Short Fiction: Ringbound, a Kit March Story

Cover image for Ringbound by K. A. Cook. Cover shows an eight-pane window set into a cream brick wall above a stone and wood table or bench, with various items sitting on the table--candles in vases, bottles, a large shell, a white vase filled with flowers, two gold rings propped against the vase. The text is written in brown fantasy-style handdrawn type. Through the window, scrubby green trees and a blue-green sky is visible. The subtitle "a marchverse short story" is written in white handdrawn type.Kit can’t find anything unfair about the contract or the man, so why is the ring so heavy?

Kit March is a signature away from marrying the man who loves him. He should be delighted, but for reasons he doesn’t understand and can’t explain, his future with Lauri weighs upon him. What is a magician to do when no script extant has words for the confusion he feels?


It’s Aromantic Awareness Week, and it was bothering me that I wouldn’t have anything new for it. Two of my current projects feature aromantic protagonists (one pansexual aro, the other aro-ace) but there is no way I’ll get either done this week. I’m usually up for some absurdity when it comes to trying to do things impossible, but even I know my body won’t allow for that.

Then I remembered this line Kit said to Amelia in Old Fashioned:

It explains so much about the time I panicked and, uh, climbed out the window to escape a Malvadan merchant who wanted to introduce me to his parents. I admit it wasn’t the most well-thought-out decision I’d ever made…

If that isn’t crying out for a story, I don’t know what is.

Links: [PDF] | [EPUB]

Setting: two years before Old Fashioned, making this the earliest of all Marchverse stories so far.

Word count: 1871 words.

Content advisory: This is about the pain of an aromantic man trying to deal with being aromantic while possessing no understanding of it, who makes a questionable decision in abandoning his partner. Other than that, I don’t think there’s anything worth advising for.

Note the first: This is an experiment for me in producing flash fiction, in that I wrote a completed first draft a few hours after beginning and gave myself time limits for all the steps that followed—forty minutes for cover design, half an hour for formatting, etc. I wanted to see what I could make if I shifted my focus to efficient production instead of agonising over appearance and presentation, and I’m quite proud that I’ve been able to do this. Twenty-four hours after having the idea for this piece, it is a very short ebook, however imperfect.

Note the second: This scene isn’t quite the way Kit described it above, but it isn’t in Kit’s character to speak the unedited truth. It is in his character to cut the pain and heart out of past events to make of them a lighthearted story.

Note the third: I have been in a situation where there is no reason by the mores of society that I shouldn’t date, other than the confusing, bewildering feeling that I can’t. In hindsight, I see my aromanticism writ large, but at the time I had no comprehension of what I felt or why, and nothing society had to say about being human gave me an explanation. This story, in a way, is voicing that past me—the me that didn’t have the language to say why.

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Updates and Anticipatory Ramblings, v2

Image of a wooden sign with the word "updates" written in brown fantasy-style handdrawn type. The sign sits on a grassy rise surrounded by scrubby bushes and low trees with twisted branches, looking something like tea-tree or paperbarks. The image is surrounded by a tan brown wooden frame.

This is the “periodic whenever I remember to do it” ramble about what I’m working on, just to give folks some indication of where I’m going and what I hope to be producing. Right now, I’m pretty much neck-deep in The King of Gears and Bone, but I really should switch to the next Kit March chapter for a bit. I also have daydreams of getting All the Trees in the Sky done for a sometime-in-April publication date, as it would be cool to have a story that is so bound up in what it means to be the autistic shape of human to publish in Autism Acceptance Month. We’ll see what my chronic pain has to say about this, since it’s generally quite loud on this sort of subject!

I also want to write a personal essay about my experiences last year with regards running a daily-updating blog, conversations on accessibility in disability spaces, how the pressures to be as accessible as possible have resulted in my becoming more disabled, and why I think we need to change how we talk accessibility when talking to other disabled people. The truth is that I stopped having the spoons for doing something I love–fiction writing–by throwing all my spoons into trying to make my blog accessible for others, and I’ve gained new chronic pain sites in the attempt. I’m not sure when I’ll have the spoons for this, but it is something I very desperately wish to explore and articulate.

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New Year, New Look, New Books

Image of a wooden sign with the word "updates" written in brown fantasy-style handdrawn type. The sign sits on a grassy rise surrounded by scrubby bushes and low trees with twisted branches, looking something like tea-tree or paperbarks. The image is surrounded by a tan brown wooden frame.

It doesn’t look like I’ve been doing much, but I’ve actually spent most of the last month in a fluster between trying to get two books formatted and posted, redesigning my blogs, redesigning covers and dealing with my ongoing shoulder, wrist and thumb pain.

So, in order of most to least important:

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The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March: Maker

Cover image for K. A. Cook's 'The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March'. Vector/cartoon styling of a creepy folly/shack/treehouse with various gothic accountrements and a crow or raven perched on the roof. Folly is surrounded by more vector images of trees, bushes and scrub set on a cartoony green-hill background. Typeface for author and title credit is white stroked with black. The whole thing is very flat/one-dimensional and looks like a still from an 80s cartoon.Tes Alden, collector of words, rescuer of books and counter of objects, knows ze isn’t like everyone else. This wouldn’t be such a problem if everybody else didn’t struggle with it. Hir mother prays a run-down school in the middle of nowhere may be the best place to stow hir brand of peculiarity, and Tes has nowhere better to go.

Darius Liviu lost a limb and his lover in the hell of Mul Dura. He spent the last three months as a guest of the Greensward, crafting a jointed hand from elf-sung wood and trying to ignore the mutterings of the ghost that haunts him. Now, he returns to the College to take up the second-most dangerous job open to a magician: teaching.

Tes just might be a magician in the making, if ze can survive adventures in alliterative magic and hir own lethal curiosity. Darius, though, keeps a secret that makes the usual problems of overgrown rhubarb, basilisk hordes, verbose eldritch objects, shrieking purple monkeys and cauliflower explosions look like nothing at all.

The elves are coming, and nobody fears elves more than Kit March.

Maker: Darius chose Tes’s presence over his health, a gift for which books, stones and homewares are no just recompense. How can ze repay a magician when ze isn’t sure, despite his words, that ze still belongs at the College?

Chapter count: 10, 415 words.

Content advisory: Darius uses the word “cripple” to describe himself in a way that’s more self-hatred than reclamation and “crippling” to describe the loss of his hand. Tes thinks hirself wrong for being aro-ace, which is debunked in non-subtle references to the stereotype of autistics being perceived as incapable of love by allistics. Both use “broken” to refer to themselves. There are also discussions of blood magic, sacrifice and the gnomes used as weapons/torture devices. It’s implied over several paragraphs that the Lord mutilated Darius as a means of imprisoning a multi-disciplined magic worker via limiting his ability to pay for magic. Tes’s statement about Darius no longer being a soldier is also cruel and ableist to say to a disabled man, but ze doesn’t realise this. Also, I reference sexual assault, ableism and allosexism in my first note.

Note the first: These days, I’m ace. Pan aro-ace. I suspect I feel aesthetic attraction, miscategorised as sexual because that’s what society says you’re supposed to feel. Unfortunately, being a-spec, autistic and otherwise disabled is an uncomfortable thing with activists using the words “desexualisation” and “dehumanisation” to deny me representation and the visibility/knowledge it gives. If I’d known I was aro-ace, I wouldn’t have found myself trying to perform the cisheteronormative and amatonormative relationships that put me—an autistic who struggles to communicate no in ways allistics hear and respect—in violating situations. It matters to me that Tes gets words sooner rather than later, and it matters to me to be able to show a journey through Darius that isn’t immediate recognition of one’s aromanticism, a belated recognition coloured by an autistic’s position in navigating social norms.

Note the second: Yes, the words “asexual” and “aromantic” don’t fit the linguistic approach used for other terms in narrative. (Although there is a point in the construct of “same” (cis) and “similar” (allistic) as used by trans autistics, namely that autism and gender for us are inseparable; I haven’t yet had the space to show how this language is seldom used by allistic trans people.) I find there is some awareness of “autism” and “trans” (for all that we autistics know the dangers of awareness) when I speak them to others, but “asexual” was only recently added to the dictionary. Hence, I decided to use the real words, representation over consistency, as they’re too seldom spoken even when we do exist as characters. (Although “autism” as a word does exist in Amelia’s medical texts, and should my shoulder let me work on Conception, you’ll find out why Amelia and Kit don’t use it.) In the rewrite, I probably won’t use fantastic terms at all: if a horse is called a horse in fantasy, and a sword a sword, a trans person can be called a trans person. It says something about being trans (internalised cissexism) that I did feel, on starting to write this, that it is too modern a word to work, but why should it be?

Maybe you’ll know, one day, that memory names.

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Short Fiction: Old Fashioned

Cover image for K. A. Cook's "Old Fashioned: an Amelia March Story". Cover has a vector image cartoony style picture of a bedroom with rough-made furniture--bed, stool, chest of drawers, a shelf. Magical items like bone amulets, glowing mushrooms and spell bottles are hanging from or sitting on the shelf. The title and author credit are written in red and white handwritten type.Amelia March is tired of suitors breaking into her house after dark to express their undying love. Sure, it might be the fashion, but whatever happened to getting to know someone first? Why won’t they listen to her when she says she isn’t interested? And what does it mean that her cousin Kit thinks there’s a word for her approach to romantic relationships?

Old Fashioned is a story about finding words and the importance of fake cobwebs in the windows.

This is another rewrite of mine, since the original version was written long before I knew that aromanticism was a thing. It was meant to be a slightly snarky take on romance tropes, but it was actually an awkward mess of a story about a character who should have been aro-spec written by an unknowingly aro author. Besides, rewriting Old Fashioned meant that I could properly fit it into the Kit March canon.

Rewriting this also spawned another Amelia story I’ll be editing and formatting, where Kit ends up on her doorstep after returning from the Greensward with a brand new foot, a sword of some significant provenance, a girl called Osprey as his companion and a plan to get revenge on the elves by teaching magic to autistic students. So I don’t think anyone will mind too much about these tangential forays…

Readers should note that this takes place forty years before [The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March] and twenty-six years before [Certain Eldritch Artefacts].

The original version of the story, where Amelia isn’t intentionally autistic and aromantic (and Kit isn’t present), can be found in [Crooked Words]. The new and expanded version can be found at the links below:

Vendors: [Smashwords]

Formats: [PDF] | [EPUB]

Updates and Anticipatory Ramblings

Cover image of “Certain Eldritch Artefacts” by K. A. Cook. Cover image shows a cartoony, stylised vector image scene of a market scene with hanging peppers and fabric above the text and rows of corked potion bottles sitting on a wooden counter display surrounded by vegetables and sacks. Title and author name are written in a dark brown handdrawn type.I’ve recently formatted and published [Certain Eldritch Artefacts as its own book on Smashwords], which I won’t post about separately because it isn’t enough different from the version I already posted. Just a few continuity tweaks and the removal of anything grammatically awkward. My own PDF and EPUB files are available for download on my new [short stories page], and clicking on the cover image will take you to a PDF you can read in your browser.

I really wanted to have a story about a trans autistic character that’s a little more tangible than “post on this blog”, and my recent med changes have apparently left me with enough motivation to make that happen.

Anyway, I know that professional writers tend to write updates about what they’re doing instead of vanishing for four months with a shoulder that doesn’t work and then throwing words on a website between ever lengthening increments of nothing. You know, the posting of regular content, even if said content isn’t anything other than a desperate suggestion or implication that there’ll be an ending three years from now if the chronic pain gods are kind.

I’m not a professional writer, as opposed to being a disabled queer with a blog, MS Word and an outdated copy of InDesign, but it’s reasonable that I attempt to imitate one. Occasionally.

The following is a list of things on which I am working that have half a hope of happening within a reasonable time frame. The things I still daydream of doing and haven’t entirely cast aside aren’t here, although if my recent med changes result in my being able to accomplish this list, I might add them. Please note that the hope of “happening within a reasonable time frame” will no doubt bear absolutely no relationship to the actual reality, so I recommend that you only get sceptical and pessimistic.

I’ve started rambling a little [on my Tumblr] about the things I’m working on, if anyone’s interested.

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Short Fiction: Their Courts of Crows

Cover image of "Their Courts of Crows: A Tale of the Eagle Court" by K. A. Cook. Cover has a waterstained paper background with grey line drawings of a crow sitting on a branch, a tree, three falling dandelion seeds, a feather and an arrow, with the title written in alternating serif and handdrawn type. The effect is something like a sketch in an antique journal.Prince Paide ein Iteme has lost his father, his family, his people and his home to a conquering necromancer queen and her armies of the risen dead. A last horrific battle sees him forced to discuss surrender, but that conversation is no small amount complicated when said conquering necromancer is his mother. Who might not have been entirely wrong in her overthrow of Paide’s father… 

Genre: fantasy, short story, queer, free

Length: approximately 5 000 words / 20 pages

Formats: [PDF] | [EPUB]

Vendors: [Smashwords]

This is a re-write/edit of a short story I posted to this blog a couple of years ago. It’s also the first thing I’ve published, in the sense of uploading it upon where other people might stumble, since my depression/pain/suicidal ideation worsened over two years ago. Oddly enough, it’s also been about a year since I really started writing and blogging again. I’ve had who knows how many panic attacks over deciding to do this–I don’t know how clear it is to others that writing knowing that other people may read it terrifies me, an anxiety that hasn’t gotten any better over this last year of trying to get back to doing some things again. (You know how psychologists say that if you just try and do something, it gets easier each successive time? I’ve never once experienced this. I’m sure this is a myth. It has to be a myth.) Everything I post on this blog of late is done through a haze of hand-shaking, heart-pounding terror, and while editing something I’ve already posted shouldn’t have been too scary, should is the operative word.

(All I can say is that being a creative with anxiety is an experience I won’t give to my worst enemy.)

But here it is, a book. Well, a short story, packaged like a digital book. I recommend reading this version, if you haven’t read it already, as there’s greater clarity about Paide’s position and–I hope–fewer wonky sentences. I also hope this is the beginning of going back to edit and format the many, many things languishing on my harddrive.

Unlike most things I write these days, this story doesn’t have a trans and autistic protagonist. Paide is pan and he isn’t neurotypical, but this is one of the few stories I’ve written purposefully for cis readers. A trans character is the motivation for both cis protagonists, but this story is really about being a good cis ally. And in one case, a cis ally with a horde of zombies.

Like most things I write these days, there’s no romance.

This is also set in the Kit March universe, and it may have a little something to do with a forthcoming side plot, if we use the word “plot” with a certain degree of looseness.

(File format note: if you prefer PDF files, please use my PDF link and not the Smashwords PDF. Smashwords is great for distribution, but a text document formatted for EPUB conversion makes a horrific PDF. My MOBI file also doesn’t have the awful added/additional TOC at the front, too. Actually, I’d honestly recommend only using Smashwords for their EPUB format. Everything else loses aesthetic as it goes through Meatgrinder.)