Archive Monthly Archives: May 2016

Automate Your Social Media

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If you’re using social media to promote yourself or your brand, you need to be taking advantage of automation. You can’t live on social media all day. Well, you can – but then you won’t be doing any of the other things you need to do to keep your brand value high. Most of all, you won’t be making the products or performing the services that you actually get paid for. But social media doesn’t stop and it doesn’t sleep. So automate it.

As human beings, tools are our birthright – so put them to use for you. There are lots of choices on the market. I currently have Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts for myself and three businesses. I use HootSuite because it lets me manage multiple social media accounts on multiple platforms from a single control panel. It allows me to schedule posts in advance, bulk upload posts, use auto-scheduling features (it schedules based on historical data to maximize engagement). I can send the same post to multiple social media accounts or tweak them all individually. I also use the SNAP (Social Network Auto Poster) plugin for WordPress for this blog.

You’ll want to experiment and read up to decide what the best social media schedule is for you. But to help you out, here’s a brief outline of what I do, followed by some results. First, I use built-in WordPress functionality on this blog to write posts ahead of time and schedule them to go live when I want to. I strive for 2 posts a day Monday through Friday, although I don’t always meet that goal. My experience so far has been that weekends are a slow time on blog traffic. It’s also a time when I have important things to do (like relax!). And although I sometimes write posts days ahead of time, often I’m only running a night or so ahead. So I don’t worry about weekend posts unless I just have a burning need to get a post out. I also use the SNAP plugin to make sure that these posts are pushed out to all of my personal social media accounts at the same time that they go live on this blog.

For Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, I leave it alone there. By the nature of those feeds, doing more than that is somewhat spammy. Twitter is a different beast altogether. Remember when I said that social media is your short game? Twitter is the extra-extra short game. Twitter is the “blink and you miss it” game. So I use HootSuite to schedule five Tweets a day on my personal Twitter feed linking back to this blog. Monday through Friday I usually focus on recent content. On the weekends, I focus on older but “timeless” content – posts that are still relevant even if I wrote them months ago.This may seem a bit spammy at first. But if you use Twitter regularly you know that most people will only scroll back through their feed for an hour or three when they log in. Then they’re done and they’re off – most likely until the next day. That’s as many as 23 hours that they’ve completely missed! So retweeting your content throughout the day won’t actually bother most users – it just means that they’ll actually see it.

On my dojo’s Facebook, Google+, and Twitter feeds, I make it a point to have some sort of picture posted daily. Typically I’ll mix it up – some will be funny memes. Some will be motivational. Some will be commentary on martial arts related things. Others will just be cool pictures. Those have gotten me a pretty good bit of interaction. On the Silver Empire feeds, I mostly keep a stream of Silver Empire related news going – calls for submissions, new products, etc. There’s room for improvement on both of these business fronts.

Remember when I said I’d post results? Two weeks ago I shared a snapshot of my Twitter analytics showing that my tweets had made 107,000 impressions in the previous 28 day period. That’s an average of 3800 impressions per day. Here’s the results from this morning:

TwitterAnalytics_05_2016

In two weeks, I’ve raised that up to 251,000 impressions – an average of 8,900 per day. That’s two and a half times higher.  Measured in pageviews, blog traffic in May was nearly three times higher than April. If you compare to the screenshot 15 days ago, you’ll also see that my follower count has increased by 19% in two weeks. Google analytics shows that a full two thirds of my traffic in May came from social media. At the same time, “direct traffic” (people coming here just to come here) has doubled in May as well – which means that at least some of those readers are now coming back of their own accord. In other words, these strategies are clearly working.

I only started rolling out these strategies over the month of May. And they weren’t completely implemented until just a week or two ago. That means that June should continue to show strong growth over May in all of these areas as the full effect of automation hits. Best of all, I have also seen a small uptick in book sales in May as compared to April, although this effect is definitely lagging the other changes. I expect that effect to be even bigger over time than it has been so far.

Don’t try to automate everything. You need to still have personal interaction in your social media. But automation can reap huge rewards. If you’re not using it, you need to be.

Announcing TREASURES OF DODRAZEB: THE ORIGIN KEY

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Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

Back in October, I was sitting on a panel at the Rocket City Lit Fest discussing traditional publishing vs self publishing. It was a fun panel, and I enjoyed the discussions with the other authors at the table. The audience also asked a lot of great questions. But it was what happened afterward that really stood out.

I was approached by a stranger named Susan who asked if we (Silver Empire) were taking submissions. At the time, the answer was pretty much “no.” I wasn’t ready to deal with them yet. I had enough on my plate, and I just wasn’t ready to deal with it yet. Then she described her book to me. She said she had a “third century Persian historical science fiction novel.” I’d never heard of such a beast – but I was intrigued. I asked her to send it over, and told her plainly that I definitely wanted to read that.

Now, maybe you get it and maybe you don’t. If you don’t, my explanation probably won’t help – yet here it is anyway. I love scifi. I love history. I’ve read some great historical fantasy (the Tales of Alvin Maker and The Once and Future King come to mind), but I’ve never read much historical science fiction. And third century Persia? That’s definitely not a place that westerners write about very much. But I wanted to read it, so I asked her to send it over.

I was nervous, of course. It was my first unsolicited submission. And even though I hadn’t had others yet, I very much knew what would later be proven to be true: an awful lot of submissions suck. They’re just plain unreadable. On top of that, Susan had informed me that her family thought it was a romance – despite her insistence that it wasn’t. Now, nothing against romance, but it’s definitely not my genre (I wish it were – romance novels sell). So despite my interest, I didn’t have particularly high expectations – but I had hope!

As it turns out, the book was fantastic. Susan told me she’d spent a lot of time shopping it to publishers, with a lot of rejection. I told her that even though it was fantastic, I could see why. Traditional publishers, I said, would have no idea how to market this book. I also had to tell her that I had no idea how to market it, either! But unlike the traditional publishers, I was willing to try!

We made a few more edits to the book and made it even better. And today, I’m pleased to officially announce Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key by S.D. McPhail. I can honestly tell you that it’s the best third century Persian historical science fiction sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what other readers have said:

“The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a stunning debut novel from an author to watch. McPhail’s creation is packed with tension and excitement, from the political machinations of the empire to the almost Atlantean history of Dodrazeb and mythical Anutupi. The imagery is enchanting, but the adventure is mesmerizing.”

Ashley Chappell, author of the Dreams of Chaos series.

WOW! Add Susan McPhail to your must-watch writer list! Her debut novel, THE TEASURES OF DODRAZEB: THE ORIGIN KEY delivers! Suspenseful and intriguing, McPhail manufactures an elusive world amid ancient Persian historical truths. Rasteem, the protagonist, is a warrior prince, hell bent on revenge. Plot twists and turns make this imaginative story come to life. Truly a force majeure, this story alone will parent a new genre!

– Dana S.

The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is the unlikely combination of fantasy adventure with some science fiction thrown in. The elements of mystery, romance, politics, and magic all swirled together make this a rich and exciting experience from beginning to end.

– Lucy C.

Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key will be available on July 30th in eBook and paperback formats. It is now available for pre-order directly from Silver Empire, and will be available for pre-order soon from other booksellers.

IRON CHAMBER OF MEMORY – Book Review

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Iron Chamber of Memory

Iron Chamber of Memory

With Between the Wall and the Fire wrapped up (or mostly so), a major software release just out the door at my day job, and the Memorial Day holiday giving me a long weekend, I finally had a chance to relax for a bit. In addition to catching up on the season finales of my favorite shows, I also had time this weekend to read Mr. John C. Wright‘s newest masterpiece, Iron Chamber of Memory.

And yes, I do mean masterpiece. This isn’t just one of Mr. Wright’s finest works, although it is definitely that. It also now occupies a spot as one of my favorite fantasy works of all time. Yes, this work is really that good. Unfortunately, to say too much about it is to spoil it. So I will dance around the problem as best I may.

First of all, this is one of Mr. Wright’s most readable works. I must beg his forgiveness for that phrasing, and explain carefully what I mean. Although I greatly love the vast bulk of Mr. Wright’s art, some of it is downright work to read. But the work is well rewarded, and well worth the effort. For what it’s worth, I tend to feel the same way about my favorite band, Dream Theater. Iron Chamber of Memory, however, absolutely does not suffer from this issue at all. From the very beginning it’s engrossing, and the reading simply feels effortless – as, indeed, Mr. Wright describes the actual writing of it:

This book has a special and mysterious place in the author’s heart, because the whole thing from start to finish, all the scenes and much of the dialog, came to me in a dream not long after my conversion, and I spent the whole of the next day writing down before it escaped me. Those notes rested on my desk for  decade. Only now did I have the time to compose them into a novel.

The book is a deeply romantic (something that is lost in modern society), and contains a wonderful mystery that will keep you reading. And although I guessed one of the major twists quite early on, I truly didn’t quite see where the story was heading. It’s also a deeply spiritual story, and it reminded me quite a bit of one or two of the stories in The Book of Feasts and Seasons. Most surprising from Mr. Wright, however, is how deeply sensual the story is.

This is truly a fantastic tale, and I can’t recommend it enough. I give this one five stars out of five… and frankly, I find myself wishing for a sixth to give it.

Update: Thank you to Mr. Wright for having the kindness to link back to this review!

Mysterious Stairs in the Woods – Call for Submissions

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stairs_in_the_woodsWe’re putting together an anthology about mysterious stairs in the woods. The submission requirements are as follows:

  • There are stairs in the woods – as if you cut and pasted stairs from a house.
  • The stairs are usually in good shape – strong and sturdy and not rotted. Sometimes they are in immaculate condition, as if somebody is maintaining them.
  • They’re locations don’t follow any understood pattern.
  • You might or might not be able to find the same stairs twice (up to the individual author).
  • Approaching and/or climbing the stairs gives a sense of foreboding and weirdness.
  • Sometimes really bad things happen if you approach or climb the stairs.
  • The authorities (notably the park service) is keeping quiet about the stairs. Officially, they don’t exist. The authorities do not talk about them – even among themselves.
  • You can explain the stairs or leave them unexplained – up to you.
  • Science fiction, fantasy, and horror are most likely – but your story can be in any genre. One author I contacted told me I wasn’t likely to get many Romantic Comedies – but if you’ve got a good one, submit it!
  • You can submit as many stories as you like, but we’ll only publish one story per author in this anthology.
  • Submissions should be in the 3000-20,000 word range.
  • Submissions should be never before published. We’re asking for exclusive rights on this one.
  • Submissions should be in Microsoft Word format (doc or docx) and should be readable. Otherwise, I’m not your high school English teacher and I don’t care about margins, spacing, font, etc.
  • EMail Submissions to submissiones@silverempire.org and must include contact information (name, e-mail, etc).
  • Submissions are due by August 31, 2017.
  • Payment will be the Silver Empire anthology standard: 50% of royalties go to the story contributors, prorated to each author by word count.

One author has already sent me half of a rough draft, while several others have made verbal commitments. Let your imagination go crazy – the more wildly different the stories are, the better!

An Information Theory View of the Catholic Church

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network-sept132013Imagine if you will that you’re an information engineer, and you’ve been handed a task. God himself has literally come down to Earth, walked among the people, and spoken. In fact, He’s spoken quite a bit. Your job now is to record everything that He taught. You have some important requirements.

  • The Word Of God must not be added to – only what He actually said shall be recorded.
  • The Word Of God must not be subtracted from – everything He taught must be preserved.
  • The Word Of God must be accessible – the people must be able to learn what He said.
  • The Word Of God must be preserved for all time – it must not be allowed to fade from this world.

If you’re working with modern computer systems, this isn’t all that bad. You’d set up a data center, maybe on the cloud somewhere. You’d initiate regular backups, both on-site and off-site. You’d make sure you had one heck of a disaster recovery plan. Budget for plenty of bandwidth. But the storage requirements aren’t really all that bad. He was only around for a few years, after all.

Now imagine that you’re given this task in a pre-information age society with a 90% illiteracy rate. Instead of modern computing devices, your information storage and retrieval system consists of human beings. Which have the following characteristics:

  • Data storage is unreliable. You can’t actually count on people to remember what they’ve learned.
  • Data deteriorates over time. The human brain forgets.
  • Retrieval is unreliable. Even if people remember it right, they can’t necessarily say it right.
  • Communication is unreliable. Even if it’s remembered right and said right, it might not be heard right or understood right.
  • Corruption is inevitable. Some people will deliberately corrupt the data and spread a false message.

And all of that is under the best of circumstances. Every one of those characteristics can be made worse by disease, old age, injury, war, famine, even bad weather. In short, for the given task, human beings are a really terrible information network. So what do you do? How do you build your system so that it meets the goals above?

I submit that if you gave the task to an information theorist you’d end up with something that looks an awful lot like the Catholic or Orthodox churches. Here are some of the great characteristics of that system, given the tasks as outlined:

  • It has very high redundancy.
  • It has very strong error detection.
  • It has very high error correction.
  • It has very high data accessibility – even to those who aren’t prepared to understand the full depth of it.
  • It has very high longevity – the system has lasted two thousand years.

The mother church catches a lot of flack, and some of it is deserved. But for its primary purpose in life it is beautifully – some might even say immaculately – designed.

Short Fiction is Dead – Long Live Short Fiction

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short-storyBack in the day (say, pre-1965), anybody who wanted to become a writer had a fairly clear place to start. Write short fiction and submit it to the magazines. If it didn’t get accepted, write some more. You’d hone your skill, get practice, maybe entertain your friends, and have a nice collection of stuff that could eventually get published once someone finally recognized your talents. Short fiction is a lot easier to write than novels, and a lot faster. So if something didn’t get published, hey, no worries. At least you hadn’t wasted a lot of time with it. Even better, in those days you could actually make a living by writing short fiction. Maybe not the greatest living ever, but you could do it.

In 2016, the market for short fiction is dead.

OK, maybe it’s only mostly dead. You can still go through its pockets looking for loose change and sell the occasional short story on Amazon for $0.99. But for the most part, they don’t sell very well – and Amazon royalties on $0.99 e-books are crap, too. There are a handful of folks who have made series of short stories work. John Hartness seems to have done well with the Bubba the Monster Hunter series (which are excellent, by the way). And you can do OK with anthologies, as we’ve done at Silver Empire.

But the old school path that really made money – the magazines – has been dead for some time. They pay has sucked for decades. Until a few years ago, if you could manage get published in one of the magazines, the pay scale (three to five cents per word) hadn’t changed since the 1960s. There’s been an awful lot of inflation since then. If you could get published. That was getting dramatically harder, too. For one thing, more people were trying – the competition got steeper. But the bigger problem is that the magazines were all going out of business. Today they’re pretty much all gone. Locus still hangs around, and one or two others. But all of them are struggling.

Magazines are dead, and they’re not coming back.

This isn’t a problem unique to the short fiction market. Magazines in general are dying, of every kind. When I was a teenager, Time and Newsweek pretty much ruled the news magazine market. Time only survives today because of the massive corporation that owns it, and Newsweek has been barely kept alive by mega-rich owners who want it as a vanity project. The readership that used to support their advertising model is gone. They’ve all moved online.

Online magazines aren’t doing much better – and they’ll probably die off soon, too.

Simply moving the business model of magazines into an online space hasn’t worked – and it never will. There’s too much competition out there, and too much of it is simply free. There are a handful of “online magazines” of various kinds that are working – but all of them are struggling, too. Politico just killed its last paywalled section. Expect to see more trouble from them soon. The New York Times has struggled since it went with a paywall model. Only magazines such as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg which offer specific information that helps their readers actually make money have really thrived.

In the fiction world, things haven’t been much better. I couldn’t name a single online science fiction or fantasy “magazine” that has any kind of clout or significant readership. There are some respectable ones out there, such as Sci-Phi Journal, but they continue to struggle just to exist.

And today this rolled across my feed. I stumbled across the link from Twitter:

Well, this is getting absurd. First Cirsova magazine closed for submissions till 2017, now Pulp Literature just closed for submissions. Obviously, there is a serious dearth of high quality adventure fantasy publications for fantasy short stories. One can probably count those now accepting stories on one hand, and maybe have fingers left over: Hfq Ezine, BCS (which wants a very specific style), Grimdark (which wants a very specific vibe)…?

It’s a real problem, and not just for aspiring authors. There’s nowhere solid left for up and coming authors to really practice their craft – and the readers lose out just as badly. How much more wonderful sff stories would we have if that one author you’ve never heard of had been able to publish that one story and just hadn’t given up? But there’s nowhere left for him to start. So maybe he’s doing something else.

But Mr. Szeles’s solution is no solution at all:

Could I get the support needed now (professional and financial through Kickstarter) to edit and publish such an anthology, pay pro rates, put in the time, work, and love needed to create something magnificent?

The answer? He could probably raise enough through Kickstarter to get the project off the ground. And in a year or three it would probably die a slow lingering death, just like every other online magazine. The problem isn’t the magazines themselves. The problem is that the business model is outdated – and it’s never coming back.

But all is not doom and gloom. At Silver Empire, we believe we’ve found a solution. We’ve come up with an innovative new business model that we think is more in tune with the times. Or, more accurately, we’ve borrowed a business model that’s already working in other fields and we’re going to apply it to the short fiction market. And that’s why we’re creating Lyonesse – we want to Make Short Fiction Great Again.

Will it work? I can’t promise it – all business contains risk. But I believe strongly that it will work, and that it will work well in the modern age. I believe that we’ll be able to pay authors rates that are at least comparable to the rates the magazines were paying before they died – and I think that we might actually be able to pay far better than that.

To that end, we’re looking for lots of science fiction and fantasy short stories – and I really mean LOTS. We’ve already gotten a fair number of submissions. I haven’t been able to comb through all of them yet, but some of them are pretty darn good. But we’re still looking for more. My answer to Mr. Szeles is, send them over. We are accepting submissions. Details on submission requirements are available here. And if you’ve already submitted and haven’t heard back from me yet, don’t fret – I’ve got a bit of a backlog right now because we just finished up Between the Wall and the Fire (speaking of short fiction, check that one out – some of the stories in it are damn good).

We’re not ready to share the details yet, but we’re hoping to have the whole thing up and running by late fall. So stay tuned. It’s going to be quite a ride!

Christianity’s Oral Tradition

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sermon_on_the_mountWhen the Catholic and Orthodox churches speak of Tradition, most of us in the modern world get the idea that they’re stuck in some ancient world and just can’t get with the times. This is a modern misunderstanding, not the misunderstanding of the Church itself. We have failed to understand the difference between Tradition and tradition – a distinction that the church understands quite well.

To put it simply, the position of the orthodox (small ‘o’) churches is – and always has been, for two thousand years – that the written New Testament is not everything that Christ taught. If you take a moment to think it through at all it becomes readily apparent that this must be the case.

We don’t know if Christ himself was literate. There’s no mention of it in the bible, one way or another. We do, however, know that no actual writings of his survive today. We also know that he lived and preached in a highly illiterate society. And the descriptions we have of his actual teachings don’t tell of him passing out textbooks. Instead we hear quite a bit about him speaking.

That’s right. Christ’s actual teachings were all oral.

The four gospels were written later, years after he died. Two of them – the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John – are attributed to direct disciples of Jesus himself. But the other two aren’t even that. Longstanding Christian tradition says that Mark was a student of Peter, not Christ himself. And Luke is at least twice removed – he was a companion of Paul, who wasn’t one of Christ’s direct disciples either.

Bear with me for a moment and assume that the Christian tradition that these books are accurate is correct. It still seems incredibly unlikely that these four books alone contain everything about Christ’s life. What if we include the remaining 23 books?

Let me tell you something about writing and teaching. I’ve been a martial arts teacher for more than fifteen years. I can tell you definitively that there is no existing collection of books, articles, videos, audio recordings, or any other recorded medium that contains 100% of the knowledge that I’ve collected in that time. I have friends who have been teaching for far longer than that – some with literally half a century of teaching experience. The gap between their knowledge and what’s written is even larger. I know of one specific Kung Fu instructor who deliberately leaves things out of his instructional videos. That way he can always tell who learned it from one of his students and who learned from the video.

This isn’t limited to the martial arts. When I was earning my master’s degree in computer science I noticed the same phenomenon at work. The text books and journal articles we studied were nice. But at that level, a fair amount of instruction came straight from the professor’s lectures and simply wasn’t in the books at all.

