We write the Rook and Rose novels in a series of shared Google Docs, swapping back and forth multiple times during the course of a scene. Because of this setup, we often leave comments in the margins of the draft. Many of these comments are logistical ones like “check timing” or explaining alterations we’ve made . . . but some are just us getting chatty with each other. We actually leave those in the draft for the entertainment of our editor; now we want to share them with you. Below are a selection of the choicer ones, with the relevant quotation from the book that the comment was attached to.

(Needless to say — but we will say it anyway — here be spoilers. Albeit context-free ones, since the quotations are relatively brief.)

Also see below for related commentary!

Chapter 2

A muscle jumped in Serrado’s jaw, but he said nothing to correct the inaccuracy or half-veiled insult in Vargo’s description.

(Alyc) Grey: “We’re not descended from damn birds, you utter twat”

Taking the mask from Vargo, Renata held it up, comparing it against him. “It almost matches your spider pin! But not your coat, I fear.”

(Alyc) Peabody: “She noticed me! We match! Oh, I do like her!”

[Vargo] lifted the mask from Renata’s face, his gloved fingers brushing her cheek in passing

(Marie) Grey: “I’m standing right. fucking. here.”

Donaia’s attention flicked briefly to Renata’s bare arms.

(Marie) Ren: Bitch, please.

(Alyc) Heh. Donaia’s getting her cat on

Chapter 3

“Over there, Parma Extaquium and Egliadas Fintenus. […] Don’t bother trying to get between [them]. […] I’ve been failing at it since spring.”

(Alyc) I think I’ve changed my mind. Bondiro and Parma are totally fucking and have been for years, and this ‘getting into her pants’ thing is just a game they play. ::mentally writes fic about quaternary characters::

“Mezzan Indestor.” The Rook faced him with all the lazy assurance of a predator.

(Alyc) You have failed this city.

“That kinless bastard. Here, take mine.” He pulled off his left glove and offered it to her.

(Marie) Way to unwittingly rub salt in Grey’s familial wounds, Leato!

Chapter 5

He’d loved those boots. So big they chafed and left blisters; he’d had to stuff them with rags. But they’d made wonderful clompy sounds that had all the Fingers feeling safer when Sedge was around.

(Alyc) Sedge’s boots = my dad’s motorcycle boots that I stomped around in when I was three. There’s a pic of me, probably lost forever now, in only my diapers and those boots. They came up to the thigh. Sadly, I was no highwayman. Unless the highwayman preferred Pampers.

Chapter 6

[Leato] enveloped her like a blanket, warm against the chill of the room, and smelled not unpleasantly of sweat, with a lingering trace of caramel from what remained of his perfume.

(Marie) Ren’s stream of consciousness: “Look for clues that he’s the Rook. Durrrr, boy. FOCUS, girl.” [In our original draft, Ren began suspecting Leato earlier than she does in the final.]

Chapter 7

“I believe you were once betrothed to her.” Before Letilia broke the contract and fled.
“So I was.”

(Alyc) Scaperto: “I don’t know what a bullet is, but I feel as though I have dodged one.”

Only river-rooted Nadežrans frequented the Gawping Carp.

(Alyc) This location has a song. It has been stuck in my head all day. It is the Whiffenpoof Song; however, I can’t find the cover that I like. So someday I will find it and you can add it to the soundtrack.

“Are you flirting with me, Captain Serrado?”
“An alta and Leato’s cousin? I’d rather face Alta Parma’s wrath.”

(Alyc)The original line was “I promise you, Alta Renata. If I flirt with you, you’ll know it.” However, I nixed it because as BRILLIANT as it is… it’s a dead giveaway that Grey is the Rook. ::cries for dead darling::

Tess’ fingers itched to drag the coat off [Pavlin] for a bit of nip-and-tuck.

(Alyc) not a euphemism

Chapter 9

“They’re going through a passel of [ice], so you should be able to make your way in without anyone giving you a bother.”

(Alyc) Originally had this as ‘hassle,’ but Hassle and Passel sound like cartoon characters. But not, y’know, American cartoons. No, some weird live action-claymation hybrid from Sweden or Finland.

If [Ren] let herself stop to think, she’d be terrified. So she didn’t stop. She just kissed Tess, settled the bucket on her arm, and strode into the house.

(Alyc) WOOT! ::breaks bottle across bow:: I christen this ship the HMS Renafore.

“Would you care to snoop together?”

(Alyc) My gods, kiddos. Get a room. Or a really cramped closet.

Chapter 10

Then she paused and said thoughtfully, “I don’t suppose you know anything about some difficulties around a warehouse belonging to House Fiangiolli?”
Vargo’s fork slipped on the bit of roast duck he was attempting to skewer.

(Alyc) Peabody: “Get out. Get out now. Abort!”
Vargo: “Naw, I can handle this.”

