Goodbye 2016… Hello old age?

HERE WE ARE AGAIN. As I begin writing this year’s “summation” blog, there are 15 minutes left in the year. It will be well into the new year by the time I finish. But there’s a Twilight Zone marathon on, so I can go all night. Goodbye 2016!

Damn… how did we get here so fast? I’ve seen a lot of posts this week about “good riddance” and “can’t wait til it’s over.” Certainly there was more than an abundance of political mudslinging this year, and we lost some celebrities like Prince, David Bowie and Carrie Fisher who meant a lot to my life. But honestly, I had some amazing experiences in 2016. And hell, the Cubs won the World Series. I never thought I’d live to see that happen. So I personally was in no big hurry to see this year end. Who’s to say that life won’t all just be downhill from here?

It wasn’t all peaches and cream… but for me, 2016 was filled with a lot of big things. In the first quarter alone, I spent a week in Asia, had my gallbladder surgically removed, and turned 50. All pretty momentous events in my life, and they all happened within 10 weeks. The rest of the year… kept on going kind of like that!

Book stuff:
On the fiction front, while this turned out to be the first year in a decade that I didn’t release an original book, I did finish writing a novel (Redemption), got a start on a new one and contributed stories to a handful of really cool anthologies that came out — I had original stories in the Painfreak, Cemetery Riots and Drive-In Creature Feature anthologies, and a reprinted story in the “best of” collection Dread.

I also had two limited edition hardcovers from Sinister Grin Press of my novels Violet Eyes and The Family Tree…(the latter is actually at press, but should be out in a couple weeks.)

And while my current publisher, Samhain, announced that they would be discontinuing their horror line, I still completed my ninth novel, Redemption… and staged a Kickstarter campaign this past month to help launch it. The book will be out in January (just missed a 2016 release!) and I’m hoping, since it completes the trilogy, that it will please fans of Covenant and Sacrifice, its predecessors.

In a way, Redemption completes a career circuit begun a dozen years ago, when my first novel Covenant was  published. I went from indie author, to major label, to mid-tier label and now… back to indie. What happens now… we will see!

Film-wise
I don’t watch much television, but every weekend, I go down to my big 65-inch TV in the basement and watch at least one movie. In 2015 I started tracking my viewing, and so I know that I saw more than 90 films this year, from big box office movies like Magical Beasts and Where To Find Them and Rogue One (loved them!) to indie productions like Spring (amazing) and It Follows (nice new twist) to old giallos like Seven Deaths in the Cat’s Eye and Death Walks on High Heels.

I watched art films from Radley Metzger, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Lars Von Trier, grindhouse from Quentin Tarrantino and Pete Walker and cornball horror like Zombeavers and Night of the Killer Dorks. I introduced Shaun to Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein and finally saw For a Few Dollars More with Clint Eastwood. I saw a lot of great film this year, though the majority of it was more than 20 years old.

Musically speaking:
I bought a ton of new music this year and discovered new female-led pop bands like Kitten, Little Daylight, Dragonette, Night Club and Blondfire along with grabbing new releases from old favorites like Tegan & Sara, Garbage, Lady Gaga, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Kansas and Delerium. It was also a huge year in reliving ’80s/90’s music for me… I saw more of my favorite bands in one year then I think I’ve seen in the last five combined.

In March, I saw one of my favorite bands ever for the first time when New Order played a phenomenal show supporting the new CD Music Complete at the Chicago Theater just a couple days after my birthday. I bought a ticket at the last second and got a great 11th row aisle seat… and recorded a bunch of songs that I dropped on a YouTube Playlist.

 

In June, I saw The Cure at UIC Pavilion. I’ve seen The Cure a bunch over the years but it’s been awhile, so I was really looking forward to this show. The seats ended up being awful… but it was still a great show. Here’s a clip I recorded of “Just Like Heaven.”

In July, it was Chic and Duran Duran at Ravinia, a show that both Geri and Shaun had been looking forward to along with me. I LOVED their new Paper Gods CD, and the concert did not disappoint… though I was bummed that Nick Rhodes had to leave the tour temporarily just before the Chicago date. My YouTube Playlist from the show includes new and old tracks.

