THE WEEK AFTER CHRISTMAS is always a week of cleanup for me. Putting away the remnants of one year to prepare for another. I spend hours organizing and backing up computer files, updating my iPod, cleaning off my desk from weeks of detritus… and I also think back a lot on the last 12 months. Of the things unanticipated. Of the dreams met, and dreams lost.
We only get so many seasons, and I think it’s healthy to spend a few days each year trying to put yourself in order.
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. If there’s stuff I really want to do, I do it… otherwise, no resolution will make me do it. But I do spend some time thinking about what is possible for the coming year, and filing away dreams that I know will never come to pass. Best not to dwell on such things.
New Year’s Eve has always been a melancholy night for me – it has never been a wild party with anticipated “kisses under the mistletoe” kind of night. I remember in high school I stayed over at someone’s house for a New Year’s Eve bash and ended up writing in my journal in the basement while people were throwing up in the bathroom upstairs. I guess I just don’t party hard enough!
2011 has two hours left, where I sit. Writing in a journal again. Some things never change, I guess.
I didn’t get a lot of reading done this past year, which as you’ll see in a minute, was kind of a manic whirl — I didn’t sit still long enough to read. But I did enjoy a few things — Brian Pinkerton‘s novel Rough Cut was probably the best novel I read this year (and I was lucky enough to get to do cover art for it!), followed by Nina Kiriki Hoffman‘s Spirits That Walk in Shadow. I also enjoyed Martin Mundt‘s short The Cranston Gibberer and John Palisano‘s Nailed (which I don’t think is out yet – I read the manuscript) and I’m currently in the midst of Brian Hodge‘s Picking the Bones collection, which is great.
I probably discovered less music this year than ever before, but I became a Ke$ha fan in a big way. I also found New Years Day, who provided music for my Pumpkin Man website and was excited at the return of The Human League and Kate Bush. New offerings by longtime faves Tori Amos and Duran Duran didn’t get me as excited as I’d hoped, but throughout the year I enjoyed hundreds of hours of new and old music on Strangeways Radio. If you’ve never listened, look them up — especially shows by DJ Pinknoise and the Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde.
Looking back, 2011 was one of the busiest years of my life. I traveled more than ever, but it was because of changes in my dayjob rather than because of my novel career. I actually did less book promotion this year than I have in the previous three years thanks to the 2010 near bankruptcy of my publisher and the completed 2011 bankruptcy of the Borders chain, which is where I used to do the majority of my booksignings. But I did launch a pretty cool interactive website for the release of my fifth novel, The Pumpkin Man. So I made the “virtual” rounds! One of the things I always try to do when on the road is check out whatever local micro-breweries exist in the area… so this year with all the travel, I discovered a bunch!
Here’s a quick summary of my year on the road:
Spent a few days in Nashville, TN to run my last medical residents conference for the dayjob and got to enjoy two of my favorite places — Jack’s Bar-B-Q and rockabilly at Full Moon Saloon as well as discover a new brewpub with a good amber ale — Blackstone.
Visited Orange, CA (and got to catch up with my friend Paul Gifford) for a couple days for a dayjob editor meeting. It was a great escape after one of the worst blizzards in Chicago history.
Went to Phoenix, AZ for three days to run a medical coding workshop. The highlight was running a registration table in the open air outside of the meeting room, and discovering a Waffle House just down the street.
Went to San Antonio, TX to run a coding workshop but ganged up a short family vacation ahead of it and visited Austin for a couple days too. Saw an animal rescue zoo there for the first time in many visits, but got to return to a favorite haunt for a night — Elysium. And then in San Antonio we enjoyed the riverwalk and a stop at the Alamo.
Also went to Boca Raton, FL in April for the first time to present at a meeting. I was only there for 24 hours, but the view from my room out to the ocean was amazing! And I did get to stop over at the beach on my first night in for an hour or two.
Finally, at the end of the month, I went back to Austin to attend the World Horror Convention for the first time in a couple years. I launched the seventh Dark Arts Books release there (Swallowed By The Cracks), hung out a lot at the Bad Moon Books table and enjoyed catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a couple years. I also got to have a great Mexican dinner with my editor, Don D’Auria and introduced a few friends to one of my favorite things to do in Austin — the Sunday Gospel Brunch at Stubb’s Barbecue.
Went to Boston for a couple days to demo a new medical education website for a few days at a big annual meeting. Got a chance to tour Harpoon Brewery just before heading to the airport to return home, as well as visit an arm of my favorite international pub chain, Elephant & Castle. The highlight though was definitely discovering the Sunset Grill (which has tons of beers on tap and in bottles).
Just a few days later I took off to spend almost a week in Vancouver, which seemed like a pretty sweet town, though it was pretty cool, wet and gloomy a lot of the time I was there. Found a couple good micro-brews there, including Steamworks and the amazing Granville Island Brewing and got to catch up over dinner with my friend horror editor Bailey Hunter.
And I also did a short roadtrip to Grand Rapids, MI to shoot videotape some breast surgery. On the way back, I introduced my cameraman to Holland, MI’s New Holland Brewing, one of the best Midwest brewpubs.
Went back to Boston to run my last coding workshop (my job had now transitioned fully to be running the new medical education website, rather than working on live meetings).
One highlight was having coffee on the last day with S.G. Browne who was passing through town. Another was that the trade paperback re-issue of my novel Siren happened that week. Also returned to Sunset Grill and discovered Jacob Wirth‘s.
I also spent a few days in Naples, FL, again demoing the medical website. It was at a beautiful seaside hotel, and turned out to be the only trip this year where I got to stick my toes in the ocean.
Holy crap – I stayed home! I took a week off while my wife had some surgery and worked on a shared world horror book project as well as edits to my novel The Pumpkin Man which came out in trade paperback a couple months later. It was nice to be around to take my son to the neighborhood pool a couple times.
In early August we took a family roadtrip Summer Vacation to visit my brother’s family in Kansas City, and then spent a few days in Branson, MO and then a day in St. Louis on the way home. It was a fun, relaxing trip, though we covered a lot of ground (most of Missouri, I think!). And I got to take Shaun down into his first cave at Branson’s Silver Dollar City (which was probably the first cave I ever went into as a boy).
At the end of August, I returned to Santa Fe for (I think) the fifth time. My dayjob holds an annual three-day meeting there, which I’ve attended for various reasons over the past few years. I really love Santa Fe, and was able to enjoy my fave haunt the Cowgirl BBQ a couple times as well as discover Marble Brewery (I even managed to pack a couple bottles of their amber ale inside my shoes for protection and stowed them in my suitcase for the trip home – boy was I glad to find the bottles still intact when I unpacked!) I stayed over an extra day after the meeting to work on my new novel and probably set a record for my most words produced in a day — over 8,000.
At the end of the month I headed to Denver for a week to work my dayjob’s major annual convention. I’d been to Denver before, but never really saw much of the downtown.
This time, I got a much better feel for it, and visited a couple microbreweries there — it was great to stop at Breckenridge and have their Vanilla Porter on tap, but I also discovered Wynkoop, which makes a great Chile Beer and Pint’s Pub which brews amazing English ales that I desperately wish were bottled! My old friend Jasmine Sailing and her husband Bruce took me there.
I traveled to over 20 virtual places on my big Pumpkin Man book launch blog tour, but I also visited Cincinnati for a long weekend to sign books at my favorite Barnes & Noble store (Newport on the Levee).
In the past, I’ve scheduled signing stops in Indianapolis (at a now-defunct downtown Borders) as well as Florence or Louisville, KY, but this time I was a little more low-key and combined it with a short family getaway – in between my two signings at B&N, we visited the Newport Aquarium and Hofbräuhaus, a great German restaurant on the river. Apparently there are plans to open one near Chicago (in Rosemont) this summer, which is exciting news.
I visited New York to help record a surgical video shoot, and got a chance to visit the offices of one of my publishers, Dorchester, and meet the staff there (lots of new faces since the last time I was there four years ago). Also had dinner with a friend who introduced me to a great Cajun place, The Delta Grill, just off Times Square.
I visited New York again, this time to demo the education website at a weekend meeting. For the second time in a year I got to have drinks with my editor at Samhain, Don D’Auria, just hours after emailing him a completed manuscript. I also stopped in over at Dorchester again, and got a chance to see Brooke Shields on Broadway in The Addams Family. And in between searches for the perfect street hotdog (with sauerkraut) I discovered a couple other cool Manhattan watering holes – the Waterfront Ale House and the Heartland Brewery (odd to call themselves Heartland in Manhattan!)
And here we are.
I had a dozen work trips in 2011 and a handful of personal jaunts… which made for one blur of a year. In all, I visited 17 cities, three of them twice: Nashville, Orange, Phoenix, San Antonio, Austin, Boca Raton, Boston, Vancouver, Grand Rapids, Naples, Kansas City, Branson, St. Louis, Santa Fe, Denver, Cincinnati, New York. This may go down as the year in my life that I traveled the most. But I guess we’ll see what 2012 brings!
Somehow in the midst of it all, I wrote my sixth novel and a couple of shared world novelettes, all of which should see print in 2012. And I co-edited and released the seventh Dark Arts Books anthology, Swallowed By The Cracks. It was a stressful year at times, but also a rewarding one. And every time that I saw the smile of my son, who seems to grow just a little bit more every hour, made the day worthwhile.
I’m hoping for a little more sleep in 2012, but only so that I’m ready to see many more interesting places (and revisit old friends!)
Happy New Year!