A Hiatus

A Scottish Hiatus

Observant readers probably saw this coming after reading the alleged Ibn Battuta quote I shared on Wednesday. I am going on a trip! For two weeks! That means starting tomorrow, I Make Stories will be on hiatus as Kari-Lise and I spend some time among the mountains and islands of Scotland.

We’re going to be busy hiking, looking at shaggy cows, wandering castle ruins, eating haggis, taking photos, tasting scotch, poking around cairns, and exploring. We’ll be joined for the first week by friends of ours, fellow writer J. Rushing and photog/designer Kelcey Rushing. (I recommend following them both.) Ever since they absconded to Europe we don’t see them often enough so hanging out should be fun.

Make sure to follow me on Instagram or Twitter where I’ll be sharing photos. As always the goal is to return physically exhausted but mentally refreshed and inspired. The Highlands await, I’ll see you all in October.


For more travel related photos, previous trips, and trip reports check out:

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Ibn Battuta

It Leaves You Speechless

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Ibn Battuta, maybe Ibn Juzayy, potentially someone else


So, I am a big fan of this quote for obvious reasons. However, among scholars, there is some doubt that Ibn Battuta actually said or wrote this. He didn’t take notes on his travels, and much of his work was dictated long afterward to Ibn Juzayy (who plagiarized.) If you want a synopsis of the controversy, I recommend checking out the “Works” subsection of Ibn Battuta’s Wikipedia page as it does a decent job summarizing.

Plagiarization or not, a great many travel blogs still attribute this to Ibn Battuta without so much of a note of doubt. Due diligence is necessary even for quotes, and often the story behind the quote can be more interesting than the quote itself.

Okay, all of that said: controversy-schmontroversy! The quotes still rad and travel is enriching. Get out there. Breath the air. Immerse yourself in worlds beyond your own. You’ll never know what you find.

Coal Belly Draft Zero

So, Coal Belly is Done… Sorta

Last weekend, after a year and eight months, I finally hit print on the final chapter of my latest novel, Coal Belly. The first of what I hope to be a trilogy. Right now, it weighs in at 190k words, and I expect it to grow.

Long time readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve written Coal Belly. The original manuscript emerged in 2010/11—a few years after I moved to Seattle and around the time I started working at Google. In fact, this blog began right after I finished the manuscript as an attempt to document my journey. That first version was around 130k words, and in the end, nothing came of it. It languished on shelves and hard drives for years. Always nagging at me as I worked on and published other projects. I knew there a was a better story there, I just hadn’t found it yet. It wasn’t until early 2016 that I felt I was ready to give it another go.

Coal Belly, Draft Zero, along side pre-manuscript ritual islay scotch and a cigar.
Behold! Coal Belly, Draft Zero sitting alongside my post-manuscript ritual: Islay scotch (in this case Laphroaig 10 yr., often Lagavulin 16 yr.) and a Cuban cigar.

It’s the longest I’ve ever worked on a book. Some elements have remained the same, steamboats still feature prominently in a world covered with rivers, and its weird-west aesthetic persists. But the themes between books are very different. Characters have become something greater, plotlines are better defined and much more complex, and the stakes are personal. Looking back it’s obvious now, and I’m glad I put it aside. That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral. It’s a better book in every way.

“That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral.”

As always, I took some time over the weekend and commemorated the occasion. I spent most of this last week reflecting on the work, and I’m excited. Coal Belly draft zero is done. The editing lies before me. I go on vacation next week, but soon it’ll be time to delve back into the work while my steam is up.

More on Coal Belly later.


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Reading Recommendation: Blogroll #2

Reading Recommendation: Blogroll #2

Last time I did this, it was 2013. So it’s been a ridiculously long time between posts. A lot has changed since those carefree halcyon days of yore. Blogs have fallen off my RSS reader, others have been abandoned, and new ones have risen to take their rightful place. Since it has been internet eons, I thought it was high-time to take a moment and share five blogs I’ve been enjoying over the last few years.


File 770

Mike Glyer’s Hugo Award-winning fanzine is a reliable resource for those who want to stay in touch with the comings and goings in science-fiction and fantasy. If you write speculative fiction, or if you’re just a fan I highly recommend making File 770 a part of your day. (In particular pay close attention to their daily Pixel Scroll.)


Pornokitsch

Don’t let the name fool you, Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin run a solid fanzine. While you’ll find the more standard book reviews and opinion articles among their content, Pornokitsch also focuses on sharing longer-format articles. Well written and often thought-provoking these posts make Pornokitsch stand out.


Mythcreants

A blog about RPGs and writing with a focus on gaming and worldbuilding, Mythcreants goes out of their way to be a resource for the creator. There’s a lot of content, from podcasts and how-to articles, all work towards making your work the best it can be.


MONSTER BRAINS

Those who have been reading my blog (and books) for any length of time know that I am a big fan of old art—epsecially the weird stuff. (Heck, the engravings of Gustave Doré features prominently on the covers of The Bell Forging Cycle.) MONSTER BRAINS celebrates the weird old creations and highlights the strange. It’s an excellent resource and a must-follow for monster fans.


Fantasy Book Critic

The good folks at Fantasy Book Critic focus on—as one would expect from their name—reviewing fantasy books. But, unlike many other sites of their size, they’re also active in the indie community and go out of their way to feature articles from newcomers. It’s a great community and a phenomenal blog.


Hopefully, it doesn’t take me four more years before I  serve up another blog roll. In the meantime, I hope you find these five blogs handy. Perhaps they will become regular reading for you as well.

How about you? What are your go-to daily blogs? Leave a comment below and let me know!

William Pickens

Our Blindness

“To cheapen the lives of any group of men, cheapens the lives of all men, even our own. This is a law of human psychology, or human nature. And it will not be repealed by our wishes, nor will it be merciful to our blindness.”

William Pickens


A lot has been on my mind over the last three days. The hate on display in Charlottesville is the antithesis of the America I was raised to believe in, and it sickens me. In the aftermath of an event like this, a lackluster response those from those in power can resonate. It doesn’t take a decent person three days to solidify their opinion on racism, bigotry, and hate.

It can be disheartening to see failures in leadership, and that can bring about cycles of depression and despair. If you find yourself in those places, I would encourage you to stay strong. Do not lose hope. Get active. Be a help to the helpless, be a voice for the voiceless, and defend the defenseless. As I said in November last year: despair isn’t how you defeat evil. Action is.