My Reading List for 2018

My Reading List for 2018

2018 draws to a close, and I can’t really say I’ll miss it. However one of the best highlights from the last year was reading so many amazing books. Every year I compiled a list of the novels I’ve read over the last 365 days. Everything I this list was pleasure reading, I tend to skip listing research books.


“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”
—Stephen King

This list correlates with my Goodreads reading challenge but is always a few books longer since I can’t list the books I beta read on Goodreads. Overall, I’m pleased with myself this year. I surpassed my goal (thirty-five) and ended up reading the most books in a single year I’ve ever read.

Since this list is always enormous, l forgo reviews. However, follow me on Goodreads where I do occasionally leave reviews. As before, all links will go to Amazon as a default, but if one of these books sound interesting to you, then I encourage you to visit your local independent bookstore and purchase through them. It’s vital for your local economy to buy local whenever you’re able.

Okay, to the list!


📚 Novels

  1. Last First Snow (Craft Sequence #4)
    by Max Gladstone
  2. Those Across the River
    by Christopher Buehlman
  3. Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) 🎧
    by Leigh Bardugo
  4. Caliban’s War (The Expanse #2)
    by James S.A. Corey
  5. Railsea …again
    by China Miéville
  6. Foreign Devils (The Incorruptibles #2)
    by John Hornor Jacobs
  7. Outlander (Outlander #1) 🎧
    by Diana Gabaldon
  8. Beta Reading
    by REDACTED
  9. The Etched City
    by K.J. Bishop
  10. The Force: A Novel 🎧
    by Don Winslow
  11. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
    by Robin Sloan
  12. Xenos (Eisenhorn #1)
    by Dan Abbet
  13. Lexicon
    by Max Barry
  14. Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard #2) 🎧
    by Scott Lynch
  15. Poor Man’s Fight (Poor Man’s Fight #1)
    by Elliott Kay
  16. Side Life
    by Steve Toutonghi
  17. Heart of Darkness
    by Joseph Conrad
  18. Rencor: Life in Grudge City
    by Matt Wallace
  19. Scourge of the Betrayer (Bloodsounder’s Arc #1)
    by Jeff Salyards
  20. The Stone Boatmen
    by Sarah Tolmie
  21. The Ballad of Black Tom
    by Victor LaValle
  22. Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archives #3) 🎧
    by Brandon Sanderson
  23. All the Birds in the Sky (All the Birds in the Sky #1)
    by Charlie Jane Anders
  24. Sip
    by Brian Allen Carr
  25. Vurt (Vurt #1) 🎧
    by Jeff Noon
  26. The Hike: A Novel 🎧
    by Drew Magary
  27. Fates and Furies
    by Lauren Groff
  28. The Twilight Pariah
    by Jeffrey Ford
  29. City of Stairs (The Divine Cities #1)
    by Robert Jackson Bennett
  30. Random Acts of Senseless Violence (Dryco)
    by Jack Womack
  31. Borne: A Novel 🎧
    by Jeff VanderMeer
  32. Blackfish City
    by Sam J. Miller
  33. A Song for Quiet (Persons Non Grata #2)
    by Cassandra Khaw
  34. Lost Gods: A Novel
    by Brom
  35. Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) …again 🎧
    by Dan Simmons
  36. Between the Shadow and Lo
    by Lauren Sapala
  37. The Haunting of Hill House
    by Shirley Jackson
  38. Titus Groan (Gormenghast #1) 🎧
    by Mervyn Peake
  39. The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time #1)
    by Robert Jordan
  40. The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky
    by John Hornor Jacobs
  41. Adulthood Rites (Xenogenesis, #2)
    by Octavia E. Butler
  42. Artemis 🎧
    by Andy Weir
  43. Senlin Ascends
    by Josiah Bancroft

🏆 Favorite Novel of 2018:

Vurt by Jeff NoonVurt
by Jeff Noon

A wild trip of a ride. A cyber-punkish exploration of addiction and depravity, but told through the technicolored language of beauty and desire. I was stunned. I couldn’t put it down and months later I still find myself hankering for a jam fix and dreaming of feathers.


🏅 Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2018:


A Note: This was so hard. I mean seriously, picking two runners-up was nearly impossible this year. I read that many good books. That said, while Vurt eventually won out there were two others in serious contention.


The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky: A Novella of Cosmic Horror by John Hornor Jacobs The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky
by John Hornor Jacobs

A masterpiece of modern cosmic horror that grounds itself in humanity. The setting and characters are captivating and unique to the genre. The result is a surprisingly deep novella that recasts cosmic horror’s themes with raw originality. I was enthralled.

Side Life by Steve ToutonghiSide Life
by Steve Toutonghi

Any attempt to encapsulate Side Life in a small review will ultimately do it an injustice. It is a book of facets, and each reflects a theme as varied as the realities explored within its pages. A study on love, loss, and family, an introspection on humanity, reality, and self-identity. Utterly tragic and yet ultimately hopeful.


🎈 Honorable Mentions

This year was different than previous years so I have a few other Honorable Mentions. These are books that resonated with me long after I had finished them and they deserve a little callout. In no particular order…

  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
    A modern retelling of The Horror at Redhook.
  • Lexicon by Max Berry
    Language as powerful mind-twisting magic.
  • Sip by Brian Allen Carr
    A post-apocalyptic tale where people drink and become addicted to shadow.
  • The Force by Don Winslow
    A dirty cop tries to navigate his web of lies while protecting his city.
  • Lost Gods by Brom
    A lost soul discovers that purgatory is a dangerous place to live.
  • Between the Shadow and Lo by Lauren Sapala
    A young alcoholic struggles to find hope in the rainy streets of Seattle.
  • City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
    A spy struggles to solve a murder in a city where dead gods once reigned.

💥 Graphic Novels:

Normally I list the graphic novels I’ve read over the year here.

But… uh, I didn’t read too many graphic novels.

In fact, I read only a handful.

I finished the latest in Matt Nelson’s Catbeard series (Book Five is out! Go buy it, I wrote the forward) and completed my reading in Lars Brown’s Penultimate Quest. (Go buy that as well.) So you get a few recommendations here but no real list. Sorry, perhaps next year?


So, that’s my list! Overall, I’m content with my reading for the year. It’s been a blast to lose myself in so many imaginative worlds and discover new and fresh perspectives on life and humanity. Books are a gateway and one I am eager to step through—so thanks, 2018. Here’s to more books in 2019!

Are you looking for a good book? Want to see my reading lists from previous years? Check any of the links below and see what I was reading in the bygone halcyon days.

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 2016 • 2017

Next year, why not join me? Goodreads does a reading challenge every year, and I am an active participant. First, follow me on Goodreads (leave me a review while you’re there), and once the New Year arrives, participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2018.


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 →

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 →

My Top Five Posts of 2018

My Top Five Posts of 2018

The year is coming to an end in a few weeks, and in these twilight days of 2018, I’m one to reflect on the things I’ve accomplished. Last year, I revisited my top five posts of 2017, and I thought it’d be interesting to do that again this year.

This has been a banner year for my blog—I’ve seen a lot more traffic than I ever have before, which is always exciting. After all, I’ve wanted to make this site my primary focus rather than spreading bits and pieces of myself all over social media. My hope is that this becomes a place where readers can find more than just generic author-bloggy stuff but also interesting content. Based on my top posts, I think I’m finding that balance. So, let’s see what resonated, we’ll start at number five and work our way to number one.


Eight Writing Tips from Eight Different Writers5. Eight Writing Tips from Eight Different Writers

Writers are often asked to offer up their personal “rules” for writing, and unless you’re Jonathan Franzen, other authors (or aspiring authors) love to share and discuss their thoughts. I noticed a correlation between the number eight and decided to riff off that—and then things went out of control. There is good advice to be had here from masters in the field, glean from it what you can.


Mapping Resources for Authors4. Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)

My background is in graphic design, and as a reader, a good map has always drawn me in—many fantasy authors (and game masters) need maps for their various projects, and they don’t have the skill set to render them in a useful way. My hope with this post was to deliver a handy guide for the more artistically challenged authors (or GMs) by exploring the map creation software and sites currently available.


