It is officially spring and we are still buried in snow. Confused little flowers are trying to bud in the yard and the sun feels spring-like sometimes, coercing things to melt. Slowly.
Adam took some photos of me mid-blizzard last week. We got two feet of snow. Most of it is still here. There are paw prints near the trees that might mean our fox is visiting again.
There is an interview with me up on Haute Macabre today. I have not been doing interviews of any sort as a general rule but I made a single exception for Jess because I’ve followed her work at bloodmilk for years. I adore & collect her jewelry, I’m wearing her naja owl talon crescent moon in the photo above. It was a pleasure to be interviewed by her, even though I’m a bit out of practice with the whole interview thing.
(It’s always strange to re-read interviews awhile after I gave them. The more recent reading list includes The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel & The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.)
We spent the weekend running around caves and caverns. It was like being underwater, so many beautiful deep dark things. One of them turned the lights off so we could not-see how darkest dark cave dark is. (It’s really dark.)
Home again and snow again and back to revising again. Getting through the deep dark unseeable parts. Finding my way toward the end.
Good things first: I have a house. More than just a house I have a space that is mine and a place that is ours and I am such an introvert homebody Cancerian moon child that this brings me a good deal of joy.
Also within that house I am currently sitting in my new office which was supposed to be finished in October and it was not. It’s still not, but it’s finished enough for me to start moving my boxes and my books and my statues of bunnies into.
I finished a draft of the new book. I think I’m going to change the vast majority of it, but hey, it’s a draft. It still counts.
I drank a lot of sparkling wine with several truly lovely people and I turned 38 years old and celebrated my 2nd wedding anniversary and I ran around in the snow in my own yard in October when we got the first of what appears to be quite a lot of snow.
There were some good things.
And there were a lot of other things.
I feel like I don’t have words for things a lot of the time which makes me feel like a failure as a writer but I just don’t. The words aren’t there, not for blogs or tweets, not the right ones to capture the gamut of emotions from disappointment to anger to sadness to fear that seem to be on constant rotation this year in no particular order.
That’s not the way my brain works. I can’t say how I’m feeling or react to the world in the moment because combinations of 26 letters never sound right the first time, in the sharpness of the here and now. I’m a rewriter more than I’m a writer. I have to keep trying until I get it right. So my words for this emotional storm cloud of a year are going to slowly find their ways into fiction instead.
The world feels different now, or maybe it’s that the world is not yet the place I had wanted to believe it already was. I feel different now and so the book needs to be different, too.Maybe that’s why I’ve been having so much trouble with it, because it is and always was a book that was somewhere in the future and things are different now and it had to wait for me to catch up to it.
Maybe I’m at the place in space and time this story needs me to be in, finally.
I don’t know yet. I’m still figuring it out.
I do know it is a winter book, though, so it helps to be covered in snow.
And I do have a lot of snow.
Two end of 2016 thoughts that probably would have been tweets if I were on Twitter more:
I am not moving to Canada even though I actually have the ability to, I am staying right here.
I want you to know that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table.
A request of sorts:
I turned off my website email because I can’t keep up. I know there are technically other ways on the internet to attempt to reach me but I can’t keep up with Tumblr/Instagram/etc messages either. Especially when they’re often flooded with people asking google-able questions about The Night Circus that seem to be part of homework assignments? Google is your friend. I would like to be friendly, too, but I only have so much time and even less energy.
Please be patient with me. The last few years have been really, really hard. Not just this one. Trying to write a book in the middle of all of it has been hard. I am doing better than I was while also realizing I had not been doing nearly as well as I had thought I was before. I am trying to be patient with myself, too.
I have to get where I’m going one step at a time and I have no idea how many steps there are.
That was a metaphor about how I can’t tell you when this book is going to be out because I don’t know when it’s going to be finished, and trust me, you won’t want to read it until it’s finished. It wouldn’t have an ending for one thing, and there would be pages missing in the middle and then the bees might get out and oh, now I’ve said too much.
