Quick Update: The Lord’s Tale (working title?), Puck’s Call

fantasy butterflies forest
From Pixabay

It’s been a very busy time for our family. However, I have some time to post an update on my works-in-progress, so I will.

First, I switched projects. Pre-COVID I was working on Puck’s Call. After COVID, I decided to go back to the world of Trial of the Ornic and finish the third part of the second volume.

I finally finished the third part of what I’ve been calling The Lord’s Tale last month. I’m fairly pleased with the general shape of the story. There are issues that need to be fixed, and I need to make sure this third part flows well with the parts that came before it, but I think it’s good. And I’m glad the whole second volume of Trial of the Ornic is now written.

I’m thinking of changing the title, though. Thoughts?

While that cools off, I’m back to working on Puck’s Call. It’s flowing a lot better than it was before COVID showed up and I switched projects. Setting is clearer and I got down a really great scene the other day involving the land of Faerie itself. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and wondrous. Makes me happy just thinking about it. It’s one of those scenes that I’m pretty secure in saying will make the final cut.

It’s also a scene that’s helped me define the rest of the story, including the point of the series. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the story ends now!

That’s about it. What about you? Any projects you changed this year? New plans? New direction? Let me know in the comments!

Masks and Shadows by Stephanie Burgis

Please note, clicking on the image above will take you to the Amazon page for this item. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Summary

Set in 1779, Carlo Morelli, a renowned castrato, has been invited to the Eszterháza Palace, to entertain the nobility . He arrives with an alchemist, who also happens to be a respected member of society, and a Prussian spy. Already at the palace, Charlotte von Steinbeck, sister of Prince Nikolai’s mistress, is trying to find her feet while mourning the loss of her husband, all within the bounds set for a a proper lady, such as herself. When two servants are found murdered by what appear to be supernatural forces, both Carlo and Charlotte must see themselves and others for who they are in order to stop a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor and Empress themselves.

Details

  • Publisher: Pyr
  • Publication Date: April 12, 2016
  • Language: English
  • Print Length: 319 pages
  • ISBN-10: 1633881326
  • ISBN-13: 978-1633881327
  • ASIN: B011G4E23E
  • File Size: 1026 KB

Review

I put this book on hold through my local library’s ebook platform almost as soon as I finished Congress of Secrets, which, by the way, is the next book in the series, if this can be called a series. Masks and Shadows came first.

It didn’t disappoint.

Charlotte is the most dutiful widow I think I’ve ever read, and unlike some other dutiful women, she isn’t a hidden firebrand with a snarky tongue. She’s naturally quiet, naturally demure and docile. But there’s strength in her, even and especially in those quiet moments. She also has an enormous passion for music, and its in that passion that we see how deep her love can run for things and people outside herself. Of course, music is only what gives us the glimpse. The rest of the book provides numerous opportunities for Charlotte to shine.

Carlo is intelligent and very tuned to the world around him. He’s also bored by the courts that enticed him when he was younger. Perceptive and with a passion for music that just barely surpasses Charlotte’s, I loved the conflict he feels between the role he feels he must play in order to support himself and the desperate need he has for someone who truly understands him. Watching him and Charlotte slowly fall in love was inspiring.

Though this is a fantasy novel, and magic plays a central role in the story, that’s not the main focus of this book. Music, love, and sweeping emotions play out against the backdrop of dark alchemy and hidden knowledge.

I also have to say that I really enjoyed the setting. I don’t often read fantasy novels set in the 1700s, and I wish there were more of them. Prince Nikolai and his mistress (in reality she was unnamed, but here she’s Charlotte’s sister) come through very clearly, along with many other historical figures of the time.

The subplot with Anna and Hadyn’s troupe caught my attention almost as much as the main plot. I loved the back and forth within the group, the advice Anna gets, the friends she makes. And the way it tied into the main plot was just fantastic.

Though the ending is thrilling and worth every moment spent building up to it, my favorite part was the masked ball. Carlo and Charlotte’s dance, not to mention the costumes they chose, had me squealing with joy.

Overall, a great read. Well worth the time.

Trick, by Natalia Jaster

Please note: clicking the image above will take you to the Amazon sales page for this item. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Also, Trick is currently on sale for $0.99 cents for the next 18 hours. If you love excellent romance in a low-magic fantasy setting, I strongly recommend buying now! Either click the picture above or the link at the end of the review.

