Thursday, July 31, 2014

Just Putting This Out There

I'm not sure if anything will come of it--if I'll even add more--but it's just been sitting around in my head and in draft form for a while. I'm a little unsure of making it public. Well, public to all both of the people who might read it, but still. I'm thinking that maybe by putting this up, it will inspire me to continue working on it. Or not.

I am queen.

I was never meant to ascend the throne; never meant to rule. My mother was supposed to live forever or, more realistically, one of my siblings was supposed to take the throne. My mother and I didn't have much hope that we would ever convince the Council to change the laws so that my brother--the best suited to leadership of we three siblings--could one day inherit, but that didn't stop us from trying. Should our efforts fail to bear fruit, I was going to step aside as heir as soon as my younger sister had come of age. Unfortunately, fate is a cruel thing and my mother was cut down in battle, which is likely how she would have chosen to leave this plane, but just not this soon.

Gods, it wasn't even an important battle--merely a skirmish with our neighbors over borders and grazing lands. She was supposed to be gone only a couple of hours but now she's not coming back at all and I'm thrust into a role that I am not qualified for, no matter how much my mother worked with me to assure otherwise and the issues that sparked today's skirmish still haven't been resolved and no one's yet told my siblings that my mother is dead and my father has disappeared into his grief and a bottle of brandy and gods, I am not ready. 

And now there's a knock on my chamber door. A messenger from the Council, no doubt, come to summon me to a meeting to determine my future and that of our land. Not one of them will care that I am more hurt, more broken, more grieving than any of them could ever imagine. Not one of them will care that I feel as if I am drowning in the tide of responsibility that I now face. I cannot show them that I am weak and overwhelmed and not suited for the role I now must play.

I call out to whomever's at the door to give me a moment. Facing the mirror, I smooth my hair and brush dirt and creases that only I can see from my dress, then turn and walk slowly to the door. I take the deepest breath I can and, as I exhale, I lift my chin, square my shoulders and school my features into a mask of regal dignity.

Another deep breath as I turn the handle to open the door and step through to whatever my future may hold. On the exhale, a silent reminder to myself:

I am queen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Slump

I know you've gone through them--those periods when nothing on your TBR stack is catching your fancy; when none of the hundreds of books you have seem appealing; when every book you do manage to read leaves you profoundly underwhelmed. Or maybe you don't, but it seems to be a regular thing for me. I'm going through a slump right now and it's not because I'm not reading good books. I've read a lot in the past couple of weeks that I know, objectively, are good books. The problem is that the only books giving me profound feelings are the ones that I want to fling at the wall and then jump up and down on in anger and frustration. And, I hate this feeling. I hate feeling like I'm reading books because it's habit and not because there's something that I just can't wait to get to. And even the books I've been excited by haven't lingered with me for long, no matter how good they were from an objective point of view.

I want something that makes my heart sing. Or that makes me laugh out loud. Or that makes me weep like my world is ending. I want to feel big, teenager emotions. I want book crush. I want to feel the way I did when I first read Andrew Smith's Winger or Ernest Cline's Ready Player One or Neil Gaiman's American Gods or Lish McBride's Hold Me Closer, Necromancer or any of the myriad other books that have made me give a little squeal of happiness and hug them to my chest and maybe do a little happy dance around the apartment (though I admit to nothing).

And it's not the books, it's me. I know that. I mean, one of the books I just finished was Scott Westerfeld's upcoming Afterworlds which is really fucking good. I could write a wordy discourse on its razor-sharp observations on publishing and its keen insights into the life of a writer and its seamless integration of two separate novels into a cohesive whole and how perfectly it captures the highest highs and lowest lows of that first young love. But, I can't rhapsodize over it like a teenager discovering John Green for the first time. I'll be recommending it to friends and colleagues and my sixteen-year-old niece, but my skin won't flush and my eyes light up with evangelical zeal when I do. Which is not due to any shortcoming of the book itself. I'm just feeling oddly flat about everything I read right now.

Have you ever felt that way? I'd think it was symptomatic of something deeper, but it's only books that are leaving me (not) feeling this way. Movies, TV shows, toy-like things, really good stinky cheese--any of these can still make me giddy and excited and desirous of sharing my "discovery" with everyone who crosses my path. It's just books.Maybe I need to go back and re-read some old stand-bys. Maybe that would shake me out of my slump. Or maybe I need to read a book that I know I'll enjoy but that I can read completely non-critically. (Mmmmm...brain candy.)

Or maybe I'll never have that giddy, book-crush feeling again. Maybe I'm doomed to a life of readerly maturity. Maybe I'm becoming,,,a critic.