To Duotrope, or Not to Duotrope

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duotropeA few years ago, back when I used to spend a fair amount of my time writing fiction and under the deluded belief that I was one day going to be a successful author, I used to love wandering through the pages of Duotrope. For those that don’t know, Duotrope is an online resource for writers. Users were able to search the available markets for stories that they had written by running the very simple search engine, narrowing down the market bit by bit until they were left with a select few: An ideal list to submit to in the hopes of success.

Dating websites would work a lot better if they used the Duotrope model.

One of the great things about the site was that it was free. A well constructed, updated daily, FREE website that seemed to have been created by people that genuinely wanted to help people get published, as well as being created by writers, for writers.

Fast forward to 2013 and I am aiming to get back into the writing lark again. I’ve had an article published on the GEEKchocolate website and I have a few other things planned, both fiction and non-fiction (and, of course, this Blog and Geek in the Gym). It was only a matter of time before I drifted back to Duotrope, which I did in early January.

I was a little surprised to discover that it was now accessible only to paying subscribers. Once I had moved past my initial “What the FUCK?!?” reaction and actually thought about it for a while, I could completely understand why they had moved to provide a service for people that were willing to pay for it. Duotrope started in 2005 and ran for free until the last day of 2012. Unless the site was being run by playboy billionaires these people had “proper” jobs and, quite frankly, if they were playboy billionaires they should have been out fighting crime and injustice whilst dressed as creatures of the night instead of helping me try and get the latest piece of shit that I’ve written published.

They appealed for donations but, if memory serves, were always running short of their target. I’ll hold my hands up here and admit that I never donated a thing to them. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that they delayed and delayed going to subscription only for as long as they could but that, eventually, they either started charging or they closed the site.

Subscription to the site costs a whopping $5 per month. For me that works out to £3.28 – that’s less than the price of a magazine or a portion of fish and chips from the Chinese Take Away at the end of the road; both of which I would happily buy without thinking about it (unless it’s the last week before payday, in which case a serious debate might take place). So, cash wise, it’s hardly going to cripple someone. I suppose the question is what do you get for your money?

You’ve written your latest masterpiece but, like a lot of writers out there, you haven’t got a clue what to do, where to send it or how to find someone that might be interested in A) reading it, and; B) thinking it might be good enough for others to want to read. With the search facility you can pick the genre that you’ve written for. Say you’ve written a Zombie Comedy short story. You’d pick “Horror” as your genre, obviously. Then there’s the sub-genre; in this case “Zombie”. After that you can pick the style in which it is written. Here it would be “Humorous” (as American’s are not aware that it is spelled “Humourous”) and then for length you’d select “Short Story”. There are other criteria that you can select, but those are the basics. A quick click of the search button and you discover that there are 2 publishers that are looking for exactly what you’ve written. Personally I find that a more generic search yields much better results. Most publishers of fiction aren’t that specific with what they’re looking for. Anthologies, eZine’s and magazines are looking for a selection of different tales that your little zombie story might just fit into. Simply searching the “Horror” genre brings up, for instance, 363 (at the moment) publishers that are on the lookout for new tales. That’s not exactly a bad start for finding a home for your tale. Each listing has a brief description of what the publisher is looking for, a link to their website, the genres that they accept and Response Statistics, which is the best bit for me. The Duotrope community can track their stories from submission to acceptance / rejection, and here you find how quickly publishers do, or do not, respond. Do you really want to be submitting to someone that takes 3 months, on average, to get back with an answer? You will see what percentage of stories are accepted and how long it takes for a response. Say a website has only accepted 10% of the stories submitted: you’d better be pretty damn confident that your story is up to scratch before sending it there.

This is my favourite bit of Duotrope. Although I’ve decided to get back into writing I’m finding the muse a little harder to rekindle than the desire. The stories that I have bouncing around my brain are the same ones that I’ve had nagging at me for years. I can’t remember the last time I came up with something “new” to write, other than non-fiction. The Calender section covers the themes and deadlines for anthologies and themed issues / months that are coming up. At the moment there are 247 deadlines stretching to March 2014 and each one gives you a brief of what the publisher is looking for. Where else would I have found the anthology looking for fantasy, science fiction and horror stories from any style of writing where the theme was “Potatoes”? An idea instantly popped into my head when I read the brief, but unfortunately I’ve got 13 days to get the fucking thing written, polished and sent off for the deadline. There are plenty of others there as well which you can track at the click of a button. I’ve currently got 5 deadlines that I am tracking in my Control Panel and that’s after only a speedy skim through the deadlines.

There’s LOADS of stuff that you can do with a Duotrope account, from the above search facility to keeping an eye on anthologies that you want to submit to, to tracking those stories that you’ve already submitted, hoping for a positive response. Even if you’ve written something that you can’t find a place for you never know when someone might pop up wanting just what you’ve written.

If you’re at all unsure about whether it might be right for you, why not take advantage of the free 7 day trial they have going and see for yourself? Not only that, but you might be interested enough to buy an issue or book and, let’s not forget, if we as writers want to find places that want to publish unknown authors we have to support them as well. We can’t just let ‘other people’ spend their money when we refuse to do the same.

Click on the link below, sign up for the 7 days and see what you think. You might love it as much as I do!


Duotrope: an award-winning resource for writers


Geek in the Gym has MOVED!

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I’ve decided to split Single Geek Dad and Geek in the Gym into two separate blogs, so the other one’s over here:

Geek in the Gym

Nobody wanted it, nobody asked for it, but it’s done now.

GEEK IN THE GYM #2: Owen’s Epic Battle With the Stairs

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After a few requests here we have the video of me attempting to walk down the stairs after Gym Yoda put me through 2 hours of torture training my legs.

A normal Geek in the Gym should be posted within the next couple of days.

Thanks to Gym Yoda (AKA Jamie Hale) for getting me into that state and also having the inspiration to film the fucking thing.

Geek in the Gym #1: Sweet Baby Jesus, That Hurts


First up on my list for the week had nothing to do with going to the gym. Come to that, neither did the second thing I needed to get done. Going to the gym was definitely third on the list though, so at least it was in the top 5.

The first thing that I wanted to get done was sort out my diet. I am piss poor at eating healthily. It’s not what I eat, but when I eat that’s always been the problem. I am not a breakfast kind of chap and as every person in the civilised world knows: It’s the most important meal of the day. People in third world countries think that this is both stupid and greedy. As far as they’re concerned ANY meal is the most important meal of the day, but in Britain if we don’t get our Shreddies in the morning it’s as if we’re going be malnourished by mid-afternoon.

spiderman-sandwichSo no breakfast for me. I also don’t eat during the day. This is down to me being lazy and tight with money. I can’t be arsed to make food to take in and I will very rarely spend money on a KFC, MacDonald’s or a Boots meal deal. I might order a sandwich if everyone else at work is having one and also because the place that delivers does an awesome double BLT. A colleague of mine that goes by the name of “Angela” (I’ve worked with her for 5 years or so, but I’ve always had the sneaky suspicion that she’s actually royalty that is doing a long term “Secret Millionaire  type thing) will often play mother hen and bring a sarnie in for me. Damn good sammiches they are too. Other than that I tend to eat once a day, after work. Which means I’m scoffing down food at 9 or 10pm.

If you’re going to the gym and expect to see any improvements then you can’t starve yourself like I do. By the time I get there after work it’s usually about 20 hours since I last ate. That has to change if I want to get anywhere. The main ingredient for building muscle is protein (chicken, eggs, tuna, that sort of stuff) so, after doing a little research, I ordered 2.5kg of protein powder from a website. I got a good deal but the delivery service was appalling so I think I shall refrain from advertising for them right now. I will say that it tastes lovely (banoffee flavour) and I look forward to telling my kids that they’re not allowed it. That should be a fun conversation as all they’re going to see is a milkshake.

Marvel-and-DC-Superhero-Easter-EggsThe general idea is to have a protein shake in the morning (I can handle that) to kick start the metabolism, take a couple of breakfast bars with me for mid-morning and afternoon snacks, a chicken and rice thingy for tea and another shake after work to help with the muscle repair. My aim was to not binge-eat when I got home, but after the trial-week that I’ve just done I don’t seem to be able to stop myself from having a meal when I get home. It’s usually something simple and small (an egg sandwich, that kind of thing), but after my Thursday night session I wolfed down 2 chicken breasts on muffins. All I can say is that I lurve my George Foreman Grill. It could so easily have been called the Hulk Hogan Grill and that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Next on my list for the week was my clothes.

mr__chav_by_vurtpunkI am not a typical shopper, or perhaps I am a typical male, but I just don’t like shopping for clothes. The downside to being single is I now don’t have anyone to say “just pick me up a pair of jeans, will you?” to. Previous shopping expeditions have seen me walk into the place, find the nearest pair of ‘normal’ black jeans in my size, maybe grab a t-shirt that I like and get the fuck out of there. Start to finish between me walking in the shop and back out is usually about 10 minutes. After that I head to the pub for a pint and to congratulate myself on a speedy shopping experience.

Because of the weight I’ve lost I needed a few things other than gym gear, but I took myself to Sports Direct. I pretty much exclusively wear canvas shoes when I’m not at work. These are also known as “Converse Knock Off’s” that cost me about £8 from Asda. They’re comfy, cheap and I like the look of them. Unfortunately, whilst looking for my last pair of trainers my criteria was “how cheap are they?” which led me to buying what can only be described as a pair of clogs disguised as trainers. Those have now been relegated to the position of ‘decorating shoes’ so that, should I ever decide to do some decorating, I have something to wear. It’s not likely to happen, but they’re in the cupboard with the ‘zombie apocalypse axe’ and the condoms.

New trainers, a pair of trackies, a sports bag and a hoodie later I wandered out of Sports Direct sure in the knowledge that if any of the staff at my store acted that way they’d probably get fired. Considering that I work with a bunch of lazy layabouts that pick their noses and scratch themselves whilst talking to people (not to mention the flatulence) this is not a good recommendation. But they sell cheap shit, so who am I to argue?

To my detriment I have only been to the gym twice this week. I spent more time shopping for the place than actually there. I had the kids Monday to Thursday and that is a MUCH better use of my time than anything else. Friday and Saturday were Gym days, which one enjoyed and despised with equal measure.

SkinnyNerd1Friday was my upper body day: biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest and stomach. I wanted to get as much done as I could since it’d been so long since my last visit, but I don’t think I did any of them properly. I need to split the days a little better. The tendency is to work the arms because, y’know, they’re cool. Every bloke loves doing ‘that’ pose in front of the mirror. The point is to work the muscle to fatigue, which will promote growth, but when you’re running on a timetable it’s hard to fit everything in.

I think, for the next week, I’ll split them a little more evenly. Being a working bloke with responsibilities has its drawbacks.

smith-machineOn Saturday, however, I managed to go to the gym with my Gym Yoda (aka Jamie Hale), who seems ecstatic to put me through as much pain as possible. I tend not to go to the Big Boys section of the gym where they Pump Iron and grunt like porn stars, but with Gym Yoda it’s not avoidable. The pain that man put me through makes me wish that I hadn’t started this in the first place. A particular mention has to go to the leg press, which involves you sitting in a contraption similar to the pilot chair in Alien. Gym Yoda piles on the plates at 20kg intervals and politely requests 4 reps out of me. By “politely” I mean that he screams at me to DO IT and smacks me around the head if I don’t. The last time I did the leg press with him I managed 160kg, starting from 80kg and again moving up in 20kg increments. That time he only made me do 2 reps per increment. I am proud to say that I managed to do 4 reps of 180kg this time. I attempted 200kg and managed 4 reps but Gym Yoda had a firm grip on the weights bar so I don’t think that one counted.

Unfortunately my glee was somewhat ruined when Gym Yoda did his set. This involved removing all of the 20kg weights and piling on the big bastard 25kg weights. In all 16 of these weights were loaded on the machine: 400kg. Now, to me, that was a feat of superhuman strength that I cannot comprehend.

