Bookblogger guilt

bookshelves
One of the many tsundoku in my house

Look at this photo and tell me what you see.

Well, yes, books. Obviously there are books. Lots of books.

But I look at this and see something else.

Guilt.

As a book blogger I’m hugely fortunate enough to be sent books to review from publishers. And I’m grateful for every single one of them, believe me. But some days I feel a creeping sense of guilt about those books.

Each one is a microcosm of an author’s hard work, months (if not years) of hard effort, rejections upon rejections until the joy of getting a book deal. Then there’s the work of the editors, proofreaders, cover designers, publishers and PR folk who send these books out into the wild.

Then they land on my shelf. Sometimes they’ve been preceded with an email asking if I’d like to take a look at the book. Sometimes they turn up unannounced, in large brown padded envelopes addressed to “Dave Espresso Coco”, with a press release tucked in the the pages. Occasionally they turn up with little tchotchkes, gift wrapped in fancy string or ribbon, with chocolate or, in a couple of instances, little miniatures of booze (I like those ones!)

But there are also the other books on those shelves. Books that I’ve bought myself, bought despite knowing exactly how big my TBR pile is, books that I’ve thought sound too fabulous to resist, or by authors whose earlier books I’ve read and loved, but now their books sit nestled amongst the others, vying for my attention at the point where I finish a book and sit back to ponder what’s next?

What will catch my eye? Will it be the book that I agreed to read three months ago for the blog tour that’s due next week (*cough* two days’ time)? Will it be the book that turned up yesterday that just looks *so* good? Will it be one of the many, many bought books? Or one which sounded so interesting from the PR’s excited email that I just couldn’t resist saying yes to?

I look at these shelves every time I go up and down the stairs. I look at the set of shelves next to this one, which is similarly stacked high with books. Or the pile of books on the dining room table that arrived this week.

And that’s not counting the virtual pile of books on my kindle, or the NetGalley copies which, despite my self-imposed NetGalley ban in an effort to get my read/reviewed ratio up, seem to be breeding.

So many books. So little time.

So much guilt.

I’ve started to say no to some of the blog tours – reading to order and to deadline was starting to add unnecessary stress, especially after hitting a couple of books which didn’t really do it for me. I should probably start saying no to more of the ‘Dear blogger, would you be interested in [AWESOME BOOK]?’

And I will get to these books, eventually.

Honest.

Anyone else suffer from blogger’s guilt?

Happy birthday, espresso coco!

Today marks the ninth birthday of this little blog. Nine years! blimey.

It started, as all good blogs should, with a Hello World! post:

Ah,  another blog. The old one sort of vanished, so let’s try again.

The ‘old’ one could have referred to several other blogs I had around at the time, so I’m not entirely sure which it’s referring to. My Livejournal (which turned 15 earlier this month) was, and indeed still is, up and running, although sadly neglected at the moment.

So, espresso coco didn’t start off life as a book blog. It was more a place for random ramblings. Musings on the post office, the relative sizes of coffee cups (seriously, go watch that, it’s hilarious), or the occasional post with now-dead links. A musing on the mystical hour of 4am by Rives (one of my favourite videos – it showed up again in 2011 as clearly I’d forgotten that I’d already posted it).

I shared a lot of videos back then.

Maybe I should have a tidy up. WHO HAS THE TIME? Not me! And it’s my blog, so ner.

The first book-related post was a review (of sorts) of Scott Lynch’s excellent Red Seas Under Red Skies, but that didn’t show up until late August. It wasn’t until April 2010 that we saw the next bookish post, a video (told you) on the making of a book cover (Gail Carriger’s ‘Blameless’).

I also dabbled in movie reviews: Predators (could have been better), Adventureland (seven Molly Ringwalds out of ten) and Iron Man 2 (Don Cheadle tries very hard not to be Terrence Howard), just to pick a few.

I quite like talking about movies. Maybe I should do more of that.

I also posted up various bits of writing about a chap called Monty, gentleman thief and lover of dangerously caffeinated beverages, along with his long-suffering PA, Molly. He made some prank calls, got stuck in a minefield, and ended up in an… unusual car during a getaway. Huge fun to write. If you have a spare ten minutes, go have a read and let me know what you think.

In late 2012 I talked about Skyfall. More than once. Followed up by Ten Reasons Why Skyfall is the Best Bond Movie (still true) in 2013.  I’ve counted up seventeen Bond-related blog posts over the years. And I still haven’t done my BlogAlongABondAThon (looking at the books vs movies), or my Top Ten Bond Movies, or Best Bond Movie Per Bond, or a dozen other posts in the drafts folder.

I’ve also dabbled in photography advice (Ten simple ways to improve your photos), taken lots of photos of coffee. I love coffee.

image
Cappucino, Bottega Milanese, Leeds

From trawling through the archives, it was 2014 (ish) when the book blogging became more of a thing, and I started posting more regularly. I’d still post about random stuff from time to time, and I still really enjoy writing that sort of thing – ramblings about wands in Harry Potter, which way is up on a map, that sort of thing.

Maybe I should do more of that too.

I notice with some interest, that this is the 700th post on espresso coco.

That seems like quite a lot, but nowhere near the 12,000 or so posts on my Livejournal. I treated that more like a pre-twitter twitter, often with a handful of posts a day. I do miss the LJ community sometimes!

My top ten posts (excluding the homepage views)

Interestingly, they mostly hark back to 2013. Good year for blogging, 2013. Fine vintage.

Most commented on post was E is for Empire Strikes Back, part of my 2014 A-Z of Movies (now *that* was fun to do. Must do another one). Most of my most commented on posts belong to that A-Z.

This birthday post has got a bit long and rambling. Yes, yes, I realise that I’ve got past form in this regard. If anyone is still here, thanks for reading this far, and thanks for following my little blog. Here’s to another year (or nine) of blogging about books, movies and stuff. I’m glad you’ve been here.

As a special treat for reading this far, I’ll leave you with the ULTIMATE secret to a successful blog.

And some cake. Mmm, cake.

 

The ULTIMATE secret to a successful blog

I had a revelation the other night. I realised that I’d figured out THE ULTIMATE SECRET to having a successful blog.

No, I really have.

It’s got nothing to do with building massive follower lists, optimising your content for SEO and keyword stuffing your opening paragraphs.

No, it’s much, much easier than that.

It’s not about taking photos of sunsets. Though I must confess I’m rather chuffed with how well this one turned out.

Sunset over Sandal Castle

or cute meerkats. LOOKIT THE CUTE MEERKATS!

meerkat

Are you ready?

It all boils down to this: No-one cares about  your blog.

That’s it. That’s the secret.

No-one cares about your carefully-crafted, keyword-stuffed headline. No-one cares about the amazing photos or the words which you’ve agonised over and which took so long to pull together.

People see the new post appear in their RSS readers, or on an email and they skim it. You’re one of a million different things trying to get attention.

The real secret to a successful blog is not to care. I don’t care that people don’t read the posts. I don’t care that they don’t look at the photos and click on ‘like’, or retweet my lovingly-composed and carefully-researched essay on this or that.

I do this for me.

I write the words to get them out of my head and to save them for later. I take the photos so I can remember that amazing sunset or that cute meerkat.

And in the months and years to come, I can look back and see what I was interested in on that day, at that time. What little sliver of life caught my eye. What thoughts were running through my head then, and there.

Now, if you happen to read it, enjoy it, learn something new or get something out of it, I’m utterly thrilled and delighted. If you choose to spend some of your precious time and mental bandwidth hanging out here to see what I’ve been up to, I’m honoured and privileged to have you here.

If you like photos of sunsets, you’re totally in the right place.

I’m writing this for me.

But I’m glad you’re here.

Obligatory New Year resolutions post

Well, here we are in 2014. Traditionally the time of year when we start making resolutions for all the things we’re going to do (or not do, or stop doing) over the course of the next twelve months.

 

I’ve given this some thought. Photo a day? Blog post a day? Read all my unread books?

Handily I managed to get through January 1st without doing anything much other than relax, so all thoughts of ‘do X every day in 2014’ have neatly gone out of the window. It does rather take the pressure off.

That said, I would like to do more things in 2014. I hesitate to call them resolutions as such, but for my own reference, here they are.

Blog more
Or at the very least, blog more regularly.
The handy WordPress review of the year showed that I posted 201 blog posts in 2013. That seems like a nice number – I put up a post for just over half of the year. However, lots of this was clustered – February and November had a post every day as part of various challenges, whereas other months were very quiet. December, I’m looking at you. So, I’d like to get into more of a routine, post more regularly and make more use of scheduled posts for when I’m not feeling inspired. I’m sure there will be various ‘blog every day in [month]’ challenges along the way as well!

Make more photographs
I took a lot of photos last year with the (admittedly quite good) camera on my phone. But I want to get out and explore the city more as part of an upcoming collaborative project I’ve got in the works. As part of that I’ll be digging out my DSLR and getting back into the habit of making more photos.

Read more
I used GoodReads last year to keep track of the books I’ve read. I’d planned to make inroads into my Great Unread Book Pile, which didn’t really happen. I got through 27 books last year, though quite a few of them were new ones. This year I’d like to spend more time reading rather than faffing around on the internet. Can I clear some more books off the list?

Practice on my guitar
I bought a guitar towards the end of 2012, with the intention of teaching myself how to play it – I’ve never played an instrument before but figured now was as good a time as any to get started. I’ve taken it out of the case at least four times in the course of 2013, had a go and put it away again. A friend has persuaded me that ten minutes’ practice each day will pay dividends, and has given me some exercises to get started. We’ll see where that ends up.

Ride my bike more
I didn’t get out on my bike as much as I’d have liked last year, mainly due to laziness on my behalf. Couple that with a nasty spill towards the end of the year which left me with bloodied palms, bashed elbows, grazed knees and a lovely scratch on the face of my new watch. Always wear a helmet when out riding, kids. And gloves…
I’d find that I had an hour spare, but think it wasn’t worth going out for such a short time – I love the weekend long 20-30 mile rides! So I’d make excuses and leave the bike in the garage. Now wish I’d taken the chances where I’d got them. After all, an hour spent on the bike is better than an hour spent not on a bike.

That’s it, I think. Have you made any resolutions for 2014? What are yours?

Blogging

Day nine of Blog Every Day in November, and today we’re talking blogging.

Lego Tourist Guy

I’ve pinched Janet’s questions from her blogpost on the same topic – I’ve talked about blogging before on here a few times, but I quite liked these questions. She assures me that she doesn’t mind me using them. You should go over and read her post too.

How and when did you decide to start blogging?
It was back in March of 2003 – I’d always fancied starting some sort of blog and my friend Jon invited me to set up a Livejournal blog. Ten years and over ten thousand blog posts later, here I am. Livejournal used to be a real community place where the conversations in the comments were often more entertaining than the posts themselves. LJ is still going, but a lot of my friends on there have migrated over to Facebook, Twitter or Google+, or a combination of the three. Some have even ended up on wordpress or blogger. Some have, sadly, vanished off the face of the internet.

What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
I used to have a blog (actually, I used to have lots of blogs) called dakegra.net. That took a lot of explaining. Then one day I woke up from a dream in which I was drinking in a coffee shop called Espresso Coco, decided that it was far to lovely a name not to have, and promptly acquired the domain espressococo.com. I sat on it for a while, wondering quite what to do with it. Then I decided it was the perfect name for a blog, set it up on wordpress.com and here we are. I may link it up to espressococo.com at some point if I can find the funds to do so.

What’s the best post you’ve ever written?
In terms of pageviews, it’d be stationery geek, but it’s really hard to choose a personal favourite. I had huge fun writing the Bond Skyfall one and the one about the perfect movie length, and the top ten Discworld books post generated a load of discussion over on Twitter.

I’ve also got one in draft about the Sam Neil Haircut Theory, but you’ll have to wait for that one. #tease

What are your favourite and least favourite things about blogging?
Favourite things are easy – I love the process of writing and coming up with stuff. I found this with photography, noticing the little things which others might have missed. It’s great fun writing a post and setting it loose, generating conversations with new people and learning new stuff.
Least favourite? Spending ages crafting a lovely blog post and watching as it gets no comments, no mentions, nothing on Twitter. Wondering if it was as interesting written down as it was to me in my head…

Right. Question time. Tell me about your favourite blogs and bloggers. Bonus points for links!

follow the humming…

I present for your consideration a new blog I’ve started following, followthehumming | Then and now, and some bits in between.

Andrew is using the 10 years of diaries he kept from 1985 to look at what’s changed between then and now. Looking at such things as Elite, why a Kindle is more than just reading and why we used to call places, not people. It’s an interesting blog, well worth following.

You can follow him on Twitter too, at @followthehum. Ten points to anyone who gets the reference in the blog title.

All this talk of diaries made me realise that I missed my ten-year anniversary of starting a blog. It was on 13th March, 2003, to be exact, over on LiveJournal. I’ve had a variety of blogs in a variety of places since, but the LJ blog is still going.

I’ve made dozens of friends around the world, and posted an awful lot of stuff.  In fact, it’s 10,109 journal entries, with 34,840 comments posted and 62,420 comments received. I know that’s over ten years, but, like whoah, dude. That’s totally a lot. </Keanu>

Anyway, via the wonder that is LJ Archive I’ve, well, archived it all to a handybendy archive on my PC, dropboxed it up so I don’t lose it, and can use it to see what I was up to, ten years ago. Full credit to the Chief Hummer for the idea. *hat tip*

Back in 2003 we were down in Kent, visiting the in-laws. We’d gone to the beach and Ed was communing with the sand and eating ice cream. I was laid up in bed, watching Kind Hearts and Coronets. Brilliant film.

Ten years on and young master Ed still likes nothing more than a good day out down the beach, more or less irrespective of what the weather is doing, and, of course, ice creams, and  I still think Kind Hearts and Coronets is a fantastic film. So, not much has changed in that respect. Hopefully future entries will be somewhat more enlightening.

So, dear reader. I give you a shiny new blog to follow, and a new blog series from YT.

Watch this space. And follow the humming…

DaBloPoMo – a recap

Well well, dear reader. Here we are on day ten of #DaBloPoMo[1]. It’s been going quite well thus far, I think.

I’ve talked about a number of things thus far. On day 1 we had a chat about amusing spam, followed up by a post prompted by @LeedsBookClub talking about the film Labyrinth, in which you can see me playing with my ball.

No, it’s an crystal[1] juggling ball. Filthy minds, you lot.

Did you watch the videos I failed to embed? Really, you should. Let me try again.

Day 3 and I was playing with a pulp fiction cover generator.

Then I talked about being a stationery geek. This post got picked up on The Pen Addict’s Ink Links and blog views went nuts. Well, relatively. Tons more views than usual. Still getting traffic now from it. Thanks Pen Addict!

I had a chat about coffee, then rambled at length about ebooks and kindles. Another good post for views, that one.

That led onto my love affair with books, prompted by Becs of Bits and Bobs Becs. She left a great comment on the ebook post too, with a link to a wonderful letter by Harper Lee.

Following up the book theme, I looked at interesting things found inside books, with particular reference to something awesome I found in a lovely little book of poetry.

Then yesterday I was a little ill, so left you with a photo of a tree.

It’s been a busy ten days, dear reader. I’ve got a whole host of other things to natter on about in February. Watch this space!

[1] Dave’s Blog Posting Month. But then you knew that, right?
[2] ok, ok, it’s clear acrylic. Still looks cool.