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New short stories – get’em while they’re hot

If you like short stories/flash fiction and good deals, you should check out my Patreon page. $1/month gets you a free short story every month. There are also opportunities to get cool swag, have characters named after you, and even see your name in the dedication of my next novel. The most recent stories I’ve posted were a lot of fun to write, and I think that shines through in these covers!

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Retro Reads: The First (and Worst?) Harlequin Romance

Retro Reads is a series of posts highlighting the best, most interesting, and most hilarious trends of the fiction of yesteryear.

"Strange loves of a seaman". The jokes really write themselves.
“Strange loves of a seaman”. The jokes really write themselves.

(Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers, but does not give away major plot points. Also trigger warning: This book review contains discussion of sexual assault, racism, and strong language.)

Before Harlequin became the romance powerhouse it is today, the company was a small publisher dedicated to reprinting paperbacks in a variety of genres. Books cost $0.25 each (those were the days!) and the catalogue included a strong backlist of mystery from big names like Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The first book Harlequin ever published was a romance titled The Manatee—although trust me, this book bears little to no resemblance to the romance novel as we currently know it!

I can’t claim to have read every Harlequin every published, but I am willing to nominate The Manatee for the title of Worst Harlequin Ever. Intrigued by the back cover copy I found online, I tracked down a copy of the book on Amazon, expecting to find some next-level crazy between the covers.

And friends, this book has it all.

For your reading pleasure, I give you a brief synopsis of The Manatee, in the publisher’s own words.

“This robust, powerful novel is the story of Jabez Folger, savage, romantic man of the sea, with a sinister secret in his past. Against the colourful background of Nantucket in its great whaling days, Nancy Bruff has set this bold, sweeping drama of vibrant love and corrosive hatred. On Jabez Folger’s first whaling voyage he had a dark and evil experience that changed and embittered his whole life. In a rather softened mood, he courted and married piety, a gentle Quaker girl-then deliberately, viciously, murdered her love. Born of this strange union, conceived in love and hate, their children turned to Flowery Shrine, their half-caste south sea island servant, for the love and understanding they craved. Folger’s vindictive cruelty brought about his ruin, but in so doing freed him from the evil demon that possessed his soul. The manatee is a vivid, exciting and compelling tale, written in lusty, vigorous prose, yet with exceptional power and beauty, played out against a setting of sea, sky and fabulous island.”

If I were to re-write the synopsis to accurately reflect the plot of this novel, it would look something like this: This insane novel is the story of obviously unstable Jabez Folger, savage, racist man of the sea with a sinister secret in his past. (The secret will turn out to be far less sinister than you hope). Against the repressed background of Nantucket in its great whaling days, Nancy Bruff has set this bold, sweeping drama of emotional abuse and corrosive hatred.

I don’t think it’s fair to judge this book against modern standards, but even for 1949 tastes, it’s hard to believe this book was so popular it required seven printings between September and December 1945. (Maybe they were small print runs?).

If you ever want to play Trigger Warning Bingo, this novel is an excellent choice. The objectionable material in this book truly has to be read to be believed:

Emotional/verbal abuse – Our “hero”, Jabez, frequently berates and frightens his family, but the elderly Amos Lamb, retired seaman and village lecher, gives him a run for his money. Sample dialogue from Amos: “The Selectmen can give each other what the cock gave the hen and that’s something old women with titties like envelope flaps have to do without”.

Conclusion: Amos Lamb is truly vile. I spent the whole book wishing he would die.

Murder – When Jabez’s crew turn on him in mutiny, he strands them at sea in a lifeboat with no food or water, enjoying the thought of their suffering as he views their fate as “a mathematical perfection”.

Conclusion: I have no idea what mathematics has to do with anything. Executing mutineers was standard practice at one point, but leaving them to suffer a slow, painful death is pretty harsh.

Xenophobia/racism – There is a Frenchwoman living in the village who is written as a walking stereotype—she has a “wildness waiting to spring out of her”, speaks in an exaggerated accent, and is driven to suicidal despair by the repressive Nantucket society. But the author’s depiction of a Black servant in the Folger household is so racist, it’s hard to read. Flowery Shrine is described as a “young and lovely mulatto girl” named after her mother, who had been “named and loved” by a sailor who brought her from a South Sea Island to Nantucket. Despite having grown up in New England, she speaks English poorly with what I can only assume is meant to be a “slave accent”.

Conclusion: Yikes. Literally every mention of Flowery Shrine made me uncomfortable.

Sexual abuse/assault – Almost every central female character is sexually abused or assaulted at some point in this novel. Jabez assaults his wife, Amos harasses every woman who walks past his house, and Jabez’s daughter is date raped and abandoned by a young lieutenant. (He promises to bring her a kitten, as if that is somehow valid payment for her virginity). Yet again, however, the worst abuse is aimed at Flowery Shrine. She has no sexual agency of her own and does not understand “Christian values”, so clearly it is her fault as much as his when Jabez takes her to his bed. She is fifteen years old.

Conclusion: Barf. Everyone is awful.

If you are looking for a book that actually contains a romance, this book is not for you. If you are looking for an epic, generational family drama, are interested in the history of romance publishing, and can stomach all the awful-ness, you’re getting warmer. And if you’re looking for an example of literally everything an author should not do when writing a book, you have hit the jackpot with The Manatee.

Win free books or $100 Amazon gift card at The Romance Studio’s Valentines’s Day party!

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For readers who aren’t familiar with The Romance Studio, you’ll want to check out this romance review site/blog in time for their Valentine’s Day party! The site is giving away a ton of free ebooks, including copies of my sexy new romantic suspense, Man’s Ruin. They’re also giving away a $100 Amazon gift card to one lucky reader.

To enter the contest, visit www.trsparties.com or their Facebook page between February 10 and 14 and comment on any post. Authors (including me) will be dropping by to interact with fans and share info about upcoming/new releases.

Make sure to mark this one on your calendars so you don’t miss out!

Happy Valentine's Day! by PEGGYCREATIVELENZ. CC by 2.0.
Happy Valentine’s Day! by PEGGYCREATIVELENZ. CC by 2.0.

Join the Goodreads Reading Challenge!

Image from Goodreads.com
Image from Goodreads.com

It’s New Year’s resolution time again, and one of my favourite resolutions is to read more books! This year, I’m aiming to read 100 books in 2017. It’s an ambitious goal, but even if I don’t make it, I still come out ahead because…books.

Here are the statistics Goodreads has shared about last year’s challenge:

Participants 3,052,000
Books Pledged 142,398,150
Books Finished 39,444,997
Avg. Books Pledged 46
Challenges Completed 30,338

And 2017 is looking good too. Here are the stats so far:

1,014,583 Participants
46,226,091 Total Books Pledged
1,103,854 Total Books Completed
45 Average Books Per Challenge
232 Challenges Completed

232 people have finished their challenges already. How many books will you read this year?

 

Hal-Con: Nova Scotia’s geekiest weekend of the year

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Here I am signing books for a reader.

I recently appeared at Hal-Con, the biggest sci fi/fantasy conference in Eastern Canada, as a guest speaker and vendor and I had a ton of fun. I went all out and dressed as Belle from Beauty and the Beast on two separate days – I wore the famous yellow ball gown on Saturday and the blue peasant dress on Sunday – but I still didn’t hold a candle to some of the costumes I saw at the con.

 

A demo battle with costumed fighters- exciting!
A demo battle with costumed fighters- exciting!

I spoke on three panels about writing and self-publishing, and it was amazing to meet so many other talented authors and artists in the audience at each one. The amazing Maggie Stiefvater, author of The Raven Cycle series, was one of the major guests at the con and hearing her speak was definitely a highlight. It was also exciting to share microphone time with fellow local authors Bruce Delo, Christian DeWolf, Shawna Romkey, Julia Phillips-Smith, and Clare C. Marshall.

There were a bunch of crazy-talented comic book artists at the con as guests and I especially enjoyed meeting Mike Norton (the creator of Battlepug), Michel Lacombe (who has worked on pretty much every famous comic book ever), and Jenni Frison (cover artist extraordinaire) and Rossi Gifford (creator of critically acclaimed fantasy series “Spirit Leaves”).

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The yellow ball gown

One of the things I really appreciated about Hal-Con is that there seemed to be an equal balance of male and female guests/speakers. Most statistics I’ve read say that somewhere between 65-75% of traditionally published authors and reviewers are male, and from what I understand, the same problem persists in comics. (There’s an interesting Wikipedia article about the issue here).

New Series Launch!

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I’m still hard at work on getting The Fury Bride ready for launch, but in the meantime, I’m so excited to announce the release of Man’s Ruin, the first book in my new Original Sin series. To be honest, I actually like this book even more than the Furies (not that I’ll be abandoning them), and I think Man’s Ruin is my best work yet. Check it out and tell  me what you think!

mans-ruin-temp2I have also created a special “Pulp Edition” of Man’s Ruin, which features a classic hardboiled cover created by artist Ástor Alexander and includes the short story prequel, “Whatever Lola Wants” as well as “The Sweet Spot: Pulp Fiction and Modern Romance”, an essay about crime fiction and the romance genre.

“Whatever Lola Wants” is also available as a standalone short story for $0.99 and “The Sweet Spot” is available as a FREE download!

 

 

New England Furies Update

There’s lots of Furies news to report, so I’ll give you the bad news first – I’ve had to push the release of The Fury Bride back from August to September, 2016. That’s partly good news, though, because the reason for the push is that I’ve been busy with new projects since Fury’s Kiss won the 2016 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize. Most of these projects are related to the Furies, but there’s one totally separate project that I’m very excited about and which will be announced later this month, so stay tuned!

 

Available Now

 

something blue cover-2Something Blue

Jackson Byrne isn’t quite sure how he ended up engaged to a woman with powers straight out of Greek legend, but he wouldn’t trade the life he’s made with his fiancee, Tara, for anything. With the big day fast approaching, he’s determined to give his bride the wedding of her dreams – unless Greek god and party boy, Dionysus, gets in the way.

This New England Furies short story takes place between the events of Fury Scorned (Book 2) and Dark Fury (Book 3), shortly after Venus Rising (another short). I particularly enjoyed writing this story from Jackson’s point of view!

amazon | ibooks | google play | kobo | barnes & noble

 

The Official Fury’s Kiss Companion

Fury's Kiss Companion_coverThis novella-length (approx. 30 pages) peek behind the scenes into the world of the New England Furies has been available to newsletter subscribers as a free PDF since last August, but the kind folks at Kobo have helped me convert the file to true ebook format and the Companion is now available for purchase as well ($0.99) in the new, improved format.

This book is best read on an e-reader or tablet with a color display, or on your desktop, as it uses a number of photos and graphic design elements.

 

A note about pricing: This book is $0.99 at Kobo and iBooks, but because of the large file size, Amazon won’t allow a price lower than $1.99.

AMAZON | IBOOKS | KOBO

 

The New England Furies Box Set – Books 1-3

Includes Two bonus Short Stories

NewEnglandFuries_1600x2400This box set collects the first three books of the New England Furies series into an affordable bundle, along with two related short stories (Venus Rising and Something Blue).

In the exclusive Kobo version, you will also find included a copy of The Official Fury’s Kiss Companion.

Get $18 of value for only $9.99!

 

AMAZON | IBOOKS | GOOGLE PLAY | KOBO | BARNES & NOBLE