Fiction: Ringbound

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

If Kit can’t find anything unfair about the contract or the man, why is the ring so heavy?

Kit March is a signature away from marrying the man who loves him. He should be delighted, but for reasons he doesn’t understand and can’t explain, his future with Lauri weighs upon him. What is a magician to do when no script extant has words for the confusion he feels?

Is it so very cowardly to not want to be monstrous?

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Fiction: Love Spells, Rainbows and Rosie

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Lovers’ Day is good trading for a witch who deals in enchantments, ribbons and dyed flowers. For Mara Hill, it’s long been a holiday of tedious assumptions and painful conversations—once best handled by casting petty curses on annoying customers. This year, when a girl asks about love spells, it may be time to instead channel a little Aunt Rosie.

It’s a terrific exercise in redundancy, but some people find the words “no love spells” to be a bewildering subtlety.

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Fiction: Those With More, Part Two

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

When Mara Hill’s magic results in her brother’s impossible, wondrous transition, of course Suki wants to know how she did it! What if Sirenne’s magic workers can help others conquer dysphoria? What if this magic can heal Suki’s hands—or at least lessen her pain? But Mara, distrustful of priests after their failure in protecting Esher, won’t share her power.

A senior priest must bear responsibility, but Suki suspects her problems lie deeper than lack of oversight, and her reluctance to discuss her aromanticism with a woman who needs support only proves it. Would she have preserved Mara’s faith and Esher’s health if she hadn’t first avoided revealing herself to her aromantic kin? If she’d faced their expectations that she shoulder their pain and grief as well as her own?

Suki has lived her life by the Sojourner’s second precept, but how does she serve when she doesn’t have more to give—and never will?

Some scars are long years in the fading, if at all.

Continue reading “Fiction: Those With More, Part Two”

Fiction: Those With More, Part One

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

When Mara Hill’s magic results in her brother’s impossible, wondrous transition, of course Suki wants to know how she did it! What if Sirenne’s magic workers can help others find euphoria? What if this magic can heal Suki’s hands—or at least lessen her pain? But Mara, distrustful of priests after their failure in protecting Esher, won’t share her power.

A senior priest must bear responsibility, but Suki suspects her problems lie deeper than lack of oversight, and her reluctance to discuss her aromanticism with a woman who needs support only proves it. Would she have preserved Mara’s faith and Esher’s health if she hadn’t first avoided revealing herself to her aromantic kin? If she’d faced their expectations that she shoulder their pain and grief as well as her own?

Suki has lived her life by the Sojourner’s second precept, but how does she serve when she doesn’t have more to give—and never will?

Non-romantic love, to Suki, serves a similar role as the Sojourner or any other god: a fine concept in theory, but while she respects others’ need for a guiding framework, she can only nod vaguely at love’s existence.

Continue reading “Fiction: Those With More, Part One”

Fiction: Love is the Reckoning

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Esher Hill left his home and kin a crying wreck of a man, too depressed and dysphoric to care what his people make of him. If he’d had his way, that would have been the end of it.

His sister Mara, the village witch, made sure he didn’t.

Two and a half years later, Esher owns two dogs, a blade, a career and a new body—the shape of masculinity he always felt he should be. A miracle Mara refuses to explain. A miracle the Sojourner’s priests reject and fear. A miracle, say the Grey Mages, that cannot exist without something precious sacrificed in exchange: a soul.

Returning home in search of his sister and the truth isn’t just a matter of enduring stares, whispers, explanations and the condescending pity from those he left behind.

Love holds edges sharper than Esher’s sword, for nobody wins but demons in the sale of souls.

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

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Fiction: The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Necromancer Mara Hill has waited weeks for the Thinning: the one night the dead walk freely amongst the living. Her wandering great-aunt, Rosie, was wise in the way of magic and the world, and Mara knows of none other to ask. Books and magic alike haven’t restored her fading love, and Benjamin Lisabet is too wonderful to risk losing. Why can’t Mara keep herself from falling out of love whenever the girl she yearns for dares love her back?

She’s sure that Aunt Rosie’s spirit will offer up needed advice. She just doesn’t expect a deluge of deceased villagers set on unravelling everything Mara knows about what it means to love and be in love.

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

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Pride Month Patch Tutorial: Pride Hearts

Six digitally-created versions of cross stitch pride patches, arranged in two rows of three, against a background of a textured partially-translucent aromantic pride flag. Text between the two rows reads Aro Pride Patches in black type. Patches include a rectangular patch in aroflux zigzag stripes, an idemromantic heart, an aro flag text patch reading "aro", a square in quoiromantic stripes, an arrow design in allo-aro colours and a second arrow in nebularomantic colours.

In honour of Pride Month, I thought I’d offer patches applicable for the wider LGBTQIA+ and queer communities. This tutorial showcases the steps for making a heart-shaped patch, with patterns available for flags with three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten evenly-spaced horizontal stripes. Folks who want to emphasis love as an element in their identity can sew the hearts in the traditional upwards-facing orientation, while aros like me, who like to de-centre the role of love in my pride, can sew them upside down.

A photo, taken on a blue microfibre blanket, of the rainbow pride flag, Sullivans embroidery floss in the same colours and laid out in rainbow order, and an assortment of pride-themed cross stitched heart patches, all with borders in thick buttonhole stitch, open blanket stitch or dyed aida. Hearts shown, sewn both upside down and rightside up, include rainbow, aro, allo-aro, abro, agender, pan, p(o)ly, trans, non-binary and idemromantic flags.

You’ll need familiarity with cross stitch (full and quarter crosses) and backstitch to make the unedged patches, along with a buttonhole/closed blanket stitch (or a neat over stitch) to make the edged patch. The first instalment of this patch tutorial series demonstrates cross and blanket/buttonhole stitch, while the second covers backstitch. If you’re new to embroidery or needlecraft, I recommend completing the first tutorial–a simple square patch–before attempting the heart. The shape isn’t complex, but it does require sewing along curves.

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Hallo, Aro: Loveless – K. A. Cook

Cover image for Hallo, Aro Allosexual Aromantic Flash Fiction. Cover features dark pink handwritten type on a mottled green background with a large line-drawn peacock feather, several sketch-style leaves and swirly text dividers. Green arrows sit underneath each line of text. A translucent overlay of the green/light green/white/yellow/gold alloaro flag sits underneath the text.

Hallo, Aro is a series of flash fiction stories about allosexual aromantic characters navigating friendship, sexual attraction, aromanticism and the weight of amatonormative expectation.

When Paide ein Iteme says the words “I don’t love”, he doesn’t just refer to romantic relationships.

Little does this world hate more than a loveless man, save perhaps a loveless woman.

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Poetry Collection: Aro and Loveless

Handdrawn illustration of a green meadow foreground with green and yellow pine trees growing against a mint-hued sky. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aromantic pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Poetry sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

In my current queue and drafts for Tumblr, it feels like the majority of fiction and poetry is centred on promoting, celebrating and valuing the non-romantic ways aros still love. As much as I respect and support the need for other aros to tell their stories about love, I have to admit to feeling alienated. I’m struggling to find an equal number of depictions of aro identity and self-expression that don’t focus on an aro’s love.

So here’s a collection of reblogged aro poetry more welcoming for loveless aros and aros with complicated relationships to love. These pieces still reference love and discuss love, romance and amatonormativity. They’re not, however, focused on presenting or showcasing the author or narrator’s platonic or familial love. In other words, an aro narrator’s need to love or have their love seen and valued by others is not what these poems are about.

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DiOW: Men Bound By Blood

Cartoon-style illustration of shrubs, roses and grasses growing against a grey stone wall. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/yellow/gold stripes of the allo-aro pride flag. The text Marchverse sits across the image in a white, fantasy-style type.

Nevo learns his mystery man’s name, but Harper’s slip of the tongue means that Nevo makes a promise to his father he may not be able to keep.

Setting: Two years before the beginning of the war referenced in Their Courts of Crows and Maybe When the Bones CrumbleDifferent in Other Ways introduces a brand-new set of characters and circumstances; readers don’t need any familiarity with my other works.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing, depictions of working-class anxiety and classism, alcoholism as an expression of trauma, references to casual fantasy-style violence. Many references to heterosexism and cissexism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things

Length: 2, 736 words.

“She gave me a list.” Nevo slams his empty mug onto the scratched table, wishing that he dared drink enough to distract himself from Lenlil. “Of everything I’m supposed to do around customers. But I’m also supposed to finish books quicker, and if I don’t she’ll hire someone else because there’s fifty people who want this job and I should be grateful.” He tries not to snarl and fails. “I have to stop what I’m doing and serve, but stopping means I can’t finish everything else she expects finished, and how can I do anything when there’s not enough space? And books get nicked when I can’t properly stack and sort…?” He ends with a strangled exclamation, too frustrated for words.

Da just gives an encouraging grunt.

Except for Nevo’s habit of hiding queer books from outside bulk lots and listing them as school readers when selling to folks in the underground, he’s done as right by Lenlil as anyone can. “And she knows … I think she knows that I need to work somewhere like a bookshop. Not why, exactly … you know?”

He looks across at Da’s craggy face, an older, sunbrowned version of Nevo’s broad forehead and wide-set brown eyes. Tangle-prone blond hair, white skin, thick brows, the kind of height and brawn that makes every bed and doorway in Ihrne a trial and suggests less gentleness than both men own. Nevo knows what he’ll look like at forty: Da.

Perhaps without the eyes oft bloodshot and watery or the tinge of sallowness lurking underneath flushed cheeks.

Perhaps.

“She doesn’t think…?”

Nevo shakes his head. He’s no actor, but thus far his build discourages the speculative whispers plaguing the men Ragen and his boot-lickers like to accuse. If he isn’t working on a build lot surrounded by men discussing women, his appearance undermined by his inability to respond to questions, jokes and attempts to set him up with everyone’s daughters, Nevo needs only avoid obvious displays of interest. Lenlil may be a trial, but Nevo doesn’t fail as badly at masculinity when he spends his days indoors. A bookseller is allowed more space for shyness and awkwardness than a labourer.

“You’re not going to get yourself fucking killed by having words at her?” Da speaks slowly despite the cursing.

Nevo still recollects the days when such words never passed Da’s lips.

“I try hard not to get myself killed, Da.”

Keep reading at Patreon: Men Bound by Blood