Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Lost and Found

Many years ago I recall reading one of Garrison Keillor's essays about a lost comedy piece--a story he had worked on in a train station, composing on yellow legal pads.  After boarding the train, and several miles down the track, Keillor suddenly realized that he had left the yellow legal pads in the train station restroom where he had washed his hands prior to departure.  In that moment of losing his work, Keillor was certain that he had forfeited some of the best work of his life, and he moved on down the track feeling lonely and dejected.

I tell this story because, as I have talked to other writers over the years, it is obvious that most have encountered this lost feeling at one time or another.

A few years ago, when my PC crashed, leaving me with only the blue screen of death, I realized that I had several great stories, essays, and book proposals that I had not backed up.  They were lost.  And for some weeks I walked around in a stupor, a writer's funk, a purgatory of the soul.  I just couldn't get going again, certain that I had also lost some of the best work I had ever produced.

I try to do a better job now of backing up my work . . . lingering doubts always in my mind as to the trustworthiness of memory chips produced in Japan.  I write, but always with the fear and trepidation, however distant, that someday the lights might go out and I'd lose, say, an entire year's-worth of work.

Toward that end, I have always appreciated my 1993 Compaq PC (with Windows '95 operating system and three fans). This computer still runs.  But some years ago I had apply named it "Old Sparky" due to its tendency to suddenly leap into flame (which is why I also kept a spray bottle next to the keyboard).  

Last night, in a post-midnight apocalyptic fit of locating some old stories I knew I had written (again, certain that these were some of the best material I have ever produced) . . . I fired up Old Sparky and set about navigating through a few hundred floppy discs to see what I could find.

In particular, I was looking for a horror story entitled "Up in Jacky's Treehouse". And low and behold, after perusing more than 50 floppies, each holding a myriad of essays and poems and whole book manuscripts, I finally found "Jacky".  In addition, I also found four other stories that, for the life of me, I can't remember writing at all. It was like reading another person's work . . . but I'm looking forward to reading these again, and seeing how well I did writing the stories--some, perhaps, twelve or thirteen years ago.

I love finding these types of gifts.  I'm sure there are more that I have not yet discovered among the hundreds of other floppies that I have stored in boxes and closets.  Losing a story is depressing.  But locating old ones, and, even better, finding homes for them with a publisher, is pure gravy. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Sheer Poetry

(Training for the Camino)

Having just completed (walking) the Mini-Marathon last Saturday, I now feel that I am "in shape" to make my way down the Camino de Santiago in Spain . . . or at least the last 100 km.  I'll be ready.

But I've also been in training, of sorts, as I've worked diligently on several projects . . . including writing the final touches on my book for InterVarsity Press, to be entitled The Seven Deadly Virtues.  Readers can look for this one as we roll into 2017.  Some months ago I also completed the 2nd book in a projected 12-book series of novels written under my nom de plume, R.L. Perry.  This one, Bleak Midwinter, should be out this fall, with a third novel, Cold Snap, nipping at its heels. 

I was also having a conversation with my wife, Becky, the other night (on those rare days when we actually talk) and noted that I seemed to be writing with some poetic interest these days.  Or, at least I've had some success in recent months placing work in university journals and literary magazines.  But I've also written some verse representative of my personal best, for which I'm grateful.  And in between the flavorful poetic cookies, I sometimes manage to sandwich some lighter verse that my wife might actually read in her spare time (a commodity of which she has little as the school year winds down).  

Anyway, thanks for reading . . . and I'll close by sharing this little piece of gray matter on a gray subject (parody courtesy of Robert Frost). 


As hair succumbs to gray
So nothing dark can stay
And though her dye is power
It only stays an hour
As white trumps her brunette
Her roots cannot forget
That age will have its day
So nothing dark can stay 

~Camino Todd

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Camino de Santiago

Mid-May I will be travelling to Spain to make pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago--the traditional French-Way leading to Santiago de Compostella, cathedral and revered burial place of St. James.  As a pilgrim, I have my shell--the traditional symbol of pilgrimage, identifying me as one making journey, and my Camino passport, a document that, stamped along The Way, will mark my completion of the journey (at least in Spain).

