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goodbye, 2013. hello, 2014.

This is my Rob Brezsny horoscope for this end of December, beginning of January:

CANCER (June 21-July 22): Big rivers don’t travel in straight lines. Their
paths are curvy and complicated, with periodic turns and bends. In some
places they flow faster and in others they’re slower. Their depth and
width may vary along the way, too. Your own destiny is like one of those
big rivers, Cancerian. In some years, it meanders for long stretches,
slowing down as it wanders along a crooked course. It may even get
shallower and narrower for a while. But I expect that in 2014, you will be
moving more rapidly than usual. You will be traveling a more direct route,
and you will be both wide and deep.

2013 was a meandering, crooked year. It was shallower than I had expected in some ways and rockier than I would have preferred but here we come to the end of it, stronger and wiser.

We spent last New Year’s Eve in this then brand-new apartment, surrounded by cardboard boxes. Now instead of boxes there are books and teal chairs and two very well-stocked bars. We are doing fancy long rambling dinner, there has already been cheese baked with brandy and honey, grilled hearts of romaine and king crab legs. There are short ribs in the oven braising in red wine, prosecco gelee with raspberries chilling in refrigerator and non-gelee prosecco with St. Germain being sipped from coupes.

(Pause here for blood orange sorbet.)

(We decided if we weren’t going to go out, we might as well have as delicious a night in as possible.)

Looking at last year’s post about wanting time to rest and read and write and I did quite well on two out of three and not too terribly on the third all told. I needed the rest, I think. I know.

I’d like to have something book-shaped by the end of 2014. That’s not a resolution, because I’d have liked the same thing for this year and last year for that matter, but things don’t always go the way we’d like.

I don’t have anything new book-shaped yet but I do have sparkling wine and I’m really happy, right here and right now and maybe I needed to get to really happy sparkling wine phase first.

Stars in my hair again. My stars are getting older and wiser, too. And they’re showing it, glass glitter oxidation. Dark around the edges.

Erin New Year

I have other stars that are brighter, having been kept safely sealed in a bag but I like these ones. They’re well-travelled and well-worn and I have the whole bunch of them in my hair this year. (There are seven, total, the others are hidden on the other side.)

Later tonight there will be tarot readings and midnight kisses.

I am looking forward to 2014, especially if it is indeed more direct than meandering. I think I’m ready for it. I wasn’t before, even when I thought I was. Hindsight.

Didn’t have an obvious song of the year for 2013. Had to sit and think about it and as I pondered I realized I habitually put the same album on whenever I felt lost for what to listen to, and it was always just right.

2014. Wide and deep. I’ll drink to that.

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flax-golden tales: guardian of the new world

guardian of the new worldguardian of the new world

The path in front of me is surrounded by green leaves and sunshine, sudden and shocking. I glance over my shoulder and the snow is still there, the impressions of my bootsteps slowly filling in with fresh flakes.

In the sunshine by the side of the path stands a robed figure, stern and serious.

I say Hello and the figure nods at me but says nothing.

Who are you, and what is this? I ask as I unbutton my coat, already uncomfortably warm, rogue snowflakes falling from my eyelashes and melting on my cheeks

I am the guardian, and this is where you leave the Old world for the New, the figure says in a low voice that is only slightly patronizing. You will have to leave your things behind.

The guardian shakes its head when I move to put down my bag and as I start to ask what it means the guardian reaches a hand into my chest and pulls out my heart.

But before I can react the still-beating heart in the guardian’s hand becomes a feather, and then the feather floats up and over my shoulder and back into the wind and the snow.

The guardian gives me a small, satisfied nod and leads me onward, my new heartbeat pounding in my ears, hard and fierce and light.

 

About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

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2013 favorites: books

2013 favorite books

Favorite Books Read in 2013

In order, as pictured, from left to right and going down the typewriter-sitting pile:

NOS4A2 – Joe Hill.  I believe my Twitter-length review was “made me fear Christmas and children more than I did already” but the tiny pointed teeth only scratch the surface of this epic ride of a novel. I can’t remember the last time I read something that took supernatural elements and wove them into the real world so masterfully and believably. Also, perfect holiday gift.

The Rathbones – Janice Clarke. Has my name on the cover for good reason, I adored this book to little pieces. Myth wrapped in sea shanty and family history, so beautifully told. I cannot wait to see what Janice does next, though of course I am going to be incredibly patient.

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson. I went on a Kate Atkinson bender last year so I was very much looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint. It also didn’t hurt that I read it in February surrounded by snow while housesitting for my parents, perfect mood for it. If you haven’t read it yet, winter would be a great time to dive in.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. If I had a book to define my year it would be this one. Which I read early because Twitter is Magic and that of course led to more magic things. But beyond that, this lovely little book made me want to write again, in that magical way that I haven’t been feeling enough lately, and I got to thank Neil Gaiman for that personally.

Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson – Mark Siegel. I’d seen this on many of last year’s best books lists and I was curious but I still didn’t expect it to be as surprising and wonderful as it is. Beautiful art, beautiful story. I’ve been using it as a gateway drug for anyone who tells me they’ve never read a graphic novel.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan. Had you told me at the outset that this book would make me cry I would not have believed you but it snuck up on me at the end. I have a thing for endings, and while this book was fantastic fun the whole way through the very last pages are perfection. Also it glows in the dark.

Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh. I have said it before, I will say it again: I am grateful to live in a world that has Allie Brosh in it. I’ve been a fan of her blog for years and her posts on depression (I & II) are brilliant and funny and wonderfully real. I am grateful to have her words and pictures in book form to live on my shelf so I can re-read them over and over even without electricity or batteries.

Jim Henson: The Biography – Brian Jay Jones. I don’t really read biographies. I’ve read a few for research but that’s about it. I picked this up on a whim and then couldn’t put it down. It reminded me how much I grew up on all things Henson and Muppets and how much of an influence on my creative self he was and how I forget that sometimes because it’s so deeply engrained. I don’t remember a time pre-Muppets. I’m pretty sure The Great Muppet Caper was the first movie I saw in the theatre and I made my dad stay through the credits so we were the only ones left when Gonzo takes a photo of the audience. This biography is wonderful and engaging and a fantastic peek behind the curtain.

Y: The Last Man – Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.  We went to Midtown Comics and started chatting with one of the booksellers (comicsellers? gurus?) who after he found out our tastes went on about all things Brian K. Vaughan. I got one volume of Y and then immediately had to read the rest of it. It’s epic and smart and surprising. I read a lot more Vaughan this  year but this one was my favorite, though I’m excited to see where Saga goes in the future. (Related: if anyone can tell me where I can find volume 4 of the deluxe editions of Ex Machina I’d appreciate it, I have all the others & I still don’t really understand why 4 is the elusive one.)

 

And a special bonus non-pictured tease because it was easily one of the very best things I’ve read this year, and possibly ever:

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld. Not out until March 2014, but oh, this book. It is exquisite. I won’t tell you too much since it’s not available yet but I read it months ago in manuscript form and I’m so glad it has a perfect cover and I cannot wait to tweet and shout and spread the word about it. It’s extraordinary, truly.

 

So those are the favorites of the year for 2013. I had an off-kilter reading year, got a lot of things read in the first half of the year and then fell off the reading wagon a bit. (December was eaten by The Goldfinch. Still not done with it yet.) But it was a year full of wonderful books and surprises and I hope next year will bring even more.

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flax-golden tales: the year in moments, caught in birds

year in momentsthe year in moments, caught in birds

Every moment of the year gets a bird, and somehow there are always enough to go around.

The positive things caught in the purple birds.

Negatives in the red.

Twittering and sparkling.

People call some years purple years or bemoan the accumulation of so many unexpected red birds, but the hidden truth is that the polarity of each moment does not matter, not once they have reached their respective birds.

They all sparkle. They all sing.

For a moment here at the end of the year we gather all the bird-moments and put them on display, the red and the purple and the ones that shimmer somewhere in between.

We consider them, look them over, weigh the year in glitter and feathers and loses and gains.

Then we let them all fly away.

 

About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

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2013 favorites: nyc edition

As of the end of this month we’ll have lived in NYC for one year. It is still strange to me to live in New York. I like it more than I thought I would, though I don’t think I will ever get truly used to it, no matter how long we stay.

The buzz of the people isn’t as overwhelming as it was at first. The sidewalks don’t seem as crowded. I don’t feel quite as lost once below the helpfully numbered gridded streets in Manhattan, though I still need to rely on my phone to help me navigate.

We will be here for at least another year, so I feel like this was the practice year of falling out of the cardboard boxes and acclimating to the wonderment. I’m ready for another tour through the seasons.

Here are a few of my favorite things about New York, punctuated with some of my favorite city photos from this year.

nyc photos - tree

Central Park. I know, it’s an easy choice but it’s also a marvel, to literally be in the middle of the city but to feel as if you’re somewhere else entirely.

The High Line. My other favorite oasis in the city, that feels like a river more than a park, you get swept along the lovely changing flow of it as you wander up or down. I love how it changes with the seasons, too. During the winter it had these lovely bare branches that faded from yellow to red that were just gorgeous.

nyc photos - high line

The Morgan Library & Museum. I didn’t even know about this beautiful space before we stumbled upon it and I’m so glad we did. Saw a wonderful exhibit of surrealist drawings earlier in the year, looking forward to seeing their current Edgar Allen Poe exhibit, too.

