THE BALL HAS dropped. The family’s in bed. 2018 is over. As I write this, I’m spending the first hour of 2019 with The Marx Brothers and a movie they made 87 years ago (Horse Feathers). There are some things that stand the test of time. And many, many more that are forgotten. I’m going to reflect here on a few things I’d like to remember about the past 12 months.
I will definitely remember 2018 for as long as I am here to remember. Not that it was the “best” year of my life… but because there were some personal milestones that I’m glad to have passed. Every year at this time, I see a lot of “thank God it’s over, out with the old, in with the new” kinds of comments. I’ve always preferred looking back at the good parts of the year, because, let’s face it, every year is going to have plenty of bad to focus on… you’ve got to sift out and focus on the good. And for me… this year had some things worth remembering. FYI – Most of the links in the text below go to blogs I wrote during the year about the particular events.
2018 – The Cliff Notes version:
I visited New York (twice!), Las Vegas, Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, Kalamazoo and Ann Arbor. I did a book signing at Book Expo America in New York, found and bought two pinball machines I’ve wanted to own for some time (Meteor and Galaxy) and added two new birds to our home “flock.” I also got a promotion at work (which came with plenty of extra work which ultimately turned my summer into a blur!) and published my 10th novel, The House By The Cemetery with my new publisher, Flame Tree Press. I saw my son play drums and piano in jazz and orchestral recitals, saw Kansas, The Bad Examples, Matthew Sweet, Erasure and Book of Love in concert as well as spoken word shows with Eric Idle and Rob Lowe. And we took a family “road trip” vacation to Myrtle Beach, a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Ironically, the best thing about the vacation however were the stopovers on each end of the trip in Gatlinburg, TN.
I watched over 120 movies in 2018 – the most since I began keeping a tracking sheet of them five years ago. Interestingly enough, most were ’70s-’80s Italian giallo/thriller or American exploitation films like Pets, which I reviewed. I actually watched 61 films made in the ’70s, vs. 28 in the ’80s and 18 made in 2000s. I also posted a review of Death Occurred Last Night, one of the many Italian police thrillers I watched. I went on a Fernando Di Leo kick for awhile (I watched nine of his films!) and also watched the original Death Wish series of films for the first time. I did see a few new movies though – 8 released in 2018.
My favorite new films released in 2018 were Red Sparrow, Suspiria (which I reviewed), Annhilation and The Endless (the latter two were the last movies I watched in 2018!)
One of my top albums of the year was Haerts’ New Compassion. But I also enjoyed new discs from CHVRCHES, Brandi Carlile, Belly, Alice Merton, Matthew Sweet, Nathaniel Rateliff, Muse, Florence + The Machine and more.
2018 – Month by month:
January began with “coding.” I redesigned and relaunched johneverson.com at the end of 2017, and spent much of January converting pages from my old blog to the new design. I also hosted my annual neighborhood “Chili, Beer and Bourbon by the Pool Table” party, and partly because of that posted my chili and stew recipes to my blog.
February brought us to one of my favorite venues — Two Brothers Roundhouse — to see one of my favorite bands from the ’90s — The Bad Examples. It was a great show, and as it turned out, we’d see leader Ralph Covert play twice more in 2018 (he opened for Matthew Sweet who we went to see in July at Evanston’s SPACE and then we also saw him a month later at his new CD release party). We also went downtown in February to see a Harry Potter comedy in Potted Potter before having dinner at one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, Howells & Hood (sadly, the restaurant closed due to Tribune Tower building renovations later in 2018).
March brought my birthday, a pinball victory and heartache. Our parakeet of seven years succumbed to a tumor after weeks of sickness and died in my wife’s hand. Boomer was a bird like no other, and we will miss him forever. His death led to a year of strange bird happenings for us. March also brought us a new pinball machine — Meteor — which I drove to Ann Arbor to procure. It was a game I’d been looking for for a couple years, and garnered many hours of spring and summer play. And I enjoyed a business trip to Las Vegas, where I didn’t see any shows this time, but did get to go to an Emeril’s restaurant.
April took me to one of my favorite cities — New York. I was there to attend a convention at Javits Center for work, but I was free in the evenings — which allowed me to visit some of my favorite places like The Ginger Man bar, Heartland Brewery and I got to have dinner with my editor, Don D’Auria — memorable experiences!
In April, I found out that V-Wars, a book and comic series created by Jonathan Maberry, was going to be made into a Netflix series. I was excited to hear that, since I wrote stories for both the first and third V-Wars prose books. Shaun and I also headed back to Kalamazoo for the annual Pinball At the Zoo convention that we attend every spring. I didn’t pick up any new machines there, but we did have a blast hanging with our pin-world friends.
We also brought home a baby parakeet named B.B. from a cool all-bird store called Bird is the Word about a half hour from our house. B.B. was a fun but sadly short-lived addition to our flock… more on that in September…
May brought one of the highlights of my writing life. My new publisher, Flame Tree, brought a handful of us to New York to participate in a launch event for the press and our upcoming novel releases at Book Expo — we all signed preview editions of our novels for the book sellers and librarians who go to the annual conference. I’ve wanted to go to Book Expo for a decade, so it was something of a “bucket list” event for me.
May also took Geri and me to the Chicago theater to see a very entertaining one-man show from Rob Lowe, who was on tour for his autobiography with a show called Stories I Only Tell My Friends.
