Yesterday I lost a friend I’ve never met. Not physically, that is. That’s one of the wonders of cyberspace. That you can meet so many people who become friends, even if you’ve never actually “met” them, people you know as well and sometimes better than the people you work with every day.
Nowhere is this truer than in the world of e-books writers. I entered the professional world of e-books in 2011, a raw newbie who’d written for twenty years and promptly thrown each completed book in the closet. The world of e-publishing opened opportunities for writers unheard of in the traditional publishing industry. My first book was accepted for publication in April, 2011. I was overwhelmed, excited as all get-out, and scared to death. The writers of e-publishing companies connect with each other via e-mail (fancy that) and I read every e-mail with bated breath, taking note of names and forming impressions of each writer. It didn’t take long for me to take note of a gentleman by the name of Dale Thompson who wrote as Pat Dale. And quite frankly, he scared the hell out of me.
Dale Thompson said what he meant and meant what he said. He had firm opinions and he pulled no punches. And I resolved to stay way under his radar. Then I wrote my first blog, a guest blog actually, before I’d ever set up either of my own two blogs. That particular blog was a memorial to a dear friend I’d lost a few years back, an explanation as to why, when my first blog went up, it was going to be dedicated to her memory and named “Flowers on the Fence.”
Dale Thompson, aka Pat Dale was the last person I expected to stop in and read that guest blog. But he did. And he left a comment wherein he told me I’d left him “teary-eyed”. I emailed him privately to thank him as opposed to thanking him in the “writers loop” where the writers generally corresponded. That was the beginning of a friendship I will always treasure. Already multi-published (whereas I still didn’t have my first book out), he became one of my mentors, offering the benefits of his experience.
He was a Renaissance Man, a professional musician, a teacher, a writer. A student of the human condition. I had a very long book that had haunted me for twenty years. Sometimes I thought it was wonderful. Sometimes I thought it was awful. But having become a “professional”, I knew it had become a mishmash of evolving styles as I’d worked on it through the years and learned a bit of writing craftsmanship. I didn’t know what to do with it, whether I should re-write what was already there or just delete it in its entirety and start over.
I sent the first few chapters to Dale and explained the situation. And told him I was really close to just deleting the whole thing and being done with it. He sent back, “Do. Not. Discard. This. Book. Do you hear me?” That’s a direct quote, with exact punctuation. I’ve got that kind of memory, a handy thing for a writer to have. That book became two books, actually, The Color of Seven and The Color of Dusk, published individually and as the Dark series set.
Very shortly after that, Dale announced to the writers’ loops (we both published with two of the same publishing companies) that he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which had been discovered much earlier than pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed, which was an awesomely good thing. Unhappy with the course of treatment described by his first set of doctors, he sought a second opinion. Actually, as he said, his wife Patricia sought a second opinion and discovered a wonderful set of doctors with a highly successful protocol for treatment.
Dale Thompson loved his wife. It was obvious in every word he wrote about her and his family. Married for over thirty-five years, I’ve seldom known a man so in love with his wife. That love, for Patricia and for his family and for life in general, pulled him through. At the onset of treatment, when he knew he’d be out of touch for weeks, maybe months at a time, he emailed me, “I’m not going down without a fight”. I sent back, “No, old friend, neither of us is going gentle into that good night.”
He fought. He won. That’s both the beauty and the sadness of his death. Before Thanksgiving, the doctors declared him cancer free. He had a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family. He began to re-gain weight. He worked on his books, not that he’d ever really stopped that, no writer ever does. If all else fails, we just write in our memories and hope enough survives for future translation to the computer screen.
On January 4, 2013, Dale Thompson, also known as Pat Dale, died of a massive heart attack. And no, he did not go gentle into that good night. He went in triumph, a warrior who’d won his battle and left a legacy.
His books will remain up and available. In fact, Magic of the Chimes will publish very shortly, his final gift to us. And so goodbye and Godspeed, old friend. I never met you, but I loved you. And I’ll miss you.