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!

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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.

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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

Want to keep following the tour? Schedule is below.

Tour Schedule

A Smuggler’s Path by I.L. Cruz

A Smuggler's PathA Smuggler’s Path by I.L. Cruz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publicist of the author because I’m participating in I.L. Cruz’s blog tour this week for the second book in this series, and I don’t like reading book 2 before book 1. So, I asked, and was very graciously given this free copy. No review was required, and the thoughts that follow are my honest opinions.)

Summary: Inez Garza, daughter of the prominent Garza family, smuggles magic in a kingdom where, long ago, everyone’s magic was taken from them. Part of the joy of being on the losing side. But while out gathering magic one day, she sees the body of a man who was clearly killed by magic. Powerful magic. And because magic was taken from this kingdom, meaning no one should be able to cast at that level, it raises a number of questions. Questions that put Inez on a path that will either lead her to glory (and her people to themselves) or madness.

This book starts out slow and can be very confusing at times to follow, with one particular plot point becoming more difficult to believe as the story goes on. However, the descriptions are lovely and the pacing is good. Inez is always doing something, and she’s very determined to help not only discover who killed her mother’s former fiance but all those who need her help…when she can give it. Zavier seems like a good guy and I’m curious to see how things work out with the two of them. Jacques was a lot of fun. Always loved seeing him. And Meiri and Toman added some nice grounding to the story.

Inez’s mother was absolutely frustrating with her lack of communication, but her actions made sense in context.

About midway through, the story picks up speed and the climatic moment is well worth the time spent getting there.

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Blog posts may be sporadic; focusing on Puck’s Call

I know this isn’t ideal right now, but I’ve decided to put this blog on a non-schedule (i.e. I write whenever I can) while I work on Puck’s Call. I’m 45% done with the rough draft and the story is coming along nicely. However, I was hoping I’d be nearly done with the draft by now.

If I focus on that draft, I think I can have it done by the end of March. If I focus.

So, please forgive the erratic posts. Once I’m done, I’ll go back to a weekly schedule. Thank you for your patience.

path through grassy field to misty mountains

2020 Goal Progress (includes brief update on Puck’s Call)

path through grassy field to misty mountains
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

It’s February, and since I posted on my goals at the beginning of the year, I thought I’d update you on my progress.

(Click here if you want to see the original post where I list my goals.)

  • I’m 34% of the way to hitting my 80,000 word goal for Puck’s Call. Though the word count is good, I’m also glad that this is turning out to be a fun novel to write. I’m thinking about posting scenes on Wattpad to see if others think it’s fun to read. Thoughts?
  • Didn’t do very well keeping up with friends this past month. I’ve been just a little too focused on writing. Will try to change that in February.
  • I’m waiting on finishing The Lord’s Tale until after I’ve finished Puck’s Call, but it’s still on my To Do list.
  • I’ve used my timer more frequently this past January, especially for writing time. So, yay!
  • No additions to the reviewer list. Too focused on writing and life.
  • Which means that I’ve been living. Which is good.

That’s my progress so far. How has your year been so far? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

Kissed by Fire by Katharina Gerlach: a review

Kissed by Fire (High School Dragons Book 1)Kissed by Fire by Katharina Gerlach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

A terrible accident leaves Lydia with no memories of her past. Thrown into a system that frightens her at every turn, she begins to realize, slowly, that she isn’t like the humans around her. In fact, she might not even be human at all. Through the love of a young man and his sister, and the questionable help of a new student who seems very intent on being more than friends, Lydia finds out not only what she once was but who she’s meant to be.

I liked this story. It has a love triangle and a lot of fantasy YA tropes but I like how it played with them instead of letting them take over the story.

Lydia, for example, starts out weak and frightened, but becomes strong without becoming snarky or annoying. Those who want a spunky, smart-mouthed heroine need to look elsewhere.

Colin is the sweet young man who assigned to help Lydia through her first day of school. He was a joy to watch through the whole book and I very quickly began cheering for him and Lydia to get together.

Harm, a typical bad boy hottie trying to get Lydia’s attention, turns out to be far more than his role in the story suggested, and I have to admit I loved his arc and his relationship with Lydia the further I got into the story.

There were a number of other fantastic characters in this. The women, I think, were especially portrayed well. And there was a nice little twist with a human girl who might be able to wield magic.

There were, however, a few issues that made the book difficult to read.

First, and most importantly, though it’s supposedly set in America, everyone speaks as if they were British. This is actually a symptom of a larger issue: though the main characters are solid, the setting is not. I mean, there’s a Council and relationships between the various members of the story, but it isn’t clear where they are inside this world or how that plays into their culture and individual choices.

This weakness also led to some confusion regarding the role Native Americans play in the story. They are the only minority represented in this world in this book, and I have to admit those characters confused me more than once They were, in my opinion, the only characters that were not as well developed as they could have been.

One final, minor quibble. At times, the writing felt more middle-grade than YA.

Other than that, the romance is very sweet and, I think, worth the time. Which says something given the enormity of the issues I’ve mentioned. I’ll be reading the next book in the series.

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