June took us to a Kane County Cougars game, a visit to Revolution Brewing for Father’s Day and got me a promotion at work… which led to the next three months of constant overtime! Double-edged sword!
July brought us to the Chicago Theater again for an Erasure show, which was amazing. I saw them open for Duran Duran 30+ years ago in New York, at the UIC Pavilion 20+ years ago when I interviewed them, and in between at another show at the Chicago Theater. They have never failed to put on an entertaining show.
We also saw Matthew Sweet play a great set with Ralph Covert at the tiny SPACE club in Evanston, IL and I spent a night at the ever-enjoyable Naperville Rib Fest during 4th of July week, a long time tradition for me.
The best part of the month (and a highlight of the year) was our road trip driving vacation to Gatlinburg, TN and Myrtle Beach, SC, where Geri and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. We had never been to either place before, and really enjoyed them both. For my money though, our halfway point — where we stayed overnight going and coming home — was the place I’d want to return to. We really loved Gatlinburg, and were able to stay in the Old Creek Lodge, a good hotel right in the center of town.
August was “con” month. At the start of the month was Flashback Weekend, a local horror con that I always attend and have a book table at, and later in the month was HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis, where I also have a table, and hang out with old friends from high school and former neighbors. I got a box of preview copies of The House By The Cemetery so I was able to promote the book at those shows, a few weeks ahead of its release.
September brought me to my work’s annual convention and our second bird tragedy of the year… on the first of the month, I opened the garage door to take the garbage out, and B.B., our fledgling parakeet, bolted across the room and over my head. The bird had barely flown across the room in the house up to then, because her wing feathers were just growing out after being clipped… but I spent the afternoon chasing her through the neighborhood, tracking her to three trees and ultimately, I couldn’t recapture her. It was a horrible heartbreaking weekend.
A week later, we bought a new rare bird — a green Canary-Winged Parakeet that we named Pepper (like Jalapeno!) — and then the very next day, thanks to a Facebook tip, I ended up spending an afternoon in the woods capturing a blue parakeet that originally we thought might be B.B. based on someone’s report. It wasn’t our lost ‘keet, but in one of the stranger events of my life, I did manage to catch a wild parakeet in the woods! I caught her and posted about finding her, hoping to return her to her owners, but nobody claimed her, so I named her Coraline. Our house flock went from 3 to 5 in 24 hours that weekend. It’s made for an interesting last quarter of the year, integrating and raising two new babies.
October started with a fun show at the local college — Monty Python’s Eric Idle did a talk there to promote his new autobiography. It was one of two shows in the same month that we went to with Brian and Jill Pinkerton (the other being Kansas’ Point of Know Return 40th Anniversary Tour at the Chicago Theater.) Shaun and I also attended our other annual pinball show, Pinball Expo in Wheeling, IL.
The month was also the culmination of a year of waiting and preparation for me. At last, my 10th novel, The House By The Cemetery was published. Which led to six weeks of book signings and promotional events.
For the first time, I ended up on TV to promote a book — Flame Tree Press’s publicist got me booked on FOX Chicago’s morning show “Good Day Chicago”, broadcasting live from Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, the place where the book was set. It was a nerve-wracking but amazing experience and afterwards, since I’d taken the day off work, I drove around the area to revisit old memories (my childhood homes and the first house I owned are near there).
In October I also did a couple newspaper interviews, an FM radio interview and signings at two Barnes & Noble stores and hosted a launch party and reading at Bucket O’ Blood Books and Music. I also did an event in my hometown, Tinley Park, at an art exhibition of Bachelors Grove paintings and photos, and did talks at the local Rotary Club and Naperville library. It was a busy six-week book launch period!
You can see the TV spot, and hear the radio clip and a podcast interview on my Interviews page.
November was all about finally staying home and finishing “the next book”. The promotion I got at my dayjob early this summer entailed a ton of extra hours… which meant I fell three months behind on writing my next novel, The Devil’s Equinox, which was supposed to be turned in to the publisher around Halloween. So once the book tour for The House By The Cemetery wound down, I dug in and worked on finishing and editing that book (I actually wrote the last add-in scene yesterday afternoon, on New Year’s Eve. Talk about down to the wire to finish the book by the end of the year!)
In November, I also had the opportunity to have dinner with my publisher, Nick Wells, my publicist, Sarah Miniachi and my editor, Don D’Auria — the third dinner I enjoyed with Don in a single year, a definite rarity! They were all in town for a sales conference and I steered them towards one of my favorite restaurants, J. Alexander’s. (Don, Sarah and I are pictured near my car here outside the restaurant).
December came and went fast! And unexpectedly, the last month of the year brought me a new old pinball machine! I saw that someone put up a nice-looking Galaxy pinball machine for sale at the start of the month. It’s a vintage 1980 game that I really love and had been looking for to add to my basement collection for the past couple years. And the seller was local. So while I didn’t really want to be spending a bunch of money right before Christmas, I couldn’t pass this one up. On a Sunday afternoon, Shaun and I drove to his house, checked it out, and made an offer. A couple days later, my basement game room looked like this:
If I wasn’t writing/editing The Devil’s Equinox in my off hours, that’s where you’d have found me over the past month!
And here we are. The end of a truly jam-packed year. I’m hoping 2019 is just as rewarding… if a little less stressful!