Every day after I brew my coffee, pack lunches, and send my kids off to school, I say to my wife, "I'm headed down to the dungeon."
Later, I might sneak upstairs for more coffee, some toast slathered with marmalade, maybe lunch, but there's a good chance she won't see me again for seven or eight hours.
This is what surrounds me during that time.
The laptop is a wheezy HP Pavilion I bought three years ago. At the time, I coveted Macs. But my computer died when I was traveling — and I needed one immediately — so I swung by Costco on the way to the airport and chose the HP from their limited stock. I love how monstrous the screen is — good for streaming Netflix and for the long hours I spend staring at my stories — but it's clumsy to carry around. Lately, it's been making a sound like an old man endlessly exhaling. I'm guessing this is the death rattle. So maybe I'll finally get that MacBook Pro.
The amber-shaded lamp sat on my grandfather's desk. He was an architect, and I try to channel his sense of blueprinting and design when brainstorming plots.
Hey, look at that! My lucky Powell's coffee mug! I slurp from it very nearly every day, even when it gets crusty along the lip.
I've always got books stacked up beside me. In this case, Alan Weisman's The World without Us, which I'm researching for my next novel, The Dead Lands (a post-apoc reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga). Behind it is the galley of Larry Watson's new novel, Let Him Go, which I'm hoping to blurb.
The little red Buddha I bought in high school — in Portland — at the Imperial Tombs of China exhibit. I'm no Buddhist, but I'm in the habit of rubbing its belly for luck every morning when I sit down to write.
Behind it is a can of Blue Sky ginger ale, which I am freaking addicted to.
The Brewers coaster — leather, stained with rings from years of use — comes from my time in Milwaukee. I lived there for three years, only a few miles from Miller Park, and at night I could hear from my porch the crack of a bat, the roar of the crowd.
The metal pen box was a gift from my uncle. A lot of writers have a pen fetish, but I specialize in hotel pens. La Quinta, Hampton Inn, Hilton. Wherever I stay, I swipe one. And I always write spooky messages on the hotel notepad, too, like: I will eat your soul or Look behind you.
My sister gave me the Smith-Corona typewriter for my birthday a few years ago.
That's a longhorn skull behind it. The way I've arranged it, it looks like some kind of alien death mask. It watches over me.
I also have — on the shelf above my desk — the framed cover of my new novel, Red Moon. It's a moonlit bar-branched forest — but from a distance it looks a little like a fearsome, veiny red eyeball.
My father used to regularly travel back and forth to Asia — and he brought me back a jade dragon from China. I've always kept it near my desk. A friend of mine once tried to touch it, and I said, "No!" as if he would steal the special dragon powers.
The ostrich egg on a pedestal is the Plimpton Prize, which I won in 2007 from the Paris Review. It's a lot cooler than my junior-high wrestling trophy.
M. K. Perker is a friend and an incredibly talented artist who draws for Vertigo and Image Comics. He drew this illustration for Red Moon (which will be part of a giveaway this spring). When he asked if I had any ideas, I told him to look at the Star Wars and LOTR movie posters (I've always loved the way they assemble an epic mosaic of characters and set pieces).
More from Benjamin Percy at PowellsBooks.Blog: