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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Survival of Naming

My mother, most of the time, can’t remember my real name.

It doesn’t matter how many times I correct her. She isn’t good at remembering things. The birth name, legal name, dead name, the name that I never speak or use myself, slides from her lips, and she never sees me wince. If I do protest, if I correct her, if I show exasperation or annoyance, she gets angry. I know her reasoning: she has a bad memory. It isn’t fair that I expect her to remember a name that isn’t the name she chose for me, isn’t the name she gave me at birth, isn’t the name ingrained in her understanding of the person I am. It’s too hard, too much, to ask her to think something that isn’t there in her own head.

Sometimes I feel strangled, as an autistic person who knows with painful understanding what it means to forget names. I should be more understanding, shouldn’t I?

But it’s my name. It isn’t even as though I’ve changed it to something wildly different: I’ve just hacked off six letters. Why is that so hard to remember?

Her anger works. It holds me rigid and silent. There’s no point in correcting if she’ll only yell at me for being an ungrateful arsehole who isn’t considerate of her memory struggles. She’s patient with me, isn’t she? So why can’t I be with her?

Here I am, strangled again.

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The Age of Mindfulness

Today I found a half-size water bottle. I bought it because my full-size water bottles (one green, one purple) are too heavy for me to carry in my satchel, because it was only a dollar fifty, and because it was green and purple. This bottle also just happened to have the coolest spin-up twist top, at which point I stood in front of the heater for a few moments just twisting the top open and closed, so I now own an item that is both useful for reasons unrelated to the attraction of the spinning top and a colourful stealth stim toy. Thank you, Sistema. If your stuff weren’t so ridiculously expensive most of the time, I’d buy more of it.

So I’m standing in front of the heater twisting this top in wild joy at the discovery that this water bottle top is an ideal out-of-the-house fidget nobody will take askance because I’m always that person with a water bottle … and also just because it’s really fun to see the purple nozzle pop up out of the green base.

My mistake lies in mentioning my enjoyment to the person in the lounge room with me.

“You’re just a big kid, aren’t you?”

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A Dialogue in Good Faith

I haven’t said it here, yet – there are a great many things I’m yet to speak about here on the matter of finding my way back to myself – but I started freelance work this year designing event flyers and administrating the Twilight School website.

The Twilight School, run by Bruno Lettieri (of Rotunda fame, one of the most amazing and generous people that ever lived) is the community outreach project of the Salesian College Sunbury. The Salesian College sponsors something quite unique: an after-hours education service providing classes, guest speakers and other community events, at low-cost, for the Sunbury community. Most of these conversations involve literary personages and community health workers, and the classes run from cooking to writing and gardening to photography. The Twilight School also sponsors the Good Man Project, which is about fostering and developing healthy and open emotional dialogue with, between and among men. Barn Owl Journal is another of Bruno’s pet projects for getting creative writing out into the community, and you can read the current issue here.

(For an event example, you can go and see actor, comedian and writer John Clarke this month for $10 plus drinks, and all you need to do is bring a plate of food for the communal table. We’re talking an evening with a seriously famous, at least in Australia and New Zealand, seriously clever satirist for $10 and however much it costs you to bring a plate of sandwiches or cake. If you’re in Melbourne and this interests you, book now, because places are filling up. If I were living anywhere reasonably close to Sunbury at the moment, I’d go.)

I can’t overstate how important this sort of thing is. The Twilight School is offering and allowing real connection, expression and education in a world where the privileged have an infinite number of avenues in which to communicate yet we are still discouraged from being honest and vulnerable in the company of others.

(When your feminist goddess of a friend is telling you that she’s not sure she should have written about her experiences with depression and anorexia because it’s not appropriate to tell that kind of intimate story, on her own damn website no less, we have a problem with communication.)

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A Philosophy of Natural Movement, Part 1

This is a long multi-part essay on the experience of being autistic, the process of gaining the label, and the nightmare (especially the last two years, especially especially the last nine months) it’s been being an undiagnosed autistic person being treated for depression, anxiety and chronic pain in the Australian healthcare system.

So, of course, I’m going to start with my ongoing love affair with metal music.

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Marriage equality, you ask?

So I’m sitting on the couch watching morning TV because I’m sick as, and then a blue sketch image, vaguely resembling ice, flashes up on screen. I can make out the words “sex” and “marriage”, but not until the presenter starts talking do I understand that the scribble on the tip of the iceberg is “same”. Oh, wow, clever metaphor. Who knows what hell lurks underneath, right? Three minutes later, I get a second advertisement, because it’s not enough that I’m reminded once that I’m a secret danger to the fabric of society, no: I have to endure it again.

Great. I already risk homophobia when I step outside the house, go online, watch a TV show or open a book – now I have to get it in the advertisements as well? What happened to government-sponsored political spots about workers’ rights and attempts to flog toothpaste and muesli bars?

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Fiction: Their Courts of Crows

Genre: Fantasy

Word Count: 4, 200 words

Content: The aftermath of and discussion about battle, war, transphobia, murder (it’s complicated), death, familial violence and familial conflict; also modern necromancy, modern zombies, a battered warrior prince and one hell of a mother.

Author’s Note: I don’t know about the habits of non-Australian eagles, so just in case this is a phenomenon that only makes sense to Australian readers: wedge-tail eagles (Aquila audax) are often seen by yours truly (as someone who has travelled around a great deal of mainland Australia) on the ground or perched on a fence/trees/telephone poles surrounded by a few, several or even an entire murder of crows.

This story happened because I was pondering the Evil Necromancer And Her Hordes Of The Risen Dead trope, a la Magic the Gathering’s Liliana Vess. It’s been a while since I’ve written a short story that doesn’t involve Steve and Abe, never mind a short story that’s not fluffy, so I thought I’d post it here in my quest to get back to Doing Things That Scare Me. It’s rather rough and I’ll probably go back and edit it later, but I want to get back into posting things.

Also, I’m well aware that necromancy in its traditional meaning is to tell the future via communing with the dead, and you bet I make a comment on that in my novel-in-progress, but since the archetype I’m playing with is very much Liliana Vess, I’m merely making this comment to be that fantasy writer.

(Although I haven’t been not posting from avoidance as much as I’ve just been sick, hurting and completing the first draft of every way-longer-than-anticipated short story in Three Live Mice. Half of which is even finished to just needing a final line edit. Go me.)

He wriggles up to the ridgeline and peers over. The battlefield stretches across the valley, a mess of trampled earth, broken bodies and rent banners that looks nothing like the gentle farmland of his memory. There should have been paddocks of green wheat and golden canola bordered by post-and-rail fences and sourgrass flourishing on the verge of the road; there should have been brown-and-white cows chewing cud, girls carrying baskets and farmers driving wagons. Now the river runs red and brown around the abandoned bodies of horses and men; arrows and spears, broken and whole, stick up into the sky, forming grave markers and perches for wedge-tail eagles and their courts of crows. Fences sag beside the blackened ruins of farmhouses and sheds, and although Paide is now too far away to hear, the screams and groans of wounded horses and men trying to rise from their muddy graves will haunt his nightmares—do haunt his nightmares.

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