Yes, we still have deadlines

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 10, 2010

You’d think when you reach senior status and retirement age, deadlines would be a thing of the past. But not at our house. My husband Claude pushed his luncheon plate aside, got up from his chair and headed for his office. “Gotta get back to Alabaster. He’s in a bad fix right now.” That kind, compassionate, heroic, daring defender of goodness, country, and womanhood, Rev. Alabaster Armstrong, is constantly on our minds. If you heard some of our conversations you’d probably think that Alabaster is a real person; not the main character in Claude’s adventure-mystery novels. And Alabaster’s the reason for several deadlines we face this month.

Ever since Claude stepped away from the pulpit because of his failing eyesight at the close of 2004, he has had the illustrious Alabaster chasing all over the world, leaping from one dangerous adventure to another, proving that good always triumphs over evil. Although now legally blind, he accomplishes this by punching out his Reverend Alabaster Armstrong Mysteries on his computer with software that magnifies the type and reads what he types back to him.

Following on the heels of his first novel, The Secret in Deep Water Swamp, he completed Perils in the Belgian Congo, and followed up with Search for the Loony Man. Even before early January when he sent his fourth novel, Jungle of Fear, to the publisher, he had plunged into work on the fifth book.

Although a major health problem in January and a set-back in late April put Claude down for a while and slowed his pace, Alabaster didn’t get much of a sabbatical from encounters with his sworn enemy, jungle escapades, daring rescues, and brief separations from his love Helen and his faithful Christian crusaders, who share his adventures.

Some of his future experiences took shape in Claude’s head even while he was flat on his back in those hospital rooms.

He continued his practice of scribbling a few notes on any available piece of paper when he got an inspiration. I sometimes awake at night or in the wee hours of the morning to find him sitting on the side of the bed, making a notation.

In mid-June, the publisher sent the first edits of Jungle of Fear with a 15-day deadline with which we complied. Then the final edits zoomed in the first of this month with another 15-day deadline. Over a week ago, he submitted several chapters of the book in progress, Goliath’s Sword or Thunder in the Sudan, to the publisher. A contract arrived for it on the same day the final edits of Jungle of Fear came. The cover designer also contacted him that same day with some questions and a request for a quick reply. In addition, he spoke with one of the publisher representatives designing a book website for him.

Claude and I dealt with deadlines in our jobs through the years. I just never dreamed deadlines would still challenge us after retirement; but then I’d never heard of Alabaster.