Tag Archives: Fifty Shades of Green

Gardening Just Got Dirtier: Fifty Shades of Green FREE on Amazon Sept 1-5!

 

Bus copy

FREE download September 1-5!

 

Hi everyone,

Today through Sept. 5th I’m offering a giveaway for, if I do say so myself, an excellent collection of garden erotica!

Who knew there was such a thing as garden erotica? I didn’t, but I had always thought the idea was an intriguing one, so a couple of years ago I sort of . . .  invented a new genre. I decided to publish a book – a collection of sexy (and sometimes very humorous) stories that take place in the garden (you know, that paradise on Earth where some believe original “sin”occurred?). Of course I wanted it to have a feminist slant, and the title shows that I also wanted to poke a little fun at Fifty Shades of Grey. I sent out a call for submissions, and Fifty Shades of Green was the result.

You can read the story about how it all came about here.

And here’s a radio interview you might enjoy.

You can download the book FREE, today through Monday, by going here.

PLEASE tell your gardening friends about this naughty offer, and consider buying some early holiday gifts for your favorite dirty gardeners! I guarantee that this will help them get through the winter.

—Sandra Knauf

 

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To All the Lusty Gardeners: Fifty Shades of Green Interview with Publisher Sandra Knauf

Photo by Lily Knauf.

Photo by Lily Knauf.

Well, here I am, interviewing myself for a press release I put together for Fifty Shades of Green last fall. (When you hear self-publishers wear a lot of hats, that is the truth!) I was going to share this interview back with you then, but other things came up and it got stuck in the Drafts folder here on WordPress. Since the film of the other Fifty Shades book is out, I thought now might be a good time.

If you haven’t bought a copy of my book yet, you’re in luck. We have a special going on now – retail price is $15.95, sale price is $12.95 (and it looks like Amazon has taken another dollar off from there). Don’t delay; the savings will not get better than this! Here’s the link!

—Sandra Knauf

And Now . . . the Interview

What brought this book about? It started as a joke. I read Fifty Shades of Grey and was shocked. Not by the BDSM sex, but by the inequality in the relationship. I thought: This is what women find sexy? The story had no basis in reality and the heroine was the “submissive”—in bed, in experience, and economically and socially. What’s sexy about that?

I talked to friends and saw most had the same reaction. At first I thought it would be funny to do a parody, a novel with a female protagonist who was older and a billionaire, someone who had all the power in society, and in the bedroom, who would mete out discipline to a virginal, college-aged male love interest. But after exploring that idea, I found it didn’t hold my interest. So the idea changed to a collection of stories.

Where did the gardening theme come from? Gardening had to be a theme. It’s my personal passion and it’s the subject of all my publishing work. Plus, the garden is the perfect setting for sexual encounters. Non-gardeners may not know this, but the garden is a sexy, fruitful, lustful place. And besides, women and gardens have shared an intimate relationship since the beginning; starting, one could say, with Eve.

Can you tell us about the writers? I fell in love with all the writers. Most are seasoned erotica writers and avid gardeners, so they know what they’re writing about in both departments. Several are men, and it was wonderful to have that perspective; two of the writers are from Britain, and I found that thrilling as the British are known for their mad gardening skills. Another writer’s the editor for a regional gardening magazine, and one graduated from Harvard Law School. There’s an exciting diversity in styles and backgrounds.

Do you have a background in the erotica genre? No, and I honestly didn’t know a lot about the genre before I started this project. But I learned, and I read some of the best work out there, and the more I learned the greater my respect for the genre grew. This is my feeling on the subject: sexuality is one of the most important, powerful, and certainly one of the most beautiful aspects of our existence and the way it’s treated is sad. We have a culture where sex=porn and that is just not so. There needs to be a return to honoring sexuality and lovemaking. Placing sexuality in a dark, forbidden place breeds a lot of society’s ills.

How do you feel erotica fits into today’s literature and why is it becoming so popular? I feel that readers are looking for deeper connections, and when you have access to a character’s sexuality, you see the whole person. I think this is the reason TV shows have become more sexual—not for the titillation, though that can be a part of it, but because we want fully-developed characters. In a big way, A Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert validated this book project for me. Here was a story, from a respected author, about a virginal woman in the 1800s obsessed with studying, of all things, mosses. There’s a lot about horticulture and history and becoming a fully-realized human being, but Gilbert also explored her protagonist’s sexuality. It was enthralling, reading about this character’s sexual awakening and her desires.

What surprised you most about the stories you received? The imagination, and the heart. Eros is the god of love and where the word erotica originates, and there is a joy and a depth in these stories that goes far beyond the sex act. In pornography there is no heart; it’s only about the stimulation. I found myself moved by some of the stories, such as “Pulse of the Earth,” a healing love story between two men. “Love Lies Bleeding” is so beautifully written it took my breath away, and “Phallus Impudicus” is high comedy. “The Judgment of Eric” is a riddle. There are a couple of stories where love potions figure in and that’s always fun, both from an adult “fairy tale” perspective and from a psychological standpoint. The collection is a mix of many aspects of the sexual psyche.

Did you have a favorite? Yes and no. I hand-picked them all, and I love them all, but there are a few that are special to me. I won’t name my favorites, but what’s funny is they changed during the editorial process. One story I read aloud recently and just went, “Wow. I think this is my favorite.” I also find it interesting that there’s no consensus among those who’ve read the book. This tells me there’s something for everyone.

Do you garden? (And do you think gardening’s sexy?) Can I scream, “Oh YESSSS!”? I have been an obsessed gardener for over two decades, when we first bought a home that had a yard. I went through master gardener training twice, the second time as a refresher course. I remember the first cottage garden I saw. I was 19 and my soon-to-be husband and I were house-sitting for his brother and his wife. Victoria and Danny had little money but they had an amazing garden: chickens and flowers, a vegetable garden, fruit trees in barrels, a tiered strawberry bed. This was in Colorado in the 1980s and enjoying this humble yet wildly productive and beautiful garden I thought, “This is paradise. I want to do this one day.” And I did.

As far as sex and the garden go, there is no place sexier. Flowers are the sex organs of plants, you know. They are beautiful and many emit intoxicating perfumes. If you have a flower garden and a vegetable garden, you have an orgy going on during the spring and summer, right in your backyard! The bees and butterflies are pollinating, the flowers are cross-pollinating. It’s amazing. You’re surrounded by sex.                                                                                                                                                                                         

P. S. I thought you might find it amusing that the pose and setting for my press kit photo was inspired by one of my favorite garden writers—that true champion of organic growing, Ruth Stout! I love her so! It I wrote about her life last year in a mini-bio that you can read either in Greenwoman #5 or in the Kindle publication, The Whole Ruth: A Biography of Ruth Stout.

Thank you, Ruth. Your sexy good humor was just what I was looking for.

My sultry and sensual garden mentor, Ruth Stout. Did you know she enjoyed gardening in the nude?

I imagine Ruth Stout thought this photo funny and suggestive of a “roll in the hay” with the author of books on straw mulch gardening!
(Did you know she enjoyed gardening in the nude?)

And, once more, the link to buy yourself (or your lusty gardening pal/s) a copy. You know they make great gifts, too!

Poppy FInal June 17 copy

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Fifty Shades of Green Blog Tour

We start the tour with a post by Janine Ashbless on her hauntingly sexy tale "Love Lies Bleeding."

We start the tour with a post by the incomparable Janine Ashbless.

Our 20-blog tour starts today! Five days a week, Monday through Friday, for four weeks. Most of the host sites for this one are in Britain so it’ll be fun to see the response from our friends there.

Will they like our collection of naughty gardening stories? Will we make the connections we’re hoping for? We certainly hope so!

All of our Fifty Shades of Green authors are participating. Each has written a fascinating post on what inspired their sexy Fifty Shades of Green story.

I loved reading these posts on the story-behind-the-story. What fun to peek behind the narrative at the history, the spark that began the creative process, the personal experience that launched an erotic garden tale. Oh, I am a sucker for it all.

If you are, too, check it out. You’ll see:

—how Jean Ashbless  (“Love Lies Bleeding”) originally wanted to write about a ghost in a garden.

