Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 25 – FINIT

We are done!

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.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 24

One! Chapter! Left!

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.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 23

So close to the end!

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.

Heh, pattern. Which is a kind of important thing in this setting.

Two chapters to go!

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.


Happy book day to me! It feels a little strange saying that on a Friday. 🙂

Driftwood goes on sale today. If you’re getting a print book, I heartily encourage you to order it from a local bookstore; they need your support more than ever right now. I also recommend making use of IndieBound or, both of which can help you support a local business (in the latter case, either directly or through your purchase going to a general pool for participating stores).

I’m . . . frankly astonished at how good the response to this book has been. I could wish it hadn’t hit at the right time for “how do you decide what matters to you and hold into that in the face of destruction?” to be such a resonant question, but here we are, and it’s gotten a trifecta of starred reviews from Publishers’ Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, along with positive mentions from a score of other venues so far. The premise may be bleak — worlds crumbling en route to their final destruction — but ultimately this is a book about friendship, community, and not giving up. If that sounds like something you would want to read, maybe not today, but some day, then I heartily encourage you to pick it up.


cover for DRIFTWOOD by Marie Brennan

This is possibly the most important post I will ever write.

I’m not being hyperbolic.

This post is addressed to every American citizen of voting age. (If that doesn’t apply to you, carry on with your day.)

We have a presidential election coming up in November, and every. single. sign. points to this being a clusterfuck of not only epic but criminal proportions. Right now — literally right now — Donald Trump is attempting to wreck the U.S. Postal Service in order to interfere with mail-in voting. He has stated this openly. The damage to the USPS has already meant people are receiving things like critical medications too late. And it means that mail-in ballots will be in grave danger of not being counted.

But this isn’t just about the USPS. The pandemic means people may be afraid to go to the polls — and the people least afraid to go will be the ones who are convinced this is all just a Democratic hoax or something. And when you get the man who holds the highest office in the land openly talking about interfering with the voting process, that is an excellent recipe for getting other people to decide it’s open season on electoral interference, whether that means “losing” a box full of ballots (a thing which has actually happened) or trying to prevent people from going to the polls.

I remember a time when people around me said things like “eh, the two parties are just the same, there’s no real difference between them.” If this was ever true, it is not true now.

Normally I’m all in favor of simply telling people to vote, without actively campaigning for one side. But this is not a case where we have two legitimate options and I just don’t like one of them as well. The United States is leading the world in “worst handling of the coronavirus;” the last number I saw was 160,000 Americans dead from covid. We have an actively criminal president who will do any goddamned thing he can get away with to hold onto power. Given the way our system works, there is literally only one viable option in 2020 for putting the brakes on this downward spiral, and that is to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris into the White House.

And to do that, it isn’t just enough to say “get out there and vote.” If you are not registered yet, do that now, at this link. Right now. It won’t take you long. If you are registered, make sure that’s still true — especially if you live in a Republican-controlled area, because they have carried out a number of efforts to purge the voter rolls. Find out when early voting begins in your area, because you don’t have to wait until November 3rd, and the sooner you go, the better. (And when you do, wear a mask.) If you have mail-in voting, fill out your ballot immediately, and then, in descending order of preference, 1) deliver it personally to your Board of Elections, 2) put it in a dropbox, or 3) mail it. In that order because of the aforementioned attempt to fuck with the postal service, and because are you sure some fanatic isn’t going to interfere with the dropbox?

Finally, don’t just pay attention to the top of the ballot. The Republican Party has for years now been descending into ever more blatant greed, bigotry, cronyism, and incompetence. We cannot reward them with other forms of power. Vote for state offices and local ones. Vote for people who don’t think “science” is some inconvenient thing that will go away if they ignore it hard enough, or a roadblock between them and piling even more grotesque profits atop the ones they already have.

No, not finally — one more thing. You also have to spread this message. Not necessarily this specific post, but its salient points: you have to vote, and you have to do so in a fashion that minimizes the risk of both health consequences and your vote note being counted. You aren’t safe. None of us are.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 22

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.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 21

I’ve been so busy writing, I’ve forgotten to report!

We’re in the home stretch now, the fifth part of a five-part book. It would feel more like the home stretch if we didn’t keep retooling our plans; the Chapter 21 we wrote is neither the original Chapter 21 we had planned, nor quite the Chapter 21 we replaced the original plan with (though the second redesign was more about changing the sequence of stuff so that its context was different, rather than swapping it out wholesale). We’ve got so many threads we’re trying to pull together now, and we have to balance the demands of exposition against emotional weight and still try to have some kind of action going on.

But that’s my thoughts being colored a bit by the fact that we’re almost done with Chapter 22 and have actually started 23 (because linearity, what is that?). 21 is really more of the feelingz wrecking ball hitting the characters from several directions at once, not all of those good. They finally know, in full surround-sound smell-o-vision technicolor glory, just how much danger they’re in. And they’re not getting out of the woods this book; following the grand tradition of sonata structure, this movement is the one in a minor key. Final resolution will have to wait for the next volume.

Word count: ~168,000 (we also added in the earlier scenes we needed)
Authorial sadism: The worst thing is when you start to doubt your own mind.
Authorial amusement: Look, you can’t set up a character to be afraid of X and NOT inflict X on them eventually.
BLR quotient: What if the love is actually just more blood?