The Mojave Desert In One Picture

My road trip through the Mojave proved successful but I’ll be going back soon. Just one picture from my trip. This is the Mojave Trail Road, along the Mojave River, some miles outside of Newberry Springs. Click here for a bigger picture. (internal link)


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News and Notes

I’m happy to report I’m working on another outdoor magazine assignment. I’ll be traveling soon to the Mojave Desert to start taking photographs and to conduct interviews. Looks like the weather will be good.

I’ve also been asked to submit a complete book proposal to a local publisher. He and I are on good terms, although every idea I have sent to him has been deemed non-commercial. In fact, we are on such good terms that I was able to send him a book pitch that took only twenty minutes to write and was just four paragraphs. I sent that short pitch to him, knowing there was no reason to send a complete pitch if he didn’t like my idea to begin with. Well, he does like my current idea so he’s asking for the following:

  • A cover letter, including: a brief summary of the book, the approximate length (word count) of your manuscript, and why you think your book is a good fit for us.
  • A table of contents or outline of the book’s contents
  • Two sample chapters
  • Any photographs or illustrations you believe might assist us in evaluating your proposal (do not send originals!)
  • A brief list of similar or competitive books, including title, author, publisher, ISBN number, and date of publication. (These are all available on and other online booksellers.) Tell us what makes your book unique. How does it differ from your competition? (This is vitally important information — please take the time to research thoroughly and think about it carefully.)
  • Marketing and publicity plans or ideas
  • A description of your book’s target audience (Please be as specific as possible.)
  • A brief autobiographical summary or résumé. What do you, as the author, bring to the project?
  • Your mailing address, daytime phone number, and e-mail address

Whoo! Quite a list. But very typical for a book proposal. I am now starting to think about how to do all of this. Two sample chapters. Tough. But the door is open. Now, I have to walk through it.

Wonderful site on the Mojave here (external link) Picture from their website.

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My Outdoor California Article is Going to Print!

It’s always a wonderful feeling when an article nears publication. I’ve been sent a .pdf of my most recent magazine article to review and to submit corrections. The article is on the Yolo Bypass which is near Sacramento. Entitled High Water Legacy, it chronicles the role the bypass plays in providing wildlife habitat and flood control. The magazine is hard copy only, so I can’t point you to any online presence. The photograph below isn’t the issue I am appearing in, it’s just a typical cover. What’s the magazine about? As they put it,

Outdoor California Magazine

The Official California Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Magazine

Each issue offers California at its best—compelling stories on the state’s native species and habitat, presented with page after page of beautiful photographs. All of this plus the Thin Green Line, which chronicles California’s war against poachers!

How did I get my bypass article query letter accepted? Although some of it is luck, because you never know what an editor needs at any given moment, some it is not luck.

I had previously written on the bypass for the West Sacramento News-Ledger. I became an occasional reporter for that paper by doing my first two articles for free. After that, I did a number of stories, all for $25 an article. But the money wasn’t really the issue. I got paid, something, I got a byline, and I got published. Look at my story titles below.

Can you see yourself working for a weekly or a community newspaper? Query the editor with pitches and see where it leads. The idea is that one door leads to another. Years ago, writing about telecom on the web lead me to be accepted by several magazines and then I eventually landed an appearance on the History Channel. Can you think how the articles below might lead me to other articles? Keep writing!

The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring the Yolo Bypass 

The Port of West Sacramento is on a Path to Profitability 

West Sacramento’s CERT: Educate, Prepare and Assist

The TBD Fest: West Sacramento Hosts the Area’s Largest Music Festival

West Sacramento Reacts to TBD 

The West Sacramento Historical Society: Looking Forward and Back 

The Yolo Education Center: Helping Students Achieve Success

All Politics are Local

Retired Assistant City Manager Carol Richardson Looks Back

A Historic Firehouse Reborn

The Sail Inn is Back In Port

Artwork for Joey Lopes Park

West Sacramento Waterfront Stories

Chando’s Tacos Expands to West Sacramento

The California Highway Patrol Academy

The Sail Inn

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Should You Market Yourself As A Niche Writer?

Is there any advantage in selling your writing by specialty? In other words, instead of advertising yourself as a freelance writer, would it be better to emphasize the work you do best or most often?

As an example, my biggest income stream comes from blogging for trial lawyers. I do this through my Vancouver employer. Mostly, I write posts about traffic accidents. But I don’t pursue similar work. Should I? Since websites are so cheap these days, should I have a website dedicated to my writing in that space?

Another example. I recently got a second assignment from a respected outdoor magazine. This will be my seventh article in two years about the outdoors. Five articles were for Rock&Gem. There I covered rocks and minerals. Now I am writing about wildlife. Again, would it profit me to set up a small website to highlight outdoor writing?

One would always have to have a general freelancer website. Just recently, for, I completed articles on restoring Mustangs, Buick Regals, and BMWs. No, I am not a mechanic. I also did an article on taking care of custom car covers and one on how to make bedrooms safer for the elderly or the infirm. I’m glad I could write those articles but collectively, none of those topics has a focus.

There are many reasons to specialize and on the net you can find arguments for doing so.  One writer mentions less competition. Read what she says:

“On the other hand, if you have a freelance writing niche like wedding industry blogging, or copywriting for commodity businesses, or ghostwriting for business executives, or home decor writer and you tailor your site accordingly, you’ll have a much, much better chance of ranking on the first page of search results because there are will be far fewer good sites on the internet to compete with yours.”

I don’t like the idea of making my life more complicated by adding more websites and business cards. Perhaps I should rearrange this existing website to have separate pages or chapters to highlight different areas. What do you think? I am just thinking aloud but I find the arguments for specializing compelling.


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More from Delaplane

Effortless writing. Notice how many times he contrasts the word soft with the word hard. It’s such an obvious and repeated gimmick that its like being hit with a sledgehammer. A velvet sledgehammer. For more from Delaplane, go here (internal link)

Postcards From Delaplane

September 11, 1956

This is National Soft Water Week. Sponsored by the Water Conditioning Research Council.

The water at my home is hard. If I write the council at 111 W. Washington street, Chicago 2, 111., they will send me “fundamental information on the benefits of softened or conditioned water.”

This is an attractive offer. I am conditioned to unconditioned water. I think what we need around here is a National Soft Life Week. I wonder if you could work that in? With the water?

Life, like our water, has been getting terribly hard lately.

Take a simple thing like warm weather. We had a spell of warm days recently. Like we get in the autumn. I mean the night stayed warm too.

Usually it chills up around here at night. But when it stays warm, we usually give the flowers a good watering. They don’t seem to care whether the water is hard or soft.

Water brings out yellow jackets in the early evening. Mosquitos in the late evening. I don’t intend to make things easier for either of them by softening the water. Let them take it the way it is. Hard.

Speaking of yellow jackets, I sat on one yesterday. It is still painful.

This is how hard life is around here. If you got stung ordinarily, it is a matter of sympathy.

But if you sit on one and get stung, it is comedy. Everybody in the neighborhood had a real good laugh out of this and the dog barked like crazy.

I resented it. I am a serious person, not a comedian, and object to being placed in a slapstick role. Also when everybody else is laughing, you are supposed to laugh too.

If you don’t, you have no sense of humor That is about the worst thing you can say about a person these days. “He has no sense of humor.”

I laughed. But I came within a whisper of braining a few of my fellow men.

It seems a fair extravagance to set up a council on conditioning water. When I am all out of condition myself. And could use a high-powered council to give me “fundamental information” on coping with everyday life.

Keeping one jump ahead of ruin is just about all I can do. And to ask me to think about softening my water when life is so brittle well, it seems frivolous.

“Much water goes by the mill that the miller knoweth not of,” says the proverb.

Kick that one around in a council meeting sometime. It is a sensible way of looking at it.

Whenever we do much watering around here, it brings the deer down from the hills.

You may think that is a rather lovely thing. But that is because you are softening water and not raising petunias. A medium-size doe can barber the flowers off a petunia bed in less than 15 minutes. And loves to do it.

There are a pair of does who come down almost every evening and stand around the yard waiting for a blossom to pop open. They have soft brown eyes and hard white teeth.

They drink out of the dog’s pan and I certainly do not incline to soften the water for them.

This is in no way to bum-rap your council. Or put a knock on soft water. I just wanted you to know what I am up against generally. So you could gear your program to my needs. Send the “fundamental information.” I am ready to be benefitted. Ready to be conditioned.

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Amateur Radio Helping in Relief Efforts After Hurricane Maria

I know this is off-topic from writing, but I am very proud of my amateur radio brethren, who have answered the call for help in areas ravaged by Hurricane Maria. I am new to this hobby, better called a service, but I am looking forward to someday assisting in disaster relief. The text below is from a recent ARRL newsletter.

If you are having trouble reading this message, you can see the original at:

The ARRL Letter

September 28, 2017
Editor: Rick Lindquist, WW1ME

“Force of 50” Steps Up to Assist Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico

Members of the Amateur Radio community have volunteered to assist in the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and Dominica and, to a lesser extent, the US Virgin Islands. This week, 50 of the most accomplished US radio amateurs responded within 24 hours to a call from the American Red Cross (ARC) to deploy to Puerto Rico and provide emergency communications assistance there. At the ARC’s request, ARRL rallied the US Amateur Radio community to provide up to 25 two-person teams of highly qualified hams. ARRL CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, said that more than 350 answered the call, from nearly every state.

“This generous outpouring of response represents the finest qualities of the Amateur Radio community,” he said. “These individuals are dropping whatever they are doing now, heading off to an extended hardship-duty assignment, and offering their special talents to Americans who have been cut off from their families, living amid widespread destruction and without electrical power since Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean region last week.”

The group’s principal mission will be to move health-and-welfare information from the island back to the US mainland, where that data will be entered in the Red Cross Safe and Well system. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network (SATERN) has been asked to assist these operators when they check in with tactical, health-and-welfare (H&W), and Safe and Well messages.

