The Girl Who Would Be King – Chapters 23 & 24

It’s Thursday…you know what that means…NEW chapters for THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING.

You can download the new chapters here: The Girl Who Would Be King Chapters 23 & 24

Or just read below.

If you want to read ALL of Part 1: Break Away (over 90 pages), head over to THE GIRL WHO WOULD BE KING page and download or read directly from the site.

A huge thanks to all of you for the massive success of the Kickstarter. I’m so in awe of your support and enthusiasm for this book. And of course thanks to all of you the book is not only being published but it will an amazing one of a kind hardcover illustrated edition – with gorgeous work by Stephanie Hans. Check out the Kickstarter and updates to see more of what’s to come.

Now onto those last pages…you guys know I ended this on a cliffhanger, right? I’M SORRY, OKAY!?!?!

I ride the rails trying to forget about Jasper.  About Rachael and Sharon.  My mother and father.  And I focus on the idea of starting over until it’s the only thing I can see.

It sounds clean.  It feels clean.

The idea of being someone else, maybe in a whole new city, with an entirely new name.  With those things can I also somehow have a new past?

I’m not sure how long I’ve been on the train but at least one night has passed.

On the third night, sleeping in an abandoned car that’s not going anywhere, totally unsure of where this new me should go, that I have a different dream of my mother.  Though they’re generally all black crows and strange portents I don’t understand, this one is really just a vivid memory of her the year she died, played back in a bright Technicolor dream while I sleep.  It’s one of the last memories I have of her, though I’d long ago forgotten it until now.  She’s strong and vibrant here, seeming more like the mother I remember, not like some mythical creature constantly trying to warn me of imagined future danger.  And more than just seeming like my mother, she seems like a woman; a girl even.

Just a girl finding her way like me.

In the dream we’re at a carnival, the tinny familiar music soft in my ears.  She’s left me with my brother and my father so we can ride rides and eat sweet treats, but I’ve given them the slip and followed her through the crowds like a miniature spy, afraid to let her out of my sight, afraid she’ll disappear if I let her.  That was always my fear I realize, that she was going to disappear on me.

I watch her from under cover of a clump of rowdy teenagers as she buys a sideshow ticket and slips inside.  Though the sights inside are probably alternately fascinating and horrifying to a child of five or six, I’m not paying attention to any of it, because all I can see is the look on my mother’s face. Most people walking through the show gasp in horror, or laugh and point fingers, but my mother’s face is serene; a contemplative compassionate slate of kindness and solidarity that I can’t understand, like she’s in her own personal church.  What is she seeing in the distorted reflections of these people that I cannot?  When I emerge from the sideshow I can’t for the life of me remember seeing anything inside except her face.

When I wake the tinny carnival music is still heavy in my ears.  I can’t shake it and for a moment worry I’ve trapped myself in some half dream, half waking state.  After a few long moments though I realize that the music is real, and that it is in fact the music which must have brought on the dream and not the other way around.  I pull my duffel bag together and hop off the train car and into a dark empty field.  I turn around, trying to feel where the sound is coming from.

It’s behind me.

I climb up the ladder on the car and pull myself onto the roof.  As I do I see the bright colored lights of a traveling carnival light up the horizon.  I smile, excited for the first time in a long while.

People are streaming into the front gates.  It looks like admission is free, which is good because I don’t have extra money to spend on carnivals.  I don’t know if my sense of what is right would allow me to sneak in, and I suddenly know I have to go in.   I jog across the field with my bag slung over my shoulder and wander in casually, mesmerized by the lights, my eyes peeled for anything that looks like a sideshow.  I see conjoined twins running a corn dog/hot dog kiosk and wonder if everyone here will be as interesting as the girls running the food stands.  Toward the back of the carnival on the right, past most of the rides and across from the funhouse I finally see it.  A real live sideshow.  I’m honestly shocked that they still exist, it seems like something from olden days, but beautifully painted posters line the walls up to the entrance not unlike the way it looked when I followed my mother in so many years ago.  The first poster reads ‘Casanova – The Most Handsome Sword Swallower To Ever Walk The Earth!’ It’s followed by a newer looking poster of ‘Mona & Nona – The Singing Siamese Twins – Joined At The Hip With Perfect Natural Pitch!’ which is weird because the women look nothing like the conjoined twins I saw at the corn dog kiosk.  Next to the twins is an ominous poster for ‘The Fabulous Mr. & Mrs. Ink!” and an image of an intertwined naked couple that appear to be covered entirely in tattoos and nothing else, Next is the ‘The Maddrox Family of Miracle Midgets!’ which is mostly broad smiles plastered on tiny faces, bodies clad in bright spandex.  But next to the Maddrox Family is what stops me in my tracks.  A poster for ‘JOAN – THE WORLD’S STRONGEST WOMAN!’ and suddenly I am oblivious to everything else around me.  Underneath the bright red text is a fairly realistic rendering of an enormous, beautiful woman with dark hair and long limbs lifting a huge barbell above her head.  I take the next few steps toward the poster with my arm outstretched and trace the slightly fading red words with my finger, surprised how important they feel to me.

I’d never thought of this before; that there could be someone else like me out there.  That instead of getting lost and becoming someone else I should instead be looking for others like me, to find where I really come from and what I really am.  It all seems so clear staring at Joan’s poster.  Seeing her looking back at me through the canvas I can’t believe how much I want there to be someone like me; how much I’ve been yearning for it without realizing it.  Tears pool up in my eyes at the thought of the loneliness falling off of me in sheets as I confess all my secrets to someone who can understand.

I buy my five-dollar ticket, a painful price for my meager remaining funds, and walk through the doorway.  Inside I hear what must be Mona and Nona’s lovely singing pour from one tent and the oohs and ahhs of people watching the Maddrox Family’s stunts, as well as a few girls emerging from Mr. and Mrs. Ink’s tent with disgusted looks on their faces.  “I can’t believe they are totally naked.  So gross!”

But I have my eyes on only one prize and so I ignore all of this and push through to Joan’s tent.  When I get there it’s empty, people not having made it to the end of the line yet, I carefully pick out what I deem to be the perfect seat, right in the middle, third row, and wait for the small tiered benches to fill.  Props cover the stage; a huge barbell, a giant tree trunk, a massive boulder, a medicine ball, a partial hull of a rusted car with two front seats still intact, and in the background, a massive scale.

Within ten minutes the tent is filled to capacity and there is a strange buzzing inside me that I’ve never felt before, like a giant butterfly is beating its wings furiously in the cage of my chest, equal parts terror and excitement.  I feel nauseous but exhilarated.  I’m not sure what’s happening to me, but I’m trying to chalk it up to anticipation, even while my body screams out something different.  The room spins lightly around me and I clutch the edge of my wooden seat until my palms bleed trying to keep myself upright.  My eyes are blurry and my throat is dry, I’m not sure if I’ll faint or fly.  This is the moment.

I realize as the curtains part that I’m expecting to see my mother.

I stride through the front gates of “Joan’s” carnival, with an eye out for the sideshow.  I have to admit, this carnival looks like a winner – there are all sorts of freaks walking around, including actual Siamese twins running the hot dog and corn dog kiosk.  If real honest to god, though powerless, freaks are running food stands, what might they have lurking in the actual sideshow?  I’m getting giddy with anticipation, and buy a corndog from the prettier of the Siamese with a wallet I lift off a young couple in love.

I see the sideshow in the distance and make my way there while devouring my corndog and observing the freaks all around me with an annoyed eye.  I’m beginning to understand that ‘freak’ is definitely the right word.  People with deformities, and crazier, people who deform themselves on purpose, and people who pretend to be things they aren’t.  Ironically I’ve realized that I at least have more respect for the real freaks, since maybe they don’t have as many options, but what of these people that turn themselves into freaks on purpose?  I can’t figure that out at all.  I suppose a person could argue that I turned myself into one when I killed my mother…but I’d like to see anyone turn down my power.  And also, it totally called to me.  Long before I even knew what it was I could feel it calling to me, like those Sirens that killed that Othello guy…or whatever that story was.  No.  I’m not like these people.  I’m unique in the world.  I’m more and more sure of that every day.

But when I walk into Joan’s tent it’s like someone hits me with a sledgehammer.

Something is here for real.

It’s not like with Lena.

I can taste it.

Real power.

I grab onto some benches nearby and take a seat near the edge of the tent before I almost faint.  The feeling is so powerful it’s like the air is water pressing on me from all sides, like I’m a submarine about to be crushed by ocean depths.  Some guy next to me offers me a napkin and asks if I’m okay, but it sounds like he’s underwater and a thousand miles away.

“Fine. Leave me ‘lone,” is all I manage.  He doesn’t like that and scoots farther away, which is my preference anyway.  I put my head between my legs and breathe in some deep breaths trying to get my bearings.  What if whoever is here causing me to feel this way is feeling this too?  What if I can’t stand up let alone fight if they reveal themselves?

What have I done?




  1. Yuri Petrovitch’s avatar


    Man, you certainly know how to build to a cliffhanger. The almost invisible way you get Bonnie and Lola together close enough geographically to set up their confrontation is handled so well it doesn’t feel at all like someone moving their game pieces into position (as it can seem in other hands at times), it’s not heavy-handed at all–it is deft and elegant.

    And what’s great about it is the tension the reader feels is reflected by Bonnie–we’ve been following everything up to this point from both points of view and we’ve been anticipating this meeting . . .but we’ve also been dreading it, especially given how Lola has developed as a character. That tension between “Ican’twaitforthistohappen/OhmygodIdon’tknowifIwantthistohappen” is handed very effectively and that the reader shares it with the characters is a great testament to both your ability to create compelling characters and to play with the metatextual aspects of the story on a level that actually involves the reader’s perceptions and reactions into the story you’re telling–Bonnie is feeling in the story what we feel reading it: something big is about to happen, and there is dread and tension in the air. This identifies us with her and pulls us into the story even more than in the usual “following characters we like” level that stories usually work at.

    This is really intelligent stuff, but not in the usual “oh, look how clever I am!” way that is all too often what people mean when they say something’s “intelligent.” This is craft, and plot, and character, all working together invisibly to make a story gripping and involving, and you have certainly done that here. I really cannot say enough good things about this story and your skills as a writer.

    Thanks so much for making my Tuesdays and Thursdays with these. It’s gonna kill me to have to wait for the book, so I would say your teaser chapters more than did their job. :) Congratulations on some great work and even bigger congratulations for being a Kickstarter success story, Kelly! Can’t wait to read the whole thing!

  2. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Ahh Yuri. You are just the best. I was so worried about leaving you with this cliffhanger but you’re taking it in stride!

    You are just the ultimate reader my friend – it’s so rewarding to see you enjoying the story and connecting to the characters but also REALLY getting all the other things I’m trying to do with the story. I’m not always going to be successful, but that you can see it and it’s working for you is just such a huge reward. You know, of all the great feedback I’ve gotten on this book (prior to putting these chapters up) almost none of it was from “true fans” of superheroes…so I’m really excited that it’s working for you…since you know exactly what you’re talking about!

    Thanks again for reading…it was kind of huge for to have your feedback every Tuesday and Thursday…do no be surprised if you get extra goodies in your book package as a token of my thanks!


  3. Yuri Petrovitch’s avatar

    I’m glad my comments are looked forward to so much! :) I really have enjoyed reading these, and I’m actually in the process of re-reading them for my big write-up for the blog.

    I really have enjoyed the sorta meta-elements of the book quite a lot–not many people can juggle commentary on superhero tropes and character types and still serve their story so well as this, but your plotting and pacing is just so . . .efficient and elegant, it all flows perfectly.

    I’m looking forward to reading part 2 when the book gets here (the title alone, like the title of the book itself suggests many interesting possibilities) and I’m sure the payoff will be even more awesome than the setup! Thanks again for giving me such an awesome read and more to come. (Er, we can start speculating about the Tessa Battle story that’s sure to come, now that you’ve hit the big time, right?) Keep up the awesome work!

  4. Rachael (mythicflux)’s avatar

    I’ve read the whole of Break Away today and I cannot WAIT for this to come out! Any update on when epub versions will go live? I’m itching to be able to kindle the shit out of this. I’m sure you are probably getting asked this all the time, and you must be really busy with the print run and stuff, but I couldn’t find info on your blog anywhere.

    I am so excited to read the rest of this book, it is just so up my alley in so many ways. That came out weird.

    Anyway, congrats on your kickstarter, and thanks for all your hard work (:

  5. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    @Rachael: Thank you so much. As I’m in the final dregs of editing, it’s a comment like this that makes it possible to keep going – so I really appreciate it!

    Epubs are hopefully going out to Kickstarter backers this weekend/by Monday and will be available to purchase on Amazon (etc) next week.

    Print versions are going to take longer. We’re still waiting on illustrations to be finished, and the printing and shipping, etc. will probably take a month – so at best mid-October before the print editions are available. There will be paperbacks available through Amazon and Lulu (and B&N?), and there will be a limited number of illustrated hardbacks available directly through The Girl Who Would Be King site.

    If you’d like to send me your email address I’d be happy to add you to the mailing list (1979semifinalist[at]gmail[dot]com)

    Thanks again for the awesome comment! :)

Comments are now closed.