The Kelly Mine In Magdalena, New Mexico

Magdalena, New Mexico. Known for Smithsonite, a zinc ore. Beautiful country all around.

A proud rock shop owner known simply as Otero, displays his rough material and his cabs, the findings made by a native woman silversmith.

To know more about Smithsonite, named for the founder of the Smithsonian Institution, watch this video:

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In Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park

A hiker crests a hill on the way to the Fire Maze. His only companion, a trail marker at the top. Black and white and white leaves the lines of the earth bare. I think of Kate Bush:

And if I only could,
I’d make a deal with God,
And I’d get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems.

Okay, here it is in color:

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The Problem With Model Releases

People add interest to otherwise dull photos. See below. These shots are from the Trinity Site on the grounds of the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. It was the location of the first atomic bomb explosion and it is only open twice a year to visitors. I’m writing about my trip in my book. But back to people.

My publisher requires a model release from any recognizable person. That release demands a person’s name, full address and a date of birth. Not the kind of thing you ask from a random stranger. While I do have a professional business card describing my book, that’s just what a stalker would have. As it stands, the publisher may not want the photograph in any case. From my point of view, this woman is unrecognizable with her hat and sunglasses.

The plaque reads, “Trinity Site: Where The World’s First Nuclear device Was Exploded on July 16, 1945.”

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Twitter and Instagram Tips for Newbies; Hashtags Explained

As I learn about social media to help publicize my book, my brother (external link) sends this in about Twitter and Instagram:

Twitter and Instagram

Tom, hashtags are used to classify content on Instagram and Twitter for search purposes and to identify current trending topics.


Hashtags aren’t as important on Twitter anymore unless you’re tweeting along during a television show like the #SuperBowl or the #StateOfTheUnion, etc. or if you want to see what’s up with different current events and topics like #MeToo or #Fortnite or #BlackLivesMatter and so on. Also, with Twitter’s 280 character limit, hashtags count against the limit so it’s best to tweet with them sparingly. The only time I use hashtags on Twitter is when my tweet doesn’t have a keyword people would naturally use to find me. For example, if I tweet about an obscure federal grant management topic but the word “grant” or “funding” isn’t in the text, I’ll add #grants or #funding at the end. I think hashtags are more for Twitter, Inc.’s benefit than the users.

Twitter is more for real time (or semi-real time) interactions with people. You can search any keyword without using hashtags nowadays and Twitter will pull up every tweet using the term. Search for a topic of interest, look at all the tweets and jump into a conversation. Or, you can do like I do: use Twitter as a tool to push out information of interest to me, rarely interact with anyone and spend most time reading other people’s tweets for breaking news and current events. I still like tweeting just to keep my stuff out there in case anyone searches for it, but I rarely engage anyone in lengthy conversations because so many people are on tilt politically. Topics that should be apolitical often devolve into anti-republican or anti-democrat or anti-Trump rants and I don’t need that headache.


Hashtags are critical on Instagram. They’re the way people find your images. When you hashtag a photo with #Vegas or #RockClimbing or #Tacos or whatever, Instagram puts your photos together with all the other images using the same hashtags. When someone searches on #astronomy, they’ll see the most popular images with that hashtag (based on likes and interactions) and the most recently posted photos. You can use up to 30 hashtags per photo; I never use that many but it’s an option. Before I post a photo, I occasionally search for hashtags that might be relevant. At the bottom of the phone screen, there’s a magnifying glass search icon. Click on it and enter your keyword in the box at the top of the screen. Below the search box, you’ll see tabs for “Top,” “People,” “Tags” and “Places.” By clicking on Tags, Instagram will show you how many posts use the keyword you entered. I try to use hashtags that are in 50,000 or more posts just for the eyeballs. And sometimes I’ll use whatever hashtags pop into my head regardless of how popular (or unpopular) they might be. There’s no right or wrong way to use them. The key is to always use at least a handful so your images get on Instagram’s radar.

If you post the image of the Gremlin, for example, your post might read something like this:

Spotted this beauty during a recent research trip for my book. #Gremlin #classiccars #authorlife #writerslife #roadtrip #Arizona #TomFarley

Another example using the image of your paperwork:

Finally getting my research notes and paperwork organized. #authorlife #writerslife #writing #freelancewriting #books #organization #rockhound #TomFarley

Once you get a few Instagram posts under your belt, you’ll have a much better idea how it works.

Also, animals are huge on Instagram. You’ll get a bunch of views by posting pictures of Fremont and using hashtags like #cats #catsofinstagram #officecat and so on. You’ll see a ton of options if you play around with the search tool.

One thing I forgot to mention is a lot of people are having success on Instagram with long-form (multi-paragraph) posts. If you have a lot to say about a picture or a topic, it’s okay to go long. Instagram doesn’t insert paragraph breaks using the return key, though, so you need to break them up manually with a random character like this:

Paragraph one blah blah blah.

Paragraph two blah blah blah.

Paragraph three blah blah blah.

#hashtag #hashtag #hashtag

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

I am Tiring of These Constructions

I am tiring of some constructions. My complaint is they contain the word “not” or “no,” those words inherently negative. Is there a way to recast these sentences positively?

Original: Not only is the bread exceptional, the butter is as well.

I now prefer: The bread and butter are exceptional. OR The bread and butter are both exceptional.

Original: But that’s not the only thing to like about Portland’s restaurants.

I now prefer: There are other things to like about Portland’s restaurants.

Original: That’s not to say the service could have been better.

I now prefer: The service could have been better.

Timeout!  What is that original sentence really saying? Now that I write it, I am confused about its meaning.

