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