Tag Archives: bell forging cycle

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?


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American Horror Story's Main Titles Ranked

Ranking American Horror Story’s Title Sequences

[Note: This post was originally written in October 2017 and at that time only ranked American Horror Story Seasons 1–7, since then it has been updated to include the title sequence from 2018’s Apocalypse.]

I have a love/hate relationship with the ultra-stylized American Horror Story. On the one hand, it has legitimized horror and has helped bring the genre to the small screen. But, on the other hand, I’ve tried watching it a few times, and it hasn’t yet drawn me in. So, while I’m not a ravenous fan, I do appreciate its existence, and I dig its style. Especially, its title sequences.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I am a fan of title sequences. For years, I’ve been a Patreon supporter of Art of the Title—a site dedicated to the artform. (They do good work, and you should support them.) So, it will come as no surprise that I unabashedly love AHS main title sequence. Part of its draw is that it changes. It’s different each season. There are connections between each, most notably the amazing AHS theme music—the heavy notes remain constant as do the harsh buzzes that rasp as players get introduced. As a set, they’re remarkable, and a few stand out as truly great. Since it’s the month of Halloween, I figured it would be fun to rank the American Horror Story title sequences. Let’s start at the bottom.


8. Roanoke (Season 6)

Of course, this will be rated dead last. Roanoke had no title sequence. In her piece American Horror Story: 7 Seasons of Title Design for Art of the Title, Alexandra West asks AHS Executive Producer Alexis Martin Woodall and Title Designer Kyle Cooper why it was missing. (Go read the article. It’s good.) Their answer is interesting and valid, but since this is a list ranking sequences, Roanoke will remain an aberration and at the bottom of the list.


7. Hotel (Season 5)

Hotel lacks subtlety. It’s brash and over the top. It comes across as silly, and to me, it doesn’t set the mood the way other sequences do. The heavy-handed neon Ten Commandments do not help, although they are a neat visual juxtaposition. However, it’s the repeated thing-in-the-mattress motif that loses me. It’s creepy at first, but its impact falters after the third, fourth, or fifth flash. And it doesn’t stop; it’s used at least nine times.


6. Cult (Season 7)

In 2017 AHS returned with Cult, and it doesn’t improve on Hotel’s failings. Americana interplays with odd and sometimes violent scenes that are common in the series. This, however, is less horror and more gore. Modern political instability is channeled and rightly so, and the classic AHS music mixes with a fife and drum sound that is reminiscent of national anthems. It’s a nice touch, which lifts it higher than Hotel.


5. Asylum (Season 2)

Building off the success of the first season, Asylum took the style from Murder House and turned it up a notch. It’s darker, it’s grittier, but it’s less nuanced. Some of the impacts from Season 1 are lost, and it feels a little samey. Murder House works so well because it was unexpected. Especially for television. Horror isn’t about the “thing”; it’s the emotions and the anticipation, and I had anticipated Asylum’s title sequence well in advance.


4. Freakshow (Season 4)

The stop-motion stylization was a nice change of pace, and I think it sets the tone well for a series involving an evil circus. There is an evocation of a corrupted childhood at play here, toys behaving in a way that is unexpected which puts the viewer on edge. It’s was an excellent choice to move in a different direction, and it helped Freakshow stand out.


3. Apocalypse (Season 8)

Many of the trappings are here (as well as some reused visuals) but the interplay between two similar but distinct themes works rather well. The combination of visuals from a Biblical Apocalypse featuring the expected woodcuts and iconography is woven through images of a nuclear apocalypse with gas masks, test footage, and mushroom clouds. It all works rather well. The melting candle motif might be important to the plot but it comes across a bit hamfisted. That said, Apocalypse is one of the stronger title sequences AHS has had for some time and it’s nice to see the series return to form.


2. Murder House (Season 1)

The first opening title sequence for AHS channels a raw homemade style that works perfectly. I’ve never had high hopes for television horror, but this was a welcome surprise. Cesar Davila-Irizarry’s theme music stunned me and instantly became one of the most memorable themes. The visuals hint at the underlying concepts of the show without revealing too much, and it really nailed the mood.


1. Coven (Season 3)

Mood and tone abound in the season three opener: gritty black and white shots, strangely animated woodcuts, weird stop-motion, and the creepy hooded figures! (Which yes, totally remind me of the gargoyles from my Bell Forging Cycle.) A good story doesn’t ignore tropes. Instead, it bends them in new and exciting ways. You see that at play in Coven’s title sequences: all the expected visuals are there, but things are unusually bent. The quick cuts to uncomfortably close shots introduce story elements in a way that adds to the sequence: the revelations only help to enhance instead of detracting. I will admit that my design sensibilities lean in a similar direction, and there is a bit of bias. But to me, Coven is the gold standard, the perfected AHS title sequence.


It’s great to see a series play so much with the opening title sequence and elevate the art. I know that the fans appreciate it, as well. (The reactions to Roanoke’s missing sequence were…uh, vocal.) So! Now that I’ve finished my list, why not tell me what you think? How would you rank the AHS title sequences? What did I get wrong? What did I get right? The comments are open! Let me know!


Dead Drop: Missives from the desk of K. M. Alexander 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 →

Screw you, Paperboy! I don't need this pressure right now.

Now Available: New Bell Forging Cycle Goodies

I’m in the throes of editing Coal Belly, but that doesn’t mean I’m completely ignoring the Bell Forging Cycle. After hitting up some conventions earlier this year, it became apparent I needed some fresh stuff in my store. Since its October, the month of the Bell Forging Cycle, I figured now would be the perfect time to announce some new goodies! What do we have? Well, let’s take a look…


Bell Caravans HoodieBell Caravans Hoodie

I’m happy to offer an official unisex Bell Caravans Hoodie using the logo designed by illustrator Sean Cumiskey. The full logo is on the back, while the small wheel-and-bell symbol resides on the front. Perfect for those chilly fall mornings, caravan guard duty, upper-level weddings, or funerals.


Cedric’s Eatery Mugs

“An in-between place for in-between folks.”
I’ve had this idea for a while and figured it’d be fun. Now you can have a mug from Waldo Bell’s favorite diner. Perfect if you’re the type who “draws one in the dark” or maybe you prefer tea. Either way, drink up!


Bell Caravans Die-cut Stickers

I have loads of stickers already. But I wanted to make something a bit more substantial. When I set out to make stuff the goal isn’t to sell more books instead I want to expand the world of the series. I won’t make swag I wouldn’t use myself, and I’m delighted how well these turned out.


I’m excited to bring these new items to the store. I’ve been kicking around some other ideas as well. Have an idea? Let me know! I’m always happy to try new stuff. Is there a specific product you want? A feelie you think would fit the Bell Forging Universe? Hats? Teeshirts? Tote-bags? Leave a comment, let me know.

I’m On Horror Brew

Last week I was lucky enough to join Matt and Cat from Horror Brew, one of my favorite horror-themed podcasts for Episode Thirteen! (Yeah, creepy thirteen! Kismet right?) I had a great time and was happy to be apart of the show. We talked about my books and the world of the Bell Forging Cycle. After that we delve into the weird west and then talked about horror in general; everything from Stephen King’s The Mist to Netflix’s Hemlock Grove. Give it a listen. I’ve embedded it below, so you can listen here or click one of the links and be sure to subscribe!


iTunes • Stitcher • PlayerFM • Libsyn


You can follow Matt and Cat on Facebook, Twitter, Letterboxd, and Instagram. Make sure you subscribe and leave them a review. They put out a great show and are a passionate voice for the horror community. If you’re in the Portland area, check out their weekly horror trivia night at Home, A Bar. It’s a good crowd, and there are usually great prizes. Speaking of…

Horror Brew + K.M. Alexander Giveaway

From now until July 17th you can enter to win a signed copy of my first Lovecraftian urban fantasy novel, The Stars Were Right and a Bell Caravans patch. (I’ll probably throw in some other swag as well.) Entering is super easy, and there are ways you can win bonus entries to better your chances for success. All it takes is a few clicks, enter today and tell your friends!

Enter Today →

Lessons from the Shadows

Lessons from the Shadows

Recently, I was asked by fellow author H.M. Jones if I’d write a guest post for her blog. She and I both enjoy writing darker fantasy, and I wanted to stay centered around that theme. The result was Lessons from the Shadows. Here’s how the post starts:

“It wasn’t until college that I discovered H.P. Lovecraft, but I had been reading authors influenced by his work for years, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. The dark, weird, and mysterious always enchanted me. I was drawn to the shadows; something there tapped into my core emotions and excited me. Lovecraft and I are very different. He speaks of the “fear of the unknown,” which inspired him; for me, it was not fear but a fascination. I’m not scared of “things beyond.” When I started writing, I found myself attracted to those concepts…”

Be sure to read the rest of the post over at H.M. Jones’ blog. I talk anticipation, character, worldbuilding, and more. It was satisfying to take a moment to ponder on what I had learned since starting this process. I hope you enjoy the post (and find it useful.) We also did a little interview which is at the end of the article, if you want to know more about my literary heroes and inspirations don’t miss it.

Also, make sure to check out H.M.’s work including her latest novel: Monochrome. (Which is currently sitting on my Kindle.) While you’re at it be sure to look into her other work as well: short stories, poetry, and graphic novels.

Final Day to get ebooks of Old Broken Road for only 99¢

LAST DAY – Old Broken Road eBooks only 99¢

AHHHHHH! Today is the LAST DAY to buy eBooks of Old Broken Road for only 99¢! (I’m also discounting The Stars Were Right as well.) Everything reverts to full price tomorrow, and it’ll probably be a while before we see another promotion. Links to purchase below.

Kindle • Kobo • Nook • iBooks • GooglePlay • DRM-Free ePub

Thank you to everyone who has already bought a copy, last week I had my biggest sales week to date and even made some pretty exclusive lists on Amazon. (Click the link and check it out.) I’m flattered that so many readers, new and old, are excited about The Bell Forging Cycle and are joining Wal and his compatriots in the hardscrabble world of the Territories. There’s more to come.

One last thing, if you have finished one of my books, please leave an honest review. Reviews help readers like yourself and allow me to continue offering promotions like this one. They’re important and I’d be grateful.