A sample from WIP ‘Mount Jensen:’ Cooking class, a three-ooff omelet

A knife load of butter, three fingers of chopped onion, a fistful of sliced potatoes, turned twice, and then pushed to the edge of the grill, away from the main heat.

Four pieces of toast, six fried eggs sunny-side-up arranged like a cyclops board meeting. Ham at the side, bacon across the front; toast popped, buttered, eggs over, a wave of garlic and onion powders, then a splash of parsley flakes. Two plates, a couple scoops , Henderson pirouetted and Hank the plumber and Eugene had their breakfasts, ham for Eugene, bacon for Hank.

“You might see some extra trade this week,” Hank said, his mouth full. “Folks down the road at the new place gonna be shut up for a few days while I replace most of their plumbing, the hot water heater and a furnace. I told them when they moved in two years ago that all them systems was set to fail and they should try to replace one piece at a time to avoid the disruption.” He shook his head is disgust. “Big city New Yorkers. Didn’t want to hear it from some backwoods plumber. But the plumbing goes back to when old man Megan ran a machine shop outta there. He just patched the leaks. There’s three water heaters stacked down there and the furnace is probably forty years old. Amazed it worked at all.” He piled in another load of eggs and washed it down with coffee.

“And what were you doing down in their cellar to start with?” Eugene asked, knowing the answer. “Wasn’t because you’re the town’s plumbing inspector, was it?”

Hank laughed. “Well, of course it was. But that didn’t make them fixtures any better.”

Henderson absorbed the news with a curious, wrinkled face. Since Bagels & Brews opened two years ago, his business had actually increased. A couple dozen more cars in Mount Jensen every day was good for everyone, he figured.

Still, he thought, maybe I’ll have Dan Wilson drop off a load of bagels, just in case.

“That’ll cost ‘em,” he replied to Hank.

“I ain’t complaining,” Hank smiled back. “The plumber comes for us all.”

“Who comes for the plumber?” Eugene asked, grinning.

“The man in black,” Tender whispered from the corner. Which just took the humor right out of the air.

“Thanks for cheering us up, there Tender,” Henderson said shaking his head.

“Just the truth,” Tender replied.

“What’s the man in black need?” Henderson asked.

“More coffee,” Tender said. “And a side of toast.”

Hank swiped the last of the egg yolk off his plate with a crust of toast, and nodded.

“You know, Henderson, they’re giving cooking classes down there.”

Eugene slapped Hank’s back. “Well, you’re just full of news today, ain’t ya?”

“Just saying. It’s mostly stuff on their dinner menu. Baked bass with a wine sauce, lemon poached trout with leeks and capers, bunch of fancy sauces.”

Henderson laughed. “What am I supposed to teach? Greasy homefries by the bucket? Cheeseburger specials?” He winked at Eugene.

Hank blushed and stammered. “Omelets. Country omelets.”

Henderson grinned. “Okay.” He reached for stainless bowl. There was a little egg yolk on the edge. He wiped it off with his apron.

“Consider the egg. Or as the French say, an ooff.”

“I think that’s urf, o-e-u-f,” Tender interrupted.

“How do you get urf out of o-e-u-f, there Tender? No ‘r” so it’s ooff. More than one are ooffs. We’ll use three ooffs for our omelet.”

He held out the bowl and cracked an egg one handed on the lip.

“Ain’t you supposed’ta crack ‘em on a flat surface?” Tender asked.

Henderson sighed. “Not if that flat surface is dirtier than the edge of the bowl,” he growled, grinning. “That’s what cooking’s for. So, three ooffs, a little salt and pepper, whisk vigorously,” — he did so with wide eyes and a crazy grin – “slab of butter on the grill, pour on the ooffs, add ham, onion and peppers, cheese if you have a mind. Flip and roll. Voila, a three-ooff omelet. Serve with toast.”

The men at the counter applauded.

“Thank you, thank you,” Henderson bowed and spread his arms in mock tribute.

Hank chimed in. “What if I want a heart-healthy omelet?”

“Eat oatmeal,” Eugene replied.

“You want a heart-healthy omelet?” Henderson asked. “That’s egg whites, air with a little color, Merage without the sugar, the caramelization and the lemon filling. There ain’t enough stuff in the kitchen to make egg whites taste like food.”

Work called, and the diner emptied, all but Tender.

“You could be a good cook, if you wanted to,” he said, voice like a ghost.

Henderson smiled, then sighed. “Maybe.” To himself: Did I give up that idea? He settled into the silence with a cup of coffee.

The door bell chimed. Henderson glanced up and recognized the way-too-yellow blazer and smiling round, Boy Scout face of the real estate agent whose face was attached to the door hanger left on the diner’s entrance. Dan Coates. Golden Mile Realty.

“Still serving?” Dan Coates asked.

Henderson finished his coffee and wiped the counter. “Sure. What’d ya have in mind?”

Dan Coates removed the too-yellow jacket and draped it over an open space on the counter, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up each sleeve with exquisite care, each roll precise so that it did not wrinkle the linen shirt. His short brown hair didn’t move.

Then he sat. If he noticed the still messy grill and pile of pans on the side of the stove, he said nothing.

“Could you make eggs benedict, with a green tea?”

“I got Earl Grey. I don’t have a lot of tea drinkers as regulars,” Henderson replied, placing a napkin, knife spoon and fork in front of Dan Coates. He placed a tea cup and saucer, a tea bag and a pot of hot water on the counter. Tender was unsure when he had last seen a pot of tea water at Henderson’s diner; tea was usually served with a cup of hot water and a maybe a napkin and Henderson would toss the tea bag to the customer. But there was a game here, he understood. He had seen Dan Coates’ door hanger declaring, “I have many interested buyers for your property!!” Property in Mount Jensen moved slowly; families stayed. The last sale of any consequence was Megan’s old shop that became the new diner, and that was three years ago. Before that it could have been eight or nine years, maybe the Schmidt’s farm on West Hill Road, Tender guessed.

“I have to make the hollandaise,” Henderson said. “Be a couple of minutes.”

He pulled out a square baking pan and filled it with water, lit a fire under it and placed two small glass bowls in the water for a bain marie. He put an English muffin in the toaster and slipped four thin slices of ham on the grill. “Local ham okay?” Dan Coates nodded and sipped his tea.

Henderson then pulled out three eggs, separated the yolks, split a lemon and placed a few ounces of water in a stainless pot and set it to boil. With the bain marie boiling he dropped the flame and placed an egg in each bowl.

He combined the water, egg yolks, lemon juice and some butter and slowly whipped the sauce, then placed it in the bain marie, Muffins buttered, then ham, the perfectly poached eggs, then the sauce, golden and warm.

He presented the meal to Dan Coates. “Eggs benedict. More water for your tea?”

Dan Coates smiled and said, “Thank you, please.” He cut into the eggs and the yolks spilled out over the ham and the muffin. Perfect, Henderson thought.

“Seem pretty interested in Mount Jenson,” Tender said as he raised an eyebrow to Henderson. “Usually pretty slow here.”

Between bites, Dan Coates, said, “Interest is picking up. This is excellent, the sauce sublime,” he nodded to his eggs. “Bank rates are low, buyers looking to invest, retire. And lake front property? Great combination.”

Henderson asked. “How eager are these buyers?”

Dan Coates sensed the probing tension. Small towners, protective of their little lots and homes. “They have reserve of cash. They are ready to move.”

He finished his breakfast and stood. He dropped a twenty on the counter. Flatly:  “Keep it.” Then he slipped his arms into his too-yellow jacket, smiled and walked to the door. “Oh, who owns that old hotel. Great place to start. I see condos.”

Henderson coughed out a smile. “No one knows. Been vacant for years. Do you always ask questions that you know the answers to?”

Dan Coates paused half in his jacket, his soft face bright red.

“You seem to know something about that place,” Henderson said.

Dan Coates’ face lost the cuteness. “I’m in real estate. I try to stay ahead of the completion.” He turned.

“Hey, Mr. Coates,” Tender called out. “Your buyers local?”

Dan Coates’ lips formed a thin, dark smile. “They have interest, and they have money. That’s all I need to know. Thank you, gentlemen.”

Henderson watched Dan Coates open the door to his black Mercedes, nod once, slip behind the wheel and pull out, kicking up dust.

Henderson shook his head, pocketed the twenty and removed the dishes. He glanced at Tender. “Oswald told me that someone has been at the county tax office poking around the old Jensen properties. Think we just saw the snooper.”

