2013 was the year that we lost one of my personal heroes, Roger Ebert. He was a Chicago critic who I really admired, and he was also a fellow alum of the University of Illinois. I read his reviews and columns my entire adult life.
2013 brought us the second Star Trek reboot sequel, Into Darkness and a monster pop hit in “Blurred Lines,” from Robin Thicke, the son of Alan Thicke, the “dad” on the old wholesome family TV show “Growing Pains.”
OK, 2013 gave us some things to remember too. For me, it was a year of many firsts, frustrations and final victories. And amid all of the stress and craziness, I was able to visit many interesting places, enjoy evenings with many good and far-flung friends, and I sampled a wide array of breweries all around North America — I don’t stop in a city without trying to check out what their local brewery scene is!
I always like to look back on New Year’s Eve at the highpoints of the past 12 months. It’s easy to forget all of the amazing moments that happen amid the endless running around trying to just “keep up.”
When 2013 began, I called it Lucky ’13. I had a lot of hopes for the year, and it definitely turned out to have some special moments. Many of them dealt with my fiction-life, but not all. Here in no particular order are my:
Personal Highlights of 2013
- I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary with my beautiful, long-suffering wife Geri. We had a romantic dinner and overnight stay in Chicago and went to see the wildly irreverent and completely hilarious Book of Mormon in July. It was a wonderful 24 hours… if too short!
- I visited South America for the first time in February. Thanks to a business trip, I went to Santiago, Chile for nearly a week and was able to take a side trip to see the beautiful coastal city of Valparaiso, on the South Pacific Ocean. Last night, in fact, I shared with a friend one of the three bottles of Chilean beer I managed to bring home in my suitcase 10 months ago (see photo above). The distinct flavor instantly took me back…
- As part of my dayjob I help videotape surgeries for educational use. This year? I saw the top half of a skull cut off with the live brain quivering just three feet away from me. I saw nerves extracted from a calf and implanted into an eyeball. And I also filmed a sex change surgery. Trust me guys, you don’t want to be the cameraman when they make that last SNIP.
- My novel NightWhere was a finalist in the Bram Stoker Awards, and I had the honor of sitting at the Samhain Publishing table right in the front of the room for the New Orleans ceremony. NightWhere was also released in a limited edition hardcover from Bad Moon Books.
- NightWhere was contracted for translation in Poland and NightWhere and The Pumpkin Man were picked up for translation in Germany.
- I met William Shatner!!!! Right here in Naperville!!!
- Did I mention that I met William Shatner?
- Amazon invited me to help launch Amazon.com’s new Kindle Worlds storefront, and was able to write a tie-in story in the Vampire Diaries TV series world (“Witch Trapped,” published in June.)
- Amazon also invited me to help launch its new Story Front label and at the start of December my story “Fish Bait” debuted with the new store front.
- I went to the Bram Stoker Awards/ World Horror Convention in New Orleans, and had bookselling/autograph tables at the Chicago-area DanCon, DucKon and Flashback Weekend as well as at HorrorHound in Indianapolis.
- I took the family to Key Lime Cove, a waterpark, for a much-needed short weekend “Spring Break.”
- My seventh novel, Violet Eyes, debuted in October, just in time for Halloween!
- Amazon acquired my first five novels when they bought the Leisure Books’ catalog last year, and in 2013, they started putting some of their promotional arm on my titles, which resulted in me selling more e-book copies of Siren and The Pumpkin Man than when they were available in paperback in every Borders Store across the country. In February, Amazon put Siren in the top slot on a “Kindle Books for Under $3.99 list — and sold 7,500 copies in a month! They’ve since featured Covenant, Sacrifice, The 13th and The Pumpkin Man on various promotional lists both in the U.S. and the UK. I paid a lot more daily attention to Amazon “sales rank” numbers this year than ever before as I watched those special sales unfold.
- My town, Naperville, staged its first “Ale Fest” this summer which was a big success and a ton of fun. I definitely drank my fill that afternoon as we sampled the taps of dozens of breweries from around the country.
- I brought back and roasted 10 pounds of fresh Hatch Chili Peppers when I returned from a business trip to Santa Fe, NM. They helped make this year’s Christmas Chili awesome!
- Speaking of food, I got a Weber Rocky Mountain Smoker Grill this summer and have enjoyed experimenting with smoking chickens, pork and beef brisket! Maybe next year I’ll earn my “pitmaster” stripes…
- I finally got my first Kindle for Christmas this year. I know, way late to the party!
I’ve been traveling more and more for the dayjob over the past couple years, and this year, along with my horror convention appearances, those jaunts kept me out of state at least once a month — and usually more. In 2013 I visited:
- Naples, FL
- Santiago, Chile
- Washington, D.C.
- Ann Arbor, MI (three times!)
- Calgary, Canada
- New Orleans
- Santa Fe
- Lexington, KY
- San Diego
- Racine, WI
As the year wound down, after all that running around, I was more than happy to take the last couple weeks of the year off, and just stay home. I kinda like it here — that’s why I bought the place, after all! And I definitely didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I’d like these past few months.
In the end, the best thing about this year were the little things — barbecuing on my patio for my family, and watching my son grow up — a little bit every week.
It’s been a good year. I don’t wish it away. But I am hopeful that 2014 is as fruitful and kind!
For Auld Lang Syne!