A Return to the Indie Pub

Back in May I was lucky enough to be the first guest for J. Rushing’s indie-publishing focused podcast, The Indie Pub. Well here we are a few months later and in the waning days of summer and I’m excited to say I’ve returned to the pub for its tenth episode! Listen to it below.

This time around Jim and I discuss maps—how they’re used in fantasy books, how to go about creating them, and the toolsets I provide to empower creators to make their own authentic looking maps. We had a great discussion and I was happy to share another aspect of the writing process I’m passionate about. I think you’ll dig it.Tell your pals, drop Jim a review, and subscribe to the Indie Pub from any of the links below.

Enjoy the episode everyone!

The Indie Pub

Let’s Visit the Indie Pub

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, and it’s tradition to make a trip to the local pub. But that’s not entirely feasible since we’re still dealing with a pandemic—so why not join me and my pal, fellow writer, and travel buddy J. Rushing for the inaugural episode of his new podcast, The Indie Pub! Episode one is out today, I’m the first guest, and you can listen to it below.

I had a lot of fun chatting with Jim, and I think that comes through. I hope I get another chance to visit the pub in the future. His plan is to start releasing new episodes every other week and he’ll be discussing all aspects of indie publishing with a whole swath of great guests. So tell your pals, drop him a review, and subscribe to the Indie Pub from any of the links below.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! Enjoy the podcast.

The Indie Pub

Join Me at the Indie Pub on March 17th

My good friend, fellow writer, and occasional travel buddy, J. Rushing, has started a new bi-monthly podcast called The Indie Pub. As he pitches it: “it’s drinks and discussions about the world of self and indie publishing.” It launches one week from today on Wednesday, March 17th, and somehow I finagled my way into being his first guest!

Each episode will vary as Jim interviews writers and creators from all aspects of the indie world. In the inaugural episode, we discuss all sorts of things. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know that cosmic horror comes up, as does writing within a mythos, the differences between adaptive fiction vs. fan fiction, broad talk on cities and texture, and much more. Together we also explore the complexities of The Pallid Mask, the cocktail Jim and I developed for the Barely Tolerable Tales reading from last November. (It’s delicious, but take caution, adventurer. It packs a wallop—recipe below.)

The Pallid Mask

  • 2 oz. young Mezcal
  • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth
  • 1 oz. Green Chartreuse

Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Stir with ice—strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze a sprig of rosemary over the top and throw it in as a garnish. (If you like your drinks a little sweeter, consider adding a 1/4–⁠1/2 oz. of simple syrup.)

There are many ways to subscribe, all of which are linked from The Indie Pub Homepage. Be sure to follow the pub on Twitter as well. Jim’s told me about some of the future guests he has planned, and there’s a lot of incredible people and amazing interviews to come.

So, grab a seat and join us on March 17th at the opening of the Indie Pub. It’s going to be a good time.

My Reading List for 2020

My Reading List for 2020

It’s no secret 2020 has been a challenging year. While upon reflection, I found it to be surprisingly full, like many of us, I still spent the majority of my time at home. One benefit of our new socially-distant stay-at-home culture was the amount of reading I managed to accomplish. Just like previous years, I’ve compiled a list of the books I’ve read over the last three hundred and sixty-six days, and as always, I want to share them with everyone.

This year was hit-or-miss for me reading-wise. There were books I loved and many books I ended up loathing. I found books I know I will re-read and proselytize, but they were often mirrored by other books I hate-read. I also found myself reading a few histories for pleasure, not something I normally do, and I dipped into science fiction much more than in previous years. Audiobooks (🎧) used to be the mainstay of my daily commute, and this year they became the soundtrack to housework. Not a bad tradeoff. Oh, and as always, I beta-read a couple of great books, and I’m excited to see where those go in the future.

This list correlates with my Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge, but it always includes a few extra since Goodreads doesn’t let me count beta reading, and I don’t list comics or short stories or poetry (new this year!) over there. Remember, this 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 in each category. However, I’d invite you to follow me on Goodreads, where I occasionally leave other reviews.

New for this year: with a few exceptions, most links now go to IndieBound instead of Amazon—2020 has been rough on small businesses, and now more than ever, be sure to support your local bookstore. When possible, I am now linking to each author’s personal 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.)

📚 Novels & Novellas

  1. Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1)
    by Rebecca Roanhorse
  2. Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1)
    by Tamsyn Muir
  3. City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)
    by Cassandra Clare
  4. Prosper’s Demon
    by K.J. Parker
  5. The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage Trilogy #2) 🎧
    by Brian McClellan
  6. Jade War (Green Bone Saga #2)
    by Fonda Lee
  7. Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2)
    by Martha Wells
  8. Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland 🎧
    by Patrick Radden Keefe
  9. The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War 🎧
    by Joanne B. Freeman
  10. They Mostly Come Out at Night (Yarnsworld, #1) (Link goes to Amazon)
    by Benedict Patrick
  11. Frank on a Gun-Boat
    by Harry Castlemon
  12. A Head Full of Ghosts
    by Paul Tremblay
  13. On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington, #1)
    by David Weber
  14. The Reign of the Kingfisher 🎧
    by T.J. Martinson
  15. RADIO
    by J. Rushing
  16. Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)
    by William Gibson
  17. The Fireman 🎧
    by Joe Hill
  18. The Cipher
    by Kathe Koja
  19. The Mist
    by Stephen King
  20. Control Point (Shadow Ops #1)
    by Myke Cole
  21. Blood Standard (Isaiah Coleridge #1)
    by Laird Barron
  22. City of Miracles (The Divine Cities #3)
    by Robert Jackson Bennett
  23. The Iron Ship (The Gates of the World #1)
    by K.M. McKinley
  24. Vita Nostra (Metamorphosis Cycle #1) 🎧
    by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko
  25. Thieftaker (The Thieftaker Chronicles #1)
    by D. B. Jackson
  26. BETA READING (Literature)
  27. Circe
    by Madeline Miller
  28. Terrier (The Legend of Beka Cooper #1)
    by Tamora Pierce
  29. Red Storm Rising 🎧…. again.
    by Tom Clancy
  30. The Only Good Indians
    by Stephen Graham Jones
  31. Clutter: An Untidy History
    by Jennifer Howard
  32. The Half Killed
    by Quenby Olson
  33. The Toll
    by Cherie Priest
  34. Jurassic Park …again.
    by Michael Crichton
  35. Seveneves  🎧
    by Neil Stephenson
  36. Night of the Mannequins
    by Stephen Graham Jones
  37. In the Valley of the Sun
    by Andy Davidson
  38. Foundation (Foundation #1)
    by Issac Asimov
  39. Consider Phlebas (Culture #1) 🎧
    by Iain M. Banks
  40. BETA READING (Historical Horror)
  41. The Worm and His Kings
    by Hailey Piper
  42. Wake of Vultures
    by Lila Bowen
  43. Metro 2033 🎧
    by Dmitry Glukhovsky

🏆 Favorite Novel of 2020

In the Valley of the Sun

by Andy Davidson

This sun-baked vampire horror set in Texas unexpectedly became a new favorite. A surprisingly tense, character-focused narrative. Brutal. Anguished. Tormented. Bloody. Lyrical in ways that remind me of Cormac McCarthy without the weight. It’s not shy of confronting the cracked ugliness of humanity and finding the beauty between the fissures. Davidson is an incredible writer, and I immediately purchased his more recent novel after finishing In the Valley of the Sun. We need more horror like this.

🏅 Favorite Novel Runners-up of 2020

RADIO by J. Rushing


by J. Rushing

A jazz-infused, opium-soaked, historical fantasy that explodes from the opening chapter and never relents until its final pages. A thoroughly fresh debut that’s unlike anything I’ve read before. Rushing brings his unique, well-researched world of 1920s Paris to life with a captivating voice. Don’t expect a saccharine overly-romantic version of Paris; this is a stained, broken, and bloody place—a welcome addition to modern fantasy literature. Jim’s a friend of mine, so be sure to read my interview with him.

City of Miracles

by Robert Jackson Bennett

In recent years, the Divine Cities have become one of my favorite urban fantasy series, mostly for its fresh approach to the genre, atypical characters, and serious exploration of themes oft-ignored within mainstream fantasy. With City of Miracles, Bennett wrapped up the trilogy with a heartbreaking yet thoroughly satisfying ending. This story is a bit tighter and more focused than the previous two while wrapping up various loose ends rather nicely. It’s rare to find a final book in a series that resonates with me as much as City of Miracles did—it’s easily my favorite book in the trilogy.

🎈 Honorable Mentions of 2020

I started doing Honorable Mentions in 2018 so I could highlight some of the other standout novels from my year of reading. Below you’ll find many more excellent books, I’ve listed them in order of reading.

📜 Short Stories

  1. An Inhabitant of Carcosa …again.
    by Ambrose Bierce
  2. And Now His Lordship is Laughing
    by Shiv Ramdas
  3. How the Trick is Done
    by A.C. Wise
  4. The Yellow Sign …again.
    by Robert W. Chambers
  5. Ten Excerpts from an Annotated Bibliography on the
    Cannibal Women of Ratnabar Island

    by Nibedita Sen
  6. Give the Family My Love
    by A. T. Greenblatt
  7. The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power
    by Karen Osborne
  8. The Masque of the Red Death …again.
    by Edgar Allen Poe
  9. The Repairer of Reputations …again.
    by Robert W. Chambers
  10. Paper Menagerie
    by Ken Liu
  11. Seasons of Glass and Iron
    by Amal El-Mohtar
  12. Tideline
    by Elizabeth Bear

🏆 Favorite Short Stories of 2020

The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power

by Karen Osborne

Generation ship! Class struggle! Religious ritual! Rebellion! Murder! Control! The complexity told within this genre-mashup was astounding. Such a rich world crafted in a way that feels effortless while maintaining a rich narrative was impressive. It’s no secret I’m drawn to stories that are hard to pigeon-hole into a specific genre, and that is fully represented here. Well worth a read.

🏅 Favorite Short Story Runners-up

Paper Menagerie

by Ken Liu

This heartbreaking story about magical origami, cultural identity, and family was the first piece of fiction to win a Hugo, a Nebula, and a World Fantasy Award. And after reading it, it was easy to see why. Touching and reflective. A masterwork of speculative short fiction.

💥 Graphic Novels

  1. Preacher: Book One
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  2. Saga, Vol. 8
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author) & Fiona Staples (Artist)
  3. Preacher: Book Two
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  4. Once & Future, Vol. 1
    by Kieron Gillen (Author), Tamra Bonvillain (Artist), & Dan Mora (Artist)
  5. American Vampire, Vol. 2
    by Scott Snyder (Author) & Rafael Albuquerque (Artist)
  6. Paper Girls, Vol. 2
    by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Cliff Chiang (Artist)
  7. Preacher: Book Three
    by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)
  8. Die, Vol. 2
    by Kieron Gillen (Author) & Stephanie Hans (Artist)

🏆 Favorite Graphic Novel of 2020:

Preacher: Book One

by Garth Ennis (Author) & Steve Dillon (Artist)

I didn’t expect to like Preacher. I bounced off the series hard when I was younger, writing off Ennis as a “blasphemous shock jock” and nothing more. But revisiting it as a middle-aged adult revealed a different sort of comic. The offensive transgressive material is still there, but beneath it is something much more—a book with more heart and humanity than one would be able to judge by its surface and laced with merciless satire that still rings relevant twenty-five years later.

🏅 Favorite Graphic Novel Runner-up of 2020:

Paper Girls, Volume 2

by Brian K. Vaughan (Author), Cliff Chiang (Artist)

Volume 1 nearly made my runner-up list last year. On the surface, it’s a time-jumping story about a group of friends caught in the middle of a future war. But beneath those sci-fi trappings, there is so much more here. It’s a book about being a kid and the expectations therein, complications with friendship, and the complexities of growing up. The characters are fantastic, and the story moves along at a clip, making it impossible to put the trade down. I’m ready for volume 3.

🎭 Poems

So this year, I’m including some of the poems I read in 2020. I hinted at doing this last year. But this is really a trial run. In reality, I read more poems than listed below, but I didn’t do an outstanding job keeping track of them. Because this is the first time for poetry on this list, I’m going to skip picking a favorite. Hopefully, I’ll be back on track next year.

  1. Small Kindnesses
    by Danusha Laméris
  2. The Peace of Wild Things
    by Wendel Berry
  3. Beneath the Sweater and the Skin
    by Jeannette Encinias
  4. The Woods
    by Melanie Batista
  5. I Confess
    by Alison Luterman
  6. The Waste Land …again.
    by T. S. Eliot
  7. Near a Raven
    by Mike Keith
  8. Insha’Allah
    by Danusha Laméris
  9. We Lived Happily During the War …again.
    by Ilya Kaminsky
  10. Christmas Greetings to Felis …again
    by H. P. Lovecraft …again.
  11. Passing Solstice
    by Ken Hada
  12. Winter Solstice
    by Hilda Morley
  13. Childhood Memory from the Old Victorian House on Warner
    by Beth Cato
  14. Raw With Love
    by Charles Bukowski

So that’s my reading list for 2020. It’s been an interesting year in reading for me. As promised, we now have a poetry section, and I hope to expand that in the future. There are some great poems there, so be sure to explore them further. Despite my ups and downs, I’m overall quite happy with the books, stories, graphic novels, and poetry I read over the last twelve months. They were excellent distractions from the chaos of the year, and it was refreshing to lose myself in other worlds. 2020 will be behind us soon, and I am looking forward to the worlds I’ll discover in 2021.

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 old.

 2013 • 2014 • 2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 20182019

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 2021.

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

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I’m Going to Be Reading on Barely Tolerable Tales

I’m Going to Be Reading on Barely Tolerable Tales

This Friday, November 20th, at 7:30 PM PST, I’m going to be joining a few other authors and reading an unpublished story for King County Library’s streaming spooking story session: Barely Tolerable Tales. Not a bad way to spend a Friday night in lockdown.

I’m excited. My story, Overture, is a little different from my books but still connected to the Bell Forging Cycle. As of yet, it hasn’t been published anywhere. While this event is streaming on Zoom, it won’t be recorded, so if you’re hankering for a little more from the world of the Territories until Gleam Upon the Waves arrives, you should register today and make plans to attend! Spaces are limited.

Barely Tolerable Tales is for adults and presented by fine folks at The Cresswell Club. They even enlisted me to find a suitable cocktail for our evening of stories. So, I called in my cocktail calvary and enlisted my pal and fellow writer J. Rushing to help. (Check out his novel RADIO.) And help he did. We’re calling this drink The Pallid Mask and the recipe below (and on the registration page.)

The Pallid Mask

  • 2 oz. young Mezcal
  • 1 oz. Dry Vermouth
  • 1 oz. Green Chartreuse

Mix all ingredients in a shaker. Stir with ice—strain into a cocktail glass. Squeeze a sprig of rosemary over the top and throw it in as a garnish. (If you like your drinks a little sweeter, consider adding a 1/4–⁠1/2 oz. of simple syrup.)

I think that covers all the pertinents. Hopefully, I’ll see you on Friday!

Friends Like These

Friends Like These…

Find yourself a community of writers and liked-minded folks who are willing to dress up like you for Halloween as a surprise. 🖤

Don’t they all look good? Black is the best color, obviously. Bonus points for the use of black and white. Double-bonus points for Drew rockin’ the all-black stealth MLB hat. Seriously though, this was sprung on me over Discord last night, and it absolutely made my Halloween evening. I’m feeling very loved today.

Thanks to Drew Gerken, Emily Earhart, J. Rushing, Richie Franklin, Scott Drakeford, and Will Munn for randomly making me feel special. Each of them are incredible people, and I’m proud to be apart of their writing community and to be able to call each of them a friend. They push me to be better every day. I recommend giving them a follow—links go to their site or to their various projects. They’re all doing amazing things.