Summary: One man’s incredibly painful journey that inspired us all.
Special Project by Dreamspinner Press & ManLoveRomance Press. Edited by Kris Jacen.
How much impact can someone have on your life if you’ve never met them face to face?
In this electronic age of E-mails, electronic publishing, and social networks, quite a lot.
Through his emails, stories and blog, author Patric Michael has touched numerous hearts, minds and lives from the start of his career and further as he now takes us along on his journey to battle cancer.
Along the way, Patric shows us a side of life that not many truly see– how we are all a part of something larger than just ourselves, and how we are each touched by others for the betterment of all.
Now, those that have been touched by Patric and his words have joined together to give something back, to him and to us all through something he values highly – words.
In this compilation, gay short stories, poems, and anecdotes combined with excerpts from Patric’s blog and a few entertaining, educational group posts reveal, and celebrate, the man who has touched so many hearts and minds.
This collection, sometimes erotic, sometimes irreverent, and always poignant, is a gift from all our hearts to celebrate Patric and give strength (and a little levity) to others. The price reflects this; no one is receiving royalties or payment from the sales. Use it to celebrate life, celebrate words, and possibly inspire someone who needs it.
I knew that this anthology would be difficult to read but I never realized how engaged my emotions would be as Patric’s blog posts turned my feelings inside out and broke my heart, even though I had read some of them before. I’ll do this in two parts. The first is Patric’s journey so far in his battle with a rare form of cancer, which is detailed in a series of online journals that touched everyone who read them, most of whom he has never met face to face. The impact that this one remarkable man has had on all of us who know him is profound. He is a writer like so many others, but the amazing thing about Patric is his ability to crawl inside your heart and stay there. That one man influenced so many others to think about someone other than themselves is what’s so amazing, and the fact that other authors did something to remember him in a way he would appreciate – words – is fitting for someone as creative as Patric.
The depth of Patric’s courage is unbelievable and his daily struggle to live with cancer, while coping with the treatments which were almost as bad as and in some cases worse than the disease, made me realize how cancer destroys someone’s spirit and and turns the brain into mush.
Having read this journal I now regard people suffering from cancer and other life threatening diseases differently, because if they had to endure one quarter of what Patric detailed in his blog posts I take my hat off to all of them. Patric’s blogs are interspersed with the stories by his author friends, his tone at times warm and comforting, but ofttimes prickly when things got really rough for him and he let his emotions show. This only proved that he was no superman but a regular person like the rest of us, the only difference being that he was fighting to live with a deadly disease that made him so much more vulnerable. He was courageous when most of us would have curled up and died, literally, and he gave new meaning to the words “endure with dignity.”
I don’t mean to overly stress Patric’s courage or make him out to be a saint because he sure isn’t a saint, in fact he’s all too human. But his journey over the past year has been so horrendous I wondered how he could have remained sane, and why his spirit was not broken. You probably would not be able to read Patric’s journal all at once because it’s much too painful, unless you have had personal experience with a similar fight and his journey gives you hope. His fight will never be over as any cancer survivor will tell you, and we can only imagine what it is like living this, rather than reading about it. I admire Patric’s determination to live despite incredible odds and downsides – the disease; the treatments; the drugs that didn’t work; the indignities; the service providers who didn’t provide any service; the cold insurance companies who refused to fund much needed drugs; the system; the “establishment;” and the personal challenges, many of which he recounted. Of course he also talked about what it’s like to be terminal – something none of us wants to face – the effect this has had on family and friends, and how difficult it was at times to be invisible to others.
These blog posts make me thankful, selfishly, for my own life. Patric’s humour and dignity among the wreckage of what his life had become, show the kind of man he always was, but it took something as devastating as a life threatening disease for us to realize what a great person he is. We know now that Patric didn’t expect to be here when this anthology was published because his form of cancer has an almost nil survivability rate. He wrote the blogs in the hope that they would help others suffering from the disease; the fact that he’s still here and hopes to continue to enjoy good health, for which we’re all thankful, is a huge bonus.
I hope that you will read about Patric’s fight and come away a better person. There is no “do over” in life, but while this may be Patric’s fight it’s a lesson to all of us about what is really important.
Elizabeth North said about Patric in her Afterword to Wishing on a Blue Star – His wish was that others fighting cancer and their families might find help, comfort and understanding through his shared experiences. He wanted to offer what we all long for—a chance to connect with someone else with similar views, feelings and experiences and to be really understood. He hoped with words to achieve that moment of “here is someone like me, someone who has felt the way I do.”
This anthology contains stories, poems and personal tributes from ZA Maxfield, Mary Calmes, Jaime Samms, Lex Valentine, Victor J. Banis, Brian Holliday, Jambrea Jo Jones, Amy Lane, Tame Adams, Karenna Colcroft, Jan Irving, Jean Lorrah, Chrissy Munder, Taylor Lochland, D.W. Marchwell, Clare London, Moira McCain, C. Zampa, and Jacqueline Litchenberg. Because there were so many stories in the anthology I could not possibly review them all, but I will try to give you an idea of which ones stood out for me and provide short reviews of those that most impressed or touched me. Many of the stories did not end in a HEA, although they were uplifting. One in particular is what I would call a 5 hankie story. Patric Michael also contributed two posts which will make you appreciate what a terrific writer he is and how funny he can be. You will gain a new respect for this man who, in the middle of his crisis, was able to compose stories such as the one about the Prostate and another one about Sounds which made me laugh because they were so cool as well as being laugh out loud funny.
When Angels Fall by Z.A. Maxfield – paranormal M/M
Kipling Rush fell into an abandoned mine when he was in grade 5 and that’s when he met Chemuel, who broke his fall. Kip thought the name Chemuel was strange so he renamed him and Chemuel became ‘Crash.’ Kip and Crash spent every waking moment together after they were rescued, and Kip assumed that Crash was home-schooled because he didn’t go to school and didn’t seem to know anything about what most teenagers would consider ‘normal’, like Oreo cookies. He also never talked about himself, but he sure was pretty.
As a junior in college Crash was still Kip’s best friend but Kip had fallen in love with him. Kip thought Crash was asexual because he didn’t seem to have normal sexual urges, and as he didn’t think that his love could ever be returned he went clubbing for hookups until one night he was almost raped, and again Crash saved him. That was when Crash kissed him and Kip realized that he felt the same urges he did, although Crash seemed innocent about sex. When they took off each other’s clothes later Kip saw that Crash’s back was horribly burned, which explained why he never went swimming or took off his shirt before, but he didn’t want to talk about how he came by his scars. At times we get glimpses of Crash’s thoughts, and he told Kip one thing which he never understood until it was necessary for him to do so “I am yours… wherever you go I will follow.” When Kip left school he and Crash lived together and to all intents and purposes their relationship was the same as other couples who were in love, but was it? Crash always knew what Kip was going to say and seemed to be able to read his mind.
Once again Z.A. Maxfield has written a wonderful love story and you will fall in love with Kip and Crash, both of whom were three dimensional, although it took almost the end of the story to figure out Crash.
The ending of When Angels Fall is different from most romances but I thought it was fitting.
In The Light – A Five Dark Realms Tale by Lex Valentine
Weylin is a werewolf and his lover Drake Keating is a wizard. They had been close friends for years and lived together as lovers even though they were not mates. Wey was a musician so he normally slept during the day, but it was afternoon and he was wide awake. He had a sense of foreboding then his heart started beating irregularly and his eyes glowed, a sure sign that something was very wrong. Drake who was never concerned about anything was also alarmed, and while they were trying to figure out what the problem was Wey’s cell phone rang and it was his best friend Grant, which was also strange because Grant knew that he was never awake during the day. Turns out Grant wanted to see him, which in itself was not surprising but the location was unsettling to Wey because Grant asked him to drop by In The Light, a bar in the Shadoworld, in the Five Dark Realms, an area he never liked due to the types of people who hung out there. The only beings he knew personally who lived in the Shadoworld which existed on a plane between the Darkworld and the Afterworld were the Fallen Angels.
Of course Wey went to see Grant. He went through the portal into the Shadoworld and Grant was sitting in the bar with a drink, eating peanuts as he always had done when they were together. As they chatted the conversation seemed stilted and he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Grant was the same, yet he wasn’t, and while everything seemed normal some of his mannerisms were different and he was in considerable pain, which begged the question – why hadn’t he shifted since this would have eliminated the pain? They started going over their lives together and talking about the important highlights and asking questions that neither thought of asking before. Did Wey have some sort of premonition?
This story was another one that I enjoyed a lot, because although it was sad, dark and sombre and at times it was like someone had walked over a grave, it was also funny as Grant and Wey laughed about their sexual escapades with the Fallen Angels and other beings.
The point that Wey had always impressed on his friend was to do the right thing as Grant reminded him, and although that may not always have the fairest outcome it was the only thing that any man with a conscience could do, and Grant followed that advice to the letter.
I think if you enjoy paranormal stories you will definitely like this one.
The Lost Ones by Victor J Banis
This story was different from the others because it was not a love story. Trevor Harding was 91 and he was dying in a nursing home. He had no one left. All of his friends had passed on and the only other persion in his life, his son Jamie, had committed suicide when he was a teenager all those years ago due to being bullied at his school. Trevor still felt guilty that he had not supported Jamie or comforted him during that time. He hadn’t wanted to know that his son was gay, and therefore never discussed his sexual orientation with him, even though he knew how upset he was about being bullied. He blamed himself for Jamie’s death and never got over his suicide but used the rest of his life to make amends by donating his money to help other teenagers in similar situations. Now he was coming to the end of his life and he still could not get over the waste of Jamie’s life.
Living in the nursing home was, as expected, boring for Trevor. The rooms were bare, and every day was like the one before with nothing to look forward to. One morning he woke up at 4.00 A.M. realizing that he had a visitor, the first one he had had in years, who told him that he had been dreaming. His visitor said that he frequently volunteered at the nursing home and came into Trevor’s room because he thought he was awake. He then talked to him about Jamie. But was it a dream?
I liked this story because it was so poignant, and as always Victor Banis is a great storyteller.
Linchpin by Mary Calmes
This is another of my favourite stories in the anthology. Mark Gabriel had always been the family caretaker and keeper of secrets for his siblings whom he had rescued from many scrapes and brushes with the law. He was the eldest and everyone always looked to him to take care of them. Now there was another crisis in the family involving his youngest brother Frank who his parents and siblings wanted to have committed because he had recently overdosed. They all converged on Mark’s and his partner Tai’s home to convince Mark to allow them to commit Frank who was currently staying with him and Tai. Of course, he defended his brother by pointing to the others’ misdeeds when he saved their bacon, and made the point that Frank deserved his chance.
Mark did not consider himself attractive. He had met the much sought after Tai 16 years ago at a party where all the other single gay men were after him. Tai was a pilot, extremely attractive, and never had anything other than one night stands. When they met Mark knew he could not afford to be another notch on Tai’s belt if he wanted to be important to him and different from the others who had gone before him. He devised a strategy of wooing Tai and not having sex with him for a month, until both of them were going crazy but it worked and now, almost 2 decades later they were even more in love and Tai could not bear to be away from Mark more than was absolutely necessary. However a crisis of immense proportions was going to hit the family. Would they be able to cope? How was Tai going to weather this storm?
This very heartfelt story was well written with two three dimensional protagonists and even the secondary characters were well drawn. I loved both Tai and Mark and I thought that the subject matter was dealt with in a way that while it was sad, it also proved that there was such a thing as abiding love.
Dreams of Terrible Brightness by Amy Lane
This is perhaps the most harrowing story in the entire anthology and the one to which I referred as a 5 hankie tale.
Connor was in the last stage of his life and every gasp could very well be his last. His boyfriend Jimmy with whom Connor had been together for 5 years, was inconsolable. Just one year after being diagnosed with cancer he was one step away from the afterworld. He was only waiting for his mother whom he loved, to arrive, so that he could say goodbye.
Connor’s only relief was the morphine which brought relief but also dreams of terrible brightness. He didn’t want to spend what was left of his life in the clouds, not recognizing anyone especially Jimmy. His last desire was to be with Jimmy every waking moment. Jimmy was now working from home in order to care for Connor who could no longer take care of himself. Connor had once been a burly construction worker and now he had wasted away to skin and bone, but Jimmy still adored him. When they first met Jimmy wasn’t sure he wanted to settle down and Connor let him have his flings until he decided that he wanted to be with him, and that was the way it had been for most of their lives together. Now it was Connor who was leaving.
You need to take a very deep breath, maybe several deep breaths, to read Dreams of Terrible Brightness because there is no upside to this story except for the fact that Connor’s mother and Jimmy found comfort in each other while trying to live without him. In a way this was a love story because Connor and Jimmy definitely loved each other but love couldn’t keep them together.
I don’t know how Amy Lane does it but it seems that she has a knack for reaching right inside you and pulling your heart out.
I coudn’t review all of the other wonderful stories and poems or this review would have been almost as long as the anthology which is 401 pages. Every story and poem had a powerful message, from Clare London’s beautiful tale The Better Part about Charlie the dweeb who loved to challenge even the biggest school bully and was only saved by his lifelong friend Adam who looked out for him, to all those other stories that time will not permit me to review such as Taylor Lochland’s A Place to Belong. Every story was moving and a fitting tribute to the man who inspired them.
You should all get this anthology which is available free if you want the ebook or $7 for the print copy if you buy it from Dreamspinner. It’s a wonderful but poignant slice of life.