Discover the origin of the Rook . . .

Because it is just raining news around here, in addition to yesterday’s cover reveal for Labyrinth’s Heart and call for artists for the pattern deck (please spread the word!), we have EVEN MORE excitement for you today:

cover art for When Swords Fall Silent, showing a hooded greyscale figure wielding two blades

My Rook & Rose novelette “Pearl’s Price” is out at last, in the anthology When Swords Fall Silent! Because the anthology’s theme is “assassination,” “Pearl’s Price” tells the story of the origin of the Rook and the downfall of Kaius Rex. If you’ve read The Liar’s Knot you’ve already gotten some hints of that (and more will be coming in Labyrinth’s Heart), but this is your chance to experience the tale in full . . .

The electronic and audio editions are unfortunately only available from Amazon, as near as I can tell (US ebook / US audiobook / UK ebook / UK audiobook), but there is also a Kickstarter underway right now for paperback and hardcover versions. This entire thing is a charity project, with net profits (including from the Kickstarter) going to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and the research they do into childhood diseases, so it’s very worth supporting just on those grounds! (But, of course, I hope you enjoy the story, too.)

Calling all artists!

Alyc Helms and I — the two halves of M.A. Carrick — are looking to recruit an artist for an upcoming Kickstarter to fund the creation of a pattern deck, the divinatory card deck featured in our Rook and Rose fantasy trilogy. Feel not only free but actively encouraged to share this post where artists might see it; we’re trying to cast as wide a net as we can!

The scope of the project is sixty-seven cards, plus an image for the card backs. You can find a description of how pattern works here on our site, along with a full list of the cards in the deck, and even an online widget for performing a pattern reading — currently with no art, but we hope to change that soon! We may divide the deck up between different artists, depending on logistical factors (since that will make it easier to deliver the complete deck more rapidly), but we are also open to working with a single artist for the whole project.

Below are some details on what we’re looking for; if you’re interested in submitting your portfolio for consideration, instructions for how to do that are at the end. (But please read the rest of this first!)


The deck should ideally look like something that could exist in the world of the story, which is to say the general appearance of being either hand-painted or woodblock printed (color, not black and white). While we enjoy a wide range of art styles, particularly modern-looking things like collage, anime, highly digital effects, etc. aren’t really suitable for this project. That having been said, we are open to a range of aesthetics within those broad types; to help show that, we’ve put together a Pinterest board with some examples we find appealing. The novels and short fiction have yet to really address what Vraszenian visual art looks like, and since our worldbuilding overall springs from a medley of inspirations, there is room for the artist(s) to bring in a fresh vision.

We are actively interested in submissions from BIPOC artists, whether working within the tradition of their heritage or otherwise.

We are not interested in AI-generated art, even if it has subsequently been retouched.


The deck consists of three broad groupings (again, you can find the full list here). If we divide up the deck between multiple artists, it will likely be along one or more of these lines.

  • Face and Mask cards: these depict either a stylized face (with eyes) or a mask (without). There are twenty-four of these.
  • Regular cards: might show objects, people, scenes, etc. There are thirty-six of these.
  • Clan cards: might show personified animals. There are seven of these.

The images might end up including a border/frame and a place for the name of the card. The back of the card will show a drop spindle, a weaving shuttle, and shears, probably in a generally triangular configuration.

For some of the cards (particularly the Faces and the Masks) we have a decent sense of what we want them to depict; for others, there will be much more flexibility for the artist to design whatever the card name and significance suggest to them.

Logistical details

Once we have selected an artist, we will contract with them to produce three sample cards plus the backing art, for use in the Kickstarter campaign. Pending successful completion of that campaign, we will then contract for the rest of the project.

We are still working on the specific language of the contract, but to give you a sense of the rights we’ll be asking for — since that affects what you’ll consider acceptable compensation — here is a rundown of the ways in which we intend to use the artwork.

  • The creation and sale of a physical deck of cards, including packaging of said deck, not just in the Kickstarter but for ongoing sales
  • The creation and sale of a digital version of the deck, ditto
  • The creation and sale of a guidebook with (small) card images and information for deck use
  • Promotion of said physical and digital decks of cards, including but not limited to the Kickstarter campaign
  • Display of images on our website as part of an interactive digital version of the deck of cards
  • Creation and sale of deck-related merchandise, including but not limited to posters and mugs, solely for the purpose of additional rewards during the crowdfunding campaign (we honestly don’t want to be selling ancillary merchandise forever)
  • Specifically for the images for The Mask of Mirrors, The Liar’s Knot, and Labyrinth’s Heart, cover or interior art for future print, electronic, and audiobook editions of the novels bearing those titles (on the assumption that at some point the books will go out of print and we will re-issue them ourselves — we want the option of using the cards as cover art or a frontispiece).

It is our intent to leave as many rights with the artist as possible, so long as those uses don’t compete with the above: you can display the art in your portfolio, sell prints and other reproductions, and even potentially re-license images other than the ones specified in that last point — just don’t sell your own copies of the deck, present yourself as a vendor of Official Rook and Rose Merchandise, etc. Figuring out how best to phrase all of that is what we’re working on right now.

The Kickstarter itself will likely run this summer, circa the beginning of August. This means we will want the four sample images in hand no later than mid-July.

How to Apply

If you would like to be considered, please send an email to macarrick{dot}author{at}gmail{dot}com. The subject line of your email should be “Pattern Deck Submission”. (Failure to title your email that way will mean it doesn’t get sorted into the right folder, which means we will probably not see it when we go through the submissions. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot!) In the email itself, please include the following:

  • Your name and contact information.
  • A link to your online portfolio. If you work in multiple styles, please link directly to, or give us instructions on how to find, the works that are representative of what you would do for this project. Links to somewhere other than Instagram are preferred where possible, since Instagram is not very accessible for those without accounts. (Alyc has one; Marie doesn’t.)
  • If you have a strong preference for doing either the full deck or a subset thereof (e.g. the Faces and the Masks but not the other cards, or the whole deck only), please let us know.
  • Previous large-scale commissioned projects you’ve worked on, if any.
  • Your bid for the work, on a per-card basis. [Edit: see below for why we’re approaching it this way, rather than quoting an offered rate.]
  • An estimate of how long it would take you to complete the work you are bidding for, so we can give a suitable delivery estimate in the Kickstarter campaign.

Submissions will be open until the end of day on March 31st (globally, to avoid any question of time zones). We will respond to artists as quickly as possible after that and will attempt to have a final decision made by April 14th, two weeks later.

Edit re: bids — We’ve had a few people ask why we’re asking for bids rather than offering a rate. The answer is complex. One reason is the above-mentioned possibility that we’ll divide up the deck; if we do that, it’s quite possible that we’ll be seeking more detailed/labor-intensive images for the Faces and Masks and/or the clan cards than from the rest of the deck, meaning that we may pay different rates for those cards. (Whereas if we hire a single artist, it’s more likely to be a flat rate across the deck, averaging out the difference.) Also, the art is going to be the single biggest expense for the project as a whole, which means this is the main determinant for our funding goal. If we get a portfolio we love from someone who has experience with running Kickstarters or other factors that would improve our chances of raising the necessary chunk of money, we’ll be able to consider paying more for the art than if we’re collaborating with someone who has less experience and reach. If we quote a rate, we’re limiting the range of people who might send their work in, which might mean we miss out on exactly the one we would have otherwise chosen.

Having said that, we will not be paying less than $100 a card, and we will probably pay more than that. If we get a portfolio we think is amazing but we also think the artist has low-balled their bid, we may very well offer more than their suggested rate. And once the Kickstarter crosses its funding threshold, we intend to share subsequent profits with the artist, though the exact percentage has to wait on us working out a lot more math about the costs of the stretch goals and so forth. So hopefully that gives all of you enough information to be going on with.

We look forward to seeing your art!

We! Have! a Cover!

Gentlebeings of all stripes, we are delighted to share with you at last the cover for Labyrinth’s Heart!

cover art for LABYRINTH'S HEART by M.A. Carrick, showing a blue-eyed, brown-skinned man in a gold-and-purple mask accented with interlace patterns

That’s another milestone cleared on our way to August, when all of you will have the complete trilogy in your hands!

And look — don’t they all look gorgeous together?

a triptych of the covers for THE MASK OF MIRRORS, THE LIAR'S KNOT, and LABYRINTH'S HEART by M.A. Carrick, all showing masked faces

Stay tuned for some more exciting news today and tomorrow . . .

Aaaaand we’re done(ish)

We have officially sent the copy-edited manuscript of Labyrinth’s Heart back to our editor. We’re not done done with the book, because we still have to go through the page proofs — not to mention promotion and such once it comes out — but since the page proofs are the stage where the book has been typeset and therefore they don’t want you making changes other than corrections of outright errors . . . we’re basically done writing the Rook and Rose series.

Which is sad! And also happy! And also sad! There’s a kind of hangover when you finish a book draft, and a different kind that happens when you finish a series. After literal years of living with these characters in our heads, investing ourselves in their struggles and their hopes . . . it’s done. We think it’s a great ending — and we’re both of the mentality that would rather reach a good, solid conclusion than keep stringing the narrative out until we’re tired of it — but even so. There’s a mourning period, after a series is done.

Alas, you still have to wait until August to reach that point yourself. If you’d like a bit of a taster before then, though, we’re running a bit of a game on our Discord server right now (from January 31st to February 1st), with the prize being an excerpt from Labyrinth’s Heart, shared with our readers there. Come join us!

And stay tuned: in early March, we’ll have something special for you! Watch this space . . .

A new Rook and Rose short story!

Happy New Year! We are officially in 2023, which means that the publication of Labyrinth’s Heart suddenly seems so much closer than before: not next year but this year. About seven months from now! We anticipate getting our copy-edited manuscript in the next week or two, so the wheels of production have begun turning . . .

In the meanwhile, we have a new short story for you: “Constant Ivan and Clever Natalya,” written (or if you prefer audio, narrated) by yours truly. Those names may look familiar to those of you who have read the novels; the characters in question are figures out of Vraszenian folklore, a trickster heroine and her good-hearted hero. Having referenced them several times in the books, it seemed only natural to put their story properly into the world! So strap yourself in for a challenge set for a year and a day, horses of the dawn and the dusk and the mountains and the sea, and some prophetic turtles — it’s folklore time!

Annotations for The Liar’s Knot!

Happy anniversary of the release of The Liar’s Knot! In an ideal world, you all would be about to receive your copies of Labyrinth’s Heart; alas, you must wait some time longer. But we are doing second-round revisions right now, so you can trust it is on its way, just as fast as we can make it go.

To tide you over, and to celebrate the anniversary of the second book, we’ve posted our annotations! If you missed the ones for The Mask of Mirrors, these are a selection of the comments Alyc and I leave for each other in the margins of the Google doc as we write — not all of them, because many are boring things that say stuff like “check this” and “replace once we have something better,” but the ones you all might find entertaining. Spoiler warning, naturally: don’t go read the annotations if you haven’t yet read the book! (I mean, you can, if you don’t mind spoilers. But also the comments may not be as amusing without more context.)

And if you need more — and haven’t seen it already — check out the deleted scene we posted from The Liar’s Knot! There will be more of those to come . . .

An update

It’s been quite silent around here, for which we apologize! We do have some updates for you, albeit not quite as detailed as we would like.

As the last post indicated, the draft of the third and final Rook and Rose book is indeed done. After drafting comes revisions, though, and for various reasons outside our control, those got a little delayed. We are hard at work now, so never fear — the book is moving forward to the light of publication!

(. . . wow, you can tell I’m deep in book headspace because my subconscious just tried to gauge where we are along the path of the numina. It decided that finishing the draft is Tricat; revisions are probably Quinat, because this is the stage at which we’re refining it to be as excellent as possible. Sessat is clearly when we hand it off to the institutional machinery of book production to transform from a manuscript into an Actual Book; Noctat is when we paaaaartaaaaay because we’re done? Don’t ask me about the rest of the numina. Especially Ninat, which feels rather ominous for publication itself, even though Alyc and Tanaquis would both tell me that not all thresholds are bad. Admittedly, “authors iz ded” is often an apt summation of how we feel by the time that day rolls around.)

Anyway, what we don’t have for you yet is a pub date. As some of you may have guessed, it will not, alas, be in 2022; the little delays along the way have added up to put that out of reach. But you can expect to see the book on the shelves in 2023 — we’ll let you know as soon as we have a more precise answer than that!

In the meanwhile, do keep an eye on this space, because we have things to post to tide you over. I’ve got some Rook and Rose short fiction in the pipeline, and we do intend to post things like the annotations for The Liar’s Knot, plus maybe some deleted scenes (of which the second book had more than the first). Those, however, will have to take a back seat to the revisions themselves, so we can get the finale to you as soon as possible!