Fiction: A Gift of Naming

Cover of A Gift of Naming by K. A. Cook. Cover shows cartoon-style tall-trunked trees growing on a green mountain slope with a high green canopy before a blue and grey clouded sky. Brushes and small green shrubs grow at the base of the trees in the foreground. Text is written in a white, handdrawn, fantasy-style type.Summary: Even in the best of circumstances, it’s no easy thing to tell the parent who named you that your name no longer fits.

Word count: 1200 words.

Content advisory: References to cissexism, particularly as it surrounds a change of name, both historically and from the protagonist’s great-grandfather.

Setting: A village in the lower Crackenbush Ranges, on the border of Greenstone and Astreut, approximately a hundred years before Kit March. Please check the digital book editions if you require an explanation on the Marchverse’s handling of heartnames and shroudnames.

Links: PDF | EPUB

Note the first: Mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) is common in Victoria and Tasmania’s highlands, the world’s tallest flowering tree. By “fig” and “banyan” I mean the Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla), found in New South Wales and Queensland. I’ve seen both in the flesh, and, in my opinion, no human structure will ever match the awe inspired by the overwhelming immensity of these trees. There’s something intensely spiritual about walking under a path crowned by mountain ash that remains beyond my ability to describe or encapsulate.

Note the second: For Briar, chosen kin, who gave to me my own heartname.

If one’s parents provide a shirt that tears when tugged over their child’s shoulders, isn’t it cruelty to force the wearing, however well-intended the gift?

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2018 Fiction Master Post

Despite veering from periods of no writing to periods of all the writing, I have managed to end this year by posting or publishing twelve new fictional pieces. A master post collecting all pieces seems appropriate, both in the sense of allowing me to talk a little and making all these pieces easy for readers to find and access.

It seems to me that aromanticism has become an irrevocable presence in my fiction, as central to what I write as being trans and autistic: every single piece features an aromantic-spectrum protagonist (although some works don’t focus on this). For me this sense that I do not have to include something alien to me feels liberating and empowering. It’s frustrating, yes, to struggle to find my place in the literary canon; it’s disheartening to know that eschewing alloromantic experiences is a unrecognised barrier between me and a good many readers. Yet I have this year made an online space that is more receptive of my work, and I can only hope that this keeps on growing.

Thank you to all the folks who have supported me and my art in some way this year, be it through likes or reblogs, linking my work to others or sending me messages: I am truly grateful for your interaction and encouragement.

If you like what I do and have the ability to help me survive in doing it, I’ll remind you all that I have a ko-fi. All digital beverages are gratefully appreciated (although I am baffled by the thought of imbibing real coffee).

Please find below a variety of flash fiction pieces, short stories and novelettes, featuring a collection of queer, disabled, trans, non-binary, autistic and aromantic characters. All these works are free to read!

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Linkspam Friday: November 30

Does anyone remember that I do this? I can’t blame you if you don’t. It’s been a while.

After a flurry of posting fiction, I’ve been updating book pages. I’ve now got cover art up for The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query. (Self, use a less unwieldy title next time.) I’m currently trying to focus on finishing the third Mara and Esher story because I can’t post the second Crew chapter: there’s just too big a revelation for the events that happen in A Quest of Spheres and Phalanges for those two pieces to be read out of order. (Self, that title isn’t much less unwieldy and you damn well know it.) After that, I’d really like to finish Love in the House of the Ravens (so unwieldy) so I can put that and One Strange Man up: together with The Adventurer King, they form a kind of trilogy in Darius’s identifying as aromantic. I have to admit that between Darius, Mara, Kit, Amelia and a little bit of Tes, I’ll be glad to put to bed the “discovering the word” genre of aromantic writing.

It’s a shape of storytelling that needs to exist, given how much it normalises our experiences as aromantics. I’m just so used to now writing characters who are trans or autistic with little explanation on their gender or neurotype that I’m feeling the need for a similar approach with aro-spec characters, too. I like writing about aromantic characters mentoring new aromantics because I can show folks already at that point, but I’m starting to yearn for a story that mentions a protagonist’s aromanticism, has no reaction from anyone else beyond casual acceptance and then concerns itself with everything but aromanticism.

In unrelated news, Tumblr decided that “chronic pain” is a porn-related tag and now has given folks with chronic pain no way to search for each other or find related content. Disabled people like me are collateral damage in their rush to delete dangerous and illegal content that shouldn’t have been allowed to flourish in the first place. Tumblr, if there’s porn in the chronic pain tag, the problem is the porn bots who shouldn’t be putting it there, not a community of chronic pain patients trying to find support and connection.

I know that there’s never been a purge of anything that hasn’t caught up innocent (most often marginalised) people in its wake, but surely by 2018 there’s enough historical precedent to realise that a little care is needed before hitting the wipe button?

(And I hate, I hate that I have far too much of a following to be able to walk away from a platform that thinks it acceptable to silence me as a disabled person.)

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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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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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Fiction: The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query

Summary: On the night of the Thinning, necromancer Mara Hill goes to the village graveyard to ask a question she can’t risk sharing with the living. The meddling dead, however, speak more than Mara expects about their once-living experiences of love and attraction.

Theme: The story features an a sapphic allosexual akoi/lithromantic woman, with a non-amorous aro-ace man and a bisexual aromantic woman as side characters. Several other (dead) village aro-specs also talk in light detail about their aromantic-spectrum experiences.

Word length: 8, 115 words.

Content advisory: The protagonist, the protagonist’s love interest and her mentor are all allosexual, so while there are no explicit sex references, there are references to having sex and experiences of sexual attraction. Discussions of amatonormativity and internalised hatred are a given. There’s also vague and non-detailed references to gender dysphoria and depression, as this story sets up further examinations of both (from Esher’s POV) in Love is the Reckoning. There’s a fair bit of discussion about experience of romantic attraction and the protagonist is fine with being the subject of romantic interest. I don’t recommend this story for people who have severe sexual and/or romantic repulsion.

Note the first: This is set in the Marchverse as a prequel to Love is the Reckoning, but it requires no prior knowledge of anything to read and takes place a good forty years before The Eagle Court books and Kit March. This said, if you’ve read The King of Gears and Bone, you may find interesting here a few further revelations about necromancy and Ein’s demons/angels (depending on your theological position).

Note the second: In a world where names have power, people get around this by having a secret true name (heartname) they share only with close family/trusted friends and a nickname or common name (shroudname) they use with everyone else. Some cultures consider a signed heartname to be more emblematic of true identity than its verbal equivalent. Additionally, naming customs in this region involve children taking their brood parent’s shroudname as a last name, given the commonality of non-cisheteronormative relationships and marriages. If there is no known brood parent, the sire parent’s name or the shroudname of the adoptive parent will be used instead.

Note the third: Yes, I did say I’d post this before Halloween, but tell that to my frozen shoulder. Apologies for the half-baked editing on this one. It is much in want of further going-over before I properly publish. Chronic pain is a hell of a thing.

In a small village where everyone thinks they know everyone else, conversations become dangerous.

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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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