Drizzled early this morning, then turned sunny and cool, driven by northwest wind. Hi of 62. We had a long hike on the beach and Mr. Shaksper had a fine romp in freedom. More photos from the memory bank follow. Over.

To finish yesterday’s visual story. After reefing to open the cage door, it finally comes up and out comes Mr. Bruin, who accelerated to about 30 mph, exiting stage south toward Cheeseheadland. I can visualize Shakespear writing tht state direction, exit state left for Cheeseheadland, pursued by a bear. Sweet. This is a male (male heads much larger than females), but we estimated 200-225 pounds, not nearly the monster Dave had been seeking to move.
Mom and son soar away to the other side of the lake, seeking solace. From yours truly.
One year, while teaching kindergarten her kids couldn’t figure out her name, so they called her Miss Art. Pretty funny, and damn practical!
Unique real names from Luce County camps.
Snapper laying eggs. Gestation can take up to five months.
Doet Massassauga Pierce Stocking Cedar Creek
Doet Boersma’s etching of a massassauga in Barry County.
Golden dragon.
The kind of firewater you look at — not drink.
I am starting to imagine fish everywhere I look!
Largemouth bass hiding..


A Writerr Lake scene worthy of a painting.

The Usual Schedule

A otter' head
Dead otter on Lake Superior Beach
It took two weeks to trap this fella off a NW Iron Co farm where he was breaking into a horse farmer’s barn and helping himself to vittles. We picked up the trap, on hot morning and took the bear 20 miles south, almost to the Wisconsin line and released him, after a quick stop at the DNR office to hose him down and cool him off en route.

The summer schedule goes something like this:  wake up at 0300, work until 0700 when Lonnie gets up, then back to bed until 0900 and then the day begins for mutual stuff. Quite often we spend most of the day reading: no radio, no TV, no real distractions other than a few locals drop-bys.  We count animals every day, try to get good photographs, and then on a  morning like this, I can’t find a lot of the photos. So typical. Ninyivint, here are some photos for your viewing pleasure. There’s no real continuity in this spread other than all these things appeal to me for one reason or another.



CO Painter climbs up on the culvert trap and has to reef hard to make the release door lift.
CO Painter frees fawn from an old couple’s window well in Caspian.
Old Timey Eyeball Carpentry
CO Dave Painter and I ran across this in extreme SW Iron County earlier this month. No idea what it is supposed to portray. Photo is not representative. The bruin is painted pink.
Writer Lake bluegill.
The “Eagle Tree” at Writer Lake
June sunset, Writer Lake, Iron County

Da End of June

DAY 41, June 28, 2013, DEER PARK, MI — This has been a miserable biteybug season. Multitudes of ravenous mosquitoes, no matter the temperature, and on SW wind days there are hordes of stable flies, those fast little flies who bite with stainless steel teeth and with the intention of taking off small chunks of flesh until you disappear. We loathe stable flies and we are forever trying to calculate where the hell they are. If they’re here at the cabin, will they be on the Lake Superior beach 300 yards north? And viceyversa. So far we’ve been unable to discern a “tell,” which makes the damn things impossible to detect. We have also been beset by the usual crowd of lake spiders, and this year more pine beetles than normal, plus we have scads of Junebugs bouncing off the windows, walls and sliding glass door. This would be a banner year for visiting entomologists.

We have WiFi on the premises in our cabin this year, negating my periodic schleps to Mike and Monica Brown’s Deer Park Lodge, where an outside picnic bench served as my long-time, sometime office. Miss the social part, but the convenience of tapping into the electronic world from our kitchen table is undeniable and much relished. Thanks to Max Stinson for making this happen.

As is usual, my thoughts are  ahead on future, as I try to finish the first draft of MOUNTAINS OF THE MISBEGOTTEN, by the end of August. Last April I finished the first draft of BROWN BALL, and I am leaving that in a drawer until October before I look at it again. This is the story of a 13 year old white boy playing in an all-Hispanic baseball league in San Antonio, Texas in the summer of 1956, which is the summer the city’s public facilities were integrated.  Not in any of my series, this is a thing apart. What happens to it will depend in great part what I do to it next, but for now it is out of my mind. I suspect all authors operate like this with multiple projects at varying stages of completion or conception. The thing is most writers don’t have the time to talk to each other!

This past year I joined the  New York-based International Association of Crime Writers, North American Branch. Sent them $60 dues and never heard from them again until a week or so ago when they wanted me to re-up and I asked what happened to weekly updates and quarterly newsletters. Upshot, I’ll get this year’s membership for free. They neglected to add me to the list last year! I guess this made me a member in good standing financially with no standing whatsoever professionally or personally in the organization. Funny.

One of the aspects of writing that’s holding my interest again this year is that of  “voice.” What do I mean? The late, great David Foster Wallace wrote,”That distinctive singular stamp is one of the main reasons readers come to love an author: the way yo9u can tell, often within a couple of paragraphs, that something is by Dickens, or Chekov, or Woolf, or Salinger, etc. The quality is almost impossible to describe or account for straight out– it mostly presents a vilse, a kind of perfume of sensibility — and critics’ attempts to reduce it to questions of “style” are almost universally lame.”

To me, Wallace is describing the authorly (nonce-word?) voice and personal stamp, a unique way each of has of looking at the world and putting what we see and think into words. I sometimes wonder if my stories carry such a stamp, but I doubt we can determine that for ourselves. Aren’t we at least a bit surprised the first time we hear our voice played back from a recording? The public voice rarely sounds like the one we hear in our heads, the internal one lacking sound. We are left to write what we might and not concern ourselves with such things. yet I do wonder, and I’m sure other authors do as well.

Ultimately this voice/style thing comes down to our actual sentences and how we create them and build and stack them into paragraphs and scenes and chapters, and so forth. Short story master Isaac Babel wrote, “A comma can let us hear a voice break, or a heart.” That’s brilliant! And he told us, “No iron can pierce the heart with such force as a period at just the right place.”

Esther Forbes, author of the Newberry Medal-winning Johnny Tremaine, according to George Saunders, once of our best-ever writers, said Forbes “suggested that the sentence was where the battle was fought. “

“With enough attention,” Saunders wrote, “a sentence can peel away from its fellows and be, not only from you, but you.”

That’s the quality we each and all seek in our craft and work, I think, with varying days of success and or failure.

The thing about writing, at least for me, is that it is an all-out commitment and controlling obsession that never abates for long. My friends, I think, have little concept of the kind of time and concentration required. While I am long retired from my salaried suit-days, I’m in full employment in the world of scribblers! My friends are almost all retired and look upon me as one of them, though I continue to bang out 8-12 hour writing and reading days, reading being a critical component to improving your writing craft. Most of my boon companions seem to see my writing as some kind of hobby and belief I ought to be out socializing in the twilight of my life, or as Washington Irving put it, “being arrived at that happy age when a man can be idle with impunity.” Thus I get regular drop-ins and calls to “come out and play and when they ask what I’m doing and I growl, “Working,” they  chuckle.

There are other aspects to this game  readers and fans never see and rarely hear about, but I’ll share some of them.

Earlier this week I got an invitation to be interviewed by a radio network out west. I’d never heard of the outfit and passed the request to my publisher, who also had not ever heard of the organization and after some research determined it to be a place where anyone can have his own talk show, for a cost. The sound equivalent of self-publishing. Because the invitation avoided identifying who would do the interviews or what specifically  they might be interested in, I politely declined the offer.

Another bugbear involves people wanting me to sit in with reading groups after they have read one of my books. We should gather in some comfy living room and quaff apple jack or Nehi grape soda, or vintage Calvados whilst jaw-jacking about the book. What in hell is going on in this country, and why are we increasingly attracted to group-grope activities? Play dates for kids AND dogs, and reading groups? Lions and Tiger and Bears, Oh My! Gawd, we get more like the Japanese every day. Is there a uniform of the day for writing groups? I don’t know, and don’t care. See, as a writer I view a book as between me the creator and you the reader, no priest or interpreter, or Bible-study group necessary You read it and get what you can from it. I feel the same way as a reader.

Reading groups? Think about this. let’s each have intercourse with the same person (different times), then get together and talk about the experience. Really? I don’t think so. My reaction to a book will not be the same as yours and even if it was, who cares and what does that add to the reading experience? Don’t get me wrong, I love it that groups buy my books, but to actually talk about them with me — I…don’t…think…so!

My favorite is a guy who comes up to me and says, I bought your book and passed it around to 35 friends, and when I reply, “Therefore taking 35 royalty payments out of my wallet, I usually draw  shocked and blank stare. That’s right, I write for a living. it’s also a lifestyle, but writing has to pay the bills. People don’t get this. If you really wanted to be supportive you’d say I convinced 35 friends to buy your book.

Now I don’t want to turn negative here, because I don’t feel that way, but I do think if people want some insight into a writer’s life they ought to hear some real things, not just a bunch of pie-in-the sky platitudes about the importance of books. I get frequent requests from libraries whose approach is invariably identical:” We are a tiny, small rural library but have loads of your fans would love to host you here and can offer an honorarium of $100.”

Well, I’m a small author, the far end of the JK Rowling-Stephen King spectrum of number of books in print or royalty dollars in the bank. I live on what I make from this work.

The latest request came from a library 4-5 hours away. I patiently replied that what they saw as a two-hour commitment to talk to fans, was for me a seven-day commitment — minimum. A day to drive over, a day there, and a day to drive back, plus gas, and then at least four days to prepare because I don’t do canned  (repeat) presentations. Each group gets something unique. Ergo, being offered a hundred bucks for seven days is a bit of a kick in the creative cajones. My actual fee, for the record, is $750 for an original presentation and appearance, no matter the setting (library, etc). Sometimes I ask room and board and gas, depending on the time of year, etc. And sometimes I ask only for the fee and pay expenses from that.$750 doesn’t strike me as a high fee for the work involved and most rural libraries apparently feeling the same because I have made many, many such journeys over the years. Sometime two geographically close institutions will join forces to bring in writers.

So here we sit on another foggy morning, the mosquitos hovering in swarms, and all the fireworks and gun morons are already commencing fire in preparation for Independence Day or whatever they think they are making noise about. One guy across the lake goes through a clip a day and I’m sure this keeps the doctor (psychiatrist)  away, though I’m guessing the practice is in preparation for a black helicopter invasion by the One World Government, or those damn Liberal gun-snatchers, whoever arrives first.  Think: A lone cowpoke with his .45 Colt against turbine-powered choppers armed with missiles and 20 mike-mikes, or more. Now THERE’s a picture of skewed reality.

Next blog will be mostly photos of all the good stuff we’ve seen this summer and spring, including the three largest fish I’ve caught, a smallmouth, a bluegill, and a sunny, not a single trout. Have not been trout fishing yet and prolly won’t  until. Bullshido camp in late July. Take care and be safe. A story is calling my name. Over.

Writer at Work A


Remembering Those Who Served

Benghazi Crew

This blurb and photos appeared recently in If you’ve never visited the site and love the U.P., you should.  I was in high school when the Lady Be Good was found, and I remember the photo of the wreckage that appeared in newspapers.

We’re tying together a number of loose ends with today’s Shoebox Memory. Benghazi, Libya has been in the news a lot lately. On this Armed Forces Day weekend, it’s a good time to follow up on a Copper Country connection with the region, where one of her sons gave his life for our freedom in World War II. The story has been told in a number of publications. One of my favorites is the introduction to “The 180° Theory” by Robert Nara. Another is this recounting that appeared a few years back in Charlie Eshbach’s Keweenaw Traveler: [And FYI, I think Charles Eschbach and I graduated together from Rudyard HS, long, long ago.]

In front of the Lake Linden town hall stands a huge three bladed B-24
Liberator bomber prop with twisted blades, mounted as a tribute to one of Lake
Linden’s finest.
Around noon on April 5, 1943, at an American air base
near Benghazi, Libya; a crew of nine prepared to fly their first combat mission.

The radio operator and gunner, Tech Sergeant Robert E. LaMotte, 25 yrs old, born and raised in Lake Linden, Michigan, had worked for the Civilian Conservation Corp after high school. A friendly young man with a quick smile, he had earned his third sergeants stripe quickly.
A devout Catholic with five brothers and a sister, LaMotte and crew of the Lady Be Good, a B-24 Liberator, were a part of a 25 plane bombing rIn front of the Lake Linden town hall stands a huge three bladed B-24 Liberator bomber prop with twisted blades, mounted as a tribute to one of Lake Linden’s finest.
Around noon on April 5, 1943, at an American air base near Benghazi, Libya; a crew of nine prepared to fly their first combat mission. The radio operator and gunner, Tech Sergeant Robert E. LaMotte, 25 yrs old, born and raised in Lake Linden, Michigan, had worked for the Civilian Conservation Corp after high
un on Naples, Italy. The German occupied region was heavily fortified. The 700 mile mission was to put them over the target at about dusk, but strong winds and other problems diverted their course eventually causing them to turn back. Crossing the Mediterranean at night and missing their coastal base the plane flew south into Libya’s great desert. LaMotte signaled to Malta’s Luqua station at 8:55, CYDX-V-KT and got a response, proceeding with his message X697 X279, which ask for conformation of his position. Malta tapped back a reply confirming their 140 degree course for Benghazi. An hour later, pushed by a strong tail wind they crossed the coast and continued past their field out into the dark desert.
At about 1:55 am pilot William Hatton, made his last call to Soluch, “My direction finder is not working, Please give me a position report. I think I’m over the Mediterranean close to Benghazi. Fuel almost gone. Will have to jump soon. Please give me a QDM.” (Position bearing). At approximately 2 am he set the auto pilot and the crew jumped thru the bomb bay landing to their surprise in the sand rather than the ocean. The plane continued on flying with only one engine running. It gradually lost altitude and skidded along through the sand
Miles from the plane, the crew, minus one who had landed farther away, gathered their gear, and struck out. Parachutes were carried for shelter from the sun. Heavy sheep skin suits and flight boots were discarded. Spreading out to search for John Woravka, the crew headed north on a bearing of 330 degrees. By rationing their water to a cap full per day they figured they could last four days and reach civilization. Walking at night and resting under their chutes during the day to escape the heat the crew traveled 20 miles the first day. With eyes swollen shut from the searing sun, blisters forming on any exposed skin and drastic weight loss, the men started to hallucinate. LaMotte prayed constantly but wandered in and out of reality. He was back in Lake Linden with his family, joining the Air Corp. His whole family was there to bid farewell, to hug and kiss him, His father told him how proud he was of him as he joined Uncle Sam, that soon his brothers would join him.
The lost flyer’s condition was getting desperate. The blowing sand and heat were taking their toll. Ripslinger’s diary reads: “Tired all out. We can hardly walk our fourth day out. A few drops of water each. Can’t hold out much longer without aid. Pray.” On the fifth day, Ripslinger, Shelley and Moore left the rest too weak to travel, and stumbled off towards the Calanscio Sand Sea. The three traveled another ten miles, each step a painful slog through the deep sand. The five left behind including LaMotte were barely alive. Toner wrote: Sunday 11 April, “Still waiting for help, still praying, eyes bad, lost all our weight” Aching all over, could make it if we had water, just enough left to put our tongues to, have hope for help very soon, no rest, still same place.”
On April 13 all the Lady’s men were dead. They had traveled a remarkable 70 miles. It took 16 years for three BP oil explorers to finally find the downed plane and another year before a Canadian water-well drilling team found human remains of five men, 78 miles NW of where they had bailed out.
Bob LaMotte’s younger brother George, who lives in Houghton today says, “I
was only 13 so I don’t remember a lot. I remember the telegram my Dad and Mom received which declared him missing and presumed dead. Bob is buried with my Mom and Dad in the Lake Linden cemetery.” George and his sister Jean are the last two of the eight LaMotte children.
The campaign against Hitler in the Naples area broke the German’s back and signaled the beginning of the end. Today we are losing those vets to old age, but, we must not forget the men like Robert E. LaMotte who paid the ultimate price for our freedom…

For more on the story of these men and their sacrifice, see


Benghazi 2


Shrooms in the Black

DAY 16: Tuesday, June 4, 2013: DUCK LAKE FIRE SCAR — We spent the good part of today with Max and Brenda Stinson, searching for black morel mushrooms in the remains of last year’s huge Duck Lake fire. Lonnie and I found46, which we cleaned and prepped tonight. This was my first real shrooming experience. Lonnie hunted them as a kid withe her folks and seven siblings. These varied in color from taupe to black, but were relatively easy to see in he burn area. Lots of blueberry bushes out there, so crop this year and/or next should be amazing. We went from the burn across the river and spent a few hours picking agates on a beach where stone was piled 3-4 feet high. Amazing. Shaksper loves running loose and exploring. I started the day cutting curved striped maple for canes and walking sticks. Will debark them tomorrow and set them inside to dry. Also doing same with choke cherry wood. Anybody know where in Eastern UP to find diamond willow? Over.

