Please note that I usually have three (at least) projects I’m bouncing through at any given time: I seldom work on the one thing from beginning to end. This means that readers can wait longer for any given piece than is right, but it makes it more likely I am able to produce something. Trying to wed myself to one project at a time makes it harder for me to work at all.
Stitches (Kit March chapter) – This contains the heart of Longevity, in the sense of Darius and Amelia finding their way to the beginning of an understanding, while better following on from Curiosity in the sense of just how much Tes’s actions break him in all sorts of expected and unexpected ways. I didn’t want to throw an extra chapter in there, but it works so much better now, so I’m glad I did. I really like the sense of Darius and Amelia banding together against Kit–and we finally get to see the seedling. Exciting, yes?
Language of Absence (Esher Hill chapter) – The heart of this is a “this is what aromanticism is” conversation between Esher and Kit (as a sequel to Ringbound) but it’s also the chapter that made this book a story in its own right. Esher is such a warming character to write in his combination of being aro-ace and intimate in terms of touch and personal revelation that it was impossible to leave him as just a walk-on “swordsman in Raugue who gave me words” character. I will say that the awesome thing about writing Kit as a character who is economical with the truth (or a flat out liar, might we say) is that I can go in all sorts of directions regardless of what he’s said previously on his matter–the inconsistencies are his characterisation.
Longevity (Kit March chapter) – This needs reworking now that “Stitches” exists. I think it might even be a fairly short (comparatively) chapter, since I can cut all the Darius and Amelia waffle and move a little more directly to the plot that rears its head. I’ve realised, though, that I’ve foreshadowed something earlier that is no longer a thing in terms of potential consequence (and makes better sense through being a thing only in action and symbolism) so the more I write, the more desperately the earlier chapters need reworking. Yet if I stop to do that instead of leaving it for the end, chances are good I’ll never get anything done, so…
Exsanguination (Kit March chapter) – Second-draft finished, but also way, way too long. Fortunately, I know exactly what piece I have to cut, and as much as I really like the scene with Darius realising that the College is full of magical creatures that can provide him the support he needs for various self-care jobs, it’s easy to cut. Although I realised that I wrote a bit that clashes with his earlier claim that he didn’t grok the full importance of Eren Adalet’s teaching until afterwards, so I’ll have to rework that slightly. But other than that, I think most of it is good for line editing, actually.
Midnight (Kit March chapter) – This chapter is about the nature of magic. The setting is spooky, as it involves more nighttime exploration (everyone in the College has adventures after dark, but this adventure involves a secret tunnel under the College) and we get to see little bits of Darius making a space personal, like a shrine with a lock of Efe’s hair and a few other mementos. Mostly, though, I like this chapter for voicing a few hard truths and responsibilities about magic–the blood trade in particular but magic in general.
Lesson (Kit March chapter) – Second draft finished. This is basically where we get to see Darius handle his first class in an awkward-ish autistic kind of way (he spends most of the time stimming by clutching and petting a cat) and I get to throw in a few ways in which I’d love to have seen a teacher teach. It’s also too long, but the extra part is right at the end and easy to cut, as much as I want the class to have a conversation on the ways magic can aid some forms of transitioning. (I have hopes it can go somewhere else. Trans characters being openly trans is an important thing.) Aside from the cut at the end, though, I think this is ready for line editing, no further drafting.
Fire-Proof Armour (Esher Hill chapter) – Faiza! Our nerdy dragon-talking sweetie who spends an awful lot of the chapter feeling like they can’t talk to people and is so relieved when Kit joins the group (as Kit can talk to a fence post) because nobody else is willing to even begin a conversation. This chapter is something of an ode to every time in my life I’ve been an awkward autistic on the edges of a social gathering not knowing how to say or saying it wrong, and for this reason it was so much fun to write.
Freaks (Esher Hill chapter) – This chapter was amazing to write, because it is so interesting to write from Indigo’s perspective–that of an autistic person trying to very hard to appear allistic and judging everybody else (given that the company are all neurodivergent in some way) for not doing so. Ze is bitter and brittle and what ze thinks is a thousand kinds of internalised ableism, and it’s not often that we get to directly express the ableism we are taught this way. Writing Indigo hurts me, but it’s also beyond incredible to express this tangle of hate. I will say, though, that yes, hir character arc is about hir learning to accept hirself and others as autistic, to let go hir hate.
Royalty (Kit March chapter) – This is where we get to see the crossovers between stories because I need a necromancer, and as Kit and Amelia already appeared in A Prince of the Dead, there’s really no reason not to bring Zaishne and Paide in. Tes, Holly and Iris are awkward around royal visitors and Darius realises that today was not the right day to turn his hair aqua as a spell demonstration for his class. The fun for me is writing all the ways in which Paide is subtly hitting on Darius, because Paide is too polite to be obnoxious about it but in every way inclined to try, which may result in getting to explore Darius’s polyamoury and open relationships a little more.
Bones and Bowls (Esher Hill chapter) – Here we get Esher’s point of view for the first time, and there’s such a sharp contrast between the person he appears to others and the person he is inside his head, it’s a little overwhelming. I’m writing here a lot of the intrusive thoughts and the constant wrestling against them that I experience daily, because this kind of running narration of what it’s like to have brain weasels telling you to die isn’t common in how I see suicidal ideation and depression depicted. It’s an important chapter to me, but oh is it hellish hard to write!
Truth of the Eyrie (the fourth Eagle Court story) – This is about a new character, Switch, a working-class agender person who has a few words to say to Ein and Thereva about the reality of being trans in Ihrne when you’re not a prince or a general–in other words, the work needed to take a proclamation and law into something that protects the marginalised. As a working-class agender person myself, I am rather enjoying writing a character whose experience is so much closer to mine, a character who doesn’t have the protections of money, title or even magic but needs to rely only on their wits and stubbornness. Given the difficulty of their entering the palace to hold more privileged trans characters accountable, I consider Switch to be the bravest, most determined character in the Marchverse.
Birds of a Feather (the fifth Eagle Court story) – This one is odd structurally, because it’s three short stories that, thematically, go together. The first story is about Paide speaking with Zaishne, based on the end of A Prince of the Dead and the revelations of The King of Gears and Bone. The second story is about Ein talking with the Marches, based on the end of The King of Gears and Bone. The third story is about Switch’s trying to cross paths with Paide, Ein and Thereva. All three stories end in the same place, finally bringing Switch’s plot in line with the others: here is where we see the beginnings of a most unconventional government.
All the Stars in the Sky – A short SF story about an autistic space adventurer, Jaim, meeting an android at a tree-focused theme park–discovering their shared frustration with the incomprehensibility of allistics, revelling in mutual feelings of otherness in an allistic-dominated world, pondering why it is humans made androids that express autistic humanity and launching a plan to take over the galaxy together. I’m only just over a thousand words in, but so far I’ve got a semi-verbal, agender, aro-ace, autistic protagonist who uses a computer program to speak and is a ship pilot travelling the known galaxy when off duty to see all the trees accessible to someone not allowed to venture planetside (for setting-based reasons). My thinking here is that ze spends hir life staring at the stars, so ze is entranced by something ze so seldom sees in hir life–trees and forests.
Blood and the Ravens (Kit March novelette, sequel to Certain Eldritch Artefacts and prequel to The Adventurer King) – This is about three different things that have been referenced in Kit March and The Adventurer King relating to Darius’s years in Rajad: the bullying and assault Darius mentioned in “Maker”, his lessons with the blood witch Eren Adalet, and his connection/friendship with Mair and the Ravens (the workers at a brothel housed nearby the school). In a sense, I’m trying to show Darius’s connections to the world around him and why he decides to stay at the school despite an epic case of not fitting in–and that it’s actually Mair, Akash and Ila who give him that sense of belonging, not Eren and her magic.
Untitled (Kit March novelette, sequel to The Adventurer King) – Currently a mess, quite frankly, and I’m unsure as to whether I should split it into two novelettes or one novella. However it turns out, it’s the story of Efe and Darius in Ashad, taking out a tyrant-to-be and dealing with a host of complications: the way Darius is treated as an autistic trans man, a host of access needs, the difficulty of communication, Darius’s aromanticism versus Efe’s unthinking flirtation and growing attraction, the growing problem of Hamide Golzar and the Phoenix Guard, a few mistakes made by two men who are lacking some in experience, and the problem of being a blood witch in a world that–sometimes rightly–is wary of the trade. It needs a lot of work to be a coherent first draft though; right now it is more a loose collection of scenes.
What Is and What Might Be (Kit March/Eagle Court short story, sequel to Conception and The King of Gears and Bone) – I started this as a very short side story. It’s no longer very short, but it’s far too much a crossover to be anything but a side story, so I’ll still just post it here. Amelia narrates again, looking at A Prince of the Dead and the magic involved from her perspective while also ruminating on Kit, Erondil, the Greensward and the challenges of the College. At the same time, we get to know Thereva a lot better, in terms of her anxiety in throwing in her lot with Ihrne. This is fun because Amelia and Kit see magic so very differently from Ein and Thereva, but mostly because Amelia. I love writing her. She’s almost as much fun as Indigo.
A Census of Dragons (Kit March short story) – This is about Master Faiza’s previous life as a princess who serves their kingdom by counting dragons and ends up in a life-changing conversation with a curious dragon and an annoying prince who sees the habit of dragons acquiring young royals as a prime networking opportunity. Every time I’ve had Darius mention that he spent a few months organising a dragon’s hoard during his year of travel, I’ve had to cut it for length. I’m longing to show how, in the Marchverse, autistics get along really well with dragons, to the extent that a good many former students of the College seek them out as a post-graduation career opportunity. It’s now a prequel story to Esher Hill, too…