The concert trail continued a few days later with Collective Soul and The Goo Goo Dolls at Northerly Island Pavilion and then in September, I caught Toad the Wet Sprocket and BoDeans (both bands I interviewed back in my music critic days) at Naperville’s Last Fling.

Also in September was the reunion tour of Belly at Cabaret Metro. Tanya Donelly has been one of my favorite artists — regardless of what band she’s singing for — for over 30 years… so I made sure I was in the front row of that one! I sang along to most of the show, but I did record a few videos.

In November, Brian Pinkerton invited me and Chris Larsendown to see Kansas, touring for their first original album in years (with a new singer). It was kind of appropriate for me to see this tour, since my very first concert ever was seeing Kansas with John Elefante — the first time Kansas had a replacement singer (touring for the album that “Play the Game” became a hit from). The new show was great, we were right up in front, and I recorded this version of “Dust in the Wind”there. I’ve been listening to their new CD ever since.

Just a few days later, Geri and I went to see the Goo Goo Dolls again (one of Geri’s favorite acts) when they played a small theater in Waukegan. Thanks to a friend, we got on the VIP list and got to meet and shake hands with the band for a few seconds before the show.

Living in a Hotel… the Year in Travel
I tend to travel a lot for work, and then add on more trips to support my book projects… which means I’m on the road a lot every year. 2016 kicked into high gear for me the first week of January and never really slowed down.

I visited Seoul, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Aachen, Germany, Orlando, Washington, D.C., Santa Fe, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles. And took a couple of jaunts up to Milwaukee for a book signing and Cubs game.

I left the country right after New Year’s Day to fly to Seoul, Korea on a business trip. And after 2.5 days in Seoul, I hopped on a plane and flew to Tokyo for two days of business and then stayed on vacation for an additional three days. I have to be honest… I was really apprehensive about going on that trip. While I’ve enjoyed Asian cuisine, and love the movies of Hayao Miyazaki, I never had a big interest in Asian culture, and was afraid of what the language barrier would bring.

The trip… was a head-changer.

 

My first hours in Korea were difficult – just ordering food… hell, knowing how to EAT the food you ordered… was a challenge. But… I loved the little bit I saw of Seoul.

And then when I arrived in Tokyo… At first it seemed like my hotel was a dump and I was stuck on just another run-down street in an anonymous big city.

But that night… I saw Tokyo come alive… and it entranced me in a way no other city ever has. The throngs of people moving from one club/restaurant to another. The crazy catchy pop music blaring from the buildings at busy street corners. The food… the entertainment centers… the electronic district… the temples… the fish market… I saw as much of Tokyo as I could over the course of five days, and I absolutely loved it.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve visited one of Chicagoland’s biggest Japanese markets (which just happens to be a couple blocks from where I work) almost every week. And I have a playlist of J-Pop setup on YouTube.

You can read about those travels and see the pix from my trips to Seoul and Tokyo on my blog.

I heard that David Bowie died when I arrived at the airport on the way home from Tokyo… and so I spent half of that long flight home writing a blog about what he and his music meant to me in my life.

A galling month
I was only back from Japan for a couple weeks when I had a huge painful attack that felt like my guts had been shot by hot lead. I’d had these attacks before and managed to ignore them… but this time I went to the ER, and got diagnosed with gallstones. The only cure? Remove the gallbladder. So that’s what I did in February. I gotta tell you, having one of your organs cut out may be no big deal to some people… but I wasn’t particularly happy about it.

March… brought another questionable milestone — my 50th birthday. I think my 40th birthday was harder… that’s when I had to come face to face with “not being young” anymore. Nevertheless, 50 wasn’t easy. That said, celebrating it at one of my favorite spots — the Hofbrauhaus — with some of my closest family and friends… made it all a lot easier to stomach.

April… brought another trip abroad. This time, a short three-day business trip to Amsterdam and Germany. There wasn’t much time to look around, but I did walk past Anne Frank’s house and spend an hour or two in the Rijksmuseum, home of a famous collection of Rembrandt paintings. My blog and pictures from the trip are here.

May… brought a family vacation to Orlando. In 2015, I got suckered into one of those “three free nights at our Hilton Resort if you’ll listen to a timeshare pitch” offers. It sounded like a great way to have a nice family vacation (and it was a nice vacation) but… the truth is… when you add on the extra two room nights we popped for (we couldn’t stay just 3 days), the plane tickets, the rental car and the theme park tickets… it was a more expensive vacation than we would have taken in 2016, if we hadn’t committed to the “special.”

