Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 26

The climactic chapter!

Unlike the previous two books, we did not write this one in a single day. Which was for the best; neither Alyc nor I have the kind of physical or mental energy for that at the moment, not when what we had to comb through for the final scene was so complex. We finally hit the right notes, and with those in hand, we now know what kinds of hints we need to seed earlier to set that up properly.

. . . everything else I want to say about this would be a spoiler, so I’ll stop there.

Word count: ~188,000
Authorial sadism: We were going to give something back. But then we wrote how this actually plays out, and nope, that character just has to live without it.
Authorial amusement: We damn near sprained something trying to avoid echoing The Princess Bride in a very inappropriate way.
BLR quotient: Look, we’ve said many times this series is anti-grimdark. What do you think wins out, here at the end?

New Worlds: Sexual Misbehavior

I’ve already apologized to my faithful New Worlds patrons, but I’ll repeat it here: when I put up the poll for them to vote on the theme for December’s essays, I didn’t do the math and notice that if “sexual behavior” won out, that would mean I wind up posting about sexual misbehavior on Christmas Eve. And not in the wink-wink-nudge-nudge sense, but in the sense that this post comes with trigger warnings. So my apologies for the bad timing . . . but if you still want to read, you can comment over there. [Edited to provide new link due to BVC site difficulties.]

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 25

It’s a real progress blog! By which I mean that, after months of me posting well after the fact because I didn’t actually start progress-blogging when we started writing, I am for realz posting right after we finished a chapter!

And we are in the home stretch! Very visibly so, in fact. You see, Google Docs doesn’t always cope well with very large files; much above 50K words, you can start having problems with lag and such. As a result, we’ve always divided our drafts up into multiple files, one per part, to keep them in the safe zone. But because this book is in three parts instead of four or five, that would mean each one is in the 60-70K range, and we didn’t want to find out whether Google was going to get stupid about it. In order to keep the feeling that the file divisions are at structurally relevant points, we actually have nine files for this book, each one containing three chapters. (Yes, this will be annoying when we have to collate them all.) With Chapter 25, we have officially created the last file!

(Shhhh, don’t tell me if Google has fixed that problem in the years since we started writing The Mask of Mirrors. This is tradition now.)

People who have read the first two books can guess more or less what’s going on at this point, not in its specifics, but in its shape. Although things have been building toward these events for a long time, this is when the avalanche starts to roar downhill. Different people each get signs of Something Rather Bad; when they compare notes, it’s clear that actually, Something Incredibly Bad is going down. Which they will deal with in the next chapter.

. . . but Alyc and I en’t writing that one until next week, because dammit, we get some amount of holiday off. (Please to be disregarding the other work each of us is doing on the book in the interim, because we have a few holes we want to patch before we officially reach the end of the draft.)

Word count: ~182,000
Authorial sadism: . . . honestly, I think the meanest thing in this chapter is what Alyc did to me, suggesting a certain thing to do with pattern.
Authorial amusement: Giving a minor spear-carrier who may not have even had any lines before a crucial role to play.
BLR quotient: They’ve been bleeding all this time. They only just now realized.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 24

. . . I’m going to pretend I didn’t start writing the progress blog for Chapter 25 instead of this one, despite that chapter not actually being done yet. >_< I know I talk about the writing of this book being remarkably non-linear, but really, that’s a step too far.

I suspect some readers will find the structure of this chapter a little odd. The first scene contains a watershed moment — the sort of thing you might normally expect at the end of a chapter. But it’s part of what I discussed before, us having a plotline where everything isn’t in the hands of our main characters. Trying to make a Big Satisfying Finale out of this moment would, we think, make it feel too pat. Instead it’s a messy tangle that’s being driven largely by characters who don’t get pov, and the watershed here is more a shift in direction than the end of a journey, because this is the type of journey that doesn’t end. The victory is in the turn, not the arrival.

Which isn’t to say we don’t have a cool watershed at the end as well, of course! We absolutely do, and it’s one with much more intimate personal weight for our protagonists. A moment of grace, where they think they’ll be able to do a good thing . . . and find they’ve managed something even better.

Word count: 175,000
Authorial sadism: Having to make your peace with something awful, so you can get past that to compassion.
Authorial amusement: “It’s a good thing you’re not the face of this operation.”
BLR quotient: Rhetoric has its moment in the sun.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 23

The non-linearity of this chapter consists in us having Ren re-learn a thing she originally learned in Chapter 18, which we’ve decided to pull out of there and save for here, so that she’ll have more opportunity to react to it. What we have here still isn’t fully developed, I suspect, but I do think it’s in the right place now. (And once again, I’m glad that writing isn’t performance art; we get to revise what we’ve done before you lot ever see it.)

I’ve commented in various places about how this book is kind of terra incognita in a way the previous ones weren’t. The core of what we’d developed in the game can be found in The Liar’s Knot; when drafting The Mask of Mirrors, we knew we were writing our way toward that target. But this book is the onward-rippling consequences of that core, which is in part terrain that the game hasn’t gotten to yet — or if it has, it’s been in the context of plots and characters which are nowhere in this series. Plus there are a couple of long-term conflicts there that the PC version of Ren hasn’t yet gotten to resolve.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying, this chapter contains two events I’m really looking forward to in the game, even as I partially scratch the itch by dealing with the book renditions of those situations. 😀 One is a much-needed revelation; the other is a much-needed ass kicking. It’s nice when people get what’s coming to them . . .

Word count: 168,000
Authorial sadism: Normally I think of this in terms of us being mean to our lead characters, but in this case I should acknowledge that we took what was originally supposed to be mainly a social downfall and made it, uh, extra dramatic.
Authorial amusement: “No wonder you got in the habit of lying.”
BLR quotient: The last stitches of love are bringing the fabric together.

Rook and Rose Book 3, Chapter 22

This is probably an incomplete chapter as (non-linearity ahoy!) we need to add a scene into it. Nothing load-bearing in terms of the narrative logic of the plot; we just need a quiet moment between two characters, to address what happened last chapter and set up what’s coming after.

Most of this chapter is character moments, actually, though not all of them are quiet. Really, very few of them are. But if this chapter has a theme, it’s “people have some long-standing issues out with the other people in their lives.” Some of those confrontations end in reconciliation; some really, really don’t. It makes for a nice mix, I hope, and the other reason to add in that extra bit will be to create some space between two scenes that are otherwise a bit similar in their creation of some rifts that have been a long time coming.

Also? Alyc and I are really enjoying the avoidance of toxic masculinity. Whatever issues our male characters may have (and boy howdy do they have some), they aren’t generally rooted in the need to create and defend a certain gendered image of themselves. It’s other aspects of their identity they’re trying to uphold, and those aren’t necessarily incompatible with saying “yeah, I need to talk about what I’m going through.”

Word count: ~159,000
Authorial sadism: We didn’t have to clarify the role that character played in those events. But . . . yeah, we kind of had to.
Authorial amusement: Kind of thin on the ground, honestly, given some of the trauma being unpacked here. We punched the air a couple of times for characters standing up when they needed to, but that’s not the same thing as amusing ourselves.
BLR quotient: The blood was necessary. Sometimes you have to lance a boil before healing can begin.