Lieutenant Colonel Nik Zhukov is just like any other desensitized seventeen-year-old living in the year 2076. At least he likes to think he is when he isn’t busy eliminating threats to national security, breaking up terrorist organizations, and trying not to get blown up. It’s all in a normal day’s work for one of the military’s top dogs, and he’s never disappointed. Never failed. Never lost sight of his dream of making it to the elite force, even as each new job forces him to see just how morally corrupt his leaders are.
On the verge of promotion, Nik is dispatched to the underground city beneath the icy Seattle tundra, his final mission handed down directly from The Council. It should have been a simple in-and-out, but the underground is full of dark secrets and he soon finds himself swept into battles, lying to his best friend back east, and growing a bit too close to the rebels he was sent to spy on.
Nik realizes too late that he’s broken the number one rule within his ranks; he’s allowed himself to feel normal for the first time in his life. He might be able to turn the job around, become the soldier he was once was, except for his growing attachment to the rebel leader. A guy. Yet another first for Nik. It’s a mistake he pays for dearly when he learns The Council’s true intentions for the city.
It’s never ‘just harmless fun’ when you’re a government dog, not when The Council holds the leash. Nik knows there are some lines you can never come back from crossing, and he’s forced to choose whose rules to play by. He races toward the invisible divide, aware he’ll be called traitor by both his nation and by his friends. Aware that even the right choice can be deadly to make.
Add Zhukov’s Dogs to your Goodreads ‘to-be-read’ list.
Hello everyone! It’s a pleasure to be here, and I’d like to thank Heather for having me! My name’s Amanda Cyr and my debut novel, Zhukov’s Dogs, just dropped a few days ago. Those 80,000 words were held together by three years of love, tears of exhaustion, spite, and an expensive hair product or five. There’s a new manuscript in my life now – a sci-fi trilogy packed with monster – but Zhukov’s Dogs is still so fresh in my mind!
You know that box of memories you keep under your bed? The one with the used candles, birthday cards, enough stolen utensils to outfit a dinner party, and other worthless knickknacks you’ll never tell anyone the full story behind? Well, for years now, I’ve been creating similar boxes every time I start working on a new story. They’re mental boxes, but we’re all a bit mental, so I don’t see the harm in that. Plus, keeping a mental archive helps with saving space under the bed, not that there’s a mattress big enough to hide the dozens of abandoned, half-empty boxes that have piled up over the years.
When Zhukov’s Dogs came out on Monday, I was finally able to put a lid on one of those boxes. Safely stored inside are all of the joys, failures, and whatnots that manuscript and I encountered from its conception to debut—eye-opening writers conferences, first-time pitching blunders, loud arguments with Russians over pronunciation and the vodka that followed, and so forth. Today I’d like to share a few of those keepsakes with you in the hopes that aspiring authors can enjoy a glimpse at the epic sort of adventures to come, and so that veteran authors can reminisce on how different (or similar!) our first steps, stumbles, and faceplants into the publishing world were.
1. The Beginning: “Hmm, well, I guess that’s a good thing since you’re pretty terrible at writing.”
I mentioned before that Zhukov’s Dogs was partially born from spite, and anyone who enjoys my debut novel can thank a certain English professor at Seattle University. Now, let me preface this next part by saying that, to date, I have no idea what I did to upset this professor, but from Day 1, they constantly picked at me with snide remarks and wildly unconstructive criticism.
This professor, who shall remain nameless, scheduled meetings with students throughout the quarter to discuss major assignments. During one of our sit downs – long after I’d given up on making this professor happy and decided to “polite smile” my way through the class – they asked about my major. I explained that I was planning to enroll in the university’s Pre-Law program, to which the professor replied, “Hmm, well, I guess that’s a good thing since you’re pretty terrible at writing.”
You always hear about the gray skies in Seattle, but let me tell you, dear readers, there was a day in November not too long ago when everything turned red. As it turns out, there’s no better motivator for someone who’s been writing on a bootleg computer for seven years than telling them that they’re a terrible writer—especially when that someone loves putting a bully in their place and has “Publish a Novel” scrawled across the top of her Bucket List.
2. The Hard Sell: A wild Agent appears! Amanda uses Internal Scream… But it misses! Agent uses Head Tilt… It’s super effective! Amanda is paralyzed!
Terrifying. That’s the only way to describe my first encounter with an agent.
Public speaking and I have been on good terms for a while now, and I’m not shy when it comes to making new acquaintances, but walking into the PNWA Summer Conference blasted me back to my socially inept middle school days.
“Agents are people, don’t be scared of us,” I vaguely remember one of them joking during the meet-and-greet panel packed with hundreds of people who – just like me – were wringing sweat out of the so-far-from-perfect-what-am-i-even-doing-here pitch notecards.
Year One was a bust for me and Zhukov’s Dogs in terms of offers, but I learned tons and grew exponentially over the course of three days, and I encourage anyone serious about writing to attend a local conference; if not for pitching, then for the experience!
I have to thank a certain individual (then-stranger, now-BFF) for helping me overcome my irrational fear of agents. If she hadn’t shoved me out of line and crashing into an agent, I would’ve never gained the confidence to pitch to 16 agents that year or returned for Year Two’s conference—where my subtle agent-passing skills led me and my manuscript to Kimberley Cameron at the Kimberley Cameron & Associates Literary Agency.
3. The Verdict: Write drunk. Edit hungover. Eat brunch sober.
As my friends and I were still in college during the drafting and revision phases of Zhukov’s Dogs, distractions were plentiful, and I occasionally/shamelessly used parties as a guise for sourcing community feedback. Unfortunately, this would lead to creative binges my vision, mind, and fingers weren’t always the best at dealing with. Fortunately, the ideas were all still there – albeit misspelled – when I rolled out of bed the following morning and legible before it was time to trek up to Capitol Hill for brunch. It could just be me, but I found this cycle very effective. Terrible for a liver, but very effective.
I hope this glimpse into my keepsake box for Zhukov’s Dogs makes you wonder what sort of unusual novel could’ve spawned out of such peculiarities, thereby making you want to rush out and buy a copy. If nothing else, though, I hope I’ve at least made you think about what you’d put in your story’s keepsake box!
Amanda Cyr is a tea-loving freelance journalist, viral content curator, and debut novelist. She studied creative writing at Seattle University, where she developed all sorts of opinions before becoming a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. She is currently represented by Kimberley Cameron of the Kimberley Cameron & Associates Literary Agency.
Growing up, Amanda moved around a lot. She began writing to make the transitions easier and make up for her lack of friends in middle school. An awesome professor in Medford, Oregon tried to convince her to pursue writing professionally, but Amanda was deadest on a law career. It wasn’t until an unpleasant professor in Seattle, Washington told her she was a terrible writer that Amanda really committed to the idea of getting published, mostly just to spite her professor.
When Amanda’s not hunched over a laptop she enjoys sleeping, video games, Netflix binges, and wrestling with her two polar bear dogs. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she spends her days hissing at the sun and missing Seattle. Her least favorite things include the mispronunciation of her name, screaming children, and California.
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