goodbye 2022

This year was filled with chickadees. They come and go but right now there are about a dozen who frequent the bird feeder. They follow us around when we go outside and sometimes land on the windows to peer into the house.

We had blue jays this year, too, a family of them that arrived when all the littlest ones were still small and fluffy.

And there was a bunny in the yard last week, the first we’ve seen here, hanging out around near the bird feeder and sitting quietly in the snow beneath the bushes.

2022 was quiet, filled with soft things and fluttering. Many things happened and long-awaited projects were released into the world but most if it felt as though it was happening around me, wings beating somewhere nearby. I was ill for a chunk of the fall (chronic things being more chronic than usual) so most of the latter half of the year turned in self-care directions. Warm beverages and blankets and softness and slowing down.

2022 was all these beautiful things that were created in part by me but so many other artists brought such life to stories new and old and I am so very grateful to have all of these objects out in the world.

The Phantomwise Tarot, available wherever tarot decks are sold from Clarkson Potter.

New UK paperback editions from Vintage of The Night Circus & The Starless Sea. The Waterstones editions have new exclusive content.

The astonishingly beautiful Books Illustrated editions of The Night Circus with illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert.

I threw away more words than I wrote this year, but what remains in the aftermath is better and has both more personality and more mysteries. I shall be spending 2023 trying to learn them, if not solve them. It has secrets I have not discerned yet, rooms I haven’t figured out how to open.

It might have a title? I’m not sure yet, it is sitting here, misshapen and unfinished, trying a title on like a hat, to see if it suits. I will know better once it is more book-shaped.

2023 will probably be a quieter year for me. This year had several things and surprises, most of which are in the stack above. For next year I am hoping to spend more time alone getting to know this creature in its little hat better so that you all can meet it, someday.

I had an odd reading year. The last few years I’ve had difficulty reading for a number of reasons and I’ve been feeling like my reading gets overwhelmed by new things so I tried to read older things and more nonfiction. I am a slow reader at the best of times and I have somehow become even slower.

I have piles of books I wanted to read this year and never got to (related: I have barely gotten to anything in the blurb request pile in a timely manner lately, the last book I managed to blurb I had almost a full year before publication) but I’ll be tackling more of the to-read pile over the next while, particularly Chuck Wendig’s Wayward which I’ve had for ages & I am really looking forward to curling up with it for a good long time. (Vesper keeps sitting on it, so it seems a good book for curling up with).

Favorite Things I Read in 2022

Such Small Hands – Andrés Barba, translated by Lisa Dillman

A Haunted History of Invisible Women: True Stories of America’s Ghosts – Leanna Renee Hieber & Andrea Janes

House of Mist – Maria Luisa Bombal

Wading in Waist-High Water: The Lyrics of Fleet Foxes – Robin Pecknold

The Broken Tower – Kelly Braffet (sequel to The Unwilling, I love these books to bits)

The Golden Age, Book I & Book II – Roxanne Moreil and Cyril Pedrosa

I played a lot of Elden Ring this year. A lot. I am two alternate endings away from platinuming and I will probably manage it eventually. I have mentioned at various times in the past that I really like consuming stories in non-book formats, particularly while I’m writing, and the story in Elden Ring is so gloriously mysterious, discerned through environments and item descriptions and odd encounters. You sink into this world and its poison swamps and piece together its myths as you go, and all the while everything is trying to kill you and usually succeeding. It is beautiful and harsh and teeming with secrets. I cannot describe how much I love it. It is quite possibly my new favorite game of all time.

Favorite Video Games I played in 2022

Elden Ring, obviously.

Tunic, which I co-played with Adam. We passed the controller back & forth & took extensive handwritten notes to figure out that one particular door & the whole thing was a delight. I am impatiently waiting for the plush fox to be in stock at fangamer.

NieR:Automata. I’d played Replicant when version 1.22474487139 came out and liked it a lot but I loved Automata, the aesthetic and the music and more than anything the way the narrative is layered across multiple play throughs.

Honorable mentions to Mundaun, A Little to the Left & Cozy Grove, all of which are potentially excellent games for non-gamers, by the way, for very different moods. (Creepy, Organized & Cozy-with-Ghost-Bears, respectively.)

This year sounded like the NieR:Automata soundtrack on piano and Dance Fever and Midnights.

This year we started collecting video game soundtracks on vinyl, to listen to in the library with cocktails or mocktails and a flopsy kitten. The Hades soundtrack is always in heavy rotation, and Slime Rancher, too, but more than anything 2022 sounded like Zelda & Chill. Going to try to extend the chill into 2023.

Every New Year’s Eve I do a year ahead tarot spread, one card for each month clockwise in a wheel and a single card to sum up the general tone of the year. Traditionally I then forget to look at it for the rest of the year and only remember to check when New Year’s rolls around again. My summation card for 2022 was Justice. We’ll see what 2023 has to say for itself later.

May 2023 bring more soft, wondrous things, fluttering in the snow and peering in the windows.

the books illustrated editions of the night circus

After being delayed by the snow my copies of the Books Illustrated editions of The Night Circus have finally arrived and they are even more gorgeous in person than I could have possibly imagined.

The illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert are all incredible, I’m still obsessed with how magical and layered each one is. Every detail of the book has been so well thought-out and perfectly executed, they are truly works of art. My eternal gratitude to the entire Books Illustrated team.

november things

The Phantomwise Tarot is finally out in the world and the wild today, available in places that sell both books and/or tarot decks. It has been a long, long time coming. If my file dates are correct the Fool was painted fifteen years ago, somehow? This evolution is not something I ever could have imagined then and I wish nothing but grand adventures and playful insights for these cards now as they find their way to their readers.

They are probably a suitable deck for beginners as I tried to keep most of the imagery straightforward. (A good time to mention the idea that you can’t buy  your first tarot deck yourself and it has to be a gift is a myth. Do please feel free to buy them for yourself or gift them to someone else as you please.) The cards are also loosely Rider-Waite-Smith based so they can be used with any RWS guides if you are looking for more in-depth guidance.

My endless thanks to the team at Clarkson Potter for taking what just a year ago was a bunch of files on my hard drive and a stack of paintings in my basement and turning them into something magical. I hope when these decks find their new homes they will be shuffled and riffled and well-worn, kept as trusted companions.

The new Vintage UK paperback editions of The Night Circus & The Starless Sea have arrived and they are so beautiful, the cover inks are luminous and the new designs by Micaela Alcaino are simply stunning.

The Waterstones versions have new exclusive content: The Night Circus has a Q&A and The Starless Sea has an essay with thoughts on writing & video games that includes an extended metaphor about how my writing process is like playing Elden Ring. (Are there oblique hints about what I’m working on now in each of them? Maybe.)

We have tumbled into the 5pm darkness freezing cold version of November here, all of the leaves have fallen. We put the fairy-light trees up already but we haven’t taken down the bats or the ghosts yet so they are coexisting festively. I am writing something that is not yet book-shaped, it’s not even up to word soup stage because I tossed nearly all the words that were simmering out in May and I am still reassembling ingredients. But it will be something book-shaped eventually. It is slowly getting somewhere, here in the flopsy kitten cold.

the phantomwise tarot

Over a decade ago, while I was working on what would eventually become The Night Circus, I painted an entire tarot deck in black and white acrylic paint.

Last year I mentioned the deck during an extravaganza of 10th anniversary circus shenanigans and some people talked to other people and plans were hatched and now something quite extraordinary has been conjured in an astonishingly short amount of time.

The Phantomwise Tarot: A 78-Card Deck and Guidebook is coming from Clarkson Potter this November.

The Phantomwise Tarot is a little bit circusy, a little bit Wonderland, and a little bit black-and-white phantasia of its own invention. It is loosely based on classic Rider-Waite-Smith tarot imagery though here there are also ballerinas and pirates and fluffy bunnies and curious cats to help you ponder your questions while you seek your answers.

The guidebook (by me) contains individual card meanings and original spreads. The design by the amazing Clarkson Potter team has elevated everything with a beautiful aesthetic reminiscent of silent film.

More information & pictures over here on a new dedicated tarot page which will contain any additional tarot-related updates in the future and you can preorder the deck over here. These cards have waited a long, long time to be properly released into the wild and I could not be more delighted that they will be able to be held and shuffled and read so soon.

anne yvonne gilbert’s night circus illustrations

The Books Illustrated edition of The Night Circus has been coming together more quickly than I could have imagined and it has been astonishing watching their entire team, especially Anne Yvonne Gilbert, elevate this story into a stunning piece of art. I am continually blown away by Yvonne’s ability to layer so many elements and moments into single images, with so much texture and expression and detail. They are truly magical.

One of my favorite parts of this process has been seeing Yvonne’s initial sketches to get a glimpse of how she begins to conjure all of these layers. It’s like getting to peer behind the curtain at a magic trick in progress. Some illustrations have minor adjustments between sketch and final version, others remain almost precisely the same. Below are some side-by-side comparisons. The sketches are already so beautiful and then the colors breathe so much life into everything. I suspect most people would expect a lot of monochrome from an illustrated version of The Night Circus but these are just buzzing with color.

There are so many details that I adore, from Mme. Padva’s jewelry and Tsukiko’s cherry blossoms and Bailey’s dog to the way the circus tents loom in the background of certain images. And of course I am a little bit obsessed with Poppet’s perfect curls and the most delightful squirrels. (I cannot pick a favorite because they are all so wonderful but the Wizard in the Tree is possibly my favorite so far, it is so sumptuous and autumnal.)

There is still more to come, cloud mazes and bottles and other wonderments, and much more information on this very limited edition of The Night Circus can be found at Books Illustrated. You can sign up for their Night Circus newsletter & they post frequent previews on their Instagram.

You can find more of Anne Yvonne Gilbert’s beautiful artwork on her website.