goodbye 2023

2023 was mostly quiet when it wasn’t loud. For the latter half of the year our house was under construction and being painted so it was busy and hectic and now that it’s cold everything has calmed and quieted again.

This year brought Night Circus tea from Old Growth Alchemy and announcements of new editions of books and it still amazes me that these stories get to be contained in such beautiful packages and interpreted in such magical ways.

I wrote a lot this year. I wrote backstories and sidestories. I wrote an introduction to something that has not yet been announced and I dug deeper into this book that is not a book yet. I don’t know how much of what I’ve written this year will end up in whatever this book turns out to be but I’ve excavated more of it, I’m more familiar with this place and these people now and next year will be about getting to know it all better and hopefully figuring out more of its secrets. 

I realized earlier this year that each book I’ve written ends up having both a thematic piece of music (that I tend to listen to over and over and over while writing) and a motto that I keep, each on a silver ring.

The Night Circus theme is Delirium’s Aria and its motto is Esse Quam Videri.

The Starless Sea theme is borrowed from Dragon Age Inquisition and its silver-engraved motto is Know Thyself.

This year I found the piece of music that is the new book theme, and I am currently wearing a silver ring engraved with the phrase that has become its motto on my right hand. The book itself is still a mess of unfinished threads in need of weaving but it is beginning to find itself, out there in the dark.

I got back into writing with fountain pens this year which was entirely the fault of my friends Mallory O’Meara and Lauren Panepinto and their InkWitches stream on twitch. I’d had a few long-neglected pens and now I have… more and a rather obscene amount of ink in a rainbow of colors. I’ve been slowly filling notebooks with multicolored bits and pieces of the new book.

Current pens in heavy rotation are my Opus 88 Jazz, Nahvalur Horizon and Benu Talisman (all broad nibs) and I always have a couple of TWSBI Ecos kicking around. Some current favorite inks include Taccia Utamaro-Umemurasaki, Wearingeul Persephone and oh so many inks from The Birmingham Pen Company, particularly Eroded Bronze and Chrysanthemum. And for the holidays Adam gave me this gorgeous Edison Dragoness pen. 

The Books Illustrated edition of The Starless Sea will be arriving next year (you can keep up with its progress by signing up for their newsletter). It has been an absolute joy watching Anne Yvonne Gilbert‘s illustrations as they’ve evolved over the past few months. They are all gorgeous and surprising but here, for New Year’s Eve have this one, because somewhere in this liminal space between years it is snowing, and somewhere within that snow there is an inn and its lanterns are lit. 

I am no longer on twitter, I hadn’t been there much at all of late but earlier this year I deleted all my posts and closed up shop there after 15 years. I am of course still on instagram, I am slowly getting used to bluesky and I’m forever using tumblr as a mood board. 

Favorite Books 2023

The Sundial – Shirley Jackson
The King of Elfand’s Daughter – Lord Dunsany
The Keep – Jennifer Egan
Sleeping Giants – Rene Denfeld (March 2024)
No One Will Come Back For Us – Premee Mohamed
White Cat, Black Dog – Kelly Link
The Naming Song – Jedidiah Berry (October 2024)
The Saint of Bright Doors – Vajra Chandrasekera
Starling House – Alix E. Harrow
Black River Orchard – Chuck Wendig

Favorite Video Games 2023

Baldur’s Gate 3

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

The Last Campfire

(I haven’t finished Baldur’s Gate 3 yet, I’m in the middle of Act 3 and my PS5 chose this week to die so please send tiny prayers to the Sony cloud save gods for me.)

This year sounded like Sigur Rós and Danse Macabre and Fleetwood Mac and lots and lots of Vitamin String Quartet. This one is not the aforementioned new book theme, but it is the opening track on the constantly evolving new book playlist that I put on every time I sit down to write, so now these opening notes feel like opening a door.

Whatever you accomplished or didn’t this year please know that it was enough just to get here to this night when one year tumbles into the next. And I hope that whatever 2024 brings there is some softness in it, and some brightness, and some wonder.

books illustrated’s the starless sea

Absolutely over the moon to be collaborating with Books Illustrated and Anne Yvonne Gilbert again as they work their magic on The Starless Sea.

This very limited special edition will be published in 2024 for The Starless Sea’s fifth anniversary. To keep up with the process as it unfolds including all future news regarding ordering information please sign up for the Books Illustrated Starless Sea mailing list here

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.