Tuesday, September 10, 2013

With Apologies on Creatures, Crimes and Creativity

I hate canceling on conventions. It makes me feel like a schmuck and I'm damn sure it doesn't win me any friends amongst readers who might have been looking forward to meeting me or seeing me again or having a book signed. Once upon a time I never would've thought twice about it because it wouldn't have occurred to me that anyone would care or even notice my absence. Maybe that's a bit of my friendship with Rick Hautala coming through, the Eeyore in all writers. At some point I began to realize that there might be one or two folks that would be disappointed by my absence--maybe even one or two who had planned to attend partly because I'd be there. I promised myself then that I would do anything possible not to let folks down again. I'd canceled on a comic con in Toronto once because it was in the midst of the SARS outbreak and my wife asked me not to go...and then my friend at the CDC told me I should *really* not go. I usually listen to my wife, but when your friend at the CDC tells you not to go...you stay home. For the most part, though, the couple of times I've canceled have been due to uncontrollable circumstances, and such it is today. I don't talk much about my health for two reasons. One, for me, it's a private thing. Two, so many people are in so much more pain or having so much greater difficulty that it seems whiny and selfish to me. A couple of years ago, I had to cancel on participating in the Odyssey Writer's Workshop due to some significant internal problems including, but not limited, to diverticulitis. Yeah, diverticulitis *sucks*, but I didn't have it too bad compared to others. Still, there would have been no way for me to focus on trying to lecture the workshop students in the condition I was in. I know it's foolish to let things you can't control weigh on you, but the good old Catholic guilt kicked in. All of which makes it that much harder for me to do this now. I'm sorry to say I won't be attending Creatures, Crimes and Creativity in Baltimore this weekend. I've enlisted a wonderful friend and writer to deliver Friday's keynote address in my place, the inimitable Brian Keene, who will undoubtedly do a better job of it than I would have. I've also offered some other things to the organizers, which I'll explain in a moment. First, though...here's why I won't be there. My own health is a part of it. I've had gout for seventeen years. Yes, yes...older folks will say "the rich man's disease," unless they've had any experience with it and have learned better. Most people are ignorant about gout and I'm not going to bore you by trying to educate you about it here. Suffice to say I used to not talk about it because so many people dismissed it as a disease of indulgence. It's not that at all. In fact, now that I'm talking about it frequently (you'll see why in a moment), I find that it's far, far more common than I ever knew. Everyone I tell--or nearly everyone--knows someone who has it, or they have it themselves. During a flare-up of gout, the affected joints feel as if they are full of ground glass. Sometimes even the merest pressure can cause excruciating pain. You can wake up in the middle of the night in agony that will keep you up for hours until exhaustion takes you or it subsides enough--as the oncoming morning allows--for you to drift off. In the past I've only had occasional bad flare-ups. The worst ones have lasted at most a week. The flare-up I'm currently enduring began on JULY 21st. I'm writing this on September 10th, so you can do the math. It has migrated from my right knee to a variety of joints in my left foot. I've been on multiple medications, all of which are management meds, because there is no cure for gout. You just have to wait it out and then, when it goes away, pray it will be a long time before it recurs. Over the past seven weeks or so I have become a friggin' expert on gout. I've had fluid drawn out of me and drugs injected in. I've spent hours researching on the internet and worn a path in my doctor's carpet. I've tried half a dozen homeopathic remedies, stopped eating a wide variety of foods, and I've lost almost fifteen pounds. (the upside.) The good news is that this particular battle seems to be coming toward an end. (I think. I hope.) I'm going to see a specialist at the end of the month and will start on preventative medication (which can--guess what--cause gout to flare up) and continue to tweak my diet. For now, I'm getting better, but the key thing when gout starts to recede is *not* to aggravate the joints. The last few times it started to recede, I decided I felt good enough to go out and do something as simple as go to dinner, which required walking a couple of blocks, or go to my daughter's soccer game...and each time the gout came back full force. So although I'm still three days away from my flight to Baltimore, I just can't take any chances. For my mental health if nothing else, I need this flare-up to end. Gout distracts me from my work and interferes with my daily life in ways that are detrimental to me and to my relationships with my wife and children. So...I'm staying home this weekend. Except I'm not really staying home. I'm not going to Baltimore, but there are two events I need to attend: the wake and funeral of my friend and mentor, Bob Booth. Bob was a writer, editor, and convention organizer, one of the founders of World Fantasy Convention and the founder of NECON, upon whose committee I have served for something like twenty years. Bob was a friend and mentor. Like many others, I consider his family my family, and so even if the gout weren't an issue, it's quite probable I would have stayed home this weekend after all, to pay my respects to these people I love and this man, gone too soon. If you are attending Creatures, Crimes and Creativity in Baltimore this weekend, I apologize to you, as I have already apologized to the organizers. If you are attending and there were questions you'd hoped to ask me, please ask them on Facebook or Twitter or email me at crdg@comcast.net and I will do my best to answer them. If you had hoped to have a book signed, contact me at the same email and we will work that out. I thank you for your understanding. All my best, Chris


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