John A. Pitts AKA author J.A. Pitts has died of “amyloidosis of the heart”—an f’d up gene mutation that has no cure. I knew he was sick. I didn’t realize how sick until he reached out to a mutual friend and asked him to tell me so I could contact him. At the time, he had “six weeks” left to live. I’d planned to visit and tell him the whole story of the Rogue Academy trilogy. He loved BattleTech and my stories. Three days later he died.
I didn’t get to visit but I did get to text, to tell him how much he meant to me, and that I loved him. At least I got to do that. It’s hard telling people you love how much they mean to you when you know you’re telling them good-bye. I’ve done that twice now in the last six months. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. You have that tiny bit of closure to hold onto.
John (along with Jay Lake and Seanan McGuire) was pretty much my welcome wagon into the non-RPG publishing industry. I met him casually at Norwescon a couple of times. But I got to know him at the Rainforest Writers Retreat in 2010. Black Blade Blues was about to be released and he was nervous. He told me once, years later, that he was always nervous about a book release.
John exemplified one of my own personal mottos when it comes to the publishing industry: “Share the love.” Publishing is not a zero sum game. It’s a small world and, eventually, you will work with a lot of people—including your heroes. John always had a good word and an open ear to any writer he met. He was good about contacting me out of the blue, just to see how I was doing.
In my last face-to-face conversation with him, he asked me if I regretted not doing something due to my father’s illness and death. I told him no, because I hadn’t planned on doing that, I was going to do something else. I admitted to not handling my father’s death as well as I had wanted to. I think it was one of the reasons he didn’t tell me then and there how bad things were for him. He didn’t want to burden me with another impending death. That was how John was; always thinking about those around him first.
There are many things from our last text and face-to-face conversations that make sense in retrospect. Questions he asked me. Things we talked about. I will miss his messages, his hugs, and his advice. John was one in a million and I’m damned lucky to have known him. Also, I’m so very sad that memories are all I have left.
Good-bye my friend. I love you.