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: Love is the Reckoning

Summary: Two and a half years ago, Mara Hill took her depressed, dysphoric brother to Sirenne in the hope of saving his life. Now, Esher returns to Dead Horse Hill with two dogs, a blade, a new career and a new body—the shape of masculinity he always felt he should be. A miracle the priests who cared for him deny. A miracle the Grey Mages claim cannot exist without something precious sacrificed in exchange. A miracle Mara refuses to explain, even though Esher knows she is the only person willing to make such a trade.

Esher wants to know what she did and how she did it, but finding the truth isn’t just a matter of enduring stares, whispers and the condescending pity from those he left behind. Not when this isn’t the only secret Mara keeps from him…

Theme: A non-amorous, grey-asexual, aromantic trans man dealing with family, love, suicidal ideation, dysphoria and amatonormativity. Consider this story as about complications of these things against a backdrop of coming home, consent and an acceptance of mental illness as something that doesn’t always have a bow-wrapped cure.

Word length: 11, 561 words.

Content advisory: Please expect depictions of or references to terminal illness, depression, body horror, suicidal ideation, dysphoria, cissexism, heterosexism, allosexism and amatonormativity. Trans readers should note that Esher has undergone what seems a near-perfect medical (magical) transition, which may be difficult to read on a high-dysphoria day. I also have two characters who have engaged or will engage in actions I can only term as a voiding of Esher’s right to informed consent with regards his magical transitioning and soul ownership. Esher doesn’t have time or space to even begin to figure out how he feels, but most of his later stories are about, in part, exploring this and the consequences of a culture of denial and avoidance wielded by those who love us.

Note the first: This story takes place three years after The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query. There are a few references to Mara and Aunt Rosie that will make better sense if this is read first, but the passing of time between the stories is such that I think Love is the Reckoning is readable on its own. (Much of the history on which this story is concerned takes place after Mara’s night in the graveyard.) If you don’t read it, know that Mara spoke to her dead great-aunt one night for reassurance on her own lithromanticism.

Note the second: I am working on the digital editions for this and the aforementioned piece, for folks who dislike reading in a browser and would rather wait for a PDF or EPUB version. I’m posting this now, though, for the #AggressivelyAroSpectacular event run by @aggressivelyarospec.

Yes, and that’s what scares him: his erasure writ in the words of love.

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Authorial Rambling, March Style

This week isn’t a linkspam post, because when I’ve hammered out 40k words on the conclusion of the first draft of the Kit March book, I don’t have time for anything else. At all. On the positive side, I’ve found a way I can strap my wrist and still type, although my occupational therapist may not be best pleased by this. I’m pretty sure that disability aids aren’t meant to assist my flagrant disregard of how one should manage severe chronic pain by enabling me to ignore it for longer. Because the strapping doesn’t decrease my pain; it just gives me a little more time before it goes from moderate to lying on my bed sobbing because I really want to type and my body won’t let me.

One day I’ll write about how I hide from being moderately depressed by throwing myself into a project, meaning that I’m often incredibly productive when showing a score of other signs mental health professionals consider concerning. But that isn’t nearly as important as the upshot. This monstrous book that I’ve been trying to write for three years, now? This book that was making me feel like my aspirations to novels were more illusion and less substance? This book that was defying my will to figure out a halfway-decent first act (first book) conclusion? This book I’ve spent the last six months despairing over while pretending that I hadn’t developed a desperate fear of being unable to finish it? A complete 190 000k word first draft.

I’m trying to find politer or more eloquent ways to phrase it, but I can’t move past the simplicity of fuck, it’s sweet.

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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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Change One: Books and Availability

This is the first announcement of several that I’ll be making over the next few weeks as I work to make my writing contribute at least a little to good causes like food, medication and therapy.

So, to this end, I’m going to be making some changes that can be summarised thus: fewer books available for free but wider availability.

A cartoony-vector-style image of a somewhat-overgrown garden against a grey stone wall, with a wooden signpost embedded in the grass just in front of the wall. Three wooden picture frames are nailed into the signpost, enclosing the cover images for Conception, The Adventurer King and The King of Gears and Bone. A wooden plank nailed above the sign post bears the text "updates" in white. Two bushes--one with orange tulip-style flowers and the other with yellow roses--sit in front of the sign, and a pink rose climbs the wall behind it. Trailing ivy and brambles climb over the edges of the signpost and hang down over it, slightly obscuring the covers in the picture frames.

From July 1, the only free complete works will be Old Fashioned, Certain Eldritch Artefacts, Their Courts of Crows, The Wind and the Stars and Crooked Words, plus any assorted side stories I post for fun. Everything else will have a price tag, unless you wish to provide donations or patronage (the method of how you might go about this will be the subject of another announcement post). If you do seek to support me outside of buying books directly, everything I self-publish will be made available to you for free.

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Current Projects

I honestly don’t know how people manage to create in conventional straight lines, the kind where one begins a project, stays with it and doesn’t get distracted by other ideas.

I’ve got two stories I’m working on that were supposed to be quick, short, flash-fiction pieces about aro characters I could post to @aroworlds before returning to my List Of Many In-Progress Works. (Like, for example, editing a Kit March chapter.) These pieces ended up being seven and eleven thousand words, and, for different reasons, they’ve become far too significant to the protagonists’ character arcs to be left as side stories. So I’m left pulling at my hair (literally) while wandering down lanes I never intended on travelling.

So let me talk at you about what’s forthcoming, since the writing gods have determined I must do this. I’m still not sure on release dates or how I’m going to go about it. One Strange Man is reasonably close to final proofing, but Love is the Reckoning needs a bit more redrafting.

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.One Strange Man

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.

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