Since I mentioned it the previous section, a certain fellow gamer has been trying to convince me to play FNAF since the very first game came out. Personally I’m not interested in horror games–I can watch other people play them just fine but can’t really see myself getting into the gameplay–so I don’t care for the idea of paying out $30 for FNAF VR. $10 like Dreadhalls and similar cost, sure, but $30 is too much just to try out a game that someone else wants me to play. (Perhaps if the Quest had a gifting function; hint to FaceBook?)

$20 for Virtual Desktop, on the other hand, combined with I-don’t-remember-what-but-there-was-a-sale for one year’s subscription to Vive Infinty, is something else entirely. Price-wise it probably works out to about the same, but this combination, in theory, would allow me to play a variety of PCVR games on my Oculus Quest, provided they are games that my PC itself can handle.

But there is the matter of getting that combination to work. I don’t know what VD’s developers had in mind for the app, but for me the whole point of it is to play PCVR games on the Quest, so I was a tiny bit miffed when I finally got around to loading it to learn that such a function requires sideloading a patch via SideQuest (nothing against SideQuest itself, I just lean towards the “the app that does a task best is the one that supports that task natively” mentality). Getting that patch required installing a few extra programs on my computer, switching the Quest to Developer Mode (which requires a few extra steps of its own), installing the SideQuest patch to the Quest, and of course switching off Developer Mode again if I want to retain any hope of sharing in-game video and screenshots.

There were some glitchy moments along the way, things that had to be installed, and reinstalled, and reinstalled again before they cooperated. But I think I finally have it working. Sort of. There is the small matter of figuring out if the lack of sound I’m experiencing is a problem on the Quest’s end or on my computer’s, or even a basic setting that I just need to find and change, as well as locating the two games that I sideloaded directly from SideQuest. But I was able to install and play, among other things, a motorcycle racing game that surprisingly did not trigger any feelings of vertigo, and the entire system works well enough to let me try out a few games I would never have bought otherwise.

Games like FNAF, where, before I even found the game menu so I could start playing, I was almost immediately met by Foxy.

Don’t turn your back. Don’t look away. And most of all, don’t blink.

And with that, my gaming session for the day was at an end.

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2021 New Year’s Resolutions

I’m obviously nearly a month early, but I want to get this posted while I’m thinking about it. (Which argument incidentally applies to some of the resolutions. I keep thinking about them when I can’t act on them, but then I let myself get distracted by other things when I can.)

Also, as some of them apply to social media itself, I want to get my to-do list for next year done early so that I don’t have to think about making it once it’s time to start acting on it.

 

Anywho. My “New Year’s Resolutions” for 2021:

 

Have $10,000 in my bank account.

Okay, fine. $10K should be doable on my current wages if I completely stop spending money, but even if I exercise more self-control, there is still the matter of the new car and the old student loan. Not to mention the need to buy food and gas once in a while….

$5K is a much more realistic goal… especially since I specifically said “have in my bank account,” not “add to my bank account.” (Honestly, I feel like $10K could work with that criteria, but I digress.)

 

Get through my YouTube backlog!

Previous plans had included shifting my gaming-themed unboxing videos from my main channel over to the gaming channel (decluttering the main just a little bit more while adding quasi-relevant content to the channel that has almost nothing), but I will admit part of me is tempted to just drop those videos entirely. Especially since the only new content I’d be making on that score is for the Elder Scrolls Loot Crate boxes; I just don’t know enough about the lore, constantly forget the names of the Daedra etc, and it shows in the videos and I don’t have the patience to redo them after the fact.

As far as that goes, that same part of me is tempted to cancel my subscription–if I act on that temptation, that would also contribute to the two goals of saving money and decluttering the house.

 

Get in shape.

Lose… hmmm… well, technically the goal is to lose about 60 pounds, but for a single year’s resolution and the fact that I spend way too much time sitting in front of the computer, I’ll ease into it with a much lower milestone of 10 pounds (with plans to shift the goal as I go). Or if I round that off based on the target weight instead of the target loss, I want to get my weight down to 180 pounds.

This one kinda works with the YouTube plans–and with the second reason for posting my resolutions early–because I have several fitness-based games that I plan to showcase in a themed playlist on my gaming channel. These include some of my VR games, RingFit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch, Wii Fit U for the Wii U, even Link’s Crossbow Training for the Wii, and maybe I’d occasionally add footage from this Stealth game I have that’s all about doing planks. In addition to all that, I’d expect to post my progress on here (probably on a monthly basis) in the form of:

  • embedding relevant videos from my channel
  • uploading before-and-after photos (gotta figure out what clothes will work best and whether I need to add to my wardrobe for the purpose; if nothing else, the tank-and-shorts combo I normally wear as summer pajamas might work)
  • and providing screenshots of my progress in games that I can’t record like Zombies, Run.

With my work schedule (full time, two days off per week) and the variety of games to choose from, I’m debating on whether I’m better off doing multiple games in a single day versus alternating games each week, though I should at least do ZR on each of my days off regardless of whatever else I play.

 

Write more fiction.

