The Bestseller Code

The Bestseller Books

 A Review of Three Writing Manuals           

      “What if there was an algorithm that could reveal the secret DNA of bestsellers, regardless of their genre?     Thanks to authors Jodie Archer and Matthew Jockers such an algorithm exists, and the results bring fresh insight into how fiction works and why we read.”    

      This jacket blurb of The Bestseller Code – Anatomy of the Bestseller Novel promises to unlock all the secrets.  

The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of a Blockbuster NovelThe Bestseller Code: Anatomy of a Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a scientific person I found the computer analysis of the DNA which makes a book a bestseller very interesting, but I’m not sure you can distill the magic of writing down to such generic common denominators. Still this was a worthwhile read, especially considering the growing field of AI. Plus we all like to read about books like The Help being rejected multiple times, as it gives us hope….

Although this book was published in 2016 it only recently came to my attention, through another blogger’s review.  As I had half-jokingly written in my One Year Blogging Anniversary of my wish to write a murder mystery, I thought reading this book might give me some tips as to what might sell in the unpredictable world of publishing.    Normally I do my book reviews on Goodreads, but as there are many writers on WordPress who may secretly be harboring the wish to write a novel or are actively pursuing that goal, this book might be of interest to some.   I made notes, as it was a library book and had to be returned prior to posting this.           

Some points and random notes:    (The observations in brackets are mine)

Pg 3    In the US about 50-55,000 works of fiction are published every year.   Of these, about 200-250 make the New York Time bestseller list.    That’s less than half a percent.     (The odds are slim).

Pg 3.   The sudden and seemingly blessed success of books like the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy, 50 Shades of Gray, The Help, Gone Girl and The DaVinci Code is considered as lucky as winning the lottery.   But is it really?    After feeding 20,000 books into a computer program and developing an algorithm, the authors feel they can predict with a fair degree of accuracy which ones will make the bestseller list due to certain common characteristics.  

Pg. 27 you have about 350 pages to take us somewhere and back.     Journeying is the main thing, as is the theme/topic of human closeness/connection.  (The Goldfinch was awful, 600 pages of nothing.   So was All the Light We Cannot See.   But Gone with the Wind was wonderful at over 1,000).  

The average age of the heroine is 28???   (With Mary Higgins Clark it is usually 32, although lately they have aged a bit with her.    I’m not sure age matters that much as long as you have sympathy for the character.   I never thought I would read a Young Adult novel but Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games was totally captivating.    I loved the middle-aged protagonist in The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but those four sixtyish women in Frances Mayes new novel, Women in Sunlight, annoyed me to such an extent that I would not recommend the book to anyone….yes, four main characters that I could not keep straight and not one likable.   Tuscany was the best part of the book by far).   

 There was a chapter devoted to themes and topics, what sells best, crime/legal thrillers/romance etc, and getting the right topics in the right proportions.    The computer model picked Danielle Steel and John Grisham as the two names who did this best.   (But then how to explain the success of Orphan Train, Water for Elephants, The Help, all diverse topics indeed.    The Help was rejected 60 times, mostly because editors thought the topic, black maids in the South in the 1950’s, would not be of interest to anyone.   I remember someone reading Water for Elephants in the lunch room at work and saying what a really good book it was and thinking they were crazy, who would want to read a novel about the circus during the depression?  After I read it, I thought it quite wonderful).

Pg 67 – The most common topic among bestselling writers was human closeness and human connection, which crosses all genres.    (perhaps self-evident as books do tend to be about people?)

Pg 89 – There are seven different types of plot-lines with sample charts of peaks and valleys.   You must hook your reader within the first 40 pages or they will nod off forever.   (I persisted through 150 opening pages about thet the poor and lonely protagonist in Ruth Ware’s latest The Death of Mrs. Westaway and was glad I stuck it out, as the last half was well worth it.   Some novels are slow going at the beginning).

Pg 115   The compute algorithm could detect with great accuracy whether a book was written by a female or male, even those such as JK Rowling writing under aliases. 

