Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Time for a new look

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Every 1-2 years I like to give this site a facelift. Most of the time it's really just about the UI: changing CSS, adding a new banner or other image, and maybe tweaking some of the topmost links or sidebar items. This time, however, I made changes all the way down to the site's lowest levels.

Web Hosting

I'm still with the same web hosting company, GoDaddy, but in order to facilitate some other changes I needed to "upgrade" my hosting plan from a legacy plan to a new Windows Hosting plan. What this really boiled down to is a change from IIS 6.0 to 7.0. Behind the scenes, my site content was migrated to a new server and DNS entries were updated, but this was all transparent to me. I initiated the process, then waited about 10-15 minutes for the change to complete processing. This hosting "upgrade" was necessary in order for me to able to take advantage of some newer technologies (namely .NET 4.5). GoDaddy made the process easy and I'm not having to pay anything more per month to host my site, which is always a bonus.

As for GoDaddy itself, I know a lot of people don't recommend them for one reason or another, but I've been with them from the start, running this site in addition to two others, and I've never had any significant issues with them.

Blog Platform

I've run the blog portion of this site on BlogEngine.NET pretty much right from the start. Long time readers might remember that I actually started my blogging career on Blogger.com. Given Blogger's limitations, I migrated over to Wordpress, thinking for some reason that platform wouldn't have the same issues. Both are great platforms for people who don't want to deal with the plumbing, but since I like plumbing, I found out real fast that I what I needed was a platform where I could tweak things down as far as the code level if needs be. Also, if it was written in a programming language I was already familiar with, then all the better. BlogEngine.NET, written in C# and ASP.NET, fit the bill perfectly.

My downfall came when I got off the BlogEngine.NET team's release schedule and onto my own. Effectively having forked the code into my own personal branch, I made a lot of customizations and other tweaks. Life was good. But meanwhile the BE.NET team, and the community as a whole since the software is open source, was doing the same thing, albeit at a much faster pace. This was OK for a while; their changes were minor enough that I wasn't missing anything. But then the platform was handed over to a new team and, fast-forward a couple of years, and my forked version was woeful in comparison in terms of look and feel as well as functionality. I had a decision to make: stick with BE.NET vScott or make the switch to the latest version of BE.NET, 2.9. I chose the latter.

In the end, it wasn't too difficult to make this switch. I merged my App_Data folder in with the new base content there and then selectively pulled in those controls and other pieces I wanted to retain from my old codebase. I ran into some issues during deployment, but as far as local debugging, everything pretty much worked right out of the box with my pre-existing content. Kudos to the BlogEngine.NET guys for making this such an easy upgrade process.

Blog Theme/UI

The impetus for all of this change originated, of course, because I wanted the site to have a new look. Not only that, but I wanted to ensure the site was going to not only look good on mobile devices, but remain functional as well. With nearly 40% of all web browsing done on mobile devices, mobile first is where it's at. Originally conceived by Luke Wroblewski, mobile first means exactly what it says. The primary tenets of this design approach include responsive enhancement and responsive web design. Condensed down, what these mean is that a site should provide an optimal experience to users based on their current browsing device. A user on a desktop or laptop can take advantage of their larger screen and see content in a wider format. Those browsing on a phone, where screen real estate is at a premium, don't see a scaled down version of the full site, but a unique blend of functionality fitted together perfectly for a mobile experience. Let's take a look at a few examples so you can see what I mean.

Here's my new site in all its glory. The site as shown is at its widest level with all content displayed.

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Now, if you narrow the browser window, you'll see the site begin to change a little.

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The "Email Sign-up" block moved down and widened out. It's a small change (one could argue an unnecessary one as well), but, regardless, this is the screen tablet users will see.

Further narrowing of the browser window causes the site's width to continue shrinking to accommodate the smaller viewing port until you get to this point:

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Here the header has completely changed to a more concise version. The search input box is gone and the usual header links are now contained within a dropdown menu accessible at the upper right of the window. Social icons are moved under the site's title info.

If you narrow further still, you'll see the smallest configuration, with my author image removed and a larger font size to make for easier reading on smartphones.

Looking at my novels page, it starts with all product info displayed and the cover images laid out at the side of each book description.

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Narrow it down to what a smartphone user will see, and the cover image is moved on top of the book description, you're back to the more concise header format, and the font is larger.

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I was fortunate enough to have CSS libraries like Bootstrap to fall back on to handle most of the responsive behavior for me. Throw in that BE.NET already supported Bootstrap right out of the box and that people with far more design skill than myself often work up free, custom themes (like Bootswatch's Superhero theme), and most of the heavy-lifting had already been done for me.

Conclusion

A new look is just the start. As you can see, the subtitle under my name states three things: Author, Engineer, Technologist. The first refers to the fact that I've now written several fantasy novels and short stories. The second, that I've been a software engineer for over 20 years now. As for the Technologist title, that just refers to the fact that much like many of the characters in my novels, I like to tinker. Up to this point, those three roles have been separate from one another, but as I get started with this new look for the site you're going to see them blend a bit together as I explore new topics beyond the usual reading and writing topics. Stay tuned.

