Category: Uncategorized

28 Dec 2012

Being an author – and giving something back

Photo/Paul McErlane
Attending the launch of your first book – the most amazing experience

I had the idea for writing a book about my passion of eclipse chasing for many years. Many of my family and friends nagged me about it, saying that I should write about my eclipse chasing adventures.  The idea was always there, in the back of my mind.  But I always had doubts, or felt it wasn’t something I could do as I didn’t have the time.  I just didn’t really prioritise the idea of writing a book.

This changed in September 2010, when I attended a one day writers workshop run by a local author.  That was the day that I really took thinking about ‘the book’ seriously.  I was able to spend time thinking about what it would look like, why I would write, and what I would get out of it.  I learned so much by actually verbalising my thoughts about my idea.  I also found listening to others who were in a similar situation very inspiring.  My mind went into overdrive with ideas, and by the end of the day I bounded home from the workshop, feeling full of inspiration and energy, with a clear sense of how the book should be put together.  From that moment on, it all flowed freely and it was like I was ‘driven’ to write.

Three months later, I had a book contract with a major publishing company to write my first book.  And a year after that, I submitted my first book – I had become an author.  I am now currently writing my second book, and I feel extremely motivated to continue writing for a long time.  It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

I have published as an academic;  I have written three different theses for my honors, masters and doctoral degrees.  But there is something very special about having written and published a book about something you are passionate about.  I still feel like I should pinch myself sometimes.  For me, attending a writers workshop was the key that got the whole process started.

I really enjoy helping others begin this journey for themselves.  I run workshops all the time in my day job as a Clinical Psychologist.  I teach doctoral level students.  I supervise research.  I write academic papers.  I run small classes. I coordinate a research discussion group.  I also teach motivational interviewing to medical professionals, and those living with chronic illness.  I teach communication skills.  I help people change their lives for the better.  I encourage people to live authentic lives.  Workshops are what I do.  I believe I have quite a unique set of skills to offer to first time writers.  So, I aim to run workshops on a semi-regular basis wherever I am in order to inspire others to follow their passion and start writing.  See Events for more details.  It just feels like a great way of giving something back.

24 Oct 2012

Cultural observations within the path of totality

Taking a more relaxed approach to life at Mission Beach, south of Cairns

I have now arrived in Cairns, the largest city within the path of totality for the November 14 total eclipse.  I like learning a little about the local culture when I travel to see an eclipse.   I am a North Queenslander myself,  so there is a lot that I already am aware of.  However, living away for more than 20 years has given me a unique opportunity to make some cultural observations from an outsider perspective.

Firstly, the people of NQ are really extremely friendly.  When you first greet them, they sound like they are greeting you as someone they have known for years – you can’t help but respond in the same way.  Then there is the more laid back mindset – you feel like you are going at warp speed compared to locals, and so it forces you to slow down and take things at a slower pace.  Even the pace of speech is much slower which allows you to slow down.  North Queenslanders are also extremely helpful, and nothing seems too much bother.  And generally, North Queenslanders seem to be a little more connected with nature – they have experienced directly and repeatedly the power of nature, and they seem to have a respect, tolerance and acceptance for what happens.  (I wonder whether this is why they are a little bemused at all the fuss about the eclipse).  Finally, North Queenslanders are far less concerned about appearance and looking the same compared to the UK, where there is so much pressure on young women in particular to look almost identical.  Variety is embraced and celebrated here.

I feel really proud to be a North Queenslander, and I am glad I have this opportunity to be able to reconnect with the local way of life.

18 Sep 2012

The Euphoria of a Book Launch

The ephoria of a book launchTwo days ago, I had the Belfast launch party for the book Total Addiction:  The Life of an Eclipse Chaser.  It has made me reflect on how different the process is of publishing a book versus completing academic work.  I have spent many years in formal academic study, completing a thesis for each of my honors, masters and doctorate degrees.  For each ‘book’, the writing took around a year (two for my doctorate) and submission was a huge stress which involved juggling impossible deadlines and multiple demands.  This was then followed by anxiety about the viva process.  After each successful viva, the thesis was bound, submitted, and then left on the shelf as I immediately got on with the next part of my life, appreciating the new found freedom of time I had.  Although each of these achievements were celebrated at the time, life carried on rather quickly.

Launching a non-fiction book about my passion of eclipse chasing has been completely different.  The actual writing and work and deadlines are the same, but the motivation is different.  When you complete writing the book, there is no viva, but there is the anxiety about others reading and making public judgements about your work.  Then the build up to the launch is very exciting, and you are thinking of ways to increase your profile and that of the book.  Momentum builds, as you stay with the project and roll with it.  The launch itself – absolutely awesome.  It makes such a difference when there is a public celebration of the book.  To me, this launch was all about the celebration, and sharing it with others.  And how wonderful it was to see people queuing to have you sign it!  And to hear that people are reading it!  For the whole of my launch, I was grinning from ear to ear.  And I’m still grinning now.

