Friday 28 October 2011

The 11 hour book

It took me almost exactly 11 hours to write a book - prepare it for publication - and then send it off to Lulu for printing. "Disaster 1913" is based on newspaper reports of the Senghenydd colliery explosion and on the sinking of the Volturno.

All this is just an experiment to see if more books covering other disasters is a viable project.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Ragleth Writers - again

Another useful meeting of the writing group. It looks as if we might have a new member coming to the next meeting which is an encouraging sign.

I think the most useful thing I found out at the meeting is the value of making a list a list of jobs that need to be done daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly.

I am ashamed that I didn't think of the idea myself.

Update - January 2014    

The Ragleth Writers website can be found at
The Ragleth Writers blog can be found at

Friday 30 September 2011

Take a deep breath ....

I have had one of those busy but unproductive spells that sometimes jump up and bite you.

I have my younger daughter home for a few days suffering from a broken elbow.
I have decorators painting the outside of the house.
I have been having "issues" with the people who purchased our former house in Daventry. They accept they owe us £1500+ but they seem very unwilling to pay it back!
The school governors season has just started so I have been going up to Shrewsbury rather more often than I would have chosen.

All this has left me short of time and energy to write much. I have done some more E+E work and a little bit on old newspapers but nothing else of any significance.

"Must do better" as they would say at school.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

One project at a time.

My, self imposed, problem is that I lack the common sense to focus on one writing project at a time. Research it, write it, sell it - then move onto the next project.

I don't seem able to do this. I have cemetery project, the South African postcard project, the old newspapers project and the E+E project in my head at the same time and the number of jobs needing to be done seems rather overwhelming.

The good news is the the Biggles Companion - a project I did complete - is selling well. I make about £10 a week profit from Ebay and word-of-mouth sales. Not a fortune but it amuses me no end.

Friday 16 September 2011

A bit more on the E+E meeting

E+E have a wide circle of friends that they stay in touch with via Facebook and by email. Nothing too unusual in all of this except that most of their friends were either adopted, fostered or spent some years in a Childrens Home. E+E publish a newsletter every 3 to 4 weeks that goes out to over 100 readers. In many ways they count as authors just as much as I do.

E+E are both married and as all four of them work their household income in over £100,000 per annum. Not bad in your early 20's. They seem to spend lots of time and money supporting less fortunate friends and my admiration for them goes up week-by-week.

I am still hoping to make direct contact with their closest friend who recently moved to this part of the world. E+E are keen to broaden the number of contributors to the proposed book but some of their friends are very wary. We shall see.

Wednesday 14 September 2011

Meeting E+E

I had a very productive meeting with E+E today. We met on neutral territory and I think we were all rather surprised that what had once been a large supermarket car park had become a small supermarket car park with a large building site on two sides. The supermarket itself, and the cafe, had also shrunk considerably thanks to all the interal building work currently being done.

I arrived a few minutes early and saw E+E "lurking" near the entrance to the cafe. It was curious because I felt I already knew them quite well. I suppose you cannot read over 150 pages of the life history of two people without feeling like this.

I now have no doubt that E+E are 100% committed to seeing this project through to publication. They feel, and I agree, that former foster children and former Childrens' Home children are an ignored and invisible minority that for too long have been under the radar.

I am really looking forward to working with them.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Meeting with co-authors

I will meeting with E+E this Wednesday roughly half way between our respective bases.

I need to feel comfortable about all aspects of the project before I invest too much more time and emotional energy on what might be a long haul. Of course E+E probably feel the same about me.

It is a time-consuming task to put all the material intended to appear in various sections into some sensible order. The basic framework of three sections - the Childrens' Home years, the post-18 adventures and friends and family seems to work and I hope will leave the viewer wanting more rather than less.

Monday 5 September 2011

Ragleth Writers

The monthly meeting of the Ragleth writers has been and gone and I think todays meeting was the best so far.

Advice from more experienced and far more talented writers has steered me away from the Kindle route and back towards the more traditional approach of paper-based publication. It was proving a utter nightmare to write graphic intensive books - like my current project "Grave Mistakes" - in the Kindle format.

I read out another couple of short extracts from my other current project. This time it was two of E+E's friends who were centre-stage. I am encouraged by the feedback I received and providing the meeting with E+E goes well then I think a worthwhile and publishable book may emerge. I am going to be very disappointed if E+E decide that they don't want to carry on working with me but as I promised myself, and them, right from the start the final decision must be theirs.

Update - January 2014    

The Ragleth Writers website can be found at
The Ragleth Writers blog can be found at

Saturday 3 September 2011

The Biggles Companion

This book has made me some money. Quite a lot in fact but it is still a good example of the "how and where to publish" dilemma.

Proper publishers were not interested so it had to be self-publishing.
Paper based pubilshing was expensive on toner and paper and postage/packing costs ate into the profits.
An electronic version (*.doc) via Ebay was workable but the balance of proof established by Paypal means that any buyer who chooses to claim non-receipt gets a refund regardless.
PDF files are harder to edit and so harder for the bad guys to pass off as their own work. Both Ebay and downloadable from a web site versions were created but both with the Paypal problem
The Kindle version has just become available - so the jury is still out on that one.

Wednesday 31 August 2011

Martin and Claire Nicholson's Cemetery Project

Mr "Big Head" reporting one of his few successes rather than on his many failures.

Martin and Claire Nicholson's Cemetery Project

At the moment it consists of 273 web pages that report on a total of 475 visits to examine about 3.2 million names on graves. About 600 visitors per week look at some part of the site.

What I have NOT done is find anyway to make money directly from the website. There must be something I can do, even 10p each would be worth having.

Monday 29 August 2011

How about a joint project? Err, no thanks

I am not at my best with joint projects. There have been a few people, like the late Hannah Varley, who were a pleasure to work with but most of the time joint projects seem to convert a pleasure into a chore. Writing should not become a chore!

For me it is either whole-hearted participation or non-participation and this can make me unpopular with my "I do odd bits when I'm in the mood" colleagues. I once waited five months for a co-editor to write 250 words and vowed never again.

I have (yet) another weakness. I am not good at accepting the status quo. I recall an astronomical group who always had their AGM in Basingstoke for no better reason than that was where the founder (and hence Chairman!) lived. My suggestion that perhaps a more central location might be a good idea was NOT well received.

Thursday 25 August 2011

I'm not easily shocked but ....

Have you seen the difference in price between the many image processing software packages? Some of the big names fall into the category of "How much!!" followed by "Claire, look at this!" despite offering very little more than the other options provide - at 10-25% of the price!

As one well-known tennis player announced to the world, "You cannot be serious.". I never though I would need to use the phrase until I was told the rate per hundred words for writing reviews of astronomical books. By the time I had looked through the book in detail and written the 500 words the hourly rate would have been under 50p per hour. Err, no thanks.

Also in my sniper rifle gunsights are the firms that charge vast sums for jobs that the client could do themselves - for nothing and in a few minutes. Converting Microsoft Word to PDF files for example.

Monday 22 August 2011

It must be hard being an editor

Members of even the smallest specialist society invariably receive a magazine as part of the membership offer. Somehow the editor, almost always an unpaid volunteer, needs to extract articles from unwilling authors and this can be a thankless task.

About 20 years ago I had a brief spell as editor of the Niger News, the journal of the Nigerian Study Circle. One issue was 100% written by me - from the editorial, through a couple of articles on the Oil Rivers Protectorate and on to the auction realisations it was 100% mine.

In one of my hobbies, amateur astronomy, the number of authors is surprisingly high but as the hobby continues to fragment into ever smaller groups studying ever narrower parts of the science the shortage of "publishable" material remains acute.

I would have thought that specialists magazines would be well worth considering by any budding writer trying to "get published".

Sunday 21 August 2011

Flash Fiction

Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity. There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category. Some self-described markets for flash fiction impose caps as low as three hundred words, while others consider stories as long as a thousand words to be flash fiction.

There are lots of sites covering this sub-section of creative writing. The fact I had never heard the phrase before just goes to show how inexperienced I am as a fiction writer.

There are competition for writers of flash fiction and details can be found at

I am going to encourage Eve and Ella to submit an entry. I might even have a go myself.

Friday 19 August 2011

My diary

One of the biggest mistakes I've made is not keeping a diary. I kept one for the first year I was married and when I read it this morning it brought back so many memories of 1977.

The boredom of working for United Biscuits in Ashby-de-la-Zouch (Leics) and the many trips to their Grimsby factory. My first boss, quite possibly the worst boss I ever worked for and his boss, nice enough but even stranger in so many ways. Our first house and the time our neighbours wanted to buy a large part of our garden for a few hunded pounds.

So much to make me sigh and feel nostalgic about. But 1978 I didn't keep a diary and as far as happy or sad memories go 1978 didn't happen.

We spent 10 years down in Somerset and both girls were born down there but I'm shocked at how litle of the fine detail of daily life 1980-1990 I can bring to mind.

There might have been a book to write about my years as a lecturer and teacher but without a set of diaries I don't think so.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Little steps not one big jump

I think it is a big step from never having had anything published to becoming a money making author.

I have always been a fan of writing for specialist societies. In the last five years I have had articles published in journals intended for amateur astronomers, readers of the Biggles and Lone Pine books and for postal, postcard and railway historians.

I didn't get paid for these contributions but it did get my name known and this meant that when I progressed to the next level and wrote a more substantial study that members needed to buy at least they knew who I was.

Monday 15 August 2011

Kindle and the rest

I am just starting to find my way through the mass of supporting material that I will need to master if I was serious about putting all my publications (100+) on the Amazon web site in the "Kindle format". I suspect that image intensive books are going to be a nightmare, books with lots of tables, charts and graphs are going to be time-consuming but technically easy and text only books will be simple.

Time will tell.

Saturday 13 August 2011


Blogs can be really frustrating. Several times I chanced upon a blog that really caught my interest and I would look forward to reading the latest instalment. It was always disappointing when one of these talented bloggers suddenly stopped posting - and doubly so if they never explained why.

Around the time that I started working with E+E I had a brief flurry of activity with another former Childrens' Home survivor. She wrote a brilliant blog and some very amusing emails were exchanged between us. Then silence. The blog stopped, the emails stopped and I never heard from her again. Sometimes I wonder what happened to her!

I still send her an email about every six months just in case she wants to get back in touch.

Thursday 11 August 2011

An unproductive day

Do you ever have a day when you achieve nothing creative and when not one of your writing projects have progressed by so much as a sentence. I have been sitting in front of the computer for several hours - off and on - but my brain has failed to generate any usable content.

Part of the reason is that I am so annoyed with a professional astronomer who picked my brains over a variable star I discovered some time back. His subsequent article doesn't include the previously agreed wording in the acknowledgements section with regard to my, now deceased, co-discoverer. Clearly my brain cannot multi-task.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Ragleth Writers

Why did I join the Ragleth Writers?

I was invited to would be the simple answer. Judith Gordon is my next door neighbour and while we were drinking coffee it came up in conversation that we were both authors - although in very different genres.

But there was more to it than that. When I write an article in response to a desparate request from a journal editor the last thing I am going to get is balanced feedback on the merits, or otherwise, of my material. The editor and the society members are almost always supportive of the budding author and I knew I was slipping into a state of quiet complacency about my abilities as a non-fiction writer.

Joining the Ragleth Writers has given me supportive but realistic feedback that I need if I am to improve my writing skills and to expand the type of projects I might consider undertaking.

All of which leads neatly to my latest excuse for sitting in front of the computer. About three years ago I was invited to mentor two young adults who had recently left the care system. We exchange emails about twice a week and they have gradually been telling me their, very poignant, story. Together we are looking to write a book about their experiences.

Update - January 2014    

The Ragleth Writers website can be found at
The Ragleth Writers blog can be found at