you’ll understand when you’re older.

mommy, what does happy feel like?

“it’s like when you smile and everything is nice.”

mommy, what does sad feel like?

“it’s like when your grandma died. it makes you frown, and sometimes you cry.”

mommy, what does being mad feel like?

“it’s like when you want to hit something really hard to stop the fire in your middle.”

mommy, what is being scared like?

“it’s when you don’t want something to happen, but instead of fire in your middle everything is ice.”

mommy, what does hope feel like?

“it’s when you really want something to happen, and you’re almost scared about it but you smile instead of frown.”

mommy, what does love feel like?

“you’ll understand when you’re older.”

mommy, what does happy feel like?

[it’s the glow in her eyes but not her face as she looks at you oddly, tired – bent but not broken but even her smile is strained now]

mommy, what does sad feel like?

[it’s the way she sobs when she doesn’t think you’re near enough to hear with no abandon, unlike the everything that abandoned her, and it’s the gaunt look to her face, the haunted eyes that seem never to escape the mysterious burdens they drag with them]

mommy, what does being mad feel like?

[it’s the screaming at the sky, the blood-chilling sounds wrenched from her, demanding at no one why they would do this to her, why her, anyone but her, and it’s the dented wall no one talks about]

mommy, what is being scared like?

[it’s the ‘i-love-you’s that stick because of the desperation buried beneath the simple words, and it’s the fact that she’s convinced she’ll never be able to convey the entirety of her meaning, but she’ll try her hardest, anyway, because what could invoke more fear than regret?]

mommy, what does hope feel like?

“mommy doesn’t know sweetie, go ask someone else.”

mommy, what does love feel like? (i’m older now, you know)

“shouldn’t you know the answer by now?”

never forget the little things.

“I met a man once. Even from several feet away, I could almost smell his stories, they were that tangible. It was like one could reach out and snag me at any moment, like a hook. (See what I did there?) He wore his silver (not grey, mind you) hair free and he carried himself like the physical embodiment of the phrase ‘tried and true’, and nothing short of a tsunami could’ve shaken him. Tattoos lined his arms like the tanned, leathery wrinkles tracing his face.

I approached him cautiously, like I might a ghost. Curious, but very, very careful — that was the key, being careful. You can’t expect the unexpected, but you can prepare for as much as you possibly could. He squinted at me sidelong, and without a word started talking.

I thought he would describe grand adventures in rich detail. Tales of trouble with pirates, (for he was surely of the sea,) and treasure, and treason. I thought he would recount rough tales of badly-kept secrets and beguiling women.

Instead, he spoke fondly of his love across the sea (I was right on that count, at least). He told me of friendships, speaking of the deep pain of betrayal like he wasn’t desensitized yet, like it stung even more now, likely at least a few years later, than it did then. He recounted stories of his kid (kids?) when they were younger.

I sat, enraptured. I had never heard someone so rough-looking speak so gently, so obviously caring about whomever was the subject at hand. It fascinated me, for a reason I couldn’t name.

Such a soft man in a rough world. Despite appearances, of course. I was called away before he ran out of tales, but I promised I’d be back. When I got home, I told my two children – Evie and Ren, my pride and joy – all about the man. I owe him, to this day, for lessons irreplaceable.

I came back, same time the next day. He wasn’t there. I never saw him again, but I never forgot about the kind man in the cruel world.”

my favorite constellation of them all

it’s the song i can’t stop singing
it’s the tune always unfailing
it’s the bittersweet goodbyes
of things not yet given up
it’s the happy parts of slowly-fading scars
the parts of not-yet-laden hearts
that have against all odds – not yet given up

it’s the stars that brightly shine
contrasted beauty so divine
they are never quite as pretty
without the sky to back them up
its the saddening parts of slowly healing hearts
talk of bitter, the scars scabbed over

(into a marred constellation
traced against the night’s backdrop)

it’s the depth of your eyes and smile
too honest to think of guile
no one even comes close
to the way you are a sun(flower)
it’s the maddening love
an occupational hazard—

if i am the stars
then, oh, you are my night sky, darling
part of the art, part of my heart
and not only just a backdrop

in which I interview the creator of Paper(s).

Does that title sound familiar? (If it does, kudos to you for reading this blog for so long. XD) Some of you may remember, or know of, Mirriam Neal — a twenty­-two­-year-­old Northwestern hipster living in Atlanta. She writes hard-to-­describe books in hard­-to­describe genres, and illustrates things whenever she finds the time. She aspires to live as faithfully and creatively as she can and she hopes you do, too.

A while back, she self-published Monster, a novel asking important questions such as “what makes a monster”? Now, almost three years later, she’s back at it again with a noticeably-lighter fantasy: Paper Crowns.

I had the honor of interviewing her as part of Monster‘s promotion. Now, we’re at it again with a brand-new interview, this time about Paper Crowns!


Ginger has lived in seclusion, with only her aunt Malgarel and her blue cat, Halcyon, to keep her company. Her sheltered, idyllic life is turned upside­down when her home is attacked by messengers from the world of fae. Accompanied by Halcyon (who may or may not be more than just a cat), an irascible wysling named Azrael, and a loyal fire elemental named Salazar, Ginger ventures into the world of fae to bring a ruthless Queen to justice.


First off, do you have any tips or hints as to working with an honest-to-goodness publishing company? Can you outline the general process of publishing Paper Crowns? Be respectful, but don’t be a pushover. If you don’t like something, speak up, and remember that your publisher didn’t have to choose your book, but they did.

If Paper Crowns had to have a main theme behind it, what would it be? any subthemes? I get asked this a lot, actually; I think people are curious because there are no blatant themes (a departure from my usual modus operandi). I wanted to tell a fairytale. That’s all I wanted to do. I suppose every decent fairytale has light versus dark, as well as the determination of the heroines and heroes. Sometimes, I think, the simplicity of good defeating bad is good theme to revisit.

If Ginny and Hal had to have a theme song, what would it be? (separately or together, like… their relationship, whatever quality it may be.) I listened to Colbie Callait’s ‘When the Darkness Comes,’ and have always viewed that as Hal and Ginny’s ‘song.’

What do you think Hal’s favorite food would be? Chocolate-covered peanuts. I’m serious.

What is your favorite part or aspect of Paper Crowns? The tone of it, I think. It’s a little sweeter, a little more simple – I wanted it to be understood by children as well as enjoyable for adults. This isn’t to say I think children need only simple stories, but it doesn’t have the gritty, complex content that most of my novels favor. It’s a nice departure sometimes.

Even now, after it’s already published, do you see random things that remind you of Paper Crowns? Paper airplanes and acorns almost always make me think of Paper Crowns.

There’s been reference to “the Paper Series”. Does this mean there are more related books to come? Definitely. Paper Dolls and Paper Chains are swirling around in nebulous form.

What, as an author, are some reads that you would consider edifying or helpful? Dorothea Brand’s ‘The Writer’s Magic,’ Stephen King’s ‘On Writing,’ and Rilke’s ‘Letters to a Young Poet’ are incredibly inspiring.

Any last words? ‘Make good art.’ — Neil Gaiman

Obligatory link section:

Mirriam’s email: the­shieldmaiden [at] hotmail [dot] com

Master list of blog tour posts




Barnes & Noble

Publisher’s page


“saranghae; jal-ja.”

truth is? i love you a lot
i love you too much to watch you rot
little drastic-sounding? is that what you think?
what you think, what you think — it doesn’t matter what I think
what i think, is that you should leave me alone
before my hurt becomes yours

truth is? i hate you sometimes

(…truth is? i can’t think of a solid reason to hate you.)

truth is? your care is sickening
but your affection is quickening, blood goes steady to thickening
at your love, at your leave
ah yes, and that is the entire reason we are here.

truth is? i feel weak thinking
of a life devoid of you, totally lacking
in your specific way of cracking open the packaging
in this cursed little lock-box of mine.

truth is? my heart is so full
and nothing can dull the inescapable
relationships are hard when you give them your all
(and your all is always all you give)

truth is? i try so hard not to care
whether you go or you dare
to make us some sort of pair
of dysfunctional minds coincide here

truth is? i care more than you’ll ever know
promises will be the death of me, but
at least they give me a reason to talk to you
(once in a while)

prying the box open, carving out its insides
cutting its contents open until they bleed out
and eventually wither away
carefully gathering all the ash, and making it special again
in the way only you can do
sometimes, this is all you can do
sometimes, this is all you need to do
the care you take is disgusting in its quantity
but i can never actually begrudge it

truth is? i love you in a way
that dies just a little whenever you walk away
little drastic-sounding? is that what you think?
well, let me tell you what i think

i think that you should stay
i think that you should stay
i think that you should stay

but what i think most, is that you should leave me alone
before my hurt becomes yours

the first and the last.

i am not the first
to wish that you were here enjoying life (preferably, with me)
to treasure your smile like it’s the most precious thing i’ve ever seen
and how if your eyes fail to smile, too, something is terribly wrong
to imagine an alternate life where you and i
existed together in more ways than one

i am sorry.
i suppose that you do not understand that i do not wish
to taste your unchapped lips
to touch every part of you
to live in an alternate life where you and i
were intimate together in more ways than one

you are lovable in more ways than one
but i may be the first to say
that i
i only wish to witness your smile
i only crave the safe reassurance
that you so freely exude
is it wrong, though
to want you to hold me like nothing is terribly wrong
every once in a blue moon, only if you feel like it

i am not the first to crave
your touch, your gaze
but if only you would treat me as if
i were the furthest thing from invisible
may i be the first to say
“i would be content.”

the Ambiguity of One Group with Two Names

hello, world. it’s nice to meet you again, but how many times must we go through this?
do you not grasp by now that something is very amiss?
can none of you see, that to keep on meeting, first we must forget you?
“to forget reality, such impossibility!” pray tell, how is this true?

i suppose that you don’t realize

even from day one, we are taught to expect that structural integrity is incredibly adept
at hiding holes and cracks behind Their well-clothed backs, and grinning
normal is picture-perfect snapshots, nothing less; nothing but tailored truths we’re trained to accept
nothing but the lies, Their personalized enterprise — story-spinning
weave intricate tales of our dependency on Them – mindset so ingrained that we are sewn at the hem
none of the holes or cracks aside, blatant lied are magnified
we are slowly winning

but is not self-awareness akin to damnation of one’s mind?
is not realization the cause of one’s unwind?

are we not Them, then?