Your Fav is Problematic—That's Okay3. Your Fave is Problematic—That’s Okay

If there is one post I am most proud of this year, it’s this one—for a long time I thought it’d be number one. Consider this my manifesto. An appeal for the wicked, as it were. I want you to write fiction that makes people uncomfortable. Give us perspectives outside our echo chambers. Make us care. Let our hearts be in conflict.


The 2018 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide2. The 2018 Lovecraft-Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

As always the internet loves a good gift guide. For the fifth straight year, my Lovecraftian gift guide has attracted all manner of visitors who are eager to see what strange and unusual items I’ve discovered over the year. This year’s list is no different. There’s a ton of great gifts, and there is still time to get your orders in on many of these products.


That brings us to number one… the most prominent post of 2018 was…


H.P. Lovecraft Really Liked Sending Christmas Poetry1. H.P. Lovecraft Really Liked Sending Christmas Poetry

I’ll be honest, this one took me by surprise. For a while now, during the holiday season, I’ve often shared Lovecraft’s weird Christmas poems, but this rarity quickly took off, in a single day it surpassed all other posts for the year. That’s the weird internet for you. Go figure.


So, there are the top five posts decided by you, the reader! I’m disappointed that none of my Raunch Review series made the top five, but I still have high hopes for those posts. I firmly believe they’ll eventually find their audience and I’ll get some crazy email from someone adamantly disagreeing with my judgments.

Thank you to all my readers who read, comment, and share the stuff I post on I Make Stories. Sharing my posts on your blogs and social media accounts makes a difference. It means a lot to see your excitement and that excitement makes it all worthwhile. With your help, you made 2018 the best year ever, and I’m excited to see what 2019 holds.

❄️ 💀 ❄️


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 →

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

Lumbia: A Free Sketchy Cartography Brush Set for Fantasy Maps

If you spend any time on cartography forums or cartography-related subreddits, you’ll eventually run across folks using Star Raven’s Sketchy Cartography Brushes. You can see why, the whole set is incredible, cohesive, and you can make beautiful maps in no time.

I have always admired Star Raven’s work, but I began to see it everywhere. One thing I love about maps is how unique each felt, and I wanted to do what I could to help maintain that feeling of discovery. Star Raven was a big inspiration for me to create Lumbia, my own sketchy cartography brush set which I’m giving away today for free.

A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0
A tiny fraction of the brushes included in Lumbia 1.0

The set consists of over two hundred brushes designed for high-resolution use. Each mountain, tree, and hill are separate by design—I find this allows more custom placing than the block method, it lets you decide the look of the forest and ranges.

Lumbia 1.0 Includes:

  • 1 Mother of Mountains (an absolute unit)
  • 15 Large Mountains
  • 42 Medium mountains
  • 25 Small Mountains
  • 71 Hill
  • 17 Scrub bushes
  • 9 Cattails
  • 13 Cacti (prickly bois)
  • 9 Bone Trees (spoOoOoky!)
  • 9 Cyprus Trees
  • 10 Acacia Trees
  • 21 Maple Trees
  • 19 Pine Trees
  • 12 Generic Jungley Trees
  • 12 Tumbleweeds

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set and a transparent PNG in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support the brush file. A vector set isn’t included in this initial release, but will most likely come in later a later version. I’m sure I’ll announce it here when its ready.


DOWNLOAD LUMBIA 1.0


Lumbia is free for any use and is distributed with a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License that means you can freely use it in commercial work and distribute adaptations. So have some fun.

If you like Lumbia and would like to support my work, instead of a donation, consider buying one of my urban fantasy novels. They’re available in stores and online, and you can find out much more about them at bellforgingcycle.com.

Enjoy Lumbia, everyone! Have a suggestion or request for future Lumbia versions or want to show me what you created, feel free to send me an email! Have a friend who might be interested in using Lumbia? Share this post with them.


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've updated my Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)

A New Hybrid Solution for Creating Fantasy Maps

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I’ve updated my ‘Mapping Resources for Authors (and GMs)’ guide this afternoon. It’s a minor update, but one I wanted to specifically call out. You’ll find a handy new hybrid tool from Red Blob Games that builds some of the most stunning fantasy maps on the fly—it might be the best out there right now. So if you’re working on a project (or if you’re just a map enthusiast), you really owe it to yourself to swing on by and check it out.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!