25th Post! Well at least it seems like a milestone.

Here it is! The 25th post on Alligators and Aneurysms. This feels like an achievement (if a small one). I started this poor thing last October (2012) and rarely posted on it at all in the three months preceding 2013. Then on January one, I decided it was a new year and I was going to get serious. One post a week; that was my goal. I’ve hit that goal some weeks and others . . . not so much, but I’m trying to keep it going. It’s basically the end of May and I beat my goal by five posts! Anyway, 25 seems to be a good number to look back and see what, if anything, I’ve learned about blogging since this whole thing began (might throw in some future goals at the end but eh we’ll see). So here goes:

1) Post pictures of Cute Animals on Your Blog

Hahah well I suppose he isn't exactly cute.

Hahah well I suppose he isn’t exactly cute.

Yep! Do it! Ever since I’ve been posting some pics of Kobi on the blog, my views have gone up measurably. Not necessarily significantly, but I’m getting so few views that it is really pretty hard to judge what’s driving traffic. But what I can say is that on the days I post about Kobi, my views are certainly higher. My first ‘Kobi’ post (Because I’m Shameless) did the best (and I attribute that to more aggressive marketing of that post than the others. It’s just that I was so excited about him!!), but the others have done pretty well. None of the ‘Kobi’ posts got the high score for number of views, but we’ll get to that later (item number 4). Also, these posts are just really fun. They get me outside of the monotony of text only posts. You can be a great writer, but it is still good to mix it up. So far I’ve learned how to post videos to Youtube and taught myself how to make GIF’s (you’ve all probably seen this one of Kobi, but here it is again!). It’s been really fun, and not just boring text. I think this has certainly contributed to any increase in my views (plus he’s so cute so that probably helped).

2) Post Regularly: Make a Schedule and STICK TO IT!

I believe this is helpful for 2 of reasons:

#1.  I’ve read some bloggers who feel that the benefit of having a posting schedule is that your readers start to form a routine, and know to look for your posts on certain days. For instance, my short fiction posts are always on Mondays (except this Monday lol), and Kobi posts on Wednesdays. Back when I was posting about Archer, and The Americans, I tried to post the day after the episode aired which happened some weeks and not others. I believe there is some truth to the notion of readers getting into a routine but I feel that mostly it helps because of reason #2 which I’m about to go over.

#2. It gets you into a routine of actually writing posts! Without setting aside time each week to write, I would never be able to get these things out in anything resembling a consistent manner. I’d keep putting them off a week . . . then two weeks . . . and before I know it the moment has passed and I can’t even remember what I want to write about.

Calendar_0Now making a schedule for your posting habits is good, and I believe it helps, but it is important that you make a schedule that you can actually keep. Another thing to remember is don’t do too much (I think this kind of ties in with item 3 too). I’m guilty of this second piece all the time. I come up with these elaborate posting schedules with all the different types of content that I would like to post, but I have unrealistic expectations of how long it will take me to create the content.

For instance, if we go back to my Orcs, Bears and Assholes post, not only will we find a great review of that work (well medium on the writing side, great on the accolades side), but also quick bit on why it is important to define a schedule you can keep. Essentially, The Americans aired on Wednesday, and it was hard to catch it each week because it aired during a time that I wasn’t really free to watch the show. Can’t post a review of something you haven’t watched. My Archer posts met a similar fate though I made great efforts to clear my schedule for that broadcast. The problem was that my schedule on Friday did not allow me adequate time to write the posts (I always had plans Thursday night after Archer so I couldn’t write the posts then) before publishing them that same day. Rough right? I’ve learned since then that it’s important to define the schedule yourself. That’s why I picked Mondays for posting the short fiction reviews. I’m usually free all day sunday 😉

3) Know When to Give Up On a Project

Remember what I was saying earlier about doing too much? If you find that you are, perhaps that is a good time to scrap an idea. Get back to basics. Figure out what works and stick with it. It was a nice idea to post about TV shows, but it simply wasn’t working. While I was doing the TV posts, I was starting to conceptualize the short fiction posts (although the Kobi posts where not even a thought in my brain). To attempt to do both and the occasional book review was quite overwhelming and as a result, I wasn’t posting anything. That’s no good. Just tweak the plan.

trashcanAlso, the same holds true for individual posts. I was attempting to do a post about John Scalzi’s The Human Division. I read each piece (except the last one) as it was serialized in electronic format and genuinely enjoyed them all (well except one about a dog but that’s another story). Because of the serial/TV like nature of the work, I planned to write the review in a ‘recap’ type post similar to those I’ve written about Archer, with the final ‘episode’ discussed at the end (so write most of the post before hand). I had hoped to have this post published the next day after the final episode was serialized. Well it just so happened that planets aligned and the Fates conspired . . . each to pull me away from posting the day after the final episode’s release. First, my schedule was a nightmare, then I couldn’t remember the exact details of the material, I caught mistakes in the timeline, fact-check issues . . . In short I could not write the post by my deadline. So . . . I gave up. Well I didn’t really give up so much as I tweaked the plan. Why did I have to do a ‘recap’ post? Maybe I should review The Human Division like I would any other book. It certainly frees up the timeline (although not as free as I thought which I’ll discuss in item 4). So, a review of The Human Division will be written, but likely not any time soon (I got plans! Which ironically is item 5).

