The countdown begins

P { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }A.western:link { }A.ctl:lMy second novel, One Shade of Red,launches TOMORROW, April 2, on Amazon, Smashwordsand other e-book retailers.

I’m very excited about this. As you can see in the previous posts, I have done much more publicity in advance this time around: I posted excerpts over the past few months on this blog; I’ve been interviewed on other sites; and over the past week and continuing for another week following the official release, I’ve posted excerpts from the final version on 12different blogs.

I have to take another moment to thank the writing, blogging and reading community for all the enthusiastic support. And I have to say a special thank you to Independent Authors International for making the iAi cooperative publishing model work so well, especially Gary Henry, Roxanne Bury, Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, Bruce Blake and Benjamin Wretlind. Also, a big shout-out to the inimitable David C. Cassidy for such a great cover!

A different direction

Some people who read my first novel, The Bones of the Earth,were surprised to learn that my second novel is a frankly sexual parody of a mildly erotic bestseller. I have to admit, One Shade of Red is pretty graphic.

My readers know that description is my thing. I like to make a scene real, describing what things look, sound, feel and taste like. A number of the reviews of The Bones of the Earth mentioned the description and detail.

What prompted this particular parody was that it was just irresistible.

About a year ago, the only book you ever heard about was Fifty Shades of Grey. Serious radio stations had phone-in programs about it. Reviews were inescapable in newspapers, magazines and the Web.

Only after I bought a copy as a gift for my wife did I start to notice how many reviews were negative. I am sure some of that reaction was sour grapes: Fifty Shades is not the only book about spanking and sex, but it is the best-selling book of the decade, if not longer. I heard once that it was outselling the Bible!

Then I got the most important review: my wife did not like it. She had no patience with the emails or the long contracts. (How long would the book be without that filler?)

She did not like the hero, Christian Grey. She found him completely unbelievable. “He’s a creep,” she says. “If he weren’t so rich and so good looking, everyone would think he’s just a pervert.”

The heroine and narrator, Anastasia, is also unbelievable — as well as annoying, Roxanne says.

I read the book last fall, and I decided to have some fun with the idea of a book that’s about nothing but sex.

I turned Fifty Shades on its head. I decided to make the protagonist/narrator of One Shade of Red a young man; a virgin, like Anastasia Steel. Now, how could I explain a 20-year-old healthy virgin in North American society in the 21st century? Right — give him an uptight girlfriend, the girl next door. He faces the expectation from his family and hers to be her boyfriend, but she won’t have sex before marriage.

The mentor figure: where Christian Grey is the ideal man — young, beautiful, rich and powerful with a deep flaw that only the heroine can fix — Alexis Rosse is the idea woman (to a 20-year-old man): beautiful (come on, I can get away with a beautiful female character in a novel and still make it believable!), independently wealthy, smart, vivacious and unabashedly horny. In fact, sexually voracious.

Now, to make her believable: she’s rich because she’s the widow of a wealthy man. It doesn’t matter exactly how Charles Rosse made his money, but I decided it was the old-fashioned way: he inherited it.

At 30, Alexis is young, but she’s now confident in her talents, her body, her beauty and her sexuality.

She’s smart, because the sexiest part of any woman is her brain. I made her a bit of a financial prodigy, someone who excelled in business school and turned that talent into reality when she got her hands on some capital.

In other words, she’s perfect — nothing to fix! I think that I’m like most men in that I have enough stuff to fix in my life without having to fix my partner. When you find perfection, why would you change it?

It comes down to a story

This is primarily a coming-of-age story, a rite of passage: learning how to make love to someone. Alexis teaches Damian the language of love. He matures a lot. His relationship with Alexis gives him the confidence to deal like an adult with his parents, his girlfriend, his friends, his work colleagues. Damian is not the same at the end as he was at the beginning of the story.

In writing the story, though, I found it easy to get carried away. My first couple of drafts had much more graphic, detailed and long descriptions of the sex scenes. I did some research into erotic writing (boy, research can be tough) by “serious” writers. Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, EL Doctorow, John Updike, Pearl Buck and many others have written about sex and not been lumped into the “porn” category.

