Carry On Wayward Sons

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

broke

and cursed the line forever.

Carry on Sam. Carry on Dean.
There will not be peace, because you will never be done.

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Meagan Reads YA Fantasy: The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

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.

On Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and Yearning

I really need to read The Handmaid’s Tale! Loved this post ❤

BURNING HOUSE PRESS

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…

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Wanderlust: Introduction

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 🙂

Reluctant Romantic

I’ve read Pride & Prejudice and was smitten. All Cassandra Clare books? Fell like a sucker. I watch The Vampire Diaries and am a hardcore Delena shipper. I openly admit that watching A Walk to Remember still makes me ugly sob. So what is it about the romance genre label that keeps me at bay?

I’m obviously a sucker for a good love story. Hello, grew up on Disney movies, of course I love love. I live for the warm and fluffy feelings of seeing couples come together and live happily ever after. I gushed over Olicity on Arrow (and was heartbroken when they didn’t last) and I still firmly believe Destiel is end game on Supernatural.

It’s not all about the romance in romance novels though. As is bound to come with hand holding and kisses is the sex. I’m certainly no prude. I watched True Blood (with my mother, no less), so I’m clearly comfortable with awkward, sexual situations in my fiction.

Perhaps there’s still a part of my mind that resists due to prior stigmas of romance novels being trashy literature. But I know now the negative perception of the genre and how it correlates with viewing all things feminine with disdain, and knowing is half the battle.

Still, I can’t let myself pick up books with titles like Rough and Ready or Take A Ride. I read Twin of Fire and Twin of Ice by Jude Deveraux and thought those were okay. I barely remember Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Fantasy Lover, only that the sex scenes made me roll my eyes and snort. I can’t possibly take these books seriously.

But why do I need to take them seriously? For crying out loud, one of my favorite shows features an archer that let’s loose arrows that turn into parachutes! Maybe when I’m reading the situations these romance novels unravel, they seem too unlikely to ever happen for real. Then again, I was forced to accept analyzing key strokes as a legitimate method of finding out corporate espionage, so perhaps realistic standards are not the problem.

I’m thinking what it all comes down to in the end, is I simply haven’t found the right romance read for me yet. I probably spent so many years adamantly resisting the notion of liking girly things, that even now, with all the wisdom and education I’ve gained, I’m still a little obstinate in my views of “trashy” books. I hope that changes someday, but for now, I’ll continue to consume my passion for passion through TV, movies, classics and YA reads.

The End

Finally! I’ve reached the end of the 52 week writing challenge. Naturally, the prompt was “a story titled the end.” It’s been a challenge indeed to keep up doing this the whole year through, but it’s been worthwhile. I hadn’t realized how many stories I was capable of creating on the fly. This last piece is more of a reflection on my college graduation and how I’d felt at that time, almost 4 years ago now. Enjoy!

I looked around one last time at the now mostly empty apartment. Legolas had been folded into one of Caitlin’s bins. James Dean was rolled up in a stack of other posters with a rubber band keeping them together. Only Lida’s mugs remained in the cabinet next to the fridge above the stove.

The furniture the rooms came with remained, but my guitar and cheap Target bookshelf had been packed and sent off to my car and the Goodwill store, respectively. Caitlin had erased her notes from the full length mirror upstairs and saved her messy, highlighted and handwritten notes in her agendas in a box downstairs.

We’d done this all before in the three years previous, but this time we wouldn’t be coming back to Campus Crossings. There’d be no more fighting for the parking spot right in front of our door between the two asshole trucks who tried to block me out. No more stopping at the front office to catch the next shuttle to class in the early morning. No more late night walks from Peg Pointe a few blocks up the road after an evening of pizza, movies and board games. No more quick trips to the Walgreens across the street to pick up emergency ice cream for those nights one or more of us came home crying.

It was meant to be an ending. An opportunity to start something new. The whole cliché of every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. It wasn’t just an end this time though. See, when high school ended, we knew we’d be together again in college. This time was different. This was the end, because we didn’t know if we’d be together again.

Three of us had graduated. One was going to grad school. Two remained behind to finish in Orlando. Two of us moved back to SoFlo to start the job hunt with humanities degrees. We were scattered to the winds, and it was terrifying.

I hadn’t ever known a life without constant companionship, but here I was stepping into a world where I had no idea if my best friends and I could survive the biggest challenge of all: growing up. Sure, over the years there’d been the fair share of tiffs. Throwing shoes at Lida so she’d stop leaving them in the doorway. Complaining about dishes being left in the sink. Reprimanding Char’Lee for letting a stranger into our apartment. We’d made it through all that.

We’d made it through heartbreaks, rejection letters, anxiety attacks and nights we just had too much. But we’d always done that all together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand. Could we still do it with 300 miles between us?

I didn’t have much choice though. I’d have to find out the hard way, by bringing the last bin to my car and stepping over the threshold one last time. One last hug before setting myself up behind the wheel of my car. One last drive down Rouse to remember the weirdly wide, brick speed bumps that would scrape the bottom of my bumper if I took them too fast.

The end of college wasn’t an end. It was the end. Not in a dramatic “my life is over” kind of way, but more of a “my life will never be the same again.” It’ll never be that easy again. It was officially, the real end of childhood. And as sad or scary as that sounds, it’s for the best. It’s the best end.

*Edit: Made a mistake in the story. It was a Walgreens, not a CVS. Change made 1/3/17.

Toad and Mole

This week’s 52 week writing challenge prompt is “a story set at Christmas,” and with this, I am officially caught up on my challenge! It’s a Christmas miracle! Merry Christmas, Noche Buena, and happy holidays all around to my readers. Next week will be the final prompt for the challenge. Enjoy!

Heel to toe, heel to toe, slow, slow, slow. I walked like a circus performer on a tightrope as I grasped the mug handle in my fingers, watching the top layer of marshmallows in hot cocoa ripple like the glass of water in Jurassic Park. Just one more step.

Mom came up behind me and grabbed the mug so I could settle in under the tree next to my brother. “Thanks, mama.”

“You’re welcome.” She beamed and handed me back the mug.

I took a slow sip, and even though it still burned the tip of my tongue and roof of my mouth, I let out a satisfied, “Mmmmmmm.”

Dad took a seat in front of the fake fireplace he’d made out of cardboard and colored in with my crayons. Above his head, on the fake mantle, hung our stockings, held in place with push pins. From left to right they read, “William. Sonia. Daryl. Meagan.” My name was in pink glitter.

“Okay, are we all ready?” Dad asked.

Daryl and I nodded. I laughed when I saw his hot chocolate mustache. “Shut up. You’ve got one too.”

“Alright, dad, you pick your character first,” Mom prompted.

“I’ll be Rat,” he answered.

My brother raised his hand high in the air like he was in school. “I’ll be Mr. Toad.”

“I’ll be Badger,” added Mom. “Meagan, that leaves you with Mole.”

“Aw, again?” I pouted. “I’m always the ugliest one.”

“That’s ’cause you are the ugly one in the family.” Daryl cackled and nearly spilled his hot chocolate all over his pajamas.

My mug was on the floor beside me now, and I crossed my arms and furrowed my brows. “Mommy! Make him stop.”

Mom gave my brother the glare. “Daryl, be nice.”

He rolled his eyes and shot me a dirty look. I stuck my tongue out at him.

“Hey, if you two keep at it we’ll call it a night and put you to bed.” Dad’s stern voice always made us stop bickering.

I picked up my mug and took a sip. We all nodded in silent agreement to proceed.

My dad cleared his throat and started reading in his lilted accent. “Chapter 1. The River Bank. The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home…”

He read slow and careful, stumbling a bit on the part with all the ings. When it was the character’s time to speak, he handed the book to me so I could read the dialogue. This was my favorite part. I put on a dramatic voice and enunciated everything in my best British accent, because in my mind, Mole was from England.

We continued like this for the next hour, each taking turns reading from the old, tattered book. The pages were yellowing and the cover had tape on the spine to keep the cracking paper from peeling off altogether. We’d read that book every year on Christmas eve for as long as I could remember.

Each of us made the characters our own. My mom always gave Badger a grumbly voice, lowering her head to read as deep as she could. It always made me laugh. My dad’s naturally higher voice gave Rat the perfect warmth necessary for the friendly creature. Daryl gave Toad a British accent too, but his was huffier and more manic than mine.

With ten minutes to spare until midnight, and my brother and I dozing off, Dad closed the book and called it a night. “Okay, time for sleep. You two have everything you need out here?”

Daryl and I nodded our sleepy heads. “Alright, good night then.” He bent over and kissed each of us on the forehead.

My mom helped us into our makeshift sleeping bags with pillows and double blankets. Even on a tile floor, it was still pretty comfortable. We barely felt or heard her as she said goodnight.

They went to bed and turned off the lights, leaving only the glow of the Christmas tree lights and decorations as illumination for us. The sweet smell of pine filled my nose as I turned over to face my brother. “Good night, Mr. Toad.” I yawned.

“Good night, Mr. Mole,” he yawned back.