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Whoa…Stop! 50 Shades Redux

Look. The bear sent me over the edge. The same businesses profiting off women would just as soon make fun of them. Here’s an article from Time on 50SoG merchandising.

Okay, I lied. I’m not quite done with the overexposed topic of 50 Shades of Grey. When I blogged about why I’m not going to see 50 Shades of Grey and why I’m heartily sick of hearing about it, I was coming from a very personal place. Now I’m a little concerned about the bashing. I tried to express the idea that it’s not my bag and that the story is problematic. I was trying not to make those who like the books feel threatened. Maybe we’re all like the women in Margaret Atwood’s “Rape Fantasies.”

So, wanna know what I really, really hate about 50 Shades of Grey? Now I can’t use the idiomatic expression “shades of gray” without people snickering. We live in a world that is about a billion shades of gray. Since the book has taken that phrase away from me, I’m going to revert to my Western Civ professor’s expression, the complex middle ground.

Human nature makes us want to live in a world of black and white. Human nature makes us want to see only right and wrong. Human nature makes us. . . judgy. Sometimes I’m judgy. I’m sorry for that. I have opinions, and I tend to share them even when I shouldn’t. I think I was meant to be a nineteenth century essayist, but here I am in this brave new world instead.

And this world, like all of the worlds before it, is complex.

So here’s what’s bugging me about the 50 Shades backlash:

We can’t make women’s sexuality a punch line. Look, we need to discuss the elements of the book that I mentioned on Wednesday. We can’t, however, afford to make fun of women’s sexuality as a whole. I’m thinking a large part of the popularity of 50 Shades is that, once it hit the Target shelves, it had a certain amount of legitimacy. That legitimacy allowed some women who’d never been “allowed” to explore their sexual fantasies a chance to do so. I mean, it’s in Target, how bad can it be, right? Also, ask any writer associated with the romance industry and chances are he or she had already read something much kinkier before that book came out. It’s pretty tame as erotica goes. Because it’s relatively tame that made it accessible. At the very least a bunch of women who may have felt repressed before got an opportunity to explore their sexuality. And they have that right. No one really ridicules guys for reading Playboy; it’s almost expected with filching copies being a sort of rite of passage. Guess what? Women should have that same right. Many of us used to filch Harlequins, and I dare us all not to be ashamed about it.

Take the Christianity right on out of this. People, you gotta stop with the “You’re going to hell if you. . . .”

Mad props to Tamar. When following the rules didn’t get her anywhere, she took matters into her own hands. Some would say Onan did, too.

That’s not our call. Besides, do you realize how much sex is in the Bible? Song of Solomon is devoted to the subject. As Tiffany Reisz has a character point out in her book, The Saint, Esther basically “auditions” for the role of queen—and I’m not talking about a song and dance number. Rahab was a prostitute. Dinah was raped. Leah took part in an elaborate marriage deception. The woman at the well had committed adultery. Both Tamar and Ruth are included in the lineage of Jesus, and they had some history, let me tell you. Tamar had to trick her father-in-law into sleeping with her in order to get a son, and she was congratulated on her cunning and resourcefulness. That story also gave us the expression Onanism. Fun times. Google it if you don’t know it. And Ruth? Loyal Ruth stuck with her mother-in-law and, unless my eyes deceived me, basically seduced Boaz based on her mother-in-law’s recommendation. And those are just the stories that I can come up with on the top of my head!

One thing that bugs me is that I’ve seen people latch on to 50 Shades as a reason not to read any books with any sexytimes. Look, sexytimes are an important aspect of being human. The best romance novels, in my opinion, teach a woman that a) she’s worth a special someone, b) it’s okay for her to want to engage in sexyimes, c) she deserves a partner who’s also invested in her pleasure, and d) she deserves to be treated with respect. Now, I could argue—and have—that 50 Shades doesn’t meet those criteria, but if criticizing it means yet another step backward for the industry as a whole, then we need to chill. (Also my apologies for the liberal and sophomoric overuse of the word “sexytimes.” See small town history below.)

Speaking of the industry, a lot of other writers made some money, too. Obviously there’s a market for erotica. Thanks to the popularity of 50 Shades, some other authors either got a job or made significantly more money than they would have otherwise. Also, a lot of readers used 50 Shades as a springboard to find books they wouldn’t have been able to find just a few years ago. I can think of at least four authors–really good authors–I would’ve never read if erotica hadn’t had such a spotlight. Moreover, if the movie does well, maybe some other romance novels will find adaptation on the big screen. More work for women authors who are writing stories about women? Yes, please.

Finally, we’ve got to learn to agree to disagree without tearing each other down. When I give my opinion, I’m coming from a place where something’s eating at me, and I have to get it out of my system. I always welcome well thought out, respectful disagreement. For example, a friend once said, “You have a real chip on your shoulder where rich people are concerned.” Okay, so at that point I had a few options: 1) vehemently disagree, 2) immediately cave in to the opposite POV, or 3) think about that criticism and reflect on it. Yes, I have a chip on my shoulder. I did not grow up rich. (I also most certainly did not grow up poor, though.) I do feel awkward in situations where caviar is involved. I do still hurt from the time I was rejected by a social sorority, most likely because neither my parents nor I had money or social status to offer. I have, immediately after marriage, lived hand to mouth and seen firsthand how easy it would be to slip into poverty. So, yes, I have a chip on my shoulder, and I’m trying to be better about it. I believe I said I’m sorry—if I didn’t, I’m saying I’m sorry now. But I say all of this to say that a certain level of disagreement is okay, even healthy. That’s one way in which we can learn from each other.

I still say The Hunger Games wishes it was as scary cool as “The Lottery.”

We can’t, however, learn from each other if we take some kind of morbid glee out of insulting each other or, even worse, “punishing” each other. Lisa Maxwell shared this article last night on Twitter about how what has happened to people like Justine Sacco, the woman whose joke in poor taste got her fired. That article should scare you senseless. There but for the grace of God goes every one of us who ever posts anything on social media. Should anyone’s entire life really be ruined for one tweet? Should anyone be condemned for either liking a movie or not liking a movie? I don’t think so. Maxwell compared the whole thing to “The Lottery,” a story she teaches and that we should all read.

Y’all, I promise I’m not trying to gleefully stone anyone.

**added 2/15**

So take a look at this meme I found on Twitter. This is an example of framing the argument in a way that alienates:

Yes, I’m the Party Pooper Who Won’t Go See 50 Shades of Grey

I’m not as averse to looking at him.

Trigger warning: So this post is going to cover my personal reasons for not being on board. If 50 Shades floats your boat, then carry on. If you’ve been in an abusive relationship, however, I might hit a few nerves. I’m sorry.

There are many things in this world that annoy me: Adam Levine’s voice, Grey’s Anatomy, and the wrong pronoun after a preposition just to name a few. Then there are things I simply cannot stand: Paradise Lost, Blurred LinesThe Heart of Darkness, and Fifty Shades of Grey, to name a few. As it turns out, all of those things push my “treatment of women” button primarily, although I hate Heart of Darkness for oh so many reasons.

But I digress.

I’m not going to see Fifty Shades of Grey.

It’s the principle of the thing. I can’t support the movie because I hated, loathed, and despised the book even more than I hated, loathed, and despised Heart of Darkness. More than I hated Death Be Not Proud. More than I hated Flowers for Algernon or Paradise Lost. Even more than I hated the movie Sucker Punch or that damned Blurred Lines song.*

I wanted to throw things thanks to Milton’s treatment of Eve.

Now, I’m not saying you’re wrong if you like this book. Personal taste accounts for a lot in this world, and I can’t fault you for yours any more than, hopefully, you will blame me for mine. My father, a wise man, is rather fond of saying that “opinions are like a**holes; everyone’s got one.” Well, I’ve had all I can take. I’m going to express my opinion on this whole phenomenon. Here are the top 10 reasons I can’t stand Fifty Shades of Grey:

10. The writing is painful. I’m putting this one at the top because a) it’s obvious, yet b) it’s not like every bestseller out there is well written. Clearly, something about those characters really captured the imagination of a whole bunch of readers. My inner goddess, however, wanted to gag at all of the inner goddess references, and the prose was stilted and the dialogue meh. The best part of the whole book were the email exchanges. I’m mainly irritated they didn’t do more editing for typos and whatnot while they were changing names. I say this knowing full well there are typos somewhere in this post, but I promise you I did my due diligence—and that was without the help of three different editors.

Yeah…that’s the ticket.

9. Christian Grey is so not my idea of the perfect man. This may come as a shock to you, but I’ve been accused of writing men that are too beta. I know, right? Who’d have thunk it? But I prefer my men to be so manly that they are secure enough that they don’t have to be. . . manly. Men who are comfortable in who they are don’t require women to sign agreements that dictate all the things, and there’s a big difference between supporting someone and smothering them. Christian Grey could never be hot enough for me to tolerate his need for power and manipulation. Or maybe I just don’t like to be told what to do. It’s a possibility. I’m sure my mother can confirm or deny this. I’m hoping you won’t ask her.

8. So much of the book is just ridiculous. No way is Ana a hot-shot English

I may have been a naive English major, but I was able to get my AOL chat on. In a completely nerdy and platonic sort of way.

major without a computer. I had one back in 1993. Also? Girlfriend doesn’t just waltz into a job post-college. She’s supposed to work minimum wage or go be a teacher–didn’t she get the English Major memo? And I haven’t even got to the sex part! No way. I don’t buy how easily orgasmic she is after having never even had a Divinyls moment. Orgasms have to be her superpower. I know there’s a push for more female superheroes, but they had best not put her in the Avengers.

7. So preposterous that “ridiculous” gets two numbers. What about Mr. Grey? I suppose there are young, handsome billionaires out there, but he can fly a helicopter. He can play the piano. I’m guessing he could perform brain surgery or rocket science as long as he stays at a Holiday Inn Express the night before. What? Oh, yeah. He would never stay in a Holiday Inn Express.

No romance novel is perfect, but I like how McQuiston’s heroines are no shrinking violets.

6. Let’s get serious for a minute: this book is not a template for healthy relationships. I have all sorts of romance novels around here. I know that Her Majesty is going to start sneaking them someday. Heck, maybe The Hobbit will read one or two. No book stays in my house if it has a female character who’s being manipulated. We ladies have to fight so hard to keep guys from taking advantage of us** that I’m not going to allow such a book to be in my house. I mean, Grey wants to dictate where she goes, what she eats, when she exercises, what clothes she wears, and how she keeps her lady garden. No. No. No. No. I can’t type the word “No” enough. No. Dammit. No. I don’t care if my kids—AT AN APPROPRIATE AGE—read well-done sex scenes, especially not the ones in romance novels that, say, value the female experience. Being manipulative and stalkerish and handing someone a contract full of requirements, though? A whole world of no. To tell you the truth the article Why I Hate 50 Shades says this much more eloquently than I do.

5. This leads me to another thing I think the ladies need to know: you cannot “save” a man. You cannot “change” a man. Men, you can’t “save” a woman. You can’t “change” her, either. I’m beginning to think many women fantasize about “saving” a man and/or “changing” him, but I have yet to see a truly successful example of this in real life. Your significant other should make you want to work harder to be a better person, but that kind of change only comes from within. When it comes to a helpmeet, you don’t want a fixer-upper, people.

4. The tampon scene. Have I mentioned the tampon scene? I didn’t need to read about that. No amount of brain

I’ll pull my own strings, thank you very much.

bleach can ever take that away. Ew. No. Uh-uh.

3. The sex in Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series is hotter and more emotionally resonant than the sex in this book–and it’s mainstream! Looking for stories with kink and BDSM? For heaven’s sake, try Tiffany Reisz or Delphine Dryden or any of a hundred other authors I haven’t discovered yet. Reading kink isn’t usually my thang, but there are plenty of people who can point you in the right direction.

2. So, I’m going to add something that may, again shock you (not): I’m not an expert on the subject, but I don’t even think 50 Shades is what BDSM is all about. (See article below) I’m supposed to believe that Christian Grey is into BDSM due to some harrowing childhood experiences, and Anna can “cure” him? No, I’m thinking BDSM is something that two people decide to do consensually and that doing so doesn’t necessarily mean they are “fifty shades of effed up.” That’s yet another reason why this book is not in my house: I don’t want any young impressionable minds reading this book and thinking kinky sex is something to be taken lightly. If my kids want to explore such things and educate themselves when they’re older, then I have no choice to be okay with it, but I wonder how many couples have hurt themselves either emotionally or physically by putting into practice something from this book. Or, and I think this is even more likely, I wonder how many couples have berated themselves for trying something in the book and not “succeeding” because it didn’t turn out the way it did for Anna and Christian. Just a world of no. Of course, I’m so vanilla you could probably make sugar cookies out of me, so what do I know?

1. Finally, there’s the question of what Fifty Shades of Grey does to romance and feminism. Well, it concerns me because I don’t think Ana ever reaches a point of true self-actualization. I confess I only read book one and the synopses for the next two books, but I don’t see that great an arc for her at all. That said, I don’t think the book necessarily indicates some decline of feminism because I’d like to think most of the ladies who like it understand it’s rooted in fantasy. I know a lot of these ladies. I think they have a pretty good grasp on reality. As for romance? Maybe? But it feels like a step backwards to the bodice rippers of old when heroines were enticed/manipulated into their sexuality instead of being allowed to discover it for themselves. Or those stories where the poor ingénue is so enamored of the hero’s wealth. The idea of being protected and cherished does get down to some primitive feminine need, but Christian Grey does it in such a smothering, manipulative, stalkerish way. I want to be cherished. I appreciate being protected. I won’t tolerate being smothered, manipulated, or isolated from my other family and friends–those are all signs of an insecure partner.


Maybe that sentiment is at the root of why I had such a violent reaction to the book and will not pay money in a theater to see the movie.*** I had a relationship where I was bullied and emotionally manipulated into things I didn’t want to do back when I was naïve. It wasn’t fun. Anna’s story reminds me of that time, and it’s not a place I want to visit ever again. No, thank you. I sure as hell don’t want my daughter to ever let any kind of insecurity or doubt land her in that kind of relationship. I constantly pray that she will somehow be smarter than me, more confident than me, or that she’ll trust me enough to ask for help should she run into a real life Christian Grey.

As for me? I’ll happily take my handsome non-billionaire husband who has a desire is to help me be successful

Mister K makes that Corolla look GOOD. Maybe I should rename it Charlie Tango.

enough that he can be my cabana boy. He makes a Toyota Corolla and a ten dollar bottle of wine look good—and, with a partner like that, Christian Grey holds nothing of interest for me.

So that’s my two cents’ worth. By all means read what you want to read. I’m not much on censorship–especially not after the age of eighteen–so carry on. I just can’t stomach Fifty Shades of Grey for my own convoluted, sometimes irrational, and possibly hypocritical reasons. Maybe I just wanted any woman who feels as I do, to know we’re okay, too.

“Cuz you’re a good girl (I know you want it)” Son, I will tell you what I want and when I want it, but I’m not going to have you indulging in some kind of Madonna/whore fantasy. Also, I may call myself the hottest bitch in this place, but that is not a way in which you may refer to me.

** This is not to diminish all of the men who are taken advantage of by women or by other men. Or women taken advantage of by other women. It happens. I don’t like it. I don’t care who you are, cut out the manipulation. I do think—and this is based primarily on anecdotal evidence and, yes, personal experience—that there are many more women who are coerced into sexual things by men, though. My college dorms were a minefield of women who’d been damaged in one way or another.

***I make no promises that I won’t, at some future date, watch it with Rifftrax and copious amounts of wine.


Resources (Wanna read some more?)

Where 50 Shades Gets it Wrong

Can We Cool It With the 50 Shades Hate?

A Defense of 50 Shades

Smart Bitches on Why 50 Shades is so popular

6 Myths About BDSM Inspired by 50 Shades of Grey

Why I Hate 50 Shades

In Defense of 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight

Smart Bitches’ Review of 50 Shades of Grey

10 Times 50 Shades of Grey Glorified an Abusive Relationship

Wikipedia–Fifty Shades of Grey

Wikipedia–Fifty Shades Darker

Wikipedia–Fifty Shades Freed





Cover Reveal for Bittersweet Creek!

I know, I know! I know book one isn’t out yet, but I have a cover for book two. I’m fond of book two. In some ways it’s like my love letter to West Tennessee. Anyhoo, without further ado, I give you Bittersweet Creek. Oh, and should you be inclined, it is already up for preorder! (Say what?)

bittersweet creek

My United Story

Okay, so this is the story of how Ryan and I almost got arrested for absolutely no reason. Those of you who know us are probably laughing at the idea. Yes, Ryan and I are so scary. Here’s our United Horror Story…

So the year is 2005, and Ryan and I were headed to Anaheim for the 50th Anniversary of Disneyland. We were ridiculously excited. We packed everything up and headed to the Atlanta airport in good spirits even though we were being dropped off really early. Hey, you do what you have to do if you don’t want to leave your car in long-term parking.

We go to the United counter to check in, and I have to tell you the Atlanta staff was really nice, very friendly. They told us they could bump us up to an earlier flight and then when we got to Chicago they would *probably* be able to do the same. Well, we fell for this. We got to Chicago and the United staff there looked at us as though we had lost our ever-loving minds SO we ended up having to spend forever in O’Hare.

I learned my lesson. I would rather layover in Atlanta than O’Hare any day of the week and twice on Sunday. You’re not going to get me to change flights for free ever again.

That said, we had books because we are nothing if not prepared so we indulged in a little geek love at O’Hare and read many, many pages. At this point we’d been in an airport or in the air since 9am EST. We weren’t due to land in Los Angeles until 10pm PST. I remember telling myself that we still had plenty of time to go and to be patient.

So we finally get on the plan from O’Hare to LAX. It’s an evening flight and everyone is cranky, particularly the flight attendants. To make matters more fun and exciting, the plane was tiny, so tiny that my 5’4” self had her knees up against the seat in front of me. The flight attendants kept ramming the cart into Ryan’s knees, and I am here to tell you he was trying to stay out of the aisle, but he’s over 6’—it just wasn’t happening. Still, he didn’t say anything. At one point the guy behind us ordered a beer. The flight attendant told him, and I quote, “If you had wanted a beer then you should’ve flown first class.” Now, I don’t know if he insulted her in some way before then, but that was what she said LOUDLY to him.

By the time we got to LAX we were tired. We’d been traveling for about fifteen hours. The plane had to circle longer than usual and then there was a problem with the gate so we ended up at a different one than planned. They had us walk forever through construction areas to get to baggage claim. It was weird. I mean, LAX is always under construction, but we were walking through areas that reminded me of places in New York with the scaffolding and plywood and trash bags. I kept wondering if we were in an unauthorized area.

When we finally got to baggage claim, I stared at our carousel with glassy eyes for at least fifteen minutes and never saw our luggage. Finally, I saw all of the luggage in a cordoned off area, and I thought, “Oh! They knew we were coming from far away so they put everything in that one spot for us. How nice!” Now, in a post-September 11th world, I should have known—and, indeed, now do know—that cordoned off luggage is a big no-no. At this point in my life I had never actually had my luggage beat me to baggage claim. Come to think of it, it hasn’t happened since, either.

This is the point where you should be screaming, “Sally, don’t touch that luggage! Don’t reach for it!” but you were too late. I reached for my luggage, and the lady at the counter LOST HER MIND. She yelled at me, like yelled at me to put my luggage back. So, being the good little girl, I did. Then I walked over the counter. I had to wait in line, of course. When I got to her she told me I couldn’t have my luggage without the receipt. I panicked because I thought she meant the receipt from the flight, which I knew I didn’t have. I must’ve said I didn’t have the receipt. She’s still snippy and tells me, “You have the receipt. They gave it to you in Atlanta.”

