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Around page 45 or so, I set the book down and the black cover stared up at me. I WILL RISE by Michael Louis Calvillo. I wasn’t certain about the novel, even though I happen to love stream of conscious writing. Hell, James Joyce is one of my idols and I would hardly call him a page-turner, but I WILL RISE hadn’t sunk its messy claws into me yet, not even with a subtle literary-styled attack. So I argued it over in my mind for the rest of that day. This Michael Louis Calvillo, a talented, risk-taker of a writer, no question… but where was he going with his story? What was it about?

I decided I would put I WILL RISE away and return to it later, which is something I never do, and I knew the odds were stacked against it. I could clearly hear my internal book-shelf drill sergeant breathlessly ordering me to pack it up to a library or Ebay or some place that unfinished novels go.

Then it happened. Something, a good review, perhaps a notable blurb from a respected writer, maybe my own persistent curiosity, got me to pick Michael’s first novel up again. I read page 46, and then 47, and just like that, I got caught up in its story of a loser who had all of Armageddon living in his palm. I read it. I read the HELL out of it, all the way to the conclusion. 

And then I knew what the story was about. 

Love. 

It was about a love so terrifying and large that if it wasn’t embraced, it would eventually spread out and destroy everything, and yet I sensed Michael’s own stance was not as nihilistic as the material would suggest. He stood on the hopeful, light-fringed side of the overcast shadow and had a large enough reserve of romantic spirit and courage to understand that people cannot make progress, in any capacity, without happily enslaving themselves to love and good will.

I don’t want to inject too much of myself here, but it’s necessary to point out that I am NOT the same way. I’m negative. I’m a cynic. Most times I’m falling through darkness, hoping to grab onto some unseen ledge by chance, but in meeting Michael, and then knowing Michael, I learned that living your life the other way can be done, and it can be done with glory unparalleled in scale to those who think otherwise. 

I believe in his vision now. Always will.

The last time I saw Michael was in his hotel room in Salt Lake City. Me, Michael and his wife Michelle all had pizza and watched REPO GAMES that evening. It was a nice quiet way to end the convention. Michael was struggling a bit with the altitude though, and had to turn into bed early. He was fast asleep before I left the room. I never got a chance to say anything else to him after that, but even if I had, there would be so much more left unsaid.

I admit, honestly, selfishly, that I feel cheated my copilot has vanished from the seat next to me. I once envisioned a future with us as two old men peddling our wares at Horror conventions a hundred years from now. That was how it was supposed to be. Unhappily so, the story went a different way.

Despite knowing completely of Michael’s chances to fend off such a devastating illness as Cancer Unknown Primary, losing him is all still a shock to me. Jumping into freezing arctic water—does anybody ever acclimatize to such temperatures? It’s hard to imagine a person’s core ever thawing after something like that. I will have to think back to better times; that must be the only recourse to employ right now.

I will miss Michael. I will miss our endless conversations about the genre and writing and publishing, and our puerile glee over the newest videogames that tried to rip us away from it all. I will miss hanging out at conventions with him and Michelle, who is a wonder in her own right—for all the energy Michael put out, she matched him. How such two rare gems ended up in this piece of coal we call the world, I will forever be up-and-down amazed. And if that wasn’t enough to blow my mind, their daughter Deja is probably the best teenager you’re going to meet, ever. She truly is proof of what happens when the forces of good band together.

In closing, like so many others I just want to say how honored I am to have known Michael. I’m so thankful I joined the Horror Writers Association, which led me to his work. I’m so appreciative I shook off my shyness and attended a San Fernando Valley chapter meeting where I first met him and Michelle. I’m grateful I only live a half an hour away from the Calvillo house in Lake Elsinore, because that geography allowed for one of the greatest friendships in my life.

Above all, I’m thankful, so eternally thankful, that I finally got a clue and opened his novel once more, began reading on again, and discovered the real story Michael wanted to share.

~~~~~~~~~

First Novel panel at Bram Stoker Convention in Long Island, June 23, 2011

~~~~~~~~~~

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
glamberson
May. 2nd, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
Very nice, Ben. As soon as I started corresponding regularly with Michael, he wouldn't stop touting your work.
benjikane
May. 2nd, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
I owe so much to him. All new writers need just one person to really believe in them. For me, it was Michael.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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