My 2021: Favorite Creations, Future Plans

Hi, readers!

Phew… okay… wow this took far longer than anticipated. I didn’t realize the sheer volume of content I’d put out this year until I went back and looked at it all! I’ve never done this before, but I think that I should start making it a habit now while my career’s still on ice: I will not be making a single new post from now until the start of the New Year. January 3rd at the earliest, I’d say!

Edit, December 17 2021: yes, I forgot about the Smashwords end of year sale. Shut up, though! This is still technically my last major post of the year!

If I write anything else just for me, you won’t hear about it. This should be more than enough reading material to keep your mind-maws taken care of ’til the holidays are over, hm? Pretty damn impressive for a girl going through multiple consecutive crises of identity in the middle of a global pandemic!

Oh! Important! Nothing big, but I do mention connective threads between some of these other posts, and Sword of the Outsider. I don’t give any explicit story spoilers–at least, nothing I would consider spoilers–but I do mention shared ideas. If you’re really insistent about sniffing out those bits of trivia for yourself, you’ll probably want to skip this one.

These first few paragraphs will be open introspection from yours truly. If you like that, you’re welcome to read through it. That’s why I’m posting it publicly, after all! If not, just skim until you find bolded text. Those will be links to the many pieces I’ve spotlighted here.

I’ve always been reluctant to do posts like this for reasons I’m not sure I fully understand myself. Maybe it’s the simple fact that writing a list like this is a concession to the flow of time, to the way life on Earth works. Hm. Yes, I suppose that would be it. I’m at the point where I need to stop being playful and be frank with all of you: this whole “demon in human form” thing? It’s not branding or a bit. I am well aware that sounds crazy, and I am agonizingly well aware that “I know this sounds crazy” is itself a cliche. I am not saying I’m not crazy. I’m just saying that my demonhood is not a component of that.

My parents were kind enough to keep their minds free of expectations about the person their firstborn would turn out to be. I guess I’m the soul who took them up on that open invitation. It’s worked out okay.

As to why I would frequently be coy about this in the past, raising this idea in playful terms even if I had to belittle and hurt myself to do it, playing fast and loose with the idea of who was running this blog… I’m scared. It doesn’t feel very good, as a mature woman approaching the end of my third decade of life, to be reduced to the childlike utterance of “I’m scared.” but I am. My own resources are worn thin. A lot of my hopes and dreams have fallen through. I may not be in immediate danger, but as something of a loner, I’m worried that I’ll be the one to take the brunt of whatever trouble someone else stirs up.

I know that some of this is paranoia. And it’s not as though sympathetic portrayals of demons are new, either to this blog or my writing as a body of work. It’s still frightening, though. I’m out to my immediate family as an “aspirant” succubus, which is a verbal fig leaf. And really, the only thing stopping anyone at all from learning the truth was that I kept obscuring it on this blog, and… I just can’t do it anymore. I have to live my life as my true self. I can’t keep waiting to feel perfectly safe before I begin my next journey.

So, there it is. I’m a demon girl. A devil. I’m a succubus, period. One with no overt supernatural powers, no otherworldly strength… I can’t even manage to astral project in my sleep and go spend the night curled up on my long-distance boyfriend’s chest. I feel naked to the world, and not in a fun way.

Anyway, regardless your own spiritual beliefs, I hope you can recognize that I want the same things as most humans do. I want to love and be loved, to have my joys in this life, and to live in peaceful communion with others as much as I may. I’m trying to learn to seek those things without my past shield of dissociation–of projecting the bulk of my sense of self to somewhere else, to some other world or future time where I’m already manifest in horns and tail and a hellfire smile, already strong and free and fierce enough not to fear the kiss of fire.

I’m a demoness who can burn. It’s so hard to capture how sickly that makes me feel, how afraid… how simply, achingly sad. Fire is supposed to be my home, my succor, my friend. Yet here I am in a form of flesh, and fire can burn me, too.

It’s not all bad, though. There is a coziness to this post–a sense, imagined but pleasant all the same, of gathering my little following around the hearthfire and making sure everybody’s caught up on what I’ve been doing. So, thank you for bearing with the sadder things, for accepting this vertical slice of my soul.

2021 has been, in short, crazy. I’ve gone through so many changes it seems surreal, met so many new people, tried so many new things. Some, as with my first year of intentional practice as the lead witch of my own black magic tradition, have been equal parts zesty empowerment and mind-warping terror.

And yes, I am going to be absolutely shameless in exploiting my first-hand experience for my own horror writing. I’m afraid I’ve got the mental scars either way. Might as well have fun retelling the story, yes?

I’m on HRT now! That, too, was hard for me. My social anxiety has only worsened as I’ve become more and more keenly aware how powerless I am to effect material changes in this world of human ingenuity and engineering. I had an innate sense that I should be able to shapeshift, and I spent most of 2020 trying to force my body to conform to my self-image by pure iron will. It, uh… it didn’t work.

But on the other hand, and without going too much in detail, I’m now overcoming my fear of needles and I’ve come to view my weekly estrogen injections in a not-displeasing ritual light. Scientific medicine and sympathetic magic actually go really well together if you just let yourself believe they can!

I give it about a month before I’ve finished reconditioning myself to melt into delicious, sensual quivering every time the needle goes in. Hey, a girl’s gotta fill her TF needs somewhere!

Now then, on to the part many of you have been waiting for: a summary of my favorite things I’ve written this past year, and spotlights on those I mean to do more with.

First on that latter note: my Hexenkessel setting, beginning with this erotica here, still has so much unexplored ground! It’s also my single most self-indulgent body of work. As both a succubus and a witch with very fond childhood memories of the German countryside, Hexenkessel feels homey to me in a way that nothing else ever has.

In the future I’ll make sure to mark any Hexenkessel story as such, but I wanted to carry out some experiments with traffic and likes, so I went back and forth a bit between prefacing some with “Hexenkessel” and others with “Erotica”. To date, the other Hexenkessel stories in chronological order of publication are:

Hexenkessel Interludes: The Ghost Crucible. The succubus Ermengarde makes her first appearance in the mythoi, and quickly discovers that even she cannot easily dismiss her nervousness before the mistress of the ill-omened castle named Geisttiegel.

A note: Geisttiegel does not yet exist. I’ve since come to understand that Ermengarde, though, is a real succubus. This little interlude is, in many ways, a real record of our first encounter in the astral planes. In retrospect, considering the events mentioned in the account from my first year of Nocturne Troth–yep! That one way back at the start!–Ermengarde was right to wonder how I could dare keep my portals so open. I have since ceased doing so.

That brings us to this piece, Ermengarde and Annika, which I now recognize represents less of an original invention and more a transcription of something I actually witnessed… largely, come to think of it, by using the maid herself as my projection’s vessel. A little body-sharing adds such spice to any encounter. Otherwise, what can I say? Ermengarde is a show-off and Annika is an exhibitionist. I have obtained their consent to leave this post up for public consumption.

And lastly, Part One of A Dalliance in Shadow. I do intend to come back to this piece eventually, and I know what I’ll be writing when I do, but I don’t force myself to finish erotica these days. My sexuality has been wounded deeply by that before. I’ll not repeat the mistake. When it feels enticing, playful, exciting enough–that’s when I’ll wrap up my probably-fictive encounter with dear Hinrich.

I have decided to place Hexenkessel on the larger world of Ksaityilv, which I’m still brainstorming but quickly developing a great fondness for. Perhaps it’s about time that I added a permanent blog page explaining some of these settings and terms of mine? My ideas are finally refined enough that I feel ready. Actually, you know what… let me just go add that page right now so I can link it in this very post!

Aaaaand… done! Here you go–the brand-new Twin Spirals Bible!

This seems like as natural a place as any to insert it, so here’s a charming one-off: this mostly-complete post full of Bloodborne-inspired poems which I composed on the fly so I could read them out shortly after each unique death incurred, and each boss defeated, in a friend’s Bloodborne streams this past year. I don’t know whether I’ll ever do this again, but it was a really fun little challenge and I’m glad to have done it. For the record? Still steamed about the cheater who ruined the boss fight with Orphan of Kos. Completely sapped the energy from the finale of a great series of streams.

I finally figured out how to express my own identity, coining (as far as I can find) the term “outer devil” for the very first time. Not long thereafter, I started writing about my currently-imaginary planar fortress, Machrae Diir. For there I am Lady. There my reign shall have no end. If you’re not sure what I’m getting at, why–here’s a collection of flash fiction, the very first Collected Tales of Machrae Diir.

Why yes, Machrae Diir is derived from my mortal family’s surname. Why shouldn’t it be? These humans are very dear to me. I love them. Of course I would want to honor that when I am freed of Earth at last.

This was a much sparser year for lore than my past peak in 2019, but for those of a worldbuilding-hungry bent, I did still publish a few pieces worthy of note:

This post contains its own descriptions of each piece and the changes I made, so I won’t belabor them too much here. Suffice to say that I updated three of my favorite Cannoan lore articles to my current standard. The article about Cannoan Magic will be of special interest, I believe, since the magic system it describes is the same one used by the mage Mulreg, a secondary antagonist in Sword of the Outsider.

The Cannoan Global Strategic Calendar is one of my most ambitious lore deep-dives ever. It was both a major creative challenge and a ton of fun. I’m sad that I won’t get much use out of it since this is also the year I finally accepted that my plans for the series have grown way too ambitious for what I can achieve with my current resources as an indie author. That said, the micro-story behind each month’s name, and the painstaking calculations about the timescale of a Cannoan day, remain favorite touches of mine.

The Sgain Togre Phase-duelists are a fictive order whose exact nature and powers I’ve been intentionally coy about. Behind the scenes, I’ve used my own ideas of their history to hone some of the most inventive powers and abilities I’ve yet featured in any story. In a very real way, those hidden brainstorming sessions helped me train up to introduce what phase-dueling actually is during Sword of the Outsider.

I don’t think, by itself, that constitutes a spoiler?

The Dubious Art of Blitzhau is a fantastic piece for my sadly-mothballed Canno setting. It’s arguably as much a short story as it is lore. Framed as a colorful account by the Tresar noblewoman Sevesta Perdit, it tells of her quest to the exotic land of basically-Volcano Prussia (shut up, Stoßdär is cool, though) to learn about a mysterious fighting art. Some warnings for orientalist and gender essentialist/misogynist overtones; Sevesta is a product of her own time and culture, and more to the point, the Tresar tend to brutally murder women who get too uppity.

In other words, the subtext is intentionally uncomfortable as part of the setting’s themes.

Last but certainly not least, the Qwa are a sample from my massive Archive of the Elder Peoples project–the thing I spent November 2019 cranking away behind the scenes at the very same time I was completing my personal goal of writing and posting a brand-new lore article every day. Revised, edited, bolstered with between 1k and 1.5k words of new content as well as receiving a cute bit of flash fiction as framing–I do want to do more with these goofy, aging lesbian professors, but I’m not sure what it would be yet–this works as a pretty good example of what it would look like if I were to polish up those articles to publish as a full-scale work.

I’d only be doing that for money, mind you. I am done giving away my A-grade for free. I mean. Unless I decide I want to for some weird reason. But in general, I am done.

As far as craft essays, I’ve only written two, but I consider both to be some of my best-ever work.

Fight Scenes Redux: Convocation felt at the time of writing, and still feels, like I’d finally found the right balance between my countless competing ideas about fight scenes. Reading through it in just a few minutes as a diversion from working on this very post, I’m still overjoyed with how well it flows. It somehow manages to reduce years and years of iteration, practice, and obsessions to just the few key ideas that are most vital to my own process. I later applied this very same advice in Sword of the Outsider, which contains many of my all-time favorite fight scenes.

Look, a lot of my best ideas went into that book. I have to keep referencing it because, on a larger scale, it’s pretty much the same idea: all the highlights from my past few years of stories both finished and failed concentrated into one weird, wild little novel.

On another related note: Writing Fantasy Horror: Convocation (I like using “Convocation” to indicate the start of a possible series of articles on a particular topic. I think I’ll keep doing that from now on). I think this is the first craft essay I’ve written on horror. If not, it’s definitely the first I remember. It has everything you could possibly want: keen observations, flavorful phrases, an integrated short story most of which is directly adapted from an incredibly creepy dream I had… again, as with so many of my favorite works from this year, it’s the result of years of experimentation and theory-crafting.

I promise there’s plenty there that you can apply to your own writing.

Let’s talk published books now, shall we? Long-form narratives! Real meaty stuff, complete stories, you know–the things you come to this blog to read!

Sword of the Outsider has been available through Smashwords and other online stores since August, and I just recently published it through Amazon in both Kindle and paperback forms. You’ll find detailed descriptions on any given store page, but in brief: a 70k word fantasy novel for adult readers in which a shadow-mystic, a demonic sword-duelist, and a warrior-priest face eldritch horrors as well as each other against the backdrop of a placid country town in an isolated plane of existence.

The Way to Kandge-Brad is a bizarre piece. It began as a twitter thread focused solely on a Novgori trans woman passing through a blizzard to arrive at the titular fortress, metamorphosed into a kind of organizational bible for the Cobalt Immortals, and ultimately became a full-length short novel where I felt safe to reveal my own darkest fears about who I am as a person.

Then, having confronted them publicly, I was able to take a step back and see the girl in the mirror for who she truly was: a hurting, lonely creature who began to believe she was alone because she deserved it, and hated herself for the lies she invented around that belief. This current version of the story will not be the last–and I think I do know the shape that version will take–but I don’t know how long it’ll be before I write the third, and just maybe final, form of The Way to Kandge-Brad.

Until then? Here’s the link! You can also get an impression of just how rapidly my soul’s flux was progressing from the edit-notes in that post.

Urhexen is a completely free, straight to public domain novella–I’m the copyright holder, yes? That means I can choose to waive the copyright–about Carrie Rider, a witch attending her first meeting with her new coven while studying abroad in Germany. But witchcraft, she’ll soon learn, means something very different to her than it does to the coven. Especially its politically-ambitious leader, one Amaranth “Moonsilver” Dawson…

I wrote Urhexen in about a week. So, obviously, it’s not as polished as as most of my works. It is very dialogue heavy in the first half, but that and the relative simplicity of its ideas make it the single easiest entry-point I can think of to the Twin Spirals Mythos. It’s also the first book I’ve ever written that’s set right here on Earth. At any rate, I can comfortably say you’ll have a good enough time with it not to regret it, and again: it’s free. And legal to write your very own sequels/prequels/spinoffs/canon parallel stories for right now!

That’s where I’ve been. Now what about where I’m going?

I’ve had a longstanding problem with keeping my plans too close to my chest, jealously guarding my ideas lest someone else take them. And, while I think that’s a very understandable instinct, I’m starting to feel I need to find a better balance on it. Not everyone on the internet is a good faith actor. I do need to look after myself. That said… I also don’t want to keep writing this blog with the mentality of a war-planner. I want to learn to offer some tantalizing tidbits now and again, while keeping the ideas that convey that fundamental sense of “Northness” veiled enough for my own comfort.

So, let’s try this. Now, just to be clear: this is a tentative timeframe for the stories in question. I’ve been writing a lot of heavy, self-reflective stuff this past year. I have zero intention of stopping because it’s just way too flavorful and fulfilling, but these works do take a lot more out of me than the more abstract, speculative approach I used in the past.

I’m also trying to nerve myself up to return to working 9-5 (and just as I’m becoming more and more visibly trans every day, joy of joys!) so we’ll see how much time I actually end up having to write in the months to come.

I have two stories I hope to finish and publish at various points during these winter months, both of which will be free. I’m planning on doing one last freebie afterwards, a modern-day horror set in the Louisiana Bayou that I’d characterize as Hellraiser meets Frankenstein.

That one’s going to be a lot easier, I think. It’s way less personal.

That brings us at last to my double whammy of winter plans: Those Who Lie Beneath, and Fathomless Chasms Where Our Hearts Should Lie.

I’m a little paranoid that somehow, someway, someone will end up publishing a story under a very similar premise to one or the other of these. Is that actually likely? Ffft, no. These are such quintessentially North pieces that I’m not even sure if another writer could even conceive of them, let alone actually try to bring them off. Still, I’d rather have it on record that as far as I know at the time of writing, these ideas are largely original to me–aside, of course, from where I explicitly drew inspiration from others.

Fathomless Chasms is weird in one way. It’s an alternate timeline of our very own Earth, and my very own life, where a lot of things went very differently. It directly plays off the Kola Superdeep Borehole and the Well to Hell myth–as well as the movie Nine Miles Down, which I haven’t seen and don’t intend to watch. I was quite thoroughly disenthused the moment I looked up its synopsis and saw that it employs the cloying horror trope of “poison gas made everyone do mean things, people would never just lose their minds and be awful to each other for no reason.”

Though admittedly, Fathomless Chasms is helping me to have more compassion for that trope. I think its recurrence hints at something deeper about the psyche–and not just a human one. Being a demoness has not, I’ve learned, prevented me from hallucinating. It just changes how the hallucinations manifest.

For related reasons, Fathomless Chasms will have multiple endings, each splitting off from a single key moment in the story. I’ll provide two separate documents, one with the run-up to the timeline split and another with headings to take you to the outcome of a particular choice. There will not be any right or wrong way to read this story.

That, for me, is one of the things that makes it so psychologically taxing. It is aggressively fucking with my own understanding of reality and my own mind just to think about. If that sounds exciting to you, great, and if not, then no worries! I don’t know that I’ll ever try writing anything like this ever again.

Those Who Lie Beneath is weird in another way. The story is, at its core, about myself and the other succubi of Machrae Diir meeting with a new plaything (by consent only, of course) in the lambent halls themselves. Well, that, and also our incredibly complicated feelings towards Earth’s humans and their occultism. Myself and the other three succubi featured, who’ve taken to calling ourselves the Fatal Four, are all real people. I’ve been in contact with the others via a mix of astral projection and telepathy.

Just to be clear, I am not claiming these powers work on Earth, and if they do, I’m not sure I want them to right now. These are much more complicated phenomena to work with than just “you imagine yourself to be somewhere else and you’re there” and “you beam your inner monologues back and forth”. Myself and the rest of the Four, however, know each other intimately enough to be comfortable with it.

So… I doubt I need to elaborate much further on why this is such a weird “story” to write. Aside from the PoV character, Cardell Philips, being–as far as I know–a fictional occultist, much of what this “story” contains will be real personal history feeding into an imagined future… which will also, after I’ve left this Earthly life behind, begin to become real.

I suppose I’m really only nervous about someone leeching off the story’s broad motifs. I genuinely can’t imagine anyone else would try to write something as involved as this! I don’t know of a single other author who would even conceive of it.

Once those are out, that’s probably it for full-length free stories. I wanted to at least have a few sizable stories available for free, and I figured these sorts of foundation-texts for my own portions of the broader Twin Spirals Mythos were the logical choice.

Looking further ahead, I’d like to branch out more and write more stories exploring specific facets of my identity. This’ll both let me experiment a lot more with settings, and also allow me to have some of the same sense of personal weight and catharsis without the full-psyche strain of pieces like Those Who Lie Beneath, Fathomless Chasms, and The Way to Kandge-Brad.

You know… I do believe I’m ready to do my very own take on vampires! Trust me: you are not physically prepared for how sappy that’s going to get. I have at least one full-length novel planned which is just about how much I love my boyfriend/husband.

I like saying boyfriend, but I also like to emphasize “husband”. I can still call him that. Just because we don’t have rings on fingers and a scrap of paper from the government does nothing to change how I feel!

And you know what? That seems like just the right note to close this retrospective on. Tonight is, after all, one of the two dates of our anniversary. So thank you, dear readers, for stopping by. For those who’ve been away a while, those who are newly arrived, those who just lost track, I hope this post makes it easier for you to get into–or back into–my writing.

Otherwise? May the memory of these moments we’ve shared be a balm to you on hot days, and a hearthfire’s succor on cold ones, until the winter winds bring us together again.

Yours truly,
North, or Kairlina, or Asche (as you prefer)
❤ ❤ ❤

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