#IWSG – Sneaky Surprises

Created  and hosted by the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh, theInsecure Writer’s Support Groupmonthly blog post is here again – and so am I, insecure or maybe just guilty.

Guilty as my writing in July continued to be minimal: a few book reviews and the first draft for my August #WEP/IWSG CHALLENGE – due a fortnight (two weeks) today. Meanwhile, Sparkle Anwyl has taken a holiday in my head. And I’m still wading through a backlog of emails that fills up like sand.  Or is it my gaming distractions or my health?   

Rabbit holes – like researching hashtags that describe me: #IWSG #WEP/IWSG #crimefiction #ubisoftgames #assassinscreed #gamer #bookworm #goodreads #MS. Those were for #PWPoePrompts.

My biggest concern is my entry for the 2019 Annual IWSG Anthology Contest. I’ve done most of the research, but some key bits are missing. I’ve outlined my story but I’ve yet to finish the first draft. Finally, I fear I need more than beta readers that know MG. The deadline looms – September 4th. Panic is setting in.

Beta readers. I keep losing them. I even need some to help get ‘Azure Spark’ ready for pro-editing. Are my own critiques frightening writers/readers away?

The brutal truth. Can anyone help me, please?

Anyway, on to the IWSG monthly question.

August 7 question – Has your writing ever taken you by surprise? For example, a positive and belated response to a submission you’d forgotten about or an ending you never saw coming?

I can’t claim any ‘industry’ surprises. But that’s not surprising given my lack of productivity. A few expected rejections, a few years ago. One hoped for acceptance – my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves. But unsurprising low sales and mixed reviews.

However, there was one surprise while writing Spiral of Hooves – the identity of the antagonist. S/he changed as I edited the early drafts and focused the story – as did her/his motive.

In one of my current WIPs, part of the Snowdon Shadows series, one of my favourite characters became an unexpected victim – but with a twist. Where did that come from?

There must be a devious person at work in my mind. Who is it? Why did I create a link back to my unrelated debut? A character in the WIP series appeared after playing a minor role in Spiral of Hooves. Who was more surprised? Me or Sparkle?

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The awesome co-hosts for the August 7 posting of the IWSG are Renee Scattergood, Sadira Stone, Jacqui Murray, Tamara Narayan, and LG Keltner!

(I so admire these guys as I know they have commitments too. Ticker-tape applause.)

Purpose of IWSG: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

The Wolf Wilder – a review

Once again, I’m catching up with my book reviews – by not reading but writing. And I’m still ahead in my 2019 Goodreads Challenge– 22 books read from my target of 35 with a few part-finished books in the read-line. Whether I can stay ahead depends on my ability to write. After this, I’ll only be three book reviews behind – if I ignore the backlog from 2018 and earlier.

Anyway, on to the Thursday Creation Review for today – a novel that was a change for me. It’s been a while since I read a Middle Grade book, but research for the IWSG Anthology competition led me here.

And I’m ecstatic.

The Wolf Wilder

by Katherine Rundell

Feodora and her mother live in the snowbound woods of Russia, in a house full of food and fireplaces. Ten minutes away, in a ruined chapel, lives a pack of wolves. Feodora’s mother is a wolf wilder, and Feo is a wolf wilder in training. A wolf wilder is the opposite of an animal tamer: it is a person who teaches tamed animals to fend for themselves, and to fight and to run, and to be wary of humans.

When the murderous hostility of the Russian Army threatens her very existence, Feo is left with no option but to go on the run. What follows is a story of revolution and adventure, about standing up for the things you love and fighting back. And, of course, wolves.

Review 5 stars

This was magical. A story that resonated with me – wolves, Russia, revolution, adventure, and the wolves. Plus, prose that was masterful.

12-year-old Feo Petrovna and her mother, Marina, live in the snowbound Russian woods with a pack of wolves nearby. A pack of wolves that were once aristocrats’ tamed pets. But wolf wilder Marina, with Feo’s help, has helped the creatures discover how to be wolves. They all bear the scars – human and wolf –  but these make them stronger and more prepared to face what is coming.

“Wolves, like children, are not meant to lead calm lives.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

This is 1917 and revolution is coming. It arrives in their lives, and Marina is arrested by the local commanding officer Rakov. Dislikeable from the moment he appears and exerts his twisted authority, he becomes Feo’s foe as she attempts to save her mother – and the wolves.

In her attempt, she is aided by the pack, who are complex and formidable characters – and tragic. Each has distinctive appearances and traits. Katherine Rundell excels not only in portraying multi-dimensional people in clear language but also creatures that are mysterious and faithful – faithful to the pack and those like Feo they trust.

Feo’s escape with the wolves gains an unexpected ally – Ilya, a 13-year-old soldier boy. A reason to be wary, but Feo can sense his true nature – a skill she must have learnt as a wolf wilder-in-training. But are the wolves so trusting?

“Wolves are the witches of the animal world.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

Will the children and wolves survive to save Marina before Rakov can execute her in the face of the revolution aimed at him?

I couldn’t stop reading the beautiful words of this unfolding story. I knew the history, but that was just a setting like the woods and weather, so lives were still at risk. The escape only set up more – more encounters, more conflict, more character, and a climax which ties everything together.

The opening and the ending are beautiful bookends – crafted to perfection. This is a true ‘once upon a time’ about ‘a dark and stormy girl’.

Wolf wilders may be a fiction, yet they are rooted in fact and in places might exist. Feo’s family feel real so that’s what matters.

Another enjoyable read – suitably illustrated by Gelrev Ongbico – and highly recommended for anyone who likes entertaining historical fiction with strong MG protagonists.

“Stories can start revolutions.” 

Katherine Rundell, The Wolf Wilder

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Authenticity – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars