Walking Away From Book Blogging

I’ve been writing 20four12 since March 2012 and it’s been a lot of fun along the way. Originally, this blog started as a sort of “catch-all” that allowed me to simply try out blogging on a daily basis, just to see if I could manage to be consistent. Very quickly it morphed into a book blog where I spent my time writing about the books I was reading and a lot of other book-related topics.

Now, in May 2015 it’s time for me to walk away from having a dedicated book blog. I’ve done a lot of reading in the last three years, some of it good, some of it bad. I’ve talked about a lot of those books here on 20four12, but one thing I’ve never managed to do was cross over into a level of readership that makes all of the reading worthwhile. While the WordPress system says I have over 600 followers, I think around two dozen of them are actually real people. All the rest are spambots, crawlers, or people who clicked “follow” three years ago when I was featured on Freshly Pressed and then never returned.

20four12 suffers from a few things: First, the name is hard to remember and it’s difficult to tell someone how to find. That’s my fault, I should have picked something better when I first stared. Second, I’ve never been consistent enough to draw the readership levels that lead to engaging conversation in the comments or otherwise. Third, while I am by no means a bad writer, I’ve discovered over time that my ability to write a high-quality review is rather hit-or-miss. Fourth, the effort required to wrestle this blog into that high readership, high engagement area is something I don’t have the time (or inclination) to do.

The long and the short of it is this: I want to write about books… sometimes. The rest of the time I want to write about other things, and doing that on a blog that has been a book blog for three years doesn’t make sense, doesn’t fit, and just doesn’t work for me.

So, I’m moving onto something new. I’ll be doing whatever writing I feel like doing over at calebflanagan.com because the domain is easy to remember, easy to pass along to others, and is multi-functional for me and what I want to do in the future. There I can talk about web development, sports, books, movies, television, and anything else without clouding up what the blog happens to be overall.

The new site doesn’t have much there yet, and maybe it won’t for a little while longer, but I feel like it’s the place I want to be doing my writing from now on. If anyone wants to see what I have to say on topics like I listed above, feel free to bookmark it and see what happens there in the future.

Thank you to everyone who has followed me here. Thank you to the authors and publishers that have sent me advance copies of books to review. Thank you to the readers who have commented and the other book bloggers I’ve met as part of this endeavor. I will keep 20four12 active here to act as an archive for the reviews and other things I’ve posted. I’m sure someone out there will still find them useful even years from now.

It’s been fun! I hope to see some of you over at the new place at some point.

Regards,
Caleb Flanagan (formerly of 20four12)

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Okay, It’s Time To Get Back To Business

Let’s be honest, I haven’t made any posts here that were very compelling since October, nearly a fourth of a year. All things considered, that’s probably not a wise way to go about keeping a book blog that for reasons I still don’t understand has a decent readership. I’ve probably lost at least a few loyal followers over the past three or four months, and it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

I need to fix things by getting back on the horse and writing some reviews, a few topical essays, and maybe branching out into some interviews or other types of content. I don’t really have an excuse for why I went dark with posting for the last few months other than I was trying hard to get those 100 books read and started a new job. Blogging just sort of took a back seat out of the blue and I’m just now realizing I need to get going again.

There were a few weeks, I admit, where I seriously considered just shuttering the blog altogether, calling it quits, and just walking away. I felt like I was stagnating in my reviews, lacking any sort of really compelling content, and that I was unable to do the structural things I really want to do with the site on the whole. Added to that was the sheer number of books I was finishing and not able to find the time to write reviews for when I was done. Some of which I may have to actually read again in order to write a worthwhile review. That had me a little frustrated as well.

But, I seem to have emerged from the funk! The time off to just read, adjust to my new job, and enjoy the holiday season without the pressure of blogging seems to have renewed my batteries and now I’m ready to get back to work.

Here are my current thoughts on things that need to be done or improved around here:

A serious number of reviews need to finally be written. I read 101 books last year, but I managed only 41 reviews written. That’s less than half of the books I read. Some of those reviews will require me to at least skim through the books again to refresh my memory before I can write anything of worth, and some of them I could still write on the fly. At the very least I need to get reviews written for The Mirror Empire, Red Rising, Gemini Cell, Ancillary Sword, and the two new Star Wars novels, Tarkin and A New Dawn. In an ideal world I will at some point get all 101 reviews written for the 101 books I read, plus reviews for everything I read in 2015. That should keep me in content for a long time.

Lots of topical essays and posts I am very interested in writing need to be written. I never got around to doing a post that reviews my year of 2014. I also want to write about what I learned in the process of reading 100 books in a single year. There are some posts about science fiction and fantasy as genres on the whole I want to write, and a variety of other things on top of all those I just mentioned. There are probably at least two dozen essay type posts floating around in my head somewhere.

The reviews listing needs to be updated and improved. I’d love to have a listing by author, by title, and by series, but I need to just sit down and do it. I may need to dive back into the custom CSS of the website to make them work like I really want, and that’s okay, I just need to make it happen. I spent a little time making sure the listing as it stands now is updated.

Once and for all I need a regular posting schedule. In my grandest dreams I’ll someday figure out how to effectively blog every single day, but for now I would settle on just being consistent instead of haphazard. My goal is to post a review every Monday and some kind of topical post every Thursday. If I can manage additional posts during the week, great. If not, I want to meet that minimum schedule.

Guest writers and interviews. I think there is a lot of opportunity for me to allow others who have enjoyed science fiction and fantasy novels a place to let their thoughts be known. I’d almost like to entertain the idea of putting out a call for submissions in some fashion where people who don’t want to run their own blog could drop me a line when they want to review something they think fits the audience here. On top of that, I’d really like to get started with the author interview game. I think that could provide some compelling content.

And lastly, maybe a bit of creative writing. Here in the very near future (as in the next month) I’ll be joining a writing group to get back on the writing horse like I’ve wanted to do for a long time. Maybe if I find myself having put together something of decent quality I might share some snippets here and there.

So, you can see there is a lot I want to do, and I’ve spent a lot of time over the past three months really thinking about how I want to get it done. Now I need to implement some of the plans, so expect to see some housekeeping type posts over the last two weeks of this month and then if all goes well I can hit the ground running in March.

Blog Tour and Book Review: “Black Moon” by Teri Harman

Black Moon Tour BannerTitle: Black Moon
Author: Teri Harman
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Length: 416 pages

Obtained: The publisher provided me with an advance copy for review.

The Plot: Following the events of Blood Moon the characters of Willa and Simon are spending a lot of their free time training as hard as possible to pass the first test to becoming a True Witch. The Covenant they have joined have taken up residence in Twelve Acres so that they can all be close together as Willa and Simon continue realizing their full potential.

The trouble is that Simon is plagued by nightmares and other secrets he either doesn’t know the truth about or that he doesn’t want to share with Willa. On the other hand, Willa has been delving deeper and deeper into the mystery that is Simon and his multiple schools of magic when other witches are only gifted with a single school. The answers she uncovers are startling and reveal that Simon may have a destiny much more grand than anyone in the Covenant had dared to imagine in the short time they have all been together.

Meanwhile, Archard, the Dark witch from Blood Moon is not as dead as everyone had hoped and he’s delving into some twisted, dark, and intensely powerful magic from the old teachings of Bartholomew the Dark, the last Dark witch to successfully form a Dark Covenant, the same one that brought about what the common folk know as the Dark Ages.

The Commentary: After my reading of Blood Moon, the first book in The Moonlight Trilogy, I was on the fence about whether or not I really wanted to continue with the second book. These books are treading ground in the very new genre of “New Adult” and it sits far to the side of my usual reading habits. However, the publisher very kindly asked me to review the book and a longtime friend of mine happens to be the editor for these books as well. Thankfully, my friend was able to tell me my misgivings about Blood Moon were something that I would not have with Black Moon if I just sat down and got to reading.

As it turns out, he was completely right.

My biggest misgiving previously was feeling that the Light witches had no real sense of danger surrounding them. It felt like it was a forgone conclusion that they were going to win and none of them were going to come to any harm. In Black Moon all of that changes. The danger the Light Covenant faces is much more real and the consequences of their actions are not always immediately apparent. With that out of the way, the book really slid into place for me and I was able to get into the story much more thoroughly than before.

I was also very impressed with Black Moon’s treatment of the relationship between Simon and Willa. In the first book it was immediately established that they are soul mates, but relationships in real life are a lot more complicated than that even if you have found the person you want to be with for the rest of your life. Teri Harman does an amazing job making sure that Simon and Willa aren’t just love-struck, star-crossed lovers. They may only be around twenty years old, but they are mature enough to realize that they don’t actually know everything about each other; that they will actually have to sit down and talk about things instead of just taking each other’s actions for granted because they are in love.

Most authors aren’t willing to have their two characters have a big fight and let it simmer for a while. They all want an immediate makeup scene. Teri Harman is willing to let Simon and Willa be mad at each other. She’s willing to let them act like people do in real life where they get pissed off and have to leave the house for an hour or two to calm down before coming back and still being angry, but finally calm enough to talk about things. It’s a very fresh change of pace compared to most relationships in books.

There is a pretty big plot twist toward the end of Black Moon that I had figured out around the halfway point, but while I may have had the twist figured out, I absolutely did not have the person it was going to happen to figured out. That spun me for a loop and I have to give props to Teri Harman for taking me by surprise. I pride myself on my ability to pick up on foreshadowing and other similar things rather well, so pulling a fast one on me is always impressive.

Worth It? Yes. If you have read Blood Moon, the first book of the trilogy, you will certainly want to read this one because it continues the story in a very satisfying fashion. If you haven’t read the first book, you could probably still pick up Black Moon and not find yourself too lost because the author does a good job of keeping the reader up to speed. Black Moon is carving into new ground genre-wise, so it might be a little different from what the average YA reader is expecting, but that isn’t a bad thing, I promise.

Left Me Wanting… Just a little bit more action. The very fresh genre of “new adult” is something that sits on the fringes of my typical reading tastes, and I understand why Black Moon isn’t packed with action like my typical fare, but I felt the story lent itself to just a little bit more. Black Moon does have much more action than Blood Moon, and that made me happy, but it still fell just a tiny bit short of the perfect amount in my opinion.

The Book:   Amazon   |   Goodreads
The Author:   Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Author’s Website

Want a chance at a free copy of Black Moon to read for yourself? Head on over to the Rafflecopter Giveaway the publisher is hosting and see if you can get lucky!

The Crossroad of Blogging and Reading

I’ve been blogging about books here since March 2012 and I’ve had a lot of fun for the past two and a half years. My hope is that I’ll continue having fun blogging for many years to come, but right now I’m dealing with lots of things pulling me in a lot of different directions. As much as I wish this blog were a cash cow that pays all the bills with money left over, the fact of the matter is that I make nothing off of my endeavors here.

You know what? I’m entirely okay with not making any money off of my blogging because I started 20four12 as a way to fill time when nothing else was going on during slow days at the office. It seemed like a great way to get all of the great things I had in my head about the books I read down somewhere I could share them with others and for years I had been wanting to give blogging a try anyway. Making money from blogging would be great, but it’s not something I currently plan on doing here.

However, because I don’t make any money from 20four12, it’s also very difficult to put it ahead of other things that need my attention. I’ve got a wonderful wife and two young children need me to spend time with them as any good husband and father should. I’m also making a lot of adjustments in my career as a web developer at the moment as I try to take on more responsibilities at the office as well as improve my skill set for future projects I’m thinking about. Add all of that to the general hustle and bustle of everyday life and right now the time I have to spend writing, planning, and posting blog entries seems to be dwindling more and more.

Why is any of that important? I suppose in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t, this is just a book blog written by an amateur who reads a lot of books. I’m not changing the world or anything here, but I do like to do things right and not halfway. There are people who read this blog regularly through their RSS feeds, visiting the site directly, or in some other fashion, and for whatever reason I feel like if I’m not going to be blogging as much for the next little while I should at least give them a heads up, even if fewer posts here won’t be the end of the world for anyone.

So what am I going to do?

First, I am going to focus on one particular goal I set for myself this year. The one I set to read 100 books for the year. As of right now I’m three books behind pace, which should be easy enough to make up with six months remaining in 2014, but I need to stay very focused to make it happen. I set a lot of goals at the beginning of the year and some of them were a little to ambitious, but the one for reading 100 books is the one I really don’t want to give up trying to accomplish. With that in mind, writing a review about every single book I read is something I’m probably not going to have the ability to do.

Why can’t I write a review for every book? Because I need to free up some time. Why do I need time? That’s easy to explain: I want to move 20four12 away from being hosted on WordPress to being self-hosted. That’s the second thing I want to do in the last six months of this year. I have the requisite skills needed to make the change, but finding the time is a much more difficult proposition. If I back off on the actual blogging for a little while I might just be able to find those slices of time I really need to make it happen.

So, the end result of this decision is that my posting on 20four12 is probably going to be a little sporadic over the coming months. I’ll still be writing my monthly update on which books I’ve read to keep both myself and any interested parties up to speed on my goal for completing 100 books. I will also write an occasional review, but likely just for the books that really speak to me as I’m reading them. This is me giving myself permission to keep the blog going but also to get some other things done that have been piling up.

Perhaps none of this will mean a thing and I’ll somehow find myself with all the time in the world to get the new projects finished and still read all of the books and blog about them, but I have a feeling 20four12 will be a little less busy for a little while, and while I wish that didn’t have to be the case, I’ve accepted that it’s okay and nobody is going to go screaming through the streets in despair while I step back for a bit. I’ll blog when I can and I’ll make sure those posts are as amazing as they can be when I write them.

March Madness!!!

I’m a self-admitted mega sports fan in that I follow every piece of sports news I can and gobble all of it up like the sarclacc devouring Boba Fett. As you can imagine, March and college basketball are basically the most perfect pairing for me imaginable. I try to watch lots of highlights from regular season as well as many full games so I can be somewhat knowledgeable about the quality of all the teams. I read a lot of analysis as well, and when everything is said and done… I usually still get my NCAA Tournament picks wrong.

That’s okay though, because for me it’s all about the fun of the pick. I tend to make about six or seven different brackets, a very serious one, a BYU fanboy one, another one that features a greater number of upsets, etc. Then I watch as everything I think I know about the teams gets proven wrong and chaos ensues.

Rooting for the underdog is my thing too. I don’t even care if I picked the higher seed to win the game, I am ALWAYS rooting for the 12-seed or 13-seed to knock off their opponent. A 15-seed in the Sweet Sixteen or the Elite Eight? YES PLEASE!

This year in my “serious” bracket I’ve got Florida winning the championship over Michigan. I don’t know if that’s a great pick or not, but I think it’s got about a 50/50 chance of happening right now from what I’ve seen in the first three days of tournament play. Who did you pick?