Fiction Round Up – July / August / September

Clearly doing this on a regular basis is a pipe dream, but it would be nice to periodically gather my recent pieces in the one spot.

Most Fridays, I post one of my free books to Patreon. These posts are public, so you don’t need to be a patron or subscriber to access and download. Through Patreon, I have something I’ve been wanting for a long time–a public-accessible, no-sign-up needed post capable of hosting all my book files. This way, nobody needs to make an account with a vendor to download the file or files of their choice (PDF, EPUB or MOBI) direct to their computer, phone or tablet.

It should be noted that every narrating protagonist here is somewhere on the aromantic spectrum and experiences some shape of sexual attraction.

Hallo, Aro

Cover image for Hallo, Aro: Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction by K. A. Cook. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text.Neuronormative: An autistic allosexual aromantic struggling to deal with the ways alloromanticism and aromanticism alike are binary, neuronormative ways of looking at the romantic attraction spectrum.

This is less fiction and more a slightly-creative take on non-fiction, but I wanted to give voice to the ways what is and isn’t romantic is tied to neuronormative assumptions. Even the construct of aromanticism itself feels neuronormative to me. I’ve long reached a point where I’ll use aro as a general term but my aromanticism is better described by words like arovague, nebularomantic and idemromantic. To not centre my neurodiversity as a component of my aromanticism is to fail to speak of my aromanticism at all.

If you prefer reading as a digital book, you can find the most recent PDF, EPUB and MOBI files on Patreon.

One Strange Man

Cover of One Strange Man: A Marchverse Short Story by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a wooden door, bolted shut, set into a stone wall, with dangling ivy and climbing roses obscuring the wall and part of the door. The ground in front of the door is brown earth and has a thin-bladed green bush growing in front of it. A glowing white marble sits on the earth by the base of one of the roses on the bottom left-hand side of cover. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.I put the third Darius story up this month on Patreon as a preview for patrons.

How can the want for another person make an intelligent man gift something so precious?

When Akash’s former lover refuses to return a family heirloom, Darius knows only one way to help his mate—even if it means ignoring several laws in the process. The magic he mastered in surviving the College and the mercenaries has surprising utility in the art of larceny, at least once he gets past the stomach-knotting anxiety. When Darius makes the mistake of asking Akash why, however, getting caught in a stranger’s third-floor bedroom seems like nothing compared to comprehending the mysteries of romance and friendship.

You’ll need to have read Love in the House of the Ravens for this story to make the best sense.

Few folks will know that I was once paid $2 NZD to climb up to wriggle through a stranger’s campervan side window and unlock their door, being the smallest teenager in the caravan park at the time. (In reflection … that wasn’t a lot, given that I saved a couple from needing to get a locksmith.) This story has nothing to do with that, but it was in my mind as I wrote Darius’s misadventures on climbing a wall and falling through a window. Being somewhat diminutive is not always a disadvantage.

(Long ago, I used to write improbably tall characters for Non-Human Fantasy Species Reasons. It took longer than I care to admit to figure out why. Now my protagonists range from Darius and Kit to Esher and Nevo, but I have a special fondness for my pony-riding vertically-challenged characters.)

The Morning After

Another Patreon exclusive that I will be publishing later on, currently available in three parts: one, two and three.

Stiff fingers, an aching knee and a headache are the smallest prices Darius pays for last night’s escapades when a furious Halima knocks on Akash’s door. Darius, groggy and slurring, needs to convince her to accept a restitution that doesn’t involve his arrest, but there’s nothing easy about forging compromise when Akash and Halima wield schemes of their own. And how does Darius keep all this secret from the belt…?

You’ll need to have read One Strange Man for this to make the least amount of sense.

There are more narratives that treat challenging (correction: not acceptable to allistics) autistic behaviours as deserving of scorn, shame, frustration or mockery. There are far fewer narratives that treat them in a more neutral way, as something difficult that can be handled and navigated without a burden of shame placed on the autistic person experiencing them. Nor are too many of those narratives centred on an adult autistic treated as an adult by his adult allistic friends. So many narratives with adult autistic characters focus on the quirkiness, our autism rendered safer and cutesy for allistic audiences; anything that complicates this gets shuttled off to the delete folder.

My autism is smashing my hands on the desk while fighting to at least keep from breaking my keyboard–and knowing that anyone seeing me will be ashamed for me. My autism is the chronic pain the allistic pain doctors don’t know how to treat. My autism is fearing and avoiding even happiness, excitement and accomplishment because my expressions of these provoked almost as much criticism and embarrassment as my meltdowns. My autism, as much as it should be otherwise, is the ableism engraved on my bones.

This story is about what it means to be a palatable allistic when my autism isn’t quirky or cutesy.

Different in Other Ways

This is a prequel series to the Eagle Court books about a cast of characters who don’t live in a palace, set two years before Their Courts of Crows. This series of stories gradually draws closer to mirroring the events of Paide and Ein’s books … just from the perspective of living nd working on the wrong side of the wall that divides the city of Ihrne. I’ve been wanting to show what Paide’s war, surrender and laws look like from the perspective of people who’ve too long seen law as meaningless and shake their heads at a trans king. Being able to work in a sense of language and direction that’s completely absent from the other Eagle Court books makes these stories a lot of fun to write. Paide doesn’t recognise the wall as relevant; Nevo and Harper never get to stop noticing it.

Nevolin ein Yinne sells books, curses low ceilings, promises his father that he won’t get himself killed and looks a little too hard at pretty men. Men he wants to date, men he can’t date, men–even in Ihrne’s queer underground–who expect a comprehension of romance he doesn’t possess.

Harper Mitzin Seili serves dishes, never removes his gloves, promises his mother that he won’t get himself killed and has no idea how to comprehend an interest in people that won’t stop changing. An interest bordering on irrelevant while he keeps secret the nature of his masculinity.

Nevo isn’t good at pretending to be straight.

Harper isn’t good at pretending to be unremarkable.

Different in Other Ways is a series of sketches and vignettes about gender, abrosexuality, quoiromanticism, customer service, working-class queerness and friendship.

Links to samples for all the DiOW pieces can be found on Aro Worlds, should you not be a patron and wish a little taste of this project.

Booksellers Who Know Things: An ordinary day of selling, shelving and mending becomes less ordinary when a mysterious stranger saves Nevo from disaster while asking questions about fairy tales.

Men Bound by Blood: Nevo learns his mystery man’s name, but Harper’s slip of the tongue forces Nevo to make a promise to his father he may not be able to keep.

Jeile: A risky disclosure at the bookstore allows Nevo to welcome another queer to the underground, but Jeile is more mystery than co-conspirator.

Catch a Man (Have the Girl)

Yuissa is the only partner Adelin wants, but survival in Ihrne requires both girls to keep secret their truth. No matter: they’re only a year away from having coin enough to escape to a cottage in Greenstone, a paradise of vegetable gardens, rescued cats and unrestrained affection. They can survive anything until then, right? Yet when Adelin’s worried mother and grandmother plot to solve Adelin’s unwed state by forcing her to court a male acquaintance, Yuissa thinks a beard the only answer.

A queer-seeming bookseller called Nevolin ein Yinne may do, but the process of asking isn’t quite so simple…

This series will be more amusing if you’re aware from the beginning that Nevo thinks Adelin meant it when she asked him out, but none of Nevo’s stories are required to read this. People may also wish to be aware that this piece crosses, defies or ignores the romantic/non-romantic binary. I’m not sure if Adelin’s love for Yuissa is romantic or queerplatonic/alterous: it’s a case example for the I can’t tell the difference between platonic and romantic problem I talk about in Neuronormative.

Part One: Adelin’s morning is thrown into chaos when Grandmam decides it’s high time to arrange her wedding.

The first part of this was written and edited (read: “edited”) in five days because I wanted a bonus piece to post for my birthday.

I am yet to find satisfying any allistic-authored book on an allistic’s accepting, loving or supporting an autistic. An autistic author can authentically observe how autistic-centred acceptance by allistics is still unusual or examine the ways that ableism hampers our ability to build relationships with most allistics. At the hands of an allistic author, it feels like my autism becomes a tool to indicate an allistic character’s exceptional progressiveness; I never not feel othered by it. I’d much rather them write a fantasy world where everyone accepts autistics than be subjected to an allistic telling me how wonderful their allistic protagonist is for … usually, the barest minimum of acceptance.

This piece is rough, but I place no limits on writing stories about allistic characters caring for their autistic friends, siblings and/or partners while still accepting them as autistic against a setting where I can also discuss and depict ableism and its impact.

(Efe Kadri does begin his adventures with Darius thinking himself a bit progressive for hiring an autistic magician/mercenary guard. The key word there is begin. Darius’s character arc involves trusting Efe, but Efe’s character arc involves first becoming deserving of it.)