Thursday, September 21, 2017

Phil's Writing: Current Projects and Activities


I announced that I was starting a new book some time ago. I started it and have done very little about it since. This is not because of total laziness, although I have to admit it has been a factor! The short answer is that my "day job" has kept me very busy with sometimes more than full-time hours plus as much as 3 hours' driving on top. I also do volunteer work proof-reading for the International Meteor Organisation and I'm also an active amateur astronomer. I also have a family who I like to spend time with. To see a list of books I've had published so far, click here.

Updates are listed most recent first. PAGE DOWN to view.

Being an Astronomer

This has been in the pipeline for nearly two years. Although I have added a few words lately, it is still at a very early stage and I have not included any photographs and diagrams, both of which I will eventually need. Despite the slow progress, I consider it will be a great beginner book when finished, even if it is after I retire! The idea is to really get to grips with what being an astronomer is about without re-hashing a load of data that is readily available on the internet or a public library. I am of the honest opinion that there are some excellent beginner books around but most fall into the trap of trying to do too much. Yes, the Big Bang is terribly interesting and important but it won't help you to find Mars in the night sky.

Phil's Scribblings

Not many astronomy writers would admit this BUT ... most astronomy books become out of date very quickly. Amateur astronomy is changing very quickly and all of the time. Many of us are actively trying out new equipment and new ideas. At the time of writing, I was experimenting with leaving a DSLR camera unattended while it takes repeated photos of the sky to capture meteors "on film". Yes, publishers can produce new editions but this is an expensive business. What I have done instead is to provide supplementary material for free on my website. This material is in the form of articles and booklets and can be read alone or can be read with my published works for updated information. Yes, this promotes my books but also makes them more useful for those who have bought and read them. For details, click here.

As an example, DSLR cameras were prohibitively expensive for most amateur astronomers but this is no longer the case. I have written a booklet about using a DSLR on its own and have updated it recently with information about photographing meteors.


Oct 20th

Well, I finished my section on the Moon. It was a bit tricky debunking the "supermoon" myth and explaining libration.

Oct 15th

I am now on the Moon section of the Solar System chapter. It is tricky because I need to give enough information to make the section helpful, without repeating a lot of stuff that is readily available on the internet and in other books I have written.

Oct 7th

First draft of "The Basics" now complete. I felt tempted to start writing an article about choosing a telescope but, yes, it would take ages to do and would just be like every other "expert's" attempt to do the same thing. Well on with the book this week, I guess.

Oct 1st

I was working on my full write-up for September that would end up under an update to my 2017 retrospective. I was finishing processing and was planning to produce my video.

As I was starting a new job, I was expecting slow progress on writing for a while.

Sep 27th

I re-visited my most recent chapter, entitled "The Basics". To be honest something was missing. As I've described above, I did not want to re-hash a lot of information about the constellations that is in the public domain and is free. Yet, on the other hand, I needed to do something to address what was missing. I went back to revise my summary and plan two new sections. I'm going to describe how to use star charts and describe just some of the more interesting constellations. This balances the need to provide enough information without making the book too large and not well focussed.

Unfortunately, yes, the book WILL take longer to complete but, at this stage of my writing, I'd prefer to write a book that really addresses the needs of the audience that they cannot readily address elsewhere.

Well I've done something that most writers tell you NOT to do. I made a few tweaks to a chapter. I felt that there was the question of asterisms that I just did not address. Yes, I also changed a bit of grammar while doing it. Conventional wisdom says you should write it all and THEN tweak it but I find it better to include ideas when I have them before I forget them!

Sep 27th

I finished my proof-reading for the International Meteor Organisation.

Sep 25th

Now just over halfway through proof-reading the latest issue of the IMO newsletter. To be honest, some of it is a bit over my head but there's a load of interesting findings. For example, there are significant variations in annual meteor counts.

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