I had somehow managed to never read this until now and I regret it immensely. Easily a new very favorite. Such pitch-perfect voice and tone and everything. I recently picked up the new Shirley Jackson biography by Ruth Franklin & I’m looking forward to that, too.
I’ve been trying to read more poetry lately and this volume is brimming with tiny, truth-stuffed gems. (Though I admit my favorite part of this particular edition is the forward that begins with “i don’t feel like the girl who wrote milk and honey anymore” because oh, I feel that feeling.)
I adore Tana French and when I saw she had a new book out this year (The Trespasser) I realized I was behind so I read The Secret Place to catch up. It might very well be my favorite of the bunch so far. The structure is brilliant and it nails a particular teenage girl-ness that I haven’t seen done so well before. Any Tana French is my go-to detective/crime recommendation lately.
This is an excellent book about games & gaming that is not quite as dire as the title might suggest. I read bits of it aloud to Adam in the car this summer while we were waiting for our movie to start at the drive-in theatre, an environment that sharpened the observation that video games are still such a comparatively young art form. (I read several different books on gaming/game history this year and this was my favorite.)
I’m not even finished with this one yet but it has to go on the bests list. It’s what you might expect from the title and more: a thoughtful look at the stories behind the ghosts and the times/places that created them. I have a thing for haunted spaces and I’m learning things that I didn’t know about places that I’d already been aware of and finding out about new ones. (Also I used to live within walking distance of the Haunted Place in Chapter 1.)
I have loved Atlas Obscura via the internet for ages and now I get to have them on my coffee table and it is delicious. Perfect book for opening to a random page and learning something nifty. Here, I’ll find a random one for you, and I really did just flip the book open to see what came up, bibliomancy style: Page 333. Cincinnati’s Lost Subway. Apparently there is an never completed subway system beneath Cincinnati. (Aside to the bibliomancy gods: I see what you did there.)
Preface because I’m not sure I’ve mentioned this before: we currently have something like five different game systems in our house but the PS4 is the go-to. It is my favorite, to the point where the dulcet tones of the home screen might very well be my Proust questionnaire answer for “What sound or noise do you love?” (but in a three-way tie with the crackling sound of a spoon breaking into a crème brûlée and also Nick Offerman’s giggle).
If you are not a game person but you are a book person or a story person please give Firewatch a try. It is beautiful and thoughtful and funny and touching and I still think about it months and months after first playing it. It’s not challenging and it’s not very long and it feels like a playable story. I might replay it next year. I never did find that turtle.
We haven’t finished Rise of the Tomb Raider yet but I love it, especially the way it does this turn-a-corner-and-see-something-amazing thing with the environments. I’m a sucker for a good exploration game and I like puzzles and while I liked the previous Tomb Raider a lot so far this one is balancing its different elements a little better. Looking forward to playing more of it.
I have been escaping into remastered Skyrim since November. I played the original back when it came out and the remaster is gorgeous. It has been kind of meditative, taking long meandering walks from Solitude to Riften and throwing fireballs at the occasional mudcrab. Meditative and therapeutic. And it allows me to say things aloud like “Why do these vampires have so many cabbages?”
Arrival was probably my favorite thing I saw in the theatre this year and I was delighted to find the Ted Chiang short story it was based on in Adam’s extensive SFF collection when we got home.
I will not admit how many times I have watched Zootopia already but I will probably watch it more and then again and possibly one more time after that and I will probably watch Moana just as much when I can.
I don’t have cable or internet right now so I don’t really get to watch TV.Sometimes I’m sad about it. Mostly I’m not.
(I did enjoy Stranger Things even though I had some issues with it. Dustin is my favorite because of course he is.)
(Every year I do this it becomes more and more obvious that I am a books/games/music person more than I am a movies/tv person.)
New albums by artists I already loved: Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool & Birdy’s Beautiful Lies.
I always pick a song of the year and I had too many to choose from this year, too many tracks on repeat (Bon Iver’s “33 ‘GOD’” & Sia’s “Alive” & Kaleo’s “Way Down We Go”) and then I thought about how I always post a video to go with my now traditional New Year’s Eve blog and this came to mind and is another one of those songs I listened to over and over again and the first time I saw this video for it I couldn’t stop smiling.
I think that’s probably a good thing to say goodbye to this year with.
Possibly obvious, but I no longer live in Manhattan.
I left the city in a blur of cardboard boxes and craziness and I owe a great number of people goodbye cocktails that never happened and probably even more people a “by the way I’m moving” update. My apologies. Time, as it does, got away from me, and here I am deep in autumn and leaves out in the woodsy mountains and now I have to make my own cocktails mostly but I am very much okay with that.
We lived in Manhattan for almost four years. I am going to miss parts of it dearly and other parts not at all. I already miss the ability to have sushi brought to my door, drinking sparkling rosé and eating pommes frites at Lafayette. Probably most of the things I will miss are food-based.
I will miss Bryant Park and the High Line and the lobby of the Ace Hotel. The Met and the Morgan Library. I will miss walking up Park Avenue very late at night in the winter and buying used hardcover books at the Strand and Shakespeare in the Park but these are all things I can do again, that I may do even more now that Manhattan is for visiting.
So I have a house now, with stairs and rooms and trees outside and mice inside (teeny adorable mice it is difficult to be too terribly annoyed at even when they get into the Hallowe’en candy). I have never had a space of my own that did not come along with a diminishing number of months for occupying it, a space that can be painted and personalized and stayed in and lived in and it is nice but strange and I am still getting used to it.
I am organizing books on shelves. My new office is not office-shaped yet. Many things are still lost in cardboard boxes, waiting to be found again and put in new places.
Also I am quite literally in the woods. My internet is currently questionable at best though supposedly that might change in the future. I will try to keep up with things as well as I can. I am remaining on Twitter hiatus for now but I might drop in now & again more often than I have been.
I am still writing. New book is book-shaped but is not the right book-shape yet, which is a fussy confusing stage that there is probably a cake analogy for but I’m not sure what it would be. I write things wrong before I get them right, apparently it’s just a thing I do.
I am tearing things out and rewriting and replacing other things and trying to figure out which parts are book and what parts are not book and how to put them all back together properly and in what order. If this were indeed a cake analogy it would involve a very messy kitchen and there would probably be gluten-free flour in my hair. Sometimes in this non-existent analogy kitchen I sit on the floor and cry amongst broken eggs and ruined cake layers and sometimes the mice come out and whisper baking tips and advice to me before running off with more chocolate.
So, yes, still writing.
Every time I crawl out of the writing cave to peek at the internet someone somewhere is asking when my next book will be out. Here is your answer: I don’t know. If I knew I would tell you. I’m busy trying to get it right and make it good and find the proper way to tell this particular story, which feels more important than doing it quickly.
(I don’t have circus movie news either. No one tells me anything. It is, apparently, how such things go.)
A few new circusy things:
This very fancy, very limited, very pricey but very beautiful leather-bound, signed & gilded edition of The Night Circus is currently available from Easton Press. (They also have a very shiny edition of Ready Player One.)
The Night Circus was first published five years ago today.
It’s been a wonderful, strange, emotional roller coaster since then and I am still so very grateful to everyone who embraced and supported the book and visited the circus.
I have been a bad blogger this year. I have been very deep in the writing cave and I really did have a blog post half-drafted that was a summertime check-in of sorts around my birthday but now it is September and beyond the point of summertime check-ins.
This is not a proper check-in. This is just a quick September bookaversary internet hello before I crawl back in my cave. I might grab a pumpkin to autumn-up the cave decor while I’m here.
I am fairly certain there will be news of varying sorts to post here in the foreseeable future. I might even be allowed back on Twitter sometime soonish. Lots of things are afoot and busy and buzzing like bees.
Here we are at the end of the year again. I have had my least productive blogging year possibly ever. I am sorry, blog. I think this post will knock the last 2014 post off the front page, so that’s something. I have spent a lot of 2015 not on the internet, which has been good for me. I’ll be spending parts of 2016 offline as well, beginning with a very hermity writing January.
I started this year hibernating. I am ending it at home in New York, just back from a surprise trip to Hogwarts, about to hibernate again. In between I went to South Bend for circus shenanigans and Toronto again after too long away. I turned 37. We celebrated the first of hopefully many, many wedding anniversaries. I had a lot of cocktails with new friends and old friends. I learned how to make a proper carbonara. I added many, many bottles to my BPAL collection. I was a crossword puzzle clue.
I wrote a lot. I am well out of word soup phase and probably somewhere nearing the word cake phase, though not quite fully baked yet and there will be layers to carve and frost and a great many fussy bits to come. It’s almost a book. It’s thinking about it, really hard.
It was a more eventful year than it looks like through the lens of the internet. Much of what is going on in Erinland is still hidden behind curtains, waiting. Preparing. On one hand I feel badly about not being able to share and on the other I am trying to savor the quiet times because I know they are temporary. I am still trying to learn to balance living in my head which I need to do to write and living in the actual world with people and social media. The easiest way for me to manage is in extremes, and now is a mostly in my head time. Sooner or later the contents of my head will be properly captured in words and then put on paper so they can spill out into other people’s heads, which is magical but intimidating when it’s just me, just my head and just my thoughts, trying to keep them clear and finding the best ways to translate the spaces and people in my head into words. It’s difficult and then it’s easy and then it’s difficult again, like the optical illusions that shift depending on how you focus, though the image always stays the same.
In 2015 for the first time in a long time I started to feel like I’m getting to where I’m supposed to be. That there’s some forward momentum.
No stars in my hair this year. This year there are bees. It is time for new things. Time for changes.
No proper list of favorites this year, either. My favorite book I read out of an embarrassingly short list was Speak by Louisa Hall. I spent most of my non-writing story consuming time this year playing video games, mostly Dragon Age, mostly out of order (Inquisition, then Origins, then II, then the epilogue of Inquisition which made me cry and then laugh through my tears and I cannot even begin to explain how much I love that game). I liked a lot of tv, consumed mostly on Netflix: Black Mirror & Broadchurch & Sense 8 & competitive British baking. I really liked the BBC adaptation of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I didn’t go to many movies but I did just see the new Star Wars and really liked it, and I am not really a Star Wars person.
I’m going to try to read more in 2016.
Lots of good music this year, which made it difficult to choose a song of the year. If I wanted to be really honest my most-played track is the main theme from Dragon Age: Inquisition but since that’s not precisely a song I decided to be a bit more traditional. This artist & this album were very much exactly the right music at exactly the right time.
I keep forgetting it is December, probably because I finished my NaNoWriMo-ness early this year.
I do hope all of you who NaNo-ed enjoyed yourselves, regardless of how many words you wrote, and I hope you’re proud of yourselves because you should be.
All I really wanted to do myself was add 50k to this draft during November and I managed it in 21 days which was excellent timing because my last week of November was very busy. Look, word count graph!
I do so love a word count graph. I should probably just make my own little motivational graphs to use all the time but I don’t think it’d be the same. Maybe I’ll just stick gold stars on things.
So the good news is that this draft is much longer than it was, the not so good is that it is still quite a ways from finding its end. It wants to be long. I am going to try to talk it into being perhaps just a little bit shorter once I find the end of it. It keeps looking at me and pouting and going “but I’m epic!” and then we have debates over the difference between epics and fairy tales and myths and regular old novels. It is consenting to becoming book-shaped, though. It is much more book-esque than it was even before November, and it is very much a winter creature so I have a feeling I will be sledding towards the end of this draft over the next few months and thus things will likely be quite quiet around here though I will do some annual end of the year posts.
I wish I could say more about the not-quite-book but at this point I can’t, really. This point is still alchemy and ingredients and I’m not quite certain how the finished product will turn out, exactly, not enough to describe it properly.
But here, have two sensory hints about it, early winter holiday presents:
Right now the new book smells like snow and beeswax candles and leather and honey.
And it sounds like this, a peek at the beginning of the ever-changing playlist:
I have realized it’s been quite some time since I wrote a proper National Novel Writing Month post. I pseudo-participated the last 2 years and might do the same this year just because I’m trying to finish a draft and I do so love a wordcount graph, but this post is mostly a refresher about NaNo and me and my opinionated opinions.
First, info & links:
NaNoWriMo is an online-based challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days.
It was started in 1999 by Chris Baty, who is an excellent human being.
(50k is not technically novel-length. For reference, The Night Circus clocks in around 120k.)
Some refresher points regarding The Night Circus that usually need to be cleared up around this time of year:
The Night Circus did indeed begin as a NaNoWriMo project.
To be specific: The Night Circus began as an unplanned tangent in the middle of a different NaNo project. I got bored & sent my characters to a circus. The circus was much more interesting than anything else that was happening.
I then spent an additional two Novembers worth of NaNo time on what eventually turned into 100k+ of long, sprawling, very rough first draft.
When I say rough I mean rough. I mean those rocks you use to scrub the dead skin off of your feet rough. I mean it had no plot and Celia wasn’t in it.
That NaNoWriMo version of The Night Circus bears little resemblance to the finished book. It was heavily revised and rewritten both before and after it was sold.
My NaNoWriMo profile informs me that I’ve been a member for more than 12 years which is making me feel both nauseated and old. I skipped a few years and I can’t tell you which ones because the site doesn’t believe in keeping my entire history anymore, but of those 12 Novembers I’ve probably participated during more of them than not.
I didn’t really write much before NaNoWriMo. I thought about writing, which is different than actually writing. (This is one of the great lessons of writing: you have to get the words out of your head and onto paper or screen.) I would write a page and hate it and stop, which is not a good way to get better at anything. I’d write little scraps of things and bury them under self-doubt and insecurity.
NaNoWriMo helped me get better. It took awhile, my first several NaNovembers worth of writing are terrible things that will never see the light of day but the later ones have some good bits here and there that could potentially be excavated. You learn a lot writing page after page after page and not having the time to go back and worry over how awful that one particular page was because there are so many more to write. It’s also probably one of the reasons I’m a binge writer and not a write-every-day writer, but that works for me.
NaNoWriMo is not for everyone. That’s okay. I still maintain that the word “draft” should be involved somewhere. It can be a very helpful first step but there are plenty of other steps. That “the world needs your novel” on the top of the official site that I’m pretty sure wasn’t always there raises my skeptical eyebrow. I’m not sure the world needs your novel but I think maybe you need to write it, if you want to. When I started NaNo-ing back in the dark ages it seemed (to me) much more of a personal challenge and not a means to a publishing-based end. Really I think it’s a writing tool. A crazy, autumnal whirlwind of a writing tool that you can use however works best for your own writing or not use at all. There is no one way to write, after all.
To those about to NaNo, I salute you. I wish you electrifying ideas and caffeinated beverages and I hope you discover things before November 30th that you didn’t expect to find on November 1st.
We went apple picking on Friday and did not intend to look for pumpkins but then there was the Most Perfect Pumpkin and it had to come home with us. Not even going to carve it, it is too perfect in its perfect pumpkinyness.
I am so glad it is finally fall. September was a lying month filled with 90-degree days but October seems to have its act together. I have socks on. This is better.
(The most properly autumnal thing I got up to in September was running around in corn in the dark for the lovely Kim Liggett‘s Blood & Salt launch, which was moonlit and magical and possibly evil.)
I keep forgetting to blog because I’m writing and when I’m not writing more typing seems like silliness when I should be resting my fingers, or doing little finger exercises. I’ve been knitting, trying to finish the scarf I started in July (um… July 2014, that is), and I suppose knitting is finger exercise.
I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and loved it. I like books on creativity and this one is a fairly quick read but packed with very big ideas. It feels like it took up more space in my brain than it did on the page which is a neat trick.
(My brain sometimes feels like it is too big, with too many things and too many people and too much imaginary architecture in it. Can you get agoraphobic in your own brain? I’m going to close this parenthetical before I think about that too hard.)
Adam took some lovely photos of me during Friday’s apple picking perfect pumpkin excursion. I do not know what’s going on with my hair.
Okay, I do know what’s going on with my hair: I cut it wrong last time I did it (I always cut my own hair) so I’ve been putting it up in shame ponytails when there is not quite enough of it to pony.
I am trying to think of what’s new or what’s news and there is no news and not much is new besides pumpkins and pounds upon pounds of apples (I am going to bake an apple crisp of some sort this week). Still writing. Still throwing things out and rewriting. Still trying to figure out where this book is going though it is finally consenting to being almost book-shaped. Almost.
But it is a winter book, so it is sorting itself out more now that there is a chill in the air, pulling up a blanket and sitting next to me on the couch and hopefully once I ply it with enough warm beverages it will tell me the rest of its secrets.
(It told me one big secret yesterday and I said “Really? I’m not sure I can write that.” And it said “Well you’d better, lady, that’s how it goes.” Sigh. Wish me luck.)
Still on Twitter hiatus, likely for at least the rest of the year. Still not doing any public appearances until this draft is done. Still obsessed with Dragon Age, still trying to figure everything out, still over-using the word still.
My brain does not like summer in general and this one in particular. It is too hot and too bright. I’m tired at odd times of day and I forget to buy almond milk for my coffee.
I was already planning on curling up into my sweaters and my head in the fall but I think I shall start the curling early, even if the sweaters have to wait. I’ve been mostly neglecting the internet anyway but for some reason making it official and giving myself rules works better for my brain. And it seems more polite to announce than to simply vanish.
Starting August 1st I will not be on Twitter (I will tweet if there is particularly tweet-worthy news or information to be shared but I will not be reading my @ replies.)
I will blog if there is blog-worthy anything, though there usually isn’t because right now involves a lot of things that are still incubating and not sharable and not a lot of news. My day-to-day news of late is usually the not-blog-worthy type of things like “got new red lipstick” or “made blueberry pancakes” and “still in Dragon Age withdrawal.”
I will be on Instagram & Tumblr occasionally. Lipstick & pancake related news might turn up over there.
I don’t know how long this particular hiatus is going to last. I am planning on crawling into my head and not coming out again properly until I find the end of this book, which I know at this point seems like it has been a very very long time coming. I threw out everything I had in January and started over, so really it is going quite quickly and I have so much more of it figured out even if I haven’t convinced the words to cling to the pages in the right order just yet. It is much less like word soup now than it used to be but it is still a word soufflé and I need to be careful and quiet with it so it doesn’t collapse.
So I’m going to step away from the internet (mostly) and figure out how to get from soufflé to whatever the next stage of this analogy is (probably cake) and someday there will be a proper book and hopefully someday is a lot less far off than it used to be.
Earlier this year we had to print out photos for our immigration interview so now they’re scattered about the apartment, popping up like mushrooms.
I had a feeling we were both going to go the predictable book route for the paper anniversary gifts but Adam surprised me with the Dragon Age: Inquisition tarot deck which was super limited & now only pops up on ebay occasionally. Because tarot & Dragon Age are two of my favorite things & he knows me really, really well.
(I got him a gift card for The Strand so he can go & pick out his own paper books.)
And this was a not-paper combination gift that we’ve been talking about getting for ages.
I admit I had thought all that stuff about the sound being warmer and such was likely exaggeration but I was wrong, it does sounds warmer and it is amazing it is like hot tea for your ears and I am loving it to little bits.
And last night we went to o ya for dinner, we’d been to their Boston location a few times and the New York outpost just opened. Everything was sublime, in that “I’m going to giggle maniacally after every perfect bite because it’s just that perfect and happy-making” way. They even gave us little candlelit magic mochi matcha donuts for anniversaryness.
I can’t believe it’s been a year already, probably because it’s been a busy year but it’s been lovely and wonderful in so many ways and I am very much looking forward to a great many more anniversaries.