I’M PROUD TO BE the February “Guest Writer” in the new issue of THE HORROR ZINE which just went live today!
Check out the magazine online — they are featuring my story “After The Fifth Step” – one of my favorite stories to read aloud to an audience. It was originally written for the 2002 anthology Freaks, Geeks & Sideshow Floozies and had also been collected in my short fiction books Vigilantes of Love and Needles & Sins.
The new issue of THE HORROR ZINE also features an essay by Joe Lansdale and an article about one of the most rare serial killers. Check it all out here:
I was bummed I couldn’t be there for the race (currently on a business trip), but I’m excited that Shaun continued his streak of winning “Creative” awards for his Pinewood Derby Car.
This is the 4th “video game” car I’ve helped him build for the annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby (following Angry Birds, Minecraft and Dragonvale) and while we’ve never built the fastest cars… they hold their own. Tonight he placed 2nd, 2nd, 2nd!
I’m pretty excited that the Horror Novel Reviews web site picked my 8th novel, THE FAMILY TREE, as one of their Top 10 Horror Novels of 2014! The list includes books by Stephen King, Joe R. Landsdale and Eric Red. You can see the full list and book descriptions here:
HNR called the book “a crazy, crazy engaging story that leads readers down an exciting but unexpected path. Awesome characters, awesome conflict, awesome setup, awesome execution. Yeah, it’s pretty awesome, so we say!”
As if that wasn’t enough, a week or so later, HNR also created a list of the Top 13 Horror Novels Released By Samhain Publishing over the past four years… and THE FAMILY TREE made that list as well! You can see that list here:
THE FAMILY TREE also has garnered some pretty good reviews on Amazon since it’s release in October. Reviews call it a “fast enjoyable read” and “truly exceptional horror.” Of course, there are also a couple slams but overall, the has a 4.1 star average. You can read the good, the bad and the ugly here:
Every year on New Year’s Eve, I sit down to contemplate the past 12 months. I used to do this in a paper journal, but the past few years I’ve done it here on my blog. It’s a great way to remember and document where I’ve been, take a deep breath, and get ready for a new merry-go-round.
This year? Not so much! I actually put in more nose-to-the-grind hours at the dayjob this year than in my entire career of working, but most of it was in the office. Which means I not only don’t have a lot of “travelogue” stories for 2014… I don’t have a lot of stories at all. The year for me really passed in a blur of “working late,” week after week. So on that score, I can’t say I’m sorry to see 2014 end. I never really saw it while it was here!
The year started out auspiciously… I had a business trip to Kauai scheduled for early January, and this time around, unlike most of my trips, Geri and Shaun were going to go with me… however, the trip got cut short two days at the start, when we were iced in to O’Hare thanks to the “Polar Vortex.” Then… two days after we finally got to the island, we got a call from home… seems the warm spell that followed the polar vortex flooded our basement! Kind of put a damper on the already truncated trip… not to mention the start of the year. But, we did see some beautiful things while we were on Kauai, including the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” And Shaun and I got to drink out of fresh coconuts.
Once we got home, the basement reclamation work began, and that led to a major project that took up most of my free hours in the spring. Since all the carpet was stripped, I decided to take the opportunity to create a flurry of sawdust and build a new custom bar in the basement. Now… I’ve never really done any woodworking, and I wanted to create an L shaped bar that looked like a real Irish bar, complete with Chicago bar rails. So this was a major project for me. I studied a lot of YouTube videos and blogs, and bought a lot of new tools. But in the end… I ended up with exactly what I was hoping for. I detailed that whole experience in my “How to Build a Bar” blog a few weeks ago, if you want to see the “step-by-step.”
Right around the time the bar was nearly done, I headed up to Washington, D.C. for a meeting. I used to go there for work a lot, and I’ve always enjoyed going there for the music and history. I didn’t visit any music clubs this time around, but I did get to take a walk past the White House, have lunch at a barbecue fest and have dinner in the ever eclectic Adams Morgan neighborhood.
Over the summer, I also spent a few days on a business trip in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, MI, which allowed me to revisit my ol’ favorite the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery and to finally make a stop at the amazing Founders Brewery (great room, great brewery-only taps!).
And in August, I went on my nearly annual convention trip to Santa Fe, NM… though this year, rather than tagging on my annual “writers retreat” to the trip, I took Geri and Shaun with and extended the trip for some family vacation time. This excursion turned out much better than Hawaii — no basements flooded while we were gone, and I not only got to show my family one of my favorite places in the world, we all got to see the Chimayo chapel, the Rio Grande and we explored the oldest continuously inhabited structure in North America – the Taos Indian reservation.
My brother came in to visit us with his family for a couple days over the summer just before we went to Santa Fe, which was great fun – we don’t get to see them every year, since they live out of state. We took them out to Navy Pier in Chicago and introduced them to my favorite German spot – Hofbrauhaus in Rosemont.
On the “convention scene” this year I appeared once again at DucKon in Northern, Illinois (where I got to hang out with my friends W. D. Gagliani, Dave Benton and Brian Pinkerton) and I also joined the Samhain gang and my Synapse Films friends at the HorrorHound Convention in Indianapolis. I also appeared at my perennial favorite local DanCon, the Chicago Horror Film Fest and the Haunted Flea Market at the DuPage County Fairgrounds this Halloween.
Geri and Shaun and I also took some short weekend drives to Rockford, IL and Springfield, IL to go to a couple of bird fairs… which led us to bring home the fourth member of our flock — a beautiful grey cockatiel baby who Shaun dubbed Stormy, thanks to her wild mix of greys, blacks, whites and a splash of yellow and orange.
So those were my destinations for 2014, only half of them for work:
Ann Arbor, MI
Santa Fe, NM
Typically in the fall, my dayjob hosts an annual convention in another city (last year we were in San Diego), but this year, we held it here at home, in Chicago… so I didn’t log any extra miles for that event this year either.
Favorite Media of the Year?
I didn’t end up getting to see a lot of new movies, and missed things I wanted to see like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Intersellar and Lucy… but out of what I DID see, I think Big Hero Six and Mockingjay were probably my favorites.
I didn’t buy a lot of new albums this year, but my girl-pop jones was fed by some good singles, like Pitbull and Kesha’s “Timber,” Charli XCX’s “Boom Crash” and Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” I have to admit, I didn’t hear much on the rock scenet that excited me too much.
On the writing front… I have to admit, 2014, was probably one of my least productive years in a decade. Due to all of the extra hours at work, plus the basement cleanup and woodworking project, I really didn’t spend a lot of time at the keyboard in my off hours. There were a couple notable exceptions. At the start of the year, I finished writing my 8th novel, The Family Tree, and turned it in to my publisher, Samhain, at the start of March. That novel debuted in October and actually turned up this week on Horror Novel Reviews’ “Best of the Year” list, which is pretty cool.
In early spring, I was asked to write a story for Qualia Nous, a new anthology edited by Michael Bailey. It was to be a science fiction-oriented horror anthology, and I penned a tale called “Voyeur.” I was happy when it was accepted, but really excited when the final table of contents for the book was released, and I found out my story was appearing alongside Stephen King and William Nolan (of Logan’s Run and Twilight Zone fame).
I also contributed a SF-horror tale called “Amnion” to an anthology called Equilibrium Overturned, which received great reviews over the summer. And I wrote a new story called “The Hole To China” for Horror World’s upcoming 2015 anthology.
And in June, I was asked to return to the world of V-Wars by Jonathan Maberry. I had penned a story called “Love Less” for the original V-Wars book edited by Jonathan, and for the third V-Wars anthology, I continued that story with a piece I wrote in August called “Love Lost.” V-Wars: Night Terrors will appear with that new story in March, 2015.
Meanwhile, my 6th novel, NightWhere, was released in translation in Germany early this summer, and rode the Amazon.de bestseller charts for several weeks. I think the book has actually sold more copies in Germany at this point than it has here! I’m hoping the German release of The 13th this summer will find a similarly receptive audience!
The weeks and months of 2014 have rushed by like a commuter train…. fast and filled to the walls with stress. Usually I’m a little bittersweet about a year’s end, but frankly, I’m happy to close the calendar on this one. My resolution for 2015 is to get control of my life again, and do more of the things I love. I bought a classic Epiphone hollow body electric guitar last spring with my 20th year work anniversary bonus… and I have yet to play it for more than 5 minutes. I have a new novel I’ve been anxious to really get moving. And I have some friends and my family I’d like to see a lot more of.
So as the first hours of the year tick by (to the sounds of a classic 1980 Grateful Dead concert playing on PBS)… here’s to a more relaxed and productive 2015!