I enjoy this blog quite a bit, but it can be frustrating, too. A certain tension exists between the subject matter that I personally enjoy and the stuff that I know will bring in readers. This is nothing new. I’ve known for years that the parts of my own work that I myself prefer are only rarely favorites of others. By contrast, I’ve written things that I think are obvious or pointless and had literally hundreds of people tell me how amazing they are. This is one of the reasons why I write a lot. I never know what’s going to strike a chord with others.
Very occasionally, I’ll write something that I like that other people also really like, and those are the days—rare though they may be—that make me love writing. In the meantime, I hope to balance the need to write what I enjoy with what I think other people want to read.
This list seeks that same balance. It chronicles a very good year of blogging.The numbers in parentheses are reader counts as of this writing, which I’ve included to provide a sense of the size and scope of my audience. Those numbers represent reader feedback, which helps me decide what to write going forward.
**Top 20 Posts of 2015**
As you’ll see from the rest of this list, I write a lot about Dungeons & Dragons. Part of this is because I enjoy D&D, and part of it is because I know that my D&D stuff has a certain following. As noted above, this blog is about finding balance between what I like and what other people like. I was pleased, then, when my recent Star Wars writing found an audience because that gave me a new topic for one of my core reader demographics.
|Star Wars brings in readers almost as well as D&D.|
I don’t want to lose this blog’s geeky edge. I also can’t write about D&D every day—or even every week. Writing about Star Wars has been a nice change of pace.
19. D&D Story Starter: The Demon’s True Name (943)
Wizards of the Coast held a contest for would-be game designers, and I damned-near won. I made it past the first cut but not past the second and then published my entry here. I thought that the concept was clever, but compared to similar D&D posts, it hasn’t found an overly large audience.
18. Race Report: Swim Across the Sound (140)
The Swim Across the Sound was one of my year’s highlights. I was flattered by the interest my friends paid to the event and by the financial support that they gave to the Swim’s charity, St. Vincent’s hospital. I’d like to participate again in 2016, but I’m not yet sure exactly how.
|This was taken during the Swim Across the Sound.|
It's probably my favorite picture of me.
17. Views from Pemetic Mountain (87)
We climbed Pemetic Mountain in Acadia National Park on my favorite day of this past year’s vacation. A reasonable number of our friends then stopped by to look at our pictures.
|Beginning the descent.|
16. D&D: Fan Mail (115)
I know that people like my D&D stuff. Occasionally they even write me to let me know how much.
15. Reflecting on the Good Times (89)
|With Honor We Strive|
This post came out on R-Day for the West Point Class of 2019. I spent some time reflecting on my own experiences at Beast Barracks and wound up publishing them on the day that a good friend of mine retired from the Army.
This is one of my favorite posts, even though it’s far from the year’s most read.
This post covers my class’s twenty-year reunion at West Point. It was a great weekend, though I don’t know that I necessarily did it justice with the write-up and pictures.
My wife Sally qualified to teach PLYOGA this year, becoming the first instructor in the state of Connecticut. I took one of her classes and then wrote about it by way of supporting her, but I had no idea that the article had been so widely read until I started putting this list together.
12. Sunday Odds & Ends (152)
I wrote about pro football betting exactly one time this year, and the article got read more than a hundred times, even weeks after I put it up. Clearly, there’s an audience here, but I’m not planning to pursue it. This piece also has the dubious distinction of being the most spammed post I’ve ever written.
11. D&D: Christmas with the Orcs (503)
I wrote this little adventure for my kids, but we still haven’t playing it through. Readers have really liked it, however. Merric Blackman gave it a five-star review on his blog, and ENWorld featured it in an article just this past week. On a day-by-day basis, “Christmas with the Orcs” has become the second most-read article that I’ve ever written.
“5 Things on a Friday” is my favorite regular feature on this blog. Not every week’s post is a mountaintop crusade, but doing “5 Things” gives the blog some structure, and that’s good. This particular iteration was the best “5 Things” to appear this year.
9. Poetry: Behold the Dark One (72)
Not the most-read post of the year, but of the folks that read it, most really liked it. I was astonished.
I wrote about Army Football quite a lot this season. This post was my favorite because of the way it explained the triple-option offense.
I hurt my shoulders, knees, and elbows at the end of May and couldn’t swim, run, or lift weights for weeks afterwards. That was extremely frustrating, to say the least. This post tells the story along with what it felt like to finally get over the hump.
This wasn’t my favorite post of the year, but it was widely read, and it provided the impetus for an Elaina Emboo short story, “Drakar and the Order of the Blackened Glaive”.
5. Star Trek: Deconstructing Voyager (281)
In which I discuss my love for Star Trek: Voyager and why I think it’s better than The Next Generation. This is one of my favorite posts of the year, and that’s gratifying because other folks liked it as well.
|The good ship Voyager.|
I wrote about swimming quite a lot this year, and some of those posts earned more than 500 reads. I have no idea why folks are so interested in my workouts, but if I really wanted to optimize the blog for reader numbers, I would write exclusively about swimming and D&D.
I could rebrand the blog, “Diary of a Merman”.
This was my favorite swimming post of the year.
West Pointers are a tough audience. It’s easy to write for geeks or triathletes, but there are only fifty-thousand living West Point graduates, and fully half of them never read anything on the Internet at all. This is why Army Football has exactly one beat writer and why a significant proportion of Army super-fans aren’t even graduates. This article found an audience amongst actual West Pointers, and that made me happier than you can probably imagine.
|Army still uses the mule as a mascot.|
2. D&D: The Fall of Cahokiantep (2325)
“The Fall of Cahokiantep” was my favorite thing this year. It’s a sci fi D&D piece, and I worked on it extensively with one of my old Academy roommates. This story was the culmination of a series of emails and phone calls as well as five previous posts (listed below). Thankfully, it was also amongst the most popular pieces the year.
- D&D: Astal Madness & Mutant-Zombie Ghouls (766)
- D&D: 8 Spelljammer Story Ideas (302)
- D&D: 13 Things I’d like to see from 5e, Part 2 (724)
- Sketch in My Notebook: Nathan Bedford Stuart (57)
- 24 Causes of the End of the World (86)
This is the direction I want to go in the future. I want to write Cahokiantep fiction, expand the universe, and just… do more with it. I’ve got a few ideas scribbled out in my notebook, but I’ve yet to sit down and actually start working on anything. That will probably be a goal for 2016.
1. The Mystery of Malvern Manor (8697)
“The Mystery of Malvern Manor” is the most popular thing that has ever appeared on this blog. I wrote the outline for a D&D session with my kids right after the New Year, and we all enjoyed it. I personally thought that the concept was a bit simple and somewhat derivative, but having just run it as a single session campaign for my girls, I decided to write the thing up formally and publish it… just in case anyone was interested. It didn’t seem like a particularly big deal.
|I searched for "Haunted House Clipart" and found this awesome piece.|
ENWorld picked it up the next week, and then Merric Blackman gave it a four-star review on his website, and the rest is history.
I get at least one note per month from someone telling me that they just ran their first D&D game, that they used “Malvern Manor” to do it, and that everyone loved it. I’m glad that I can help. I wish more of those folks would give the Sneax and Elaina Emboo stories a try, but what can you do? People like what they like, and that’s “Malvern Manor”. I’m working on a Sneax and Elaina Emboo novelization, but I’ve no timetable for its completion.
That was my year. Did I leave anything out?