The earth is leaking

 

it’s been underground for a long time, hasn’t it,

all that complicated stuff that leaks from your eyes at the wrong moment

just below the surface and it rushes up in a red eruption, flaring then cooling, a crust again because it is easier to cool than burn,

there is more protection in a shell than to be on fire all the time

because it wants be about what was, never was, is and might be and might not be

wants to offer salve for all the burns, all the disembodied phone calls when questions hung unformed and unanswered,

wants to burn it all down to ash

wants to be about fixing everything, scorching away the pain that we let time create, the midnight silent, ceiling staring why

wants to be about joy and the nectar of your hair, the salt of your skin, fingers touching

wants to be about joy but becomes about time

wants to be about joy and becomes about missing

wants to be about lips together, soft and brief

wants to be a closing, a cooling, pain subsiding, release

wants to be a fissure, heat tapped and rising, then bursting

the channels of love and pain and distance and blame unclogged

wants to be about both giving and taking

wants to be in that moment free

wants to be the tear wiped from your cheek

wants to be simple

wants to be that instant

when we float.

 

 

 

 

 

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June is Audiobook Month — And I have one

For the first time ever I am pleased and amazed to say I have a reason to celebrate June is Audiobook Month. In April, my publisher Imzadi Publishing released the audiobook version of THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY, the first Frank Nagler Mystery.

The book was recorded and produced by veteran voice  artist LEE ALAN, a 35-year professional voice actor, artist, writer, composer, producer and published author.

Lee is a Peabody Award Nominee, winner of 14 Silver Microphone Awards and a former ABC Radio and Television performer and program executive.

His site: http://www.leealancreative.com/.

I’ll be at the Warren County Park Fest  from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 9  at Bread Lock Park, Route 57, Greenwich Township.

 

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We are West Hartley Parkway

It was a voice from the past.

Fifty years past.

“So, what have you been doing for the past fifty years?”

valley newsIt was the voice of Jim Morrison, my best friend and rock-and-roll bandmate from Fulton, N.Y.

He had found me on Facebook.

It wasn’t that I was trying to hide, but when you spend your life moving nearly all the time it can feel like hiding.

He was the second old friend to recently reach out on Facebook.

The other was Bruce Coville, with whom I was in elementary school in Phoenix, N.Y.

Many of you know Bruce as the much loved author of great and innovative YA books. I can say I knew him when, which is a great honor.

Jimmy and I talked for about an hour, mostly about Fulton in the mid-1960s and our band.

Yeah, I know, we were two of 290 million US teen-agers who started bands after the British Invasion, but so what.

In 1963, I had a drum set – a four piece pearl-gray Ludwig.

We stood in the crowded hallway of the old Fulton High School plotting — Jimmy, who was going to play bass guitar, even though he didn’t own one or had ever played one; Ed Litwak, who did own a guitar and was sort of our Roger Mcguinn, and Ray Foster, who played piano, but never joined up.

We were talking about how to play Hermans Hermit’s “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Gotta start somewhere.

But we were musicians. Drummers, trumpet and sax players in the high school band. Music was not a foreign language, although rock certainly was.

4by4Next thing we know we’re on the concrete porch at our house on Fay Street plugging into our one amp two mics and two guitars.

We woke up my older brother, and our English teacher who lived down the street marched up to tell us to stop disturbing the peace.

And I guess we were. Good for us. Rebellion, in a small way, had arrived.

Fay Street was a rural road at the end of Fulton, a subdivision waiting to happen.

Our little amp blasted out some notes and the drums and cymbals echoed off the concrete sound board of the house, and we announced our arrival to the world.
We were called “The End.” Just because.

Jimmy and I were kind of roust-about kids. We spent the summers bike riding, swimming, playing sports, and after the band was formed, practicing.

We had parents with few rules, because that was the times and that was Fulton, a hardworking small city. As Jimmy said, his father’s rule was “Be home before the street lights turn on.”

bAND ON TRUCKWe practiced often at Ed’s house, in the basement of their home that was his mother’s beauty salon.  It was well carpeted.

We learned songs off the radio, or as Jimmy and I did when we worked as under-age cooks at the Three Rivers Diner, off the jukebox. We would sit at the counter on a break with a pile of quarters and play the same song fifteen times, trying to catch the lyrics.

Sheet music at Woolworths’ was like $3 a page.

We got most of them right, although I only recently learned the actual words to the fourth verse of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun.”

The lyric is: I’ve got one foot on a platform, another foot on a train. I’m going back to New Orleans to wear that ball and chain.”

Two things: At 13, I had no idea what that meant. And so it probably didn’t matter that I sang it in a garble of notes that sounded like a lyric.

We once performed the Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” without knowing any of the verses. But we knew the chorus, and marshalled on.

One day Paul Castiglia showed up and with a cherry red Fender and he could play. He became our lead guitarist, and suddenly our song list grew.

We became the Four by Four. Again, just cause.

If early American and British rockers cut their chops at bars, we cut ours at piano recitals and parades. We played from the backs of flatbed trucks, playing once in the rain and got shocked each time our lips touched the metal mics.

That was the times and bar owners were not going to book a bunch of 14-year-olds.

We were lucky that the City of Fulton had an active youth program and a war memorial, which hosted weekly live-music dances.

We played them all.

Fulton is an isolated city, twenty-odd miles from Syracuse and about ten miles from Oswego. There was no public transportation so we all walked everywhere.

In the dry summers the dances were the biggest attraction.

We maneuvered ourselves into being the headliners and claimed the highest risers and best floor space.

But, know what. We were a good band. We played hard, stretched the songs when we could. And in battles-of-the-bands, with out of town bands coming in, we were the hometown favorites.

Eventually I moved away, as was my life at the time.

When I moved from Fulton, the band had become The West Hartley Parkway, a name that reflected the psychedelic trend of pop music.

I wasn’t with the band at that point. We had added a couple new members and there were creative differences.

And they were big, for that small town. Headlining the war memorial dances, and at one point, playing a high school concert when the school’s hallways were decorated with signs like “Follow West Harley Parkway.”

I went to that dance, even though I wasn’t in the band, and watched my friends take over the room.

At one point the audience began to chant my name, which was both gratifying and odd, and embarrassing for Jimmy, I know.
What was I supposed to do, grab to a mic and start a countdown?

I waved and smiled, and later left before the end of the dance.

I’m not Pete Best.

I knew I was leaving Fulton for North Syracuse soon, and that time had passed.

But what a time it was.

A few years later, when I was at Harpur College in Binghamton,  I ran into one of the band guys who had led to my leaving the band. He said he was sorry for “all that band stuff.”

I laughed a little and said, don’t worry that was five years ago.  We were kids.

Jimmy and I talked about that. That end had been hard for him, he said. And it was for me.

Sometimes it seems it is hard to measure the impact your life has, and harder to recall the impacts of other’s lives on yours.

I was a Navy brat, moved a lot, all the time. Attachment can be fleeting.

(Go head, ask me why my cop hero Frank Nagler is an outsider. Write what you know.)

But the impacts last, and I am grateful that Jimmy and Bruce found me on the Internet. I hadn’t forgotten you guys, but our times become part of the world I recreate in fiction.

Thanks for connecting me again to the real world.

 

A NOTE ON THE PHOTOS: The Oswego Valley News, left to right: Me on drums, Paul on guitar, Jimmy in white shirt on bass, and Ed on guitar. Why were wearing ties, is beyond me.

On the truck:” The elbow at the left belongs to Jimmy’s sister Vicki.

 

 

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Warren County ParkFest: June 9, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

It’s that time again for ParkFest, featuring, live jazz, an art show, historical displays and films, “Authors Alley” where you’ll meet published authors, a classic car show, food trucks/vendors, and more! It’s all happening at Bread Lock Park, a Warren County, NJ park located on Route 57 in Greenwich Township at a former lock on the old Morris Canal, so-called because the lock tender’s wife baked fresh bread to sell to the families on the passing canal boats.

The event is rain or shine and admission is free. Be sure to bring a lawn chair or blanket.

ParkFest is hosted by the Warren County Parks Foundation and the Warren County Morris Canal Committee, with support from the Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Warren County Planning Department, Land Preservation Department, and Public Information Department, the Explore Warren County Tourism Partnership and other sponsors.

Sponsorship opportunities are available! To get involved, call 908-475-6539 or email morriscanal@co.warren.nj.us and let us know.

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This grand American experiment

I’m reading David McCullough’s 2017 collection of speeches, “The American Spirit.”

In its way, the book is a cry for light to be shed on those thing that can be defined as truly American, beginning with our most famous declaration: “All men are created equal.”

From out modern cynical viewpoint that declaration comes under attack because it should have said: All men, women, blacks, natives, LGBT, tall people, short people, coffee drinkers, tea drinkers, abstainers, lefties, righties, the born, the unborn, and so on.

