Updates and Anticipatory Ramblings, v2

This is the “periodic whenever I remember to do it” ramble about what I’m working on, just to give folks some indication of where I’m going and what I hope to be producing. Right now, I’m pretty much neck-deep in The King of Gears and Bone, but I really should switch to the next Kit March chapter for a bit. I also have daydreams of getting All the Trees in the Sky done for a sometime-in-April publication date, as it would be cool to have a story that is so bound up in what it means to be the autistic shape of human to publish in Autism Acceptance Month. We’ll see what my chronic pain has to say about this, since it’s generally quite loud on this sort of subject!

I also want to write a personal essay about my experiences last year with regards running a daily-updating blog, conversations on accessibility in disability spaces, how the pressures to be as accessible as possible have resulted in my becoming more disabled, and why I think we need to change how we talk accessibility when talking to other disabled people. The truth is that I stopped having the spoons for doing something I love–fiction writing–by throwing all my spoons into trying to make my blog accessible for others, and I’ve gained new chronic pain sites in the attempt. I’m not sure when I’ll have the spoons for this, but it is something I very desperately wish to explore and articulate.

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New Year, New Look, New Books

It doesn’t look like I’ve been doing much, but I’ve actually spent most of the last month in a fluster between trying to get two books formatted and posted, redesigning my blogs, redesigning covers and dealing with my ongoing shoulder, wrist and thumb pain.

So, in order of most to least important:

Conception

Cover image for K. A. Cook's "Conception: An Amelia March Story". Cover has a vector image cartoony style picture of a lounge room with rough-made furniture--mantel, rocking chair, stool, table--in front of a stone fireplace. Magical and household items like bone amulets, glowing mushrooms, spell bottles and a glowing capsicum sit on the mantel, books and flowers sit on the table and a loaf of bread sits on the stool. A round bround rug covers the stone floor, and laundry hangs from the roof. The title and author credit are written in a red and white handrawn type.A prequel to [The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March] and sequel to [Old Fashioned]. Conception takes place thirty-nine years before Tes arrives at the College, a year after Kit and Amelia’s “demiromantic” conversation and twenty-five years before Darius finds the belt in [Certain Eldritch Artefacts].

With Kit gone to the Greensward, Amelia March is content with her faked witchery, the ailments of her villagers and romance confined to a novel. She isn’t pleased, therefore, to find her cousin darkening her doorway—her cousin with two feet, a belly, a sword of some distinction, a story, a young girl named Osprey, a beaming smile and an undying hatred for the elves. Still, Amelia thinks she can survive the chaos, at least until Kit announces a grand plan to start a school for divergent magicians

[Smashwords][PDF] | [EPUB]

Conception builds more on the revelations of [Interlude – Resonance] and lets us see Osprey for the first time. It also shows us that Osprey knows more than Darius about what’s going on, which, if you’re not already suspicious about her absence, should provoke it.

(Yes, it is becoming obvious that many of the things Iris and Darius have said about Kit are not true. Kit himself even lampshades this in a future conversation with Darius. If you think you know something about Kit, there’s a reasonable chance it’s a lie, and there’s several important facts I’ve mentioned in Kit March that are also of exceedingly questionable veracity.)

This is dedicated to @transcoranic who has been an absolutely amazing trans-and-autistic reader in understanding what I’m doing and why. I am still not over (and will never be over) the fact that he reads my stuff.

A Prince of the Dead

"A Prince of the Dead: A Tale of the Eagle Court" by K. A. Cook. Cover has a waterstained paper background with grey line drawings of a sparrow sitting on a branch, a knife, a falling dandelion seed, two leaves and an arrow, with the title written in alternating serif and handrawn type. The effect is something like a sketch in an antique journal.The second tale of the Eagle Court. A Prince of the Dead takes place two months after Paide’s surrender to Zaishne ai Iteme in [Their Courts of Crows].

Bones interred under the palace, gold given to field-ravaged farmers and Parliament dallying over amendments: war is ended for Prince-Regent Paide ein Iteme. Or so it should be, but returning home to Ihrne in a broken body ensorcelled by a necromancer leaves Paide struggling with politicians who ignore him and servants who condescend to him. What good is a title and purpose when his words and desires have become meaningless to those around him?

Surviving the dismissal of the Eagle Court is harder than facing an army of shambling corpses. How does a dead soldier fight it when he no longer wishes to live?

[Smashwords][PDF] | [EPUB]

I didn’t intend to write this story about the frustrations of having well-meaning people regard my reaction to their ableism as a symptom of my mental illness, but it happened. A Prince of the Dead is nearly a Mental Illness story in a fantasy wrapper while setting up a few different stories to follow, so please don’t expect an adventure-type fantasy story here.

(Please note that this story depicts the experience of suicidal ideation and ableism, as opposed to just referencing it. This physically disabled, suicidal, undead protagonist does not die again, and the point of the story is a quiet fuck you to the ableist expectation that he should while not discarding the complications of this. I’m aware, though, that this still may be triggering or distressing; it wasn’t the easiest thing to write.)

This is dedicated to @galileoace in recognition of the fact that we don’t have the same experiences, but friendship can nonetheless be the thing that keeps us alive. I am so grateful for hers.

New Covers

Certain Eldritch Artefacts, Old Fashioned and The Unnatural Philosophy of Kit March got a slight redesign. Their Courts of Crows got a complete overhaul, as I’ve ended up with ideas and drafts for at least three more short stories, so I should admit that it’s a series now and save myself some work later.

All the files have been updated with the new covers, so if you want prettier versions, go download. Yes, I do seem to have a new-found aversion to capital letters…

Website and Publishing

I’ve decided to stop offering MOBI versions of my own files. It’s just causing too much work to have to save to EPUB and then convert in another program every time I make a tiny update and correction, and while it doesn’t seem a lot, it adds up to a lot of extra mouse clicks every time I have to update the files (especially now I’m doing it for more than one or two books). Given my severe thumb, wrist and shoulder pain, I have to find ways to minimise my work. If you don’t wish to download the Smashwords version, I recommend converting my EPUBs in [Calibre], which I use on my Windows PC for all my digital book management and file conversion. Most devices will read both PDF and EPUB files via various apps, and my old Kindle reads PDFs. I will look again at putting my newer works up on Amazon at some point (although I wasn’t impressed with having to put a list price on books I could publish elsewhere for free). I know there’s a few services now that distribute to all the main retailers, with a focus on allowing them to format your book for you, but I prefer to format my own files (the controlling person I am) the way I do with Smashwords. I’ll be doing some thinking if I end up doing this writing and publishing thing properly. Since I’m head deep into another draft of The King of Gears and Bone, who knows?

As shown in the sidebar and header, I’ve been working on making the design of this website match what I’m mostly doing here these days – my books and writing. It’s not completely finished yet, but close enough.

Thanks for your patience between drinks, and I hope there’s something here you’ll enjoy reading.

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.

Cover credits: [OpenClipart-Vectors] (stock images) and [VAGDesign] (typeface).

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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Updates and Anticipatory Ramblings

Cover image of “Certain Eldritch Artefacts” by K. A. Cook. Cover image shows a cartoony, stylised vector image scene of a market scene with hanging peppers and fabric above the text and rows of corked potion bottles sitting on a wooden counter display surrounded by vegetables and sacks. Title and author name are written in a dark brown handdrawn type.I’ve recently formatted and published [Certain Eldritch Artefacts as its own book on Smashwords], which I won’t post about separately because it isn’t enough different from the version I already posted. Just a few continuity tweaks and the removal of anything grammatically awkward. My own PDF and EPUB files are available for download on my new [short stories page], and clicking on the cover image will take you to a PDF you can read in your browser.

I really wanted to have a story about a trans autistic character that’s a little more tangible than “post on this blog”, and my recent med changes have apparently left me with enough motivation to make that happen.

Anyway, I know that professional writers tend to write updates about what they’re doing instead of vanishing for four months with a shoulder that doesn’t work and then throwing words on a website between ever lengthening increments of nothing. You know, the posting of regular content, even if said content isn’t anything other than a desperate suggestion or implication that there’ll be an ending three years from now if the chronic pain gods are kind.

I’m not a professional writer, as opposed to being a disabled queer with a blog, MS Word and an outdated copy of InDesign, but it’s reasonable that I attempt to imitate one. Occasionally.

The following is a list of things on which I am working that have half a hope of happening within a reasonable time frame. The things I still daydream of doing and haven’t entirely cast aside aren’t here, although if my recent med changes result in my being able to accomplish this list, I might add them. Please note that the hope of “happening within a reasonable time frame” will no doubt bear absolutely no relationship to the actual reality, so I recommend that you only get sceptical and pessimistic.

I’ve started rambling a little [on my Tumblr] about the things I’m working on, if anyone’s interested.

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Short Fiction: Their Courts of Crows

Cover image of "Their Courts of Crows: A Tale of the Eagle Court" by K. A. Cook. Cover has a waterstained paper background with grey line drawings of a crow sitting on a branch, a tree, three falling dandelion seeds, a feather and an arrow, with the title written in alternating serif and handrawn type. The effect is something like a sketch in an antique journal.Prince Paide ein Iteme has lost his father, his family, his people and his home to a conquering necromancer queen and her armies of the risen dead. A last horrific battle sees him forced to discuss surrender, but that conversation is no small amount complicated when said conquering necromancer is his mother. Who might not have been entirely wrong in her overthrow of Paide’s father… 

Genre: fantasy, short story, queer, free

Length: approximately 5 000 words / 20 pages

Formats: [PDF] | [EPUB]

Vendors: [Smashwords]

This is a re-write/edit of a short story I posted to this blog a couple of years ago. It’s also the first thing I’ve published, in the sense of uploading it upon where other people might stumble, since my depression/pain/suicidal ideation worsened over two years ago. Oddly enough, it’s also been about a year since I really started writing and blogging again. I’ve had who knows how many panic attacks over deciding to do this–I don’t know how clear it is to others that writing knowing that other people may read it terrifies me, an anxiety that hasn’t gotten any better over this last year of trying to get back to doing some things again. (You know how psychologists say that if you just try and do something, it gets easier each successive time? I’ve never once experienced this. I’m sure this is a myth. It has to be a myth.) Everything I post on this blog of late is done through a haze of hand-shaking, heart-pounding terror, and while editing something I’ve already posted shouldn’t have been too scary, should is the operative word.

(All I can say is that being a creative with anxiety is an experience I won’t give to my worst enemy.)

But here it is, a book. Well, a short story, packaged like a digital book. I recommend reading this version, if you haven’t read it already, as there’s greater clarity about Paide’s position and–I hope–fewer wonky sentences. I also hope this is the beginning of going back to edit and format the many, many things languishing on my harddrive.

Unlike most things I write these days, this story doesn’t have a trans and autistic protagonist. Paide is pan and he isn’t neurotypical, but this is one of the few stories I’ve written purposefully for cis readers. A trans character is the motivation for both cis protagonists, but this story is really about being a good cis ally. And in one case, a cis ally with a horde of zombies.

Like most things I write these days, there’s no romance.

This is also set in the Kit March universe, and it may have a little something to do with a forthcoming side plot, if we use the word “plot” with a certain degree of looseness.

(File format note: if you prefer PDF files, please use my PDF link and not the Smashwords PDF. Smashwords is great for distribution, but a text document formatted for EPUB conversion makes a horrific PDF. My MOBI file also doesn’t have the awful added/additional TOC at the front, too. Actually, I’d honestly recommend only using Smashwords for their EPUB format. Everything else loses aesthetic as it goes through Meatgrinder.)

Down the Rabbit Hole: The Language of Autistic Queerness

Increasingly, I’m feeling that there’s nothing about my identities as a queer person that can be separated from my feelings, experiences, world-view and personal sensibilities as an autistic.

Nothing.

I suspect that I’m queer because I’m autistic.

I don’t mean that people who aren’t cisgender, heterosexual and heteromantic must be autistic to be queer. I don’t mean that queerness is intrinsic to neurodiversity (although I will argue that neurodiverse people are more like to eschew cisheteronormativity and amatonormativity in a variety of ways). I’m trying to say that my identity as a queer person is complex, and most of that complexity, if not the entirety of it, exists because, as an autistic person, I have a loose, complicated relationship to many social norms and a body with very different requirements. In this case, I lack the deep, natural, unquestioned physical and emotional connections to experiences like sexuality and gender. That looseness provides space to think and question; it’s easy to reject normativity when you’ve only been anchored to it by the chafing, fraying twine of societal expectation. Even someone like me, trying desperately to perform allism (the state of being not autistic) and fearing the heaping of more difference on top the difference I repressed, still found it possible, over many years, to examine, test and accept labels that define and celebrate more of my differences. I still tried on labels like bisexual, lesbian, man; I still found labels like agender and queer.

The idea that a word like autism can group all the ways in which I have been different is new. I’m a baby autie, in terms of my space in the community, and I don’t deny it for a moment. I’ve been that kind of different all my life though, so the only arguable difference is that now I can retrospectively apply a word—autism—instead of the words I’m used to using, words like “weird” and “strange”. The real difference between me today and me of two, four, ten, fifteen years ago is that I now possess a word that owns, positively, my differences. I can own my autistic traits instead of shoving them to the background and pretending that they don’t exist from the fear that people will only like and accept me if I am half or less of the person I am. In spaces where I feel safe enough to use this word, I can deny nothing. I’m not broken. I’m autistic. I don’t think and feel like you, but I don’t wish to!

(There’s a price to pay for that difference of thought, being that I needs must live in a world not designed for me and experience a range of difficulties that are seldom accommodated or understood.)

This adopting of a new word does make visible to me, though, that there are many other things, including identities and complexities of those identities I am, that I have been pushing away because society tells me these things are abnormal.

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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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