Finish writing the Flash/Legends of Tomorrow prequel fanfic “What Could Have Been.” Or at least the last two chapters from the original timeline.

I had a technical issue that stopped me from using my phone to work on it a year ago, so I dropped off writing during lunch breaks, but instead of working on it at home I just kept letting myself get distracted by social media. And not even creating for social media, but merely browsing it. The result is that the two chapters that I had left at the end of NaNoWriMo 2019 have still not been completed.

A follow-up resolution would be to continue writing/finish the original novel The Graft… and any other original and theoretically salable work.

I suppose I also ought to try posting another newsletter while I’m at it. I originally came up with the idea a few years ago during a moment of cold- (or cold medicine)- induced lunacy, so I thought it was weirdly appropriate that it was during another cold that it occurred to me to write my third newsletter. Trouble is, I hesitated on posting it (I forget the reason, but I think it had to do with trying to decide which book to feature in the “reading” section), and here it is, several months after starting that issue, and I still haven’t finished it.

 

Declutter the house.

This one is a more ongoing, perpetual problem than a specific goal for the year, as no matter how much stuff I get rid of I always seem to find something else to get rid of once the previous junk pile is gone.

Decluttering, therefore, ranges from selling more stuff on eBay (which obviously depends on other people wanting to buy what I’m offering) to simply finding stuff I’m willing to donate to the local thrift store.

Incidentally, most of the stuff I had on eBay in years past ended up going to the thrift store–I just got to the point where reclaiming that space (if only temporarily as I keep replacing my old stuff with new stuff) was a higher priority than getting money for it. Especially now since I’m trying to arrange for more floor space for the VR games. I figure I’ll continue donating anything I find in those Loot Crates that I personally do not want to keep. My parents, on the other hand, have found some motorcycle gear that they would far rather attempt to sell than donate anywhere.

Decluttering also translates to reading through that 10-foot pile of books I’d collected from the thrift store and other sources over the course of a year, and redonating (and replacing with digital any titles that I really want to keep) as I go. Anybody who’s curious can check out the “reading” portion of my progress on GoodReads; the bookshelf titled “Print Collection” lists the vast majority of physical copies I plan to be rid of once I’ve read them (along with one or two that got added before I decided to use the list that way). The curious can likewise visit my BookCrossing profile for the “redonating” portion of my progress, which leads me to another goal/resolution: get that map created for my blog!

 

So what about you, my readers? Any plans for the new year? Specific goals that you want to accomplish before the year is out? More general goals that you want to work on as time goes on?

And which of your goals are dependent on you (e.g. fitness, saving money, etc) versus those that require the cooperation of other people (e.g. selling stuff)?

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2020 “Spring” Cleaning and Redecorating

A follow up to Daydreaming about Free Time, in which the beginning of the lockdown had me thinking about what I’d want to do (and what I’d probably do instead) if I ever found myself locked down.

As it happens, some of those plans have come to pass, but for financial reasons others are very much a work in progress.

 

Disclaimer: Amazon Affiliate links (which earn me a small commission on sales) will be included on relevant products where such a link can be generated.

 

Computer Desk:

If you’ve looked at the post linked above, you’ve probably already seen my new computer desk. What you would not have seen is how cluttered that cupboard was before it became possible to organize things further.

Before:

The mess you see within would be most of my camera equipment: bags, spare batteries, GoPro mounting adapters, chargers, and assorted other accessories.

The smallest items are stored in the Mind Reader brand mesh 3-drawer storage container, while some of my very largest items still need to be stored in the “junk” drawer in my dresser.
(And here I immediately contradict my note about “where such a link can be generated.” At this time of writing the exact product is “currently unavailable,” but you might be interested in one of the other organizers offered by the same manufacturer.)

After:

Given that the vast majority of my writing is done on the computer, I thought it best to keep my reference books and few notebooks in that little cupboard for easy access instead of on my actual bookshelves (what few shelf units remain).

 

Not only has the cupboard been decluttered, but I’ve managed to clear space off of the desk itself.

Before:

When I first started using this computer desk, this photo represents the tidiest I could get it as absolutely everything computer-related that I didn’t want to shove in some drawer was forced to share space here. As a result there was little room for desirables like a decent mousepad!

After:

Even though decluttering is a considerable part of my goal, I will confess this photo gives me a sense of “something missing.” In truth, the only thing missing is my backordered graphics amplifier, which will begin its life as a glorified USB hub but eventually transform my computer into something more suitable for VR gaming…. at least until I’ve saved up for a new computer.

That mousepad, by the way, is the Logitech Lightspeed wireless charging mousepad. I’d like to do a product review at some point, but so far I’m loving it!

 

But where did everything else go? Surely you don’t think I was so obsessed with decluttering that I got rid of everything else.

Nope, I got myself a new shelf unit in the form of a:

Hobby Desk

Despite certain differences such as brand and coloration, I’ve had my eye on the Ameriwood brand hobby desk since purchasing the above Mainstays brand l-shaped computer desk.

This one proved harder to come by for a number of reasons, chief among which was the fact that it took so long for the parental units to allow me to donate my (or rather, their, since their permission was even required) full-size brass bed to the thrift store instead of waiting, and waiting, and waiting still some more, for a friend or family member to take it off my hands. (I could’ve had that thing gone and everything else set up before Christmas if it had been my decision, but it didn’t get donated until the middle of a pandemic because it took that long for them to even ask.) Since there was simply no space in my room to set up the new desk, and I did not relish having to put it together and take it apart again nor leave it boxed up in another room (and risk encountering problems too late to replace it), I waited until the oversized bed was gone before attempting to purchase the new desk… and by that point it had a maddening tendency to go in and out of stock on a regular basis, or for the price to vary wildly when it was only being offered by secondary sellers.

But buy it I eventually did. Not only does all of my camera equipment (except the largest tripods still occupying the junk drawer) fit without crowding the shelves, but I can keep my laptop and “fitness center”

charged and ready to go.

The empty space in the middle of the desk is reserved for those moments when I need an actual desk, for reasons ranging from “responsible adult” tasks like matching up my receipts with credit card statements, to hobby pursuits like practicing drawing, to providing space for my phone when I want to record anything without the use of a webcam. I’ve become so accustomed to clutter that it, too, provides a sense of “something missing,” but if I am to keep things organized that space should remain empty when I am not actively using it.

There was also more than enough room on the shelves both above and beneath the new desk for all of my non-electronic art supplies and odds and ends that had previously occupied plastic totes under my bed.

 

I may still find something among those odds and ends to donate or throw out, but I consider simply getting them out from under my bed is a win for reasons besides the need to organize. The reason is that, unlike the space under or behind the desk, the bed is taking up floor space I expect to use for VR gaming… once I’ve saved enough to replace it with a Murphy bed, that is.

 

YouTube Cleanup

While there is always the possibility of finding something else to reorganize or get rid of, there is one final “spring cleaning” that I have planned. Amid the backlog of videos in need of editing, I also want to revise my YouTube channels, make the main channel Side Quest Publications more writerly in nature, and also get more related content onto my other channels (most notably the gaming one, currently titled Unfashionably Late Gaming).

Since the relevant videos have very little engagement at this point in time, I consider it no great loss to delete them from the first channel for the purpose of migrating to another. The plan, therefore, is to remove all of the gaming-related unboxing videos (Build a Bear pokemon, Elder Scrolls collector’s editions, and gaming themed Loot Crates) from the main channel, edit them for various reasons such as giving them a proper outro (to better use the “end screen” feature), and upload them to the gaming channel. Whether I choose to do the same with the other Loot Crate videos to keep everything together remains to be seen, but I see no need to make such a decision for future videos; unless I happen to get a sponsor (dare to dream 😉 ), I don’t expect to make any more unboxing videos that are not either gaming- or book-related.

 

Just Keep Cleaning, Just Keep Cleaning

That takes care of the bigger messes, but there are other things in my room to declutter without simply getting rid of stuff. In addition to keeping these areas organized, the next step would probably be… hmmmm…..

Should it be the cubbies near the top of the desk? (Spare mouses, flash drives, memory cards, and assorted small items that might require the use of another desk organizer.)

Or my dresser? (Books are a “simple” matter of reading and redonating, and most of my usb cords are organized into those two boxes; the actual mess is the assorted health-not-fitness products.)

Decisions, decisions.

 

What about you, my readers? What organizational tasks would you most like to tackle, and how would you like to accomplish that?

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Using free time to daydream about free time

Disclaimer: Two different mentions of desks, given the absence of any photos I could take for the purpose, link to relevant product pages on Amazon. Both links, located towards the end of the post where I’ve included other photos of my workspace-in-progress, include an Amazon Affiliate code (which earns me a small commission if purchases are made through my link).

 

Thanks to the Coronavirus, a lot of people have found themselves with a lot of unwanted free time on their hands. (And by “unwanted” I mean that these people would probably like to continue earning a steady paycheck.) I’ve seen posts all across social media describing what people are trying to do in this free time: play games for their Twitch/YouTube channels, finish writing novels, finish reading novels, get working on insert-craft-project-here, and so on.

And that got me thinking. I don’t have that free time myself–I’m not sick, and my place of employment isn’t closed down because people need their groceries, so I’m still putting up with the 40-plus-mile round-trip commute–but if, hypothetically, I was stuck at home for an extended period, what would I do with that time?

 

Writing in progress

Part of me says I should work on finishing my current fanfic-in-progress. Or at least finish the current timeline. I mean, I’m only two chapters off from the end of that timeline (before a certain speedster in yellow changes things and Mr. Eidetic Memory has to figure out how to cope with those changes), and I know where I want to take those two chapters; I don’t even need to rewatch episodes to accurately recreate dialogue for this part, so theoretically I should be able to finish it soon.

There is also one of many original fiction projects, specifically the one currently titled The Graft, to complete. Though in this case that means completing the first draft… and then editing so that I have more than just the free prologue to upload to my Patreon.

 

Video Backlog

Speaking of my Patreon, there are also assorted video projects I want to try. Bad translator style “guess that book” descriptions from books I’ve enjoyed and/or excerpts from my own work, practicing drawing, things like that. Or there’s simply the fact that, for two of my YouTube channels, I still have that massive backlog in need of editing, plus I need to start playing games again if I’m to record anything for the gaming channel.