4) Post Timely Content: Ride the Wave

I have to apologize, the phrase ‘Ride the Wave’ isn’t entirely mine but I think it sums up my point pretty well. Essentially that point is this: Be aware of events happening within the scope of your blog’s topic, and post about them! If you write about wheel chairs (it must be getting late, that’s random even for me) and there’s a new development in wheel chair science (is that a thing?), post about it! I’ll give you an example.

I suppose he isn't really riding so much as flying over the wave but hey isn't that what you want your posts to do?

I suppose he isn’t really riding so much as flying over the wave but hey isn’t that what you want your posts to do?

Earlier this year, I posted a review of Robert Jordan’s prequel to The Wheel of Time series, New Spring. Again planets aligned and fates conspired (all of which you can read about here) to help me actually complete the post. It just so happened, this post was checked and ready to be published at 11:55pm on the evening of January 7th. Sanderson’s midnight release party for A Memory of Light, the last book in the series, began 5 minutes later. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding The Wheel of Time during those two days and my post saw significantly more traffic than any of my previous posts. It didn’t go viral or anything like that, but it did serve as a valuable lesson in posting strategy (I also should mention, I didn’t intend to post 5 minutes before but as they say . . . the wheel weaves as the wheel wills).

How could I have implemented this strategy on purpose you ask?

Well, that is quite simple (so simple in fact that I didn’t even think to do it). Dan Brown recently released a new installment in the line of Thriller novels following protagonist Robert Langdon, The Inferno. Ideally, I could have done reviews of the other Robert Langdon novels (all of which I’ve read, and am pretty opinionated on) and posted them around the time of the release. Well, maybe I would want to re-read them first and the release kind of snuck up on me so perhaps I couldn’t have gotten it all done in time. A nice opportunity, but not in the cards.

There’s an irony here in that I could have easily done my The Human Division post for the release of that work in hardcover which was on the exact same day as the release of The Inferno. Unfortunately, I was so caught up in making the one post fit to my schedule that I completely missed the other one.

This brings me to my next item . . .

5) Plan in Advance

‘Riding the wave’ is good and all; it can help you post more relevant content but that doesn’t mean you can’t look for the wave before you ride it. I suppose in the case of the last item, you also have to decide which wave to catch. Being aware and Planning ahead will allow you to have more sophisticated content created when that wave finally hits. For instance, I’ve got a whole bunch of goodies planned for October (none of which I will reveal here), but I have to start working on it now to ensure that I’ll finish in time and have all the content I need, and be able to release the way I want. It’s been pretty tough so far, but also a lot of fun. Hope it goes over the way I imagine but I won’t be afraid to tweak if I find it isn’t working.

God is this post over yet?

Yes . . . Yes I believe it is. Hope you all found some of this stuff useful. It’s pretty basic, and I’m sure there are much more complicated and sophisticated methods out there to help you write a better blog, but after 25 posts . . . it’s these five things that I hope I don’t screw up (or in the case of item 1, continue to not screw up) over the next 25 posts. We’ll see.

Thanks all. Bye bye!

Me Learning GIFs and Kobi being cute!

Hey all! So it’s Wednesday which means that it is again time to ooh and ahh at my super cute puppy. First off, this site is titled Alligators and Aneurysms so it only makes sense that Kobi should have a little alligator side kick. I mean . . . they let me pick out a toy for him, what else could have happened. So here he is with his new friend Al:

Hi Al!

Hi Al!

And now onto the important stuff. I have been trying to capture the little monster on video for some time now. At first, I was just saving everything as .wmv files but as it turns out, you can’t add those to your pages unless you pay WordPress $60 for some add-on. That’s $60 dollars I don’t have nor would I spend. So . . . last week I was in a crunch and posted a video on youtube, but I didn’t feel satisfied. I’ve been on the internet before (I know, hard to believe right?) and keep seeing all of these pictures that move around.

Forever . . .

They just keep going and going and going, on and on, forever! Which is what I wanted. I’ve learned that these are called animated GIF files and that you can make them using . . . Photoshop (oh dear).

This program is even more expensive than the silly WordPress add-on. I was supposed to be able to download a copy through my affiliation with the University of Maryland but I tried and the software package wasn’t working. I was crestfallen. How will I ever create GIFs?! I went online and none of the video-GIF converters seemed to work the way I wanted them to (not to mention I’m pretty sure I downloaded every virus on the internet).

But Lo and Behold! Photoshop randomly started working. I recently updated windows so now I’m wondering if that had something to do with it. I’m also really starting to feel kind of bad for the people working (very hard I might add . . . well at least medium hard) over a OIT which I harassed for the better part of a week. Sorry guys. Anyway, it’s finally here. My glorious GIF! Enjoy.

Aww . . .

Apparently you have to click on the picture. Still getting the hang of this I guess

You should probably go ahead and watch that for a few hours. I’m trying to do a Friday post this week so make sure you’re done by then. Bye now.

Strike two for Ray Bradbury!

Hey all. This week’s short fiction post is about Ray Bradbury’s short story The Emissary. I suppose it might be necessary to explain how or why I even know about this story, and decided to post about it. So here’s the skinny on that:

– Recently I’ve received a few mentions on my twitter account from a particular author who writes zombie fiction (check out Devan Sagliani. He’s awesome.  You can read a review of his book, The Rising Dead, which I wrote here). He’s been using the hashtag #FF to get the word out about different twitter handles and he’s mentioned me two weeks in a row (like I said he’s awesome). He usually just tweets out a list of handles he thinks people should follow; usually they have some relevance to horror or zombie fiction. I’ve been following most of them and getting super excited about zombies all over again.

– So, last weekend I go to Barnes & Noble and drop $50 on zombie books and anthologies (Psh. Who says bricks-and-mortar stores are dead?). I didn’t even feel remotely bad about it even though I definitely can’t afford to be doing that often. Nor did I look through the table of contents for the anthologies. Just dropped the cash and left.

– Now I’ve been slowly eating through some of the stories (Braaaiiiinnnssss!!) and I’ll admit, I was a little surprised to see Bradbury’s name in the lineup. Certain authors I had no trouble digesting. Stephen King, Max Brooks . . . even Neil Gaiman wasn’t too much of a stretch, but Ray Bradbury? Really?

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Courtesy of Wikipedia

This is the Bradbury I know:

A sort of nerdy looking science fiction writer. We had to read Fahrenheit 451 in high school. While I didn’t think the novel was incredibly engaging, he seemed to be a good writer and it was cool that he predicted ear-buds or whatever.  I remember learning that he was born in the 20’s (1920 to be exact) and attributed what I thought to be an overly ‘literary’ aspect of his writing to the fact that he was from a different time. And while Science Fiction is probably one of my favorite genres of fiction, I wasn’t attracted to his writing. I thought it seemed dull and a little boring.

Imagine my surprise . . .

What I didn’t know (which I now do thanks to Wikipedia), was that Bradbury actually got his start writing horror. Apparently, he was a pretty voracious reader and while H.G Wells, and Jules Verne, seem to fit as influences for his work in science fiction, I was surprised to learn of his fascination with Edgar Allen Poe (I keep seeing Poe’s name in the zombie anthologies also). Bradbury actually tried to imitate Poe in a lot of his writing until he turned 18, at which point I guess he had developed the style he has come to be known for.

My thoughts on The Emissary:

Sorry Bradbury. This might be strike two. I’ll explain. The Emissary, much like Fahrenheit 451, was certainly well written. There is a way in which I feel Bradbury’s writing feels simple even though I know it isn’t. Like he’s delivering the scenes in their most basic elements. A bunch of individual units which can only be understood in any larger context after it has already been read. It’s like you sense the story instead of read it. It’s quite impressive. Certainly poetic to say the least. However, I felt like it simply wasn’t what I was hoping for. Like it kept building and building and then simply forgot to do the big reveal. Also, and this is likely the fault of the anthology’s editor not Bradbury’s, it didn’t feel like there were any zombies in it. At least not the way we are used to. It is suggested that the boy’s favorite visitor comes back to visit “from the other side” so to speak, but it just doesn’t feel like a zombie at all. Not the way we know them now. I guess my earlier assessment still holds. Bradbury and his work is simply . . . from another time.

That’s all for today guys. Hopefully next week my review won’t be such a downer. Laters!

The Reason You’re Really Here

Hey all. Remember this guy:

Hi!

Hi!

Well we’ve had him about a week now and I’ve been attempting to chronicle his adventures. Which haven’t been many because he only has a few toys so far. We brought him home and the poor thing, we only had this guy for him to play with:

2013-05-11 19.26.06

Frightening right? So we went to the pet store and picked up this:

2013-05-11 19.26.27

But until then he had to make due:

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Ironically his favorite toy seems to be this . . . thing:

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Don’t believe me check it out:

Aww looks like with all this playing he’s all tuckered out:

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Anyway, that’s all for now. See you all next week. And as always check out my short fiction posts on Mondays or just come back next Wednesday. Until next time . . .

Short [non]fiction: The Shores of Tripoli

Shores of TripoliEvery week for the last month, I’ve been posting reviews of short fiction titles which I’ve read and thought were cool, interesting, or somehow noteworthy. This week I’m going to break the mold and post about a Kindle Single called The Shores of Tripoli written by Marc Herman (don’t worry I’ll post more fiction next Monday and pictures of Kobi on Wednesday!!). This is not a work of short fiction. If anything it might be considered a work of long-form journalism. Anyway, I got hooked on to this after reading a post on Tools of Change for Publishing in which Marc Herman narrates his experience with the Kindle Single Program. After reading the interview I though it might be nice to read the work and see if I thought this type of thing was going to change the way we get news or something equally as lofty. I’ll start by telling you what happens and maybe get all “meta” at the end.

What happens:

From what I can tell, it looks like this guy, Marc Herman, spent six weeks over in Libya and Tunisia while Qaddafi* soldiers where fighting the rebellion which would eventually succeed in overthrowing the Qaddafi regime.libya

*Side Note: Everywhere I’ve looked on the internet spells this name as ‘Gaddafi’. In Shores of Tripoli it is consistently spelled the way you see above. Not sure what to make of this as I haven’t been following this situation hardly at all. Maybe this is a common mix up and both spellings are accepted but I’m not really sure.

Apparently, he ’embedded’ himself within the rebel soldiers (so cool!) and tells the story from their point of view. He starts with a pretty jarring account of a young family who believes it is safe to take to the roads only to find that it isn’t. They are stopped at a check point and it is discovered that they sympathize with the rebel cause. They are immediately fired upon and the family’s father, Abdelhamid Almrayed, must drive the family to safety.

Herman goes on to tell of how Haithem Masud Hamed, witnessed videos of the events at Benghazi on websites like Youtube, and was encouraged to perform his own demonstration in Nalut. Haithem then joins the revolution and becomes a soldier. As Herman reports, Haithem must watch his good friend die in an attack on a water tower. At this point, Haithem wants to quit the revolution but there is no turning back.

Herman closes with a scene from the funeral for two members of the Almrayed family.

My thoughts:

Herman is a good writer. He can build the scenes and describe the events in a way which puts you inside the events. It is my general opinion that real life does not often share the sense of narrative logic that can be found in works of fiction, but Herman does a good job of reporting the events in a way which almost attempts that logic. He also drops in little bits and pieces about the types of weapons Qaddfi’s men are using, or the lack of a restaurant scene in Nalut because of a legal ban on alcohol. This specificity adds to the literary aspect of Herman’s work, and helps to give meaning to the events being reported.

That being said, I don’t know that I would recommend this piece unless you have been following the events in Libya and Tunisia very closely. Sadly, I had not and was often confused as to what was going on. I believe there is some play with the timeline to get the events of the Libyan revolution to sit neatly in the framework of the Almrayed family’s tragic story but I am not sure.

Kindle Singles and long-form journalism?

“If they are not paying attention, it doesn’t mean they don’t want the story or can’t handle the story. It means the way we’re telling it isn’t very interesting or useful or fulfilling.” — Marc Herman, A war story, a Kindle Single, and hope for long-form journalism

And this song was my only reference to Tunisia

And this song was my only reference to Tunisia

I won’t be relying on this medium to keep up-to-date on current events, but I don’t think  that is the point of this type publication. As Marc seems to be saying in the quote above, it is a way to present the information to readers that will engage their attention. I will admit that I knew almost nothing about the Libyan Revolution, Qaddafi, or Benghazi until I read this piece. I don’t know a ton about it now, but my interest is piqued.

And long-form journalism isn’t anything new, but  I could see how journalists would be discouraged from writing pieces like this in the past. It takes a long time to do the research (weeks or even months), and it takes up a lot of space in the publication so publishers might not be inclined to publish this type of material. However, it seems that it is quite popular. If freelancers can publish this type of work easily through the Kindle Single program, then it seems like there could finally be a supply to appease the demand. I suppose that is a good thing if individual journalists are willing to take the risk.

That’s all for now guys. Hurry back on Wednesday for more Kobi pics 🙂

Because I’m Shameless

Hi all! So I sort of posted about this on Sunday in my Christos Voskrese!!! post, but I got a new puppy this weekend, and am super excited about it. So now I’m just gonna share a few photos of the little guy to help anybody reading get through their Wednesday. Enjoy!

So you already saw this one. This is Kobi:

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Kobi chewing on my finger (he’s still teething):

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“Was I not supposed to eat your finger?”

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Planning his great escape!

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He thinks he’s hiding but I found him:

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With mom again:

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I don’t even know what to say about this one:

2013-05-08 08.58.02

Anyway, that’s all for now. Be sure to come back next Wednesday, I’ll try to have some more photos up. Oh and come by on Mondays too for my short fiction reviews. See ya soon!