The Crew of Esher Hill: Absence of Language

Summary: Three months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man. Leaving Lauri should have brought him a wondrous freedom from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know, and doesn’t care to think about it as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking, but when a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive.

Word length: 7, 209 words.

Content advisory: Please expect depictions of or references to amatonormativity, allosexism, cissexism, heterosexism, depression, autistic-targeted ableism, alcohol and alcohol used as a coping mechanism for depression. This story takes place in Astreut where heterosexism and cissexism are endemic, but there’s also references to the way people see aromantics in particular as heartless or hateful. There’s also several non-explicit sex references, Kit’s use of sex as another coping mechanism, some casual references to and depictions of violence, and a heaping mountain of guilt.

Chronology: This chapter takes place three months after Ringbound, one month after Love is the Reckoning and a little under a year before Old Fashioned. The chronological order for these interconnected stories featuring both Esher and (young) Kit is The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query (Esher), Ringbound (Kit), Love is the Reckoning (Esher), The Crew of Esher Hill (Esher and Kit) and Old Fashioned (Kit, taking place after Kit’s return from the Gast). Please note that, as ever, Kit rarely meets a truth that he feels obliged to preserve for later taletelling.

Note the first: Welcome to the first chapter of The Crew of Esher Hill, a serial story about six trans, a-spec, neurodiverse folks on a quest into a weird part of the Marchverse, there to face monsters, find an artefact and learn to trust each other. Because Kit is the narrator and knows nothing about Esher, this chapter is readable if you haven’t read Love is the Reckoning. I’ll mention, however, that there is an unfinished story between this chapter and Love is the Reckoning, detailing the deal Esher makes with the Grey Mages. This chapter does not reveal all that goes down in the creation of this deal, but if you don’t want to read things out of order, I’d recommend waiting on reading this. If you’re desperate to know what happens in terms of Esher’s saving Mara, on the other hand, this will assuage some curiosity. Some.

(I am not sure on a posting schedule. Please don’t get excited about the spectre of new, regular content!)

Note the second: Some folks may remember that I posted Old Fashioned last year for @aggressivelyarospec’s #AggressivelyAroSpectacular. I liked the symmetry of this year posting the interaction that provoked the explanation Kit gave Amelia on the subject of aromanticism, so here it is. Old Fashioned kicked off for me the posting of twelve short works with aro-spec protagonists, so I want to say a huge thank you for starting me off on a year of aromantic fiction!

Awkward words spoken by a stranger shatter a lie so ordinary that Kit never stopped to question its falsehood.

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Fiction: Maybe When the Bones Crumble

Summary: His hand broken, his father dead, his brother rebelling and his mother dancing the bones, Einas ein Iteme has nobody at the Eyrie but the chancellor and one cursed question he can’t escape.

Content advisory: This story depicts several shades of ableism targeted at autistics and chronic pain patients, along with a good amount of casual cissexism and more direct heterosexism. I’m intentionally writing about the ableism that isn’t seen by the abled as ableism, but for this reason it may be more distressing for disabled readers. It also takes place in the context of civil war and familial abuse, with references to both. Please note that there’s references of medical mismanagement and poor handling of meltdowns; there’s also depictions of and references to self-harm, one of which may be interpreted as suicidal ideation. It’s also worth mentioning that this story does not have a happy ending, at least for the moment. This begins to change in Birds of a Feather.

Word count: 4, 945 words.

Note the first: Maybe When the Bones Crumble takes place before, during and immediately after Their Courts of Crows, detailing Ein’s time in the Eyrie while Paide and Zaishne war it out across Ihrne and Arsh. Please note that this isn’t written to be accessible to newcomers: I don’t spend words on detailed explanations on how Ein came to be injured or the fact of Ein’s autism.

Note the second: I have a relative who breaks me every time she asks me this same question. (What part of chronic pain do abled people not understand? All of it, including the fact that it doesn’t just magically go away.) Her latest rendition took place on the eighth anniversary of the injuries that caused my chronic wrist pain, an unexpected double-blow, so I wanted to put this hurt and frustration to story—the growing knowledge that just as my pain won’t change, neither will the attitudes of the people who hurt me. So this is a short, personal piece that I’m posting, fairly unedited, to get that weight of feeling outside my skin. I’ll also mention that this story is a deliberate examination of the way autism, anxiety and chronic pain come together, things inseparable in Ein and in me.

It seems to him then that pain is its own irrevocable truth.

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Linkspam Friday: September 21

I wish psychologists and therapists didn’t give me the “we will work together to find options but you will have to work to have to implement them” speech. It wasn’t so bad before I had horrific therapeutic experiences, but now, when I struggle to trust medical professionals generally and have little reason to do so, I feel unseen right from the beginning.

That speech has always been the basis of why therapists pushed me towards traumatising-to-me things, like mindfulness meditation. (I will admit that most people won’t have my trauma around mindfulness, but explaining this often didn’t stop psychologists from making me try it for the umpteenth time.) When something wasn’t working for me, I wasn’t working hard enough to implement it. If I couldn’t do something, I wasn’t giving it a fair try. My not trying became the reason describing the failure for all the standard tricks pulled from the therapeutic grab-bag, and that’s now all I hear in that speech. A ready-made excuse that the therapist won’t look past.

I want help with making and sticking to routines, and I’m saying this as someone who has alarms on my iPad, who writes lists, who has tried all the conventional ways to make one work. Like many autistics, I do well with externally-imposed routines, like school, while severely floundering without its supporting structures. (No, the answer isn’t pretend I go to school, because I’ve been trying to do that for over a year!) I don’t know how to make myself not distracted; I don’t know how to stop writing and go to bed like I should. Obnoxiously-loud, jarring thrash metal alarms do not work. Getting up to turn off the iPad several feet away from my desk does not work. Now I’m afraid, because of that cursed speech one session in, that my failure to get a routine going will be my fault. Again. Or that, when I’ve dismissed every single pain-management strategy suggested because they do not work for me, I’ll be branded as difficult. Again.

When I’m constantly trying my hardest against a brain that isn’t and never will be made for an allistic universe, to encourage me to work without recognising my efforts now only makes me feel already a failure. After so many frustrating, bad, terrible and downright traumatic experiences with therapists, such a speech takes my suspicious tendencies and lets them run riot with distrust. After all her reassurances, I already feel like I’m too difficult for her.

If you work in mental health, especially if you’re handling people with more complex diagnoses and disabilities, cut the “you need to work hard to get better” line from your spiel. Start looking instead at the ways we’re already working hard. Because we are. And sometimes it takes all our strength and courage just to get out of bed, and we need the world to see it.

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Linkspam Friday: September 14

In the last fortnight, I’ve written twenty-eight thousand words on Birds of a Feather. It isn’t the reason why I didn’t put a post up last week–medical appointments and my birthday were the reason–but it is the reason why I didn’t work on the post earlier in the week, knowing that I had things going on which would likely stop me from posting. A complete 40k first draft, though, is worth it to me, and the time spent writing meant I didn’t have enough links for last week’s post anyway, so…

In personal news, I am yearning for the chance to have a proper shower. I’ve got stitches right where my thigh and hip meet, which is proving an inconvenient spot for conventional and commercial-but-affordable ways of sealing a wound against water. They should be coming out tomorrow and I’m praying that the wound will be okay to risk getting slightly damp after that. Showering as quickly as possible with my leg poking out is awkward, and not washing my hair every day (to try and limit showering time) is driving me to distraction. I’m sure this will sound quite privileged, but small changes like the amount of oils in my hair bother me. I can feel the oils left by someone else’s hands on my Tangle after they’ve touched it, so I can definitely feel two days’ worth of oil in my hair. Since short hair is a stim toy attached to my body for stimming convenience and I’m always running my hands through it, I badly want it back to its usual daily-washed state.

On the positive side, I have a new bout of lived experience to fuel a few fictional characters. Not that it was necessary, but I suppose there’s something to be said for fresh realism. I’ll now have Tes pacing back and forth because the stitches across hir palm won’t stop itching

Photo – My Gaming Gear and Unicorn Squishies: In which I show off my gaming box, my Meren of Clan Nel Toth playmat and two unicorn squishies, still trapped in their cling-wrap packaging, watching over proceedings. I started going for viewed-as-feminine colours and decorations for my gaming things as a protest, because I had girls come into my old job afraid to pick out pink card sleeves from fear they’ll be mocked or harassed. Being misgendered because of it wasn’t comfortable, but I do feel there was worth in showing that gaming accessories don’t have to be masculine-coded.

Teaser Post – The Performance Magician: In which I post a scene from the first draft of the aforementioned work. Read this if you want spoilers for Amelia’s feline naming philosophy, more of March’s passive-aggressive renaming of elfish people and creatures, why Darius named his pony after the swordseller in Certain Eldritch Artefacts and hints of how Efe is going to drive Darius into throwing a dictionary at the wall. I will confess that Darius’s irritation at words being used the wrong way is mine, and I am also hypocritical enough to not mind when I do it…

Photo – My Redecorated Notebooks: I was given some rainbow washi tape for my birthday, so I covered a notebook and three scratch pads in stripes of bright washi tape. It was nice having an afternoon to be crafty in a way that isn’t writing.

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Linkspam Friday: August 31

I’m still getting used to my new desk arrangement, but I’m finally able to sit at my desk chair for more than half an hour. Excuse me while I sigh, for I’d love to own a body that doesn’t react to new positions with migraines and pain in places that aren’t chronic pain sites. A former psychologist of mine used to argue that I’ve got the advantage of having experienced much of the pain and limitations that come with aging early, as though experience is a consolation prize for not being able to spend my twenties and thirties doing things I should take for granted. In truth, all it does is make me wonder how much worse my life is going to be when I’m sixty if I can’t cope now.

I rather suspect that kind of reframing doesn’t well work on the autistic and anxious.

It breaks me, sometimes, to think on how little I knew about good-for-me psychology and how much difficulty, struggle and trauma it’s taken to even recognise what my needs are. I’ve spent a lifetime trying not to be autistic such that, two years in, I only have an incomplete sense of what doesn’t work. What does work is a grey space of vagary, an eternal question mark. I think that question underpins everything I write–that it’s all one long, rambling conversation between an autistic and their subconscious trying to figure out what’s needed from the world.

Post – My New Desk Arrangement: Here’s a photo of my desk, my new chair height, temporary footstool and test sideways mouse, along with a little rambling on the lack of conversation about office accessibility for tall/short people.

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Linkspam Friday: August 3

This week I went to a chronic pain information session where the attending psychologist lovingly spoke of mindfulness for far longer than I find comfortable. I, on the other hand, sat there as a stubborn autistic in an unreachable state of hell, no. I think she knew it, too, because she tried to talk to me after the event. Thankfully, the (good!) psychiatrist I’m seeing as part of the same program is really on board with autism, told me that we do not have to go there with mindfulness and I don’t have to see the program psychologists, so it’s more an annoyance than a problem.

On the positive side, this information session didn’t spent three hours demonising pain medication like most others I’ve been to. For a government-funded pain clinic, that’s actually impressive: the information sessions I went to at the first clinic were basically Pain Medication Is The Devil propaganda. It was close to the same addiction/opioid crisis spiel I get from “normal” people with a little more medical jargon thrown in, but one should never underestimate the ableism in medicine. I don’t. I can’t. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard pain specialists talk about pain meds as a “crutch” to a room of disabled pain patients while forgetting that a crutch is a mobility aid and not a ball and chain. It’s remarkable when I don’t have to sigh at it.

So! What else have I done this week?

Header text: Aro Worlds: Connecting aro creatives and aro audiences. Header is in antique black type above an ornate divider.

Ask – Character Tropes and Identity: In which an anon asks me about a character trope that might be read as aromisia and writing an ace character who doesn’t use the split-attraction model, and I talk writing a world full of a-spec in response. I also make an addition on the Tumblr post in talking about allowing creators to prioritise one’s own marginalised identity over broader representation in our protagonists, which I should have mentioned in the original.

Post – The Quiver and the Quill: I’ve been murmuring about starting a collective for independent aro-spec writers, given the lack of specialised community, promotion and support–especially for those of us who can’t find it in asexual spaces. In this post I both offered up a name and underestimated the aro-spec community’s love for subtle puns and alliteration!

Fiction – What If It Isn’t: A month ago, I posted a short story to Tumblr, so this week I posted it to the WordPress site as well. If you want a cute, fluffy, unresearched piece about adorable sapphics planning to figure out a QPR after robbing an art gallery, plus an obligatory autistic aro-spec protagonist, this is for you. Also available in PDF and EPUB, because I can.

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Linkspam Friday: July 27

Here’s the thing. I run multiple blogs. I’m putting new content out onto the internet every week. Most days, in fact, between review posts, artist profiles, the many questions in my Tumblr askbox and a few rants. And, unless you’re following me on every single blog, folks have got no idea as to just how much I’m doing online. Additionally, finding the time and spoons to create new content for this blog is difficult, as you’ve probably noticed from the sound of chirping crickets echoing around these cavernous walls.

(I’ve had a relative pass away in the last fortnight, so my well-laid plans have gone to hell. The fiction writing I’ve done has been very much in the arena of trying to distract myself from multiple panic attacks.)

So, every Friday, I’m going to collect everything I’ve worked on over the last week and post it here, and finish with a short ramble about whatever it is I’ve been drafting that week. Will it be a random mishmash of all things K. A.? Absolutely. Will you need to scroll past many things you’re not interested in? Quite likely. Will it help drown out those chirping crickets? We’ll see…

Header text: Aro Worlds: Connecting aro creatives and aro audiences. Header is in antique black type above an ornate divider.

WordPress Mirror: This week I’ve made a WordPress mirror for my @aroworlds blog on Tumblr as a means to archive static pages of the “about this blog” sort. This is because Tumblr is great for connecting with people and absolutely terrible as a blogging platform: it won’t let Android users access static pages. In fairness, this is only one of the ways Tumblr is ridiculous…

Aro-Spec Artist Profiles: I’ve also been updating the master page for the Aro-Spec Artist Profiles, with said profiles now being hosted on both Tumblr and WordPress. If you’re after more aro-spec creativity than is available on this blog, we’ve got twelve other talented creators who deserve your support and encouragement.

Aro-Spec Artist Profile – Neir / R. Tally: This week aroflux poet, musician and author R. Tally came in to talk with us about identity and connection to other people, composing non-romantic musical pieces, the fear of misinterpretation by alloromantics and the challenge of finding an audience for non-romantic works.

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