And, oh, the Founding Fathers were slaveholding rich white men; not all, but yes, most were, especially the Southerners.

IMG_5101Does that invalidate all they started with our War of Independence and Declaration of Independence?

No. They were men of their times, and human, McCullough said.

They created, he reminds us, a government that is based on the will of the people, the first-ever such declaration.

But what the Founders importantly understood is that ideals have a certain permanence, but not a rigidity. Thus: A more perfect union. Not a perfect union.

They also understood that if ideals have a permanence, politics is temporal.

And yet, it is the steady grinding of politics that produces the more perfect union: The end of slavery, women’s suffrage, laws to advance civil, voting and marriage rights, among others.

The timeline of human progress has always been toward more freedom, more tolerance, more liberalism.

Does that change us automatically into a loving, welcoming people?

No.

But it raises the bottom.

We still spew hate, are suspicious of strangers, demand attention.

But we try to be better.

One of the interesting shows on the Travel Channel is created by Andrew Zimmern, chef and food author. While his enthusiasm for cattle testicles eludes me, his shows for the most part are about the egalitarian nature of food.

His best shows venture into The Bronx, Philly, Texas, the Southwest and foreign and U.S. cities to to show how food cultures are transported across political boundaries.

His best shows trace the culture of food in sprawling historical arcs, like the shows on the Erie Canal, the Lewis-Clark expedition, to Cajun country in Louisiana and visits to Arizona and other Southwest cities that show the influence of Mexican and Native American food on our diets. He highlights groups who have turned back to the traditional food preparation methods and how they influence a modern approach to historic cultures.

The programs show in not so subtle ways that being  American is a by-product of being a citizen of the world, and that all the temporary political noise does not erase that.

Three quotes from McCullough’s book highlight his theme: That while we falter from time to time, there is a piece of this grand American experiment that persists.

The first is from the great Maine U.S. Senator Margaret Chase Smith, the first of her Republican Party to stand up to Sen. Joe McCarthy.

“I speak as a Republican. I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American. I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny – fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”

The second quote is from President Ronald Reagan, in his inaugural address: “How can we love our country and not love our countrymen? And loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they’re sick, and provide opportunities to make the self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just theory.”

The third is McCullough’s introductory conclusion: “Many a time I have gone off on a speaking date feeling a bit down about the state of things and returned with my outlook greatly restored, having seen again and again long-standing American values still firmly in place, good people involved in joint efforts to accomplish changes for the better, the American spirit still at work.”

The lines we draw are for the most part imaginary and temporary. We cannot let them become permanent.

That is our challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Nagler: Martha’s history of kissing

Another quick look at the Frank Nagler work in progress, this one with his wife Martha.

For a deeper look at what they mean to each other, read A GAME CALLED DEAD, the award winning second book in the series. The end is a heart-breaking scene in which the meaning of Frank Nagler love for his wife is crystalized.

 

 

The new piece:

“A staggered breeze could not shift the molasses air as the heat settled. The open windows filled with the rattling death songs of insects, born for a moment of breeding, then crushed to the welcoming soil.

Frank Nagler had left the office that afternoon in disgust. Walked away, done with the Chris Foleys and Charlie Adams of the world, done with the web of chatter that had engulfed the investigation and the city; every step was across a sticky strand that grabbed at his heels, the city ground to a dark and silent stop.

He and Martha had spent the afternoon out of the city at the lake, where white sails captured the sunlight and plumes of spray behind water skiers rainbowed the water; then dinner lakeside as the sun settled behind the green, soon darkened hills.

The effect of the treatment was evident. She was paler and at times lethargic. She had trimmed her hair.

 Leonard had taken on a role as caregiver and companion. Nagler would come home on a quick break during the day to find them sitting in the backyard shade laughing, and his heart would turn, glad for Leonard’s company for Martha, but jealous of the time he could not offer.

She had settled into their bed under a thin sheet, hugging him.

“Do you remember the first time we kissed,” she asked with a grin.

He laughed and kissed her forehead. “We were like seven.”

“Right, Einstein. Outside the school after Miss Kalan had basically yelled at me for not paying attention because I was drawing doodles of your name on the math test.”

“She was angry, wasn’t she? You were her best student.” He stared at the ceiling and recalled that day. “But there you were, crying in the playground.”

“And you came over, called her a silly old bat, and kissed me.” Martha pushed up to an elbow and touched his face. “You were so embarrassed, Frank.  You barely let me thank you. You stood there as stiff as a board when I hugged you. Silly boy.”

“I didn’t want you to be hurt, especially over something so silly as a math test.”

Martha smiled and giggled.

“And then the first time we Frenched. I thought you were going to fall over.”

“Yeah. We had been kissing every day we were together, Little pecks, baby smooches. I had just really loved walking home with you and holding your hand. Then, what we were eleven, and you stuck your tongue in my mouth. Man.”

“You got the hang of it pretty quickly,” she laughed and rolled back to her pillow. “Then we spent the next five years lusting after each other. I couldn’t wait to kiss you. And then I couldn’t wait for you to touch me and kiss my skin.”

“Then we stopped for six months, some stupid fight.”  He leaned back and closed his eyes against that broken-hearted-teen-age pain.

“I stood outside  this house staring at the light in your window. You wouldn’t take my calls. I remember standing in the doorway of that old shed across the street, trying to stay out of the rain. I would get home after midnight and my mother would just kiss my forehead silently because she saw how it all hurt.”

Martha ran a finger down his jawline.

“And then it stopped. You were across the street on a night like this, hot, miserably sticky, and I walked over, and we just fell back into each others’ arms. That was the sweetest kiss, like the first one ever. None of the others, and nothing else mattered. It wasn’t lust although I was aching for you. It was just you and me, bodies pressed together, lips soft and lightly brushing each other’s mouth. A little peck, then a long, electric kiss I didn’t want to end.”

“I was trying to figure out how much you had been hurt, so much that you wouldn’t even talk to me.” He reached over and kissed her forehead. “Trying to figure out that I’d done, because I’d had to have done something.”

She kissed his palm, and then licked it, smiling.

“Sometime distance is just distance, nothing really, a gap, that makes a wall.” She looked up and smiled softly. “We had to push through it.”

She sat on his lap and took his face in her hands. He tried to speak. “Hush,” she said. Then she kissed him for just a second or two, then again. Their lips not parting, but resting together. Then deeply; she drew a breath from him. Then she smiled.

“That’s what it was like, Frank. Just like that.” Her voice was wet. “Every one since. At the hospital at nineteen, then home in granny’s old room. Giving you want I could, taking what I wanted.” She kissed him again, and he relaxed into her embrace. “That’s what they will be like until I can no longer give you any.”

 

The Frank Nagler books are available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Brick  (Ocean County Library System) Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany; the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library; The Associated Libraries of Monroe County, Pa.

 

The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

 

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More new Frank Nagler: Hope from a desperate low

More from the work in progress Frank Nagler prequel.

Eventually these stories, with crimes, and murders and desperate people, are about hope and redemption.  This is the low point from which Frank Nagler and the City of Ironton, NJ rise.:

“Jimmy Dawson hunched in the back, far corner table at Mario’s.

The place was empty except for a couple of beer drinkers at the bar staring like zombies at the replay of a TV baseball game; some cheesy Musak tinkled in the air, leaking from hidden speakers.

Given the reputation of the person who had asked to meet with him, Dawson thought the red velvet bar with polyester seats might not have been the best spot.

He wanted a boilermaker to knock down the jitter; he ordered a Coke.

Ironton seemed like it was going to snap.

It wasn’t just the murders. They were happening at an almost casual pace. The city recoiled in horror when police announced each new one, just as it had with the last murder, the one staged in the central city parking lot.

It was something subterranean, continents grinding, an oozing, deadly pressure seeking release; no one would want to be there when it popped.

The local court was busier – More fights, a few drunken after-hours brawls at a couple of the dark, steamy, east side bars with broken neon signs, scraps over hookers and drugs, spilled beers and cheating pool players. Kids robbing moms-and-pops, fights at the high school over girls and cars; gay kids being bushwhacked, bullies stealing lunch money

It was like the heat had sucked out all the wrong that had once cooled and coalesced in the hidden corners of the city and spread it around; the wrong that rose up on a bad Saturday night when the dice rolled sideway, when the beer tasted a little sour, when the glint in an eye across the room was a threat, and when a wink to the wrong woman led to bodies on the floor; when knives were sharp and swift.

There was nothing to hide in, no gray fog of forgiveness, no cooling mist that hung on dry faces, just the shadeless heat, laser beams bouncing off hot glass, the needle-eye reflection, a city blinded, sweating, dulled and beaten to silence.”

 

The Frank Nagler books are available at the following New Jersey libraries:

Brick  (Ocean County Library System) Mountainside; Morris County Library; Somerset County Library System; Bernardsville Public Library; Hunterdon County Public Library; Mount Olive Public Library;  Phillipsburg; Warren County, Franklin branch; Mount Arlington; Wharton; Dover; Hackettstown;  Clark, Parsippany; the Ramsey library, as part of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System; The Palmer (Pa.) Branch of the Easton Public Library; Deptford Free Public Library and Franklin Township Library (Gloucester Co.), New Providence Memorial Library; The Associated Libraries of Monroe County, Pa.

 

The Frank Nagler mysteries are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com

 

 

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New Frank Nagler; Ironton in crumbling timeless despair

I’ve been writing and rewriting the prequel to the Frank Nagler series.

After a lot of back and forth, I think I hit on the idea that will carry the story.

I needed a meme to tie everything together and decided that the serial killer in the story leaves taunting painted red hand  prints around the city along with the slogan HAND OF DEATH.

The story takes place 20 years before the opening of THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY. This passage sums up what newly minted Detective Frank Nagler is facing:

 

“It was about walking the boundaries. So that’s what Frank Nagler did as a young cop assigned to the night shift. Walked the boundaries of Ironton, New Jersey, a city cut in half by the river that once fueled the big iron mills and flattened the central valley like the bottom of a mixing bowl and filled the plain with the belching shapes of commerce.

Walked to the edges of the bowl to where the once shining downtown crumbled to the shells of red-brick factories whose stones stored the sounds of grinding machines and shouting men as if one day they would be released; walked between the dark homes and listened to the drunken rages, laughing kids and loud TVs as the city settled into its crumbling timeless despair.

Stood along the tilting streets of the workers ghetto  and saw in his  mind again the limping figure of his father, the weight of a killing job bearing him down; leaned on a dusty telephone pole and saw in memory the smile of young and beautiful Martha Shannon as she joyful as a dream greeted every neighbor.

Walked east and west, north and south, kicked awake drunks asleep in the rail yard, stood trackside shaking with the ground as the grumbling power of a diesel punched a hole in the nighttime and slipped away.

Stepped to the rocky, hard hills that defined the city, hills that rose up from the plain like forbidding walls and held in all the good and bad of Ironton and pushed back into the trembling center everything that could save you or kill you.

The hills that rose like judgement.

Nagler walking on, wanted to believe it was about redemption.

And then nine women were killed.”

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On the radio today at 4 p.m.

I’ll be joining host Georjean Trinkle on her show Hot in Hunterdon on the Hunterdon Chamber of Commerce Radio Network at 4 p.m. today.

We’ll be discussing the Frank Nagler Mystery Series, including the award-winning “The Weight of Living.”

The show was on Monday, May 14. Here’s the link:

http://www.hunterdonchamberradio.com/hot.htm

The books are available online at:

Amazon: http://goo.gl/hVQIII

Kobo: https://goo.gl/bgLH6v

NOOK: http://goo.gl/WnQjtr

http://www.walmart.com 

The audio book version of “The Swamps of Jersey,” read by voice artist Lee Alan is at:

https://www.audible.com/author/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/B00P5WBOQC

 

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC

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The big bang

Someone plugged in the universe

and it swirled up and out and into a lustful and holy  mess

that scattered us all over before we slammed together

and then ricocheted

and burned and cooled.

Flame tendrils like fingers reaching;

Some held and gained weight

Other slipped away but left invisible heat

That circles back to slap us awake in wondering.

 

It all echoes, you know:

Cries and sighs

Babies in the night, silent graves;

Dark memories, the smiling, splashing days.

The anger of the forgotten and dispossessed.

All the words said and never said,

The sweetest kiss, the softest touch;

The saddest, hollow departure;

A heart left empty for no reason.

 

Oh, this explosion seems so orderly

And predisposed to ending,

Gravity weaker at the edges.

We run away, fold inside ourselves

And cement in the grief and love

and the laughter and smiles and tears

and eyes locked, fingers bound,

bodies entwined and bruised and

Wrap ourselves in some hard capsule

Awaiting the final screaming exit.

 

But, wait; it is  gravity still.

And after all the swirling and scattering

And denial and acceptance,

Something breaks free

Like a stone from billion miles away

To scratch across the diagram of never-touching circles

And creates its own weight;

As the unseen, forgotten dust coalesces

Into your face

And all the spinning and distance

Mean nothing.

 

 

 

 

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