Tag Archives: Rebekah Shardy

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.




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The Green Riddler

What type of book commercial would appeal to YA readers, I wondered. Readers who might dig a story about a girl with magical powers, a socially awkward but brilliant biotech scientist, some intense environmentalists . . . super-weird and scary GMOs  . . . the green man . . . and plants.

My self-published book needed to be promoted and I had to come up with something affordable (i.e. practically free) that would get some notice.

But what?

For our first commercial I found a young actor on Fiverr—for those of you who don’t know about Fiverr, here’s the description:

“Fiverr is a global online marketplace offering tasks and services, referred to as ‘gigs’ beginning at a cost of $5 per job performed, from which it gets its name. The site is primarily used by freelancers who use Fiverr to offer a variety of different services, and by customers to buy those services.”

Adam Russell freelanced there, creating videos for individuals who wanted to sell a product or send a humorous message to a friend. One of his specialties was impersonating Harry Potter. He was funny, creative, energetic, adorable, talented. I wrote to him, told him what I had in mind. He said he’d do it. I sent a copy of Zera and the Green Man to England. We sent him the first commercial, cleverly scripted by my friend, writer Rebekah Shardy. We  had great results—I promoted the post on our Zera and the Green Man page on Facebook and it received over 1,100 hits!

That was at the end of January.

Recently, Lisa Repka of the Innovation Team I’m working with at UCCS suggested more videos for our Zera and the Green Man website and Facebook page. She thought they’d be great promotional tools.

I’d thought that too, but had hesitated because of the time it would take to create a series of videos, and, always, expense was an issue. Having her bring it up convinced me to put it on the to-do list.

I wanted something fun, but educational. I came up with an idea. How about “green” riddles? Riddles about plants? If you solve the riddle, your name is entered in a weekly drawing for a book.

The first hurdle was seeing if Adam was up for it. He was. (He’s terrific in every way. 100% professional.)

I researched riddles and found a few in old books, but we needed more. Another member of the Innovation Team, Jordan Yee, came up with three good ones. Zora and I created several more.

I drafted six short scripts and then thought—wait a minute—I need to create a character for Adam. What kind of character should Adam play? What would he be comfortable doing? First I thought of “The Green Wizard,” then, aha, “The Green Riddler.”  “The Green Riddler” might be a fun character in the book’s sequel, too! Hmmmm. A film student that Zera meets in Britain while she’s trying to find out more about her family’s history. He could be a film student with a secret identity. Adam liked the idea and brought his own brand of comic zaniness to the mix.

Now, honestly, we don’t know where we’re going with this. It’s an experiment. We don’t have a market research team or anything fancy like that. It’s just a few people with a next-to-nothing budget coming up with the best ideas we can. We don’t know if anyone will even like these videos!

But we like them. We hope you will, too! And if you do, that you will share our little endeavor with friends—and have them go to our Zera and the Green Man Facebook Page and enter in the contest!

If you have the time, we’d love some feedback, too. On Wednesday I promoted this first riddle on Facebook. I spent over $100 on promoting the post to a particular audience (young readers of fantasy, environmentalists, etc.). I’m sorry to say we had dismal results. Dismal! Completely opposite of that first video’s success. It’s a different look, yes, the Harry Potter vibe isn’t there, but the numbers should be better. I’m going to give it another go this next week (and instead of coming up with the new video on Wednesday, I may change that to Saturday). I’ll come up with a catchier one-line post, I’ll see what the Innovation Team thinks . . .

Wish us luck!

And, if you can, please visit our page.




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Little Cabbage by Rebekah Shardy

Illustration by Laura Chilson

Illustration by Laura Chilson

[I am thrilled to share one of our stories from the latest issue of Greenwoman. Rebekah Shardy’s soulful  fiction has previously appeared in Issue #4 (“Lady in Waiting”); in our latest issue she also shares her considerable knowledge on planting by the moon phases. The issue is available for order on our website or through Amazon.—Sandra Knauf]

Little Cabbage

“No appetite? Again?” The Nurse’s Aide with impossibly long purple nails heaved the bowed old woman’s wheelchair smack against the table. “You better eat those vegetables if you want to keep that girlish figure!”

That set off a gale of whoops and laughter from her friend across the room feeding a man strapped to his chair so he wouldn’t fall into a bowl of gray, pureed meat.

“It ain’t funny no more!” the churlish Aide focused her indignation on the woman who refused to look up, head hanging from her thick neck. “I’m getting sick of you wasting my time, Petty.”

“Petty? Did you say Petty?” the other CNA asked. “You mean PATTY?”

“No, Petty. Like Pedi-gree dogfood, or Pedi-cure, or pedi-phile.”

“That’s disgusting. What a disgusting name to give somebody.”

“Sssh. They tell me she’s a hospice patient. Be nice now.”

The old woman, who refused to talk or even acknowledge those that talked to and about her stared at her plate. Something that had once dreamed of being a tomato lay there in a coma of yellowed, hardening flesh, its rosy juices evaporated like the old woman’s last hopes.

It compelled memories from a time before days in the nursing home, before the struggle to forget the facts of her life, and the gardens that once nourished her.

* * *

She had always been too sensitive. As a girl, Emma was too shy to even look at a man, and was easily bruised by the most casual conversations. She remained single long after her siblings to end up living in her parents’ old, mustard-colored stucco house at the end of Avondale Street, a content recluse at 53.

She had her delights. Standing in the rain as she weeded her garden on a hot day, feeling the rise of goosebumps from the cold pinpricks fallen on bare arms and neck. She didn’t care what anyone thought as she lifted her head to taste it, the sweet-saltiness of sky and earth kissing.

Watching the paired swifts build their nests in her eaves was another joy that left her heart with inexplicable yearning. Picking scarlet raspberries, their plump soft bodies bursting in her mouth like laughter. Feeling a tentative ladybug make its intrepid way up her hairy arm to suddenly—rise! The suck and succor of new, tilled earth beneath her spreading toes, toes that instinctively kneaded the ground like a kitten does its mother for milk.

Her days seemed endless, simple and out of doors. Indoors, she read poetry and wrote a little, but rarely entertained visitors, unless you counted the cricket she allowed entrance in the frost of fall, or the caged finches she sang to at bedtime, and the one-eyed fox terrier that snored on her bed.

And then, like a summer storm, without warning, he came.

Eyes milky blue and hands too soft for a carpenter, dressed in an unfashionable yellow suit, but calm and steady enough to see her untamed, skittish soul, and love it.

He knew she was a gardener and instead of staid roses brought her bouquets of bushy tomato plants. She buried her face in their spicy leaves. When she looked up she was surprised to be greeted by a searching gaze of adoration.

Mon petit chou . . .” he whispered in one blushing ear as they sat on her front porch swing at dusk.



“What does it mean?”

“My . . . little . . . cabbage.”

She never guessed she was capable of human passion, but it followed him into her life. They never married but once she found herself pregnant; a little boy she planned to give her father’s name. It was the sherry her lover brought that helped loosen her fright of conventional intimacy, the same Marsala she added to the stewed tomatoes they loved to slurp together with a dollop of sweet cream. He called them ‘drunken’ tomatoes—wonderful on crusty bread with lots of black pepper.

But time, which brought her pleasures unguessed, also ushered in sorrows unexpected. The child miscarried and the only man she ever loved died suddenly in an accident at the lumberyard where he sometimes searched for cast-offs. She did not live alone well anymore. Like the swifts, she wanted the safety and warmth of eaves to protect her little nest; something in her heart hissed that fall was coming.

She often thought it cruel when neighbors cut their trees in the bloom and boldness of summer, when every living thing was proud to be alive; it was in that season of abundant possibilities, 14 years after his death, that her home was taken from her.

She felt old for the first time in 73 years. Her limbs and back were too stiff and tired to garden anymore. Dark clouds of smoky wind-seeded fennel hovered ominously over the yard. Apples rotted where they fell. The berries became the birds.

“Come on, Miss Shumaker. You can’t stay here now. It’s not safe for you.”

A nosey neighbor had complained about the little stove fire she had while napping one day. The fire department reported their concern to Adult Protection when they saw the magnitude of decline in both woman and house.

“That’s not my name,” she told the social worker who’d come to remove her.

“Emma, then. Come along. I found you a lovely place. They’ll even cook your meals—wonderful, home-cooked food.”

She wouldn’t budge. “I told you: that’s not my name. And I’m not going either.”

“Well then, what is your name?”

Emma broke down. The sun was a starburst in a cloudless sky, and the wild sunflowers vibrated with bees on strong stalks, but she could not ignore the ruin of pale peony petals, scattered tear-like on the grass to die with her dearest memories.

Mon Petit chou.”


Petit chou.”

“Petty? Shoe?”

All she could do was shout the truth until her cries silenced the jays in the trees and the sun covered its face in sudden clouds. “PETIT! PETIT! PETIT!”

“All right then,” the social worker said grimly as she took Emma’s arm firmly in hers. “Petty it is.”

* * *

She returned to the clatter of plastic dishes being collected from the dining room tables by young women who all seemed to live with bad men, no money, and too much make-up or attitude.

Pity them, her soul said. Keep yourself secret and safe.

It was just the two of them now. The girl with purple talons also had a tattoo of a broken heart to the side of one eye like a frozen tear. It was impossible to not stare at it as the girl pulled her wheelchair close so their faces were only inches away.

“Petty. Listen. I know you can hear me. You want to go to bed?”

From the corner of her eye, there was someone in the hallway, the bright figure of a man in a lemon-colored suit.

“I said: do you want to go to sleep?”

The man impatiently moved side to side, trying to catch her eye; in his arms a vivid bunch of green leaves. Could it be?

She shocked the young woman, raising her head, looking into her eyes, mouth opened. “Yes, darling,” she said, the words not intended for her. “I’m ready now.”

* * *

Rebekah Shardy

Rebekah Shardy, author of 98 Things A Woman Should Do in Her Lifetime, was nominated for Excellence in Arts for Poetry by the Pikes Peak Arts  Council, and was awarded first place for short fiction by Authorfest of the Rockies. In 2007, she received the “Community Builder” award from the Colorado Springs Arts, Business and Education (ABE) Consortium for creating and presenting free creative writing workshops (THE MIGHTY MUSE WRITING PROJECT FOR WOMEN) to 300 survivors of domestic violence, addiction, and incarceration.


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