Book Edition: Absence of Language

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 Fiction sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

Cover image for Absence of Language by K. A. Cook. Cover shows a red brick wall behind a wooden step, a red curtain covering half the wall, with a small wooden bench sitting on step. A chair, a hat and a squarish bag sit in the foreground of the image and a fabric banner hangs on the wall in the background. An assortment of coins and buttons litter the floor, and two yellow roses are shown floating inside clear bubbles. The scene looks like a magician's performance area or stage. The subtitle "a kit march short story" is written in white handdrawn type.Four months ago, Kit March abandoned his fiancé without even a note of explanation for a deserving man.

Leaving Lauri should have freed him from the pressures of romantic expectation, so how does a talented magician end up performing flash magic for buttons and hairpins in Raugue’s worst tavern? Kit doesn’t know and doesn’t care, as long as he can keep drowning guilt in beer and spellworking. As long as he can keep not thinking!

When a stranger offers the word “aromantic” followed by an opportunity to join a dangerous quest to the Gast, Kit may have more distraction than he can survive—and more comprehension than he can navigate.

Continue reading “Book Edition: Absence of Language”

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.

Continue reading “Fiction: Love is the Reckoning”

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.

Continue reading “Fiction: The Sorcerous Compendium of Postmortem Query”

Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part Two

Banner image for The Pride Conspiracy. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

December isn’t the best time of year for a trans aromantic like Rowan Ross, although—unlike his relatives—his co-workers probably won’t give him gift cards to women’s clothing shops. How does he explain to cis people that while golf balls don’t trigger his dysphoria, he wants to be seen as more than a masculine stereotype? Nonetheless, he thinks he has this teeth-gritted endurance thing figured out: cissexism means he needn’t fear his relatives asking him about dating, and he has the perfect idea for Melanie in the office gift exchange. He can survive gifts and kin, right? Isn’t playing along with expectation better than enduring unexpected consequences?

Rowan, however, isn’t the only aromantic in the office planning to surprise a co-worker. To survive the onslaught of ribbon and cellophane, Rowan’s going to have to get comfortable with embracing the unknown.

I’ll have a pride coat! And nobody will have the least idea what it means!

Continue reading “Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part Two”

Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part One

Banner image for The Pride Conspiracy. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

December isn’t the best time of year for a trans aromantic like Rowan Ross, although—unlike his relatives—his co-workers probably won’t give him gift cards to women’s clothing shops. How does he explain to cis people that while golf balls don’t trigger his dysphoria, he wants to be seen as more than a masculine stereotype? Nonetheless, he thinks he has this teeth-gritted endurance thing figured out: cissexism means he needn’t fear his relatives asking him about dating, and he has the perfect idea for Melanie in the office gift exchange. He can survive gifts and kin, right? Isn’t playing along with expectation better than enduring unexpected consequences?

Rowan, however, isn’t the only aromantic in the office planning to surprise a co-worker. To survive the onslaught of ribbon and cellophane, Rowan’s going to have to get comfortable with embracing the unknown.

They’re aromantic. How isn’t he obligated to help decorate her desk in as many pride-related ways as possible?

Continue reading “Fiction: The Pride Conspiracy, Part One”

Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part Two

Banner image for The Vampire Conundrum. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

When Rowan Ross is pressured into placing an aromantic pride mug on his desk, he doesn’t know how to react when his co-workers don’t notice it. Don’t they realise he spent a weekend rehearsing answers for questions unasked? Then again, if nobody knows what aromanticism is, can’t he display a growing collection of pride merch without a repeat of his coming out as trans? Be visible with impunity through their ignorance?

He can endure their thinking him a fan of archery, comic-book superheroes and glittery vampire movies. It’s not like anyone in the office is an archer. (Are they?) But when a patch on his bag results in a massive misconception, correcting it means doing the one thing he most fears: making a scene.

After all, his name isn’t Aro.

Romance, too, feels like one of the mechanisms by which a dangerous trans body can be rendered more acceptable to cis folks.

Continue reading “Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part Two”

Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part One

Banner image for The Vampire Conundrum. Banner features black handwritten type on a mottled green background with two green feathers and a black pencil. A translucent overlay of the dark green/light green/white/grey/black aromantic flag sits underneath the text. Text, feather and pencil images are boldly outlined in various shades of green and white.

When Rowan Ross is pressured into placing an aromantic pride mug on his desk, he doesn’t know how to react when his co-workers don’t notice it. Don’t they realise he spent a weekend rehearsing answers for questions unasked? Then again, if nobody knows what aromanticism is, can’t he display a growing collection of pride merch without a repeat of his coming out as trans? Be visible with impunity through their ignorance?

He can endure their thinking him a fan of archery, comic-book superheroes and glittery vampire movies. It’s not like anyone in the office is an archer. (Are they?) But when a patch on his bag results in a massive misconception, correcting it means doing the one thing he most fears: making a scene.

After all, his name isn’t Aro.

What is pride merch for if not petty passive-aggression in response to allo folks’ amatonormativity?

Continue reading “Fiction: The Vampire Conundrum, Part One”

DiOW: Jeile

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.

A risky disclosure at the bookstore allows Nevo to welcome another queer to the underground, but Jeile is more mystery than co-conspirator.

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.

Jeile takes place several months before Booksellers Who Know Things, because I refuse to recognise the validity of something called chronological order.

Content Advisory: Casual swearing; references to classism; references to misogyny, allosexism, cissexism, and heterosexism; casual references to sex and sexual attraction; casual references to asexuality; and depictions of anxiety and avoidant personality disorder as shaped by autism.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Previous: Booksellers Who Know Things | Men Bound by Blood

Length: 3, 351 words.

A quiet day leaves Nevo with a chance to sort, catalogue and price a new lot of books without interruptions from customers. He’ll never admit it, but he finds the work soothing despite its repetition. Take a book, study its condition, check his record books for the prices of similar volumes and notes on rarity, write it in and shelve—preferably, although not always, with other books on the subject. It’s the satisfaction, he supposes, in even small ways of conquering the shop’s tendency to unbridled chaos. He likes cleaning and tidying; he’s never understood, as a son living with his father, why these things are considered unmasculine. What’s unmanly about tolerating unnecessary clutter?

The bell rings as he moves the last of the atlases to their new bottom shelf. Nevo bites back a groan and straightens in time to see a fat person in a plain dress and shawl hesitate just inside the doorway.

“Good mor—noon! Good afternoon. How may I help you?”

Long, straight brown hair falls in a braid down her back; dark eyes rest on scuffed boots peeking out from under the hem of her russet dress and cream petticoats. The dress betrays brighter streaks of red at the bust and side seams where it’s been let out, but it fits her broad chest and heavy arms without bulging or straining, and he sighs in envy. He can darn and patch, salvaging stockings and trousers worn at the knee, but fitting a second-hand shirt large enough for his shoulders without sagging at the waist is a skill beyond him. Is she a seamstress? Something about her looks familiar, but when he thinks back on the tailors, drapers and weavers occupying Devotion Lane, he can’t place her face.

“Good noon.” She doesn’t look up from her boots. Skin midway between olive and sienna darkens at her cheeks and nose, and she clutches a battered leather satchel tight to her side. A braided cord hangs around her neck, damp at the front as though chewed on. Small nose, even teeth, fluttering eyelids, creased brow. Nervous? “I want … I have a list of books. Would you be able to tell me if you have them? Please?”

Her high, stuttering voice sounds a little too clipped for downwall folk, but the clothes are worn by every labouring woman in the Boneyard.

“I can do that, ma’am.” Nevo stays by the shelf, thinking it better if she comes to him, but she flinches as though he moved at her. “I can also take down a list and let you know should we get them in—particularly if you want anything from outside.”

She reaches into the satchel and pulls out a folded, crumpled piece of paper. Only then does she take three steps, moving just far enough that she can extend her hand and let Nevo reach for the sheet, her eyes now fixed on the shelf of atlases. “These ones. Please. It’s for … research. I’m … a student and I’m researching, the, the … the ways of the … their disregard of…”

Nevo takes the list from her fingers, draws his arm back to give her space, unfolds the sheet … and blinks.

Keep reading at Patreon: Jeile