 

 

First, a warning for those who love clean romance and read YA because it doesn’t usually have bedroom scenes. This is not a clean romance. However, it is an extremely good one and more than worth reading.

On to the story.

Summary

Briar is a princess of the kingdom of Autumn, a land of perpetual harvest and stability. Poet is the court jester of the kingdom of Spring, a land bursting with life in all its forms. Both hold a secret that drives them. Both wear masks that hide what they truly feel. But Poet’s secret will destroy him and all he loves if it comes out. Briar, driven by the ghosts of her past to be a dutiful princess, tries to find the reason Poet sneaks out of the castle with a dagger in his hand. What she discovers binds her to Poet and his secret, and creates a passsionate forbidden romance.

  • File Size: 4148 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Publication Date: November 8, 2015
  • ASIN: B0175PMU8W

Review

Briar is very believable in her grief and her need to be something she’s really not (i.e. the perfect princess). She’s strong and intelligent, daring in just the right way, and with a wonderful heart that only becomes more wonderful as the story progresses.

Poet…*sigh*

Poet is amazing.

Court jester for the Spring court, to say he’s unconventional is a bit of an understatement. Reading his performances captivated me, which is a very big deal in my mind because a performance is a difficult thing to capture in words. Due to the difference in their stations, there’s a bit of a build up to their meeting, but the attraction is made clear from the start when they see each other, her from her window, him from the courtyard below.

Each interaction afterward is a gradual building of tension until their first dialogue, when he catches her walking the corridors after the welcoming feast and it becomes clear how close and far apart they are.

I fell in love with them as a couple in that moment and devoured the book from that point on.

Their romance is amazing. Full of real issues that aren’t easily solved, these two not only come to understand each other, they work well together. Poet’s description of their lives if they were to be together broke my heart because it was so very true and he saw what was going to destroy them so clearly. Briar’s determination in spite of those odds amazed me. This is one of those rare romances where I love the heroine as much as the hero.

For those who care, there is a love triangle in this story. It’s a believable one and, for me, the first where the rival isn’t another woman. Not only that, the rival was incredibly sweet and kind and I ached for the pain he went through. Very well done.

Poet’s secret was as real and raw as I’d hoped. Like many things in this novel, Jaster doesn’t hold back when it comes to reality. The mental illness referenced is based on real symptoms and she doesn’t keep Poet, as the hero, distant from any of it, in any way. Reading it, my heart swelled with even greater admiration for these two characters. It’s difficult to handle such sensitive topics well, but Jaster did.

The ending is very good and satisfying. Unlike some romances where everyone gets everything they want by the end this book does not make things so easy. This book does have a Happily Ever After, but it’s real, if that makes any sense. More pain than usual is involved. There were characters who deserved to get all they wanted who didn’t. But, for me, that made Poet and Briar’s ending all the more satisfying. For a story called Trick, this book was a heart-warming examination of truth in relationships and ourselves.

It rocked my world and showed me what fantasy romance could be. Highly recommended.

Amazon

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

Please note: clicking the image above will take you to the Amazon sales page for this item. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Summary

Dina Demille runs a quiet bed and breakfast in a quiet Texas town. Anyone looking at her wouldn’t believe that the house is magic, her broom can turn into a weapon (among other things), or that she’s an Innkeeper, sworn to protect her guests and anyone who seeks shelter under her roof. When danger threatens her neighborhood, she must team up with her ex-military, alpha-werewolf, extremely handsome neighbor, Sean Evans, and a deceptively polite, honor-bound vampire, Arland, to fight an enemy even their combined strength might not be able to stop.

Book Info

Version Read: Ebook
Publication Date: December 1, 2013
Publisher: NYLA (December 1, 2013)
Language: English
ASIN: B00H2R11PM
ISBN (Print): 978-1494388584

Review

This book is a lot of fun.

It feels strange, saying that because the book starts off with the effects of a tragic murder and a quiet confrontation between Dina and Sean (who calls her crazy for saying he’s a werewolf). But after that, the dialogue, while never losing its grip on the severity of the stakes, becomes very entertaining, especially between Sean and Dina.

Dina is a strong female character without being particularly sassy or “tough.” I like that. A lot. She’s also very smart and highly accomplished with her magic. Plus, she cares deeply about the surrounding neighborhood and everyone under her care. That came through clear from the first chapter.

Sean was a bit of a puzzlement, at first. But as the story progresses and his backstory unfolds, his actions make a lot of sense.

Arland was the most unique vampire I’ve read in a while. I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t read the book yet. But him and his planet sealed it for me and this series. I love his sense of honor and his approach to telling the truth. Looking forward to seeing more of him in the near future.

This review wouldn’t be complete without a nod to Beast and Dina’s permanent guest, Caldenia. Beast, Dina’s adorable pet, temporarily took away my annoyance at adorable pets in books, while Caldenia not only made me smile but made me actually want to see her as she was in her younger years.

A series with a younger Caldenia would be worth the time for her alone. But I digress.

There is a romance in this series. In this first book, it’s slow-burn and very sweet. It’s clearly secondary to the main plot, but not by much. I very much look forward to seeing what happens with it in the next book.

The worldbuilding is top-notch with a truly worthy enemy. Good plot twists and an exciting ending made this a favorite read. Highly recommended for those who want action, romance, and an entertaining blend of urban fantasy with science fiction.

Congress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis

Congress of SecretsCongress of Secrets by Stephanie Burgis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in a glittering post-Napoleon Vienna, this novel sparkles. Yes, it sparkles! Action-packed and with a wonderful romance at the heart of it, Congress of Secrets also has just enough of the politics of the era to add depth to an intriguing fantasy.

The main characters, Michael and Karolina, have their own goals, but fit so very well together. Michael aims for one last con, one big enough to gain him a secure retirement from a life he didn’t really want to live. Karolina wants to rescue her father, and is willing to descend to almost any depth to do it. Both share a past in Vienna that both want to remember and forget. Watching them was an exercise in patience and frustration that had a wonderful reward at the end that was worth every moment wanting to throttle both of them.

Burgis also includes some of the great figures of the day in this story, such as the cunning French ambassador, Tallyrand and the wonderful Prince de Ligne, my personal favorite. Charming, witty, and with a hidden steel within him, the Prince is also incredibly, surprisingly kind. And I love it when that happens in a story.

Another side character of note, mostly because of his transformation in the course of the story, is the non-historical Peter Riesenbeck, head of a theatrical troupe, and unwitting member of Michael’s con. I went through so many emotions watching him change in response in ways that were all too human and perfectly understandable, given what happens to him. His ending was almost as powerful as Karolina and Michael’s triumphs.

As for the romance, it’s passionate and sweet, very much in line with what can be expected of a Regency novel, but with less playful banter and more action. Michael and Karolina work well together, and I loved watching them become partners as well as something more.

Highly recommended!

View all my reviews

Free Books for Sheltering-in-Place During Easter

All these deals are good from April 11, 2020 until Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Here are the deals:

At Barnes and Noble, if you enter the code BNPEASTER100, you get the following titles free.

  • The Baker’s Wife
  • Loki, Son of Laufey
  • The Lost Princess
  • Sea Gods and Mountains

I’m also trying out a BOGO deal at B&N. If you purchase one of my books, you get either Shining Armor or Lady Fair free.

That’s Barnes and Noble.

At most other major ebook retailers, the following titles are free:

  • The Baker’s Wife
  • Loki, Son of Laufey
  • Shining Armor
  • The Lost Princess

Please visit the My Books page for links to these books.

Or just Google it. Whichever you prefer.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

Freelance Writing Links and Resources

woman wearing face mask looking at video online
Image by Engin_Akyurt from Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since this whole thing started. Can you? I go to the store and see patches of empty space where there once used to be completely full shelves. Meat, juice, and beans are no longer impossible to find, but toilet paper still requires a hunt. What was initially going to be a couple of weeks (supposedly) of #SlowtheSpread has turned into the beginnings of a new normal. For now, anyway.

And here in America, the unemployment numbers keep climbing.

So, I decided to do what little I could to help. This post is the first part of that. Because the worst thing is to not even have an idea of what to do when it comes to bringing in money,  and because I do have some experience in this, I thought it might be good to share the resources I’ve found helpful when it comes to non-fiction writing.

Why am I starting with non-fiction if I’m all about self-publishing fiction? Here’s three reasons:

  • Non-fiction is easier to market because the need is concrete and can be easily explained (lose weight, improve memory, etc.), plus it can easily flow from skills you’ve already gained over the course of your life. Fiction delivers an abstract experience that can be difficult to put into words, and that can cause issues when it comes to finding your audience.
  • Non-fiction identifies and helps solve an immediate need. People turn to non-fiction when they have a problem they want solved. Now.
  • Non-fiction is, in many ways, easier to write. Because you know the problem and often have a clear idea of your audience, everything from research to the writing itself is geared toward solving your audience’s clearly defined problem.

 

If you need money, need flexibility, and also need a portable job that can easily be done at home, it’s hard to beat freelance writing. I highly recommend trying it if you have a basic grasp of grammar, an interest in sharing information, and the ability to see viewpoints outside your own to give people what they need. Oh, and it helps if you have an intense curiosity about the world around you. Just sayin’.

If it sounds like something you want to check out, here are a few resources to get your started.

First, Moira Allen’s site Writing-World has info on just about everything you’d want to know in order to make money from your writing. It’s an older website, but there’s solid info on how to get gigs writing magazine articles, greeting cards, travel writing, tech writing, and so on. It also has general info for freelance writers (basics like info on grammar guides, how to conduct an interview, etc.), articles on productivity, business information, time management, book and author promotion, and a whole lot more.

If you prefer something a bit more intensive with a site that looks more contemporary, I strongly recommend Carol Tice’s website, Make a Living Writing. Carol Tice is passionate about helping writers make money writing and has a fantastic blog that updates regularly with great info. Though it wasn’t as easy for me to navigate as Moira Allen’s site, she covers an enormous amount of ground, with an emphasis on making sure writers get paid what they’re worth for their work. Highly recommended for those who want to get started making money from their writing fast.

Next, if you like helping businesses sell their products, there’s a wealth of information about copywriting out there. Personally, I recommend Bob Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook to learn the basics of copywriting and the website Copyblogger for more specific information and courses. Another very good resource is The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman (link takes you to his site, which includes info about his book).

If you want to get into blogging for businesses, Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger has great info about not only getting started in this particular aspect of freelance writing but how to handle the other, non-monetary aspects of the job.

ProBlogger is for those who want to make their own blog start paying. Excellent resource, and it has a job board, too.

This final resource is actually kind of interesting. The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a book meant for freelancers of all kinds, not just writers. It’s available for free on the author’s blog, but she also has it available at all major ebook/paperback retailers.

I own a copy and it’s an excellent resource. She really does take the time to try to reference other freelance professions in her examples and her points are clearly stated. Great for those who want to look at general principles when it comes to the freelance life.

(Side note: Kris Rusch has been writing about the corona virus and it’s impact on her blog, particularly on the publishing industry. If you’re interested.)

Those are the resources I’ve found most helpful. More soon.

What about you? Any resources you recommend or ideas for generating income? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks!

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air, #1)The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, the descriptions are lovely. Like OH MY GOSH HOW DID SHE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT FAIRYLAND LOOKS AND TASTES AND SMELLS LIKE lovely. Very real, very vivid, very clear.

Not only that, but she captures the feel of folktales even while adapting them to the viewpoint of two mortal girls who were born and spent their childhood in our modern world, but have spent who knows how long among fairies in their own land. Little things, like turning your clothes inside out, and wearing rowan berries, are not only mentioned but the weaknesses of those protections are clearly stated. And the effect it has on the main character, Jude, is not lost in the lush descriptions.

Because, you see, Jude is a little bit crazy.

It’s not clear at first, but there are hints. Bits and pieces that something’s not quite right in her head. The biggest being that she is both attracted to and intensely hates Cardan, a spoiled fairy prince.

The second is that she does the stupidest things, and trusts at the worst moments, and is so desperate for power over her own life that she’s willing to hurt anyone and anything that gets in her way, even as her regrets pile up. And yet, in spite of her stupid choices and inability to see what’s right in front of her, I still loved her strong voice. I loved how she was willing to save others at the cost of her own life, and how she really does love her family. All of them.

Cardan also pleasantly surprised me. He’s a drunk, and a jerk, and an idiot sometimes, but he knows the game of fairy politics and plays it very well. And I had to admire what turns out to be his greatest wish. Not the noblest of wishes, but it wasn’t nearly as awful as I expected it to be. Let’s just say he and Jude are true opposites and leave it at that. And that they work surprisingly well together, when they do work together.

Madoc was also a true favorite as I read, and that didn’t change, no matter what he did. He is what he is, and yet he’s surprisingly vulnerable. I can see why Jude’s mother loved him so much and also why she ran away.

For those who want to know about the romance, this is not a lovey-dovey, warm and fuzzy kind of romance. Like everything in fairy, it has hidden tricks and an edge. Nothing ever seems to go right for Jude. Nothing. Not in love, not in life, not in the modern world. She fits nowhere, and yet she manages to not only accept this but overcome all the disadvantages a mortal has among fairies. For a price. There’s always a price.

But if I had to put a label to the romance aspect of this book, I would call it “sweet,” as in there’s kissing, but not much else.

As for the ending, this book doesn’t really end. It feels very much like one part of a very long book. In a good way.

Can’t wait to read the next book in the series, The Wicked King, and see just where Jude’s madness leads her next.

View all my reviews

A Noble’s Path by I.L. Cruz

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Hello, everyone. Welcome to my review of A Noble’s Path by I.L. Cruz, my contribution to the blog tour. I hope you’re having fun so far and that my review turns out to be useful.

Let’s start with what this book is about. And to do that, I’ll insert the book blurb right…here.

About A Noble’s Path

Divided loyalties test Inez Garza.

The infamous incident at the Academy of Natural Studies has forced her to work for the King’s Men while continuing to serve the hidden market.

Supporting Birthright furthers the cause of Magical Return, but the cost may be the fall of the royal house and losing Zavier forever.

And the strongest pull of all is her growing and erratic magic, which demands everything and offers only destruction in return.

Inez must decide where her loyalties lie—saving Canto or saving herself.

My review

First off, I need to state that I was given a free copy of this book for review purposes. However, my thoughts are my own.

This second book in the series moves along faster than the first book. And I enjoyed seeing the fallout from the “incident” that ended a lot of the mysteries in A Smuggler’s Path.

Inez managed to hold my interest and frustrate me all at once. She struck me as childish in thinking no one else needs to be hurt, but refusing to see just how many people she’s not only already hurting, but will hurt in the future. Her final choice in the end made me want to bang my head against a wall, though I understood her reasons for choosing it.

Talking of which…Zavier. I loved him in this book! True to the end, he is a lot braver than Inez, taking risks that made Inez’s indirect methods look pathetic in comparison. Zavier is the biggest reason to read this book, in my opinion. He’s thoughtful, honest, courageous, and willing to follow his heart, even if it means Mythos (the kingdom that makes sure the others don’t have any true magical power) may come in and replace the whole royal family. Stupidly wonderful and wonderfully stupid but somehow I loved every second I spent reading his involvement in the story, probably because he’s so incredibly lovestruck.

Toman and Meiri play a bigger part in this story, and it improves every event as a result. I especially loved Toman’s obsession with Inez’s love life. It smoothed over what could have been a book-throwing bit of irritation on my part during one particular event.

Oh, and there’s developments in the Jacque/Meiri pairing, developments I adored! I love how Meiri starts coming into her own in this book, and I love how completely Jacque loves her, to the point where he’s thinking more of her future than his own.

Arch is a new character. Even though he’s a bit too smooth, I liked the glimmers of depth he got and hope he shows up more in book three.

I loved the sheep! In fact, I really like how Cruz writes magical animals, making their natures blend seamlessly with their sentience. Rowley makes more of an appearance as well, and we get to learn a little more about Birthright, the resistance movement he leads.

We also get to see some depth in the characters that make up the King’s Men, which I deeply appreciated. Cleph’s situation was especially moving.

Though there were still moments of confusion (an issue I had with the first book), they were less and the book reads fast. The one sticking point I had trouble swallowing in the previous book is at least questioned in this one.

I did not appreciate one particular loose end that was brought up in the next-to-last scene and then ignored in the final scene. If that last scene hadn’t been there, I could have forgiven the loose thread as a cliffhanger. But with that final scene—which does, I admit, bring the plot full-circle both event- and image-wise with a hint at the difficulties to come—I ended up wondering if Inez had already learned the truth or if she was still waiting.

Still, it was an enjoyable read. Well worth the time. I look forward to book three!

About the Author

I.L. Cruz decided to make writing her full-time career during the economic downturn in 2008. Since then she’s used her BA in International Relations to sow political intrigue in her fantasy worlds and her MA in history to strive for the perfect prologue. When she’s not engaged in this mad profession she indulges her wanderlust as often as possible, watches too much sci-fi and reads until her eyes cross. She lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and a sun-seeking supermutt named Dipper.

Her Twitter: @ILCruzWrites 

Her blog: Fairytale Feminista at https://fairytalefeminista.wordpress.com

Her website: www.booksbyilcruz.com

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