Know Your Novel, Part One: Welcome to Eden, Wyoming

Wade sauntered over to the side of the road, and for the first time got a glimpse of where he was. Brown, weedy grass stretched over endless rolling hills as far as he could see, on all sides of him. He turned to look at the sign he’d run into, and sure enough, the front of the truck had smashed into a pole. The green sign above it said ‘WELCOME TO EDEN, WYOMING. POPULATION 566. ENJOY YOUR STAY.’

I joked before this month began that I apparently have a thing for angsty guys winding up in mysterious small pseudo-western towns where the preternatural happens, but that joke wound up becoming Welcome to Eden, Wyoming – -a novel about an angsty guy winding up in a mysterious small pseudo-western town where the preturnatural happens. My main question was if I could convince people it wasn’t  Dark is The Night 2.0 but the book is taking care of that itself and shaping up nothing like my other Novel with a Similar Premise. Wade isn’t even that angsty. He’s kind of sweet.

So far.

  1. What sparked the idea for this novel? Honestly, it just came together in a flash without a particular ‘spark.’ Watching Logan and Predator made me want to write Boyd Hallbrook’s particular persona into a novel. I love the ‘weird west/american gothic’ genre and wanted to write something that felt a little more western than Dark is the Night, and include beings I hadn’t used before in other novels, like ghouls and kelpies and black shucks. Also I’ve wanted to use the town of Eden, Wyoming in a novel since we drove through it last year – I gave it a population of 566 in this book, but it might actually have been less in real life.
  2. Share a blurb! When Wade Lawson wakes up on the outskirts of Eden, Wyoming in a stolen truck, with hands that aren’t his and tattoos he doesn’t remember getting, he figures life can’t get any worse. The only thing to do is wait for his memory to return so he can go back to his normal life – but Eden’s inhabitants hold more mysteries than Wade’s past, and Wade’s past just might hold a fate worse than death for everyone involved.
  3. Where does the story take place? What is your favorite thing about the setting? I wanted to write a small midwestern town that felt kinda old-fashioned but kinda Night Vale at the same time, with a very small population and lots of room for Mysterious Things to Happen. Hence, Eden, Wyoming. Also I enjoy ironic names.
  4. Tell us about your protagonist. I originally set out for Wade to be kind of a ‘confused badass.’ So far he’s just confused. Mid-thirties. Honestly I can’t tell you more about him than he knows, that would be giving things away.
  5. Who (or what) is the antagonist? This I DEFINITELY can’t tell you. I can tell you the unseelie sidhe are involved. I can also tell you that I wanted to make them legitimately scary and not just ‘beautiful but fickle.’
  6. What excites you the most about this novel? Probably the upcoming plot twists. I do love a good plot twist. Also the Phoenix character. Also the Kelpie character. Also Miranda Rodriguez. But mostly the plot twists.
  7. Is this going to be a series? Standalone? Something else? Honestly I don’t know. I might hazard a guess at a duology unless I manage to actually wrap the whole book up this month, which is slightly unlikely. I have trouble writing standalone novels, I always wind up with dramatis persona I enjoy too much to relinquish after one book.
  8. Are you plotting? Pantsing? Plantsing? I usually plot out the barest minimum at the beginning and then fill in the rest as I go. Honestly there’s so little real plotting involved it’s BASICALLY pantsing but there is a smidge of plotting involved. Sometimes.
  9. Name a few things that make this story unique. What kind of QUESTION IS THIS, I ask? It’s not as if I choose a generic story and go ‘here’s how I’ll make it unique,’ I pick a story and I write it and hopefully everything that happens has the unique flavor of a Mirriam Neal story and manages to be fairly unique in its own right. If it winds up being unoriginal, that’s a BAD thing.
  10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!). The Pinterest Board is here for your souls: https://www.pinterest.com/mirriamneal/welcome-to-eden-wyoming-novel

SNIPPETS

(These aren’t officially part of this post but I’m including them because I’ve posted a few on Facebook but haven’t done the mandatory ‘snippets post’ for NaNoWriMo yet)

The sheriff stuck the patch onto Wade’s head. “There. Should be fine in a day or two. You didn’t seem concussed, so.”
Wade raised his eyebrows as the sheriff crumpled up the packaging and picked up the alcohol bottle. “Didn’t seem concussed?”

“Hey, I’m not a doctor.” Zane walked out of the cell, leaving the door open as he set the alcohol back in the unusual first-aid kit. “And you look okay.”


“There’s an old cemetery over the hill behind the house. Keep an eye on it but pay it no mind.”

Wade glanced over his shoulder at the hill, an eerie sensation washing over him like he was a kid and his parents had just told him to ignore the monster in the closet. “You have a real grave-robbing problem or something?””

“Not usually.” Zane climbed back into the car and shut the door, draping his arm out the window.  “If you see Moon-Jae, say hi to him for me.”

“He your not-usual grave-robber?”


“Did Zane send you or what?”

The figure chuckled and opened the granola wrapper with a single long tear. “Hardly. He didn’t tell you about me, did he? He has a delightful sense of humor.”

Wade was not feeling delighted. Nor was he feeling a large amount of patience. “Yeah, well, this is my place for a while so I suggest you get out before I make you leave.”

“I suppose I shouldn’t blame you for your behavior, but it leaves something to be desired.” The figure broke off a piece of granola bar, and Wade heard the stranger chewing and chewing loud.

“Out,” said Wade. “Now.”


A twig snapped and he turned, squinting through the early-morning light at the trees to his right. A shadow – too large for an antelope or a deer – moved, then surged out onto the street several yards in front of Wade.

It was a horse, but unlike any horse Wade had ever seen. His charcoal-gray coat was slick with water, dripping in rivulets down its long, sharp face. Its mane and tail were abnormally long, and Wade was pretty sure he could see seaweed tangled in them both. Rows of small, ridged spikes ran down the animal’s neck and side, from ears to haunch. The horse shook itself like a dog, flinging water, and swung its head to look at Wade with large eyes.

“Easy, boy.” The words left Wade automatically, but for a reason he couldn’t understand this animal gave off the vibe of a half-starved junkyard dog more than a horse and he didn’t want it coming anywhere near him.

The horse lifted its ears as if surprised at the sound of Wade’s voice and took a tentative step toward him on slender legs.

Wade lifted his hands. “Easy,” he repeated, wary.

With a sudden snort, the strange animal shook its head and spun, cantering away down the street with fluid speed until even the sound of its hooves on the pavement faded out of hearing.

Wade lowered his arms and released a deep breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. With the strange feeling he’d escaped something bad, he picked up the pace again, trying to make sense of the strangeness in the air around him. The horse, the skeletal man from last night. The howling that sounded almost wolf-like but also not quite.

The fact even the air here felt different; every breath he took filled him with a mingled sense of dread and excitement, like he was going to round a corner and see a UFO idling in the middle of the road.

I was tagged by Arielle who gave me no choice thought of me but if you want to join in, head on over HERE to link up!

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Ye Stars That Shudder (snippets)

Several years ago, while I was writing The Fading of the Light (the first novel in my futuristic science-fantasy Samurai Robin Hood retelling) I joked, “Just wait until I put a spin on King Arthur. ‘Camelot & Aliens.'” A few months ago that joke came full circle as I began to write Ye Stars That Shudder, a mostly-modern-day post-alien invasion version of King Arthur. I began it, wrote seven chapters in quick succession, and then had to put it on the back burner while art, the moneymaker, sat in front. I’m trying to find a way to write and paint, and at my mom’s suggestion I’m going to take up waking at 5:30 consistently so I can write for an hour/hour and a half before the workload starts. That said, it’s about time I introduced you to the current novel in the form of snippets!

YSTS

Arthur folded his hands and studied the scarred tabletop. Searching his feelings, he realized he felt oddly betrayed by Uther’s capture. Here in the mountains they were isolated but still received news – infrequent trips into so-called civilization for supplies, the scattered reports over the old radio in the corner. Since the Visitors landed three years ago, Uther had risen; a determined, stubborn beacon of hope shining through the fog of complacency and despair. Uther was the rebellion and the rebellion was Uther. Now he was captured, soon he would be dead.

It did not seem terribly irrational to Arthur that the rebellion might die soon after.


“Even so,” said Hector; his voice mild and his eyes hard, “they’ll be expecting this kind of thing. I won’t have you be the next well-meaning idiot who dies at the hands of the Visitors.”

“Well-meaning, yeah,” said Arthur. “Sometimes. But I’m never an idiot.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” said Kai.


“Thirty seconds and I’m leaving,” said Kai, blowing out a breath through his nose and looking at the door.

Hector placed his spoon on the table. “You’ll do what I tell you, boy.” Kai raised an eyebrow, and Hector leaned on his elbow and pointed at him. “That’s what I said. Boy; which boggles my mind, personally, seeing as how you’re nearly thirty years old. And you,” he added, pointing the finger in Arthur’s direction now, “I made my share of bad decisions when I was your age, but twenty-three is plenty old enough to know what constitutes a fatal mistake. Savvy?”

“Savvy,” said Arthur, straightening. When Hector took that tone it always made him feel like he was slouching, even if he wasn’t.


                Kai set the bow down and lifted the rosin up to his face. “The only reason I’m not throwing this at your head is because I’m not done using it.”


“Uther would give it to me.”

“That doesn’t answer my question,” said Badge, in a slightly less-friendly tone.

“I cannot disclose the reason to you, but it is a good one.”

“Oh, well. As long as it’s good.”

“You sure you don’t want to shoot him, Badge?” asked a man with a bow and arrow standing several feet behind the other man. “Looks like he could use a bullet. Or an arrow,” he added, acknowledging his current weapon. “Whatever works.”


It was the most up close and personal Uther had ever been with a Vee – probably the most personal anyone still alive had ever been, probably. They breathed, he could tell that much; the suits emitted a rhythmic purring sound every couple seconds.

When they spoke, it was only in words typed onto a screen. They might not be able to speak, but they could read and write English. The same word had been staring at Uther in black, sharp lettering for the past twenty-four hours – W H E R E I S T HE S W O R D, unrelenting. Their concept of spacing was backwards, apparently.


Merlin lifted his hand to his face, touching his fingers to his forehead like an exasperated father. “There is a plan,” he said, “and I will tell it to you once you stop reeling.”

“I’m not reeling. Surprised, shocked, definitely not cool with any of this, but not reeling.”

“I wish I had the ability to blink,” said Merlin. “Slowly. To show my exasperation,” he added.


He reached into his back pocket, holding his other hand out. “Don’t hit me, love, I’m just getting my business card.”

“You have a funny way of making sales pitches, I hope you realize that.”

“It’s not exactly a sales pitch,” he said, holding the business card out between his fingertips.

She took it from him with a sharp glance and read the name. Tristan Troye, Private Investigator. Collaborator. She looked pointedly at him and let the card fall from her hand onto the floor. “You look like a Tristan,” she said with a disdainful sniff.


“What guy are you?”

“I don’t know,” Arthur snapped. “I’m the guy who makes sarcastic comments on things and has existential thoughts.”

“Oh, yeah? Today should be right up your lane then, mate.”

“Ha; you’d think, but no.”

“Says the guy who was griping at me earlier for not caring about the world at large,” Kai retorted. “Now you’ve been told you’re like some kind of angsty superhero and you don’t want it.”

“This isn’t exactly what I meant,” said Arthur, tasting bitterness sharp on his tongue. “This is like wishing for firewood and having a tree fall on your house.”

“Hey, wood is wood.”

“Oh my gosh, go away.”


Wayne Gaheris could never remember to turn his phone off, which was why its ringing woke him up at three forty-seven in the morning. He answered automatically with a groggy, “Deputy Gaheris.” Only then did he look at the clock and fight the urge to swear at the caller.

“She got away. She ran off.”

“Tristan? Who ran off?”

“Vivian Atwater! She’s got a hell of a roundhouse. I took one in the knee.”

“A what?”

“A kick, man, a kick.”

“Are you telling me a sixty-seven-year-old woman incapacitated you and then took off?”

“It’s a terrible truth and I’m ashamed, but yes.”

“You’re a disgrace.”

“I shall wear sackcloth and kowtow fifty times at the alter of your disapproval, but as I’m currently en route to the hospital you’ll have to accept a postponement.”


Hector broke in, his voice rough with barely-suppressed anger. “Hang on. You’re telling me you brought this all on our heads without knowing if you had your head on straight?” He took a step toward Merlin but the robot did not back up; he only turned his head unnaturally far to the right and replied, “Yes.”

“I should grind you into dust right now.”

“Try it, tough guy,” said Merlin, in a voice that sounded suddenly very human, very old, and very annoyed.

 

Sheltered (?)

‘I unfollowed her from Instagram because I was starting to question some of the things she said.’ I read that comment on an article about a current bestselling book by a Christian author. Said author has some beliefs that don’t exactly line up with what Jesus said, but I’m not here to talk about her. I’m here to talk about that comment.

It’s a mindset I see more and more among fellow Christians –  although I think it’s always been there, and I’m just noticing it more the more I pay attention. It’s the concept that if we disagree with something, or aren’t sure of it, we avoid the subject entirely. It’s the idea that if someone believes something we don’t, we have nothing to do with them. It’s the idea that anything contrary to our beliefs should be shied away from immediately.

I understand where this idea came from. I saw a lot of it in my early years; the conservative Christian homeschooling community, while eager to do the right thing, got an awful lot wrong. ‘Shelter’ was a buzzword, the goal of every good conservative Christian homeschooling parent. And why wouldn’t you want to shelter your kids? There’s some dark, disgusting, perverse stuff out there in the world. There’s also some dark, disgusting, perverse stuff inside each of us that no amount of shelter is going to hide us from. I know from personal experience and the experience of people I know that you can get into anything from the ‘shelter’ of your own home.

Now I’m not advocating that parents shove their young children out into the world. As my mom has always said, ‘You can’t be salt and light until you’re salty and lit.’ The idea that toddlers should march into kindergarden prepared to Witness™ is fundamentally flawed and probably not what Jesus had in mind.

What I am advocating is that Christians stop being afraid of ‘the other.’ You can’t make a difference if you’re no different. You can’t share if you aren’t close enough to reach out in some way. A lighthouse that faces the land and not the sea does nothing.

The lie that we should do nothing but ‘shelter ourselves’ takes many forms. You shouldn’t go there, you’re a young, attractive woman. You shouldn’t talk to them, you’re white and they aren’t. You shouldn’t step inside that place, nobody there is a Christian. It’s not safe. It’s not Christian. It’s not for you.

Should we throw ourselves blindly into mindless danger? Of course not. But if we’re supposed to be Jesus here on earth, if we’re Imago Dei, if we’re stewards of the heaven we believe in, if we serve the omnipotent God we claim we do, we can’t be afraid to talk to someone different. To do something others might find stupid. To shine love and care into places that never see sunlight. To let someone who isn’t ‘just like you’ lean on your shoulder. To help someone to their feet who might not fit the mold you were taught was ‘acceptable’ to help.

Because here’s the thing – Jesus didn’t tell us to love some people. He didn’t say ‘let your light shine before mankind, unless you’re a young, attractive woman,’ or ‘unless you’re a different color,’ or ‘unless people believe something different than you.’ Jesus walked into a graveyard to talk with a possessed wild man. Jesus ate with thieves and hookers. Jesus conversed with adulterers. He healed anyone who came up and asked to be healed.

His life would have been a whole lot different if he had only hung out with the apostles. Jesus doesn’t once call us to be sheltered anywhere except under His wing. I’m learning to love my neighbor as myself, wholeheartedly, even when my current neighbor (i.e. person I’m next to) is different than I am. That was the whole point of the Good Samaritan story, wasn’t it? And not just to love your neighbors, but to love them as yourself.

Am I totally there? No. Some days I don’t show love to people in my house the way I want to. Sometimes I fail or weeks at a time. It’s not about getting it right 100% of the time. It’s about being unafraid to keep at it, because shelter isn’t a building we live under. It’s the God we believe in.

The world will figure out what we really believe by watching what we actually do.

— Bob Goff

A PARTING NOTE: Like I stated previously, I don’t believe in flinging oneself into dangerous situations ‘just because.’ I also don’t believe danger should mean the same thing to Christians as it tends to. Jesus wasn’t about safety, and that’s something we tend to forget. He also wasn’t about stupidity. It’s not an exact science, but I believe when He wants you to go do a thing, you’ll know. It isn’t always about ditching your life and going to minister to big-city gangs – it’s usually about reaching out and loving on someone near you who hasn’t seen what love really looks like.

An Autumn Tag

It’s no surprise to anyone that I love Autumn. I am every basic autumn meme you see floating around the internet, and I don’t even mind. Everything about autumn is perfect, especially in the PNW. It began to feel like fall a little over a week ago, and I went from shorts to leggings in a second. My music and viewing choices shifted toward fall themes. It’s perfect. (Also technically yesterday was the first day of fall according to the meteorological calendar, to which I ascribe. So.)

Looking at Autumn Tags around the internet, I’ve curated my favorite questions to answer and ask the rest of you! If you want to be tagged, consider it done – link me to your answers below,because I’d love to read them!

fall activity

It’s cliche to say everything, but everything is better in fall. If I had to narrow it down to just one thing, I would say existing. That’s not too vague, right? If I really had to choose one thing, it would be getting dressed, because autumn clothes are my favorite clothes and I can finally get back into looking like a vagabond wizard-woman.

FAVORITE

So back when I was writing Paper Crowns and Paper Hearts (which is due for a rewrite pretty soon here), I had a very specifically-curated playlist I would listen to while I wrote. I always have a playlist for my novels, but often the songs are mostly interchangeable with other playlists – I listen to my Salvation playlist while writing No Dark Disguise, for example, but I also listen to it sometimes when writing Ye Stars That Shudder despite having a YSTS playlist.

The songs I listened to for the Paper series all feel like fall to me for some reason – they have that wonderfully cozy, soft, vaguely eerie feeling that makes you want to toss on an oversized sweater, tuck a book under your arm, and go walk on some crunchy leaves. Lenka, A Fine Frenzy, and Novelette make up the majority of this playlist – if you’d like me to give you a full-fledged autumn playlist with specific songs, let me know!

FAVORITE

I can’t choose between the two, because a cozy autumn is a spooky autumn and vice versa (at least in my mind). Half the coziness of autumn is feeling like somewhere between the crisp air and the earlier nights, something is waiting. It’s right around the corner. Growing up we chose to spend Halloween with blankets over the windows watching movies and eating a special dinner, pretending we weren’t home and hiding from trick-or-treaters, which always gave the night an extra special kind of secrecy and probably created the feeling I still have despite the fact I now hand out candy and dress up on a pretty daily basis.

FAVORITE

Monster, for sure. I’ve always loved monsters. Give me all the monsters.

FAVORITE

Over the Garden Wall now has to be at the very top of my list, along with Stranger Things, Fantastic Beasts, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Gilmore Girls, and any and every Studio Ghibli movie (but, when is it NOT time for those?).

FAVORITE

While I never stop drinking strong black coffee (two cups in the morning are necessary), I have to go with eggnog lattes. There’s a small coffee shack a few miles from here that starts serving them early, mid-September, before anyone else does. It is a gift from God. As far as food goes, I don’t have a specific autumn food that’s my favorite – autumn is for baked things. It’s for pastries. It’s for gaining back the handful of pounds I lost with exercise during the summer. It’s worth it (and provides free insulation).

FAVORITE

A Wrinkle in Time, The Silmarillion, Brambly Hedge, the Fantastic Beasts script, and The Hobbit. Oh, and Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. That’s very necessary and one of my all-time favorite books.

FAVORITE

Definitely NaNoWriMo. This year will be my…tenth? NaNoWriMo (I think. It might be ninth; there’s a JuNoWriMo in there somewhere also. And a Camp NaNo.) That said, I do love watching artists do InkTober or DrawTober and I plan to join in on at least one of those this year. I don’t like the official InkTober prompts, so I’ll probably search for another less-popular list to draw from. If you know of any, hit me up!

FAVORITE

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been! — Percy Shelley
That country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain. — Ray Bradbury
FAVORITE

If there are any other questions you’d like me to answer, or questions you want to add onto this for YOUR blog,, please feel free! For now, happy autumn; and may the wind blow you to good places.

The Art of Clutter

IMG_1819

There’s been a big shift toward minimalism in the last few years. Everywhere I look I see people simplifying their homes, switching to monochromatic schemes of black and white and grey, seeing my Instagram feed fill with pictures of elegant, bare-bones rooms. There have been a few times where I wished I was more drawn to minimalism – after all, the concept of ‘stuff’ seems so bourgeois today.

I never wish that for very long. I wasn’t made for minimalism. Growing up, I was always fascinated by clutter. Not Little Old Lady clutter – I knew the difference between curiosities and Precious Moments figurines – but real, interesting, story-filled, curiosity-cabinet clutter. One of my favorite books growing up was Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Eight Cousins,’ which I read far more frequently than Little Women or even Jo’s Boys, my other favorite.  The main reason I loved this book was Uncle Alec. I wanted to be Uncle Alec. He swooped into the story with his tales of travels, bringing foreign, exotic things to Rose, raising questions as often as he answered them. Between Uncle Alec and Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which from A Wrinkle in Time, I knew how – if not exactly what – I wanted to be when I grew up.

I knew I couldn’t live a minimal life and also surround myself with that cabinet of curiosities-slash-wizard vibe I wanted, so I gave up the thought and began the art of Collecting Things. I’m a very specific collector. I need items to mean something to me – they need to make me happy, remind me of something, or have a purpose. Just having ‘stuff’ isn’t my goal – filling my space with things I love, things that will make other people stop and look and wonder, that is the goal.

My room isn’t very large, but every time I walk into it, it’s like stepping into another world, or the mysterious wing of a different house. There are sixteen plants in this small space; three different strands of lights. The windowsills are lined with crystals. There are several piles of books by my bed. A large figure of the anterior view of a skull hangs from my wall next to a celestial chart. A strand of folded stars, made by women in India, hangs from my ceiling, as does a small dragon I adopted from a renaissance faire several years ago. My bookshelf (for I only have room for one in this room, the rest of my books are in a dozen boxes in the basement) is stacked not only with books, but a large cast-iron griffin I got at a curiosity store, a small faux-ivory box in which I keep my pipe tobacco, a pipe, a wooden gnome carved by a friend of mine, a jar of paper star from another friend, a tiny Totoro figurine, and more.

Belts, bags, jewelry, and masquerade masks also hang from my wall. My ‘office space,’ i.e. the side of the room where I work, is my favorite. The wall is strung with maps, keys, art prints from my favorite artists, a Carnival poster from my dad’s high school days, a painting of Big Ben by my little sister. The desk holds a letter tray, boxes of pencils and pens, an incense pot, a candle, a rat’s skull, jars of glitter and wax seals and feather pens, leather-bound notebooks and a wooden growler (surprisingly helpful for organizing other miscellany like paints, more jars, and a plastic skeleton’s foot) made by a wonderful craftsman from the local farmer’s market.

When people walk into my room – even if it’s a family member who has undoubtedly stood in this room hundreds of times – they stop and stare and look because there’s so much to see. Everything I keep is something I love. Something given to me, something discovered, something with a story.

It’s not always organized. It’s not always clean. It certainly doesn’t always look Instagram-worthy, and it definitely makes it harder to pack up whenever we move.

But it’s a lot more fun to unpack, too.