Ellora’s Cave

The Rebirth of Illicit Impulse, or Finding the Gold

Today's the day! Click to buy the deeply revised, re-edited Illicit Impulse.

Today’s the day! Click to buy the deeply revised, re-edited Illicit Impulse.

By Alexa Day

**Quick note: I wrote this post a few days before the announcement that Ellora’s Cave would be closing. I’m not going to write another post about this. I know a lot of people have a great deal tied up in business with EC, and I respect that. I don’t have very much that’s still attached to them, so I’ve made the personal decision to release them, keep the happy memories, and treasure the contacts. Y’all’s mileage may vary.**

Today is release day! I’m delighted to announce that Loose Id is re-releasing Illicit Impulse, the story of a man, a woman, and an experimental sex drug. In a way, Illicit Impulse is a story about second chances. John and Grace are close friends who almost went to the next level, and who are now working around their feelings for each other and their own awkwardness. Their experiments will force them close together, to share secrets in a way that would test any friendship, and they’ll have to find the courage to move forward, either together or apart.

Illicit Impulse is a second chance for me, too. The story was originally published by Ellora’s Cave. I’ve been pleased to have the chance to participate in a deep revision of the book, and I’m really happy with the end result. I hope readers find plenty to love with John and Grace and my favorite complication — a friend with benefits named Tal Crusoe.

I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted to tell my Ellora’s Cave story. A lot of people I admire and respect have gone public with their stories. A lot of people I admire and respect have not.

I wasn’t sure I had anything to say about my time as an Ellora’s Cave author until I went to San Diego for the RWA National Conference. By the time the conference was over, I decided to share some thoughts with you.

First, though, a word of wisdom from my mom.

Mom is a big fan of the idea that something good lies inside every unpleasant experience. One need never decide whether something is a blessing; it’s a blessing merely because it’s happening to you. The challenge is determining exactly what the benefit of that experience is.

The challenge is to find the gold buried within the dark times.

I’m not going to go into the details of the business relationship between me and Ellora’s Cave. As I’ve said, a lot of people I admire and respect have written about that sort of thing, and I personally do not wish to give bandwidth to it here on my blog.

Instead I want to turn back to San Diego.

I saw Christine d’Abo at a signing at Nationals. I hadn’t seen her since the steampunk presentation she gave with Delphine Dryden at Romanticon (the Ellora’s Cave conference), quite a few years ago. To my surprise, she recognized me. At the time, we weren’t connected in any other way; we were strangers on social media. But we spent a couple of minutes chatting before I snapped up one of her books, and I spent the afternoon smiling.

How cool that Christine d’Abo remembered me after such a long time, right? But she’s a cool person like that.

I also ran into Lexi Post at a signing. We had a very similar experience. Lexi and I first met at Romanticon, too, and while we are connected on social media, we hadn’t seen each other since then. But we also spent a few moments in friendly conversation before I left with the same little smile on my face. How cool to have bumped into Lexi Post after such a long time!

It’s taken me a while, but I see the real value of my time as an Ellora’s Cave author.

The real treasure is in the people I’ve met, starting with Grace Bradley, the brave soul who became my first editor.

I miss Dalton Diaz, whose amazing advice and guidance have been priceless to me as I find my place in the market. I remember Regina Carlyle telling me that erotic romance writers stuck together, like a family. I remember Shoshonna Gabriel (who was Shoshonna Evers then) giving me a hug in the parking garage.

The tiara I won from Sabrina York. Drinks with Sasha Devlin. The way Joey W. Hill smiled at me and Mom whenever we saw her in the hallway.

“There’s Joey Hill,” Mom would say.

“I see her,” I’d say. “Hi, Joey!”

We seriously did that every time we saw her. It’s a wonder she didn’t start to avoid us.

I remember that Mom was able to tell Shayla Kersten that she was the only author with a dedicated folder in her giant ebook library. I remember having breakfast at a table near Dee Brice on the morning after conference, when the waitress said things would be much quieter now that those people had gone.

“I am one of those people,” she said. That was golden. As golden as it is to read it now, it was even more golden to witness it.

I could go on and on like this. Regardless of how things have worked out with me and the company, regardless of what happens next, I’m endlessly grateful to have met so many wonderful people. And the truth is, I wouldn’t have met all these people without Romanticon. As I move away from the company, I’m so glad that those relationships have survived and endured.

Who knows what the future holds for me and my career? If nothing else, I’ve learned that anything can happen.

Anything. But I’ve also learned that success is really where I find it, and I can find it anywhere.

That’s enough for me.

You can grab a copy of Illicit Impulse by clicking here. Enjoy!

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The Next, Next Big Thing: Taking the Hop to Jamaica

Last week, I kind of left you all high and dry with no blog post. I do feel bad about that. Things have just been out of control in real life lately. Wildly out of control. Sooner or later, I knew some innocent person would end up getting punished for it, and lo and behold, it turned out to be you.

Today, a whole day early, I’m going to make it up to you. My friend, author Denise Golinowski, tapped me last week for The Next Big Thing blog hop. Even though I didn’t thank her for it. See how patient everyone’s been with me? Anyway, the last time I did the hop, I gave you a little ten-question peek at my new release, ILLICIT IMPULSE. Today, I’m giving you a look at my next book.

  1. What’s the working title of your book? First question, and I’m stumped already. My first title for it was Fourth and Forever, but that was when the hero was a football player. I’ve since learned that he used to play baseball, so the title won’t work, even though I love it. Now I’m looking at something baseball-themed, something that still gets the idea across, so today’s title is Cleanup Man. Next week, it might be something else altogether.
  2. Where did the idea for the book come from? I can’t talk about this too much (aren’t you glad I’m doing this?) because the idea for this book came from my first book, and I’m pretty sure you haven’t all read the first book yet. Let me give you a fighting chance to do that. You don’t need to have read ILLICIT IMPULSE to enjoy this book, but if you’re planning to read ILLICIT IMPULSE, you’ll be happier if I keep some of these details to myself.
  3. What genre is your book in? It’s an interracial erotic romance.
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I always have trouble with this. The two of them just look like the two of them, if you know what I mean. So I usually answer this question with Google. This time I started with “blond actors under 40.” Try that for a laugh and let me know how many blond actors you get. Then I ran across Chris Hemsworth. If he were to shave, he’d look like my hero. My heroine looks like Sanaa Lathan.
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis for your book? A lifetime hasn’t been long enough for him to tell her he wants her – can he convince her with one week in paradise?
  6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? My plan is to send it to Ellora’s Cave, once it’s finished, since that’s where the first book is.
  7. How long did it take you to finish the first draft of your manuscript? I’m still working on it. I think that’s why real life is coming after me with both hands. This is what happened the last time.
  8. What other books in your genre would you compare this story to? You know, I have trouble with this question, too; I try not to read hard in my genre while I’m writing. These days I’m reading mostly historical fiction after being converted by Deanna Raybourn, Tasha Alexander, and a bag full of free historical romances I won at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Here’s a little book pron. No, no, I insist; it’s the least I can do. Behold, the contents of my giveaway bag!book giveaway
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? The artsy answer to this question is that the hero wouldn’t leave me alone. And he wouldn’t, that’s the sort of guy he is. If you like something a little less woo-woo, my editor’s first question after I accepted the contract for the first book was, “Did you have a second book planned? Because if not, we’re going to have to look at this ending.” I didn’t think I’d ever finish the first book, so altering the ending – and potentially much of the rest of the story – was too much to bear. Far easier to write another book. Yeah, I like the artsy answer better, too.
  10. What else about the book might pique your reader’s interest? I take the hero and heroine to Jamaica for much of the story. My mother was born in Jamaica, and I’ve traveled there often to see my family. My Jamaica is local and authentic – I’ve never been to one of those all-inclusive resorts – and I hope my book does it justice.

That’s it, America! True to form, I’ve been too big a slack-ass to tap anyone else for this blog hop. Instead I’m going to use the space to thank my friend and genius critique partner Denise Golinowski. She bears so much of my slack-assitude with grace. I don’t even know how to thank her for all that.

Happy Hour, Afternoon Delight, and an Excerpt

My first novel, ILLICIT IMPULSE, made its debut yesterday at Ellora’s Cave. I didn’t have to work yesterday – yay, snow day! – so I got to sit here like a crazy person and watch the number of likes and tweets growing on my book page. Last night, I went for a walk in the snow to join some friends for a celebratory happy hour. We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the book, and after all the time I’ve spent putting it together, I was only a little ashamed to feel relief about that.

When we did get to talking about it, I found I enjoyed the slight distance my friends allowed me to take from the story. One of my friends, new to the whole e-book thing, was looking for download and format advice. Others were curious about the next book. I found myself looking at this in a new way. After all the time hammering down the fine details, checking for flow, repetition, awkwardness, and what-have-you, all I really wanted was for them to find whatever they were looking for in a good book.

I hoped they would identify with the characters.

I hoped the action would pull them through the pages late at night.

And I hoped they would think the sex was hot.

I hope something similar for you. I hope you’ll decide to pick up ILLICIT IMPULSE. Once you start it, I hope you’ll find whatever makes a book good.

I also hope you’ll read this tiny pinch of it. This post is going up a little late in the day to call it a nooner, but maybe it counts as an afternoon delight? In any case, enjoy!

Grace met John’s gaze. “Tell me what you need me to do.”

His skin heated again. What was wrong with him?

“I need you…to take the pills…”

She lifted a fine eyebrow. “And?”

“And then have sex…”

She grinned then, her teeth very white against the burgundy of her lipstick. “With Tal. Right?”

He shrugged. That was, of course, who he’d had in mind. But what he needed already defied the fundamental tenets of scientific research. He definitely wasn’t going to go further out of bounds by telling her who to have sex with.

Grace chuckled, a throaty sound that might have been genuine amusement or something a bit less pleasant. “John, I hope you’re not thinking I’ll take these and then my eyes will be opened and I’ll see Tal doesn’t want to be in a relationship.” She put the pills back on the table next to her glass. “I mean, I know you have some kind of issue with him.”

“Issue” didn’t begin to cover it. Tal only saw her at his place, and only at night. After two years, she’d never mentioned meeting his family or going away for the weekend or celebrating an anniversary. Never mentioned flowers or Christmas gifts. So far as John knew, Tal never even took her to dinner. As happy as Grace said she was, John knew she deserved more than what she had.

“Grace, I’m not trying to pull anything. I need someone who’s not in a relationship. I need someone who’s willing to tell me everything. I even need Tal.” He hated the way that felt in his mouth. “Look, I don’t want you to get hurt. That’s no secret. And if these pills make you see things a little differently, then so much the better. But I really just need your help.”

“Good. Because I know Tal doesn’t want a girlfriend. So we’re all on the same page.”

John nodded, lifting both hands in surrender. “Right. I get it.”

“Okay.” Grace pursed her full lips. “If I do this, what would happen after the sex?”

John swallowed, hoping she didn’t sense the sudden rush of discomfort that seemed so painfully obvious to him. “Then you report back.” He cleared his throat. “To me.”

A mischievous giggle bubbled out of her. “You want me to have sex with Tal and then come back and tell you about it.” Coming from her mouth, the idea sounded ridiculous. “I presume you would need this to happen more than once.”

“Well…there are eight pills in a pack.”

Grace picked up the blister pack again and stared at it in silence. As John scrambled to scrape up the last of his persuasive powers, she said, “Deal.”

The tension that had been crushing him released its grip. She’d do it. “Oh, Grace. I owe you big time.”

She tucked the pills into her purse and laughed. “I have a feeling the pleasure’s going to be all mine. Just don’t be too disappointed if nothing changes between me and Tal,” she said. “And don’t be too shocked when you hear about what we do together.”

Just A Physical Thing … For Now

Women everywhere know a man like Tal Crusoe. He’s a part of most women’s pasts, but he’s a nice part. A part of the past you like to visit frequently and in secret.

He’s temptation incarnate, and he seems to know it. That body of his. That voice. The whole package is like an instrument, and he’s a virtuoso. He knows just how to use it to bring you to grateful tears.

He’s very available. You can look and touch as much as you want. And so can the woman next to you.

So here’s what you have to understand.

Nothing the two of you do means that you’re a couple. You will see each other frequently, but you will not go on a date. If you’re hungry, eat first. If you don’t drink his beer, bring your own.

He is not taking pains to remember your birthday. He’ll give you something for Valentine’s Day – in fact, he might give you a few of those things – but you won’t get flowers or candy or jewelry. You are not on his Christmas card list.

You can put whatever pretty name you want on it; most women settle on “just a physical thing.” Just understand that he is very, very serious about that, even if he comes up with a cute nickname for you.

And you’ll tell him you understand that because the alternative is to refuse what he’s offering you. You have any number of reasons for not refusing. You shouldn’t have to refuse. You’re a modern woman. You’re liberated. You don’t have to live by “good girls don’t” anymore.

Besides, when will you get another chance to say yes?

