A Project of Threes

Does anyone want to know what projects I have settled on for the next couple of months?

I have decided to take more time over All The Trees in the Sky, but I still want to try having two more stories – with autistic protagonists – available for April, because there is no such thing as too many stories about trans, autistic characters being trans and autistic.

I would also like to post the next Kit March chapter in the next few weeks. I don’t know how consistent I will be with this, because pain leaves me a liar every time I try to put a date or schedule to my work, but I am trying to post a chapter every two months or so.

The Adventurer King

Cover image for The Adventurer King by K. A. Cook. Cover features a red leather-bound journal sitting on a wood panel background, like that of a tabletop or floor, with the text sitting on top of the book image in a gold fantasy-style handdrawn type. Objects sit on top of the book cover: a blue pen with a gold nib dripping ink, a screwed-up piece of white paper, a cream scroll with a green seal, a cream and silver compass, and a piece of rope. A grey single-edged sword blade sits underneath the book, and black handdrawn type atop the blade reads "an efe and darius story". The images have a cartoony, vectory feel.This is getting a re-write, but more from a matter of consistency and character/setting development than anything else. When I wrote this, I had the idea of following it up with a story or two showing Darius’s progression from thinking himself alloromantic to realising that he’s an aro trying to be alloromantic, but I’ve realised that this isn’t a narrative I wish to draw out. (This was why Darius didn’t respond to the belt, incidentally – that and it’s pretty obvious that the belt has narrow views on the nature of human sexuality.) There aren’t enough aro protagonists in the world (especially trans, autistic, allosexual aro protagonists) to make aro readers wait, and I find the idea of a following story where Darius is just aro and dealing with the allo Efe far more entertaining than the “shades, am I aromantic” or coming-out story.

Additionally, over the months between first posting this and now, I’ve gotten a much greater sense of Darius’s life between Certain Eldritch Artefacts and The Adventurer King plus the ways in which this story sets up future plot-points, so there’s a host of detail I need to add. Darius’s time spent studying with Eren Adalet is still a secret from Efe (why the blood trade is a secret is explored more in a later Kit March chapter and the next story) but Darius would at least think about this. I’d also like to reference more of the events that formed the enmity between him and the other mercenaries, and some of the positive relationships he does have with people in Rajad. I don’t want this to be an “isolated autistic character finally finding the one trustworthy allistic story” as much as it appears right now.

There is a reason why Aysun and Efe have inquired after Darius, too. Darius doesn’t yet know it, but I’d like to foreshadow it a little here.

(And then I can work on the mess that is the finished first draft of the next story, which is pretty much all the differences in Darius and Efe’s upbringing, experiences, privileges and neurotypes rearing their heads against a background of things going on in Ashad.)

I don’t think this will be too hard. I know what I have to add and what I have to tweak, and then it’s just polishing and formatting.

The King of Gears and Bone

Cover image of The King of Gears and Bone by K. A. Cook. Cover has a waterstained paper background with grey line drawings of the bones of a human hand and wrist, a head of wheat, an acorn, a small dandelion head, a long-legged wire-haired dog and an arrow, with the title written in alternating serif and handdrawn type. The effect is something like a sketch in an antique journal.I’m not sure what draft I’m up to now; enough that I’ve lost count. That’s usually a good sign with me! I’m not happy with the transition between two scenes, and there’s a lot of thinking and description at the start I want to cut, but after that it’s just editing, polishing and formatting. It’s a novelette instead of a short story, though, which isn’t what I intended but shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever waded through a ten thousand word chapter.

I’d apologise, but since I keep on doing it, there’s no point in my uttering such a bald-faced lie.

I can’t write my characters without feeling something of myself in each of them, but Ein is a trans, aro-ace autistic with chronic pain and chronic avoidance, so he’s slightly more dear to my heart than most. And he’s a necromancer with a certain set of bones in the chest at the foot of his bed and a (living) dog as his emotional support animal, so what’s not to like about that?

With Ein, I’m trying to look at some non-traditional reasons for raising the dead. The King of Gears and Bone shows just how much necromancy is ingrained in Ihrne’s culture and religion, so the consequences of this divergence won’t be pretty, but I want to write a necromancer who begins with the standard set of skills and starts to redirect them to something more worthwhile than armies of the walking dead – away from the opening scene of Their Courts of Crows.

This needs more editing than The Adventurer King, but I hope I can get it done before April, and it’ll be good to post one brand-new story along with an older one.

(The book page, with a blurb, is up. Yes, there are aspects of Paide’s undead existence to be explored. This is a universe where magic has consequences, and the more absurd or unnatural the magic, the bigger the consequences. Magic like shoving a soul back into an animated corpse and holding it there, however imperfectly, has a few big ones.)

Crooked Words

Cover image for Crooked Words by K. A. Cook. Cover features various lined notebook pages and torn white office paper layered over each other and taped together in a scrapbook-style arrangement, with pieces of paper torn away to reveal title and author credit in a dark grey distressed typewriter-style typeface. The subtitle "mostly queer fiction" is written on a section of light brown tape in a grey handdrawn type. Two watercolour images--one a mauve and pink leaf, the other a rainbow heart--have been taped on top of the notebook paper arrangement.It’s been a little over four years since I published Crooked Words, and my gravest lesson as a human in that time has been this one: when you fall into a river and are washed downstream in the raging current of mental illness, you don’t leave the river in the same place you entered. You can’t leave the river in the same place you entered. In fact, you shouldn’t. You finally climb out on the bank, dripping and gasping, in a different part of the world, with different challenges, different ideas, different skills, different beliefs. Words like “aromanticism”, “autism” and the feeling that I don’t have to identify at all with femininity and womanhood, leave me far away from the bank where I fell in. I am not done figuring out who I am or growing as a human being who tries to be decent but is hampered by privileges, but I know more than I did four years ago.

I’m still reassessing how I’m going to handle older works now that I am shivering on the bank but no longer hurtling downstream. Great Aunty Lizzie is a novel, almost complete, so it would be a shame not to publish it. In hindsight, Steve Nakamura is so damn autistic, in the sense of autistic extroversion, that it blows my mind, but other pieces are not so obvious. Are they autistic enough to rework? Do I want to rework them? Am I interested in going back to stories that focus on allistic characters if I can’t? Or would I rather keep working with the narratives I am passionate about now? I don’t have an answer yet, and that isn’t the best thing for readers, but I’ll be honest about not having said answer and my feeling that, with a few rare exceptions of characters like Paide and Efe and Aysun who engage with autistic characters in autistic-centred narratives, I am not interested in writing allistic protagonists.

This puts my older published works in a new space, because they don’t fit with what I’m doing now. These days, I want to shove Crooked Words in a black hole and pretend it doesn’t exist, and that’s an awful thing to do with regards to works that still do something slightly-unconventional in their use of pronouns. Yes, there are more works now written in third person with pronouns that aren’t “he” or “she”, but it’s hardly an overwhelming selection.

I’m conscious about the fact that I can spend forever tweaking and fixing things that have been digitally published. It is too easy to spend so much time fixing past works and not making new ones, and every older work should make me uncomfortable in some way – I’d be failing to grow as a creative and a human being if they didn’t. This might not be so severe a problem for other creatives, but with my chronic pain and perfectionism, it’s dangerous. Yet I look at Crooked Words and cringe, and that isn’t right, either. I’ve worked hard on it; it was an accomplishment for me at the time. I’d like to give it a cover that fits my current styling and abilities, update the language to better fit the massive shifts in how we discuss gender that have taken place over the last four years, and replace the two stories that hurt me as an autistic and an aromantic with the versions that don’t: Certain Eldritch Artefacts and Old Fashioned.

(It’s not just that I have improved my cover-making skills a little over the last five months. I’ve found a style for my works and how I present myself that isn’t the formal photo-and-plain-text approach favoured by the teachers in my PWE course. I like the sentimental idea of paying homage to the design this blog used to have, all tape and scrap paper, for a collection that represents who I used to be, but also something that’s just a little untidy and cluttered like my works now. I’m messy and chaotic; I’m weird in a thousand ways, as a person and as a creative and as a writer of genre fantasy. Owning that and being playful with it means rejecting some of the formal design rules I used to follow.)

So I mean to be working on just that, between everything else. I don’t plan on rewriting the other stories – maybe an editorial tweak here and there – but mostly just replacing the cover, new formatting and blurb, swapping the two updated stories, updating the bio. Things that bring it more in line with what I’m doing now. I don’t know how long this will take me, but I would like to once again look on Crooked Words as something positive.

I hope there’s something here to which people can look forward!