Category Archives: News

I’m Going to ECCC (Again)

I’m Going to ECCC (Again!)

In less than a month I’ll be attending Emerald City Comic Con for my second year in a row! (Read my Debrief for 2018 here.) Just like last year ECCC ’19 will be more of a work-focused convention. I won’t be running a table or appearing in any panels—the plan is to spend most of my time networking and catching up with some friends and fellow writers.

That doesn’t mean I’ll be a curmudgeon hermiting away in some dark corner. I’ll be sitting in on panels, wandering the show floor, and generally enjoying myself. If you see me—I look like this—please say “hi!” I love to meet up with readers, and it’d be great to chat with you. Don’t be afraid to stop me. As I said last year, I’m as much a fan as I am a writer and I love talking with readers and fellow fans.

I really enjoyed myself last time, and I’m looking forward to diving into the masses once again. If you’re in town and are interested in attending ECCC runs March 14th–17th at the Washington State Convention Center here in Seattle. You can find out waaaay more info over on the official site. As of this post, there are still tickets available for Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. But they’ll go fast, so don’t wait.

Should be a good time. I hope to see you there!

Trip Report: Amsterdam

Trip Report – Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a great many things. It is a city with vice, but it is not a city of vice. There’s a difference there. Cities of vice like to plaster their wares everywhere. They write it in neon on the skyline, they shout it from the street corners. Amsterdam, in its old European way, is a bit more subdued about it. But that doesn’t stop people from talking.


“When you mention you’ll be making a stopover in Amsterdam, you get a reaction I can only describe as semi-collegiate. A knowing look… as if there can really only be two reasons you’d go to this lovely little city of canals.”

Anthony Bourdain


I feel like I need to get this out of the way immediately. Bourdain was right, mentioning Amsterdam draws all manner of looks and questions. That means diving into Kari-Lise and my trip without discussing Amsterdam’s reputation is difficult. The most significant difference between the Dutch capital and your hometown, is the Dutch are pure capitalists. They organize their vice neatly so it can be taxed and generate money for the state. That’s preferable to the American practice of outlawing it, sweeping it under the rug, and pretending it doesn’t exist until it becomes a problem. The truth is that Amsterdam, for all the illicit happenings, happens to be a diverse, lively, and beautiful little city with a fantastic food scene, tons of culture, and incredible architecture.

On this trip, we were once again joined by our expat compatriots Kelcey Rushing and Jim Rushing. It was Kari-Lise and Kelcey’s birthdays, so we were able to celebrate as we went on a whirlwind exploration of the city. Since this vacation was very city-focused, I’ll share some of the more memorable experiences and hit on the different places we visited throughout our eight-day trip.


Amsterdam

Our canal-side apartment was in Jordaan on the northwest side of the city. It was a twenty-minute walk from nearly everything, and we discovered that it was easy to put six or seven miles behind us throughout the day. Amsterdam—to put it mildly—is beautiful, even in winter. Canals are everywhere. They crisscross the city, cutting beneath roads and emerging between buildings. Amsterdam is extremely walkable, but if you want to get out of the rain, you’ll usually find a tram that passes by your destination. I could spend days walking in the city — each corner offers a new vista, and discovering the nooks and crannies was enticing.

One of the nearby canals in Jordaan.
One of the nearby canals in Jordaan.

Amsterdamers are diverse, friendly, and welcoming. The food culture is fantastic, with a ton of street food, from the traditional cone-of-frites with hefty helpings of mayonnaise to automats tucked away on the street level of four-hundred-year-old buildings. If you want something fancier, you can find plenty of that as well: I’d recommend checking out Lion Noir on the south side of the canal belt or Springaren toward the north.

Make sure you swing through an Indonesian restaurant or two — due to the Dutch East India Company’s colonization in the 1800s, there’s a significant presence of Indonesian and Surinamese people within the city. This influx brought Southeast Asian cuisine to the Dutch, which led to the creation of Rijsttafel—a large family-style meal consisting of small spicy dishes served with rice. It’s a delicious experience and well worth trying.

Our adorable apartment in Jordaan

Over the next several days, we hit up a few of the more traditional museums to fill our quota of Dutch art. (Those Rembrandts aren’t going to view themselves!) But, since we’re Atlas Obscura disciples, we also tend to seek out the strange. Before our trip, I quickly assessed the weirder side of Amsterdam. You tend to find a lot of odd little bits in a city this old, and Amsterdam is packed full of curiosities. We explored a museum of cat art, had high tea in the smallest house in Amsterdam, visited a collection of odd and esoteric books, found a Catholic “house church” hiding in the upper levels of a 17th century canal home, and we took a morning to spend some time looking through a collection of anatomical anatomy and congenital defects on the outskirts of the city. Even with all of that, I felt like we had only scratched the surface.

It’s easy to see how there are whole swaths of the city we missed. Which means there are so many more places to explore. Amsterdam will be a perfect pit stop for a few days whenever we return to the Continent.


Bruges & Haarlem

The last three days of our trip was spent outside of Amsterdam. On the Rushing’s suggestion, we rented a car and made the two-and-a-half-hour drive down to Belgium, with Bruges as our destination. The Netherland and Belgian landscapes are vast and flat; huge windmills turn in the distance and hydroponic farms line the ancient canals, open fields, and miles upon miles of greenhouses. The Netherlands have become agricultural giants, and you can see it in the countryside.

Kari-Lise, myself, and Jim walking down a quiet street in Bruges - Photo by Kelcey Rushing
Kari-Lise, myself, and Jim walking down a quiet street in Bruges – Photo by Kelcey Rushing

We arrived in Bruges by mid-afternoon. The city, with its narrow streets and canals, is an Amsterdam in miniature. But where Amsterdam didn’t see life until the 13th Century, Bruges has been settled since the 9th Century. So its buildings tend to be older than those you’d find in Amsterdam, with a few dating from medieval periods.

Being a Belgian town, chocolates glisten from shop windows, waffles are available on street corners, and pommes frites served in paper cones are as ordinary here as they are in the Netherlands. Also with it being Belgian, it’s no surprise that Bruges has a great beer scene! Many beer cellars peddle Belgian ales beneath the ancient buildings. Kelcey and Jim had a few picks from their previous visits. My favorite was ‘t Poatersgat (The Monk’s Hole) who specialized in only independent Belgian brews—with a focus on Trappist beers—many of which are unavailable outside of the country. It’s located in the vast cellar of an old building and accessible by a tiny door that leads down into the hall. The place has a feeling of a cistern or catacomb. A great vibe with reasonable prices, and a friendly and helpful staff.

Bruges canals
Kari-Lise and the canals of Bruges

Sadly, we didn’t get to spend much time in Bruges. But I was glad I went: I could see the appeal, and I’d certainly make a return visit. We drove north to Haarlem on the final full day of our trip skirting the coast and seeing the vast Oosterscheldekering waterworks. It’s an impressive feat of engineering.

Haarlem is a small city to the northwest of Amsterdam, with a relaxed vibe. It’s a bit slower paced than the frenetic energy of the capital and quieter than the destination town of Bruges. It was a relaxing way to end a fast-paced trip such as this; and with easy access to Amsterdam, it’s not a bad place to stay if you want quiet nights away from the hustle and bustle. The following morning, after breakfast and a wander through a farmer’s market, we headed to Schipol and then made our way home.


