Virginia Woolf

The Wreckage of Men

“It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”

Virginia Woolf


Sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been quite busy deep in the manuscript mines these past weeks. That said, I have seen progress (yay!), and the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is shining brighter. I’ll have more to share soon.

My Virtual Nightstand

My Virtual Nightstand

The other day, I was chatting with a few friends, and we were talking about our to-read stack. We all have them, the books you’ve purchased queued up to read in no particular order. For some, it sits on our nightstand. For others, it’s on a shelf. These days it might be a collection of files on your Kindle. Voracious readers all have them—myself included.

As we talked, I realized I didn’t have a good way for me to track my own to-read stack. Afterall, while I do read primarily on my Kindle, I have a lot of physical books as well. My to-read stack was all over the place! Knowing what I have and what I could start next was a tad cumbersome.

But, I think I’ve come up with a solution. I’ve decided to start using Goodreads’ “To-Read” feature to list my collection of owned but unread books. This way, when I finish a book, I have one spot where I can peruse everything I have on hand. Since the list is public, I figured a quick post was necessary to explain how I’m using it. (I track books I intend to purchase with a different method.) These aren’t just books I’m interested in, these are books I’ve committed to reading eventually.

There’s no particular order, but feel free to check it out my list below. Maybe you’ll find something in my to-read stack that’ll pique your interest. Happy Reading!

K. M. Alexander’s To-Read List →

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Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

An Emerald City Comic Con 2018 Debriefing

An ECCC 2018 Debriefing

At the beginning of March (a few weekends ago, now) I joined ninety-five thousand others in attending Emerald City Comic Con in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. This year the convention was extended to four days—I skipped Thursday but visited Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday. As is the tradition around here, it’s time for a convention debriefing.


🌤 Friday

I had to get a picture of, Android Cosplay's amazing take on classic Nightcrawler
Android Cosplay’s classic take on Nightcrawler

Friday started oddly but finished great. I learned a valuable lesson about con-attendee me—I need to have things to do. The one panel I wanted to attend was full, so I spent a good portion of the day poking around the show floor and getting the lay of the land. I swung by the tables of a few author friends, Lee French had a table, as did Matt Youngmark (Go buy their books!) and I managed to get a few pictures of some great cosplayers. (Including Android Cosplay’s classic take on Nightcrawler in the image on the left.)

Around 2 PM, I took a break and went home to get some writing done. Later, I returned met up with Lars Brown. Lars is a talented comic creator. (His Penultimate Quest series was one of my favorite graphic novels from 2016. You should buy them.) Together, we stuck around the con for a bit, then went to dinner. All in all, it was a relaxing—if not somewhat quiet—first day.


☀ Saturday

On Saturday I was joined by my friend and fellow author Steve Toutonghi (his new book Side Life is coming out in April, you should preorder it.) Together we hit up a bunch of panels. My favorite was probably Books as Flint: Using Graphic Novels to Spark Political Activism. It was a discussion on the power of stories and how graphic novels (this was a comic convention after all) can often bridge the gap and open conversations on topics such as politics, race, religion, misogyny, and bigotry. The panelists were passionate and knowledgeable, and everyone had great thoughts about inclusion and activism in the comic space. Lessons that could easily be applied to novels as well.

My friend (and very talented woodworker) Steve Leroux and his daughter as the Weighted Companion Cube and Chell from Valve's Portal series
My friend (and very talented woodworker) Steve Leroux and his daughter as the Weighted Companion Cube and Chell from Valve’s Portal series

Steve and I also attended Family-friendly Fantasy: Keeping It PG in the Age of Grimdark & Game of Thrones and another on called 10 Points to Slytherin: Why Good Fans Love Evil Characters. Both were excellent and much better than I expected and both sparked some good conversation.

Oh! While waiting for one panel, we randomly slipped into a conversation with Shannon Purser (Barb from Stranger Things, y’all)—it was fun. Lots of kids with questions and Purser was kind, articulate, open, and honest. I’m generally not one for celebrity panels like that, but I found myself enjoying it.


🌧 Sunday

Writing the Future Panel - [Left to Right] Sylvain Neuvel, Michael Miller, AdriAnne Strickland, Annalee Newitz, Chuck Wendig, Jason Hough
Writing the Future Panel – [Left to Right] Sylvain Neuvel, Michael Miller, AdriAnne Strickland, Annalee Newitz, Chuck Wendig, Jason Hough
I had only two panels Sunday, and once again Steve Toutonghi joined me. Our first panel was What Do I Read Now (and Where Do I Start)? hosted by a group of local librarians, and the premise was they’d recommended books based on other properties people liked. It was fun. I did take issue when one of the panelists mentioned recommending only finished series. I bring this up because I feel it’s an important topic. The best way you can support a series as a fan is to read it as its published. Waiting until it’s finished can often kill a series. Publishers make decisions based on sales. So even if you want to wait until you have them all, buy the books (or check them out from your library) as they come out. It’ll make a big difference.

Our final panel of the weekend was Writing the Future (pictured above), and it was interesting. The room filled up fast, there was loads of audience participation. Afterward, a friend asked me if I had any new takeaways. My honest answer was no—I didn’t hear anything new or revelatory. If anything it was nice to see veteran writers reaffirm my choices.


Leaving ECCC—for now.
Leaving ECCC

So, that was my ECCC! There was so much I missed, and I felt like I had my schedule pretty well planned. Overall ECCC is excellently run and well managed—I appreciated all the hard work keeping the crowds organized. It’s not simple with that many people, and the staff and volunteers excelled at keeping everything under control. It’ll be interesting to see how it changes as the Seattle Convention Center expands.

I was thrilled I spent the time I did—next year I’m hoping to go longer and actually sit on a few panels and making do some gaming. (Gaming was sorely missing from my ECCC 2018 experience. Would have liked to play Mansions of Madness or jumped into a Call of Cthulhu session.) I also want to extend a big thank you to my friends Steve and Lars for hanging out with me, having friends willing to pal around made a big difference.

Thanks for a great convention Emerald City—it was a lot of fun.


Have a convention you’d like me to attend? Let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. Remember, You can keep track of where I’ll be and read previous convention debriefing over on my Upcoming Appearances page.


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

Eight Writing Tips from Eight Different Writers

Eight Writing Tips from Eight Different Writers

Over the last week, I saw a couple of authors share tips for writing and for whatever reason, they each chose eight as their number. I know there are others who go with more or less, some of which I’ve even highlighted on this blog (Elmore LeonardDave FarlandHeinlein.) I wondered if this was a thing, so I did a little Googling. I found quite a few sets so I figured it’d be fun to gather them up and share them here.

A note before we begin: take everything with a grain of salt. Glean what you can; ignore what doesn’t resonate. What works for one author doesn’t always work for someone else. There is no right path to writing. Be willing to try anything, and figure out your process along the way. It’s easy to get frustrated, but learn to enjoy the discovery, uncovering how you work is part of the fun. So, that said, let’s jump in!


Jeff VanderMeer8 Writing Tips from Jeff VanderMeer

I really appreciate the candid nature of this advice. Unlike others, VanderMeer comes at writing from a very practical standpoint. It’s refreshing.

My Favorite: “Good habits create the conditions for your imagination to thrive.”


Kurt VonnegutKurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing

If there were a “big eight,” it’d probably be these eight. (I’d theorize that it was Vonnegut who set the precedent.) He doesn’t hold back, and his “rules” clearly serve as guidelines for his razor-sharp prose.

My Favorite: “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”


Flannery O'ConnorFlannery O’Connor’s 8 Writing Tips

This set wasn’t assembled by O’Connor but rather gleaned from her work. However, it’s a fascinating insight into the way she worked and why her stories still resonate.

My Favorite: “I suppose I am not very severe criticizing other people’s manuscripts for several reasons, but first being that I don’t concern myself overly with meaning. This may be odd as I certainly believe a story has to have meaning, but the meaning in a story can’t be paraphrased and if it’s there it’s there, almost more as a physical than an intellectual fact.”


John GrishamJohn Grisham’s 8 Do’s & Don’ts

There is a bit of an my-way-or-the-highway style to these “Do’s and Don’ts,” but there are some good approaches within them as well. And one cannot argue with Grisham’s results, but as always do what works for you—write to serve the story.

My Favorite: “Don’t — Keep A Thesaurus Within Reaching Distance”


Neil GaimanNeil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing

Gaiman’s rules are as varied and profound as his own work. But they also come from a place of kindness and empathy. Very much worth a read.

My Favorite: “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”


J.K. RowlingJ.K. Rowling’s 8 Rules of Writing

This collection was gleaned from Rowling’s various quotes, and she offers some good advice for those struggling through the difficulties of creation.

My Favorite: “I always advise children who ask me for tips on being a writer to read as much as they possibly can. Jane Austen gave a young friend the same advice, so I’m in good company there.”

But wait… even after you read those rules, I should stress that Rowling didn’t assemble these herself. Like O’Connor above, someone else gathered them from various quotes of hers. However, unlike O’Connor, Rowling was able to hit up Twitter and explain her approach.

While the post is absolutely a collection of things she said, they aren’t hard and fast “rules”—think of them as tips or approaches. As I mentioned above, there are no rules specific to everyone and Rowling would agree. You can read more of her thoughts on writing (pulled from Twitter), right over here.


Charlie Jane Anders

Charlie Jane Anders’ 8 Unstoppable Rules For Writing Killer Short Stories

Personally, I’ve never been interested in writing short stories. But they are a staple of science fiction and fantasy. These eight little rules are a wonderful approach and would be effective for any fiction long or short.

My Favorite: “Fuck your characters up. A little.”


C.S. Lewis8 Writing Tips from C. S. Lewis

Lewis’s tips are very similar to most modern writing advice. Just replace the “radio” with “internet” and magazines with the “internet.” Basically, replace the internet with books, people! Get rid of the internet!

My Favorite: “Read good books and avoid most magazines.”


So that’s it! Perhaps yo—

Wait, though… if the J. K. Rowling’s “rules” weren’t really hers, right?  I mean she said them, sure, but they weren’t her rules per say. (The same argument could be made for O’Conner and Lewis, but they’re not around to tell us any different.) That means I owe you someone else! So, here’s eight different rules from eight different authors—they also happened to have won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Nobel Winners8 Writing Tips from Authors Who Won the Nobel Prize for Literature

As you’d expect, there’s a ton of good advice on this list. One thing I’ve noticed as you read more and more of these is that the tips and rules seem to the echo the others—almost as if each set is constructed of similar material but reflected by an inner mirror within each writer.

My Favorite: Alice Munroe’s “Work stories out in your head when you can’t write.”


So, there are eight writing tips from eight different writers writing tips from sixteen different writers! A lot of good stuff, and plenty of interesting strategies. Hopefully, you find something that works for you. I listed my favorites, but I am sure you have your own as well. What stood out to you? Anything you disagree with? Do you have your own list of eight? Leave a comment and let me know!

💀✍ 💀


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. AlexanderWant to stay in touch with me? Sign up for Dead Drop, my rare and elusive newsletter. Subscribers get news, previews, and notices on my books before anyone else delivered directly to their inbox. I work hard to make sure it’s not spammy and full of interesting and relevant information.  SIGN UP TODAY →

I'm Going to ECCC

ECCC Starts Today—Let’s Hang Out

Today is the start of Emerald City Comic Con, Seattle’s premiere comic convention. It’ll run through Sunday, and it’ll be busy. Last year there were 90k people in attendance, and I’m sure this year will be much the same. (When I last checked most tickets are sold out.)

I will be present—but I won’t be showing up until tomorrow morning. I plan on being around Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I’m not paneling or running a table so there’s no specific place you’ll see me, but I’ll be exploring everything. I expect to be hitting up a lot of the fiction panels—there’s quite a few that have piqued my interest. So keep an eye out, and don’t hesitate to say hello. We can high-five and stuff.

If you want to keep track of where I am, I recommend two places:


  • Twitter: @KM_Alexander

    While I’ve decreased my tweeting over the last year, this is when it’ll be convenient. Odds are I’ll be using Twitter a lot, sharing what it is I see and hear.


  • Instagram: @kmalexander

    As I take photos, I generally like to share them here. So if you enjoy black and white photography, and you’re interested in seeing whatever it is I find exciting I recommend following me here.


I hope everyone has a fun, safe, healthy, and respectful convention. Should be a great time and I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.

 

China Miéville

Fantasy As A Challenge

“When people dis fantasy—mainstream readers and SF readers alike—they are almost always talking about one sub-genre of fantastic literature. They are talking about Tolkien, and Tolkien’s innumerable heirs. Call it ‘epic’, or ‘high’, or ‘genre’ fantasy, this is what fantasy has come to mean. Which is misleading as well as unfortunate.

Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious—you can’t ignore it, so don’t even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there’s a lot to dislike—his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien’s clichés—elves ‘n’ dwarfs ‘n’ magic rings—have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was ‘consolation’, thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader.

That is a revolting idea, and one, thankfully, that plenty of fantasists have ignored. From the Surrealists through the pulps—via Mervyn Peake and Mikhael Bulgakov and Stefan Grabiński and Bruno Schulz and Michael Moorcock and M. John Harrison and I could go on—the best writers have used the fantastic aesthetic precisely to challenge, to alienate, to subvert and undermine expectations.

Of course I’m not saying that any fan of Tolkien is no friend of mine—that would cut my social circle considerably. Nor would I claim that it’s impossible to write a good fantasy book with elves and dwarfs in it—Michael Swanwick’s superb IRON DRAGON’S DAUGHTER gives the lie to that. But given that the pleasure of fantasy is supposed to be in its limitless creativity, why not try to come up with some different themes, as well as unconventional monsters? Why not use fantasy to challenge social and aesthetic lies?

Thankfully, the alternative tradition of fantasy has never died. And it’s getting stronger. Chris Wooding, Michael Swanwick, Mary Gentle, Paul di Filippo, Jeff VanderMeer, and many others, are all producing works based on fantasy’s radicalism. Where traditional fantasy has been rural and bucolic, this is often urban, and frequently brutal. Characters are more than cardboard cutouts, and they’re not defined by race or sex. Things are gritty and tricky, just as in real life. This is fantasy not as comfort-food, but as challenge.

The critic Gabe Chouinard has said that we’re entering a new period, a renaissance in the creative radicalism of fantasy that hasn’t been seen since the New Wave of the sixties and seventies, and in echo of which he has christened the Next Wave. I don’t know if he’s right, but I’m excited. This is a radical literature. It’s the literature we most deserve.”

China Miéville


I don’t usually post quotes this long, but as I’ve been working on Coal Belly, and after publishing my essay on problematic fiction this quote from 2002 has been kicking around in my head. (Originally from here, but it’s been modified over the years.)

My work has frequently been described as “difficult to categorize”—and while I label the Bell Forging Cycle as urban fantasy for simplicity, it’s no secret that its more accurate description is much more complicated. I revel in this, genre classification is boring at best and writing dangerous or challenging fiction within the “Next Wave” the “New Weird” or whatever we want to call it is exactly where I want to be as a writer.

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