Dragony Rising: ‘This amazing book’

Thanks to readers for these amazing, top reviews of  Frank Nagler Mysteries Book 5, DRAGONY RISING.

NEW: The WEIGHT OF LIVING in audiobook, read by Dane Petersen: https://www.amazon.com/Weight-Living-Frank-Nagler/dp/B0BLY1Z1JT/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Remember, books make great gifts, so give the gift of great mysteries!

5.0 out of 5 stars It’s intriguing, gripping, and a must-read thriller.

Reviewed in the United States on November 6, 2022

Spiraling around the protagonist Detective Frank Nagler who has witnessed his hometown of Ironton, NJ, undergoing many changes over the past several years. Embedded in the deep webs of corruption and inflation, the town is a storehouse of endless possibilities. I had been looking for something creative and out of the box lately, when one of my friends told me about this amazing book. I’ve been reading it ever since and love it immensely.

5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, modern style mystery that I couldn’t put down!

Reviewed in the United States on October 7, 2022

Dark and disturbing book that I couldn’t stop reading deep into the night. Like an old style detective mystery, but with a modern flair. Like the old style film noir– this book has colorful characters and great dialogue along with a super cool storyline. Recommend

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 30, 2022

If you’ve ever found yourself browsing the thriller section on a bit of a book binge I can relate to you. I got sold on this book purely based off the cover and a couple paragraphs of the description. After I inhaled this book over the weekend I realized I made an error jumping into the 5th book of the series (by accident) – No regrets!

5.0 out of 5 stars Can’t wait for the NEXT one!

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on November 3, 2022

Frank Nagler is the cop we want on our side. For Frank, some things are simply wrong. Whether it’s decades of corruption whose stink rivals that of the Bog or the mistreatment of the underprivileged or the discrimination against his lieutenant, Frank’s going to fight to fix it, no matter the personal cost. The plot unfolds one gripping development after another, while the rich prose is the key that unlocks Nagler’s heart and mind. From the explosive beginning to the dramatic, surprising ending, an engrossing read. I’ve enjoyed every Frank Nagler mystery so far and this did not disappoint. On with the next story!

5.0 out of 5 stars A good thriller / mystery story

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 31, 2022

It’s been a while since I’ve read a good thriller / mystery story and boy did this book do the trick!!

It really kept me engaged and wanting to continue to see how the story progressed. To find our what was really going on. I now feel invested in this Frank Nagler character and want to read the other books as well.

Would recommend for thriller fans for sure!

Dragony: Amazon.com: Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5: 9781944653231: Daigle, Michael Stephen: Books

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5 by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon, Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kirkus Reviews on DRAGONY RISING: ‘An epic series installment’

This is the Kirkus Reviews take on DRAGONY RISING, the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery.

Thanks to the reviewer for a thoughtful  examination of the story.

The conclusion: “This crackling series installment provides a wide-angle shot of society and generations in conflict.”

The review:

A detective and his allies uncover a deep-rooted conspiracy in this fifth installment of a mystery series.

 After the tragic results of a prior case, Det. Frank Nagler is on leave from the Ironton, New Jersey, police department. Early one morning, he’s asleep next to his lover, city planner Lauren Fox, when a massive explosion rocks the city. The recently sold block of Warren Street in downtown Ironton has been leveled. Frank climbs Ironton’s new bridge for a look at the damage and assumes a natural gas leak is responsible.

 Then he notices a single kitchen chair sitting on the roof of a theater on the blast zone’s periphery. He’s joined by reporter Jimmy Dawson, who agrees with his suspicions that the chair’s presence isn’t an accident.

 Meanwhile, Lauren, while researching potential victims on the Warren block, sees a tax map indicating that about 50 people live there. Yet after several days of searching, only four bodies are found.

 As the situation grows complicated, Frank works with Dr. Phillips Ignatius to overcome his PTSD after witnessing a former police commander shoot and kill three officers.

 Frank is teaching at the police academy when Mahala Dixon, one of his students, insists on his help getting her father, former cop Carlton Dixon, released from prison. Carlton has been wrongfully incarcerated for 15 years, Mahala claims, as she hands Frank a file detailing incidents from 2006.

 When it’s determined that one of the Warren Street victims was stabbed before the explosion, subtle connections begin forming between seemingly disparate urban elements—real estate investor Taylor Mangot II and the shadowy Dragon Alliance group, among them.

 Daigle’s series, in which the decaying Ironton is as rich a character as Frank, continues with this epic installment. The plot distills motifs that have hijacked American discourse for several years, including gentrification, hordes of angry White men adrift, and, most pointedly, maniacal real estate moguls.

 This narrative weaves in details from previous volumes that add emotional color, such as Frank’s deceased wife, Martha, and his formative relationship with the nun Sister Katherine. Numerous characters with deep secrets, like Mahala and retired Det. Jeff Montgomery, help maintain an urgent noir atmosphere.

 The city’s ironworking history plays an immediate role, lingering phantomlike in Frank’s memory: “His father’s last job was shifting glowing metal parts hooked to chains and pulleys from the molding room to the cooling line; his father’s face had a permanent tan from the heat….It hollowed him out, just like these building shells.”

In contrast, Mangot speaks of the past as something to shed in the line: “This city looks backward, preserving the old, dirt red brick as if it is an act of mercy, as if somehow the cries and sweat of the ancient workers are more meaningful than the efforts of the men who paid the wages.”

In the book’s final third, after following tangled money trails, Daigle’s heroes witness citywide chaos that readers will recognize as frighteningly possible.

Despite ending on a hopeful note, the tale may leave fans battered with a thought that’s become inescapable to modern Americans: What does this country stand for?

This crackling series installment provides a wide-angle shot of society and generations in conflict.

Dragony: Amazon.com: Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5: 9781944653231: Daigle, Michael Stephen: Books

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5 by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

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How fictional DRAGONY RISING reflects real U.S. politics

I wrote the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery DRAGONY RISING during the Covid shutdown and run-up to the 2020 Presidential election that elected Joe Biden as President and concluded with the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.

The times were marked by isolation, deaths, protests, street riots, and the rising cry of election deniers who want the world to believe, without evidence, that the election was stolen (The Big Lie) .

That outcry by the Republican party and right wing media has led to more and more alarming statements by candidates proclaiming that if elected  they will pass laws that will ensure their party will never lose and election again.

The latest example:

From Huffington Post: Tim Michels, the Republican nominee for governor of Wisconsin, in a video Tweet, promised a group of supporters this week that the GOP would seize permanent control of the state if he is elected in next week’s (Nov. 8) midterms.

“Republicans will never lose another election in Wisconsin after I’m elected governor,” the multimillionaire construction executive said during a campaign stop on Monday.

In state after state Republicans are pledging to alter state laws and voting rules to make sure their party captures control of the  government.

How different is that from what I wrote in DRAGONY RISING? (Written more than year ago)

Examine this scene:

(Lauren  Fox)  held out a notice.” This was in my mailbox when I went back to my office. It’s a copy of the ordinance the city council is expected to pass on Monday.”

(Lt. Maria) Ramirez read the title: “‘An ordinance to reform the duties of the city council of Ironton, New Jersey.’ Reform how?”

“By taking away their statutory rights to power and making them an advisory council,” Lauren said, taking the papers from Ramirez. “Um, here, see?”

She read, “‘The council shall with this act rescind all powers of appointment, financial oversight and legislative authority; with such powers being transferred to the mayor, whose term limits are hereby suspended, per Article 256-2006.’ That means that Bill Weston is about to become mayor for life.”

“What about elections?” (Frank Nagler)  asked.

“Suspended,” Lauren said, “Let me see,” and she shuffled the papers. “Here. “‘Public elections may be suspended under the emergency powers granted under Article 256-2006.’”

Can  a mystery novel capture the real life  situations facing this country?

Can those fictional scenes hold a mirror to the real world?

It is easy to believe in fiction that the good guys win.

In real life it takes hard work.

Don’t believe that it is happening?

Read the statement above by the GOP candidate  for Wisconsin governor.

Or think about this statement, by Dragony leader Rodney McCarroll:

“It don’t matter what ya believe, when it’s happening right in front of ya.”

So, two requests:

Read DRAGONY RISING to see what happened to my fictional city, Ironton, N.J.

And more important, vote on Nov. 8.

Vote like your country depends on it.

Dragony: Amazon.com: Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5: 9781944653231: Daigle, Michael Stephen: Books

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5 by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon, Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

DRAGONY RISING getting notice

Finishing a book for a writer is a challenging time.

We think we know what we did, and we can convince ourselves that the plot was rich and compelling, the characters well-drawn and interesting and that the story worked in all aspects that we planned.

Then the readers have their say.

I have been amazed and pleased as the reviews of the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery, DRAGONY RISING,  have arrived because reader have been caught up in the story’s complexity and characters.

DRAGONY RISING is the most complex of the Nagler Mysteries, starting with an old cold case, an explosion that levels part of downtown Ironton, N.J., Detective Frank Nagler’s troubled mindset, and the arrival of the Dragony, an ancient organization bent on domination.

Here is a few of the comments from 5-star reviews DRAGONY RISING has garnered.

Thanks to all for reading the book and taking the time to thoughtfully comment.

***

This fifth installment in this mystery series is a terrific reading for fans of the detective genre. This mystery book enveloped you in the mind of detective Frank, who possessed the moral fortitude to investigate the crimes in Ironton, New Jersey. The characters in this book are well-developed, and the events are dark and compelling. An intriguing and incredibly realistic crime story was expertly written by the author. I wholeheartedly endorse this book, especially if you enjoy mysteries with creative themes.

***

I have enjoyed the previous novels immensely. The author manages to sustain the action, find new things to relate about Ironton, NJ and additionally keep the characters fascinating, deeply layered, and credible. These novels chronicle a town and people through changes that are not always good.

***

This novel is absolutely fantastic! This is the 5th book of the series, and probably my favorite one. Could not recommend it enough!

***

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel by Michael Stephen Daigle is the fifth and best Frank Nagler Novel
Like many of us living in the Garden State, Detective Frank Nagler has seen his hometown of Ironton, NJ, undergo many changes over the past several years. Although I want to believe the level of scandal in Ironton is more fictional than typical. The author describes the scandals within the city’s government, the stench of its corruption embedded deep, rivaling the dank stagnant stench emanating from the old bog just outside town.
From the opening sentence, Dragony Rising was a page-turner. Every time I thought I could put the book down, it beckoned me to keep reading.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you like mysteries with a unique New Jersey focus. My only recommendation would be for the series to be named the Lauren Fox/Frank Nagler novels. Lauren is as much the brains of the operation as Frank.

***

After the city of Ironton is brought to its knees by a devastating explosion, Detective Frank Nagler must put aside his recovery and return to serve the city in its time of need. Broken by the trauma of witnessing the murder of his friends, Nagler struggles to keep his mind sharp as he searches for clues. Only by piecing together findings that are at once unrelated and yet intimately connected can Nagler save Ironton.
Daigle does it again. Don’t miss this fifth book in the Frank Nagler Mysteries — it’s the best one yet. The story will keep you turning the pages long into the night.

***

This is the 5th book of the mystery series. In this book, detective Nagler who has a conscience and ethics from ancient times, follows clues to uncover corruption and crimes in NJ. The book is well-written and will keep you turning pages to try and find out how the latest unexpected twist develops.

***

A very well written and highly engaging book that sucked me in right away. The author masterfully crafted a fast paced and very realistic crime story. If you are into crime drama or mysteries, this book is a must! Well done…well done indeed!

Dragony: Amazon.com: Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5: 9781944653231: Daigle, Michael Stephen: Books

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5 by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon, Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

4th Annual Easton (Pa.) Book Festival Oct 21 to 30– My Schedule

Easton, Pa. will be the literary center of the universe from Oct. 21 to Oct. 30 as the Fourth Annual Easton Book Festival fills downtown Easton and the metaverse with stories, discussions, poetry, children’s books, music and monsters.

Scheduled are a week’s worth of live events in Easton’s vibrant and accessible downtown.

In addition, using the festival’s website, authors and educators have prepared a series of presentations, discussions and readings. Many of the authors who have prepared virtual sessions will be onsite in person during the 10-day festival to read, discuss and sign their books.

For full details, visit the festival website: Easton Book Festival 2022 – Easton Book Festival

On Sat. Oct. 29 I will be joining a group of writers from the Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group at Scott Park (site of the Farmer’s Market) from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for readings and book signings.

Also from 2 p.m. on Oct. 29, I will be at the Eastonian Hotel, 140,Northampton St., Easton with more GLVWG writers for more book signings.

Come learn about my Frank Nagler Mystery Series and other wonderful books.

Please join us.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Frank Nagler primer.

The Frank Nagler Mysteries are the stories of the  investigations and life of  Ironton. N.J. Detective Frank Nagler.

In response to the many questions from curious readers at recent book show and fairs,  (THANKS!!) here is a guide to the five-book Frank Nagler Mystery Series.

They are presented here in the order of Frank’s chronology, from his first case in The Red Hand to the newest story, released in September, Dragony Rising.

Kirkus Reviews: “One of modern fiction’s expertly drawn detectives.”

Thank you Collingswood Book Festival for the wonderful welcome and response.

The books:

THE RED HAND: A prequel to the series. Frank Nagler is a rookie cop assigned to a case of a serial killer. He also faces the dire illness of his young wife, Martha, his childhood sweetheart.

“He knew he needed to push the confusion aside, to ask again: What do we know?

This: Six women gone. 

Not gone.

Gone could be voluntary.

They were taken.”

5 Stars.  Unique and Captivating!

So it’s unusual that this author released the prequel after the first several books in the series had already been published, and since I hadn’t read the others, I certainly enjoyed getting a fresh start with this one. Gotta love the style of Frank Nagler! His personality, dialogue, and inner voice ring true of somebody who grew up in “Joisy.” He is true detective through and through – and I enjoyed how much in depth the scenes were which moved along quite nicely!

Distinguished Favorite in the 2019 Big NYC Book Contest; Second Place winner for mysteries in the 2019 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards;  Notable 100 Book in the 2019 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Awards;  Distinguished Favorite  in the 2020 Independent Press Awards; Nominee in the 2020 TopShelf Book Awards

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY: The discovery of a dead girl in the Old Iron Bog leads to an investigation of political and business corruption that ensnared Nagler’s companion, Lauren Fox.

“The ancients knew what to do with rain like this, he thought wickedly, squinting into the horizontal blast of water. Conjure an honest man with a ship and spin a parable about the wages of sin. Nagler laughed sourly. And then get out of town. Nagler plowed his car through the treacherous bumper-deep water that filled the downtown streets. Random spotlights, swinging loosely from dangling wires on damaged poles or hanging off ripped roof tops banged with the hollow, doomed echo of cathedral bells at the end of times and flashed a shifting and sinister light on flooded parking lots or intersections rippling with dark water. Store after store was dark, some with boards covering glass windows; others had jagged shards of glass that gleamed menacingly in the fractured light, hanging in dented window frames.”

 5 stars Frank Nagler is a Sam Spade for our time!

As I began this book, I could almost hear Humphrey Bogart reading the narrative portions describing the fictional town of Ironton. Frank Nagler is a tough, gritty, and tired detective who has yet another murder to deal with, and a local government that’s reeking with corruption. Throw in a sensitive side and a “foxy” woman, and Nagler’s cynical humor is often laced with memories of happier times. The story is occasionally long with descriptive passages, but the action is fast paced at other times and keeps the reader committed to finding out who the girl in the bog is and who killed her. I look forward to future Nagler tales!

A GAME CALLED DEAD: An internet terrorist turned a video game into a real-lifer game of killing and urban destruction placing  Nagler and his friends and the City of Ironton in danger.

A Runner-Up in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Best Indie Book contest.

Dave Norton photo

“How often did you laugh? Nagler wondered, examining the pieces of two lives scattered before him. When did you last sit on the bed and share wine, cookies from home or a joint and tell stories about high school and your first date? Sprawl on the bed eyes closed and lose the world in the music in your earbuds? Ask for help on a history paper, deeply dissect the national political news, campus gossip, bitch about a professor, salute good grades or bemoan bad, celebrate athletic triumphs or dissect defeats; play cards, recall pain and joy; share your bed with your lover, naked and smooth, lick and probe, taste, devour and then lie chest to chest, fulfilled? Never, Nagler thought, did you think of this.”

5 stars.  Love Me Some Frank Nagler!

The third book in the series won’t disappoint. Frank Nagler has a serious challenge – he’s the one with the target on his back. He’s not sure why, but “A Game Called Dead” is using the internet to play this game with the seasoned detective in Ironton, N.J. The cruel opening murder scene is only the tip of the iceberg! Well developed and as always, the author keeps you on the edge of the seat!

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING: A search for the family of a young girl found on the cold streets of Ironton leads Nagler to hunt through clues of a 100-year-old murder, clues the raise questions about his modern companions.

“She seemed hollow, the girl did. Breathing, hearing, touching, but absent. Small, dark dots sunk into an ashen blank face, eyes impossibly dull for someone so young, eyes that stared straight ahead at the faded green wall; hard, eyes so hard that did not seem to register the color of the wall, the brown of the tabletop, the lightbulb above her head or the presence of anyone else; eyes lightless, passages not to a dark soul, but to one seemingly hidden or removed; spaces missing life. Eyes not filled with pain, but absence.”

5 Stars.  Intense, dark, fascinating!

Early on, I assumed this would be a typical crime thriller – crime, clues, solved! Boy was I wrong! This book was filled with suspenseful subplots. I couldn’t put it down! I didn’t realize this book was a part of a series until I was partially through and am thrilled to say that it makes a great standalone book. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

First Place for Mysteries  in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Award contest;  Notable 100 Book, Shelf Unbound 2018 Indie Book Awards; Named a Distinguished Favorite, 2018  Independent Press Awards; Distinguished Favorite in the 2018 Big NYC Book Contest; Finalist in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards.

Named A Gold Star Award winner in the 2020 Elite Choice Book Awards

DRAGONY RISING: The new Frank Nagler Mystery. Ironton, N.J. awakes one morning  to an explosion that levels part of downtown. It is the opening act by an ancient organization with aims to own the city. The city’s only defenders are Detective Frank Nagler, Lt. Maria Ramirez and city planner Lauren Fox.

“Fear brings pain, my friend. Pain destroys hope. It must be seared away. You must burn away your own pain, Mr. Noiglar. Let this city burn. Only then does your future begin.”

“You don’t believe that, you in fact believe in nothing.” Nagler locked his ankle and stood tall.

“Ah,” McCarroll said with scorn, “What ya believe about it don’t matter when it’s happen’ right in front of ya.”

5 Stars. Exceptionally Well Written Book!

A very well written and highly engaging book that sucked me in right away. The author masterfully crafted a fast paced and very realistic crime story. If you are into crime drama or mysteries, this book is a must! Well done…well done, indeed!

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Also available online at Barnes & Noble,  but by individual book title.

Posted in Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Dragony conspiracy

In the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery, DRAGONY RISING, the conspirators launched the plan to topple Ironton’s elected government years before the story opens.

Any similarity to modern real-life  conspiracies is deliberate.

Here’s how the plan begins:

(Dragony leader Carlton) Dixon held up one hand to silence the murmured approval.

“Society and its creation, government, at times rot. Such is that time. But society is a pile of rocks strapped together with the dreams of believers like you all. It is time to seek out the dreams that have putrefied. Pull out the loose rock, weaken its hold on the faulty structure. Pull one and it leans, makes a hole; pull another and it shivers, another, and it falls. Find your rock, that weak crumbling rock, brothers and sisters, and pull.”

Purchase info: Dragony: Amazon.com: Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5: 9781944653231: Daigle, Michael Stephen: Books (paperback and Kindle  ebook)

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5 by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Dragony Rising’ … ‘This book is a must! Well done…well done indeed!’

DRAGONY RISING,  The fifth Frank Nagler Mystery, is getting some attention. (WOW!!)

Great thanks to the readers who took the time to read the story and leave a review.

5.0 out of 5 stars Nagler Five is the Best!

Reviewed in the United States on September 11, 2022

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel by Michael Stephen Daigle is the fifth and best Frank Nagler Novel.

Like many of us living in the Garden State, Detective Frank Nagler has seen his hometown of Ironton, NJ, undergo many changes over the past several years. Although I want to believe the level of scandal in Ironton is more fictional than typical. The author describes the scandals within the city’s government, the stench of its corruption embedded deep, rivaling the dank stagnant stench emanating from the old bog just outside town.

From the opening sentence, Dragony Rising was a page-turner. Every time I thought I could put the book down, it beckoned me to keep reading.

I highly recommend this book, especially if you like mysteries with a unique New Jersey focus. My only recommendation would be for the series to be named the Lauren Fox/Frank Nagler novels. Lauren is as much the brains of the operation as Frank.

5.0 out of 5 stars A detective broken by trauma. A city brought to its knees. How will they rise from the ashes?

Reviewed in the United States on September 10, 2022

After the city of Ironton is brought to its knees by a devastating explosion, Detective Frank Nagler must put aside his recovery and return to serve the city in its time of need. Broken by the trauma of witnessing the murder of his friends, Nagler struggles to keep his mind sharp as he searches for clues. Only by piecing together findings that are at once unrelated and yet intimately connected can Nagler save Ironton.

Daigle does it again. Don’t miss this fifth book in the Frank Nagler Mysteries — it’s the best one yet. The story will keep you turning the pages long into the night.

5.0 out of 5 stars Twisted novel!

Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2022

This is the 5th book of the mystery series. In this book, detective Nagler who has a conscience and ethics from ancient times, follows clues to uncover corruption and crimes in NJ. The book is well-written and will keep you turning pages to try and find out how the latest unexpected twist develops.

5.0 out of 5 stars Whew! What a ride!

Reviewed in the United States on September 9, 2022

Excellent writing. A fast-paced and engaging story! He had me from the first page and never let go!

5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally Well Written Book!

Reviewed in the United States on September 16, 2022

A very well written and highly engaging book that sucked me in right away. The author masterfully crafted a fast paced and very realistic crime story. If you are into crime drama or mysteries, this book is a must! Well done…well done indeed!

Available at:

 Dragony: Amazon.com: Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5: 9781944653231: Daigle, Michael Stephen: Books

Dragony Rising: A Frank Nagler Novel – Book 5 by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On to New Providence

Thanks to the readers in Chatham and Belvidere for stopping by to discuss and buy copies of the Frank Nagler Mysteries.

We are, to paraphrase New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, on to New Providence.

It’s also the time to celebrate the publication  of the fifth book in the series, DRAGONY RISING.

The story opens with an explosion that levels part of downtown Ironton, N.J.

While rescue crews dig through the actual explosion damage, Detective Frank Nagler  sifts through the pile of questions that lead to a shadowy organization that calls themselves The Dragony, whose members trace their root to the early days of Ironton.

DRAGONY RISING is filled with twists and turns, memorable characters and the stunning reveal of the Dragony’s actual goal, the city of Ironton itself.

Here’s the schedule of a few  upcoming events:

Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 .m. to 5 p.m., New Providence Book Festival,   Salt Box Museum, 1350 Springfield Ave.

Sept.22: Monroe Township Library, 11 a.m.  to 7 p.m.

Sept. 24:  Randolph  Country Fair, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Veterans Community Park, 100 Calais Road.

Oct. 1: Collingwood Book Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Frank Nagler Mysteries, published by Imzadi Publishing re:

The SWAMPS OF JERSEY, A GAME CALLED DEAD, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING,  THE RED HAND, and DRAGONY RISING.

Available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook at Amazon,. Barnes and Noble and other online outlets.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Dragony’ on the road. Upcoming: Chatham, Belvidere, New Providence

September brings the opportunity to bring the Frank Nagler Mysteries to a variety of audiences. It’s also the time to celebrate the publication  of the fifth book in the series, DRAGONY RISING.

The story opens with an explosion that levels part of downtown Ironton, N.J.

While rescue crews dig through the actual explosion damage, Detective Frank Nagler  sifts through the pile of questions that lead to a shadowy organization that calls themselves The Dragony, whose members trace their root to the early days of Ironton.

DRAGONY RISING is filled with twists and turns, memorable characters and the stunning reveal of the Dragony’s actual goal, the city of Ironton itself.

Here’s the schedule of a few  upcoming events:

Thursday, Sept 8. 6 to 8 p.m. at the Strange Planet Outsider Gallery, 11 S. Passaic Ave,, Chatham, N,J.

Saturday, Sept. 10, 9 a.m. to 6  p.m. Belvidere Heritage Days at Garret Wall Park.

Saturday, Sept. 17, 9 .m. to 5 p.m., New Providence Book Festival,   Salt Box Museum, 1350 Springfield Ave.

Sept.22: Monroe Township Library, 11 a.m.  to 7 p.m.

Sept. 24:  Randolph  Country Fair, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Veterans Community Park, 100 Calais Road.

Oct. 1: Collingwood Book Festival, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Frank Nagler Mysteries, published by Imzadi Publishing re:

The SWAMPS OF JERSEY, A GAME CALLED DEAD, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING, and THE RED HAND.

Available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook at Amazon,. Barnes and Noble and other online outlets.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, http://wwwmichaelstephendaigle.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Nagler 5, ‘Dragony Rising’ now available on Amazon Kindle and paperback

In the fifth Frank Nagler  Mystery, DRAGONY RISING, Ironton, N.J. is in turmoil following an explosion that levels parts of two downtown blocks.

Detective Frank Nagler is recalled from medical leave to lead an investigation into the bombing.

What he finds is a shadowy organization called by its members The Dragony, whose roots go back to the early days of Ironton’s manufacturing and mining history, a history that involves Nagler’s family in unknown ways.

What he also finds is a decades-old conspiracy designed not just to  enrich the Dragony leaders, but to threaten the existence of Ironton itself.

DRAGONY RISING is now available on Amazon.

Other formats will be available soon.

DRAGONY RISING: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BCNYYG4N/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0

Thanks to Imzadi Publishing: Janice Grove, Anita Dugan-Moore, and Kay Springsteen Tate.

A note on the cover: Anita’s rendering expresses the spirit of the new conspiracy with the Dragon overtaking Ironton, and the long running story line that has been under the surface of the other Nagler mysteries, and now breaks out.

The award winning Frank Nagler mysteries are:

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY (ebook, Kindle and Nook; paperback; audiobook)

A GAME CALLED DEAD (ebook, Kindle and Nook; paperback; audiobook)

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING (ebbok Kindle and Nook, paperback)

THE RED HAND (ebook, Kindle and Nook; paperback; audiobook)

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Writes of Passage’ anthology a 2022 award winner

The Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group has received word that  the 2021 Anthology “Writes of Passage”  was awarded First Place in the 2022 Bookfest contest.

I was honored to have my short story, “Danny’s B-29” selected for the anthology.

It’s the story about a teen-ager left alone to build a swimming pool in his backyard with cement blocks, a few bags of cement and blue paint. The effort to build the pool brings out harsh memories about his best friend, Danny.

The anthology is a wonderful and varied collection  of top-notch fiction, poetry and essays.

Congratulations to all the contributors, editors and organizers.

Writes of Passage: 2021 GLVWG Anthology – Kindle edition by Members, GLVWG, Evans, John, Giunta, Phil, Grieco Mattaboni, Suzanne, Ochs, Christopher D., Grieco Mattaboni, Suzanne. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

More of the sloppy wonderful this

We need more flashmobs playing Beethoven’s Ninth

More football fields filled with drummers playing  We will rock you

More Irish step dancers taking over airports, brass bands slamming Sousa

More unseen choruses sneaking into shopping malls to sing the Halleluiah Chorus

More Bohemian Rhapsody singers jumping out of vans and storefronts

More haphazard spontaneous Romeo and Juliet balcony scenes

More run  on sentences without  punctuation

More kids harmonizing to Lennon and McCartney on a street corner for loose change

More random boogie-woogie  players swapping riffs on an out of tune  library piano

More blues singers in smokey bars

More 12 year old guitar heroes

More random Bob Marley

More harmonizing grandmothers

More parents and kids banging kitchen pots with spoons

A sting of fiddles, banjoes and mandolins ripping through some jazzed up Carter family

Dancers hands on shoulders doing Zorba and shouting Opa!
More pure voiced tenors singing opera in Italian so well it makes dummies like me listen

A violin solo so heart felt it stops traffic

More poets reading loudly and drunkenly to nodding crowds

More writers finding their voice and shouting it out

More bongos and tom toms and tambourines and triangles

More not quite in tune junior high brass bands

More trying, smiling

More

More of all of this

More of the sloppy wonderful this

And fuck the rest of it.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ten things about old hands

1

Childhood fingers in forgiving sand,

Wet handfuls slither through watery gaps leaving muddy puddled palms.

Your finger stirs the glitter,  eyes afire.

2

Harvest hands, thick with seeds and soil. Pluck the beans, shuck the corn;

Hoe blistered, sweat drops  from forehead to soil, wheat beads burnished, ground, then bread.

Berries plump and purple stain fingers; juice dripped from your mouth leaves a red fang.

3

Saw in hand, shaping, a vision turned solid; sanding, wiping, smoothing, the slim girl statue silently seductive.

4

A finger wipes a tear; brown eyes darker yet with  uncertainty; finger tips untouched, pulled away; words unsaid in rough silence.

5

Hands in motion, running, catching, throwing, grabbing, celebrating  victory, fists pounded in defeat; ball sent soaring, watched like a bird in flight. Bat stinging from the blow, then flipped, clapping, your hands were.

6

Construction hands, bridge hands, roads hands, hanging front door hands;

Fingers pricked by rose thorns, fingers strain to pull roots, grit fills wrinkled knuckles. You smell the plucked blossom, smile.

7

Hands of war, bullet bought, air ripe with scalded screams, a silence never settles.

8

Pen in fingers, words drawn deep, shaped, soothing, then tearing, some forgiven, some too dark, my hand pushed away.

9

Hands of life, living, breathing, loving, taking and giving.

Skin sagging, blue veined, fingers bent stiff from forgotten events.

10

Hands still alive.

Lips touching your soft palm.

Fingers brush away the salty sand from your sun-brown shoulders.

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5 stars for Frank. Thanks, readers

With DRAGONY RISING, the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery on the way, there’s still; time to catch up on the best selling, award winning series.

Here’s some reviews from appreciated readers.

Thanks one and all for reading the books, and for taking the time to  review the story.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY:

Paperback, ebook, audiobook

5.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect but definitely on the right path.

July 26, 2022

My first foray into the work of this novelist and what a [pleasant surprise it was. Challenging conventions, breaking out of the constraints of genre, using the story as a vehicle for so much more. I struggled at times with the descriptive passages and the exposition. The former felt a little contrived, particularly early in the novel and the latter became repetitive at times, but make no mistake, this is a novel which repays the effort to read it. For me, it resonated and, despite its nineteen thirties setting, it was fresh and modern and it insights and challenges were contemporary. I loved it. It’s a cliche, I know, but yes, I would like to read more by this author.

A GAME CALLED DEAD

5.0 out of 5 stars Love Me Some Frank Nagler!

Paperback, ebook, audiobook

May 6, 2022

The third book in the series won’t disappoint. Frank Nagler has a serious challenge – he’s the one with the target on his back. He’s not sure why, but “A Game Called Dead” is using the internet to play this game with the seasoned detective in Ironton, N.J. The cruel opening murder scene is only the tip of the iceberg! Well developed and as always, the author keeps you on the edge of the seat!

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING

Paperback, ebook

 May 31, 2022

This book is fast-paced and engaging. What makes this book interesting to read is the tense and emotional scenes and parts that is entertaining. It also has well-developed characters that makes this book more captivating, dark, and yet romantic as well. Overall this book is Descriptive and it’s a good read.

THE RED HAND

Paperback, ebook, audiobook

5.0 out of 5 stars A rookie detective with heart

 July 23, 2022

There is so many levels to this book which is why I think I enjoyed it greatly. Frank is a newly minted detective on the Ironton force. Ironton is a fictional city which the author describes so well it is nearly another personality in the story. This is part of what I mean by levels of story.
Yes, there is a serial killer on the loose and it is a baffling case. Finding patterns are difficult enough but there is also the obstacle of not finding the bodies! Detective Nagle doesn’t have any super powers. In fact, he isn’t even sure who he can trust but he is determined. He mulls over the slightest aspect, timing, what’s left exposed and what is not. Just the mystery would keep a reader turning pages but then there is discovering the man himself.
I found that although the setting and circumstance are dark (people are dying), the author managed to light it with the good that remains in us. Without giving any spoilers, let me recommend this book if you enjoy good character development, an interweaving of community, politics, bittersweet love stories, redemption, corruption, police work, hungry-for-the story journalists and more.

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This is you

This is you.

Your touch, fingers like wind through my hair.

A curling smile, eyes as deep as hope

Offer a trail

Into a heart divided by love and desertion;

Does the coming hurt more than the leaving?

Is one uncertain and the other fulfilled?

I own what of this is mine

Knowing

That while this world darkens

What blazes is your soul.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

Join us in Newton, N.J. Saturday, June 23

I’m thrilled to be among the authors at Tractor Supply, on Hampton House Road, Newton, NJ from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 23.

We are part of a vendors expo.

Thanks to author Eleanor Wagner for arranging this author’s event.

On hand will be, besides Eleanor and myself, are:  Barbara Battisto, Peter Lubrecht, DJ Murphy and Neil Szigethy.

Also, be in the lookout for some exciting news about Frank Nagler Mystery  No. 5, DRAGONY RISING.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solar update: It works

Our rooftop solar system went live Nov.1, 2021.

This is an update.

Based on actual usage, our system was designed to generate 11,251 kilowatt hours of power a year, offsetting 92 percent of the power we once  bought directly from JCP&L.

That difference accounts for  night time, when there is no solar production, and cloudy days, when there is reduced solar production.

Solar is a substitute cost. We will be paying for a solar collector system for 25 years. But we would have been paying an electric utility for  the same amount of time. And more.

Because you are always going to use electric power.

The cost of our installation also included the removal of a tree that shaded our roof.

The tree was dying and growing in  manner that was threatening damage to both our roof and our  neighbors’ roof. We took it down a year early.

Is solar cost effective?

Yes.

The installer will show you estimated long term savings – Our estimate was $52,000 over 25 years.

It is easier to show on a daily and month basis based in JCP&L billing.

It is more fun to look at the electronic meter on the side of the house that shows production vs. usage: When the arrows are pointing to the street it means we are “selling” power back to the grid.

Today, the meter said we had generated 6,270 kilowatts of power since Nov. 1.

We have used 3,045 kWh.

That’s a difference of 3,675 kWh.

Based on the average daily use recorded by JCP&L on our latest electric  bill – 8 kWh per day — that’s 460 days worth of electric power usage.

According to the  JCP&L bill we have “banked 4,040 KwH of power, or 505 days worth.

The historic usage chart on the  bill highlights the change.

Last July we used 1,250 kWh of power. In August (with AC) we used 1,600 kWh, and in September, we used 1,750, kWh.

Our average electric bill was in the range of $325 a month.

Our payment to JCP&L for the past five months has been $3.25 a month.

Yes, solar production changes seasonally during the year based on the changing angle of the sun as it crosses the sky: It is a lower in December than it is in July.

Still on those shorter low angle sun days were generating between 20 and 30 kWh of power a day. In June with full sun, were  generating 70 kWh a day, or more than a week’s worth of power in a single day – or enough to power our entire 8-house dead end street for the day.

What this opened up is possibilities.

Electric heat used to be the most expensive form of home heating.

With new technologies and solar power, it becomes a real possibility as a way to  get rid of the oil burner and oil tank.

And, how about a homebased charging station for an electric vehicle tied to your roof-top solar system?

And it not just homes.  Look at a WAWA the next time you shop or drive by: The company has been installing  solar on its stores for the past few years.

Joe Manchin, Vlad Putin, the GOP and the oil companies be damned.

Change is personal, one roof at a time.

.

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Nagler 6: Introducing Annie

Work in Progress, Book Six in the Frank Nagler mystery series, so far titled NAGLER’S  SECRET, will have a new role for Annie, the young, silent girl whose mystery was central to the third book in the series, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING.

Here’s a peek:

Leonard’s fingers jittered on the table to the rumble of the jackhammers tearing holes in the street for new gas lines  just outside his window. He closed his eyes and absorbed the motion as the building vibrated to the concussive burr-rupp of steel on concrete; the sound made his back hurt.

Photo by Dave Norton

The book store had quieted after the raucous lunch crowd cleared Barry’s counter and dragged their loud chatter to the street. Leonard had come to know the regulars as they greeted him on their way in or out, not just by voice, but by  their height as measured by how far above his seat  their voice seemed, by their footfall or the size of their hand on his shoulder as they greeted him.

He had never seen any of their faces, but would be able to pick them from a crowd if he had to, his blind boy’s survival skill.

He smiled as he honed in on cook  Tony’s mangled version  of “My Girl,” now competing with a syrupy Musak version of  “Uptown Girl” that leaked from the ceiling speakers.

That’s how calm life in Ironton had been for the past eight or nine months, Leonard thought. No terrorists blowing up buildings, or taking rifle shots at the local cops. No fascists trying to rewrite the city charter or rig elections.

Time, he thought, to  concentrate on the  anarchy of Tony’s vocal selections.

“Tony, my friend,” Leonard called out, “If you are going to sing the classics, please at least learn the words.”

“Everyone’s a critic. Ya want lunch there, Len?”

“Thank you. The usual, chicken salad on wheat, lettuce and tomato.”

“Want I should toss on some hot peppers, ya know, get you outta your comfort zone?”

“I’m comfortable where I am,” Leonard replied.

Tony returned to singing offkey, filling in the gaps with the clatter of a dish or two.

“Annie,  could you deliver this to Mr. Consistency? Thanks, kid.” Tony yelled to Leonard. “Comin’ you’re way. Thrill a  minute.”

Annie crossed the wooden floor with practiced stealth, her feet sliding rather than stepping  and her arrival at Leonard’s side with a kiss to his forehead mildly startled him. 

“Brought you an iced tea,” she said.

He smiled and said thanks as he inhaled her aroma, a mix of strawberry shampoo and cooking grease.

“Busy today,” he said, listening as two chairs were shifted. He imagined Annie draped across one chair with her feet resting  on the arm of another.   “Feet on the floor.”

“Ah,” Annie said as the chairs shifted. “Spooky how you know that. I know, I know, blind and all that. You need to teach me how.”

“I’d say you already know how. You get around rather quietly.”

“Speaking of feet,” she said in between sips of her soda, “Mine are killing me. It was super busy.  If this keeps up, I’ll be able to afford my own place by Christmas.”

She laughed and Leonard listened as her voice chimed off the ceiling  and the thick window glass. “And how will you get around town, Miss Fourteen-year old?”

“I’m only moving next door.  Isn’t that why you remodeled the top floor of that warehouse into a fabulous loft, so me, your fabulous daughter, can lead  my fabulous life in style?”

