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’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:
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!
Christmas is the time to celebrate your family and friends. It’s a time to remember and rekindle. It’s my favorite time of the year, not because of gifts, but because it’s when you get together with friends and relatives who you might not see often, if at all, during the rest of the year.
My Christmas week has started out great — I am on vacation for the next couple weeks, and so last night, I staged my third annual Christmas Ale (and bourbon) and Chili by the Pool Table night, with a group of guys from our neighborhood.
Because I was home yesterday, I was able to take a break from my afternoon of chili-concocting to go watch Shaun’s school sing Christmas carols in the gym. I also got to see Shaun throw a pie in his teacher’s face! One of the school’s fundraising drives this year was to sell pies — and my wife Geri was one of the masterminds in charge of this year’s event. To spur on pie sales, they staged an event where if you bought a pie, your kid got entered in a drawing to be able to throw a pie in a teacher’s face at the Christmas party yesterday. Ironically, Shaun’s name was drawn by the principal! It was a fun hour and the kids had a blast… and Shaun got to do something most kids never have a chance to do!
Then I went back to my kitchen to finish preparing my jalapeno cornbread and three flavors of Chili. I’m a “bean” chili kind of guy, so my chili has hamburger with kidney beans and chili beans, along with a healthy collection of sweet red and green peppers, onions, some homegrown tomatoes, garlic and different varieties of hot peppers, some of which I brought back from New Mexico and froze a few months ago:
1) Mild Green Hatch chili pepper and Poblano (the base for all three chilis)
2) Hot Green Hatch Chili Peppers with Jalapenos and Serranos
3) Hot Green Hatch Chili Peppers with Jalapenos, Serranos and Habaneros. Plus Red Hatch Chili powder.
Seven of my friends from the neighborhood came over last night, and we pretty much polished off most of a giant vat’s worth of Chili. I filled a big silver soup pot to the brim during the afternoon before dividing it into three crock pots and adding the different peppers. The little bowl in front of the soup pot in the picture below is all that was left this morning!
Everyone brought their favorite holiday ales, and after the chili, we cooled off the gullets with plenty of those, as well as some bourbon. This year my personal favorites are the Deschutes Jubelale and Boulevard’s Nut Cracker Ale, thanks to their rich, carmel molasses tones, but we also had some of my favorite from last year, Great Divide’s Hibernation Ale, as well as Fistmas from Chicago’s Revolution Brewing and the Christmas Ale’s from Breckenridge and Great Lakes. We spent much of the night around the air hockey and pool table, trading off stream-of-consciousness DJ-ing via YouTube and my iPod library. 3 a.m. came really fast!
After a great evening with friends last night, tonight we went out to a new local brewery — Hopvine — for dinner with another family. Shaun and their boys spent the whole time messing around with the iPad and iPhones while the adults got to catch up. The food and company made for a relaxing evening. And I love the Ben Franklin quote they have posted above the bar there (click the picture to see it).
This is the way life should be all the time — getting together with your friends every week, but we’re usually too busy running around “taking care of business” to make it happen very often.
I wish Christmas came more than once a year!
very year I post a little Christmas cheer on my website – visit my Christmas page for some holiday wallpaper, a special book deal and to hear a holiday song I wrote and recorded with a band several years ago. You can also listen to a demo song that inspired “Will You Spend This Christmas Night With Me?” one of the short stories that appear in my holiday fantasy short story collection Christmas Tales.
To read that story and a couple of my other Christmas fantasy stories, please click the links above to download the e-book from your preferred store (Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com). You can also now get copies at the Apple iBookstore or the Kobo Store.
Here is the Amazon description of the book:
CHRISTMAS TALES offers three “ghosts of Christmas” in its three stories celebrating the magic of the season, as well as the lyrics of four original holiday songs. While primarily known as a Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author, John Everson explores his lighter side with CHRISTMAS TALES. It’s a book with heart that can be enjoyed by all ages.
“Christmas, The Hard Way,” was originally written as a holiday gift to family and friends. The story is a fantastical look at the Christmas holiday from the point of view of Will, a boy who comes from a family of… well… witches. To them, magic comes naturally. But at Christmastime, they pledge to give up magic to rediscover the importance of doing and making things with the sweat of honest labor. That will be a difficult – but important – lesson for Will to learn.
“Frost,” the second tale of the collection, opens with David, a young boy from a broken home on an uneasy trip home for the holidays after visiting with his dad. But his trip takes an unexpected turn when a frost sprite in the plane window escorts him on a sidetrip journey that can only be seen as the start of “growing up”… and the beginning of a rekindled Christmas.
“Will You Spend This Christmas Night With Me?”, a new story written just for this Christmas collection, looks into the heart of a “lost man” who is living aloof and alone. The love in his heart has been buried with the memories of his family. Based on one of John Everson’s original Christmas songs (the lyric also appears in the book), it tells the life-altering story of a lonely man who takes in a homeless child – or is she? – on Christmas Eve.
Heartwarming contemporary fantasies all, CHRISTMAS TALES – which also includes a handful of original holiday song lyrics and a link for readers to hear some original holiday recordings – will bring the spirit of Christmas to your heart.
I hope you’ll enjoy my Christmas Tales this year!