* 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.
The Mask of Mirrors is a book shot through with textile metaphors, from slang terms like ‘knots’ for the gangs and ‘cuffs’ for the nobility; to the pattern deck and its suits of the spinning, woven, and cut threads; to the interweaving of multiple PoVs to create a dense cloak of intrigue. We didn’t consciously start out with that model in mind, but once we started crafting the world, the textile metaphors only got stronger.
However, one thread that isn’t metaphorical at all is the importance of clothing and fashion, something we knew from the beginning would be central to Ren’s ability to sell her con. There aren’t many human cultural universals out there, but the importance of clothing and fashion in determining whether a person is in-group or out-group might be one of the closest things to a constant that we’ve got. And Ren has her sister, Tess, who might not be able to weave lies with her words, but she can damn well tailor them into her clothing designs.
Something so intrinsic to the main plot couldn’t be handwaved (not that we wanted to!) We had to figure out a complex language of fashion in the same way we’d done with the magic, social, political, and economic systems. We’re fairly well-suited to this kind of work: Alyc has a hobbyist background in costuming for theater and historical re-creation, and although Marie likes to downplay it, she’s no slouch in the sewing department either.
For Nadežra, we knew we needed two ‘looks’ – one for the indigenous Vraszenians and one for the descendants of the colonizers from Seste Ligante (who follow the fashion changes from their parent countries). We also wanted a hybrid look for common Nadežrans – people who might have a mixed Ligante/Vraszenian heritage, but don’t have cultural ties to either group.
One of the silhouettes was dictated by the image we already had in mind for the Rook. That character was so closely tied to his conceptual forebears — Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel, the Dread Pirate Roberts, Ezio — that we had to dress him in a tailored coat resembling a justacorps or frock coat, and high leather boots so the coat could swing around the tops of the boots when he swashes and duels.
Look, we are simple people. We delight in simple pleasures. And one of them can best be summed up in a stanza from Alfred Noyes’ “The Highwayman”:
“He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin, A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin; They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh! And he rode with a jewelled twinkle, His pistol butts a-twinkle, His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.”
The Rook’s costume is a bit of an echo of a bygone era (his coat is of a longer, looser, more functional cut than current Liganti fashion trends), but in order to not make it seem like someone’s grandpa was running around on rooftops, we decided to take advantage of the old adage about fashion recurring in cycles. That let us have that same swishy skirted coat/waistcoat style for our contemporary Liganti look, with one of the main differences being colors (the current fashion is for pale neutrals and pastels) and preferred textiles (brocades, velvet, and satin-woven cottons and silks thanks to advances in technology and trade).
Little details like this might seem unimportant, but having them means we can figure out ways to use them — and use the fashion — to further the story. For example, pastels can be difficult to maintain, which means there are a lot of stained pieces at remnant stalls that Tess can pick up for cheap… which is one reason that trendsetter Renata begins setting a fashion for brighter, bolder colors and a more streamlined, tailored look. Dyeing is easier than bleaching, and tailoring means you can creatively use smaller pieces and less fabric!
With Vraszenians, it all came down to the textile metaphors we mentioned. They are central to Vraszenian culture, to the point where lineages are tracked by embroidery, hair braiding is an art, and knotwork charms abound. Thus the panel coat became the core of that silhouette – a simple design that allows Vraszenians to display their love of and appreciation for embroidery, blackwork, needlepoint, and other fabric manipulations in that vein.
Because fashion is so important, we want readers to experience it as more than a parade of descriptions of colors and clothing pieces. We explore the sensual elements of clothing like draping, layering effects, embroidery, and the ‘hand’ of the fabric. We want readers to feel the pile of the velvet under their fingers, hear the whisper of a lace overlay as it slides past the satin underneath, move with the weight and drape of the skirts of the Rook’s coat as he fights a duel. We want the clothes to feel lived in; we want our readers to want to live in them.
We’re one month out on the drop date for THE MASK OF MIRRORS, so I decided it would be a good time to do a giveaway of my last few ARCs. The protagonist of our book is Ren, aka Arenza Lenskaya, aka Alta Renata Viraudax, a half-Vraszenian con artist who uses her wits and her… Continue reading Fabr-ARC Giveaway for The Mask of Mirrors
Alyc and I have netted a STARRED review from Booklist for The Mask of Mirrors! The choice quote:
“For those who like their revenge plots served with the intrigue of The Goblin Emperor, the colonial conflict of The City of Brass, the panache of Swordspoint, and the richly detailed settings of Guy Gavriel Kay.”
. . . yeah, I’m basically rolling around in that like catnip.
I need recs for INSTRUMENTAL music (no lyrics, or at least not in English) written in some form of quintuple meter: 5/4, 5/8, something more arcane, whatever. Songs which are only partially in such a meter are acceptable, though, y’know, not some complicated jazzy thing where it’s like a measure here and three measures there and so forth; I’d like it to be recognizably quintuple without following along on the score to see where it changes.
With some twists we didn’t quite expect, all the way up to the very end. (Well, some of them were twists we knew would happen eventually; we just figured that would be third-book stuff.) It is always a good sign when we make ourselves bust out laughing — even if sometimes we’re laughing at what we’re putting our poor, long-suffering characters through.
And now? We flop.
Word count: 198,268 Authorial sadism: There were consequences to that trick. Authorial amusement: Does somebody have a sweetheart? BLR quotient: This is the middle book of a trilogy, so it ends on a darker note than before. Rhetoric is staging a defensive action against blood, but some slips through the cracks anyway. Love will hold the line, though.
True to previously-established form, we wrote this one in a single day — though it was a bit less heavy lifting this time, because the chapter wound up running short. By which I mean it’s just under 6K, and will probably tip over that line once we add in some more detail we rushed past in our initial race to get to the exciting bits. I recognize that this is not a “short” chapter by most people’s standards, but ours are mostly in the 7500-8500 range, so this is noticeably below.
Which is fine. The thrilling climax would not be made more thrilling by the addition of padding. And since we’ve spent this whole book trying to make sure things don’t balloon up above the range we’re supposed to keep to, this just means we’ve bought ourselves more breathing room to add in all the descriptive stuff we’ve been short-changing throughout (not on purpose, just mostly because it’s a sequel and we forget we need to re-establish things).
So all that’s left is the denouement. And a couple of earlier bits we need to polish up, so we can truly feel like we’ve got a finished draft when it’s done.
Word count: ~190,000 Authorial sadism: A chance to solve a problem forever . . . Authorial amusement: A fistful of charms, and someone being puzzled by their own hesitation. BLR quotient:Oh so much blood. But not nearly as much as there could have been, if the characters were just a little harder-hearted.
The progress blog I didn’t post because we wound up utterly reworking our plans for what lay ahead talked about the idea of playing with both repetition and change over the course of a series: doing the same thing again in order to leverage the echo, tracing a different path through the same beat, or shaking things up completely. That’s coming back a bit here, because the climax of the first book and the climax of the second have a certain element in common — so how can we keep it from feeling stale?
Part of the answer is to change the on-ramp. The Mask of Mirrors goes careening into its climactic bit with only a brief lull between a Big Thing and the grand finale; this one takes a slower and more deliberate approach. The characters see what lies ahead rather than running face-first into it, and that means they have time to plan (which is what they’re doing in this chapter). Of course their plans won’t go off like they intend — it would be boring if they did — but the time has come for them to be less reactive, more proactive. And that will also set us up nicely for whatever it is we do at the end of the third book. The specifics of which are very much TBD, of course, but we know the gist of it, and I think it will make for a nice third variant on the pattern.
Word count: ~184,000 Authorial sadism: Not everybody made that promise. Authorial amusement: Cavalry to the . . . rescue? BLR quotient: I think rhetoric, since a whole lot of this hinges on doing some metaphysical math.
As I mentioned before, Chapter 22 was almost done by the time I reported on 21, so here, have another one!
This is basically our last bit of fun, in the sense of having some scenes where our characters get to deal with smaller problems in a more lighthearted way. In fact, what we originally conceived of as being some kind of caper wound up instead being two characters literally toasting each other with wine glasses while they watch a small farce play out: we could have made it something more involved and energetic, but the ironic effect of dialing it back makes for a fun change of pace.
With all the rearrangement and changes of plan we’ve done, this chapter also wound up having a plot beat that was originally in Chapter 18, now stripped of half the characters who used to be there, moved to a new location, and simplified. As much as it sucks to scrap two thousand words and replace them, I think this version is much better — even if I spent way too much time thinking about methods of execution only to have the scene not even reference that aspect. Oh well, waste not, want not; maybe in the third book we’ll have some reason to refer to the idea I came up with, which is horrifically gory and also culturally appropriate.
Or, y’know, in a future series. Because yes, we’re already tossing ideas around for doing more in this setting, if we get the chance. We’ve spent so much time building up a rich world for this story to take place in; it would be downright thrifty of us to re-use it for another plot.
Word count: ~176,000 Authorial sadism: It’s a surprisingly non-sadistic chapter! I guess we pummeled our characters’ hearts so much last chapter, they needed a quick breather. Authorial amusement: Too many to count. The wine glasses, the reaction to a name, someone putting her foot down, a gibbering fanboy moment, “go ahead and finish your breakfast.” BLR quotient: Rhetoric makes a strong comeback.