My favourite (Blogging) things

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

What are the best tools you use on your blog? (widgets, templates, etc.)

I remember the good old days.

I started blogging way back in 2011, on Blogger. The idea was to talk about my life in Devon, my work in Gravesend and share a few recipes. My wife had been following a few blogs connected with her hobbies, I’d taken a look and wondered if I could do the same. It was free to set up a Blogger account so I figured, why not?

Here’s the link to my second ever post (the first one just said welcome).

Looking back at my early posts, I can see how much my style has developed over the years, as well as how much more sophisticated the software has become.

I also started a blog for my (new) baking business in 2013, with feedback and recipes.

I moved to this site on WordPress with the launch of my second novel in 2015. I chose to be self-hosted so that I could have my own domain name and used it to build my author brand.

I still kept the other blogs going for a while but in the end, it was too much work and a lot of duplication. I stopped posting new content to them in 2017. They’re both still there if you want to take a look.

Initially, WordPress wasn’t that much of a step up from Blogger, just a slightly different way of doing things. That was, until the arrival of the Gutenberg editor in 2019. There was a steep learning curve with the new editor but as you got into it, the new editor was a much better way of preparing your content.

I love Gutenberg, the flexibility and all the things that I keep finding out about it. Layouts are so much simpler, you no longer have to worry how a post will look on different devices, the editor sorts it all out for you.

My favourite things at the moment are,

Reusable blocks, great for someone who posts regular features, and for including links. The best thing about it, if you change the content of a reusable block on any post, to include a new link or more information, it automatically changes the information in every old post that contains that block.

The Media and text block, which I use to display my books, with the picture and text all neatly formated and combined, without me needing to make any effort. You can include clickable pictures too. Like this,

How far is far enough? Andorra needs to get away from her ex, but is Saturn taking it a step too far?

When Andorra’s life turns upside down, she decides on a career change. Running a diner on a mining station orbiting Saturn. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

With her best friend Cy in tow, Andorra reckons it’s the best thing for them both. A chance to start again where nobody knows them.

Trouble is, there’s a secret hidden in the café. Before they have a chance to get settled, there’s a queue of dubious characters trying to find it.

While learning to bake and get used to life in space, Andorra has a murderer to catch!

Before they strike again…

“Agatha Raisin meets Miss Marple, in Space!”

“a tale that has everything – humour, suspense, a strong but struggling heroine, a fantastic sci-fi setting, and a truly universal story.”  

or even like this

There’s a body in your hotel bathroom, What’s your next move?

It was only supposed to be a hotel review, all Miles Goram wants to do is finish up and get off Reevis as quickly as he can.

It’s an airless planet where everyone lives under a giant dome, not the sort of place he wants to be stuck on. The body in his bath has really fouled his plans up. Then he discovers the dead man’s secret.

Miles gets drawn deeper into life on Reevis, he finds corruption and mistrust everywhere. Balcom Industrial treat the place like their own kingdom and discourage any questioning incomers. As a journalist and ex-convict, Miles is top of their most unwanted list.

If the death threats and the fact that everyone trying to make him leave wasn’t enough, there’s the added distraction of a missing heiress thrown in.

Suddenly his life has got very complicated, Miles wants answers.

If only he can live long enough to find them.

“Brilliantly crafted sci fi”
“Starts out fast and keeps going. A wonderful read.”

The Link preview block, being self-hosted on, Jetpack doesn’t work. Which means that reposting from a site is very difficult. This block makes it easy, just enter the link and it does it for you.

here’s a post explaining how I use it

And the best bit about all of the blocks, are the options for customisation, just about every value or piece of the display can be tweaked to fit your desires. In every block, independently.

At first, I thought it was a pain, having to change each one, then I discovered the clone tool. This copies the block you’ve just written, with ALL its attributes and allows you to start again, secure in the knowledge that it will be an exact replica.

And the list goes on, when I look back at Blogger, my first post, I can see just how far we’ve come.

How about you, what are your favourite blogging tools? Let me know in the comments, then go and check out the other great blogs in this hop.

Just follow this link.


12 Responses

  1. Vanessa Valeros Calapano

    Wow, your blogging journey is really interesting. I bet blogging is really a fulfilling thing to do.
    By the way, this is my first time to visit your blog. I am a new blogger and I hope you can support me. Just recently, I made a challenge to myself to visit at least 10 blogs in a day and during my visit, I will leave comments. At the same time, I will have you link posted on my blog. Hope you can visit and check it.

    • Richard Dee

      Hi and welcome, I hope you enjoy my blog. Good luck with your challenge. I will certainly be visiting soon.

  2. Stevie Turner

    Hi Richard, thanks for this info about the Gutenberg editor. How much does it cost to be self-hosted please (my WordPress site is a free one)?

    • Richard Dee

      Hi, it’s a very variable cost, there are offers all the time on various hosts and it depends on how much storage, the level of security and other features you want. I guess mine costs around £15 a month now, but I had a lot of free time and things at the start.

  3. Jacqui Murray

    I really hate Gutenberg but not so much 1) I don’t recognize it is an improvement, and 2) I don’t recognize that I will eventually have to like it. Sigh.

    • Richard Dee

      Fair enough. It wasn’t easy to learn but I’m a stubborn old *** and I have to admit that I rather like it now 🙂 🙂

    • Richard Dee

      Hi, that is a feature of Virtue, the theme I’m using.

  4. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    It is interesting that you have embraced this new format because lots of people don’t like it. I have used it for my old flagship blog, Bake and Write, and had not problem with it. It hasn’t appeared on my other three blogs so I haven’t bothered with it. I am a bit of a fly by the seat of my pants blogger and just write and post as and when I feel like it so I haven’t bother to find it but will use it if it shows up on WP.

    • Richard Dee

      I’m a bit of a sucker for new stuff anyway, and it just seems to click with me.

  5. phil huston

    The slideshow and or linked graphics in blocks is a good thing, and only available, from what I can tell, in $ sites. For marketing, it’s a gas. Too bad none of those things can write for us!

    • Richard Dee

      I only use the free versions of this theme and all the widgets on my site. Sure I pay for hosting but that’s my only expense. I could do with one of Orwell’s novel-writing machines, now that I might consider paying for!!!

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