And then I thought about all the action books I’ve read. In the past year, I’ve read at least three descriptions by three different authors about what a bullet does after it enters a human brain. Why is that considered appropriate for serious literature, but not descriptions of what people have always done and always will as soon as they can?

Okay, enough ranting. Enough rationalizing. The only legitimate judges are you, dear readers.

Did I succeed? Crash and burn? Let me know. You can read excerpts for free on the blogs that are participating in the blog tour. Or you can go to Amazonor Smashwordstomorrow and read the whole book.

Let me know what you think.

Get One Shade of Red at:

A sexy excerpt from ONE SHADE OF RED

My second novel, One Shade of Red, launches April 2. What’s it about?

With this novel, I turned Fifty Shades of Grey   currently the fastest-selling book ever   on its head. And then, I added more sex.

To give you a little taste, here’s an encounter between the two main characters: Damian, the naive twenty-year-old virgin, and the only client of his pool-cleaning business, the slightly older Alexis Rosse. This starts in a slightly run-down tavern on the Danforth in Toronto. 

Chapter 3: Emergency pick-up

Tyler stabbed a button and held the phone to his ear. I realized he had pressed “Call.”

“Who are you calling?” I asked, alarmed.

“Your girlfrien’,” he answered, grinning. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the phone out of his grasp. Kristen answered on what I figured must have been the third ring. “Hey, baby, it’s me, Damian,” Tyler said, trying to impersonate me. It didn’t convince me, but it seemed to convince Kristen. “Listen, you and me been wasting enough time, already. It’s time to get naked and get it together! I’m comin’ over for some booty, right now.”

“Are you crazy?” I yelled, hoping my voice could overcome the noise in the bar and make it through the cell phone, somehow, to tell Kristen it wasn’t me. She was going to be so mad.

I grabbed at my phone again, but Tyler twisted away. Patrick came around the table and grabbed my hands as Tyler said “I’m at the bar with my best buds, Tyler and Patrick. Don’t pretend you don’t know who we — they are.

“At the bar,” he continued. “The Red Fox. Yah, that’s the one.” Another pause. “No, no, I’ll … awright, awright, come on over! Yah, it’s on the Danforth. You been there! Okay, see ya.” He handed me the phone. “Good news, buddy: she’s comin’ to get you.”

“What?” Patrick and I said simultaneously. “Kristen is coming to pick you up for a booty call? Oh man, I never even had that much luck!” Patrick added.

Luck had nothing to do with it, I thought. At least not good luck. “Shit, shit, shit,” I said. “Kristen hates it when I’m drinking.”

“How many beers you had?” Patrick asked.

I had to think about it. “Three. Maybe four,” I answered. “Shit.”

“Like I said, more of a wife than a girlfriend,” Tyler said and drank more beer.

I stood to brush peanut crumbs off my clothes and headed for the door. It would be better, a little, to meet Kristen outside than in the bar.

It wasn’t such a bad place. The Red Fox was also a restaurant that catered to families at suppertime. But Kristen felt — I knew this because she told me several times — that sitting in a bar drinking beer with my “dumb buddies” was a waste of time and money, something done by low-lives only. Not by respectable university students who hoped one day to be respectable professional members of the community.

I could hear her voice telling me this as I stood on the curb, looking eastward for her car. Or actually, her father’s car. One part of my brain could not believe she would actually agree to come and get me at — I felt shocked when I looked at my watch — quarter past midnight. Her father let her come out this late?

Another part of my brain kept predicting what she would say. I could hear her clipped voice in my head: the way she bit off her words when she was pissed, the way she would emphasize every sentence with a “Hmmm?” that was more of an accusation than a question.

And there was yet another part of my brain that kept asking pesky questions. “Why does she need her father’s permission to go out late at night when she’s over 18?” “Why does she get to dictate when and how often I go out with my friends?”

“Just why does she get to decide what ‘respectable’ professionals do in their own time? Or what constitutes ‘respectability’?”

And “Why is it taking her so long to get down to the Danforth from her house? She should have been here a long time ago.”

“Dude, you owe me thirty bucks,” said someone beside me. I jumped, literally jumped, before I saw it was just Patrick. Tyler was behind him. “You left without paying for your beer. The waitress was pissed — she thought you had burned her. So I hadda pay her.”

“Can I get you tomorrow?” I asked. I really didn’t want Kristen to see me giving Patrick money. She’d have something else to lecture me about: “Given how little money you make, should you be paying your dumb buddy for beer from a bar? And what if someone had seen you handing over money on the street like that? They’d think you were buying drugs! Yes, Patrick does look like a drug dealer.”

I looked down the street, expecting to see Kristen’s father’s car any minute, but even though traffic was light, I couldn’t see the familiar shape of the minivan anywhere. When headlights lit up the asphalt at my feet from behind me, I was confused.

A grey Jaguar pulled up the curb, pointing the wrong way. The driver’s window slid down silently and a musical voice said “Well, do you want booty, or not?”

I bent down to see the long wavy hair and deep brown eyes of my employer. My only customer. I looked at my friends, and they were staring at me and the car with their jaws hanging loose. “Mrs. Rosse? What are you doing here?”

“You called me, remember? You wanted to get naked. What’s a girl supposed to do when she gets a call like that? Now get in.”

I flashed my friends a grin as I walked around the car to get into the passenger seat. They still had their mouths open. Mrs. Rosse gunned the engine, cutting off a hatchback coming the other way — the right way down the Danforth. Before I could say anything, she said “Boy, you have dumb friends.”

“I was just going to say, that wasn’t me. That was Tyler,” I stammered. “He thinks he’s funny.”

“I know what your voice sounds like, Damian. We have spoken on the phone.”

“Sorry if he offended you.”

Mrs. Rosse laughed. “Offended me? Maybe disappointed me!”


“That it wasn’t actually you making that phone call.” She looked at me and I swear I saw her eye sparkle.

“Where are we going?”

“My place. You said you wanted to get naked with me. Or your friend said it, but anyway, I’m turned on now.”

I decided not to bother trying to explain that both Tyler and I thought he had dialled Kristen’s number. I was so glad he had made a mistake.

My mouth suddenly was very dry. Did she really say she was turned on? “So, uh, sorry to drag you out this late.”

She laughed again. I was really starting to love that laugh. I squirmed in my seat, hoping to hide my sudden erection. “I wasn’t doing anything, just reading a really bad book and feeling horny. Your friend’s call was the excuse I needed to get out and scare up some action.”

I was sure she could hear my heart pounding, because that’s all I could hear at that point. I hadn’t noticed what she was wearing when I got in the car. As we passed under streetlamps, I could see that she was wearing a pink jogging jacket, but her legs were bare.

She noticed me looking at her. “That’s right, Damian. This jacket is all I have on.”

With that, she swung the car into her driveway. I sat there, staring as she walked, bare-assed, to her front door, the flip-flops of her sandals echoing down the street. She turned to me from the step, smiled and pulled off the jacket. She posed for a second, nude, and tossed the jacket into the house, then stepped inside.

Like that? You can find out what happened to Damian on April 2, when One Shade of Red goes on sale on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes iBookstore and other quality e-book retailers!

Come back to this blog for links. And leave a comment — tell me whether you loved this, hated it, or said “meh.”

Launch date: April 2, 2013

One Shade of Red

It’s nearly done! My spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey is nearly out.

What began as a lark for National Novel Writing Month in November is nearing the final stages of publishing. I’ve written, re-written and edited it myself, shown portions to established authors in the field, and had it edited by a very skilled writer, Gary Henry (author of American Goddesses and some excellent short stories and poems).

After taking Gary’s advice, I asked another gifted author and editor, Cinta Garcia de la Rosa (The Funny Adventures of Little Nani) to copy-edit it. After making the corrections she pointed out, I turned the manuscript over to my wife, Roxanne, a skilled editor in her own right. Then I asked one more colleague to act as the last set of eyes on the result.

Gary, Cinta, and cover designer David C. Cassidy are all members of Independent Authors International, a cooperative publishing group who share services like reading, editing, design and promotion. In short, all the functions that a traditional publisher performs, while leaving control and revenue in the author’s hands. This process is a great example of the vision behind iAi.

Improving quality

I have to admit, One Shade of Red grown in the writing. I thought I would do a straight spoof by taking the concept (if you can call it that) of Fifty Shades and turning it upside-down: instead of an innocent girl being seduced by a slightly older and irresistible man, I have a naive young man being initiated into adulthood by an older, irresistible and sexually voracious woman.
But the characters grew deeper and more complex as I told the story. They took on some life of their own. And then some complications entered the story. So it’s a little more than what I started with.

Now, as I try to get some advance publicity and marketing going, I have to pause to say “thank you” to a lot of people who have helped along the way.

First, my wife, Roxanne, and the rest of my family, too, for support and for putting up with distraction, bad moods, anxiety and self-doubt as I worked on the manuscript.

Charity Parkerson, for insight, advice and encouragement at the early stages of the writing process.

Gary Henry, the first author colleague to review the manuscript for pointing out all the little errors not just in grammar or punctuation, but for forcing me to write better.

Cinta Garcia and again my wife, Roxanne, for eagle-eyed copy editing.

David C. Cassidy for an absolutely fantastic cover.

Bruce A. Blake for a final proofread.

Everyone who agreed to participate in the cover reveal over the next two weeks:

CR Hiatt
Rachel Thompson
Cinta Garcia Rosa

Christine Nolfi
Bruce A. Blake
Wodke Hawkinson
Doug Dorow
Linze Brandon

Lisa Jey Davis
David C. Cassidy
Jesi Lea Ryan

I’ll be tweeting and blogging all the links to their blogs over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, check them all out today — you’ll be glad you did!

Sample Sunday: One Shade, Chapter 2

One Shade of Red is nearly ready for the world, thanks to the awe-inspiring assistance of three great people: first, my wife, Roxanne Bury, who’s doing a careful, word-by-word edit; next, fellow author and iAi member Gary Henry (@LiteraryGary), who has done a story edit; and David Cassidy (@DavidCCassidy), who has designed a knock-out cover.I’ll do a big cover reveal in a week or so; for now, just to tease you, here’s a sample from Chapter 2. Warning: the content below is not x-rated, but it definitely contains “adult” situations and language. Remember, it is a spoof of a book about kinky sex.

Image licensed under Creative Commons

Chapter 2: The Re-Do

I actually had my hand on the door to the beer store when my cell phone chirped. The screen showed “Private number.” I took a couple of steps away from the store as I put the phone to my ear. “Hello?” I fully expected it to be Kristen; she was paranoid about cell phone stalkers.

“Damian, it’s Mrs. Rosse.” I nearly dropped the phone—a customer calling you out of the blue probably wouldn’t be good news.

It wasn’t.

“I want you to come over here right away and finish what you started,” she said.

So many ideas went through my head all at the same time, but none of them were right. “I’m sorry?” were the only words that made it out of my mouth, however.

“You left yesterday before I came back, and I know that we had agreed to that, but on the understanding that you would do a complete job of cleaning the pool, first.” Did her voice have a really bitchy edge to it, or was that just the way the cell phone made her sound?

“But I thought I had finished. I cleaned out all the leaves and grass and finished up with the pool vacuum.”

“Well, if it had been the very first time that you had ever cleaned a swimming pool, I could understand it,” she said. Yep, that’s definitely a bitchy, pissed-off edge. “You cleaned out the easy debris, but you didn’t clean off the green slime around the side.”

“Yes I did!” Don’t get mad, some small, wise part of my brain warned. And don’t tell her it was the first pool you’ve ever cleaned. She’s your only customer.

When did I start caring about this stupid job?

“Well, it’s not as bad as it was, but there’s still a lot of slime there. Now I’ve already paid you in full for the job, and it has not been done to my satisfaction. Quite frankly, it’s not to anyone’s satisfaction. I would have been mortified for any of my friends to see it.”

“I’m sorry,” I repeated. God, I sounded so lame.

“Well, it’s fine to be sorry, but that doesn’t do me much good, now, does it? No, I want you to get down here and finish the job properly.”

“Ooo-kay,” I said, holding back a lot of swear words. “When would you like me to come?”

“Right now!” She sounded genuinely surprised at my question.

“Uhh, well, it will take me some time,” I started to say. “I’m at the other end of town, and with traffic …”

“Fine. I’ll leave the side gate unlocked for you. Just make sure you’re finished before two o’clock.”

“Two?” I would have to scramble to get my cleaning stuff together and drive over there and get the job done — if my crappy car didn’t break down. “I’ll try my best, Mrs. Rosse, but is there a reason it has to be done by two? Mrs. Rosse?”

Cell phones don’t click or anything when you hang up, I realized.

So there I was, back at the pool under the mid-afternoon sun, scraping and scrubbing disgusting, smelly slime off the tiles. I had taken my shirt off and put it back on again when I felt my skin begin to burn, and now the cotton was saturated with sweat. Every so often, I reached into the pool and splashed my face. I thought about getting into the pool and staying cool while I cleaned, but I didn’t dare the risk of making Mrs. Rosse any bitchier.

“Now even the fussiest bitch has to be happy with this,” I muttered as I wiped off the very last of the gunk.

“That’s much better,” made me jump and I dropped the debris net into the pool.

Creative Commons

I turned to see Mrs. Rosse in her jogging suit: tight blue-and-white top stretched across her breasts, matching tight shorts, expensive Nike running shoes with the top edge of pink half-socks just peaking above the ankles. I made an effort to raise my eyes to hers, away from the outline of her nipples pushing against her top. I dropped the bucket and slimy water slopped onto my feet.

Creative Commons

“Sorry to scare you,” she laughed and stepped to the edge of the pool. “I just wanted to say that the edge looks great. Nice and clean, now. I guess it’s my fault, really, letting it get as dirty as I did before having someone in to clean it.”

“I didn’t hear you come in,” was all I could think to say. I wondered if she had heard my out-loud thought about fussy bitches.

She laughed, but carefully inspected all around the edge of the pool. I got down on my knees, face burning, to try to fish the net out without getting all wet. When I straight-ened up again, she was standing right in front of me.

“You’re awfully cute,” she said. My mouth opened, but nothing came out. What do you say? I tried to smile and tried even harder not to look at her nipples. “I think you deserve a tip for your hard work,” she added.

She sank to her knees and two thoughts went through my mind at the same time: This is going to be great, and No, I’m mistaken. This kind of thing never happens.

Of course, there’s lots more in the full book. Watch this space for more announcements!

Sample Sunday: Damian falls down

With this post, I’m reviving a Written Words tradition: posting brief samples of my upcoming work on Sundays.

I’m aiming to publish One Shade of Red, my spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey, in about a month (hopefully less). And to give you a taste, here’s a bit of Chapter 1: Falling Down, where the protagonists first meet.

Leave a comment at the end!

Clutching an aluminum pole in one hand and a canvas bag in the other, I rang the doorbell. I heard a deep ring from somewhere inside that echoed for seconds. Then silence. I waited for what seemed like a very long time. Sunlight burned the back of my neck.

Should I ring again? Would it be rude? I didn’t want to piss off these rich people.

But—hell with it. This is Nick’s business, not mine. I pressed the doorbell again, heard the same deep ring and echoes.

Then I nearly jumped out of my skin as a buzzing voice said: “Yes? Who’s there?”

I hadn’t noticed the little speaker, a white plastic box that blended with the trim around the doorway. I pressed a little round button under the speaker grille. “PoolGeeks,” I said, loudly and clearly.

“Don’t talk so loud or so close to the speaker,” the voice buzzed. It was impossible to tell if the speaker was male or female, young or old. “Come around the left side of the house. I’m by the pool.”

Great. The old biddy was going to watch me clean her pool. I pictured a crone in a flowered sun-dress and a big floppy hat, sipping on a mint julep, saying “Don’t miss the far corner.”

