Tag Archives: steve toutonghi

2019 in Ten Significant Photos

2019 in Ten Significant Photos

Every December, it has become a tradition to assemble a post wherein I share ten photos from the year that represent the most significant moments of my past 365-ish days. I look forward to this every year. This annual ritual forces thought and introspection in a way algorithm-driven apps like Top Nine avoid. (I ranted about this a bit at length, last year.) It leaves me to ponder how I lived my year. What mattered the most? What experiences drove me? What did I find meaningful? What shaped me as a person, a partner, a creator? What made me or my world around me better?

The rules are simple but firm, pick ten photos from your past year that are the most significant to you: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more, can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—and that’s intentional—culling is essential. It’ll help create a more realistic picture of your year. Some years will be harder than others and you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller quieter moments. The ten are irascible and relentless.

So, enough talk! Let’s take a look at my 2019 distilled into ten significant photos.


Lime Kiln Trail - 2019New year, old trails. Kari-Lise and I always like starting the year off right by escaping the city and heading into the mountains for a hike. (In this case, the Lime Kiln Trail and easy little seven-miler in the Cascades.) This year was no different. We had big plans to hike more throughout the year, but life got in the way. Still, it’s always refreshing to start a year in nature, and 2019 was no different.


Amsterdam - 2019
In mid-January, we took a trip with our ex-pat pals Kelcey Rushing and Jimmy Rushing to the beautiful (and infamous) city of Amsterdam. It was terrific. Great place. Wonderful sights. Amazing people. Delicious food. We were there nearly a week, it was packed, and I felt like we had barely scraped the surface. There was so much we didn’t see and so much more we could have done—I absolutely want to go back. If you’re interested in more details, read my Amsterdam Trip Report here.


ECCC - 2019
Emerald City Comicon happened, and once again they somehow let me returned as a pro. My buddy Steve Toutonghi and I attended together, and it was a really eye-opening in a lot of ways. As much fun as fan conventions are, I’m much more interested in talking shop, attending readings, and sitting in on discussions about story-craft. That said, it was enjoyable, and there are worse ways one can spend a weekend. Plus, I managed to see some good friends, and Steve and I sat in on some great panels. You can read about my experience in this debriefing.


Finished Manuscript - 2019Roaders celebrate! I finished another manuscript! (Two years in a row!) Gleam Upon the Waves has been a bit of a fight, but I am thrilled with how it turned out. I got some great feedback from my first round of beta readers, and I’ve been neck-deep in revisions since. It’s so close. I can hardly contain myself; I want to share it with everyone! Gleam’s a little different, but it’ll be worth the wait. I promise.


The Vision of Graces - 2019
Early in the summer, Kari-Lise and her friends Laurie Lee Brom and Syd Bee had a three-person show at Roq La Rue Gallery entitled The Vision of Graces. All three artists brought fantastic work, the show sold out, and the turnout was stellar. After moving to Seattle in 2008, I’ve attended hundreds of art openings across the city (and around the world), and this was easily one of the best.


13 Fantasy Map Brush Sets - 2019
I completed a project! A quite large mapping project. One that is really hard to capture in a single image. This year I began to release completely free brush sets for Photoshop that would empower indie authors (and anyone else) to create high-quality fantasy maps for their projects. The goal was to release a free brush set a month, and thanks to some overeagerness in February, I ended with thirteen free brush sets for the year. The response was overwhelming. I couldn’t be more humbled by the reaction, and I’m glad everyone has been so receptive. You can download the brushes from my Free Stuff page.


Two new nieces - 2019I leveled up as an uncle and now can dual-wield nieces! Up until this year, I was only proficient in nephews. Liesel Lynn (Left) was born in August to my brother Anthony and his wife, Aischa. Blakely Michelle (Right) was born in October to my sister Meghan and her husband, Tyler. Aren’t they adorable? I’ll be meeting both for the first time at Christmas, and I cannot wait. And, as a bonus, I have a THIRD niece due next year. Nieces! Nieces EVERYWHERE.


Art Happened - 2019
So. Much. Art. Beyond Kari-Lise’s show we attended two amazing exhibitions with our pal Kai Carpenter at the Seattle Art Museum, we hit up the Seattle Art Fair, and took in many many many art walks. Stand out openings include an incredible show from Rick Araluce and a recent one from one of my favorite artists working today, Peter Fugerson.


Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii - 2019For Thanksgiving, we went to Hawai’i with Kari-Lise’s family hanging out on O’ahu for a few days and then spending nearly a week on Maui. I’d never been to the Hawai’ian Islands until this year, and I’m generally not a tropical-destination traveler, but the trip was memorable. Even after nine-ish days, I came away feeling like I have unfinished business with Hawai’i. But more on that later—I’m in the process of putting together a more detailed trip report.


The Kari-Lise Klassic - Burke-Gilman Invitational Marathon - 2019On December 14th, Kari-Lise ran her first marathon. This spring, she started running again, and this summer, she decided she would train for a marathon as her eventual goal. We were traveling during the Seattle Marathon, so to complete her goal, she decided to host her own with me running ahead, setting up aid stations along the entire 26.2-mile course. Friends came out and cheered her on, I made her a teeshirt, a few ran with her some part of the way, and one all of the way. She crushed the run, and I couldn’t be more proud.


In Conclusion

Since changing the title last year from “awesome” to “significant,” I find myself taking more time with this list. Much of the labor from 2018 blossomed in 2019. Where last year felt sparse, this year, I found myself culling more than I expected. There were lectures and readings I attended with my friend Steve Leroux. Time in the backyard with Kari-Lise around our fire pit. I got really into smoking meat and making stock—cooking in general, really. Our friends Roxy and Redd deciding to leave Seattle and travel indefinitely (Follow them here.) Then there was the excitement of Moth & Myth, which I’ve barely mentioned here. The Sounders winning another MLS Cup. Birthdays and anniversaries and snowstorms. It was one hell of a year and if I wanted I could have tripled this list. But the rules are the rules, and distilling the year into ten is the requirement—no more, no less.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2019? What are your ten? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


Want to revisit photos of past years? Click on any of the links below and check out my pictures from that specific year. I find it fascinating to watch subtle changes year over year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 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 →

An ECCC 2019 Debriefing

An ECCC 2019 Debriefing

This past weekend I joined thousands of others in attending the 17th annual Emerald City Comic Con in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. It’s incredible how far this show has come. This year I attended two days, Friday and Saturday alongside my friend and fellow writer Steve Toutonghi. (The paperback for his novel Side Life lands on April 9th, and you can and should preorder it now.)

I didn’t take a ton of photos this time. My iPhone is starting to show its age, and I am less inclined to snap photos as I wander. Besides, photographers more talented than I have it handled. If you want to see the cosplay, SYFY Wire did an excellent job covering the scene. They have galleries for Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4. I recommend checking ‘em out.


🌤 Friday

Elmore Leonard always said to avoid opening with the weather, but I’m going to do it anyway. Sorry, Mr. Leonard. This past weekend was the first true spring weekend in Seattle, and it was gorgeous. I have to admit I felt a little guilty hiding away inside an enormous convention center rather than being outside. But I pushed those feelings aside and bathed myself in the glow of fluorescent lighting.

Steve and I tend to spend most of our time at the convention around the Writers Block—an extension near Artist Alley with a focus on the literary. That said—in the past few years, throughout the show I’ve noticed more of a book presence. It’s been great to see.

Sci-Fi Adrenaline Rush – (Left to Right) Rob Hart, Peter Tieryas, Madeleine Roux, moderator Jason M. Hough

The highlight of the days was attending “Sci-Fi Adrenaline Rush” moderated by Jason M. Hough with Madeleine Roux, Peter Tieryas, and Rob Hart. The topic centered on high-tension action within science fiction, but when Q&A happened, it became a discussion on craft. Everyone one of the authors had solid advice, and the audience came with some great questions. Really makes me think there should be a regular forum for this sort of discussion at ECCC—a re-occurring panel where people can ask the authors how they approach writing.

After the panel, Steve and I chatted with each of them briefly. When I got home, I bought Roux’s House of Furies, Tieryas’ United States of Japan and preordered Hart’s The Warehouse. I’m looking forward to reading all of them.

The cosplay was unbelievable

☀️ Saturday

We began our day with a game show style panel hosted by author Myke Cole. He did an excellent job, and the audience was lively and invested—the goal was to stump the panelists and overall the audience did just that. That said when it comes to game show formats, I think I prefer the pop-culture Battle Royale competition that Matt Youngmark hosts at Norwescon.

I found a Brom!
I found a Brom!

I spent quite a bit of time wandering the show floor on Saturday. Speaking of Matt Youngmark, I picked up the latest novel in his Futhermucking Classics trilogy from his table. (Managed to score the last copy! Yay me!) They’re always a fun read and Matt has a great sense of humor. I also saw my pal Brom and checked out some of the work of other local artists in the Homegrown section.

The best panel I attended on day two “The Thrill of the Chase” a discussion on YA Thrillers with April Henry, Cat Winters, Deb Caletti, Parker Peevyhouse, and Paula Stokes. There was a lot here, some discussion about craft and approach to thrillers in general. There was a question regarding the drama that seems to vortex around the YA space—and how the authors themselves handle that while writing dark subject matter. Most of them said they ignored it, and that most YA readers don’t pay much attention to Twitter. That makes sense, after all when one is outside of an echo chamber you don’t usually hear anything. A good reminder.

The Thrill of the Chase – (Left to Right) moderator Avrey (whose last name I couldn’t find/remember—Sorry!), Deb Caletti, Cat Winters, April Henry, Paula Stokes, and Parker Peevyhouse

I wasn’t feeling so great Sunday morning, and I had a manuscript to fight with, so I ended up staying home and working on the last day. Unfortunately, I missed a few folks (Sorry, Lars!) which bummed me out. One of the best parts about conventions like ECCC is hanging out with cool and likeminded people.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at ECCC. I do wish there were more craft related discussions—nerding out can be great, but it’s nice to hear others experiences working in the industry. I feel like if I go again, I need to participate more—at the very least run a table. Otherwise, I tend to be aimless and a little restless. (I know, I know, I said as much last year. But I mean it this time.)

Thanks for a great convention Emerald City—it was a lot of fun. I’m sure I’ll see you again.


Have a convention you’d like me to attend? Let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. Remember, You can keep track of where I’ll be and read previous convention debriefing over on my Upcoming Appearances page.


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 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 →

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 →

An Emerald City Comic Con 2018 Debriefing

An ECCC 2018 Debriefing

At the beginning of March (a few weekends ago, now) I joined ninety-five thousand others in attending Emerald City Comic Con in my hometown of Seattle, Washington. This year the convention was extended to four days—I skipped Thursday but visited Friday, Saturday, and most of Sunday. As is the tradition around here, it’s time for a convention debriefing.


🌤 Friday

I had to get a picture of, Android Cosplay's amazing take on classic Nightcrawler
Android Cosplay’s classic take on Nightcrawler

Friday started oddly but finished great. I learned a valuable lesson about con-attendee me—I need to have things to do. The one panel I wanted to attend was full, so I spent a good portion of the day poking around the show floor and getting the lay of the land. I swung by the tables of a few author friends, Lee French had a table, as did Matt Youngmark (Go buy their books!) and I managed to get a few pictures of some great cosplayers. (Including Android Cosplay’s classic take on Nightcrawler in the image on the left.)

Around 2 PM, I took a break and went home to get some writing done. Later, I returned met up with Lars Brown. Lars is a talented comic creator. (His Penultimate Quest series was one of my favorite graphic novels from 2016. You should buy them.) Together, we stuck around the con for a bit, then went to dinner. All in all, it was a relaxing—if not somewhat quiet—first day.


☀ Saturday

On Saturday I was joined by my friend and fellow author Steve Toutonghi (his new book Side Life is coming out in April, you should preorder it.) Together we hit up a bunch of panels. My favorite was probably Books as Flint: Using Graphic Novels to Spark Political Activism. It was a discussion on the power of stories and how graphic novels (this was a comic convention after all) can often bridge the gap and open conversations on topics such as politics, race, religion, misogyny, and bigotry. The panelists were passionate and knowledgeable, and everyone had great thoughts about inclusion and activism in the comic space. Lessons that could easily be applied to novels as well.

My friend (and very talented woodworker) Steve Leroux and his daughter as the Weighted Companion Cube and Chell from Valve's Portal series
My friend (and very talented woodworker) Steve Leroux and his daughter as the Weighted Companion Cube and Chell from Valve’s Portal series

Steve and I also attended Family-friendly Fantasy: Keeping It PG in the Age of Grimdark & Game of Thrones and another on called 10 Points to Slytherin: Why Good Fans Love Evil Characters. Both were excellent and much better than I expected and both sparked some good conversation.

Oh! While waiting for one panel, we randomly slipped into a conversation with Shannon Purser (Barb from Stranger Things, y’all)—it was fun. Lots of kids with questions and Purser was kind, articulate, open, and honest. I’m generally not one for celebrity panels like that, but I found myself enjoying it.