So much for saving money. But… we did have a great time, had a nice suite, and got to visit Universal Studios for the first time. And re-introduced Shaun to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios. After a busy first half of the year, it was a nice break.

 

In June, I jetted off to Washington, D.C. for a few days for business, and got to visit a Dogfish Head Brewery Ale House, which was a treat (they’re one of my favorite breweries).

My pix and travelogue from that trip are here.

In July, I actually stayed home… but we had a major house renovation project finished at the end of June  — we had to redo the roof, and while we were at it, we went ahead and replaced the siding (we had hated the original yellow siding since we bought it 9 years ago… so now it’s a deep blue!)

We did get out of town however to see The Cubs at both Wrigley Field and Milwaukee’s Miller Park (to celebrate our wedding anniversary). Given that this was the best season the Cubs have had in my lifetime (culminating in the World Series victory) I saw more baseball this summer than ever before. It was amazing!

August brought the return of my annual business trip to Santa Fe, NM. Santa Fe has become one of my favorite places on earth over the years, and this may actually be the last time I’m sent there on business, since the meeting I’ve attended all these years has finally moved locations for 2017.

Knowing that… I made the most of it, and spent a couple vacation days after the meeting hanging around the town and working on final edits to my new novel Redemption. I’ve always gotten a lot of writing done while in Santa Fe, so I figured if this was the last time… I would make it count.

I also brought back plenty of Hatch, NM chili peppers to freeze, so I have a taste of the Southwest for some time to come.

August was also the month of Chicago’s Flashback Weekend, an annual horror convention that I always have a book booth at. This year was a great bit of fun, as always.

I debuted a new booth setup, and Brian Pinkerton and I went to see director Don Coscarelli introduce a showing of the remastered Phantasm. And Shaun came down on the last day again to help me manage the table. Afterwards, we celebrated with a lunch nearby at Hofbrauhaus.

August was also the month of Wizard World Comic Con, where I served as an author guest and panelist. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to a Comic Con, and I had a blast. And Geri and Shaun got to come down one day, and met Geri’s childhood idol, Ralph Macchio. I published a blog about that weekend with pix here.

Just a couple weeks later in September, the whole Everson family decamped to Indianapolis, to go to HorrorHound Weekend. This was the first year that I went where I was not the “guest” of my publisher (who has done a big author showcase booth the past few years). Instead, since Samhain Publishing wasn’t at the convention, I bought my own booth, just as I do at Flashback. And it was a great success. Not only did I sell enough books to make it worth it, but I got to meet a couple movie stars who I actually wanted to meet (Lynn Lowry from Shivers and Dean Cameron and Gary Riley from Summer School) and got to hang out with some friends who have relocated to Indy. All in all, a great weekend.

A couple weeks later, I was on the road again to Los Angeles, for my dayjob’s big annual convention. Always a lot of work, but I did get the chance to meet Chris Bennett, one of the editors of Cemetery Riots (one of the anthologies I was in this year) as well as hang out with one of my old friends, Paul Gifford. I also learned towards the end of my trip of the death of Robert Weinberg, one of the key figures of the Chicago horror and fantasy scene. I wrote this blog when I found out.

Thankfully, for the past couple months, I haven’t had to go far from the Chicago area. Shaun and I went to a pinball convention in Wheeling, and bought a new machine for the basement (Sorcerer). So now I have my Mata Hari, and he has his Sorcerer.

I did a couple local Halloween events in October, including a trip up to Racine, WI to do an annual Halloween author event at a Barnes & Noble there, which allowed me to get together with my friends Bill Gagliani, Dave Benton and Chris Larsen.

In December, my friend Brad Czernik and I went downtown just before Christmas to see a horror movie marathon, and met Mark Patton, one of the stars of Nightmare on Elm Street II.But otherwise, other than long hours at work, for the past few weeks, I’ve been home. And it’s been great.

 

I’d be okay if 2017 wasn’t quite as eventful as this year. It’s been a fun year… but I’d like to get some more reading and writing done again!

Now that I’ve spent 3 hours writing about 2016… I guess it’s time to go to bed so I can wake up to face 2017 with more than a yawn.

Cheers…

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