Original: Notwithstanding the exceptions noted before, we proceed with the matter.

I now prefer: With the exceptions noted before, we proceed with the matter.

A current abomination, the use of “so.”

Original: So, we took the next train to Hamburg.

I always prefer: We took the next train to Hamburg.

OR, explain the circumstance. Because we missed the first train, we took the next train to Hamburg.

Enlarging this post’s discussion, I am troubled by the phrase “a lot.” It bothers me for reasons I can’t explain. Fowler tried to alleviate people’s concern with this quote from Churchill:

“The chance of an annihilating victory has perhaps been offered at the moment of deployment, had been offered again an hour later when Scheer made his great miscalculation, and for the third time when a little before midnight the Commander in chief decided to reject the evidence of the Admiralty messages. Three times is a lot.”

I continue to be troubled.

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Turning the Organizational Corner: Inside Baseball

With nine months to deadline I have turned the corner on writing my book and I can clearly see how it will finish. And that it will finish. There’s an American saying: inside baseball. It means discussing obscure details that only a true baseball fan would appreciate. Similarly, this post will outline things that possibly only another writer would care for. With that admonition, I proceed.

After I got through my week long visit of Arizona and New Mexico, it was clear I needed a way to organize all that I had seen and experienced. How to do that? Make separate entries in my Places to Visit Chapter for museums, natural wonders, rock shops, fee-dig sites, free collecting sites, and so on? The answer was a method I had already started when I first began writing the book: a county by county approach.

Most people want to travel efficiently, seeing all they can in one area before moving to the next. A separate museum chapter might contain resources hundreds of miles apart, with little connection to territory they were in. A county by county approach, however, listing everything rock-related in those politically organized divisions, would tie all that information together and make for easy editing. Let me show how this scheme would work.

For places I hadn’t visited, a brief, matter-of-fact synopsis would suffice. For those places I had toured, more lengthy entries would exist. The beauty of this approach is that it can be easily edited for length. A few hundred words can be excised by simplty eliminating an entry. This contrasts with editing narratives, where one has to do substantial rewriting to keep a story coherent. Here’s are two examples for Greenlee County, Arizona, whose county seat is Clifton. Note in the first entry that I haven’t visited it, so its listing is curt and limited but still informative.

Greenlee County (Clifton)

Greenlee Historical Museum
299 Chase Creek
Clifton, AZ 85533

33°03.368′ N 109°18.257′ W

Greenlee Historical Museum

Early mining history. Museum located in the Chase Creek Historical District.

Rock-A-Buy: Rocks and Gifts

809 SE Old West Highway
Duncan, AZ 85534

32°42.791′ N 109°05.921′ W

Doug Barlow is the affable owner of this east-central Arizona rock shop. Fire agate is the big draw in this area and Doug will show you samples of what to look for. He’ll even provide a map of promising locations for anyone who comes into his shop and signs his guest book. The Round Mountain Rockhound Area, listed below, is close and Doug . . . .

I can make entries as short or long as I please. I also envision a county-based state wide map with different colored stars for museums, natural wonders, rock shops and so on. Plus an appendix that lists attractions by type. By all these means, I can clearly see to the book’s finish. As for the rest of the material, such as reading maps, understanding GPS and how to use a metal detector, well, all of that is also coming along nicely. Nine months to go. My nine innings. Play ball!


Writing’s Hidden Time Bandit

As I continue my tour of the Southwestern United States, I am taking pictures by the score.  With two cameras, just in case I miss a shot with either one. The problem is that each image takes a judgment, to keep or throw away. Later, after that decision is made, another decision comes up: how best to process it.

All in all, a lot of decisions and ones that take hours and hours while on the road. Guess what’s even more distressing? The publisher might use only a handful of photos out of dozens presented. But an editor always wants more images, more choices, more possibilities. So, one has to keep clicking. Right now, I’ve done more photo work than writing on this trip.

It may be possible to save all that image work for later, when arriving back home. But I want to get this work out of the way, because writing takes thinking on, over days and days. I don’t have everything I want to write crystalized just yet. I add to my notebook with short jots, nothing lengthy. At the right time, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, my thoughts will come together for the writing. For right now, more photos.

In Taos County, New Mexico

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Musings From A Coffee Shop at One in The Morning

Just had an extremely upsetting nightmare. And my insomnia continues. I’ve retreated to Mad House Coffee here in Las Vegas, a 24 hour refuge for students, night owls, and those winding down from a night on the town. The shop is virulently anti-Trump so I keep a low profile. The music’s good.

A philosophical question dogs me. Would any of us with crippling afflictions or problems trade them for someone else’s? Would I exchange places with an amputee, with the guarantee of no more nightmares? It’s argued  that all of us would stay as we are, with familiarity winning over the unknown of a new life. Hmm.

A trade tempts me, at least in theory. There’s no way of transference, of course, of exchanging a mental problem with a physical problem with someone else. But the idea follows me. The larger question is what is worse? A physical or mental problem?

I’d draw the line on help with others. Right now, I  can take care of myself. I’ve arranged my employment where I can do my writing mostly on my own time. I couldn’t hold a regularly scheduled job with my nightmares and chronic insomnia, But in the present, I can sleep here and there throughout the day and eventually wind up with eight hours. If I had to depend on someone else I wouldn’t trade conditions. I couldn’t be a burden to someone else.

So, there the question sits. For now. For now, I return to writing my book. Or I’ll do my blogging for trial lawyers. Perhaps there is a terrible accident in Illinois or on Florida’s Treasure Coast that needs writing up. At one-thirty in the morning the music is good.

Artwork below is on display at Mad House.