The McKittrick Hotel. Also known as the home of Sleep No More, (which I only actually saw once this year, we went for the Valentine’s Day Dance) the space itself has expanded to include Gallow Green, one of my favorite rooftops in the city, plus multiple live music spaces and now it even has a restaurant. I keep expecting the whole thing to just vanish into thin air one day, but for now I’m glad it’s there.

nyc photos - statue

Over the course of the year I have become convinced that the block of 10th Ave between 15th & 16th is food heaven, it already had Morimoto &  Chelsea Market and as if I needed confirmation for this belief, it is now home to the NYC incarnation of one of my Boston favorites, Toro.

But if I have to pick a single favorite restaurant in NYC, the one that I keep going back to over and over that’s always stellar that is also on that block, it is Colicchio & Sons. We end up in the tap room more often than the main dining room but they’re both absolutely wonderful. I went twice in one week in November because I had to have the roasted apple chowder again. Love the space, love the food, love the service. Wish they’d bring back the gluten-free bacon waffles for brunch, because I miss them, but I also love that the menu is constantly changing.

nyc photos - grand central

I feel like I have only scratched the surface of the cocktail bar options in the city and I have so many more to try but of the ones I’ve been to my favorite so far is Milk & Honey. Maybe it’s the hidden location, maybe it’s the space itself which is dark and deco and everything I love about a proper cocktail hideaway: quiet and atmospheric and sexy. But really it’s the cocktails themselves, since they don’t have a menu and you just tell them what you like and they run with it which makes everything surprising and magical. It is one of my very favorite places in the city. I kind of don’t want to tell you about it, that’s how much I love it.

I could go on and on but those are the major favorites. I’m sure next year’s version of the NYC favorites will have new discoveries and that’s one of the things I love about New York, there’s so much of it to explore.

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flax-golden tales: anxiously awaiting

anxiously awaitinganxiously awaiting

They know it is almost time.

They can feel it in the air.

They gaze up expectantly. Wide-eyed and curious.

Waiting for snowflakes and surprises and sugarplums.

Preparing themselves for spiced punches and brightly-wrapped packages.

Waiting by their trees, twinkling-lit, festive in their sweaters.

Ready to sing and laugh and drink and cheer.

Ready to ride out the year in a tumble of joy and merriment and peppermint-bright hope.

Ready for wonder again.

 

About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

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2013 favorites, part one of several.

There will be a few favorite things of 2013 posts this month, saving books for last and doing NYC favorites next week and this is… other stuff. Mostly media and cocktails. Let’s just call it entertainment favorites, maybe.

{Insert obligatory marveling over how fast this year went by here.}

These will all be very much Things I Liked Most in 2013. I am not making any decrees about Bests. A lot of them will not be 2013-specific beyond the fact that they were new-to-me this year.

 

Let’s start with TV, which I don’t watch that much of and hardly ever live but I do occasionally get hooked on a show and I had a few this year but the two I ate up like candy were The Killing & Person of Interest. I am not caught up completely with either, only up to beginning season 3 for both so I’m not even going to look up proper links.

The Killing has the most interesting detective pairing I think I’ve seen, they’re compelling to watch even when the storyline hits lulls.

Person of Interest just gets better and better and better as it goes along and I would have started watching earlier had they called it “Psychic Batman” which is basically what it is. Also, Michael Emerson in fabulous suits. (I already had a crush on Michael Emerson from LOST and the suits make it so much worse. Swoon.)

 

Movies. I had a minimal movie year, I hardly saw anything in the theatre. I did, however, see most of the things I saw in in theatres in fancy theatres that serve wine which was a bonus. Favorite in-theatre movie was probably The World’s End, which I probably enjoyed even more than Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz, though I love them both, too.

Favorite new-to-me, non-theatre movie was The Lady Vanishes, which is also quite possibly my new favorite Hitchcock. I’m a sucker for a train.

 

Music, recorded, new-to-me. Found a lot of good new music this year but my favorite new discovery was easily Houses. Especially since I literally only clicked on the album in iTunes because I liked the cover. I’d never heard of them, didn’t know what kind of music it would be and was unbelievably pleasantly surprised. So atmospheric and lovely.

Music, live. Not much live music for 2013, and Mumford & Sons would have been the best live show were it not for the really belligerent drunk guys next to us. But instead the favorite live music experience of 2013 happened completely unexpectedly at the McKittrick after having dinner at Gallow Green thanks to a wonderfully kind door guy who decided we were leaving too early and instead sent us down a dark hallway to watch Flight of the Conchords, who were brilliant, of course, and even more brilliant for being unexpected.

 

True confession time: 2013 is the year I admitted to myself I’ve turned into a gamer. I think it was somewhere around the time I was at my desk quoting the lemons speech from Portal 2 while sitting under this poster.

Very favorite out of lots of games for the year: Ni no Kuni which we picked up because Studio Ghibli was involved and it got good reviews and at first I wasn’t sure what I thought of it and then I got pretty much obsessed with it. Still not finished, though we’ve been playing pretty regularly for months. I’m going to miss it when it’s over.

(Also this year Adam & I played through all the two-player collaborative levels in Portal 2 together which was more fun than it had any right to be.)

 

Cocktail time.

So let’s start with components. Favorite new discovery has to go to Bluecoat Gin, which Chuck Wendig recommended & maybe two days after that I saw Daniel Handler recommend it in some cocktail-centric interview so I had to pick it up and it may very well be my new favorite gin. Also in new discoveries for 2013: Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, which is so lovely & versatile & also comes in a beautiful bottle.

Proper cocktail favorite of the year is the very old but new to me  The Last Word. Equal parts gin, lime, maraschino liqueur and green chartreuse. It’s lovely and balanced and interesting and it has a great name. I bought a bottle of green chartreuse so I could make them at home.

 

And that’s it for this round of 2013 things. Favorite new-to-me cocktail bar will, among other things, be covered in NYC favorites next week.

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flax-golden tales: seasons greetings from george the toad

seasons greetingsseasons greetings from george the toad

He greets everyone warmly, old friends always even if you’ve only just met. If someone refers to him politely as Mister Toad he will chuckle and say that Mister Toad is his father and do please call him George.

George offers cocoa and tea and mugs of warm soup made with winter squash and cinnamon and sage. To take the chill off, he says, even as the snowflakes continue to fall on your hat and in your soup.

(But he is correct, it does remove the chill as gently as unravelling the scarf around your neck, though your scarf stays cozily in place.)

Mr. Toad hops about under your chair and fusses over the sparrows in their house to be certain they have biscuits with their tea, explaining that the biscuits with the sugar icing birds are their favorites, resulting in a flurry of twittering cannibal jokes from the sparrows.

George tells stories and shares recipes and rhapsodizes about this magical time of the year, going on at length about how delighted he is to have such lovely company.

“He used to be a prince,” someone whispers quietly to their neighbor.

“He still is,” comes the deft reply.

George himself says nothing about the matter, but he winks at you as he refills your tea.

 

About flax-golden tales. Photo by Carey Farrell. Text by Erin Morgenstern.

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nanowrimo 2013 in review

November went and flew by like a flying autumnal whoosh of a thing and I am sitting here looking at December somewhat skeptically. But I did have a just-barely successful NaNoWriMo, and I am impressed with myself considering how long it’s been since I’ve participated and how many days I had to skip entirely.

I stayed more on-pace than any other NaNo I’ve done before, mostly because I just didn’t have time to get my standard head start. I had lofty goals of maybe doing more than 50k but I ended up right on target. This is a screencap of my day-to-day handy chart from the NaNo site:

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 2.07.16 PM

 

I had planned at the outset to be all NaNo Rebel and work on two different projects but I didn’t really do it the way I intended. I spent the first half of the month working on a new thing and then thought about going back to the other novel-in-progress but decided to work on the new thing more instead.

I write out of order, which is good for me but not necessarily the tidiest way to approach a draft of something. So in the middle of all the bits and pieces I started some other pieces and I somehow ended up with about 15k worth of stuff that does not belong in this particular new thing. I think I accidentally wrote background mythology for an entirely different thing, but I don’t know what that different thing is yet. I like those bits, though, so I will keep them safe and fed and watered until I figure out what they want to be.

The rest of it is… not a novel. It’s not even a draft of a novel, it’s 35k of stuff that I might be able to polish into the beginning of something that could maybe someday be developed into a novel of some sort. It all needs a great deal of work. I haven’t re-read any of it yet but I’d guess that maybe half of it is useable. There are individual scenes and moments that I like a lot. I’m going to put it away and go back to the other novel and then when I have more time I’ll pull it back out and see what works and what doesn’t and figure out what I can play with further. 2013-Winner-Vertical-Banner

It was fun, overall, though I am out of practice and it was harder to get out of that self-critical headspace than it used to be, but at the same time I think I trust my instincts more. My favorite part was still there, too: the finding of things I wasn’t expecting, in that whirlwind of imagination exploration.

So, hurrah for NaNoWriMo, hurrah for those of you who participated and won, hurrah for those who participated at all no matter the result because you have more words than you might have otherwise, and hurrah for all the non-November words to come.

 

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