This story was a gift. It came to me, quite literally, while I sat on my own rooftop. At least the colonel did. I am not a military man, nor do I claim to be an expert on post-traumatic stress. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but never on the scale of a novel. Had I known the labor that goes into making one, I might have found another vice to nurse my sorrows.
Now that the work is done and I am officially an author, I feel obliged to mention a few things about being one. First, the notion of an author being a recluse is a myth. Yes, there are long periods of solitary confinement in which the silence becomes so dense, it assumes a gravity of its own; and yes, there are moments when self-doubt takes the shape of a demon and strangles any attempt to create a sentence, but these are merely rites of passage. Without them, novel writing would be a cinch and we would all be authors. What an impractical world that would make. Anyway, I digress. My point is that without others to feed from, an author would have no place to go, no reason to get up, nothing to drive the pen. He or she would melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West, never having graced the world with a single insight on the human condition. Having survived my first novel, I can only conclude that an author is never really alone.
Part I of this book came at a time when I was not happy with reality, and so I made a new one up, loosely tied to the geography and history of my own locale. I had a nice little cape on the southwest face of a mountain in the historic district of Cottonboro in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Day after day I climbed up my ladder to watch the sun set over Lake Winnipesaukee. The mountain was named after Colonel William Cotton, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. At some point, I began to ponder the sorrows that might afflict a war hero, and how trivial mine would seem in comparison. Cornelius Mitterhal arrived shortly thereafter and roused me out of my sorry state. In return for his service, I gave him life and a land worth fighting for; a place where he could do what heroes do and reflect on his own condition. It was the perfect symbiotic relationship. I am indebted to the crazy old bastard and will never look at a chimney the same way again.
I have another thing to say about being an author. One must have a message, whatever it may be. Without it the results are disastrous; like a soldier without a code, a builder without a plan, a priest without morality, a gardener without water. That is not to say an author can’t be void of ideas. Quite the contrary. Sometimes the most profound revelations spawn in streams of absolute nonsense. Those are actually my favorite because they bubble out of nowhere and give substance to the underlying message.
Finally, the most important commodity for an author is time. Time to think, time to observe, time to process, and time to write. It is an unconventional way to make a living and requires a certain degree of compulsiveness, which for better or worse often trumps practicality. A life change in March of 2008 put me on my rooftop. By October of 2009, I had managed to sell my house on Cotton Mountain and avoid a foreclosure with all but a crumb of dignity.
My son Connor and I were blessed a month later when Titia and Gijs Bozuwa, proprietors of the Twin Farms Writer’s Workshop, invited us to stay in their guesthouse in Wakefield, New Hampshire, while I searched for an affordable apartment. By Christmas they had extended the invitation eight years, to when Connor graduates high school. Not only was I granted the time to write a novel, but a stimulating place full of love and colorful flowers that my son and I could call home. Five years later we are still in the guesthouse and I consider the Bozuwas very much family. That is why I dedicate this book to them.