He scooped up a fingerful of the hollandaise. Not bad, he thought.

 

Please consider the Frank Nagler Mysteries:

Reviewer: “I highly recommend this read and the full series. Kudos to the author.” 

 

The Nagler books are available in ebook and paperback at:

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1548863995&sr=1-1

 

An anthology edition, containing  all three Nagler books and a bonus short story, “Who Shot the Smart Guy  at the Blackboard?”  is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover at:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Frank+Nagler+Mysteries%3A+An+Anthology

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-nagler-mysteries-michael-stephen-daigle/1129938809?ean=9781944653125

 

An audio version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at: https://www.amazon.com/The-Swamps-of-Jersey/dp/B07BT8WHM3/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The ‘official’ cover reveal for ‘The Red Hand’: Clues in plain sight

“Of course they were red, the hand prints. The color of blood, red; the color of life, dripping between the hollow cracks of the siding. Leaking, crimson, chosen carefully. I’m here, the killer said, bragging. Try to find me. – Jimmy Dawson.”

 

A note on the cover. A wall in the Ironton, N.J. police station is covered by the haphazard taping of crime scene photos.  Detective Frank Nagler stares at the wall daily seeking the path to the killer. How close will he get, and more important, how close will the killer get to him?

 

Thanks to Anita-Dugan Moore, graphic designer for Imzadi Publishing and Cyber-Bytz for another stunning cover.

This is the prequel to the other three Frank Nagler Mysteries, set 20 years before  “The Swamps of Jersey.”

“The Red Hand” is Nagler’s baptism into the world of horrific crime, and to the heartache that would haunt him for the rest of his life. Who killed nine women in Ironton, N.J.?  And why is the medical examiner calling the cases “an experiment in death?”  It is also the story of Frank and Martha Nagler, lovers for life. Their tenderness is at times an antidote to the brutality that overtakes Ironton. Finally the stories examines how the spread of lies, the fear those lies create and the how that fear can be manipulated by those with the power  to do so.

 

Look for the publishing date. And thanks for your support.

The Frank Nagler Mysteries are:

“The Swamps of Jersey” 2014.

“A Game Called Dead,” 2016, was named a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest.

“The Weight of Living” (2017) was awarded FIRST PLACE for Mysteries in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Contest;

Named a NOTABLE 100 Book in the 2018 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest;

Named a DISTINGUISHED FAVORITE in the 2018 Independent Press Awards,

Named a DISTINGUISHED FAVORITE in the 2018 Big NYC Book Contest.

 

Reviewer: “I highly recommend this read and the full series. Kudos to the author.” 

 

The Nagler books are available in ebook and paperback at:

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1548863995&sr=1-1

 

An anthology edition, containing  all three Nagler books and a bonus short story, “Who Shot the Smart Guy  at the Blackboard?”  is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover at:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Frank+Nagler+Mysteries%3A+An+Anthology

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-nagler-mysteries-michael-stephen-daigle/1129938809?ean=9781944653125

 

An audio version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at: https://www.amazon.com/The-Swamps-of-Jersey/dp/B07BT8WHM3/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The link to my interview on the Author’s Show

This is the live link (for 25 hours) to my interview with writer Linda Thompson on The Author’s Show, a web network for authors to discuss their work. Please give a listen. (Thanks!) The interview will be rebroadcast on March 28.

My thanks to Linda for the excellent questions, and to Anita Dugan-Moore of my publisher, Imzadi Publishing, for putting me in contact with The Author’s Show

 

https://wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow3.html?fbclid=IwAR0zHjdLh62XomD8Cjo63SzuoCMognhi-dvKIDcE9I5Ab-ITZ2Egr3wo59o

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

Five questions for poet Arthur Turfa

Arthur Turfa is a writer, poet and teacher who lives in South Carolina. His poetry has the weight of place and person, and the ephemeral sense of love and loss.

We exchanged questions and answers. The link to my answers to his questions is listed below.

 

  1. You are an ordained Lutheran minister, have served in the U.S. Army and are a teacher. How have those aspects of your life influenced your writing?

They have made me aware of connections between places, things, and people. Additionally they have taken me to places/situations where I otherwise would never have been. As a pastor/chaplain I have had some significant moments of great joy, irony, and interest. Having taught on several levels I have learned to be more reflective.
There are poems about parishes I have served, places where I have taught, and even about my deployment to Germany.

 

  1. What was your inspiration to take up writing poetry?

At first I wanted to write lyrics for songs; by then I realized I would never be a guitarist. Having learned that Bob Dylan was well-read, I started to read poetry, and wanted to write my own.
After a few years I had to write research pears, lesson plans, sermons, and anything but poetry. But I always read and enjoyed poetry.

3. How does your writing influence your teaching?

As I teach poetry, often the same poems each semester, I develop more of an appreciation for them. Thereby I have more of a feel for these poems, and poetry in general. While I would not consider myself to be on a par with the poets whom I teach, I do have some insight into the creative process, and can relate to what they are doing.
I also make connections with some of what I write to things that I teach. When teaching sonnets, I show some of mine, done in various styles. When students speak to something that is in a poem, I will privately share the poem with them. some have even bought my books: at a discount!

  1. Who are the writers whose works you return to for enjoyment and/or inspiration?


The primary ones are W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Rainier Maria Rilke and W.B. Yeats. I can read German easily, and with some care French. I find myself going through periods where I binge on a poet or a school.
Some prose writers influence me, especially John Updike. He gives a lot of detail about a scene, and that influences me.

 

  1. Describe your writing method. Are you a note taker? Do you write daily?

While I try to take notes, and usually keep an idea in my mind. Sometimes an image or idea pops into my head. I will work on it, often in longhand, and then revise on a computer. When I write, I like playing instrumental string music to provide a cushion from everything else.

Please include information about where your books can be purchased.

https://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Turfa/e/B00YJ9LNOA

https://www.electiopublishing.com/bookstore/search?keyword=Turfa
http://muddyfordpress.com/broad-river-books/
https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/saluda-reflections-by-arthur-turfa/

The link to Arthurs’ questions for me:

https://awturfa.blogspot.com/2019/02/six-questions-for-writer-michael-daigle.html

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

I’m on a worldwide radio broadcast March 19 (Wow!)

The Author’s Show —  www.theauthorsshow.com – will broadcast an interview with me for 24 hours on March 19. The interview will be broadcast starting at Midnight and play continuously for 24 hours.

The interview can be accessed on the website listed above on their schedule of interviews. My interview will be listed by my name and the book title, “The Weight of Living.” On the day of the broadcast, the book title will be highlighted as a link to the interview.

The interview was conducted by writer and editor Linda Thompson. It includes a two-minute reading from the book, for which I chose to read the opening when police find the young girl in a grocery store Dumpster wear a tank top and shorts. Her discovery sets off the investigation that leads Ironton, N.J. Detective Frank Nagler down a long and dark path.

The interview was edited for broadcast, which eliminated the “ums” and “duhs” and awkward pauses and makes me seem a lot more polished than I actually am.

Thanks to Anita Dugan-Moore of Imzadi Publishing and https://www.cyber-bytz.com/

for the contact with The Author’s Show.

And thanks to Georjean Trinkle of Hot in Hunterdon, a broadcast on the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce Internet Radio Network, for the opportunity to practice talkin’ on the radio.

 

 

This is part of the selection I read:

 

“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 light bulb above her head or the presence of anyone else.  Robotic. From the police car to the police station and into the back office she walked with slow,  short steps, and once in the room without being told, she slipped sideways into the green vinyl chair with the tear in the seat that exposed the white cotton batting inside; the chair that engulfed her, hips too small to fill the worn indentation in the center of the seat as she faced the wall, folded her hands on the table and sat upright.

Her eyes held no light; expressionless, passages not to a dark soul, but to one seemingly hidden or  removed; spaces missing life. Eyes not filled with pain, but absence.

Her hair was raggedly cut, and filthy, as was her thin, damaged body.  Grime lived in her skin folds, under her finger nails, on and in her skin so deeply its color changed from white to brown-gray; dirt so thick her skin shed water like plastic.

She had been sitting in the back office at the Ironton, New Jersey police station for an hour after patrol removed her about ten o’clock that night from a grocery store garbage bin.  She had neither offered words, nor responded to questions, not even a nod or a shake of her head. The water bottle sat on the table untouched.”

 

(Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

The Frank Nagler Mysteries are: “The Swamps of Jersey,” “A Game Called Dead,” and “The Weight of Living.” All are available online on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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

A snippet: Frank Nagler healing

From “A Game Called Dead.” How Frank Nagler begins to heal:

 

“He put the phone away and smiled wearily.  He thought of the night that Martha and he had ridden in the ambulance to Ironton General, that last night. His mind was racing, searching for words he could not find, tears flowing, hands sweating, angered and ashamed he could not find the words of comfort that should have been so easy to recite, something beyond “I’m sorry,” something deeper than even “I love you.”

And he had heard her voice, “I know, Frank.  I know, sweet Frank.” She had touched his face, then smiled; drilled her love through him with a soft, insistent stare; said nothing and closed her eyes.

All that time, he suddenly laughed.  I thought I had been the strong one, caring for you, protecting you, and it was you protecting me.

Something in his heart loosened and he felt lighter. This is how we love.

That’s what Harriet had meant: Let it go, Forgive yourself. You couldn’t protect Martha from the cancer; you could only love her and that was shield enough.  It was the lesson she had learned, Nagler understood.  Give it up, let go the pain and disappointments.  She had realized, he knew, that she could never undo her rape, and in a way, learned she could not use it as a lesson.  It was a thing, a terrible, dark thing. But she didn’t need to carry it with her anymore. She had given up ownership of it and made it the world’s.

What was Dawson’s phrase as he watched the rally earlier?

“Broken people in a broken town,” he had written. “Broken people, broken town dancing, broken no longer.”

His phone buzzed with a message. Lauren: “Saving u a dance. Hurry.”

Before he started his solo walk, and after Dawson left, she had come back to the bench at Leonard’s. She touched his weary face.

“I’m going to go the party at the community center and dance with Del and his hunky crew of helpers. I’m gonna drink some beer and eat some barbeque and dance and sing and shed all this terror, swap out the bad for good.  And you are going to take one of your grumpy solo walks and with each step a piece of this will fall off and wash away. There’s nothing here to fix, Frank, no apologies to offer. There is just you and me. Just like there was you and Martha. She was your great love. I am your sweet girl. There is room for both of us.  You are my sweet man, Frank Nagler.” Then she kissed him.

At the community center, the wild sounds grew denser and louder. The air sizzled and the ground rolled with rhythm. The drummers played before a chorus of wordless joy; sound as revelation, as revolution; air concussive and cleansing. And in the center, Lauren Fox, head back, eyes wide and mouth open in a scream as Del twirled her off his hip, let her go and caught her hand just as she tipped down.

And for a moment Frank Nagler’s vision was filled with the sight of an old school building standing dark against the night sky except for tunnels of light pouring like silver from the windows. Light like no one had ever seen; pure, bright, as if streaming from a powerful cell buried beneath the earth, not diffused, but a solid beam, like love.  And around the old school a crowd of gaily dressed people swung from side to side and called out each other’s names or dipped their heads all in a beat that never matched but had the same source jazzing around as if from an altar; dancing as if nothing in the world mattered except that moment and that it would never end or change. And on the sidewalks couples swung in crazy high-handed dance, twirled around trees and jitterbugged on the hoods and seats of jalopies strung out along the street like chariots of the in-tune and with-it gathered for the last, best boogie.

And there we were, dear Martha, swept along with the wash of the world, so grand and large, we could not measure it; a place so immense dreams could not fill it. And yet we tried, stumbling, laughing, reaching, me, the clumsy kid, and you, the red-haired beauty.

Nagler felt the wetness soak his head and shirt and was glad for it. He was sweating like he recalled sweating that night in the gym. It was like being alive again.

Then for the first time in a long time, a time so long he had forgotten the last time; for the first time in a long time, Frank Nagler closed his eyes and peacefully smiled.

Rest, my sweet.”

The award-winning “A Game Called Dead” and the other Nagler Mysteries are available at Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com .

 

 

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

Hackettstown Library reading, March 14

I’ll be reading from and discussing the Frank Nagler Mysteries at the Hackettstown Public Library from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, March 14.

The library is located at 110 Church Street. This will be the second time I have been welcomed by Hackettstown Library.

Among  the topics will be a discussion of using local history as a backdrop for the mystery series, and how local places can be reimagined for use in fiction.

I will also discuss the new Nagler book “The Red Hand,” due this year.

