Bonnie S. Calhoun is
the Founder and Publisher of Christian Fiction Online
Magazine . She is also the Owner and Director of the Christian
Fiction Blog Alliance which is the parent organization for
Introducing Mike Dellosso
I am pleased to introduce a dear internet friend, fellow member of CFBA, a man that I met in person at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference, and the second CFBA Blog Tour on our schedule this month. Mike, step on up!
My introduction to writing was hardly orthodox. I never kept a journal or diary, never tinkered with stories of dragons and courageous knights, I wasn’t even an avid reader as a child. In fact, all through school and college I hated writing. The very thought of English class and it’s infernal parts of speech and grammar rules made my stomach knot and mouth go dry. I’d rather eat glass than have to write an essay.
It was September of 1998 when all that changed. My wife and I had just settled into bed for a night’s sleep when the phone rang. It was my mom and I could tell right away she was crying. Something was very wrong. “Michael, Darrell was in a bad motorcycle accident and he’s in a coma. The doctor’s saying he might not live.”
Darrell is my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband. At the time of that phone call they’d been married just three weeks.
The next day Jen and I travelled to Albany, NY. Our intent was to just be there for my sister, offer what comfort we could, and pray for Darrell. What I saw caught me totally off-guard. The only comas I’d ever seen up until then had been ones portrayed in movies and on TV. You know, the patient lying in bed, covers folded over nicely at the arm pits, sleeping peacefully. This was nothing like that. With all the monitors and tubes and sensors surrounding him and attached to him, Darrell looked more like a machine than a man. And in fact, the machines were the only things keeping him alive.
I barely held it together while we were there, but as soon as we left that hospital I lost it. A flood of emotions washed over me, tossed me around, discombobulated me so severely I totally lost my bearing on reality. In the span of a few hours I think I experienced every negative emotion known to man.
When we finally arrived home I knew I had to deal with this emotional overload somehow or I’d revert to some infantile state and find myself curled up under the coffee table sucking my thumb. I hated what I was thinking but knew deep down it would help. It had to help.
I got a pen and notebook and started writing. I think I wrote for a couple hours straight that first time and you know what? I fell in love with it and haven’t stopped writing yet.
(In case you’re wondering, Darrell pulled through just fine, thank you. You’d never know how close he was to death.)
Over the years my writing has morphed. At first I poured myself into devotionals and spiritual vignettes much in the style of Max Lucado. Then I got involved with our local newspaper writing freelance human interest features and a weekly column. I wrote for newsletters, start-up magazines, websites, anyone who have my work. I didn’t care if I got paid or not. Being published was reward enough.
Finally, I got the urge to write fiction. I think it was because deep down I wanted to play God. You know, fiction writing is a lot like that. You get to create people and place them in a real world that has real consequences. Seriously, whether it was because of some repressed need to control or not I’ll never know, but what I do know is that as soon as I started creating I knew fiction was my thing.
The first book I wrote, Sons of God, was published by a vanity press. At the time, in my ignorance and naiveté, I didn’t realize they were a vanity press. A lesson learned the hard way and one I will never repeat. Anyway, I learned a lot through the writing of that book (you can still find some copies of it on Amazon and I’m sure in some box hidden deep in someone’s basement or, if you look hard enough, at a yard sale with a 10¢ sticker on it) but the most valuable thing I learned was that I had a lot to learn.
So I became a student of fiction. I began devouring books at the rate I wolf down my wife’s fettuccine alfredo. I read anything I could get my hands or eyes on about the craft of writing fiction. And I wrote. Oh how I wrote. At one point it got so bad my wife called our computer “the other woman.” Ouch! Okay, I had to back off a little and prioritize. That was something else I learned.
In 2006 I tried my hand at another story I had jumping around in my head. A year later I was toting that tale along with me to the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference. Long story short, Kathryn Mackel critiqued it, was impressed enough to recommend me to an agent friend of hers, I signed a contract with him, and six months later I was signing a contract with Realms Fiction, an imprint of Strang Communications, for my first “real” novel, The Hunted.
While The Hunted was going through the editing stages and all that fun stuff I began work on another book. This one was all about life and death and what happens after death. For some reason these issues were heavy on my mind, and I wanted to incorporate them into a tale of suspense. Little did I know what was waiting for me right around the corner.
A few weeks after completing the first draft of my new book, Scream, I began having some odd symptoms when using the bathroom. A trip to the doctor followed and that led to a colonoscopy. March 17, 2008, not even two months before The Hunted was set to release, I received a phone call at work from the doctor who had performed the colonoscopy. “Mr. Dellosso, I’m very sorry but you have colon cancer.”
Cancer. Colon. I didn’t like either word and certainly didn’t want them holding hands.
Well, not to belabor things, surgery to remove a portion of my colon followed and I was given an ileostomy to deal with, seven months of chemotherapy loomed ahead, then another surgery to reverse the ostomy, and I was sure lots of fun and good times in between.
During all this there were some bright spots in my writing career, though. The Hunted did release to very good reviews, Strang offered me another contract for Scream, and I had the opportunity to tell my story to oodles of websites and blogs and anyone willing to listen.
God works in mysterious ways, though, doesn’t He? Who’d a thunk that while I was writing a suspense novel about the brevity of life and imminence of death God was preparing me for my own tale of suspense about just that? Scream released in March of this year, again to very good reviews, and has been doing well in the stores. My hope is that people everywhere will read this story, not because I’m all into sales numbers or anything like that but because I truly believe in the message behind the story. It’s something everyone needs to think about.
Things have worked out so far. I’m a one-year cancer survivor, my blood work looks great, and I feel like myself again. The lessons I’ve learned have not only given me a deeper love and admiration for my Lord, a greater love and appreciation for my wife and kids, a fuller understanding of how the Body of Christ is supposed to function, and a more satisfying view of life, but they’ve given me a storehouse of life lessons and experiences to draw on for future stories.
Writing will never be the same again. And that’s how it should be.
Mike Dellosso is a husband, daddy, writer, physical therapist assistant, children’s church teacher, and battler of cancer. His novels, The Hunted and Scream would really like you to read them. He earned his B.A. from Messiah College and M.B.S. from Master’s International Divinity School. He lives in Hanover, PA with his wife, three daughters, and black Lab who follows him around everywhere. Visit his website at MikeDellosso.com and follow his blog at MikeDellosso.blogspot.com.