Wednesday, March 4, 2015

50 Shades of Grey: A Female Fantasy?

I'm not into Erotica; so I wasn’t enamored with reading  Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James like everybody else.  To me it smacked too much of Marquis de Sade's Story of O which I absolutely detest. However, as the author of a somewhat racy book (Next Time Lucky: How to Find Your Mr. Right), I felt compeled to find out what the big hype was all about and why this book is selling better than mine. A slight understatement!
In fact, the trilogy now comes in a “Fifty Shades Trilogy" box set , has been translated in 52 languages worldwide and sold more than 90 million copies in e-book and print—making it one of the biggest and fastest-selling book series ever. It is called the phenomenon behind the film that just hit the movie theaters fittingly around Valentine’s Day. Needless to say it’s already the biggest movie of the season –which season? They can’t mean the Oscar Season.

To give you the anticipated result first: I did not find out. The hero or villain ─depending on your point of view─ is a self-made billionaire by the name of Christian Grey at age 27? Right. Just let that sink in for a moment. Anastasia Steele is a literary student first, then a college graduate,  and a virgin, who so far never even got drunk, had sex, or masturbated once in spite of some occasional hot thoughts...right!
But these two are attracted to each other to the extent that Ana, as he calls her, goes along with his S& M games willingly and…enjoys them from the get-go. Triple right!?
The book is eye-candy for voyeurs and, at least to me, unbelievable throughout, because guess what: This totally ordinary, stubborn and self-centered young girl is first shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes; then Ana demands a deeper commitment. You read that right.
Determined to keep her, Christian agrees. That easy! She changes  this Mr. S. &M. Incarnate into a loving husband and father. 
The writing style is bland and predictable, clichés abound. According to some  Kindle search function, characters roll their eyes 41 times, Ana bites her lip 35 times, Christian's lips "quirk up" 16 times, Christian "cocks his head to one side" 17 times, characters "purse" their lips 15 times, and characters raise their eyebrows a whopping 50 times. Banalities and profanities go on and on at this repetitious rate.
Call me an old fogey who begrudges female readers (and the majority of them are indeed women!) their sexual fantasies. The author, a mother of two, claims she wrote the book for female readers and their fantasies. Right. I admit there are millions of women who wish for a rich knight in shining armor  and apparently, in modern versions, they fly in on their own planes.  I fully realize that there is a huge readership of Erotica and S&M literature out there, judging from the amount of titles in that category popping up on Facebook writers groups alone. Some critics may be inclined to say “De gustibus…” and all that.
However, in a world increasingly full of female abuse and exploitation where even young girls are sold into sexual slavery, I find it dangerous to promote such fantasies. I find it irresponsible to pretend that somebody with extreme sexual behavior can be changed or dominated like in this book. Maybe I just missed out on a big exciting chapter in my life?

I admit to some jealousy being in play on my part when I wrote this review as I struggle to sell my book. Next Time Lucky in comparison has intelligent and witty passages, sprinkled with some sexy scenes, and is written out of a real life experience-- something that millions of divorced or single people can relate to.It's been labeled too raunchy for some.
But then again, I don't like paranormal, zombie or werewolf stories either, genres that people read to escape reality or for good old entertainment. Well, then... Suum cuique?
So, I will and cannot recommend 50 Shades. If you didn't like it either, contact me and I'll send you a FREE e-copy of my novel. Seriously.

Can’t wait to see how the movie is doing

Comments welcome!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Five Writing/Publishing Tips You Should NOT Follow

                I have some bad habits. I’ll share some of them with you. These are from the Don’t ever do this and the If you’re doing this – stop right now files.

1.           Never write a book using the method I’m about to describe. Every time I sit down to scribble away at my work in progress I begin back at the beginning. I start from the first line and revise away until I catch up to where I left off last time. Sometimes I get sidetracked in deleting or adding to a section and it can take a long, long time to reach the point where I progressed to last time. After ten or fifteen sittings I leave the first couple of chapters alone and begin at the third or fourth chapter until I catch up. It’s time consuming and laborious and probably not the most efficient use of my writing time. I seem to be stuck with this method; I just can’t shake it. There may still be time for you though.
2.     If you plan on writing a trilogy of books don’t tell anyone, especially your readers. I released my first book at the end of 2011. I was lucky; it was quite successful. The plan for my next project was to write a story that I’d had in my head for many years. My readers had other ideas though. They wanted to know more about Gerald Hardly McDougall, one of the characters from my first book. This was a true privilege. So, I decided to turn my single, stand-alone novel into a trilogy and wrote the second book of the trilogy. I was able to release that book – My Name Is Hardly, during 2012. It is now 2015 and book three, the third book in this well-intentioned trilogy is still a work in progress. If you’re going to write a trilogy or any type of series of books that involves the completion of the last book – keep the information to yourself.
3.     Don’t respond to reviews. I’ve done this and it did not end in a nightmare scenario, but it could have. As the wise sage said, reviews are for readers, not for writers. Read them, take the hit or the glory and move on.
4.     Be prepared to listen to the truth. Do not surround yourself with other authors who are only going to tell you of your brilliance. You probably are brilliant; we all display brilliant streaks from time to time, but it takes work to become a better writer. It’s more important for me to hear what I’m doing wrong than what I’m doing right. I want to know that my story has plot holes or characters that are unnecessary, and I want to make those changes before I expose my work to my readers. I want to release the best work I can and that means I need to hear the truth.
5.     There’s kind of a mental no-man’s land that I fall into when I’m not working on a book. The longer I’m between creations the deeper I sink into this land and the less relevant everything around me feels. I need to make up stories and tell those stories. Without that I’m not only incomplete, I’m incompatible, inconsolable, incon…I just don’t fit in. So, I need to write. I don’t always do this though. I sometimes devote hours of time to networking (yes, this involves Facebook), as I try to determine the best methods of promoting my work. This is important, but as a professional writer and self-publisher I need to write more than perform non-writing related tasks. So, I created a spreadsheet that helps me balance the work so that the majority of my working day is devoted to writing. My readers want new books, and that’s where my efforts should lie. A wise writer commented on a thread recently and observed that self-published authors who have hit those top levels and connected with thousands of readers have produced lots of words. They turn those words into books and then repeat the same process. Readers have a short attention span. If we can’t provide them with product they’ll go elsewhere, and they’ll forget about us. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last few years it’s that there are a lot of great writers out there. And, they’re producing some fantastic work. So, keep writing.
I have other bad habits but I’ll keep those to myself for now. If you’d like a copy of the spreadsheet I put together that helps me balance my writing versus non-writing time email me and I’ll gladly send it on. And, good luck connecting with your readers they’re out there!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Book of Mormon - The Hottest Show on Broadway

Called the hottest show on Broadway for the past 2 years, the musical was certainly a spectacle. When something that popular and well-reviewed comes to town, it is a must see. Although I'm not a big fan of musicals as a rule and very skeptical of anything related to religion and in particular the so-called Mormon faith, I felt compelled to go and see it.
Knowing that the producers of this musical are the makers of the animated comedy South Park, it won’t come as a surprise that The Book of Mormon is a religious satire musical. Warning: the musical is not for the fainthearted or those who see it as blasphemy to make fun of religion. However, it is an equal opportunity offender as it playfully pokes fun at religion, sexuality, poverty and race. The show plays fast and loose with explicit language.
The Book of Mormon tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in northern Uganda, where a brutal warlord is threatening the local population. Naïve and optimistic, the two missionaries try to share the Book of Mormon, one of their scriptures—which only one of them has read—but have trouble connecting with the locals, who are more worried about war, famine, poverty, and Aids than about religion.
The musical is loud, the singing sometimes hard to understand, especially when spectators around you are almost rolling in the aisles laughing or practically dancing in their seats. In spite of its blatant irreverence and disrespect of the religious book the spectator walks away on a positive note. The musical conveyed the idea that these young missionaries are dedicated and kind people who also spread the message of being kind to one another.   Although the Ugandans made up their own version of the Mormon religion by skewering and changing the message, it had a positive effect on them and improved their lives.
On approaching and leaving the theater, Mormon missionaries offered people who wanted to attend the musical a free copy of the real 'Book of Mormon'. I was surprised that the Church doesn’t boycott performances but on the contrary, does see it as an opportunity to cultivate relationships with everyone. Compliments to the Church that they have such grace and tolerance -  especially  in the light of Charlie Hebdo.
The Book of Mormon earned overwhelmingly positive critical response, and set records in ticket sales. It was awarded nine Tony Awards, one of which was for Best Musical, and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. The original Broadway cast recording became the highest-charting Broadway cast album in over four decades, reaching number three on the Billboard charts. It has staged two national tours since it premiered in the West End in 2013.

Book, Music and Lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone