Danny Daniels & The Liar’s Den (My NOLA Mystery For Kids)

HELLO! IS ANYONE OUT THERE?!?

I know it’s been a while since I’ve written…almost a year…so I don’t know if anyone will even stumble onto this post. Life has moved on and while I’ve been back to New Orleans several times and am heading back this week for Mardi Gras, that chapter of my life feels distantly removed.

As I move forward, though, I’m still looking back and wrestling with what to do with My Year Of Mardi Gras. My original plan was to turn it into a memoir, though I haven’t found the heart or gumption to tackle that project since leaving. I’m not sure if I experienced and uncovered enough for a memoir, though I was talking to a local writer of some success recently who encouraged me to give it a go.

HOWEVER, I did manage to get a novel out of my experiences. While living in New Orleans I took several stabs at writing fiction, but nothing ever stuck. NOLA is a fertile literary field, but I also felt like I was competing with masters such as Faulkner and Tennessee Williams and classics such as A Streetcar Name Desire and The Awakening. There are a lot of contemporary writers much more accomplished than I vying to fill these shoes so the task was quite daunting.

And then one night…

…I HAD A DREAM

Many writers and musicians report projects arriving fully-formed in dream, but this happens to me rarely if never. But one night in my waning months in New Orleans I had a dream about a homeless man getting his ears boxed by a menacing cop for biting his toenails while sitting on the sidewalk during a second-line, and later the homeless man turned up murdered.

That is certainly odd…and yucky, but seemed perfect fodder for early adolescent boys. I’d dreamed the entire plot (though I lost most of it and had to reconstruct it best I could later) and it reminded me of the silly and exciting mysteries that made me fall in love with reading when I was in Middle School. The idea instantly made sense. Children and young adults seem to read more these days, so why not target that ripe market rather than trying to compete with literary masters? This would be a perfect vehicle with which to channel my experiences and present the magic and wonder of New Orleans to a new generation through the not-yet-jaded eyes of a child.

I jotted down a few ideas but quickly abandoned the project as my dream slipped away. Last year, though, as I struggled to maintain my writing identity while working full-time again in Jacksonville as an Occupational Therapist I eventually went back to it. Inspiration gradually re-awakened and allowed me to finish the rough draft. Then, after some feedback, I reworked an improved polished draft.

I finished my edits in late September but it has set untouched since. I moved a few days later, which was much more of an ordeal than expected, and then the holidays hit, and so I’ve been in limbo lacking the time or courage to submit to agents and publishers—a grueling and soul-crushing process that only writers truly understand.

In the meantime, craving readers and feedback, I got the idea to start releasing chapters on this blog. So if anyone is still out there and reading this, please let me know what you think. For now I’ll shut up and present:

DANNY DANIELS AND THE LIAR’S DEN

CHAPTER 1

How I Almost Died Over Summer Break

Dear Derek,

What did you do over your summer break? I found a dead body. And caught the killer. Oh, and almost died.

But that’s only because the guy didn’t wanna get caught.

I also saved a girl’s life, just like they do in the movies. She was a damsel in distress, I suppose. She tried to kiss me afterwards, but girls are like that. I told her we were only friends.

It didn’t happen back home, of course. Nothing ever happens there. Except for snow storms and occasional coalmine explosions, like the one that killed my dad.

I was visiting my aunt and uncle in New Orleans who are sort of weird, but so is that city. But both are a lot of fun. (The city and my aunt and uncle.) People there talk funny and dress funny and eat spicy food that burns your tongue at first, but it’s fun to watch all the weird people walking around like it’s nothing unusual. And the buildings are like a thousand years old and have big wooden shudders and fancy iron rails on the porches. (Only their porches are on the second floor and they call them balconies.) And people just jump out of their cars and dance down the street when a parade goes by.

My aunt took me everywhere and showed me tons of neat stuff. It was about the best time I’ve ever had. Except for finding a dead body. But, then again, that started an adventure and helped me make a new friend. Plus, grownups told me I was smart when I figured out who did it. That’s never happened before.

You know what I mean. All of our teachers think I’m a troublemaker, but it’s only because I get frustrated. And then I do something stupid. Like when I pushed Dennis over at circle time for no good reason. Which is why my mother sent me to New Orleans in the first place.

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