My film review of Fifty Shades of Grey

My film review of Fifty Shades of Grey. The long awaited film arrived to queues of cackling, giggling women arriving in the cinema foyer shaking their umbrellas and rushing to collect their mega buckets of popcorn before taking their seats in the packed auditorium.Except for a few male perverts (yes friends of mine!)the audience were all women, many of whom screeched like witches throughout the entire performance.

Even before the film opened we had our appetite whetted for what was to come: a string of condom, lipstick and perfume adverts created a seductive atmosphere and then when the film board displayed on the scene with its’ 18 rating warning that it contained strong sex one woman shouted out ‘I’ll take any kind of sex, it doesn’t have to be strong’ and the audience then started laughing.

But the film failed to delight its’ all female audience on that front for this was far from hard porn. Its’ greatest disappointment was that we didn’t see a penis. The sex was largely left to our imagination, in the true British prude tradition that hasn’t really disappeared since the 1950s. The main scenes consisted of light whipping and the tying up of arms. Hardly the greatest turn on; more yawn inducing.

The main appeal of Fifty Shades seems to be in the way it alludes to romance even though romance is supposedly lacking. Women from toddlerhood love a romantic story. Cinderella has never lost its’ appeal and 50 Shades in a sense is a Cinderella story.

Is the film about love? Yes it is. Early on Christian Grey says ‘what are you doing to me?’ and ‘I’m incapable of leaving you alone.’ He doesn’t admit it because he’s fucked up in the mind having being abused as a kid but he loves Anastasia.

Anastasia played by Dakota Johnson is not a turn on.She wears Bridget Jones underwear and her breasts are tiny, her nipples dark and ugly and her ribs stick out. Christian played by Jamie Dornan looks like a 14 year old boy and his eyes are out of alignment. Not his fault but it’s off putting.

Overall rating 2 out of 5 stars!

Tips for authors thinking of self publishing a book

The first thing we were told at Swanick Writers’ School last summer was that there are now more writers in this country than readers. Yes you read that correctly. More writers than readers.

When I began purging my soul onto paper some twenty years ago I stood a much better chance of securing a contract with an agent than I would today. But it’s taken me twenty years to discover what it is I want to write about and it’s taken that long to improve my writing. Of course we never reach perfection. There’s no such thing. You can follow the rules, pick up tips, edit, edit edit and then you’re basically ready to hit that publish button.

Many authors are turning to self publishing because quite frankly they stand zero chance of securing an agent, unless they’re a celebrity or an established author. But doubtless some do succeed but the process can take years.

This is what I found out in my journey publishing The D Word. Take heed:

Tips for authors.
1. I saw several adverts in national papers for authors to submit their manuscripts. I sent my manuscript to three of them. All said yes. I was ecstatic. But what I hadn’t realized was that they were vanity publishers. They claim to be traditional publishers but they are not because they charge a fee to get you into print and will take on virtually any author. You pay them a small fortune to publish your book; double the price that self -publishing companies will charge. The company that offered me a contract wanted £2500 but they flattered me by saying ‘our board of directors was very impressed by The D Word.’ If they were impressed they wouldn’t be charging to publish. They also said that ‘I deserved to sit among the famous authors in Waterstones and WH Smith’ and ‘we will promote your book in the national media.’ It was a con.They lie to authors. They had no contract with any bookstore. They do not publicise your book. I know because I’ve since spoken with unhappy authors who fell into their trap and I investigated the matter.

2. There are 6 million books now on Amazon. It’s a giant boot fair. Don’t expect your book to see the light of day. There are far too many poorly written books on Amazon. Quite frankly my 10 year old could write a better book than some I’ve seen. Such authors, if you can call them that are just looking for the prestige of being a published author.They write badly. I’ve read many self published books and many are quite frankly rubbish and a distraction to the books that are well written,that do deserve sales; books that are well well crafted, professional and gripping, having spent years of hard work to get everything just right.

3. Don’t rely on friends and family to buy your book. You will be shocked when you discover that the only way they will read your book is by giving it to them as a present and even then it’s no guarantee.Getting a review out of them is also hard work. Like drawing blood from a stone.

4. There are plenty of Facebook author boost groups. The idea is that every author in the boost buys each others books once a week to boost everyone in the rankings. That means spending about £20 on other peoples’ books. And the result? Yes you will rise in the Amazon ranks but fall straight back again.

5. Look at the reality of self publishing head on: it means a lot of hard work to market your book. You will spend lots of money pinning leaflets to notice boards which go soggy in the rain or your leaflet will be covered by other notices in the newsagents window because some greedy newsagent just wants to take your money then create room for tons of other adverts. You will also stand in a windy shopping street for hours, weekend after weekend and not sell a single book.

6. Write because you enjoy writing and give up the obsession to see your name in print. Why not just get a few copies to give to friends as presents?

Unless you have stacks of money to burn you certainly aren’t going to make pots of money. You will sink money in and never see much return. Don’t let anyone convince you that it’s any different. Very few self published authors have ever got lucky and these rare stories are becoming rarer still as more and more people jump on the bandwagon.

D is for Doughnut.

And yes the correct spelling is doughnut not donut. In American and Canada neon signs embraced the fever for these round sticky calorie laden deep fried treats and it was simply easier to shorter the word on the signage to donuts.

The American way of making doughnuts remains the central way for they were introduced into the country in the 1800s by Dutch immigrants and served to troops to keep their energy levels up during the first world war. The war gave rise to this mass produced treat we enjoy today, the world over and the big doughnut chains began from the 1960s but there were a few speciality shops from the 1950s.  Doughnut fever is global and growing in countries like China and India. The first doughnut machine was invented by Adolph Levitt in 1920 and John Haight holds the Guinness World record for eating 29 doughnuts in 6 minutes. And the largest doughnut ever made weighed 1.7 tons. I hate to think how many calories it contained and the damage it would do to the arteries or the blood sugar of a diabetic.

Canada reigns as doughnut capital of the world; per capita the country has more doughnut shops than any other country. The first Friday of June is National Doughnut Day and the top 10 brands of doughnut bought in a whopping $508 million in sales in 2009.

Disclaimer: I am no expert on the doughnut business. I don’t really like them. I find they are tasteless and doughy. All that sugar gives me a banging headache and all the dough makes me swell up!

However the character in my next book is an expert on the doughnut industry. What he doesn’t know about doughnuts isn’t worth knowing. Unfortunately he can’t eat them because he’s diabetic. Meet him very soon!

Dodgy Dating: Great character, crap partner

Over the years I’ve dated many men; some for just a couple of dates, others for longer. All these men have added to the rich tapestry of life, bringing smiles and tears, coiling me into an emotional ball but also bringing me to life in different ways.

Many of these men would make crap partners. Dodgy Dating Disasters I call them. One guy on the first date let it slip that he kept a motorbike in his kitchen and was restoring another motorbike in his lounge. Crap partner alert but great character in a novel. Another guy sent a text asking where I was. Up in Leicester visiting my Dad, I told him. ‘I didn’t realise they were playing.’ Same guy on asking what he was up to said ‘The usual evening, flicking through Sky wondering which game to follow. I’ve gone with Dortmund v Ipswich.’ Great, I’d found a football obsessive who when he wasn’t watching footie watched golf instead. And when he wasn’t watching golf he was playing snooker. Crap partner alert, great character in novel.

Another guy, perfectly kind and charming was in fact nauseatingly kind. Telling him about a bad night shift at work he’d reply ‘sit on the carpet and take a deep breathe and let the karma flow through you young lady. I’m sending positive waves to you.’ Fuck off I wanted to reply. Irritating partner, great character in novel.

Some dates are plain dull but just when you think there isn’t even a great character for a novel within the person they reveal smidgens about themselves making you detest them as partners but making you smile because they’ve fed you their character for your next novel. One guy never failed to talk about his precious pension every date. He regularly checked how it was doing. I asked him if he would ever live with someone again. His answer ‘why would I live with someone? I’ve got my pension to protect.’ Crap partner, great character.

And then there are the truly evil and chilling dates; the ones who in an argument wish you or joggers passing by cancer (and maybe mean it, who knows) or reveal their deepest thoughts – that of wishing your three children dead or referring to them as ‘the bitch, the mongrel and the bastard.’ Such men carry big warning signs – ‘avoid me like the plaque’ but actually as an author they make you smile because they are the characters that grip the readers who eagerly turn the pages with bated breath waiting to see what they are going to do next.

Like an artist we observe, we paint what we see, we use what we know, we gather snippets from everyone we meet, as if foraging in the hedgerow.

As partners we loathe them, as characters we absolutely love them!