This is simply how the passing of knowledge works among human beings. And the Catholic and Orthodox churches have never claimed any differently. When they use the word Tradition (big ‘T’) they aren’t referring to, “well, this is how we’ve always done it.” They’re referring to, “this is what we’ve learned from the sum total of what Christ actually taught us.” That includes the bible as its core component. But it also includes teachings that have been passed orally from bishop to bishop for two thousand years. This is a large part of what is meant by the term “apostolic succession.” The church claims that not only have we inherited the written Word of God, we’ve also inherited his spoken word that has been passed down to this day.

Unlike fundamentalists or some protestants, the church’s view is not that the bible is 100% correct in a literal sense. The church’s view is that the bible is 100% correct and inerrant when it is interpreted correctly – and correct interpretation requires knowledge of the oral traditions handed down by the apostles.

BETWEEN THE WALL AND THE FIRE – Updates

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Between the Wall and the Fire

Between the Wall and the Fire

The files for the print version of Between the Wall and the Fire are off to the printer. The ebook version should be finished this evening. If you’ve requested an advance review copy, check your inbox tomorrow. If you haven’t requested an advance review copy, there’s still time. Hit the link and fill out the very short form. If you want to be one of the first to get your actual hands on an actual book, come see me and S.D. McPhail at the Catfish Literary Festival on Saturday, June 4th!

To Niche or Not To Niche

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More than once I’ve been asked, “What niche should I choose for my blog?” Sometimes I get another variation. “How do I choose a niche for my blog?” Too often these people haven’t even asked the one question that should come first.

Do you even need a niche?

This isn’t just a rhetorical question that I’m asking as I set up the post to tell you that you don’t need one. I’m serious: do you need a niche? There are good reasons to run a niche blog – but you should be sure you understand what they are before you decide it’s the path for you. There are also good reasons to run a general blog, and I think you should understand those, too.

I’ve run both niche blogs and general blogs in the past, and I’ve been moderately successful with both. Back in 2002 when I started my first blog, pretty much all blogs were general. Specialization came gradually – one or two blogs at first, and then others following as they saw a path to success. The key to their success then was the same as it is now. Specialization can make it easier to stand out from the crowd. We live in a world that’s absolutely overflowing with content. I have no idea how many blogs are out there today, but I know it’s a lot – probably in the millions. Your big challenge as a blogger is to make sure readers know about your blog and to give them a reason to read yours rather than somebody else’s.

Specialization can help with that. From about 2008 until 2010 I ran a very specialized blog – a niche within a niche. Since I participated in the larger niche community, I knew that the particular sub-niche was underserved. I was also able to get the word out fairly quickly that my blog existed, and that let me build up a nice, regular readership in a short time. Sorry, I’m not going to give details of that blog. I ran it pseudonymously so that I could discuss some very private issues. The blog no longer exists.

On the other hand, I eventually ran into a very real problem that I now think is common to all specialized blogs. After a while, I’d said everything I had to say on the topic. Then what? Some bloggers solve this by repeating content, and there’s justification for that. New readers haven’t seen the old content. It’s easy to think that everybody out there knows everything you know. They don’t. Repeating information that you’ve written before or read elsewhere might be doing a service to that poor guy who needs the info but has never seen it before.

But that wasn’t for me. I couldn’t bring myself to keep writing on a topic that I’d (mostly) exhausted. The blog went un-updated for quite some time before I finally pulled the plug on it altogether.

The readership base that I’d built was nice, but it would have been hard to do anything with it. The blog title and URL was very specific. Changing it to a general purpose blog would have just made it feel weird to readers, new and old alike. And the fact that I’d run it anonymously meant it wasn’t particularly useful for transitioning to this blog.

I’ve found that general blogging is by far the better fit for me. It’s easier for me to keep the content coming – there’s always something I can talk about, and content flow is very important. If I ever feel like I’ve exhausted a given topic, I just move to a new one. And while niche blogs are great for growing an audience initially, they tend to put a limit on you eventually. Only so many people care about your highly specialized sub-niche.

But one of the nicest things is that you never know which posts are really going to catch on. There are literally hundreds (maybe thousands) of sites out there with blogging advice. It never occurred to me that very many people would have found mine to be particularly more useful than those. Yet they’ve proven quite successful by the current standards of this blog. They’ve netted me links and retweets from some major influencers, which brought a surge in new traffic, but also a steady flow of new readers from “long tail” sources. So I’ve written more, and they’ve continued to be popular. That never would have happened on a niche blog.

So before you think about finding your niche, think twice about whether you really want one at all.


What, you still want one? OK, come back later this week and I’ll have some advice on choosing one.

My Long and Winding Road to Catholicism – Part 7

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resurrected-christ-wilson-ong-212048-wallpaperEditor’s note: this post was originally published more than five years ago on a now defunct blog. It was originally published pseudonymously. I have done some editing to clean up the bits that I wanted to keep anonymous. I’ve also updated it a bit to reflect how my thinking has evolved over five years. But the vast majority of this text is untouched.

Anybody still here? I think I heard an echo. Yes, this has gotten a bit long. I’m almost done, I promise.

The Catholic church is not perfect to my view. But then, nothing is. Our modern society has developed this ridiculous obsession with perfection. If things aren’t exactly perfect, we can’t take it. Car isn’t perfect? Trade it in before it’s paid off! House isn’t perfect? Trade up every few years as your income increases – it’s only resetting your 30 year mortgage. Marriage isn’t perfect? Try another one! Church isn’t perfect? Start another one across the street!

I can live with the imperfections of the Catholic church. But I still see them.

The biggest blemish is that they haven’t handled the pedophilia scandals very well. Much of this is a PR issue, but there’s some validity to some of the criticisms laid before the church. The church is an institution of great power. They have a responsibility to take reasonable measures to ensure that children are safe. As a comparison, I’d look at the Boy Scouts. Another organization that was plagued by pedophilia scandals, the Boy Scouts responded quietly but rapidly and forcefully, and as a result you don’t hear much about it anymore except as off color jokes. Key policies that the Boy Scouts implemented include at least two adults present with any child at any time (if only one is there, that single adult can be accused, honestly or not, of suspect behavior), an extreme open door policy (parents being very welcome to see what’s going on at any time) and more. In short, they took it seriously and responded to the problem. Is it a perfect solution? No, it can’t be (see above). But they responded.

The Catholic church, on the other hand, has been slow to show that they take the problem seriously and it’s been a bit of a disaster.

Even the mighty Catholic church has allowed itself to be feminized, at least in the western world. Annulments are too easy to get. In the 1960s, there were about 300 annulments a year granted in the US. As of 1996, that had grown to over 60,000 a year. Many of those are from protestants converting to Catholicism (it’s easier to get your marriage recognized as invalid if you married outside the church), as I learned while going through RCIA and hearing deacons counseling divorced people on how to navigate the system. As somebody else noted (I think it was Dalrock, but I can’t find the post) churches love marriage more than they hate divorce. The Catholic church is better about it than most, but it’s not fully immune either.

I’m not a big fan of hulking bureaucracies. Not much for it, I just have to deal.

The rite of Confession will probably always be the most difficult practical part of being Catholic for me. Then again, it’s not meant to be easy.

I have problems with authority (unless I am the authority), and the Catholic church is very hierarchical and authority based. This will also be a struggle for me.

The emphasis that the church puts on humility and submission is very useful in some places. For example, it’s good at helping to keep a check on the very wealthy and powerful. But it’s also dangerous for people who are already poor and weak. Some percentage of those people need a little bit of confidence and self worth to move themselves up in the world, and such a powerful push for humility and submission can damage that. I don’t really have a solution to this issue, I just note it.

This is my path, and this is why I’ve chosen it. This essay is also now five years old, and my feelings on many of these issues have grown and evolved. I’m a lot better educated about my faith than I was when I originally wrote this. Don’t be surprised if there are future blog posts that revisit much of the ideas discussed here, both to add greater detail and to add corrections where I’ve learned and grown.

I don’t expect anyone else to follow the same path I did. This is not here to convert you. It’s just my story. It simply is. Take from it what you will.

The Whole Series

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