Archive for September, 2010

A Storm Of Love, On Loan

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21, 2010 by michaelcogdill

I borrowed this from my She-Rain blog, just to offer up a little revival of what seems Summertime at her finest — calling us all to live in the fun of a barefoot kind of love.  Enjoy, knowing the novel taking form in my heart now draws from a similar storm.

The rise of a thunder cloud feels like someone woke the heavens from a hot afternoon’s drowse. The sight of a storm, even miles off, wakens my own heart, draws it to a porch, a dock, even the prow of a boat — any place to stay still and wait.  A burst of rain, soon to blow in, moves this writer’s heart with beauty beyond words.    

To all who feel this calling, welcome to the madness.  We’re a touch crazy, but then, authentic love is a madness as well. 

She-Rain celebrates this madness of a love that breaks onto hearts as a freshening storm.  In the novel, two women and one man — all among the chronically underestimated — rise on the force of a love that rains beauty into their world.  This wonderfully complicated and sometimes terrifying love forms a triangle no one sees coming.  As with a good storm, these young hearts in love change the atmosphere around them.  Their longing reminds us that to ache for someone is to live, fully. And that love, well done, finds us longing for one another as we long for the best for one another.   

The great Mark Twain said, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”  I enjoy the thought that a healthy summer storm is but a quick brush with the laughter of heaven.  As someone who’s been struck by lightning, I can ably say it’s a force we can scarcely measure.  But so are the longings of love, in all the forms we know them.

As you take in the narrative of She-Rain, I trust it will move into your heart and mind with the truth that love is a storm, but also a high calling to seek the shelter of one another.  True love becomes a safe zone — yet one with the windows up, the curtains billowed high, always letting in the fine cantakerous, heavenly hell-raising feel of that longing.  Authentic love is mighty good for you, and good is how it feels. 

Here’s to how such love changes the atmosphere of the heart.  And to some good heat after rain.

A Touch More Honeysuckle Road, With Thanks To You All

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 by michaelcogdill

This qualifies as one of the book’s less outrageous little pieces.  I’m eager to hear how it makes you feel. 

For The Love of Honeysuckle Road is a Vietnam War-era work of young people coming of age in a time of free love and costly inhumanity.  It is, at its heart, a love story, reminding us our lives are made of relationships that often stun us with their force and beauty.  The narrator is Graham Black, a coastal North Carolina trailer park kid whose path crosses with the monied, the depraved, and a beautiful mystery in the midst of crunching heartbreak.  But broken hearts can cut us a trail to the best of our times.   That truth is one of the reasons I’m having a blast writing this thing.

 Enjoy this excerpt, letting me hear from you all!  Too many writers hide from their readers.  Not this one!

The cloudless day felt like it came on wetter and thicker than any summer afternoon our soft coast had ever known.  I had earned enough mowing yards and cleaning bathrooms of the Methodist Church to buy a 1957 Willys Jeep station wagon.  She looked as if she’d spent at least a year on the ocean floor, so I gave her what felt like a fitting name — Petunia of Queen Ann’s Lace — owing to the rust lacing across her sides and bottom.  Noon had just past as I steered her big silver eyes through the heat of beach traffic, off onto what Doc Turner called the aorta to his soul.

To him Honeysuckle Road lay as much more than a forested shortcut.  He deemed it a sacred little pathway to finest of views and ways of living.  An oasis destination of its own.  Nearly his private drive.   About fifty yards after I turned onto it from the main beach road everyone knew, the furnace of the high summer day began to blow air harbored well out of the sun.  Under the tree cover a liquid but cooler wind gusted through Petunia’s every open window and a rust hole in her rear floor.   I wound through her gears and plunged us both deep into the feel of ancient forest that had long formed a near tunnel toward the Turner place.  It had become my two-lane hideout from the world.

I knew the Doc longed far more for conversation than for any Kotex or lawn care.  Lately he and I had talked, long and well, about Tess.  He said he adored hearing of her, seeing the effect of her on me, and he celebrated how the stories of our courtship could “raise the sails of remembering some good little time with Janie.”  But this time, the tale I had for him held seeds of a scandal.  I knew it, and knew what could happen if the word of it spread.  I trusted Doc the way teenage boys trust in their own legs.  But this would become a hard one to say out loud, even to him.  The guilt was fresh,  had not been dealt with, and I was no match for it.  It came on so strong and torrid I confess to the bizarre fear that the little road’s lining of hardwood and long-leaf pine might sweep down onto Petunia and me.  Thrown onto us in great sheets of fire by the ruling hand of whoever is in charge of raining hell’s reprimands out of the heavens.  I was sure what I had to tell Doc that day would send even him into imagining the devil held a t-shirt with my name on it, atop the words, “Fry Me To The Moon” 

A Quick Excerpt — For the Love of Honeysuckle Road — A Southern Novel in Progress

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2010 by michaelcogdill

On a night not long before I turned ten years old, my mother smoked tires, as much as our landlord’s borrowed Rambler wagon could, to the great house Doc Turner and his wife Janie shared.  My lap full of the part golden retriever she had gotten to help replace my father.  My Samantha had taken a snake bite in the back yard of our trailer, but we didn’t know of it until the sickness and swelling had lain her so low her breath hardly fogged a mirror.  In the glow of his great front porch, Doc lifted Sam from my arms as a pastor might elevate an infant to baptize.  We had clearly roused the man and Janie from still sleep, yet they whispered only patience.  Quiet care in their high-ceiling foyer, where we waited in its aromas of cherry tobacco and her homemade Limon cello.  We stood in silence after Janie and Doc disappeared with my Sam through the curtained glass doors into their dining room.  After hardly time to worry, he stepped back into the hallway, knelt and drew my face near the bay rum scent of his own.  He pulled down his tiny glasses and gave me a moment to magnify the easy care that came up in his eyes.  It was his way of warming the news before he let me taste of it.  He quietly said the only medicine we could give my Sam was mercy and a sweet goodbye.  He patted my shoulders with a vow to help me live up to so fine a dog’s memory, claiming that remembering how Sammy lived was a medicine she had left for me

Having gone directly to fetch them, down the hall slipped Janie with the needles that would help me feel the last little gust of breath leave my companion.  For four years Samantha had wallowed snoring at the foot of my bed.  Rather than force us into the purified chill of the office out back, they gave of the most formal room in their great house on the waterway.  Allowed the veterinary workings of merciful death to hold sway under the warmth of their chandelier.  They let me lose her with all the beauty they could provide.  On the sheeted table of Doc and Janie’s dining room, with the curtains of its tall windows billowed by a soft salt wind, I felt Sammy’s dark mouth turn cold against my cheek.  I remember thinking dogs feel no embarrassment at a mother’s confession she can’t pay.  From behind me, her vow to bring the money when she could finally quaked out some tears.  Broke her down.  Doc eased away toward where she stood near the door.  I heard her grief turn mildly contagious to him.

“Sweet, there’s no charge here.”  His voice felt stout as the wood floor, yet cushioned with the ease of a man bearing someone’s heartbreak as though it were his own.  “No charge, long as you let me share some in raising that boy.  I believe there is much goodness of God in a boy who can love a dog that well.  I feel it in him.  See it up in his eyes.”

Janie had kept near me, and chose then to ease my face away from Sammy’s head.  She kissed her, massaging my hands where they held the fold of her front paws.  I still recall the smell of those dog feet — the fresh tang of summer weeds she had romped earlier that day.  As Janie draped her in a white towel, I stepped back and said my first words since Sam died.

“We were kids together, this girl and me.  What happens to her now?  What do we do for her now?”  In making the voice, I thought of chopping oak, how it gives way to a good blade, and that a boy must cut his way out of acting like a baby, out into acting like a man.

Doc had taken my mother from the room, and Janie quietly followed, having said nothing.  This gave me time with Sam, a moment to pull back the towel and think about the finality of stroking the gold silk of her.  Her head a perfect fit for a boy’s hand.  I stood with both hands on her in the quiet.  Taking in the lonesome peace left where a good dog’s bounding life had been. 

Janie soon eased back to where I stood at the table.  She reached a picture of Doc Turner into my view.  A snapshot of him in a tuxedo, and her semi-gowned for their wedding, both faces splayed with laughter, as if a wave of fun had crashed extravagantly into them.  The shutter had caught him with one hand on her backside, the other wrestling against her own toward some petting of her cleavage.  The glass held a web of cracks that reached into the black wood frame.

“You see that glass?” she said from behind me, with her arms slung across my shoulders.  “I can’t fix that.  It’s just a ruination now.  But when I knocked this picture off and broke it a month ago, I didn’t break what’s in it.  Or what’s behind it.  Not a thing can ever break the times I’ve had with that crazy, beautiful man.”

I looked at it, looked up at Sammy’s half-covered silence on the table, and felt the truth of what she meant massage the places where I hurt.  Her wisdom so simple and clear I would have missed it.  My boyhood grief and I were bound to step right past it without her.

“Son, not a single goodness of your Samantha will ever break down as long as you remember to celebrate her long after she’s gone.  Write her on your soul.  Carry the remembering of her everywhere you go.  Death will take her from you only if you let it.  Only if you worry more about losing her than you think about loving her.”

We sat a while at the dining table, and she told me how the Doc – just a lad of 27 when she married him — had paid the photographer extra to join him in busting in on her in that hour before they wed.  To ambush her with a camera and capture him proving his love for her with a little pre-marital molestation.  Disregarding my age she called him a rascal scamp bastard, then covered her smiling mouth and apologized.  She told me that picture captured his own crazy way of being in the love they had made together.  A love unbreakable.  

“I thought my mother would kill him,” she said, helping me stroke Sammy’s head.  “Now she’s 101 years old and wouldn’t trade him for Marlin Brando, a tub of whisky, and another 20 years.”

At that I thought for a second to laugh.  Then I cried.  The crying came, finally, good and long.  Janie had made it so.  She and Doc Turner had made it all right.  She held me for what seemed an hour, and we cried over Sam together until the crying, for then, was spent.  It would buy no more comfort for a while.  Then she listened while I told her about Sam — a dog who had walked, adored, for years at my knee with no need of a leash, a far finer creature than most of the people I had known.  She told me that meant Sam and I had lived out the secret to their marriage.  At their hearts, where no one could fully see, and in a way words won’t quite tell, she and the Doc had walked at one another’s knee just the same, independent and devoted at once. 

Three years later, when her diagnosis of an aggressive skin cancer came, Janie aimed the fireworks of her life at the world and lit all the fuses at once.  She and Doc always courted one another in plain view, but their affair turned into a two-person parade of adoration.  The town buzzed about seeing them splitting the intracoastal waterway wide open together in their little Bertram yacht, often with Janie at its helm, raising laughter and a big wake in the no-wake zone around the Wrightsville Beach Marina.  When I came to mow their lawn for far too much money — a job secured for me the day Sammy died — Janie would invite me in for mineral-water lemonade, bawdy jokes and some out-loud reading, often from a James Herriot book.  She would tell me of fireside dinners with Doc on the beach and going to what they thought was their secret place in a little tree-lined cove up the Cape Fear River to skinny dip, as they had on their second date.

A Writer, Working In A New Age

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by michaelcogdill

These times open a broad new horizon to every writer. To reach audience, we once had to pass through many a corporate turnstile. Now, we bypass them, on our way to smart phones and other e-readers by the hundreds of millions.

So launching this blog, I congratulate the audience out there. You’ve become the new curators of meaningful and worthy writing. Editors and publishers will keep feeding you the work of novelists, journalists, and others who have a voice. But more than ever, your voice will hold sway.

Too many writers for years worked with a red-carpet hubris — hiding from their readers as though their celebrity counted them as some higher evolution. I believe readers have longed for generations to feed back thoughts of their own — even to build relationships with the writers they adore and those they despise. Readers, for this writer, your connection time has come. Rather than hiding from you, I want to hear from you, to interact, to share ideas and take all the praise and vitriol you wish to lay on me. My life is beautifully made of relationships. I will hold my relationship with you as sacrosanct, always.

In this new time, look for me to carry on a bit about fiction — including She-Rain, which will have a new blog of its own here — but also expect to see major swaths of my new Southern novel, For The Love of Honeysuckle Road. Coming soon.

With all that, we’ll celebrate what writing does best — connect hearts and minds in ways that rise above words.  I’m a writer vowing to entertain and say something in the vicinity of worthwhile. In this new age that will compel my literary eyes and ears to work as well as my mouth and my pen, let me hear how I’m doing, straight from YOU!

And, again, WELCOME!!

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 8, 2010 by michaelcogdill

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