Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

Three Days in The Hospital

“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” John Lennon.

I was furiously woking on my newest book proposal when I suffered an attack of acute colitis. The severe abdominal pain landed me in the emergency room and then into the hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Because I had other things wrong with me, it took a while for the specialists to determine the primary cause of my pain.

Now that I am out, I am looking at rest and the hope of getting back on track. My book proposal deadline is still May 13th. I do not know if I can make it. Worst case scenario is putting a tremendous amount of work into it, only to fall short at deadline, missing by a few hundred words. I need my health to hold out. Before more life happens.


Slack Time is Over

I’ve been given the chance to redraft a book proposal, with the thought of making the title more marketable. I’ll have to redo the cover letter, make a new table of contents, and rewrite a sample chapter. All of this is a welcome opportunity.

Last month a local publisher asked me to sit down over coffee to discuss a book deal. I had done a great deal of writing for that proposal, penning two sample chapters and two sidebars. Alas, the publisher decided to pass on the project but I was glad to make a pitch in person, something quite rare in the book trade.

And what if the current publisher passes on my proposal to them? I’ll be fine with that because I can turn the writing into articles for Rock&Gem. And writing time is well spent, especially when writing with specific goals and requirements in mind. There’s a discipline imparted to what might otherwise be an open-ended project.

A freelancer has to be keenly aware that they can’t ramble on about subject they like at any length. Like an invention, a book is only worth something if someone wants to buy it. There has to be a demand. And that is what an editor and a marketing person at a publisher knows best. We may be able to write, but can we draw an audience?

Well, as I said, slack time is over. Time to go through my library, start gathering my thoughts, and get typing. I am trying to put down my new drawing tablet.(internal link) Although I am just making crude doodles right now, I am convinced this tool will let me go further. I think it will help me produce maps for articles that I have always wanted to make.

Magazine article Thoughts on writing Writing tips

Slack Time

I am in between major writing assignments. Two of my articles are in process, that is, they are getting ready for print, but I have nothing new to occupy my time, save for my regular work from my Vancouver employer.

There is low paying web work that I could accept but I am thinking it would be better for me to write query letters, in the hope of getting a magazine article assignment. What to do?

I suppose it is possible I could spend the time learning, like exploring the drawing tablet I just bought (internal link), or concentrating on Photoshop. But, as a writer, the first thing I want to do is write, preferably on something lengthy and challenging. And the only way to get such an assignment is by turning out query letters, with a rejection rate of over 90%. Sigh.

As fellow writers, what do you do with your slack time?

If you are wandering with your writing like me, looking for a place to go, check out the latest e-mail from SubmishMash Weekly. (external link). Many places listed to submit all sorts of writing and visual arts.


rocks and lapidary Uncategorized

A Small But Growing Collection of Radioactive Rocks and Minerals

“You know what uranium is, right? It’s this thing called nuclear weapons. And other things. Like lots of things are done with uranium. Including some bad things. But nobody talks about that.” Donald Trump

Well, actually, some very good things are done with uranium. It’s radioactive isotopes help diagnose disease, kill cancer cells, sterilize food products, take X-rays, and carbon date archeological remains. But, of course, when most people think of uranium they think of The Bomb, either atomic or hydrogen. And nuclear power.

My fascination with this mysterious metal began recently, as I researched articles for Rock&Gem magazine. Every old rock and prospecting book of a certain age seemed to mention uranium and its related radioactive friends, minerals that would trip a Geiger counter and, in addition, sometimes fluoresce. I wanted to know more and I began a collection. Here’s a short video showing what I possess. The text below adds more information.

1) Thorite. Red in color. Locality is listed as Trench #1 Mount Rosa, El Paso County, CO. Two specimens.

2) Vandenbrandeite. Location is listed as Musinoi, Kolwezi, Katanga, Zaire (Zaire was renamed the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1997) Appears to be rare. Musinoi is the mine, other names are districts. Can be looked up at

“Named by Alfred Schoep in 1932 in honour of Pierre Van den Brande (born Brussels April 11 th 1896 and died December 10th 1957 near Kabombwe, DRCongo, after an attack by elephants), Belgian geologist, Geological Survey of Katanga, who discovered the deposit at Kalongwe.”

3) Uranium ore with carnotite from Moab, Utah. Closed mine. Brick size specimen, probably two or three pounds.

4) Coffinite. Mt. Taylor and McKinley County New Mexico. The collector is listed as Michael D. Cline. I have two specimens. Small rocks, anonymous looking. Named after a guy named Coffin. Very active rocks.

And here’s a reading of the Coffinite (large image), producing as much energy as the two pound rock of uranium ore.

For a fascinating look at another man who has a radioactive hobby, check out this story from the BBC. (external link)

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Quotation Quest: Fairies and Their Dimunition

A quotation which I cannot find now has long stayed with me. As I can best recollect, the saying was that elves and fairies still exist, but they’ve become smaller and smaller as people think about them less and less. Do you recall anything like this? As an aid, I’ve found some quotes which point in the right direction.

From Barrie’s Peter Pan:

“Whenever a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’ there’s a little fairy somewhere that falls right down dead.”

“Do you believe in fairies? If you believe, clap your hands. Don’t let Tinker die.”

William Butler Yeats made quite a different definition of the fairies, said to be influenced by the school of Theosophists:

“The fairies are the lesser spiritual moods of the universal mind, wherein every mood is a soul and every thought is a body.”

Although Yeats seemed to suggest them creatures of the mind, he wrote about finding their tales, only possible if they existed for a collective people:

“Yes, he noticed, if you are a stranger, you will not readily get ghost and fairy legends, even in a western village. You must go adroitly to work, and make friends with the children and the old men, with those who have not felt the pressure of mere daylight existence, and those with whom it is growing less, and will have altogether taken itself off one of these days.”

Yeats thinks fairies may disappear with the coming age, as children and old men work their way into a modern existence.

This reminds me of today’s fascination with visualization, whereby thinking something helps bring that idea about. Conversely, thinking about something less and less should make that thought go away.

As an aside, D. McManus decried the way Disney and popular culture has diminished the importance of the fairies.

“By all these steps the word ’fairy’ has shifted away completely from its medieval concept of a powerful spirit in human form which should be treated with respect, if not with a little fear, and has now become attached to dainty little winged figures flitting like butterflies from flower to flower or doing ballet dances with a starlit wand. The traditional fairies, though rarely dainty are sometimes lovely; but far more often, when small beings are reported to have been seen, they are described as elflike.”

I continue looking for that quote.

art Uncategorized

The Remarkable reMarkable

My first fleshed out scribble with the reMarkable drawing tablet. (external link) This is a 1,488 wide by 1,455 high pixel size image at 300 dpi. Images are exported as .png or .pdf files. I transferred this image by e-mail from the tablet over WiFi but a cable solution is possible. Since I can’t draw a straight line, electronically or otherwise, I chose something bent.

I’ve been disappointed with drawing tablets in the past, this solution seemed better, especially for drawing maps for my articles. I’m not convinced that this is the solution for that but I am enjoying the tablet for other reasons. It is a calming technology and I linger over it like people completing coloring books. While I’ve never believed in mindfulness or meditating, this tablet slows me down and lets me enjoy creativity in an slow, wandering way. I like it.

Making doodles or keeping notes always falls apart when it comes to erasing. With pen, impossible, with pencil, a mess. This tablet allows almost unlimited re-dos in a current session and it features layers so you can experiment with something daring without messing up your original work.


The image below was saved as a .png file. This is the full size of a document made with the tablet. It measures 6.15 inches wide by 8.21 inches high at a resolution of 228 pixels/inch. The shapes were done using templates ordered from Amazon. The stranger the better!

And just think what I can do when I get these templates:

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

A Writer’s Melancholy, Wistfulness, and Unrequited Love

I’m overtaken with melancholy every time I pass a magazine rack. I think of all the magazines I’ve queried with no success or even acknowledgment. It reminds me very much of being turned down for a date or a job. You wish you could have proved yourself, shown yourself capable. But, alas, you were never  given a chance.

And there they sit, all those faces on the covers of the magazines, each blankly staring, announcing with silence that you don’t have a place. As a writer, have you ever felt this way? Does it tire you, too, to think of all the markets to be queried, likely unsuccessfully?

Fortunately, my mood passes fairly quickly, even if returns on the next visit. Other things present themselves. And I think of Churchill, “I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.” Forward.


Extravagance, Necessity, or a Little of Both? Thoughts on the Apple Watch 3

The Apple Watch 3 is joyous technology; there is fun and fascination in everything it does. The 3 magically marries features in different Apple products, bringing more use to everything it connects with. The watch unlocks your laptop, controls your iPhone camera, and acts as a remote for your Apple TV. My watch has built in cellular so I have a phone on my wrist. After two weeks I am still learning what this watch does. It is expensive but I’ve seldom been happier with any product.

My old watch was a Garmin Forerunner 15 GPS. I tracked my running with it and it did a good job. It did such a good job that I bought two over the years, with its integrated watch band falling apart each time. You can’t replace the Forerunner’s watchband, its material is fused with its case. Spending $70 to have Garmin fix it seemed a waste of money for a watch now selling for less than $120.

In looking for a new watch, I briefly considered moderately priced dive watches like what Seiko offers, in the two to three hundred dollar range. I liked the idea of a rugged watch I could sweat on and swim with. But they were all clunky and heavy and dumb. Dumb in that they couldn’t do any tracking like my old watch. But what about Apple?

When they first came out, Apple’s watches seemed too light and dainty. They’re now making their third iteration, though, and I think they have achieved a fine product. Although I wouldn’t wear the watch while bouldering or prospecting, the Apple 3 is a fine urban watch, perfectly suited for my day to day routine.

Besides their original lightness, I was also put off by what you see on the left below. What’s called grid view. That’s a constellation of apps on a single screen, each represented by an icon that you have to guess at. I wanted none of that. That confusion has been cleared up now, with what’s called, simply enough, list view. What you see on the right. You can easily scroll clear and brightly lit text descriptions to find your music, messages, and maps. Or go back to grid view and hunt and peck.

Besides the fun quotient, the watch does a great job tracking my runs, indeed, it encourages them. If you haven’t run for a while, the watch asks if you are running today and if so, when. It then lets you enter a time, whereupon it later reminds you that your run  is coming up. The Nike running app is topnotch and you can download audio files from experts who will guide you through recovery runs, speed runs, and long distance runs. The model I have is called an Apple Watch Nike+. It keeps me motivated to get outdoors, its features turning from novelty into necessity. Why so?

I’ve suffered from decades of terrible sleep, a chronic condition I and my medical team have failed to solve. All I can really do is work on the problem with when I am awake, by trying to remain as healthy as I can. Although I sometimes lapse into months of inactivity, I am always aware that being fit is the one thing I control. This watch helps me with that, keeping me motivated and in a healthy routine. Running is always tough but this watch makes it less so. Although extremely expensive, at over four hundred dollars, I have no regrets and much happiness.

If there is enough interest, I can detail some of its features. If you navigate with your iPhone, you’ll find the phone communicates with your watch. The phone sends turn by turn text directions to your watch, and the watch also taps your wrist before each turn. (It has a pressure plate on the back to do this.) It also monitors your resting and active heart rate. And it can play music during your workout, while pausing the music briefly to say what distance you’ve run and at what pace. I was very surprised at the end of my first run to hear a woman say, “This is Alison. Running may not always be easy, but it is always worth it.” Apple is amazing.

Photography Uncategorized

Good Article on Submitting to Adobe Stock

I haven’t had any luck submitting photos to Adbobe Stock but I haven’t tried too hard. (internal link). Fstoppers today has an excellent article on the process (external link) which you should read if you are interested in selling your photographs. Tidbits like this are really good:

“If you’re reworking an old shot of a person who is easily recognized by themselves in the image or if the image is of any recognizable property, ticketed location, or a landscape such as a national park, you will need to go back and get model releases and/or property releases before Adobe will accept your shot. Property releases are a big deal. The last thing you, Adobe, or any buyer needs is a complicated legal situation over rights or a release. If you have shots that require it, take the time to get the release before starting to rework the image.”

Any ticketed location or recognizable property? Such a drag. Photography seems the essence of freedom yet releases work against that. I understand getting a release for any model  but ones for property? For more on this, read this post which I penned a while back. (internal link).

Speaking of photography, I continue to enjoy newsletters sent from this site: (external link)

It’s produced by Norwegian Kim Rormark and it’s excellent in every way about landscape photography. Highly recommended.

books Magazine article Photography Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Why Freelance Magazine Article Writing Is Not a Paying Profession

Too many websites say there’s big money in freelancing articles. Too many sites lie. If  good money did exist these website operators would be writing the articles themselves, instead of trying to sell a system to somebody else. These sites profit on misery, sell false hope, and discredit our eager if unprofitable profession.

Kristen Pope recently wrote an article entitled “34 Travel Magazines and Websites That Pay Freelance Writers. (external link)” It honestly lays out the wages that travel writing brings. If a periodical states what they pay at all, it’s revealed that most titles pay less than a few hundred dollars for an article. This is not enough to sustain a writer over the course of a year.

Travel writing is the most expensive kind of writing. Without an expense account (you’re not writing for National Geographic), the writer pays for all meals, hotels, rental cars, camping equipment, photography supplies and so on. Sites often have to be visited twice. It does not matter if you were going to visit a place anyway, you still have to pay those expenses. I know, having written seven travel-type pieces.

Let’s say you’ve lucked out and managed to land six articles over the period of a year, each paying a thousand dollars. To get this kind of response you’d have to send out at least 60 query letters, assuming a normal rejection rate of 90%. Those carefully crafted query letters would take at least a full month to write, assuming you could send out two a day for thirty days.

Writing pays when you are on staff with a magazine or if you are one of a stable of writers that editors go to when they need a story written up. There was a time (internal link), however, when I thought freelancing might make a going wage.

Ten years ago I sold three articles for over two thousand dollars apiece. But each of those pieces took over a month to write, and one took two months. Soliciting more work at that rate proved unfruitful and those works constituted my income for that year. Since then, the wage floor has collapsed (internal link) and articles now bring in from twenty-five to a thousand dollars.

You can not hope to live on this income, especially when half your time will be spent sending out queries, not actually writing articles. Any travel writing will cost you even more. Then why write? Because you have to. Because you can. Because you want to. Because it makes you happy.

I’m told the secret in non-fiction writing is to have several book titles in print, with each of those books needing revisions every few years. In other words, you have a rotation of well selling books that you can keep updating and profiting from. That’s just not the case with magazine articles.

We live one query at a time. Unless, of course, your articles catch the eye of an editor and they put you in their stable. Or, if a book publisher likes your body of work and decides to accept your book proposal based partly on this demonstrated ability to write. These are the intangibles to magazine writing. Resume building if you like.

Supplemental income is really what magazine writing is all about. We still have to have a day job or other income to subsidize us. My backup is internet writing, blogging for trial lawyers and writing product descriptions for a catalog company. We are like actors working as a waiter in a Hollywood restaurant, hoping to get noticed, attending as many casting calls as possible, always living in hope. Just don’t live in false hope.

Keep at your craft and work on it as hard as you can. Keep making those sentences bend and twist until they produce what you want them to say. Keep sending out query letters and avoid people selling a system. They only enlarge their pocket books at our expense. Work on what you control, your writing, and consider everything else a distraction. Good luck.