Book reviews, too–while I’m cutting down on the hodgepodge of random content, I’m trying to shift the focus of this site to reviews, with the admittedly ulterior motive of having a reason to insert Amazon Affiliate links and hopefully earn a small commission in the process.

 

And I think about this, and daydream, and wonder, and finally decide…. Who am I kidding? If I had that much time to myself, I’d probably just let myself get distracted by social media like I’ve been doing anyway.

 

Spring Cleaning

But since I’m not stuck at home and only have my usual two days off per week, what I really ought to do is finish the fanfic’s current timeline, edit and upload some of those videos… and continue working on cleaning my room to make it more, shall we say, compatible as a gaming room.

I’ve made quite a bit of progress already, clearing out one shelf unit enough to get rid of it (which surprisingly consisted primarily of reorganizing the contents of my other shelf units–which I had believed to be full before making this attempt–and very little disposing or donating of my property) and make room for a larger desk, but there’s still more progress to be made, especially if I intend to play VR games in here.

Before-ish

These are all old photos–it occured to me too late that I had never taken pictures of what my room looked like prior to acquiring the new desk–but imagine that vaguely beech-colored three-column shelf unit (clearly visible on the right in the first photo, you can just barely see it past the black shelf unit in the second) in the same corner as in the photos, and the rest of the wall in the first photo filled all the way to the doorframe with shelf units shorter than either of the others pictured. Imagine, also, a narrower student desk than the one pictured, just big enough to fit a wall-mounted 32 inch monitor (but only as long as I don’t toss and turn at night–I bought a 24-inch instead for the purpose) in place of the one in the final photo, and you have a good idea of how little floor space was available for things that are not my bed.

Game Room Step One: New Desk

There were several “first steps” to consider, including replacing my full-size hand-me-down brass bad with a twin-size Murphy bed. For that option to help, though, I’d need to be able to get rid of the brass bed, be able to afford a Murphy bed that’s to my liking (I’m thinking a freestanding one that has a small desk when it’s folded up), and be able to clear out all of the stuff that’s under my bed.

At some point I decided that clearing out enough wall space in the form of getting rid of that shelf unit, moving my bed from the center of the room to the wall, and replacing my student desk with a larger option would be an easier first step. Moving the bed significantly increased my floor space; adding a larger desk only slightly decreased it.

(That’s still the 24-inch monitor. I can now use a 32-inch without a risk from tossing and turning, but I won’t buy one until I’ve paid my bills down enough to justify the cost of a 4K, plus such a monitor would fill that cubby enough that I’d probably need to relocate my webcam.)

Future Plans

Obviously this is a work in progress. To really get things set up the way I want them, I still need a smaller bed (I’d like a Murphy but a regular twin size will suffice in the meantime), better options for shelf units (there’s a craft desk with built-in bookcase I have my eye on that could fit right next to the computer desk… but it will only fit once the bed is replaced with a smaller model), and continue keeping an eye out for things I’m willing to simply get rid of so I can clear out the boxes under my bed.

The shelves currently shoved in behind the head of my bed are the same ones that I’d mentioned as filling the east wall to the doorframe. They are mostly full of signed books, not reading copies, so the fact that they’re inaccessible is nothing to worry about before I’ve replaced my bed.

However, I will need to reorganize some of the things covering my walls (especially if I intend to get a Murphy bed, as the wall coverings would be in the way no matter what style I get), and see if I can reorganize the collectibles I’d moved over to the new desk. I’d underestimated just how much camera equipment I have (mostly tripods, cases, and spare batteries, but they still take up quite far more space than I realized) so I’ll either want to find a better location for them than the cupboard on that desk or acquire an adjustable shelf like the kind made for lockers.

 

What about you, my fellow bloggers? If you were stuck at home during this pandemic, what would you like to do with that time? Likewise, if you are stuck at home, how are you trying to keep yourself occupied?

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2019 Amazon Service: 3 months of Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents

Another year, another 3 months of Kindle Unlimited for 99 cents, and this time it looks like I’ve remembered to post just in time for this year’s promotion (the last day to sign up appears to be Dec 31). Or of course there are the more ordinary 6, 12, and 24-month plans available.

 

Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
The bounty link with my associate code (which earns me a small commission on paid memberships, see my privacy policy for details) expires December 30, 2022.

As a reminder for those who are not familiar with the system, Kindle Unlimited is a “subscription” service.
The standard service costs $9.99 per month (there are other plans depending on family memberships and student status and the like) and allows you to download, at no additional charge, any Kindle ebooks that have been published through the system.

There are limits, of course.
First, the books you have downloaded are essentially “borrowed.” Once you end your subscription (or your free trial, as the case may be), you will no longer have access to the books you acquired this way unless you buy them outright. In addition, you can only download up to ten free books at a time in this manner; you will need to return one of those ten before you can download an eleventh.
Second is a matter of selection. From the author’s point of view, Kindle Unlimited is an opt-in program; the author chooses whether or not to include their books in Kindle Unlimited. Some authors choose to make their books exclusive to Amazon, so that they are free for KU subscribers; other authors choose to make their books available at multiple online retailers, an option that is simply not possible for titles enrolled in KU.

But even within those limits, it is worth at least a trial period. You can get some use of it even for so short a time as one month.
For my part, I’m giving KU the same “extended sample” treatment I did last year. I sort through the multitude of ebooks I’ve been hemming and hawing about (at the time of this writing, that’s 358 to check according to the Wishlist Total browser add-on, plus another 227 that have already been sorted), titles that I’ve come across as recommendations or Goodreads Giveaways and the like, titles I thought were intriguing enough to keep in mind but with which I have no either prior experience and only a short free sample on which to base a decision. Once I signed up for KU, I began sorting eligible titles into a list all their own, after which point I could download my first batch of 10, skim through the books to see if I like them enough to buy a copy outright, return them, and move on to the next batch.

If you are interested in giving Kindle Unlimited a try, I repeat, not only is the 3 month 99 cent plan still available for a while longer, but there are multiple plans to check out based on family and student memberships:
Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans
The bounty link with my associate code (which earns me a small commission on paid memberships, see my privacy policy for details) expires December 30, 2022. Time’s a-wastin’! 😀

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“Spring” Cleaning?

Otherwise known as the perpetual need to declutter.

I couldn’t decide whether to write this one as a page or a post, and I’d originally uploaded it as a draft under my list of pages. In the end, I decided a “post” serves my needs better as it provides a long-overdue update on the blogroll to anyone who’s signed up to receive notifications from my site. That being said, I intend to post a link to it on the menu, because some of the content might require something more permanent than a post that I would inevitably bury under newer posts.

Anywho, despite the name, “spring” cleaning is a need that randomly pops up at any time of the year. Or at least it does for me. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a website to revise, personal files to organize, or the general decluttering of the house that the phrase normally implies–poet and don’t know it, and I swear none of that was intentional–I can usually find something at any point of the year that I need to clean up.

With that in mind, I’d like to describe some of the changes I want to make to this site, and, to a certain extent, how those changes relate to the other forms of decluttering.

I’ll edit the post as I create relevant links.

Hodgepodge

Just like my primary YouTube channel, this site is something of a hodgepodge of a variety of topics. Unlike the YouTube channel, it didn’t start out that way; no, this site started out as a means to track my NaNoWriMo progress (which has since been migrated to the sister site Pioneers of the Shattered Waters) and slowly turned into a hodgepodge as I commented on whatever random topic crossed my mind. Though the random comments will likely still occur, I am trying to return the site to its roots and focus on bookish content once again.

To that end, there are certain categories that must be reorganized, as well as older posts to be removed outright. Case in point, If I Could Sell One Thing will remain a subcategory of Business and continue to focus on the quest to sell off that assorted clutter; likewise I intend to keep fellow subcategory Amazon Deals which focuses on assorted offers that Amazon wants their affiliates to advertise. But in both case, I need–need, need, need!–to remember to delete pages when they are no longer valid. A thing I keep hoping to sell that finally sold (or that I finally donated when I decided the space was more important than the money), for instance, or an Amazon deal that has long since expired.

Physical Clutter

I will also begin adding a category and posts for books that I have donated (not sold) to the general community in the form of Bookcrossing drop-offs. Besides the ulterior motive that is “more affiliate links,” the eventual goal here is to include a map of where all I’ve dropped off books, though as there are a few things I’d like to try so such a map might undergo a few revisions before I develop a version I’m satisfied with. (Bookcrossing supposedly has a mapping feature that might work but it requires a Wings membership which I have not yet purchased… so I do not have a way to tell if it would meet my needs.)

As many of my Bookcrossing books were acquired in the same way as one another (thrift shop alongside with the occasional book that’s been in our house for ages) or dropped off in the same place (the only outdoor library within a short drive), one shouldn’t expect the content for each listing to change all that much–I’d copy much of it directly from my own journals and release notes on the official site, these pages do not serve the purpose of reviews, after all–but I will provide links to the title’s actual product pages as well as a link to that copy’s journal on Bookcrossing for anyone who might be interested.

And of course, I repeat the point of the “If I Could Sell One Thing” subcategory, wherein I detail a random personal belonging of mine that I would dearly love to sell on account of potential collector’s value and/or how much space it takes up.

And speaking of ulterior motives, reviews written about (print!) books obtained from the likes of Goodreads Giveaways or crowdfunding campaigns will be updated to include the unboxing video, if one exists, for the respective title. I want a custom URL on my channel, dagnabbit, but YouTube requires that I have at least 100 subscribers to use that particular feature.

Personal Files

More to the point, “personal documents” as Amazon Kindle classifies them.

According to one of Amazon’s help pages about personal documents,

“We may limit the number of documents you send or store through Kindle Personal Documents Service”

I have not yet found anything that identifies what that hypothetical limit is likely to be, either in terms of quantity as specified on the help page, or in terms of storage space. And at well over 600 documents on my own account (buying from StoryBundle will do that) along with the continued ability to upload more, I may well be far from even hypothetical limits.

But that they mention limiting the documents even as that hypothetical, combined with mild OCD, makes me want to attempt to limit my document library of my own accord. To that end I have created three collections on my Kindle strictly for dealing with “personal documents.” The “unread” collection of course applies to any ebooks on my account, but the three collections meant specifically for documents that I’ve already read are as follows:

  • Add to Wishlist:
    These would be personal documents that I would like to keep in some form and would most likely (eventually) replace with a copy bought directly from Amazon. The trouble, sometimes, is finding the correct edition; case in point, at the time of this writing this list is populated entirely by the Millennium Edition of the Young Wizards series by Diane Duane… an edition that doesn’t exist outside of Ms. Duane’s own webstore.
    I keep the books in this list at least until such time as I have bought a suitable substitute on Amazon, at which point the Amazon copy gets dropped into one of my “needs review” lists and the document deleted from my account.
  • Review and Delete:
    On the flipside, these would be those documents that I acquired via Storybundle or Prolific Works, or something of the sort, books that have an official presence on sites like Amazon, books that interest me enough to be worth reviewing, but not enough to keep.
    These are kept until I’ve written the review, after which point I delete them from my account.
  • To be deleted:
    These would be books that do not interest me enough to keep and I have no compelling reason (or ability) to review them. This list is mostly populated by ebooks I acquired as PDFs available for free from the authors’ own websites and have no actual presence on a store site, though there may be a few here and there that I simply chose not to review.
    The books in this list remain on my account for the shortest period of time once they’ve been read and categorized, as the only thing I need to do is access my personal document listing on Amazon’s website and delete them.

I also have a few wishlists on Amazon, centered around books that sound interesting but I haven’t even read a sample yet (I had to delete a ton of samples from my account and add them back to the wishlist just to get things under some semblance of control), books that I have read a sample for but would prefer to find at a library before I decide whether to buy them outright, and books I’ve read a sample of but could easily download via Kindle Unlimited (if and when I sign back up) before I decide if I like it enough to buy a more permanent copy.

Finally are the wishlists for books I know I want but simply have not yet purchased, categorized based on whether they are a continuation of a series I already know I like, print copies that I’m replacing with digital, or, as per the previous notes, “permanent” copies that I’m buying to replace either a personal document or a borrowed KU copy.

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The Trouble with Digital Piracy

As if the fact that it exists isn’t trouble enough? 😦

Now, when I say “digital piracy,” I’m not including all of those content creators who willingly put their own work up on torrent sites (which sites, while frequently used for piracy, do not exist entirely for nefarious purposes) or offer it as free downloads from their personal sites and things like that.
Contrary to the way the term is used on TVTropes, I don’t believe those examples are piracy at all, but rather that the person who actually has the legal right to decide how to distribute that work–the only person with that right–is deciding to distribute it in such a manner. That site’s choice of terminology resulted in a considerable amount of confusion that I’ve elaborated on elsewhere.

The problem is that the genuine pirates, and maybe a few ignorant-but-presumably-well-meaning readers, keep touting the same myths to justify their choice to keep on pirating with no regard for the damage they’re doing.

“If you don’t want your work to be stolen, you should—“

I’m going to have to stop you right there. Let’s stop deluding ourselves about that “should,” shall we? What you’re really trying to say is that if I don’t want anything to be stolen, I “shouldn’t” have anything you want to steal.

But that’s not how theft works. You’re the one choosing to steal; no matter what I put online, I am not making that choice for you. Unless you suffer from kleptomania, you and you alone are responsible for whether or not you steal… and if you do have kleptomania, you are fully responsible for whether you seek treatment, so, you know, your choice to steal is still your responsibility.

But let’s return to that “should” for a moment. If I don’t want my work to be stolen, I should continue making the art/stories that I enjoy and sharing/selling the work that I’m proud of, because nobody should be trying to steal it in the first place.

Yes, there are all kinds of things I can do to protect my work. But no matter what steps I take to protect myself from theft, the only person truly responsible for that theft is the person who chose to steal. It doesn’t matter whether the stolen product is as intangible as an ebook, or as physical as the pair of headphones someone had to break out of the Spider Wire to sneak out of the store. We are not responsible for your choice to steal. Only you can claim that responsibility.

This is not a question of having the moral high ground, either. This is simply being realistic enough to accept that no anti-theft measure is perfect, that the only way to completely put a stop to stealing is for people to stop trying to steal!, and that I’m not going to let some thief with a false sense of entitlement victim-blame me into giving up the things I enjoy.

“Information wants to be free.”

Ah, yes, that old chestnut.

To translate for those of you who have never heard the full context, information wants to be available. It doesn’t want to be censored, banned from anyone ever having access to it. It’s a statement that originates from a discussion of hacker ethics and companies that refuse to sell (sell!) software that they also refused to allow anyone else to distribute…. meaning, quite simply, that they refused to allow anyone to have the software under any circumstances.

But even if we assume that “free” in this context refers specifically to money, then we should consider the whole quote as given by Stephen Brand at the 1984 Hacker’s Conference.

“On the one hand, information sort of wants to be expensive because it is so valuable — the right information in the right place just changes your life.
On the other hand, information almost wants to be free because the costs of getting it out is getting lower and lower all of the time.”

And then there’s Woz’s own response:
“Information should be free but your time should not

“Someone who pirates a novel would never have bought it anyway, so it’s really not a lost sale.”

Wrong again!

And for proof, I offer… myself. That’s right, I have made mistakes, too. I have pirated books before. Namely, I’ve gone on torrent sites and the like to find:

  • Anthologies in which the officially available free sample consisted of an introduction, a table of contents, and maybe a few paragraphs of the first story if I’m very lucky.
  • How-to-books in which, again, the free sample never made it far enough past the introduction to decide if the book was the slightest bit useful.
  • Out-of-print books that are only available used and, in some cases, don’t even have a legitimate free sample.

Is any of that justification for piracy? Hell naw! That’s what libraries are for.
The point I’m making here is that my own excuses (and they are only excuses) boil down to pirating for only two reasons: to determine if I like the book enough to buy it–at which point I delete the pirated copy and replace it with an officially purchased one (and delete it anyway if I didn’t like it, because why would I want to keep it in that case?)–or to add something I know I want to my personal collection that isn’t available through official channels (like one saga that keeps waffling back and forth on whether a Kindle edition even exists)–and which, again, I will replace with a legitimately bought copy when a copy is legitimately available to buy.

Either way, the piracy happened on my end with the expectation that I would most likely buy the book.

But for every reader–every pirate–out there of my type, there are likely hundreds or more who would have willingly bought the book but who, having pirated it instead, will simply figure that they already have a copy and thus don’t need to buy one ever. And those hundreds most definitely do translate to lost sales.
Case in point:

“You should be grateful you have readers.”

I’m sorry, what readers are we supposed to be grateful for?

No.
Really.
What readers?

The publishers keep track of sales figures, end of story. Library borrows count, regular buys count, gifted copies count. Pirated copies do not count. Ever. As far as publishers are concerned, as far as the numbers are concerned, the “readers” that pirates claim to represent quite simply do not exist. And publishers can and do cancel series and special editions and the like if there aren’t enough readers.

So why, exactly, should authors be grateful that pirates are willing to read their books if the publishers don’t ever see them?

“I can’t afford to buy it.”

I can’t afford a new motorcycle, but that’s no excuse to go out and steal one.

Smarmy retorts aside, there are other options:

  • Libraries
  • Asking your local library to acquire the book if they do not already have it available, either in terms of persuading them to stock new material or simply in terms of an inter-library loan
  • Joining reward programs that grant you money for Amazon and other purchases (Kasasa Tunes at the credit union gives me $10 per month just for spending $10 on the likes of Amazon, meaning come the end of the month I could have literally bought $10 worth of ebooks at no cost to me)
  • Books that are available for free through official channels
  • As a last resort, you might try asking the author—some allow freebies in exchange for honest reviews, and you at least show more respect by asking the author than just taking whatever you want. (You should be prepared to accept “no” for an answer, however; I call this one a “last resort” because many authors cannot afford to give up revenue by offering free copies no matter what your reason for wanting one, and no you are not entitled to demand that they “get a real job” when you’re so dead-set on getting that particular book that wouldn’t even exist without the work they put into it.)

What you should never do is accuse authors of being greedy or egotistical or any other manner of insults that implies that you think they don’t have the right to their own work. Because if that book isn’t valuable enough to buy, it isn’t valuable enough to pirate.

The fact that anyone would actively choose piracy over any of the completely legal options, and rant and rave about the pirate sites being shut down whilst ignoring the existence of those other options, and act like the authors are the bad guys in this equation, comes down to one thing, and one thing only… such a person as that has no respect for the author or their work. It has nothing to do with wanting to read the next book. A real reader–a real fan of the work–would be willing to see the difference.

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Book Review: The One by John Marrs

The One by John Marrs can be found on Amazon as a Kindle Unlimited title
(Amazon affiliate link included)

Full disclaimer: I received for free an uncorrected proof of this book on Goodreads Giveaways. I am not obligated to write a review; no compensation exists outside of my included Amazon affiliate link.

It is not often that I feel compelled to review a print book. Not that there’s anything wrong with print books, it is simply a matter of space restrictions. Due to my limited shelf space, any books I consider “keepers” I will eventually replace with digital copies, make the print copy available for some other reader (typically by releasing them into the wild via BookCrossing), and then review the digital copy at my leisure.

(This of course will change as I work through my backlog until I can begin exploring the world of ARCs… not so much the print versus digital part, though that may happen, but the “at my leisure” part.)

Rarer still am I compelled to review a book before I’ve even finished reading it.

But this one….? I think I got about halfway through the book before I started scripting out my review.

The first thing to note is that this is considered a psychological thriller. It is not fantasy in the traditional sense of the word, but the available genetics technology could give it science fiction leanings. This despite those being two completely different categories on Goodreads, and thrillers (psychological or otherwise) being yet another genre.
I point this out because there is simply not time enough in the world to read every worthy book, so my own giveaway entries are limited to the fantasy category. As a result, this book is well outside of my usual fare.

Anyhow, the book is a psychological thriller. This is immediately obvious in one character’s introductory chapter, and slowly becomes just as obvious for two other characters as their stories unfold. The other two major characters lean towards the romance genre, also outside of my usual choices.
And yet, I was compelled to keep reading to see how things would work out for the characters… or how events might blow up in their faces.

I found the story fast-paced, difficult to put down, even in the midst of getting ready to go to work or attempting to continue one of my own drafts. The length of the chapters, which provided a tidbit about a given character’s situation before shifting focus to yet another player in this game, made it easy to read for hours without noticing that so much time had passed. I was invested in finding out what happens next? There were a few typos to be found, noticeable while reading but too forgettable to go back and find them again.

And there was… inconsistency. But not inconsistency from the author. Rather, there was the same sort of inconsistency that I expect real people would display should such a DNA test ever be devised in the real world.

Case in point, we have the constant correlation between the influence your DNA has on pheromones…. and love.
I’m no scientist, but as far as I can tell these two are not the same thing. DNA is all about biology, what your body wants. Pheromones, likewise, are about attracting the person you are best suited to procreate with…. the need to pass on your genetic code to a new generation. Love is about how you feel, what your (metaphorical) heart and head want. And unless your religion teaches that the soul is found in the red blood cell, a DNA test could never identify your soul mate for you. And yet these people put so much stock into the test that even when they’re mis-matched, most of the time they fall in love because the test says they should.
DNA and love could go hand in hand, this is true, and I would not presume to judge someone who finds their perfect match from a science-based dating app. And there are certainly enough people that the app has helped that it bears serious consideration. But there were also far too many relationships that broke up over the app, with every such ex-couple rationalizing that “science says so” and completely ignoring the personal responsibility that it was their choice to break up. And if, as happened between two characters, my SO’s reason for pushing me into taking the test is that they’re not happy thinking we’re right for each other when we could know for sure…. that doubt tells me more about our compatibly than the DNA test ever could. As one (significantly absent) character was known to have believed, taking the test could take the fun out of building a real relationship with someone I love.

Speaking of pushing someone into taking the test…
Another inconsistency (which I expect would also exist in the real world) is that there is a fine line between supporting someone’s choice to take the test and encouraging that decision. And if you were to push someone into meeting their Match simply because “the test says so,” as one of Mandy’s sisters had done, then you are suggesting that any relationship would be lesser simply because it does not have the scientific backing. Mandy did not call her sister’s relationship “second best,” she called her own potential relationship with a non-Match second best…. and her sisters encouraged that line of thinking from the very beginning.

Then there is the question of being “in love with” someone you’ve never even met… or when you first become aware of that love.
Take Nick’s situation. He, and his DNA Match, are both men in long-standing relationships with other women. Neither of them are homosexual, at least until the DNA test tells them otherwise. And when they first meet they do not feel any of the internal fireworks often described to mean “this is my perfect partner.” No, it’s only when they meet each other’s eyes that they feel drawn to each other.
Or let’s return to Mandy’s situation, and her love for a dead man she’s never met. I’m calling hypocrite on the sisters again on this one; if you can be “in love” enough with your Match to meet a total stranger just because a DNA test says so, then you can be “in love” with a dead man you’ve never met just because a DNA test says so. And as for her pregnancy from that dead man? Yeah, I can agree that it’s a little weird, but ethically how is it any different, as Mandy had pointed out (based on what she was told of the situation), than pregnancy from an anonymous donor? And given the Match’s insistence on equating genetics to love, how is it emotionally any worse than that anonymous donor? Had Mandy not thought to contact the ex-girlfriend, I would happily have continued believing, as she had, that there was nothing wrong with her decision or her “in-law’s” support… until it was too late.

And one final all-too-real inconsistency, let us return to the subject of personal responsibility.
On the one hand, the creator of the app has truly only committed one crime in the pursuit of science, and that is building up her database by unethical and illegal means. And yet the people who are Matched according to this app–willfully or otherwise–take no responsibility for the choices they make after… including their choice to break up with a good unMatch or to remain with an abusive Match for no better reason than that a Match is supposed to be “perfect.” A good deal of the “thriller” aspect stems from this discrepancy, as one person is determined to have revenge against that creator for his own father’s choice to leave his mother in favor of his Match.
On the other hand, the creator has committed a serious error that is all too common in any leadership scenario…. she accepts the praise when things go well but refuses the blame when things go wrong. Sorry, sweetie, but you either take both or neither; either you are ethically and morally responsible for all of the relationship choices people make because of your app, or you are responsible for none of those choices.

Anyway, that was my dissertation on The One. 😉

If I could pick out just one single thing that I did not like about the book, it would simply be this: with the wide cast of main characters, none of their stories ever truly overlap. The closest we get is one of the main characters being the creator of the app, and another being a serial killer whose crimes are mentioned on the news now and again, but none of those main characters ever actually meet…. not even in passing. This book is, in effect, not one story but an anthology of five disconnected stories.

So, my readers…. How far would you go to find The One?

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