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An Overdue Hiatus

It’s a little odd to post something like this during a lull in my blogging, but I like to keep my readers informed when I will be away from the internet for a bit (as much as you can realistically be “away” these days.) Anyway, this post is to announce that this blog will be dormant—I mean even more dormant—for the next month or so. Why? Well…

Kari-Lise and I are taking our second trip to Scotland! (Our first visit was in 2017. You can read about our experience here.) This trip is long overdue. It was supposed to be for my 40th birthday, but COVID did its thing, and everything was delayed and then delayed some more. But no more. It’s happening. Finally. We’re planning to visit some favorite places (Edinburgh and Islay) and hit up some new spots (Orkney) and generally get lost in the solitude of the open country. We’re really looking forward to it and it should be a good time.

We will be gone most of April, so my current plan is to resume blogging in May. I expect to be writing quite a bit while in Scotland, so I hope to have lots to share upon our return. While away, I’ll almost certainly post to Instagram, so I recommend following me if you’re interested in my travels. And as always, expect a trip report upon my return.

If you’re looking for something to read or explore in the interim, here are a few suggestions:

For more travel-related photos, previous trips, and trip reports check out:

Mar sin leat, and see y’all when we return!

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de Fer Battlefield: A Free 17th Century Brush Set for Fantasy Maps 

Last September, I released the first in a series of sets coming from one individual: Nicolas de Fer. He’s an interesting character, a famous French geographer who eventually became the official geographer to the Spanish and French court. He was a prolific engraver and publisher, stole unabashedly, and while his work isn’t considered historically accurate, he brought a uniqueness with his cartography that helps it stand apart artistically from his contemporaries, making his work the perfect base for fantasy map brush sets.

Why it’s Nick de Fer! Prepared to wow you with his engravings.

Today, I am excited to release de Fer Battlefield. An extensive battlefield brush set based on de Fer’s Le Combat de Leuze ou de la Catoire, a late 17th-century map depicting the fortification of the Belgium city of Leuze-en-Hainaut in 1691, and the Battle of Leuze, a French calvary victory from the Nine Years’ War. It’s full of the sort of stuff that makes these maps fascinating and energetic: charging calvary units, stalwart pike men, soldiers, explosions, battles, villages, and more.

Even in their time, Battlefield maps were a storytelling element as much narrative as informative. But, I know many people don’t understand how to effectively use brush sets based on them. My sample map for this set strives to inspire how these sets can enhance a narrative and help tell a story. There are many opportunities for fantasy maps to employ a similar tactic in their maps, moving away from a static approach of borders and cities that we are familiar with to one that details events in a fresh and exciting way.

A sample of what you’ll find in de Fer Battlefield

The de Fer Battlefield set features over 230 brushes and includes the following:

  • 8 Army Units
  • 2 Marching Army Units
  • 10 Pike Units
  • 12 Organized Lines (Could also work as fields)
  • 10 Organized Units
  • 20 Individual Soldiers
  • 15 Cavalry Units
  • 20 Charging Cavalry Units
  • 5 Marching Cavalry Units
  • 5 Attacking Cavalry Units
  • 25 Individual Cavalry Units
  • 10 Individual Cavalry Units Rearing
  • 6 Mixed Combination Units
  • 7 Battles
  • 10 Bushes
  • 30 Trees
  • 5 Forests
  • 10 Hillsides
  • 12 Towns
  • 4 Explosions
  • 9 Unique Brushes

The button below links to a ZIP file that contains a Photoshop brush set (it’ll also work with GIMP and Affinity Photo) as well as a transparent PNG (3.5Mb) in case you’re using a program that doesn’t support Adobe brush files. They’re black and on a transparent background, so they’ll look broken in some browsers, but trust me, they’re all there.

As with all of my previous brush sets, de Fer Battlefield is free for any use. I distribute my sets with a Creative Common, No Rights Reserved License (CC0), which means you can freely use this and any of my brushes in commercial work and distribute adaptations. (Details on this decision here.) No attribution is required. Easy peasy!

Enjoy de Fer Battlefield? Feel free to show me what you created by emailing me or finding me on Twitter. I love seeing how these brushes get used, and I’d be happy to share your work with my readers. Let me see what you make!

de Fer Battlefield in Use

Want to see how I’ve used this set? I put together a sample map, and you can see the results below. There are three versions, a colored version, one black and white, and a decorated sample. Click on any of the images below to view them larger. Perhaps this will inspire you as you get started on your own projects!

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Supporting this Work

If you like the de Fer Battlefield brush set (or any of my free brushes, really) and want to support my work, consider buying one of my cosmic-horror-soaked dark urban fantasy novels instead of a donation. The first book—The Stars Were Right—is only $2.99 on eBook. I think you’ll dig it. You can find all my books in stores and online. Visit the Bell Forging Cycle hub to learn more about the series. Tell your friends!

The Bell Forging Cycle

Not interested in my books but still want a way to support me? Buy me a coffee.

More Map Brushes

de Fer Battlefield just one of many brush sets I’ve released. You can find it and other free brushes covering a wide variety of historical styles on my Fantasy Map Brushes page. Every set is free, distributed under a CC0 license, and open for personal or commercial use. I’m sure you’ll be able to find something that works for your project. Click the button below to check them out!

Want 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 →

New Book Photos!

It’s been a while since I’ve assembled the series so far and taken photos. But with Kari-Lise’s help this weekend, we managed to take a whole slew of photos of the Bell Forging Cycle books and their swag packs. I’m really happy with how they turned out, feel more unified and it’s a nice way to show off their individual swag sets. You can check them out below.

The Stars Were Right

Old Broken Road

Red Litten World

Gleam Upon the Waves

Other Stickers & Swag

Watch “The History of Horror” Now!

On Tuesday this week, I had the honor to participate as a guest on a panel for FanFi Addict’s #TBRCon2022. (You might recall I was also a guest last year.) For the uninitiated TBRCon is a completely free online convention for all manner of speculative fiction—horror to science fiction to fantasy. Once again, I had an absolute blast. I joined the “History of Horror” panel moderated by Mother Horror herself, Sadie Hartmann, featuring a great group of fantastic horror writers, including Adam CesareTim MeyerLaurel Hightower, and Gabino Iglesias. I’ve found that people in the horror community are always excited to welcome and meet fellow writers and fans and this group was no exception. Conversations like this feel like conversations with family and given the chance we could have gone on for hours.

#TBRCon22 – “The History of Horror” w/ Sadie Hartmann, Gabino Iglesias, Laurel Hightower, Adam Cesare, Time Meyer, and me.

Like last year, I’ve embedded the recording above. The whole discussion is a little over an hour, and we delve not just into Horror’s history and origins but also where we think it’s going as a genre in the future. In the end, we all give out a ton of fantastic recommendations of some of our favorite recent or classic horror reads and I’ll link those below.

Big thanks to Sadie for her efforts at wrangling us, and thank you to my fellow panelists for being so welcoming. David Walters of FanFiAddict deserves considerable praise for doing so much of the heavy lifting behind the scenes. Be sure to subscribe to all of FanFi’s social media channels, so you don’t miss out on what he’s up to next.

It ain’t over! #TBRCon2022 continues through Sunday, January 30th! You can find out much more here and tune in for free on YouTubeTwitch, and Facebook. Miss a panel you wanted to see? All recordings of previous discussions are posted on FanFi Addict’s YouTube page. Be sure to go back and check out the panels you might have missed. There are a ton of great content to peruse at your leisure.

“History of Horror” Panel Recommendations

At the end of the panel, we all talked about what we were working on and shared some recommendations. I’ve tried to list them all and include any specific books that were mentioned. Links go to the author’s webpage or blog, and most book links will go to Indiebound.(Support your local bookstore!)

Sadie HartmannNightworms

Tim MeyerMalignant Summer

Adam CesareClown in a Cornfield

Gabino IglesiasThe Devil Takes You Home: A Novel

K. M. Alexander – Gleam Upon the Waves

Laurel HightowerCrossroads

Happy 2022

Hey, thanks for being a reader of this blog. I say it a lot, but I sincerely appreciate you. You made my year last year better than it had any right to be. I hope you have a wonderful 2022. May you find love. May you find peace. May you find kindness. May you find health. May you set outrageous goals and may you smash past them. Happy 2022, dear reader. Thanks for sticking with me.

My Reading List for 2021

I have written a bit about how odd 2021 was, and that oddness crept into my reading. It’s not uncommon for me to read forty-ish books a year, and I once again passed my goal. But along with novels, I generally read some comics and short stories. Yet, this year I didn’t. Was it a lack of interest? New projects filling that time? The weirdness of the waning pandemic? Not sure! Whatever it was, for 2021, both those sections will be empty.

All that said, I had a great experience reading through the year. On the whole, I enjoyed my reading more in 2021 than last. There were a lot of new finds, I rarely came across a book I couldn’t stand, and I discovered some new favorites. That’s a win.

This list correlates with my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge. But there are usually some slight differences between the two. This list is all strictly reading for pleasure—I typically forgo listing any research/history books I’ve read for a project as I read those differently than I do fiction. This list is always enormous, so l skip reviews except for my favorites. However, I’d invite you to follow me on Goodreads, where I occasionally leave other reviews.

Most links will go to IndieBound—now more than ever, be sure to support your local bookstore. If possible, I am directly linking to each author’s website—if you’re on the list and I didn’t find your website, please let me know about it. (I won’t link to social media, sorry.)

Okay, to the list!

📚 Novels & Novellas

  1. Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4)
    by James S. A. Corey
  2. Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)
    by Martha Wells
  3. Ring Shout
    by P. Djèlí Clark
  4. The City We Became (The Great Cities #1)
    by N. K. Jemisin
  5. Planet of Exile
    by Ursula K. Le Guin
  6. A Killing Fire
    by Faye Snowden
  7. The Beauty
    by Aliya Whiteley
  8. The Hospital Ship
    by Martin Bax
  9. We Ride the Storm
    by Devin Madson
  10. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century 🎧
    by Barbara W. Tuchman
  11. The Resisters: A Novel
    by Gish Jen
  12. A Demon-Haunted Land:
    Witches, Wonder Doctors, And The Ghosts Of The Past In Post–WWII Germany 🎧
    by Monica Black
  13. The Ruins
    by Scott Smith
  14. Merkabah Rider: High Planes Drifter
    by Edward M. Erdelac
  15. Whispers in the Dark
    by Laurel Hightower
  16. We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1)
    by Dennis E. Taylor
  17. Criterium
    by Tyler Jones
  18. The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge #1) 🎧
    by Ken Follett
  19. The City of Ice (Gates of the World #2)
    by K. M. McKinley
  20. Foundryside (The Founders #1)
    by Robert Jackson Bennett
  21. The Republic Thieves (Gentleman Bastard #3)
    by Scott Lynch
  22. The Talisman (The Talisman #1) 🎧
    by Stephen King & Peter Straub
  23. A Man of Shadows (Nyquist Mysteries #1)
    by Jeff Noon
  24. The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue #1)
    by Christopher Buehlman
  25. The City in the Middle of the Night
    by Charlie Jane Anders
  26. Territory 🎧
    by Emma Bull
  27. Exit Strategy (The Murderbot Diaries #3)
    by Martha Wells
  28. A Ritual of Bone (The Dead Sagas #1)
    by Lee C. Conley
  29. Inside Man (Prosper’s Demon #2)
    by K. J. Parker
  30. Arm of the Sphinx (The Books of Babel #2)
    by Josiah Bancroft
  31. Wolf Hall (Wolf Hall Trilogy #1)
    by Hillary Mantel
  32. The Goblin Emperor (The Goblin Emperor #1)
    by Katherine Addison
  33. Cabal
    by Clive Barker
  34. The Boatman’s Daughter
    by Andy Davidson
  35. Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery 🎧
    by Brom
  36. Slow River
    by Nicola Griffith
  37. Kim
    by Rudyard Kipling
  38. Revival 🎧
    by Stephen King
  39. Paradise Club
    by Tim Meyer
  40. Monstrous Heart (The Deepwater Trilogy #1)
    by Claire McKenna
  41. Subject 11
    by Jeffery Thomas
  42. City of Illusions (The Hamish Cycle #3)
    by Ursula K. Le Guin
  43. Summer Knight (The Dresden Files #4)
    by Jim Butcher
  44. The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage #3) 🎧
    by Brian McClellan
  45. The Sunless Countries (Virga #4)
    by Karl Schroeder

🏆 Favorite Novel of 2021

The Blacktongue Thief

by Christopher Buehlman

I was already a fan of Buehlman’s from his horror work. So when I heard he was writing a fantasy series I got excited. I couldn’t be happier with the result. The Blacktongue Thief worked very well for me. It is crass and funny while it remains true to its fantasy roots it explores new and wonderfully weird ideas. It’s thoroughly refreshing and has become one of my favorite fantasy novels as a result. I eagerly await the sequel.

🏅 Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2021

Monstrous Heart

by Claire McKenna

I love a book whose genre is difficult to pin down. (Surprise surprise.) Monstrous Heart’s got weird steampunk tech, in an alt-history world with blood magic, weird eugenics cults, warring magic families, and murder mysteries in a creepy Innsmouthian town. Combined with some beautiful prose, McKenna has built a world as fascinating as it is stunning. I was enthralled from start to finish.

The Beauty

by Alita Whiteley

This was recommended by M. R. Carey during our panel for TBR Con earlier this year and I’m glad I picked it up. The Beauty is a dark thought-provoking heart-of-mankind story about history, myth, and the stories we tell all set in a future world without women. It’s a bit of an allegory which isn’t something I typically enjoy, but it works well here and the story stuck with me. A small but powerful novel that is very much worth your time.

🎈 Honorable Mentions of 2021

It was tough to pick the top three novels, but I force myself to do it. But, I read so many good books this year and wanted to call out a few more of the standouts. I’ve listed them in order of reading.

💥 Graphic Novels & 📜 Short Stories

As I mentioned above, I fell short in these two categories. I read no short stories and only read one graphic novel this year (Preacher Book IV), so there won’t be 2021 lists for either category. That said, my graphic novel TBR pile is growing, and I have some new subscriptions to some speculative fiction magazines, which will expand my short story reading.

I look forward to returning to both of these categories in 2022.

🎭 Poems

Poetry is still here! It’s hard for me to keep track of poetry because I read it often and my brain doesn’t always record it. But I read some standout poems over 2021 and I wanted to share a few with you Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” is stunning and uplifting, Wendle Berry’s “Enemies” is thoughtful and beautiful, and I revisited an old favorite of mine Yeats’ “The Second Coming.”

  1. “Burning the Old Year”
    by Naomi Shihab Nye
  2. “I Ask My Mother to Sing”
    by Li-Young Lee
  3. “The Hill We Climb”
    by Amanda Gorman
  4. “Enemies”
    by Wendell Berry
  5. “Frederick Douglass”
    by Robert Hayden
  6. “Strange Balance”
    by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
  7. “For the Anniversary of My Death”
    by W. S. Merwin
  8. “The End”
    by Mark Strand
  9. “Good Bones” …again.
    by Maggie Smith
  10. “Sorrow Home”
    by Margaret Walker
  11. “What my 11 year old said when I was crying that day”
    by Tetyana Denford
  12. “Birdwatching”
    by Lynn Ungar
  13. “Here’s A Nut”
    by Louisa May Alcott
  14. “The Second Coming” …again.
    by William Butler Yeats
  15. “Down Jacket God”
    by Moon Bo Young
  16. “December”
    by Matthew Zapruder
  17. “A Penitent Considers Another Coming of Mary”
    by Gwendolyn Brooks
  18. “Butter”
    by Elizabeth Alexander
  19. “i am running into a new year”
    by Lucille Clifton
  20. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
    by Robert Frost

Thus complete’s my reading list for 2021. I’m not going to miss this year. Between the chaos of its beginning to the slow return to whatever constitutes as normal, I think we will all be glad to see it go. But this odd year allowed me to consume a solid chunk of books, and overall the books I read were enjoyable. When it comes to my reading, I have few complaints. I’m ready to start some new reads that’ll begin my list for next year, and I look forward to diving back into graphic novels and short stories. I think my reading year in 2022 will be excellent.

How about you? What were the standout books, graphic novels, short stories, or poems you read this year? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment and let me know!

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 days of yore.

 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 2022.

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

Want 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 →