My 2015 “Year in Review” Blog Entry

What would the end of a year be without an end of the year blog entry? Well, actually, it would be 2014, where I didn’t blog about what happened in 2014 until January 2015, because, well there were so many secrets and all.

But as far as I know, I don’t have any big secrets pending right now, so I decided it was a good time to do the whole recap thing when people actually expect it. Because I like to be predictable. But you probably expected that.

Anyway, 2015 had some pretty huge things happen. Let’s recap:

I kicked the year off in style when I became a full time employee at Microsoft at the beginning of January. I’m on the Microsoft Health Team where I spent a good chunk of the year prepping for the launch of the Microsoft Band 2.0, but also did a lot of work on the MS Health Public API which continues to evolve. It’s a great job, with ridiculously smart people, and I love it. Which makes it much easier to go to work each day, compared, lets say to my days doing billing systems for a direct marketing company.

Also in January, my wife and I bought a new house, and in February, we sold our old house. Between the purchase, the move, and the sale, and all the work needed to get the new place into shape, it took a few months for our lives to shift from crazy to merely hectic. We’re pretty much moved in yet, but still have a pile of boxes in our bonus room that haven’t been unpacked, and dozens of pictures yet to be hung. Someday, we’ll get around to it.

In April, my wife and kids and I traveled back to Canada to visit my parents, and I made a trip to Toronto to meet with HarperCollins to discuss Nowhere Wild related matters. This turned out to be the first of many trips I made this year.

The next trip was in May, when my wife and I surprised the kids with a funtastic weekend trip to Disneyland. The kids nearly fell over in shock when they found out, and by the end of three days, I was falling over in exhaustion. Two days in a row of 24000+ steps. For those of you who don’t count your steps on a daily basis, that’s a LOT.

In June, my family and I participated in the 2015 GBS-CIDP Walk and Roll raising money for support of people who are dealing with the disease that nearly killed me in 2012. It was only a mile, but it was huge step for me, and very inspirational.

In mid-July I did a bunch of volunteer work at the PNWA Conference. This event holds a special place in my heart, and is just one of those conferences I will try to make it to each year going forward. Great people, great conversations and great books. What else do you need?

In July, I led a team in the 2015 Microsoft Hackathon that came up with a really cool concept project. It probably won’t ever go anywhere, but it was a great introduction to the hackathon style of development, an excellent networking experience and something I will definitely do again, though maybe not as a lead, just from a time commitment point of view. I have a lot going on these days. Especially last summer… which leads me into my next distraction: Two of my coworkers and I filed paperwork for my first patent, which was paperwork intensive, but an interesting process to go through once. Don’t know that I’ll do it again either. Again, a lot of time taken in a schedule that didn’t have a lot to spare.

In August, my brother-in-law Eric and I took a nice, relaxing trip to Thompson, Manitoba to do research for my next book. Eight days on the road, and one morning in a float plane, was just the right amount of time to see what needed to be seen, but not long enough to drive each other crazy. I’d love to go back and spend some time canoeing and fishing, but barring that, I think I have enough information to make my next book pretty accurate.

Of course, on August 24th, we held the launch party for Nowhere Wild at the University Bookstore in Seattle. What a huge thrill to launch my first novel with my friends and family in attendance. I did subsequent readings in Bellevue, WA and Sumner, WA, and mailed out lots of copies of the book to readers around the US and Canada. Nowhere Wild has been getting good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, and people have been reporting sighting of it on bookshelves at stores all over. Truly mind-blowing! I’ll never have that experience of launching my first novel again, so we did it up right, and I have no regrets. It was a fantastic experience.

In September, we started a remodel of the kitchen in our house that consumed much of October, November and some of December. At times it seemed like the project would never end, but it’s done now, and we’re enjoying the result. You don’t know how central a kitchen is to your daily routine until you go without it for a month… or three.

Unfortunately, in October, I had to make an emergency trip home to Ontario to see my father who had a serious accident. Luckily, he recovered after a lengthy battle and is now back at home. Even at 83, he’s a tough old bird. And so is my mom (though she is much, much younger, right mom?)

The little gaps in the schedule for the year were consumed with little league baseball for my son, and soccer for my daughter. Our nights and our weekends, in sunshine and in rain, were spent standing and sitting on the sideline, cheering the kiddoes on—especially in the rain during the soccer season where we witnessed some truly epic downpours.

I also spent more time outside this year hiking and biking than I have in the last five years. I missed hiking since I got sick in 2012, and now that we are so close to so many fantastic trail systems, I had to make use of them. I try to get out once a week for some peace and quiet, unless I bring my kids, in which case the peace and quiet is disturbed with chants of “Are we there yet?” and “How much further?” and “Is it time to turn around yet?”

As for reading, I didn’t have a lot of extra time early in the year, so I began listening to audiobooks while commuting to work. That has led to me to some wonderful books like Ready Player One, The Boys in the Boat, Unbroken, The Fold and 14, among others. I’ve begun reading more again as the year came to a close. Some of my favorites from the year were The Empty Throne, The Martian, Cress and The Mongoliad Book 1.

Writing wise, I’ve been actively working on the sequel to Nowhere Wild since mid August, and am currently about 3/4 of the way through the first draft. I’ll have more info on that as I get closer to the finish line, but it feels great to be writing on regular basis again.

I’d like to thank everyone involved in making 2015 such a fantastic year for me personally and professionally: my family, my friends, my coworkers and the folks at The Cooke Agency and those at HarperCollins. I couldn’t have done any of this without you!

Happy New Year, everyone!

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