the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

This is a post about making sandwiches. (not this sandwich!)

 

This is a post about how 2019 was the year I figured what kind of sandwiches are my favorite to make.   I like sandwiches that are filled with unexpected stuff.  all the condiments, pickles, green olives, honey, apples, whatever.  Not all those foods at once, because this actually isn’t a sandwich.

 

2019 was a weird year for me.  No deaths, no health emergencies, nothing dramatic or life altering, nothing like that.  It was a quiet, weird year –  I took on some amazing projects and new responsibilities at my day job.  I was lucky, I was fortunate, I was in the right place at the right time. I realized the power of having space and time at work to think and be creative. Some of those projects melted my brain, and I loved every second of it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.   I learned my brain needs large chunks of uninterrupted quiet time for magical creative things to happen.

 

I had MAJOR blogger burn out in 2019.  Like, retire from blogging kind of burn out.  I didn’t want to write reviews, I could barely finish books.  My hobby is blogging about books,  and I could barely finish a book in 2019. People would ask me what I was reading,  and I’d shrug and say “nothing”.

 

I knew what I needed to do, I knew to listen to my friends and stop listening to influencers/strangers/idiots, I knew I needed to get the hell off social media, I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to do it.  I tried a bunch of stuff to get out of my funk, and the only thing that seemed to work was watching buckets of TV, and I am not normally a TV watcher. Good TV is great, and it was exactly what my brain needed! But means I’m not reading books or writing book reviews. And when it comes down to it, I am not a TV person.  I was practicing avoidance.

 

I got some good news in late December.   I got some better news in January. It doesn’t matter what the news was, what matters was that these two things were the things that got me over the hump and out of the funk.  The January news was a huge weight off my shoulders.

 

Anyway.

 

Forever ago,  Robert Jackson Bennett wrote a blog post about making sandwiches. That post has been stuck in my head forever.  My interpretation is that he’s using sandwiches as a metaphor for how weird and personal the writing process is, and the futility of pushing yourself to “write what someone else will enjoy” or to “write the same way someone else writes, with the assumption you’ll get the same result” (or who knows. I am the queen of not interpreting things right). My brain uses sandwiches as a metaphor for writing content for this blog. Also, if you haven’t read Robert Jackson Bennett, you really should. The dude makes a fucking excellent sandwich.

 

Everyone should make the sandwich they want to eat.    You do you. You like mustard on your sandwich? put mustard on your sandwich.  You don’t want lettuce? don’t put on lettuce. It’s your sandwich, make it how you please.   If for years, you’ve liked mayo on your sandwich, and then one day you decide you’re just not feeling the mayo anymore? that’s OK too.

 

Thing was, I was getting bored with having eaten what tasted like the same goddamn sandwich for like 8 years.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you.

 

Yes you, the blogger who said on their “about me” page that they’d being posting 3 book reviews a week, and a month in you’re already starting to get burned out because you’ve been reading 26 hours a day and have  barely slept or walked your dog or done your homework or texted your mom or spent any time with your best friend.

 

And you, the book blogger who clicked on so much shiny cover art that now you have 50 NetGalley eARCs you need to read, like, right now because you need to make sure NetGalley always loves you.

 

And you, the book blogger who decided ten  reading challenges look fun, and you thought reading 100 books this year was a worthy goal (and don’t forget the bingo card!), and then college started up again, you got diagnosed with a chronic illness, you moved cross country, you had to give your cat away, and now you are wondering how are you ever going to meet your goal of reading 100 books this year?

 

And you, the book blogger who feels like you’re doing it wrong because you think someone else’s book blog is shinier or sleeker, or longer, or shorter, or whatever-er than yours.

 

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

 

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently.

Book blogging should not be something that causes you stress or strife or causes you to be judgemental about yourself.

Netgalley will understand. They know we love clicking on beautiful cover art.

 

Book bloggers of the world, please be kinder to yourselves.

 

Please, be take some time to be selfish.  Take some time to realize that you have taken your passion for reading, the spark you carry inside you, and allowed it to blossom on a website that is all your own.  With a little bit of clicking, and a little bit of html, you have literally created something out of nothing. You have created something that is completely unique to you – someone else, if given the same exact recipe, could never have made what you have made. Because of you, someone discovered a new-to-them book. Your passion, your spark, it rubs off on everyone who visits your site!

 

Still looking for the magic bullet of how win at blogging? Ok, here you go:

 

Being the bloggeriest blogger who ever blogged is not winning. Winning is showing up. Winning is being your authentic self. Winning is talking about books you care about, books that make you think, or cry, or laugh, or grow. Winning is coming to the bloggish community as you,  not as who you think we want to meet. Winning is recognizing burn-out for what it is, taking a break when you need to, and keeping it fun.

 

Blog when you feel like it. Blog on a schedule that works for you. If you have a schedule that was working, and it isn’t working anymore, change it. Blogs are not made of stone and neither are  you. Your blog works for you, not the other way around.

 

#selfcare comes first. Your health and your family come first.  Take a break if that’s what life calls for. Your blog will still be here waiting for you when you come back. The blogging community will still be here waiting for you when you’re ready to return. We’re patient and we want you to take care of yourself.  If you decide there isn’t room in your life for the commitment of blogging right now? That’s OK too. Really, it is!

 

Please do not think you are failing as a blogger because your blog isn’t as sparkly or as polka-dotty or as whatever-y as someone else’s.

 

The only failed blogger is the blogger who never started a blog in the first place.

 

Book bloggers of the world, please be kinder to yourselves.  If the spark inside you burns out, the blogosphere will be all the poorer without you.

 

Us book reviewers love to joke about our out of control ToBeRead piles. We post photos of our TBRs online, we have the “priority” stack, the “read later” stack, the “these are the books I want to read when I have time” stack, which we never get to, because ARCs  keep the first two stacks a few feet high.  We enjoy discussing how many books we want to read, need to read, hope to find time to read. In the blogosphere, this is a thing.

 

I think we joke about it so much, because deciding what book to read next can be paralyzing. And what better way to deal with that stress than to laugh about it?  There are so many choices, so many obligations, it’s easy to get analysis paralysis.  Will you pick up the book you promised the publicist you’d review? Will you pick up the book from your favorite author? Will you pick up the book that your best friend said “hey, I think you’d like this, read it so we can talk about it”. Will you pick up a comfort read that you’ve read a million times but it’s the only thing you feel like reading right now?

 

Fellow Book Bloggers, how do you decide what book to read next?  How do you get past the analysis paralysis? Do you choose your next book based on what you want to read, what you should be reading, what you think other people want you to read?

 

To tell the truth, I’m jealous of organized book bloggers. They are organized. they have a system. they have spreadsheets, and a review publishing schedule. They read books in a particular order, and if they deviate from that order, they don’t tell anyone.

 

Organization is like broccoli, or getting up at the same time every day. I know it’s good for me, I know i should make it part of my life, and sometimes I do for a few weeks at a time. And then I realize that shit is not for me.

 

Don’t get me wrong, i love the excitement of all the TBR photos online, the Mailbox Monday posts, i’m just not organized enough, or committed enough to actually follow through on it.  All those posts I’ve done where I say “Look at all these books I’m going to review soon!” Yep, I’m lucky if I review a third of them in the next few months.

 

I am not organized when it comes to deciding what book to read next.  Nope.  But I am organic.

 

My To Be Read pile is the living room coffee table, and the stacks of book that are underneath it. The corner of the kitchen table, too.

Next to the bed, is what I call the “book graveyard”. Books I picked up, started reading before bed, put down, and didn’t care enough about to ever pick up again.

 

But how do I decide what to read next?

I read next whatever strikes my fancy. Maybe it’s something that caught my eye at a used bookstore.  Maybe it’s something a friend lent or gave me, maybe I got talking to the author at a book event, maybe a bookseller friend or librarian friend recommended the book to me, maybe the cover art got my attention. Maybe it’s the newest book from my favorite author, maybe it’s an ARC that just arrived, maybe it’s an ARC that’s been sitting under the table for 6 months and hit bookstore shelves 3 months ago, maybe it’s a random older title I’m finally getting around to, maybe it’s something a friend recommended. Maybe it’s  a comfort read I’m re-reading for the 2nd or 10th time.  There is no logic to any of this.

 

My decisions about what to read next are completely random, organic, and unorganized.  If I really liked the book I just finished, I will often look for something similar to read next. If I DNF’d a book, I will often look for something completely different as a palette cleanser. Except for the ARCs that are floating around, I choose what to read next with not a care in the world that I have a book review blog.

 

Your turn. How do you decide what to read next?

 

Hey blogger buddies – do you write negative reviews? And what I mean by a negative review isn’t “this book sucks”, it’s “this book didn’t work for me and let me tell you why”. A well written negative review tells you just as much information about the book about a positive review. When I write critical / negative reviews, it’s mostly to talk about why I bounced off a book, or why I though the book was problematic. Oftentimes, it’s a book that the majority of readers really enjoyed, perhaps the book even won a ton of awards, but really, really didn’t work for me. Any of my friends will tell you I’m not the kind of person to sugar coat. If I think something didn’t work on some level, I’m going to say so. If I was offended by something, or thought it was boring, or thought the POV switches weren’t clear, I’m going to say so. If a book made me, personally, feel like the world of that book is not a world I would be welcome in, I’m going to say that too.

 

I do not write negative reviews to dig at an author, or to convince others not to read that author’s books. I need to make that clear: it is a negative review of a book, not of an author or of their career. In fact, I’ve had people respond to my negative reviews with “that sounds like a book I’d like!”

I’m interested to know if my peers write negative reviews, and how you think about those reviews, because I’m in the process of writing a negative review right now. Many people have praised this particular new-ish novel, but I’m finding it predictable, and with a plot that moves forward solely by the power of “because of course it is” combined with characters that do willfully dumb things. (which will be further explained in the review)

Ok, so sound off in the comments, because I wanna know:

Bloggers: Do you write negative reviews? It that a different reviewing process than when you write a glowing review?

Writers: how do you react when you become aware of a negative review of your work?

It’s extra fun being me, because not only do I write negative reviews, but I then run into those authors at SFF Conventions! Fun! And by fun I mean quite awkward.  Should “I’m going to meet this person!” affect how I review their books? Nope.

Some books are really easy to write a review for.

Others, not so much.

Some books fight me every step of the way when I’m trying to write the review. it’s like they do not want to be reviewed.  Maybe they are shy, and don’t want to be talked about? Maybe they don’t like to be the center of attention? Maybe I should stop personifying a stack of paper and ink.

When the book fights me, sometimes I’ll fight back with instrumental music. Maybe classical stuff, maybe modern stuff or a movie soundtrack. I’ve been on an Escala kick lately. This is music I can get lost in, a musical current that pulls me along to who knows where.  I don’t know where I’ll end up. It’s the same as “getting lost in” a book.

Those books that fight me when I’m trying to review them? It’s not the book that’s fighting, it’s me. If the book had an emotional effect on me, I want my review to reflect that journey, that being pulled along by the current, not knowing where I’ll end up. If the book broke my heart, I want the act of writing the review to rebreak it.  If the book filled me with joy, I want the act of writing the review to add even more joy to my life. If the book took me somewhere new, I want the review to do the same. I want my reviews to be a mirror of what I experienced while reading the book.

And I sure as hell do not wake up every day with that kind of writing chops.  Being able to create that mirror is a psychological state of mind for me.  Sometimes I’m in a rush, or I’m tired, or I feel obligated to get the damn review up. Sometimes the book didn’t put up a fight. But because sometimes I can’t do anything less than write a review that’s worthy of the book, I’m willing to wait for that state of mind, or take steps to trigger it.

If the book fights me, that’s a good sign. It means I had something to fucking say that I wanted said in just the right way.

That’s why this sometimes takes so damn long.

 

I’ve done my favorite books of the year.

I’ve announced Vintage SciFi Month.  See the bottom of this post for an important message*. (I’ve even started reading ahead of time for Vintage Month! never done that before!)

not much else to do but publish some boring statistics of my blogging year.

I reviewed 91 books. about 10 of those reviews were over at SFSignal.

I conducted around 40 interviews, here, at Apex Magazine, and also at SFSignal.

I got to attend some really fun conventions: ConFusion, AnimeMidwest, Context, and Grand Rapids ComicCon.

I learned how to use Netgalley. I am *not* an early adopter, so this was a huge deal for me. Files magically showing up on the kindle is sorcery, i tell you!

Including book (and a few movie, manga and tv show) reviews and a few commentary columns about geeky stuff, I wrote approximately 104,000 words.  That’s slightly more words than Ender’s Game, and slightly fewer words than Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. nice.

The happiest of Happy New Years to everyone, and a huge thank you for goofing off with me on twitter, commenting on my posts, telling me about your favorite books and authors,  and putting up with me when I  simply would not shut up books I was excited about and geeky events I attended.

I’ll see everyone in January! when it’s time to turn back the clock!

Happy-New-Year

 

* regarding Vintage SciFi Month radio silence: I am a jerk and didn’t e-mail back a lot of people who voiced interest in writing guest posts. I still would love to have you write something. Can be anything scifi-ish or fantasy-ish that is from 1979 or earlier: books, author bios, tv shows,  movies, book cover art galleries, radio shows,  award winners, geeky events, a short list of suggested books and/or short stories, etc. Send your guest post to me at redhead5318 at the gmail place. comment below or tweet me if you have questions.

 

 

The other day I posed a random question on twitter, aimed towards book bloggers. it was:

how much time does “content creation” for your blog take? how many hours per week?

Responses ranged from “4-5 hours per week”, to “up to 8 hours per week”, to “it varies”.   But if you are a book reviewer, you’ve got to read the darn book before you can review it, right? so maybe 8-10 hours to read the book, and then 2-3 hours working on a review?

It takes me at least a few days to read the book, sometimes I’m lucky enough that the review practically writes itself in an hour, other times I agonize over a review for days.  So for me, let’s call it 8-20 hours per week. sometimes the book is a fast read, sometimes it takes forever, sometimes I even get two reviews done in a week!  twenty hours a week? Labor of love indeed.

So, to everyone else, on twitter and not, all kinds of bloggers – food/recipe bloggers, webcomic bloggers, TV/movie/anime bloggers, photo bloggers, parenting bloggers, people who  blog about their lives and adventures, people who blog about anything and everything, it’s your turn, and I do honestly want to know.

how much time do you spend, per week, creating content for your blog?

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.