Thank you to Library Director Rachel Burt for this opportunity.

For long range planning purposes, I will also be at the Independence Branch of the Warren County Library at 1 p.m., Saturday, May 11. Thanks to Lorraine Bloom for the offer.

This is a link to visit to the Mountainside Public Library that happened  a couple of years ago. Sometimes the evets have surprising results. https://wp.me/p1mc2c-uG

 

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

Maybe I’ll go bald

I think I’ll go bald.

Seems all the rage.

Actors who were popular when they had hair are now bald, and still seem popular.

That would mean that I would have to shave my head.

But I grew a beard because I didn’t like shaving in the first place.

Image by Ben_Kerckx on Pixabay

Besides, it drove some bosses crazy while they tried to determine if I had broken some company rule.

Or I could develop male pattern baldness, which I think should have showed up by now, so that’s out.

So, I guess I’ll never have the chance to play one of those FBI types who shows up in a TV show after a shooting and whispers into their fist about a subject on the loose, or a Russian spy or a genie.

Maybe I can start a cooking show on TV and lecture the audience on how to boil water and become orgasmic when the water shifts from a gentle simmer to a rolling boil.

And tell them sternly to save a cup of the pasta cooking water.

Naa. To do that I’d have to buy a few thousand dollars of equipment, find a fishmonger, and develop a taste for wine.

The reason I’m thinking about this is that I’m writing a story called “The year the world came to Mount Jensen, Maine.”

It’s about a town that is facing significant changes, both personally and historically.

One of the characters who will confront perhaps the most severe changes is Henderson, the local diner owner. His full name is Bill Henderson, but no one calls him Bill, just Henderson.

That becomes an issue when one of  the new residents in town informs Henderson that he is a culinary dinosaur, and under her tutelage, he can become Chef Henderson. All he needs to do at the start is replace the iceberg lettuce in his salads and sandwiches with arugula or kale, use more lemon juice and olive oil emulsions, stop selling his breakfast special and offer fresh vegetable omelets and fruit pate instead.

There is some resistance. I want to frame this resistance with humor, which will be a challenge.

But this a story about resisting or confronting change.

The notion comes to a head when Henderson again connects with  Nola Jensen, the femme fatale and Helen of Troy of the story, who returns after decades of absence and seems to want to start where she left off.  I’ll leave it at seems.

Their discussion changes the story and kicks events toward completion.

What does Henderson want to tell Nola, after all this time?

I’m sorry I let you down. I’m sorry I hurt you. You were a handful, a fun one at times, others not so much, leading us in a direction I was too dumb to  see or neither of us was ready to follow.

He also wants to tell her to get over herself, that everyone at times has a hard time, but hers, with her family connections and relative wealth, might have been self-inflicted. He wants to tell her that she is a pain in the ass.

But he doesn’t.

What he tells her is something like this: We all change over time, grow, learn. Sometimes it hurts, sometimes a lot.

He tells her this while they are on a raft on the lake in the middle of the night. It is a scene that is a repeat of their youth. He tells her that yes, they are on the same lake on the same raft, underneath the stars, but that those are not the same stars, it is not the same lake and they are not the same people.

Everyone in the town has had hard times, he tells her, but it comes a time to move on from the pain – and I’m stealing this phrase from a friend – to move from recovery to discovery.

I don’t yet know how either character will react to that thought, whether they show any sense of lights going on.

But it will be fun to find out.

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

Changing genres: Experimentation in writing

“A chef pulls at the edges of their menus to see what new tastes can be created, a photographer tries new mediums, combining old and new, an engineer, a teacher, a social worker, turn their efforts sideways to gain new perspectives and possibly see new solutions to existing problems.

 

When I wrote the last word of the fourth Frank Nagler mystery, “The Red Hand,” I leaned back in my chair exhausted. It had taken eighteen months to complete the work, half again as long as the other three.

I needed a break.

All writers reach that point. It can be a combination of writing-centric concerns – a certain what-do-I-do-now-panic, too many ideas, no place to put them, or  something  outside of writing, something real-world, because writers do have real lives.

For me it was a combination. I had had shoulder surgery to correct painful tears and bone spurs which made even typing painful, but it was more… writing “The Red Hand” was harder than I anticipated.

I had written three Frank Nagler books over four years. The third one, “The Weight of Living” is an ever-changing story with many plot twists, and deep character emotions. The protagonist, Ironton, N.J. detective Frank Nagler is put through an emotional wringer and I leave him hanging off a cliff, so to speak.

For readers of the series, I knew I had to provide Frank a way off that cliff, and for me as the writer, I had to ask questions about how I would continue to tell Frank’s story.

So I started Book Five, the continuation of the series, and Book Four, the prequel to the whole thing. I finished Book Four, and have Book Five in various stages of construction.

But I was in a rut.

“The Red Hand” is good. It provides many answers to questions that I and readers had about Frank, his wife, Martha, his hometown, Ironton, N.J., and is a spooky thriller at the same time.

The writing problem was that I knew the story too well. I needed to know less about it, not more. That process of unlearning was time-consuming and exhausting.

So I sort of stopped writing.

I wrote a few things — it was not writer’s block, something I parodied in a piece called “Why writing a first draft is like performing stand-up with hecklers” – it can be found here: https://wp.me/p1mc2c-BM — but was an examination  of what I wrote and how I wrote it.

Like most writers I have files with ideas and incomplete stories, and since I began writing when we all used typewriters I have a large plastic tub with manila folders and boxes of typewritten manuscripts. You never throw out an idea; everything can be a work in progress.

That does not mean that you pull out the manuscript and begin the story where you left off.  You’re a different person, a different writer than you were when you began that work. You’ve aged, maybe had some success, moved, met new people, read more books, found friends, lost friends, wondered about the difference, gazed at different stars.

A chef pulls at the edges of their menus to see what new tastes can be created, a photographer tries new mediums, combining old and new, an engineer, a teacher, a social worker, turn their efforts sideways to gain new perspectives and possibly see new solutions to existing problems.

The works I pulled out were a story that years ago I had called “Oswald’s War,” about conflicts in a small Maine town. I had written some character scenes, and made notes on others.

The other piece was something called “Another Day of Here.” And it began: “Harry Demain didn’t make it to work on Tuesday.

And that night, he didn’t make it home for dinner.

A day later, when he hadn’t appeared either at work or his home, his wife Louise, after she checked his desk calendar for a possible business trip she had forgotten, and by then sufficiently worried, called the police.”

That’s all I had written. What could I do with that?

Is it Harry’s story or Louise’s?

I’ve made more progress, if that is the word, with the other tale, now entitled, “The year the world came to Mount Jensen, Maine.”

These stories are narrative fiction, at least in theory.

I’m not abandoning mystery writing.

Indeed, while pondering all of these other questions, I found a framework to use for the fifth Frank Nagler book: A copy cat not of crime methods, but of Frank’s investigative methods turned to crime. For good measure, reporter Jimmy Dawson’s news website has been hacked, and Lauren Fox, Nagler’s companion, may be running for mayor. I also have to resolve Leonard’s condition and his relationship with Calista Knox. So, a lot of stuff. Might be called “The Rhythm Method,” because that is what Frank tried to find, a rhythm to the crimes.

Taking on the other genres is this: Mystery writing is a highly manipulative. The reader is at times being led to the solution, and at other times, away from it.

What these new stories are is a challenge: They will require a different approach to character, setting, plotting. They are also a learning experience: How to tell the stories of the several characters. How to mine the changes that have occurred to me, the author? What things do I know that are different? What can I learn that I then can apply to the Frank Nagler mysteries?

The first book I wrote when I was in my early twenties was “Welcome to Gokey Manor,” a coming-of-age saga. The second one I wrote was an early version of a Frank Nagler mystery.

So here I am today, performing the same juggling act.

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boot

If Achilles had a boot, the world would all be different.

What would have Homer written if the Greeks had not needed a reason to invade Troy and appease the gods?

How would great stories about star-crossed lovers ever emerge if Paris had shot his arrow and it bounced off the hard plastic form on Achilles’ ankle

rather than strike that one vulnerable spot?

Ah, the gods did not want perfection, they wanted one little place that could hobble their playthings, set us limping and stumbling in and out of love as a reminder that life is about wanting and forgiving at the same time.

What fun would it be if everything was one from column A, and one from column B?

They wanted us to open the Trojan horse and be surprised.

They wanted me to gaze into your eyes and ponder how their softness could be both the pleasure of discovery and the pain of uncertainty.

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment