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.


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Thoughts On The University Press System

University presses exist throughout the United States. They’d seem a logical choice when looking for a publisher. But perhaps not, especially for a non-academic like myself. First, a realistic assessment written by an anonymous insider. Then a few comments from a friend who has dealt with the university press system.

You wouldn’t be ruled out a priori, but I do want to give you some info to think about before you decide anything.  All our books need positive reviews from two outside experts, and those experts in the case of a scholarly book are always going to be professors with PhDs,  trained and experienced in academic writing, and they’ll be evaluating your manuscript by those standards.

Writing a history such as you propose would require you to spend a lot of time in the various archives around the state in addition to familiarizing yourself with all the relevant secondary literature. So it’s a huge commitment, with no guarantee of publication until reviewers recommend it and then the press’s editorial advisory board approves it (and even then production takes an additional eight months).  An author of a successful scholarly monograph at the end of the day may make several hundred dollars in royalties for all that effort.

Who in God’s name would sign up for such a thing, you may be wondering?  The whole university press system largely exists to vet and promote specialized scholarship written by professors. Books lead to tenure, which is the roundabout way of compensation that makes it worthwhile.

We do publish non-academic authors, but in most cases it’s a matter of personal passion tied to a steep learning curve.  So with all that said, if you’re still interested, I’d be happy to take a look.  And I don’t say any of this to scare you off, but I’ve run into situations where an author’s expectations are radically different from the realities of publishing, and as you can imagine that’s not a good situation for the author or the Press.

And now, some hope:

That response seems reasonable. My two journal articles, however, went through peer review by PhDs and both came out with a publish recommendation. They are blind reviews so they do not know that you are not a PhD yourself. They also have some bias in that they all want to get tenure and promotions so they are reticent to kill another (presumed) scholar’s work. I’ve read one history book published by that Press and I did not find it intimidating and it certainly did not have a robust literature review. If it gives you a platform to find other opportunities, why not? It will take a long time from start to finish, but you can take on other projects during the dead periods. Just my two cents.


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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.

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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.


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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.
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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 privateline.com (external link). I was usually seeking permission to put up an image. Privateline.com 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.


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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.


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