Dear E.L. James

I try not to jump on bandwagons. I like to do my own research and form my own opinions wherever possible. So when everyone I know started saying how bad 50 Shades of Grey was, I knew I would have to try reading it for myself.

So a few months ago, I downloaded the free sample of the ebook. It’s about twenty pages, and I read those, and really I thought it was pretty boring. I might have been a little more interested if Kate was the main character, but I just couldn’t get into Ana. So I put it down, and thought no more of it.

But yesterday, prompted by a mention of your trilogy on a forum, I thought I should give it another shot. After all, the point of an erotic novel is the sex, and I hadn’t read any of that yet. So I purchased the entire ebook and flicked forward until I found something clearly intended to be erotic.

This time I wasn’t bored. No, bored doesn’t describe it. I swung between confusion, amusement, and frustration. I think within about three minutes of reading time, Ana said ‘Holy hell’ or ‘Holy shit’ about twenty times, which got old fast. And both characters seemed to suffer mood swings which were bamboozling: in one instance, Ana ‘snaps’ at Christian and then, literally on the next line, she is speaking ‘sweetly’ to him. There’s no indication that the sweetness was an attempt to make up for the snap, or that it was false; it’s just a straight-up mood change within a second.

As for the physical activities and reactions described, when I try to imagine what they might look or feel like, I’m left bemused. Many of them seem like something a suppressed and inexperienced person might imagine, because they don’t reflect how a real body works.

The long and short of it is, I read for about an hour last night and failed to find anything interesting, engaging, or believable. Both main characters, along with the activities they undertake, are incomprehensible and unrealistic.

Can I have my $9 back please?

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Choice

I started wondering how a world would look if a government decided that people were too stupid to make their own choices. This is the start of the story I came up with.

 

 

Some of the older folk say they can remember another time. They speak with reverence about fast food, supermarkets, and Facebook. One of the oldest says she remembers something called pop music. I think she’s making it up, but sometimes she sings snippets of things she says were hits.
Even now, as they eat their identical meals, they parody how they think mealtimes used to be: ‘That looks great, can I have some of yours?’ one man laughs. But the target of his joke is just a little too young, and too new here; he only glares at the prankster and pulls his plate closer.
Technically we’re only supposed to find humour in state sanctioned jokes, but many of the rules are relaxed in this place. It is officially presumed that illegal laughter is simply a result of senility and dementia, and the perpetrators can’t be blamed. There is no such leniency for the staff.

Being “a writer”

young-writerI’ve always dabbled in writing fiction, but recently I’ve started to identify myself as “a writer” alongside being “a mother”, “a student”, and all the other labels that apply! I’ve found the change in mindset to be extremely helpful in terms of both inspiration and productivity. I’m a writer, therefore I can and do write!

I’ve started work on a collection of short stories I’m calling Aftermath. It will be the what-happens-next of fairytales, only none of them will be happily-ever-after. They all focus on the darker themes or more depressing (realistic!) possibilities of life after the fairytale. I’ve got post-traumatic stress, suicide, abusive marriages, and more. I’m loving the “research”: reading fairytales!

The more things change, et cetera…

As an integral part of my studies on Ancient History, as well as reading modern scholars and recent discoveries, I’ve also been reading ancient texts: documents written by the people living in that time. Some are intended as histories, some are letters, some are other types of documents. But what continues to strike me is  how so many of the texts deal with matters we still discuss and debate today, and how many comments are still relevant!

For your amusement, here are a couple of the more obvious examples:

Pliny the Younger, writing in around 100 CE (Common Era, also referred to as AD), excused his long and in-depth letter to a friend by adding, ‘Besides, hasn’t the time come to give up the commonplace “How are you? I hope you are well”?’ 

I don’t know about you, but that is how I learnt to write letters, almost 2000 years later!

Tacitus, also writing around 100 CE, wrote, ‘In the good old days, every man’s son, born in wedlock, was brought up not in the chamber of some hireling nurse, but in his mother’s lap, and at her knee.’ Tacitus went on to describe what he considered good parenting: a mother’s focus on her child, a mother’s presence and influence, not hiring staff to care for the child instead.

We still have these debates: Stay-at-home-mum versus working mum. The pros and cons of childcare. (If you’re not a parent, you might not have noticed these. But they are ongoing in the online mothering community, and occasionally in the news media!)

My last example is a little bit more complex: not a quote, but a scenario. A Roman tribune named Tiberius Gracchus, in 136 BCE, proposed a law intended to ensure fairer usage of public lands, a reduction in the number of slaves used to farm said land, and an increase in farming citizens – the pool from which soldiers could be drawn. In short, in Roman terms, it was a law intended for the benefit of the state, the greater good. But the law was strongly opposed by rich land-holders: the men who had been exploiting those very same public lands for their own gain, and who had used many slaves to do so. There was such debate and furore over this agrarian law that those rich, greedy men ended up killing Tiberius, or directly causing his brutal murder.

Short of the actual murder, it seems our way of doing politics and business is much the same. Unelected people still have power and influence via money, and sometimes brute force.

The more things change, the more they stay the same! My mother notes it for her lifetime; I am learning to note it for all of recorded history.

Lacking creativity

In weeks, months, and years gone by, I’ve tried my hand at various crafty or creative things. I’ve scrapbooked, I’ve photographed, I’ve done NaNoWriMo (several times), I’ve even tried needlepoint – which I found rather boring, to be honest! I’m a creator on the Discworld MUD (my only current creative project). And obviously I’ve blogged.

But as time goes by, and children enter the equation, creative energy has become limited. I want to do more scrapbooking and writing, I would really love that. I want to do NaNoWriMo again this year. I want Evelyn to grow up and see her own life celebrated in scrapbooks as well as her older sister’s! But I feel that these things require more time and effort than I can really spare to invest. They require the re-engagement of my imagination, which is currently limited to thinking up new ways to get my family fed!

I begin to wonder about my priorities. It is clear that my family, my children, must come first… but where do I draw the line, when is enough simply enough? When do I get to follow my own interests, free from distraction or guilt? And how important does something have to be before I feel justified in trying?

Ultimately responsibility lies with myself. If I feel the need, I must put aside the time and make the effort to create something. I think, right now, I shall organise to have some digital photos printed out nicely to scrapbook! Wish me luck.