I threw the strap of the canvas bag over my shoulder and followed a stone path around the house. The side yard was filled with flowering bushes and exotic shrubs. A gate with a semi-circular top that matched the front door pierced a solid cedar fence. I pushed it open with the aluminum pole of the pool skimmer to see a huge patio of interlocking reddish stones. In the middle of it a curved pool gleamed blue and white in the sun.

“You’re early,” said a musical voice from somewhere around the back corner of the house at the same time that the gate closed, catching the butt of the pool-skimmer pole just as I took a step forward. It was enough to yank me back, just a little, and I fell forward.

The canvas bag, loaded with accessories and supplies, vomited all over the stone walk. The aluminum pole hit the ground and bounced up, smacking me in the face as I went down. I barely got one hand under my face before it hit the stone, too.

“Oh, dear! Are you all right?” said the musical voice. Nothing like the buzzy squawk from the speaker by the front door. All I could see, though, was flat stone and a little green blur to the side.

I craned my head up. This can’t be real, I remember thinking.

She was a dream. My dream. A tall woman with long, wavy brown hair. Couldn’t be more than 30 years old.

In a big floppy hat. And a string bikini.

I scrambled to my feet. My hands and knees were scraped and my face hurt where the aluminum pole had hit it. “Ya, yah, fine,” I stammered. “I’m from PoolGeeks.” I yanked the pole free of the gate.

“You’re early.”


“No, that’s good. For once, my pool will be clean before all the neighbours’.” She pointed at the pool. “Well, as you can see, there it is.”

I couldn’t look at the pool, because I couldn’t stop looking at her. I felt like I was in junior high again. The only word that came into my mind was: stacked. There were acres of bare skin. The bathing suit barely covered her nipples and pubis, but none of those words made it into my mind at that moment.

She looked at me, eyebrows raised, and I realized that she was waiting for me to say something. My tongue felt thick and heavy.

“I’m … um … Damian.” I looked at her some more. I forced my eyes to stay level with hers, but it was so hard not to let them just fall, rest on the curves of those big, beautiful breasts … I coughed. Choked, actually. “From PoolGeeks.”

She laughed. “Yes, you said that.” She bent down daintily, knees together, and picked up the little round net that fit onto the end of the aluminum pole. She took two long steps toward me, stepping carefully because she had bare feet. I held the canvas bag open, and she slipped it inside. “This is yours, I think. I’m Mrs. Rosse. Come on to the pool.”

She had a high, musical voice — oh, did I say that already? Sorry. Okay, she turned around, and I was very happy to follow her. It was a long way around the side of the house to the big patio in the back. No, I did not stare at her ass the whole way there. Okay, I did, but not the whole way.

One Shade of Red will be available as an e-book on Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks and other major retailers in March, 2013.

An independent guest review: 50 Shades

Fifty Shades of the worst book I ever read

by Evan Zenobia

Evan Zenobia is editor of the Eclipse News blog and a close friend. He has graciously given Written Words permission to reprint this independent review of the bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey.

A meaningless setting. A cast of thoroughly unbelievable, unrelatable, one-dimensional characters. Add some poorly written dialogue and boring sex, and what do you get? The inexplicably popular jumble of words and paper that E.L. James has somehow managed to pass off as literature.

I’m referring, of course, to Fifty Shades of Grey, which I’ve spent the last two and half weeks subjecting myself to in tolerable doses. Now that I am finally done, I have no quandaries about calling it the worst book I have ever read. There are poorly written books that still contain good stories, or at least carry a good message. And there are well written books that may still follow a bad story arc. But Fifty Shades is poorly written and a bad story. It has literally no redeeming qualities.

The “plot,” if it can be fairly called that, revolves around utterly boring literature student/graduate Anastasia Steele and her “erotic” adventures with the mysterious and wildly handsome young billionaire Christian Grey. The motor that drives the dilapidated hull of a storyline along is fuelled by Steele’s attempts to reconcile her sexual inexperience and romantic longing with Grey’s “kinky” sexual habits.