—how Slave Nano’s Edwardian BDSM story (“Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester and the Walled Garden”) is really all about class warfare.

—how America’s Spanish Colonial history inspired the setting for the tender eroticism of Evey Brett’s “The Pulse of the Earth.”

—how (like me!) T. C. Mill, inspired by her negative reaction to Fifty Shades of Grey was actually beginning the process of putting together her own anthology of feminist erotica, emphasizing mutual consent and communication in sexual relationships, called, at that time, 50 Shades of Negotiation* when she came across the call for submissions for Fifty Shades of Green. Although Mill’s not a gardener it inspired her to write the enchanting “Rosewitch.” (*Her collection’s name changed to Between The Shores and is coming out this fall.)

There are also some slightly silly (but I hope humorous) posts by me on plant sex, insect sex, all kinds of sex in the garden. Because, you know, the garden is a sexy place. And it certainly was a big inspiration for me in creating the book’s concept.

Below is the tour schedule. I hope you’ll follow us on the tour and tell your friends.

Best to you all this Monday morning.

—Sandra

P. S. For this tour Fifty Shades of Green has been discounted on Amazon. It’s at the lowest price it will ever be—and just in time for early holiday shopping!

We're having a great "Tour Sale" right now on Amazon.

We’re having a “Tour Sale” right now on Amazon.

Our Tour Dates

20th Oct.         http://elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com/

Post: Janine Ashbless, “The Gardener and the Vampire” & excerpt from “Love Lies Bleeding”

21st Oct.          http://ReneaMason.com

Post: T. C. Mill, “Now Underway: Fifty Shades of Revolution” & excerpt from “Rosewitch”

22nd Oct.        http://sallyannerogers0112.wordpress.com/

Post: Sandra Knauf, “How Fifty Shades of Grey Inspired Fifty Shades of Green” & excerpt from “The Pulse of the Earth” by Evey Brett

23rd Oct.         http://jacquelinebrocker.net/

Post: Rebekah, “A Horned God in Her Garden—‘Phallus Impudicus’” & excerpt from “Phallus Impudicus”

24th Oct.         http://InThePagesofaGoodBook.com

Spotlight (no post). Excerpt from “Sunlight and Water” by Colleen Chen

27th Oct.         http://alliwantandmorebooks.wordpress.com/

Post: Gloria Holden, “Hot for (Native Plant) Teacher” & excerpt from “Exploding Alfalfa”

28th Oct.         http://houstonhavens.wordpress.com/

Post: Simone Martel, “Teaching a Techie Gardening . . . and More” & excerpt from “First, Take Off the Hoodie”

29th Oct.         http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk

Post: Evey Brett, “Padre Kino and ‘The Pulse of the Earth'” & excerpt from “The Pulse of the Earth”

30th Oct.         http://eroticaforall.co.uk

Post: Sandra Knauf, “Dirty Hands, Dirty Minds/Naughty Things to Say in the Garden’”& excerpt from “Seed” by Michael Bracken

31st Oct.          http://hawt-reads.com/

Post: Becky Trachsel, “Love’s First Bloom” & excerpt from “The Education of a French Gardener”

3rd Nov.          http://kdgrace.co.uk

Post: Slave Nano “Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester: A Story of Power in Class in the Edwardian Country Home” & excerpt from “Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester and the Walled Garden”

4th Nov.           http://www.myeroticnotions.blogspot.com/

Post: Sandra Knauf, “Ten Places to Have Sex in the Garden” & excerpt from “Seed” by Michael Bracken

5th Nov.           http://locglin.blogspot.com/

Sandra Knauf Interview & excerpt from “Love Lies Bleeding” by Janine Ashbless

6th Nov.          http://galestanley.blogspot.com/

Post: Andrew Peters, “The Gods Screw Around” & excerpt from “The Judgment of Eric”

7th Nov.           http://lcwilkinson.com/

Post: R. R. S. “Sex Among the Rationalists” & excerpt from “Lavished”

10th Nov.        http://belindasbookshelf.com/

Post: Sandra Knauf, “Other Kinds of Kinky Sex in the Garden” & excerpt from “First, Take Off the Hoodie” by Simone Martel

11th Nov.         http://erzabetsenchantments.blogspot.com/

Post: Sandra Knauf “Plant Sex 101” & excerpt from “Exploding Alfalfa” by Gloria Holden

12th Nov.         https://choward2614.wordpress.com/

Post: Michael Bracken, “The Seeds of ‘Seed'” & excerpt from “Seed”

13th Nov.         http://www.kaceyhammell.com/

Post: Colleen Chen, “The Cultivation of Love” & excerpt from “Sunlight and Water”

14th Nov.         http://afterdark-online.com/

Post: Sandra Knauf, “Flowers That Look Like . . .” & excerpt from “Rosewitch” by T. C. Mill
We end the tour with the sexy sorcery of "Rosewitch."

Ending the tour with the sexy feminist sorcery of “Rosewitch.”

Don’t forget: the book is on sale now on Amazon. You can read one free story on the Garden Shorts website and sign up for a second free story.

See what the writers are talking about!

 

 

 

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Awkward Botany and Daniel Murphy

By Dave Whitinger (http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/80166/)  via Wikimedia Commons

By Dave Whitinger (http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/80166/)
via Wikimedia Commons

 

Yesterday I received a note from Daniel Murphy, who has been a friend of mine for years. We first met as pen pals/zine traders. It was back when I started self-publishing my little zine Greenwoman (scroll waaaaay down to the bottom of the link to read about the zines) in around 2007. These zines were 100% handmade by me—photocopies hand-tied with jute.  Rough, but, if I do say so myself, rather charming. In his zines, Dan wrote about gardening, punk rock, skateboarding, and trying to save the world. He bought my first zine and wrote me, by LETTER (as that’s the way the zinesters roll), and we immediately became friends.

Oh, those were the simple days! Dan was on his way to grad school, working at a community garden, publishing his own zines, and connecting with the garden-lovin’-freaks of the zine world. I was raising kids, gardening obsessively, raising chickens in the backyard, and wondering what would be possible with self-publishing.

We’re still working hard on our dreams, and Dan’s now at the Idaho Botanical Garden. As much as he loves plants, he loves writing too, and tries to fit that obsession into an already chock-full life. He’s doing some writing through his blog, Awkward Botany (how I love that name) and he shared the story about our very odd passalong plant yesterday. That’s what he was writing me about—well, that, and he was very curious about the Fifty Shades of Green book! I’m going to send him and his love (her name is Flora!) a copy next week.

I hope you’ll check out his post. The carrion flower is such an amazing plant. It has one of the most beautiful and strange flowers I’ve ever seen. I bought my cuttings from eBay; it was one of those instances where I read about the plant, became absolutely obsessed with getting one, and, well, you can find most everything on eBay.

To share a little more about Dan. He’s every bit as obsessed as I am about the world of plants and how we connect with it. Here’s one of my favorite essays of his, from Greenwoman, issue #4.

—Sandra Knauf

 

The Seed, the Radicle, and the Revolution

by Daniel Murphy

Many people are familiar with the “one straw revolution” proposed by Japanese rice farmer Masanobu Fukuoka, but what about the simple, revolutionary powerhouse that is the seed? Seeds have often been referred to metaphorically when discussing revolutions, new movements, new beginnings, social change, spiritual awakenings. It only makes sense that the first thing to emerge from a seed during germination is the embryonic root known as the radicle (pronounced radical). It has been said that it only takes one individual to start a revolution. It only takes one seed to start a forest. The process may be slow, but the potential is there.

A tiny seed finds its way into a small crack in the sidewalk. The radical emerges. Before you know it, a plant strong enough to push apart two concrete slabs has grown. A radical radical pushes headlong through a pile of dirt and much that has collected in a rain gutter on a rooftop. Up sprouts a renegade plant, adamant about making a human-made structure its home. Devastation can come in the form of a seed; ruins can be made of structures that were ignorantly thought of as eternal. Radicals rise up as radicles force themselves downward, rooting in new lives, and readying themselves for battle. Yes, the seed is revolutionary.

Words are like seeds, and their influence can cause a social sea change as the message spreads. The Juniper zine is microscopic proof of that. As letters have trickled in to the Juniperbug mailbox, this editor has noticed a thriving (albeit grassroots) social movement as readers have recounted their stories of gardening, biking, and going back to the land. Rusty bikes have been retrieved from dusty storage areas, tuned up and taken for a ride. Derelict areas of backyard lawn have been turned over, and gardens have sprouted up. The slow life is spreading just as fast as the seeds can germinate, and off we sprint toward ecotopia.

Spring is for sowing seeds and encouraging growth. Love is in the air, and heaven knows that the revolution needs much more of that. Cynicism can be brushed away for a while. Spring cleaning allows us to pull some of our skeletons out of their hiding spots and send them packing. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed while we’re at it. Certainly a seed recognizes the pressure that lies on its tiny self to thrive, flourish and produce. But there is potential in all of us; potential that will not be compromised: neither blacked-out by black hearts nor whited-out by whitewash. The subversive seed and its radical roots will be our mascot. Let’s make our gardens grow. Let’s not rot in the soil, but instead sprout and rise up. Your neighborhood is your seedbed. That’s where the movement starts.

 

I have mad green love for Daniel Murphy.

Mad green love for Mr. Murphy.

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Fifty Shades of Green, the Paperback: IT’S HERE!

You may be seeing our "card" on a bulletin board near you!

You may be seeing our “calling card” on a bulletin board near you!

 

Another case of “What a week!”

We received five proofs of the paperback book on Monday. I delivered one to the editor and one to a friend who said she’d give it a final proofread. My daughter Zora said she’d pitch in, too. Of course I got one. My goal was to have it done within 24 hours. The book is only around 150 pages, and we’d been over it several times already, including a second look by each and every contributor.

Well. Of course it took three times longer. There were many errors we didn’t catch the first time—including words used the wrong way.

Future note to writers, including myself : Check every single word you do not use in everyday conversation.

There was also the matter of ridding stories of brand names (a big no-no; one can be sued over such things), and sentences that were grammatically incorrect and needed restructuring or made into two sentences, and commas that needed to be added, deleted, or moved. And the list went on and on.

An interesting note on the use of trade names: In the film Slumdog Millionaire, Mercedes-Benz and Coca-Cola objected to their products being used in the Mumbai slum scenes. The logos had to be disguised.

I must be an optimist, because I imagined there would be maybe a half-dozen changes in the book, not over a hundred. Then I had to compile all of the changes. And change not only the print version, but the Kindle version, and the individual digital stories that I, in my enthusiasm, had rushed to publication on Amazon last week.

Such is the nature of publishing. If you have ever been there, you will know exactly what I mean. Mistakes crop up more prolifically than weeds. Out of sight, then whoa, everywhere! Perfectionism is an ABSOLUTE REQUIREMENT. You want to look like you truly care about your work. At least I do.

This is why self-publishers need not only one professional editor, but ideally two (with different areas of expertise), and a professional proofreader, and a few smart readers that are sure to catch things those individuals don’t catch. I had this, and very good people with years of experience helping, but we still struggled.

Ahhh. So glad that is over. There will be a few more errors found, and it’s fine. There will always be something, even in the biggest, most extravagantly-funded publishing houses, but for now . . . the book is ready.

It’s READY!

It’s on Kindle today, available to order!!!  Here’s the LINK!

Now to my next task—promotion. Astonishingly enough, these last months have been the “easy” part. There’s a quote from Jack Canfield, author of those mega-bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul books. He likens the work of publishing a book to an iceberg. The top 10%, the part that’s visible, is the book itself, including ALL the work it took to bring it into being. The 90% below the surface is the part that will determine whether or not the book will be successful. That part is the marketing.

After four years I know this well. I’ve lived it.

And so, on with the 90%!

I do hope that you all will check out the book on Amazon. I was so very happy to see that the Kindle edition’s preview. Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature lets you read the entire first story in this collection, which is “Phallus Impudicus” by Rebekah. I’m sure the “Look Inside” feature will also be available on the paperback book’s link within the next couple of days. What I love most about “Phallus Impudicus” is that it’s funny. It’s one of my favorite stories in the collection and it’s a good introduction to the magic, naughtiness, sexiness, and gardening love of Fifty Shades of Green.

So tell your friends to check out that free story and consider buying the book. It is surely a one-of-a-kind, ground-breaking (pun intended!), be-the-first-of-your-friends-to-know-about-it collection!

—Sandra Knauf

P. S. I HAD to end this post with a visual for another of our other favorite stories. Though, honestly, this anthology is like having 12 beloved children (stories); it is impossible to pick a favorite. The art is the cover for the story is “Love Lies Bleeding” by Janine Ashbless. “Love Lies Bleeding” is a completely compelling, beautifully written, and sexy supernatural tale. A true gothic romance. And I love the title. (For those who don’t know, love lies bleeding is a colloquial name for the plant amaranth.)

My daughter Zora created the Kindle cover from free images I found on Wikimedia Commons.

 

Beautiful cover for "Love Lies Bleeding" created by Zora Knauf.

Stunning cover for “Love Lies Bleeding” created by Zora Knauf.

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Fifty Shades of Green

Poppy FInal June 17 copy

 

 

Some of you know about the adults-only publishing adventure I’ve been on this spring and summer, Fifty Shades of Green.  It’s a book project that started out as a feminist answer to the famous/notorious novel Fifty Shades of Grey, but then turned into a one-of-a-kind collection of erotic and literary gardening stories. (With a feminist bent, of course.)

I wanted to announce today that while we’re still a week or so from having the paperback book available, Zora and I have managed to get five individual stories available on Kindle as of today. I am also offering a FREE sample story, “Phallus Impudicus,” for those who sign up for the Fifty Shades of Green newsletter. (Look to the top right of this blog to sign up or go to the Garden Shorts website.)

For those of you with full in-boxes, I’m offering, temporarily, this link to read the story on the Garden Shorts webpage. It’s a hidden page so it doesn’t show up on the site. You’ll only be able to access it through this special link, here.

But, I’d encourage you to sign up for the newsletter. There won’t be a lot of “mail” and through the newsletter you’ll learn more about the project, its authors, have access to discounts and special offers, etc.

We may have the entire book available on Kindle as a digital download as early as today. For those of you who don’t have a Kindle device, you don’t need one; you can download a reader-app from Amazon and read it right off of your computer. It’s easy-peasy!

If you choose to indulge in any of these stories, please let me know what you’ve sampled and what you think! (And it would be great if you told your friends about it, too.)

The second part of this post is about our story covers. While I hope to connect with gardeners and aspiring gardeners through this project we realize there’s a huge erotica market out there and those readers might be  interested in this book.

With that in mind, Zora thought we should create some “sexy lady” covers. My idea was having covers that feature some kind of provocative-looking fruit, veggie, or flower, like the poppy bud on the book’s cover. We talked it over and I sided with the fresh vision of youth; we’d try the sexy ladies. And I realized that this produce/floral idea might only catch on with gardeners.

So, among other things, we spent all week making covers and formatting individual stories and the book.

You’ll can see three of the covers—and stories—on Amazon if you type in “Fifty Shades of Green.”

For the additional two stories: “The Education of a French Gardener” is here. “First, Take Off the Hoodie” is here.

I have no idea why these two don’t come up through the author or editor’s name. Yet another glitch to fix!  There are many in self-publishing. It is anything but easy-peasy.

Now for my cover story. This week I made the cover for “The Judgment of Eric.” It’s a story about a gardener who gets the attention of two Greek Gods, Apollo and Dionysus. They appear in his garden and compel him to participate in a contest—a contest in which Eric will decide which god is the better lover! It’s sexy, wildly imaginative, and homoerotic. (We have three homoerotic stories in the twelve story collection.)

I tried to think of a good image and finally came up with this one. It’s from an ancient Greek amphora (jar).

 

I thought it was art, Amazon thinks it's pornographic.

I thought it was art. Amazon thinks it’s pornographic.

 

Last night I was notified this cover was rejected as pornographic. I disagree, but I adapted it. (And then we all had a good laugh.) Now I don’t know if this one will be rejected, too, but to me it’s  more suggestive. Such is the nature of censorship.

 

 

I don't know, is this "better"?

I don’t know, is this “better”?

 

I hope you’ll take a peek!

—Sandra Knauf

 

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Fifty Shades of Green

The cover is a take on the Fifty Shades of Gray title, with the hose signifying . . . well, you'll just have to use your imagination there.

Our mock-up for the cover is a take on the Fifty Shades of Grey cover, with the hose signifying    . . . well, whatever your imagination wants it to signify.

 

It started last year after reading a Facebook post. Someone shared an article about how Fifty Shades of Grey author E. L. James made more money that year than any author on the planet.

Yes, the planet.

That was hard for me to believe. So I read the article. It was true. Then I thought, well, damn, I guess I have to read the book now. See what the fuss is about.

I think everyone’s heard of it. It’s a book that features a lot of sex between a handsome (but psychologically damaged) billionaire and a plucky and pretty college student. The title comes from his declaration, “I’m fifty shades of f**ed up, Ana.” And from the fact that his surname’s Grey.  The 21-year-old college student starts the story, and the relationship, as a virgin. Their names are swooningly romantic, the prince-and-princess-like Christian and Anastasia. 

So I downloaded the book from the library, read most of it, and realized two things. One, contrary to popular opinion among writers, the writing’s not bad. The prose is not dazzling, nor original, but it’s solid, and the protagonist is believable.

My problems with the story were the single theme (a troubled romance), and that there were no other plot lines. I also didn’t find Christian compelling or interesting (poor suffering, handsome billionaire just doesn’t resonate with me).

The second thing I noticed was that the sensationalism came from the abundant and explicit kinky sex that Christian persuades Ana to participate in. By kinky, I mean light BDSM, which I learned stood for bondage/discipline, submission/dominance, and sadism/masochism. Ana has mixed feelings about all this, but overall she enjoys it. She sets some sensible boundaries, so nothing is that dangerous or demeaning—in her opinion, anyway.

50shadesofgrey (2)

So there you go! Oh yes, it’s also a fan fiction from another disturbing (to me, anyway) 21st century relationship story written for teens, Twilight.

What was funny to me was the stories I’d hear about Fifty Shades. One seventy-year-old friend told me her book group read it and the ladies, all around her age, loved it. Diane, no prude, refused to read it. (Good for you, I thought.) My daughter Zora, who was in Ireland in school last year said the book was very popular on campus. Many students were talking about it, and someone told of a monk they knew who was seen reading it on the bus; even his curiosity got the better of him!

Such are fads.

I did have one connection with the book before I read it. I was in the store last Valentine’s Day when I spotted the cookbook parody Fifty Shades of Chicken. I looked through it, found it hilarious (it has recipes for Mustard-Spanked Chicken and Dripping Thighs) and bought it for my husband. If you haven’t seen the steamy trailer for that, feast your eyes here. And you’ll get a good idea of the prose in Fifty Shades of Grey.

What ultimately bothered me about Fifty Shades of Grey were the stereotypes: pure-hearted girl, smart and brave but dirt-poor financially in comparison to her love interest, mooning and swooning over her societal “better.”

She is in a powerless position in comparison to him, yet the overall message is that her love will save him!

There’s not even a twist with the whole BDSM thing . . . she’s, get this, the “submissive” in the relationship! Excuse me while I throw up. This is how far we’ve gotten? I mean, I know biology is biology, and love is love, but still . . . is there no progress?

I bitched about the book to a friend, saying something along the lines of, “I would like to write a parody of this book where the tables are turned. Where it’s an older woman who is the powerful billionaire and the guy’s the virginal college student, and she gets to tie him up and spank him! But I also want a gardening theme. Hmm. Okay, I’ve got it. She’s this powerful woman who is helping save the environment through her scientific work, yet she likes to do naughty stuff in her garden.”