Connect with Me

If you're interested in 'connecting' with me--you know, friending, liking, that sort of thing—then I have these icons at the upper right corner of this page. Clicking these icons will take you places, my friends. They may seem like strange, faraway destinations now, but once you've been to Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or others, and spent a fair amount of time on each, they'll feel just like home. You might even wonder how you got along so well for so long without them  (geez, I hope not).

While you're visiting one of those exotic locales, why not connect with me?

I love hearing from fellow fantasy fans, readers, and any one else. If you've read one of my books, then let me know what you thought. If you have an idea for where the next book in The Alchemancer series should go, that's good too. I always need new ideas. I might even name a character after you if you ask nicely.

If you just want to contact me, you can do that too.

But if you want to connect, then here are the myriad ways:

1. Subscribe to this blog via RSS.

The best way to keep up with my posts.

2. Subscribe to this blog via email.

You can receive all of my useless posts right in your inbox.

3. Follow me on Twitter.

Sometimes I share useful info, so what the heck.

4. Visit my Facebook Fan Page.

Why not leave a 'like' while you're there?

5. Friend me on Goodreads.

Everyone's doing it. Reading, that is.

6. Sign-up to receive an email when the next book is out.

You'll get no more than 1 or 2 emails per year. Let's face it—if I'm sending you more than that, then I'm really having a good writing year. I don't have time to spam you, so no need to worry about that.

The 2012 Year In Review

Carrying on in the tradition of my annual Year In Review posts where I took a look back at each of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, here's my review of 2012 from a blogging and writing perspective.

Blogging

Late last year I decided to start blogging every day. This obviously had an impact on the amount of content produced and the number of posts I ended up with. I was kind of surprised, though, that it didn't result in a new high. As this table shows, 2010 remains my most prolific year as a blogger.

Year Total Posts For Year
2008 157  
2009 219 62
2010 363 144
2011 407 44
2012 514 107

Still, 107 posts is significantly better than the previous year and I managed to just come in over 500 total. 500! Wow, it feels good to be able to write that.

In terms of traffic, I'm going to hold off on the effect that making daily posts has had. As one would expect, traffic is up. But is it up significantly year-to-year from when I wasn't blogging every day? That's a determination for a future post.

In 2012, I once again reminded people to make backing up your data a priority. I jumped into KDP Select, enrolling both of my novels, but ultimately bailed on the program. Just not for me. I ran giveaways for print editions of The Five Elements and The Hall of the Wood. I finally threw in the towel on free promotions. I talked a little bit about eBook pricing. I revealed a new cover and product page for The Five Elements, was interviewed on Kindle Fantasy Authors, and talked a bit about achieving perfection, or trying to anyway. I joined the Magic Appreciation Tour, discussed the direction I plan to take The Alchemancer series, gave my opinion of reviews and why I've generally stopped reading them, listed out some reasons why I don't follow everyone back on Twitter, and announced I was no longer making print editions of my novels available. I furthered my online presence by establishing a Facebook fan page and started blogging every day. I featured my first ever guest post, featuring a post by Tracy Falbe. Last, I offered up some predictions for the ePublishing industry as we move into 2013. That post got about 1,000 views in the first three days as it got picked up by a few on Twitter.

Here's what dedicated readers and those just passing by found most useful in terms of posts written in 2012:

  1. KDP Select Promotion 1 Wrap-up
  2. The Failure of Free
  3. The Characters of The Five Elements
  4. The Places of The Five Elements
  5. What to do with an Amazon review containing spoilers
  6. The Five Elements: Free on Kindle Today Only
  7. The Great Free Experiment
  8. The Five Elements Giveaway
  9. 5 out of 5 stars for The Five Elements by reader Timmain
  10. The Five Elements: Now Free Tomorrow, too

Here's the overall Top 10 (out of the 500+ posts) with number of views in parenthesis:

  1. Publishing’s Big 6: Who are they? (26249)
  2. eBook File Formats (26133)
  3. Book Review: The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb (17366)
  4. Novels (9412)
  5. Has the fantasy genre become stagnant? (9223)
  6. Weekend Links - 7/3/08 (8806)
  7. Recommended Reference - The Synonym Finder (8675)
  8. Fiction: How Long Is Too Long? (7908)
  9. Locus Online: 2007 Cover Art Gallery (7697)
  10. How much do you make selling through Amazon's Kindle store? (7478)

That's 128,947 combined views! If you look at the total number of views of all posts, it's 953,371. Almost 1 million views since my first post back in January, 2008.

Now, on to writing.

Writing

I didn't complete the next novel in the Alchemancer series. That was a bit of a disappointment for me. But I made some moves related to the day job about mid-year which has put me in a good position to finish the next book by early 2013. On the plus side, I've got a solid outline I'm working from and I'm making consistent, daily progress.

Also, I've added a lot of worldbuilding type of info to the World of Uhl site. Information about the various kingdoms, their people, and specific characters that show up in my novels. Go check it out.

Last, I've got maps coming. The first one to go along with the story told in The Hall of the Wood is finished. I'll do a reveal in the next couple of weeks and also get it integrated into the eBook. The next map to come my way will be the one to go along with The Five Elements. Then I have two coming for The Nullification Engine, which is the next book in the Alchemancer series. The final and fifth map I've commissioned my cartographer to create is of Uhl itself. A full-on world map. It should be glorious.

Conclusion

I'll conclude with some stats and a thanks to everyone who has made this blog a success for me by stopping by, reading, commenting, and spreading the good word through Twitter and other social media outlets.

Thanks!

  • Total number of posts at EOY: 514 (at end of 2011: 407)
  • Total number of posts written in 2012: 107 (at end of 2011: 407)
  • Total number of views for all posts: 953,371 (at end of 2011: 716,639; an increase of 236,732)
  • Average posts/month: 8.9 (at end of 2011: 4) 

The 2011 Year In Review

It's fast becoming a tradition around here to reflect a bit on the previous year both as a writer and a blogger. Previous bouts of reflection spilled out of me in 2010 and 2009. But, here we are now, in 2012, so let's dig in.

In terms of blogging, my posting decreased dramatically. In 2010, I wrote 144 posts. In 2011, only 44. This reflects an attempt to refocus myself on my novel writing and my self-promotion as an indie author. I'm not giving up blogging; I find there are important topics that, as an author, I need to know. Topics such as the growing alignment of paperback and eBook prices is one of those things that can change (and is changing) an industry. Also, Amazon's eBook strategy remains paramount for nearly every indie author out there. I can't guarantee that every post I wrote in 2011 is going to be beneficial to everyone, but they are at least beneficial to me.

In terms of what others found most useful, here are the "hottest" posts written in 2011 (numbers in parenthesis represent the total number of views for the year):

  1. Pricing: eBooks vs Paperbacks (2241)
  2. Contribute (1807)
  3. The Five Elements - 12. The Four Elements (1780)
  4. Free Kindles for Everyone! (1439)
  5. An introspective on Borders' liquidation (1187)
  6. The Five Elements - 21. The Fifth Element (888)
  7. The Five Elements - 18. Amongst the Clouds (842)
  8. How to ruin your writing career in 1 easy step (773)
  9. Book Review: Honour of the Grave by Robin Laws (747)
  10. Classic Reread: Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles (714)

Now, let's look at the most popular posts overall:

  1. Tor Free E-books: The Complete List (17746)
  2. eBook File Formats (14890)
  3. Book Review: The Soldier Son Trilogy by Robin Hobb (13571)
  4. Publishing’s Big 6: Who are they? (12717)
  5. Tor Free E-book: Old Man's War by John Scalzi (11120)
  6. Tor Free E-book: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson (8955)
  7. Tor Free E-Book: Starfish by Peter Watts (8045)
  8. Has the fantasy genre become stagnant? (7791)
  9. Weekend Links - 7/3/08 (7544)
  10. Recommended Reference - The Synonym Finder (7178)

The #1 spot still belongs my list of Tor's free giveaways from a few years ago. I think the word "free" in the title has something to do with that post's longevity. My review of Hobb's Soldier Son Trilogy fell one place to #3, making room for a new #2. My post on eBook file formats spent most of 2010 skyrocketing through the ranks and really only missed the Top 10 for that year by a few places. Seeing it at #2 (and eventually #1 is my guess) is no surprise.

Other notable additions to the Top 10 Posts for 2011 is my post on the publishing industry's "Big 6". A lot of writers come by to take a look at that one, and it's even gotten linked to from several other sources as reference material. That's gratifying.

As far as writing… where to start? Lots of self-promotion via Twitter, GoodReads, and this web site. I gave away a lot of free eBooks, serialized The Five Elements, and purchased some professional art to use as the cover of The Hall of the Wood. I even re-vamped the cover for The Five Elements. Also, The Hall of the Wood went free on Amazon and I'm happy to say it's racking up over 100 downloads per day, went as far as #11 in the Kindle Free Mythology category (it's at #26 as I write this), and remains in the Top 100 Free Fantasy category for Kindle. It's even driven some sales of The Five Elements (but not enough).

Clearly, there's a lot going on right now for me on the writing front. I think I'd like to address some of these points separately in their own posts.

That being said, I'll close this up with my usual statistics:

  • Total number of posts at EOY: 407 (at end of 2010: 363)
  • Total number of posts written in 2011: 44 (at end of 2010: 144)
  • Total number of views for all posts: 716639 (at end of 2010: 450,053)
  • Average posts/month: 4 (at end of 2010: 11.9) 

No more comments

I've decided to turn comments off, mostly because I'm tried of managing the spam. It's amazing how much spam I get given that this site really doesn't get that many hits/day (maybe 100). Also, I have to approve comments before they appear, so the spam comments never see the light of day, anyway. Yet, they persist. Go figure.

Please ignore. The spam problem has been dealt with and comments are back in action.