Out of mesh bags on to platic bins for counting and sorting.
Out of mesh bags on to platic bins for counting and sorting.
In the sink and ready for salt water to drive out critters and crawlies.
In the sink and ready for salt water to drive out critters and crawlies.

DAY 15

Sunday, June 2, 2013 — DEER PARK, MI —  Two weeks in our cabin now and settling into a routine, which are forever being refined. Lonnie is a genius at organizing, and keeping us that way. We both have too damn many interests, but WYSIWYG, right?  The usual sked: I awake 3ish, work till 0700h, back to bed until 9 and then up and “at em.” We usually reserve agate hunting for late afternoon. We are still having cold nights, 36 degrees at 2215h and dropping. Supposed to be 25 mph winds tomorrow. No suntanning. We have lunch noonish and I write till 3, nap time, then beach or dinner. Afterward she washed and I dry. Plentiful creature sightings this trip: wolf, bears, coyotes, foxes, otter, beavers, mink, two golden eagles and 40 bald eagles. Also Ospreys, northern harriers,Loons,Pileated and other woodpeckers and lots of hares still in winter-spring switchover piebald. No pix though. This is Shaksper’s first summer of life and his initiaol trip to the UP. He loves it and hates red squirrels. Our forget-me-nots are just coming in, but  not where we planted them over Shanny’s grave, so we may transplant some to help mother nature along. We got our “planting” done just in time — jalapenos, hot hungarians, 4th of July mateys, rosemary, and basil (which is the best scent on earth).  We also planted impatiens to attract hummingbirds in summer and the hawk moths come football season.  Last weekend I saw a dozen crusiing smallies, all in the est. 14-16 in range , and yesterday hooked a nice 20-incher, my largest ever on  Muskallonge Lake. Once got a 22-inches on the Paint River in Iron County, both on fly rods, this one on a weighted leech, right in the upper jaw. Released him back to safety. Took line out on a seven weight line and Hardy reel.  Max Stinson’s back is recovering nicely from winter back surgery, but Deer Park Mayor emeritus Don Madorski is having a hip problem. Don is local glue for this place, as is Mike Brown and Max. Been cold and we’ve had 2 inchs of rain in two weeks, which is much more than last year, when we arrived to a crowning Duck Lake fire. Got a photo of that for you.  Agate finding not so good yet, but more NW and NE winds will bring more stock. Lonnie got a nice shot and movie of a blackbelly plover, which has been hanging around. No yellowlegs, lesser or greater yet, but they’ll arrrive sooner or later. Only 6-7 Caspian terns. One year we had 17-18 of them. The DNR has bullhead traps off Bill’s Peninsula and has target of 9,000 lbs of fish. Last I heard they were at 7K. Funny, in five years I’ve never caught a bullhead out of here, much less seen one.

Lots of local bear activity, and not yearlings, which is usual, but adults. No bloobs last fall and long winter aand all the critters are lookign for chow where they can find it easiest, which makes bird feeders and suet prime targets.

Lonnie is making agate jewelry for a fall show and I am buried in a novella I am calling The Last Dance of Sackerson The Last. it starts in 1595, moves to 1778, and then to the present. Concerns how little some things change.

Deer here remain dark gray and many are just making their way north from winter yards in Hulbert and Curtis. Should see fawns this week, or next. Photos follow. Over.


Giant Hogweed
Giant Hogweed.Once a household ornatmental,now escaped into the woods and carrying a painful, very toxic burn. Avoid and report. If you don’t know what a plant is, go around it, and dress properly for hiking in woods.
20-in smallie, yesterday, midday, on black leech, 7 wt line and reel.
20-in smallie, yesterday, midday, on black leech, 7 wt line and reel.
Shaksper and Bone.
Shaksper and Bone.
Blackbelly Plover, passing through.
Blackbelly Plover, passing through. These are roadrunner size and move FAST.
Duck Lake fire crowning, April 24, 2012, afternoon of our arrival
Duck Lake fire crowning, April 24, 2012, afternoon of our arrival