50 Shades of Me, Angry at Catholics

It’s 7 Quick Takes Friday, hosted by Kelly over at This Ain’t the Lyceum.


I know.  You saw the title and are all, like, “Whuuuuuut?”  Why would I be angry at myself?  You thought I was all buddy-buddy with Frank and whatnot, didn’t you?20140801-070421.jpg

Warning:  Uncharacteristic rant ahead.  

I had been meaning to put something out here today in protest against packaging sexual abuse and calling it “romance.”  After all, that’s what all the cool bloggers are doing, right? And then I realized I’m not a cool blogger, so that took the pressure off, and I decided I wasn’t going to post a darn thing about anything at all today.

And then, I listened to Catholic radio during my 2.5 hour errand-running experience this morning (I won’t name which shows, as I’m about to rant about them, after all).  All 2-plus hours of it was about how nobody should read that trash, nobody should watch that trash, please reach out to others who think that trash is treasure, if you want to protest at your local movie theater we’ll help you out, why is the culture normalizing this stuff, why doesn’t Hollywood understand that family films grossed more last year than anything else…?

And that’s when I got ticked off.

See, when I first heard about The Book (and now Movie) That Everyone’s Talking About, I wasn’t offended as a Catholic.  I wasn’t offended as a Christian.  I wasn’t even offended as a woman.

I was offended as a writer.  

I remember when I wrote fanfic back in the day, watching my stories get modest attention and lovely, hugely positive but rather low-volume feedback.  Meanwhile, the erotica stories got a gazillion hits and lots of awards and so much attention… and I kept hearing about how poorly written most of them were.  I found it frustrating.  Petty jealousy, though.  I brushed it aside, learned the “Litany of Humility,” and kept writing.

But I found it even more frustrating when The Book (and now Movie) That Everyone’s Talking About got all this attention… enough attention for me to hear without even reading it that the darn thing was just so poorly written:  flat character, bad dialogue, laughable descriptions… all those things I kick my own butt to avoid and let myself be humbled by editors and beta readers so that I don’t inflict them upon readers, and this Book (and now Movie) That Everyone’s Talking About gets away with it, makes bazillions of dollars, and promotes abusive relationships?  Are you freaking kidding me?!?!

That’s okay, though, right?  I consoled myself.  I write clean fiction.  I strive to write excellent fiction.  I read it, too.  Surely the target market for clean entertainment will ignore trash and promote treasure.  Right?


Instead, writers like myself send media releases and go to conferences and try to connect with the JMJ Catholic Books VIRGINIA Beach, VAmedia types who could help us share something of (hopefully) better value, both artistically and spiritually… and those same media types ignore our contacts so they can SPEND AT LEAST TWO HOURS COMPLAINING ABOUT TRASH WHEN THEY COULD BE PROMOTING POSITIVE ENTERTAINMENT!!!!!

So I’m cheesed off.  In both my professional and my non-writing life, I put a lot of energy into accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative, and tuning in to the affirmative.  I try not to be That Author.  I spend a lot of time reading and promoting as best I can fiction that is well-written and  entertaining.  I’m blessed to work with a publisher who does the same thing.  I am active in the Catholic Writers Guild, and we’re all about promoting fiction that is both excellent and Excellent.

The media that is supposed to share our goals, however? Right now it looks like they’d rather complain about the popular and scandalous than promote the positive and affirming.

Okay, each of the three shows I heard did give at least brief mention to Old Fashioned as a positive option for moviegoers this weekend.  Yes, it’s a start, but that’s all it is:  a start.

Here’s my challenge.  The likelihood of this challenge being heard is miniscule, but here’s my “YOPP!”   For every minute you spent complaining about The Book (and now Movie) That Everyone’s Talking About, spend at least half as many minutes promoting some kind of positive entertainment.  

And now, the fruits of that Litany of Humility:  I’m going to take my own challenge and promote more than seven positive books, in no particular order.

  1. A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer (historical romance, specifically Civil War)
  2. Opal’s Jubilee by Leslie Lynch (mystery/romance–and THIS one is anti-domestic violence, so take THAT!).  Let me add Hijacked by Leslie Lynch (more romance, but ALSO anti-sexual assault, so take THAT!)
  3. End of the RoadNo Lifeguard on Duty by Amy M. Bennett (mystery/suspense with a little bit of a nice, clean love triangle thrown in there for you)
  4. A Subtle Grace by Ellen Gable (historical romance/suspense set in Golden Age Philadelphia)
  5. Two Statues by Brian Kennelly (a buddy-priest mystery; the ending needs a 3 Kleenex Warning)
  6. The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt (literary, genre-busting)
  7. Viper and Bleeder by John Desjarlais

Readers, can you add any others that I may not have read yet (or just ran out of numbers for a 7QT)?  In the event someone actually reads this whose radio show I heard this morning:  why, why, WHY don’t you spend more time highlighting godly entertainment?  I hear plenty of whining about scandalous secular movies and books.  I hear lots and LOTS of interview with non-fiction authors.  WHY ARE YOU PROMOTING THE MALNUTRITION OF THE CATHOLIC IMAGINATION?!?!

Lord have mercy on me.  I’m about to post this.


  1. While I admit to having written about The Book That Shall be Unnamed (and, yes, tweeting a link to why it’s bad), I did also try to present alternatives for it this weekend that are easy to do, and some of which actually involve your entire family.

    I’m small potatoes, though. And I do wish there was more effort into What to Do Instead on the part of Christians. And that the What to Do Instead list had more well-done movies that don’t slam you over the head too much with God. We need to offer alternatives to the culture that lead them to Truth and that are appealing at the same time.

  2. Well said Erin! It’s just like teaching or parenting-When you want to encourage a certain behavior, you ignore what you don’t like (if possible) and give attention to what you do like. For instance, my dog likes treats and he has trained us to give it to him when he barks so that he’ll shut up. I didn’t say I was a good pet parent, did I?

    A quick mention of THAT BOOK/MOVIE as a way to enter into an in-depth discussion of better alternatives would be a great way to acknowledge what’s out there without whipping people up into a frenzy about the undesirable option.

    1. THANK YOU! Also, it’s less judgy. Your friend tweets that she wishes her husband were more like That Abuser Who Must Not Be Named? Don’t curl your nose up at her, run away, or scream that she’s going to h-e-double-hockey-sticks! Talk about the last book YOU read and why it’s awesome! If you both like to read for entertainment, dance on the common ground instead of belittling someone! (And I’m giggling about the dog training.)

    As my feed becomes NOTHING BUT rants against this movie, I wonder if people know that curiosity killed the cat. If I were a young kid following my youth minister on twitter or all these Catholic personalities, I’d be publicly in agreement…and secretly curious.

    Cultivate a curiosity for the good – talk about beauty!

    1. YES! And not just because you included two of my books 🙂 Actually, I will probably ask for your help on some sort of follow-up, inspired by you! Let me get through today’s signing first, and I’ll be in touch.

  4. I am trying soooo hard not to talk about THAT MOVIE/BOOK, because even negative publicity is good publicity, and besides, none of us who are griping about it have seen or read it, and that makes us look foolish, so I think we all need to keep our mouths shut. Just ignore it. It’s not like protesting it is going to make it go away. We just feed the frenzy.

    1. I actually don’t have a problem with pointing out the pile of poo on the sidewalk so nobody steps in it. I DO have a problem with erecting a tent over it so big that it BLOCKS the whole sidewalk. And then calling in the self-righteous news crews to have them report, “LOOK AT THIS WONDERFUL TENT THAT WE BETTER PEOPLE HAVE PLACED HERE IN THE INTEREST OF BEING HOLY!” In other words, yes, by all means, point out the bad, but then spend even more time celebrating the good. It’s like telling someone, “Don’t think of a purple elephant” without offering something else on which to fix one’s thoughts.

      Anyway, I’m working on some follow-up to encourage us all to accentuate the positive, etc.

  5. Yes, Fifty Shades is the triple-decker of awful. Poorly written, a vacuum of morality, and no entertainment value whatsoever on top of it. But I don’t need to hear about how awful it is anymore. I’m well aware.

    Thank you for this post. It was a well needed reminder that we could do something about it instead of moping endlessly about the garbage.

  6. It’s like the Voldemort of books. May I suggest the book by Rhonda Ortiz?! The Virtues of Jane Austen: Short Reflections on Character. 27 pages so there’s still time to celebrate President ‘s Day weekend 😉

    It’s a long link but:

  7. Well said Erin! I think this applies to all areas of life – stop focusing on all the negative and start highlighting the positive. We just keep breeding a society of unhappy and lost souls because we fail to teach and reinforce in the positive. Thank you so much for this! I hope you a great weekend!

  8. May I throw in my two cents’ worth regarding a splendiferous author with Oak Tree Press? His name is John M. Wills and he is the author of “The Year Without Christmas” and “Healer”. He is a FABULOUS writer!

  9. I recommend the Living Water series by Stephanie Landsem (www.stephanielandsem.com). She’s just joined the Catholic Writers Guild, but I’ve been a fan of hers since her first book, The Well (a retelling of the Samaritan woman at the well), came out a couple years ago. Her third book, The Tomb (about Martha and Mary), comes out next month. I’m very excited!

    1. THANK YOU for saying what I’ve been thinking. As a Catholic writing fiction I feel like I’ve been banging my head against the wall to get any traction among Catholic media. Yes, we have wonderful non-fiction written by doctors of the Church, Popes, and other amazing people . . . but FICTION, people . . . it’s not a bad word.

      This, I hear lots and LOTS of interview with non-fiction authors. WHY ARE YOU PROMOTING THE MALNUTRITION OF THE CATHOLIC IMAGINATION?!?!, is so true.

      Now I’ve spent the last half hour stalking you, Erin, because I so want to be your friend 🙂 And instead of reading one more rant about 50 Shades today, I’m making my list for tomorrow’s #showusyourlist.

  10. Amen. I was angry at first when it was so wildly popular because I felt like it would endanger women but some how the protest got all out of control and has eclipsed the good that is out there. Although it is not fiction, I’d like to add a good book to the list. My friend Jennessa Terracino just published her first book The Princess Guide: Faith Lessons from Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. It is aimed at young women between the ages of 15 and 30.

  11. Hey, Erin, loved your eloquent “rant”! You have a gift for clarity. 🙂 Thank you SO much for including some of my books in your list! I am truly honored. And thanks for the link to the Litany of Humility. I’m printing that puppy out so I, too, can learn it!

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