We unloaded the leg press, piled the weights in the corner of the room and moved to the Smith Machine, which was next in Gym Yoda’s plan of agony. The Smith Machine can be used for various things like a Bench Press or Squats, but because the bar is supported by two vertical columns it means that it’s more controlled and there are less likely to be accidents. Gym Yoda had us doing “Jeffersons” although, quite honestly, I think he’s making up names because I don’t have a fucking clue what he’s talking about. There’s something that he calls “skullcrushers” (which I will NOT be attempting any time soon). I’m fairly certain that this is not the correct term as, y’know; it’s not very friendly.

towelThe best way that I can describe Jeffersons if you’re a bloke (I doubt ladies would do this) is to imagine that you’re standing in front of a mirror after getting out of the shower, swing a towel between your legs as if you’re going to whip it back and forth in time to 80’s music and then start doing squats. It also fucking hurts. A lot.

I go to the gym after work so you tend to get people that work there tidying up before they close. As Gym Yoda and I were doing our Jeffersons a middle aged lady who was about 5 foot fuck all came in and started putting the weight plates back on their racks. I’m sure she was quite happy in her job until she came over to us… and spotted the 400kg that we had left in the corner. She stopped in her tracks and physically deflated. “Aww, no,” she said with a heavy sigh. “I’ve been here all day,” she whimpered.

Now; this is the point that a decision needed to be made and I enjoyed watching Gym Yoda make it. I watched him sipping on his water and could see him trying to decide what to do. Leave her to shift the weights herself, or offer to do it himself? His brow furrowed. He did this little thing where he tightens the corner of one side of his mouth because he’s thinking (which sounds a bit of a gay thing to notice, I admit). You could see him looking at her and then glancing away as he tried to work out what he was going to do. It was funnier than I am managing to write it. You could see the resignation on his face when he realised he didn’t didn’t have a choice and he wasn’t happy about it. We ended up moving the weights.

YodaThere’s only one reason that Jamie punishes me so hard on the leg press. It’s because afterwards, when the muscles have been worked beyond endurance and the lactic acid is coursing through my thighs, I have to walk down 2 flights of stairs. Just for kicks he also filmed it this time. I tried my best to go down them normally but it didn’t happen. On the first step my knee went out from under me. I had to hold on to the hand rail all the way down. It’s now Monday night and although it’s nowhere near as bad as it was the first time I’m struggling to walk properly and sitting on the toilet is a feat of endurance that’s impossible to describe.


Weight: 12st 8lb / 79.9kg
BMI: 24.4
Body Fat: 24.1%
Body Fat Mass: 19.2kg

Apparently this means I am at the top end of my ideal weight, I’m at the top end of my ideal BMI and my body fat is “good” although, if you ask me, it just means I’m 24% fat.

Many thanks to Jamie Hale (aka Gym Yoda) for helping me get my shit together and push me further than I think I can go.

Stay tuned for more GEEK IN THE GYM next week!

Geek in the Gym: a prologue

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Loads of people join gym’s, don’t they? Particularly in January after families have gorged themselves on enough meat, vegetables and liquor to sustain the population of a small island off the coast of Costa Rica. Well, it’s British tradition, isn’t it? Consume a volume of food that you wouldn’t even entertain at any other time of year whilst “Do They Know it’s Christmas?” plays in the background. The British do “irony” pretty well, also.

So, you’ve eaten so much food you know how “Gluttony” felt in Se7en, and you haven’t had a non-alcoholic beverage in your hand in almost a week. Your eyes have developed a seemingly natural pinkness and the inside of your mouth feels like it’s coated with grease, matched with a furry tongue. In your guilt from the back-to-work hangover you decide that the best idea is to join a gym and lose the pounds.

Fast forward to February and you’ve probably been half a dozen times. You were given a tour of the facilities by an attractive and athletic person with “trainer” written on the back of their polo shirt and you promised yourself that 2013 was the year that you were going to do something. And then you promptly forgot about the whole thing, because life has a habit of getting in the way of things. If life didn’t demand so much of your time you really would get your flabby arse to the gym 3 times a week

That’s where I don’t have to worry, you see? I don’t have a life. Well; not enough of one to get in the way.

I joined the gym at the beginning of December, and there were a few reasons. I’m 36, which means that I am at that ‘not getting any younger’ stage that’s annoying to other people who think you’re overreacting. Even the people that do it themselves. I am not, and have never been, into any form of exertion. I do not do, like or follow sport. It strikes me as a silly thing to get enthusiastic about, but each to their own. Most people think I’m odd because I collect comics, watch science fiction and have superhero tattoos. Well, those things and others. My obsession with stationary in general and pens in particular, to start with. And the whole correcting grammar and spelling. But apart from those things I am perfectly normal. Okay, so I have specific radiators that I have to put my boxer shorts and socks on, but everyone does that. And staples must be done at a 45 degree angle or I have to pull them out and re-staple. Other than that, I am just like everyone else.

So I am middle aged (the average life expectancy of a bloke in the UK is about 77, so I’d say I’m in the middle of that) and unfit. Already 2 good reasons to get physical. Add to that my new lifestyle and circumstances which basically meant that my entire existence involved getting up, going to work, coming home and going to bed, where the highlight of my day is speaking to my kids at 8am and 7pm, and having them a couple of times a week when my bastard of a job lets me. Other than my kids, who are amazing, it’s wasn’t the most fulfilling of lives. The gym, mainly, is my attempt at doing something new. Something that’s for ME. To keep me sane and make me feel better, and it’s working.

Step A: Join the gym. Step B: GO to the gym. It’s that easy really.

Well, it is when you’ve got a meat head dragging you there by the scruff of your neck. Did I not mention that? No? Another reason that I ended up with a gym membership is because a colleague of mine goes 5 times a week. We had a boring afternoon at work once, so we started measuring body parts (not like that, you filthy swine, you). His thigh was 3 inches smaller than my waist. His bicep was the same size as my head. He’s a big fella. In addition to these statistics he’s also a sadist. After the first week I could have quite cheerfully never gone back again, but that big bastard just kept on dragging me there.

I used to joke about gyms – that the one thing stopping people like me going was the fact that they were already full of people that looked like they belonged in a gym, whilst I… didn’t. I always said that what was required was a pre-gym gym, where people like me could start getting into shape and learn what the fuck they were doing without looking like a complete plank. I imagined a scene like Deliverance, of me walking into a proper gym and suddenly everyone stops what they’re doing and slowly turns to look at the fuckwit that has just walked through the door.

It took me a few weeks to realise that I was completely wrong. Sure, there are men there that look like they spend more hours of the day working out than sleeping but, when it comes down to it, no one gives a fuck what anyone else is doing. Every person in that gym is concentrating solely on doing what they’ve got to get done. They are too busy doing their own shit to be distracted by my matchstick biceps.

Of course (perhaps inevitably since it’s me) I fucked up a little on a few details. I was wearing ‘the wrong clothes’, apparently. I figured that a pair of trackies and a t shirt was more than suitable, and I was right (sort of). It was the rest of the ensemble that was the issue. My wide-brimmed hat to start with. Every self respecting geek has a hat like it because, deep down, it makes us feel like Henry Jones Jnr. My hat gets regular criticism from my colleagues, and has for years. They will be happy to know that it is being retired at the end of the month.

My XL cardigan was also a matter for discussion. I am medium build and it can wrap around me at least half a dozen times but, DAMNIT! It’s comfortable! Not very cool, but comfortable. Then there was my footwear. I bought a pair of trainers specifically for the gym (I think it’s a rule, or something, but I’ve never really asked anyone about it), so I wear my boots when I go up there. It’s winter, and a pair of steel toecaps with good grip is sensible. I also have a denim jacket with a fur lining that I have worn day in, day out, for the last 5 years and a seven foot long black and white scarf that frequently makes people shout abuse at me in the street for being a Newcastle supporter.

So, to recap, my gym ensemble was: Indy hat; scarf; denim jacket; cardigan; t shirt; trackies; steel toe capped boots. In short: I looked like a bag of spanners. Even I had to admit that I prematurely looked like I was preparing to sleep on a park bench somewhere. So the moral of the story is that even if, like me, you don’t really care what people think about your fashion sense there’s no reason to go around looking like an incontinent hobo.

My aim in going to the gym is to get fitter, lose the last of my belly and build a bit of muscle. This boils down to Cardio’ and weights. I tend to jump on the Cross Trainer for 20 minutes when I first get there to get my heart rate going, warm up and get a sweat on. If you go on a Cardio’ machine and you’re not sweating like a bastard when you come off then you’re doing it wrong. Also; make sure you have either a towel or you grab some of the paper roll that should be around somewhere. No one looks good dripping in sweat and the person using the machine next will NOT appreciate it.

The gym that I go to is split into 2 main sections (plus a swimming pool). I have no idea if this normal as my experience of going to a gym is limited to the last couple of months. Downstairs are the Cardio’ machines and the weights machines whilst upstairs is the ‘Big Boys Area” where everyone does free weights and the equipment looks like Torquemada himself would have approved of the design. I’m not really comfortable upstairs for a few reasons. I got very drunk last year, punched a wall and broke 2 bones in my right hand. 2 lots of surgery later and I haven’t got the best grip in the world – my pinkie finger is pretty much immobile from the knuckle. This makes some of the exercises (particularly with free weights) a little tricky and a few impossible. I’ve also got to admit that it’s a little intimidating to walk into a room full of muscle freaks where the only other ‘normal’ guy is a skinny ginger fellow with a goatee beard. He looks like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and can lift twice as much as me, the bastard.

The main reason that I don’t venture upstairs that often is the noises that people make. It’s hard to concentrate on maintaining your form when a guy across the room is making sounds that I’ve only heard before on a Norewegian porn movie. Seriously. The guy could make a fortune dubbing those things into English. What made it worse is that when I looked over he was using lower weights that I was. I don’t make noises like that. The chap that first started taking me there (his name’s Jamie, by the way, and he has a wicked sense of humour. He descibes himself like this: “I’m black, 22, don’t drink, don’t smoke, I’m from Oldham and I don’t have any kids – I think I deserve some sort of recognition for that”) doesn’t make noises like that and he can bench press a small car. Not a Smart car, a proper car. Like a Mini or a Beetle. He could do a Robin Reliant with one leg.

Jamie is a cruel taskmaster. For the first few weeks I only went with him so I could get used to the place, feel comfortable and learn how to use the machines. He also made sure that I wasn’t lifting “pussy weights”, although he describes the face that I pull when I’m struggling as “a ferret having an orgasm”. I’m not sure how he knows this, and I haven’t asked. How does he know the ferret wasn’t faking it for a start? The first time that he had me doing my legs was a highlight of hilarity for him as, when we had finished and were going back downstairs, they completely gave way on the first step. I had to use the handrail the whole way. When I was halfway a couple of guys started coming down behind me and, I have to admit, I pretended that nothing was wrong and tried walking normally. The result was a spasmodic gait that fooled no one and caused J to cry with laughter. I also couldn’t walk properly for 4 days after, which tickled my colleagues no end.

So I’ve been going for the last couple of months and that’s why I feel confident that I can keep up with this new part of SINGLE GEEK DAD because, and I never thought I’d say this, but I really enjoy going. Subsequent posts will be shorter as this has kind of gotten away from me. It’s going to be part diary, part observation and hopefully it will have a couple of funny jokes in each post.

Thanks for reading and GEEK IN THE GYM will continue next week.


The 100 Movie & Book Challenge

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This is not my idea. A good friend of mine called Nick Reeve came up with it.

The general idea is pretty simple. I’m going to attempt to watch 100 movies during 2013 that I haven’t seen before. A little over a decade ago this would have been easy. Back then I could probably have done it in about 4 months, no problem.  This was in the good old days when you could get three videos for £20 from HMV. Ah, HMV, how I loved thee. Wandering your displays, trying to find something worth watching. Actually having a disposable income to buy movies with (how come I earn twice as much now, but I’m always skint?).

On a side note I’m not too sure my 6 year old daughter even knows what a VHS tape is. She’d probably stare at it with the same “what the fuck is that?” look on her face as when she saw a Game Boy.

100 new movies in a year should be a doddle, shouldn’t it? That’s about 1 every 4 days. Anyone can do that, can’t they? Well, not so far. In order to keep up with the average I should be on at least 2 films so far this year, and I’ve only watched one: the 2012 version of Total Recall, which wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be (but more about that later).

The same goes for the books – 100 books that I haven’t read before. This one might be a bit more of a struggle, but you’ve got to set yourself goals in life, haven’t you? Since I’ve always got my Kindle with me I’ve really got no excuse not to be dipping into fiction whenever I get the chance.

Yes, I know that I should be setting myself slightly more exciting challenges for the year but, damnit, I WANT to do this!


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