Here I Am!

February already?

The run up to Christmas and the New Year was busy in our house, and then it was straight back into work. Except that work was not the way that it is regularly. I’m trying to add to my business, or rather my outputs, by being a publisher of role-playing games and materials. Unpacking that is a post for another day, but I found myself working on that business a lot in the quiet days of January – when universities are less likely to hire a skills trainer for workshops and the like – but also feeling secretly like that was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

I earn a living and support my family by doing workshops (and sometimes selling books!), not from games. It felt wrong to spend my time on those things. And yet I wanted to be working on making zines, developing games, commissioning artwork and laying out text. So what was wrong?

Summer Experiments Revisited

Just over two months ago I wrote a post where I talked about my plans for the summer. I would be blogging less, and on different things, and I’d be doing that because I had a writing project that I was super keen on! I was going to change the world! I was young, the world was good and nothing was going to get in my way!


Well, what actually happened was I went on holiday for a week, came back, looked at what I was writing and fell head over heels out of love with it. I thought that the writing itself was alright, but I wasn’t sold on the overall project any more. It didn’t sing to me. And similarly for the alternative blogging that I was thinking of doing on here, I just didn’t have the heart for it any more. I liked the concept, but wasn’t sure about where the execution of it was going. I guess, maybe it didn’t need to be going anywhere in particular, but still I just wasn’t feeling it.

So I did something completely different: I started a role-playing game business.

Interesting Things, August 6th 2015

It’s a long, long time since I’ve written a post for this blog – I deliberately took time off to focus on other projects (more on those soon), but today I want to share a couple of links to interesting things.

We The Humanities, curated by Emma Cole – all this week We The Humanities is being curated by Emma Cole, who recently produced a daily vlog about the last thirty days of her PhD leading up to submission. Emma has some interesting things planned for this week, and on Thursday – tomorrow! – I’ll be headed down to London to film a vlog episode about the viva and viva prep with her, as well as doing a Q&A on viva things with her. Check out the Twitter accounts above for more details.

Extremely Useful Notebook Organizing Hack – a title that does what it says on the tin; I’ve recently been cultivating a SANE habit of starting the day by recording a page of ideas in a little notebook, but that hasn’t quite hit the productive highs I’m aiming for. I think that having a more substantial notebook for idea development might help, and organisation-wise this might just make the difference.

20 misused English words that make smart people look silly – I’m going to print this and stick it in front of my desk for when I get my writing groove back…

10 tips for more concise writing – …and I think I’ll be sticking this next to it.

Explaining graphic design to four year olds – this article delighted me in a number of ways. First of all, I liked the approach and the results that the author took; it made me think about design and what it is, as it’s definitely a component of my work, and perhaps I need to recognise that more and think about how to apply it. But it also made me think about my work and the work of a lot of people I meet: researchers. How would you explain what you do to a four year old? My daughter is fast approaching two, and her language is really starting to come along – although the phrase “Chocolate biscuit please daddy please!” is clearer than some others – I have no clue what to say to her when she is a little older.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that if I can find a way to explain what I do to a four year old, then perhaps I’ll have figured out what I do too…

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Interesting Things, June 8th 2015

Hello! How are things in your part of the world? Since I last shared an interesting things post I’ve had a strange series of weeks. First, I was ill – and being ill sucks! I got better after a couple of days, but I realised that I have very little in the way of relaxing strategies. And as I write that I realise how odd it sounds: why would someone need strategies for relaxing? People talk about strategies or systems for time management or planning all of the time, but it feels wrong to think about strategies for relaxing.

I’ve also had a couple of weeks where I’ve been working from home. I’ve missed being out and about delivering workshops, but enjoyed the extra time around family. It’s also meant that I’ve had time to start planning for the next writing project, which I’ll probably be in a position to share something about soon. I’m aiming to publish again by mid-to-late-September I think, but this is contingent on me getting first drafts done by the end of July. I’ll need to use this last week of non-workshop time to really get a good plan together, and also break some ground on chapters……..

…….but I think it’s doable 🙂

Anyway! What have I been reading?

Interesting Things, May 18th 2015

A few weeks back I did the first of these regenerated round-up posts. A lot has happened since then, not least of which I published my second book. I also had a busy couple of weeks, working on the Manchester GRADschool and a First Year Development Workshop at Liverpool. With finishing a project like publishing a book, my brain is at once happy that it’s done, sad that it’s over and curious to know what I’ll be working on next. As a way to try and wrap things up I wrote a couple of posts about writing The Viva: Who? What? How? last week that you might be interested in. Meanwhile, elsewhere…

The Viva: Who? What? How? is out!

"The Viva: Who? What? How?"

The Viva: Who? What? How? is out now!

What is this?

An ebook. Twenty-seven chapters, nearly 20,000 words, and answers to the most frequently asked questions about the PhD viva in the UK. I deliver viva preparation workshops, and over the last five years I’ve got a great understanding about the questions that distract PhD candidates. This book helps eliminate those distractions.

There are more details below, but if all you want are the purchase links, here they are!

  • In the UK, The Viva: Who? What? How? is in the Kindle Store here.
  • In the UK and around the world, The Viva: Who? What? How? is available from Payhip here.

“The Viva: Who? What? How?”

Next Tuesday I’m releasing my second book on viva preparation, “The Viva: Who? What? How?” which has the subtitle of Frequently Asked Questions About The PhD Viva. What does it look like? I thought you’d never ask, the cover looks like this:

"The Viva: Who? What? How?"

I had a lot of fun writing Fail Your Viva, and I’m really pleased that people have found it so useful. Last year, as I continued to deliver viva preparation workshops, a thought crossed my mind but I didn’t know what to make of it: people ask me a lot of questions on these workshops, that’s interesting, perhaps I should record them. In the autumn when I started writing this blog regularly I thought that a little series of posts on the common questions about the viva process would be something that people might find useful. The comments and shares that those posts got told me that people wanted more – and then the idea for the book hit me. A book answering the frequently asked questions about the PhD viva.

Et voila!

Interesting Things, April 27th 2015

I used to do a fortnightly round-up of things that I had been sharing or things that I had seen whilst on my travels, and then I stopped doing that. I think it would be a mistake (for now at least) to promise to do that regularly again, so instead I’ll start this irregular series of posts: Interesting Things. The condition for sharing things in these posts is that the thing I’m sharing interests me (or it’s something I’m doing, because I like talking about myself sometimes!).

Fail Your Viva now available via Payhip!

I’m now using Payhip as a platform where people can purchase my books. My creator page on Payhip is here, and you can go straight to finding Fail Your Viva by clicking here. My book being available on Payhip means several cool things:

  • If you have wanted to buy a copy of Fail Your Viva but couldn’t because the Kindle Store doesn’t operate where you live, now you can buy it: whoever you are, wherever you are, the book is available to you.
  • When you buy via Payhip you get access to both .mobi and .epub files, both DRM free, no restrictions of any kind on what device you read them on.
  • There is a permanent 10% discount available. Simply click the “Share & get 10% off” button to tweet about the book and save.

And from now until midnight on the 31st of March, I’ve set up a 20% off coupon for the book! If you want to buy it, click on the coupon link and enter the phrase FYVLAUNCH to get the book for 20% less. Simple as that.

I’m really interested in using Payhip for future digital releases. I will still be selling my ebooks in the Kindle Store, but will be exploring various possibilities for Payhip – and when my second book is released, I’ll be doing something very special… Watch this space!

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Funding the Podcast

Last year I had what I thought was a bright idea: I would create a Patreon campaign to support the production of the Viva Survivors Podcast. An ongoing patronage programme where people who wanted to fund the creation of a resource sharing PhD and viva experiences could – completely opt-in and no barriers or paywalls in front of the episodes. That’s the very last thing that I want.

I had high hopes and then… nothing! No patrons, no enquiries, nothing. And then after a couple of months a piece of EU legislation around VAT and digital sales came in, and I had to take down the campaign anyway (it would put me in an incredibly difficult position to have to register for VAT, and the application of the rules to platforms like Patreon are not clear yet).

Back at square one? Not at all.