Patric Michael means a lot to many people – authors, publishers, readers and even tough reviewers. I was devastated when I heard how ill he was as I had become quite fond of Patric when we worked on his interview here but even before then I had read and reviewed a couple of his stories (Timeless, Night Moves and more recently the Santa Mug) and greatly admired his talent. During his long and painful struggle with cancer the one thing that Patric always requested was that I treat him just the same as I had always done, so I complied, despite my heartache. Today I’m so pleased that Patric is on the road to recovery. Not only did he kick a very rare form of cancer in the teeth, he is now looking forward to a healthy life, so healthy he’s begun to enjoy the Friday Guys which I send him every week, because no gay man should be without the Friday Guys and also, I know he enjoys looking ….. 😉
Patric’s friends put together an anthology, edited by Kris Jacen, Wishing on a Blue Star, a joint undertaking between Dreamspinner and MLR Press that was going to be his memorial when he became so ill no one thought he would survive. We all agonized about his frequent trips to the hospital and wondered which one would be his last. But Patric had the last laugh and today we’re celebrating the fighter that we have all come to know and love.
This is the introduction to Wishing on a Blue Star, an anthology of heartfelt stories written when everyone thought that Patric’s illness was terminal:
“I’ve got a secret no more.”
These words on a blog just over a year ago brought a pang of sadness to many. It seemed our friend, author Patric Michael, definitely had cancer. A rare form with a low survivability rate.
As the months passed we’ve shared Patric’s journey, through its ups-and-downs, good periods and bad, and at the end it brought us to this collection. With all of the twists and turns that we’ve taken since that simple announcement, this bend in the road is perhaps the most deeply felt. We who have connected so many times, and so often through the Internet (yahoo groups, author loops, blogs and shared publishers) came to the realization that he might not be with us forever and wanted to honor him in a way he wanted. Not just flowers or donations to a favored charity, but in a way that would, as he put it, “Hopefully touch others as deeply as they have touched me.” You see, if we have learned only one thing from Patric throughout our time together, it is this: what the person dealing with the situation wants is more important than all else, and not necessarily what we might think he wants.
So we asked him what we could do: How did he want us to remember him after he passed?
Patric shared with us an idea to collect inspiration. Stories, blogs and even poetry that had some connection with him. As Patric has participated on those groups or blogs, other authors have been inspired by their interactions with him to create stories or characters of their own, so he requested that we gather those stories (or others like them) along with his blogs and a few of his “educational” postings, all in one place. His hope was that someone could somehow benefit from it. Maybe even gather strength or inspiration of their own, whether they were going through the same thing he did, or knew someone who was.
As a result you now have this collection with stories that sparked from things like talks with Patric about photographing mushrooms or his delight from fireflies or just Patric’s heart. All of the stories are written from our hearts and thoughts, to remember Patric using something he valued highly; words and creativity.
Whether you’re with us or watching over us Patric, know you have touched all our lives. May you find your Yellow Star as we wish on our Blue Star.
I asked a few of Patric’s author friends to talk about how they became involved with this anthology and what Patric means to them. Here are the thoughts of Amy Lane, ZA Maxfield, Mary Calmes, Taylor Lochland, Brian Holliday, Catt Ford, and Kris Jacen editor of the anthology.
See, it all started because Patric and I like to play.
It’s true–we get on the Dreamspinner author list and we play–we roll about like puppies in clover, except we’re just two weird adults, rolling around in words. One week, we were online and playing, frolicking in the word-daisies, and one of us (I forget who) said “Thank you!” He told me he’d had an awful week, and I had what I’d thought was an awful week, and we ended up thanking each other for riffing off each other, making bad puns and snarky dirty jokes and genuinely playing with each other until the rest of the DSP list went running away, screaming (or just closed their laptops and went to bed.) I started bitching about my week, and in the way of writers (we exaggerate. It’s true!) I said his week couldn’t possibly have been as bad as mine, and then he gave me a link to his blog.
And that’s how I found out that my new buddy had cancer, and that chemo was turning his body into the enemy and his brain into soup.
I was devastated. Just devastated. My new friend was sick? Impossible! It couldn’t be! Finally, finally, I had someone who could make me laugh after facing a mob of two-hundred angry people with a chain link fence at my back. (Well, I wasn’t lying–it HAD been a shitty week!) How was I going to deal?
As it turned out, all Patric wanted me to do was what we had been doing. If he was in the mood, if he was up for it, Patric wanted me to play. Well, that was easy to do. I was good at playing when I felt like shit–slightly hysterical laughter is my favorite kind, and our online friendship continued.
One day, I asked him how he was doing, and I don’t think he wanted to tell me how crappy he felt. I tried to make him laugh–hey, at least he had the good drugs, right? He could dream of better days!
“Yeah, but these drugs don’t give me any good dreams.”That was it, right there. That was the inception, conception, and birth of Dreams of Terrible Brightness. The story took forever to write. I had it all formed in my mind from Patric’s one sentence. But it hurt. Every word hurt. Every word admitted there would be a world in which not just my new friend, but other friends, gone but not forgotten, or still battling to this day, would not ever be.
I’m so glad that Patric’s better. Just knowing that my word-buddy is healing makes the world a better place in which to draw breath. But the story will always be there. People will be living that story until death ceases to be and we just skip the pain and the grief and evolve into beings of light. (So, you know, for mostly ever.) I just tried for an ending that gives us enough hope to make that okay.
I don’t know what it is about Patric. Maybe it’s his sense of humor, maybe its his insightful intelligence. Maybe it was the essay he wrote on the worth of the prostate, the one that had me laughing out loud. Whatever it is, I was immediately attracted to the man behind the words. When I was asked to submit a story for this special anthology, I knew it had to be as good as I could make it.
What is it about Patric? I can only guess. But I’m certain of one thing: that he inspires those who are privileged to know him to do their very best.
When I was first thought of writing something for Patric Michael I recalled all of our online chatting, the warmth of his writing, (Timeless, The Santa Mug), and how I was “dear heart” right from the start. Initially, I was going to somehow put all my feelings into words, quote from his emails and explain what he means to me. And every time I started it got mushy and maudlin and worst of all, rambling. It was a disaster so I went another way.
My story, Linchpin, came about when I thought about not only my interactions with him but everyone else’s as well. Whenever Patric is online in our chat group, people come out of the woodwork to banter with him. Authors who are never around are suddenly there in droves. My belief is that he brings people together with his humor and warmth. I wanted to convey that feeling with Linchpin. He told me he liked it, I could not be happier.
The most important thing I can say about Wishing On A Blue Star is that whatever Patric asks of me, I’m here to do. I wrote the story When Angels Fall for Patric a while ago, as a gift. Maybe it was my own wish for him. Maybe it was a way to wrap him up in loving words when I had nothing more comforting to give. Whatever was in my heart when I sat down to write, I left it all there in the story.
I know Patric’s decision to share his journey with others wasn’t an easy one. He’s such a private man it had to be tremendously important to him. The results have far surpassed my expectations. The endeavor has been a joy, particularly knowing Patric is with us to enjoy its publication. I am so proud to be a part of this anthology and will always be grateful to be counted among his friends.
Patric was one of the first people who talked to me when I entered the writing world. Just a few months after we became friends, he received his diagnosis. While following him along his journey, I learned a lot — not only about blood cancers and what they put patients through, but also about myself. I learned I’d been taking many wonderful things for granted. Simple things like being able to get out of bed, driving myself to work and around town, being relatively healthy… and fireflies. Yep, fireflies. One mid-June evening, while chatting with Patric online, I mentioned I was sitting on my patio watching the fireflies. It was then I discovered Patric’s fascination with the insects, and that he’d only seen them once in his life (I had no idea they didn’t have fireflies on the western side of the country). I’d seen the bugs every summer of my life, and while I liked them, I never paid them much mind after the first week or so after they’d shown up. After that talk with Patric, I found myself looking out the window around sunset almost every evening, waiting for the fireflies to come out.
Once firefly season was over, I started looking around for other critters and plants, and a whole new universe of life opened up to me. I have a much deeper appreciation of nature than I had before — and I feel more connected with the world as a whole — all thanks to that chat about fireflies. Of course, when I heard about the Wishing on a Blue Star project, I had to contribute, and I had to work fireflies into my story. I hope that in doing so, I can pass along a little bit of what Patric has given to me.
How do you handle being told one of your friends isn’t going to be around much any longer? How do you remember them in this digital age? How can someone you’ve never met face to face have such an impact on so many? These were just a few of the questions that we faced just a few short months ago. We had all been playing ostrich, burying our heads in the sand, ignoring that elephant in the corner…however you want to phrase it, none of us wanted to cope with the reality that Patric wasn’t going to be with us much longer. Several of us emailed back and forth with Patric and each other and this anthology was born. A fabulous collection of stories, memories and anecdotes written from our hearts and thoughts, to remember Patric using something he valued highly; words and creativity.
We all rejoiced as we were finishing up the collection to hear that the original purpose of the anthology was moot. Patric had beaten the cancer and had entered remission so a memorial wasn’t needed. Instead the collection stands as a tribute to the inspiration that creative minds can find in, and the positive energy that can be generated from, the strength of the human spirit.
Patric Michael — Let me count the ways.
When Elizabeth asked if I would like to design the cover for Wishing on a Blue Star and told me that Patric had asked for me specifically, I was very honoured to be able to do so. I had designed the cover for his very first story for Dreamspinner. I liked that story very much and emailed him to tell him and he was so excited, because he had first author jitters like everyone. He got over THAT though. And you gotta love a guy who asks for a clothed model rather than the oily naked chest. (Not that I have anything against oily naked chests — when used for the right reasons.) I just don’t know how you can’t love a man who has such a deliciously dirty mind, and is so generous in sharing it, and yet he’s a man who believes in love. He’s funny, spirited and energetic, very supportive to other authors, and generous in his praise. I haven’t received the anthology yet, but I’m eagerly looking forward to my copy! And he’s a damn fine writer, but then, you already knew that
Patric Michael – I used to be a hermit.
I started the blog contained in Wishing on an Blue Star as a place to rant and rail against the unfairness of being diagnosed terminal, rather than ‘take it out” on the people around me. It was also a place where interested folk could follow my progress rather than my trying to answer so many individual email messages. By that point it was all but impossible to keep up with the volume.
As people began commenting on the various posts, I discovered some folk gained a better understanding of their friends and relatives in similar situations so I ran with it, trying to illustrate my thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. Granted, many of the revelations were delivered in a rant, but at least I was true to my nature. 🙂
Folks talked about my courage, strength, being an inspiration, etc. and I confess I couldn’t see it. Didn’t these people realize it was they who were my strength, and my inspiration? Without their encouragement, understanding, and support, I would have been far less interested in fighting the effects of chemo, and the cancer itself when the chemo failed.
People like Z.A. Maxfield, who tore away the rock I had hidden under for most of my life, encouraged me to interact with her author’s group, and became my best friend. Taylor Lochland who rode the roller coaster of my mood swings with a patience I absolutely did not deserve. People like Brian, who distracted me from pain countless times with stories of his life and hobbies, or Jaime, Susie, Tame, and others who convinced me that my blog posts helped them overcome obstacles in their own lives. And my editors and publishers, including Kris and Elizabeth from MLR and Dreamspinner, respectively. All were willing to wait and work patiently with me while I struggled to write, despite the brain damage caused by chemo. All refused to discard me when it eventually became evident that I could not.
How do you say “thank you” to a hundred people and more who encouraged me to stand up and fight when the words themselves cannot possibly encompass the depth of my appreciation?
By opening my life to the world so others might benefit, by trusting those who took my words and wrapped them around the brilliant, funny, touching, sad, and hopeful stories my friends gave to the readers of this book so that they too might laugh, think, and find hope.
By doing my level best to make something meaningful of the final gift I was given called remission, for as long as I can. I hope it is enough.
I love you all,
Dreamspinner Press is distributing the e-book version of Wishing on a Blue Star free of charge from their website in the hope of reaching as many people as possible. The print version is also available, at cost only, when purchased directly from the publisher.
Victor J. Banis
Jambrea Jo Jones
Of all the posts that I have written this is one of the most memorable, because one man inspired so many others. Thank you Patric for being a part of all our lives.
Wishing on a Blue Star will be released on January 25 from Dreamspinner.