Tag Archives: scotland

2017 in Ten Awesome Photos

2017 in Ten Awesome Photos

It’s become a tradition around here to reflect on the past year by sharing ten photos that summarize the last twelve months. The rules are simple: ten photos, no more, no less.

I love doing this.

Selecting my ten forces me to consider my year in a different light, it slows down time. Perception and reality are often wildly different. If you asked me how 2017 was going a few months ago, my mind would have drifted towards the negative. There’s the endless outcry on social media, the seemingly exhaustless supply of terrible news/decisions/people coming from DC, and the reemergence of Nazis and Nazi-sympathizing dickheads. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed.

However, when I go back through my year, I see a lot more good than bad. I see momentum. I see friendships, adventure, and change. I see passion. When so much time and energy is devoted to focusing on the negative, one often forgets the positive things that occur. It doesn’t negate the bad. There’s still trouble and tragedy in the world and society must remain vigilant. But this sort of ritual can help one recenter. Try it yourself.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at my 2017 distilled down to ten awesome photos.


At the beginning of the year, Kari-Lise and I took a trip up to Vancouver, British Columbia to celebrate her birthday. We both took a lot of photos, but this picture of Kari-Lise in the Vancouver Art Gallery is the most important to me. In 2018 Kari-Lise and I will celebrate 15 years of marriage, and I cannot think of a better partner in this crazy life than her. She’s there to pick me up when I stumble and raise me higher when I succeed. I wouldn’t be the man or writer I am today without her. I can’t fathom a better way to begin a year than standing by her side and celebrating her birthday. 2017 might have been tough, but with her, I was able to endure.


I marched in the Women’s March. I felt it was important to walk beside the fantastic women in my life. This was their march, not mine. I’m not flamboyant or loud, I don’t chant or shout, but I wanted to stand in support and be present.


In February, eBooks of Old Broken Road went on sale for 99¢, and it was offered to BookBub subscribers. It took off like gangbusters. It was a whirlwind couple of days. I sold thousands of books, and for a brief stint, I ranked among the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors on Amazon, just a titch above two of my idols, Kurt Vonnegut and Stephen King. It was great to see so many new readers step into the world of the Territories. (Someone tell ’em to go leave reviews.)


Kari-Lise had another fantastic show! Wake opened April 1st at Thinkspace Gallery, in Los Angeles. Us and several friends, made the trip down to celebrate. (Thanks, Redd, Siolo, and Vinnie.) The show was a success, the turnout was great. I’m really proud of Kari-Lise, and the work she created for this series. Check out the full show over on Thinkspace’s website.


I returned once again to Norwescon. This year my hometown convention celebrated its 40th anniversary, and I was honored to be a panelist. As always, I had an absolute blast. Saw some friends, had some great conversations, learned a lot. I’m hoping to go again in 2018. More more info, check out the full Norwescon 40 Debriefing.


I participated in the March For Science on a rainy Earth Day with Kari-Lise and my little sister. Like the Women’s March, I felt it was essential to me to stand and be present.


Between travel, shows, and work, we didn’t get into the mountains as much as we wanted. But when we did, it was phenomenal. This photo was taken at Otter Falls this summer, it’s one of my favorite spots in the Cascade Mountains.


I finished a manuscript. Coal Belly is a story I wrote a long time ago and attempted to shop. After multiple rejections, I eventually put it aside. But that wasn’t the end. The characters and setting haunted me always tickling at the back of my mind while I worked on the Bell Forging Cycle. I returned to it in 2016, starting from scratch and completely reworking much of the book. It took me almost a year and a half, but I’m immensely proud of the result. I’m in the middle of editing it now. I can’t wait to share it with the world.


I went to Scotland, and it quickly became one of my most favorite places on the planet. (Right up there with Iceland and Norway.) We traveled with some friends for half the time, saw castles, hiked mountains, drank scotches, fell into bogs. It was one of the best trips I’ve taken in my life, and I can’t wait to eventually go back. Read the Scotland Trip Report.


Change occurred. This summer Kari-Lise got into gardening which meant on some level I also got into gardening. We fell in love with the direction our little backyard oasis was taking. But, during a late-autumn windstorm, the enormous fir that had been one of the centerpieces toppled taking out a beautiful maple tree and a large bush with it. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and only the landscaping damaged, but the fall changing our backyard forever. It was tough to swallow. But life is change, and one must adapt. Holding onto the past can be just as dangerous as ignoring the future. So, a few weeks ago I took up a chainsaw and started my (unexpected) winter project.


In Conclusion

As is always the case, it was hard to narrow this down to just ten photos. So much more happened and it was all impactful in various ways. I mean think of the things I’m leaving off! I went to Lilac City Comicon with my pal Josh, I went to Orycon, there were backyard barbecues, mounds of research, multiple art shows, we explored the Pacific Northwest, I read piles of books, and we’re raising insects. But, narrowing the selection to ten is apart of the ritual.

2017 was a tough year, I’m not sorry to see it go. But I’m glad to have lived it. Here’s to 2018.


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

201420152016


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Trip Report - Scotland - Photo by Kelcey Rushing

Trip Report – Scotland

Last week, Kari-Lise and I returned from a two-week trip to Scotland. It had been over a year since our last holiday, and between work, Coal Belly, and multiple gallery openings a vacation was welcome. Once again we ended up taking a long road trip through the country. Starting and finishing in Glasgow and taking us all over Scotland. I’ve driven in Ireland and Australia, so the shift from left to right wasn’t a big deal. After a few weeks, it felt completely normal.


“See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask for no guarantees, ask for no security.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451


For this post, I’m going to take a little time hitting the significant places we stayed and share a few photos from the trip. One resource I cannot praise enough is Atlas Obscura. Many of the strange places we visited were featured on their site, and I recommend checking them out anytime you travel. Proper research can make any trip significantly more enjoyable.

Okay! To the report! This is going to be a long post, so consider yourself warned.


Loch Lomond & Kintyre Peninsula

I can’t sleep on planes. Not sure why. Probably a combination of being both a big guy and a light sleeper. So we arrived in Scotland exhausted. Thankfully, we were traveling with our friends Kelcey Rushing and Jim Rushing. Since this was a road trip and I just got off from roughly 24-hours of travel, Jim volunteered to take the first shift driving. Thank goodness.

We didn’t have far to go for the first night, so we had a leisurely breakfast then made a pitstop at Buchanan Castle in Stirlingshire, just outside of Glasgow. It’s an incredible manor house that has slowly been overtaken by nature. The resulting ruins are nothing short of spectacular.

Kari-Lise captured this photo of me among the ruins
Kari-Lise captured this photo of me (still awake after twenty-six hours) among the ruins

We stayed overnight and the next morning, hit up Finnich’s Glen (also known as the Devil’s Pulpit) before we headed off to the Isle of Islay. Fans of the Outlander series will recognize this deep sandstone gorge as the Liar’s Spring from Season 1. Since it was an early Monday morning in September, we had the place to ourselves.


Islay

Port Ellen, Islay
Port Ellen, Islay

I love the ritual of scotch. The sound as it hits the bottom of a glass. The scents it carries that evokes the landscape from which its made. The complex layers of flavor inherited from the barrels in which it was aged. Few foods or drinks are as reflective of their history and heritage like scotch. Islay in a way was a pilgrimage and its hills and bogs holy ground for the scotch enthusiast. It’s the home of smokey malts that taste of brine, salt, and peat. It’s my favorite region.

The ferry to Port Ellen was long, a few hours but we arrived and quickly established a home base in an apartment. The following day, thanks to Jim’s planning, we began our scotch experience with a peat cutting for Laphroaig (my favorite Islay malt) which we followed with a tour of their facility. I have been a Friend of Laphroaig for nine years, and I collected the rent on my 1’x1′ piece of sod, and promptly set out to plant my flag in the bog north of the distillery.

My piece of Laphroaig was past a hillock and just beyond a depression, and while much of the field was solid, hidden springs lay everywhere sometimes many feet deep. I found my ground and turned to call to Kari-Lise stepped back and sank into what looked like a bunch of grass. It wasn’t grass. The grass had abandoned me, and I tumbled backward into a deep pool of cold, muddy water—it was a memorable cap on our visit to the distillery.

Thankfully, it was only a mile walk back to our apartment, and I changed into drier clothes, and we continued on, visiting Lagavulin (my 2nd favorite distillery) and Ardbeg before the day was over and wrapping up our visit to Islay. (I could have spent a few more days there. But there was more of Scotland to see.)

Since I know people will ask here are the scotches I added to my collection:

  • Clynelish 14 yr. (Highland)
  • Dalmore 15 yr. (Highland)
  • Ardbeg Uigeadail (Islay)
  • Ledaig 10 yr. (Island – New favorite)
  • Edradour 2002 (Highland – 14 yr. Sherry Cask)
  • Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2017 (Islay – My ultra-special bottle)

Skye

The Stoor, Isle of Skye
On the northeastern side of Skye is The Storr

The trip to Skye was beautiful taking us through Glencoe and Glenfinnan. (Both would deserve their own section had we spent more time there.) But Skye itself was a wonder. Our cabin was off the beaten path far in the north, and it was here we spent time in the mountains and glens of the countryside. It also poured rain. Which was fitting for Scotland.

The Fairy Glen was stunning. The Storr was amazing. The Fairy Pools had become Fairy Torrents after all the rain. But the countryside was vast and open and made one feel small and insignificant. Skye is a draw for many reasons, and all of them are good.


Edinburgh

From Skye, we drove down to Edinburgh, pausing for castles and stopping at the Edradour Distillery. It was here we eventually split from Jim and Kelcey but not before we spent some time exploring the city. Many people often say Edinburgh ranks as a favorite and I can understand why. The mixture of medieval and modern creates a fascinating place of winding alleys and layered roads. Space is at a premium and nothing goes to waste. We were there only two days and just saw a fraction of the place. We climbed the Scott Monument, visited the National Gallery, toured Edinburgh Castle, explored Old Town, played in the Camera Obscura, had tea near the University, poked around Dean Village, and late at night we located the oldest Masonic Lodge in the world. All that and I feel like we barely scratched the surface. The city is impossible to grasp in a single visit. I have unfinished business in Edinburgh.


Northern Highlands

As the city faded behind us, we hoped we’d find something special in the far reaches of the Northern Highlands, and we were not disappointed. There is a vast wildness along the North Coast: tall mountains, twisting rivers, and expansive vistas that are difficult to capture on camera. Ancient castles perch above lochs that stretch to the horizon. Peaks and valleys fold into one another, and the roads that cross these spaces are windings and narrow. (See the video above.) We spent several days in the Northern Highlands exploring the coast, visiting castles, checking in on a few distilleries, eating cheese, seeing wonders, and experiencing much of the North Coast 500. In the end, we returned to Glasgow tired but fulfilled.


I cannot recommend Scotland enough, it was easily one of my favorite trips. A huge thank you to Kelcey and Jim joining us for the first week. We had an absolute blast, and it was an honor to experience Scotland alongside two of the best people I know. (Don’t be surprised if they don’t show up in photos on future trips.)

One other unexpected takeaway: outside of uploading a few pictures to Instagram I stayed off the internet for the most part, and it was grand. It really allowed me to absorb the experience and thoroughly lose myself in the rich history of the land. Standing in castles a thousand years old and seeing landscape and towns that are older than most cultures in the western hemisphere put a lot of things into perspective. It made a lot of the news happening in America (the reaction to NFL players protest in particular) look incredibly petty. I recommend taking an internet diet. The echo chamber is dumb, and the internet is not as important as we all like to pretend. Go out. Travel. Meet people. Listen to them. Get uncomfortable. (This is where I quote Mark Twain again.)


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Mark Twain


I’m a firm believer in travel and allowing yourself to get lost in someone else’s culture. (Important aspect there, as G. K. Chesterton once said, “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”) I think travel is important for the writer as well. As I said in the trip report from California: a cleft of rock can inspire a thousand tales, a family of marmot running across a subalpine meadow can spark ideas for plots, and meeting interesting people along the way can usher forth a whole civilization of rich characters.

So that’s our trip! Coming back to work Monday was tough, but I was excited to reestablish a routine. By now, I feel like I have conquered my jet lag and its time to dive back into work. I finished a manuscript before this trip, and I have pages to edit. Also, it’s nearly time to start writing the fourth book in the Bell Forging Cycle.


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 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: