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Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 4

Marie Brennan

For various reasons the first part of this book (which will be divided into three overall) has something of an alternating structure: one chapter of exciting! spectacle! followed by one that spends more time on quieter character moments. So, having had our caper last time, this time we get the character stuff. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course.)

It’s a bit of a grab bag, actually, which is unavoidable at times. Though we like our chapters to have a distinct identity — not just “this is what happens in words 19,000 through 25,000 of the book,” there’s going to be material which isn’t an entire chapter in its own right. Here we’re doing some more detailed work on furthering Problem A while hinting at Problem B, advancing Plot T while deepening relationships X and Y, and also making it clear that neither we nor the characters have forgotten about that unresolved thing over there; it’s just that their efforts to resolve it have not yet reached a point where they would be interesting to show on the page.

Chapters like this are the ones where it becomes the most important to pay attention to the idea of scenes needing to serve more than a single purpose. If we don’t find ways to pack these things like bags of holding, not only would the books be unmanageably long, but the threads of the narrative would get so stretched out that when they finally show up again, the reader’s reaction would be “oh, right, that thing.”

. . . and sometimes, one of the purposes that needs to be served is the authors entertaining themselves. I mean, if we can’t port in some form of the “dancing on a rooftop” thing we wrote for the game, then what are we even doing here?

Word count: ~25,000
Authorial sadism: Somebody got fired from their job, and that somebody is doing their very best to hide how much it upsets them. (Their very best is not quite good enough.)
Authorial amusement: Apart from the rooftop dancing? Getting caught out in your ignorance because you’re browsing wrong-handed swords.
BLR quotient: Love definitely wins the race this time. Lots of people working together to solve problems, even if those problems aren’t going to be solved any time soon. And even if some of them can’t quite admit what problem is there.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 3

Marie Brennan

In which, as is traditional, we get our caper on again!

I guess that’s a minor spoiler, but really only in structural terms — we do have a habit of putting some swashbuckling action into Chapter 3 of each of these books, a la the Lacewater duel in The Mask of Mirrors. This particular one features a plan going very wrong and then a plan to fix that being not through at all well enough, though in fairness to the person who failed to do the thinking, the outcome was still probably better than if they hadn’t done anything at all.

It also features an amusing little callout to the game that lies behind these novels. The whole series takes place in Nadežra, so we can’t do the “fish out of water” absurdity of Game!Ren being dragged out into the wilderness and having to learn about The Naturez . . . but I can and did put her near a cow, which is more or less an alien creature to her, and far too large for comfort. When you have a character who’s highly skilled in their chosen field, of course the fun thing to do is make them deal with something totally outside that field — a realization I had as early as my second published novel, when I made my accomplished ninja protagonist ride herd on a bunch of adolescent girls. 😀

True to form, this chapter was done somewhat out of order, including both its final scene being written when we were a couple of chapters further along and something significant being added to one of the existing scenes. (It took an embarrassingly long time for me to notice that, uh, maybe somebody who’s vital to a future plan ought to be told about it . . .?) Also some pov stumbles: we managed to sail right past the point at which we were supposed to shift to a different viewpoint, then realized that actually, there wasn’t as much meat as we thought on the first one, so we wound up having to redo all of it in R–‘s perspective. So basically, par for the course these days.

Word count: ~19,000
Authorial sadism: The cow is the least of it. We need to remember to give someone nightmares over the consequences of that insufficiently-planned plan.
Authorial amusement: Using the weapon of the enemy. Also, yes, we have totally made a running motif of the coat thing.
BLR quotient: The rhetoric got very bloody all of sudden.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 2

Marie Brennan

Retroactive progress-blogging continues! I’m glad that a number of you spoke up in the comments to various versions of the previous post to say that you enjoy these things; it helps me feel that it’s worth the contortions to say interesting things without giving spoilers.

