Hello, friends! I’m very pleased to announce that I have finally finished the fourth draft of The Thieves of Traska! And that means we’re ready for the next step: beta readers!
When I first announced the project a couple years ago, I said it would be a novella. Now — at a whopping 52,580 words — it stands to be the first installment in a trilogy. It is also the longest piece of fiction I’ve ever written and the only one I’m prepared to show to a test audience.
Honestly, it’s scary. It’s like critique day in class all over again, but the stakes feel much higher. I’m not asking for feedback on a 10-page short story that I can edit in an hour or so. I’m asking for feedback on a 186-page novel that is supposed to launch my dream career as an author. So no pressure, right?
Even so, I come to you, my friends, to recruit some beta readers. I need volunteers willing to read the whole novel and give me your feedback. Whatever format you need — Word doc, PDF, Google doc, printed copy, etc. — I will gladly send it. And then I will forget about it for six weeks while you read and come back to it with fresh eyes.
If you’re interested in reading this fantasy adventure about a runaway and a fugitive getting swept into a dangerous game of intrigue between the shady criminal leagues who control the city of Traska, let me know! Comment here, email me at amanda (at) ajswitz (dot) com, or reach out on social media.
If you already volunteered before I finished writing, then keep an eye out for a message from me. Thank you all in advance and I greatly look forward to hearing from you.
As I mentioned earlier this week, I wrote a brief scene in The Thieves of Traska that has me conflicted. While writing it, I didn’t go into too much detail because the action and violence wasn’t the focus. But that little editor voice we all have in our heads won’t let me proceed until I figure out whether it reads like it should, or like the writer downed too much coffee too late in the day and just blazed through before bed. And it also shouldn’t read like I’m putting Claire through the wringer just to win some sympathy points.
That’s where you all come in! Please read through the scene and leave a comment!
A shadow moved through the light seeping through the cracks around the door, and before Claire could reach for it, the door swung open. With his arms crossed, the muscles built by years of hard labor bulging ominously, Reed filled the doorway. His lips were pressed together in a thin line, his face almost as red as his hair.
A lump formed in her throat. Had she really hoped he wouldn’t already know what she’d done? Stupid. Reed always knew what she was up to.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
Cold fear trickled down her spine. She almost wished she was back in the windowless cell. “I came home.” She winced inwardly; she sounded weak even in her own ears.
“You think I’d let a lying thief sleep under my roof?” He crossed the distance between them in three strides and took her by the shoulders, shaking her. “Do you?” She shook her head mutely. She knew where she’d be sleeping tonight. “Filth like you belongs in a gutter.”
She closed her eyes when he drew his hand back. She felt each stinging blow, felt the blood on her face, and eventually the cold ground under her cheek. One eye cracked open, searching for Reed’s blurred outline in the darkness. He was there, one hand around her ankle as he dragged her to a nearby tree. Without a word, he propped her up against it and tied her hands on the other side of the trunk. It was always the same whenever he caught her stealing; he’d make her return whatever it was, then she spent the night tied to this tree. In the morning, she’d go back to work in the fields.
She rested her head against the tree, clarity slowly returning. “Reed,” she croaked. “What happened with Garrison?” Silence stretched on so long, she thought he’d already gone inside. Then she heard his voice right in her ear.
“I told you he was arrested.” He paused. “Did you see him while you were in jail?” She nodded weakly, wincing at the bark grating her face. “I would have thought they’d hanged him already.”
“Tomorrow,” she said. “The jailor said he’d hang tomorrow morning.”
“Good. There’s a rope for every mangy thief in the world. I’m glad he’s found his. And if you ever try stealing anything ever again, I’ll put the rope around your neck myself.”
She heard quiet footsteps and sighed in relief that he was leaving. Darkness was starting to drag her under, and she welcomed it. Rest called to her, and not even the pained cries and sounds of fighting nearby would keep her from it.
The giveaway has ended, and I’m happy to announce that Hannah Jones is the winner of the prize package! And since the giveaway only got 89 entries, that means there is a second-place winner. That is Meagan Corrado! She is going to get three customized Molskine journals, featuring some of the characters from The Thieves of Traska.
Thank you to everyone who entered! For those of you who didn’t win, don’t worry. I’m already planning the next giveaway and assembling the prizes.
In the meantime, thanks again to everyone who participated and to all my readers!
Have you entered my giveaway yet? If not, don’t panic! There’s still plenty of time. For those of you who have entered, I have two things to say to you. 1) I’m blown away by the amount of entries already. Truth be told, I expected maybe 25 total by the deadline, but it’s more than double that. Thank you so much! 2) Please don’t be a party pooper and click that you commented on the giveaway post when you really didn’t. I and the rest of the world can see who actually commented and whose pants are on fire.
On to the excerpt! Some of you had a chance to read the previous excerpt long before I posted it, so here’s something new to the second draft!
Claire chewed her lip. She was in enough trouble as it was; did she really want to dig herself a deeper hole by breaking out of jail? When Garrison started coughing again, she revised her question: Did she want to let him die even if Reed wasn’t responsible?
“What do I need to do?”
In hushed tones, he instructed her to pull two thin strips of wood from the walls and break them into short, sturdy lengths. Her hands shook the entire time. She slid her hands back through the bars and inserted her makeshift picks into the lock on the other side. Garrison kept quiet while she worked, allowing her to focus.
She held her breath, making slight adjustments with every sound at her fingertips. Her arms ached as she worked, growing heavier as the candle burned lower and lower. Sweat gathered at her scalp. She pressed her face against the bars, thankful for the cool metal. The refreshing chill it sent down her spine crept into her fingers, revitalizing their deftness.
A satisfying click and the lock gave.
“Sounds like a job well done,” Garrison said cheerfully.
“Not quite,” she whispered back. She withdrew the picks and pushed on the door gently, a thrill of excitement going through her as it opened. Pulling it shut again, she put as much misery in her voice as she could muster and called out to the guards. “Do you have any more water in there?”
Some grumbling came from the next room before the door swung open again. It remained open, as it had before, the sudden light painful to her eyes. When the familiar outline appeared in the doorway, she looked past it to the other guard. At least there were only two.
Alright folks, the time has come to enter my first ever giveaway! What’s the occasion, you ask? Well, The Thieves of Traska has left the initial drafting phase and is now being edited/rewritten into a second draft. I started writing it seven months ago, making this the fastest first draft I’ve ever turned out.
Need a refresher on the fabulous prizes one lucky person is going to win? You’ll get five one of a kind hand-painted bookmarks, a leather-bound notebook, one brass wax seal, one stick of sealing wax, and one canvas tote bag!
The entry period starts today and ends on April 19. I will announce the winner the following Monday! Once a winner has been selected, I will need a valid shipping address. Not a U.S. resident? Not a problem! Wherever you are in the world, I will ship it.
Good luck everyone! And remember, there are two entry options you can complete once each day the giveaway is live. I look forward to seeing who the winner is!
As I promised last week, I’m ready to unveil the prizes for my first ever giveaway!
The full list of prizes includes a few things not shown above:
Five handmade bookmarks (with surprise illustrations on the opposite sides!)
One leather-bound notebook with unlined parchment paper pages
One brass wax seal (with letter of the winner’s choice)
One stick of sealing wax (color is winner’s choice)
One Thieves of Traska canvas tote bag
Pretty snazzy, right? The wax sticks and the seals shown are my own, simply there for illustrative purposes. Once I have a winner, I will email the person to get their choice of wax color and letter seal.
As for the surprise parts of this, I couldn’t resist. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve already seen the fronts of those bookmarks. But what’s on the backs? And what does the bag look like? My dear reader, you will just have to wait for a winner.
I tried to come up with somewhat practical prizes (things that can be used over a period of time, not just occupy space and look pretty). The giveaway itself will go live two weeks from today. Stay tuned!
Author Ava Easterby (pen name Jordanna East) is no stranger to my blog. Last time I interviewed her, she talked about her less-than-ideal job working at a bookstore. Now, she’s here to talk about Blood in the Paint, her new book coming out later this year. And as someone who has already read it, I highly recommend it! (And, if you’re a book reviewer, consider getting your own ARC!)
Amanda Surowitz: My first question for you is why is Blood in the Paint coming out in winter?! Why not sooner?
Jordanna East: I am the biggest perfectionist I know. Simply put. That’s why Blood in the Paint didn’t come out sooner. I actually wrote Paint before Blood in the Past. It was finished last summer, but I took some time off to work on a totally new series before getting back to work on Paint. I read through it dozens of times, tweaking and adding, before I gave it to the beta reader team. When I got it back, I was at it again, tweaking and adding, before it went to my editor. When she sent it back, I took so long–you guessed it, tweaking and adding–that she emailed me to ask if everything was alright! I have a few more steps to go through (my proofreader and formatter), but hopefully it will be the best possible work I could put out there. That’s my promise to my readers.
AS: How’s it feeling to have your second book coming out this year?
JE: Putting out a second book has been entirely terrifying. What? Was that not the response you expected? Haha. My first release, Blood in the Past, did better than I expected. It wasn’t a mainstream bestseller, but it reached the top ten within several Amazon categories more than once. I read somewhere that very few books sell more than 100 copies, whether traditionally or independently published. I’ve been fortunate enough to have surpassed that by quite a bit, without counting free downloads which number in the tens of thousands.
So why am I terrified? Because what if my next release doesn’t live up to the minor hype my first book created? What if my earlier success was just a fluke and in reality, I suck at writing? These are the types of questions I grapple with on a daily basis and they often impede my productivity. Now that I’m inching closer to Blood in the Paint’s release day however, I’m finally starting to feel less scared for my life and more excited for my future. I’m reveling in it for the moment, since I have to begin outlining the next book in the series soon.
AS: Do you have a working title for the next one? And how many books are you planning for this series?
JE: It’s funny you should ask about working titles. When I first started writing the series, the working title was simply “Lyla Kyle.” But when I decided to break it up into the prequel novella and the first novel, I renamed them Blood in the Past and Blood in the Paint, respectively, to differentiate them, expecting to change them later. After a while, the titles grew on me and I kept them permanently. The next novel in the series is tentatively entitled Blood in the Paper, in keeping with the theme of the previous books. Since that novel is only in the outline stages, I can’t say for sure if I’m going to keep that title, too, but you never know, it could turn out like the working titles before it!
As of right now, there will be three full-length books in the series following the prequel.
AS:Blood in the Paper sounds intriguing–and considering all the surprises in Blood in the Past, I don’t know what to expect. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to throw your readers a hint or two? Haha
JE: About Blood in the Paper? Hmm. It’s in its infant stages still, but I can tell readers that my characters will continue to be tested. Brighthouse’s ambition and credibility will be called into question, as will Lyla’s guilt. Why you ask? Because I introduce a new character whose obsessions are perhaps the most twisted to date.
AS: Oh gosh, I don’t know if I could handle that! Your twists are amazing and agonizing (in the best way haha).
JE: Haha, I try very hard to make them that way and I hope my readers enjoy all the dark paths I lead them down.
AS: I’m sure they will. Is there anything else you want to say about Blood in the Paint?
JE: I would just like to remind my readers that Blood in the Paint can be read as a stand alone novel, but I do recommend reading Blood in the Past as well to become familiar with the nuances of the characters’ backstories. Other than that, I hope everyone enjoys my new release and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks!