2012: The Year in Review

December 25, 2012  •  Leave a Comment



2012 was a beautiful and amazing year, and the fun started immediately on New Year’s Day. At 12:00:01am, I asked Venetia to move to Portland. She said “Yes!” We’d worked together at a distance in 2011, building the 2012 Literary Pin-Up Calendar for bestselling author and all around good guy Pat Rothfuss‘s charity Worldbuilders. Fitting that the first moment of that then-theoretical year would be such a celebration. The 1st saw us drive to the Coast and return via Cornelius Pass, the first of the many road trips that would follow….


A month later I flew into Madison Wisconsin and was gathered up by my dear friend – and Venetia’s former colleague – Kat. After a couple days of packing and hanging out with the splendid staff of Worldbuilders, we hit the road.

On our way home, we had great sushi outside Dubuque, got to see a little of the surprisingly interesting Iowa City, and barely avoided the major snowstorm that had swallowed all of Nebraska by traveling south through Kansas City. We stayed that night with my wonderfully hospitable cousin Keith and his wife Christy. The storm had left plenty of snow in Denver, but it was nothing but stunning set-dressing by the time we arrived. We had breakfast with a dear old friend of Venetia’s from Montana, then set off to Red Rocks. After an icy ascent to Hanging Lake as the sun dipped low, I showed V my childhood homes in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Happily this was only the first of our many, many hot springs visits this year.

Luncheon in Grand Junction was with my cousins Larry and Sue; from there we headed west to Arches National Park. Arches was sublime and the weather supernally calm. While we remained safe and dry, basking in sun, we witnessed a grand snowstorm half a county away to the East. We watched microstorms come and go, but a fantastic Weather Application for the iPad kept us safe us all the way across the country.

The sun set on us as we descended the passes and came into Salt Lake City. There, we were bemused by the billboards in Salt Lake City (“Tired of being normal?” A smiling couple asks, as they shill for some odd hormone therapy, “Pretend it never happened” were the words next to the man with the bag on his head advertising laser tattoo removal, and finally: “Transvaginal Mesh!” We saw this billboard at least three times in Utah but never came close to figuring out it meant). That night we got to Logan and the home and hospitality of Newton Ewell. After breakfast with Newton and Cat, we set out again. From there, Oregon was easy. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the entire trip? We talked the whole way across country without radio, tape, or other interruption.

We renovated one of the upstairs guest bedrooms of my beautiful Portland home into a charming and cozy office space. Venetia was converted to the MacIntosh OS with little difficulty. Having most recently traveled from the icy heart of small town Wisconsin, her joy at living in a thriving city is constant.

Anne Hindman and Carolyn Turgeon stayed with us later that month. By cunningly playing chauffeur, we got to accompany Carolyn to a clandestine meeting with a man who collects, among other things, American performing-mermaid memorabilia – the sequinned tails and the showbills and props used in such far-flung places as Weeki Wachee and Idaho Falls. And the hints of his other collections (like the family of larger-than-life fiberglass A&W Rootbeer mascots from the Dakotas that dominated his back yard) also amazed.

After years of being on different continents, or at least on opposite ends of the country, Venetia’s best friend Jennifer now lives only two hours away in Seattle. Immediately folllowing NWCT’s splendid gala, we drove north to Seattle for business and pleasure. After a day of meetings in interesting, historical buildings festooned with walruses, Venetia and Jennifer were at last reunited when we attended Jennifer’s costume party as a beret-wearing artist and his muse – not much of a stretch, but it served as a great ice-breaker.

My beautiful picture

I had the honor of being present when my Father and sole remaining Uncle last met. Dick’s son Donnie and I attended the meeting with Mom and Venetia. Men of few words, their conversation now was hampered by the loss of memory and encroaching darkness. But they were clearly, if laconically, happy to be in one another’s company. There wasn’t anything soppy or weepy involved, no big sentiment – it was typically stoic. No definitive statements that would indicate this would undoubtedly be their last meeting.

Their siblings had gone before them – all manner of ill health, bad luck, patricide, suicide and misadventure attended them. Elmer and Dick had worked together skidding logs and hunting and doing all those unglamorous things that the poorer denizens of little Rifle Colorado did. They were the last of that ornery pioneer generation, the last to remember the details. So successful had his campaigns in quest of fur been, that my Dad was the star of a magazine ad for muskrat and beaver traps back in the day. Dick had run the big mill in Meeker while my Dad, recovering from a broken jaw the falling tree had caused, went to the big city to College. But for all that my Dad worked in offices and Dick in a Cat or a Mill, they always got along. It felt somehow fitting for them to be the last two.

The main thread of their short conversation was an assurance to themselves and to each other that they had brought the next generation, Donnie’s and mine, up well. That they’d done right and could be proud. And when that agreement was reached in a small flurry of animation and elevation of volume, the meeting was adjourned. And we left.


Jennifer came down to visit Venetia and I in March. We took her to many of our favorite Portland spots, including shopping on Hawthorne Street which has become our standard tour for out-of-town guests.

Our baby Persian Ironwood was planted by the Friends of Trees and Venetia has tended it most faithfully, it is doing splendidly. And after a non-existent crop last year, the fig tree produced 150 or so figs in its first crop alone!


We traveled north to Seattle’s Norwescon for the first time. When I lived on the East Coast, this show had a fine reputation for programming and guests. Last year was no exception. I got to surprise my award-winning artist Guest of Honor friend John Picacio and visit with my 13th Age colleagues Jon Tweet and Rob Heinsoo. Plus Jason McEachen, my old colleague at Maryland’s Digital Addiction, into the bargain.

On the way back, we stopped south of Tacoma and closer to Rainier for a visit and Painter ™ demo with Todd Lockwood. Todd and I have many points of vantage and experience in common, and spending time with him was definitely one of the year’s highlights.

Venetia also got a glorious birthday party, courtesy of my family. She had an amazing time and was positively glowing for a week.


Some of you who read last year’s Holiday Novella may remember me talking about how close Keith Baker, Paul Komoda and I came to getting our game, The Doom That Came to Atlantic City, published in 2011. One reader thought that he should do a Kickstarter, and publish it with crowd-sourced capital. The Kickstarter was a great success, and Erik Chevalier’s company took in a pretty vasty sum (with the help of many of you. Thanks!) And I thought that finally, after 20 or so years, the stars were finally right. But delays and corporate interference pushed the production into 2013. I am not thrilled with any of the delays, but I remain hopeful that the patient Kickstarter backers and I will finally get our long-awaited rewards.

The HP Lovecraft Film Festival moved itself to May and came together with the tender care and feeding of Brian and Gwen of SighCo. I participated in a couple of fine panels, and though I lost the coveted Pickman’s Artist award to young Nick Gucker, I was pleased with the results of the audience-directed event. And my Katherine-wheeled- unicycle-riding Shuggoth has found a happy home with author Nikki Guerlain (whose donation went to charity).


At the end of the month, we drove down to the San Francisco Bay for BayCon. It was the first time we listened to the music on my iPhone straight through, and many of the songs are now set in our minds at particular locations along the beautiful northern California drive (i.e.: The Austin Lounge Lizards singing “I pull off in Yreka” as we drove into Yreka).

Staying with Miko, Lis and Jackson is always a treat. Miko introduced Venetia to many fascinating and immediately applicable concepts, including the Vitamix and the “green smoothie.” While their chard smoothie was a little… intense for us, we later succumbed to the lure of the Vitamix and spent the rest of the summer enjoying delicious smoothies (though Venetia’s were usually more viridian than mine).

While in the Bay area, we spent my birthday with Doug and Wendy, old friends from the East Coast who’d been lured west to civilization. We, and their delightful kids found a delicious Lebanese joint in the midst of Santa Clara’s labyrinthine warehouses and played a rough game of Anagrams. My cousin Cathy and her homophone Kathy took us for a fine Zodiac ride on the waters around Redwood Shores. Later, I created a fierce visage of Boudicca for the spinnaker of their racing boat.



We hosted Melissa and Illyeanna and got a closer look at some of Portland’s newest food carts, the splendid ice cream of Salt & Straw, and sushi.

In another epic road trip, we drove out to Montana to visit Andrea, Glacier, hot springs, and Venetia’s family. In the old days I’d have included it here, but the beauty of this new format is that reportage can occur more promptly and accurately. So, for a much more scenic and fulsome account please visit my journal HERE.

When we returned, Venetia and I visited with my Dad. He didn’t know us. Venetia was new to the party, so his lack of memory was not surprising. But he didn’t know me either. Still, he was glad we were there, and the feeling was mutual. We had a sweet visit – all the worries and frustrations of our long relationship were past, and he could be purely happy to see me. I’ve heard people talk about heaven: about being reunited with loved ones and the memories of life. But there and then, I felt that this Lethe -  so impossible to fight, so hard to witness – was somehow right. I had made my peace with my father in therapy and then, in person. I hope that when his light finally faded, in early July, that he had all he needed.


Immediately after driving to Montana and back, we flew out to the East Coast for a two week tour of New York. Starting in Newark, we stayed with Jim and Rhymer in Jersey, Michael Kaluta in NYC, Stephen Hickman in Red Hook NY, and Jacob Lefton in Armherst, before arriving at Scott and Rachel’s house in Melrose. The blog is again the place to go for MORE.

The main purpose of the trip was guesting at ReaderCon where Elizabeth Bear, Michael Swanwick, Kyle Cassidy, and I created a story together.


Jason McEachen and his young family stayed with us briefly in July – before emigrating to Australia. We look forward to seeing them next in Melbourne.


I was finally able to begin the 2013 Literary Pin-up Calendar with a full line-up of amazing authors – including my all time favorite writer, Ray Bradbury. The next three months were devoted almost exclusively to the calendar, though we did take a break to debut 13th Age the game I’d been working on with Jon Tweet and Rob Heinsoo and Aaron McConnell – at the massive PAX show in Seattle.


It was there, showing off the game to passersby with Venetia, that I found out that I had won a Chesley Award. I was so surprised to have been nominated thrice that it never even occurred to me that I might win one. Quite a wonderful surprise to be honored thus by my peers!

Our work on the calendar began and ended in Portland, with Roger Circle 23 Photography shooting Venetia (and eventually me). Roger was great at getting us what we needed. But our itinerary took us to Los Angeles where we stayed with the adorable Nicole, Ed and Magoo (their pug). The loss of my friend (and their Clarion classmate) Leonard Pung hit hard. Leonard was a fine fellow and avid punster who is much missed. We were honored to work with the talented photographer Alan Amato and his muse Ulorin Vex. Alan took the reference photos of Clare Grant and Milynn Sarley, half of Team Unicorn.

Jim Butcher’s assistant Priscilla Spencer was the model for his pin-up, in 4 separate reflecting poses. We met with photographer Zakk Eginton at her house and shot for a wonderful couple of hours on a balmy night in the City of Angels.

We got to spend another day in LA visiting friends and seeing sights.

First: Jason and Kemi. It seems like only yesterday that Jason was living at my house after Katrina. And a blink since I saw him get married in New Orleans. But now? A big old townhouse in the Valley – all gussied up and festooned with the best books and comics. Hard to even put my happiness for him and his family into words. Here’s the cover I did for his comic “One Nation“: SundiataFlat


Then: Kitty Cat Mihos. We shared a sinfully delicious breakfast al fresco and between personal stories talked about Neverwear and other excellent charity work. She’s started up a new facebook page HERE. I can’t wait to work with her and Neil in the new year!

Finally: Paul Komoda. Despite the chaos of his move to a new apartment, we still were able to see some of his amazing work – from dinosaurs to dollies. And the lovely lady Stella came home with us. My house is as filled with art as it can be, but the more work by Paul, the merrier!



We also took in the many sights LA has to offer – from the Santa Monica Pier to the mountain canyons north of town. This included a visit to the Lake Shrine I remember so fondly from my childhood, a visit to a an empty Dodgers Stadium, and plenty of other beautiful scenery too!

Back in Portland, coinciding with Keith’s move from Austin back to PDX, we hosted a party for Dan and Zephy in commemoration of the brilliant game they’d run. We commissioned the perfect yin and yang boxes in to present the players’ Thank You gift to them: decks of Exalted Tarot cards I designed and illustrated with help from Felicity Shoulders and Sarah Barker at the beginning of the year.


The cards were immediately broken in with a version of Dan and Zephy’s custom baccarat game. Some big league ante was lost and won therefrom. Included in the haul, was the original set of Keith’s “Cards Against Academy”, a custom and hilarious permutation on “Cards Against Humanity.”


Only one bit of reference eluded me – the ever-moving Amanda Palmer. Happily we’d discussed this with Kyle Cassidy at Readercon in Boston, and our plan worked to perfection. I drew up a rough of what I was looking for, and Kyle did the rest in the midst of Amanda’s busy US tour. Whew!

At the end of October, we were back in SF for a new show called Convolution. I got to present Peter S. Beagle with a framed print of his pin-up in the calendar, and spend time with Deborah Grabien. The panel on Kickstarter with Steve Jackson, Howard Tayler, and Steve Berman was a hoot. Kickstarter is such a complex beast that we could have carried on all day…. The proximity to SFO meant that we got to see Miko again on his way to Japan. And our afternoon walking tour of Burlingame was surprisingly entertaining as well. We met Heather Lam’s beau and hatched devious schemes with other friends in the course of our stay.


I’ve designed t-shirts for AmberCon Northwest for many years now, and this year’s was the only job I took amid the Calendar mania. The gathering at McMenamin’s Edgefield is always amazing, and this year was no exception. While we missed Murray Writtle, Katya Kornmacher came from Germany, and joined my long Saturday tour of waterfalls and dams and the Bridge of the Gods. The games I played were splendid – from Felicity Shoulders’ Amber in Space to Simone’s ongoing Court Dances – but the best fun of all was playing a bespoke, bemused and befuddled Bertram Wilberforce “Bertie” Wooster (tragically sans Jeeves) in Amanda Robinson’s Hooray for Captain Spaulding game. Afterwards, pancakes were taken on the West Porch.



Our stay at Edgefield also allowed me to visit The Artists in Cellblock D. The McMenamin brothers bought the former Multnomah County Lock-up, a strange spoke and hub panopticon that had hidden next to the bigger institution quietly for years. While I didn’t get to see Lyle the Night Owl, I did see Myrna and Olivia and their mates hard at work on exquisite curvilinear headboards. Behold! The Ever Glamorous World of ART!


At Convolution I had invited our friend Jaym Gates, publicist and horsewoman extraordinaire, to come visit for Thanksgiving. She joined us for a bounteous Thanksgiving day with my family, and then, the next day, for a gathering here with some of the amazing friends we have been blessed to know. But while Venetia and I knew the guests, they didn’t know one another – it was a fine experiment in old-school dinner partying. We achieved some critical mass of fun – the laughter was constant and the impromptu games of introduction remarkable. The meal that was gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegan thanks to Venetia’s hard word and our visiting Master Chef, Jaym.




A couple days ago, my painting inspired by Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notionpremiered in the upstairs hallway at McMenamin’s Kennedy School here in Portland. So wonderful to have my work there among that of my friends.


The picture above was taken on Christmas Eve by our hostess, my sister-in-law Erin, when the family gathered at their house on the Tualatin River (And I don’t mean near the river, I mean on the river. The water is further away in summer).

Today the party moved to Vancouver for a delicious and loot-filled Christmas. We look forward to a second-breakfast party with Kate, Bob, and Rowan Ristau New Year’s Eve. And we will be finishing the year as it began – at Steve Lieber and Sara Ryan‘s New Year’s Eve evening party.


“Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by the sweet Jenny Lawson. We managed to find standing room the night she read at Powell’s where she signed a book for Heather Lam. Jenny later helped me with the George RR Martin Pin-Up by photographing her own dire Wolf Blitzer to be Cersei Lannister’s bedwarmer.

“Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong”: This book brings the context.

“Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal” and “My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging” by Rachel Naomi Remen. True stories of love and death.


Remember kids: When it’s research, no one is allowed to interrupt!

“The Last Unicorn” by Peter S. Beagle. Details of the pin-up HERE.

“American Gods” by Neil Gaiman. Neil was the first author who signed on for this year’s calendar. His kind note and wee present are much beloved. More about his pin-up is HERE.

“Kushiel’s Dart” by Jacqueline Carey. We went out to the Beaverton Powell’s to hear her read from her new Agent of Hel series, spoke with her and gave a few members of her audience the 2012 calendar to better prepare them for the 2013 one.


I painted many theater posters for the NorthWest Children’s Theater and Lakewood and we’ve loved the productions we’ve seen.

There were no shortage of plays and movies in 2012, but our vote for best theatrical performance of 2012 is the Portland Center Stage production of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, tickets courtesy Keith and Jen. Three of our party (including Venetia) had never seen it. What an astounding production!


The wrap-around cover for M.K. Hobson’s “The Warlock’s Curse”.


The covers for Mark Hodder’s “A Red Sun Also Rises for Pyr”.

Cover painting for “Axe Cop”, over drawings by Ethan Nicolle.

Spectrum 19 (my 7th year).


I never expected to work on a single Kickstarter this year, much less 5 of them! The Doom That Came to Atlantic City opened more than one can of unknown worms. Venetia and I learned a lot more than we ever even considered possible. Rather than inevitably failing to convey crucial parts of Kickstarter’s complexities in conversation, we opted to write a long and involved White Paper on the subject. (More than just my Holiday notes go on forever!) Much to my surprise, it was quoted prominently in Forbes. If you are planning a Kickstarter or other internet funding campaign, I hope that you will find something of use therein.

The wrap-around cover for M.K. Hobson’s “The Warlock’s Curse”; “13 True Ways”; “Geek Love”; and Broken Continent all followed. I don’t know all the projects that await in the coming year, but at this point I’d be surprised if at least one more Kickstarter doesn’t find itself on my To Do list.


First Milkshake
First Jellybean and Gumdrop
First Chocolate
First Ham
First time in New York City
First time in Glacier National Park
First time in Los Angeles



2013 promises to be just as busy and wonderfully fun as 2012.

Would you like to see us in Portland?

Or while we are on our many adventures out in the world?

If so, please let us know (extra points if you want to put us up on our travels and wine and dine us)!

January 16-17: Los Angeles
Jan 19-27: New Zealand, North Island
Jan 28-30: New Zealand, Queenstown
January 21-Feb1: Melbourne
Feb 3: Canberra
Feb 4-6: Sydney
Feb 7-9: Cairns
Potential: March 1-3: Emerald City Comic Con
March 27-31: Art Guest of Honor at Norwescon in Seattle
May 17-19: Art Guest of Honor at Keycon in Winnipeg.
June 16-23: A Montana Wedding
June 27-July 2: Roanoke, Virginia
July 3-5: Washington, DC
Potential: Travel up the East Coast to Boston stopping in Laurel, Ellicott City, Baltimore, Newark, Philadelphia, Princeton, NYC, upstate New York for ReaderCon in Boston
Potential: Going to the mighty San Diego Comic Con July 18-21
Oct 21- Nov 3: World Fantasy Convention in Brighton England.                                Potential: Travel around that time in England and France
Nov 7-10: Ambercon Northwest at McMenamin’s Edgefield

*The schedule for the year ahead is a still-congealing mass of dates and time. That said, this is easily the highest degree of  specificity I’ve ever managed so far in advance.



Wishing each and every reader a very grateful and joyous 2013!

Lee & Venetia


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