Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

The Writing Process

Everybody writes and edits in a different way. Here’s an example of my process.

The first paragraph is my first draft and the following paragraphs the finished product. I hesitate to say finished because I will probably keep editing until I send the entire MS in. Names and locations are fictitious since this hasn’t been published yet. I use a great deal of commas in a first draft and then I doggedly try to eliminate them as I go on.


John Smith and Jane Smith operate Williams in the tiny town of Plainfield, north of Mono Lake, in Ozark County, Nevada. They create cabs and jewelry from their own mine, notably turquoise, and they collect other material from different Nevada locations. Smith is by upbringing and training a stone mason. I didn’t know all this until I came across their booth. As I talked to Jane I kept trying to remember where Plainfield was. I vaguely recalled a rock shop sign in that area but I had never investigated it while driving to Redding. And now, here they were. What I found later was even more fascinating. The last time I was driving by Mono Lake I stopped to read the information signs, all mounted on monuments with apparently local stone. It turned out that Smith had in fact built one of those monuments. . .

And after

John Smith and Jane Smith operate Williams Gem and Mineral Gallery in tiny Plainfield, Nevada. It’s just north of Mono Lake in Ozark County on I-45. The pair create cabs and jewelry, notably using turquoise and variscite from different Nevada locations. They also mine their own banded agate. Smith is by training a stone mason. I didn’t know all this until I came across their booth. I vaguely recalled a rock shop sign near Plainfield but I never investigated it. And now, here were the owners. The shop had come to me. There’s more.

The last time I passed Mono Lake I stopped to read different information signs. They were installed on impressive monuments built with local stone. It turns out Smith built one. What were the odds I’d meet the builder of something I noted on a lonely road to Redding? And what were the chances I’d run into two such young and creative people almost six hundred miles from their home? [Paragraph continues for another two sentences.]

What was changed 

Replaced “in the tiny town of Plainfield” with “tiny Plainfield .”

Eliminated the comma after Mono Lake.

Eliminated “upbringing”

Reworded this “from their own mine, notably turquoise” because they actually own an agate mine, not a turquoise mine.

Eliminated the entire sentence “As I talked to Jane I kept trying to remember where Plainfield was.”

Changed “with apparently local stone” to the more forceful and certain “built with local stone”.

Broke into two pieces what was going to be a very long paragraph by adding “There’s more.” This ties into eliminating the sentence “What I found later was even more fascinating.”  Don’t say something is fascinating. Instead, describe why it is fascinating.

Shortened “The last time I was driving by Mono Lake” to “the last time I passed Mono Lake.”

Added “The shop had come to me.”

Eliminated “in fact”.

Notice anything else?

Truman Capote edited manuscript.
Stanton Delaplane Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Nothing Means No at Chronicle Books

“We are not able to personally respond to unsolicited submissions unless we’re interested in publishing them.”

Despite this warning, I sent four polite inquiries to Chronicle Books after waiting four months for them to consider my Stanton Delaplane anthology book proposal. Obviously, they are not interested in my book.

Besides that setback, the Chronicle organization still holds valuable information about the copyright releases I’d need before soliciting another publisher. But without the Chronicle communicating I am at a loss to directly proceed. (I’ve written about this before (internal link))

My book would rely on 30 to 40 newspaper columns that are now 40 to 50 years old. Any future publisher would be vitally interested in what copyright releases would cost before considering my anthology.

I have now written to the Copyright Clearance Center. They’re representatives, apparently, of the Chronicle and a slew of other media companies, charging fees for releases. Perhaps they can give me a rough estimate. I’ll report on what I find.

A very sad thought to end this post. It could be that Delaplane’s works will  go unknown to generations because permissions are too expensive. Going through the Clearance Center introduces a middleman, another layer of expense. Only the Chronicle could inexpensively see this project through. And they are not interested — in a man that wrote for them for fifty years.

Update: The CCC has responded. It looks like good news.:

“If you were going to only print books with a not-for-profit publisher or self publish, 30 columns (excerpts up to 400 words) for up to 999 books, the cost is $603.50 for the permission. If it was 40 columns, the price would be $803.50 for the permission for up to 999 books.”

I am indeed considering a non-profit publisher. Another account representative, however, did give me another response, saying I should use their on-line tool. That’s impossible to do, though, because the tool seems limited to processing one article request at a time.

Anyway, I am off to putting another book proposal together, this time a different, more specific angle on Delaplane’s writing career.


Google Tips Research tips Writing tips

No Universal Browser

Safari is my main browser because it comes bundled with my Mac’s operating system. I also use Firefox for older, legacy websites. But I always thought Google Chrome was the default browser for the net until I read this at a major corporate website. Google is doing a  walkaway from Adobe PDFs, the gold standard for PDFs:

“If you are using Google’s Chrome Browser to view and use our PDF U.S. Mail Request Form, you should be aware that the Chrome Browser uses Google’s PDF Viewer by default, rather than the Adobe Reader application. Our PDF U.S. Mail Request Form may not work as designed in Google’s Chrome Browser due to this default setting. Our PDF documents are developed with Adobe software in accordance with Adobe PDF standards.”

My brother muses that Google developed their own viewer to simplify data extraction for ad sales. The latest workaround seems to be this, if you have Adobe Reader already installed:

  1. Type “chrome://plugins” in the address bar then press “Enter“.
  2. Find “Adobe Reader” or “Chrome PDF Viewer“, and select the “Disable” link for any of these that may be listed.
Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Copyright Releases — The Nuclear Option

I’ve tried four times to communicate with a copyright holder regarding work I wish to reproduce. Four polite e-mails and no response. What to do?

This was a common problem when I was running (external link). I was usually seeking permission to put up an image. was  a free to use site, an essentially non-profit venture. Given the detailed e-mails I sent, the copyright holder had to know I wasn’t trying exploit their work for my personal gain. Yet 95% of my requests were never answered, positively or negatively.

On the fourth or fifth e-mail I tried this approach:

Dear Sirs:

Having tried to communicate with you unsuccessfully over using the subject matter in question, I now consider your lack of objection as approval to use your content. I will, of course, credit you as the original source and link back accordingly.

This often got results and it was usually positive. Even if there was no response it satisfied me personally that I tried. But what if you needed permissions for a book, something that would make money? Your prospective publisher would doubtless say no to this approach. Hardcopy letters and lawyers might be needed to firmly establish that you have the right to use someone else’s content. But for the web this method might be what you need to finally get the ball rolling.


Magazine article Photography Stanton Delaplane

Now to The Writing

I’m back from a week in Quartzsite, Arizona, where I was gathering material for a future Rock&Gem article. Speaking of which, the editors of that magazine inform me that my next article will appear in their March issue.

Besides writing, I’ll spend time processing the photos I took this week with my new camera. And I’ll be thinking of writing an article for EOS Magazine, which is a Cannon only publication. I’ll be checking, too, on the status of my Stanton Delaplane book proposal and I’ll need to get ready for an upcoming trip to Atlanta. Much to do.


Photography Uncategorized

Photoshop is More Magical Than You Think

Take a look at these before and after photos. The first photo shows a roughly corrugated gold flake no more than two centimeters across. With my fancy new macro lens the lower middle is squarely in focus. And that’s it. This was quite a disappointment to me after spending money on a new camera and lens. The whole point of my photography project was to get good images for my articles in Rock&Gem Magazine (internal link). What’s going on?


The depth of field at such high magnification renders everything flat. So if there is a high and a low to your object, no matter how tiny that variation, the macro lens just can’t handle it. I’m learning one way to get around this and it’s called automated focus stacking (external link).

Basically, you take four or five photos at different focal points and blend them all together. That is, you take several shots, each at a high and a low and a middle. You focus correctly for each shot, each variation, even if the rest of the field is out of focus. Then, using Photoshop black magic, you gather up your photos into a single file, have Photoshop align them, then watch as they are blended together. See the image below.


Notice the improvement? It’s amazing. I feel like I am practicing some dark art or witchcraft. Yes, there are areas that need improvement in the photo but this is just my second try. With a steadier tripod, more focal points, and more practice, I might just get this down. I can at least see there is a path toward a perfectly focused specimen. And I am gaining a deep appreciation for the professional photographer.

This points out, too, that this is the product of a home studio or spare bedroom. No way could you cruise through a rock and gem show and hope to duplicate this method on a vendor’s shaky table with poor lighting. Click on the photos if you want to see the full sized images.

Photography Uncategorized

Update on Adobe Stock Photography

I posted a test image to Adobe Stock (internal link) twice by accident. It was subsequently rejected by two different moderators for two different reasons.

The first moderator said the image had too much noise. Too grainy. That’s understandable because the photo was taken with a long telephoto lens.

The second is more interesting and it leaves me wondering:

During our review, we found that it contains elements that appear to be protected by intellectual property laws, so we can’t accept it into our collection. Please review the following intellectual property rights guidelines:

Protected elements can be certain objects depicted in an image as well as protected terms (like names or trademarks) in the image’s description, title and/or keywords. Here are some examples of subjects protected by intellectual property laws:

Commercial products (e.g., toys, fashion items, electronic devices and designer furniture) should never be in focus and/or be the main subject of the content if they’re identifiable and distinctive in visual appearance, like shape or color.

I submitted the photo just as an experiment. I wasn’t really happy with it because there was no blue sky that day but I wanted to go through Adobe Stock’s process.  Now that I have, I have more questions. I don’t know how you can have a men at work photograph without showing the equipment they are working on. Clearly there are no names or trademarks visible. I’ll see if there is a way to ask questions and if I get a response I’ll update this page.

Click on the photo for a larger version. This isn’t the full version which is much too big for the web. I think it’s a pretty dramatic shot, despite the overcast sky.


Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

News and Notes to Start The Year

Quartzsite Coming Up

Next week I’ll travel to Quartzsite, Arizona (external link) to see what’s been called the world’s largest flea market. Most notably, at the so called QIA POW WOW show, some five hundred vendors will be selling rocks, gems, jewelry, fossils, and minerals. Truly, a rockhound’s paradise. Beyond the show grounds will be countless other vendors also selling rocks as well as everything from Mexican piñatas to metal garden sculptures. I’ll be writing an article on spec for Rock&Gem magazine (internal link) about the event.

World’s Fastest Query Letter?

In mid-march I’m taking a day tour of the Nevada National Security Site, a normally off-limit area once used for atomic testing. Although cameras are not permitted, I think the tour will make for a great article. I’ve queried a national magazine, taking all of twenty minutes to do so. With my high rejection rate I am now concerned about being efficient when proposing an article. I could spend hours on a query but, really, how well have I done doing that?

Nevada Agriculture: Past and Present is Looking for a Sponsor

My Nevada agriculture book proposal (external link) has been turned down by the first outfit I approached. To be realistic, the book would have a limited audience so I am concerned it may not find an outlet. I’ve done a little investigating into e-books and this seems a possible, affordable way to publish. Kindle, for example, does not charge to publish a book, instead they take a percentage of sales. While publishing may be free, the hard part, after the writing, is all of the formatting needed to make something attractive. Not my speciality. But there is software to help. More to learn.

Speaking of proposals, my ag book proposal is already out of date. In the time since I wrote it, only months ago, a wide swath of land called Gold Butte has been grabbed by the government and turned into a national monument. That wrecks my statistics on federal land ownership in Clark County. And recreational marijuana has been approved in Nevada, again destroying what I wrote about it as a crop. The tyranny of hardcopy type. All of which argues, perhaps, for not a book but a website that could be built and kept up to date as Nevada agriculture changes through the years. But Yipe! Talk about a project. I ramble. I’ll check in later from Arizona.




Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

A New Year, A New Gig

I’ve been picked up as a contract writer for It’s another writing gig and another income stream I’m happy to have. I found out about them through (internal link). provides a list of topics to write on as well as keywords for each article. is pretty straightforward. They are a clearing house for hundreds of internet and hardcopy catalogs. Each seller has a page at and a link to their main website. Informational articles such as I write have links to different merchants in the portfolio.

I get a byline and a bio and some money for each article I write. Their staff is very tolerant of questions and allowing for different writing styles. I’m able to write with humor which helps make writing more fun. Check out my first article here (external link). The screenshot below is just part of the article.



Photography Uncategorized

Thoughts on Selling Into Stock Photography

My new camera may allow me to put photos up at Adobe Stock (external link), a photo stock service with over 60 million images. The images would quietly wait there until someone bought the rights and then I would be paid a royalty. Adobe, in other words, does not pay you upfront, rather, only when someone goes to buy. As far as I can tell, there is no fee for posting. Just technical requirements (external link) Here’s why I think this kind of selling is intriguing.

My new camera has WiFi and an app that allows me to take pictures remotely. I could have a tripod set up at my place, across the street from a nearby cell site. Using my smartphone, I would not have to be at the tripod continuously, instead, I could have the camera trained on a certain spot and I could then wait for the right moment. Take a look at the examples below.

These are three handheld shots just used as an example. See how I caught the face of one of the workers in the shot below? That’s good, since people with their backs turned don’t make good subjects. Notice how the other worker is bending down? That’s bad. This is why photographers have to be patient. They make take hours and hours and dozens of shots to get the right image. But using remote imaging might allow me to do my writing while keeping an eye on what’s going on.


This next shot would be interesting except the worker looks like he lost his head. Notice, too, the heavy shadows. Not good. As photographers say, “I am waiting for the right light.” Hmm. I wonder if I could bring out his head in Photoshop . . .


Here I approach my goal. A face shot but not with enough recognition that I would have to get a model release. This shot is framed poorly, however, with the antenna array on the right side out of the picture.


Having used many stock photo services for my law office blogs, I know there is a demand for just about any kind of image, including men at work photos. I took a look at what Adobe Stock has now and none of them include people. A person in a photo always looks better. IMHO.

I’ve heard arguments that photographers shouldn’t give away rights to their photos by using stock photo services. But this to me looks like an opportunity for another income stream, even if small, as I get better and better with my new equipment.

NB: Update. After a short while of working, the remote imaging capability stopped working. I’ve now installed updated firmware, reinstalled the Canon Connect app, done cold starts of both the camera and the iPhone and on and on. I even used an outdated app, just to see if that would work. After several hours I have given up and will call tech support when I get the time. Apparently I am not the only one having problems, judging by the complaints on the net.

Another update: I got the remote imaging to work through my tablet, which gives me a bigger screen to work with. But as with all things wireless there is a delay between the right moment and when the camera actually clicks the shutter. It’s still the same story: wait for the right shot with the camera firmly in hand or on a tripod. Oh, one more thing.

I got a terrific shot of the cell site workers today. But I lost my blue sky from yesterday. Today is cloudy and no more wonderful blue. Again, never miss an opportunity.

Yet another update: The image below was shot through a window using a remote imaging app on my iPad. The camera turned off at one point. I am now looking for a power cord. I think the camera shuts down WiFi when the battery gets too low. I could also use a more colorful humming bird. 🙂

Still yet another update: Uploaded a photo to Adobe Stock on January 3rd, only to discover on the tenth that Adobe has no record of my doing so. Also no record of my tax information or anything related to my profile. I had to reenter everything. Although this time they didn’t ask for a copy of my state ID, something they did the last time. The only thing I can think of is that I registered under another Adobe ID, of which I probably have several, all created over twenty years.