Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 4

Sarah Rees Brennan (no relation) once said on Twitter that “the second book of a trilogy is for kissing.” Taken in the broader sense of character relationships, not just romantic ones, I think this is very true.

See, the first book of a series has to do a lot of heavy lifting, in terms of setting up the material of the story. It has to introduce characters and setting and conflict, and while it builds relationships, too, there’s only so much room to play around with those. Whereas in the second book, you’ve got a lot of your foundation in place, and now you’re free to dance on it. You can take the existing relationships and complicate them, give them more depth, test them or turn them upside down and shake them to see what falls out.

As you may have guessed based on me bringing this up, that’s a fair bit of what Chapter Four is doing here. Our first scene takes an existing relationship and sticks it into a wildly different context, adding in another character to fuel some interesting interactions over there. Our second and third (which are linked) show you that from another angle, and weave a minor character back into story in ways that show they aren’t as minor as you may have thought. Our fourth takes two people who previously haven’t spoken and puts them together for the first time, with hilarious results. And our fifth goes back to another existing relationship and moves it closer to center stage.

Of course all of this is doing plot work, too. As much as we joke about the eight million fanfics one could write about these characters, ultimately we can’t just coast along writing relationship fluff; there have to be more layers. (If there weren’t, it would take approximately three times as many words to convey all the substance we want to pack into this book. And it ain’t a short book to begin with.) In fact, right now we’re dissatisfied with the last scene of the chapter, because it isn’t quite doing the plot work it needs to — it’s trying, but we never quite fell into the right rhythm. So we’ll fix it later; in the meanwhile, it’s full steam ahead on Chapter 5.

Which will also be the end of Part One. Yes, we have Fun Things planned. ?

Word count: ~28,000
Authorial sadism: SHOE’S ON THE OTHER FOOT NOW, HOW D’YA LIKE THAT. Actually, multiple shoes on multiple other feet. This is a chapter full of people getting to find out what it’s like to be the other guy.
Authorial amusement: The first appearance of Y– on the scene. Also, someone missing their mark by two inches.
BLR quotient: Love takes the lead! At least in the sense that “love” = “relationships” in this particular system. But in some more conventional senses, too — eventually.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 3

We finished Chapter Three last night. We’re really hitting our stride now: the beginning of a sequel is always a tricky piece of work, balancing reminding the reader of past events against the need to move the story forward, and I expect we’ll do a fair bit of revision on the first two chapters to make them as tight as possible. But now we’ve got some proper momentum . . . and a return to the fun that is banter-y action stuff.

I can already tell that point of view choices are going to be an interesting thing in this book. Last time around, there were certain constraints on who we used for what events, but those are mostly gone now — which means that we decided at the last minute to swap one of the scenes in this chapter to a different viewpoint, which clicked much better for us both. That choice is going to be dictated more by the tradeoffs of “what fun things would this perspective offer us versus that one?,” instead of having to do it one way or another for plot reasons.

Word count: ~22,000
Authorial sadism: “She’s fine now anyway, so what does it matter?”
Authorial amusement: Setting up two perfectly good plans that happen to cancel each other out.
BLR quotient: Why hello there, blood. Both the literal (there’s a fair bit of violence in this chapter, though none of it lethal) and the metaphorical (the consequences of past betrayals).

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chs. 1 and 2

As I mentioned in the announcement post for Rook and Rose, we’ve already started writing the second book of the trilogy. I haven’t been blogging about it here because it felt weird to discuss the sequel before we could make news of the sale public — and in fact I’ll have to be cautious about what I post on that subject in general, since there’s a greater risk of spoilers. But it was really fun reporting my progress before, so let’s give it another shot!

Don’t expect the pace to be like it was last time, though. There’s a lot of travel interrupting us this time around, and we’re also not going to half-kill ourselves with four straight months of NaNoWriMo-pace writing again.

But for Chapter One . . .

Word count: ~7800
Authorial sadism: Not a lot in this chapter, to be honest. We’re too busy delicately picking our way through the web of exposition to really make our characters suffer yet. But I suppose R– realizing the sheer scale of what she’s gotten herself into counts.
Authorial amusement: The first of many messages left on a balcony.
BLR quotient: No blood yet. Fair bit of rhetoric, though, which (as you may recall) for the purposes of progress-blogging encompasses political maneuvering. And love, too — because in its way, the love is always there.

And for Chapter Two . . .

Word count: ~14,000 (This chapter is currently too short, because we weren’t sure how long it would take us to get through the absolutely necessary material. We’re going to expand it later.)
Authorial sadism: The wrong subject mentioned in front of the wrong person. There’s a lot of both to go around, so this is likely to be a recurring problem . . .
Authorial amusement: A– continues to be one of our favorite characters. Also P–. The world is very glad that the two of them would probably never think to work together; I shudder to imagine what might result.
BLR quotient: Rhetoric is still on top, though it’s getting bloodier. Especially given what R–’s been asked to do.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Sekrit Projekt R&R is sekrit no more!

You may remember that last year Alyc Helms and I fell headfirst down a hole and emerged a few months later with a novel we’d written together, which I blogged about here as “Sekrit Project R&R.”

R&R, my friends, stands for Rook and Rose: the name of the trilogy Orbit Books has just bought from us.

What is it? Epic fantasy. But that sells it short. It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles, and I’m only sorry we didn’t manage to get a giant in there; maybe we can make somebody really tall during editorial revisions? Also the kind of worldbuilding that happens when you let two anthropologists off their leashes. It has a con artist, a vigilante, and capers as flirtation. It has weird dream shit because we love that stuff, yo. It has noble politics and street gangs and deception layered so deep I literally made a color-coded chart at one point about who knew what, which persona of theirs knew it, and whether other people knew they knew it.

It also — and this is important, so remember — has a new name on the cover. Rather than publishing under two names (which is often unwieldy), we are putting this out as M.A. Carrick. If you want to follow us on Twitter, you can do so @ma_carrick, and we also have a placeholder website that we’ll be expanding into something very shiny just as soon as we’re not both about to get on planes to Ireland.

Later I will tell you all the story of why that pen name. (Appropriately enough, it involves Ireland!) In the meanwhile, I need to go squee some more. I’ll just leave you with this song, which we posted last year as a teaser for the flavor of the thing we were working on . . .

(Oh, and also? We’ve already started writing book two.)

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Level Unlock – Big Damn Trilogy Sale!!

Last summer, I started working on a collaborative project with Marie Brennan that ended up being more or less NaNoWriMo for four months straight. We finished the 220k word behemoth in October, tossed it back and forth between beta readers, our agents, and each other, and sent it out to editors this past spring.

This week, we accepted a deal from Orbit Books to publish it as the first book of the Rook and Rose trilogy! It will be coming under the joint pen name M.A. Carrick (there’s a story there, but that’s for later).

I’m still working on my elevator pitch for the series, but here’s the general gist:

Alta Renata Viraudax is actually Arenza Lenskaya, a con artist who has infiltrated the nobility in an attempt to set herself up with a cushy life… only to run afoul of The Rook, a Dread-Pirate-Roberts-style vigilante whose mission is to oppose the nobility — including the increasingly visible Alta Renata. Capers, banter, double-crossing, and identity hijinks ensue. Think The Scarlet Pimpernel meets Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora series.

This was the most fun writing that I’ve ever had, and I think it shows on every page. Marie and I bring out the best in each other, and because we’re both anthropology worldbuilding geeks, we were able to create an incredibly rich, dense setting for us to play in. We’ve got multiple, inter-locking magic systems — Marie developed a whole divinatory card system that will definitely be Kickstarted so we can create an actual deck, and I got to get my ritual magic on by creating another system based on sacred geometry. There’s politics and economics, swashbuckling and derring-do, queerness and genderplay galore (because hell yeah there is), and so many fun characters that it hurts sometimes to do terrible things to them.

More news to come as this moves from editing into production! A little over a year ago, all we had was an idea. Now we have a book deal. Soon we’ll have a book! These things move faster than you think. I hope you’ll all come along with us for the ride.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with what has sort of become our unofficial theme song:

This post originally appeared on Alyc Helms’s website.

Confidential to A.L.

Turning Darkness Into Light

As the renowned granddaughter of Isabella Camherst (Lady Trent, of the riveting and daring Draconic adventure memoirs) Audrey Camherst has always known she, too, would want to make her scholarly mark upon a chosen field of study. When Lord Gleinleigh recruits Audrey to decipher a series of ancient tablets holding the secrets of the ancient Draconean civilization, she has no idea that her research will plunge her into an intricate conspiracy, one meant to incite rebellion and invoke war. Alongside dearest childhood friend and fellow archeologist Kudshayn, she must find proof of the conspiracy before it’s too late.

Read More

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Calling all poetical/artistical types

I have a favor to ask!

For Sekrit Projekt R&R, Alyc and I have some divinatory cards we need to name. The catch is that we want their names to more on the metaphorical side, rather than directly literal, and neither of us is exceptionally good at thinking in those terms. Example: one of the cards represents travel and journeys. The obvious thing would be some kind of name involving roads or paths or whatever. But our placeholder name for it was “Horizon,” and now it’s “Dawn and Dusk,” because the city where the story takes place sits in the middle of a major trade network that extends east and west. That’s one we’re very pleased with . . . but we need a bunch more.

If you would be willing to help brainstorm card names, drop me a line. We’re especially interested in suggestions from people with a poetical bent, or people with a visual bent who might think in terms of what the image on the card would be, and then come up with a name to describe that image. I’ll send you a rundown of what the cards are that need naming, and also a little information about the setting to riff off in terms of knowing what details might be appropriate. There are thirty-four that need names; you’re welcome to suggest more than one for any given card, and you don’t need to suggest things for all of them if you don’t have ideas that seem fitting.

We’d like all suggestions to be in by the end of the month.

So if that’s something you can help out with, let me know. We’d be very grateful for the assistance!

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

Sekrit Projekt R&R, Chapter 24: Finit

113 days after we started writing — and one year and twenty-four days after we said, “hey, what do you think of this idea for a novel we could write together?” — the book is done.

Not 100% finished and ready to go, of course. We’ve both done a lot of revision along the way, but there are still things we need to expand on or add in (D—‘s dog appears out of nowhere halfway through the draft), and there are a lot of brackets marking things we need to name: people, districts of the city, cards in the divinatory pattern deck, etc. But you could read it through from beginning to end and there would be no holes, and I don’t expect there to be any major changes to the shape or feel of the story between now and when it does go out. We’ll be refining what we’re doing, not replacing parts of it with something else entirely.

For now, though, we rest. 113 days — not writing every single day, but more days than not, and averaging 1826 words per day across that span, i.e. more than that much on the days we actually wrote. My normal drafting pace is 1000 a day, so I guess this kind of works out to “normal,” just doubled because it’s two people? Except I don’t think that’s how the math works.

Yeah. ima go fall over now.

Word count: 206,347
Authorial sadism: When you pride yourself on your skill as a player, it hurts to realize you’ve been played.
Authorial amusement: It’s a bit like Volkswagon preferring to confess to fraud than be thought incompetent.
BLR quotient: When the blood is over with, rhetoric is there with a mop.

This post originally appeared on SwanTower.com.

What I’m Doing This Summer

I’ve recently made passing mention to a super secret collaborative project I’m working on. I’ve been hesitant to say more because so often projects like this die before they ever get momentum.

However, after six-ish months of planning, plotting, and worldbuilding, and three weeks of intense writing that have already pushed us past the 25k point, I feel confident in saying this is a thing.

To get a feel for the flavor, listen to this:

Capers! Heroic vigilantes and antiheroes! Identity hijinks! Masquerades and mistaken identities! Romance and betrayal and rooftop assignations, all while wearing fabulous outfits!

So that’s what Marie Brennan and I are working on, if you can call it work. Writing with her is so much fun that I actively look forward to getting butt in chair every day.

Now that R&R (our code for it) is out of the bag, look for posts about collaboration, magic systems, clothing design, economic and political systems, folklore, civil engineering, and all the other fun things that come up when you knock two anthropologists together and tell them to design a world for fantasy intrigue.

This post originally appeared on Alyc Helms’s website.