Friday, April 27, 2012

Fifty Shades of ... Oh My God!

Warning: Some might find this blog offensive. Consider yourself warned.

As you can tell from the title, I have become one of them. One of the crazed Christian Grey fanatics.

Wait. Before I plunge into this blog, which I have been mulling over in my head for a several days now, I have to have some music playing in the background.  (Just click play then read ... don't wait and watch the video.)

If you'd asked me two weeks ago, I would have had no clue who Christian Grey was.  Last Wednesday, my husband, spying the Kindle Ap on my iPhone, inquired as to whether or not I'd read "Fifty Shades of Grey" since some of his co-workers had been discussing it. I told him I'd never heard of it and he said that it was some kind of bondage romance. "I'll pass." I said.

As I was getting ready for bed Friday, April 20th, I threw the covers back, grabbed the family tablet, pulled up the Kindle Ap, and switched on the TV. It'd been a sucky day. My laptop had been pronounced dead and I realized that our budget wasn't looking favorably at a new computer for another few weeks. I decided to drown my sorrow in a good book.

Then I noticed an image flash across the television screen - couples spanking each other. I perked up, hit rewind on the DVR remote, and watched in awe. ABC's 20/20 was doing a segment on "Fifty Shades of Grey" and interviewing the author, E.L. James. (See interview here.)
Fifteen minutes later, I wanted to enter into the "darkness" and I bought the book on Amazon. From the family tablet. Which is registered under my husband's name ... and his Amazon account. My husband gets the alert on his Droid and, as he's walking down the hallway toward our room, he's laughing at me and saying, "Really? Seriously? Why did Amazon just thank me for buying 'Shades of Grey'?"  I look up from the tab... I was already well into chapter one.

Five minutes later, this was his status on Facebook: "Oh lord, just got an alert from Amazon that 'I' bought 'Fifty Shades of Grey' online ... I walk in the bedroom and find the wife watching a 20/20 episode about the soft porn book and the reading the first chapter on the tab. This will not end well."
Ian Somerhalder

And like that I became one of the millions of Greysessed women around the world. I stayed up reading all night and, with a tear-streaked face, immediately downloaded the second book - "Fifty Shades Darker." I read about half of it before I finally succumbed to sleep. I finished it later that afternoon. I read book three -"Fifty Shades Freed" - on Sunday. 
This week I have told every single female coworker (and a few of the males) about the book. One other woman has begun reading the series despite her needing to study for finals. We've talked about who we would cast in the movies, which scenes MUST be in them, how we hope they will be released on the IMAX screens, and how we'll be waiting at midnight to see them. <<swoon>>  

(For the record, my cast picks for Christian Grey are either Michael Fassbender or Ian Somerhalder, a brunette Eloise Mumford for Ana Steele, and the awesome Nicollette Sheridan as Mrs. Robinson.)
But what is it about these books that has so many women going into absolute lasciviousness? The answer is a multifaceted, heady thing. I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but here are my thoughts on why its appeal is so freaking strong.
Eloise Mumford

First, it's like "Twilight," for adults. Christian does to Ana what us more mature Twilight fans wanted Edward to do to Bella -- screw her freaking brains out. God knows she begged him to do it over and over and over again. And, quite frankly, her whining about it and his constant self-restraint got on my nerves. Then came the honeymoon and, as the lovely miss poetrytoprose wrote in her LiveJournal blog back in 2008 : (As a 'quote' from Edward himself) "So then I get all seductive and tell Bella to meet me in the ocean then I'm finally not a virgin anymore but now no one has any idea how fucking awesome I am in bed since the bitch author fades to black."
E.L. James has created a hero that makes Edward Cullen look like a pussy. She gave us Christian Grey, a man who is larger than life and sexy as hell. He oozes sex and most of us would willing drop to our knees in the playroom for him. She gave us a heroine that isn't a complete twit. Ana Steele is smart, motivated, and strong. Her leaving Christian at the end of book one is something Bella Swan never would have been able to do. James gave us scenes that made us pick up notebooks with which to fan ourselves while we read. 
Michael Fassbender
Secondly, James gave the world a series of books with language I frankly never thought I'd read in novel.  Using the search feature on the Kindle for book one, I see that the word clitoris appears 10 times, thrusts 12 times, wet 17 times, suck 26 times, orgasm and erection 19 times each, and the f-bomb a whopping 119 times. Seriously. My favorite line is Christian saying early on that, "I don't make love. I fuck ... hard."

I felt dirty, gloriously dirty while reading James' books. I found myself biting my bottom lip in front of my husband, longing to take him into elevators, looking at the neckties in his closet with keen interest, and pondering a trip to the local adult novelty store for a few things to spice up our weekend. Like many, many housewives, James has me back to the beginning of my relationship with my husband, when love and lust were in equal amounts, when we were "all tongues and breathing and hands and touch and sweet, sweet sensation."
Finally, she's given her fans a fantasy -- a gorgeous, filthy rich man who wants nothing more than to lavish affection, money, time, and, erm, talents on our sweet, innocent heroine.  How nice would it be to trade places with Miss. Steele just for day? When our biggest care is whether or not we'll be spanked? In the real world of budgets and kids and dirty houses and asshole bosses at jobs we can't afford to simply walk away from, James has weaved an escape through the written word. Hell, I'd probably go all Ana Steele and lose it right now should a Macbook Pro appear at my door. (Boy I miss my computer...) But instead of worrying about having to push back the print launch of my own book, instead of worrying about when I'll be able to work on finishing book two, I have found myself relishing in the many, many shades of Grey. All fifty of them.

The interesting part of being a Greysessed fan is that I keep hearing songs that remind me of Christian and Ana. Music is a big part of their world -- from Christian's piano musings in the middle of the night to the iPod soundtrack in the playroom. (I'm sure Cold Play is thrilled that we're all downloading "The Scientist" and listening to it as Ana would in book two.)

But I've found shades of Grey (no pun intended) in so many songs on my own music list. Obviously Nine Inch Nail's "Closer" is my Fifty Shades favorite, but there's also Madonna's Erotica and Justify My Love, 50 Cent's Candy Shop, Counting Crow's High Life, Dave Matthew's Crash Into Me,  Britney Spear's Slave 4 U, and, much to my chagrin, the Counting Crow's Anna Begins

"Anna Begins" is one of my all-time favorite songs. I wrote the near-sex scene between Lindsey and Eli in "Harbinger in the Mist" to that song. (To those in the know, it's the song playing in the background.) It's a song that is playing during a dramatic scene between them in book two as well.  Yet, when I hear it now, I hear it as if from Christian Grey's iPod, not Lindsey Foster's.

I look forward to Lindsey and Eli reclaiming it in book two -- Flight of the Grigori.  

I also look forward to being able to retain certain scenes in the second book thanks to a door that Ms. James opened. I was worried that they were too graphic, that I'd be ask to tone them down,  but James has given me hope that there is a market out there for such wantonness. For that reason, I'll not sulk too much at the song taking on a new meaning to me for now.

As I close this blog and hand this borrowed laptop back to its owner, I want to thank E. L. James for such an amazing love story and beg her to please rewrite the first novel from Christian's point of view. I absolutely loved the tantalizing tidbits revealed in the Shades of Christian! 

Until I have the opportunity to blog again, laters, baby!

Monday, April 9, 2012

How do you spell relief?

I might be showing my age here, but do you remember that old 1980's commercial where Heisman Trophy winner Roger Staubach walked around the city with a funky, silver microphone asking people, "How do you spell relief?"

Of course, the buinessmen and women would always say "R-O-L-A-I-D-S!"

This past weekend was one of those weekends where anxiety, over indulgence of food, and lack of sleep left me seeking any kind of relief today. You see, when I'm nervous, I eat. And when I eat, I eat big. Good food is my Valium. And I started OD-ing on it Friday. You'd think Rolaids would be my answer, too. But it's more complicated than that.

I had gone to be Thursday night knowing in a few hours the big, freebie weekend ushering in the the debut of my novel Harbinger in the Mist would begin. It was to be available to be downloaded for free all weekend. I went to bed wondering if anyone would notice it was free, if anyone would download it. I worried that I'd end the weekend depressed because it had zero downloads. I caught only a couple of hours sleep that night. After taking my oldest to school Friday morning, I went about making chicken parmesean instead of waking the laptop and logging on to the Amazon KDP site to see if I'd gotten any downloads yet.

Now I make a mean chicken parmesean. Seriously. It's not some slapped-together-from-frozen-chicken-patties-and-spaghetti-sauce thing. This is a from-scratch, rolling-in-breadcrumbs, hour-long dish to make.  It's time consuming but yummy. If you want the recipe, let me know.

By 11 a.m., I'd already eaten breakfast (something I never, ever do) and had a meal baking in the oven. The antsies got the best of me and I log into my KDP account. I sent my husband a text half in shock that the book had already been download 117 times and half wondering if that was a halfway decent number.
I turned the laptop off and did some laundry, made a refrigerator chocolate cheesecake (uber yummy and easy to make ... maybe I'll have to start posting recipes here...), and played a game on the Wii. I even picked the Galaxy Tab back up and began re-reading The Hunger Games. Nothing eased that ever growing tapping in the back of my mind, like a leaky faucet while you're trying to sleep. I had to log back on, just had to. But I resisted with the help of a pint of strawberries. 

Once I'd picked my oldest up from school, I came back home and took a nap with the toddler. My husband came home from work and began reheating food. The aroma woke me. We ate dinner and I succumbed to temptation and logged back on. I nearly peed my pants. Not only had the number gone way up, but the book was No. 6 in the Amazon Top 100 Free Downloads for its category... which is the same as the Twilight saga. I took some screen prints and posted this on my Facebook page:

604 downloads was twice the amount I'd hope to achieve during the three-day freebie.

That was all she wrote. I spent most of Friday night refreshing the KDP page. And with each refresh, a couple of more downloads were added. I slept for a few hours before jumping up and jerking on jeans and a tee shirt. I managed one quick data check before running out the door to meet the uber-awesome Lorrie Gunn for a lunch day full of website stuff and general frivolity.

Holy smokes, I was over 800 downloads and holding strong to the No. 3 spot on Amazon.

I posted the following on my Facebook as I slipped my feet into a pair of old Crocs:

"As of 10:20 a.m., the book is THIRD in the Amazon Top 100 Free ebooks for its category (wich is the same category as the "Twilight" series) and its been downloaded 863 times here in the US, 80 times in the UK, and 21 times in Germany (that's was .de means, right?) Nice!"

But the entire time we were at the restaurant, I was sneaking peeks at the data and watching it sneak toward 1,000 downloads.

As the evening passed, I managed to spend some quality, computer-freee time with the kiddos. We colored eggs, jumped on the trampoline, fed the ducks at the duck pond, made sun catchers, and ate dinner. But that same tapping was pulling at my brain. I snuck a peek on the iPhone while the kids were looking elsewhere.  We were at 1,042 downloads. I texted my husband again. He, too, was excited because up until this point, the book had been little more than a poorly written file on my computer. The rewriting and editing process with Ragz books had been gruelling, but these stats told me -- an unknown author -- that it was all worth it. Here were real people downloading this book, reading it even.

My supper began to churn and I turned the computer off. I took a long, hot bath, helped the Easter Bunny with his job, and collapsed into bed. I hadn't had very much sleep the past couple of nights so, thankfully, sleep found me quickly.

 Sunday morning showed a slowing of downloads, which increased the anxiety. After seeing the 1,150 stat, I went into Easter mode. I manage not to check in again until just after two when I peeked with my phone. I took a screen captured and texted it to my husband. It seemed that theflurry of readers had slowed to a trickle.

But still, 1,340 downloads was so much more than I'd hoped for.

I was sad as the rate crawled through the evening. Then shocked as it sped back up that night. At 10:05 p.m., I sent a text to my husband telling him that we'd just hit 1,472 downloads and that "I sooooo want to hit the 1,500 mark before the freebie ends."  I knew it was doubtful that I'd make that mark, but I could dream, right?

It must be noted that my birthday is November 11th. In numerology, 11 is a master number that is never broken down. 11/11, 11:11, or 1,111 are also seen by some as "angel numbers." It's always been a number that I've found magical in a way, so it came as a big shock when I picked up the iPhone in the middle of a movie and checked the stats. Note the time and the downloads number.

With time waning and downloads slowing again, I went to bed happy that I'd had five times the number of U.S. downloads for which I'd originally hoped.  No matter what, I can always say that, "I am a published author. People have read my book."

I might never name a cent off the novel, but I know that at least 1,500 people - not counting my family and close friends that already had copies of the ebook - had voluntarily downloaded and read something on which I had worked so very hard.

I lifted some candy from each of the girls' massive Easter hauls and cuddled into bed with mixed emotions. All these people downloaded the book. Now what?

Would they like it? Would they hate it? Would I be strapped with a bunch of reviews giving me 1's and 2's?

I mentioned this anxiety to a group of fellow authors and was told to calm down and to understand that the numbers would virtually cease  for the next few weeks until everyone had read the book and (hopefully) started to tell others. Even then, the numbers would be a trickle, that the book really needs to be out at least a year before the numbers start rolling in.

<<big sigh>>

I checked my stats this evening, curious as to what the final promo numbers were. I was excited to see that I had not only gotten 71 more downloads after I turned everything off  Sunday night, but that sometime during the day I had also made a couple of actual sales. Only in my house would an author be tickled over selling a measly six books. But I am. It means that there are other people out there interested in a story that has been playing out in my brain since 2003.

 Looking back, I finally know that answer to Staubach's question. How do I spell relief?


Sure, after all I ate this weekend, a roll of Rolaids might be beneficial, but it wouldn't be pure relief.  Because nothing would be more therapeutic than knowing that other people love Lindsey's story as much as I do.

So, will I ever find "relief"? Only time will tell.