Though having looked back at my posts for The Liar’s Knot . . . wow, heh. Should any of you try to slug those against the book itself come December, be aware that if you’re scratching your head and thinking, “I can’t figure out what this is referring to,” that’s probably because what it’s referring to isn’t there anymore. We changed a lot in that book, both in the course of drafting it (e.g. me saying “everything in this chapter focuses on Vargo!” and then later we replaced a scene with one that has nothing to do with him) and during revisions. Other scenes are still in the book . . . but in a different chapter now, oops, good luck tracking that down. When I talk about getting pov in for a character who hasn’t had it in a while, and then the only pov characters in that chapter are ones you see all the time? We rewrote a scene to be from Ren’s viewpoint, because the plot thing that scene was originally doing got beefed up enough in revisions for The Mask of Mirrors that it made what we’d written pointless, so we had to change it to focus on something else more Ren-centric. I make extensive coded references in the posts for Parts IV and V to a narrative strand we kept having to re-wrangle — but because said references are coded, you can’t actually tell that we ripped that entire strand out of the back half of The Liar’s Knot and replaced it with a completely different one. (Though there’s one bit where I talk about how we do something horrible to a character at the end of a chapter, and that’s still true! It’s just, uh, a different horrible thing to a different character.)

I can hope that the same won’t be true with my posts for this book, but I’m not holding my breath. If I’d posted about Chapter 2 as we were writing it, I might have referenced a conversation with C– that leads to a moment we really love with F–. But the conversation with C– isn’t here anymore: we realized that wasn’t as high priority as something else, so we rewrote the back half of that scene to do the more important thing instead. Then we were having trouble with the following scene, until we realized it would be better in a different viewpoint — the same viewpoint as the previous scene, hmmm, do we really want to have two of those back to back? — hang on, given that we pulled the conversation with C– out, is that scene even very useful anymore, especially with the exposition there clunking so hard? Scrap that scene, put the weight it’s pulling into the scene we were having trouble with and do it in that better viewpoint, re-use the opening premise of the scrapped scene in Ch. 4 with a different character showing up, move the C– conversation to Ch. 5, and the later fallout with F– will be in Ch. 7.

Oof.

(Oh, and also: we slotted an additional scene into this chapter as a quick break while writing Ch. 6. Linearity, what’s that?)

I swear, if we do write another book in this setting, it’s gonna be less intrigue-y. And also shorter. So we don’t have to play quite so much of a game of Twister, trying to n-dimensionally pack everything we want to do in the space allotted.

Word count: ~12,000
Authorial sadism: I feel like the sadism was on ourselves with all those changes of plan, but since that’s not what this part of the report is for, let’s go with someone having fun being a bit of a dick to somebody who deserves it.
Authorial amusement: “Would you like to see my collection of Seterin crossroads idols?” (Which are basically herms, not that we come out and say it.)
BLR quotient: I think love wins out, given the number of people we have working together here in various combinations — including scheming behind the back of someone you loathe to save them from the consequences of their situation.

Revenge of the Return of the Rook and Rose Progress-Blogging

Marie Brennan

Up until now, I haven’t been blogging the progress Alyc and I are making through the draft of the third Rook and Rose book. It gets harder to do this sort of thing the further you get into a series; what I can say about the story is always constrained, of course, because I don’t want to give wild spoilers, but it gets even more so with subsequent books. When I progress-blogged what became The Mask of Mirrors, I could talk about R– and D– and so forth without any of y’all knowing who I meant. Now, even giving an initial means I am at a minimum spoiling that said character is still alive and in the story (since in most cases you’d be able to guess who the letter refers to; we have very little overlap in our central cast), and because you know them all now, you can also read more into even hints of their activity. Assuming, of course, that you’ve read the first book, which not everybody has — so spoilers might be not only for The Liar’s Knot (out in December!) but for The Mask of Mirrors, too.

But . . . we both enjoy the progress-blogging. Maybe some of you do, too; who knows about that; but it turns out that me reporting on the story is part of what helps us feel like it’s a Real Book that will Really Be Out Someday, rather than a chimera that exists only in our heads. And as we go three rounds on the wrestling mat with the many-tentacled kraken of our plot, it turns out we crave that marking of the milestones.

So I’m going to be backtracking to report on our progress with earlier chapters, before catching up to where we are now! Doing it retroactively is a little odd, but then again, it’s very nearly the only sensible way to do it, as we’ve been much less linear this time around. One conversation got kicked to like three different places in the draft before it found its (probably) Forever Home; other chapters have seen us skip over a scene before backtracking to write it. (The bit where we started writing Chapter 8 before touching Chapter 7 is entirely on me and my inability to remember what order our plot is going in. As God is my witness, I thought that bit came next.) Once I catch up to where we are in the draft, hopefully we’ll have settled down into less back-and-forth; if not, well, blogging might be more sporadic as I wait for us to really truly finish a chapter and not relocate bits of it elsewhere.

So, Chapter One! Which didn’t get rearranged, but did get a significant revision post-drafting on account of us realizing that a) we’d skipped past some stuff we really needed and b) we’d missed the mark a bit tonally with a new character. This is also a short chapter for us — this book will have more chapters overall, so they each need to be somewhat shorter, and this one is much shorter because there really wasn’t structural room to add anything else. That’s fine; it buys us leeway to have some later chapters be longer.

For those who are new to the progress-blogging or have forgotten what the standard report at the bottom means, “authorial sadism” is our favorite bit of meanness to the characters, “authorial amusement” is our favorite bit that’s mostly about entertaining ourselves (always in service to the story, of course) (okay, usually), and “BLR quotient” measures the relative balance of blood, love, and rhetoric, where blood = conflict and literal violence, love = positive interpersonal relationships, and rhetoric = conceptual stuff and also politics, not that the last one there isn’t also sometimes blood.

Word count: 5300
Authorial sadism: A particular chicken coming home to roost, at long last.
Authorial amusement: CHICKEN CUP!!! (An in-joke nobody else will see, as no such thing actually gets mentioned in the text.) Also “now I know why embroidery is outlawed in Ganllech,” though that may or may not stay.
BLR quotient: The rhetoric very much has some blood on its claws today.

Rook & Rose: Hot Drinkable Edition!

Marie Brennan

Subscribers to the M.A. Carrick newsletter got a head start on this, but now Alyc and I are very pleased to tell you all: we have partnered with Dryad Tea to create five Rook and Rose-themed tea blends! They are as follows:

  • Rook & Rose — A lush, wine-red blend that can be as sharp or as sweet as you like. Hibiscus, rose hips, and berries decorate a rooibos base.
  • Lacewater & Pearl (Ren) — This tea moves between worlds with a con artist’s ease, wedding the rich warmth of cacao to the wakeful edge of black tea.
  • Twilight Vigil (Grey) — The smoke of a Vraszenian campfire flavors this mix of lapsang souchong, black tea, sunflower, and calendula.
  • Ruthless Indulgence (Vargo) — Spices from the Dawn and Dusk Roads mingle with caramel black tea for a decadent blend with a hint of bite.
  • Imblueberry (Tess) — A warm hug of green tea imbued with sweet blueberry, like a scone in liquid form. And yes, we do mean “hug” and not “mug;” that isn’t a typo. 🙂

You can buy all of those teas from the links, through Dryad’s website. Note that this isn’t a situation where Alyc and I get a commission or anything; we paid to have the blends developed, and our reward comes in the form of getting to drink them ourselves, heh. (We can attest to them all being delicious! There was extensive testing.) So all profits — and thanks — go to the company that helped make this happen!

Upcoming events of awesomeness!

Marie Brennan

It has been bonkers around here for the last two months or so, with a nigh-constant stream of interviews and promotional events. That’s slacking off at last, but there are two more coming up that I want to particularly draw attention to . . .

First, this Sunday, February 28th, we’re getting the band back together! Myself, Alyc, my husband, and two friends of ours from my grad school days (Emily Dare and fellow author Michael R. Underwood) are getting together for a Rook and Rose Blades in the Dark tabletop game. We all used to game together back in Bloomington — and in fact, the only reason I use the past tense there is that Mike doesn’t live out in the Bay Area with the rest of us, so he’s not in our current gaming group. But he’s offered to GM a one-shot game this Sunday, from 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific until about three hours later, which will be streaming live on Twitch. (My first time doing this kind of thing for an audience, eek!) We’ll be playing members of the Oyster Crackers, an Upper Bank knot of thieves that appear briefly in The Liar’s Knot; I suspect we may run into the Rook. But I have no idea! It’s in Mike’s hands! This feels so weird and so awesome at the same time!

And second, on Wednesday, March 10th, Alyc and I will be doing an event with Tubby & Coo’s, a great independent bookstore in New Orleans. This is set up courtesy of fellow author Bryan Camp, a New Orleans local; we’ll have a reading and a conversation with him. That’s at 6 p.m Central, which is 7 p.m. Eastern and 4 p.m. Pacific.

