This is an updated version of a piece of flash fiction I wrote for a prompt. The original is published on my old writer’s blog here.
A drop of sweat rolled down Riley’s forehead. Her eyes darted back and forth. She stared at the hand in her grasp. She swallowed hard and licked her lips as she called the last bet, throwing more of her precious few chips into the pot.
With shoulders tensed and fingers clasping her cards tight, she felt a ripple of relaxation spread around the room, ending with the Cowboy tisking and whispering, “Brave little toaster.” She said nothing.
True, it was only a two pair of sixes and sevens, and the Cowboy might’ve had her beat with a full house or four of a kind…if he was waiting on the river like her.
The river was everyone’s friend and enemy at the same time. Schrödinger’s play. All she needed was the kicker though, and she’d leave with the biggest pot she’d ever seen, on one of the crappier hands she’d ever played.
Small coughs and cleared throats echoed as the players waited for the dealer to flip the last card. In slow motion, he took it from the top of the deck. With a communal intake of breath, he revealed the glossy print against the fuzzy green table top: ace of spades.
Riley peeked over her cards at her peers and watched fingers tap and brows furrow. The last round started and two dropped out, leaving her against the Cowboy.
Let’s start this travel blogging endeavor with the first trip I remember making that gave me the travel bug. I don’t count Puerto Rico at 1-year-old or Jersey at four because I have no memories of those trips.
No, my first official journey into the world of travel happened when I was 8-years-old and my parents took us, my brother and me, to New York City for the first time. My dad drove us the whole way in, in his graying, white Toyota Corolla with the thin blue stripes along the side.
We made our way through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, stopping a few times to take pictures and bathroom breaks. All the way we went until finally, our hotel in the heart of New York lay ahead of us, behind a flurry of white cold sheets of snow. We’d arrived in the middle of a blizzard.
My father never let on his terror of driving in that snow, but I never saw it as a threat. I stepped out of the car, eyes wide and tongue out, trying to catch a snowflake, and let those tiny icicles charged by wind fly into my face without a care. I’d never been in snow before that day, and it was as magical as the movies always made it out to be.
I remember warm, toasty nights in the hotel room, wearing our flannels and thermal underwear while we sat under the bed covers eating pizza and drinking hot chocolate. Back home we never got to eat this much junk food, but we were on vacation, so health and diet be damned.
We saw the usual tourist sites: Central Park, Rockefeller center with the tree all lit up, ice skaters gliding on the ponds and in the rinks like fairies coming through portals to another world, and even the Twin Towers. We’d visited NYC the year before they crashed down, and that was the day I realized I had a fear of heights as we reached the top and my brother pretended to tip me over the edge. I haven’t been able to climb high places ever since.
The day we took the ferry to Ellis Island was bitter cold, chilling straight through my layers of a fluffy coat, fleece sweater, turtle neck long sleeve shirt, mittens and scarf, as if Jack Frost laughed at my poor attempts at armor. As we pulled into the parking lot for the ferry dock, my brother and I pointed and laughed at a seagull trying to fly away, but only getting knocked back to the ground by a strong gust of wind.
That day Lady Liberty’s upper floors were closed, so we only made it through half the museum, but I still saw so many pictures of immigrants, in black and white and sepia tone, arriving at the island, wearing smiles, signing their names to the books, greeting relatives. I saw pictures of the very statue I stood in from the point of view of newcomers seeking refuge, prosperity and family, and even then I knew what that meant.
The thing that always stuck with me though about New York City was the rush. The city that never sleeps. Constantly bustling, I had to learn how to walk fast and keep up with the flow of bodies from bus station through streets to subway stations and back all over again. I even got to yell at a taxi that nearly hit me as I walked with the throngs through impatient, honking traffic.
The reeking smell of garbage as we hustled through construction zones never bothered me. Truth be told, I probably didn’t notice because I breathed through my mouth as I struggled to keep up with my family in such thick and heavy wardrobe. The pace and flow of New York City is not to be taken lightly.
I’ve been to New York a couple of more times since then, and every time I still feel like Dorothy as she approaches the Emerald City. I’m just always in complete awe of the blazing lights of Broadway, the obnoxious honks of horns in standstill traffic, street performers putting on a show like their lives depended on it, and the rushing bodies as the crowds swarm the sidewalks and streets making their way home or to school or to work, all the while never paying each other any mind.
It’s the perfect place to be if you want to be left alone but not feel alone.
Originally published on my old writer’s blog here, made for a chapbook for my friend’s birthday.
It starts as far back as Michael and Lucifer, two brothers
whose love drove to the destruction of Heaven and earth.
One loved his Father, and the other adored his brother.
This growing separation led to a road of dissention
where Cain and Abel felt the tear.
The rift left one with an instinct to kill
and the other to be victim. The bond that bound
brother to brother
and cursed the line forever.
Carry on Sam. Carry on Dean.
There will not be peace, because you will never be done.
I’m going into my third year of the 26 book reading challenge (I’m a slow reader–sue me). For book 17, “a book by an author you love,” I went with Cinda Williams Chima’s The Demon King since I loved her Heir series.
