Catch a Man (Have the Girl) – 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.

Yuissa is the only partner Adelin wants, but survival in Ihrne requires both girls to keep secret their truth. No matter: they’re only a year away from having coin enough to escape to a cottage in Greenstone, a paradise of vegetable gardens, rescued cats and unrestrained affection. They can survive anything until then, right? Yet when Adelin’s worried mother and grandmother plot to solve Adelin’s unwed state by forcing her to court a male acquaintance, Yuissa thinks a beard the only answer.

A queer-seeming bookseller called Nevolin ein Yinne may do, but the process of asking isn’t quite so simple…

Setting: Catch a Man (Have the Girl) takes place a couple of months before Booksellers Who Know Things. It isn’t necessary to have read any of my other works to read this one (although it’s slightly more amusing if you know that Nevo thinks Adelin is sincere about wishing to date him).

Content Advisory: References to and depictions of emotional abuse, amatonormativity, misogyny, heterosexism and ableism; casual references to sex and sexual attraction; and discussions about and depictions of romantic-coded behaviours like embracing, physical intimacy and marriage. It should be noted that this story focuses on the misogyny dealt to women by other women.

Length: 4, 021 words.

Author’s Essay Note: I wanted to post a bonus piece on Patreon for my birthday. So I … started writing six days before said birthday. As this story was meant to be a flash fiction piece and isn’t, editing became the needed sacrifice.

I should mention that I’m uncomfortable with an attitude in some parts of the aromantic community that an alloromantic’s valuing of marriage as important is emblematic of rampant amatonormativity and, therefore, scornful. Marriage is a civil right that has not always been possessed by, and is still not universally possessed by, LGBTQIA+ people, disabled people, people of colour and/or people in multiracial relationships. For many marginalised people, marriage can be symbolic of identity, freedom, equality and hope in ways that have less to do with romantic attraction or romance. While we must and should discuss the ways it enables amatonormativity, we must and should respect its significance for other marginalised people. So I wrote a story about a queer aromantic girl who wants to marry a queer disabled (autistic) girl and finds marriage to be a symbol of her freedom, her strength and her queerness.

I don’t know, as a nebularomantic, if I’ve written a demiromantic or a demialterous/demiqueerplatonic aromantic character. Adelin feels a non-sexual attraction for Yuissa after the development of their close friendship, but the nature of said attraction isn’t something I can easily categorise in fiction or real life. As much as I believe it important to provide specific representation, all I can say here is read this as you will.

Lastly, I want to thank, from the bottom of my loveless aro heart, @the-rose-owl for being so generously encouraging of my writing aro stories that move outside of more standard aromantic themes. I couldn’t have posted this story without your most recent comment on Patreon.

Will Grandmam ever realise that bad girls have more reason than anyone to appear good?

Continue reading “Catch a Man (Have the Girl) – Part One”

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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

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.

Contains: A disabled, pansexual, aromantic cis man discussing the reasons why the phrase “I don’t love” encompasses his platonic and familial relationships.

Content Advisory: Non-detailed mentions of death, war, violence, abuse, cissexism and suicidal ideation. More detailed references to off-page ableism and abuse, including a parent’s breaking of an autistic child’s stim toy. Depictions of heterosexism and heterosexist slurs/sex negative language.

Links: PDF | EPUB | MOBI | Patreon

(PDF, EPUB and MOBI files are also available for download from Patreon.)

Length: 1, 000 words / 4 PDF pages.

Note: This story takes place between The Eagle Court stories A Prince of the Dead and The King of Gears and Bone. I always planned to elaborate on Paide’s statement of love later in the series (and have done so in the drafts of the sequel novel, Birds of a Feather). The need for empowering, sympathetic fictional representation of loveless aros and aros with complicated relationships to love, however, provoked me to tell this story now.

It may help new readers to know that the narrator is a revenant, ensorcelled by the necromancer he fought.

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

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Loveless – K. A. Cook”

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

Hallo, Aro: Neuronormative – 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.

Contains: An autistic allosexual aromantic struggling to deal with the ways alloromanticism and aromanticism alike are binary, neuronormative ways of looking at the romantic attraction spectrum.

Content Advisory: This is a reflective piece about my alienation from and relationship to the aromantic label. The more I realise that there is no meaningful way for me to determine what is and isn’t romantic, the more I question the value of even attempting to do so.

Links: PDF | EPUB | Patreon | Tumblr

Length: 987 words / 4 PDF pages.

Note: “allistic” means “not autistic”.

Is there anything romantic not also non-romantic?

Continue reading “Hallo, Aro: Neuronormative – K. A. Cook”

DiOW: Booksellers Who Know Things

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.

An ordinary day of selling, shelving and mending becomes less ordinary when a mysterious stranger saves Nevo from disaster while asking questions about fairy tales.

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: A gay, quoiromantic man making eyes at another man against a culture of cissexism, heterosexism and working-class anxiety. Non-explicit references to sex and erotic media. Casual swearing.

Links: Series Master Post | Patreon

Length: 1, 783 words.

The tinny, cracked bell rings out. Nevo, smoothing the endpapers of a newly re-covered almanac while wrestling with a desk too small to hold a stack of waiting books, the cashbox and his pot of congealing glue, looks up. Lenlil won’t abide anyone entering her store without an enthusiastic greeting, as much as Nevo doubts most customers welcome it. “Good morning! Morning? Good … noon?”

A stranger, dressed like a man, struts toward Nevo with his green felt cap askew. He winks at the young women giggling over a book’s lurid illustrations—Adelin and Yuissa on break from the drapery around the corner—and beams, crookedly, at Nevo.

Nevo lowers the scraper, smiles and turns. “How can I hel—oh, fuck!”

His elbow smacks into the pile of books.

The man’s gloved hands block the books a heartbeat before they cascade onto the glue. Nevo whisks aside the pot and brush, biting back a string of Da’s more colourful curses. Mending books supposedly brings in more money than sorting and selling them, but then why doesn’t Lenlil invest in a proper workshop? Or at least a desk big enough to hold his record book, the cashbox, glue and a few clamps?

Keep reading at Patreon: Booksellers Who Know Things

Patreon, Aro Arrows and Other Projects

Handdrawn illustration of a yellow pasture against a background of hills and sparodic trees. Scene is overlaid with the dark green/light green/white/grey/black stripes of the aro pride flag. The text Aro Worlds Discussion Post sits across the image in a black, antique handdrawn type, separated by two ornate Victorian-style black dividers.

It’s been a long time since I’ve last posted to this website. So I thought I’d give you all a rundown on some new projects of mine and updates to a couple of older ones.

Patreon

One of the problems of being a disabled creator is that when we try to monetise our work, we’re expected–even required, if we hope for a modicum of success at it–to offer up extras in addition to what we’re already doing for free. That makes it difficult to get something like a Patreon up off the ground! I’ve had to take time off everything else to set one up and build up enough content for the next month or two of posting.

I do need support from my community if I wish to survive to keep making aromantic content. So I hope you’ll join me in giving this adventure a shot!

For $1 a month, patron exclusives include:

  • Bones, Belts and Bewitchments, a 275 page collection of Marchverse ficlets, short stories and novelettes where everybody is queer and nobody is alloromantic. Includes the exclusive story Kin of Mind where Darius (Certain Eldritch Artefacts) meets Azhra (Hallo, Aro) and discovers that autistics and dragons have a fair amount in common.
  • Different in Other Ways, a series of fantasy sketches and vignettes about gender, abrosexuality, quoiromanticism, customer service, working-class queerness and friendship. This series shows The Eagle Court‘s Ihrne from the perspective of queer people none too pleased with even the better Iteme royals. If you want a smart-arse abro trans dude with porokeratosis who loves fashion and gives traditional masculinity the middle (scaly, itchy) finger, Harper.
  • Early access to all Hallo, Aro stories.
  • Early access to all free Marchverse stories and books.
  • Early access to general aromantic posts, essays and articles.
  • Free downloads of all paid Marchverse short stories.
  • Sneak-peaks at forthcoming stories.
  • My gratitude undimmed until the ending of the world.

(Why porokeratosis? Because I’ve never seen a fantasy protagonist with my skin, and I yearn to show a character with the magical equivalent of my steroid cream collection.)

Patrons will get exclusive content (unavailable anywhere else) at least once a month, and my goal is to post something every week. I have a collection of short stories I’ve been working on just for patrons!

Continue reading “Patreon, Aro Arrows and Other Projects”