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Posts Tagged ‘rook and rose’

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 8

It’s the return of the progress-blogging!

When we last left our intrepid pair of authors, it was October and I was about to spend a bunch of time traveling. We’d gotten stuck on a scene in Chapter 8 because the setup for it wasn’t quite there yet in the earlier chapters, so we figured we’d take a break to sort that out before proceeding. Then . . . well, as some of you know, Alyc got injured in a way that required two surgeries to fix. And we had to handle revisions on The Mask of Mirrors during that time. Then I was traveling some more. Then a pandemic happened, and also me having to write a different book very fast, and also copy-edits for the first volume, and also page proofs. What with one thing and another, it wasn’t until early this month that we were able to pick ourselves up off the floor and take another look at Chapter 8.

Whereupon I promptly noticed that multiple things would be improved if we kicked that scene into Chapter 9 — so yay, that isn’t a problem we have to solve yet! We warmed our brains back up again by doing revisions on the earlier chapters, some of which were necessitated by changes in The Mask of Mirrors; we also added in a new scene that, per my comment on Twitter, involves a plot-relevant strip-tease. Then we dove back into Chapter 8, now with added breathing rooms for the major scenes happening there.

Because oh yes, there is some major shit here. Both of the fun, caper-y sort, and of the “we’re going to have to steel ourselves to do this to the characters” sort. (Except that once I get into a scene like that, it’s usually very easy for me to twist the knife. It’s the run-up where I’m all, “uhhhh, do I really want to do that . . . ?”)

So: the story is rolling forward again, and at speed. We still need to fix the setup for that one conversation, which will necessitate revision on a few scenes we skipped over in the initial pass, and there are some other plot tangles to sort out before Chapter 9 will be ready to go — but we’ve got a semi-complete outline from here through the beginning of Chapter 16, so the forecast is good for us to make steady progress for a while. And by the time we get through all of that, we’ll have sorted out more of what’s to happen after it. In the meanwhile, it feels good to be back on this bike!

Word count: ~61,000
Authorial sadism: Ren’s monologue. There were just so many options for where to stick the knife in; we used as many of them as we could.
Authorial amusement: UNLEASH THE RATS! (and one very confused cat)
BLR quotient: So very much blood. Some wounds are the kind you need to lance before they can heal. Though that . . . probably wasn’t the best way to do it.

The Mask of Mirrors!

Oh my god, y’all, I’ve been sitting on this foreeeeeeeeeeever.

We have a cover for The Mask of Mirrors! The artist is Nekro, who does all kinds of amazing baroque mask images, and Lauren Panepinto did the rest of the design. That link will take you to io9, which did the big reveal today. It also has an excerpt, to further whet your appetite, full of sword-fighty goodness and some fun with gloves. And if you want more, the Decameron Project ran a different excerpt yesterday, this one looking more at the political side of things.

Furthermore, we’ve got an announcement to make. The release date for The Mask of Mirrors has been pushed back from November of this year to January of next. It’s a little sad only because we wanted to get this into your hands as soon as possible! . . . but in the long run, this is very much the right move. And the second book of the trilogy is still planned for November 2021, i.e. only about ten months after the first one comes out, instead of a full year.

Never fear — we’ll find ways to entertain you in the meanwhile!

Where I’ve been for the last two months

At home, obviously — like a truly staggering percentage of the planet’s population. But it’s been near-total radio silence around here, apart from links to the weekly Patreon posts, so I figure I should update.

The good news is, the silence has not been due to any sort of illness with me or mine. Instead . . . you know all those people posting about the stuff they’ve finally gotten done around the house or the new bread-baking hobby they’ve picked up? That is not me. Through a confluence of factors (some of which were my fault, some of which weren’t), I got behind on drafting Night Parade — which meant that circa early March, I had to put my head down and start charging ahead at speeds nearly unprecedented in my writing career in order to get it done by deadline. (The only comparable instance even in the running was during my senior year of college, after I turned in my thesis and then a novel fell out of my head in about seven weeks.) We’re talking working at at least 150% my normal pace for weeks on end, with no days off anywhere in there. Oh, and partway through that time I had to drop it for five days so I could copy-edit a 214K-word novel, which is about 200% my normal pace for a task of that kind.

Yyyyyeah. It’s been a busy time around here.

The good news is, Night Parade is done and turned in on time (a day ahead, even!), The Mask of Mirrors is copy-edited, and Tachyon gave me until early May to handle the proofs for Driftwood, because I think the Look of Utter Panic I got when those were sent to me a couple of weeks ago was visible even in email. And we’re all healthy here.

We’ve been weathering lockdown fairly well. I work from home anyway, and so does my husband more days than not; my sister (who lives with us) does not, but she used to, so on a domestic level this is a familiar routine. The big changes for me are that I can’t go to the dojo, and I can’t have in-person gaming. Both of which I miss rather acutely, but I’m not among the people who have had to figure out how to do their job from home while also wrangling kids doing distance learning, etc. We’ve figured out how to make online gaming work about as well as it can — the trick is to reboot our Discord video call every 40 minutes or so, as soon as it starts to get choppy — and over the winter I purchased a folding exercise bike that’s put about 500 miles on the odometer in the last two months, as all three members of our household have been making use of it. I’ve also been doing a lot of online teaching, fitting the already-existing theme of 2020 being the year I teach a lot more than I have lately. I did four of Clarion West’s free one-hour workshops, on a variety of worldbuilding themes, and there’s a plan in progress for a six-hour workshop in the near future — that being another thing that got delayed until early May so my brains wouldn’t liquify and pour out my nose. And I’m working for the Kelly Yang Project, teaching creative writing to a kid in Hong Kong.

Free time? What’s that?

In all seriousness, I have also been giving myself a break with some entertainment. Not a whole lot of reading, simply because my brain’s reaction to text on a page is NO NO MAKE IT GO AWAY, but TV shows, video games, and (most unexpectedly) opera, because the Met has been making one opera available for free every night for weeks now. Maybe look for some posts on those in the upcoming days, as I regenerate my ability to word.

Right now, though, I’m doing my best to take a break.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 7

I am really, really glad we are getting some distance into Book Two before Book One goes in the can.

We went into this series with a (for me) remarkably detailed idea of where the story was going in the long term. But even with that . . . stuff keeps cropping up. Bits and pieces where we say, hmmm, we have to figure that out — and then what we figure out really ought to be reflected in the previous volume. Or we change our minds on a thing because it will serve our later purposes better to do it this way instead of that way, and isn’t it a good thing we still have the option of revising?

That happened in two places this chapter, one a matter of organizational structure for a group in the story, the other a matter of metaphysics. Sadly, we won’t be able to write the entire second book before we have to ship the first one off into the maw of production, but the further we get, the better. We can still make changes even into the copy-edit phase, though it gets more annoying at that point.

As for the chapter itself . . . we’ve been so busy juggling various balls of plot and such (not to mention the interruptions of day jobs and travel) that our rough draft has been feeling rougher than normal. But we had a marathon day of writing yesterday, and I think that had really good results for us packing in something more like our usual density of description, characterization, banter, and interweaving of plots. Everything this chapter was focused on V in one way or another, which gives it a nice feeling of coherence — that’s something we try to aim for, though obviously not every chapter can have that kind of through-line. (Not without feeling totally artificial in its structure, anyway.)

Poor characters, though. Starting next chapter, we’ll be heading into the moments where all the problems between them bare their fangs and bite down. It’s still going to be interleaved with fun things — capers, trickery, dancing, naptime, small fuzzy animals — but shit’s gonna get worse for a while before it gets better.

Word count: ~50,000
Authorial sadism: The whole chapter? It’s basically “let’s dump problems on this character’s head, whee!” But the “I didn’t know” moment in particular is gonna come back to bite him later.
Authorial amusement: “Will you stop that?” (Brought to you by us noticing we’d done a certain thing, like, three times — so R— might as well notice it, too.) Also, the line about justice being revenge in formal dress.
BLR quotient: I guess when the chapter is a survey of various conflicts, I gotta call it for blood.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 6

Welcome to Plot Tetris!

I’ve talked before about how it isn’t enough for a scene to just do an interesting character thing, or a plot beat, or whatever. It has to do multiple things at once. In the case of this series, where we have so many interlacing layers of story, we’re constantly having to keep an eye on the pace at which those get measured out, and make sure nothing gets dropped for too long or given insufficient time to develop. (There’s a whiteboard. It’s color-coded. As is our outline spreadsheet.)

Which led to some serious “bang our heads against the wall” time with this chapter. We needed a scene from the viewpoint of a character who’s been neglected, because otherwise her corner of the story risks falling out of the novel entirely — okay. But what should that scene do? It needs to involve these other characters; fine. We could even figure out some character beats for it. But see above re: that’s not enough; we had to figure out a plot thing for it to be doing, too. And we went about nine rounds before we managed to settle on something that works, in terms of furthering something that needs to be furthered right now, while also fitting that specific group of people.

This whole part of the book is going to be like that. At this point we’ve got something approaching a nearly-complete outline for the next four chapters, but it involved a metric crap-ton of rearranging, pushing back stuff we expected to happen earlier, checking where we stood on pov scenes for various characters, and figuring out which beats we need to show vs. being able to mention them happening offstage. All of which is before we get into details like “giant end-of-part caper, how???” But those are chapters away, and we can worry about them when we get there.

Or, y’know, after. One of the scenes in this chapter needs rewriting, because we changed our minds about the metaphysical thing going on in it — for the better, I think, since it made my brain light up in a way the previous version hadn’t — and it’s not the only scene we’re going to backtrack to eventually. More or less inevitable, when you’re juggling this many balls; sometimes you don’t quite have a feel for what needs to happen until you’ve got more of what comes later pinned down. Or you just don’t know how much attention you can devote to it, wordcount-wise. As great as it is to nail a scene on the first try, that doesn’t always happen. But that’s what revision is for.

Word count: ~42,000
Authorial sadism: Ethnic Impostor Syndrome ahoy, and also seeing what it would have looked like had someone been there for you.
Authorial amusement: Wow, we entertained ourselves with food this chapter, both good and bad. Raw mussels, coffee, a coded reference to buffalo wings, and one of our characters is totally going to invent mac and cheese.
BLR quotient: Lots of rhetoric, which is part of why it’s such a snarl to sort through. But I’d be lying if I said the impending love in the final scene isn’t, like, half the reason we showed up for this book.

Rook and Rose Book 2, Chapter 5

With this, Part One is complete, and the plot has taken center stage at last!

I mean, it’s been present before this. But in a strand here, a strand there; this is the first time the reader gets a good look at the overall shape of it, and how those strands are all going to tangle together throughout this book. Complete with the entrance of a major new character, and some new metaphysical stuff, and you didn’t think we’d spend this book just playing around with our existing toys, did you?

Admittedly, we’re almost forty thousand words into the book. But this is the balancing act of writing intrigue: you can’t present the reader up-front with the problem and the people involved in it; you have to dole that out a few bites at a time. Hopefully in a way that makes the opening courses tasty in their own right, before the main dish arrives. Except that it turns out the opening courses were part of the main dish, so this metaphor doesn’t really work.

Anyway, now we move into Part Two, where both the intrigue and the ridiculous character things we’ve been looking forward to for ages really get rolling. 😀 There will, for the record, be five parts in total — so we’re about 20% done with the draft.

Word count: ~36,000
Authorial sadism: Welcome to your PTSD, R–!
Authorial amusement: “The [redacted] was innocent. Unlike its master.”
BLR quotient: Whole lotta rhetoric, of the sooper sekrit sort. But before that, some very nice love, of several different sorts.

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.

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).

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.

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.)