Fiction: The King of Gears and Bone

Cover image of The King of Gears and Bone by K. A. Cook. Cover has a waterstained paper background with grey line drawings of the bones of a human hand and wrist, a head of wheat, an acorn, a small dandelion head, a long-legged wire-haired dog and an arrow, with the title written in alternating serif and handdrawn type. The effect is something like a sketch in an antique journal.In a nation of liars, an honest man cannot rule.

Einas ein Iteme knew he wasn’t a princess. That first truth provoked violence, murder and war, leaving him the heir to the throne of Ihrne—a throne he doesn’t want and can’t hold. How can he when he struggles to put words together, won’t look courtiers in the eye and avoids people on general principle? Yet the Eyrie, even Zaishne, simply assumes Ein will find a way to become the allistic ruler he can never be.

When his brother Paide invites him to a private discussion, Ein sees a chance to voice the second truth. Paide, though, keeps secrets of his own—and doesn’t seem to recognise the fate bound to him by hundreds of devouring angels.

To begin to save Paide’s soul, Ein will have to learn what the world never stirred itself to teach: trust.

Vendors: [Smashwords]

Formats: [PDF] | [EPUB]

Length: 12, 500 words / 43 pages.

Master Page: The Eagle Court | Beginning: Their Courts of Crows | Previous: A Prince of the Dead.

Please note that The King of Gears and Bone explores familial abuse, so I recommend reading the included content advisory if this might be a concern.

The King of Gears and Bone takes place in the evening of the same day as A Prince of the Dead. This is also the book that gives some explanation as the reasoning behind Ihrne’s names, along with more detail on Ihrne’s religion and the Convocation’s relationship with their necromancers. Curious fact nobody asked for: there’s no such thing as a shroudname in Ihrne, and I should write a short side fic where Amelia and Kit learn that everybody they’ve met in Ihrne has just given a witch and a magician access to their real names.

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Fiction: The Adventurer King

Cover image for The Adventurer King by K. A. Cook. Cover features a red leather-bound journal sitting on a wood panel background, like that of a tabletop or floor, with the text sitting on top of the book image in a gold fantasy-style handdrawn type. Objects sit on top of the book cover: a blue pen with a gold nib dripping ink, a screwed-up piece of white paper, a cream scroll with a green seal, a cream and silver compass, and a piece of rope. A grey single-edged sword blade sits underneath the book, and black handdrawn type atop the blade reads "an efe and darius story". The images have a cartoony, vectory feel.Seven years ago, Darius Liviu met a talking sword belt in the Great Souk, an eldritch being who changed his life forever. In that time, he has learnt something of the sword, mastered strange magic and survived dangerous jobs, but while he has friends in Rajad, he still feels out of place—too divergent to be welcomed and accepted as mercenary and magician.

When an unexpected meeting with potential employers goes wrong, his first instinct is to flee. But a wandering monarch, Efe Kadri, has an offer that might provide the certainty for which Darius has been searching, if only he has the courage to say yes…

Vendors: [Smashwords]

Formats: [PDF] | [EPUB]

Length: 11, 350 words / 40 pages.

This is the last of the Marchverse rewrites, aside from, eventually, Kit March itself. At the moment, I have the bones of a story that comprises the first half of Darius and Efe’s doings in Ashad, and an earlier story, now called Blood and the Ravens, that will cover Darius’s beginnings with Eren Adalet and show his connections with the Ravens, because that is going to become more important later on. There’s a wealth of story material in Darius’s years with Efe and Aysun should I ever find myself at a want for more to write, but I see The Adventurer King as the first in a rough trilogy of novelettes that form the beginning of Darius and Efe’s relationship, and then I’d like to stop for a little while.

In terms of timeline, The Adventurer King takes place seven years after Certain Eldritch Artefacts and seven years before Tes arrives at the College. Darius has been six years a student and one year a mercenary.

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A Project of Threes

Does anyone want to know what projects I have settled on for the next couple of months?

I have decided to take more time over All The Trees in the Sky, but I still want to try having two more stories – with autistic protagonists – available for April, because there is no such thing as too many stories about trans, autistic characters being trans and autistic.

I would also like to post the next Kit March chapter in the next few weeks. I don’t know how consistent I will be with this, because pain leaves me a liar every time I try to put a date or schedule to my work, but I am trying to post a chapter every two months or so.

The Adventurer King

Cover image for The Adventurer King by K. A. Cook. Cover features a red leather-bound journal sitting on a wood panel background, like that of a tabletop or floor, with the text sitting on top of the book image in a gold fantasy-style handdrawn type. Objects sit on top of the book cover: a blue pen with a gold nib dripping ink, a screwed-up piece of white paper, a cream scroll with a green seal, a cream and silver compass, and a piece of rope. A grey single-edged sword blade sits underneath the book, and black handdrawn type atop the blade reads "an efe and darius story". The images have a cartoony, vectory feel.This is getting a re-write, but more from a matter of consistency and character/setting development than anything else. When I wrote this, I had the idea of following it up with a story or two showing Darius’s progression from thinking himself alloromantic to realising that he’s an aro trying to be alloromantic, but I’ve realised that this isn’t a narrative I wish to draw out. (This was why Darius didn’t respond to the belt, incidentally – that and it’s pretty obvious that the belt has narrow views on the nature of human sexuality.) There aren’t enough aro protagonists in the world (especially trans, autistic, allosexual aro protagonists) to make aro readers wait, and I find the idea of a following story where Darius is just aro and dealing with the allo Efe far more entertaining than the “shades, am I aromantic” or coming-out story.

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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]

The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March: Interlude – Resonance

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.

Interlude – Resonance: Kit lives by the rule of the crow and the rule of story, but neither, despite a life of guardianship, quite prepare him for the fate suggested by a coil of worn, brown leather.