Belfast Book Launch 2012.  © Paul McErlane
Belfast Book Launch 2012. © Paul McErlane
Belfast book launch party.  (c) 2012, Paul McErlane
Belfast book launch party. (c) 2012, Paul McErlane
Me and Terry Moseley, one of the nine featured eclipse chasers, at my Belfast book launch for Total Addiction.  One of the best days of my life!  (c) 2012, Paul McErlane
Me and Terry Moseley, one of the nine featured eclipse chasers, at my Belfast book launch for Total Addiction. One of the best days of my life! (c) 2012, Paul McErlane
22 Jul 2012

Awesome research

 Huangshan Mountains, China

The article called Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being has been making the rounds of online magazines and blogs this weekend.  The article was recently published in Psychological Science by three American business school researchers In this experimental study, the researchers explored the impact of awe by either eliciting memories of experiences of awe, or by creating awe using images.   They then found that those who had experienced awe subsequently reported having more time available to help others, increased patience, a less materialistic outlook, and were more willing to help others.   “The researchers found that the effects that awe has on decision-making and well-being can be explained by awe’s ability to actually change our subjective experience of time by slowing it down. Experiences of awe help to bring us into the present moment which, in turn, adjusts our perception of time, influences our decisions, and makes life feel more satisfying than it would otherwise.”

Of course, as eclipse chasers, we are well aware that awe has this impact upon our perception of time, our sense of self, and our experience of the world.  These themes were identified in my book following the analysis of phenomenological interviews.  It is great to see that real life research with eclipse chasers is consistent with experimental studies.

Melanie Rudd, Jennifer Aaker and Kathleen Vohs. Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being. Psychological Science, 2012

10 Jul 2012

Hot News!

The publication of my book Total Addiction:  Life of an Eclipse Chaser has been brought forward from September to the end of July.  The publishers and myself have been working behind the scenes in order to meet the earlier deadline.  It has only been in the past week that I have really started to let people know that the book is available to pre-order.  Since then, the book has become an Amazon bestseller – topping the Theoretical and Mathematical Astronomy Category, and at one point I was also second in the Hot New Releases in Astronomy.  I know it’s not a competition, but it was rather exciting to be up there above the likes of Prof Brian Cox, Sir Patrick Moore and Prof Stephen Hawking – if only for a week.

My sincerest thanks to everyone who is pre-ordering the book.  If you would like to pre-order through Amazon, please click on this link:  (again, apologies for the length – still can’t figure this hyperlinking out):″>Total Addiction: The Life of an Eclipse Chaser</a><img src=

This is my first book sold on Amazon, so I never really took notice of what the ranking figures meant, and how they were calculated.  When the book is a bestseller, these rankings are updated hourly, which means I am constantly checking to see where the book is positioned.  It’s yet another one of the things I have learned during the process of publishing a book – it has been a fascinating journey.


10 Jul 2012

A four year drought


An Eclipsed message
Letters made up of partial eclipses. Anything with holes can project the partial eclipse.

The countdown is on until the next total eclipse – 13/14 November.  Only 126 days to go!  It has been some time since I actually saw my last total eclipse.  The last one was on July 11, 2010 over Polynesia, Chile and Argentina.  I had to miss that one due to my partner Geordie overcoming a serious illness.  The total eclipse before that was on July 22, 2009.  I was in the crowd desperately willing the clouds to part in the Chinese seaside resort of Jinshanwei, just south of Shanghai.  Sadly, it was not meant to be.  So the last time that I have actually properly experienced a total eclipse was on top of a hill, in remote outer Mongolia, with Geordie and our eclipse chasing mate Chris.  What an amazing trip, amazing scenary, interesting people, and a great adventure, as well as a totally awesome eclipse.  That was on August 1, 2008.  It’s hard to believe that it was almost four years ago to the day.  I have been in serious withdrawal since, and as you can image am very keen to be in position in November.  I am literally counting down the days until I can stand in the shadow again.  Sigh.

21 May 2012

Live feeds and zzzzz

I stayed up last night watching the webcasts for the annular eclipse, which commenced at around 11.30pm local time in Belfast.  I was certainly not alone – I noted that many of the feeds had audiences of hundreds of thousands of people, all eagerly awaiting a glimpse of totality.  Those poor Panasonic guys up on top of Mt Fuji – I’m sure it was still an amazing experience, but it did look rather miserable.  It was great to see the eclipse from a variety of feeds.  I found myself flicking across different feeds, and I have to confess that I became so tired that I did not actually see any live feeds of the eclipse making landfall in the US..   Thanks again to all those involved in live feeds – it is much appreciated.   Even if I did fall asleep.