Well – that's a slight exaggeration on my part. Please let me explain.
Books and reading have always been a great love of mine. An escape from the reality of everyday life. I could be anyone, go anywhere, and do anything within the pages of those books. As we all know, life continues and reading fell further and further behind to my family, my work and my friends. Then these books called The 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy came to my attention. Everyone was talking about them. They were all over the news and social media. Everyone was reading them. They were “gasp!” erotica and talked of whips, bondage and butt plugs. People were now speaking of these things openly and not hiding their interest. I saw women reading them while running on the treadmill at the gym, on the bus while riding to work – even while walking down the street on their Kindles.
I must admit that my curiosity was killing me! Truth is – the commute back and forth to work gave me 2 hours every day to indulge my curiosity. The author, EL James, gave an interview and I was a little surprised at her attitude. Despite criticisms about her writing – she was adamant that nothing was going to be changed. She laughed off the criticism. I liked her. On April 17, 2012, I went on Amazon and 1-Clicked FSoG. I blushed, I laughed, I gasped, not because I was shocked at the subject matter – because it was now mainstream. Erotica was no longer a dirty little secret to be whispered and giggled about with your girlfriends. An avenue for open and frank discussions between couples, a little something different to spice up a stale bedroom life.
I admit that I enjoyed FSoG, then Fifty Shades Darker – though by 50 Shades Freed, I was a little over Christian Grey. However, it opened the door to so many wonderful authors, authors that I thoroughly enjoy. Are they all erotica –no. I enjoyed historicals, paranormal, young adult and new adult. Once again, I regained my love of reading. How could I have forgotten how much it meant to me? The joy that it brought to me. I created a Facebook page and from that Facebook page I joined book clubs and groups that enjoyed the same time of author. FSoG opened the door to authors like Sylvia Day, Jasinda Wilder, Colleen Hoover, Tarryn Fisher, Claire Contreras, EL Montes, SL Jennings, M. Leighton, Kristen Proby, S.C. Stephens, Madeline Sheehan, Mia Asher, Ilsa Madden-Mills, Jenna Galicki, JB Hartnett and Crystal Spears. I lived their stories! The book clubs and groups allowed me to discuss these stories as if the characters were real. I had a BBF (Book Boyfriend – Gideon Cross). We quoted preferred passages to each other. I made real friends, like Danielle, because she lent me This Man by Jodi Ellen Malpas. It was as if we’ve known each other all our lives.
I was asked by a popular blogger if I wanted to do a guest review. I agreed. It was so much fun! Then I started following the pages of my favorite authors. Interacting with them on a daily basis added another dimension to the books I was reading. Most of them written by independent authors who were not backed by large publishing houses. They were approachable, open, warm and friendly to their readers. Then I was asked by one of the popular bloggers (Hi Jenn D.!) if I wanted to admin a blog. Of course, I was interested in everything that it would entail. A few days later, I said yes. Officially I became part of The Book Blog in April of 2013. The other girls that admin the blog (Jenn N. & Lesley) were kind and receptive. We immediately clicked. It was a “marriage” made in heaven. I learned. I grew. I enjoyed. I now had an outlet for my thoughts and an opportunity to indulge in writing – even if it’s just reviews and articles. Funnily enough, it was almost exactly a year to the day that I read 50 Shades of Grey.
Then in February of last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was faced with a mastectomy, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 5 weeks of daily radiation and an entire year of once a month antibody treatments. Oh, please don’t feel sorry for me, and I am, by no means complaining. This is just a statement of fact. I knew what to expect and accepted it as the price to pay for my survival. What I didn’t expect was the love, compassion, generosity and support of the amazing community that has become such an integral part of my life. That doesn’t mean that my family and friends haven’t been loving and supportive – they have.
Understand this, a lot of these people I have never even met face to face. Those bonds of friendship have been forged over countless FB group chats, IM’s, author signings, endless debates over which alpha male is the hottest. At the core of all of there is one thing – LOVE. Love of a great story, love of that first kiss, love of a well written sex scene, love of a good cry, love of the angst that makes you want to fling your Kindle (yes I’m talking about you Mia Asher), love of that leading man who makes us want to be his leading lady, love of a cliffhanger, and ultimately the love of an HEA (Happily Ever After). Our common goal is to spread the word when we find a great read. To then dissect and discuss our favorite parts until we’ve had our fill. Some even tattoo their favorite line of a book somewhere on their body. Yes, I have thought about it. No, I haven’t done it yet.
These amazing people have encouraged me, prayed for me, sent me cards and care packages (#WeBlich/Ashley love you guys!) with everything from signed books, nail polish, candles and popcorn. Our following on this blog, they make me smile (Hi Bookers!), I see myself in them because they get me (#VixenLove). Each and every one of them has made a huge beautiful positive difference in my life. Thank you all!
Who knew my life would expand in such an amazing way. Who knew that all these FB friends would become such an integral part of my life. Who knew all this would come from reading FSoG! I wish I could tell EL James myself, how her books have opened a door for me that brings me joy every single day. I’m so very grateful.
In a few weeks we will get to “meet” Christian Grey as embodied by Jamie Dornan. Many had VERY strong opinions about the casting of the FSoG movie. Speaking for myself, I’m looking forward to seeing it. Who was cast as CG or Anastasia didn’t matter to me. My thrill comes from seeing how words on a page translate to video on screen. This could not have been an easy task for those screenwriters. Truth is not many writers get an opportunity like this one. After all, we can’t all be Nicholas Sparks. ;-)