New job! New drafts! New projects!

Everything is NEW this month! Last month was all about panicking as the job hunt continued to be fruitless. Then I happened to walk into a French bakery and café almost two weeks ago. It had such a snug, welcoming atmosphere that I could see myself being a part of. On impulse, I asked if they were hiring. An email and an interview later, I had my first shift less than a week after I set foot in the bakery for the first time.

Now, I have a steady job. The panic has died out. I’m making food and money, and I get to practice my French. If I could stop accidentally echoing my boss’s French accent even after I leave the bakery, that would be great.

But the job isn’t the only thing that’s NEW! Following some feedback from beta readers, the next draft of The Thieves of Traska is in production. There are many little things to change, and then new sections to write, and then the entire division of chapters needs to change. It sounds like an exhausting amount of work, but I am excited.

What’s getting me even more excited is the new first draft of the second installment in the series: The Raiders of VaskegonI started and restarted this one about eight times now. As the story progresses, I find little gaps in Thieves to fill in. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I’m eager to keep exploring all these new questions I have to answer. It’s why I wanted to have at least a first draft of all three books before the first one is even close to publication.

And finally, the NEW projects. Two of them. One is a Western narrative inspired by an undergraduate project from a few years ago. Depending on how well it goes, it may be a good length to publish as a serial right here on my blog. If not, maybe it just sits on my computer for all eternity.

The second new project: another YA fantasy series. My crazy brain decided shortly after I got the job at the bakery: screw it, we’re writing another series. And this one’s going to have maybe 10 books in it. Why not?

Within a day or two of that thought, I had my premise figured out. I shared a glimpse of the opening on Instagram. The response was positive enough that I decided to continue with it. It still doesn’t have a working title, but that’s okay. At least I finally found a place for a character name I’ve been dying to use for over a year.

So it’s April. Everything is NEW. And, because I now have the song stuck in my head, everything is also awesome.

Review: The Wolf Wilder

While checking out some new releases at B&N, The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell caught my eye in the young adult section. It promised the adventure of a young Russian girl named Feo who, along with her mother, teaches the domesticated wolves forsaken by wealthy owners how to be wild again. Had the story not gotten distracted by a minor revolution in St. Petersburg, it would have been absolutely wonderful.

My Goodreads rating: 3/5 stars. Image source

Feo’s world is thrown into chaos when a cruel general in the Russian Army sets her home on fire and unjustly arrests her mother. With the help of Ilya — a reluctant, barely-teenaged soldier in the Russian Army who would rather be a dancer — and a handful of loyal wolves, Feo sets out to free her mother from prison. Despite Feo’s ignorance of normal social skills, the two quickly become friends. In fact, Feo’s blunt and whimsical statements make her incredibly endearing and entertaining. Seeing men whose beards seem to take up whole rooms and might house an entire family of mice lets us laugh at the little absurdities and forget, for just a moment, that a darker force is at work.

Sadly, that darker force isn’t all that impressive in person. The general is hardly more than a shallow evil-doing maniac with a scary name and madness as the only reason behind his actions. However, his off-stage presence — the way villagers shiver at the mention of his name, the charred skeletons of homes, and the potent mixture of fear and hatred he leaves behind — makes him frightening. It’s too bad the shadow outshines the man who casts it.

Perhaps that’s what made the final confrontation between Feo and the general disappointing. Young readers are saved from what might have been the most graphically violent yet satisfying scene in the whole book, but it didn’t get the focus it deserved. All along, we’ve been cheering Feo on as she goes after her mother and collects a long list of reasons to seek revenge. But her sudden transformation into a child revolutionary — and the leader of a small gang of other children who wish to fight the Russian Army — took us down the wrong path. Maybe if we’d spent more time on Feo’s growing interest in the revolution it would have worked.

Despite it’s unfortunate shortcomings, The Wolf Wilder remains a charming and enjoyable read. It’s hard to not get caught up in the wonder of riding on the back of a wolf across the snowy Russian countryside.

The Thieves of Traska . . . Two Years Later

Facebook has an On This Day feature that lets you see your posts from however many years back. I don’t share any of mine, but I take a look every once in a while just to see where I was a year or two ago. As it turns out, today marks the two-year anniversary of my work on The Thieves of Traska. It’s incredible to think that it’s only been two years and I’m already on the third (or fourth; I’m weird about numbering my drafts) draft. For other novel projects, it’s taken me up to five years to get to this point.

To celebrate, I wanted to share with you all one of my favorite scenes. There are several reasons why I love this part, most of which have to do with Claire’s development. Up until this point, Claire has only had one person on her side. She’s been working hard to prove her usefulness so she can belong to something bigger than herself. By officially joining the Coterie (a network of spies and thieves led by Countess Mackinley Magorian), Claire is starting to loosen her grip on her past.

On a personal note, it’s times like this — when I start a new job or join a team — that I look inward and compare the person I am with the person I want to be. That’s the time when I try to let go of what’s holding me back from the ideal me. So without further ado, I present this excerpt:


 

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© Amanda Surowitz and Switzy Thoughts, 2010-15.

The Countess waited in the middle of the stairs leading down from the terrace. Miles led the procession forward and stopped them at the edge. One by one, he nudged the initiates down the stairs where the Countess took their newly marked hands and passed them down to the mass of black figures. Claire gasped in surprise and pain when the Countess pressed her thumb lightly into the raw skin bearing the mark.

When they’d all been engulfed by the crowd, the Countess ascended the stairs and surveyed her audience with cool assessment.

“Welcome to the Coterie,” Dusty whispered in Claire’s ear. “Ghost.

“Watch over your new brothers and sisters as they will watch over you,” the Countess said. “As always, we face a greater challenge than those who would see us relinquish our hold on the city; it’s far easier to seize power than it is to keep hold of it. It is through your hard work that this power remains and shall remain with us, despite the efforts of our enemies.

“Even now, they move against us, tempting some of our unmarked friends to turn against us. You are the ones who must keep them on the right path. Without you, there is no us, and without us, there is chaos.”

All around, people bowed their heads and fisted their marked hands over their hearts. Claire followed suit, though her hand throbbed. She peeked up at the terrace, but the Countess was already gone. As if some quiet signal had been given, the crowd suddenly dispersed. Claire lingered, shivering in the autumn night air as the comforting warmth of so many bodies deserted the garden.

She was one of them now. That meant she could depend on every one of those robed figures to stand between her and Reed, didn’t it? The chill creeping down her spine had nothing to do with the cold.


The above excerpt is from a draft and is subject to change. No part of it may be copied or reproduced without written permission. © Amanda Surowitz and Switzy Thoughts, 2010-15.