🌧 Sunday

Writing the Future Panel - [Left to Right] Sylvain Neuvel, Michael Miller, AdriAnne Strickland, Annalee Newitz, Chuck Wendig, Jason Hough
Writing the Future Panel – [Left to Right] Sylvain Neuvel, Michael Miller, AdriAnne Strickland, Annalee Newitz, Chuck Wendig, Jason Hough
I had only two panels Sunday, and once again Steve Toutonghi joined me. Our first panel was What Do I Read Now (and Where Do I Start)? hosted by a group of local librarians, and the premise was they’d recommended books based on other properties people liked. It was fun. I did take issue when one of the panelists mentioned recommending only finished series. I bring this up because I feel it’s an important topic. The best way you can support a series as a fan is to read it as its published. Waiting until it’s finished can often kill a series. Publishers make decisions based on sales. So even if you want to wait until you have them all, buy the books (or check them out from your library) as they come out. It’ll make a big difference.

Our final panel of the weekend was Writing the Future (pictured above), and it was interesting. The room filled up fast, there was loads of audience participation. Afterward, a friend asked me if I had any new takeaways. My honest answer was no—I didn’t hear anything new or revelatory. If anything it was nice to see veteran writers reaffirm my choices.


Leaving ECCC—for now.
Leaving ECCC

So, that was my ECCC! There was so much I missed, and I felt like I had my schedule pretty well planned. Overall ECCC is excellently run and well managed—I appreciated all the hard work keeping the crowds organized. It’s not simple with that many people, and the staff and volunteers excelled at keeping everything under control. It’ll be interesting to see how it changes as the Seattle Convention Center expands.

I was thrilled I spent the time I did—next year I’m hoping to go longer and actually sit on a few panels and making do some gaming. (Gaming was sorely missing from my ECCC 2018 experience. Would have liked to play Mansions of Madness or jumped into a Call of Cthulhu session.) I also want to extend a big thank you to my friends Steve and Lars for hanging out with me, having friends willing to pal around made a big difference.

Thanks for a great convention Emerald City—it was a lot of fun.


Have a convention you’d like me to attend? Let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email. Remember, You can keep track of where I’ll be and read previous convention debriefing over on my Upcoming Appearances page.


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My Reading List for 2016

We’re nearing the end of the year, and as tradition dictates now is the time when I compile a list of the books I have read (to see previous years: 2013, 2014, 2015). I’m not the fastest of readers, but I try to remain consistent. This usually correlates alongside my Goodreads reading challenge. The books in this list are books I read for pleasure; I don’t count research material. Likewise, graphic novels and short stories get counted separately in their own list.

This year I was offered up another challenge, this time by my friend and fellow author Steve Toutonghi. He challenged me to read more classics than anything else this year, and I accepted. By the time I had finished, over two-thirds of the novels I had read where from the classic or modern classic category. Not bad!

Since this list tends to be long, I forgo reviews, but you’re welcome to follow me on Goodreads where I do occasionally review books. At the end of each list, I will call out some of my favorites of the year. As before, all links will go to Amazon as a default, but if one of these books sound interesting to you, then I would encourage you to visit your local independent bookstore and purchase through them. It’s important for your local economy to buy local whenever you’re able.


Novels:

  1. Join
    by Steve Toutonghi
  2. Partials (Partials Sequence, #1)
    by Dan Wells
  3. The Great Gatsby
    by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Slaughterhouse-Five …again.
    by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. Wise Blood
    by Flannery O’Connor
  6. Brave New World
    by Aldous Huxley
  7. The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1)
    by Jim Butcher
  8. Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1)
    by James S.A. Corey
  9. The Old Man and the Sea
    by Ernest Hemingway
  10. Beta Reading
    by REDACTED
  11. Life on the Mississippi …again.
    by Mark Twain
  12. Beta Reading
    by REDACTED
  13. Dracula …again.
    by Bram Stoker
  14. This Census-Taker
    by China Miéville
  15. Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1)
    by Mark Lawrence
  16. Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings
    by Jorge Luis Borges,
  17. The Illustrated Man
    by Ray Bradbury
  18. Great Expectations
    by Charles Dickens
  19. Iron Council (New Crobuzon #3)
    by China Miéville
  20. The Scar (New Crobuzon #2) …again.
    by China Miéville
  21. Hondo
    by Louis L’Amour
  22. The Hell Bent Kid: A Novel
    by Charles O. Locke
  23. Ravencroft Springs
    by Logan L. Masterson
  24. Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon #1) …again.
    by China Miéville
  25. Dark Matter
    by Blake Crouch
  26. True Grit
    by Charles Portis
  27. Animal Farm …again.
    by George Orwell
  28. Lord of the Flies …again.
    by William Golding
  29. The Handmaid’s Tale
    by Margaret Atwood
  30. Kindred
    by Octavia E. Butler
  31. The Gunslinger …again.
    by Stephen King
  32. To Kill a Mockingbird …again.
    by Harper Lee
  33. Call of the Wild …again.
    by Jack London
  34. 1984 …again.
    by George Orwell
  35. Wuthering Heights
    by Emily Brontë

When selecting my favorites, I decided to disregard any books I had previously read from the running. (Twain’s Life on the Mississippi, Miéville’s The Scar, and King’s The Gunslinger are some of my favorite books of all time and it’s really not fair to compete with those.) I read so many good books this year it made picking my faves tough. While there were many I enjoyed, I settled on three. All were new to me, and they all not only challenged me but lingered in my mind long after I had finished.

Favorite Novel of 2016:

Kindred by Octavia ButlerKindred
by Octavia E. Butler

This book is stunning. Bulter is one of the preeminent science fiction writers of our time. Her prose is sharp, her plot intense, the portrayal of the slave/master relationships in antebellum South shook me. I found myself dwelling on Kindred weeks after I finished it.

Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2016:

The Handmaids TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood

There is an art to writing a book so captivating and yet so simple. The regressive dystopia of Gilead is terrifying in its believability. It’s strange to think this book was written in ’85 yet its criticisms of gender relations, religion, and power are still as poignant as ever.

Join by Steve ToutonghiJoin
by Steve Toutonghi

My friend Steve’s debut novel, like the others, stuck with me long after I had finished. His examinations on individualism, mortality, gender, and consciousness were thought-provoking, engaging, and whip-smart. I knew when I finished that Join would end up here.


Short Stories:

  1. Last Boy in Aster
    by Drew Gerken
  2. Binti (Binti #1)
    by Nnedi Okorafor
  3. Ravencroft Springs: The Feast of ’69
    by Logan L. Masterson
  4. A Study in Emerald (Currently available in Fragile Things) …again.
    by Neil Gaiman

Four isn’t enough to rank favorites, but Drew Gerken’s story stood out. It lingered with me more than the other three and I continued to think about Kacee, Fin, and Aster long after I had finished. Seek it out. It’s very much worth your time.


Graphic Novels:

  1. Prophet Volume 2: Brothers
    by Brandon Graham (Author & Illustrator), Simon Roy (Author & Illustrator), Farel Dalrymple (Illustrator), Giannis Milonogiannis (Illustrator),
  2. Black River
    by Josh Simmons (Author & Illustrator)
  3. Wytches, Vol. 1
    by Scott Snyder (Author) and Jock (Illustrator)
  4. Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
    by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Author), Valentine De Landro (Artist)
  5. Saga Volume 6
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Fiona Staples (Illustrator)
  6. Penultimate Quest Vol. 1
    by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)
  7. Penultimate Quest Vol. 2
    by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)
  8. Penultimate Quest Vol. 3
    by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)
  9. Catbeard Vol. 2
    by Matt Nelson (Author & Illustrator)

Favorite Graphic Novel of 2016:

Bitch PlanetBitch Planet
by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Author), Valentine De Landro (Artist)

From the get-go, Bitch Planet sets out to be subversive, and it’s not apologetic. Playing off the women-in-prison exploitation films the comic twists the genre to be a smart satire about modern culture, feminism, and humanity.

Favorite Graphic Novel Runners-up of 2016:


Penultimate Quest Vol. 1Penultimate Quest
by Lars Brown (Author & Illustrator)

See! I don’t always read serious/dark comics. Occasionally, I step outside of my comfort zone and read something lighter. Lars Brown’s writing is witty and fun, and the characters are memorable. A must for role-playing game fans and people who like jokes.

 

catbeardbook2

Catbeard Vol. 2
by Matt Nelson (Author & Illustrator)

Yep, it’s back! I picked up and thoroughly enjoyed the second Catbeard book. Attentive readers remember that the first book was one of my favorite graphic novels from last year and Vol. 2 was even better than the first.


So there is my list for 2016, a lot of amazing books and some fantastic short stories and graphic novels. For the next year, I’m returning to my roots and focusing on primarily science fiction and fantasy. In particular, books I’ve passed by in my stack on my quest to read classics. I could use a little escapism right now, and it’d be therapeutic to get lost in another narrative for a time.

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 bygone days.

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 

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 2017.