Magazine article Uncategorized

The Background on My Fourth Rock&Gem Article

It’s out! My article “The Meaning of Mariposite” has been published by Rock&Gem Magazine. Available soon at booksellers like Barnes&Noble or you can order it in hardcopy here. (external link). A digital download is also available.

In late November last year I went back to California to help with horse sitting duties at an Amador County ranch. I traveled through the southern and central Mother Lode to get there. Along the way I investigated outcroppings and stories of mariposite, a rock said to sometimes contain gold.

As a longtime prospector I was eager to learn more about it, a potential ore I had no experience with. My prospecting has been confined to the northern Mother Lode and mariposite does not figure greatly there.

I found that mariposite could be ore, but it was most often lacking in gold. Instead, the green laced rock is principally used for lapidary work and as an ornamental stone in building projects.

I took several photographs and I also collected the story of a geologist who argues the California gold rush started with mariposite. But to find out more you’ll have to read the article.

Here are some photos that didn’t make the article:


Mariposite outcropping near Coulterville, CA.


Pig fashioned from mariposite. (My collection)


Polished slab of mariposite rock. (My collection)


Dials Rock Shop. 4006 State Highway 140 Catheys Valley, California. Talk to Mike. He’s good peoples.


Ebay photo showing gold in mariposite.



Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Try Eliminating “Was” and “Is”

“Was” and “is” are easy to write but they deaden sentences.

A quick first draft:

Elko County is in northeastern Nevada. It was founded on March 5, 1869. It was created out of Lander County. Elko County’s population is 48, 818. Its square mileage is 17,203. The county name was derived from the railroad town of Elko but the origin of Elko remains undetermined. Among many possibilities, it is posited that Charles Crocker may have named the town for the numerous elk in the area.

A slower rewrite:

Elko County sits in northeastern Nevada. Founded on March 5, 1869, Elko got created from the much larger Lander County. 48,818 souls make up Elko’s population. Its 17,203 square mile area gives it the size of Puerto Rico and Hawaii combined. Named after the railroad town of Elko, the origin of Elko itself remains a mystery. Railroad magnate Charles Crocker may have named it for the area’s many wandering elk.



Radioactive Cows and Operation Haylift

I’ve added two new posts to (external link). One post describes the experimental dairy farm at the Nevada Test Site in Nye County. The other details Operation Haylift, which saw the United State’s Air Force dropping tons of alfalfa to snow stranded cattle in 1949.

These posts support my website That site in turn supports my book proposal on Nevada agriculture past and present. It may be a lot of work to build a site for a proposal, but getting a book deal isn’t easy. Anything I can do to help myself seems like a good idea.

A website allows me to show off my vision for a book beyond the sample chapter that a publisher requires. And any material I do write for the site can go into the book if it is accepted. A gamble? A bad risk? As Billy Joel once said, “I have been a fool for lesser things.”


Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Fly Me to The Moon

February 24, 2017 Update: I’ve made up a simple six page book after only four days of trying. Following these videos I converted it to a .pdf and the book prints correctly. I have an enormous amount to learn yet I am encouraged. I’ve found these two videos to be the most useful so far. Original post below the videos . . .

inDesign is the industry leader for producing printed material. It can layout anything from soup labels to magazine ads to full length books. It’s expensive, starting at $20 a month. I’m trying to learn it over the next month. I might need to do the layout for a book I am proposing and I’m also  considering self-publishing in another case. But like all Adobe products, there’s scant interest paid to people who want the program to do modest things.

If inDesign were a rocket ship then I could fly it to the Moon and back. But what if I only want to go around the earth once or twice? The scores of of menus and options conspire to create a steep learning curve. Classes are taught in inDesign. You can get certified. I’ve bought a video lecture program. Adobe makes their own book explaining inDesign and it’s simply obtuse. They present online tutorials to go along with the book but I find it impossible to keep any attention on the materials. I just keep drifting off.

There’s good news. If you can figure it all out, a successful inDesign file ensures a print ready .pdf. And the program does support footnotes or banknotes, something I might need. But it threatens to take half my time  from writing, putting the other half into ornament which is layout. I’d farm out the design work but there’s no budget for that. I’m giving my learning a month and then I will evaluate my progress. Perhaps I will be happier then. Let me know if you’ve had any experience with inDesign.


Stanton Delaplane Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

What is a Book Without Pictures?














“A tall man looks from a battlemented roof over sea and shore; he holds a globe in his right hand, while a staff in his left rests on the battlement; another is fixed in a ring. The Rose and Cross and Lily should be noticed on the left side. Divinatory Meanings: Between the alternative readings there is no marriage possible; on the one hand, riches, fortune, magnificence; on the other, physical suffering, disease, chagrin, sadness, mortification. The design gives one suggestion; here is a lord overlooking his dominion and alternately contemplating a globe; it looks like the malady, the mortification, the sadness of Alexander amidst the grandeur of this world’s wealth. Reversed: Surprise, wonder, enchantment, emotion, trouble, fear.”

This is the Two of Wands card in the Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Text by Arthur Edward Waite, co-creator of the deck and author of the corresponding Key to the Tarot. Illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith. First published in 1909 and still in print. Some say the 29 year old Alexander was depressed at the thought of no world left to conquer. This is tempered by the fact that while his empire reached to India in the west, he left the headwaters of the Indus River unconquered. (Perhaps this is the river he is looking across?)

I think every writer has visions of how they would like their works illustrated. Out here on the web, we make do with pulling together clipart and images and stuff them into our webpages. My magazine articles get illustrated with my photographs and sometimes a graphic artist I do not communicate with.  But to have an illustrator working next to us is indeed a dream. While Alice in Wonderland is a highlight in book illustration, I think, too, that Tarot decks are also incredibly compelling, even if not part of a true book.

I’ve had some some luck getting illustrations done at Fiver (external link) for my Delaplane book proposal (internal link). People tell me that Upwork’s (external link) artists offer better quality, even if the prices are higher. For now, I am back to dreaming.

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

If I Had More Time I Would Write You A Shorter Letter

The paragraph in quotes is entirely serviceable. Given time to edit, however, it can be more dynamic and easier to read.

In revising I cut the word count from 76 to 59. This takes it from the 12th grade level to the 9th. If you apply such revising to a page of paragraphs you will certainly quicken your writing. My revisions are in red:

“An offer in compromise is a program that enables you to resolve your tax debt for an amount less than what is owed through a lump sum or short term payment plan. Simply put, an OIC provides you the opportunity to pay a lower amount as your full and final payment, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in taxes, interest, and penalties. Note, however, that most taxpayers do not qualify for the offer in compromise program.”

An offer in compromise is a program

The offer in compromise program

that enables you to


resolve your tax debt for an amount less

resolve your tax debt for less

than what is owed through a lump sum or short term payment plan.

than what’s owed through a lump sum or short term payment plan.

Simply put, an OIC provides you the opportunity to

Simply put, an OIC lets you

pay a lower amount as your full and final payment,

pay less for your full and final payment,

potentially saving you thousands of dollars in taxes, interest, and penalties.

potentially saving you thousands in taxes, interest, and penalties.

Note, however, that most taxpayers do not qualify for the offer in compromise program.

Most taxpayers, however, do not qualify for the offer in compromise program.

Final revision:

The offer in compromise program may resolve your tax debt for less than what’s owed through a lump sum or short term payment plan. Simply put, an OIC lets you pay less for your full and final payment, potentially saving you thousands in taxes, interest, and penalties. Most taxpayers, however, do not qualify for the offer in compromise program.

If you had time you could consider a complete rewrite. Here’s how I write:

Try resolving your tax debt for less with the offer in compromise program. That’s compared to a lump sum or short term payment plan. You pay less with an OIC for your full and final payment. You could save thousands in taxes, interest and penalties. Unfortunately,  most taxpayers don’t qualify for the offer in compromise program.

(The paragraph is now at the 6th grade level. Which is a good thing.)





Uncategorized Writing tips

Word and .pdf Files

I’m on a Mac and I use the latest version of Word since I have an Office 365 subscription.  Word saves documents to .pdfs with little loss of formatting. Printed out, such a file looks almost  like the original Word document. That’s good but Word fails when its .pdfs are used online. Here’s what else I’ve discovered.

Footnotes and endnotes are disabled. If you hover over the footnote number you do not see the footnote text as you do in Word. If you click on the footnote the .pdf does not take you to the footnote.

URLs written out in full are clickable; they’ll take you to the website they belong to. This, for example, works in a Word created .pdf: But if you have a hidden link then the link is not clickable. This won’t work: Click here to go there. Again, the .pdf is printable but not entirely clickable.

A last discovery is that URLs wrapped around will break. I had a two column format in a Word document where URLs would start on one line and then continue to the line below. Wrap around. When converted to a .pdf, all those links broke.

Adobe wants $14.95 a month for their .pdf file creator service. I’m sure it can do all the things Word can’t. But I’d have to use .pdfs far more than I do to justify that cost. Let me know if you’ve discovered any workarounds to these problems.




Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

On Deadlines

“I find that it takes a lot of years of living, and many more of reckoning, to come up with one worthwhile paragraph. And when a deadline looms, prayer doesn’t hurt, either.” Carmen Agra Deedy

I respect many newspaper reporters because they work on tight deadlines. We can all make a story better in three days or three weeks, but what if you have only three hours? And what if you are working on several stories at once? With a close deadline we must set aside our desire for perfection and get our writing out the door. There is nothing more important than meeting deadlines.

There’s another side to this: the lack of a deadline. When I am working on spec (internal link) there’s no fixed deadline. It’s up to me. The editor may know I am working on an article but unlike an assignment, I control when the piece is sent in.

The danger here is that one can collapse into endlessly editing. How much extra work will make something better? If you spend another week on a project, will it be 20% better? Or only 5%? At what point should you send the work in and get going with other writing?

It’s an individual decision but I usually work on spec until I feel burned out. At that point I no longer work toward perfection. If I’m tired, I proof the piece a few more times and then send it off. Better to work on something new than grind away at something that’s become old and stale. There’s also a backstop here. Once sent in, the editor can tell you what isn’t clear or what needs work. That’s often better than spending time agonizing over what you think may be wrong.

At what point do you stop your writing?





Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Updating My Book Proposal At

02/12/2017 Update: Revisions completed!

Original post:

Five months ago I constructed a website (external link) to support a book proposal on Nevada agriculture. That site needs updating and I’m doing that this week. The sample chapter I have in .pdf needs the most work.

In that chapter, a survey of past and present Clark County agriculture, I mentioned what was then limited marijuana production. That’s changing. Nevada is now phasing in recreational pot statewide. Also, the Obama administration in their last days declared the Gold Butte area in Clark County a national monument. That’ll take away an unknown amount of grazing land. And I recently bought a great book called A Gamble in the Desert. It’s a history of the Mormon Mission in Las Vegas. This was the first organized settlement by non-native people and really the beginning of the city. These settlers attempted a variety of crops and I can now report on what they grew.

This need for revisions brings up a bigger question. What is better? A printed book that goes out of date as soon as it hits the printing press? Or a website that can be constantly changed?

These days, with printing on demand, it is possible to print a new book edition every year or so, even if the cost per book is higher than traditional printing with a large press run. (And you don’t have to worry about a big inventory you may never sell.) You can stay fairly current, therefore, even in hardcopy.

Websites are great as far as being current, but they are as demanding as a needy child. In managing (external link) I found that a four hundred page website was beyond my ability to maintain. At least as an unpaid webmaster.

And then there are e-books. Another publishing option. And another subject for another day.

Right now, it’s time for me to start revising and updating I’ll check back here in another week or so. In the meantime, let me know if you have any experience with today’s publishing choices. Thanks, Tom




Magazine article Photography Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Future Proofing, Coincidences, and Mariposite

Take more pictures. You might need them someday. My next article for Rock&Gem Magazine will be on mariposite. This rock can be a building stone, lapidary material, or even gold bearing ore. It occurs chiefly in the central and southern portion of California’s Mother Lode belt. That’s the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

While taking pictures for the article I completely forgot about a mariposite laced boulder I once saw in Davis, California. About three years ago I toured the “rock garden” on the U.C. Davis Campus. It’s a crazy collection of massive rocks planted around the Earth and Physical Science Building. Check out this map. (external link) What a coincidence that I should photograph something and then years later go on to write about it.

This particular boulder originated a hundred miles away at  the Carson Hill Gold Mine in Calaveras County. It’s not very pretty but it does give people a chance to view mariposite without trekking into foothill country. Alas, even if I had remembered this photograph I would not have been able to use it in my piece. Overexposed and not enough megapixels. Now, with my new camera, I am taking pictures of everything at the highest resolution possible. I am future proofing.

For much better photographs, check out the upcoming March issue of Rock&Gem. Most Barnes and Noble bookstores carry it or you can order an online version in three weeks or so.