The Loss of Two Artists

On January 11, 2016 I woke to two announcements in our local newspaper. One was the loss of David Bowie. I confess to being a Bowie fan. I loved not only his daring swoops in music but his glam look on stage. I sipped tea and thought about how I’d never seen him perform live but how I had a couple of his albums on my playlist. My husband and I talked about his permanent mark on the music scene.

I flipped through the paper until I came to the obituaries. We have only lived in our current home for about ten years. I never expect to see the names of anyone I know, but this day I did. One of my local writers, Michael “Big Mike” Davis lost his battle with cancer. Smith Mountain Lake readers knew Big Mike; Lake Writers found him to be a presence because of his size and out sized personality.

Big Mike walked into Lake Writers one Friday about eight years or so ago. He had published more than a dozen romantic suspense novels through a publisher in Canada, more than another of the writers who struggled to put the right word in the right place. He knew more about promoting his books than I did at the time. He offered mentoring. He offered critiquing. He offered friendship. I took him up on all three.

Over the years, Big Mike, Sally Roseveare (a Lake Writer who describes herself as a “grandmother who kills people”) and I found ourselves sharing tables at various book fairs. We got so good that we could and did sell each others’ books.

Last fall, Sally and I manned (personned?) our table at a local festival. Big Mike had finished his last round of chemo and didn’t think he should be sitting out in a cold wind. We sold as many of his books as we did our own. Our pitch: Mike’s coming off chemo and couldn’t be here. We have a special on his books, $15 each or two for $30. Not a great deal but we sold out.

This year, Sally and I are looking ahead at the two festivals where Big Mike had shared our table. Right now, I don’t want to think about it. Maybe we’ll ask his wife if she has any of his books left. We’d take them with us.

When both of these voices were silenced the weekend of January 9, one highly public and one much more local, I mourned. I mourned more for Mike and his wife Karen. I knew them. Once again, readers lost a strong voice and a good storyteller. Sally and I lost our friend.

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Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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