Short Fiction: Old Fashioned

Cover image for K. A. Cook's "Old Fashioned". 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 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].

I also posted this on my Tumblr [@eldritchesoterica] for the #AggressivelyArospectacular event hosted by [@aggressivelyarospec], in case you prefer reading in a web browser or just want to check out more aromantic creativity.

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] | [MOBI]

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Updates and Anticipatory Ramblings

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, EPUB and MOBI 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" by K. A. Cook. The top half of the cover shows a black silhouette of a tree branch crossed with a longsword, with three crows taking flight around the branch. The bottom half has the text "their courts of crows" in a white fine sans-serif type in a black box above "k. a. cook" in black text on the cover's white background.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 | MOBI

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.)

Promotion: Amazon and Patreon

I have done two things today. They both revolve around the attempt to make some kind of income from my words.

One: two of my three self-published books are now up on Amazon. Yay! However, I want to apologise to all Amazon customers for the fact that I can’t put my free reads (Crooked Words and Death is Only a Theoretical Concept) up as free reads on Amazon … so if you’re an Amazon reader, you’re going to have to either pay 99 cents US (or whatever the local equivalent is) or go over to Smashwords/Apple/Kobo/Scribd. I can’t blame anyone for not wanting to buy something that’s free to read elsewhere. I should state that I have no intention of price-matching: I released those books as free reads for a reason and mean to keep them that way.

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The other me: Death is Only a Theoretical Concept

I think you know, now, that I’ve been writing creatively for the best part of the last fifteen years. I’ve written and completed about eight novels (first drafts, trust me) and who knows how many incomplete novels and stories. The vast majority of this is never going to see the light of day, as is right: it takes millions of words to get really good, and while I still have plenty to learn, I have my current skill level because of the millions of words I’ve left in my wake.

Over that time my style and creative focus have changed such that I look at the person who wrote my earlier stories and don’t quite recognise them.

Some of the more recent stories, though – some of the things I’ve written in the last five years – are not terrible. They need work, yes; I’ve learnt a great deal in PWE. They are also, topically, not what I’d write today, which usually involves trans and non-binary identities alongside a collection of female characters with feminist leanings. They belong to the period of my life where I wrote about men because I was forced to live the life of a girl, a life that chafed me to the bone, and there was a great deal of liberation in being able to pick up the keyboard and step into an imaginary world where I could live, via proxy, the life I wanted. I read them today and shake my head at the absolute lack of women, at the overwhelming majority of cis male characters (writing a cis male majority means writing everyone gay/bi/pan, because I wasn’t interested in writing about straights even then) and the lack of understanding with regards to social issues.

I also read them today and realise something else: they’re still pretty damn funny.

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Launch: The Stillwater Files: Asylum

Well.

Good wine gets stashed in the cellar for a few years to age, right?

(I don’t really know, being that I don’t drink it.)

This post has been in my draft folder for nine months. Part of it is anxiety and part of it is that I’ve spent most of the last seven months thinking of nothing but my other novel, so Oscar and company got the short end of the stick despite the fact that the second book has been planned out since last year. It’s still ridiculous no matter how you cut it. The upside, however, is that my cover design skills and comfort level in Photoshop have improved, so you get a much better cover! (I’m not saying it’s spectacular, just that it’s better.) I know, I know, it’s an e-book – but you want it to look halfway decent in Calibre, right? Or is that just me?

I’m sure I’ve said it and implied it, but I’m a chronic pain sufferer. Three years, now. (Nigh on four, says the K. A. of nine months later.) Three years of not non-stop pain, but more pain than not most of if not much of the time. I’ve tried physio and ultrasound therapy and acupuncture and dry needling and occupational therapy (I can do shit, it just hurts) and mindfulness and meditation and weird computer programs and special brain training and … well. My reality is that since things haven’t improved in three years, the chance is small that they’re going to, and I’m facing down a life-long reality of pain. (Pain has allowed me to go out and begin my life, but it’s not easy to look ahead and know that in forty years I’ll still be struggling.) I’m one of the unlucky ones who has no readily-identifiable cause (most likely a combination of various things, but neither one on their own justifies the pain I’m in) and doesn’t fit the diagnostic criteria of any ‘physical’ pain disorder. This doesn’t mean my pain isn’t real. It just means they can’t figure out why my nerves are firing pain signals all the fucking time. Medical science hasn’t caught up to me yet.

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Launch Week: Up Close and Personal

Yesterday I went to the Professional Writing and Editing end-of-year break-up. Chat with fellow students and teachers, writers’ games (demonstrating the awesome talent in the room), awards, and the launch of the 2013 student anthology, Up Close and Personal.

On the one hand, I am thoroughly relieved to reach the end of the year (although it’s still not quite over for me – still got a project or two to wrestle with) because trying to balance full-time classwork and my projects was becoming difficult, especially when the lure of actually making things was taking hold. When I need to choose my computer time carefully, creative pursuits win over assignments (even though I’m pretty good at analysis and generally enjoy doing it). While I do enjoy learning and the academic environment, I enjoy creating things more, which makes sense: I am a creative. Now I know I have skills, now I have confidence in those skills, I am ready to get out of the classroom.

On the other hand, I am saying farewell to an environment where I am respected, appreciated, seen, and that doesn’t come without its sorrow; it’s too new a sensation to come without grief and anxiety attached for its loss.

Hold on while I venture into a tangent. It’ll make sense at the end, I promise.

My psychologist has given me homework: to stop and acknowledge my accomplishments. I’m not good at doing that. I feel tremendously guilty when I do, for how dare I put myself on a pedestal above anyone else? And at the same time, how dare I congratulate myself for doing something that’s just expected of me and anybody else anyway? I mean, sure, I’m dragging myself out of the pit that is anxiety and depression and family, and I’m becoming ever-more functional, but isn’t this just what I should have been? Therefore, isn’t it arrogance to give my accomplishments any weight at all?

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