I expect this pilgrimage to be many things . . . and many have asked me about my purpose and the outcomes.  But here are a few of my thoughts.

First, I am going on this pilgrimage with an open mind and a willing heart. Whatever I encounter, and whomever, I expect much of the journey to be serendipitous, as I depart with few possessions, my Bible as sole reading material, good socks, and a few other pieces of gear that will protect me from the sun, the rain, and the elements. I hope I will be prepared to just "be" in each moment, each day, and allow God to open to me whatever sights and relationships and insights are in store. 

Secondly, I go to pray for others. I will carry with me at all times the relationships of parish, friend and family--either expressly stated or in spirit.  I expect, on my shorter-walking days in particular, to pause along the countryside, in small towns and villages, to reflect and learn.  I plan to eat no food along The Way (only breakfasts and dinners) but do plan to enjoy water and good Spanish wine as I discover it.  I also plan to lose at least ten pounds on this pilgrimage, and my energy through the day will be taken from the sun, the conversations, the soil beneath my feet.  

Finally, some have asked me if this pilgrimage will lead me to write other articles or books about the Camino.  My short answer is:  There are already hundreds of books about the Camino experience, dozens of memoirs, even movies.  I have no such plans per se . . . but I am keeping two options open as sidebars:

A book proposal that I have been working up, tentatively entitled, Twelve Roads with Jesus, and this idea will form the basis of a 3-part sermon series I will do in June upon my return.   I may also keep my palate primed to write an article, or series, on some of the Spanish wines.

Until then, I walk to prepare.  A few miles to go before I sleep.  

Buen Camino,

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Year Ahead

I have been remiss of late with my blogging . . . but here at the cusp of a new year I should give an update on family, life, and my writing.  Many changes, but then that is the very essence of life.

    On New Year's day Logan moved to Portland, Oregon.  New adventures in learning (fashion and design school), new friendships, new apartment . . . the works.  For me and Becky, back to the "empty nest" (again).  Already our nights are filled to overflowing--mostly with work. She: writing reports, emails, presentations, reviews.  He:  writing like a slave to many deadlines.

Toward that end I am working late nights and early mornings trying to crush out two new novels for the Mary Christmas mystery/romance series (published under my pseudonym R.L. Perry).  Next books in line will be entitled Bleak Midwinter and Cold Snap.

But I have not stopped there. Interspersed among the long pull of the novels I still manage to eek out and publish at least six or seven essays a month (of various lengths and subjects) and short stories in a variety of genres.

Some of my scheduled stories are entitled "The Last Man on Earth", "The Law of Zupiter", "The Arsonist", "The Superannuated Man", and "The Thin Man".  As you can see, I'm not very good at titles . . . I just grab a central character or theme and away I go.

I have been fortunate of late to see these science fiction stories into print (or scheduled for print) as well as some others that could be loosely categorized as horror, fantasy, mystery, or mainstream.  And poetry--I take spells, but have quite a few scheduled for publication in early 2016.  Actually, quite proud of many of the poems written in 2015.  Some of my best, I think, and I've received the thanks of some editors, which is a nice touch.  And I now have enough published poetry to make a second collection (my first, Where in the World We Meet).  Any editors looking for a poetry collection from a near-sighted white guy who writes about sex, Greek mythology,life and death?

As for my total count of upcoming books in 2016, so far it stands at five:

Praying Through Cancer (Upper Room books)
All About Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Blue River books, children)
The Seven Deadly Virtues (InterVarsity Press)
Bleak Midwinter (as R.L. Perry)
Cold Snap (as R.L. Perry)

Earlier last year, during a trip to New York when I reunited for after-work drinks with a former literary agent, the question was asked at the bar, "Who the hell publishes eight books in two years?"

I guess I do.

I hope to continue & thanks for reading.