Blogoversery: Two years

We have made it two full years. Yet Fantasy Review Barn is still not the largest review site on the net. Clearly something has gone wrong in the master plan. For my blogoversery I only ask that you repeatedly bug each and every one of your friends, acquaintances, and twitter contacts until they are following The Barn in one way or another. That really shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?

It was a year of a lot of changes in the blog. Reviews slowed down a bit as Pauline and Ana worked on their own stuff (such as putting out a book!) and I slowly embraced my role as lead player over this little experiment. After experimenting with a few list style posts I decided to make it official and start my own weekly feature. I don’t know if I ever expected Tough Travelling to become a meme but I hoped a few people would follow on the journey. It has been successful beyond any hope I had though; to date twenty three other blogs have joined in at one point or another. Given it is a very genre specific meme I have to consider this a complete success. So my first thank you goes to everyone who has joined me on that particularly journey; I hope it has reaped rewards for you as it has for me.

But despite me taking a more vocal role this blog remains a joint effort. Every month Pauline’s end of year post on self-published gems starts showing back up in the stats as someone posts it to yet another forum. And until a few highly anticipated releases in the fall the most popular post on the site by far was this one from Ana; a series not even available in the language the review was written in blew up the site for about a month. I still can’t imagine going at this on my own. So my second set of thanks goes to my wonderful blogging partners. I am still thrilled to be working with both of you and I appreciate everything you both have put into this blog.

The biggest change this blog has gone through though is becoming more than just a fringe outlier; traffic moved well past any hopes I had and sometimes I look at our stats in awe (yes I look at them because I am a competitive person). I can’t say thank you enough to every single person who takes the time to read this blog. Thank you for every retweet, forum link or reddit hitch; and any other stealth ways people have helped us grow. In our third year I hope to work our way onto the big kid table; I hope to do a few more interviews if I have questions I want answered, invite guest posts from people who have something to say, all while continuing to provide a mix of reviews that hopefully lead people to good books.

If I started listing bloggers who deserve a shoutout it would take all day but I think y’all know who you are. Every comment received is a gem and they make me smile when a feel the phone buzz during the long work day from an e-mail received. The community is really what makes blogging rewarding after a while and I doubt I would still be putting reviews into the world had I not joined the larger sff network that exists.

Finally, and most importantly, thank you to my wife for putting up with my strange little hobby.

On to year three!

The Requisite Halloween Post

Halloween. Not sure it was ever my holiday. Sure I like dressing up but I grew up outside of town; door to door trick or treating was something other kids did. I also don’t have a lot of knowledge of horror films. If I started listing my favorites you would get a couple of Hitchcock films and the realization I don’t really know any others. I like Young Frankenstein and Nightmare Before Christmas, but that would be a boring post.

This being a book blog I should post a few scary reads. But much like in cinema I just don’t read horror. Because scary books scare me, duh. But I think doing a Halloween post is pretty much a requirement if you have a blog. So why not?

Here are a couple of my favorite non-horror books that still somewhat fit the typical Halloween parameters. Read them. Or be plagued by malevolent spirits. Your choice really.

The Circus of Dr Lao by Charles G. Finney –I have shouted the praises of this book out on The Circus of Dr. Laojust about every internet forum I have ever been part of. I have a confession, I didn’t like Something Wicked This Way Comes. Too simplistic, too transparent, too much Power of Love(queue Huey Lewis). No when it comes to carnival’s of the strange I much prefer that of the incredible Dr Lao.

Start your day off with a parade consisting of three floats. It would be laughable if anyone could agree on what they saw. Was that a bear or a man in the cage? Just how big can a snake be? What else should a sleepy Arizona town do but turn out and check this strange man’s carnival out?

The Circus of Dr Lao is a wonderful little book that shows a town true wonders – and watches them go back to their daily lives. Imaginative and fun, full of wonder and just a hint of melancholy. Infuriating at what it won’t show you, this book can be a bit of a tease. Name another book that has an appendix pointing out irregularities and obvious errors.

It was written in 1935 but if I tagged Neil Gaiman’s name on a copy and passed it around I bet it would fool more than one.

The Necromancer (Johannes Cabal, #1)Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L Howard- We just keep coming back to Something Wicked This Way Comes comparisons don’t we? Another evil traveling carnival but this time from the viewpoint of a truly despicable man. Johannes wants something and the only who can help him get it is Satin. Easy enough.

To enjoy this story you have to be okay with following around a horrible person as he tries to bag souls for the man downstairs. The joy comes from the inventive way he uses his carnival to suck in rubes; and watching him play games with hell along the way.

The series takes a bit of a steampunk turn in the second book, then goes right back to horror in a journey through the Lovecraftian Dreamlands. But with more humor than scary tentacled monsters; always a plus.

A Dirty Job or Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore- I have read a lot of Moore A Dirty Job (Grim Reaper, #1)and he has a couple of books that fit the Halloween them. Both are absurd, hilarious, and slightly demented. A Dirty Job is about a man trying his best to raise a baby girl who just might be the living incarnation of Death. The first half of the book is one of the funniest things I have ever read (though like many of Moore’s works it starts to bog down in the end).

Bloodsucking Fiends is a vampire parody that is actually funny. It has it all, even if the things that go bump in the night are frozen turkeys being used as bowling balls during the night shift. And it has the better ending of the two books. It was followed by two sequels though, I would recommend avoiding those.


Rebuilding the Blog: My Plugin List

The blog breaking sucked but I won’t let it affect me again. One of the biggest issues was that even though I backed up all the content I never bothered tracking all my setup. Everything, up to and including the damn theme, required me digging though my memory and The Wayback Machine’s saved page. Never again.

Thus as a service to myself I will hide all this important information in a post. And if anyone is interested in seeing what it takes to set up a low key blog such as my own then they can take a look. I am a man of simple tastes but who knows, maybe you need one of these plugins for your own blog. And if there is something you see or question then don’t be afraid to ask; almost everything on this blog was borrowed and begged from someone.

Weaver II – The only theme I could imagine using. Granted I like a sparse set up; as you can see there is very little fluff on the blog. But Weaver is the only free theme that gave me the ability to change every visual aspect of my blog and it is pretty easy to use. Recommended for any do it yourselfer.

Jetpack – There may be things that do everything it does better than it does but Jetpack just makes it all too easy. With Jetpack my posts are automatically posted facebook/tumbler/twitter. It tracks stats. It allows people to subscribe by e-mail. It gives me access to those handy share buttons on the bottom, as well as the old ‘like’ button that I decided to drop this time around. It has options I have never even touched.

Better Delete Revision – Every time you make a change to a post (which I do A LOT) another instance of that post is saved. Just sitting there, eating up space and slowing down the blog. You don’t want this. One little plug in takes out all the old instances while leaving the current version alone.

Collapsing Archives – Found this one thanks to My Shelf Confessions. The only thing about blogger I missed was the way posts were stored in the side bar; the style WordPress uses just doesn’t work for me (it starts to stretch for miles on older blogs). Not sure if anyone else likes digging through old posts so it may not matter, but I think it looks nicer.

CommentLuv – Look, blogging is a community thing. Comments are the best part of many blogger’s day; we all love getting them. This plugin is one of the reasons I wanted to convert to WordPress in the first place. It gives us even more changes to check on other bloggers, meet new friends, and find content I would have never looked for without seeing the posts.

No Self Pings – I got real tired of getting an email every time I linked something within my own damn blog. This just makes it so there is no ‘ping’ on a post that references another post within the blog. Simple but awesome.

-nRelate – There are a lot of ‘related posts’ type plugins but I have stuck with this one for quite some time. Pageviews went up almost immediately after picking it because it actually searches for posts that relate a variety of ways. Slower to act than some plugins for sure. But pick an old post and you will see three posts below it that actually make sense in relation to said post.

So far that is all I have. I know I am missing one or two old plugins but so far I am not sure I miss them. Still, open for suggestions if anyone else has any must have plug ins.

Update – I broke my blog but we are fixing it.

It appears that blogloving is now working again.  This is for all intents and purposes a functioning blog again.

A recap; I moved hosting and broke the blog in the process.  As you can see it is looking better, closer to where it was before.  I am still having a couple of issues but I think this can be worked out.  Here is where I stand.

-Graphics- none of my media moved.  not a huge deal but it does mean my Tough Traveling banner is showing on no old posts.  We will call this ‘the least of my worries.’

-Sadly none of the Tough Traveling link ups made the move.  I can go back and add the code one at a time, and I will, but it will be a slow process because it is BORING.

–The follow us on the sidebar isn’t tough to recreate but it is time consuming.  I am holding off on it for a bit though because of my biggest concern.  Which is..

–Bloglovin, by far the way most people follow the blog, is not picking up my feed.  I have a couple of people who had e-mail subscriptions–guessing that those are gone too.  If anyone has any advice on this let me know, else I will just keep trying to hit the correct Google Keywords to make this happen.

Appreciate the help I found; stick with us because this will be back to normal soon enough.