A quick rundown of the story. It follows the lives of two characters: Raisa, the princess of the realm with a spunky attitude, and Han, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks just trying to get by. While Raisa is blissfully unaware of the injustices of the kingdom and dealing with her mother wanting to marry her off as soon as she comes of age, Han is trying to avoid his old gang life but still make an honest living by selling and trading to provide for his family.
In my Goodreads review, I said fans of Tamora Pierce’s Trickster duology or Bekah Cooper series would like this book, and that’s because it’s got classic fantasy elements with magic and wizards and political intrigue. The world building feels grounded in reality though, especially with the clan of Marissa Pines, a village outside of Fellsmarch, the royal city. There’s a clear dichotomy throughout the novel with the princess heir being of the rich elite living in the castle in the city, and Han being a foster child of the humble clans folk living off the land. Overall, it’s the equivalent of European colonialists versus the natives of the country.
I loved the descriptions Chima creates with how the clans people live, in tight knit communities that are in commune with natural remedies and trading goods for goods. It reminded me a lot of the smaller villages and towns I visited during my vacation to Ecuador 6 years ago. I could hear the crackling of the fires as the characters held meetings and shared stories under the open sky, surrounded by woods.
Throughout the whole book, I kept trying to unravel the mysteries that kept popping up with each new revelation. The reader learns things through the eyes of Raisa and Han, so when a new detail is brought to light that surprises or confuses them, you can’t help but feel blindsided too. There’s a parallel to the two characters in how they learn about the world they’ve been a part of this whole time was built on lies. For Han, he comes to feel like he can’t trust the people he grew up with or cares for, while Raisa starts to realize she’s far too ignorant of the strife going on around her in her own queendom. You can’t help but feel the pangs of coming of age, at that moment where you start to see things as an adult would, and not yet being ready for that responsibility.
In this world that Chima has created, there is a legend of an ancestral queen, Hanalea, who is abducted by the Demon King, a wizard, and forced to sacrifice her life for the greater good of the people. It is this legend that founds the people’s beliefs, and why the clan holds control of magic for wizards, allowing them the use of it through talismans for brief periods of time. The wizards serve the line of Hanalea, and thus royalty and magic can never marry.
Of course, as is apt to happen, some people don’t want to play by these rules anymore. This is where all the lies come undone little by little, and Raisa and Han must now make their decisions and judgments based on new truths, breaking from everything they’ve ever known. Wizards are dangerously close to regaining their old power, the clan is not as righteous as the legends would have it, Raisa and her royal line are in danger of extinction, and Han would rather have nothing to do with any of it but somehow is in the middle of all of it.
I’d have to say my biggest criticism of the book is its pacing. Especially in the beginning, it’s quite stop and go and you wish the narration would just pick a speed and stick with it for a while. The way the story reads at times is clumsy and expository, clearly setting the whole thing up for the next book. There’s lots of background information that’s conveyed through character dialogue, but it’s scenes in which the characters are specifically sitting down to have a meeting or talk, making it feel like the writer just couldn’t figure out how else to portray these details.
In conjunction with the pacing, and the fact that the reader knows this is book one of a series, Han’s and Raisa’s stories take way too long to intersect. Obviously, as each chapter jumps back and forth between them, we know they’re going to meet and have some kind of connection to one another eventually, but it wasn’t until about halfway through the book that the connection happens. And even then, there’s only 1 or 2 chapters in which they’re tied together before being severed into their individual lines again. This made the novel feel a bit fractured, so at times it was frustrating trying to read through. But overall, an excellent tale with many twists and fun characters.
I started reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale after the 2016 election. The book felt timely as we, as a people, confronted an uncertain political future. To be honest, I was gutted by what happened. I was troubled and grief-stricken that a man who boasted about sexually assaulting women, a man who dehumanized every group of people except straight white men, a man who lied every time he opened his mouth, was elected President of the United States. I know many of us are still reeling, maybe we’re even numb.
I decided that I would turn to literature as a way to cope with what happened. Writers give me hope. Writers are always dangerous because they ask us to empathize with The Other and they engage in complex, critical thinking. At least the best writers do. They challenge the status quo. They force us to rethink our assumptions, prejudices, and…
I haven’t done too much traveling in my nearly 26 years of living, but I’ve decided that shouldn’t deter me from using those few and sparse experiences as fodder for my writing. This is just an introduction post to let my followers/readers know what to expect from these posts. You’ll know what to look for because I’ll always start the title with Wanderlust.
This isn’t so much going to be a travel segment in the sense of tips and tricks (thought I might do my best to include those as part of my blogs), but more of a meditation on my experiences and a way to express my impressions about the places, the people and the journeys.
I plan on doing more traveling in the future, so hopefully my Wanderlust posts will be abundant as time passes. For now, though, I’m going to start with past traveling experiences I’ve had abroad and within my own home country of the United States.
I hope you come along for the ride and enjoy what I have to say! Stay tuned 🙂