A regular commenter and someone I’ve been following for a while, Bryce has not one, but two blogs he contributes to, as well as recently pass the bar and being a dad to three really young kids. Naturally I wanted to know his secret, so I asked him for a Blogger Query. This is the result:
Who is Bryce?
Bryce (oh no, how do I get out of third person?) is a recent law school graduate, married for just over 4 years with 3 children. Right now, I’m just coping with raising two newborns and a two year old. I knew twins would be hard, but my knowledge was more than wanting in that regard. It’s lots of work, but completely worth it. These kids are so much fun.
I hope to be able to practice law in a civil firm that practices multiple types of law, to be able to see what I like, but I’m also one of those rare breeds who actually enjoys family law. It’s one of those areas, especially representing children, where you can really make a difference in people’s lives.
What got you into blogging?
I’ve loved reading my whole life and always gravitated toward science fiction and fantasy. That love of reading brought me to George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, which in turn brought me to his website to see when the next book would come out, which then got me checking out forums (especially sffworld.com). [Ed. Note: What is it with GRRM and leading people to discover the online book community? He's like the gateway drug or something.]
From there, I started feeling like an expert in all things SFF. I would go into book stores and employees would ask me if I heard about certain books or events that were happening (such as HBO adapting Game of Thrones) and 9 times out of 10, I knew more than them. The other time I knew just as much as them. :-)
It was only a logical conclusion to start blogging and sharing my knowledge. Not to mention, I thought if schmucks like me can do it, why not?
Why Only The Best SciFi?
This may be better answered in the next question, so I’ll cop out for now.
In addition to Only The Best SciFi you also run The Stamp (of Approval). Why two blogs?
I always wondered what people thought of this and I think Brandon Sanderson’s new novella, Legion, does a good job describing it…
Okay, I’m not schizophrenic, at least I think not, but here’s the story. I started The Stamp (of Approval) on my own around 2009. I was an even bigger commenter back then and got around to quite a few blogs. Only the Best was one of those.
I not only won a giveaway they were hosting, but I was even crazy enough to email the person running the blog, Alec Coquin. Alec was thinking about expanding the blog at the time to three bloggers and conscripted me to join in with a post or two a week.
EdiFanoB was the other blogger (of Edi’s Book Lighthouse). To make a long story short, Edi decided to go out on his own, Alec started law school himself, and I have been the main blogger for the last year or two.
Alec still posts every now and then (to keep people on their toes) and Only the Best is still his blog. I kept The Stamp because it’s a place where I can put stuff that doesn’t really belong on the shared blog or that’s more personal to me. It’s been heavily neglected, however.
What is your unique selling point? Interviews, humour, news coverage?
Let’s see… all of the above. As in, I’m terrible at all of the above.
I interview every now and then, I post news that’s interesting to me, but my main focus is on reviews. There’s been a certain lack of time in my life, especially lately with the twins, where my main focus has been reviews. [Ed. Note: Seriously Bryce, you're such a slacker! I had a hard time keeping up with just one infant, nevermind two ;-)] I try to make them entertaining and fun, but I just don’t have the time anymore to do a great job like so many blogs out there.
What are your goals for your blog?
I don’t have any huge goals with the blog, it’s mainly my outlet for my own personal enjoyment and to stay connected with the community. I love talking about science fiction and fantasy and reading in general and a blog is a great way to be a part of the discussion.
At the same time, it’s been an amazing way to geek out and be a fan. I’ve meet so many authors that I even consider friends and talked to authors that I never would have had the chance to talk to, it’s tons of fun. One of the coolest was when I received an email from China Miéville out of nowhere. [Ed. Note: That definitely earns you bragging rights, that does.]
One of the eternal book reviewer debates is to rate or not to rate? Where do you stand on the issue?
I’m a very big proponent of ratings. I don’t think they stand-alone very well, but I think they’re a great way to get a feeling for a book from a reviewer you trust. In addition, sometimes I just don’t have anything really bad to say about a book, but a rating can keep that review in check because I can still like a book at 3 out of 5 stars.
Negative reviews, yay or nay? And why?
Definite yay. First of all, they tend to be the most entertaining. That’s a lot of the reason why I read blogs, for entertainment! Also, they tend to be much more informative about a book. The reviewer obviously has some good reasons for disliking the book, and they will point you to those parts, and maybe that’s something I would actually enjoy.
Lastly, they have a tendency to get people reading the book anyway. Once a negative review goes up, everyone wants to see if they think the same way.
I think this question has a lot to do with who the blogger’s audience is. If it’s authors and publishers, then negative reviews may be out of the question. But, if it’s readers, then as a reader, I prefer to hear what books to avoid. [Ed. Note: I think that as long as a negative review isn't just a bald 'It's crud, don't read it.' but a well-reasoned exposition as to why a reviewer didn't get along with a book, most authors and publishers aren't principally opposed to them.]
Wait, but why are my reviews are mostly positive? Nice try, that wasn’t part of the question. There goes that schizophrenia again.
How important are blogs to your reading choices?
Well, not quite as important as Amazon recommendations…wait, no, that’s not right.
Blogs are hugely important to me. Maybe even HUGELY IMPORTANT. Blogs (and Goodreads I should say as well) essentially make up my reading list. I get some ARCs that I can’t resist and I still have huge lists of books I’ve picked up from forum recommendations, but on the whole blogs are where I find out if books are even worth picking up.
How do you think blogs and reviewers fit in the book business?
I think it’s something that’s quickly becoming important, but still not quite there yet. The select (or should I say elite) group of people who use blogs are probably those who buy the most books. But there’s really not that many of them when you think of it.
Being online, I feel like everyone in the world is a consistent reader, but it only feels like that because they’re the people I find myself amongst. It’s amazing how many people don’t use the internet or even some type of recommendation system to find books. They just grab whatever’s convenient.
I just barely got my wife to sign up for Goodreads and she’s been able to see how much better life can be when you are able to search for books you might like.
I see blogs and reviewers becoming more and more important as the world gets on the internet more, but “book readers,” or “bibliophiles” just seem to be stuck in the past. And maybe the Amazon review, terrible as it may be, is just too convenient to expand one’s horizons. [Ed. Note: Hopefully that will change now all the sock-puppetry has been revealed.] I could go on, as you can see, but I’ll leave it at that.
You recently became a dad to two beautiful baby girls. Do you plan on reading them all your (age-appropriate) genre favourites? If so, which ones?
This is something that I can’t wait for, more than I can’t wait for anything, I can’t wait to read my favorites to my children. I already have a shelf where I’m setting aside age-appropriate books and I’m dying to get to it.
I mentioned before that I have a 2-year-old son, Dylan, and already attempted to read him The Phantom Tollbooth. It has lots of pictures, so I figured it might work, but he’s still at the age where all his books take about 3 seconds per page and he’s off to something new. [Ed. Note: Oh, soooo familiar. I swear at this age they have the attention span of a goldfish.]
Some others include A Wrinkle in Time, The Neverending Story, The Blue Sword, A Wizard of Earthsea, The Hobbit (of course), and more. I already started telling Dylan the story of The Hobbit and he’s now afraid of dragons in his closet….whoops. :-) [Ed. Note: Great choices. *quickly adds them to the to-read-to-Emma-list*]
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting?
I’m currently reading Janny Wurts’ To Ride Hell’s Chasm. Great stand-alone book in a market that’s hard to find stand-alones.
I’m eagerly awaiting Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War. I will literally stop everything to read that. What a great series.
The other one I’ll drop everything for is John Marco’s The Forever Knight. It’s had a rough road to publishing, with the manuscript sitting with the editor for years (yes, with an “s”), but it’s finally coming out early next year.
Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than books?
I used to be really obsessed with swimming. I swam constantly, even raced an Olympian or two, but now I’m terribly out of shape. I’m a big fan of waterskiing and really anything in the water.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
I like to think of mine as ingenious. What I do is organize by “read” and “to-read.” I only have so much shelf space, so the “read” ones go in the back or on less visible shelves while the “to-read” books go in the front or on the top where I can see them best. Usually they’re arranged by what I’d like to read soon. [Ed. Note: That is ingenious.]
As you can imagine, this system tends to split up series, but I’m okay with that. Any chance to rearrange my bookshelves is fine by me, it’s like being a kid again playing with all your old toys.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Bryce! You can find Bryce at both Only The Best SciFi and The Stamp (of Approval) or follow him on Twitter or Goodreads.