Blogging stuff: Religion

Along with the other trends in following I mentioned recently, I feel that I have to mention something else that is beginning to reappear at a rather alarming rate. I have noticed that some followers and commenters lately have been of the ‘Bible-bashing’ variety.

Personally, I do not think that blogging is the place to expound your religious ideas, or attempt to convert those who do not share them. I don’t mean those general bloggers who also mention going to church, attending Easter services, or enjoying a family christening. You know the sort I mean.

Their blogs are full of fire and brimstone, thanking the Lord for everything that happened, including that morning’s sunrise. They often blame natural disasters and terrorist incidents on God’s displeasure, and warn that only bad things will happen unless we all start to believe in the same things as them. These blogs are often disguised. They have innocuous names that do not mention religion, or gods. Click on the blog to leave a ‘thank you’ for following, and you will see that it is comprised almost entirely of fiery scripture quotes, and entreaties for you to do things like ‘follow the right path.’

They mean the same path as them, of course.

I have no issues with religious people. Many find real comfort from their religion, and it helps them lead a happier life. Some take inspiration from religion to do good things, and others are peaceful and contemplative because of their beliefs. I would not use this blog to attack them, and I certainly would not use it to try to stop them believing in their gods. On the other hand, as an atheist I do not appreciate being lectured to about something I have no interest in.

I know, I don’t have to read them. And I don’t. But I do not like the way that they ‘sneak in’ by commenting on posts, and by having blog names that disguise their true purpose. So, at the risk of upsetting some genuine people, and perhaps losing many potential new ‘followers’, I have this to say to them.

1) If you are a fundamentalist religious person, please ignore my blog.
2) Do not like or comment on my posts as a way of getting me to look at your own blog.
3) Please do not follow my blog in the hope of being followed back. It will never happen.
4) Use a title for your blog that gives you away for what you are, instead of concealing the fact.
5) Enjoy your religion. Say your prayers and thanks. Go to your meetings, or whatever it is you do.

Believe in what you want to believe, and live a long and happy life. But just leave the rest of us alone to follow a different path. The one we have chosen.

New followers: Some advice

As a blogger, it is always a pleasure to welcome new followers to my blog(s). They might become active members of the wider blogging community, as well as commenting on my posts. I might choose to follow their blog, to read what they have to say, or look at their photos. As bloggers, this is the way to become noticed, perhaps to create a circle, or to become part of one.

Just lately, I have been lucky to receive lots of notifications from WordPress, informing me that someone new is following my blog. As is my habit, I will usually head straight over to their blog, have a look at what they are doing, and leave a comment thanking them for their appreciated follow. In many cases, this is easily done, and more than a few times, it has also resulted in them getting a new follower too, namely me.

However, I have started to notice a confusing trend. Around 50% of the time when I get a new follower, their own blog doesn’t actually exist. These are not ’email only’ followers, I hasten to add. They have blog names, and WordPress accounts. But click on the profile, and you will often find nothing at all. No redirect to a blog, no recent posts to read, not even a Home page or About page to peruse. A few of these new followers do have an actual blog, but it is ’empty’. It has a name and a theme, but that’s all. The rest is just WordPress filler, such as ‘This is a widget’, or ‘This is an About page’.

It is a fair assumption that they have started the blog so recently, that they haven’t had time to get it organised, or add any posts. If this is the case, then why start following other blogs so soon? I have checked back on some of these new followers, and their blogs remain blank. Yet they keep coming in; two already today, to add to half a dozen this week. Not much point having followers who have no blogs, unless they prefer to follow by email only of course. But these are not those type of followers, as they have blog names for ’empty’ blogs.

I cannot see the point of doing this. They gain nothing by following my blog, if their own blog cannot even be read, let alone followed back. And they provide nothing to the community of blogging, just by randomly following blogs for no reason.

So ‘new followers’, here is my advice.

If you follow a blog, comment on a post, or leave a like. If nothing else, it proves that you exist.
If you don’t want to have your own blog, then follow by email. It’s much easier.
If you have started a blog, then left it like a literary ghost town, just delete it.

If you do not want to be part of the overall blogging experience, that’s fine. But please don’t bother to confuse bloggers like me by ‘following’, when to all intents and purposes, you don’t exist.

**(Update. Just after posting this, I got another one! Click on it, and nothing…)**


Best wishes to you all, anyway. Pete.

A word about photos

When I didn’t post any photos, most followers used to ask me to include them. My main reluctance to do so at the time was the consideration of using up my WordPress allowance for this blog. Then I decided to throw caution to the winds. I bought a new camera, resurrected my old SLR, and started to post lots of photos. Pretty soon, I had used almost 45% of my allowance, and I was getting worried.

Of course, my great community of blogging friends soon came to my aid. They gave me tips and advice about how to reduce the file size, whilst keeping the ability to have the reader enlarge the photos, to enjoy the details. Off I went, armed with a useful tutorial on Adobe Photoshop, courtesy of my friend, Antony. I reduced the file size by 50%, so that they would load faster for my friends with a slow Internet connection. This came with the bonus of using considerably less space, and made my allowance workable, for the time being at least.

For most of 2016, and a couple of times this year, I added photos where appropriate, and enjoyed a big boost in viewing figures every time they appeared. But looking at the stats, I started to realise something. Hardly anyone was enlarging these photos. The stats show me every time an image is clicked on, and they were few and far between. For instance, my post about Southwold, with four reasonably interesting photos, has been viewed 114 times. Yet only two ‘clicks’ are shown for the images. Out of all those interested people, only one or two have bothered to enlarge the photos. Some of those who did so mentioned that fact. I thank them for doing that, as the photos are a lot more impressive when enlarged, as I say in the post.

So, I am left with a question. Is it worth me bothering to post images of a decent size, or are most of you content with the smaller photos visible on the main post? If you don’t want to enlarge the images, then I won’t be bothering to spend so much time making them into a decent size for viewing.
Just let me know how you feel. No criticism intended, or pressure applied.

Best wishes, Pete.

Free books, and marketing

As I have said before, I like to consider myself to be a ‘committed’ blogger. When I can, I post tips and advice for new bloggers, and hopefully add to the wealth of information provided free of charge by so many others. In return, I have access to countless other similar posts, as well as receiving some useful advice and instructional details by email.

I have always thought that it is important to support other bloggers too. I have donated to charities, given to causes and fund-raisers, and I have also bought quite a few e-books written by people I follow. If anyone seeks advice, I will throw my hat into the ring to try to help them, even if I am not always able to provide the right answers. OK, enough about me, what am I on about then?

I recently took up the offer of a free e-book. This was featured on another blog, by way of a re-blog, and was a general promotion of a new novel from a prolific writer. When it arrived, it wasn’t really my sort of thing. I started to read it, then decided that I was unlikely to finish it, or to be able to give a positive review. There was nothing wrong with the content or style, it was just not a genre that appeals to me. Fair enough then. Some you win, some you lose. No harm done. I did it to help, so I believed.

However, since agreeing to take that free book from one author, I have been inundated with emails (well, three or four a day at least) from all sorts of writers I have never heard of. They offer me more free books in the same genre, and discounted books in other weird and wonderful genres. When I don’t take the offers advertised, they email me to ask why I haven’t done so. I feel that I have stepped into some sort of book-marketing machine that refuses to release me from its grip.

Now before you all reply, telling me that I have the option to unsubscribe, I already know.

I suppose what I am saying to authors, is that by bombarding helpful bloggers with endless emails and promotional blurbs, you are merely serving to alienate a potential audience, at least in my case. If I have not reviewed a book, it might just be because I didn’t like it. I could take the other route, and give it a bad review based on personal preferences, but I am not that sort of person. So I will be unsubscribing, and thinking twice before taking any such free offers in the future.

I still wish you luck with your writing, and success too of course.

Reviewing your blog

If you go to the new-style wordpress stats page, you can choose an option that is marked as ‘Stats For All Time’. When you have published as many posts as I have, looking at the information provided here can be very interesting indeed.

You are presented with a list of your posts, in descending order of popularity, based on how many views that post has received. It cuts off at 39 views for some reason, and doesn’t show any posts with less views than that. On my list for this blog, the majority of posts seem to have figures between 55 and 80. This coincides with my own rough calculations, based on the numbers provided by wordpress when I log on every day. Of course some posts, those with photos especially, get many more than that on the day of publication.

As some of us have discussed previously, we don’t post articles to get views. We write for ourselves, and if others like what we write, then that is a bonus. But if you are a committed blogger, it can be very interesting to see which posts have proved to be the most popular during the time that you have been blogging. And it might well surprise you too.

With almost 1,300 views, my most-read post is ‘About’. People obviously like to know something about the blogger whose stuff they are reading. A large photo of myself with Ollie also gives them the chance to put a face to the name. A good ‘About’ page is something that many bloggers neglect to bother with, so my stats might go to show that it can be very useful.

It will be no surprise to my regular readers that the second most popular post is ‘Whatever happened to ?: Jamiroquai.’ This has had almost 900 views in a relatively short time, and is something of a phenomenon for this blog, as it continues to be read as regularly as ever. I would never have dreamt that a random post about a jazz/funk band would generate so much interest. But it has.

Three of my ‘living in Norfolk’ posts are next. ‘Dereham: A Norfolk Town’, ‘The driest county in England’, (once the most-read post here) and ‘Beetley Village’. These views are generated by people searching Google for information, rather than being interested to read my blog. Another post popular from Google searches follows. ‘What is the opposite of a Eulogy?’ is at number six, indicating how many people look for this information. Of course, my post is about something different, so the title may well mislead them.

Don’t worry, I am not about to carry on listing posts in order. This is just a snapshot of one blog, and may only be of interest to me. However, it does tell me a lot about what people are reading here.

I have published 1215 posts in less than five years. Despite adding the very popular photos, and continuing to write about my much-loved dog, Ollie, it would seem that local information and Google searches, alongside fans of the band Jamiroquai, are still the mainstay of my blog. Those hours spent writing fiction, recalling my years in the Ambulance Service with anecdotes, and reviewing films; all this is secondary to providing basic information about some Norfolk towns and villages, and the weather you can expect to find in this county.

Perhaps I should just write a local travel blog instead?

Positive rejection

It’s nice to have something else positive to write about.

I recently read this post about submitting stories for publication.

I then followed the link to the original post to read more here.
4 Ways Longshot Island Helps Emerging Authors

I liked the sound of this a lot, and decided to check out the publisher’s website.

They take submissions of stories from anyone, within certain parameters. If it is selected for publication, it is shown online, with some being chosen for inclusion in the printed magazine. Although they don’t pay the author, you do get five copies of the magazine mailed to you, so you at least get to see your work on the printed page. In the meantime, your story is out there on the website, to be seen by many more readers, as well as those on your own blog or site.

Feeling positive, I decided to submit a story, using their simple submission form.
I soon received a reply from the editor, Daniel. This was it.
“Hi Pete Johnson,
Thanks for sending your story, The Garden Shed, to Longshot Island.
We thought it was a little predictable. The ending was weak, too. That could be touched up.
So we’re going to reject this story. But please send us something new at your convenience. Do you have anything humorous?

I could have been downhearted. My first ever attempt at getting a story published had ended in rejection. But the advice was positive, expressed fairly, and I took the criticism happily. I also acted on that last but one line, and soon sent them something else. Once again, the reply came very quickly.
“Hi Pete,
Thanks for sending your story, Valerie, to Longshot Island.
It’s got a good twist, but still not what we’re looking for at this time. We’ll keep you in mind, though, if we should find a place for your work. You’re a solid writer and have a good future ahead of you.

Two rejections in as many hours. I might have just given up, but instead started to think of a story they might want to publish. I had been inspired to try harder, and I found that rejection was actually something positive, after all. Then I received this.
“Hi Pete,
I’ve just reconsidered and looked at your story one more time. Call me crazy, but it grew on me. Usually we try to have something a little out of the ballpark and your story fits the bill.
Is it still available? Could we put Valerie online?
Please send me your photo, author bio, and a link to a website (if you have one).

Of course, I was very happy indeed. Not only has my story been published on the website, it will be included in the next magazine, and they will send me five copies by way of payment. I found the whole process very exciting, even the initial rejection. They even sourced a very suitable image to illustrate the story, which you can read via this link. And I hope that you do.
Not only that, but I also have an author ‘bio’ now, and a photo too!
For many of you, this might not seem to be that big a deal. But for me, it was something quite wonderful.

From what I can see, Longshot Island is a bona-fide company, with no hidden ‘catches’. They have certainly not requested any fee, and although they do not pay for the stories sent to them, they appear to be up front, and honest and fair in their dealings. If this is not as it seems, I will let you know.

So, why not give it a try yourself? If I can do it, so can you!

Staying positive, in 2017.

Guest Post: David Miller

I was very pleased to receive this guest post from my blogging friend, David. He is a published writer, talented song lyricist, and compiler of excellent limericks too. I will provide a link to both his own site, and his writing, at the end. Here is his tale, from his home in Nevada.


Pigeon in the House!

We have a family of six pigeons that call our roof, back yard wall, and patio…home!

It all began late last summer with Romeo and Juliette. Romeo is a typical rock dove, indistinguishable from the average specimen. Juliette, though, has a broad snow-white stripe, composed of several feathers, that traverses one of her wings fore to aft. The offspring are mottled, but have white patches of varying sizes on their back, just below the nape, and between the wings.

In the beginning, we fed Romeo and Juliette stale French bread. But they were not satisfied, so we ended up throwing them a fresh slice now and then. Recognizing that bread is not the most nutritious bird food, we began feeding them lentils. They loved it, of course. But lentils are expensive, and quickly consumed. In the end, we found it was cheaper to simply buy a bag of birdseed.

One morning, Juliette came knocking on the living room window. After repeating this a time or two, we tossed out some food on the patio. She came back the next day, not only in the morning but at lunchtime as well! After that, she became a window knocker extraordinaire. A few months ago, the weather was nice enough to open the window and let some fresh air in. By this time, the family had grown to six pigeons, and feeding time had become a fiercely competitive affair. The six of them often chased each other around the back yard—and battled each other as well—when the birdseed allocation was nearly gone.

So we thought that we’d give Juliette a break and feed her birdseed on the open windowsill. It didn’t take her but a few minutes to figure out that she could eat there—and do so peacefully, without interruption. Needless to say, she was happy as a lark. Weather permitting, she was granted other windowsill feedings after that.

On a couple of occasions, one of Juliette’s young ones would join her on the windowsill, but this was not a problem—until today! This afternoon, a second young pigeon decided to join its mother and sibling. Unfortunately, there is not enough room on this small windowsill for three pigeons! So it hovered, flapping its wings violently, frustrated in its effort to join the other two. And that spooked its sibling.

The young pigeon flew into the house! And, as mourning doves and house finches had done last summer, it perched up high in the living room (our house is a 1-1/2 story) in one of the three port windows. After that, it explored the living room, alighting alternatively on the staircase railing, various picture frames, and even the chandelier chain. I tried to block the port windows with shoes, so as to reduce the number of available perches—but to no avail…

This young pigeon knows me. It wasn’t afraid of me, as I could get my fingertips within ten inches of it without stirring a feather. But I knew it was not possible to capture it, and didn’t want to frighten it, anyway, so I didn’t attempt to grab it, gently or otherwise. I’d easily captured the mourning doves and house finches last summer as they tried to escape through the port hole windows, beating their wings against the pane.

So what to do?

The young pigeon refused the various perches I offered it (including my arm). It also refused to abort its several bowel movements. That’s why my equipment consisted not only of a ladder (useless), a birdseed platter (ignored), and perches (declined), but also an old sponge (to be rinsed) and a few paper towels (to be trashed).

An idea came to mind. I put some birdseed on the windowsill, hoping that Juliette would alight there, and entice her young one to join her. But Juliette was no longer hungry! She and a couple of other pigeons just roamed around the patio within a straight visual shot of the guest pigeon, perched up high. At one point, Juliette stared at her young one inside, but couldn’t figure out what to do. I instructed her to fly up on the windowsill, or even come inside and lead her young one outdoors to safety. But she apparently doesn’t comprehend English.

After a long persuasive talk up on the catwalk (the young pigeon is apparently just as ignorant of English as its mother), my wife, up to this point quite amused, said, “I’m getting cold.” The sun was dropping in the western sky, and the temperatures were coming down… For some reason, my wife’s perfectly reasonable complaint cued the young pigeon to drop down off the catwalk railing, and fly out through the living room window, where it joined its family on the patio.

This is what happens when the adult serves as the role model for its young. I need to explain to Juliette that only one of her young can join her at a time. Because with the nice spring weather, the windows are going to be open. I suppose this particular pigeon has now learned its escape route, should it ever pop in again. But what about the other five?

I have to say that I’ve never liked pigeons. I’ve always considered them to be a filthy nuisance. But these pigeons have taken up residence here, and so we consider them “our” pigeons. Of course, the family is bound to grow, and as long as we feed them (sometimes, I sit out on the patio, and they eat at my feet), they aren’t going anywhere. I also change the water bowl once a day. They drink from the bowl, and also bathe in it, as do other birds.

So we will continue to enjoy the resident pigeons, as well as our guests—doves, house finches, dark-eyed juncos (Oregon variety), hummingbirds, grackles, and others in search of food, water, and a shady wind-sheltered spot. Hopefully, they will be content to stay outside—or at least not venture any farther than the living room windowsill. Otherwise, our house will become an aviary!

David, living in the bird house.

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