Salt Lake Comic Con has come and gone, and I’m slowly recovering. I was on four panels, and they all went mostly well. I only had complaints on one, the Expanse panel, and those complaints stemmed from us not covering the subjects various attendees came expecting to see. Since each of the complaints actually wanted us to cover a different subject, I’m not sure there was much we could have done about that one. That was Thursday, and I spent most of the rest of the day selling books, finishing up with a panel on RPGs for beginners. That was great fun. Good discussions with better people (Julie Johnson, Leigh George Kade, and especially Eileen Dobbins and Mark Middlemas, who I still maintain have crushes on me).

I had my obligatory Tolkien panel on Friday, which is my favorite part of Comic Con these days. I joke that it’s me, Paul Genesse and my three Tolkien girl friends for that panel (Julie Andelin, Jennifer Jenkins, Kathryn Purdie). Larry Curtis moderated. Paul, Julie, Jennifer and I have done more of these than I can count. Kathryn and I go all the way back to college.

We finished with another near-annual tradition for me… moderating the action scene panel with Larry Correia, Peggy Eddleman, Emily R. King, Brian McClellan, and Eric James Stone. This panel is a great joy to me. I love moderating it and it’s a great way to wrap up the con. By that point, I can’t so much as keep shoes on while I moderate, I’m so wrecked, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. We finished up with my traditional pizza trip to Rusted Sun in Salt Lake, then I got roped into drinks at a bar with a bunch of people I didn’t know. Which turned out to be great and wild at the same time.

And now we hit that point in the blog where I put my money where my mouth with, and honestly tell you what things are really like, behind the scenes, for the author.

This Comic Con was rough for me. Two days before, my mother had orthopedic surgery on her skull. See, seven or eight years ago, had breast cancer which moved to the thyroid (technically the cancer is just in remission, I guess). One of the drugs they gave her is an estrogen blocker known for bone degeneration and necrosis in the jaw and head area. This disintegrated the bones above the teeth in the front of her mouth and caused rampant infection that’s persisted for a year or more. They needed to take out the infected bone and perform a cadaver bone graft. My mother is retired and disabled and lives with me. I’ve had major bone reconstruction surgery on my hand (the most excruciating thing I’ve ever experienced) and I’ve lived through watching someone recover from something half that painful. I can say without hesitation that I’d rather go through the surgery again than watch the other, much less go through it with my mother.

But we don’t really get to choose when it’s time to be an adult or a professional. Right up until the morning of the con, I thought I would have to cancel. The infection, although the bone had been removed, seemed to have released into her system in general and she had a fever that spiked the day before. It hit its peak about 1 am the morning of Comic Con, but had broken by dawn. So with neighbors to look out for her and her health in good order for the first time since the surgery, I left cautiously for Salt Lake. (Also, my assistant made it clear that she’d rush to my house in the case of an emergency, and she wasn’t heading to the con until later in the day, so I had that safety net).

I sometimes think I do better at these public performances the more messed up things are in my personal life. I’m pretty sure only my assistant is the only one who knew just how bad things were during the convention (more than she suspected, of course, since the surgery wasn’t a secret, nor was the fever). But at this point, I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing these things, and it just gives me more energy to pour into my panels and fan interactions. Not everyone can do this. It’s my personal flavor of dysfunction. Other people get social anxiety. I pour my energy into entertaining others while quietly panicking about how my mother might be at home, in agony, lying to me about whether or not the pain pills are really working. It doesn’t help that is she was lying she’d just as successfully lied to me to my face that morning, and being at home wouldn’t help. Or that she didn’t get out of bed all day that day anyway, and my presence in the house wouldn’t have done much good. The Catholic guilt runs strong in this one.

But sometimes there’s nothing you can do but be helpless and keep working in spite of it. Sometimes you have to be spectacularly charming and handsome and sexy and talented even when you’re screaming inside. Sometimes you have to glad-hand when you don’t think you can do another minute. Now, you have to know your limits, but that was all within my limits, and so I pushed forward. My limits involve sleep and health and not editing during a con or else I’ll get pneumonia. They don’t involve backing down from the social. Other people can push themselves physically much farther than I can, but they’ll collapse under social pressures that I thrive under.

Know your limits. Drive yourself. Don’t stop. It’s a lie that pain always makes us stronger.

But it doesn’t go away just because we stop, either.

The next installment awaits...
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