SATERN and other active nets are not accepting incoming H&W inquiries. The Caribbean Emergency and Weather Net (CEWN) is taking incoming H&W inquiries via e-mail for Dominica. The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) is taking inquiries (only one per sender) via e-mail for Puerto Rico. Inquiries should include the full name and location of both the sender and the individual(s) being sought and the sender’s e-mail address.

The group will be in Puerto Rico for up to 3 weeks. ARRL has equipped each team with an HF transceiver, software, a dipole antenna, a power supply and all connecting cables, fitted in a rugged waterproof container. In an unprecedented and crucial move, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed to help get the Ham Aid gear to Puerto Rico.

The League also is sending two VHF repeaters, a dozen hand-held transceivers, five mobile radios, what Gallagher described as “5 cubic feet of batteries,” a number of small 2-kW portable generators, and solar-powered battery chargers. The hams and their equipment will be sent to Red Cross shelters extending from San Juan to the western end of the island.

In addition, ARRL has committed to purchasing up to $50,000 worth of new Ham Aid gear for this and for future emergencies.

Ham Aid kits are packed and ready for shipping at ARRL Headquarters.

ARRL’s Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said this was the first time in the nearly 75-year relationship between ARRL and the ARC that such a request for assistance had been made. “Hurricane Maria has devastated the island’s communications infrastructure,” Corey said. “Without electricity and telephone, and with most of the cell sites out of service, millions of Americans are cut off from communicating. Shelters are unable to reach local emergency services. And, people cannot check on the welfare of their loved ones. The situation is dire.”

The Yasme Foundation announced this week that it has made a grant to ARRL’s Ham Aid fund, in support of the Amateur Radio response to the recent hurricanes in the US and Caribbean. The Ham Aid fund was created in 2005 in response to the need for equipment and resources to support the Amateur Radio response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.

A September 27 CNN report documented the personal impact of the storm on Puerto Rico and Amateur Radio’s role in the recovery.

Donate to Ham Aid: (external link)

Denis Santiago, WP4KJJ (right), and Raul Gonzalez, KP4RGD, organized the communication network in Puerto Rico and operate the station at American Red Cross’s temporary San Juan headquarters, “with a great number of hams who left their families to help Puerto Rico to recover,” ARRL Puerto Rico Section Manager Oscar Resto, KP4RF, told ARRL.

Ham Aid kits are packed and ready for shipping at ARRL Headquarters.

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Why Magazines Are Like Sailboats

“Mr. Andersen, who now writes books and hosts a public radio show, said that magazines might eventually gain a cult following akin to the interest around other obsolete media, like vinyl records.”

‘Eventually, they’ll become like sailboats,’ he said. ‘They don’t need to exist anymore. But people will still love them, and make them and buy them.'”

The New York Times (external link) is out today with an article entitled “The Not So Glossy Future of Magazines.” It’s chiefly focused on high-end magazines (they mention six figure photo shoots and five dollar a word writers), never-the-less, it is a good read because it chronicles the decline of advertising revenue which has caused the wage floor for writers to collapse.

So, what kind of sailboats will we have in the future? Most likely there will be a small fleet and one not composed of mega-yachts. But some publications should live on, even if they are in .pdf. Note that most types are not solely dependent of advertising revenue.

In-house magazines or magazines sent to members as part of their dues

Magazines like Via, the magazine of the American Automobile Association, or Lion Magazine, the magazine for Lions International members, are publications subsidized in part by dues. They keep members informed and entertained. Many are still open to freelancers.

Government published titles

Magazines like Outdoor California, a publication of  California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, still accept freelance writers and should continue publishing into the future. The aptly titled State Magazine, an imprint of the U.S. Department of State, is a publication that will no doubt continue, independent of any need for advertising revenue.

In-flight magazines

Catering to a captive audience, in-flight magazines are the last literary refuge for the bored and weary traveler. These titles should continue, even though they rely on advertising to a degree. And they will still be competitive. It is very hard to get published in Hemispheres, United Airline’s title, or Southwest: The Magazine. But they are still both open to freelancers.

Hobby magazines

Magazines for hobbyists and enthusiasts should continue, despite declines in advertising. And the more expensive the hobby, the more likely a magazine will succeed. Look at the camera hobby; I think there are at least three magazines that cover Canon alone. Nikon is similarly serviced. But you really have to know your subject here to succeed as a freelancer.

What other opportunities exist for the freelancer as advertising declines? Editing. Both for print and internet writing. As fewer freelance writers are employed, articles will often be written by subject matter specialists who are not as polished as professional freelancers. Their writing will need to be cleaned up and sometimes more extensively rewritten. Part of my job for my Vancouver employer is to edit the work of two Pilipina writers. Their writing is solid but there are always two to three mistakes on each page that would not be made by a native speaker.

The caveat to developing editing skills is that content providers may continue to cut costs by cutting out editors. Yahoo News, for example, seems to be edited by the writers themselves. I personally am a much better writer than an editor. Let’s hope this self-editing trend does not continue. Magazines may indeed become like sailboats but a captain is still needed for each one.


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