But really, for a 514-page erotic novel, I have never read anything so dull. And on top of the dullness, almost every aspect of the story is irritating.

Consider the setting. James sets her novel in Washington State, in the United States. Which is strange, considering that most of the characters speak as if they’re well-read 19th century British aristocrats, using words like “profligate” and “taciturn” in everyday conversation. Excepting, of course, Steele’s token Latino friend, José, who throws colloquial Spanish into his speech with the frequency of Speedy Gonzales.

Also irritating is that James has chosen to write her book in first-person present tense. That alone is not the problem. Chuck Palahniuk wrote Fight Club the same way. But in Fight Club, the protagonist is crazy and also represents a social critique. In Fifty Shades, the protagonist is insufferable, stupid and boring. As such, the audience is forced to endure every stupid and pretentious thought that comes into her mind, whether it’s expressing her distaste for rap music before a BDSM romp or this gem on page 28, “I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be color of The Communist Manifesto” (because, of course, Communist Manifesto is a shade of red you can find in any box of crayons or on paint swatches at Home Depot, and the Manifesto isn’t printed in black on white like every other book).

Meanwhile, the characters are almost all props leading up to the sex scenes, including Steele herself. Anastasia Steele apparently has three settings: blushing (sometimes the colour of communism), biting her lip (which arouses Grey), and drinking tea (again, mimicking the landed gentry of 19th century England rather than a young woman in Seattle, home of Starbucks). By her own admission, her favourite activity is reading old British novels by herself, and, at the age of 21, has never been drunk until Chapter 4 after finishing her final exams. (Newsflash to Steele: if you’re a literature student, and you’re not drunk until after your semester, you’re doing it wrong). She’s clumsy, and her hair never cooperates. Oh yes, and she’s a virgin.

Though this dull, sober virgin is pursued by José and her boss’s son, she is only attracted to the young, gorgeous billionaire with the personality of an anal-retentive Jack Donaghy/Gordon Gecko hybrid… only less interesting. Christian Grey is just a creepy guy. He’s arrogant. When Steele drunk-dials him, he tracks her phone, drives to find her, holds her hair while she pukes, then drives her unconscious body to his hotel room where he tucks her into bed and removes her vomit-stained pants before sleeping with (but not banging) her. Then he sends his personal assistant to buy her sexy underwear.

In what world is stalking, kidnapping, and partially undressing someone without their consent not creepy?

Oh, and speaking of consent. A huge part of Grey’s kink is that he doesn’t have sex without written consent. In fact, he’s got a pile of paperwork to sign before sex can begin. Now, personally, I can’t think of anything less arousing than paperwork. Filing taxes and writing incident reports never got my blood going. But for super virgin bookworm Anastasia Steele, it’s just the right thing. And even though Grey is an emotionally distant, creepy, stalker jerk, she is so desperate to be with him that she puts up with it all.

The only other character that needs mention is Steele’s beautiful blonde roommate, Katherine Kavanagh. She begins a deep relationship with Grey’s brother Elliot. What doesn’t make sense, however, is that she maintains it even as she develops a fierce hostility towards Christian Grey. The character is not at all developed, so her behaviour comes off as shallow and irrational.

Aside from all that, the book is just bad. The writing is awkward and clunky. James pretentiously jams her book full of obscure synonyms, obviously hoping it will make the story appear to be a fine work of literature rather than boring mommy porn. Meanwhile, she takes more than one occasion to remind the audience of the supremacy of the British, especially in terms of literature, and the unbearability of the French and others. While offensive, it fits in with the rest of the book’s undeserved pretentious snobbishness.

Further, the book appears longer than it actually is. A good chunk of the paper is wasted in blank space representing an excessively long chain of email correspondence between Steele and Grey. Apparently they never heard of texting.

I don’t want to spoil too much, so I’ll leave it at that. This is the worst book I have ever read. I can only award it negative stars.

Oh, and the sex is all really, really boring.

Evan Zenobia is the pen name of the blogger of Eclipse News, which regularly holds Sun Media to account. Visit the blog and leave your comments!