Field walk, Moores Lane, East Bergholt

Just to complete the story – this is what the lovely volunteers who got my lecture on how to identify a flint tool – complete with the supersized example from the blog post below – achieved :)

Field walk report, field adjacent to Moores Lane development


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One blow away from a teaching tool…

Found a lovely big flint nodule in a field the other day, and have just been sat outside in the sunshine attempting to turn it into an axe.

Got impatient with a ridge, hit it far too hard, split the axe down the middle (taking a slice of finger with it), and cursed horribly – until I realised that I’d made the perfect teaching tool for field walkers :)

THIS is a striking platform; this is a bulb of percussion (although they’re usually much smaller than this *blush*), and look, on this side I’ve taken the edge down with just an antler horn, note the size of the indentations; and on this side, the same with a bronze point.


Bulb of percussion & bronze tip work (on right)

Antler work on the flip side

Antler work on the flip side

Super! Now off to bleed on another hobby, had enough knapping excitement for one day :)

Whilst I’m thinking about it, here’s a very uselful little guide to fieldwalking. Thank you, Cambridge Archaeology Field Group :)

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On nuns and rocks

I came across a most interesting article today.

Even if you aren’t interested in mediaeval fighting (ARE any of my friends not interested in mediaeval fighting? What does that say about us? lol), the article rocks for this statement alone. And scroll down to the first illustration to see it in action :)

“The manual includes instruction on all sorts of weapons and covers a wide arrange of scenarios, including, brilliantly, how to fight a nun who has a rock wrapped in her veil while you are standing up to your waist in a hole. (Whether or not Tolhoffer intended it, the description also works as a lesson for nuns: how to fight a man standing up to his waist in a hole while you have only a rock and your veil).”

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2015 Reader Survey Results


Mary Tod’s 2015 survey on what makes a good book, in the eyes of readers – mainly of historical fiction. Essential reading – and thanks for all the work you put into it, Mary!

Originally posted on A Writer of History:

2015 What countryThe 2015 reader survey ran from April 23 to May 19 and reached 2033 participants from different parts of the world.

2015 Historical Fiction Reader Survey report summarizes results shedding light on preferences and habits of readers, particularly in the realm of historical fiction. The report includes unique questions for authors, bloggers and publishing industry professionals as well as a series of questions regarding social reading. Click here to access the full 24-page report.

Stay tuned for further insights regarding favourite authors — more than 3600 entries to collate — and favourite historical fiction — more than 4000 entries to collate — as well as deeper analysis from cross-tabulation of results.

Best way to ‘stay tuned’ is to follow A Writer of History (see the FOLLOW button on the left hand margin).

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I have had an interesting day so far; I got up, put my glasses on, and cursed as a lens slipped out. Closer inspection (one-eyed) showed that the frame had snapped just above the nose-rest.

Hah! thought I. I can fix this; what is the point of developing a new hobby as a jewellery maker, if I can’t put the skills to good use? Some fine wire (or at the worst, gaffer tape) will do. Unfortunately, tightening the wire caused the frame to snap at the top.

More cursing, and a call to Specsavers, for an urgent appointment – and a frantic scrabble through drawers to find something I can see to drive in. Can you be here in 20 minutes? Um, I can try…

Driving as fast as I dare in pouring rain, trying to remember how to get to the carpark in town that’s by far the nearest to Specsavers, but has a very eccentric way in… Yes! A stroke of luck; found it by accident. Its parking meters are both bust. Gah! I hope the parking officer is Someplace Else today.

Strolled into Specsavers one minute before my appointment. Got seen and processed through the various stages very efficiently; paid less than I was fearing; and then got the bad news. The replacements will be two weeks coming :( And they can’t fit the old lenses into anything temporarily, because you need the EXACT same frames.

Back home. The piles of discarded glasses cases need tidying. One pair that had been discarded earlier – prescription sunglasses, no good in the rain – look interesting. Find a pair of reading glasses, and inspect – Yes! They are the same frame!

Hunt for teeny screwdriver. Pop out brown lenses; pop in clear, old ones. Drop teeny screw on floor. Curse. Find it on hands and knees; after much fiddling, replace. Wash glasses; try on. EURGH! No! Curse. Swap lenses, left for right. Drop teeny screw on desktop, curse, replace; wash; try on.

Whew! Not too bad. Not as good as the old set up, but probably OK for a fortnight. I can now see to read, drive, and work. If I’m really lucky, my brain will compensate, and I won’t have this headache for a fortnight!

Times like this make me SO aware that I would have hated growing old in any era that predated prescription lenses!


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Mediocre Failures


This is a superb response to the “Pass SATS or you’re a failure” Conservative policy announced today. Every child Matters, right? This paragraph sums it up for me:
“Perhaps most importantly, we could offer kids like mine what their primary school has offered them already : care, compassion; an opportunity to shine at non-academic activities like swimming, or telling stories, or singing; a safe place where dedicated adults try to find what they’re good at (even if they’re not actually that good at it) and nurture those abilities and interests. Rather than saying “Look, kid, you’re 11 now, so jump through this specific hoop, or you’re a failure”, we might see it as our duty to try and offer at least a range of different approaches to education which allow all children to get something valuable out of their last half-decade of schooling.”

Originally posted on Disappointed Idealist:

My children are adopted. They were adopted at the ages of three, four and six. As with nearly all children adopted in this country over the last couple of decades, this means that their early life experiences were pretty terrible. As each was born, their collective experience of life became more damaging, as their circumstances worsened. So the eldest is least affected as her first years were perhaps less difficult experiences, while the youngest is most affected, as her entire first two years of life were appalling. I’m not going to go into detail here about their specific early life experiences, but if you want to read up on the sort of effects which can result from serious neglect or abuse, then you could read this .

Why am I writing this ? Especially now after midnight in the middle of the Easter holidays ? It’s because I’m so angry I…

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Oliver Rackham

“It was hard to penetrate any room in his house because of the piles of books and specimens.”

That’s the kind of obituary I’d like – Oliver Rackham was a true scholar; ecologist, biologist, archaeologist – and with the authorial skill to put across the wonderful synthesis of ideas he came up with.

I never met the man, but I own many of his books, and I’m sad he’s not around to write more.

Oliver Rackham; thank you; rest in peace.


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I wanted to be a writer when I grew up…

A guest article I wrote on the subject: My friend Amy Burns Heffernan has a fascinating and growing blog on all things writerly, with a good sprinkling of guest posts, at her blog “Without books… life would be dull!” – I love her concept, and am proud to be asked to contribute.   Nicky.

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Goodreads giveaway – Henry and the Magic Pencil Book 1

To celebrate the release of Book 2, I have a signed copy of Henry and the Magic Pencil Book 1 up for grabs on Goodreads.

Limited time offer, put your name in the hat today! Or if you can’t wait, all the stories are on Amazon.


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Writing Henry – getting the covers spot-on!

It occurred to me that people might be interested in the process I use to write these childrens’ stories, which are very different to writing either stories or novels for adults. In the first of this mini-series, I introduced you to Henry. The second talked about the inspiration for the stories. The third discussed story structure, and some of the mechanics of getting the stories to work. In this last post in the series, my daughter – a professional artist, who does all the covers – talks about her process.

Fi11Nov2014Fi says:

“My mum is the best client ever. This, however you may beg to differ, is not bias. It’s not because she’ll still love me if I miss deadlines (my services come with a certain amount of inbuilt procrastination) or because the content is easily achievable (it varies, and I’m never against dinosaur reference researching when unaccountably she doesn’t have a full topical lecture prepared with slides) but because she knows what she wants.
  This simple aspect derived from her process of storytelling, means that when she skypes me, or we’re face to face (either at home or on rare and happy occasions beer festivals) I get a clear understanding almost straight away of what is needed from the image and how it fits in around the other covers she wants from me. I am completely spoiled. It’s wonderful.
  Take one of the latest books for example (check them all out, they’re awesome *shameless plugging*). We sit down. I sip my mead, then open my sketchbook and grab my trusty black biro. ‘I want a Viking’ she says ‘a proper one, without the horned helmet. Did you know that there’s no evidence of them wearing them? Depictions around the 8th to 11th centuries had them bare headed or with simple helmets.’ This continues for a little while, ‘he needs to look confused please, as well.’ During this dialogue I am happily sketching away, I like vikings. They remind me visually of Tolkein’s dwarves and I’m drawing an expansive beard and a comically confused expression. Even, after 5 minutes of Viking hat history, adding a helmet because after receiving all that new information. Yes, he will have one. Without the horns.
  From this meeting it becomes fairly straight forward, she’s approved my preliminary sketches of this character, we have been over two other book covers in the same session. I’ve justified my composition choices and we’ve oohed and ahhed over what the primary background color should be (the books are sold in threes so some visual tying together is nice). I go home, rosey, and sit down before my computer and my graphics tablet.
  My first job is to upload my preliminary sketch to the computer, I do usually like to get a rough one down first using pen and paper. It feels a lot easier to me, in a digital format mistakes are too easy to undo, this takes away from the end quality which keeps a lot of its original charm from those first imperfections.
  I settle into photoshop now, drawing over the sketch on different layers. The colours are blocked in and the hair layer kept separate from the clothes layer, for example. Once these first steps are done I add in the agreed background colour, this might be the first time I use the primary brush of these covers. A chalk brush gives a great amount of texture, I like the soft effect that can be achieved.
  Shading is completed throughout the picture, then the colours adjusted so they look good next to each other and as a whole. At this point the original sketch has vanished, so I dig it up again and make sure I haven’t strayed too far.
  I add the familiar ‘Henry Baker’ to the bottom then Skype my mum. At this point in the process the image is usually (in my mind, unless I’m stuck and actively looking for guidance) 75% done. She has been known at this point to declare them finished and grab them for final text addage. I find this slightly stressful. I’m looking for feedback and changes! But the customer is, in this case, right as she is happy. I then simply save the image as a jpeg in the highest quality setting and sit back. Trying really very hard to not look too closely at the picture again, the urge to tweak is deadly and ever looming.
Onto the next cover. “
See why I love my darling daughter so much, not only for her sweet self, but as a co-creator? She listens to my random history outbursts without compaining! (much.). She takes my ramblings and draws EXACTLY what I wanted, much, much better than anything I had in my head. She puts up with me nagging her at increasingly frantic intervals, as my arbitrary self-imposed publication deadlines approach. And she still comes home to visit :D

The first three Henry stories have been available for some time, either as a bundled paperback, or as individual electronic stories. The next three have just been released, with three more planned early in 2015.

The stories are:

Book 1

Henry and the Necklace – In which Henry meets a surprisingly large elephant.

Henry and the Magic Teapot – Henry tries to give his Nan a present – but she is not happy with the results!

Henry and the Football Boots – Henry has to choose between being brilliant at football, or hurting his friend.

Book 2

Henry and the Viking – a trip to the museum has some interesting consequences.

Henry and the Dinosaur – Henry’s brother Mike creates a big problem!

Henry and the Bird Bath – Henry swears never to try karate again…

They are all on my Amazon page: UK and US

As a bonus, I’m recording Henry and the Football Boots, and will be giving that recording away.

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