Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Art is Long and Life is Short . . .

How do you handle waiting while you are working on your art? (And believe me, it is art if you are dedicated to your craft.) I handle waiting by continuing to write, even without knowing if my effort will pay off. It’s not easy waiting.

Right now I waiting on more work from my Vancouver employer. I am also waiting to hear about an essay I submitted to a literary review. A publishing house has a book proposal I sent in and I am looking forward to a response on my search for a co-author for another book.

I think about Van Gogh. He produced more than 900 paintings yet sold only one. He was in anguish over his poverty and his inability to show any money for them. Literally a starving artist. Have you read Letters of Vincent van Gogh? It’s a great book and worth finding. These letters to his brother are also online. (external link)

While we’re not geniuses like van Gogh, and it’s doubtful any museums will be built to remember us, we can honor his spirit by continuing to develop our skills, even if no one notices us. After all, we have to do something while we wait.


Uncategorized Writing tips

An Excellent OCR Online Tool

Just discovered an excellent online site for converting .pdf image files into editable text. I’ve written on OCR before (internal link) and I know the process is far from perfect. But this site does a great job and it’s free. You get 15 conversions an hour without registering and more if you do. No software to download. The name is Online OCR:


Stanton Delaplane Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Stanton Delaplane and Paris

There is nothing like Paris in the Spring. The trees along the boulevards all trembling in the fresh spring breeze. The cleaning crews washing down the sidewalks in the cool Paris dawn.

The sidewalk cafés at sunset with the crowded tables under the gay awnings. And the Paris nights, flamed with neon and bright with music spilling out of the gay cafés.

The great gray stone buildings along the Seine. The late afternoon smash of cars and little square red taxis along the Rue Royal and the Champs-Élysées. The trim Paris police in stiff caps and blue uniforms twirling the traffic along with white batons and amazingly even tempers.

The parade of sleek ladies with clipped poodles. The breathtaking swirl of traffic around the Place de la Concorde. The gleam of silver and white cloth in the great restaurants. And the flavor of Normandy sole and fresh water cress. The wines of Vouray and fresh strawberry tart and French coffee. And the fragrant apple brandy of Calvados.

Stanton Delaplane. From The Little World of Stanton Delaplane (1959)

A stunning four paragraphs, rivaling or surpassing Hemingway. I’d like to think I can learn by example. But Delaplane’s descriptive power is something unapproachable. It’s magical. I say that out of admiration and not out of jealousy. Delaplane never went to college or took any writing courses. His talent reminds me of the last scene in Dr. Zhivago. Do you remember it?

Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Tonya! Can you play the balalaika?

David: Can she play? She’s an artist!

Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Who taught you?

David: Nobody taught her!

Gen. Yevgraf Zhivago: Ah, then it’s a gift.


Google authorship in WordPress Uncategorized WordPress tips

Getting Your Photo In Google’s Search Results — Some Hints

Google is adding author photos more routinely to search results if I am correct. See the first screen shot below. Google is quick. That Delaplane blog entry was posted on September 17th and the search result was live on the 18th. But how do you get your photo to appear? Certainly you do not see as many author photos as in years past.

I’ve written on this before (internal link). Search result image pictures are wrapped up in the larger topic of rich snippets (external link), of which Google authorship (internal link) was its predecessor. You make your web page technically friendlier to search. This can get really complicated. Don’t get lost and seek out a webmaster for help.

Your first step, though, should be to set up a profile in Google Plus (external link) and then link that  to your blog. Google Plus very much wants to drive people to their service. Note the URL in the first screen shot. That URL doesn’t link to my blog directly but instead to my Google Plus page. It’s there you’ll see the second image and a link to my blog.

I’m not convinced Google will always associate your photo with their search results but these steps are the only way to make it possible. Google needs to verify that you are the owner of a site and then they need a photo to go along with it. It’s a vetting process. I’m convinced search results with photos produce more clicks. And with everyone competing for eyeballs, I think this process is worth the effort.


Google search result with picture and link to Google Plus.
Google Plus web page and link to my site.



Stanton Delaplane, Unrecognized Humorist

Image05_edited-1Stanton Delaplane, known by friends as Del, wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle for more than fifty years. I grew up reading his syndicated column which reached millions. His books were national best sellers. Yet despite his success, including winning the Pulitzer Prize for reporting, he is hardly recognized today. He should be ranked with Thurber and Twain. Read this column and feel better. He made my life better.

Postcards from Delaplane

For the Love of Mike (1953)

I don’t know how you spent your vacation, but I went in for the quiet life. Moved into a house in Carmel, unhooked the telephone, and unpacked all my clothes. Turned the Boxer and the young lady of eight years out of doors and told them not to come back until it was important. Did a good deal of daydreaming about the future, too. This is my idea of vacationing.

Once in a while I opened a book. Read a book by a man who said: “Forget about the past. Have no regrets. Let the future take care of itself. The present is all that counts.”

Well, begging your pardon, sir, I will take care of the future myself. My futures are very brilliant. It is the only part of my life over which I have complete control, and I make it that way. I do not care much about living in the present. It has been my experience that a good deal of the present is unpleasant. As for the past, the past is often the night before, when you offered the host a candid opinion of his personality and business operations. And how to improve both. Such things I do not care to contemplate. I think it is better to slip off into the cozy future.

I took a future book on my vacation. In the rosy glow of evening on the Carmel coast I contemplated my book. When people asked me what I was doing in Carmel I did not say: “I am lying about slothfully on my vacation.” No, sir, I said: “I am writing a book.”

People looked at me with respect and said, “There is a man who is writing a book.”

Afternoons I went swimming up the Carmel Valley and frowned and looked into space like an author.

I never laid a hand on a typewriter the whole time. It was one of the most successful books I ever put off writing.

I allowed myself to be dragged into the present only briefly. Each time it only proved that life is better in the future. One time the young lady of seven and one half came in and announced that she was now eight years old. The other time the Boxer acquired an itch and also attached himself to a number of ticks in the underbrush.

I gave the young lady a birthday party and took care of the dog. These things sound simple. But they are not. I do not allow ticks and rash and birthday parties in my future any more than I allow mounting debt or rattlesnakes. In my future, boxers do not scratch, nor do they rise to greet the day at dawn, insisting that I arise with them. They sleep until ten o’clock.

Small children do not attain age in jerks like a car meshing into higher gear. They grow up smoothly until they are eighteen and beautiful and talented. Then they go in the movies and their poor old work worn father manages their incomes, grows a sporty mustache, and flings cocktail parties for their beautiful starlet friends.

In my future, small children do not suddenly become eight, making their poor father feel older and making him poorer by dishing out his scratch for birthday presents. Scratch that he had been saving for an absolutely sure thing at Del Mar.

I must say that when the present dragged me out of the future it was all at once. The young lady was in tears.

“The tick will kill Carmichael,” she said. “Do something.”

Well, you cannot sit around and admit you do not know what to do. Not when young ladies become eight and already are beginning to doubt that you know everything, as you have always claimed in a modest way. As near as I could remember, ticks were highly discouraged by kerosene. I had no kerosene, but I shook a little lighter fluid on the animal and sat down to wait for results. I did not sit long. Nor did Carmichael. Apparently it burned like a branding iron. The dog took off around the house, and the child got up on the roof, where she sat screaming.

A good many neighbors came out in the street to watch.

The dog circled the house at high speed, letting out short, discouraged yells. Finally, I got the child off the roof and began throwing water on the dog. I had the young lady in the kitchen passing out bowls of water like a bucket brigade. Each time the dog passed I wet down the fire. It seemed to do some good, because he finally lay down in the mud. After a while he rose and shook himself.

That took care of the birthday-party clothes.

In my rosy future, dogs and small children have great respect and regard for the master of the house. They do not go about muttering in corners and casting looks at him as though he were a heartless gangster who did it all on purpose.

Nor do the neighbors shudder as he passes by and drag their children off the streets into the house. In my brave new world, people are kindly and understanding and realize that a man may be out of kerosene and use lighter fluid with the best intentions in the world.

Anyway, in my future, I do not remove ticks from ungrateful Boxers. I perform delicate emergency operations on beautiful and grateful ladies and I am the toast of the scientific world. In fact, my future is so successful that come next vacation I think I will put off writing a book about it.


(Delaplane ornament by David McKay)

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

A New Venture — Seeking a Co-Writer

For my book on Nevada agriculture I’ll need a qualified co-writer. I want to approach the University of Nevada Press but I am a non-academic and I have no college degree. What to do?

I prepared a working sample chapter. I then sent it off to two professors who had written a book similar to what I had in mind. I asked the professors for their recommendations or referrals. The sample chapter took quite a bit of effort but I thought it necessary. Ordinarily, with a book proposal, you would not do any layout or formatting. Your proposal would be on single sided paper, double spaced.

I think to find a co-writer, however, I need a different approach. I think by making up a working chapter, including maps and photos, that I bring my idea to life far better than by just sending a text file. If I do indeed find a co-writer then I can submit my book proposal to a publishing house in exactly the form they desire. First things first.

I’ve never worked with another writer on any of my projects so this will be a learning experience. Can all the details of a book be handled by e-mail or will face to face meetings be required? Could meetings be done with Skype? I personally favor e-mail, if I can go off on a tangent.

I find writing down thoughts is more productive than free-wheeling in face to face meetings. You can compose yourself better when you are forced to order sentences. You have time to respond with e-mail. In meetings you have to come up with a thought immediately. With writing you can think awhile. But I ramble.

E-mail or leave a comment if you have done any collaborative writing. I look forward to what you have to say.




Life in Las Vegas

Ten months ago I moved to Las Vegas. I previously lived in my own house for fifteen years in West Sacramento, California.  I’m now in a two bedroom apartment in Sin City. I’ve enjoyed the change. A few notes.

The Big Picture. Las Vegas is in a valley with other cities and communities. To the north is the incorporated city of North Las Vegas. Downtown Las Vegas and The Strip are east, suburban Henderson is due south, and communities like Spring Valley and Summerlin are to the west. I live on the border of Spring Valley and Summerlin, the latter a enormous community of single family residences and golf courses and shopping originally developed by Howard Hughes. Despite being in a valley, there have been only a few really hazy days this year. Nothing like the smog which collects in the Sacramento Valley. At times smoke blows in from southern California wildfires but things clear up quickly. Las Vegas is  in a bowl but it is a shallow bowl.

This morning I put on a light jacket for the first time in several months. The heat has been bearable this year except for one stretch of ten days over 110 degrees. That was tiresome. When it is one hundred degrees you can find shade and get relief. When it is 110 you are merely in a hot shadow. Humidity is usually under 7%. I’ve seen it dip to 2%. On one day the dew point was a negative number. I do not really understand what the dew point is but I do understand what dry is. That day was dry.

Despite low humidity, which air conditioning must make even lower, my two houseplants are thriving. They are both Pothos. One stretches over five feet and hangs like a tapestry over a second story interior balcony. I can only attribute their success to my green thumb which must have travelled with me to Las Vegas. I am still not working with plants or volunteering with them but I am slowly learning desert species. The other weekend I visited the Nevada State Tree Nursery in North Las Vegas and had a wonderful time looking at Rubber Rabbitbrush and Mondell Pine. The nursery has natives and exotics for revegetation and habitat restoration. Ever seen a Shoestring Acacia?

Agriculture is fascinating here. Nevada is the driest state in the nation but in some areas the desert produces fruits and vegetables and alfalfa and grains. Powerful springs in certain places give rise to desert rivers. It is amazing to see water flowing in the desert. Right now I am developing an agriculture book proposal. I will get carried away if I start discussing it.

My apartment complex has over 400 units. And 400 porch lights. Yet at night you will never see a single insect buzzing the lamps. All is quiet. We really don’t have a spider web problem, either. Our doors and roof eaves do not collect massive quantities of webs. I am sure there are spiders here but apparently they don’t work on covering houses.

I put out a hummingbird feeder a few months ago and it was discovered fifteen minutes after hanging. It has been frequented ever since. My first feeder was also popular with finches, large numbers of them, for reasons I haven’t discerned. I did not know they liked sugar water. Anyway, there were so many finches that the hummingbirds were chased away. I later switched to another feeder with smaller openings and that has ended the finch threat. My apartment also had a large pigeon population but an exterminator has been putting out some sort of feed laced with chemicals and I see pigeons less than before. Also, no dead pigeons lying about, so I am not sure what chemical was used.

Water conservation is not a priority in this valley. The local water district has a three day a week outdoor watering restriction and they seem quite proud of this. Three days a week? Try two. Please. Parks with lawns are lush, as are the many neighborhoods with conventional landscaping. Not sure what will prompt Las Vegas to do better. In a state that averages only nine inches of precipitation, sprinklers continue to sprinkle. There seems to be more concern with dust. Every commercial building project needs a dust permit. And construction goes on year round here because of the lack of rain.

I gamble but usually on sports on my phone. That’s legal in Nevada to residents betting within the state. No going to a casino. Lose in the privacy of your own home. In the last ten months I have made $32 dollars. In a hundred years I will have enough to retire. I always seem to lose if I bet in a casino so I rarely gamble there. Speaking of which, many off-strip casinos feature more than just gambling. The nearest casino to me, Red Rock, offers everything gambling along with a sixty-four lane bowling alley and a twelve screen movie theatre. Rampart Casino, in the other direction, has a similar setup. And they both have food courts and multiple restaurants so you can enjoy a casino atmosphere without having to gamble.

State politicians aren’t as active in Nevada as they are in California. The State legislature meets in Carson City for only four months. Every OTHER year. No full time legislators. Speaking of politicians, Nevada is a swing state, so we get a huge amount of ads for the presidential race and for the U.S. senate race. In California, with the presidential race always ceded to the Democrats, political ads are much more regional.

My goal in the coming months is to get outside more to enjoy the better temperatures. Mount Charleston and the Spring Mountains are only forty miles away. They have some poplars for fall color and an extensive Bristlecone Pine forest. Good views of the Valley along with views of the tiny site of  Mercury. It’s where they used to test atomic bombs. People from Vegas in the 1950’s would go into the Spring Mountains to watch the detonations. The good ‘ol days.

Las Vegas is a true 24 hour city. Most bars never close. Drink when you like. There is no deposit on aluminum cans or plastic bottles. Smoking is allowed in nearly all casinos and bars but not in restaurants. You’ll still find coin operated cigarette machines. There is a large homeless population downtown, fascinating because it can’t be easy to be homeless when it is 108 degrees. Housing is probably 20% cheaper than in West Sacramento. Utility costs are higher due to the heat, but they are only high for a few months in summer.

My apartment provides a quiet place to work without the worry and bother of home maintenance. I’m looking forward to a productive writing life now that I have settled in. I hope you all are enjoying wherever you live.




Thoughts on writing UC Berkeley Extension Workshop Uncategorized Writing tips

Now I Get It — Understanding Creative Nonfiction

When I signed up for my Creative Nonfiction Workshop (internal link) I did not know writing by that name was a genre. It is. As today’s kids would say, “It’s a thing.”

I thought creative nonfiction a term to describe more creative and inventive ways to write nonfiction. That it could apply to newspaper reports, a legal brief, or an academic paper. To the contrary, it’s much more limited.

Check out Wikipedia’s definition below. The study of creative nonfiction really can’t help me with what I had in mind. Using literary styles and techniques when writing 500 word newspaper articles isn’t possible. The law has a stifling language and delivery all its own. And academic papers need to be written like every other academic paper.

Creative nonfiction comes into its own in medium to long form essays. When we are writing to entertain and enlighten with our particular writing style. It’s not there to deliver a clear message in as few words as possible. Creative nonfiction is out for a stroll, not for a run.

Creative nonfiction lends itself particularly well to personal essays and memoirs. It certainly doesn’t help with brief pieces, which is what I do most of. But it’s a definite style, it offers a new writing market and that should intrigue any writer.

“Creative nonfiction (also known as literary nonfiction or narrative nonfiction) is a genre of writing that uses literary styles and techniques to create factually accurate narratives. Creative nonfiction contrasts with other nonfiction, such as academic or technical writing or journalism, which is also rooted in accurate fact, but is not written to entertain based on writing style or florid prose. As a genre, creative nonfiction is still relatively young, and is only beginning to be scrutinized with the same critical analysis given to fiction and poetry.” Wikipedia (external link)

There’s even a magazine devoted to it: (external link)

I welcome your thoughts.


video WordPress tips

Does Video Look Better at YouTube or Through WordPress?

My dividing agapanthus video now has over 45,000 views. (internal link) It’s clear that people like the video. And  even clearer only a handful have followed its link to Still, video is popular.

To support my upcoming book proposal I am launching a website. It’s designed to add content not available in the book. Like the sometimes dozens of photos I take on a road trip. Only one or two photographs from a trip might get printed. The rest can be put up as a slide show. See below.

Right now I am testing whether this experimental video looks better on YouTube or WordPress. Both hosts compress video. So I am eager to see which video looks better. There is hope, even if both video choices look poor. My new website can host the videos directly, with no compression done. But for now, take a look at the two choices.


Here it is at YouTube:

Here it is hosted by WordPress:




A Set of Behaviors?

I’ve been trying InDesign lately, to see if I can master it well enough to produce a sample book chapter. I can’t. I’ll stick with Word despite its shortcomings.

I knew I was in trouble when I started exploring the feature called Liquid Layout. It’s some kind of magic that reformats entire chapters or books. See how Pariah Burke (external link) tried to explain it:

“Like Gridify, introduced in CS5, Liquid Layout is a set of behaviors rather than a tool, command, panel, or function of InDesign. It’s part of the program, always there, whether your actions expose its behavior or not.”

Good grief. I can’t even explain my cat’s behavior. This advice comes from 2012, by-the-way, which is something else I wanted to mention. Updates and changes to subscription based programs like Word and InDesign are coming out so frequently that they are outpacing the web pages we rely on to help and explain. Just one example.

I was trying to make the border around a text box in Word disappear. Couldn’t do it. Turned to the net for help. Advice was to convert it to a frame. Problem is, Word no longer supports frames and all that advice on following different menu selections did nothing to help. None of the menu selections mentioned were present any longer in my current version of Word. I finally did figure out a solution but only by accident.

Now, if I can only figure out how to make a footnote work in a text box. One miracle at a time.