Chapter count: 6, 100 words.

Content advisory: The fine art of making myriad references that come with partial or no explanation. An elfish king referring to a disabled, autistic, black, trans man as a “pet”, which is meant to say a great deal about the Greensward and its privilege. (It’s hinted here, but it doesn’t go unchallenged in the story.) References to Mitzie’s death, to Efe’s death, to the Lord’s death, to Darius’s slow approach to suicide, to the backdrop of the problem of violence/vengeance versus pacifism. Amelia very much calling March out on his manipulative bullshit, be it how he orates, how he misrepresents situations and how he uses the people around him.

Note the first: I’ve got a rotator cuff injury caused by computer mouse use that is spending months stopping me from doing just about anything computer-use-wise but type. On the positive side, I drafted a few chapters, but on the negative side, I’m incredibly slow at editing, formatting and posting. You know how slow I usually am because chronic pain? I’m operating on about thirty percent of that capacity. It’s incredibly frustrating and I’m nowhere close to healed.

Note the second: As a person once working in a warehouse, a person with splints on both hands, a person known by more than a hundred people as “Kim the WorkCover employee”, I would have sold my soul for the chance to hide my injury/disability. When you’re seen as nothing more than the splints, when your disability becomes the only thing the people around you ask you about, when you feel the other aspects of your person (including the abilities and interests for which you were once known) slipping away in the minds of those around you … you either hide it, if you can, or engage in defiant cripple-punk as a raised middle-finger to abled society. I say this because I think one of March’s secrets may seem absurd to an abled viewpoint, the hiding pointless—or too-easily viewed as an act of shame. It isn’t. Being defined by your visible disability by those around you, instead of being defined by your other attributes, is one of the many cruelties of ableism. And while the College is better on acceptance on other fronts, as someone who endures a shocking amount of unthinking ableism for my physical disabilities by well-meaning-but-ignorant people in autistic and mental illness spaces, I can’t believe that March wouldn’t be defined this way. Darius’s chapters, as he starts to navigate students, show just how much he deals with this kind of ableism … because ableism is so pervasive even disability doesn’t negate it.

I’ll also add that March himself, the perpetrator of so much unthinking ableism (and hypocrisy), is still as guilty of this as anyone else. The College isn’t meant to be an example of a wondrous world of acceptance as much as a metaphor for the experiences of the multiply disabled … where we find acceptance and community and meet access needs on one axis but suffer the pain of ableism in spaces that should be better on another. I don’t know what a space that is entirely non-ableist looks like, and I can’t imagine it. I just know that I think of a space with sound-proofing, access to subtitles, soft fabrics and plenty of food choices, among other access needs I have, and suffer the pain of everyone thinking I can just pick up a pen and paper whilst I never think about the problem of stairs. And I suspect most disabled people are more like me, in forgetting about the access needs of someone else, than we are ever willing to admit.

His best talents are those of being less than real.

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The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March: Flight

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.

Flight: The obligation a rescuer has to a ward gives Darius a sense of purpose and the added benefit of avoiding Amelia, but finding Tes means negotiations with the belt and Tes hirself…

Chapter count: 10 890 words

Content advisory: Ongoing depiction of depression, restricted eating and hallucination. Depiction of cutting that is both blood magic and self-harm, given that it’s Darius. A few moments of executive dysfunction and the belt prompting as a result, although not in a demanding way. Self-harm and violence directed onto a horse and Tes because of meltdown; discussion of violence, overwhelm and meltdown. The anxiety and self-doubt over communication when that ability to communicate, through disability, is impaired.

Note the first: It’s hard trying to run a daily-updating blog and write at the same time. (I haven’t touched my other writing projects for months.) I am thrilled beyond measure that people trust me with their questions, but it leaves me few spoons left with which to write and redraft and redraft and edit. (And my pain has been severe, of course. Not to mention the insomnia.) I suppose we’re going to updating once every two months, as much as I’d like to have it otherwise. It might help to tell you that the next section is written, drafted and only in need of editing. It won’t help to tell you that we’re not even at the middle and I’ve reached 100 000 words two chapter drafts from now.

Note the second: Because I’m still very much trying to figure out how to be a disabled blogger on a busy blog and write occasionally, I haven’t yet figured out how to do anything that isn’t Tumblr. I’m pretty much posting here and running back to queuing stim toy posts. If you want to talk to me about anything, message me or mention me in a post as @eldritchesoterica on Tumblr: I’m more like to see that and respond in a reasonable time frame. Y’know, within a few days (probably) as opposed to never.

Note the third: Speaking as someone with executive dysfunction, it amazes me how in a situation I know exactly what I must do and can do it, but when it comes to everything less urgent, well, everything is harder. I really wanted to write a heroic protagonist who can step into beckoning hell like a bad-arse but struggles when it comes to the steps between “getting out of bed” and “leaving the room”.

Note the fourth: There’s this deep sense of shame connected with that, when I am excessively distressed, angry or frustrated (I know now the word is “meltdown”) I am not in control of my body and less able to effectively verbally communicate. I hit things and scream and swear. (As a kid when upset, I bit other people, and my parents talked at length about their extreme embarrassment and shame, not about why biting someone was the only language I had.) I know that this is Not How People Behave. I actively fear being like this and the judgement it brings, which is why I avoid situations that trigger this degree of feeling. People don’t know just how thin my veneer of control really is, how hard-earnt it is and how deeply rooted it is in self-hatred, fear and my parents’ shame of me. So, I wanted to write an autistic character who gets physically aggressive in meltdown, who self-harms, who hurts others, who loses all language but that of aggression, who experiences all those things I’ve been taught to never be. A character who speaks aloud those moments I’ve been taught to cut out of the story I tell about myself.

Don’t be less. Be here.

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