(Marie) #FamousLastWords

Chapter 11

This close, she could see some kind of mark, not quite fully hidden by the paint. Its circular shape suggested some kind of numinatrian tattoo, but she couldn’t make out the details without obviously staring.

(Alyc) We’re managing to get so caught up in how fuckable Vargo is that Marie keeps forgetting to give Ren dialogue 😛

She groaned inwardly as another Rook approached them, but it turned into a coughing fit when she realized the man under the hood was none other than Leato.

(Alyc) I bet she’d like to confirm what’s under the hood… >.>

Chapter 13

Hoping Tanaquis would take the unsteadiness of her voice for trauma, Renata said, “I assure you, I am not keeping anything back.”

(Alyc) [The link goes to a video clip of Valerie in The Princess Bride shrieking “LIAR!!!”, but this line got changed in revisions.]

Chapter 14

[Vargo] fiddled with the edge of his collar.

(Alyc) Rushed conversation: Vargo: DON’T YOU DARE COME OUT. Peabody: But– Vargo: NO! WHAT THIS CONVERSATION NEEDS IS NOT MORE SPIDERS.

(Marie) Alsius: “If only I could talk to her directly . . .” Vargo: “And tell her what I did? It isn’t too late for me to smoosh you.” Alsius: “Yes it is, and we both know it.”

Vargo took his cue, standing and giving her a slight bow. “I will. If you need a moment of peace, tug on your left earlobe. I have some skill at being a distraction.”

(Marie) Here Ren does not flash back to a memory of Vargo in body paint, but only because she’s too tired and traumatized.

(Alyc) And this is proof that Ren and I are nothing alike.

Chapter 15

One part of her mind said, That’s Master Peabody. The rest of her shrieked and overturned her chair.

(Alyc) Alsius: “Now?” Vargo: “Wait for it.” Alsius: “Now?!” Vargo: “Wait for it.” Alsius: ::vibrating:: “NOW?!” Vargo: “…Now.” Alsius: “WHEEEEEEE!!!!! BOO!”

He obviously thought she’d dropped the card on purpose, that the whole thing was a ruse to pass along a hint.

(Alyc) well… it kinda IS

(Marie) That part of it wasn’t, though! </professional pride>

Chapter 16

“When you say unable to sleep, what do you mean? Since when? How does it feel? What steps have you taken to remedy it?”

(Marie) “And remember, this is for posterity, so, be honest. How do you feel?”

Chapter 17

While Ren scrubbed away the previous makeup and reapplied her mask, Tess explained matters: the days of delirium and weakness, and then the numinatrian ritual that healed her at last.

Vargo?” Ren said, pausing with her eyes half-done to stare at Tess.

(Alyc) ahhahaha. If he wasn’t the first to admit it was shocking, I think he’d be insulted by this.

“Rumor has it there was a Vraszenian woman involved in the Night of Hells. Surely that can’t be Mezzan’s lover.” I think I would have noticed him in my bed. [this line was changed in revision]



(Alyc) You don’t even notice him coming and going!

(Marie) If you don’t notice him coming, it doesn’t sound like very good sex. 😛

(Alyc) better than the sex where you don’t notice yourself coming 😀

“I see I’ve lost my place as your hero. Probably for the best. He’s better suited to it.”

(Alyc) And here we see that rarest of birds — Vargo speaking a bedrock truth.

Chapter 18

Soft. Naive.
She refused to call that a bad thing.

(Marie) <3 <3 <3 Giuna can join Tess in the “best people in this novel” corner of the room.

Chapter 19

A shake of Tanaquis’ head killed that hope. “It should be the cards you used in the reading. They have the strongest, clearest connection.”

Of course they did.

(Alyc) YOU CAN’T AVOID PLOT SACRIFICES, REN! They’re like Wheaties. You must eat them to grow strong.


Chapter 20

Ladnej laughed and planted a kiss on Smuna’s lips.

(Marie) Yes, they’re lovers. Because apparently now I, too, work out the romantic lives of quaternary characters. 😛

(Alyc) Heeeee <3 This makes me happy

“After this is done,” [Andrejek] said softly, “you and I will talk again.”


Seriously, the sexual chemistry here is off the charts <3

(Marie) I guess it’s a good thing we’re intending to make the Anduske an ongoing thing in the story, then, because I didn’t actually intend to launch a new ship just by having the guy stare Grey down and talk quietly instead of shouting . . .

(Alyc) Unf. I know what I want for Yuletide.

Chapter 21

Instead of eating, Tess stared at the bread, fingers curled around it like she was cradling a wounded bird.

(Alyc) or her broken heart

Tacit permission was enough for Grey. He grabbed the butler by the collar before the man could figure out what she meant and shoved him backward into the front hall. I bet he’s flammable.


The railing snapped beneath her hand when she put her weight on it, turning her leap into a fall.

(Marie) Sorry, Ren; you don’t get to be as sexy as Grey. 🙂

Chapter 21

The thought of Tess on ash was enough to snap him out of his spiral.

(Alyc) You wouldn’t like her when she’s angry

(Marie) Tess’ nightmares involve messy seams and garments falling apart 🙂

(Alyc) Giant bobbins rolling slowly towards her

Mettore shot to his feet. “I told you, hag — not here.”

(Alyc) Fucking minions, amirite?

(Marie) Ondrakja is the worst. minion. ever.

Idusza swore Andrejek wouldn’t harm their own people like that . . . but the rank and file didn’t always know what the leadership was doing.

(Marie) Exhibit A: The Vigil

(Alyc) Exhibit B: Ondrakja

Instead of answering or taking his hand, she fumbled in her pockets, of which she had an astonishing number.

(Alyc) Heh. Tanaquis is the original ‘it has pockets!’ girl.

Plus he’d been looking too small. Fienola hadn’t exaggerated: the numinat covered the amphitheater’s entire floor.

“Shit,” Sedge breathed.

(Marie) Originally: “It’s big,” Sedge breathed.

. . . yeah, a little too suggestive. 😉

* * *

In addition to the comments we leave for each other in the margins, we have a habit of giving each chapter a quasi-summary line. This was born of pragmatics that had nothing to do with needing summaries, and everything to do with typefaces: Google Docs used to auto-create an outline based on lines that get boldfaced, underlined, etc. When drafting we started each scene with a number and the name of the viewpoint character in bold — made it easier for us to navigate to the relevant spot when revising — so that’s great for the outline . . . but annoyingly, if we had the chapter title in bold, followed by a scene tag in bold, Google missed the latter. In order to make them both show up, we had to insert a line of normal text — and thus was born the tradition of summary lines.

. . . some of which are not really about summarizing.

Below are the lines for each chapter of The Mask of Mirrors. As you can see, some of them are more sober and business-like than others.

  1. In which Ren begins her con
  2. In which the Gloria happens.
  3. In which Ren meets the Rook, and the reader starts to think we are very obvious people who have no particular interest in fooling them about who he really is. [When we originally drafted this chapter, we had Ren suspecting Leato of being the Rook much sooner, voicing that notion to Tess. This was changed in revisions.]
  4. In which deals are made, secrets discovered, and flirting deployed
  5. In which many people investigate things, and Ren’s past starts cropping up in the form of Sedge and Gammer Lindworm.
  6. In which we give poor Donaia mental whiplash, jerking her around without so much as a by-your-leave.
  7. In which Ren does the merry dance of wealth and poverty.
  8. In which more investigations happen, because we’ve gotta start pushing these plots forward. 😛
  9. In which everybody goes to a party.
  10. In which our characters accomplish lots of things.
  11. In which paper faces are on parade. Also other parts of the body.
  12. In which we traumatize Ren in order to make her a better person.
  13. In which we backtrack slightly.
  14. In which a certain problem comes to light.
  15. In which a mask comes off.
  16. In which Ren does not die.
  17. In which Ren gets back on her game . . . mostly.
  18. In which we don’t actually manage to have a chapter full of nice things because we changed our plan. [The original tag line was going to be something like “In which we have a chapter full of nice things!”]
  19. In which our characters enjoy the last moments of quiet before the storm.
  20. In which there is a riot.
  21. In which there are *not* riots. Not anymore. And everything is fluffy bunnies and sunshine.
  22. In which Marie and Alyc make bad decisions about work scheduling. [The excitement of getting close to the end of the book meant we wrote two chapters — over 17,000 words — in a week flat.]
  23. In which some well-deserved smackdown gets delivered.
  24. In which we de the nouement.

We also keep a spreadsheet where we track the wordcounts of scenes and when they got written. This spreadsheet has one cell for a very brief tag that reminds us of what the scene is, and then another that contains a more detailed description. The latter has gotten sketchier over time, as we’ve stopped using it as the place to write a full summary; the former has gotten sillier over time, as Marie (the keeper of the spreadsheet) gets punchy in how she tags scenes. The ones for The Mask of Mirrors are mostly from the days when she was still being sensible about them, so they’re uninteresting things like “Renata presents herself to Donaia” or “Dinner at Traementis Manor.” But a few of them are more entertaining:

  • The various scenes of Chapter 9 are labeled “Engagement party, part one,” “Engagement party, part two,” “Engagement party, part three,” “Engagement party, part four,” and “Engagement party, part crime.”
  • The scene where Ren and Leato visit Beldipassi’s cabinet of curiosities is labeled “Not-a-date.”
  • Because the scene where Vargo and Iascat are having sex on the Night of Bells is labeled “Novrus hookup,” their later encounter in Crookleg Alley is “Revenge of the Novrus hookup.”
  • When Ren tells various people about encountering Gammer Lindworm in the Depths, it’s “Confessions of a Depths-diving madwoman.”
  • Playing cards with Vargo is tagged “Moar flirting.”

But it’s really in The Liar’s Knot where Marie started to let loose on tagging scenes — we will share those in due course!