Advice & Tips

If Amsterdam sounds like your sort of place, I do have a few bits of advice:

  • Scope out the weirdness on Atlas Obscura. (Heck, do this for every trip you take.) It’s a great resource and is usually full of non-touristy stuff that is worth checking out.
  • Get thyself an Amsterdam City Card. We didn’t do this, and it would have saved us some money on trams and museums. It also makes it even easier to get around.
  • Hit up Eater’s recommendations for Amsterdam food. We found a lot of great restaurants this way, and mapped them out ahead of time. This made it simple to pull up ideas when we needed them.
  • If you’re a hearty traveler who doesn’t mind chilly weather, you can score super cheap tickets to Europe in the offseason. It’s worth exploring prices in October/November to see what you can find in January/February. By all accounts, summer in Amsterdam is quite crowded. Our off-season travel meant finding tables and seats were easy. Something to consider.

Amsterdam was a wonderful experience, and I will certainly be going back. It should be a destination city for everyone. There is a massive amount of things to do, see, and eat. We could have easily spent another week among the canals and even with extra time, I doubt we’d have exhausted the city.

Thanks again to Kelcey and Jim for joining us on the trip, and being willing to bum around the town. Amsterdam is one of their favorites — they had been many times before, and are gracious enough to indulge our bright-eyed wonder. It was a lot of fun. (I told you after Scotland they’d show up on future trips!)


“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

— G. K. Chesterton


Travel is important. It’s important for understanding other cultures. It’s important for fully grasping the weight of history. It’s important for understanding others. We’re lucky to live in an era when traveling around the world is easy and reasonably accessible. It lets us experience how others live in a physical way. Losing oneself within another culture helps build empathy and open up new perspectives extending beyond our own narrow silos.

As a writer, it’s important to acknowledge that we live in a world of stories. Exploring the narrow alleyways or deep canals of a city can reveal ideas. We can find new characters lingering beneath street lamps on remote corners and hiding in doorways down tight alleys. It’s common to stumble across plots etched in architecture, history, or the twisting street plans of an ancient city. Ideas, concepts, and characters we might not have discovered sitting at home. So, get out there. Travel. Meet people. Listen to them. Be humble and get uncomfortable.

As I write this, it’s been over a week since our trip, and we’re getting back into our routine. I’ve settled back into work, and I’ve dived back into writing. The pages of Gleam Upon the Waves won’t write themselves, and there’s a specific caravan master who’s in a bit of a jam. Time to travel back to the Territories and see where his story leads.


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 →

A Brief Hiatus

A Brief Hiatus

For the next week or so, things around here will slow down a bit as I intentionally go internet-silent. Responses to emails and comments will be delayed during that time. Kari-Lise and I are traveling to Amsterdam and Belgium for her birthday and meeting up with our travel pals, Kelcey and Jim. (The same fine folks who joined us in Scotland.) I might occasionally post to Instagram, so I do recommend following me if you’re interested in my travels. I’ll assemble a trip report upon my return!

My current plan is to resume normal blog activities around late-January. But, if you’re looking for something to read in the interim, here are a few of my more popular posts:

See y’all in a week or so!

Feliz Navidad

Merry Christmas

Season’s greetings from the Pacific Northwest! I’m spending the day with family, but I wanted to leave a quick note here wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and your family. Thanks for making 2018 the best year here at my blog. Thanks for buying and reading my books. Thanks for telling your friends and thank you for leaving reviews. It means a lot to me.

An image taken from Heather Hudson's Dreamlands Christmas Cards (Set 2)
An image from Heather Hudson’s Dreamlands Christmas Cards (Set 2)

This year’s art comes from the Heather Hudson’s Dreamlands Card pack, Set 2. I featured her King in Yellow cards in this year’s Lovecraftian Gift Guide, and I’ve bought several sets of her cards and used them in the past. I can attest to their greatness. They’re wonderfully weird—I decided that more people need to send weird cards.

There’s a lot more of Heather’s work available at her website and prints, books, cards, and more can be purchased from her store. She’s an incredibly talented artist, and I think you’ll find a bunch of great things there. Be sure to check out her blog, follow her on Twitter, and give her a follow on Instagram as well.

❄️🦑❄️

2018 in Ten Significant Photos

In our ever increasing world of social media, we all share a lot. But how often do we take a moment to look back? If you’re an Instagram user, then I am sure you’ve seen people share their “top nine.” If you haven’t seen these, here’s how they work: the Top Nine app goes through your feed and selects your “top” photos based on the numbers of likes and builds a grid-collage with those photos. It’s always bothered me. A “like” is worthless. It holds no value. It’s applied to photos of new babies and on pics of brunch with equal abandon. Using this as a metric, Top Nine ignores the most meaningful events one’s life in exchange for the false reality of pseudo-engagement.

This ritual is different. By personally selected the ten significant photos that matter the most to ourselves we are forced to reflect—that reflection requires thought and contemplation. We’re forced to choose what mattered and by doing so, we select moments of meaning over moments of popularity.

The rules are simple, pick ten photos from your year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative. Some moments will fall by the wayside, that’s intentional. Culling is important. Focus on what is essential. I’ve been doing this publically for five years now and I look forward to it every year. It puts things into perspective.

Enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2018 distilled into ten significant photos.


The beginning of 2018 marked a small achievement for us. Kari-Lise and I have lived in Seattle for a decade—I think that makes us locals. I’ve never regretted moving. Much of my year was spent in my city—and I often found myself reflecting on its current challenges and how despite ups and downs living here has changed my life for the better. This town has captured my heart in a way no other place has, and it’s truly become home.


I didn’t attend too many conventions this year. But I did manage to join my friend and fellow writer Steve Toutonghi and attend ECCC 2018 here in Seattle. Overall, it was a great experience to come together with so many and celebrate the stuff we love, be sure to read my con debriefing where I go into more details.


One nice thing about living in the PNW is how easy it can be to escape from the constant rush of urban life. I’d even say it’s a critical part of living here. Mid-spring Kari-Lise and I joined some friends and headed out to the Washington peninsula—we traversed some of our favorite locations in Olympic National Park, Cape Flattery, and along the Strait of Juan De Fuca Highway. I love it out there.


I read a lot this year—Goodreads tells me I’m over 14k pages (and there’s more piling on even as this post goes live.) As usual, my full reading list along with my favorites will be coming after Christmas. It’s been a banner year for me and books, I read so many that I absolutely loved, so many in fact that it’s going to be nearly impossible to choose.


Last year, in my last photo, I talked about unexpected change—for us, it came in the form of our backyard garden plans being completely upended by a fallen tree. This year, we began to work on rebuilding. After a busy summer and fall, most of the structure is in place for something exciting. I can’t wait to see where we end up in a few years. I think it’s going to be something special. (That enormous beast in the foreground is Willamina, our English Lop.)


This summer, Kari-Lise and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage. I’m forever grateful for a partner like her who stands beside me and supports me, and I can’t imagine spending my life with anyone else. She’s an incredible person, and my days would be empty without her. We celebrated by heading up to Whidby Island and spent a long weekend hanging out and exploring. Read the trip report and see more photos here.


Toward the end of summer, Kari-Lise and I flew to New England to attend her brother’s wedding in New Hampshire. Afterward, we extended out Anniversary celebration and took a small road trip to Maine and Acadia National Park, Lovecraft Country (the area not the book,) and then Salem. It was my second visit to New England, and we saw much more of the country than we had before. It’s really a special place. Read the trip report and see more photos here.


Kari-Lise debuted a new project as part of the Lush Life 6 show during the resurrection of Roq La Rue Gallery here in Seattle. Venerate is an ongoing series focusing on modern women artists working today and the connections to pioneering women artists of the past. You can find out more on her site. It’s been exciting to watch her engage with these themes, and I cannot wait for you to see what’s going to happen in this series.


We traded in our two old cars in for one new car—partially to help reduce our carbon footprint but also because we really don’t need more than one car. It’s our first new vehicle in nearly fifteen years, so it’s been a shift. A week and a half after driving it home, the car was hit by a van while parked in a parking lot. So, for the last several weeks, it’s been getting repaired. Thankfully no one was hurt, and insurance covered everything. Still, that’s not exactly what you want to happen to your new car.


Well, I might as well announce this now. Kari-Lise and I are recruiting a crow army, and they work for peanuts. It started this summer with a family of four—two parents and a few fledglings. But it has grown, considerably. Now when we wake up in the morning there’s a whole murder waiting for us. Things are going exactly as planned. Consider yourself warned 2019. We’re coming.


In Conclusion

I changed the title of this series. I thought “significant” carried more weight than the often overused “awesome” and it hits closer to what this ritual attempts to capture. This is, after all, about reflection.

It was harder than I expected to find my ten photos. Usually, I have an abundance, but this year a lot of my experiences were closer to home. There were many circumstances where I kept my phone in my pocket and skipped photo documentation. Instead, I chose to live in the moment. Overall, I think that’s a step in a positive direction, and it’s something I want to keep encouraging in my life.

How about you? What did you experience in 2018? What are your ten?


Want to revisit photos of past years? Click on any of the links below and check out my photos from that specific year. It’s interesting to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 2017


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 →

Trip Report – New England

Trip Report – New England

We have returned, slightly jet-lagged (but recovering), from our trip to the northeastern United States. New England as a whole is lovely. I’ve been there only once before, making a trip to Rode Island and the surrounds. This time around, Kari-Lise and I went for the Labor Day weekend to celebrate the wedding of my brother-in-law in northern New Hampshire. Then we extended our visit into a week-long road trip—an extended celebration from our anniversary trip in July.

We made a big loop, heading north out of Boston, then swinging east into Maine before we headed down the coast and back to Boston. This time around I figured it’d be the best to break it down around our three central stops: Lincoln, Acadia National Park, and Salem.


Lincoln, New Hampshire

I'm on a gondola!
I’m on a gondola!

Lincoln is a small tourist town nestled in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It’s beautiful countryside full of rolling hills covered with thick forests of deciduous trees. We were a few weeks early and weren’t able to experience the fall colors, but the soft green hills were lovely.

The wedding weekend was a three-day long party for us, and it was a blast. It was great to connect with family and meet new people. The ceremony itself was held atop Loon Mountain, a ski resort accessible via a gondola. It was a quick service at one of the most beautiful settings I’ve seen, and it was an honor to be invited to attend. My brother and sister-in-law now live in Hawaii a bit of a jaunt from New Hampshire but not too far from the Pacific Northwest. Clearly, we’re going to have to go visit. I’ve never been to the Hawaiian Islands.

Coming from Washington State, it was difficult not to go in all condescending over the classification of “mountain” in New Hampshire, especially comparing them to our hills here at home. They’re a titch on the small side. But, dear reader, I resisted, at least until now. (They got us beat when it comes to wind, however.)

The stunning location of the wedding atop Loon Mountain
The stunning location of the wedding atop Loon Mountain

Maine & Acadia

Stephen King's house in Bangor, Maine
Stephen King’s house in Bangor, Maine

After the weekend, Kari-Lise and I drove the back roads of Maine making our way toward Mt. Desert Island and Acadia National Park. Maine is a rolling landscape pocked marked with lakes and rivers and small towns. We made a brief pilgrimage through Bangor to the site of Stephen King’s house and saw his infamous gate. I have to be honest, it felt a little weird to be standing outside his house. I’m a fan, and his work is a big influence on my own, but at the same time, it was like a strange little invasion of privacy. So, I’m sorry Mr. King, but you do have a cool gate.

From Bangor, we drove to the island. Much of the landscape reminded me of home: a myriad of lakes and rivers, glacially formed valleys, rugged coastlines. Our home base was an old hotel in Southwest Harbor a small village on the western side of the island located along Somes Sound. It was a nice little post for the next three days.

Lobster is everywhere and… it’s fine. I’m not sure I understand the hype. When it comes to my preferences for sea bugs I’m much more partial to crab, heck, even shrimp. Lobster, on the whole, tastes relatively bland to me. It lacks the sweetness found in other crustaceans. I tend to like it better as an ingredient in something—a salad or a bisque. We did have lobster and grits at a restaurant called Coda in Southwest Harbor, and it was phenomenal. So when done right, it can be really effective. That meal was easily the best on our trip.

Acadia National Park was stunning. We spent several days in the park. The first day was dominated by an eight-mile hike to the top of Pemetic Mountain. (Here’s the trail which we hiked and then combined with this one.) We also caught the sunrise atop Cadillac Mountain, witnessed several sunsets all over the park, ate popovers at Jordan Pond House, explored the craggy coastline, and toured a few gardens. I feel like we caught most of the park in those packed days. Acadia is a busy place—even in September after the kids go back to school. It’s tiny, and as such, it can get a little crowded especially around points of interests. (Not too dissimilar from Yellowstone in July and August.) It continually is in the top ten when it comes to visitors, and I can see why.


Salem, Massachusetts

After Acadia, we drove the last leg of our road trip heading south to Salem, Massachusetts. Taking time we stayed along the coast and passed through Essex County aka Lovecraft Country. Things have changed a lot since ol’ Howie’s day, but we hunted down (roughly) the location of the fictive Innsmouth near Essex Bay. It’s charming. Rural in some places, built up in others. The towns and small farms are picturesque. It lacks much of the foreboding and uneasiness one would expect reading Lovecraft’s writings—even with the summer thunderstorms passing overhead. But I can see the appeal. A lot of history in that part of the country.

The Witch House in Salem, MA — once the former home of Judge Jonathan Corwin and the only building with ties to the trials still standing
The Witch House in Salem, Massachusetts — once the former home of Judge Jonathan Corwin it is the only building with ties to the trials still standing

We arrived at Salem that evening and walked the town wandering through The Burying Point graveyard during a storm which certainly added to the mood. The next day was our last in New England. We opted to stay in Salem since it was near the airport and was full of all sorts of weirdness. On the more serious side, we visited the House of the Seven Gables and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Both were excellent.

Longtime readers know that I’m a sucker for history and both Kari-Lise and I love roadside attractions. So, of course, we took the opportunity to visit some of the goofier museums in the area. There’s plenty of both to be found in Salem. It seems like every corner has some museum willing to spin you their version of the Salem witch trials. We hit up two: the Witch Dungeon Museum and the Witch History Museum. Both had that bizarre dated feel that I love. You know the type: disjointed narratives presented in a dim room filled with lovingly crafted mannequins that haven’t been dusted in decades. Both told the tragic story of the Salem Witch Hunts, and both tried hard, but the life-sized dioramas from the 70s made the whole thing feel silly rather than serious. Luckily, they paled in comparison to our walking tour with a local guide named Jeff. His knowledge of the area was impressive, and his tour opened up the story in a way the museums can’t achieve. He has an intimate understanding of the stories of the victims, and he really made the tragedy feel more alive. It was an excellent cap to our time in Salem. The next morning we packed up and made our way to the airport for an early flight home.


The United States is enormous and there’s as much to see here as there is in the wider world. Unplugging from the internet and the news cycle was refreshing. Mentally living in the moment had a recentering effect. Coming back really put the drama on social media and in the twenty-four-hour news cycle into perspective. It all feels so small and so much of it is incredibly petty.

It was a fantastic little trip. Much fuller than I had anticipated. Celebrating a wedding, visiting a national park, and delving into some history was an excellent way to spend a week. The weather worked against us a few times, but it was good to go beyond Boston and explore the countryside.

Travel is energizing for me creatively, but it’s good to be back home. Autumn is quickly settling into Seattle, the nights grow longer, there’s a crispness to the air, and the rains have returned. And, as always, I have books to write.


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 →