“I just rented it  to a law office,” Leonard laughed. “Maybe they can rent you a couch.”
          “You’d do that to moi? I wonder if Uncle Frank and Lauren have a spare room.”

The door behind Leonard rattled open.

“Hey, Uncle Frank. Leonard’s kicking me out. Can I crash at your place?”

Detective Frank  Nagler closed the door and leaned against the frame with a dramatic sigh.

“That’s twice this month, aw, Leonard. Well, okay, Annie, but you’ll have to do chores, I mean Lauren and I are rather busy.” He yelled to Tony. “Got any coffee that was brewed today?”

“Wise guy,” Tony yelled back.

Nagler thumped into a seat at the table and cradled his head in his hands, wiped his hair back and grabbed Leonard’s hand while Annie reached for his other one.

“I already do chores,”  she leaned in to Nagler and whispered. “Slave wages.” She rolled her eyes.

Tony arrived with a pot of coffee and a cup, which he filled.

Nagler inhaled half the cup and nodded thanks.

“You sound exhausted, Frank,” Leonard said.

“Sound?” Annie said, “You should see him. No offence, but you need a shower.”

“Yeah. Was on that search of the Dickerson reservation. Looking for a kid. Eighteen hours.”

“Did you find him?” Leonard asked.

Nagler shook his head.  “Adding  more searchers. He was ten, eleven, a foster kid.”

Annie flipped over her phone and began to type.

“Yeah, a couple guys mentioned that at breakfast.” She scrolled through the search results, then shrieked.  She pointed the phone toward Nagler. “I know him, well, knew him. Oscar. He was no foster kid. He was at that same place Leonard and  Calista got me out of.  He probably escaped.”

Nagler glanced at Leonard, whose blank face  said he was hiding information.

He turned to Annie.

“Why would he escape? I thought that place was a protective home.”

The girl stared at the table for a moment then flicked her eyes toward Leonard.

“Don’t look at him,” Nagler said.

“It was a bad place,” she began, “Run by…”

Leonard interrupted her. “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you all of it, Frank. You were occupied subduing the Dragony. We had meant to tell you all, but …” He shrugged.

“That was nine months ago,” Frank said. “Any time since…”

“I didn’t want them to tell you,” Annie said. “I didn’t want to make you sad again.”

“And you didn’t want to live through it again, right?” Nagler asked. What didn’t they tell me? He cupped one of her hands in his. “I know. But you all, including Calista, have to fill me in  on the whole thing. Especially since we now have a missing kid.”

Annie offered a crooked grin, trying to lighten the mood. “Is this how you treat criminals, Uncle Frank?”

“You’re not  a criminal, Annie. But you might be in danger. Tell me what you know about Oscar.”

The Frank Nagler Mysteries are: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; A GAME CALLED DEAD; THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; THE RED HAND.

Coming this call: DRAGONY RISING.

Catch up with the award-winning Frank Nagler Mysteries at:

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (Search by book title)_

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Thing You’re Never Supposed to do on the Internet: Part 2

A quick story with a little mystery.

Part 2: Jack finds out who sent him photos of the green door and what’s behind it.

The dream at 2 a.m.

It was May, senior year. The trees had just filled out and street lights glowed through leaves with a soft green patina. Graduation  was a month off, Alice Cooper pounding in  his head – “School’s  out for summer… School’s out completely…”  There he was beer buzzed, running down streets with dark houses, angry, jumping at tree trunks, stopping in an open field yelling, “How could you?!” Running, trying to outdistance the loneliness, the rejection; running through what? Tall red grass? Something sticky and wet, which made no sense. Then just before he woke up in a sweat, her face, Jenny Nelson’s, and in the fuzzy background  a growling voice, “Hey loser, get out of here. Who invited you, anyway?”

Jack Digger started at the ceiling, eyes wide, mouth open. Running through tall, red grass? Some shrink would love to analyze that image.

Where did he end up that night? That wasn’t his crowd, the football crowd. Team jackets, a couple new sports cars, talk of scholarships. Jenny had just invited him to the party to be nice, he supposed. They had been friends for years, sharing classes, bus rides on school band trips. She had seemed different, a member of  that crowd,  but somehow apart. And suddenly she wasn’t. What had she said at that party? Maybe she was just a little high. Whatever it was, it ripped through him and he called her something nasty and on the way out kicked over a beer keg, which got him  chased by half the guys, but they were too loaded to run for long.

“Oh, man. Triggered by Todd saying her name,” he said to the ceiling. “Aren’t you supposed to forget that stuff after thirty years?”

He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair. No falling back to sleep after that.

He opened his computer and searched for Jennifer Nelson, Greenside, N.Y.

Sure enough, she was dead. A week ago.

“Murdered.” Someone hated her.

Jack searched for a news story about the murder and found several, including one in the New York Times filled with background information.

 “Some people just want to be a big deal.”

He hopped out of bed and wandered to the kitchen trying to walk and read the computer screen at the same time. He kept reading while he filled the Keurig with water and brewed a cup of Ethiopian.

“Oh, look at that … did go to old MIT, degree in something about biomechanical DNA analysis, use of water by plants… Really? Couldn’t find anything more pretentious? ...  Reading: “Break though study, patent applied for… who’s this guy? “(Jennifer) was  leading the grain industry to a new tomorrow, one diametrically opposed to its past… and preparing it  for the hard choices that will need to be made in a world facing climate change…”

Saving the world, were you? Couldn’t even save yourself.

           “What’d they say about her death? She had moved back to Greenside three years ago…Look at all the things people do when  you’re not looking?” Reading: “She started  a company to grow organic vegetables using experimental farming techniques. … In the shuttered Greenside Frozen Foods Company complex. She was found stabbed to death in the refrigerated warehouse … workers returning to work on Monday found her in the produce section, behind some pallets, under a tarp, police said. She hadn’t been seen in the office for a week; her secretary said something about a conference in Colorado. The medical examiner said the cold would make a precise determination of her day and time of her death challenging, but he offered an estimate.”

          That’s what I thought.

Jack sipped his coffee and scrolled through the few other stories about her death. One had a photo.

“Oh, that’s her husband, no, ex-husband, Mark Maguire, that jerk quarterback. He threw me out of that party. They’ll think he did it.  Cops always like spouses as suspects, ex-spouses even more. Wonder what the divorce settlement was like? Maybe she only gave him a cut of the arugula.”


         That was some complex, even half empty, he recalled. Some company. Green packaging, had a big green vegetable as a mascot. The company cars were green. The doors are still green.

He let that idea settle before he closed down the search engine. It felt satisfying. No, felt complete.

His mailbox  held more than twenty new messages.

“I’m sorry, Jenny. Business calls. Rest in peace, Blondie.”

With his finger poised on his mouse to open the mailbox, Jack waited for a flicker of sorrow to emerge.  All he heard was Todd’s dismissive voice: “You can really be a jerk sometimes.”

Jack smiled. “I know. Ain’t it great?”

He opened the mailbox and recognized a familiar name.

He downloaded the file and saw a photo of bloody knife.

With glee: “Perfect.”

His phone rang and Jack saw it was Todd.

“Todd, it’s four a.m.”

“I know. When was the last time you were in Greenside?”

“Why would you ask that?”

“It was a two weeks ago, class reunion. Your first in  decades. You called me about a weak computer link because you were in some fleabag motel with bad wifi. Remember what you told me, gonna make them finally pay attention to you.  How’d that go?  Not like you planned, huh? Did she call you a loser again?”

“You don’t know that, Todd.”

“Jack, I do. I set up your system. I can track you anywhere, and I know you sent the green door photos and the one of the bloody knife to yourself. How many more are there, Jack? What are they, trophies? Christ, Jack. Did you take one of her dead body?”

“Todd…”

“You do know the absolute last thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet is post evidence of your own crime. I’m hanging  up. I have a call to make.”

“Todd, don’t hang up. I can pay you.” The ice hardened in Jack’s voice, words like gravel. “Don’t make … don’t make that call, Todd.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Last Thing You’re Never Supposed to do on the Internet: Part One

A few weeks ago, someone using a computer in the Caribbean resort island Sint Martin, dug out a post from my website archive about the fight between the  Phillipsburg, N.J. town council and the town library.

That prompted the thought about how sneaky (and/or) potentially corrupt the Internet can be.

And that thought prompted this exercise in quick fiction.

PART ONE

After struggling for years to develop an Internet niche as an investigator,  Jack Digger hatched a block-buster blog that in a non-threatening, technologically simple manner advised the millions  befuddled by basic computer commands how not to get scammed.

So he  knew better than to open that email file.

He called the blog, “The first thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet.”

That had become the phrase he repeated to his subscribers  after they told him they had opened a suspicious file from an unknown sender and had to pay their way out of it, either in actual cash  or for new software.

After a session with a client, he would ask himself  this question: What are you hiding?  You only pay when you get caught, and you only get caught when  you’re fishing in the deep end without a clue.

Subscribers received his list of ten things never to do on the Internet. He advised them to print it out and tape it on the wall directly above  their desk as a daily reminder. He actually thought they should tape it to their forehead so it would be the first thing they saw each morning, but he didn’t tell them that.

The address of this particular message seemed familiar, even if it did contain  seventeen characters and a clearly random made-up name.

As had become his practice, he copied the address without opening the actual message and stored it in a separate file of offending  internet codes.

“Look at that.”

No wonder it  seemed familiar: He had already copied the same address into the file.

He searched his  “deleted” folder and there it was — twice, once from two days before and again four days before that. Someone thinks they’re important.

Intrigued, he did  the first thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet and opened the file.

His computer screen did  not explode with threatening messages.

The file contained a code for a photograph.

So he did the second thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet and opened the photo file.

It displayed a scratched-up green metal door framed by red bricks.

Every place he lived had brick buildings and he was sure that more than  one of them had green doors.

More deeply intrigued, and again  breaking his own rules,  he did the third thing you’re never supposed to do on the Internet and downloaded the file to his computer desktop.

The door  in the photo didn’t seem to be as much scratched as attacked.

What had appeared in the miniature version as scrapes, in the enlargement were punctures, holes with torn edges, like knife wounds. Really big knife wounds. Somebody was angry.

He scrolled the  photo up and down and side to side, even tipping his head at an angle as if that that would clarify the image. He laughed. “Dumb.”

He punched “Todd” on his phone and waited for an answer.

Todd Fleming was a high school friend and tech whiz who had set up his website.

“What did you open on your computer this time?” Todd asked, his voice both smarmy and disinterested. In Todd’s view the codes were never wrong, just the  humans who tried to manipulate them; everyone but himself, of course. “And who do you need to pay a thousand bucks to so they’ll release your computer?”

“No one, this time,” Jack said.

 Todd had extracted him from a couple ransomware attacks, so the question was legitimate.

“It’s this photo of a green door in a brick building I was sent. The door seems to  have  been attacked. It’s full of holes, and there seems to be lettering and maybe a number.”

“And you want to read the markings. This door is meaningful, how?”

Jack fluffed out a dismissive breath. “Someone sent the photo three times in a week like I’m supposed to know where it is.”

“Well, means something  to them. I’ll dig around and see who sent it. Meanwhile, play with the contrast settings, the clarity, blow out the color and light factors to the extremes, both high and low, and maybe with the right combination of all that, you’ll learn what’s written on door number one. If that doesn’t work, for a few grand, I can sell you some software I developed for the government. You can determine what year the door was painted and whether the painter was right or left handed.

“Really?” Jack asked with rising concern.

“No, idiot. All it really does is syphon money from a bank account. Just like your website.”

Jack snapped back. “Hey, watch it. You’re well paid for maintaining that syphon.” Stunned and irritated: “Yeah, okay, never mind, but thanks. You don’t have to search for the sender. Not a big deal.”

“Hey, Jack, did you hear about Jenny Nelson?”

The name stuck in his ear. Jenny Nelson. Blonde, cheerleader, smart, probably went to MIT. Jack’s first high school crush. Didn’t end well.

He might have been interested,  but the brief exchange with Todd soured his mood, and he became defensive.

“Don’t tell me. Blondie got picked to fly to Mars?”

“She’s dead, man. Just thought you’d like to know. You can be a real jerk at times, Jack. Forget about it. Gotta go.” He hung up.

 Aw, Todd, Jack thought. “I’m sorry, okay?” he said to the empty room.

I’ll be sorry later, he thought. Time to go to work.

He opened his website and saw a  dozen customers lined up with questions.

He laughed at question number one: “Should I open a photo file from an unknown sender?”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Join us at the Flemington Summer Book Fest, May 27-30

Another week, another way to celebrate great writers.

Also, it’s a another chance for readers to meet Ironton, New Jersey Detective Frank Nagler.

This week is the fabulous Flemington Summer Book Fest.

The Flemington Summer Book Fest runs  from Friday, May 27 to Monday, May 30. A wide-ranging event  at 24 Central Avenue.

I will  be part of the Local Writers Showcase  from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, May 29.

Info at: Flemington Summer Book Fest

I’ll be joining many New Jersey authors and artists, food vendors, musicians, crafters and organizations at this long running event.

I’ll have for signing and purchase the award winning Frank Nagler Mysteries.

Kirkus Reviews called Nagler, “One of  modern fiction’s expertly drawn detectives.”

All the books are available in paperback and e-book formats.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY is available in an audiobook read  by Lee Alan.

And A GAME CALLED DEAD, and THE RED HAND are available in audiobooks, read by Dane Petersen.

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Online Bookstore: Books, NOOK ebooks, Music, Movies & Toys | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com) (Search for individual titles).

Next up:

June 11:

Warren County Park Fest.  11 a.m. to  5 p.m. at Breadlock Park, 2627 Route 57, Stewartsville.

Event webpage: http://www.warrencountyparkfest.org

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three upcoming festivals

Festival season is off and running this week.

I’ll be joining many New Jersey authors and artists, food vendors, musicians, crafters and organizations at the upcoming events. I’ll have for signing and purchase the award winning Frank Nagler Mysteries.

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Online Bookstore: Books, NOOK ebooks, Music, Movies & Toys | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com) (Search for individual titles).

The events:

Saturday, May 21:

Randolph Arts in  the Park, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Saturday, May 21 at Veterans Community Park,. 100 Calais Road.

Info at: Township of Randolph: Parks & Recreation: Special Events (randolphnj.org)

Sunday, May 29

The Flemington Summer Book Fest runs  from Friday, May 27 to Monday, May 30. A wide-ranging event  at 24 Central Avenue.

I will  be part of the Local Writers Showcase  from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m ., Sunday, May 29.

Info at: Flemington Summer Book Fest

June 11:

Warren County Park Fest.  11 a.m. to  5 p.m. at Breadlock Park, 2627 Route 57, Stewartsville.

Event webpage: http://www.warrencountyparkfest.org

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE STORY OF DEV. The end.

“This is the sun. Think of me. We are together in  the sun.”

This is the end of  the story of Theo, Dev and the Cherry Street School, called  THE STORY OF DEV.

They came for Bobby Danforth and his friends during the school day, Sergeant Ellingwood and three officers.

Jacob pulled Theo out of the  crowd of silent students huddled along  the sidewalk to the side wall and said he had been told by his parents that the authorities were going  to make a display of Bobby’s detainment.

“There was a big discussion at city hall about this,” Jacob said. “The family has allies, but the police chief said he would resign if nothing  was done this time, as did Sgt. Ellingwood and Mr. Younger. The family promised they would handle it, but the chief took them into the back room alone and played them part of Dev’s tape.”

“Howdja  know that?”

“My father’s on the town council, so he was there.”

“Wow.”

Jacob blinked away tears and took a deep breath.

“There were twenty-two.” He took several halting breaths, eyes wide staring at the ground.  “Twenty-two kids, Theo. Beatings, thefts, threats, and sexual assaults.” His voice gained weight.  “Including me.”

“I thought there was something, but…”

“It was a year ago.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Jacob.”

“But I do. I’ve already told my therapist, my parents, the police, and I thought I should tell you because you made me stronger.”

“No…I just,”

“The three of them. They cornered me behind the library and put their hands in my pants and made me kneel in front of Bobby…”

Jacob turned to face the school wall, his head in his arms, shoulders shaking,   and wailed.

All Theo could do was put a hand on his friend’s shoulder and say, “I’m so sorry.”

****

The bricks were wet and cold. The sun had yet to poke above a tree line still shrouded in the mist of a morning shower.

In a while, Theo thought. One shot, the only shot. From the front, over the fire escape, across the rear door with no footholds, along the playground side, hanging in mid-air, then the last turn to the front door, a quick jump to the ground.

Done.

The wall crawl.

Of course, no one would be there to see it, not even Jacob, whose mother grounded him after learning about the betting scheme.

He pulled Dev’s  letter from his pocket. He had been carrying for weeks.

“I think you knew I was leaving,” she wrote. “If I saw you, I maybe would have stayed or just made this harder. I’ll hitch  a ride on a truck making a produce run to Buffalo, where I’ll take a bus to New Mexico.  I have an open invitation  to stay at the home of my mother’s brother, a tribal leader. We are the people of the sun, T. There was too much darkness. I needed to get back to the sun, back to my home. You are in the light I see each morning  when I look to the east. I will always see you. T.”

At the bottom of the page she had drawn a spiral with radiating spikes.

“This is the sun. Think of me. We are together in  the sun.”

He leaned his head back against the cold stone wall and for the first time since he read that letter, he smiled. Dev’s warmth filled him.

He pushed away from the wall and crawled up the side of the fire escape. At the top, he looped his left arm around the frame and leaned out as far as he could. He pulled a nail  from his back pocket and scratched away at a brick until he had carved, “Dev. Sun girl.”

He crawled down and walked to the front of the school.

One last wall crawl. For Jacob. For Dev.

He glanced up at the three-story building. It no longer seemed so large and foreboding, and he no longer felt small. He jumped to the top of the cement foundation and slipped his fingers between the bricks. “Got this.”

As he maneuvered around the corners, he replayed the  report he gave Mrs. Adams’ class on the Louisiana Purchase.

“Before I begin, I want to thank my friend Jacob Sheridan for his help with the historic research of all of your names. His family name was Swartz, and was changed to avoid harassment. Many of your family names changed, too. The handout explains what we found. We all were someone else, and there’s no reason to hide from it. My name is Theophile. You know me as Theo because I was ashamed to use my real name. You can call me ‘T-ao.’ My family is from Louisiana. We are French and my last name is pronounced ‘Du-boi.’ This report is about the girl who gave me the courage to use my real name. Her name is Andrea Duarte. This is the story of Dev.”

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Love me some Frank Nagler’

Some new top reviews for the Frank Nagler Mysteries.

Thanks to all the readers for taking the time to drop a review.

5 stars Love Me Some Frank Nagler!

Reviewed in the United States on May 6, 2020.

The third book in the series won’t disappoint. Frank Nagler has a serious challenge – he’s the one with the target on his back. He’s not sure why, but “A Game Called Dead” is using the internet to play this game with the seasoned detective in Ironton, N.J. The cruel opening murder scene is only the tip of the iceberg! Well developed and as always, the author keeps you on the edge of the seat!

A GAME CALLED DEAD. Frank Nagler must track down an Internet terrorist whose past intertwines with his own. Paperback and ebook and audiobook. A Runner-Up in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Best Indie Book contest.

4 stars

 A good and entertaining story

Reviewed in the United States on April 24, 2022

A well crafted and convoluted story-line with a use of metaphors not often seen in writing today. This is a different type of mystery where the reader feels as though they are unraveling the mystery along with detective Nagler.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY. Paperback, ebook, and audiobook

 5 stars Page Turner

Reviewed in the United States on January 9, 2022

I enjoyed this story. This story kept me on the edge of my seat. I kept turning the page to see what was going to happen next.

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING: The discovery of  young girl wearing summer clothes on a bitter March night leads Frank Nagler  into a search through a dark history that has surprising connections to his group of friends. Paperback and ebook.

First Place for Mysteries  in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Award contest;  Notable 100 Book, Shelf Unbound 2018 Indie Book Awards; Named a Distinguished Favorite, 2018  Independent Press Awards; Distinguished Favorite in the 2018 Big NYC Book Contest; Finalist in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards.

Named A Gold Star Award winner in the 2020 Elite Choice Book Awards

5 stars Great storyline

Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2020.

We all are ordinary person until we do something really great. This book contains a story of an ordinary guy who became a great detective. That’s the reason I’m giving 5 stars.

THE RED HAND: Frank Nagler’s beginning, a struggle in a terrorized city with a serial killer and a personal battle as his wife fight for her life. Paperback, ebook audiobook. Distinguished Favorite in the 2019 Big NYC Book Contest; Second Place winner for mysteries in the 2019 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards;  Notable 100 Book in the 2019 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Awards;  Distinguished Favorite  in the 2020 Independent Press Awards; Nominee in the 2020 TopShelf Book Awards

COMING THIS FALL: Dragony Rising, a new Frank Nagler Mystery.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DRAGONY RISING: ‘WOW! Great story! So much going on and it all ties up.’

It’s been an exciting few days as I comb through the manuscript of DRAGONY RISING, the next Frank Nagler Mystery.

I got the edits back from my publisher, Imzadi Publishing, after our copy editor Katherine Tate completed her work. Kate brings to her work the sharp eye of an editor and the voice of an accomplished author. Frank is in good hands.

The title of this piece is the comment she left at the end of Dragony. (THANK YOU, Kate!!)

It is gratifying to hear her enthusiasm, but also exciting because it means my effort to pull together  a 5-book subterranean story apparently worked.

Readers of the series know the books tell the story of the city of Ironton, N.J., a troubled manufacturing center, and the investigations of Detective Frank Nagler.

Each book has its own crime story and Frank Nagler deals with sets of trouble in his person life.

But underneath each separate story has been the long-running saga of historic corruption and manipulation that I decided to bring to the surface in DRAGONY RISING.

The under story comes to life as Frank Nagler battles the Dragony, a shady organization of  thugs, politicos, financiers and followers. The organization traces its beginning   back to the iron mining days of  Ironton and in modern times has it tentacles into all parts of life in the city.

Of all the Nagler books, DRAGONY RISING has the strongest sense of being ripped from the headlines, as they say.

So in order to prepare yourself for DRAGONY RISING, due later this year,  I strongly urge you to read the other four books in the series: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, A GAME CALLED DEAD, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING and  THE RED HAND.

You can read them in order of  publication  starting with THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY.

Or you can read them in the chronological order of Frank Nagler’s story and begin with THE RED HAND,  a prequel to the series. In this sense. DRAGONY RISING chronically follows THE WEIGHT OF LIVING.

Kirkus Reviews called Nagler, “One of  modern fiction’s expertly drawn detectives.”

All the books are available in paperback and e-book formats.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY is available in an audiobook read  by Lee Alan.

And A GAME CALLED DEAD, and THE RED HAND are available in audiobooks, read by Dane Petersen.

Available at:

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Online Bookstore: Books, NOOK ebooks, Music, Movies & Toys | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com) (Search for individual titles).

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glow

There’s something I’ve been trying to say

But the world get really loud sometimes.

The idea rises when the yard is quiet and what sounds like your voice whispers through the flowers or when the rain raises the lavender  and the rose’s soft scent hovers.

When the sunlight  silhouettes your face and you glow.

For that moment I don’t actually have to say it because you take the words from me, taste them and give them back.

Those things you know

That I wish you’d teach me.

Because one day you might stop.

One day the sky may be empty.

One day the road may be dark.

One day.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hey, Americans, we all are apparently ‘sour and angry’

I returned today from  supporting the local economy to  read a headline on Politico.com that said we are all “sour and angry.”

Of course, Politico, based in Washington D.C, is a political website and no matter the day of the week, everything on that site is sour and angry. Because our politics must be sour and angry because someone is always losing  and they are annoyed about it and need someone to blame and there always is trouble in River City.

So I’d like to report what I saw of us, out among the sour and angry Americans.

A good number of them were doing 80 in the interstate, apparently burning off that sourness and anger by speeding. The one guy who maybe had a right to be sour and angry was the one guy who got caught, which is the risk of speeding past the state police barracks.

At the home center those sour and angry  Americans had loaded up their double-wide pick-ups with lawn furniture, cement, grass seed, bricks, and tools so they could  express their sourness  by adding a patio and raising their property value.

Other sour and angry Americans were eight deep at the paint counter, because nothing seems to express dismay more than brightening a long-unpainted room.

And even more of them were lined up ten-deep at the gas station, where the price of gas dropped 20 cents in the past 2 weeks,  to fill up their double-wides because clearly absolutely nothing  expresses sourness and anger than by purchasing more of the one thing you complain about the most.

Of course my own neighborhood was not able to escape this wave of unhappiness.

Neighbors across the street are expressing their sourness by remodeling their kitchen while next door to them the anger was palpable as the family remodeled the cellar of their  McMansion probably to give  their sons a place to burn off the energy.

And next to them you could feel the sourness as you walked  by during the renovation of the first floor of the 100-year-old house.

And you had to admire the effort  by the owners of the oldest house on the street who made a point of letting the powers that be know their anger  by bringing up to code the electrical and plumbing  systems in the 125-year-old house. Bully for them.

But the big thinkers say we are all sour and angry.

So I returned to read this:

“The big run-up in gas and food and home prices has really caused great hardship for many households,” said Richard Curtin, a veteran economist who has run the University of Michigan consumer survey since 1976. “And the Biden administration made a critical error in saying it would be transient and people should just tough it out. It wasn’t transient. A lot of people couldn’t just tough it out. And it caused a big loss of confidence in [President Joe Biden’s] policies.”

Which is not untrue.

But, no mention that the “big run-up” in gas prices began two years ago when the world’s largest oil producers, including the U.S., cut production 10 percent.

And no mention that a severe and continuing drought in many of the U.S.  food-growing regions kicked up prices five years ago.

All of which was made worse by Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. 

Stories like this  a just part of the daily  churn of the news business: So and so is still in office? Find something to complain about.

And the big thinkers do love to complain.

So this in that same article: Mark Zandi, who has been a leading American economist since the Revolutionary War, it seems,  said Americans have never seen gasoline prices rise so fast so quickly.

Really?

In 2008 the average price of gas rose a  buck in 20 seconds and everyone traded in their pick-up truck for a Prius.

And then there was  the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s when there was no gas and we all waited line for hours to get  5 gallons.

But according to the economists, it’s worse today than ever.

Because in the prediction business, it has to be worse.

Worst sells.

Know why they get those results?

Because they ask a question like this: “Last week gas prices rose substantially. Does that  bother you?”

Unless you’re John D. Rockefeller, you’re going to say Yes.

And in today’s click-bait online  news business, bad news sells.

In the old print days, the axiom was, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

Today, the business I grew up in is a hedge-fund addicted crack head street walker who will say anything  for a buck.

Yes, to simplify, today unemployment rate is 3.8 percent, the lowest its been since 1968, when the Beatles were hanging around in an aircraft carrier of a movie studio waiting for Peter Jackson to show up to make sense of all their musical noodling.

In the day, newspapers would run that story atop Page One and reporters would be sent out to interview new shopkeepers,  and people buying goods, workers just hired, who bought a new car, put their kids through college.

And yes, there was a certain cheerleading  hokeyness to it,  but it was something we all shared because we do share good times and bad.

But today, we want the truth, so  the story is written as if something is wrong that all that many people are working.

You know who should be sour and angry (besides the Ukrainians)?

Teachers, and public health officials, doctors and nurses, firefighters  and cops, and that said I have no patience for those  among these groups who declared wearing  a mask or getting a shot  violated their rights when it is that posture that threatened the health of the people they were  paid to serve. Ya got vaccinated as a kid, that’s why you’re alive today.

Want tough, snowflake, try running a live shooter drill for fourth graders, terrifying them for an hour and then telling them that it was just a drill and everything is fine.

Welcome to the new normal.

And if you don’t hate it, you’re  not breathing.

There is so much to do, and we waste all this time.

We need better job training, a complete health care system, help for care givers and the working poor; higher wages, more affordable housing. Fix the roads before they fall into the rivers. Clean up the rivers before everything in them dies. Build more parks. Make life better.

We’re the richest fucking country in modern history, so we can do it.

Sometimes I think we are sour and angry because it’s easier.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Hackettstown Public Library, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

New piece: THE STORY OF DEV. Police visit Theo’s house looking for Dev

New segment of THE STORY OF DEV. Theo is plowing through his presentation on the Louisiana  when he gets a visit from Office John  Ellingwood.

A knock at the side aluminum storm door pulled him away from the table. Theo edged behind the  open kitchen door to see who it was.  They’d never had a visitor.

The storm door squealed open. Another knock, this time on the  main door. Louder, longer.

It was that policeman, Officer John from the school.

Theo wished his mother was home, but she had left early for her other job.

He gulped and walked to the door.

“Hi, Officer…”

Water dripped from his wide-brimmed hat and his official slicker with a little white badge on the left breast. His face was tight, but his eyes were puzzled.

“It’s Theo, right? Anyone else home?”

Photo by elifskies on Pexels.com

“My little brother and sister.”

“Oh, all right. I’m sorry. I’m Sergeant Ellingwood. I met you at Cherry Street School with Dev. She here?”

Theo just offered a wide-eyed stare. His hands shook.

“I know she’s been staying here. Not a problem. Good of you. You know I sort of keep an eye on her. I just need to know if she’s here.”

Something’s happened. I knew it.

Theo coughed an answer. “She went to work at the farm yesterday. I’m guessing she’s still …”

The sergeant’s tight lips and downward glance told Theo that was not true.

“That was the first place I checked. They said she worked yesterday, got paid and  left. She wasn’t scheduled to work today.” He nodded to Theo. “Your brother and sister okay alone? Can you come with me?” He waved a  hand. “You’re not in trouble, Theo. I just need you to come with me for a few minutes.”

Theo’s voice  ripped open and his face crumbled. “What happened? Where is she?”

“I don’t know.  The school bus was vandalized.”

“Holy crap. But why do you need me?”

“Because they left you a message on the side on the bus. I need you to confirm something.”

“Jeez. Okay, just a minute,” and he turned from the door to the living room. “Hey, guys, I have to go with…”

“Oh, Ta-o’s in trouubble,” sang out Paul from his upside-down perch on the couch, feet planted on the wall, head hanging off  the cushion.

“No, I’m not,” Theo said, grabbing a ball cap. “He needs my help.”

“Right, needs your help to put you in jail,” Paul laughed. “I’m tellin’…”

“Just lock the doors.”

On the porch the sergeant asked, “No rain coat?”

Theo shrugged, embarrassed. “No, it’ll  be…”

“Got an extra in trunk. Come on.”

They drove in silence. The officer muttered into the car radio. Theo only understood, “10-4.”

Theo hunched in the front seat, confused and scared.

Why don’t he say somethin’? It’s gotta be really bad.

“Her father’s not a vet, is he?”

“Is that what she’s saying?” Sergeant Ellingwood flicked a glance at Theo. “He’s a farm worker, migrant. Thorntons adds a dozen or so seasonal workers every year, generally late spring to the end of October.  Something happened to Enrico’s paperwork. That’s her father name. His work visa was never processed. He was sent to another Thornton farm in the Finger Lakes, but he never showed up. That was maybe a month ago.” He pulled the car into the grocery store lot. “Here we are.”

By the time they got to the Red & White the rain had picked up, blurring the view of  the school bus. Sergeant Ellingwood hauled a black slicker from the trunk. “You’re really going to need this now.”

Theo slipped in to the oversized slicker.

“Aw, man, look at that,” Theo said as he saw that the school bus windows had been broken out and a chair and clothes and books, pans and other stuff had been thrown into the parking lot. Black paint had been splashed across the windshield and the entry door torn from the side of the bus.

“I need you to see this,” the officer said.

On the side of the bus facing the street had been painted, “Hey Theo-awful-lee we got Onion Girl    You next”

“Bobby Danforth. He called Dev ‘onion girl’, ”

“We know,” the sergeant said, with a nod. “That why it’s trouble. That family.”

“He’ll get away with it, won’t he?”

“I’d like to say no,  but, no guarantees.” Ellingwood nodded to the police car. “Let’s get out of this.”

Inside the car, the officer said, “I just needed to you to verify that it’s Bobby. You had a couple run-ins, right?”

When Theo hesitated, the officer said, “Don’t worry, you’re not  the only kid.”

“Yeah, a couple. First day, he knocked change out of my hand in the lunch room, and last week him and his guys were following me.”

“Didn’t you and he have a discussion when you beat him on the wall crawl?”

Theo felt his face heat up. “You know about that?”

Ellingwood laughed. “Everybody knows about it.”

Theo leaned back. “Oh, crap.”

“Hey, you’re not in trouble  We all did the wall crawl. I did the wall crawl. Only got  half way.”

Theo shivered, then huffed out a fresh breath. “No way.”

“It’s a tradition, as I’m  sure you’ve heard.  And know what? We all bet on it. Cokes, an ice cream sandwich, little stuff, not real  money. My God, Jacob has about a thousand dollars in bets so far. “

“A grand?”

“I told him  to shut down the online betting and figure out how to give back the money. He’s not in trouble  but parents have been calling. Nickel and dime bets are one thing,  but if it gets too  big, someone besides me in law enforcement notices, understand?”

Theo pursed his lips into a fish face  and opened his eyes wide and tried not to laugh. That little hustler.

“So where do you think Dev went?”

“Dunno,” Theo said, lying. The old factory. “I knew about the farm and the bus. When she came to our house I thought she came from here, you know, the school bus. I mean she didn’t have anything with her except some clothes, and they were really dirty and the dryer broke so she had to wear my  Mom’s stuff.”

The sergeant started the car. “Yeah, okay, Let me take you home. Thanks for your help.”

At the house, Theo stepped from the car and peeled off the slicker.

“Keep it. You got a phone?”

As Theo nodded yes, the car radio spit to life: “All cars 10-50, multi-vehicle, high school, fire and rescue enroute.”

“Oh, man, gotta go. Car accident,” Ellingwood said. “When she comes back, have her call me.”

He spun the car  in a U-turn and lights flashing sped off north.

Theo stood in the rain listening as  the siren faded in the heavy air.

Oh, Dev.

Only then did he notice  the slicker was a shade of green and had strips of reflective tape around the arms and across the chest.

In a moment when he wanted to disappear he stood out like a Christmas tree.

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Look at all you’ve done: Maggie Doyne’s story

Things get better when someone demands they do, and follows up that demand by action.

That’s not the right word.

Things.

Too  cold, too empty. Wrong.

Lives.

That’s better.

Lives and hearts and minds.

That’s what gets better.

When hearts and mind get better, lives get better, then things get better.

Hope.

Grows.

Builds.

But only with sleeves rolled up, tools in  hands, minds engaged.
Rising then to dream.

But dreams are just air unless there is some foundation.

Yet there is no foundation without dreams.

Because ya have to start somewhere.

That’s what Maggie Doyne did.

Started.

Found a place that challenged her pleasant American girl dream.

Not challenged.

Smacked it with all the force of righteous wrong, knocked it silly.

Showed her a place so antithetical to  her Jersey suburban upbringing that the choice for her was simple: Stay.

Simple, heart-felt.

Jumping off a cliff with nothing but a prayer simple.

Yet.

Yet.

Here was this place, Surkhet, Nepal, seemingly forsaken, poverty stricken, wracked by war, chained by traditions and practices as old as the people who first settled there.

Here was the dirty face of a tiny girl who stopped breaking rocks  because that was her job, to smile and say “Namaste” to this young American who watched her work.

This young American whose mind was reeling,  whose heart was breaking, and whose determination to stay and help swelled each time she saw some new aspect of life in that dusty settlement.

I had the privilege of interviewing Maggie twice 15 years ago for two pieces

I wrote for the Morris County Daily Record in the days when her dream for her foundation BlinkNow .. https://blinknow.org/ was taking shape.

A remark she made then stuck. It was about how she had to reconcile that she was  the only white American woman in Surkhet.

She is on a book tour, talking about her  story, “Between the Mountain and the Sky.”

When she was speaking recently at her West Morris-Mendham High School, her alma mater, an answer to that old question became evident.

How did Maggie deal with being an American woman in a decidedly non-American place?

In a way by being less American. By shaving down the great American need to fix everything all at once, by morphing that aggression into listening and learning.

Not everything moves at the pace of a  New York minute.

But it moves.

If Maggie Doyne teaches us anything it’s that dreams don’t die, only the effort to shape them falters. Her next best lesson is this: Keep moving forward.

Her best lesson: Remember to love one another.

In  fifteen years since she first entered Nepal, she attracted a talented team of advisors, teachers and supporters to become mother to more than 50 Nepalese kids, to build a home for them and a school for  more than 500 students, some of whom are graduating from college now; to develop a woman’s center that offers job training and support  for the women of Kopila Valley; to fight off the worry and depression of potential failure (because it feels so  personal, because it is: She had  promised all of herself to make this real); to swell with pride as her kids succeed; and to feel the weight of loss when a child fails at school, grows sick, when they die.

The BlinkNow world was shattered when in 2015, it was announced the Ravi, a three-year-old who had exemplified everything Maggie  was – mother, teacher, healer – died. It seemed like there would never be enough love to salve her grief.

I remember getting the email that announced his death. I stared at the ceiling for hours before writing a piece at 3 a.m. New Years Day, 2016. https://michaelstephendaigle.com/2015/12/31/ravi/

People still read that piece today.

It has nothing to do with me but everything with how Maggie Doyne and her mission connected with people around the world.

I posed a question in that piece: What will the world be like when the Koplia Valley kids are unleashed.

We’re about to find out.

Read her book.

She’ll show you how she did the improbable:  Turned heartbreak and deprivation into light.

Her kids are spreading that light.

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THE STORY OF DEV: What might Theo, Dev and Dimitri Yazov share?

In this segment of THE STORY OF DEV, Theo struggles to form his report on the Louisiana Purchase, but finds himself distracted  by the sounds of heavy rain on the tin roof of the barn, Dev’s absence and the discovery of the person who could be Bobby Danforth’s great-grandfather, Dmitri Yazov.

Theo began to worry when Dev had not returned Saturday night, and his concern increased as the rain rattled the loose corner of the barn’s tin roof.

But maybe he misunderstood. She had taken some extra clothes, so possibly she was going to sleep overnight in  one of those shacks, work Sunday and then come back.

He sat at the wobbly metal-legged kitchen table circled under the light of  the single ceiling light until after midnight, trying to concentrate on  his project, but focused instead on the two names he had written: Dmitri Yazov and Andrea Duarte.

Everybody’s hiding something, he thought. And whatever they are hiding makes everyone else suspicious, as if it’s wrong.

He flipped open the Rand-McNally world atlas and found the map that showed the Atlantic Ocean flanked by North America and Europe.

Where did Dimtri Yazov come from? The company website wasn’t specific.

 And how he did he get to the U.S.? England, Theo guessed,  probably to New York.

He traced the route on the map.

And why?

War, most likely.

Theo made a note. War? Which one?

Religion? Persecution? Famine? Some disaster?

Man, so much I don’t know. But whatever, a chance for a better life. Why else leave home?

He placed a finger on Eastern Canada and traced the St. Lawrence river west, then down the Mississippi.

That’s how his family got to Louisiana.

England and France at war all over the world, and England won. Threw the French out of Canada, burned the villages.  Some French, like his ancestors fled west and the south out of the reach of the British. Oh, wait a minute. The Spanish were there for a while, then Napolean won it from them and then sold it to Jefferson…and the British were there in 1812… Man, I’ll have to get all that right.

He switched to a U.S. map and put his finger on New Orleans and followed a  road west to a town called Church Point. That was where his family settled.

He smiled with pride and longing when he saw the name. Maybe that is home after all.

He moved his finger west till he found New Mexico. That was where Dev said she was born. Her father is Mexican and her mother was – oh, what’d she say, Navajo, but that didn’t sound right.

He fingered the map. She said she’d been in California, Florida and other places, until she got here.

He went out to the back porch and watched the rain drip from the roof.

Funny, ain’t it.

Me and Dev and even Dmitri Yazov, from all over and somehow ended here.

That’s how I’ll tell the story of the Louisiana Purchase, he thought, pleased. It’s  not about politics and world war and power. It’s about people trying to settle. That’s what’s important.

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New title: THE STORY OF DEV. Theo finds a secret about the family of the school bully

In this segment. Theo goes to the town library to research the Louisiana Purchase for a class report. He learns something about himself but more important learns a secret about the family of school bully Bobby Danforth.

Also, this is where the story takes a twist, and as it did so I realized the name is THE STORY OF DEV.

So, welcome.

The Danforth Memorial Public Library was in Danforth Memorial Park on Danforth Boulevard.

Lotta Danforths, Theo thought. Why ain’t the town called Danforth?

Turning off the hot Washington Street sidewalk into the shade of  Danforth Boulevard, Theo guessed the park was built just to feature the library, centered in a stand of trees and flowering bushes. The building was red brick like Cherry Street School, and had a towering pillared marble façade.

He hopped up the five steps to the front door and grinned.

“Into the place of my enemies,” he said. He wanted it to sound brave, but it just sounded hollow.

A sign saying “Research” reminded Theo why he was there:  To research the Louisiana Purchase. Mrs. Adams didn’t even say how long the report was supposed to be. Am I supposed to read it to the class? Do I need pictures? I shoulda paid more attention.

Instead, to avoid the assignment, he walked around the library,  examining the old maps and photos hung on the walls. I’ve got more than a week left, I’m good.

The heads of people reading magazines turned as a squeal of laughter burst from the children’s room. Three older kids, maybe high school students, sat at computers, leaving three others unoccupied.

On the wall next to the computer room were eight photos, all marked “Danforth.”

I’m surrounded.

The photos circled a bronze dedication plaque dated April 23, 1918  that featured a profile of a bearded man with a receding hairline. All those guys had long beards, he laughed. Maybe it’s all the same guy.

This guy was Sanford Danforth, president of Danforth Co., chairman of the library association, director of this, founder of that, honorary master of something else, and so on. The description filled about three inches of  the plaque.
          Theo stared at the face he guessed belonged to Bobby Danforth’s great grandfather, which he thought was interesting. But what was more interesting was a line near the  bottom on the description  that said  Sanford Danforth took over the Danforth Co. in 1899 from his father Dmitri Yazov and turned the small woolen mill into a leading manufacturer of clothing.

“Look at that,” Theo whispered. He wondered what Bobby Danforth would do if he replied to the taunt of “Thee-awful-lee” with a call of “What’s up, Yazov?”

By the time he got there, the computer room was empty.

The first items Theo searched on the computer were Dmitri Yazov and Danforth Co.

The company’s website  said he had immigrated to the U.S. in 1870 and opened a hat shop in Brooklyn. The business expanded and moved out of the city in 1917, built a new factory and took a new name, Danforth Co. They made uniforms and other clothing to the  U.S. military.

After World War II the company sold the manufacturing  business and operated clothing stores under various names across the county, largely in shopping malls. Robert J.  Danforth was named president in 2006, and sold the retail stores, taking the company private in 2010, the site said.

Whatever private means, Theo thought.

 Not a bad story, a nice story, but it doesn’t explain why Bobby Danforth is such a jerk.

Theo sat a moment and compared the history of the  Danforths with the history of his own family, based in his grandfather’s stories.

Some Dubois fled Canada during the French and Indian War. Theo knew that was a war that had some meaning in upstate New York.  They settled in Louisiana, founding with other families a couple towns. Over time they owned stores, farmed cotton and sugar, ran fishing boats,  drilled for oil and raised catfish.

“And at some point, they changed their name. Look at that. Hey, Bobby Danforth, we ain’t that much different.”

And you’re not that much different than Dev.

And we’ve all been running from something.

He puffed his cheeks with air, released it, and with a no-avoiding-it sigh searched “Louisiana Purchase.”  The screen was immediately filled with links to history websites,  photos of maps, Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, swamps, sidewheel steam boats, oil rigs, the Superdome, hurricane wreckage and people celebrating Mardi Gras.

Chin in his hands, Theo was mesmerized.

But that wasn’t the Louisiana his grandfather told him about. So he searched, “Cajun.”

The screen filled with scenes of bayous, crawfish, fiddles, men in straw hats playing little box accordions; links to jambalaya, Zydeco, Lafayette, Hank Williams, and a college symbol of a Ragin’ Cajun.

Theo had been there once when he was four or five.  Grandpa Te’o took them all on a fishing tour of a local bayou on an aluminum flat-bottom boat, and Theo ate a bunch foreign foods and sat on a rock and tapped his foot while the family played dance music.

He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He hadn’t thought about that trip since they moved to Lakeside. He recalled how that visit — just a couple days of a cross-country run after his father got transferred by the Navy to the East Coast — filled him with a sense of family and place.

He huffed.

All that’s left of that place  is my name, and I don’t even say it right.

He sounded out the name in is head: “Du-boi. Du-boi.”

Then out loud.

“Hi, my name is Theophile Du-boi. You can call me T.”

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Fan mail from Sint Maartin?

What makes the  Internet fun – when you’re not being scammed, spammed. phished, hacked and generally annoyed—is when someone in an unexpected location visits your website.

I periodically check the stats on my site to track users, etc. I also make note of entries from some foreign hacker-friendly nations.

But, today was a sort-of delight.

Someone located in Sint Maartin, a nation in the  Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean looked up an old post on my website.

Yeah, it could be a hacker, but what the hell.

Phillipsburg, Sint Maartin

Sint Maartin is the Dutch half of an island which it shares with a French colony, Saint Maartin.

Sunny, beachy, touristy.

Sint Maartin is 41 square miles and has a population  of 41,000.

The capital is Phillipsburg.

Which is what  got my attention.

Because the post that was accessed was something I wrote a year ago about the Phillipsburg, N.J. town council messing with the Phillipsburg Free Public Library, in fact, considering closing it. Thanks to a strong civic outcry, the council backed off, although it  is still hard to consider them  friends of the library.

Now it’s possible the Phillipsburg, Sint Maartin town council is also feuding with its public library.

But I doubt it.

Had someone wanted to read about such a feud and Googled “Phillipsburg library budget” or something like that, my item would have appeared among the 22 million other references, including any potential such items from Sint Maartin.

If that had happened, and the reader clicked on the Google link it would taken them directly to the post.

But, according to the tracking info on my page, the reader first used said Google search to access the main page of the blog.

They then  accessed the archive link and searched specifically for the Phillipsburg library item they read. A lot of work unless you were doing it on purpose.

Holy Dewey Decimal System, Batman.

Slow day on the beaches of Sint Maartin?

Anyway, thanks , and I hope you enjoyed the post.

Got me thinking, though.

I’m plotting out the next Frank Nagler Mystery, so far called, NAGLER’S SECRET, and this type of sneaky,  Internet search  and messaging would be a way for the person behind the secret, or who is the secret, to  reach out to Nagler.

We’ll see.

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Until I learn

Buds swell,

Life licked by a tongue of sunlight,

The sigh of being rises in the dark

Till green shoots penetrate the cold soil, the hint of hope

That soothes a bruised earth.

Earth turns

The contrails of war, arrows first split a blue sky;

Swell, then sink, a  ratchet of destruction;

Scorching descent,  air red, boiling  with flames,

Sound suffocated to  screams.

Hands held

Hidden hunger released;

Lips tangle feet to stay,

Arms entwined

The moment matters.

Love is

And like war  can not be negotiated

By suited men at a table

Choosing winners

As if they are hunched in that room.

Love is not a collection of dry words on paper,

But a whisper against your skin.

War ends

But the lessons fade,

So it rises again

To offer the chance to learn.

Teach me with your mouth

Teach me with your touch

Teach me with your shining skin

Until I learn.

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SCALING THE WALL. Jacob schemes up a wall crawl challenge between Theo and bully Bobby Danforth

In this segment of my junior high school WIP, Jacob, the  really smart kid, tells Theo he is setting up a betting scheme for a wall crawl contest between Theo and Bobby Danforth. Also, the story has a new name: SCALING THE WALL.  As the story has progressed that idea that all the kids are trying to overcome something is the central theme.

“What are you plotting?” Theo asked, as he approached the grinning Jacob.

“That, my sporting friend, is the exact word,” Jacob replied. “How would you like to make a few dollars and get back at Bobby Danforth?”

Before Theo could speak up, a kid tapped Jacob on the shoulder, handed him two dollars and said, “On… ” the kid nodded to Theo. “What’s your name?”  

“Theo.”

“Right. Two bucks on Theo.”

“You have kids betting on me? What the heck, Jacob. I mean, Bobby is a jerk but I’m not gonna fight him. Jeez, Jacob!”

“Oh, no, Theo. I’d never ask you to do that, but your triumph over Bobby Danforth on the wall has gone viral on Tik Tok. Take  a look.”

Jacob handed Theo his phone where student after student cheered Theo’s “victory.”

Theo passed the phone back. “He bet me a buck, and I didn’t have one. I had to beat him.” He stared into the playground, then shrugged. “Don’t get the fuss. Wasn’t that hard.” He cast a side glance at Jacob. “What are you getting me into?”

“Ah, my friend, don’t tell anyone it wasn’t that hard. It would change the odds.”

Theo leaned his head to one side, closed his eyes and tried to form a sentence. “Wha…I..Jac…wall, Mr.Younger…” And gave up. A sigh. “You’re taking bets that I can, what, crawl along the wall farther than Bobby Danforth.”

Jacob grinned. “Not just crawl farther, but traverse the fire escape, then conquer the rear door gap, which if you have looked at it, has a ledge but no footholds, and then of course, make it across the long playground side of the wall, which it high off the ground and the foot ledge is narrow and has a shaper tilt. Very difficult.”

“And you’re…”

“That’s right, I’m setting up betting line of all aspects of the crawl. The over all distance, of course, but a separate wagers on the fire escape, rear door and  the playground wall. I am pondering a bet on the fastest run, but since no one has ever measured the time it took someone to complete the full crawl, I have no data upon which to create a reasonable odds.”

Theo, fully suckered and agreeing, laughed. “What do I get out of it, besides all the glory?”

“A cut of the profits.”

“Ha! Awright, ya got me.”

Jacob stood, then Theo as Jacob began to walk away.

“I have piano practice,” Jacob said. “But, thank you. This silly wall crawl has importance beyond what you know. You must realize how many students before you tried and never made the first turn. To them it is more than a game. It’s a challenge, a measurement of themselves. They want to say when they leave this school they conquered the wall.”

Theo glanced at the long wall facing the playground. Some big deal, huh?  “Yeah, okay. I get that. In Lakeside after school we boys used to run  to my parent’s coffee shop and the last one in  had to buy the sodas. We had swimming races in the summer and then see who would dare jump from the top of the hay pile in Anson’s barn to the floor.” He nodded and grinned at Jacob. “Yeah, so, everything was a challenge.”

“There’s more,” Jacob said. “Bobby Danforth and his friends have bullied more than a dozen kids just because they can.” They began to walk toward Jacob’s house. “No one will stand up to him. His family protects him.” Jacob smiled and patted Theo on the back. “Besides they are all tired of Bobby Danforth’s  bragging. He’s telling his friends that he gave you that dollar out of pity.”

Theo smiled. “Actually, Jacob, I tricked him. I made it look harder than it was.”

“Oh, my, don’t tell anyone else that, either. I’d have no way to set the odds if students felt there was no contest.”

“Man, I don’t get you.  The smartest kid in class, the piano whiz and a bookie.”

“Precisely. A plump-fingered, bespeckled  piano player like me,” Jacob laughed as stared at his phone as a string of texts with bets arrived.

“How…”

“Because it’s numbers, math, my friend, and math is easy. Besides it’s a family skill. My uncle ran numbers on horse races and one day I asked how he did it, so he took me to the track and showed me. I got it right away. No one guessed because he was an attorney.” Jacob turned. “See you soon.”

Theo watched as Jacob bobbed his short-stepped walk across Cherry Street, his feet and shoulders syncopated as if he was marching to a musical beat.

That little hustler.  

He turned back to the school, and stared at the long side of the building that faced the playground when the whole stinking mess dawned on him.  If he’s the hustler, then I’m his sucker. There’s something  else even worse between Jacob and  Bobby Danforth, and now it’s my problem.

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WIP: BETTING ON THEO. Dev enters the wall crawl challenge. And, um, is Theo falling for Dev?

In this scene from the WIP, BETTING ON THEO, a story about a middle school. Dev tells Theo she has entered the wall crawl challenge set up by their friend, Jacob. The scene also raises the question about how close Theo and Dev are becoming. Other entries on this website. Check the archives, or follow the site

She had a most imperfect face. Her square jaw jutted in defiance more often than not, warning that if you had a thought to touch what was clearly a soft cheek,  she’d grab your fingers and bend them back, making it clear how wrong you were to even think about it. And her eyes were dark and hidden a lot, protectors of the secrets that they knew or maybe the pain; and her mouth was too often a straight line, narrow and hard, Imperfect, like the pieces didn’t fit. From an angle her nose seemed too big. Then she’d turn and her eyes would soften to a tease and after she bit her lip her mouth would curl into sweet wicked smile and all the imperfections would be gone.

At least, that was how Theo imagined it, head resting on the cement wall of the school, eyes closed because the setting sun stabbed around the corner of the building. The kiss would be magic after he ran a finger over her eyebrows and down her cheek to brush her lips, and how the muscles of her face would push her lips to his and …
          “Hey, T, T, wake up.” Dev pushed a fist into his left shoulder after she sat next to him. “Wake up, ya missed it, didn’t you?”

“What. No, I didn’t… missed what?”

“I climbed up the outside of the fire escape, across the top, and back down.  Just hands. I’m thinking that Jacob should add that event to his betting pool.”

“You’re really doing it, the wall crawl.”

“You did. I figure it’s easier to win that prize for this stupid thing than doing farm work.”

“But, yeah, but it was an accident. If Bobby Danforth hadn’t challenged me… You really think it’s stupid?”

“But he did, and there’s no going back. If you can do it, I can do it. And yes, it’s stupid. All you little boys, trying to prove yourself.” She shook her head. “Prove yourself  by working.”

“Hey, I worked. I told ya, helped my parents at the coffee shop, hauled hay and picked fruit.”

“I know. You’re different. Come on. I need to get out of your mother’s clothes.”

Dev stood and held out  her hands. Theo reached up and she pulled him to his feet with little effort.

“You’re strong,” he said, trying not to sound too surprised.

“T, I’ve been picking vegetables since I was eight. My hands are already tough. Didn’t you notice when we held hands the other day?”

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Yoga girl

Light pours

Sets sky to sizzle

Burns a trail through darkness.

Then you

Eyes dark, soft, soon demanding.

You coiled to give

Open to accept;

A question and an answer

You ask and ponder.

How much can be gathered in one moment,

How much lost; how much held and tasted?

The power of you

Given.

Find the formula, crack the challenge.

An imperative: Take the light, preserve it.

It is the essence.

Given and taken.

It is the being of you.

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New ‘Betting on Theo.’ Dev hiding

In this section of what now is called BETTING ON THEO, Theo, the new kid in town, is chased through a neighborhood by the school bully and his friends. Passing an old factory, a gate opens and Theo reunites with Dev, his friend who had been missing for a couple days.  The scene starts in the middle of the chase.

With Bobby Danforth and his buddies more than a block away, Theo leaned against the iron gate. When he heard Bobby Danforth yell, “Wait up,” he waved  and ran a few steps, vaulted a couple tree trunks, jumped through some thickets and emerged back on the main driveway about a fifty feet  from the gate. He stopped just long enough for them to spot him. “Wait up, man.” That was Bobby Danforth. Theo liked the frustration in his voice.  At the cellar, Theo sprinted up the side path and ran till he got to the wooden fence. He made a couple rights and a left and stopped at the corner that would lead back to Main Street and his house, but took the other turn toward County.  Guess I lost them. Ha! He brushed his right hand along the wooden fence, slapping it once in celebration.

Ahead, a section of the fence opened. “In here.”

It was Dev.

“T, what are you doing?” She closed the door and locked it with a thick wooden latch.

“What. Dev?  Wait, over here,” and Theo led her to stand behind a wall. “Bobby Danforth and his guys are following me. Shhh.”

He smiled at her while they waited to hear if Bobby and his boys were still on his trail.  She was tired, her eyes withdrawn and dark.

More than tired, he thought. Beaten down. Lost.

A fist thumped the fence near the gate. The wall shifted with an outside push. “Come on,” Bobby Danforth said. “If you can hear me, Thee awful lee, this  ain’t over.”

Theo and Dev waited in silence. Another thump against a far wall echoed. “Had him running, didn’t we?”

When the street fell silent, Theo asked, “What are you doing here? How long…?”

Dev reached for the bar on the gate.  “You can go, T.” They won’t get you now.”

“No, I just got here. It’s been a few days, you know. Been pretty worried about you. How’d you know it was me?”

“Heard you running. Nobody goes by here,  so when I hear someone, I peek through the wall, just in case.” She stepped back into the main factory building which was missing windows and half its roof. “It’s an old woolen mill.  You’d be surprised how much stuff is still here. This room is warm and isolated.”

Theo glanced around. And dirty and wet and  filled with moldy junk and probably rats…

“Why are…?” Theo held his head with both hands to organize his thoughts. “I know about the farm,” he said and saw her shoulders sag before she turned away. “The grocery manager…”

Dev turned back, face locked, eyes hard. “Did the grocery manager also tell  you he knocked on the school bus every night demanding that I service him? ‘Oh, my beautiful little chicka, I have something for you. I want to make you sing.’”

“Why didn’t you report him?”

“To who? You were there when I said something about Bobby Danforth playing with himself when  I came out of the shower.  They were embarrassed for him, not me.” She touched his face. “You’re a sweet  boy, T. But just go. I can deal with this for a while and one day soon after the farm pays me I’ll  move on.”

He took her hand. “I ain’t going anywhere. I mean I don’t know a lot about all this, but I know what’s it’s like to be alone. What am I trying to say? “I don’t know why you changed your name to Devlin …”

“How do you know I changed it?”

“Jacob told me.”

She pulled back her hand and sat on a dusty  chair. “Jacob. That little busybody.”

Theo pulled up a wooden box for a seat. “That little busybody can help. He’s had his own Bobby Danforth trouble.”

“Why don’t you use of own real name?” she asked. “Theophile, right? Du-boi, not Du-boiz?”

His face crumpled. “I told you. My grandfather…”

“I know. A white Frenchman changed  his name so he could pass for normal.”

“Hey, wait.”

“Stings don’t it?  Try  being the brown-skinned teenage daughter of a Mexican migrant farmworker. What, you thought I had a tan?” She laughed. “I chose Devlin because it was the whitest Irish name I could think of, and no one noticed I don’t have red hair and green eyes, or talk about the ‘old country’ with mist in my eyes.”

Theo stood and pulled Dev from her chair and held both her hands.

“Why you doing this, Dev? I’m your friend. I don’t care that you … whatever. It’s like you trying to drive me away.”

“Ah, T. Don’t you get it? Nobody cares about people like me. What got me in trouble at school? I stole a carton of milk.  They didn’t  ask why I needed to steal the milk and the I only  reason I got caught is that Mrs. Nelson was out that day. I live in a stupid old school bus. It’s like it doesn’t bother them because you can’t really see it from the street and it’s  not in their neighborhood.” She nodded to an opening to another room. “I got a stove and made a bed outta old wool for covers.”

“No, Dev. No.” Theo screwed up his face and close his eyes. “It just hurts to..”

“Don’t do that to yourself, T. Don’t  take it on. You gotta learn to be like the  others. The school doesn’t want to do all that paperwork because in Mrs. Sternman’s mind, I’ll be gone in six months, like all the others.”

“Others?”

“Farm workers, T. Migrants, immigrants, illegals… hiding in the shadows, here for six months till the crops are harvested, then gone. Why bother?” Her voice broke and she covered her face. “I’m  nothing, T. Nothing.”

Theo crossed and hugged her, holding Dev as  her rigid body tried to pull out of the embrace. After a moment, Theo released her and said, “Get your stuff. You’re coming with me.”

“No, what?

“We got a spare room.”

“T??”
“My Mom grew up without a mother.  If she knew I left you here, she’s ground me for the rest of my life and then come and get you herself. So, let’s go.”

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New scene, ‘Betting on Theo:’ Confrontation between school bully and Theo. Wall crawl challenge

In this scene from BETTING ON THEO, the story of three outsiders banding together to challenge the Cherry Street School establishment, Theo and school bully Bobby Danforth face off in a wall-crawl challenge.   If Tom Sawyer and a whitewashed fence come to mind, well, so be it.

The idea of crawling around the wall of Cherry Street School nudged Theo up County Road and into the school’s deserted parking lot. Why’d Jacob make it sound like such a big deal?

He jumped onto the cement base. Clinging with one hand, Theo ran a finger over a couple of the textured bricks and felt the sharp ridges. He thought there must be a lot of kids with little cuts on their fingers. He dropped back to the ground.

Halfway down the right side of the school stood a three-story metal fire escape with platforms on the second and third floors at emergency exits and sets of steps that crisscrossed to the ground.

He wondered if you have to crawl around it, or could you jump back to  the  ground and walk to the other side and then climb back onto the wall.

As he examined the fire escape he reached up to touch hand and foot holds that would make it possible to climb it and never touch the ground. No worse than climbing the walls and hay chutes in Anson’s old barn, he thought. The hay wagons would back up and Theo and half the kids it town it seemed tossed the bales from the wagons to the loft and then on slack days climbed up the piles along ladders nailed to the walls and jumped or slid to the hay covered floor boards, or slipped down the chutes of the feeding bins to a loose pile of hay below.

Theo smiled at the memory of walking home pulling hay out of his hair, shirt and pants.

He turned to the sound of footsteps at the front of the school.

“You’ll never do it,  you know, Thee-awful-lee,” said Bobby Danforth, leaning on the  corner of the school.  “If Mr. Younger catches you, he’ll put you in detention for a month.”

Theo tipped his head to one side and released a scoffing breath. “How many months you been there?”

Bobby Danforth grinned back. “I don’t get caught. But you, a new kid? Country boy, you don’t know how things are done here. There’ll probably be a note on Mr. Younger’s desk on Monday.”

“I’ll make sure I check,” Theo said before starting to walk away around the back of the school, but stopped. “Why are you following me? Or are you here to practice so you can beat your brother on the wall crawl?”

Bobby Danforth stiffened. “You think you know so much. I can do better than he did. I can do better than you.”

“That shouldn’t be too hard. I ain’t ever done it.”
          “Put you’re money where your mouth is. A buck to who stays up the longest.”

Theo stared back at Bobby Danforth’s scowling face and tried not to smile.  “Sure. You go first. I need to see, ya know, how it’s done.”

“Candy from a baby,” Bobby Danforth said. “Start here,” and he walked to the front door where the top of the slanting cement base was about two feet high, reached up with both hands to a row of bricks a foot or so above his head and pulled himself flat to the wall.

That was easier than I thought it would be, Theo mused.

Bobby took a deep breath and slid his feet along the cement and with one hand at a time grabbed a new slot in the bricks.  The wall took an outward ninety-degree  right turn to a new wall, and he easily stepped around the corner and worked along the new twenty-foot wall to another outward corner which this time turned right toward a third wall.

He was breathing harder and coughed out a few breaths of dust. At the next corner, an inward facing ninety-degree turn, he paused and reached to his right across the space to the new wall and tested his balance. He  bounced on his toes and with a grunt, shifted his right side across the opening and for a moment straddled the corner before trying to correct his stance. His feet were too close together and his hands could  not grab a gap between the bricks. He swayed and slipped down the face of the wall, his fingers scraping on the sharp edges of the bricks. He hit the ground and fell backward, his left hand clutching the bleeding fingers of  his right hand. “Damn it.” He winced and reached for his handkerchief to wrap his fingers. “Beat that.” He stood up and limped a few steps. He had cracked his left knee on the cement.

“You okay?” Theo asked.

“No big deal,” Bobby Danforth hissed through clenched teeth. “Your turn.”

Theo stepped to the front of the school, thinking with a tiny smile,  thanks for the lesson. He rubbed his hands together, spit on them, and rubbed them again as he examined the brick face. He reached up with his right hand and found a deep gap in the bricks and pulled himself up. He spread his legs wider than Bobby Danforth had and stood on his toes rather than the soles of his feet. Theo  alternated the height  of his reach as he crossed the wall. At the third turn, the one that had tripped up his opponent, Theo paused. He noticed that the depth of the gaps between bricks on the new wall at his eye level were shallower. That’s what messed up Bobby, he thought. Less to grab.

Theo tip-toed closer to the corner before stepping across the gap. The shift reduced the length of his first step and helped maintain his balance. “Whoa,” he cried and then seemed to slip, before crossing the gap and taking a deep breath.

Theo cling to the wall and seemed to be resting when he heard Bobby Danforth groan and mutter, “Crap.”

Theo slithered along the wall for another ten feet to a set of windows that created a fifteen-foot gap in the bricks. The bottom of the window frames was chest high, but ten feet from the ground with a sloped, wooden sill. Theo reached under the frame and found a space between the top of the bricks and the sill and grinned. Gotcha. He leaned back a little and fumbled along the wall for a few apparent slippery steps and then  pushed off. He landed on his feet, but rolled just for the effect.

“Windows are tough,” he said, brushing off his jeans and shaking his head with determination.  “I’ll have to remember that.”

Bobby Danforth sucked on two fingers to stop the bleeding. He pulled out a dollar bill and handed it to Theo. “Beginner’s luck,” he said. “I pay my debts.”

“Maybe,” Theo said as took the bill and watched Bobby Danforth turn and leave. He wiped the blood on his jeans and smiled.

Good thing I won, I didn’t have a buck.

“Hey, Bobby,” Theo yelled.  “Stop messing with Dev.”

“Whatcha gonna do about it, Thee-awful-lee? First things first. You, then her.” He waited for a reply; when none came he walked off.

Theo smiled and rubbed his hands, feeling the scrapes on the tips of his fingers.  Everyone gets theirs in the end.

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New Cherry Street School. Title: ‘Betting on Theo;’ trouble for Dev: ‘their own kind’

In this segment of the Cherry Street School story, Theo finds something new and concerning about his friend Dev. He hasn’t seen her in a couple of days, not since he saw that she had a bruised eye after a scrap with the school bully Bobby Danforth. Theo has been in his new town about two weeks. At times his loneliness for his old home surfaces, as it does here. At the same time he is gaining some confidence.

The story also has a possible title: Betting on Theo.

Neither Dev nor her father was at the school bus. Theo wandered through the small downtown looking for her, and taking the time to learn more about the village.  He peered into the windows of the café, the hair salon, a barber shop, a hardware store. Cars lined the street as other prowled, seeking parking. Mothers clustered on corners their arms tugged by little kids, who sometimes broke free and with elbows crooked,  swirled around a street sign pole until their mothers stepped from their circle of women, snatched their hands and pulled them away from the street.  A man stepped from the barber shop and removed his cap before running a hand through his newly cut short hair; he replaced the cap and lit a cigarette. At a far corner, along a wall of a vacant lot, a few kids leaned and sat, waving at friends as they drove by.

That was me, Theo thought, suddenly empty again, me and my friends sitting on the wide front steps  of the Lakeside grocery, drinking sodas, grabbing a handful of chips from the giant bag that Jeff had bought and refused to share, laughing at his protest until he passed the bag around, saying, “Hey, not too many.”

Drawn by a blatting, deep whistle, Theo stopped to watch a tugboat and barge enter the lock of the nearby canal. A chipped  blue and gold painted sign said it was the New York State Barge Canal. Theo was fascinated by the process of lowering the water to allow the vessels to continue passage. The growling echo  of the tug engine rose as it sank inside the lock’s walls, the air filled with black exhaust from the stack, which settled about street level at the lowest point. The engine  groaned and the water boiled as the tug and its barge crept out of the lock.

Theo coughed and spit out the black air. Need to learn about this place. Maybe then I’ll know more about Dev.

Finally he went to the Red and White and asked the manager if he had seen Dev, not really expecting an answer, but the man said, “Not in a  week, her old man longer than that. Try Thornton’s truck farm on County Road.”

“Where’s that?”

“About a mile outside of the village,” the man said. “They supply us vegetables and fruit, in season. Plantings started. They’re probably out there with the rest of their kind living in one of the shacks on the farm. The bus is a trade off so the girl can attend school. I’d move it if I could. But  I don’t want the trouble.”

“Trouble?” Theo asked.

The manager glanced around, leaned toward Theo and hissed, “Immigrants.”

Theo felt the sting of the word, but nodded a stiff thanks. Outside as he stared at the purple bus, sadness filled his eyes, then passed as he slapped the tan bricks of the grocery store with his palm, each slap harder than the last. “Jerk,” he said,” then kicked at some weeds growing  out of a crack in the driveway.

County Road ran straight from the center of the village. Theo pounded out his frustration and concern for Dev in every step. Past Cherry Street where the road narrowed to two lanes the houses thinned to open land, stands of trees and fields that surrounded a red barn. An electric fence ran along the road. Cows.

The wind carried in the sounds of machinery and faint shouting. As Theo crested a small rise, he saw a vast farm spread on  both sides of the road, fields, sheds, barns and greenhouses and a billboard announcing, “Thornton’s Farm Seasonal fruit and vegetables” over a faded background of greenish fields, a white barn and little blobs of color  that were probably animals. Along the bottom was a white  arrow outlined in black that said, “Truck entrance ¼ mile.”

Theo had played with his Lakeside friends on their farms and had come to recognize how time and the plantings intertwined.

It was early May. The hay was fresh and green, awaiting first cut. In Lakeside when the Franklins made their first cut the air was sweet and succulent.  The last cut in fall was as dry and scratchy as dust. Before him Theo watched as tractors hauling harrows rolled up the black dirt casting a musk that made the air taste gritty, rich and dark, stinging of manure. The early greens were chopped at the root and tossed in boxes to a flatbed; buzzcut cornfields hid new fresh stalks among the hollow bones of last year’s crop, a fuzz of soybeans, onions, asparagus, cucumbers and eggplants ran for acres squared by rutted paths; the gate to last year’s  corn maze leaned on a bent frame. Later, he knew, warm June, the berries would arrive, fat and ripe, then snap peas and green beans. Somewhere tomatoes, and maybe in the greenhouses to the rear, flowers. By August, hot and parched, squash and sweet corn, round pumpkins, apples roadside in half-bushel baskets; later still, fist-sized jack-o-lanterns, tied bundles of corn stalks  needing witches’ hats. Then chill and darkness,  fields vacant, resting and silent.

It felt good, he thought, to know all that.

At a driveway, Theo saw a “help wanted” sign.

Maybe. I could use the money.

He stepped off the road as a truck with slatted sides  rumbled by and turned into the farm. A dozen workers jumped from the back, and with their broad cloth hats slapped dust from their clothes and stamped their feet to loosen the mud from their boots.  The truck pulled away and the workers in pairs and threes chatting in accented English and another language walked  toward the  row of wooden shacks and trailers that lined the backside of  the inner farm road. Theo stared at a pair of girls in black clothes and ball caps walking arm-in-arm; he heard them laughing, a sound then crushed under the growling engine of a passing tractor.

Theo in his head heard the harsh, spitting voice of the grocery store manager: Immigrants.

Heart sinking; he also he also heard this: Dev.

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YouTube trailers for the Frank Nagler Mysteries

While Book 5 of the Frank Nagler series, DRAGONY RISING, is in production, and the publication date uncertain, please enjoy these trailers, created by Anita Dugan-Moore for Imzadi Publishing.

The Swamps of Jersey – YouTube

Game Called Dead – YouTube

Weight of Living – Book Trailer – YouTube

The Red Hand Book Trailer – YouTube

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Cherry Street School WIP: Theo meets Jacob, more Dev worries

In this installment of the so-far untitled story about Theo and the Cherry Street School, Theo meets Jacob Sheridan, and the issues about the school bully and the mystery of Dev, deepen. To keep in touch with this story, please “Follow” the website at the link below.

To learn about the Frank Nagler Mysteries, visit the website, and open any of several links.

The story:

Half way across the parking lot, he heard his name.

Hometown Apparel

“Theo, wait.”

He hadn’t heard the boy walk up. Nobody knows me.

“What? Who are…”
The boy extended his hand. He was eight or so inches shorter than Theo, with a round face, round metal rimmed glasses and a crew cut. He wore a red, blue and yellow striped shirt, creased gray pants and black loafers.

Theo shrunk a little, feeling sloppy and underdressed in his faded jeans with the patched right knee, black sneakers and green Farmington State sweatshirt. That was all he had time to unpack.

“I’m Jacob Sheridan,” the boy said. “I’m the seventh grade student president, which make me the official greeter to Cherry Street School.”

Theo shook his hand. “Is that a real thing? Official greeter?”

“Ah,” Jacob said. “Yes and no. It’s something I take on personally, when circumstances call for it. I’m in Miss Wilson’s class. I understand you are in Mrs. Schreck’s classroom.”

Theo wiped his hair. Who is this kid?

“Look, I need to get to her classroom. My papers got messed up.”

“May  walk with you? You’ll have about fifteen minutes before they lock the doors.”

Locking doors, Theo thought. They’re always locking doors. He nodded to Jacob. “Sure, thanks.”

Jacob was smiling. “My, that was some play you made to end the game.”

“Thanks. Try not to think, just react. Bounced it because we didn’t have gloves.” Theo replied. “You don’t play?”

“My mother dissuades it,”

Dissuades it? “Oh, sure.”

“She convinced the principal that my time would best be spent in advanced math and science, not physical education,” Jacob said. “I’m taking calculus and freshman chemistry.”

Theo bit his lip. He had no idea what subjects he was supposed to study. “You some kind of genius? No offense.”

“Oh, none taken. I’m smart,” Jacob said with a short, firm nod. “I was reading at three, playing Brahms at four, and performing piano solos at church at five.” …

Theo pointed to a pair of boys hanging  from the school’s brick wall. One fell, bouncing off his feet and rolling backward.

“What are they doing?” Theo asked Jacob.

“Ah, that’s the wall crawl, a Cherry Street School rite of passage.”
“What‘s that mean?”

“Status is everything at this school,” Jacob said. “Do you need to return home immediately?” Theo shook his head, no. “Excellent. I live a block way.”

The street had cleared of students and vehicles; they walked alone.

“The athletes band together,” Jacob continued, “The pretty girls cling, the less fortune huddle in the corner of the lunchroom.   Clothes matter, your parents’ car, your address, your favorite music, all are subject to judgement. You have to be cool to be included.”

“Wow. All that matters?” Theo asked.

“More than you can imagine,” Jacob said.

The tone of the reply puzzled Theo.  So lonely sounding.

“I take it you’re not cool.”

“I am busy with, well, things, rehearsals and such. I am certainly not an athlete. Besides, my piano concert master would not allow it.” Jacob held out his  soft, perfectly manicured hands.

“Hey, so look, Jacob, I’m new here and don’t  know anybody. And I think you’re cool. But you gotta show me around.”

Jacob’s round face split with a smile. “That, good sir, is a deal.”

“So, what’s the idea with the wall thing?”

Theo caught a look in Jacob’s eyes.

“Interested, are you?” Jacob asked. “It is a challenge and somewhat of a legendary event. It began years ago as just something to do before class. Boys would walk along the wall using the  gaps on the bricks for hand holds. Suddenly it was a competition. If one  boy went twenty feet, another would crawl thirty feet.”

“Anyone make it all the way? In Lakeside the challenge was to swim  to Halfway Rock and back, more than a mile total.”

Jacob offered a winking smile. “One boy, several years ago. John Danforth.”
“Any relation to Bobby Danforth?” Theo asked. “I had a run-in with him at lunch.”

“And he was the boy you threw out at third base to end the game.”

“What are you getting at?”

“Bobby Danforth is, shall I say, the lesser of the Danforth boys. John Danforth is a top student, captain on all the sports teams, the homecoming king…”

“What’s a homecoming king?”

“Did your school not hold ceremonies for graduation, and the like?”

Theo laughed. “Jacob, when we passed one grade to another, we started the next year by sitting on the other side of the room. Anyway, so I take it Bobby Danforth is  not as good at stuff as his older brother.”

“And from what my mother says—she works for the Danforths —  he is reminded of his position often.” Jacob’s eyes hardened. “The Danforths are the most prosperous family in this town.  The library is named for them. Now they own banks. They are respected, but not well liked. From what my mother says, Bobby is falling short of the family model.”

“But he takes advantage of his family’s … whatever it is,” Theo said.

“Yes. How would you know?”

“Knew some kids like that in Lakeside. Families landed on the right side of the money and the kids thought they were owed something for it.”

They paused in front of a brick house with a wide porch.

“This is my house,” Jacob said. “Would you like to come in?”

“Thanks but I need to find someone. Look, I’ll see you tomorrow.” He took a step, then stopped. “There’s something personal between you and Bobby Danforth, right?”

Jacob sighed. “Yes. Last year at the schoolwide recital at the high school,

I was performing a short piano piece when he and two other boys rushed on stage and rolled the piano away. The audience laughed and I was humiliated.”

“And they got away with it.”

“They claimed it was a comic sketch and I was part of it. And that my shocked expression was all an act.”

“And it wasn’t.”

“No.” Jacob stared into the street a moment. “But, it passed.”

Theo shook his head. “Naw,  naw, it ain’t. But I bet it’s hard to stand up to him, huh?”

Jacob shrugged.

“I’ll give you a hand, but I gotta find Dev.” Theo, with a wave, started to walk away.

“You mean Andrea Duarte.”

Theo turned back. “Who? No, Dev. Andrea Devlin.”

“Her name is…look, she should tell you.”

Theo didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound good. “Does that have anything to do with Bobby Danforth calling her ‘onion girl’?”

Jacob frowned. “Sadly, yes.”

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Tea, after

A hand through tousled  hair

Light from eyes once dark

A twisted smile;

A pinch of tea leaves

The aroma drenched with earth and sweetness

You shivered, a tongue touched with honey.

Tea after absence

Tea, after.

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Cherry Street: Theo and the school bully

This is another segment from the Cherry Street School story, yet untitled. In this scene, new student Theo Dubois  has a run-in with the school bully, Bobby Danforth. If you like what you read, please hit the FOLLOW  key on the cover page of the website. Thanks.

The cafeteria in the middle of the school was also the gym. A balcony surrounded the two-story opening. Theo had never seen anything so odd and interesting.

Or loud. The commotion  of a hundred kids talking, scraping chairs and walking, and doors shutting bounced off the wooden walls and hard floor until the air shivered with sound. Some mats hung on the wall did little to deaden the noise, forcing anyone who wanted to be heard to speak louder than the person next to them.

Theo spotted Dev sitting alone and joined her.

“Hey,” he said.

She didn’t look up.

“You should move on, T. You don’t want to be seen with me.”

“What’s that mean? You’re the only kid who talked to me. I mean I was in Miss Denison’s class and we were doing math and since no other kid answered the questions I ended up answering them all, and they laughed.”

She looked up. Her right eye was bruised. He reached to touch it and she pushed his hand away. It was then he noticed how green her eyes were.

“What happened?”

“T, look. There’s them and there’s me.  The good kids and the girl who lives in a purple bus in a grocery store parking lot. The kid who wears black because she can’t afford anything  else and who any day now could become a ward of the state, or worse. If you get messed into this, they come after you too.”

She crushed a packet of saltines.

Don’t care, he thought.

“You want a sandwich?” Theo asked. “I got two.  Where do you get milk?”

“”T… no.”

He reached for her hand. “Dev, yes.” He wrinkled his nose.

She  held his hand and bit her lower lip while she stared into his eyes. “At the end, next to the cashier.”

“Got it.” Theo pulled two sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper out of the bag and passed one to Dev. “Be right back.”

He took two cartons of milk and an apple for Dev. The cashier said, “Forty cents, please,” and Theo passed her one of his dollar bills and said thank you as he took the change.

As he turned, a kid about his size bumped into him and  the change fell to the floor.

“Hey look, Onion Girl’s new friend, ” the kid said to the two boys with him. “The new kid, Thee awful lee, can’t handle his  milk.”

Theo looked at the floor to spot the coins, “Sorry…” How does he know my full name? I’ve never talked to that kid.

“Son, leave it there,” said the cashier, a thin black woman with a blue vest over her red blouse. “Bobby Danforth you pick up that boy’s change. You did that on purpose.”

Kids in line at the service line stepped back.

Son of gun. Bobby Danforth.

“Not gonna,” Bobby Danforth replied.

She stood eye-to-eye with the kid.  “You start picking up that change right now,” she said in a loud, shrill voice that pierced the buzz of the room. “Or I’ll have you reported to the office before you get to your next class. Besides, I’ll see your mother tonight at the church board meeting. And with the number of incidents you’ve caused in this room, I can guarantee that you won’t be playing on the baseball team because my son is the coach.”

The cafeteria din softened; students turned in their seats or stood to watch the confrontation. A murmured “ooh” floated in the air. Flashes of cell phone cameras lighted the room. Theo glanced around and back at the cashier. Everyone was watching him. I don’t want to be in the middle of this.  Dev was standing, her face calm and dark, a look that Theo could not read. 

The glare that the moment  before  filled Bobby Danforth’s eyes melted to indecision. “Don’t tell her.” A near whimper. “Please?” He blinked and elbowed one of the other kids in the stomach, “Help me.”

“You  better find sixty cents, or it’ll come out of  your pocket,” the cashier said.

Bobby Danforth and his two friends bent to search for the dropped change.

“Got it,” Bobby Danforth said, standing and handing Theo two quarters and a dime.

“How nice of you,” Theo said. At the side door Bobby Danforth turned back to Theo and offered a hard, warning smile; one by one, he and the other boys ran out. The show over, the students turned back to their own business and filled again the room with chatter.

“Thanks,” Theo said to the cashier, “ I…”

“You’re new,” she said.

“Second day. I’m Theo Dubois.”

“I’m Mary Nelson,”  the cashier said. “Mrs. Nelson.” She smiled. “You watch yourself, Theo Dubois. That Danforth boy thinks he runs the world. Now you go take care of that poor girl. I can’t watch all you.”

He returned to the table and delivered a carton of  milk and the apple to Dev.

“That’s how you got the black eye, ain’t it?” he asked.

When she didn’t reply, he reached to her chin to lift her face; when she resisted, he pulled his hand away.

He leaned his head in. “One thing you’ll know about me, Dev. I don’t scare off.”

He took her hand when the bell rang and folded into it the other dollar bill and the change. “I’ll get more,” he said and stepped away.

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Cherry Street School: Theo’s first day ends, shops at the Red & White

Since I seem to be serializing this story, in this segment, Theo Dubois ends his first day at Cherry Street School feeling lost and alone.

Theo rolled the paper grocery bag under his arm and turned left at the end of the school sidewalk where it met Cherry Street. He looked back at the school and felt dizzy. The day had been a blur of unfamiliar voices and pointed directions –boy’s room is down there,  cafeteria downstairs, all with a  wrist wave and why-don’t-you-know scowl — and heads turned then turn away as kids entered the office and Theo was still sitting on the bench, and all of Mrs. Sternman’s twitch smiles and frowns had not found him a classroom.

His stomach grumbled with hunger and an uneasiness of not belonging. More than once he wondered of anyone would notice if had just left.

Then the last bell and the hallway behind him rumbled with kids banging and slamming toward the doors. When one of the secretaries walked out of the office with her coat and handbag, Theo stepped out behind her because no one stopped him.

 Alone on the sidewalk, he closed his eyes to recall in reverse the path he walked that morning.

Cherry Street  crossed County  Road, a wide, four-lane street. Then it was three blocks up to a no-name street with a green house with a white fence where he turned right. But that street jogged left at a tall wooden fence that had a locked metal gate, so he walked along that fence for a block, turning right  to follow the fence for  another half-block to an intersection where Theo went straight and the fence turned right. He paused and glanced back at the street he had followed  and down the fence to its end, for a moment confused. All those turns the fence took hadn’t sunk in that morning when he ran past on his way to school, but now, walking, it seemed odd. He leaned his eye up to a crack in the fence and saw a red building.

I wonder how to get in?

Crap, the kids.

He started to run. His younger brother and sister Paul and Annie were probably home already. And the boxes are still in the middle of the room and there’s no food. They probably got a handful of papers like Mrs. Sternman gave me.

It was easier in Laketown.  All the kids jumping out the school door getting yelled at by the teacher to watch for trucks that couldn’t  stop in time rolling down the steep hill past the Franklin farm; thirty kids peeling off to their houses yelling and waving like a joy bomb going off. And if was a Tuesday or a Thursday, Theo would run into the side door of the coffee shop, pour a Coke, throw  on an apron and go to work.

He wasn’t supposed to use the grill or any of the hot stuff, but Teddy, the high school kid, would let him flip burgers now and again.

Theo had learned how to serve coffee without spilling it, to make milk shakes on the blender and not make a mess, and slap a scoop of egg or tuna salad on bread, flatten it out, add tomatoes and maybe lettuce and cut it diagonally without losing a finger. Mostly he served chocolate milk and Cokes and donuts to his friends, even though he would tell them the donuts were probably stale, but they didn’t care and laughed and joked and dunked them in their chocolate milk, except for Jeff, who dunked them in his Coke.

The memory made him feel heavy; he shuffled the last three  blocks home.

Annie and Paul were asleep, curled up on the mattress  in the middle room. On the table were two piles of papers, one in a wad, Paul’s, and  Annie’s neatly stacked.

Theo wasn’t surprised they fell asleep. They all had been running for three straight days after their father said without warning, pack up, you’re  moving to New York. He remembered that a couple friends stopped by on their bikes and asked what was going on. “Don’t know,” Theo said. “Guess we’re leaving.”

 He wondered if the kids dozed off at school like he had at one point sitting on the bench; a slam of the door to his left woke him before Mrs. Sternman noticed. She would have frowned.

The trip from Maine took twelve hours. Their father loaded all their furniture and stuff in the rental van and drove off. Theo, the kids and their Mom made the trip later in her little sedan. Theo tried to sleep in the passenger’s seat, head resting on a pillow propped against the bouncing window glass. The kids stretched out on the narrow rear seat, waking and grabbing when they rolled onto a pile of suitcases wedged between the seats.

Theo through one open eye watched his mother as she drove, face  crumbling in hurt, hands clenched on the steering wheel in anger, sometimes singing wordless tunes, but always smoking, her window open a crack to let out the smoke and allow her to toss out the finished cigarette after lighting a new one with its glowing butt. Sometimes she seemed calm, but then her face would tighten and the car would lurch forward at higher speed for a few miles. One time he reached over to touch her arm and ask if she needed to rest. She shook her head and stared at him with wild eyes as if she didn’t recognize him and had just returned from someplace else.  “I’m okay, Honey,” she said.  “We’re almost there.”

Theo had heard the shouting, the stomping, seen the dishes flying across the room to shatter at his father’s feet; had seen her rage and pain explode as he stood treelike unmoved. The first time, Theo thought, he was just calm; later Theo realized he just didn’t care.

No, Theo thought, as he pulled the pillow into a ball, we left “there.” We’re nowhere.

****

His father had left an envelope with ten $20 bills. Theo took two and wrote a note:  “Gone to store. Don’t leave house.”

The house  was at the corner of a busy wide street, and a street without sidewalks. It was gray and three stories tall. It had a big side yard and a barn at the end. The kids will like the yard, Theo thought.

A post on the front porch had a number: 311.

A metal street post had two signs. One running in the same direction as the big street said, “Main.”  The other  one was broken and said only: “Ow.”

There was a doctor’s office across the big street. A good landmark, he thought, like the busted up oak on the side of the hill  above halfway rock that let you know you had taken the right trail off Bear Hill. He had missed that sign one time and ended up at the far end of the lake out near Butternut Swamp at nightfall. He spent some time splashing around the edges of the swamp until he saw the light at Bachelor’s store.  There had been another fight. His father was gone whwen he got back and his mother was in her room with the door closed and didn’t respond to his knock. At least the kids were asleep.

He slipped to the lakeshore and sat hunched, arms around knees, head sunk, squinting across the dark water wondering if they even knew he had been gone.

****

He didn’t really know what to get at the Red & White. Milk, that made sense, and bread and peanut butter and grape jam. Some hotdogs, and ketchup. A couple boxes of cereal. Cookies. He wondered how he was going to carry it all  home, about eight blocks.

He added canned spaghetti, the little letter kind that Paul liked, and raviolis.

The woman at the cash register smiled and handed him the change. It had cost about $35.

Theo rolled the tops of the bags and grabbed the lighter one by the top and encircled the other heavier one in his arms. He juggled the  bag to get one hand under the heavier bag.  At the automatic door the heavier bag broke open and the cans rolled toward the sidewalk.

Only then did Theo collapse  against the wall and weep.

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The things we hide: WIP

Years ago I started sketching out a story about a weekly Maine  newspaper editor named Hadley Chandler. It was planned as an episodic story with threads that involve an old family farm, industrial pollution, the ups and downs of the old town.

I was looking for that story that I either have in on paper in a file somewhere or the electronic version got lost in a past computer failure.

When I’m planning a story I often write scenes, rather than take notes. That way I can begin to experiment with characters and settings.

This is one such new scene, and it adds to the mix Elizabeth Margaret Denard, a wealthy woman who is suing Hadley Chandler, and her dead aunt Senator Margaret Denard, who had  deep secret her niece wants to know.

“Mr. Chandler?”

The woman’s voice echoed from the office to the press room in the rear of the building.

“Out here,” Hadley yelled. He set aside the pair of wrenches he had been using to tighten a bolt on the press and wiped his hands on a succession of red cloths until the ink was a mere stain on his palms.

He turned to the slim woman in a chic, unadorned black dress and wide white hat silhouetted in the dim hallway lighting.

“Hello, Miss Denard. Audrey Hepburn?”

Elizabeth Denard laughed, deliberately showy.

“Was thinking Sophia Loren, but I don’t have the chest for it.”

Hadley smiled as he escorted her into his cluttered office. That was the Betsey Denard he had known.  Somerset High School’s leading actor, statewide renown, front pages in all the state’s newspapers, even a mention in the  Boston Globe when Somerset’s cast won a New England award for a wrenching production of “Othello,” in which she played Iago.

Hadley had written dozens of stories about her career, from her transition from a fresh-faced sassy, Betsey Denard, to a hard-edged  Liz Denard when she conquered Portland’s banking community, to whatever she fancied herself now as Elizabeth Margaret Denard.

And now she was trying to put him out of business.

He wondered if it was because he once wrote that her middle name was not Margaret, and suggested she had claimed that name to add heft to her declarations of importance.

Because her aunt, Senator Margaret Denard,  was a heavyweight who fought for the rights of women, Native Americans, battled the paper companies over river pollution and developers over the need to preserve the state’s farms. Hadley knew the senator had gone head-to-head with Will Hathaway’s grandfather more than once.

Hadley Chandler was one of maybe six people in Somerset who was allowed  call the late senator Maggie and not be greeted with a scowl.

“So, Betsey,” Hadley said as he cleared  a chair, “What brings you to Somerset? You haven’t shut me down yet.”

Her soft, round face hardened at the sound of her discarded name, but she did  not correct him.

“Have you not cleaned this office since I was last here?” she asked.

Hadley sat and pushed aside the pile of stories he needed to edit, and  waved at the messy space. “It’s a museum in here.” He leaned over the desk and hardened his voice. “And if you win your lawsuit, this could be yours.”

A thin, inscrutable smile. “I don’t want to win, Hadley. Because I do  not want this newspaper. There is no profit in this business, and further, I do  not want to be known as one of those hedge fund managers who buys properties to drain them financially and close them. Certainly  not in my hometown.”

“So why did you sue? You want that two grand back that much?  I did pay her back taxes. It cleared up the title to the  building. The receipt is in the court documents.”

Elizabeth Denard removed her white hat and the dark, round Hollywood sunglasses before reaching into her black handbag and producing a few letters in colored envelopes which she placed on the desk.

She indicated the envelopes with a nod. “I believe you know who this person is.  As you know I am my aunt’s sole heir, at least I thought I was until a search of her estate house by my attorney found these letters.” She leaned back. “You  should be honored, Hadley. You are the second-most mentioned person in my aunt’s detailed and immaculate records. Why is that? We’re you sleeping with her?”

Hadley was intrigued as she turned her face to the window and the firm, thin mouth and jutting jaw melted into a wrinkled-browed, lip-biting softness.  Hadley wondered how much of that look was acting, and how much was fear.

“You don’t know, do you?” he asked.

“What does that mean?”

“You don’t know what to ask. You suspect your aunt had a deep secret, and you would be right. And I know it.”
          She jumped to her feet,  scooped up the letters, her bag and her hat and began to leave. “You can tell that secret in court.”

“No, Betsey, you don’t want me to tell that secret in court. It’s not in the paperwork, ” he said calmly. “Will Hathaway knows what I know. It’s what we have been trying not to say in court. In a way I think you’ve known it all along.”

Her head jerked to one side and her eyes narrowed in confusion.  Her hands shook as she dropped her belongings on the desk.

That, Hadley decided, was not acting. She had been acting her entire life, that scared, uncertain kid she was as a child buried beneath the roles she had chosen to control herself and others.

“Sit down, Betsey. I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

****

The office door ground open.

“Dad? Dad? Is it true?”

“In here,” Hadley replied.

It was his 19-year-old daughter, Sarah, the freckled faced, long curly haired spitting image of her mother, down to the old hippie clothes she had borrowed.

“She dropped the lawsuit? Really? I mean I just ran into Will, er, Mr. Hathaway, and…”

“Yes. She did.” Hadley rose and embraced her. “This old mess is still mine. And it could be yours. Betsey agreed to invest in the company as a silent partner so we can upgrade all our systems.”

“Wow.  No lawsuit and new computers,” Sarah said, sitting. “What did  you have over her? Finances? Secret lovers?”

Hadley motioned for Sarah to close the inner office door.
          She did and then sat with a grin and one eye closed. “Ooh, secrets.”

“The kind which you can never tell. Life changing stuff. Got it? It’s not ours to tell.”

Sarah nodded, “Got it.”

“Do you remember a woman named Susan Smith? She worked on campaigns  and other election stuff?”

“Right. She came to the school and talked about voting rights. Very intense.”

“She was Maggie Denard’s lover, for decades.”

“Really?”

“You have to understand, this started maybe fifty years ago. Maggie was in her twenties. A woman state senator did not….”

“No, Dad, I get it. She, the senator, or either of them, could  not tell anyone. So how’d you know?”

“Maggie and I had been friends for years. I covered her campaigns as a reporter for the Sentinel. Over the years, we had quite a few drinks at the Senator Hotel in  Augusta during legislative sessions. One night Susan came in and it was obvious why she was there.”

“And you, the great reporter, didn’t tell anyone. The scoop of a career and you kept to yourself.”

Hadley shrugged. “Private stuff. Didn’t matter.”

“Anyone else know?”

“Maggie’s staff, I’m sure, but they were loyal.”

Sarah took her father’s hand.  “How hard it all was. The secrets, hidden lives.” Eyes wide and jaw dropping. “And you, all this time? How?”

“I gave her my word. Before we shared politics, we shared friendship.”

“How did they cover for it, which is a terrible to have to do, all that hiding.”

“Susan was a party official so it was natural that she and Maggie appeared everywhere together and didn’t raise suspicion.” He kissed her daughter’s hand. “But  she carried it with her. You look at photos of the time and while Maggie is smiling, her eyes are dark and sorrowing. Look at what issues she championed. The rights of the dispossessed. That’s how she expressed her anger and distrust of the  system.”

Sarah waved a hand in the air.

“So how did Maggie have Betsey’s mother? Adopted?”

Hadley smiled. “Maggie took a couple years off. Her seat was that secure. But the story circulating at the time said she was  recovering from stress or fatigue – something a woman legislator could suffer  without harming her political career because, after all, they were the weaker sex.” He winked.

“So who…? Wait, that’s why Betsey called Maggie her aunt, not her grandmother. They kept it from her. You’re  not Betsey’s grandfather by any chance?”
          Hadley laughed at his amazing daughter. “No. Please. The last great secret.”

Sarah screwed up her face. “How did Betsey take all this?”

“She was relieved and troubled. She knew there were secrets but had no place to start looking. Thus the lawsuit. She thought my records would have the information, that, you know, the two grand loan was a payoff… and no it wasn’t, there, kid. But after I told her all this, she never asked the question I thought she would: About her legitimacy and the succession of the family fortune.  She’s the only one left. Instead she said she was attracted to the role of Iago because of his suspicious and scheming nature. So she schemed and plotted and up to this point it has left her angry, suspicious and alone.”

“Wake up call?”

“We’ll see. She’s planning  to reopen her aunt’s estate house as a women’s study institute.”

“That’ll be cool. So, there, Dad, why Betsey no husband and kids?”

          “That, my modern daughter, is the question for another day. By the way, I told Betsey her real middle name is Susan.”

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Thanks for these top reviews

Thanks to readers of the Frank Nagler Mystery series for these top reviews. Forever grateful.

THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY.  Why are an old swamp, a burning factory and a dead woman linked? Why is Ironton, N.J. detective Frank Nagler so concerned that Lauren Fox left town? Paperback, ebook, Audiobook.

5.0 out of 5 stars Frank Nagler is a Sam Spade for our time!

As I began this book, I could almost hear Humphrey Bogart reading the narrative portions describing the fictional town of Ironton. Frank Nagler is a tough, gritty, and tired detective who has yet another murder to deal with, and a local government that’s reeking with corruption. Throw in a sensitive side and a “foxy” woman, and Nagler’s cynical humor is often laced with memories of happier times. The story is occasionally long with descriptive passages, but the action is fast paced at other times and keeps the reader committed to finding out who the girl in the bog is and who killed her. I look forward to future Nagler tales!

A GAME CALLED DEAD. Frank Nagler must track down an Internet terrorist whose past intertwines with his own. Paperback and ebook and audiobook. A Runner-Up in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Best Indie Book contest.

5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely done

Good writing, strong characters, and a plot that works. Starts off with a gasp-inducing crime scene that almost made me stop reading the book. But, like Nagler, I persevered. And I am glad I did. Good descriptive writing and character development. The story works because you come to care about these characters. Nicely done. I will be reading more.

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING: The discovery of  young girl wearing summer clothes on a bitter March night leads Frank Nagler  into a search through a dark history that has surprising connections to his group of friends. Paperback and ebook.

First Place for Mysteries  in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Award contest;  Notable 100 Book, Shelf Unbound 2018 Indie Book Awards; Named a Distinguished Favorite, 2018  Independent Press Awards; Distinguished Favorite in the 2018 Big NYC Book Contest; Finalist in the 2019 Book Excellence Awards.

Named A Gold Star Award winner in the 2020 Elite Choice Book Awards

5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, dark, fascinating!

Early on, I assumed this would be a typical crime thriller – crime, clues, solved! Boy was I wrong! This book was filled with suspenseful subplots. I couldn’t put it down! I didn’t realize this book was a part of a series until I was partially through and am thrilled to say that it makes a great standalone book. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

THE RED HAND: Frank Nagler’s beginning, a struggle in a terrorized city with a serial killer and a personal battle as his wife fights for her life. Paperback, ebook audiobook. Distinguished Favorite in the 2019 Big NYC Book Contest; Second Place winner for mysteries in the 2019 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards;  Notable 100 Book in the 2019 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Awards;  Distinguished Favorite  in the 2020 Independent Press Awards; Nominee in the 2020 TopShelf Book Awards

5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it

Reviewed in the United States on January 15, 2022

The Red Hand is a thrilling and dark read. I enjoyed the MC– Frank. He’s a well-developed character I quickly became invested in his arc. The pacing for this book is pretty good, I had a hard time putting it down– reading late into the night!

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Who are the real heroes in the Frank Nagler Mysteries?

Growing up in Upstate New York I was under the influence of Syracuse University.

That meant my sports heroes included football stars Ernie Davis and Jimmy Brown.

Both were All-Americans at Syracuse and Brown later starred for the Cleveland Browns. Davis, sadly, died young of leukemia.

In addition, because my mother  was from Boston, another group of sports heroes were the Boston Celtics, mainly Bill Russell, Sam Jones, Satch Sanders, and K.C. Jone

Bill Russell with Red Auerbach; Ernie Davis; JIm Brown

As a kid I was also riveted by news film of the civil rights and voting rights  movements taking place in the South at the time.

Later as a reporter with the Daily Record of Morristown , N.J, for one Martin Luther King holiday story I interviewed a white minister from Dover who was a student at Little Rock High School when the school was desegregated, a Morristown bar owner who with his wife were teachers in Mississippi during the voting registration drives, and members of Morristown activist community who fought housing discrimination.

This came to mind over the weekend when I read a story from Indiana about a GOP lawmaker who filed a bill requiring that state teachers provide a “balanced look” at  such topics as slavery, Naziism, authoritarianism and the like so Indiana students would not judge such movements harshly.

Had two thought.

First, if the legislator can not talk to a relative who fought in WW2, he could at least Google Sen. Bob Dole, visit the library for a picture book on the war or watch any of the histories on TV that show the rise of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and any of the  gallery of dictators which plagued the world.

Second, he is another example of the GOP effort to recruit the dimmest bulbs in the hallway to run for office.

That report also made me think about my imaginary town , Ironton, N.J. base for the Frank Nagler Mystery series and the choice to include as many diverse characters possible and give them important roles.

This is not an effort to be “woke,” as is the current term.

These characters go back to the first drafts of the mysteries  written in my 20s.

Great stories have memorable minor characters who served to move the story and expand the universe.

One such character is Manny Calabrese, an Italian jeweler, who appears in several books. During an interview about THE RED HAND, the host noted how Manny reminded him  of  shopkeepers in his hometown, people who knew their customers, patted kids on the head. It was one of the highest compliments I had received.

Manny, like Barry, the Hispanic owner of Barry’s, the popular Ironton eatery, exists to add sympathy for Frank Nagler and the main characters, and add depth to the life of the city without caricature.

Leonard, for example, appears in the earliest drafts as blind street kid.

Over the stories he becomes owner of a bookstore which becomes a cornerstone for redevelopment of a section of Ironton.

There’s Del Williams, Detective Frank Nagler’s  black childhood friend from the worker’s ghetto. Nagler is always recounting their escapades. Del overcomes addiction  to become a leader and trainer for the street kids hired by Leonard at his store and other businesses.

Calista Knox overcomes child abuse and sex trafficking to become a hero in THE WEIGHT OF LIVING, and Nagler’s companion, Lauren Fox, represents all the qualities of the many women administrators, social workers, nurses, cops, fire fighters and others I have had the privilege  to know as a reporter. Nagler doesn’t succeed without her.

One of the favorite heroes in the stories is Lt. Maria Ramirez, Nagler’s no-nonsense partner. In the upcoming DRAGONY RISING, Ramirez and her companion, Destiny, are endangered because of their sexuality.

These characters exist because they make the Nagler stories more interesting and lively, not to make it appear that I am a writer trying to be  heroic or politically correct.

I am instead a writer partaking in the world that is, the one I learned about by living.

That brings up one more point.

A week or so ago I started a story about an elementary school I attended.   It was supposed to be a goofy growing up story.

Instead, “Dev” showed up.

She is the daughter of a farm worker who disguises her upbringing.

Where did Dev come from?

As a kid in Phoenix, N.Y. I would ride my bike past vast fields of vegetables – truck farms.

At the far rear of the fields were shacks and tents when the migrant workers lived.

That’s where Dev came from.

Where to find the Nagler books:

Amazon.com: Michael Stephen Daigle: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

The Weight of Living by Michael Stephen Daigle, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

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WIP: Cherry Street School. Meeting Dev

A continuation  of the first scene from WIP: Cherry Street School. (https://michaelstephendaigle.com/2022/01/07/wip-first-day-at-cherry-street-school/) Theo Dubois meets Andrea Devlin, aka, Dev.

The doors opened with a whoosh of air and closed with a clank as students  entered with some papers they handed to Mrs. Sternman, with the same greeting, “Good morning, Mrs. Sternman.” She would reply with their name and a quick, near smile. Theo decided after watching it three or four times, it wasn’t really a smile, but more like a twitch. The air clacked with typing and occasionally Theo heard a scratchy a voice coming from a speaker he couldn’t see. A woman would say, “I’ll send him right now,”  and then call someone else and say, “Please report to room 215.”

He reached to the wrinkled paper grocery bag  sitting on the floor between his feet. He didn’t have time for breakfast. He wanted to pull out one of the peanut and butter sandwiches, but didn’t  because Mrs. Sternman would frown.

What’s the big deal? he wondered.

Before he could consider an answer, the door to his left opened and a girl and a teacher entered. The teacher nodded to the bench. “You know the drill,” he said.

Theo glanced at the girl and then at the floor. He peeked up to see Mrs. Sternman and the new teacher talking. “Again?” she asked.  “Very well. I’ll call.”

The sense that the girl was in trouble  gave Theo no relief. I’m just trying to get into school and they drop me on a bench where they put kids who get into trouble. What does that make me? he asked himself.

He peeked a glance because he felt the girl was staring at him.

She wore all black, from her shiny  boots to a tight t-shirt. A large hoop earring dangled from her right ear, and her short, black hair shined with an iridescence  that Theo determined was decidedly not natural.

He nailed his eyes to the floor when she turned her head.

“It’s okay, kid,” she said. “I’m used to it.”

Theo scrunched up his face and sat back and said, “Sorry.”

The girl smiled.  “What they got you on the bench for?”

A friendly voice, he thought and felt himself relax.

“Dunno,” he said. “First day.”

“Got it. They’re trying to figure out where to put you.”

“What?”
The girl shook her head. “It’s what happened to me a couple years ago. I came from a bigger school and the way they listed the grades was different. If they can’t figure it out, they start you at the lowest level and let you work your way up.”

“What?”

She grinned. “Means they’re gonna put you with the dumb kids.”

Before Theo could respond, Mrs. Sternman appeared at the front desk. “Andrea.”

The girl wrinkled her nose and stood. “Yes, Mrs. Sternman.”

“Closer, please.”

As Andrea and Mrs. Sternman  huddled over the counter Theo heard Mrs. Sternman say… ”Your father…” and Andrea’s reply. “He was there this morning,” then, “Come on.  It’s a big purple school bus. You’ve found it before.”

Andrea returned to the bench. “Is she frowning?”

Theo flicked his eyes toward Mrs. Sternman and then covered his smile with one hand.
 “Good. I’m Dev. Andrea Devlin, but I like Dev better.”

“Hi, Dev. I’m Theo.” He pronounced it Ta-O. “Short for Theophile, for my grampa.

“That’s a mouthful. How about I call you ‘T’?”

“Deal.”

“So, where ya from?”

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WIP: First day at Cherry Street School

In a writing group the name of Bruce Coville, the acclaimed children’s author, came up. I briefly attended elementary school with Bruce. That connection  led to this work-in-progress. And no, aliens won’t eat Theo’s homework. Instead this is a story about how three kids, strangers, band together to upset the status quo at Cherry Street School.

First Day

Theo Dubois pulled on the handle of the big white  door to the Cherry Street School, but the door didn’t open.

He dropped the paper bag with his supplies and tried again, this time with both hands, and the door still didn’t open.

He knocked on it with his knuckles, peered through a square window, then knocked again harder with  the side of his fist.

The former Cheery Street School, Phoenix, N.Y. It is now an apartment building.

He jammed his hands into the pockets of his jeans and stared at the ground.

I’m already in trouble, he thought. First day.

“Don’t need to break it down, son.”

The man was walking toward the school.

“I’m supposed to go here but I can’t get in,” Theo said.

The man smiled. “You need to push this button on the speaker. It rings in the main office. The secretary will ask who you are and then unlock the door. Like this.”

The man pushed the button and a voice squawked from the wall speaker.

“State your name and business, please.”

“Hello, Sally, This is  Mr. Younger. I believe I have a new student with me.”

“Thank you, Mr. Younger.”

A buzzer sounded and Mr. Younger opened the door.  He pulled open the door  and swept his arm toward the opening. “After you.”e pulled ipen the door an swept

Theo offered a twisted, closed lip smile. “Thanks.”

He took the three wide steps up to a long hallway with doors on both sides that seemed to run forever. The floor shined with a polished glow.

“I don’t…” Theo began.

“I’m Mr. Younger,” the man said. “The principal. And your name is?”

“Theo. Um, Theo Dubois. We just moved here.”

“Well, welcome to Cherry Street School, Theo Dubois. The office is this way.  I’ll introduce you to Mrs. Sternman, the secretary who will get you settled.”

Theo glanced back at the door.

“Why’s the door locked? Do kids run away?”

Mr. Younger paused, then smiled softly.  “Oh, no, Theo. The door are locked for your safety. There has been some trouble. Did your old school not lock doors?”

“Sheesh, no. It had four rooms, about thirty kids. It was a really little town. My friend Kevin said his dad  said they were gonna close it up  and move the kids to a bigger school next year.”

Mr. Younger motioned up the hallways. “We should walk. How small was your town?”

Theo shrugged. “Couple hundred.”

 “Theo, Cherry Street School has 473 students.”

“Wow. You could put all of  Laketown in here.”

“Where is Laketown?”

Theo brightened. “On the lake. It was an old place. Looked old all the time.”

Mr. Younger chuckled. “I meant, what state?”

“Oh, In Maine, in the woods. Lake was called Minnehonk. We think it means lotta geese, ya know, many honks.”

“That’s wonderful, Theo.” Mr. Younger turned to a grey-haired woman at the front counter. “Mrs. Sternman, I’d like you to meet Theo, was it Du-boiz?”

Theo nodded, suddenly uncomfortable. “Yeah, right. Du-boiz.”

 Mrs. Sternman peered over the rims of her glasses at Theo, whose head bobbed above the shoulder-high counter as he looked up to at Mrs. Sternman. She’s really tall, he thought.

Behind her two other women sat at wide metal desks and shuffled papers or spoke on a telephone. Two doors divided the rear wall. Mr. Younger  sat at the desk in the room to the right. The door to the other room was closed.

A wall length, paper banner on the right wall  said ‘CHERRY STREET SCHOOL” in red block letters. On the other wall a big calendar with a picture of a mountain filled the space between two other closed doors.

Theo thought  the office was very quiet even though it had a lot of people. He felt small.

“Hello, Theo,” Mrs. Sternman said with a  dry, cold voice. “It that your real name? Theo?”

Theo wrinkled his face. “It’s Theophile, T-off-o-lee. My  grandfather’s name.”

“Ah,” she said. “Spell it please. And then your surname.”

“My what?”

“Last name. You said it was Du-boiz.  So that would be D-U-B-O-I-S, correct? French. Isn’t that pronounced ‘Du-boi,’”

“Grampa Theo said it was Du-boiz. He said he got beat up as a kid if he said it the French way. That’s why I use Theo, not Ta-O. Kids don’t ask.”

Mrs. Sternman stopped writing and frowned. “And you believed  him?”

Theo found his voice. “He was my grampa. He was from the south. Said it happened all the time.”

“Ah, the South, “ Mrs. Sternman said. “Well, Theophile, this is the New York State. We are different. Please spell you’re first name. We can not have nicknames in the official records.”

Theo spelled “Theophile” and waited for more instructions,

“What is your address?” Mrs. Sternman  asked, pen poised to record it 

Theo stared at the floor, hands jammed in his pockets.  “I don’t know.” He looked up at Mrs. Sternman.  “We got here Saturday. My dad unloaded our stuff and left a note on the kitchen table and took off.”

“Where does he live? What is his phone number?”

Theo  felt the coldness of her voice settle in his chest. “I don’t know. We just got here. Heck, I don’t even know the name of this town.”

“Is your mother with you?” she asked, her voice deepening with official frowning concern.

“She went early to look for a job.”

“Oh, dear. Where?”

“Syracuse,” Theo muttered. It was the one place name he knew because his father said that was where he worked for an electric company.

Mrs. Sternman tapped her pen on the counter, frowning.

“So you prepared  yourself  for school?”

“Yeah, Me and my younger brother and sister. We always used to do it.”

“Two siblings? Where are they?”

“At school I guess. The note said for them to stand on the corner and a bus was gonna come.”

Mrs. Sternman  said, frowning, “Please  take a seat, Theophile. I must speak with Mr. Younger.”

Theo’s shoes thumped on the wooden base of the bench as he sat head down and wondered what he had done. He peeked up and  watched as Mrs. Sternman  wave a finger at the principal. She turned to face Theo a couple of times and tapped the papers in her hand a couple more. Theo heard her say, “very concerned,” once and “very, very concerned” twice. Mr. Younger’s face was wrinkled in worry. Then Theo heard Mrs. Sternman say,  “Broken home” and “social services.” And Mr. Younger asked, “You’re absolutely sure?” and Mrs. Sternman replied, “Absolutely. This is very troubling.” She frowned again at Theo.

Posted in Bergen County Cooperative Library System, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Paramus Public Library, Parsippany Public Library, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A late night with a dying dog; six years later the loss still hurts

(Some things you have to write)

It’s been six years, Jax, and still you are here.  I wonder what you’d make of Lily.

What were you chasing in your dreams at 3 a.m.?

That groundhog that you willingly dove under the shed to drive away? That cat whose scent you picked up from an inch of water on the patio, the cat I saw scamper from under the table to under my truck, the cat whose trace you detected during the downpour?

Whatever it was for that moment your voice, stilled by age, returned, and we sat on the floor alone together.

The end came.

img_2135 For 17 years it was you who taught my kids caring and love and how to reach beyond their childish hurts to share the things you bought to the family.

If you doubt that, you did not hear my son crying like a baby when he and you sat in the sunny backyard for that last hour, reliving the times and games, comforting you; crying not in self-pity, but because there was no more time.

Or did not drive with my daughter from the college with her heart in her throat to comfort you and say farewell and take that long silent ride to the vets, before driving back to school for classes, knowing that you gave it all in your dogness and enjoyed all the time you had.

Jaxson was their dog, raised by them from a puppy, who herded them in the backyard, chased them up stairs, stole their sandwiches grinning when they placed them on a too-low table, led them on neighborhood escapes and licked their faces in happiness and sorrow.

And even now, after they have moved out of the house, Jaxson was who they sought out when they returned.

So there we sat, buddy, you and me, you dying and me knowing there was nothing I could do except somehow keep you comfortable.

Two days before you had been stumbling cataract blind through the house as usual, following the walls and cabinets to find your food and bed, or to lean against my legs, sleeping long hours, rolling off your bed to awkwardly sit, then tumbling into the kitchen at the sound of cooking, just in case.

Then you knew.

Refused food and water. I gave you one last bath to wash the pee out of your fur, and laid you on your bed, from which you did not – could not—rise.

All I could offer was soft words and a scratch of your nose, the spot between your eyes that brought you Nirvana. We want to rage against the passage of time, demand the things we love remain, but in the end we are Voyager  sailing through the ether, taking snapshots. Here, look.

These bodies are so much weaker than spirits. We aged together Jaxson, limping together in the back yard – me on an aching left foot and you on legs that shrunk from age and some condition, eyes darkened with cataracts.

But then you’d put your nose to the ground and all the scents of the neighborhood critters would telegraph their presence and you would amble off, a slower, smaller version of your puppy self; nose the ground for a short walk that would end  when I would turn you before you got to the alley, cheered by the knowledge that your hunter spirit lived in  that broken frame; cheered by the too-numerous-to-count neighborhood chases with you, nose down, in the lead and me and the kids racing behind, then watching as you’d stop and grin at us before resuming the chase.

Then you’d stop in a few blocks, or a neighbor would call to say you were in their yard, sitting waiting for us. Jaxson the game master.

Cheered as I recalled how on those last minute late night visits to the back yard you’d put your nose in the air and take a 360-survey of the state of the world and I would marvel at that amazing skill and ponder what the air told you.

Cheered as you’d chase the water from the hose, sent by the kids in a streaming arc; how you’d dive into air, sprint across the lawn to catch the drops in your mouth, or with grandson Aeden at the controls fight off the direct spray so not to drown; then springing again into the air, splashing down, sometimes hard, bouncing back, finally to sit, soaking wet and grinning when the game ended.

In the end we think of you not as the old-man dog, but as the dog who caught the rain.

 

Posted in Fiction, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon, Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment