How to start blogging (no, seriously)

This post is inspired by something written on “Writing about books” called Sunday Salon: What I wish I’d known when I started blogging. Originally it was featured on my “Week in Review” posting but the post kept jumping to the front of my mind so I chose to not include it and to present it here with some thoughts of my own. The posting is a great list of what to expect (and, maybe more importantly, what not to expect) when blogging. It links to a great post about being burned out on blogging, so make sure you’ve got a few minutes to read both and then come back here are read what I have to say.

When boredom strikes me, or lately when the urge to scream loudly at idiots starts to overwhelm me, I like to browse through some of the “tag” searches on WordPress to see what’s new. Obviously “books” if the big one I look at, but every so often I search out another tag just to see what comes up. In doing so, I run across a lot of new blogs, and nearly every new blogger makes the exact same mistake: in their first post they say what they are going to do instead of actually doing it.

Instead of telling me you’re going to review books, go ahead and review one. If you say you’re going to talk about movies, or music, or knitting, talk about those things. Give potential readers a taste of what you’ll be doing. It takes very little effort for a reader to click the “follow” button, but as the blogger it’s your job to get them to do that or they may not ever see your blog again. And don’t think your post needs to be hundreds of words long either (a trap I still fall into even after years of blogging). If it takes 200 words to say what you want to, use 200. The key, in both word count and posts, is quality over quantity.

If you feel the need to make a “I’m going to…” type post save it for your about page. Seriously, make sure you have something there even if it’s just erasing the default page and adding a couple of lines, because that’s where people will go early on to see what you’re about.

As I noted above, I search “tags”, so tagging your posts correctly will make your blog available to be seen by more people. Now be careful and don’t flood your posts with tags, and make sure your tags match your post. Both can cause people to skip by your blog when they see it in a search. You want to make your postings easy to find and relevant to what people are looking for in your tags.

The best advice I can give anyone thinking about starting a blog is perhaps the most important thing about anything: have fun doing it. If you’re not having fun, readers will know it. Once it because a chore to write it becomes a chore to read. And in the end, that’s not worth it for anyone.

Reader problems book tag list

Never one to not steal borrow a good idea I stumbled into this list from Bookarahma a few days ago and because I have nothing else close to finished I thought I’d just quickly answer these for something to post Wednesday. Two hours later and “quickly” isn’t the word I should have used. So that’s why you’re seeing this on Thursday.

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?
This one was the easiest to answer because I just blogged about it Monday. Even before I had a ton to chose from I usually already had an idea what would be the next few to be read. It boils down to I just sort of go by what I’ve finished lately. Other than intentionally running through a series I try to switch off genres after a couple of the same.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?
I blogged about that just recently too. I really have to hate a book or become so thoroughly disinterested in a book that I have to stop. It rarely happens. My OCD compels me to finish books I start, to the point where I’ve literally forced myself to sit in a chair and finish the book just so I could move on to another.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close, but so far away on your Goodreads reading challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?
I don’t use the Goodreads challenge, but on a similar note I try to read one more page than the year before. Right now I’m about 7,500 pages short of last year so making the number (33,482) seems unlikely. There are a couple larger books coming on in the next few weeks I’m looking to read (and will do so as soon as I can) but there’s virtually no way I’ll make my goal this year. And, I’m Ok with it. Some of the time I spent reading last year I’m using to blog now so it’s not like it’s just wasted time.

4. The covers of a series you love do. not. match. How do you cope?
I’m OK with it. I don’t save many books, and those that I do are hardcovers that are (for the most part) first printings so they seldom match. I have seen people looking in used bookstores for specific printings of older books so they’ll match the ones they already have. I wouldn’t bother doing that, but I certainly understand the folks that need/want to have series that match cover-wise.

5. Every one and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?
Well, anyone that will listen (or read). I’ve disliked lots of popular books and never had an issue finding someone to talk to about it. Most people get the idea that not everyone has the same opinion on stuff, so it’s usually easy to have someone listen to your take on a book. It also helps to know why you didn’t like something as that usually makes it easier to understand why others likes it so much.

6. You’re reading a book and you are about to start crying in public. How do you deal?
I’ve never had that problem, nor can I recall a situation where it was even close to being an issue. It’s likely because the genres I read generally don’t have that sort of emotional impact on people.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you re-read the book?
There’s almost no chance I’ll reread the previous book. Some authors do a great job recapping what came before, so if the book is from one of them I won’t do anything. If I’m not expecting any sort of review of previous events I usually check out reviews of the previous book(s) marked with “spoilers”. That way I can more easily recall what happened before and be ready for the new book.

8. You do not want anyone. ANYONE. borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people nope when they ask?
I don’t lend out the few books I have saved, and won’t lend out a book I’m intending to save. I just tell folks that want to borrow them that I don’t lend books out that I’m saving. Because most of my reader friends know I’m more than willing to give away the vast majority of books I’ve read when I’ve finished them saying “no” to lending one out has never been an issue.

9. Reading ADD. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?
Luckily my OCD prevents me from reading more than a couple books at a time, so I don’t have to worry about that ADD-type problem. My slumps tend to be with a single book just not doing it for me and my reluctance to put it away causes me to read much slower, which brings us back to the answer for question #2.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read! How many do you actually buy?
All of them. It might take a few weeks but eventually I’d get every book I was looking for. That’s one of the reasons my to-read shelf is four bookcases. I buy everything I’m waiting for, and on top of that lots of stuff from new authors I run into. I am addicted to buying books. When you consider all the things one could be addicted to buying books is essentially harmless.

11. After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?
Some books sit on my shelf a very long time. Knowing my buying and reading habits there’s no way I’ll read everything I’m buying. But if I’m truly waiting on a book to come out it’s generally read pretty quickly, most often within a month or so.

How do you pick the next book you’re going to read?

I get asked that question a lot, especially from friends that have wandered into my office and see the bookshelves full of stuff I haven’t read yet. Right now my “to-read” list is about 200 books long (I don’t count it that often and don’t remember the exact number it was when last I did), which is a lot when you consider only books I own are on that list. But picking what I’m going to read next isn’t as hard as one might think.

Right now, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m working my way though W.E.B. Griffin’s “Badge of Honor” series. As I’m reading them one after another picking what I’m going to read next is easy: the next one in the series. Like last summer when I ran though Michael Connelly’s books this summer was supposed to be all Griffin, but his stuff reads a lot slower than Connelly’s so it’s taken longer. “Badge of Honor” is the third series of Griffin’s I’ve read this year, and after I finish it (two more books to go!) I’ll just have his “Men At War” series about the OSS left.

After I finished his “Brotherhood of War” series I took a short break and read a few other things, two books I’d been waiting for that were in the military/thriller genre and then I went to Karen Miller’s “Godspeakers” trilogy for a change of pace. Picking the Miller series was easy, I said to myself “pick a fantasy trilogy”, and when I looked up there was “Godspeakers” right in front of me at eye level.

Then it was back to Griffin again for his “The Corps” series about the US Marine Corps, and when that was over I once again took a break for a book I was waiting for and continued on to Stephen Lawhead’s “King Raven Trilogy” while I waited for another book to come out. I picked the Lawhead books because I noticed they were separated into different bookcases. My OCD needed to keep them together, and the easiest way was to read them next. After I got bored with the fantasy stuff I saw I had a book misfiled (Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith) so instead of moving a ton of stuff to put it in the right place I read it next.

Which brings us to where I am now, nearing the end of the “Badge of Honor” series. Now as to what I’m going to read next I’ve already decided it will be The Gods of Guilt by Connelly. Assuming nothing comes out that I’m looking for before I finish the Connelly book it’s a good guess I’ll be switching back to sic-fi/fantasy for a bit. As some point before the end of the year I’ll start “Men At War”.

I know I’ll likely never read every book I’ve bought, mostly because I buy a lot of stuff from new authors just to support their hard work. Obviously most people don’t have as many at their finger tips to chose from as I do, so I’m curious as to how other decide what to read next. Do you just wander into a bookstore and pick up what catches your eye? Do you just fill up your e-reader and pick like I do? Or do you buy a large amount of books and work your way through them before buying more? I’d love to read your answers…

Week in review, week ending 11/16/14

For those that are new, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the postings from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s posting.

From me this week there was…
On Monday my review of Men In Blue by W.E.B. Griffin, and on Wednesday it was the second book in that series Special Operations.

From the folks I follow…
Dysfunctional Literacy has Words Not To Say In Front Of My Kids. I laughed very hard at that one.
The Credible Hulk has Creator Profile: Brian Michael Bendis – The Marvel Man. Bendis started at Marvel after I generally stopped reading comics so I knew nothing of him. Was a good read.
Meghen Ann tells us she’s A TV junkie. I am too.
Thoughtfultomes has Top 5 Books I Regret Reading. We don’t have any in common (mostly because I didn’t read any on her list), but maybe I’ll steal that idea and come up with my own list.
Bookspluslife has a review of The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, a very under-rated book IMO.

(BTW, Meghen Ann‘s post caused me to wonder if I should list it and others like it above in the “follow” or below in the “stumble”. Like has happened before, I “stumbled” into her post and then “followed” her after. I guess in the long run it doesn’t matter)

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Voices not heard in literature exclaims Star Wars…YEAAAAHHH. That just about says it all.
Views from the Tesseract has their top-10 Science Fiction and Fantasy Militaries. I’ve only read a couple that made his list.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.

Random Review: Special Operations by W.E.B. Griffin

This review contains mild spoilers.

Book Name: Special Operations
Author: W.E.B. Griffin (originally written as John Kevin Dugan)
Series: Book #2 in the ongoing “Badge of Honor” series
Publisher(s): Jove
Format(s): Hardcover(reprint)/Mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller
Release Date: October 1, 1989

Rating: 8/10

You can read my review of the first book in the series, Men In Blue, right here.

Special Operations picks up almost immediately after the events of in the first book, Men In Blue, take place. W.E.B. Griffin tends to do that in many of his series, having the action continue through the books of a series as if they’re one long book. As he also does in many of his series, Griffin develops an “elite” organization within an organization and that’s where Special Operations is born. The oddity is there was already an elite organization in the Philadelphia police force called the Highway Patrol. It’s a unique anti-crime task force that has jurisdiction throughout the city instead of just within the district it lays. Griffin solves the issue by having Highway work under the umbrella of “Special Operations”.

The book has two main plot lines, the first is special operations being tagged to stop a rapist that has struck several times, with each case getting more violent than the previous ones. The second plot line, driven by the first, is about Peter Wohl and his staffing of the new special operations department. The downside of the first plot line is in Special Operations Griffin doesn’t follow any of the established guidelines for writing a mystery so it’s impossible for the reader to even guess at who the bad guy is. That didn’t bother me as both plotlines are more story driven than beholden to the mystery aspect, but it would have been nice if Griffin had intertwined some evidence pointing at a character he’s mentioned previously.

As Special Operations rolls along it’s starts to get obvious that the police is going to need to get lucky to catch the Northwest Serial Rapist, and not shockingly that luck falls squarely on “golden boy” Matt Payne. Unfortunately that type of ending, while common in Griffin’s books, does detract from the overall story a bit. He does do a good job of leaving a couple of plot points open for the next book, The Victim, which is where the “Badge of Honor” series really starts to pick up some steam. More on that soon.

Random Review: Men In Blue by W.E.B. Griffin

This review contains mild spoilers.

Book Name: Men In Blue
Author: W.E.B. Griffin (originally written as John Kevin Dugan)
Series: Book #1 in the ongoing “Badge of Honor” series
Publisher(s): Jove
Format(s): Hardcover(reprint)/Mass market paperback/audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller
Release Date: October 1, 1988

Rating: 8/10

As I’ve been working my way through the series that author W.E.B. Griffin has written over the years the one ongoing series that stands out a little from the others is his “Badge of Honor” books because they don’t center around either the military or intelligence/black ops. There is lots of subject overlap in the other series, but how much of the themes that Griffin uses in his military books would he be able to use in a series about police work? Griffin answers that question before he gets even halfway through Men In Blue: all of it, and yet none of it.

One would think a series about the Philadelphia police department would contain at least some aspect of a mystery, but while there are crimes committed in the series the solutions of the crimes are almost secondary. Like all of Griffin’s other series it’s the interplay between the characters that’s the focus. Griffin breaks every rule of mystery writing in the books because he isn’t writing mysteries. So if you’re looking for that kind of book, these aren’t for you.

Set in the early 1970s Men In Blue begins by setting up what quickly turns into a huge action scene and murder that is the lynchpin for everything that comes after it. The killing of Philadelphia Highway Patrol captain Richard “Dutch” Moffitt during an attempted armed robbery introduces all the main characters of the early series and sets into motion the political dealings within the department that the series is based on. Griffin has his usual type of characters in the story, although he combines some of his archetypes into singular characters. Griffin always seems to have a wealthy character at the center of the action, and in Men In Blue that is Matt Payne, nephew of Moffitt and son of another officer who also died in the line of duty.

The change for Griffin is while Payne is his “rich character” he also has him as the “golden boy” character as Payne doesn’t follow the usual path Philadelphia officers are expected to do and is instead “kept safe” by higher ups (referred to as “rabbis”) that knew his father and uncle thinking Payne was just trying to prove his manhood by joining the police department after being rejected by the Marine Corps. The one big hole in the character history of Payne is he’s rejected for an eye issue that’s never really mentioned and somehow doesn’t preclude him from joining the police force. The question of how he could have an eye issue that stopped him from being a Marine officer but not a cop is never addressed.

The murder of Moffitt is also not written like a mystery. Who did it is figured out early and it just becomes a race to find the culprit before he escapes. Griffin introduces two young plainclothes narcotics officers to the plot, Jesus Martinez and Charlie McFadden, and has McFadden figure out how to catch the perp as Martinez reluctantly goes along with him. The end scene of that storyline is classic Griffin, and propels the two young officers into the forefront despite they also not having followed the normal career path of a Philly police officer. At least the reasoning behind that is easily explained and totally plausible.

The central character in Men In Blue is Peter Wohl, a Staff inspector whose father was a well liked Chief Inspector. Griffin goes through great pains to explain the ranks of the Philadelphia police department, so I won’t bother. You’ll either see it multiple times in the series if you read them or you won’t in which case it makes no difference. Wohl is another “golden boy” character type in the series, having been the youngest person ever at each rank he’s achieved. Funny thing is Wohl is probably the most believable character in all the early books. Longtime readers of Griffin’s books will recognize many of Wohl’s character traits.

While I was really expecting mysteries what Griffin delivers in Men In Blue is really more of behind-the-scenes type story many of his other series are. And it works as Men In Blue, once it got going, was a page turner. Despite many of the plot points reaching a satisfying conclusion it’s not really meant to be a stand alone novel. I’m betting if you read it you’ll want to read the next, Special Operations. I certainly did, and I’ll have more on the soon.

Week in review, week ending 11/9/14

For those that are new, the following is a list of the blog posts I made over the last week, a few of the postings from people I follow that I thought were pretty good, and then lastly other posts I’ve stumbled into that folks might like to take a look at. Presuming I did it right all links will open new windows/tabs. In case you missed it, here’s last week’s posting.

From me this week there was…
On Monday my monthly update called Some random book thoughts for November 2014, on Wednesday I asked How long until you decide to stop reading a bad book?, and Friday I answered some questions about how I treat my books.

From the folks I follow…
Chrissi Reads has a review of Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass, a book with an incredibly cool cover that I will likely never read.
The Credible Hulk hits us with two good ones this week. First he lists his Top 5 Character Deaths. One that didn’t make his list that would likely make mine, Lt. Colonel Henry Blake from M*A*S*H*. His second is a profile of Bill Finger. ‘Who is Bill Finger?’, you ask? Batman fans (should) know.
As I Lay Reading take a look at A Game of Thrones. I’ll mention a spoiler warning for the post.

Some stuff I stumbled into…
Thoughtfultomes lists their Top 5 Science Fantasy Series. The “Heir to the Empire” trilogy (AKA “The Thrawn Trilogy”) by Timothy Zahn would make my list, the rest probably wouldn’t.
Stories Unfolded talks about her Friday Finds, but the key is she mentions a three story Barnes and Noble. Yes, you read that correctly, a three story Barnes and Noble. My wife would never let me go there for fear of not being able to find me in a bookstore that big!
Odds, Ends and Allsorts has a post In Defense of YA. I haven’t read any young adult books, although my wife has read many. She has said the YA field is “full of too many people trying to write ‘Harry Potter’”. I guess that’s no different than folks trying to copy Dan Brown…
Loreoftheunderlings author John Klobucher says his Lore Anyhology is free on Amazon until Wednesday, November 12th. He’s sort of local to me, so I figure I’ll give him a shout out. I don’t do eBooks, but I know many of my readers do. I’m sure he’d appreciate a review if you read it.

Links do not indicate an endorsement of the ideas presented, only that I thought the posting was worth taking a look at.