. . . plus some more interviews, but those are more of a “record it and then it’ll go live later” kind of thing. Oof. Full court press in promoting The Mask of Mirrors has been fun, but it’s also tiring, y’all.

A deleted scene from The Mask of Mirrors!

Marie Brennan

I posted about this on Twitter a little while ago, but for those who either don’t follow our joint account or missed it in the general flood of Twitter-ness (all too easy to do): we’ve added to this site a scene we cut from The Mask of Mirrors. It originally took place late in the book — Chapter 19 of 24 — so I don’t recommend clicking through if you haven’t read the novel yet, as it is very full of spoilers. But if you have read it, enjoy!

Will you trust THE LIAR’S KNOT?

Marie Brennan

We are delighted to announce that the second book of the Rook and Rose trilogy will be called . . .

The Liar’s Knot

Like The Mask of Mirrors, this is a card from the pattern deck. It’s the card of trust . . . and also the card of betrayal, depending on whether its position is revealed or veiled.

Our characters? Having trust issues? And maybe betraying or being betrayed? Nah.

Currently it’s slated to come out in November — yes, of this year! We’re doing our best not to keep you all waiting for the next set of twists and turns. Stay tuned here for more news, or sign up for the newsletter to get goodies while you wait!

THE MASK OF MIRRORS IS OUT + where to find us in the next month

Marie Brennan

The time has come, the walrus said, to celebrate the fact that The Mask of Mirrors is out at last!

cover art for The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick

Now we begin to enact the ritual dance of the Author With a New Book Out — which is to say, our schedule is chock-full of Things we are doing for promotion. Right now you can find our Big Idea piece up at John Scalzi’s blog and our My Favorite Bit piece up at Mary Robinette Kowal’s, not to mention the various other interviews and podcasts we’ve been lining up for the last two months. But that’s not all — we’ve also got several events coming up in the near future!

TONIGHT, at 7 p.m. Pacific, we’ll be doing a joint event with Christopher Paolini at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore. Signed and personalized books are available!

On Thursday, January 21st, at 6 p.m. Pacific, we will be doing a joint event with Andrea Stewart (author of The Bone Shard Daughter) at Orbit Live. This event will also be made available on YouTube afterward, for those who aren’t able to attend.

We will be doing an AMA at r/Fantasy on Tuesday, January 26th — so if you have questions you’d like to ask, get ’em ready!

Marie will also be teaching a workshop on how to do public readings of your work, through the auspices of the Dream Foundry.

On Wednesday, February 3rd, at 7 p.m. Pacific, Marie will be reading at The Story Hour.

And finally (for now, anyway), Marie will be participating in virtual Boskone, from February 12th-14th! Precise programming schedule TBA.

Go forth and tell everyone the book is out! We know the world is very full of other stuff going on right now, much of it bad and more important for the general state of the world than the publication of a fantasy novel . . . but also, live goes on at the same time, and so does work. Pandemics and white supremacists be damned — we want to enjoy this moment!

And YOU get a book, and YOU get a book, and YOU get a book!

Marie Brennan

Y’all, there are so many giveaways right now for The Mask of Mirrors. In no particular order:

* Alyc and I are asking people to design a Rook and Rose cocktail and mocktail! (We want something celebratory to drink on the book’s release day.) You have until noon Pacific on Monday the 18th to send us a recipe for either one or both, with the only real restriction being that Alyc loathes all forms of gin, so probably best to avoid that. We’ll choose one winner in each category and send them a signed copy of The Mask of Mirrors, along with one of the gorgeous bookplates Orbit had made! (US only — our apologies to people overseas, though we still welcome recipe suggestions from you.) You can post your recipes here or on Twitter or Facebook, or send them via our site.

* Beneath Ceaseless Skies is running their own giveaway, ending Wednesday the 13th. All you have to do is respond to that post with your favorite caper/thief story published in BCS (and there’s a list of candidates to get you started). And in case you missed it, they have a Rook and Rose short story, too!

* And our publisher is running a giveaway, too! This one is open to both US residents and UK residents, with separate portals for each. That goes through the end of the month.

* Finally, you’ve got about two days left (as of this post going live) to enter a Booksweeps giveaway for fifty epic fantasy novels, The Mask of Mirrors included! That one ends in the wee hours of the morning for U.S. residents on Thursday the 14th.