I remember taking a couple of deep breaths and saying, “What does it look like?”

“It’s the receipt.”

“I understand that, but what does it look like?”

“It’s the receipt.”

Honestly, this is the exchange. I notice the woman’s name is Flor and wonder if I should ask her in Spanish, apologizing that no doubt her English is better than my Spanish, but I don’t understand, that I’m very tired, and can she please just tell me what I’m supposed to looking for. I think I may have been close to tears.

That’s probably why Ryan decided to come over.

So the woman’s being rude. I’m not handling it well. He asks her what the receipt looks like and she again simply says, “It’s the receipt!” At this point, he did raise his voice and did lean slightly in her direction to say, “You are not answering the question. What is this receipt? What does it look like?”

She takes a step back and says, “That’s it. You are threatening me. I am calling the police.”

And we look at her as though she has twelve heads. I mean, I’ve heard Ryan Kilpatrick get loud. He had barely raised his voice on this occasion—maybe a 5 out of possible 10. I assure you he had not turned it up to 11. Yes, he did lean slightly toward her in that way people do when they talk to each other, but there was A LOT of counter between us and her. I’ve felt more threatened by some of my former high school students.

So she ushers us off—ironically to stand near our luggage which is still standing forlornly behind the cordoned off area. About this time—oh, it’s 2am EST—I have this crazy southern epiphany where I say in a very country voice, “The stickers! She’s talking about the stickers!” (Imagine very heavy emphasis on the rs)

So I go back to the counter. I stand in line again. I come up to Flor, and I say, “Look, I am very sorry that we got upset. We have been traveling for a long time today. Our last flight was awful. I know that doesn’t excuse our behavior, but we are sorry. I figured out that you are looking for the baggage claim stickers, and I have them here. May we please have our luggage?”

At this point, I was thinking I was kinda being the bigger person because I really can’t express to you how hateful this woman was. Her tone of voice was just…ugh. She says, “No. I have called the police, and you will have to speak with them because your husband threatened me.”

I’m pretty sure I did cry at this point. I’m not going to lie. I remember telling Ryan, “I’ve never even been pulled over for a speeding ticket!” (BTW I can’t say that anymore—still only 1 in my 39 years so pretty good, yes?)

Finally, finally, two policemen show up. They look us up and down, and I think one of the two decided there had to be some kind of actual crime going on somewhere else and left. We did have to answer a bunch of questions, and I’m pretty sure there is a police report on us somewhere out there. At the end, the officer says—maybe because he has to?—you shouldn’t have threatened her. Ryan starts to interject that he never did, and the officer holds out his hand as if to say I know, I know and then actually says almost apologetically, “I have to file this report.” SO we basically get a slap on the wrist. I show Flor my stickers, and we finally get our luggage. At this point it’s about 3am EST, and we are both shaking mad and upset.

We get to the rental car place and guess what idiotic thing I had done? I had made reservations for 2006 instead of 2005. Know what? The rental car people quite kindly said they could accommodate me anyway—even at the same price. I wish I could remember which company that was because they salvaged our night at that point. Now, we’re at LAX so we still have to drive all the way to Anaheim, and we stewed the whole way there.

Basically theUnited/LAX incident was a pall over the first two days of our vacation, and, as you can tell, I am still steamed. I’ve worked enough customer service jobs that I can tell you that woman should’ve had the night off if she couldn’t handle more than that. The more I thought about it, the more I thought I needed to write a letter to United because it was, and still is, some of the most horrible customer service I have had to this day.

I got home from Anaheim, and I wrote a letter outlining everything I have told you here., albeit in a less entertaining fashion. I got back a patronizing, condescending, not in the least apologetic letter that said at some point “obviously you were in the wrong.” I wish I’d kept it, but it’s one of the few times I’ve been so mad that I think I blacked out for a second and I ripped it in half and tossed it. Oh, I wish I’d kept it. It takes A LOT for me to get that mad. There was not one apology, not an “I’m sorry you had this experience.” Nothing.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is why I have not flown United in nine years and have no plans to do so any time soon.

In all fairness, when I mentioned this on Twitter earlier today, United did send me to a customer service portal. Here’s the problem: I obviously don’t still have the ticket from 9 years ago. When I asked if that was a problem, I didn’t get another reply. So, here you go. If you really wanna know, United, it’s all here.

My Belated Christmas Letter

As I was watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation the other night, I had a revelation: my family just lived out the old-fashioned Christmas that Clark Griswold was searching for.

I’m gonna stop for a minute because some of you are still struggling with how “Christmas Vacation” and “revelation” occurred in the same sentence. It’s okay. I understand.

Blessedly, Cousin Eddie did not show up in his RV. No cats were harmed in the making of our Christmas, and we managed to convince the squirrels to stay outside. But, since my husband and I are only children, we did have both sets of parents together. These kids of mine have no idea how lucky they are to have had four grandparents under the same roof doting on them for the past thirteen Christmases running.

I do.

I think about it every year. Every year that all of us are together is a year I give thanks because this world is full of uncertainty Also, I know I haven’t been that good of a girl. By rights, Santa should bring me several lumps of coal and a bar of soap for my foul language. Maybe a shoe horn to pry my foot out of my mouth since it spends a lot of quality time there.

But in honor of another Christmas spent with my favorite people, I give you the Christmas letter I would’ve written if I were one to write Christmas letters:

Dear XXX, (this is where I would’ve set up a mail merge and totally messed it up)

Greetings from the Kilpatrick family! 2014 has been busy, busy, busy. We started off the year at the Rose Bowl Parade and haven’t stopped moving since. Of course, there was Clusterflake back in January. We all watched The Sound of Music and managed not to kill each other. The Hobbit and Her Majesty built their first real snowmen, too—one of them was a Mickey.

In February it snowed some more. A bunch of my friends had books out for me to read, and I wasted a lot of time on Facebook. I learned that I write like Anton Checkov, that I would be Dorothy if I were a Golden Girl, and that my ideal Walt Disney World ride is It’s a Small World. (Not really) March continued with more of the same, but I was reunited with my fellow Parkinsmacks. Ah, fun times.

For some reason I still can’t quite fathom, I reread Heart of Darkness. Then I reread Their Eyes Were Watching God. That was so much better. The kids and I had a West Tennessee Spring Break which included tea at the Peabody for mom, Her Majesty, and me. 


Yes, hair pets.

Then something worse happened, but we’re not going to talk about that.

Instead, we’re going to talk about how I went to New Orleans for my first RT Convention which, coincidentally, was also my first event as a published author. RT and NOLA—that’s a winning combination. Then in June I *almost* ran a sub-thirty 5k, my goal from, you know, 3 years ago. Oh, Ryan and I did the triathlon thing then the Peachtree thing. Then I went to San Antonio for RWA. The kids got to visit with Nana and Big Dada on that trip.

In August we sent the kids back to school. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth, but they kept it to a minimum. Then I managed to do my first set of revisions and work at the Decatur Book Festival. And somehow, someway I agreed to get cats.

So, cats. 

We have house cats. I’m still not entirely sure how that happened, but, if you follow me on social media, you know we love them. Much of the fall passed in a blur for me because I was working on another book, but I know Her Majesty played her first season of softball, and the mighty Oreos had a strong showing in the postseason. The Hobbit trained for his first 5k and continued with Youth, all the while being his goofy, awesome self. Ryan and I trained for back to back half marathons because, clearly, we are crazy people. (I would like to point out that I did a triathlon, two half marathons, a 10k, and at least one 5k in 2014. I also gained 10 pounds. Go figure.)

Oh, and we had that super-awesome cruise with both sets of parents!

And then we had to say goodbye to Papaw. We miss him.

We did have a great Thanksgiving, though, and that has taken us straight into Christmas. It’s been such a busy year that I know I’ve forgotten a ton of things we did and a ton of people we’ve met and spoken to. I will say that our life is richer for all the folks in our lives. And here’s to a calmer 2015.


Sally, the official letter writer

P.S. Did I mention I have my first novel coming out next spring?

Yeah, I think the 2014 letter would look something like that. It was kinda fun, so maybe I’ll take notes on 2015.

What were we thinking?

Looking for Something New to Read?

Okay, so I was encouraging you to read widely and read diversely. Here’s a sample (just a SAMPLE—check out my books on the Goodreads challenge for 2014) of what I read this year. It’s still not as diverse as I would like, but, hey, we all have to start somewhere! Also, I’ll happily take suggestions for new books I should try.


Entertaining, educational, and full of tasty adult beverages!

For nonfiction

Outliers—Malcolm Gladwell

Traveling Mercies—Anne Lamott

Three Ingredient Cocktails—J. K. O’Hanlon


For historical fiction/nonfiction

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy—Karen Abbott

Leaving Atlanta—Tayari Jones (the first book I read after Christmas las year)



Don’t Talk to Strangers—Amanda Kyle Williams

The Other Woman—Hank Phillipi Ryan

Fallen—Leslie Tentler

I laughed, I cried (a lot), I gasped–it was better than Cats.

The aforementioned Deanna Raybourn—all of them




Legal Seduction—Sharon Cooper

This was my first Beverly Jenkins. It will not be my last.

Nighthawk—Beverly Jenkins

Summer is for Lovers—Jenni McQuiston (start with What Happens in Scotland)*

Her Cowboy Hero—Tanya Michaels*



Seeking Solace—Anna Steffl (and then buy the other 2 because…trilogy!)*



Remember Me—Romily Bernard (start with Find Me)*


The Kink

The Theory of Attraction—Delphine Dryden

I haven’t talked about this one a lot because I’m still sorting out my feelings. Well written and probably just the thing for you if you’d like your Big Bang Theory with a side of BDSM

The Mistress—Tiffany Reisz (but start with The Siren or give a nonseries story like Misbehaving or The Headmaster a try)



Their Eyes Were Watching God—Zora Neale Hurston


Graphic novel

I don’t know how I feel about this one, either, but I’m glad I read it.

Pretty Deadly—Kelly Sue DeConnick


Same, but different

Blood Vine—Amber Belldene (vampires who own a winery—yes, please)

Poison Princess—Kresley Cole (dystopia with a Cajun—yes, please)

Blackbirds–Chuck Wendig (I can’t describe this for you. Go read it.)



Fearless—Max Lucado (Okay I read this one last year, but I liked it better than this year’s)


Because you need to

Bird by Bird—Anne LaMott

All Beautiful Things—Nicki Salcedo

Complex and poetic, this book defies genre. It’s one of the few I will reread someday.




And looking to 2016, here are some of the ways I want to stretch myself

The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America—Christian Wolmar

The Lawyer’s Luck—Piper Huguley

Outlander—Diana Gabaldon

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

Save the Cat Strikes Back—Blake Snyder

When I read The Hunger Games, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh, she’s ripped off The Lottery!” So it’s time to brush up on my Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson Novel and Stories

The Artist’s Way—Julia Cameron

My Sister’s Grave—Robert Dugoni

Blood, Ash, and Bone—Tina Whittle

Shades of Milk and Honey—Mary Robinette Kowal

The Dragon and the Pearl—Jeannie Lin

The Book of Unknown Americans—Christina Henreiquez

Heart of Obsidian—Nalini Singh

Crazy in Alabama—Mark Childress

Crash into You—Roni Loren

The Monsters of Templeton—Lauren Groff

When Sparrows Fall—Meg Moseley

The Power of Myth—Joseph Campbell

Wicked After Midnight—Delilah Dawson

I gotta catch up on my Delilah Dawson–her stories really are whimsy dark fun.

That Old Cape Magic—Richard Russo


I need some good biblical stuff, y’all. Something scholarly. Last year I did the second book in the Disciple series, a Max Lucado, and a Henry Nouwen. I’m kinda at a loss as to where to find the kind of intellectual devotions, I prefer.


And what else? If you’re looking at my list, what do you think I’m missing?  Did anything you read this year surprise you?