Tag Archives: Writing

Ibn Battuta

It Leaves You Speechless

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.”

Ibn Battuta, maybe Ibn Juzayy, potentially someone else


So, I am a big fan of this quote for obvious reasons. However, among scholars, there is some doubt that Ibn Battuta actually said or wrote this. He didn’t take notes on his travels, and much of his work was dictated long afterward to Ibn Juzayy (who plagiarized.) If you want a synopsis of the controversy, I recommend checking out the “Works” subsection of Ibn Battuta’s Wikipedia page as it does a decent job summarizing.

Plagiarization or not, a great many travel blogs still attribute this to Ibn Battuta without so much of a note of doubt. Due diligence is necessary even for quotes, and often the story behind the quote can be more interesting than the quote itself.

Okay, all of that said: controversy-schmontroversy! The quotes still rad and travel is enriching. Get out there. Breath the air. Immerse yourself in worlds beyond your own. You’ll never know what you find.

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Coal Belly Draft Zero

So, Coal Belly is Done… Sorta

Last weekend, after a year and eight months, I finally hit print on the final chapter of my latest novel, Coal Belly. The first of what I hope to be a trilogy. Right now, it weighs in at 190k words, and I expect it to grow.

Long time readers know this isn’t the first time I’ve written Coal Belly. The original manuscript emerged in 2010/11—a few years after I moved to Seattle and around the time I started working at Google. In fact, this blog began right after I finished the manuscript as an attempt to document my journey. That first version was around 130k words, and in the end, nothing came of it. It languished on shelves and hard drives for years. Always nagging at me as I worked on and published other projects. I knew there a was a better story there, I just hadn’t found it yet. It wasn’t until early 2016 that I felt I was ready to give it another go.

Coal Belly, Draft Zero, along side pre-manuscript ritual islay scotch and a cigar.
Behold! Coal Belly, Draft Zero sitting alongside my post-manuscript ritual: Islay scotch (in this case Laphroaig 10 yr., often Lagavulin 16 yr.) and a Cuban cigar.

It’s the longest I’ve ever worked on a book. Some elements have remained the same, steamboats still feature prominently in a world covered with rivers, and its weird-west aesthetic persists. But the themes between books are very different. Characters have become something greater, plotlines are better defined and much more complex, and the stakes are personal. Looking back it’s obvious now, and I’m glad I put it aside. That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral. It’s a better book in every way.

“That first version was akin to raw ore, and this new manuscript is the refined mineral.”

As always, I took some time over the weekend and commemorated the occasion. I spent most of this last week reflecting on the work, and I’m excited. Coal Belly draft zero is done. The editing lies before me. I go on vacation next week, but soon it’ll be time to delve back into the work while my steam is up.

More on Coal Belly later.


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Toni Morrison

You Must Be the One

“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

Toni Morrison


As I’m wont to do, I’ve been talking with friends about writing. Lately, a lot of our talk has been around the whole work vs. passion and how it plays into success and failure. Writing what we think we should be writing versus writing what we want to write. Today I stumbled across this Toni Morrison quote which hits at the center of it all.

Write your story. The only way to fail in writing is to not write.