My dear friend, whose imagination knows no bounds but is acquainted with bondage, immediately came up with some ideas for my new story. This is from a letter she wrote:

“Now you have my sick imagination working with your wicked theme. . . .The plethora of garden implements and tools certainly adds to the spice. ‘I remember a particularly effective lover who made me pick out my own switch from the garden bushes for my spanking.’ Yes, there is a lot of S&M potential in the garden but we could camp it up and add liberal dashes of sarcasm. Forcing a lover to wear stilettos when she was turning the compost. Creative uses for garden hoses. Making the lover into a ‘weeding slave’ who must stay on his hands and knees for hours doing your dirty work (now I might really advertise for that one!)”

Of course I was beyond delighted with Rebekah’s ideas. This idea could be fun! Yet, the more I thought about it, the more limiting I realized a parody of the book would be. Having no personal experience in . . . whatever that acronym is, I read up on the subject. Let me say I have no qualms with those who are into this kind of lifestyle, but it’s not for me. In fact, The Story of O left me cold. I find no thrills in pain (though, yes, I know about the role endorphins play, I get it). I find no swoons in that kind of vulnerability. Perhaps I have slavery in my genetic background as the thought of being handcuffed and under someone else’s mercy, even a lover . . . just . . . no. I wondered, is it just me or do privileged white people get into this stuff more?  (I just looked it up. Yes, indeed, that seems to be the case, but again, it’s “complicated.” I skimmed this scholarly article on the subject, if you’re interested.)

What does intrigue about the Fifty Shades phenomenon is the playful aspect. Readers testing boundaries. Readers liking to experiment with their literature.

I started to think of my idea for a book. I loved the idea of getting down (however you may interpret that) in the garden. Now that is sexy. And the garden as a place for lovemaking, really, it’s so perfect. Isn’t that where it all started?

But then, one story wouldn’t be enough. And why limit love to bondage, or one couple in particular?

I began to think about an anthology.

This was something I knew would be fun, but at the same time, I was reluctant to take on another project. The magazine and my young adult novel, both of which I cared deeply about, were taking all of my time. How could I add something else? On the other hand, I desperately needed a diversion. Something more frivolous and fun (and sexy!) where I’d get to work with other writers. This could be perfect. I had been wanting to work on another fiction book for two years, with two other writers, but hadn’t had the time to devote to it. This project could fill that need.

But would anyone connect to the idea?

Some of you may be thinking—are you kidding? All I can say to that is when you’re an author and publisher you are filled with self-doubt on a daily basis.

I asked some friends and they all thought the idea was hilarious.

I continued with the plan and in early April got a website up and a call for submissions listed on Duotrope. The incomparable Elisabeth Kinsey agreed to be editor. (If you don’t know Elisabeth’s work, you are missing out. She’s written six brilliant “Sex in the Garden” essays for Greenwoman Magazine. She is perfect for this project.) I wrote a few other friends who are writers and asked them to spread the word. Several of them (all extraordinary writers) said they wanted to participate!

As we talked, a few of us even thought of pseudonyms we might use. Rebekah said she’d always wanted to use a name she’d heard on an episode of Will & Grace, when Megan Mullally (who plays Karen) blurts out a fake name during a bowling outing with strangers.

Anastasia Beaverhouse.

I will leave you time for laughing before I tell you the one I came up with.

Mimsey Quimblossom. I liked the “mmm” sounds.

(And it got worse from there.)

So there has already been frivolity and the submissions are pouring in! The first two were from dear Rebekah, and they are astonishing. One is sweet, one is the funniest story I have read about sex. In the last few weeks I have received stories from people I didn’t know—well written, intelligent, captivating, lusty, garden-y stories. The project is well underway. I am really looking forward to sharing this book with you!

I wanted to tell you about it today as some of you may be writers and you may wish to delve into this subject matter. Isn’t it a well-known issue with writers that some have trouble writing about sex? Well, now’s your chance! It’s about a month before the submission deadline, June 15th. The book will be published in July on Amazon Createspace. It will also be available as a digital download.

If you’re interested in submitting a story, get the details here on the website.

So mark your calendars and tell your friends. This book will be this summer’s must-read.

—Sandra

 

 

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