Pg 121   Opening sentences must be gripping and create an authentic preferably active voice, but a comparison of the opening sentence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with a Jackie Collins novel???   (I think not.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that one is classy and one is trashy.   But then the authors appear to have an obsession with the success of Fifty Shades of Gray/Garbage).  

Pg 136     Sentences do not need decorating with additional clauses.   Verbs prefer not to be followed with a string of really very pretty lovely little words ending in ly.     (Oh no…my nemesis….sighs sadly).   The sentences of the bestseller are not gaudy Christmas trees, carrying the weight of lights and baubles and tinsel and angels and stars.  Better the plain fir tree brought into simple relief.  (But wouldn’t that be like imitating Hemingway who famously never used a word you needed to look up in a dictionary and ignoring Dickens whose verbose descriptions ran on forever?)

Pg. 148   There was a  chapter on the dark heroine or the Girl phenomena – The Dragon Girl, Gone Girl, The Girl on the train.  The Girl is not your average heroine.  What is their popularity saying about our society?   (These are strong women, but are they nice?  Is this anything new – Scarlet O’Hara was not nice either – she was strong, selfish and determined.   Frail Melanie Wilkes was the nice one, but where did it get her in the end – she died young).

Pg. 194   In the final chapter, the computer picked the one novel 100% most likely to succeed.  (I will not spoil it for you, but it was not a book or an author I was familiar with, nor do I have any desire to read based on subject matter, but it was somewhat ironic).  

Pg. 209 In the epilogue there was a discussion about whether we will ever see a machine-written novel.    As far back as 1952 they tried to set up a program for a computer to write a love letter by feeding it common words used in such, but it was a complete failure, (and sounded like one of those spam comments I occasionally receive on WordPress – “It is lovely worth sufficient for me.  In my view, if all siteowners and bloggers made excellent content as you probably did, the web will probably be much more helpful than ever before.  I can help make very pretty….”    Poor Mr. SpamBot is not going to get anywhere using all those adjectives that end in ly!)   

To sum up, while this was a worthwhile and interesting read, but other than a few tidbits, I don’t think there was any major earth-shattering advice or analysis offered.    It was based on what was popular at the moment, but tastes change.   Some books endure, and others don’t.   I believe most writers write about what they find interesting, which is what makes the book world so diverse and unpredictable….and magical.   While common denominators may predict a winning formula for what sells, you can’t sell your soul either trying to imitate them.   I do read some of the authors on the bestseller lists, Jodi Picoult, John Grisham, Kate Morton, Elin Hilderbrand, (all of their latest  books have been great), but not others such as James Patterson and never ever Danielle Steele or Gray Garbager.   I don’t care how much money they make.    An analogy would be, while there may be a large market for reality TV shows, how many times do we tune in because that is all there seems to be on TV?   Shouldn’t we strive for something unique, something better than the norm no matter how well it sells….or just be content with more of the same…luckily as both readers and writers we get to decide.   

Perhaps we should turn to Jane Austen, who has endured over the centuries, for some writerly inspiration.  

The Jane Austen Writers’ Club: Inspiration and Advice from the World’s Best-loved NovelistThe Jane Austen Writers’ Club: Inspiration and Advice from the World’s Best-loved Novelist by Rebecca Smith

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an entertaining guide to writing by a five times great niece of Jane Austen who has also been writer-in-residence at the Jane Austen House Museum, and so is well qualified to write about her methods, characterization and plotting. There were some useful tips such as writing an autobiographical sketch on each character, but I found the extensive quoting of large swaths of JA’s novels (sometimes for pages and pages), to be irksome, and in truth I skimmed most of it only ever having read P&P and Emma. There were lots of exercises suitable to a classroom setting. In truth, a book only for true Janeites, who know the novels inside out.

Last spring, I picked up The Jane Austen’s Writer’s Manual, by Rebecca Smith, at a discount store.   Written by a many-times great descendant of Jane Austen, it too had some interesting points, but as it quoted extensively from her seven novels, (at least half the book consisted of pages of direct quotations), I found myself just skimming it.     Jane Austen had many years between the first drafts of her novels and the finished products, long enough to perfect them into the polished gems they were.   One of the most useful pieces of advice in this book was to write an autobiography of each of the characters before you start.    But then what about writers who don’t write with any plot-line in mind, and just let the story and characters evolve?    Sometimes characters have a mind of their own and may take you places you might never even have thought of.    Plan the ending scene before you begin.   I believe Jane did this, but as all six of her completed novels end with weddings, the happy endings readers have been longing for, that’s not much of a stretch.   Much of the book was devoted to writing exercises as the author holds writing workshops at the Jane Austen House Museum.   This book is probably more for true Janeites, of which I am not, having only ever read P&P and Emma a long time ago.   I find her life more fascinating than her books, as is sometimes the case with writers.     

The Best Advice Manual: 
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and LifeBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although I read this book well over twenty years ago, it remains the best book on writing that I have ever read. Time to re-read it again, plus I loved the inspiration for the title. When you are overwhelmed, that’s what you need to do, take it bird by bird…..or rather page by page.

Although it’s been twenty years, the best advice manual I have ever read on writing, was Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.    I have a copy somewhere down on the basement bookshelves…..I should re-read it, but that would be procrastinating…..  

Best to just get on with it then……

So, we need a 28 year old Girl Detective who is vacationing in Provence when she sees a man walking up the lane of her rented farmhouse.   There has been a dead body discovered in the nearby sunflower fields.   (see April in Paris Part Two blog for the muse of this story).    It is Monsieur Darcie Leduc, une inspector with the French police force, (but much more Mr.Darcy-like than Hercules Peroit with his ridiculous mustache and undiagnosed OCD).   

Opening sentence:    “Paige Protagonist was tired of thinking for everyone.   She had come to Provence to rest, mind body and soul, and intended not to think of a single thing for the next two weeks.    Let them solve all their own problems back home – she would not be there.   She would be here on this lovely terrace with a glass of wine in hand, looking out over the lavender fields…..and wondering who was that man walking up the lane to the farmhouse.”      

Um……would a 28year old be tired of thinking for everyone….no…..best to make her older….and that “lovely” adjective has got to go.     I think I’ll rest now.   I don’t want to overdo it….a little at a time…..page by page….

PS.  On Cyber-Monday I was browsing on the http://www.bookoutlet.com site for books about Provence when I noticed that this story has been done before, several times, and the proof is in the remainder bin, but alas, as John Grisham said in a recent writing workshop podcast, everything has been done before.    I hope Santa brings me a nice plot-line and some characters for Christmas as I have no idea where to go from here…..  

Song of the Day:   Paperback Writer – the Beatles

  

   

29 thoughts on “The Bestseller Code

  1. lindasschaub says:

    One day I will read Jane Austen … maybe when retired? I want to share a site about mystery writers that I follow with you. You will like it if you have aspirations to write a mystery novel. The site is called “Mysteristas” and this is their About page – it is a group of mystery writers. Sometimes they write about new novels, other times just the experience of writing, their in-progress work. I was following one of the writers, Keenan Powell, a lawyer who lives in Alaska. I found her when looking for other blogs about walking – she was a walker but it was a post about walking her dog and what kind of walking shoes/boots worked best in the snow. Then she would post on Mysteristas. I don’t intend to write a mystery novel, but these women are funny and often I comment – the last writer featured a couple of days ago is a copywriter at an ad agency so I worked at an ad agency and we commented on working there – like no job you can imagine, you have to be a little thick skinned to do it. But try this site when you get a chance – and see if you don’t get pointers for your mystery novel that you will write one day: https://mysteristas.wordpress.com/about/

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    • thehomeplaceweb says:

      Thanks Linda….I followed them….but I am certainly at a very preliminary stage unless I dream up some kind of plot. I imagine the competition is wicked in that genre and everything has been done before. Your copywriter/ad agency job sounds interesting……maybe a blog topic there if the weather gets bad and you can’t blog about walking? I really enjoyed reading about your first job. Joan

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Hi Joan – I had only followed Keenan Powell, the lawyer who walked and lived in Alaska, and then suddenly she was appearing on this site. I was confused, but then I realized she, like most of the other women who write on this site, are mystery novelists, or there have been review of mystery novels. I have mentioned before to them I have not written a book nor will I likely write one (unless it was about Parker … a few people have suggested doing a children’s book about Parker). But maybe just reading what they are writing and talking about will inspire you. I did enjoy working at the ad agency and hoped to work my way up the ladder but it was not to be. I was the editor of the company newspaper though and my boss Jerry helped get me started on that.
        And since you suggested that I do a blog post on it, I’m going to give you this link … I tell about working at the ad agency. I had a mentor there … first and last time I ever had a mentor and who knows how things would have turned out if we had not lost our account? I am glad you liked the post about the diner job as I really enjoyed writing it … I really enjoyed that job and good thing I wasn’t shy anymore as working in an ad agency people say and do about anything … they were quite a collection of personalities. Here is the post … it was cathartic for me to write this post because I found out my mentor had died recently just when I was about to reach out and say “hi” … I think I mention Larry, his art director partner in the post, and about six weeks ago I decided I would contact Larry and ask if I could use one of his soldier paintings for my post for Veterans Day 2018. I had e-mailed Larry after I discovered Jerry had died and Googled his name, found his website, and he was also a professor at Berkley. I had perused his website and liked his paintings … so in October this year I Googled his name to find the site and found a death notice but this time it was not recent, but it still shook me up. That’s four people in the Creative Department who have passed away … we were a tight knit group. Kind of took me aback. https://lindaschaubblog.net/2015/03/25/not-all-ad-men-are-mad-men/

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        You know I was just thinking today about how you should write a children’s book about Parker! That would be great – we’ve all grown so attached to Parker that if he died we would be in mourning, and you are so good at describing their park world….you could illustrate it with some of your great photos! And write about his friends, the mallard ducks and the blue heron. Seriously think about it. Here’ll I’ll get you started with the rhyming…….”Parker the squirrel lives at the park. He plays in the day and sleeps in his nest after dark. He greets the lady with the peanuts so nice. She walks every day in the snow and the ice!…..” Joan PS. I will check out your mad man blog tomorrow….

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Thank you Joan – that was a great poem! I am inspired to do this, really I am and I even had some ideas in my head … I would have liked to do a book which would be upside down after the middle, so you would read the first half of me with pics of Parker and writing about him and the second half you turn upside down and it is written by Parker and that could include his friends, the mallards, geese and the heron. I would use a stick figure for me since Parker is a “kid” … I’d do it in crayon like we did when we were kids. Do you like that? I thought it would be fun to do it and wouldn’t really require much writing, more pictures. I would likely wait until my boss retires when I had more time to fiddle with it. A few people I follow have self-published and a friend of mine from way back self-published a book on fly fishing, so I could at least ask people questions and pick their brains. Thank you for the encouragement and I have to tell you that I hate when Parker runs across the busy street to greet me … I worry someone will hit them with their vehicle and not only will he die, but in front of me. No walk this morning – foggy and can’t see across the street so will try this afternoon and get more stuff in the house done.

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        I think that would be great and love the idea of half of it written from Parker’s perspective! Who knows what he thinks – maybe he prefers walnuts over peanuts! You have such lovely photos to pick from it might be difficult to decide which to include. Definitely a retirement project, and self-publishing would give you more control over the project, although you might approach a few publishers too depending on the cost to self-publish. I think it would sell…..kids love stories about animals. Feel free to use my rhyme if you wish…of course you may not choose to rhyme at all. I had a book in my head that I used to read to my little brother that rhymed……Katty the Kitten a small tiger cat, is asleep in the hall in a ball in a hat…..rhyming comes easy to me.

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Thank you Joan and I will definitely tuck your rhyme away … I thought of the stick figures because I can’t draw and who knows how he perceives me, but I will tell you that the first year I walked there I had a dark green coat and dark matching hat – they were pretty nondescript but the squirrels did recognize me when they saw me. However, there was another woman and she had a similar coat/hat and wore glasses and if she beat me down there, she said her husband and her would be laughing as all the squirrels could come up to her begging for nuts – maybe we all look alike, or at least at that time. I think it would be fun to do this and probably making the flip-upside-down part would be more costly, but it would make it interesting to see both perspectives. Now you’ve re-ignited my interest in it again. I jotted down a lot of ideas about it at the time, then put it on the back burner for awhile. 🙂

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        It wouldn’t hurt after you have a preliminary sketch done to approach a publishing company…..it’s such a unique idea that they would find you an illustrator. Seriously I think you should do it…..when you have time! I wonder if squirrels can see color – might explain the green coat phenomena. Or maybe they just think all humans have peanuts!

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      • lindasschaub says:

        That’s true – and maybe they would have illustrators on hand. I occasionally see a woman walking her two dogs when I am returning from walking. She is an artist and I’m not sure what she paints, but has done several murals and she lived in New Orleans and held an office job and worked on paintings which she did on commission at night. She decided to just quit and move back home with her brother and do commissions full-time. Not been really successful with it but told me she would do just this and try to hone her craft. I had thought of asking her, but thought I’d wait til I retire. This woman in the green coat and hat thought it was funny but I don’t see Parker or the others doing that now – they seem to hone in on the people who bring peanuts on a regular basis … guess they figure they won’t waste their time with others, but we could have passed for one another at a glance … they were thinking any port in a storm! Now this is very interesting … I just Googled to see if squirrels were color blind and look what I found – you nailed it:

        The researchers concluded that the familiar gray tree squirrels, Sciurus carolinensis, have dichromatic color vision. This means that squirrels can distinguish red and green from other colors but cannot tell red and green from each other. This kind of color vision closely resembles red-green color blindness in humans.

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Wow that is amazing….see I am psychic! I think you should include your photos in the squirrel book – your photos are amazing, and you own the copyright, so why hire an illustrator, except for part about the humans? You would have to split your profit with the illustrator. I believe there are publishing houses in New York who specialize in children’s books – like Scholastic. I bought a couple of kids books for Christmas and was lost in the children’s section, but you could check the cover pages to see who publishes them. Probably easy to do submissions online with a query letter and sample chapters – when you are ready of course! Kids might enjoy looking at actual pictures of the animals instead of someone’s illustration. My mom doesn’t have any toys or kids books in her house anymore, so when her great-grandson who is 2 1/2 years old, came to visit, he was very interested in looking at the bears and wolves in her coffee table books on the Canadian wilderness!

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      • lindasschaub says:

        I think you should collaborate with me Joan on this Parker and Friends book. 🙂 I did give it a lot of thought before then tucked the idea away til I had more time to run with it – I see people sit and write a kid’s story who are famous – Sarah Ferguson comes to mind right now, but there have been others and they sell – not just because they are famous I don’t think, but for the storyline as well. You are right about the actual pictures … especially if they are cute pictures of them eating or doing some kind of antics (like on Thanksgiving). I think that is great theat your mom’s great-grandson is interested in looking at wild animals from the Canadian wilderness. When I was young, my parents bought me “Rascal” by Sterling North and it was a story of a boy and his raccoon and I wanted one as a pet after that. But I liked the books like “The Red Pony” and “Old Yeller” (both made me cry as they had sad endings) and I remember going to see “The Incredible Journey” when I was young and still lived in Canada as well as reading the book. Those stories were great and about animals. Did you ever read any of the James Herriot books – I enjoyed them when I got older. He was a British country veterinarian and wrote stories about his life and work. They were really enjoyable.

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Sorry, no collaboration from me Linda! I must mull over my mystery novel some more…..so you’re on your own! But I will volunteer to be a reader and make editing suggestions if you want a second opinion….when you are ready. And I do think actual photos would make the book unique. I remember The Incredible Journey! I think I tried a James Herriot book once but couldn’t get into it….it was mostly about cats and dogs and I was crazy about horses – Black Beauty was a favorite childhood book of mine. I don’t know how you find the time to post every day. It’s almost midnight here, and I didn’t get any writing done today again – I have two blog ideas and no time this week. That’s the other thing about retirement – it doesn’t take much to fill the day and if you ask me what I did I can’t really say but I was busy all day!

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      • lindasschaub says:

        Thank you – I will remember that Joan when I am ready to put it together. I thought of you this morning as it was a beautiful walk, albeit it cold – the sun was out and we have had so few sunny days, even through the Fall, so when it is sunny, it is a day to rejoice. Day after day of gray and gloomy weather plus all the rainy days this year has not made for a pleasant Fall at all. I got the five miles done as it was sunny and left early enough and I took the car to give it a run, so I could maximize my miles by just walking on the path and give the car a run which it needed. I got some squirrel pictures (can there ever be too many squirrel photos?) and back in the Spring there was a few male cardinals that would watch for peanuts on the trail when I fed the squirrels – they would swoop down and grab one from the path. I had a few pictures of them in a post and a fellow blogger told me not to feed them peanuts as they may have mold in them and make them sick. I told him I buy “people peanuts” as they don’t sell them loose in my grocery store and there are no bulk food stores around. I even buy them unsalted (same price and better for the squirrels and less salt particles on the camera or my hands). So I told him “I can’t help if the birds come down” but I bought them some safflower seeds, just for the cardinals – they bypassed the safflower seeds and flew down and scammed peanuts from the squirrels (right under their noses – it is very cute to watch). It hasn’t happened since Spring and today it happened again with the cardinals … one in particular swooped down, the other one stayed in a tree. I sure hope the cardinal pics came out, especially swooping down to the ground. So I’ll use those pictures tomorrow or probably Friday. I’ll need to upload the pics tomorrow morning. I don’t always write every day as it really time consuming and my blog posts aren’t as comprehensive as yours – I know you put a lot of effort into your posts too. It does take a lot of time. I just did a daily post over Thanksgiving, or when we have a long weekend, or on the weekend – I was doing two blog posts, one each weekend day, all Summer but it is difficult and to tell you the truth, it is taking more and more time to do the pictures, write and do the posts and to keep up … a few days I have had something I was going to write about, but didn’t because I would get behind in Reader. I have been staying up way too late this last six or seven months … I was in bed by 10:00 p.m. every night and up earlier in the morning and was getting things done in the house done during the week before I left – I seem to have gotten out of that routine … I have to do better. For Winter, I’ll probably just post three a week tops … likely there won’t be as many walks to the Park so not as many pictures there either. Sometimes I can write about something non-walking like the post about Jerry.

        Today we were really busy at work and my boss called me three times – that is unusual, usually we just e-mail back and forth. I signed off about 6:00 and said I was shutting down for the night. My boss knows I walk and I once told him about the blog because I was excited about writing it and taking pictures for it and he asked me if I was making money off the blog. Now, maybe it is me, but I really didn’t know why he asked such a thing and I curtly answered “no” and never mentioned taking pictures, writing a blog at all. So, I keep it to myself. I am on Facebook but I never post my blog on there as we have a tenant who takes one room of our suite – he is a friend of my boss from way back but his son, daughter (grown with children and went through law school) and his wife have been to the office and met me and followed me on Facebook. So I never talk about the blog there – I have set my privacy settings high there so no one mentions it – it is funny as I feel like I have my work life, my walking life and leisure time and my blog life – it seems that is how my life is divided these days. I don’t post anything on Facebook – I use it strictly to read the crime sites and the news and keep in touch with four friends from high school and just look at their Wall, turned everyone’s posts off, otherwise it’s too difficult to hop on there and wade through. I know on the weekends, like you, I don’t know where the time goes … I feel like the whole day stretches before me and suddenly I look at the clock and it late at night.

        As to James Herriot’s books, I wanted to be a veterinarian when I was younger and perhaps that is what attracted me to those books. I did not have good enough grades in math and some of the sciences that were required in high school and college, so I had to give up that wish. I like horses as well and used to go horseback riding for years. I have not been on a horse since 1972. My high school friend and I went horseback riding with her older sister and her friend. We went to the place my father and I went – it was in Canada. So we got to the Boots & Saddle stables and they gave my friend (the only one who had never ridden) a mare who had just returned from “maternity leave” … they said that she was very gentle. My horse was quite high spirited and her horse ran past mine and spooked it and it reared up – scared me and good thing I was holding onto the pommel or I’d have fallen off. I always hung on for dear life. Anyway, my horse kicked her shin and we had to leave and take her to an E.R. to have it examined to ensure it was not broken – it was merely bruised and swollen (whew) … I’ve never been on a horse since that day and I don’t see this friend anymore and I’m sure she never climbed back onto a horse again either.

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      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        It was sunny yesterday for a couple of hours and I really intended to go out for a walk but by the time I got organized to do so it was cloudy again. Today I had to drive to the hairdressers some distance and run errands and by the time I left there it was snowing and sleeting and icy. Maybe tomorrow will be a walking day! I would enjoy seeing the cardinal pictures – I put my birdfeeder outside on Sunday as it was so warm along with my outdoor Xmas decorations, but it was leaking so I need to get a new one, not that I have much luck with cardinals. RE the blogging – It can sometimes take over your life. I find I go in spurts – I’ll draft 2 or 3 in a week so I have some ahead then edit and post once a week – but I don’t have any ahead right now. It’s easy to get sidetracked by the Reader and then not get to any writing. I don’t know if you read my One Year Anniversary Blog, but I made a mistake in sharing my blog with friends early days which I regret and wish I had not mentioned it to anyone. Now a year later, no one inquires, and I prefer it that way. It is really hard to attract enough followers to make any money blogging in my opinion as I addressed in that post…you have to have about 30,0000 views. I know people will post affiliate links to Amazon products but I don’t know how that works or if it would be worthwhile. I don’t share my blog on Facebook either, although I know I could get more readers if I did…..I’d rather it be anonymous. I intend to put horse-back riding on my New Years bucket list, as I had a bad experience in Ireland once and never got back on a horse, put it is something I would like to try again.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I did get out today and will aim to get to 1,100 if we don’t get ice – ice will keep me inside though I bought a pair of strap-on gizmos to walk on ice with big teeth on them. I wanted them because several Winters we have had freezing rain and it was solid ice to walk outside to the garage – I run my car every day and it is on a trickle charger to keep the battery good. If we have icy weather or bad snow I don’t take the car out of the garage so I wanted something I could get to the garage since it is not accessible from the house – and it is sometimes dangerous to walk even in lug-soled boots. I am not a fan of Winter at all. The Reader takes up much time and I have had to forego posts because I was behind. It is 11:24 p.m. and I have not been to Reader and I have to post in Patch.com before midnight so my post has today’s date. Not that many people read it – almost none, but I promised I would post my blog there since they don’t have any other bloggers, so I have to do that now – where did the evening go? I decided to write a blog based on yesterday’s trip to the Park and then today I went and saw two different herons and hopefully got some good shots of them so might do a post tomorrow and then not on Saturday. Saturday we are having weather with sun and no snow, ice, rain – and Sunday too, so I have got to take the car for a long run before we start getting snow. So I will take some pictures and have to post them another time. The first few year or maybe two my neighbor next door who encouraged me to do the blog was the only person reading the blog and commenting. My friend Ann Marie has been reading it since we met at the Park walking so she subscribed. I have written a few posts about a friend of mine in New York who raises feral cats and wrote a whole post about her saving a kitten’s life – sent it to her by Facebook (she doesn’t communicate by e-mail anymore) and she never said anything. To be honest, I was irked about it, and I don’t have many friends, but I shared my blog with them, or a particular post where I had a funny story or pics I liked and got no reaction. So I don’t do it anymore either and like it that way. We are really very similar in many ways. I don’t know how to monetize the blog but I see a few people who followed me and I looked at their blog appear to be doing that – that maybe takes the fun out of doing the blog. I think once you have a bad experience like that as to horseback riding it does make you leery, and I would do it again one day but when, I don’t know. This is a paragraph from the blog celebrating my five years of blogging with WordPress. I will look for your one year anniversary blog tomorrow – I have to get the post in Patch done – each picture has to be loaded up separately and it is time-consuming – it will be midnight! This was in my blog done on 02/11/18:

        “As a brand-new blogger, my posts in early 2013 were few and far between, because the Winter weather stayed ugly and walks were infrequent, thus posts were sporadic, or just a favorite quote or two which I shared with my one and only subscriber, Marge. In fact, I never told anyone about writing this blog, even other friends, for a very long time.”

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I got my post done with ten minutes to spare, but I am going to shove off to bed now and will catch up tomorrow – I did not open your comments as I don’t want to lose track of them – I do think we are sisters, too bad I am older as I would think we were separated at birth! The post I do at Patch.com is a neighborhood online newspaper. Their posting format is not the greatest as it does not “like” vertical pictures. You can adjust the pictures by taking the cross-hair of the picture to adjust it, but half the time it does not work and looks worse. I have tried resizing the pictures – that does not work either. I had to take the picture of the guy walking his dog as the Patch.com publishing format cut off his neck and head. This is where I post at Patch and I posted it under a different name because in the local paper they do carry my blog on their blog roll. So it is a really different format and it is free to publish. Now going off to bed and will catch up tomorrow. Have a nice evening Joan. I sure wish it was only 9:00 here.
        https://patch.com/michigan/wyandotte/fun-sun-my-furry-feathered-friends

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        Thanks for explaining about Patch – it sounds like an excellent idea to post there – do you think you might have acquired more readers from posting there than you realize or can you tell from their stats? It’s a lovely idea for the neighbourhood. I don’t seem to be getting any new followers from WPress which is discouraging, but I still like the creative process.

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I wanted to show you what a different format is and tonight when I posted, three of the heron’s pictures did not work out and the Patch format cut their heads off, so I have never done this before, but I wrote a note at the bottom and said the funny pictures of the heron with their punk rock look had to be deleted and put the actual link of my WordPress blog post for today. In the beginning, people could go onto the Patch sites (and they are all across the U.S. and we have Patch local sites for all the bigger cities) and people could read and comment without an issue. But they changed the format a few years later and you had to join “Disqus” (I think that’s the name) in order to comment and I had to join to comment back. After that no one ever commented again and some people, like my next-door neighbor said she could not even find the blog posts anymore. Now they feature them on the first page as I’m the only blogger, most everyone else stopped posting there after they changed the format. They picked a category for my blog instead of grouping it with the other blogs as they did before – it was in the “Health and Fitness Section” – but I look every so often in statistics and don’t see any clicks from Patch, just from the “New Herald” the local paper which carries my WordPress blog on their blog roll. You should look at your local paper and see if you can do that and you may get some followers that way – here is how my blog appears and I am the fifth one down on the right-hand side. http://www.thenewsherald.com/blogs/#community_blogs

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        I think that’s a great idea! but i know we don’t have anything online here like that because I’ve looked. Our printed local newspaper is barely surviving and the online version is printed out of London or Toronto, very little local news and no blog sharing bu lots of advertising. I wonder if I could email them and ask if that is a feature they would consider. PS. I see in your picture you are wearing makeup!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        Hi Joan – I need to catch up here – I was walking and taking pictures for almost 7 hours yesterday … going to catch up later this afternoon. I would definitely do that because it is fun seeing my posts there and you would like it too – even if no exposure for your blog, it could lead to other things down the line. Yes, that was taken at work when one of the girls was leaving – she took pics of all the staff to remember us and had an extra set of pictures so gave each of us one. I liked the picture and they required a photo so I used it … unfortunately it is not recent – maybe 2000 … makeup, dressed and hair fixed … my former self!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thehomeplaceweb says:

        It’s a good day to walk so sunny and bright….but I am going to take my mom to Swiss Chalet for lunch for their famous Festive Special (do you have Swiss Chalet in the US?)…..by then it will probably be not sunny….yesterday I took her for groceries and by the time I got home the sun was gone. Any excuse is a good excuse not to walk! 7 hours would be way too much for me!

        Liked by 1 person

      • lindasschaub says:

        I remember Swiss Chalet and we went there for my 10th birthday I believe – just before we moved here to the States. We don’t have Swiss Chalet here in the States though (to my knowledge, unless it is in other states that I don’t know about) … 7 hours was a long time, but I was stopping for pictures here and there, but gone and outside, and in “walking mode”.

        Like

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