Category Archives: News

Trip Report – Hawaii

Hawaii has never called to me. Most of my impressions of America’s 50th state formed in the crucible of late ‘80s television shows, movies, and the representations therein. Those didn’t spark any interest for me as I got older and began to travel more often. It took a family holiday to draw me to the archipelago, and while I enjoyed my short time on the islands—I feel like I left Hawaii with unfinished business.

For Thanksgiving, we joined my in-laws in visiting my brother-in-law and his wife at their home on O’ahu. He serves in the U.S. Coast Guard and is stationed in Honolulu, living just off Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. We didn’t have much time on O’ahu, and the holiday kept us busy. So I don’t have a lot to say about the most populated island in the chain—we didn’t make it up to the North Shore, only saw a bit of the stunning East Shore, and we didn’t spend enough time in Honolulu for me to understand it as a city. It was the ghost on the horizon. Its grid remaining unexplored.

After the holiday, Kari-Lise and I took the short 25-minute plane ride from Honolulu to Maui, where we spent the remaining five days of our vacation. Some with family and some off on our own. It was a packed five days, and we saw the bulk of the island. As a result, my feelings for Maui are mixed. I’ve never been much of a resort-person, and a large portion of the beaches are dominated by hotel towers and mediocre restaurants, all featuring the strangely typical menus. I don’t care about outdoor malls, I have little attraction to group excursions, and you can only eat so much overcooked macadamia-crusted seafood. So there’s a lot of Maui that wasn’t for me.

But there is a wildness there if you’re willing to put in the effort. The shallows all around the island teem with life, and there’s a lot of snorkeling and diving with plenty to see. But, as a guy who has relatively serious vision-issues (legally blind without my glasses), snorkeling isn’t high on my priority list. So, if you’re like me and crave a bit more adventure away from the capitalist extravaganza of the resorts, I have a few suggestions.


Iao Valley State Park

We tackled this on our first full day on Maui. A short (and beautiful) drive away from the Kahului and the dry desert-like basin of central Maui, up into a lush and narrow valley. Here, you’ll find a tiny state park (I believe the whole thing is just over 6 acres) and some easy hiking trails (so easy I’m wary of even calling them trails) with some substantial views of a few incredible landforms. It’s not a large park, but it’s memorable, and in being tucked away, it’s not as congested as other parts of the island.


Haleakalā

The Haleakalā National Park and its volcanic namesake dominate the western side of Maui. After a long and winding drive up the side of the dormant shield volcano, you’re greeted by a stunning view of Maui and the surrounding islands as well as a view into the alienesque vista of the crater. At ten-thousand feet, I found myself fighting against altitude sickness. That’s not something I’ve encountered before, and I’m a fairly experienced hiker—so while I’d have loved to hike some of the trails, we decided to forgo the more extensive hikes and stick close to the roads. Kari-Lise and I are a big fan of our National Parks, and I’d love to return to Haleakalā and take a crack at the paths atop its crown.


The Hana Highway – The Whole Thing

You’ll hear about the Hana Highway before you ever go—it’s a dominant draw, and after a few turns along its windy rainforested course, you’ll understand why. It’s a remarkable experience. Weaving its way through the coastline of Western Maui, the Highway cuts past stunning views, beautiful waterfalls, narrow bridges, and is dotted along the way with local fruit stands. We even managed to make a side trip down an old dirt road to see the Pi’ilanihale Heiau—it’s the largest single heiau in all of Polynesia. I’ve never been to an archeological site like that before, and it was well worth the short jaunt.

The passage “ends” at Hana for most—but we’ve never been satisfied with the status quo. We continued on, and after an incredible meal at a roadside Huli Huli stand (the best meal of the trip), the Highway really became something special. Narrow roads take you into places many tourists avoid; the landscape is raw, wild, and remote. The asphalt gives way to a pot-holed country lane that bends and weaves through jungles, gulches, and cliffs before emerging into the rolling hills of Maui’s stunning Upcountry. The route past Hana, toward Ulupalakua, was easily my favorite experience on the island.


The Honoapiilani & Kahekili Highway

On the north side of the island lies a small highway that doesn’t have the draw of Hana, but is nearly equal in beauty. We chose it on a whim toward the end of our visit, allowing us to complete our Maui experiences and getting away from the tourist traps and stuffy resorts of the west coast. The road here is narrow, and with fewer turnouts and long stretches of single-lane roads, it’s not as traffic-friendly as the Hana Highway. That said, the views of the ocean and the tumultuous surf along the north shore are stunning, and the crowds along the coast were lighter. We stopped and got some banana bread, watched a man feed the mongooses, check out a natural blowhole, and generally enjoyed our day. It was a pleasant way to cap our experience on the island and left us feeling like we had absorbed much of what Maui had to offer.


Advice & Tips

  • Skip the restaurants along the beach and focus on the Huli Huli stands or the holes-in-the-wall away from hotels and condos. The food there is better and cheaper.
  • Buy fruit from the fruit stands. Seriously. This is how they’re meant to taste.
  • Rent small if you can—while all of the roads I mentioned would handle a vehicle of any size; a smaller vehicle will make navigating the narrow roads much easier, especially for nervous drivers.

I began this report talking about unfinished business. Maui was pleasant, but I felt no sirens call. It didn’t captivate me the way I had hoped. While moments along the way will resonate with me, I don’t think the island itself was for me.

It has been said that there’s a Hawaiian island for everyone, and I’m still willing to give that aphorism a chance. The Big Island temps me, Kaui looks as if it could be a near-perfect fit, and I am eager to give O’ahu more time. (It’s probably no secret for those who read my work that cities fascinate me and Honolulu is the remotest city of its size in the world. So, yeah, I want to spend more time there.)

I’m certain there will be other Hawaiian visits in my future, and I look forward to them. Not every trip has to strike the right chords. Not every journey will become the magical experience we dream of—and that’s fine. It’s a part of travel, and understanding that is key to experiencing this wondrous world. But for now, I’m still looking for my island.


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 →

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

I’m spending the day with family, but I wanted to make a quick post wishing all of my readers a heartfelt Merry Christmas! This year wildly exceeded my expectations, and that’s primarily due to all of you. So, thanks for buying and reading my books. Thanks for telling your friends, and thank you for leaving reviews. Thanks for showing so much excitement over my little brush-set project and for sticking around throughout the year. All of that means a lot to me.

I have come to greet you

What does this weird card have to do with Christmas or the holiday season in general? Your guess is as good as mine. But we still mimic other odd Victorian customs and don’t bat an eye, so this holiday season, let’s all take a moment and appreciate this strange goat emerging from the forest to greet a child. It just fills one with holiday cheer. I think? And, hey, at least I didn’t pick murder frogs. (Yes, there are two links there.)

The Victorians were a strange breed of people.

I blame sexual repression.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Farewell Facebook, One Year Later

Farewell Facebook, One Year Later

One year ago today, I deleted my Facebook account. (I laid out my reasoning in this post.) I haven’t gone back, and I’ve had little temptation to return. Since it’s been a full year, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on my decision and share what I’ve learned over my last year without Facebook.

I’m still in the ecosystem—much like Amazon or Google, it’s hard to remove yourself from Facebooks grasping tentacles completely. Instagram (from Facebook™) is still in my life, and I share work there frequently. I also use WhatsApp to connect with friends outside of the US. But, if alternatives rose up or if these apps no longer brought me value, I’d consider leaving either of them. Instagram, in particular, hasn’t gotten better.

Much of my suspicions from a year ago were proven correct, and I’m in a better headspace because I’ve left. I don’t have to read cruel, insipid, bigoted, or racist diatribes that were disappointingly common. I’m no longer marketed products I don’t want. My work isn’t walled off in strange little corners. I don’t have Facebook hounding my wallet in a vain attempt to “boost” posts for my “audience.” I don’t have to worry about my private information being stolen or sold. (Not just a Facebook problem, I realize.) Succinctly: I no longer have to engage with nothing for the sake of nothing.


“I no longer have to engage with nothing for the sake of nothing.”


The wicked trick of social media is convincing you that it’s essential. That you’ll lose contact with friends, colleagues, and loved ones if it’s removed from your life. That you’re somehow missing out if you’re not engaged. It sows FOMO to encouraging engagement. Reality couldn’t be further from Facebook’s “truth.” If anything I found the opposite is true. Facebook isn’t essential. This has been the best year on my blog since I started doing this eight years ago. My audience is still here, and I don’t have to wonder if my readers see what I share. It’s all visible. Nothing is hidden. Likewise, I’ve made time for the important things. I’ve stayed connected with relationships that matter. My interests have expanded.

What one chooses in regards to their social media presence is personal. My path might not be right for you. If Facebook brings you joy, then stay on Facebook. But if it doesn’t, then why are you wasting your time? As for me, I’m glad I left. Happy even. It was a big step in decoupling the behaviors built into social media. (Something I wrote about a few weeks ago.) Now, when I sit down to work, the old muscle memory isn’t betraying me by sending me into a path of wasted time and squandered emotional energy.

As I said a year ago: things can always change. Perhaps with a shift in leadership Facebook could turn itself around. Companies change, ten years from now, it’ll be different than it is today. Who knows what the future holds? I have no regrets in leaving, and honestly, I wish I had taken this step sooner. It’s been a good year.


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 Hundred

Eight Hundred

You never think it’ll happen to you and then it does. Since I started writing, I told myself I had thick skin. I believed myself armored with tenacity. But, armor eventually fails. Creative chinks don’t care about our intentions. They reveal themselves in a hundred different ways and often too late.

A book can flop. The most well-meaning comment can eviscerate. Sales numbers can collapse. Positive momentum can falter and then vanish entirely. The list is endless. Any of those can wear you down. They can make you want to give up. They can destroy you.

It happened to me around late-2016/early-2017. The catalyst is unimportant but the outcome isn’t. My armor failed. I felt defeated, and my confidence was shattered. I didn’t know what to do. I felt creatively adrift. That pernicious devil known as imposter syndrome arrived, and he brought his bag of “What Ifs” with him. What if I’m not good enough? What if this story is crap? What if I’m not cut out for this? What if? What if? What if?


“What if I’m not good enough? What if this story is crap? What if I’m not cut out for this?”


I withdrew creatively. I told very few. I kept up appearances, but inside it hurt. Thinking back, it still hurts. But, I kept writing, I drained those emotions out on the keyboard. Time passed. I finished one manuscript, then another—my biggest project to date—there were failed projects in between, unfinished starts, and discarded ideas. There always is. But I kept going. The writing didn’t stop. The writer is tempered by adversity, and I worked through it doubting myself the whole way. Eventually, I returned to the Bell Forging Cycle.

Writing is an interesting endeavor. There are a thousand ways to do it, a thousand voices offering (or selling advice), and numerous experts waxing poetic on a soapbox. It’s no wonder we all get the author equivalent of stage fright. What if someone’s way is better? What if we’re not efficient enough? What if our style changes? What if we’re not striving for the same goals as everyone else? We judge ourselves based on the perceived success of others. It’s no wonder even the masters talk about being stricken with impostorism. In a world of “experts,” it’s become a cyclical feedback loop.

So why all this? Why bare my soul now? This is my eight-hundredth post on I Make Stories. Every two hundred posts, I take a moment and evaluate where I am at creatively. It’s become a tradition. (Previously: 600. 400. 200.) Who knows how many thousands of words I’ve shared here? This silly little site has become a bit of refuge over the past few years—a place to vent, explore, and share—it’s my outlet.

It’s funny how in moments of struggle you forget your successes. I have three books behind me with a slew of fantastic reviews. I have readers who email me with excited questions or words of encouragement. (Or just wondering when the next book is coming.) I have colleagues who trust my opinion on their work. I have a community of creatives around me. When I started this blog eight years ago, I had no idea where it’d go. I had no clue what would happen. I wasn’t classically trained. I had a limited college education. I was a twenty-something kid with big ideas—that’s it.

But, here I am eight years later and staring at the completed third draft of Gleam Upon the Waves, Book IV of my Bell Forging Cycle. For those patiently waiting: we’re getting close.

Interestingly, I am at this point on this project when the 800th post has arrived. Here I reflect. In manuscript land, I’ve reached the moment where it’s time to contact my beta readers. The point where I solicit the first round of feedback on the roughest of stories. Just thinking about it makes me nervous. I can feel those old emotions welling up. Those old doubts that held me in check and slowed me down. I’m worried. I’m scared. I’m nervous. The wound may have scarred over but it still stings. I can hear our ugly adversary cackling “you’re a fraud” in my creative ear. But, I know he’s a liar. I know theirs no truth in that. Perhaps if I had quit, he’d be right. But I didn’t stop. I kept writing. I stuck around. I’ve gotten better. I kept telling the stories I needed to tell. Saying the things I need to say. Sometimes that’s all we can do. Sometimes it’s all we should do.

Right now, Gleam’s a manuscript. Soon it’ll be a book. A book you’ll be able to read. And here we are, eight hundred posts behind us and more stories in the future. Milestones are meant to be passed. Stopping isn’t in the cards. It wasn’t before it most certainly isn’t now.

Post one thousand is somewhere in the future. And who knows where we’ll be then?


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 →

On Time, Writing, and Conventions

On Time, Writing, and Conventions

This week, my calendar alerted me that it was time to volunteer as a pro and panelist for the late-2019/2020 convention season. However, this year, I dismissed those warnings.



While I love attending my local conventions, I feel like right now I could make better use of that time to work on the myriad of books I’ve written that are currently in various states of completion. Gleam Upon the Waves is very close to being sent to beta readers. Coal Belly is still in revisions before I shop it around. My secret fantasy standalone languishes, and while it’s technically finished—it still needs some attention.

Conventions are a blast, but I take being a panelist seriously. I want to provide a quality product, and that extends to sitting behind the panelist table. Attendees deserve it—we’ve all sat in on an ill-prepared panel, and it’s a frustrating experience. I don’t like wasting people’s time like that. To do it properly means prep work, and prep work takes time. Time I should be spending writing and editing.



It’s possible you’ll find me attending a convention as a fan and if/when that happens I’m sure I’ll announce it here. I love talking to my readers, seeing my fellow fans, hanging out with friends, and meeting all the authors I admire. I know I won’t be able to stay away forever.

If I leave you with anything, it is this request: you should volunteer. It takes little time to apply, and the worst they can do is say no. Conventions want experts and enthusiasts to share their knowledge and opinions, and it’s a wonderful experience. Reach out to their programming departments—you’ll be surprised how eager they are for new people. Fresh faces sitting behind the panelist table can encourage, enrich, and inspire. You could be a part of that.

As for me, I’m going to focus on getting new stuff out there. It’s been way too long.


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 Years of Blogging

Eight Years

Today is I Make Stories’ eighth year.

I don’t typically mark anniversaries around here (I usually take time to reminisce every two. hundred. posts.) but I felt that today it’s essential to pause and thank each and every one of you for reading and supporting me and this blog over the last eight years, seven hundred eighty-four posts, three books, and six manuscripts. What a ride.

Your support means more than words can express. I couldn’t do this without you. Thanks for following, sharing, and commenting over the years. Thanks for the emails and messages of encouragement. Thanks for buying my books. Thanks for leaving reviews. Thanks for telling your friends. Thanks for all that and so much more.

I’m sure there will be further adventures ahead of us, and I’m glad you’re here with me.