23 August 2012

HOW MANY SHADES OF GRAY? FIFTY? THE TRUE STORY ABOUT THE BOOK.

 

 

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“Le Library”  Week Two.  Not much progress, or at least it’s a very, slow moving process, but, the carpenter brought a friend today to help speed him along!  Still needed are the two bookshelves flanking the window and the window seat.  And all the trim, then the shelves.  So…..maybe four more weeks?  My friend James, who works for Ben and who helped me clean out the office, told me his carpenter crew would have had this finished in days.   C’est la vie.  Remind me to sweep under those shelves before the base trim is applied. 

 

So, gray it is!  Gray walls and shelves and ceiling.  Here are the samples of fabrics I’m deciding on:

 

 

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This is one choice – a light gray/lavender taffeta with a silk check from Robert Allen – Callidora (I love this check – I used it in Elisabeth’s room in blue for her curtains.)

 

OR:

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This slightly more mauve-lavender with cotton checks from Pindler.

The taffetas both come from Highland Court/Duralee “Conners Collection” and they are gorgeous.  I tested taffetas from several different companies and this is by far the best one.  It’s very heavy and it is more matte than the others.  It’s not cheap, but it is still less than those from pricier houses.   If I had to pay retail prices – it would be too much, but the wholesale price is just right. 

When I showed Ben the area where I wanted to add the portieres, he went nuts.  “Drapes???  Here???  What????  Are you serious?   Why?”   Thank God I didn’t use the word “portieres” – he would have really passed out.  After he calmed down a bit – he was just showing off for Elisabeth’s boyfriend’s benefit  -  I went into my usual “are you really questioning me about decorating?  Really?  You really want to go there?” 

Don’t tell Ben, but the truth is, I don’t think I am going to be able to do the portieres between the alcove leading to the bathroom after all, because the shelves butt up right at the doorway’s molding.  I may still do them on the closet door though.   Or the taffeta might just be used for the window shade.  By the way, Ben hated the idea of French doors instead of regular doors too.  Just saying.  And the chandelier.  He got a big laugh out of that.  As if I asked him for his opinion!!!  Lesson #1 in decorating  - leave the husband out of it.

So, that’s this week’s update on the library.  Gray paint, as in Fifty Shades of Grey.  OK, OK OK !!! 

 

 

I’m sure you’ve realized that the REAL topic today is the book series Fifty Shades of Grey.  This week Vicki who writes the gorgeous blog French Essence, wrote about the book and I was stunned by how many people commented on it.   I glanced at the names to see if her commenters are the same as mine and since I didn’t recognize any of the names, I thought I would ask sweet Vicki if she would mind if I stole her topic.  I figured if that many people wanted to talk about the book on a French blog, maybe you might want to voice your own opinion of it here, too!!  So, here it goes – get that coffee and settle in:

 

 

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THE TRUE STORY OF FIFTY SHADES OF GREY :

The book series that has taken the world by storm is a publishing phenomenon.  The three books that make up the series have been on best seller lists all around the world – including both the United States and England.  More than 40 million copies have been sold as of this month.  Think about that – 40 million – !   It is now Amazon’s fastest selling paperback of ALL times – even topping the Harry Potter books.   Everyone is talking about it – though mostly in hushed tones.  No one really wants to admit that they are reading the steamy, erotic novel with its undertones of bondage and domination, but obviously millions and millions are, especially on their e-readers where no one can see the book’s distinctive cover. 

 

 

The three different book covers of the Fifty Shades of Grey series.

 

 

Now, I have a confession to make.   I actually read this book – a few years ago, almost three years, to be exact.  How is that possible you might ask – it was just published last summer?  Well, here is the story of Fifty Shades of Grey and Twilight and how they are connected.  Because believe it or not, Twilight and Fifty are inextricably connected. 

As you probably know, I am a HUGE Twilight fan – a Twihard, a Twimom, or a Twi-idiot- take your pick.   I first got hooked on the Twilight world after watching my daughter’s DVD of the first movie based on the Twilight book series.  At that time, there had only been 1 movie released – 4 more movies were to come later.  After I watched the movie, I got addicted to anything and everything about teenage vampires in love - chaste love - but love nonetheless.  Within a week of watching that first movie, I read all four books by Stephenie Meyer:  Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn.  Though the series was written for the teen/young adult age group, the books transcended these limits and appealed to fans of all ages.

 

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The poster from the first Twilight movie starring Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Rob Pattinson as Edward Cullen.

 

After I had devoured all four books – then what?  Well besides rewatching the Twilight DVD a billion times – what do you do when you are addicted to a book after you finish reading it?  While searching the internet for more Twilight trivia, I discovered something called Fan Fiction or fanfic for short.  What in the world is fanfic, I wondered?  I was then guided into the world of www.fanfiction.net and now, three years later, I still haven’t come up for air. 

Fanfiction is this:   Imagine you are reading Gone With The Wind and you come to the end and wonder, hmm, did Rhett ever come to his senses and return to Scarlett?    If you wanted to, you could write a new ending for GWTW where Rhett DOES come back for Scarlett.  Or you could write a new ending  where Rhett comes back and marries India, Scarlett’s sister, or you could rewrite the book where Rhett turns gay and marries Ashley!  Or you could write an entirely new book and have Scarlett marry Ashley and there isn’t even a Rhett.  You could write anything you want about GWTH – and this would be called fanfiction.

Simply put, fanfiction is where authors and non-authors rewrite books (and movies) and then publish them for free on the internet fanfiction.net website.  Believe it or not, there are millions of fanfiction stories about different books.  The most popular books for fanfic rewrites are the Harry Potter series, Twilight and Lord of the Rings.    Hundreds of thousands of people have sat down and written alternative endings or retold stories about their favorite books – and this is called fanfiction.  

And so, after I had finished all the REAL Twilight books, I started reading Twilight fanfiction.  Some of the stories would be about teenager vampires, but many were about Edward & Bella as humans, older, married or divorced – not vampires at all but just regular people.  There are over 200,000 Twilight fanfics stories.  Some might be just one chapter long but others might be over 80 chapters – there are no rules in fanfic.  Some are horribly written.  In fact, many of those 200,000 ARE horribly written.  But, some are good – very, very well written.  There are other websites that sprang up that write reviews of the innumerable fanfics – so that it’s easier to wade through the 200,000 stories and find the good ones.    And, as you are reading these well written fanfic stories, you think, “WOW, this is good enough to be published as its own book – if only the names were not Edward & Bella.”   In reality, some fanfiction HAS been published, after the author first changed the names and the title.

One very popular Twilight fanfiction book was called “Master of the Universe.”  It was a steamy, erotic story about Edward, a billionaire who had kinky sexual tastes.  He was a dominant (something I had never even HEARD of before!)  who liked to exhibit his control over women.   One day Edward, the impossibly gorgeous billionaire, meets a young, clumsy college student, a virgin, named Bella.  They fall in love.  But Bella doesn’t share his kinky side.   Sound familiar?

 

Most popular fanfiction stories get their own covers – produced by its fans. This was a cover of Master of the Universe – starring the real actors who played Edward and Bella in Twilight.

 

Fanfiction is strange in that the authors mostly post their story as it is being written, one chapter at time.  So, while reading Master of the Universe, I would have to wait each week for a new chapter.  It’s torture when the author writes a cliffhanger chapter and then leaves for a three week vacation!    But, that’s fanfiction.  The author of Master of the Universe was anonymous, her name as we knew it was Snowqueen’s Icedragon.   Her fans all just called her Icy for short.  Icy became a very, very popular author on the Twilight Fanfic scene.  In fact, I would say out of all the 100,000s of authors, she was in the top ten.  EVERYONE loved her story Master of the Universe.  Everyone.  The comment reviews of her story reached over 40,000.  Usually a fanfiction author considers over 1,000 comments as wildly successful.  Forty thousand comments was, and still is, unheard of.    It just shows how very popular Icy’s story was.

When Icy finally finished writing Master of the Universe, we all screamed for a sequel.  And she gave us that.  We also all screamed – “Icy, you should publish this as a book!'’   All she had to do was change the names Edward and Bella and change the town of Forks where they lived – so it would not be identified as a Twilight story.  Easy.

 

 

 

I guess you know where this all leads, right?  Icy, now known as E.L. James, DID publish her book in 2011, under a small house that specializes in publishing reworked fanfiction.  The rest is history.  Once Master of the Universe was changed to Fifty Shades of Grey, and Edward Culen became Christian Grey, and Bella Swan became Anastasia Steele, it was reviewed on Goodreads, an internet site for book reviews.  From there, a Long Island book club chose to read Fifty Shades of Grey and they went crazy for it.  They told all their friends about the book – and the wildfire started.  For a time, Fifty was known as the Long Island Book Club book – “mommy porn” for the SUV set.  In fact, E.L. James came to talk with these women at a high priced luncheon.  Overwhelmed by their adoration, the shy author broke down and cried.

 

 

At book signings across the country, the Fifty Shades crowds have been huge.

 

After the enthusiastic word of mouth push, the small publishing house that E.L. James (Icy) chose to publish Fifty couldn’t handle the demand.  They quickly sold the book to Random House which this year sold the 40 million copies PLUS.  The movie rights were also purchased.  The same team that brought us “Social Network” about Facebook will soon bring us Fifty Shades of Grey on the big screen.  It has been said that E.L. James’ first paycheck from all this is over $50 million.   WOW.

 

 

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This is the woman who wrote the sexy novel everyone is reading?  Really?

 

Icy, or E.L. James, or Erika Leonard which is her REAL name, is a middle aged, overweight, very shy person.  (sounds like me!)   She and her husband are both English and both work in Television in Britain.  Erika wrote her fanfic Master of the Universe anonymously while going to and fro work on the subway.  No one knew who she really was.  No one knew she had two teenaged boys.  But once she published the first book – still anonymously under E.L. James, Erika Leonard was forced to come out of hiding.   And she did, reluctantly.   Now she appears on TV and in person, giving talks and interviews about her book  –  she doesn’t like it, but she has to do the press tour.  She never thought anyone would find about the erotic novel she wrote in secret, but now the world knows her name and face.  She is mortified at the thought that her two boys might read it.  Never, she says!    And does Erika acknowledge her Twilight connections?

 

 

Christian’s line to Ana when she makes him angry!

 

Of course Erika acknowledges the Twilight connection.  She has to – too many of us know that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fanfic for her to ever deny it.  But what does the author of Twilight, Stephenie Meyer say?  Not much really.  Meyer is a very devout Mormon, she would NEVER read anything so racy as Fifty Shades of Grey.  Nor will she ever.    And,  she chose not to challenge her copyright to the story.  You see, while Meyer has allowed fanfiction to be written about her Twilight books, some authors don’t.  For example, there is no Anne Rice fanfiction – she doesn’t allow it.  If she did, trust me, there would be 1,000s of fanfics of her famous books.  Icy was lucky that Stephenie Meyer gave her OK – otherwise no one would have read this all time best seller.

 

 

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Icy says that women fantasize about meeting a handsome billionaire.  Do you?

 

In fact the comparison of the rags to riches stories of Icy and Stephenie Meyer are remarkably similar.  Both are first time authors with no prior writing experience who both wrote best sellers their first time out.  Selling millions of copies of your first book is something that is so rare, it is almost unheard of.   Both women are from modest backgrounds who have made staggering amounts of money.  Both have had or will have films made of their first novel.   And the search for the actor to play Christian Grey will equal the world wide search for Edward Cullen, the role that eventually went to heartthrob and basically unknown Rob Pattinson.  When Pattinson was announced as the pick for the role, fans went crazy.  “He is too ugly to play the most beautiful vampire in the world!  His face looks like a foot! NO!!!!”   It wasn't until the Twilight movie came out that Rob was accepted by the fans.   The search for Christian Grey will probably be even more controversial.  Icy has said she wants unknowns to play Grey and Ana.  Fans aren't so sure about that!

 

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The four actors most often named by fans to play Christian Grey:  Ryan Gosling, Ian Somerhalder, Michael Fassbender, Simon Baker.  Of the four, Ian gets the most press.  He is handsome, but I would love for them to pick an unknown for both Christian and Ana!

 

The economic effects of the Fifty phenomenon are striking. Barnes and Nobles reported this month that the reason for their unexpected gain this period is the “strong sales of the Fifty Shades of Grey series.” Then, there is a noted increase in pregnant woman that is being attributed to the book. Women are calling their expected babies – a Fifty Shades baby, due to their spiced-up marriages. Icy recently signed a licensing agreement for a range of products to be sold – stockings, garters, pjs and hoodies. Also, she collaborated on the Fifty Shades of Grey: The Classical Album - Christian Grey is of course a noted pianist and aficionado of classical music. One love making scene is set to the music of the obscure work by Tallis: Spem in Alium The internet download of that heretofore rarely listened to piece of music climbed to #1 on the ITunes Classical music charts!   Finally, adult stores also report large gains in sales due to the book’s steamy content. 

 

 

 

Is the book good?  I loved it.  I’ll admit it.  But the reviews have been mixed.  Most literary critiques have slammed the book as poorly written.   I must have bad taste.  I thought it was highly entertaining, funny and  sexy, and shocking too – all at the same time.  It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.  There are a few passages (well, more than a few!) that will make you blush bright red, but mostly it’s a lot of give and take snappy verbal sparring between Ana and Christian.    I have read both the original Fanfic version and the Fifty Shades of Grey version.  Except for the differences in the names, and Ana’s eye color, the two are exactly alike – but for one thing – the price.   Free copies of the Master of the Universe copy are available on the internet, if you know how to look for it.  Email me if you want one – I’ll send it to you.  Plus – the book only has three Christian POV (point of views) – the original fanfic had a few more, including their break up scene told in Edward’s voice. 

 

 

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Taking notes? 

 

Since the outrageous success of Fifty Shades, a few other of the best written Twilight fanfics have been published.   One is Gabriel’s Inferno.  And I highly recommend it.  Its nothing like Fifty Shades though, so don’t read it looking for bondage and whips and chains.  It’s just a good  and  very mysterious love story between a college professor and one of his students – with heavy Dante connections.  Dante and fanfiction????  Yes.   Another famous fanfic that is now in publication is called Sempre.  And again, I can highly recommend it.  This time, the book is about human slavery in the United States and the Mafia.  But really, it’s a sweet love story between two young people.  See a trend here?  All sweet love stories.    No wonder I love Twilight fan fiction so much!

 

 

                                                                  

Click to order Gabriel’s Inferno KINDLE on the left and in paperback on the right

 

                                                             

Click to order Sempre on KINDLE on the left, or the paperback book on the right.

 

In closing – nothing is original, everything is derivative, especially literature.    Many people, especially literary critics decry the fanfic genre.  In reality, there is fanfiction that flows through much of the written word.  For instance West Side Story is basically a fanfiction retelling of the story of Romeo & Juliet, which itself was taken from an Italian poem.   And think of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which has been rewritten as both the movies Clueless, and Bridget Jones’ Diary.  Many Disney movies are retellings of more famous stories - The Jungle Book is simply Rudyard Kipling’s Robin Hood.  And Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats is a fanfic of T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.   Even the bible has been rewritten by fans:  Ben Hur, The Last Temptation of Christ, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell – all works based on the bible, rewritten for popular consumption.     So for anyone who judges the validity of Fanfic remember, not much out there is new under the sun. Everyone is inspired by someone, just as Icy was inspired by Twilight. (I have a list of 100s of the most obvious examples of fanfics through the ages – email me and I’ll send the list to you.)

  And as Vicky of French Essence asked me – is there now Fifty Shades fanfic?  Yes, there is!  On www.fanfiction.net, there are now over 200 fanfics written about Fifty Shades.  Oh, the irony.   Fanfiction written about fanfiction!  There are over 200,000 fanfics written about Twilight, over 600,000 rewritten stores about Harry Potter AND there are over 700 retellings of the book Gone With the Wind  - I looked it up! 

 

These cards are just so funny!

 

Finally, what is the appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey?  Why are so many people reading it?  Icy puts it simply, women fantasize about a handsome, rich man sweeping them off their feet and taking total care of them.  With all the responsibilities women have today – work, home, motherhood – the fantasy of having a man control one aspect of their lives is appealing.  Of course, here, that aspect takes place in the bedroom!!   Icy claims to have no experience in the type of kinky lifestyle she writes about, and most people who read the book agree.  It’s all new territory to them.  But many also say the book has helped their marriage by putting the spark back into it.  Maybe that is the appeal?  Basically, it’s just a love story, highly erotic, but  a love story nonetheless.  It’s also a book about compromise, changing for your partner and evolving.      

 

 

So, now I ask you – did you read Fifty Shades of Grey? Did you like it? Did you realize that this best seller was really Twilight fanfiction? Did you know of that connection?   Is the book too racy for you?  Is it too explicit or did you enjoy that part of the story?  Did the book put a little spice back into your marriage as many readers have claimed?  Or, did you find it just a piece of trash and throw it in the garbage, unfinished? Or, have you refused to read it on grounds that it has too much sex in it? 

I am really curious to see what you think of this book!  It was the talk of the summer.  Whenever someone mentioned they were reading a book on their Kindle, it was always Fifty Shades!  Be honest now!  You can sign in anonymously if you want.  I already confessed I enjoyed it, but I suspect many will say they didn’t like it at all.  Should be interesting. 

 

P.S. If you are interested in reading Twilight Fanfic – email me, I’ll send you a list of my favorites. 

  P.S.S. And if you are one of the only people left who doesn’t have the books – you can order them here:

 

 

                                                                       

Here is the series of all three books bundled together.  The KINDLE is on the left, the paperback is on the right. You can order them separately if you like, on Amazon.

 

And, now, in the words of the famous Decorno, DISCUSS!!!!

Laters, baby!

 

 

 Fifty Shades of Grey

 

 

NOTE:  The giveaway is now planned for after Labor Day.  Sorry for the delay.  But I want everyone back in town to be able to enter it!