Posted in Ivan's Adventures, Oxford Odditites, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday to Us!

Hello everyone! I’m very happy to say that today is the Here Be Wyverns’ Blog’s 2nd birthday!

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When you’re a tiny dragon, you can in fact just dive head first into cake. Two cakes, though, for two years!

*Cue Wild Applause!*

Thank you to everyone who has given me encouragement, advice and most of all their own time for reading this blog. I couldn’t honestly say that I’d have made it through even so much as the first year without you, and certainly not two!

There have been a few milestones, especially this past year, and I know that they are small ones but I’m proud of them and I wanted to share! I don’t know whether it’s not the Done Thing to talk about these things, but I’m a big advocate for sharing things that make you happy and that you’re proud of and encouraging others to do the same. If we cannot share our joy then how will we ever see anything but sadness, and all that?

+200 Likes

May 2018
I didn’t even know that WordPress did these kinds of little stickers until this popped up in my Inbox one morning! It’s strange, because I’d never thought to count up how many views or likes I’d been getting, but the idea that so many people had liked whatever nonsense I’ve been putting out enough to click and tell me was strangely validating! definitely was an encouragement to keep putting out content!+50 Posts

June 2018
Alright, so this is pretty old and I’ve put up a few more since then, but I’m still a little impressed that I’ve managed to find so many things to talk about in 2 years! I hope I’ve not slipped too often into tedious territory!

+100 Follows

August 2019
I am neither too old nor too proud to admit that when this little sticker popped up for me, I may have sniffled a little bit in my armchair!

When I first started out blogging, for the first two months or so I definitely knew every single one of my followers personally, which was a little strange as I’d post something and then get a text message from a friend telling me what she thought! The idea that I almost certainly don’t know you all from my daily life is a strange and wonderful thought! Hello internet friends! May we meet in person one day!+500 Likes

August 2019
August was a big month on the blog, it seems! Once again, thank you to everyone who took the time to interact with me here, either with your lovely and insightful and funny comments, or with clicking the ‘Like’ button! I know it’s a common thing for us writers to be constantly unsure about the quality of their work, and I certainly find it very encouraging to have something tangible to beat those doubts back when writing just seems too hard and nothing I type reads as anything other than garbage!

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Dragons have a rule that it’s not a true feast until there’s cake. I always knew there was a reason I got along so well with dragons…

Sharing happiness aside, I know it’s a common thing around this time to share advice or shine a light on interesting blogs that are out there, but I never know if I have enough insight into either to really add anything right now. Maybe next year, if I can?

In lieu of anything of that nature, I cannot recommend enough checking out The Orangutan Librarian’s series ‘Bloggers Who Deserve More Attention’ (Part 5 to be found here). I have found so many really interesting and lovely blogs through that series, which I’d never have heard about if it weren’t for them!20180423_093704

But I would very much like to share a few things that I have learned in the past two years, especially for new bloggers or those of us who’d really like to have a blog but aren’t quite sure about it either. Because I learned all of these lessons the hard way, and there’s no reason that anyone else should have to cry and shake to learn them too!

1. You Don’t Have To Have A Plan
I know, I know. All the advice out there says that if you want to be successful, if you want to, well, ‘make it’ and all.

And planning’s fine, but if you’re anything like me and thus a dreadful over-thinker? You’re never going to get anything done. I was a mess of notebooks and post-its and ‘but what if’s for months before a friend finally lost her patience and kidnapped my laptop to make this site. I flailed in the background while she did it, in hindsight it was hilarious!

Everything about my life is just so dignified, no?

Anyway, you know what I learned from this? Well, lots, but mostly what I learned was this: if it’s not right straight away? The world doesn’t end, you don’t lose your blogging license and sometimes you don’t know what you’re good at until you try, you know? We over-planners, we worry constantly about what happens if we make a wrong choice, and yeah, sometimes we’re right and that decision is genuinely really important or you’ll have to spend ages and possibly money unpicking a poor choice and all, but with a free blog?

Go for it! Throw yourself in at the deep end! Recklessly abandon your fears by the wayside! Panic is temporary and meaningless!

Maybe this isn’t how million-viewer blogs with sponsorship deals are born, but neither is staring at your notebooks until 3am while you’re too scared to move either. Give it a try and if it’s not your thing then you learned that much about yourself for free! There’s a life-coach out there who could have charged you £100 to tell you that!

2. Be honest with yourself about what you want out of this whole venture
Look, there’s no shame in admitting that everyone blogs for different reasons, and that’s both entirely natural and 100% OK. But a lot of advice for bloggers out there very much assumes that you are blogging in the hopes of getting a huge following, as quickly as possible, and preferably going to monetize and/or use it as a platform for self-publishing.

Which if that’s your goal, cool! Plenty of people do very well at blogging that way and I really enjoy reading their blogs. Just the thing is…

That’s not why I blog.

I blog to encourage myself to write even if I can’t think of anything especially poetic to write for stories, the force myself to branch out in what genres and styles of writing I can do, and to find people with similar interests. I’m much better at thinking about writing and talking about writing than actually setting fingers to keys, and having a blog helps me marry those two things together much better. Typing out my thought processes forces me to think more coherently and to face up to weaker areas in my own work. And that’s all very helpful, even if it’s not ever going to attract enough readers to make any kind of career out of it!

I know one photography blogger who uses her blog mostly as a way to store and sort her photos, and to be able to share them with her friends more easily since she hates Facebook. Ditto a friend who uses her food blog like my grandma used her cookbook. Again, highly unlikely to take off into a profitable venture, but perfectly suitable for what they wanted to get out of it.

So I guess, my advice is this; sit down and be totally honest with yourself about what you actually want here. Don’t feel like, just because some people can make lucrative careers from blogging, that you have to do so or you’ve somehow failed at blogging. there’s no righto or wrong way to do this, only right or wrong ways to go about achieving certain ends. So even though #1 on this list was ‘You Don’t Have To Have A Plan‘, knowing what you’re actually reaching for will help you a lot.

3. If it’s not fun anymore, take a break.
Again, I know; all the advice says that you have to post at least once a week if you want a following and if you don’t do that then you’ll never get anywhere, and that’s the same thing as failure, right?

I get it. I’ve absolutely been there!

And yes, if you want a large following, you need to be regular and frequent with your updates. You need to be reliable.

As previously noted, I’m writing more to chat to you lovely people and to make myself write at all than to become …blogging-famous? Is that a thing? And we all have lives and things that we want to do that get in the way of blogging, and it can be really stressful to try to juggle both.

Do you try to blog while you’re on holiday? I should say that I know some people for whom writing time is their only peace and quiet while away from home, so maybe keep that in mind! It can definitely work for some, not to mention assist in preventing a meltdown.

Do you work extra hard in the weeks heading up to your break to build up a backlog of posts to be released slowly? What if you need a break unexpectedly?

Look, we all get it, life is messy and complicated and tiring. If writing posts for your blog gets to be exhausting or difficult or stressful… just take a break. If you’re more responsible than me, you could put up a notice saying you’ll be away until whenever. But when the fun has gone out of keeping up with your blog, it’s time to take a break, breathe for a bit, and come back to it refreshed rather than burn yourself out.

4. Follow your interests, not trends
Again, it’s tempting, especially if you want to get noticed and attract followers to your blog quickly, to look up what’s especially popular and just do that. Marketing companies do it all the time.

And it’s always nice if your interests line up with what’s popular, but there’s no guarantee. Trends are always moving and so can be exhausting to keep up with all the time.

Besides, what else are you interested in that you’ll miss out on? No trend out there says taking pictures of a tiny dragon is going to be popular, but I’d never give up Ivan for anything! I’m probably the 5 millionth person to remark that Oxford is a weird and wonderful city with only the most tenuous of grasps on reality, but I live here and it continues to amuse me no end, and I like to share that. I know that book reviews are always popular, but I have tried and I just can’t write reviews of books for anything. They just come out as an unhelpful mess of randomness and even I can’t stand to read them over again.

Writing takes so much time and effort, at least for me, that it’s much easier and healthier for me to just write what I’m interested in, try to make it somewhat useful or entertaining for others and go.

I promise that whatever you’re interested in and find writing about to be fun, someone else out there will love reading about it too! They’ll tell you about it, and you can chat about your shared interests. It’ll be so much better than banging out stuff that you don’t really like but feel the need to write because they get good stats.

5. Fluke days are not the norm, don’t expect them all the time

Fluke numbers

Some days, and you might not even know why, you’ll have a huge spike in views out of nowhere. Maybe you just posted something that really took off? Maybe someone linked to you and it got popular? Maybe you’ll never find out what it is!

But you’ll have a huge number of views one day, and it’s really exciting. Here’s the thing I learned the hard way; that spike is likely to drop back off to normal levels sooner or later, and that’s normal. You try to keep up that kind of momentum, especially if you aren’t entirely sure how you got it in the first place, and you can easily burn yourself out.

Think of days like these as a bonus; it’s lovely to have it, you can probably learn a lot from it – what totally new people are drawn to on your blog, what they never seem to see, whether they have been adequately encouraged to comment or ‘like’ something, that sort of thing – but just as your bonus is not your salary, so too is this unlikely to be your new situation: normal. Relax!

6. Don’t measure yourself up against others: In that game we all lose
This one’s a piece of advice that will definitely serve you well in all aspects of your life: You are the one and only expert in being you out there in the world, so why waste that talent and energy trying to be a copy of someone else? Take tips from others, sure. Take inspiration from others; we all do. But no matter how much I love other bloggers, I’m never going to be as good at being them as they are.

Have faith that you are interesting to other people just as you are, because that’s 100% definitely true.

7. You don’t have to stay where you started
In all of this, in blogging as in life, remember: If it’s not working out, change it. So you started out wanting to talk about interior design but you’re really most excited to talk about your latest knitting project? So you thought you’d have loads to say about folklore, but actually you’re way more interested in discussing historical cooking?

But you’ve started this blog to talk about the first thing, right? And you might have followers who’ll hate it? They’ll leave!

Remember, blogging’s free, and you’re probably not being paid for this. Take a deep breath and do what makes you genuinely excited, otherwise it’s not worth it! If you’ve already got a following, start a new blog and link the two up. If you’ve not really got many followers and you’re feeling brave, revamp the whole thing and dive into something new.

You don’t live in Stephen King’s Misery book, no one is going to shout at you for changing what you want to write!

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Giving advice is scary, fortunately I have a tiny dragon who gives me cake! Thanks, Ivan!

Phew! I hope that was remotely coherent? Not to mention, helpful to someone?

What lessons did you learn when you started blogging?

New to this blog? Check out some of my other series down here:

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Posted in Oxford Odditites

Judging a Book By its Cover…

Friends, today’s post is short, but I need to share something with you all. Partly because I need sympathy, and partly because I have so many questions!

OK, so this is the Oxfam Bookshop in the middle of Oxford.

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It sits just across the road from my workplace. It is also one of two in Oxford, and the other one was five minutes walk from my old workplace. I have never been more than ten minutes walk from one or the other of these in my whole time in Oxford, and I’ll be honest, there’s the vaguest possibility that this may be ever so slightly connected to my massive hoard of books and my lack of money. Maybe.

It’s OK to despair of me, my family is right there with you…

Anyway!

So I was walking past the window on the way to work one morning and this piece of majestic-ness is sat in the front window!

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I mean… Just look at it!

I have so many questions! How do these creatures go together in places that aren’t this blog?

Only in Oxford, am I right?

Long-time readers of this blog will know that we of course have a tiny dragon in the office, getting into my stationary and judging me when I’m not writing and generally causing trouble. 

And if you live in Oxford then you also know that ducks get everywhere. They keep nesting in college quads and then causing chaos once the ducklings have hatched, because no mama duck ever has apparently thought to herself prior to building a nest, ‘Hmm… I managed to reach this nice quiet nesting site in this fox-free space by flying. But my ducklings, they will not be able to fly straight out of the egg. Is this site, therefore, a good idea?’Ch.9 - Duck and Cover

So Trinity (Summer) Term is one long saga of students with cardboard boxes chasing down ducks and ducklings to help them all reach a nice body of water. It’s probably character-building? At the very least, it’s a distraction from looming exams, I suppose.

Also, if you have twitter, and you don’t already follow Twitter of then please go and check them out, they are an absolute delight and treasure and I can think of nothing which so wonderfully summarises so much of what is good in Oxford. It’s ducks, it’s literary puns, it’s madcap adventures sometimes; frankly I don’t know what else you could possibly ask for, but even that is probably to be found right there on that feed.

The annual duck-related shenanigans naturally has made it into the Ghosts and Gowns series, if you fancy checking it out?

Anyway, so obviously I had to read this book and find out a few answers. Was it separated out into poems about dragons and poems about ducks? Were there poets about dragons and ducks together? Did these two groups of agents of chaos finally join forces and inspire great sagas commemorating their epic deeds? Were they eternal enemies locked forever in combat from whence there is no end or escape? What?Ch.14 Making Men of Myths - Part 2

And now, I know, I know that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s – frankly amazing – cover, but I regret to say that we can only speculate about the hidden potential behind it. For now, alas, we come to the saddest part of this post…

You see, the bookshop does not open until 10am, which is notably after the time I need to be in work. So I waited, eagerly, patiently I waited until my lunch break. Who needed to go to eat lunch? Who needs sandwiches when there is a book to hunt down? That book must be mine!

And then… disaster!

By the time I reached the bookshop, the book had been sold already! I missed it!

In hindsight, I suppose it was inevitable; with a book so inherently amazing, someone probably pounced as soon as they could get in…

Never will I read the epic adventures of ducks and dragons… *Sniff…*

On the other hand, I now can’t stop thinking of other amazing book titles! I have several ideas already:

Knights and Kittens – in which either the knights are often rescuing kittens from high perches in castles, or possibly doing battle with terrifying and fearsome kittens? (If this sounds unlikely, please check out the British Library’s post about knights battling snails! If it sounded totally legit on first thought, check out the pictures of knights battling snails anyway – I promise you that down that path lies only magnificent and wonderful things!)

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Knight v Snail III: Extreme Jousting (from Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor, France (Picardy), c. 1315-1325, Yates Thompson MS 19, f. 65r)

Mice and Magicians – In which a band of brave mice help and advise an apprentice magician as they journey through a series of challenges to reach the great magic tournament. Think the Knights of the Round Table (Round Cheese? Keep work-shopping that…) assisting Merlin, with side quests including the Green Squirrel, the Lapwing of the Lake, narrated throughout (naturally) by Gerbil of Monmouth…

Seagulls and Sphinxes – Neither side of this title will make much sense, but only one will eat you while you’re alive? But no seriously, this is really the perfect pair-up, since I don’t think that sphinxes can fly, but obviously seagulls have that down, and if you’ve ever been mobbed for your food by seagulls then you will know that seagulls would absolutely ask you impossible riddles if it got them more food somehow! I don’t know what their adventure would actually look like yet, but I’m working on it…

Anyone else have any suggestions? It has to be a team-up between a fantasy character/creature and a non-obvious tiny mundane animal… And if possible, do chip in with what the adventure story would look like!

New to this blog? Check out some of my other series down here:

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Posted in Uncategorized

When I asked for Murder Books…

… This very definitely was NOT what I meant!

Sorry everyone, this week’s post has been delayed slightly because my bookcase tried to murder me yesterday morning!

Yes, a completely solid, previously perfectly happy bookcase which has rested peacefully for over two years toppled over yesterday, throwing books across the room, and damaging me and the laptop I was working on! When I started writing, people warned me that writing wasn’t glamorous, but no one mentioned physical injury!

Ch.21 Hide and Seek MacGuffinsFortunately – despite crashing into two lamps, my favourite mug and, yes, the laptop – nothing was broken, the bruise on my head is barely noticeable and I’ve now picked everything up.

Unfortunately I don’t yet know what caused this murderous tantrum and must now try to think of a way to placate the Keeper of the Word Treasury. What common motives can I ascribe this trail of destruction to?

Greed cannot be the cause – that bookcase has as many books on it as it can possibly hold, and always has. It’s seemed fine for two years, so I must assume that its needs are being catered to here.

Loneliness seems unlikely, as it has several other bookcase-friends snuggled up to it, so plenty of emotional as well as physical support to be had all round.

At last! I think I may have hit upon the answer!

Obviously the root cause is jealousy, as I have been spending far more time writing than reading recently. Perhaps the bookcase feared it was being replaced by another in my life?

Ch.20 - The Magic that Walks Among UsThis would naturally explain the action of throwing books at the laptop, would it not?

Sadly one cannot really punish bookcases, can one? I mean, they exist in a permanent state of ‘Time Out’ already. They live by going to stand in the corner.

I know it’s bad discipline, but I see no other option than to give in. I shall simply have to human up and make an effort to read more books than I have been lately.

I know, the sacrifices I make for peace at home know no bounds, right?

I’ll catch you later when the laptop and I have licked our wounds…