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07 Mar

Birth of a Painting

Pencil stage. I had forgotten how a lot of straight lines can be a real pain to get right!

This shows the sequence of steps in building a new painting to be called Azteka Morning. The first shows the outside of the bakery, then the steps from there in painting it. I think painting helps my writing by making me more observant, and more familiar with shapes and colors, all essential skills in the woods. The drawing step took a day. And now I’m on Day 14 of painting. I’ll post the final  picture when it’s done, probably later this week.

This is the bakery front in morning. The straight lines and simplicity of the scene caught my eye as we were leaving after Saturday morning coffee.

Blocking in shapes and applying early color.

The next step in color. Shot taken at night in the studio.

06 Mar

Good News



In late January I reported that Jambe Longue had a small tumor removed from her breast. Since then it’s been determined that she will have radiation therapy, but no need for chemo, so it will be twenty days instead of something strung over months. The tumor was small, unaggressive and no evidence of problems anywhere else. She immediately began packing for the Yoop.


Berry n'ice

after the ice stops

March 4, some open water and still at it. Can you say Die Hard?

Some days just feel like this. Sayin?

Thousand word department, as in some pictures are worth. Broken hubcap on top wine bottle cork. Need we say more? Not staged. Found on Portage Road yesterday.

06 Mar

Out There

Photos from the albums of CO BJ Goulette. You think game wardens don’t see some peculiar stuff?

Rifle, silencer, night scope, taken from baited tower blind. Hey at leaast the guy had an orange hat, though what good is would do at night escapes me.

This boa constrictor shot by MSP in Grand Haven. Don't know the story but it is NOT a baby.

Turkey vulture rescued from tower by Goulette and CO Ivan Perez

Squirrel eating on a dead swan. Hunger will force behavioral changes.

19 Feb

Robins, Rolls, Eagles & Runways Ahead of Us!!!


Looks like alabaster but it's the real deal. Or was.

Azteka: Another View of the Goods (Mui Bueno).

Azteka: View from the sidewalk

Azteka: One of Those, one of those, and two of those, and ....

Azteka, fresh from the oven: Jalapeno-cheese bread, crunchy crust, melt-in-your mouth interior. See? Si!

First robin of 2011: February 19. Yowzer!

Azteka: Trays and trays of trays and trays
Flicker on the feed. Note the bright yellow under tail feathers. When bird flies yuou also see white spot on back, which gave rise to Yooper name of dollar butt for the bird.
Backyard Ice Lizard


Our redtail hawk pair is in the neighborhood again and a couple of chicken hawks (Coopers) flying missions over our backyard bird feeders. Night before last I got up early (0400)  to work and Shanahan went out and immediately killed a rabbit, and consumed a bloody good portion, a stark reminder that for all our anthropomorphizing and  humanizing him, he remains solidly and unrepentently, a dog. Good for him.

Some news bits bugging me in last couple of days. First, my pal Ed Haerter sent me a note pointing out that remote drone pilots, flying from some sort of building in Arizona or New Mexico (or both) are now going to earn hazardous duty pay, which we all called combat pay way back then. They come to work, fly their missions on video screens, and go home. No PCS or TDY  to exotic locales or concerns about crashing their own bods, or conditions like WIA, or KIA, or MIA or POW. Times change. I’m not sure for the better. Not denying their work is important, perhaps even critical, but it’s not combat like pilots are actually flying in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just isn’t.

The other thing was a news report yesterday that Rick Snyder, (OTN, his term for himseff: One Tough Nerd) our new  OTN has announced he will forego $158,999 of his gubernatorial salary and take only a dollar for the next year. Okay, on it’s surface it’s a noble gesture, but then I got to thinking. Snyder has announced he intends to fix Michigan’s economy and straighten out our financial house mess.  He, according to reports, spent $6,100,000 of his own fortune to earn the Lansing office, for a $1 salary. Now, I ask: Is someone who makes such a trade the one we want trying to fix us? Really? Hell even at $159K a year (3rd highest governor salary in the country, you have to question a man’s analytical abilities and judgment in making such an “investment.”  Spending $6.1M for $159K return (XX percent)? Just sayin.’

Over past couple of weeks Jambe Longue and I watched the entire Band of Brothers and Pacific series form HBO. Wonderful series and work, a must-see for all folks. Other than that we are in the Sargasso Sea time of winter, becalmed in work.  BTW, soon I’m going to put blog instructions on the front page of the website because many of my readers I fear, don’t even know that Joe Roads is a blog, or how to open and read it. I’ll put instructions up front along with answer to the prevailing question, when will Grady be back? The answer, regular blog readers know is next fall, title of Force of Blood, but I’ll take another step to make sure any who come to the site can make the determination quickly.

After the recent health surprise, we’re waiting for an early march appointment to find out if chemotherapy and radiation lie ahead for Lonnie, or just the latter. We’re assuming both but will be happier with just the latter, but you can’t plan that way. Jambe Longue of course is chomping a the bit to get back over  Da BeekBritch.

Finally, a few pix from Azteka and da boyd feedah. Also a photo from CO Becky Hopkins. She and sone Justin were in line for Pizza to see the new Harry Potter flick and she got a call about an injured eagle. The finders had already called Lansing, who sent them to the county and  the rehabber, and Officer Hopkins felt like the  good samaritans had had enough of a runaround, so she left Justin with a barrel of popcorn (maybe pizza too)  and went to fetch the bald eagle to deliver to rehabbers Joe and Barb Rodgers of Shepherd. Unfortunately, the bird didn’t survive,  COD unknown, this anecdote a reminder of the Stories Your Mother Never Told You Department: For all our well intended and heroic efforts, sometimes the dragon wins. Good job, Beck.

That revered last Saturday in April: She ain’t so far away now. Really.

Remember: most useless things on earth: runway behind you, altitude above you. Kick your tires and light your fires. Have to admit I can’t translate that into dronepilotese, but I’m sure they have something akin to it for what they do.

Let’s all keep our eyes on  the runway ahead of us and on a swivel after we’re airborne. Over.

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day

May your day be filled with sprinkles and sweets from your sweet!

Or anything pleasurable.

12 Feb

Black Squirrel

Last Saturday in April is getting closer. Even backyard ice is looking "trouty."

Black squirrel turning to gray, Note the tail. We have several in the backyard in the same morph.
10 Feb

New Blog Category, The Work of Writing

I was first published in 1986, and in the quarter century since thin I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have an interest in the process and mechanics of writing fiction, which led me to think I might try an occasional blog on the subject. This is the first entry.

The most frequent comment I hear is “I think I have a book in me.” (I know: This sounds like a tumor and in some ways it is and the only way to get rid of it is to move from inside your brain to paper.) Or some put it this way, “I have this idea for a book.” Perhaps one in a hundred have actually sat with paper and pencil (fingers on computer, etc.). What I tell them is that if you think you have a story, sit down and write it, and write it all the way to an end, which may not be the end you finally decide on. Forget about all sorts of quality details in the first go-through. Just get the story down on paper as best you can. Finishing is the goal, not finishing perfectly. When it’s done, then you can go back and begin to polish and refine it.  Until then you only have a fragment to work with. Too many people who do start to write,  spend years rewriting the first 1,000 words trying  to get it perfect. The average novel these days is 100,000 words, double-spaced, 12-point type. Say it takes several years for you to get the first thousand just so? You’ve still got 90,000 more to go. And that first fragment is only 1/10th — a fragment of something. My advice, take a deep breath and go to it until the first draft is done.

Writing groups might be of use to you , that is, people in your community who all feel like they have a book “in” them. They usually meet weekly or monthly and you turn in what you’ve done and the next meeting people give you written and verbal feedback. Check at your library to see if such groups are near you.  But here’s what I see as the problem with this, and it’s just my opinion. If your group is 10 people and you each haul in 1,000 words a month, that means you’ve got 9,000 words a month to critique, plus your own 1,000 to write. If you are just trying to get started, this is [here’s a mixed metaphor] like jumping off the ski jump your first day on skis, and now you have 9,000 words to read every month, or 108,000 words a year, which is the equivalent of a novel. Not everyone can produce 1,000 words a month, so the numbers will be less. Or, you’ll keep seeing the SAME 1,000 words each month as the same writer tries to polish and re-polish. The fact is that you’re taking on a giant workload which can threaten to squash your own. Plus, we don’t all read and write and like the same things and there will be a lot in your group you may have absoulutely no interest in reading. It may be that groups work better for poetry and short story writing, but for the novel and long fiction, it seems impractical to me and burdensome.  It can work, I guess, but I think it’s tough and requires somebody with great experience and leadership to make it happen. You’ll have to decide for yourself. One advantage is that you are people with similar aspirations and commitments to the art, which means you no doubt share the same problems and challenges, or many of them, so the social part can be beneficial to some.

Another option is for you  to take writing classes, community adult ed, community college, local college or university, there’re lots of options, but most of these cost $$. Sometimes paying for something makes us work harder, but it’s not that way for everyone. Even in classes you’ll be looking at fellow students’ work, so there is that additional workload, plus you will have hard and fast deadlines. In writing groups, you decide what and how much and how fast you will work. In a class your teacher may decide all of this for you. The good thing is that if your teacher is good, you’ll get solid feedback on your work, and that’s what what you’re paying for.

Whatever path you choose, it’s imperative that you read fiction. In fact when I’m told by someone they want to write a novel, I always ask if they read novels. You’d be shocked by how many don’t read fiction, yet want to write a novel. One thing all the writers I’ve known (and know) about have in common is that they are always reading and most will tell you that reading helps them develop the voice and ears for telling a story. If you don’t have the ears or voice, your chances of writing a novel that will interest people, much less an agent or publisher, is small indeed.

A colleague of mine years ago did a study in a master’s program to look at people who choose jobs that don’t involve a lot of writing. Not surprisingly her finding was that people who don’t like to write, find jobs that won’t require much writing. By extension, people who don’t read novels aren’t likely to want to really tackle creating one. So, you’ve got to ask yourself. Why am I wanting to do this?

You need to be honest in your own self-assessment You have a story burning to be told? Great, that’s what you need, though if it’s truly burning how come you haven’t done anything before this? Or, are you enamored of some sort of “image” of authorship, being”thought of” as an author. Lot’s of people fall into this category, but I can tell you, after you hold the first one in your hands, that feeling never amounts to much again. The title of author and the work required to make it happen are different animals.

By the time a new book comes out, I’m at least one book downstream from there, and sometimes two and I have to go back and re-read in order to get the new book back into my mind so I can talk intelligently about it (or seem to). For me the real joy and pleasure is in creating something out of nothing (which is a damn good description of my mind). I like making things that interest, intrigue, edify, and entertain readers, though I don’t write with a reader in mind. I tell stories I want to hear, not stories aimed at some artificially chosen demographic group.

You want to write? Get thee to it. What do you need? Patience, candor with yourself, a strong work ethic, a little place to work, the ability to sit long hours on your dupa alone, a work- schedule you adhere to, and a good story to tell. Having these things, sit on down and tell it. Don’t worry about what happens after you have it; that’s a whole different set of challenges.

It’s my plan also to talk about painting and other creative endeavors in this blog, how much and to what extent, only time will tell.

If you find these things interesting, drop me a line through the web-site email.


10 Feb

Wandering Bruin

Word from CO Dave Painter in Crystal Falls that for the last week a small sow bear of about 50 pounds came out of hibernation and wandered around town. With the temperature sitting at a balmy 7 he decided the road might be easier for his tootsies so he wandered the streets and roads and finally climbed up a tree. Dave says it’s most likely she got bumped out of winter sleep by a logging job near her den. Bears aren’t true hibernators; they go into a sleep pattern that roughly approximates true hibernation.  Finally the February wanderer crawled up a tree to pose for photos before the DNRE drugged her and moved her away from roads. Over.

Peek-a-boo, I SEE you!





Bet Ms. Bruin wouldn't forget a line in the National Anthem!

I'm soooo

09 Feb


We’re in a little cold spell. Obama visits the UP today and that ought to be funny. Pal mary sent some ice photos to remind snowbirds what things look like back here. Over.

Brrr 1

Way cool. Literally.

07 Feb

Face-Plant and Keep on Trucking

Post from CO Jeremy Payne from couple of days ago. I love these kinds of reports: “Today, during the arrest of some poachers I was running in the snow. While running in the snow I did a face-plant off a 5’ snowdrift, tactically rolled back onto my feet and continued my pursuit of the criminals. When the suspect turned the corner of a house his first words were, “What the hell happened to you?” I must have looked pretty intimidating covered in snow. Arrests were made, I love being a Game Warden!”

Jeremy Payne, second from left. COs in tactical gear.

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