studious

Definitely, Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed

This is the M/M romance I started back in July. It is not one of those books that took me three months to read despite my enjoying it. I think I picked it up as a Bookbub deal.

Spoilery review, because I can't really explain why I disliked this book so much without spoilers. Tl;dr: BOOK IS NOT RECOMMENDED.

Early in the book, Craig meets Alex at Craig’s usual bar in Seattle. Alex is drunk and just broke up with his boyfriend. Craig’s general impression of Alex is ‘a hot mess but maybe I can help him.’ Craig himself appeared to be aware that you should not take in people like stray puppies, so I thought “hopefully this will not be about Character A Saving Character B.”

Craig takes Alex home for a one night stand. This immediately turns into a relationship where they see each other often, but they do not talk about being in a relationship or romance or anything. They are pretty cute together. Some other side characters are thrown in for flavor, some of whom have known Alex for a long time and give the perspective that he used to be a jerk but he’s doing well with Craig. Alex also ghosted all of his existing friends and family while he was with previous jerk ex, and now reconciles with said friends/family.

At around the halfway mark, Craig and Alex start to grapple with the idea that they’re in love with each other and this is probably a real relationship (after, y’know, months of recurring dates and regular sex.)

Then Alex & Craig run into his jerk ex, who is now married. Alex dumps Craig, runs away, and ghosts everyone in his life. Again. For weeks.

It was at this point that I lost all sympathy for Alex. I no longer wanted Craig and Alex to have a happy ending. I wanted Craig to find a partner who could treat him with the barest minimum of decency. Fine, dude, you’ve got self-esteem issues and trauma and whatever, but your mental health problems do not excuse you for treating all the people around you like complete garbage.

I hate-read my way to the end. Near the end, I got to watch Alex’s purported best friend lecture Craig for not trying hard enough to reach out to Alex. Alex, who has not answered email, texts, phone calls, or his door for weeks. CRAIG is somehow at fault in this. ‘Why are you not an actual stalker, Craig?!? Why have you not broken into your ex’s house???’

...

I should’ve DNF’d it.

At the end, Craig and Alex get back together. My only feelings were “Craig deserves so much better than this absolute toaster.” I found the idea that these two were going to live happily-ever-after laughable. Alex’s entire approach to life is ‘ghost everyone whenever you’ve got a problem’ and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t continue to treat people like disposable objects that only exist for his convenience. Dude needs professional help, not a partner he will treat like a doormat. x_x

Anyway. First part was competent and entertaining, and the only reason I stuck with it, hoping the author would find a way to rescue it. Last half was “I would throw this across the room if it was a paperback; I hate this and everything about it.” Author did not find a way to rescue the ending, but did manage to make it worse with "You should be a stalker!" friend. If you are OK with romance protagonists ghosting their loved ones, I expect you'd be fine with this book. It super did not work for me. -_-



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/664754.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Non-Player Character, by Victoria Corva

Non-Player Character* is a charming, low-stakes, gamelit portal fantasy.

Back when V ran the Kickstarter for this book, I read the first three sample chapters and instantly wanted to read the rest.

It's rare for me to be hooked on a book from the start anymore, but Non-Player Character resonated with me. The main character and narrator, Tar, is autistic with an anxiety disorder, non-binary, fat, asexual, self-deprecating, snarky, and 100% delightful. They are drained by their day job, hide in their room playing video games, and are exhausted by social events. SO RELATABLE.

While Tar does resort to self-deprecation, it's humorous and gentle, rather than harsh or cruel. Tar is often frustrated by their difficulties in interacting with the world, but for the most part this is presented as "ugh SO DIFFICULT" rather than "this is why I suck and/or the world sucks." It's not about judging things as Right or Wrong, it's about coping. 

Tar's friends likewise represent a mix of identies and intersectionality: nonbinary, trans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, asexual, aromantic, autistic, ADHD, disabled, Black, White, probably more that I'm forgetting. And it all flows naturally: of course these queer, neurodiverse people will be drawn to and befriend other queer, neurodiverse people. They're all gamer nerds, too, even the one who feigns disdain for gamer nerds. 

There are a lot of fun little touches. One of the characters, Pauline, has chronic pain and uses a motorized wheelchair on Earth. Pauline's wheelchair doesn't come with them to the fantasy world, so she searches for a new mobility aid. She ends up with a hexclimber, a six-legged one-person vehicle that can negotiate every kind of terrain. It's pretty great. 

And I enjoyed that the narrative centered on coping mechanisms and accommodation, rather than cures. (This is not to say that there's something wrong with stories about people seeking and receiving cures; they're just a lot more common.)

The first several chapters of Non-Player Character take place on Earth, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this part of the novel. The scene of Tar doing their day job as a guide at a tiny museum was especially funny. But the entire book is great: lots of heart and humor, full of wonder and magic. Highly recommended!

  • Also available at other stores, see Corva's page for the list.


This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/10/08/nonplayercharacter.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

September 2021 in Review

Health/Fitness

I scraped my way to my "exercise 20 times" goal in September, putting in my 20th session on the last day of the month. \o/ Records indicate that I did better at not eating when I wasn't hungry, so that's good too. Average exercise per session was lower, because I really did the minimum allowed for several of my sessions.

I feel like I should get another exercise game, because I did so much more regular exercise when I was playing Pokemon GO. I could just go back to Pokemon GO. But the thing I did not love about Pokemon GO is that it strongly favored playing the game in densely-populated areas that had more pokestops. When I was playing the most, I did a ton of driving to get to area with more pokestops than my neighborhood. I don't want to go back to spending time and money driving around just to play my exercise-incentive game. (This also lets out playing games that use the same model as Pokemon GO, like Ingress.) But I am not motivated to look at new exercise games. I remember the last time I posted about this, I even got some recommendations that I never looked into.

Writing

After putting "get A Game to You to 50% complete" down as an actual goal (not even a stretch goal), I decided what I wanted to do in September was edit Demon's Alliance.

Thank you, brain.

I spent most of my September staycation working on Demon's Alliance, but I did some writing on A Game to You because I hate failing at goals. I wrote 3500 words to get to 49.4% on Wednesday 9/29, and then got to 49.9% yesterday. My next bullet point would've taken me to 51.25%. Thursday was very tiring and I did not want to put in another 3k day, so I broke the next point into two parts and wrote the first of them. Good enough.

A Game to You is now at 57,123 words. I estimate there's another 45-60k left to write. Nanowrimo starts in 31 days. Regardless of how much or little I write in October, it's likely that I'll need to start a new book at some point in November in order to write 50k of fiction for Nano. I should maybe prioritize 'finish an outline for something new' this month.

The Business of Writing

I finally got to work on edits for Demon's Alliance in September. This is not what I'd planned to do in September, but since I've been procrastinating on revising this draft since January, I'll take it. I have two items left on my editing/revision list. I'm contemplating working on revisions to Angel's Grace now, rather than finishing up Demon's Alliance. That way, if I decide I want to add something to Demon's Alliance, I can do it before my final read-through instead of afterwards.

Reading

Victoria Corva released Non-Player Character to KS backers in September, and I tossed aside the M/M romance I'd been slogging through to devour the new release. I read it slowly, partly to savor it and partly because I wanted to litter it with cheerful comments. I need to write a review for it, but the short version is: DELIGHTFUL, highly recommended.

Then I finished it a few days ago and haven't wanted to pick up anything else, so reading streak is once again broken. XD

Art

Maggie gave me a little hardbound book of blank pages for my birthday, and for five or six days I did a sketch or three a day in it. So way more than my usual amount of sketching for September.

During the craft-and-chats for September, I worked on pictures of Rose Thorn, one of the protagonists in A Game to You. My attempts to draw her in color were dismal failures, so I left the last one as a messy sketch. I like the last sketch version. I keep thinking "maybe I should try coloring it. Maybe this time will be different." Anyway, didn't do anything like a finished piece, but I did a lot of drawing so good enough.

Gaming

I forgot to lean a new game in September. I'm pretty sure I forgot? Maybe I learned something at the beginning of the month, but I don't think so. Oops. checks to see when she started playing Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business: yeah, that was at the end of August.

September Goal Score Card

  • Assist Lut: Still doing that thing! He had some swelling in his feet and ankles, so after a week or so, he got a prescription for a diuretic pill to help the swelling go down. The swelling went away but he broke out in mysterious little bumps that are kind of like acne and kind of not. He's been picking at the bumps so now they're all scabby and look terrible. I think they're healing now, though.
  • Get A Game to You to 50% complete: Technically complete is still complete. \o/
  • Look at goal list occassionally: I did do this, which is why I remembered I'd put A Game to You on it. But I didn't do it often enough to remember the gaming stretch goal existed. Oops.

Stretch Goals Scorecard:

  • Practice art: an unusual amount of this one! Just random drawing, not focused on learning anything in particular.
  • Exercise 20 times this month: Done! Barely!
  • Consumption tracking: More-or-less kept this up
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review: Also done! I should check to see how far off I am from my 50-entries-for-the-year goal. Let's see: 33, not including this one. It's been 39 weeks, so I've written not quite as many in the year-to-date as I was aiming for. Still, I'll only need to do 16 more after this one to hit my goal. Just a little more than one per week. Pretty doable.
  • Finish revisions on Demon’s Alliance: I did not finish this one, but I got quite far along on it, so I want to pat myself on the back for it anyway. Not technically complete.
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before: aww yiss and it was a great book, too.

Notably, I failed dismally at my usual "maintain bullet journal" goal. Early in September, I fell behind on it. Since I've started keeping a bullet journal, I've often fallen behind. In the past, I've always reconstructed what I could and continued. But this time, I just didn't care enough to resume.

A few days ago, I picked it back up again. The bullet journal is helpful for reminding me to do a lot of recurring tasks, like maintenance on the house and Lut's bi-pap, and cleaning on a semi-regular basis. So I plan to get back to it in October.

October Goals:

  • Assist Lut
  • Look at goal list at least once per week.
  • Look at to-do list at least once per week. Make an effort to do the tasks that linger on it.
  • Write some of A Game to You
  • Work on edits for Demon's Alliance and/or _Angel's Grace

I did not enjoy having goals with ambition in September, so ambition is going back into the stretch goals where it belongs.

Stretch Goals:

  • Make the character voices more distinctive in A Game to You
  • Work on A Game to You.
  • Work on notes/outline for a different book
  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Grace
  • Practice art
  • Post five blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Finish revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Start revisions on Angel’s Sigil
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before


This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/10/01/septemberreview.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
cute

Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business!

After I finished Boyfriend Dungeon, I still wanted to play more of it. This prompted me to dig up my Steam code for Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business! I’d backed MG:SB! at about the same time as Boyfriend Dungeon. MG:SB! had fulfilled a year and a half earlier, and it turned out I’d added my code to Steam already. Now I installed it!

Tone

Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business! and Boyfriend Dungeon are similar in some respects: they’re both dating sims with another game type added as the mechanic for advancing to the next romance installment, and neither of them are striving for a realistic/gritty/serious tone. But Boyfriend Dungeon is much more serious than MG:SB. MG:SB! is a goofy lampoon of Victorian England, wealth, wealthy people, gentility, capitalism, business, and imperialism. It is not a serious critique of these things; it is not serious in any respect. It is an absurd fantasy romp.

The game premise is:

You are a wealthy business owner in Victorian England, capably assisted by your servants, Business Maid and Battle Butler. Your company is stolen by your rival. In order to regain it, you must create a new business, forge alliances and relationships with wealthy business owners who will become executives in your new company, and grow your business until you can defeat your rival in Business Combat.

The relationships you forge don’t have to be sexual, but as one might guess from the name, the game offers that option and generally leads you in that direction.

So this concept is full of stuff ranging from “problematic” to “ZOMG NO.” From the “you are doing WHAT with your executive staff” to “business in Victorian England was a dystopian nightmare” to “wait you are sexually harassing your servants too” to the entire loyal-servant-to-rich-person trope. If it were played straight, it would be hard not to find it appalling.

But nothing about it is remotely serious. It’s a goofy fantasy, and it has no pretensions that any of this would be OK in any form of reality. It’s not saying “wouldn’t it be great it ...?” It’s much closer to “wouldn’t it be ridiculous if ...?”

I laughed a lot while playing this game. It’s not great for romance or erotica, but I did find its over-the-top absurdism very entertaining.

Diversity

You get to design your own avatar and also, amusingly, the avatar of Your Rival, one of the game’s antagonists. The character designer lets you pick from six body types, three feminine and three masculine, with builds of slender/average/plump. You don’t pick a gender and all of the character options are available regardless of body type. So you can pick, for example, “thin feminine body in a suit with a beard”. You do pick one of three titles: “sir,” “ma’am,” or “boss.” The game never genders you regardless of the title or body you pick: it refers to you in the second-person or by your chosen title. There’s a reasonable array of skin colors and hair types and suchlike to pick from. You can redesign your own avatar or your rival’s at any time, no cost.

The game has 6 male and 6 female romanceable characters; there are no nonbinary characters in the cast. The romanceable characters are all protagonist-sexual (and frankly, no one knows what your gender is anyway). Two of them are POC (with wavy dark hair and brown skin) and the rest are white. There is very little mention of ethnicity or race for any of the cast.

The body types for most of the cast are “conventionally attractive”, although they cover a range within that -- slender, curvy, wiry, muscular. Likewise, they’re all young. The only one who’s fat/old is Sinterklaas, a white man with a white beard and hair. (His canon age is 42. I am So Old, folks.) Yes, he’s basically Santa Claus. When I first saw him, I thought: “... don’t think I want to date Santa but okay.”

By the end of the second date with him, I was like “nope, changed my mind, I am so here for the Santa romance line.” Unexpectedly endearing.

Gameplay

There are three basic elements to the game:

  • Dating: After you hire an executive, you can raise your affection with them to unlock “dates”. (Many of the early “dates” are not particularly date-like). There are five different dates, plus initial meetings, with each of twelve different executives. During the dates, you make frequent choices about how to respond. The choices have some short-term effect on how the date goes, but no long-term consequences for the relationship, or impact on the next date. You can also replay dates you already unlocked at any time, and explore different options on them, which is a great touch.
  • Business: This is a kind of leveling/worker placement game. You assign executives to various tasks. Some of those tasks require skill, and you can assign executives to train those skills up at a cost of money. Your overall goal is to pay back your loans (which gives you stuff) and conquer districts (which also give you stuff) and eventually defeat your rival (which lets you “win” and then repeat the cycle).
  • Lunch dates: You can take your executives on “lunch dates” to increase affection with them, which involves a variety of simple minigames. The minigames are randomly chosen and the weakest part of the game for me. They are quick and most of them are luck-based.

I was much better at the business game in MG:SB! than I was at the dungeon stomp in BD, to the surprise of no one who knows my game preferences. Despite this, I found the business game too grindy. This is mostly because Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business! has a lot more romantic interests than BD (12 versus 7) and partly because it takes longer to advance in ranks. Unlike BD, where you get a big bonus to finishing the other romance lines after you finished one, there’s no change to the rate at which you increase affection in MG:SB!

I should note that I am enormously tempted to play more of MG:SB! even though I finished all the romances and completed what there is of the main storyline. So the business game may be grindy, but it’s still fun too.

Main Storyline

The main storyline -- how your business is stolen, how you get it back, why you need to repeat this cycle -- was absolutely wild for the first two iterations of the cycle. At the end of the third cycle, a brief cutscene implies that when you max all the romances, there will be another significant installment in the main story.

Alas, there isn’t. I do not regret maxing out all the romances, but I was disappointed that the end of that cycle was just another brief scene that didn’t resolve any of the outstanding questions from previous scenes.

I don’t regret maxing out all the romances, but I wanted to warn other players that you should only do this if you want to see the romance lines. The third cycle and the final cycle have a few little bits of main story, but there’s no elaborate main story installments like the first and second cycle had.

DLC

The Kickstarter for Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business unlocked some stretch goals that were not included in the original game. The developer has been working on a DLC that will include that and other additional content. That DLC, “The British Is Coming”, isn’t out yet, but the studio’s twitter account says it’ll be out in October. It’s announced as a free DLC (and will be included with the Kickstarter at a minimum), so I’ll definitely dust off the game and play it again then. Assuming I don’t go through another round of it sooner. >_>

Censor Modes

The standard version has three different censor modes, which really only apply to the gallery pictures and the eventual “nude” versions of the characters you can unlock. But the standard game’s “uncensored” version is still censored. There’s a free DLC called “Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business! Uncensored” which actually removes the censor bars.

None of the game content is what I’d call “porn”. Some of the gallery pictures are suggestive, but for the most part it amounts to “there’s some nude art of the dateable characters if you want to make a point of looking at that.”

Content Warning

I’ve covered most of the things that I might content-warn for under “tone”. But I do want to note that the second cycle of the business game features the antagonist mind-controlling people, including your avatar.

tl;dr

Fun, absurd and goofy, with some mild adult content that you can easily opt out of. I enjoyed the game. It took me about 32 hours to finish all the romances and the last playthrough of the business cycle. Do recommend.



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/09/12/mgsb.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
sledgehammer

Specialty Medication: the Saga Strikes Back

A week or so ago, we received an unexpected package in the mail. It was from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), welcoming Lut to the grant program.

Me: “Huh. Well, that’s nice, I can use it to pay his health insurance premiums if I can get sufficient proof of payment in a form I can submit to them. Maybe Accredo billed LLS and that’s how Accredo covered the copay? I never did find out who made the copay in August.”

The next day, LLS sent us a pharmacy card: “Present this to your pharmacy or specialty pharmacy and we’ll pay claims directly, so you don’t have to submit a reimbursement form.”

Me: “We’re at out-of-pocket cap now but that may be useful next year.”

Wednesday, we went to the oncologist. He is happy with how Lut is doing on the current dosages, and said he’d be sending in refills.

This morning, the phone rang.

Accredo bot: "We are calling with refill information!" confirms identity
Accredo bot: "Please hold while we connect you with a person."
Accredo hold message: "We are experiencing higher-than-usual call volumes"
Me: "YOU CALLED ME."
Me: "Why did you call me to put me through to a person when you DO NOT HAVE ANY PEOPLE."

Technically, this isn't worse than CVS Specialty Pharmacy, which often didn’t inform me that the refill had gone through at all. So I’d just have to remember to call them a few days after the clinic said they’d sent it, and hope for the best.

But I do feel like Accredo could wait to dispatch their bots to call me until they were at, like, normal call volumes. -_-

As it turned out, it only took a few minutes to connect me to a rep, Tammy.

Tammy with Accredo: "So there's $0 copay on the Revlimid."
Me: "Right."
Tammy : "And $7500 copay on the Ninlaro."
Me: "..."
Me: "ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME."
Tammy: "...no?"
Me: checks Cigna's website "Who do you show paid for the prescriptions we got last month?"
Tammy: "Cigna."
Me: "Cigna has forgotten this."
Tammy: "Ooh. Guess you need to call Cigna."
Me: dies
Tammy: “Do you want to schedule the Revlimid delivery, since there’s no copay on that?”
Me: “Yes pls.”

The Revlimid is the important one of the pair. We have a leftover dose of Ninlaro, so Lut can start it on time even if Ninlaro takes an extra week or two to receive (he’s supposed to start next Thursday).

Me: schedules Revlimid delivery
Me: sighs
Me: calls Cigna
Cigna: "We show the only order was on 9/8/2021."
Me: "We received a shipment of $21000 worth of medications 3 weeks ago. Accredo says you paid for it."
Cigna: "Oh, that was reversed out. We didn't pay for it."
Me: "... Accredo shipped it. Are you saying they sent us $21,000 in medication for free, out of the goodness of their heart?"
Cigna: "Yup! We didn't pay for it. Do you want me to call Accredo?"
Me: "... sure. why not."
Cigna: connects me with Katarina at Accredo, instantly hangs up because Cigna rep don’t care
Katarina with Accredo: "So this is about the delivery from August 16?"
Me: "Sounds right."
Katarina: "We show your insurer paid it in full."
Me: "Which insurer? We have two. Cigna and Medicaid."
Katarina: "Cigna."
Me: "Who paid the co-pay?"
Katarina: "There wasn't one. Cigna paid for both in full for $9k-ish"
Me: “None of this makes sense. Can you verify it?”
Katarina: puts me on hold a few times while she talks to various people and checks systems “Everything we have says Cigna paid it in full.”
Me: "Can you call Cigna and convince them that they paid for it? Because I can't. I don't have any proof that you billed them."
Katarina: doomed voice "I can try..."
Me: waits on hold
Katarina: waits on hold
Katarina, after several minutes on hold: "I'm sorry, I can't reach Cigna."
Me: "Well, it looks like no one paid the co-pay last month, and you did get Lut into the LLS grant program. So maybe just put me through to billing and I'll pay for it with the grant now?"
Katarina: "...sure."

~

Lyn with Accredo Billing: "I don't show a balance?"
Me: "... Really?"
Lyn: "Let me check some more."
Lyn: "Nope, no balance."
Me: "Did the Ninlaro and Revlimid both ship?"
Lyn: checks "Yes. I show Medicaid paid for it in full."
Me: "OKAY THEN."

A few minutes later:

Email from Accredo: “We scheduled a delivery for tomorrow! Check our website for details.”
Accredo website: “We’re shipping Revlimid on Saturday. Please call to schedule the Ninlaro delivery. Your account balance is $0.”
Me: “Welp.”

My guess at this point is that Lyn was wrong about Medicaid paying for anything, and wrong about Ninlaro having shipped. Instead, someone in refills has to press a button saying “we’re charging for the Ninlaro now.” And only after that step can they transfer me through to billing to pay it. And then billing has to transfer me back to refills to actually ship it. That feels like the Accredo Way.

But I have two weeks to get the Ninlaro refill and I’ve spent over an hour on the phone with these clowns already. I’ll wait until tomorrow to see whether we get 0, 1 or 2 prescriptions, and then call on Monday to sort it out if the number of prescriptions received is less than 2. -_-



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/663681.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
content

Boyfriend Dungeon

Many years ago, back in the 80s and 90s, much of my free time was spent on single-player computer games. They rivaled reading as my favorite pastime. As the web rose, I spent less time on them. Most of my game-playing switched to games I played with friends. Occasionally, I’d immerse myself in new iterations of Civilization, but my biggest solo gameplay activity in the last few years has been phone games: Pokemon GO!, Love Nikki and Time Princess. (These are all online-only games with a slight multiplayer component, but the vast majority of gameplay is solo.)

But I kept thinking “single-player games are fun!” To the degree that, when a KS for a neat computer game would come to my attention, I sometimes backed it. By July 2021, I had backed 4 different video games, 3 of which had delivered between 1 and 8 years previously, and none of which had I played, or even installed.

(I have a terrible record of making use of anything I back on Kickstarter, but that’s another entry.)

On August 10, the fourth game delivered: Boyfriend Dungeon. I was actually still looking forward to playing Boyfriend Dungeon. A few days later, I not only fetched the Steam key reserved for me, but I added it to my Steam account, installed the game, and then -- amazing! -- I started playing it.

Boyfriend Dungeon is a dating sim crossed with a dungeon stomp. You play as an individual who’s never dated before. You are visiting Verona Beach for the summer, where you sublet an apartment from your cousin. A dungeon has recently taken over the local mall, and it happens that a bunch of people can turn into weapons. The hot new thing is to meet up with a weapon and then go into the dungeon with said weapon and fight monsters.

The game just rolls with its wild premise. “Sometimes people turn into weapons and sometimes your mall turns out to be a dungeon full of old communications tech that’s trying to kill you, you know, these things happen.” No, I don’t know, and these things do not happen, but I’m glad to see that we’re sidestepping the tropes of “pretending none of this is going on” or “the government intervenes to cordon off the dungeon-mall and puts all the weapon-people into testing facilities” or whatever.

The game has six weapon-people (three male, one female, two nonbinary) and one weapon-cat (male). There’s some diversity in races/origins here: one African-American, one immigrant from India, one Korean man, and three white people. They are all slender and conventionally attractive. As you fight in the dungeon with one of the weapons, you gain affection with that weapon. Each rank of affection unlocks an encounter/date with that person (or cat). It also unlocks a new ability or a new ability choice (choices of ability are easily altered if you change your mind later).

You choose your pronouns and your appearance at the start of the game, and can change either one at any time. The sprites are androgynous, and you can choose to wear any clothing options available; the appearance of clothing is not affected by the pronouns you choose. I liked these touches and thought they worked pretty well.

All of the weapon-people are protagonist-sexual, as it should be in any dating sim. You can play through the encounters as either romantic or friendly. The same character can max affection with all 6 weapon-people, and play through each encounter as romantic, or none of the encounters as romantic, or just one of them. It doesn’t seem to impact the storylines one way or another.

After you max affection with one weapon, you get a 2x bonus to affection with all other weapons, so that does have the nice effect of reducing grindiness.

I maxed affection with all seven weapons and finished the main storyline. Note: finishing the main storyline ends the game! I recommend either finishing everything you want to do before you start the final storyline encounter (it will be obvious when this will happen) or making a copy of your save file first (the game supports this).

I picked the romantic options when dating the six weapon-people, and the romantic options all imply sexual content, although they’re fade-to-black about it. I found five of the routes pretty satisfying, and the sixth one a bewildering choice for a dating sim. I didn’t explore any of the “let’s be friends” choices with the weapon-people. My impression from the reactions of those who did is that the dates work best as romantic-allosexual. There are no romantic-asexual options, and the friendship options are portrayed as positive but not with the same depth as the romantic-allosexual.

The weapon-cat encounters are pretty much “make friends with a cat”. I found the weapon-cat storyline endearing although I’m not sure why the devs thought this was a good storyline to put in a dating sim. I mean, he’s a cat. He doesn’t talk, he does not interact as a being of human intelligence, and you’re not dating him. I’m not saying I wouldn’t play a “befriend seven different cats with different feline personalities, each of them getting their own distinct storyline” game because I 1000% would. But it was an odd choice when everything else is dating (basically) humans.

The game has a content warning for stalking; I’ll get into this more in the spoilers section below. I have some spoilery issues with the main storyline as well.

I am not much into dungeon-stomps and it took me a while to get the hang of this one well enough to get through it. I ended up repeating a lot of the early levels in the first dungeon several times because it’s what I could handle. Once I figured it out, I think I was somewhat overleveled for the later stuff, so it was pretty easy thereafter.

The final storyline fight was difficult enough that after I beat it once, I reloaded and tried to beat it with a different weapon, and then nope’d out after a few failures.

There is a setting to give you double health or something on those lines; I didn’t have a hard enough time to turn it on. (Though maybe using it would let me beat the boss again with a different weapon). I didn’t see any other difficulty settings.

So I found the combat content a bit grindy and a bit challenging, but it wasn’t much of an issue. And I liked the little break between storyline encounters that stomping around the dungeon provided.

Overall, I had a great time with the game. I appreciated that it was polyam-friendly (if only in harem-style), bisexual-friendly, and had nonbinary rep for both the protag and the love interests. I enjoyed the romances, and I liked the setting and the tone: offbeat and with a sense of humor, but serious enough that I could immerse myself in the world. The main storyline disappointed me in some ways, but not enough to impair my enjoyment of the game.

On to the spoilers! This includes some stuff that I enjoyed figuring out on my own and am glad was not spoiled for me. It also includes details about the content warnings and specifics on what disappointed me. So YMMV on wanting to read it.

I want to point out that I enjoyed this game enough that writing this review makes me want to play through it again. XD According to Steam, I spent 15 hours playing it. I expect someone reasonably good at the dungeon stomp could get through all the content in 10 hours or less.

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This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/09/08/boyfrienddungeon.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

just me

August 2021 in Review

Health/Fitness

I took another trip in August, this time to visit my sister and attend my nephew’s wedding. It was pretty great. I ate too much because wedding and attendant festivities, but not as much so as when I visit Seattle, because I mostly ate home-cooked foods. Also, my sister is conscientious about serving vegetables at every meal, and I am conscientious about eating vegetables if someone else goes to the trouble of making them for me. So in some ways, I ate better than I do at home.

On my first morning there, I asked my sister what she did for exercise, because she’s always been pretty active. She gave me a downcast look. “Oh, no, I want to get back to hot yoga but I haven’t. I don’t really get any exercise anymore.”

And after that, I went with her on her usual morning walk-with-the-dogs, which was about a mile. Then we visited her mother-in-law, and walked a few blocks to go get lunch, and a few blocks to get a snack, and a few blocks to go back to her MIL’s house. And then a few blocks to go to the farmer’s market in a park near MIL’s house, and then a block to go to the grocery store. Then we went home and took the dogs for another mile-long walk around the neighborhood.

Basically, my sister’s idea of “I don’t exercise at all” is the same as my idea of “sufficient exercise.” I counted every day of my visit as having exercised. XD So I did much better on that front than I had in July.

Writing

Continued writing A Game to You! I am at about 30% through the outline now, after writing another 18,000 words to bring the total to 39,000. Progress is not swift, but I’m making it.

The Business of Writing

Alinsa is still wrestling with formatting on You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99 But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person. Formatting for this book is rough because there’s a ton of in-game text and I want the in-game text to be visually distinct from the non-game text. It’s a lot. o_o

I did some more editing for Demon’s Alliance, which continues to feel forever away from being completed. Meh.

Reading

I forgot my phone when I went to visit my sister, and stopped reading for several days because of that. Also, the M/M contemporary romance that I started in July lost much of my interest around the 45% mark, but it wasn’t quite enough for me to toss it on the DNF pile. Than at about 60% through it went from ‘I guess it’s okay’ to ‘ugh I have lost all patience with this love interest now and I just want the good love interest to dump him.’ I haven’t decided if I’m gonna skim my way to the end or just DNF it after all. -_-

Art

My friends have continued to do the “Craft and Chat” on Saturdays, and I’ve been using it to draw or color. I haven’t done any sketches I particularly like, but it’s practice, yay.

Gaming

While I was visiting my sister, we played some expansions to Ticket to Ride that I hadn’t played before. She also taught me a new game, Oltre Mare, about Age of Sail merchant ships in the Mediterranean. It was weird and complicated but not bad, although I could totally see why Ticket to Ride variations were the game of choice in the household. Anyway, new game learned!

August Goal Scorecard

  • Assist Lut: Done!
  • Look at goal list occasionally: very occasionally. Being away from home for like 25% of August really through me out of my routine.
  • Write more of A Game to You: Wrote 14% more of the draft!

Stretch goals

  • Exercise 20 times this month: I did this one! Just barely!
  • Consumption tracking: Only kinda sorta, but I’m counting it anyway.
  • Make an art: Very technically.
  • Practice art: Did do this, tho
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review: Mostly posted about the Cancer Medication Saga, but technically yes!
  • Learn a new game: Oltre Mare!

September Goals

  • Assist Lut
  • Look at goal list occasionally
  • Get to the 50% mark on A Game to You That last one is kind of ambitious, given how little progress I made in August and that I have avoided all ambitious goals this year. But what the heck. I will ambit!

September Stretch goals

  • Finish A Game to You.
  • Work on notes/outline for a different book
  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Grace
  • Practice art
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Finish revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Start revisions on Angel’s Sigil
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before


This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/09/01/augustreview2021.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
tired

The Saga Resolves (FOR NOW)

Wednesday, August 17, early afternoon: Accredo calls.
Karen: “I’m calling from Accredo, patient advocacy.” collects standard identifying information. “We show that insurance is covering both prescriptions with $0 co-pay. We can schedule your order now.”
Me: . o O (I want to know what happened to get the amount owed back to $0, but I’m not even gonna ask because maybe she’ll poke the wrong thing and it will reset to $7900.) “Great! Just a moment, we were about to go into Red Lobster to get lunch.”
Karen: “Oh, would you like to call us back?”
Me: “Oh no. Absolutely not. Please. Let’s schedule the delivery.”
Me: spends 20 minutes on the phone scheduling the order because they are required to read you the multi-page list of potential side effects and what you should do, among other time-consuming elements
Me to Lut: “So delivery is scheduled for tomorrow. I will believe it is being delivered tomorrow when you are holding the bottle in your hand.”
Me: *calls Sarah Cannon Cancer Center, leaves message asking them to call tomorrow with whether or not he should start the meds right away.

Early evening: I fly to Oregon for my nephew’s wedding, and forget my phone.

Thursday, August 18, late morning: Lut ACTUALLY RECEIVES THE MEDICATIONS.
Me: !!!
Me: calls the clinic from my sister’s phone to find out when he should start taking it
Clinic: “Now. Yes. Today would be good.”
Me: calls Lut to relay message and also explain the complex dosage stuff because the Ninlaro is once a week and taken the same day as five tiny dexamethasone pills and Revlimid has a side effect of blood clots so he needs to start taking aspirin again once he starts taking Revlimid

And that resolves it ... for this month. x_x His next cycle will start in four weeks, so in about 3 weeks, we begin anew. It SHOULD go more smoothly next time, since one way or another the out-of-pocket for Accredo for this year is now met.

Though I might give up on private insurance and switch Lut to Medicaid-only, which may or may not create new issues. The main reason I will do it is if I’m able to discern that Medicaid will in fact pay for all of his care if they’re the only insurer. I’ve been reluctant to quit private insurance because I know not everyone takes Medicaid (his primary care physician doesn’t, for instance.) But I also feel like I’m making some things (like this whole fiasco) unnecessarily complicated by having two insurers. :|



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/08/19/sagaends.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
downcast

The Unending Saga of Specialty Medication Continues

Saturday: No news.
Monday: No news.
Tuesday afternoon, Accredo calls.
Lacey: "This is Lacey from co-pay assistance. We want you to apply for a grant from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to cover the co-pay."
Me: "I thought Medicaid was covering that?"
Lacey: "Who told you that?"
Me: "Accredo. On Friday."
Lacey: "Well, I don't have any notes about that. Do you want to apply for the grant or not?"
Me: "Why can't he get the grant from Celgene?"
Lacey: "Because he has Medicaid, he's not eligible."
Me: "If Medicaid won't cover the copay, why does the grant specifically exclude Medicaid patients? This makes no sense."
Lacey: "I know nothing."
Me: applies for the same grant that turned Lut down when they applied for it in 2019, and that historically opened in November and ran out of money for new grants in December
Lacey: "So the status is 'pending' until the doctor confirms the diagnosis."
Me: "He had a grant from them in 2018. The diagnosis hasn't changed."
Lacey: "Oh. Well, maybe 48-72 business hours until we get a response?"

Two hours later, Sarah Cannon Cancer Center called.
Aisha: "So, our rep with Accredo said -- and, um, this didn't make sense to me so I'm not sure I followed it -- but he said that the insurer didn't have Revlimid and Ninlaro in their pharmacology so they have to add them first."
Me: "That is consistent with exactly nothing that any other person has said about this."
Aisha: "I KNOW RIGHT???"
Me: "I picked Cigna because the health insurance exchange said that they covered Revlimid and Ninlaro. Cigna sent us a pre-auth for Revlimid and Ninlaro on July 13. They know what Revlimid and Ninlaro are. Their website even showed the Ninlaro script. Is he talking about Medicaid not knowing what the drugs are?"
Aisha: "But how could Medicaid not know? I didn't ask, though. I'll send him an email to ask. I'm off tomorrow but I'll call on Thursday with whatever I find out. Did you hear anything from Accredo?"
Me: explains
Aisha: "Funding in since COVID has been weird, so the LLS might have more money in the grant fund than they used to? I guess we'll see."

Hope levels: none.



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/08/17/saga2.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
sledgehammer

The Saga of Specialty Medications

At the end of June, I had to switch health insurance providers because COBRA ran out on my existing insurance. I purchased new insurance for Lut, because ever since he got on Medicaid four years ago, I have feared he will require a treatment or a provider that won’t take Medicaid. (I am seriously questioning the wisdom of this choice.)

He started a course of Revlimid and Ninlaro on July 5, and I made sure to order the medication before the end of June because I didn’t want the first thing I did with a new insurer be “order $25,000 of specialty cancer meds.” I didn’t know if Medicaid would pay for the drugs or not (basically, no one knows the answer to these things until they actually try). And unlike clinical or hospital treatment, which you receive first and deal with paying for later, you can’t get medicines without paying up front.

But you can only order a month of these incredibly expensive drugs at a time. This is for good reason: Lut’s dosage was reduced this month, for example, so he can’t continue to take the old capsules (the capsules are not divisible, and they are sufficiently hazardous that, for example, pregnant medical professionals are not allowed to handle them.)

This meant that we had to get a new round of medications to start Lut on as of August 2.

A timeline of the saga!

July 13: Cigna sends us a pre-authorization letter for the Revlimid and Ninlaro prescriptions, to let us know they will be covered.
Friday, July 23-ish: Sarah Cannon Cancer Center sends the prescription to to CVS Specialty Pharmacy.
Wednesday, July 28: I call CVS Specialty Pharmacy and spend ~25 minutes scheduling delivery for Friday, 7/30. In the evening, I fly out to visit Terry. I give Lut his insurance cards in case he has an emergency (I usually carry them because I’m always with him when he sees a medical professional.)
Friday, July 30, 6PM Central: CVS Specialty Pharmacy calls to say that they do not take our new insurer, Cigna. Cigna has their own specialty pharmacy, Accredo. CVS Specialty Pharmacy does the best they can to transfer our info to Accredo.
I call Accredo. The first person at Accredo transfers me to a new person who works with specialty meds. (From here on, assume that any call to Accredo required talking to a minimum of two people unless otherwise specified). They eventually conclude that they know about Lut and have his Cigna information, but don’t have his Medicaid number. They know about the prescription from CVS, but they can’t fill it without the clinic sending it to them directly. (I suspect, but do not know, that this is a regulatory requirement.) The clinic is closed, and will not re-open until Monday. They ask when Lut is supposed to start taking it. “On Monday,” I tell them.
I don’t have Lut’s Medicaid info. I email him to ask him to call Accredo and give it to them.
Saturday, July 31, night: I check my email and discover Lut sent me the Medicaid number and asked me to call Accredo. Accredo is already closed.
Sunday, August 1: I call Accredo. They are not open on Sunday.
Monday, August 2: I call Accredo, and give his Medicaid number to them. The person taking the information is confused and upset that Medicaid only has a member ID, and not a slew of other numbers like private insurers.
I call the clinic and leave a message that they need to send the prescriptions to Accredo.
Tuesday, August 3: The clinic returns my call. They will send the prescription to Accredo tomorrow.
Wednesday, August 4: I get an email from Cigna that they have “new documents” for Lut. I check Lut’s account, and it shows the Ninlaro with a $7900 co-pay. The co-pay is exactly what I expected: the remaining out-of-pocket for the new insurance policy. I anticipate that either Medicaid or Celgene’s grant program will cover the co-pay.
I call Accredo. They have the prescription but Missouri state law requires that it be authorized by a physician, and the clinic put the nurse practitioner down as the prescriber instead. They ask when Lut is supposed to start taking it. “Two days ago,” I tell them.
I call the clinic and leave a message asking them to get Accredo additional information.
Thursday, August 5: The clinic calls me back to say they got Accredo the information they needed.
I call Accredo. Accredo says they have the information they need but they’re waiting on authorization from the insurer. I remind them that Lut also has Medicaid. Accredo: “He does? We don’t show that.” I give them the Medicaid number again. Accredo says it takes “a day or two” to get the prescription approved and filled, and they will call me when it’s ready for scheduling. They ask when Lut is supposed to start taking it. “4 days ago,” I tell them.
I take pictures of Lut’s insurance cards and store them in EverNote, so that I’ll have them on my phone for future reference.
Monday, August 9: I call Accredo and ask their automated system for a status update on the order. It is “processing.”
Wednesday, August 11, 10AM: I call Accredo and wait on hold to talk to a person about why this is still “processing”. After being shuttled through a few people, I reach a rep who tells me: “It takes 5-7 business days for a new prescription to go through. But I’ll mark it as ‘Urgent’ for you. When is he supposed to start taking it?” “9 days ago.”
I call the clinic to ask if they want to reschedule the 8/20 appointment that was supposed to be ‘after you finish the next course of Revlimid’ and will now be -- at best -- after a week of it. I leave a slightly hysterical message to this effect.
The clinic calls back to say that they’ve been monitoring the prescription and they had last called Accredo on Tuesday about it. Accredo had told them ‘we’ll mark it as urgent.’
Thursday, August 12, morning: A bot from Accredo calls me. “We’re calling to schedule your order. Wait, we can’t schedule your order. You need to talk to a person.” It puts me on hold for several minutes, then gives me a number and asks me if I want to call back or stay on hold. Me: “sure let's hold some more because lord knows if you'll have any clue why I'm calling or what I need if I call back. Since you haven’t told me why you called.”
I hold for several more minutes, and am put through to payment options.
Payment Options: “I have no idea who you are or why you are calling us.”
Me: gives them all the information about Lut and herself
Payment Options: “The system says we’re waiting for prior authorization.”
Me: “you know, the insurance co sent us prior authorization on July 13”
Payment: “Oh yeah, we show that for July 20. Let me put you through to an expert on Revlimid & Ninlaro.”
I hold.
Expert: “We're waiting on prior auth”
Me: “I really don’t think you are.”
Expert: pokes more
Expert: “Wait we have authorization. We can send you the drugs! But oh ... there's a $7900 copay”
Me: "So he has Medicaid”
Expert: “He does? We don't show that.”
Me: gives Medicaid info to Accredo for the third time
Expert: pokes system some more
Expert: “So Ninlaro shows no copay now, let me re-submit the claim on Revlimid ...”
Expert: “There's no copay on Revlimid either now?”
Me: “Yay? I wish I knew why.”
Expert: “yeah me too. I will put a note for Scheduling to call you to schedule delivery.”
Thursday Afternoon: The clinic calls me. “So I just got off the phone with Accredo and there’s a $7900 co-pay on the Revlimid.”
Me: “I wish this surprised me in any way.”
Me: “So he’s got Medicaid and also there’s a grant program for Revlimid so I’m not sure why they can’t charge the co-pay to one or the other of those.”
Clinic: “I’m gonna call our sales rep contact with Accredo, but he might be gone for the day. I’ll call you back tomorrow with whatever I find out.”
August 13, Friday, morning: Accredo bot calls: “We need to schedule a delivery. Oh wait, we can’t. Let me put you through a person.”
Me: “Is this just going to be yesterday morning all over again?”
Accredo bot: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
Me: holds for a few minutes
Accredo rep: “I know who you were called regarding”
Me: “Woohoo!”
Accredo rep: gets standard confirming info from me “Okay, so we got your Medicaid verified. You don’t owe anything for the meds.”
Me: “Yay! Does that mean we can schedule delivery now?”
Accredo rep: “Yes! Let me put you through to scheduling.”
Me: holds for several minutes
Same Accredo rep: “... so it turns out no. They need to do a few more things before it’s ready for scheduling. This call was just to let you know the Medicaid was verified. Another bot will call you when it’s ready for scheduling.”

And that brings us to the present: still waiting. At least we’re back to “no money owed”, but at this point I will not believe that the process is over until I actually have a Revlimid bottle for the correct dosage in my hands.

Getting treatment for cancer is not as bad as having cancer, but it is A LOT. x_x



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