Drone Photography Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

A Sneak Peek at My Latest Article

I shouldn’t do this but it’s in the cause of promoting interest in the next issue of Outdoor California. (external link). They’re a publication that rivals Audubon in presentation and anyone interested in California wildlife should subscribe. I took the photograph but I did not title the article, I rather like the title the editor came up with. Click on the image to enlarge the photo.

This photograph was kludged together by combining two images from two .pdf files. The magazine’s layout will be much nicer, even with a fold. This image constitutes what they call an inside double page. Outdoor California pays for photographs, by the way, something rare these days. My investment in photographic equipment and a drone may eventually pay off. Do you notice the clouds in this picture? They were wonderful on my first visit to the territory. But on my second visit, back with the drone, they were gone. Much magic lost.

I do not not have the patience of a professional photographer. For more photos, such a photographer would keep returning until they had the right conditions, possibly camping out at sunrise or waiting for sunset, the so called golden hours. If you want a little more on the original photograph, without the text, click here. (internal link)

Research tips Thoughts on writing Writing by others Writing tips

An Expanding Balloon

Have you ever attempted an article so complex that it demands a timeline or a character map? Right now I am working with an editor to come up with an angle on a story about an inland lake. What do we want to cover? What is the essential story given the magazine’s audience and its orientation?

As with anything involving water rights in California, multiple agencies play a part. Local, state, federal, and non-governmental organizations each have their roles, those often overlapping. Money for remediation projects is an issue as are plans slated for the lake, most only partially implemented or set in the future.

As the editor and I discuss the potential article, the subject becomes an expanding balloon, growing ever bigger and more difficult to handle as it increases in size. Numerous sidebar ideas present themselves as our preliminary research continues.

Over the next week I’ll develop a timeline and a list of key players. Then, I may use my reMarkable tablet (internal link) to make a graphic showing how these groups come together and what their role has been over time. Yes, it does sound confusing.

The potential article is like a jigsaw puzzle without an illustration showing what the finished puzzle looks like. We have the pieces in rough form needed to construct an image but we don’t know yet what that image will be. By laying out the details in graphic form we may yet finalize what angle we should take.

All of this fiddling around won’t be wasted as it now constitutes the preliminary research for the article. Identifying the key players and important dates is necessary to write the article no matter what direction it finally takes.Датотека:Pride_and_Prejudice_Character_Map.png

Magazine article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

My Outdoor California Article is Going to Print!

It’s always a wonderful feeling when an article nears publication. I’ve been sent a .pdf of my most recent magazine article to review and to submit corrections. The article is on the Yolo Bypass which is near Sacramento. Entitled High Water Legacy, it chronicles the role the bypass plays in providing wildlife habitat and flood control. The magazine is hard copy only, so I can’t point you to any online presence. The photograph below isn’t the issue I am appearing in, it’s just a typical cover. What’s the magazine about? As they put it,

Outdoor California Magazine

The Official California Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Magazine

Each issue offers California at its best—compelling stories on the state’s native species and habitat, presented with page after page of beautiful photographs. All of this plus the Thin Green Line, which chronicles California’s war against poachers!

How did I get my bypass article query letter accepted? Although some of it is luck, because you never know what an editor needs at any given moment, some it is not luck.

I had previously written on the bypass for the West Sacramento News-Ledger. I became an occasional reporter for that paper by doing my first two articles for free. After that, I did a number of stories, all for $25 an article. But the money wasn’t really the issue. I got paid, something, I got a byline, and I got published. Look at my story titles below.

Can you see yourself working for a weekly or a community newspaper? Query the editor with pitches and see where it leads. The idea is that one door leads to another. Years ago, writing about telecom on the web lead me to be accepted by several magazines and then I eventually landed an appearance on the History Channel. Can you think how the articles below might lead me to other articles? Keep writing!

The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring the Yolo Bypass 

The Port of West Sacramento is on a Path to Profitability 

West Sacramento’s CERT: Educate, Prepare and Assist

The TBD Fest: West Sacramento Hosts the Area’s Largest Music Festival

West Sacramento Reacts to TBD 

The West Sacramento Historical Society: Looking Forward and Back 

The Yolo Education Center: Helping Students Achieve Success

All Politics are Local

Retired Assistant City Manager Carol Richardson Looks Back

A Historic Firehouse Reborn

The Sail Inn is Back In Port

Artwork for Joey Lopes Park

West Sacramento Waterfront Stories

Chando’s Tacos Expands to West Sacramento

The California Highway Patrol Academy

The Sail Inn

Thoughts on writing Writing by others

Organizing Thoughts

Organizing one’s thoughts in a straightforward manner is key to any successful nonfiction magazine article. You start with a loose assemblage of ideas, then you add to that collection when you do your research. One idea leads to another. Facts build on facts. Eventually, you put a hundred different points together in a cohesive way. It’s the same way with a book. Just a much bigger job.

I’ve done a little more research on writing a Nevada Almanac. Based on the California Almanac I described in a previous post (internal link), I came up with a preliminary table of contents. See the image below. That framework may indeed encourage me to follow through with this passion project. With contributors helping, I may be able to write the book in one or two year’s time. It would take away time from my paid work, however, perhaps I could economize for the length of the writing. I am still thinking about it. And yes, Nevada’s Pyramid Lake is considered a fishery.


Magazine article Thoughts on writing Uncategorized

Another Article Submitted

Just completed another article for Rock&Gem Magazine (internal link). With luck they will accept it, like they have my three other articles. This was a difficult piece because my rough draft ran over 4,500 words and the magazine’s limit was 3,000. Much agonizing over facts and quotations I couldn’t use due to length.

I wrote the article in conjunction with a trip I took along Highway 49. That’s the Golden Chain Highway, which runs north and south through California’s historic and rustic Mother Lode. I stopped along the way to rockhound and take pictures.

Upon return I found out I’ll have to learn more about macro photography. Most of my photos came out fine but I’m having a terrible time with closeups of rocks and gems. People who photograph coins, stamps, and flowers all have the same problem. And it’s an expensive problem as I’m finding out. I’ll report on this more later on.

The picture below is of St James Episcopal Church in Sonora. The city bills itself as the Queen of the Southern Mines.



Writing on Spec

Writing on spec or speculation means submitting writing without a contract, usually a complete or finished work. Normally, an editor approves a query letter and you are sent a contract that outlines what is expected and what you’ll get paid. Writing on spec offers no guarantee of payment. After a tremendous amount of effort you submit your article and hope it is accepted. Risky. Yet a few magazines have this policy. What to do?

In two weeks I’ll take a geology field trip into Nevada and I’d like to write about it. My target magazine takes articles only on spec. Although I’ve never written under this arrangement, I’m going to do it this time. I want to write about the topic so much that I am going to take a chance.

To improve my odds I will closely adhere to the look and feel of the magazine’s previously published articles. I’ve also looked up their editorial calendar for the coming year; it details when articles like mine should be submitted. I am going forward. What did Churchill say? “For myself I am an optimist – it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”

December 11, 2015 update: Success! Rock & Gem (external link) will carry my 2800 word article in their January issue.

December 30, 2015 update: Background on the article (internal link).

April 22, 2016 update: Rock&Gem will publish the second article I wrote for them on spec in May. Look for it at Barnes&Noble.