This is where the trouble starts. Because each time he makes it worth your while, you get attached. It has nothing to do with how modern and liberated you are. It’s oxytocin. First there’s all the cuddling and the first time you fall asleep on him. Then there’s your first marathon session, that long night when you forget how many times he makes you come. And you don’t have to use the word “attached,” but it’s important that you get that you are now attached.

Chances are, though, that even with all the help he’s given you to understand your place, you still don’t quite get it. You’re going to get him a present. You’ll say it’s just something that you saw that made you think of him, and it’s not a big deal. His gratitude is lukewarm because he knows you’re not really telling the truth.

It doesn’t last long after that.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if oxytocin wasn’t a factor?

What if you never had to say no and never had to be confused and never had to face that awkward moment after you realize you’ve gone too far?

Wouldn’t that change everything?

My novel, ILLICIT IMPULSE, explores a world where oxytocin is no longer in control. Tal and Grace and John are in for a real rollercoaster ride as they figure out what happens when the rules don’t quite apply anymore. Once the trip is over, can they go back to their everyday lives?

Or will they discover that there’s no outsmarting the bonding hormone?

It’s Complicated, I Hope — Working with Complex Heroines

I love Lifetime movies. I can admit that without shame. I love spending a long Sunday afternoon stretched out on the couch with a nice, cool beverage and a long slate of Lifetime movies. So many different types. Bad Husband. True Crime. Don’t Trust the Babysitter. Prepare to Cry. These are only a few of the subgenres.

This month, presumably for Black History Month, Lifetime is airing three movies that prominently feature black women. (There are four Saturdays in February, but that’s another blog post.) You know I’m a sucker for the interracial romances, so I enjoyed the second one, Twist of Faith (the video at this link starts right up, but it includes a kiss). Then came Pastor Brown. From the promos, it looked like a story about a former stripper who becomes pastor of her church when the existing pastor dies.

And that is basically the story. It’s not the whole story, but that’s it in a very loose nutshell.

I hadn’t gotten very far into it before I noticed I was a little tense. At around the halfway point, I found I was even more tense. Once it was over, I had to ask myself what was so upsetting. I had a little trouble putting my finger on it, but with a little help from the world of adult film, I figured out the problem.

Almost all the women in Pastor Brown are horribly unpleasant. The ex-stripper’s sister is awful. The deacon’s wife is equally nasty. Her boss at the club in New York is nasty. Even her fair-weather friend is a piece of work.

The women who aren’t nasty are saintly. The former stripper is working HARD to atone for her sins (which, in fairness, have more to do with abandoning her son than with stripping). Along the way, we meet a woman escaping an abusive husband; she’s sleeping in the immense church because she has nowhere else to go. The old classmate whose wild past left her with HIV is now impossibly sweet; she sacrifices her chance to see the ailing pastor so that the ex-stripper (the pastor’s daughter) can have it.

There’s no middle ground. Everyone’s either terrible or on a pedestal. But that’s not the whole problem.

My problem, I realized, was that I worried that someone would see this and think it was the real world. The whole world of black women, divided neatly into nasty, abusive women and whores-turned-Madonnas. It reminded me a bit of Cindy Gallop’s Make Love Not Porn project. Cindy has no trouble with the porn industry in and of itself – her worry is that so many people believe that’s what sex is actually supposed to be like, because they’ve never been taught any differently. Sinnamon Love has a very thought-provoking article in Guernica on a similar subject. Black women are featured in adult film, she writes, but only in certain stereotypical capacities. She wants to see a wider spectrum of roles available to black women.

That was what I wanted from Pastor Brown. It’s what I hope to achieve in my own writing. My heroines are women first and foremost. They’re women like any other women. They have hopes and fears and desires. They’re not saints. They’re not nasty, judgmental harpies. They’re women, just like any other women.

If I’m doing my job, right, they’re just like us.

I’d like to say I made Grace Foley, the heroine of Illicit Impulse, just like us, but I can’t take the credit for that. After all, Grace came to me, not the other way around. (I know. It’s a writer thing. Work with me.) With a tough breakup in her recent past, she’s found a convenient place to land in Tal Crusoe’s bed. She’s deeply attracted to her best friend John (last week’s hot geek), but she’s afraid he’ll reject her. He won’t want a party girl like her. He won’t want to ruin their friendship.

He won’t want her.

And so she settles for what she has, which isn’t all that bad. Tal is any woman’s fantasy. John might not want her, but his friendship is too valuable to lose – especially now that he’s introduced her to Impulse. If only she didn’t want more.

Who among us hasn’t struggled with that? Not the trouble of having it all – the question of whether we should even want it?

That’s one of the forces driving Illicit Impulse, and it’s one of the things that made it such a challenge to write. I’m hoping that makes for good reading! Have a look at the excerpt up on Ellora’s Cave (click this, and then click the magnifying glass on the cover) and feel free to leave me a comment right here.

Blinded with Science: The Enduring Appeal of the Hot Geek

My love affair with the intellectual started early. I was in middle school, struggling with the choice between Dracula and Edward Rochester, when I fell in with Sherlock Holmes. He was absolutely brilliant, and he could not have been less interested in women. Sure, he was a bit of a bad boy. He smoked, and let’s face it, the man had a drug problem. Still. It was riveting to watch him think, and I loved that he wouldn’t engage in all sorts of foolishness to impress women.

(I’m still all about Holmes, but just the one from the Conan Doyle books. No other Holmes holds a candle to the original.)

The modern geek is something of a phenomenon these days. He’s a little different now. For one thing, he’s a lot more likely to be successful with the opposite sex. But his appeal is still based on the same few classic characteristics.

He seems unaware of his masculine wiles. His laser-beam focus is generally trained on something other than the pursuit of women, which paradoxically gives women the chance to observe him without interruption. He’ll frown at his notes, the cute little furrow appearing between his brows. He’ll rub his poor tired eyes. He’ll spend hours and hours in single-minded pursuit of his obsession, whatever it might be. He’s on fire with passion for something, whether it’s the secrets of space flight or a cure for disease, and what woman doesn’t want a man who can be passionate about his life’s work?

He has no game. At all. When he’s into you, it’s not just to make you another conquest. He’s not trying to get away with something. Honestly, he was probably paying attention to something else when you entered his world. Once he’s committed, though, he’ll choose to pursue you with his whole mind, even if he doesn’t really know what to do once he has your attention. It’s WYSIWYG at its finest.

And then there’s the physical. The little dorky touches like his bowtie, or his comic book t-shirts. The way his glasses draw attention to his eyes. The frustrated little twist that takes his mouth by the corner when he’s figuring something out. The long fingers on a keyboard or wrapped around a pencil. He’s hot, in a very specific way.

The hot geek isn’t rare, really. He’s just elusive. Since he has no game and has no idea that he’s attractive, he’s not out on the town looking for women. He’s got other things to occupy his time. When you find one in the wild, buy him a drink. It’ll make him blush and fidget in the cutest way.

My book, ILLICIT IMPULSE, features a hot geek, John March. His passion is women, actually; he studies the things that bring women and men together and the things they’ll do when they get there. So why can’t he figure out how to escape Grace Foley’s friend zone? Is he overcomplicating matters, or are things really not as they seem?

John’s going to discover the answers – the ones he asked for and some extras – in ILLICIT IMPULSE, which is available March 1 from Ellora’s Cave.

Diversity’s Never Looked Quite Like This

I’ve always written interracial romances featuring a black heroine. I’m like a lot of romance writers, in that I wanted to read and write about a heroine I could identify with. For years, I avoided reading romance altogether because I didn’t feel represented there. I might have stayed away from romance if it hadn’t been for law school. One of Mom’s friends sent me a couple of romances in a care package. I was so desperate to read about human beings and just enjoy the story, without the pressure of facing The Paper Chase the next day. I finished the first one very quickly and had to slow down and savor the others.

I still didn’t feel represented. But I was interested in what romance had to offer.

When I started reading romance, it looked like black women appeared in only two capacities – as the Sassy Black Friend, helping the heroine get the guy, or as the “exotic Creole” character. I was never clear on whether the Creole character was actually black. She always had dark hair and dark skin, but I always wondered why the author didn’t just say she was black, if she was in fact black.

I wanted to see – and, okay, maybe to be – a black heroine at center stage of her own romance novel. It wasn’t enough to help someone else get the guy and then be relegated to the end of a series (if she was lucky) with the only other black character in the books. I didn’t want to have to guess whether the heroine was black.

And that’s when I started thinking about writing romances. I had always written stories and I’d always wanted to write for publication. I just didn’t think I’d do it with romance. After all, I didn’t see anyone else publishing interracial romances, although I know now that there were a handful of them out there, scarce as hens’ teeth.

Then Sandra Kitt changed everything. The Color of Love is the romance novel I needed to see. The heroine is definitely black – she’s not olive-skinned or Creole – and she is definitely center stage. She and the hero, who is white, overcome the obstacles separating them (race-related and otherwise) to arrive at the end of the book with a declaration of love and a marriage proposal. I’d never read anything quite like it.

The Color of Love came out in 1995, so it was around when I got to law school. I just didn’t know about it. Once I found it, though, the game changed again. If she’d been published with an interracial romance (and Sandra Kitt has more than one such story out there), then I could do it, if I worked at it hard enough.

When my first novel, Illicit Impulse, comes out in three weeks, it will enter a very different world. I never thought I’d see a world with so many interracial relationships in books, television and movies. Interracial romances have long since made a place for themselves in electronic publishing, but TV and movies seem to be seeing the light, too. Finally.

I was the nut who stood up and cheered when Uhura kissed Spock in Star Trek. (Go easy on me. I’d been waiting YEARS for that.) I’m happy to see James Bond continuing a 40-year tradition of getting his swirl on. I was almost delirious with joy when ABC had two (three if we consider Grey’s Anatomy) well-established interracial relationships in prime time scripted television, although I miss 666 Park Avenue dearly now. Better still, television executives aren’t playing up the fact that their characters are falling in love across racial lines. These are just characters with their own needs and wants and dreams and problems. They just happen to be of different colors, and that’s the sort of romance I love the most.

I couldn’t be more excited to enter this field now, when the market exposure is growing. I’m part of a steadily growing audience, composed of people seeing these relationships for the first time and people who are saying “about damn time.” The sky is the limit now. I already know there are more interracial relationships on TV than I can keep track of. I claim the next book as my excuse, but I hope I can keep up with developments.

In the meantime, I need to make plans to see Skyfall.

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

very-inspiring-blogger-award

Anne Lange nominated me yesterday for the Very Inspiring Blogger award, which is all nice and shiny just above. Anne’s first book, WORTH THE RISK, is available right now from Etopia Press.

Of course, winning such an award comes with responsibilities as well. I’ve got to post the plaque (there it is, above), tell you all 7 things about myself and choose 15 more people to receive the award after me. I don’t know that I’ll get to 15 people tonight, but I promise you’ll get as much as I have to offer.

Seven Things About Alexa

1. I got an A+ in high school English for writing a racy sonnet about Verona. My teacher said he didn’t care about the content, so long as we got the form right. I bet he didn’t say that to the following year’s class.

2. I’m a total geek, especially with regard to Star Trek. I paid full theater price to see the most recent movie in IMAX. Three times. I don’t think I’ve paid full theater price to see another movie since, although I considered paying to see The Hobbit in IMAX just to see the long trailer for the next Star Trek movie.

3. Losing my job in November 2011 is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Had I not lost that job, I wouldn’t have discovered bartending as an alternate career path. I also wouldn’t have finished my novel, ILLICIT IMPULSE, which is coming soon from Ellora’s Cave (plugplugplug).

4. If I could live anywhere in the world, I’d choose Shanghai. If you restricted me to living inside this country, I’d pick New York City.

5. I can probably recite Blazing Saddles.

6. If I could travel backward in time to anyplace in my past and live there forever, I’d choose my third year at the University of Virginia. High school was over, law school hadn’t happened yet, and just about everything was right with my world.

7. There are at least three knitting projects in progress at my house at any given time.

This has been fun! Many thanks to Anne for nominating me. I, in turn, nominate the following people:

Denise Golinowski

Nara Malone

Madeline Iva

Sofie Couch

Leah St. James

Tracey Livesay

Nancy Naigle

Tina Glasneck

Enjoy the trip! And don’t forget to sign the guest book.

An Exotic Dance Christmas, or Giving, Receiving, and Taking It All Off

Ready for a Christmas secret?

Everyone’s heard that it’s better to give than to receive. A lot of us have heard it from someone who wanted something. That’s not the secret.

The secret is that giving and receiving are holding hands. Don’t tell anyone. The whole world doesn’t need to know that when you make yourself available – when you give of your time, your spirit, whatever – you put yourself in line to receive some stuff.

Let me tell you a heartwarming Christmas story to illustrate this point.

‘Twas ten days before Christmas when I went to the local strip club to see the male revue. I was supposed to go with friends, but … well, of my circle of friends, I am the most likely to assign top priority to a trip to see male dancers. So I made my way alone to the club, whistling Christmas carols with a fistful of singles in the pockets of my jeans. Talk about your holiday cheer, right?

I figured the upper room that was home to the male revue would be crowded with other women ready to celebrate the male form. Kind of surprising, then, to find the place empty.

Seriously. Completely empty. This was where the cycle of giving and receiving started.

I figured that whatever happened at this point was going to be interesting. Certainly more interesting than whatever else I might have planned, which was probably reruns or something like that. At the very least, I’d get a good story for my friends. I made myself available to receive whatever opportunity presented itself in that empty upstairs room.

I walked all the way around the room, trying to figure out where the best seat actually was. Here, equidistant from the pole and the bar? Here, within reach of the stage? Decisions, decisions. I was about to try out the spot near the stage when one of my hosts emerged from behind a door near the curtain. He wasn’t much taller than I am, but I could tell he had a nice build underneath the track jacket he wore. He stopped short when he saw me, the way any good host would if he saw a guest unattended in his sitting room.

“Oh,” he said. He hurried over to the corner of the room to turn on some music. “Didn’t know anyone was here.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’m just getting here.”

He offered me a drink and then hustled out to get the bartender. Within just a few minutes, I was sitting in my own personal strip club, with my own personal bartender (himself a former dancer). While I’m hanging out, enjoying the view and looking forward to having the room all to myself, another of the dancers comes from the magical doorway near the curtain. I grinned at him and waved. He gave me a delighted smile, as if I were a good friend, and came over to join us at the bar.

As it happened, this was his very first night on the job. I asked if he was nervous.

“Nah,” he said. “Maybe a little. That’s normal, right?”

Baby Dancer was very young. He was lean but muscular, in a T-shirt that glowed under the black light. He seemed to have an awful lot of tattoos for someone who made money with his shirt off, but that was more of a curiosity to me than anything else.

“Totally normal. I’d be more worried if you weren’t nervous.”

I told Baby Dancer that I’m a dance instructor, and we were discussing the benefits of nervousness when still another dancer came through the doorway. This one was tall and very powerful looking, and wherever he goes, people likely presume he either is or could be a stripper. When he came over to the three of us at the bar, he looked me right in the eye, and for the first time, I felt as if I was being evaluated.

I evaluated him right back. Not bad at all. This has turned out to be an excellent evening already, and no one was even dancing yet. Baby Dancer explained that the man sizing me up was his mentor.

“This is his first time,” said the Mentor. The smile hid the very slight protective edge to his voice. I grinned back at him. I really was just happy to be here, literally surrounded by strippers, receptive to whatever happened next, but I thought it was cute that this hot, imposing person apparently believed I was going to do something to his protégé.

“That’s what I hear. He says he’s nervous,” I said.

The Mentor glanced over at Baby Dancer. Evidently he was not supposed to disclose that he was not completely in control of the room.

“Some first night, huh?” said Baby Dancer, and I was reminded that I was the only woman in the room, which was maybe not as good for them as it was for me.

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe it’s good. Sometimes it’s better to try out new technique for a smaller crowd than take chances with a full room.”

I had the Mentor’s attention again. “That’s a good idea,” he said. “Do you want to be a guinea pig?”

I promise I’m not making this up. This is the sort of thing that can happen when you’re open to offering what you can and receiving whatever awesome surprises come your way.

“Sure,” I said. “Happy to help.”

Remember how I was looking for the best seat a little while ago? The Mentor pulled a chair out toward the center of the room, right in front of the pole. That, neighbors, was the best seat in the house.

“See, this is good,” said the Mentor, as the two of us watched Baby Dancer work that pole. “Usually, we just have the empty chair to practice with. Tough to demonstrate lap dances with no one in the chair.”

“I will sit right here in this chair,” I said, “for as long as you need me to do that.” I really meant that, too. I was just happy to have the opportunity to be of service.

That’s really how I ended up in the best seat in the house, with an experienced dancer, a former dancer and a new dancer, demonstrating lap dance techniques on me for … gosh, how long was it? I think I became a little overstimulated at some point and lost track of time, right around the lesson about whispering in my ear. I got to that magical place (in the chair, get your minds out of the gutter) by expecting nothing, offering something, and being open to everything.

A month ago, when I was in this mindset, I ran across a group of firefighters hanging out on the sidewalk, all as friendly as they were handsome. Around Thanksgiving – again, while I was in this state of mind – the Charlotte airport was crowded with good-looking fellows. If this is woo-woo, it’s my kind of woo-woo. Giving and receiving and receiving and giving – it’s all mixed up in a wonderful, wonderful circle made of male strippers.

Who knows what will follow that?

Actually, I do kind of know. Four days after this, I sold my first book, ILLICIT IMPULSE, to Ellora’s Cave. That’s pretty much the best thing I could ask for right now. So what comes after that?

I’m certainly open to finding out.

Romanticon 2012 Photos: Glass Dildos, Hot Shirtless Men, and Soap

My total Romanticon wine bottle count is three. Erotic romance has been very, very good to me. Also in the frame are a mask and some beads from the Last Night of Your Life party.

Here I am (trust me, that’s me) with Ace. Ace is a great-looking guy, as are all the Cavemen, but again, I had to crop out both our heads because of the uptight folks at my job. My mom wonders why I don’t just pixelate my face, so that everyone is not punished for my poor career choices. I told her that was an artistic choice on the part of the blogger.

Mom, on the other hand, is happy to appear in the frame. Here she is with two hot new friends at the Pajama Bingo Party.

And here she is with the new Alpha Caveman, Nick. Mom has just won a bingo game, and Nick is verifying the numbers.

About three games later, Mom says, “Oh, Lex! You know who you could have gotten a picture of? You should have gotten a picture of Nick when he was over here!” Yeah. Mom was in her own little Caveman-induced fog.

This is Mom with Giorgio. Told you he was cute!

And here I am with Ryan. I have a really blurry photo of Ryan all by himself, which I had hoped to post here so that you can see that amazing face of his. He invited me to join him for a photo of both of us. I was trying to figure out how to avoid cropping both of us out, and he looked at me, gently, like, “See, now I just think you’re being silly.”

I told him that if people saw both of us in the frame they would have all sorts of questions. He said, “Yes. They’re going to say, ‘What are you both doing in your pajamas at this hour?’ This is what we *want.*”

We do want that!

This is Rodney at the annual Pajama Bingo Party, about to give a lucky winner a lap dance.

At our Last Night of Your Life party, I got this photo of Rodney wearing a garment made almost entirely of peacock feathers.

And here’s Christian in the same outfit. See? It’s nice when I don’t have to crop myself out, isn’t it? Particularly because Christian is easily head and shoulders taller than I am. Cropping myself out would have cut him in half and done everyone a disservice, right?

Original Caveman CJ is below from our Last Night of Your Life party. I felt bad for turning up in jeans, but if there is one thing I can be sure of about the last night of my life, it is this — I am going to be comfortable.

This is the crew from Cleveland Exotic Dance, looking awesome at the Sunday SEXporium. Those ladies can move!

I scored these two glass dildo keychains from the souvenir room because I couldn’t decide between them. Now I can’t decide what keys to put them on. It seems a shame to put them on my dull, everyday keys, but if part of my philosophy is that every day can be a little sexy, that’s exactly where they should go, right?

And now, my story about the soap.

The swag tables are a favorite destination for me and Mom every year at Romanticon. We both take a long, slow pass over the tables, and then we carry our loot upstairs and compare notes. After the first pass, she showed me a pair of nice, big green jelly candies in a cellophane envelope. I was bummed — I love jelly candy — but I resolved to score my own before the conference was over. It took a little while, but I finally grabbed some nice lemon-lime jelly candy on Sunday afternoon and went right upstairs before Pajama Bingo to eat them.

I popped a jelly candy into my mouth and started chewing. Hmm. Not as sweet as I’d expected. But then my palate is not so sophisticated. I kept chewing. Maybe it was a more subtle lemon taste. More lemon juice than lemon candy.

Then I thought, “You know what this tastes like?”

I went into the bathroom and spat the jelly candy into my hand. Then I rubbed it between my hands and got fragrant lather.

It took me about 20 minutes to rinse the soap out of my mouth, and I was hiccuping soap bubbles for much longer than that! But I kept my sliver of soap with the teeth marks in it.

Reality hit me like a fist this morning. How can Romanticon be over so soon? I had to pay for breakfast. I was on the elevator at work several times today and saw not a single Caveman. All I have are photos. And a story idea. And plans for next year. And some chewed-up soap, three bottles of wine, loads of chocolate, a bunch of books, and a pair of dildo keychains.

You’re right, it’s not that bad. I’m just upset right now that there are no Cavemen on my elevator. In time, I will learn to live with that.