The last post of last year

I keep almost writing a 2021 blogwanking post or a sort of round-up of last year, and then finding excuses not to do it. Not that the bathroom renovation isn’t more interesting (I hope, at least) than endless navel-gazing, but I can only put this off for so long before I just can’t write it any more. So, long story short: traffic last year was way way way down, which doesn’t matter because it’s still plenty high for a personal blog site of a non-famous person in 2021, and y’all are stuck with me here anyway for the foreseeable future. Two things are pretty cool. This is the lifetime map of countries that I’ve had hits from:

That’s … everywhere, basically; that island up at the top is Svalbard island, where less than fifty people live, most of whom are climate researchers, and it’s part of Norway anyway. North Korea. South Sudan. Tajikistan, I think? (EDIT: Nope, that’s Turkmenistan.) These are not heavily populated countries with a lot of infrastructure, in other words. And despite the low numbers of actual hits (down over 20K in hits and about 12K in unique visitors) the geography from last year is pretty gratifying all by itself:

One way or another, the notion that people from literally all over the world have at least popped in over here, if not actually stuck around and hung out, is pretty amazing.

I have to admit something that is, if not a Hot Take, at least not an especially popular opinion: for me personally, and my immediate family, I don’t think last year was that bad of a year. Now, you have to take this in context, where I am pretty sure that I have described every year since 2016 as the worst year of my life, and I remain of the belief that yes, my life really did spiral south for five straight years, culminating in the loss of my mother on January 11, 2020. 2021 was the first year in a long fucking time where I have a few good things to think about when I look back on it. My brother and his wife had their first child. My dad’s doing okay. We’ve done a lot of work on the house. I made more money last year than I’ve ever made before, a feat I should be able to repeat this year, and because I’ve paid off my credit cards, leaving me with no credit card debt for the first time since college, I’ve been able to keep more of that money and use it for more than just paying off interest. My son is happy and healthy and thriving at school. My wife got a promotion and a raise. I, who a few years ago was convinced I’d never see the inside of a classroom again, got nominated for Teacher of the Year again. By the time this school year ends, I’ll not only have paid off my car, but my student loans might be gone.

All in all, on a strictly personal basis, I can actually see some light again. I have reason for at least a guarded level of optimism, which has not been true for quite some time. I mean, the rest of the world is still going to hell, don’t get me wrong. But at least not everything is going to shit.

My one big personal regret right now is that my writing career is, at the least, on a significant pause, and very well might be done. I haven’t written a word of fiction in at least a couple of years, and I’m not missing it much. I mean, it’s not like I was changing the world or anything like that, as much as I tried to take everything seriously, I never managed to make any money at it– every single con I attended lost me money, so it was more of an expensive hobby than anything else. I’m not saying I’ll never release another book, but I’m not in a hurry to.

You never know. Most of my creative energy lately is going here and to the YouTube channel, and maybe eventually that’ll blow up. If not, well, we’ll see what comes next.

#READAROUNDTHEWORLD: Final 2021 Update

Pretty, ain’t it?

While I am going to continue adding new countries to the list for a while, at least until I feel like there’s no good way to get books from the countries that are left without rather inconveniently learning new languages, we are basically done with this for 2021, as anything else I finish reading this year isn’t going to change the tallies any. I ended up reading books this year from all 50 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico, along with 48 different countries, with Antarctica counted as a country for the purposes of the list. There are a few countries represented on my TBR shelf that I haven’t gotten to yet: Zimbabwe, Turkey, Egypt and Indonesia, and I have a book from a Cambodian author that I haven’t reread in forever that I’ll read this month as well. And come to think of it I have a compendium of Iraqi science fiction that I never finished, too, that I could go back to. So that’ll be 54 countries before I buy anything new. I’ve read books from just barely under 75% of the world’s surface, which doesn’t seem too bad for a year’s work.

Other countries I definitely want to read books from but haven’t found any yet: Pakistan, Mongolia, Israel, Finland, somewhere in Central America, and I feel like I could probably hit a couple more countries in Europe without working too hard. There’s a book on my Amazon wishlist from a Yemeni author that I’ll probably grab at some point too. After that, who knows. But I won’t be feeling like I’m done with this for a little while yet.

In the meantime: Leaving aside the US, the top countries I read from this year probably won’t be too surprising: the UK (6, mostly from England), Malaysia (3,) Canada (3), Australia (2), China (2, with one more to come since I have a Ken Liu book on the shelf), and South Korea (2, but both by the same guy). States represented more than once include Texas (7), California (5), New York (5), Maryland (3), Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin (all 2). Texas is the highest because Rachel Caine is from there, but that’s still four different authors. The largest places I read books from are pretty obvious from the map, but the smallest is Washington DC (68 square miles), Rhode Island (1214 square miles) and Trinidad and Tobago at 1981 square miles.

All in all, I’m … mostly glad I did this? Like, filling in the map was really neat, and going looking for new books to read from a specific place was fun, but one knock-on effect that I didn’t really reckon on was that I started deliberately avoiding reading multiple books from people or places that didn’t “count” so that I could drive the numbers up. I’ll post my unread shelf like usual on the 31st, but one thing you’ll notice if you look at it and you know my tastes in reading (and if you’ve made it this far in this post, you probably do) is that I have several books from authors I really like patiently waiting for me to get to them, because I’ve been prioritizing books I could color in a spot on the map with. I only read one book in December– and only one of the last fifteen books I’ve read– that didn’t “count,” and in the meantime there’s a damn Dandelion Dynasty book on my shelf waiting for me to get to it, along with a couple of other hotly anticipated sequels and another TJ Klune book that isn’t part of a series. So I’m not doing this again once I’m done with it, and I’ll update the site one more time once I feel like I’m done, but we’re not going to be organizing our reading by geography again anytime soon.

#Readaroundtheworld: September Update

For visual comparison, here is June’s update.

I was never especially worried about being able to complete this project, but at this point I’m certain I’m going to be able to do it. I currently have, of the 52 Identified US Places that I intend to read books from (all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and DC, and I’ll totally throw Guam in there if I can find a book,) 36 states that I have read books from. For ten more– Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, Missouri, and Rhode Island– I physically have the books I’m going to read and just need to actually read them. That leaves six states that I’ve yet to identify an author from: Arkansas, Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, and Wyoming, and for Nebraska I’ve actually got two possible authors. I own a couple of Alex Kava books already, and Chigozie Obioma looks interesting, but he’s a Nigerian who happens to live in Nebraska, and his books are set in Nigeria. Now, I’ve said many times that everyone should be reading more work from Nigerian authors, but I kind of want the book to be a touch more Nebraska-centered than his work seems to be. I’ll get to him eventually, because interesting, but maybe not for this project. The others? At the moment, no idea, but I feel like I have plenty of time. Feel free to make recommendations.

As far as countries: 37 currently represented, with a few more (without going and looking at my unread shelf: Poland, Kyrgysztan, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Saint Thomas, and North Korea) on the shelf somewhere. I’m going to focus on finishing the states in October, or at least getting as close as I can, and then I’ll keep checking countries off until I get bored with it or literally hit a point where I can’t find anything from any place left on the map without translating it myself.

Next year’s reading project: Read Whatever The Fuck I Want and Don’t Worry About It. I’ve had projects for several years running and I feel like I need a year off.

Blogwanking 2020

I’m not doing a saleswanking post this year– I had no new releases, and went to no cons, and didn’t really market my books at all or, really, do anything to make people remember I occasionally write fiction other than a handful of haiku and short stories on Patreon, so I’m not even looking up how many books I sold this year. I would be surprised if it ended up being more than a couple dozen.

But the blog?

You’re not going to see these words in this order very often, but: 2020 was a very good year, if only in this one minor respect. The blog, no doubt because everyone was home all the goddamned time, had the best year it’s had since the Great Virality of 2015-16. Check the stats:

68000 page views and 40K visitors are both up from last year, and in fact are both up from any year since 2016, which still benefited from the Syria post; it’s possible that without the big bump from that post this would have been the best year since 2014, which continues to make no mathematical sense. Comments are also up, although Likes are down a bit, which is frankly the least important to me of the various metrics I’m looking at.

Why? Well, to start, I wrote a lot:

Highest total posts since 2016, more than one a day, and there were only a handful of days this year where I didn’t post. More words than any year since 2015, and the second-highest words per post of all time. Ultimately the only gripe I can come up with looking at this is that I’d still like to see a lot more engagement and comments, but I keep hearing about how blogs are dead, so maybe that’s why I don’t get as many comments as I used to, and that 5.8 comments number in 2014 isn’t exactly a hotbed of competing opinions.

Total word count over seven and some change years: 1,181,069, not counting this post. That’s … a lot.

Let’s talk posts next. No secret, because this has been the case for years: a lot of site traffic is driven by my perennial posts, and none of the top 10 posts on the site were written this year. This is just an image, but here’s the overall top 10 posts and the number of hits they got:

None of this makes any sense to me, particularly the fact that the fucking Snowpiercer post is still my second-highest yearly views.

This year’s top 10 posts, in order from highest to lowest traffic, are:

Nothing completely inexplicable in there except maybe for that one Monthly Reads post; I’m not sure why that one post would have done so much better than all the rest of them, and the Christmas Abortion Story post was only written five days ago and is on the list already, which is either a sign that the top 10 posts of this year are really weak or that it’s maybe heading toward blowing up. We’ll see if it keeps showing up next week or not.

Geography? Let’s talk geography. This is this year:

And this is over the life of the blog:

And I gotta be honest, y’all: I look at that and I’m proud of it. My stupid little website isn’t making me any money and it isn’t making me famous, but people from damn near every country on Earth have visited it. I mean, what’s left? North Korea and Turkmenistan, both of which are dictatorships; Svalbard Island, where less than 3,000 people live, and several countries in Africa where I suspect reading Western blogs is not a high priority.

Basically, I feel like I have a chance to land a lucky hit from Svalbard at some point, and the rest of them are probably never happening.

I thought about finishing this post with some goals for next year, and … honestly, I’m dialing back on the entire concept of “goals” right now. My one social media goal is to have more followers on TikTok than on Twitter by the end of next year, and I bet that’ll be the case by the end of this school year. For the blog? I’m going to keep writing; this place has been part of my daily life for over seven years and that’s not changing any time soon. I’d like to see those higher numbers become a trend and not a blip, but I’m not going to break my neck over it.

Seriously, though, if one of you ends up heading to the far north or North Korea at some point, make sure to hit the blog up.

Blogwanking, 2019

The short version of this entire post: basically everything is down slightly from last year, but not shockingly so; I’m still getting far more eyeballs on this site than actually makes any sense to me at all, so I can’t really complain about it, because Jesus, people are actually paying attention to my nonsense?

Yeah, turns out they are.

Posting frequency was up from last year, which was up from the year before it, but engagement is continuing to drop. I’d like to find a way to drive more comments, definitely, and more likes would always be nice, but I’m not sure what the best way to do that is. I keep hearing that blogs are dead; needless to say, this one ain’t going anywhere; while I’d like to more engagement, I’m not gonna shut up or anything if my numbers keep falling.

Geography’s always fun. This is 2019 specifically:

And this is the entire life of the blog:

Basically at this point I only have a few types of countries left: totalitarian dictatorships (North Korea), a few tiny islands, and places where there is either very little infrastructure or very few people or both. I keep hoping to get a hit from Svalbard Island and so far it hasn’t happened yet. That little hole in Europe is still Kosovo; I refuse to believe I have never had traffic from Kosovo in six years and am blaming something wonky about the way WordPress handles geography.

The overall top 10 posts are the same ones they always are, basically; I’m at the point where my “back catalogue,” so to speak, is definitely driving most of the site’s traffic. This is an image, and isn’t clickable:

The Snowpiercer post just refuses to die, although it did have one (1) day this year where it got zero hits, which very well might be the first time that has ever happened. Supposedly the TV show is launching soon, so this will never, ever end. I feel bad about the weird popularity of that Tana French post, too; it’s literally the only thing she ever wrote that I didn’t like and I reviewed a bunch of her other books, so it sort of feels unfair to me. I love you, Tana! I swear!

Top 10 posts written in 2019, and these are clickable if you like:

Most of those make some sense, I suppose; the “dress for success” post is a bit inexplicable but the rest of them are either all hashtagged, of inherent interest to a substantial group of other people, promoted by outside sources (the two book reviews were both posts where publicists sent me the book) or, well, kind of important (the last post).

How did your blog do last year? (If you don’t have one, start, dammit!)