2021 in Ten Significant Photos

How is it already the end of December? Christmas is this weekend! In some ways, it feels like the year was ten years long, yet in others, it feels like a blip. I blame the pandemic. My perception of time has gotten funny since it started.

This is the post wherein I reflect on my last year through ten photos that marked significant places in time. It’s become a tradition here. After last year, I thought (hoped?) this would be easy, but like 2021 itself, it was an odd experience full of highs and lows. That said, as always, I found that there was more to my year than I expected and 2021 was surprising.

The rules. Pick ten photos from my past year that are the most significant to me: positive or negative—significance can be found in either. But it can’t be more; it can’t be less. Some moments will have to fall by the wayside—that’s intentional—culling is a part of this process. It helps create a more realistic and personal picture of your year. Some years will be more complicated than others, and sometimes you’ll need to discover significance in the smaller, quieter moments. This is the way.

So, I could keep rambling, but instead, let’s take a look at my 2021 distilled into ten significant photos.


My favorite photo of Willa in our garden (Photo by Kari-Lise)

Willamina, our big English Lop, passed away early in the year. We buried her under her favorite bush. She was old for a large rabbit, but her death snuck up on us. I haven’t ever met a rabbit like Willa. She was fearless, curious, friendly, loved attention and people. It was typical for her to follow us around the yard and explore as we worked nearby. Our garden isn’t the same without her.


New bathroom (Left) and remodeled kitchen (Right)

Last year I mentioned that we had declared 2020 as “The Year of the House,” and in many ways, it was. But that labor spilled over into the first few months of 2021 as well. But in the end, we got a fancy new bathroom—removing the original bathroom from the 1940s—and an upgraded kitchen. We’ve been in our house for over a decade now, and many of these updates were long overdue. I’m delighted with the result and the outcome was worth the awkwardness that came with remodels during a pandemic.


Gleam Upon the Waves and its swag set

I launched a new book! It’s true! It happened! Gleam Upon the Waves, the next chapter of Waldo Bell’s adventures, arrived at the end of March and was released to the world. You can buy it right now! When you get deeper into writing a series, things get more complicated, and this story was a long time coming. I sincerely hope you enjoy it. Thanks to everyone who picked up a copy. Double thanks to those of you who left reviews. Your excitement is what keeps me going. I couldn’t be more appreciative of my readers.


While waiting my 15 minutes, I took a selfie

The vaccine arrived! Kari-Lise and I got jabbed as soon as possible, and we got our second shot a few weeks later at a lovely little spot right by Lake Washington. It was a huge relief, and I am grateful that my city has embraced it. It’s a pretty incredible feat of medicine. I cannot think of how many lives it’s saved, and I am grateful to the medical community for pouring so much effort into its development, rollout, and distribution. Seattle is over 75% vaccinated, still vigilant, and we’ve been near the bottom in cases per capita in Washington. It makes a fella proud to call this place home.


Kari-Lise in a monochromatic space within the House of Eternal Return

We escaped! Freshly vaccinated, we took a short trip away from home to Santa Fe, New Mexico. After more than fifteen months of staying home and social distancing, it was a welcome respite and a nice change of pace. We ate incredible food. We saw cool art, and we got lost in Meow Wolf’s stunning House of Eternal Return. Santa Fe is rad, and New Mexico is spectacular. Should you like to know more, I documented the whole trip in this post.


Tyrant hanging out with me earlier in the year

After fifteen years, one of my best buddies in the world passed away. Tyrant had become an essential fixture in our lives, and it was hard to let him go. I’m grateful the pandemic allowed me to spend so much time with him during his last years. Months later, here I am, tearing up while writing this. Shortly after his death, I wrote a tribute that encapsulates him better than this tiny blurb ever could. I still miss him. Tyrant never lived up to his name. He was a good boy.


Ferry to Bainbridge Island looking back toward Seattle

We explored our home. We started doing this in 2020, and it continued into 2021. One of the best things about living in the Puget Sound area is the hundreds of islands, peninsulas, straights, bays, coves, ports, beaches, and bluffs there are to explore. We returned to favorites like Vashon Island, explored Whidbey, and went to the Peninsula a few times. I’ve often said that to experience Seattle, you have to leave Seattle it’s a city defined by the landscape around it, and these trips cemented why living here is so wonderful.


Vera with Uncle Michael (Left) and Reghan (Right)

The streak continues! This year, I have two new nieces, which brings my nibling count up to seven! Vera on the left was born in the spring to Kari-Lise’s brother Andrew and his wife, Kim. (I can assure you we have a better rapport than what you see in that photo.) Reghan, on the right, was born on my birthday (more on that later) to my sister Meghan and her husband, Tyler. Both are adorable and growing way too quickly.


For whatever reason, I found myself reconnecting with baseball. I’ve always been a fan of the Seattle Mariners, mostly thanks to being the perfect age when Ken Griffey Jr. played (the man is still my first sports hero), but the game took a backseat over the last few decades. This year was different. I found myself drawn back to the ball game and the ballpark. While the Mariners still didn’t make the playoffs, (there’s always next year) I’m finding myself looking forward to the 2022 season.


Me hiking along the Harry’s Ridge trail at Mt. Saint Helens (Photo by Kari-Lise)

I turned forty. I don’t usually care much for my birthday. I find the whole thing superfluous. But, this one is supposed to be a milestone. It’s interesting to look back on my life after forty years. The moments that stand out. While this post focuses on the events this year, hitting a “birthday milestone” like this had me reflecting on life in macro. I’ve had a good life. I’m happy. I’m healthy. I am married to the best person in the world. I have amazing friends and a loving family. I’m lucky. Forty ain’t so bad.


There’s my ten! As I said earlier, it was a year of highs and lows. I’m not alone in that. This was a mixed year for many people, and it was a mixed year for me as well. The pandemic is still present in our lives, and normal still isn’t so normal anymore. We’re still masking up, being careful, and social distancing when we can. Thankfully many of our friends are vaccinated, so hangouts were easy, and that personal reconnection was good.

There’s so much to 2021 this post didn’t cover. Trips with friends to celebrate the New Year. Paneling at TBRCon was terrific, and it set up much of my reading for the year. (I’m coming back in 2022!) Cabining. Writing retreats. A visit from my sister. Our garden. A trip to Portland for the wake of a dear friend. Beaches and tide pools. Backyard BBQs. Family and close friends both moving back to the Seattle area. Summer soccer games. Seattle’s record-breaking heatwave in June and its record rain in November. Then there’s Moth & Myth’s incredible growth. As with every year, this list could be so much longer.

So, how about you? What did you experience in 2021? What are your ten photos? Assemble them and leave a comment with a link! Let us all know about the significant events in your year.


I’ve been doing this since 2014, and even in challenging years, I’ve found it beneficial. Interested in revisiting my photos of past years? Just click on any link below and check out my selection from that specific year.

2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 
• 2018 • 20192020


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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?


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 →

On Time, Writing, and Conventions

On Time, Writing, and Conventions

This week, my calendar alerted me that it was time to volunteer as a pro and panelist for the late-2019/2020 convention season. However, this year, I dismissed those warnings.



While I love attending my local conventions, I feel like right now I could make better use of that time to work on the myriad of books I’ve written that are currently in various states of completion. Gleam Upon the Waves is very close to being sent to beta readers. Coal Belly is still in revisions before I shop it around. My secret fantasy standalone languishes, and while it’s technically finished—it still needs some attention.

Conventions are a blast, but I take being a panelist seriously. I want to provide a quality product, and that extends to sitting behind the panelist table. Attendees deserve it—we’ve all sat in on an ill-prepared panel, and it’s a frustrating experience. I don’t like wasting people’s time like that. To do it properly means prep work, and prep work takes time. Time I should be spending writing and editing.



It’s possible you’ll find me attending a convention as a fan and if/when that happens I’m sure I’ll announce it here. I love talking to my readers, seeing my fellow fans, hanging out with friends, and meeting all the authors I admire. I know I won’t be able to stay away forever.

If I leave you with anything, it is this request: you should volunteer. It takes little time to apply, and the worst they can do is say no. Conventions want experts and enthusiasts to share their knowledge and opinions, and it’s a wonderful experience. Reach out to their programming departments—you’ll be surprised how eager they are for new people. Fresh faces sitting behind the panelist table can encourage, enrich, and inspire. You could be a part of that.

As for me, I’m going to focus on getting new stuff out there. It’s been way too long.


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 →