Archive by Author

I Want To Believe: Sex Magick and Strange Angel

1 Sep
rupert as ernest

Rupert Friend as Ernest Donovan in Strange Angel. He’s going to get you in trouble. You’re probably going to enjoy it.

By Alexa Day

Remember when Jason Isaacs seduced me into paying six dollars a month to watch Star Trek: Discovery? Yeah, that was about a year ago. And I’m still paying, even though there hasn’t been any Discovery in months.

Now I’m paying for Strange Angel.

I’m sure you’re not watching Strange Angel. After all, it’s on the same platform where you wouldn’t pay to watch smart, diverse science fiction with brilliant female characters.

That’s all right. I’ll give you a little taste of it.

Set in California in the 1930s (and based on a true story), Strange Angel introduces us to Jack Parsons, a working class guy with an extraordinary dream. Jack wants to go to the moon, long before going to the moon would become cool. During the day, Jack’s a lowly janitor, but by night, he and his childhood buddy head out into the desert to test rockets.

It’s not easy to live with a dream like space travel in Jack’s world. Jack can’t get funding from Cal Tech for the experiments, so his wife, Susan, is bankrolling the nightly launch tests, at the expense of the couple’s mortgage payments. Because Jack isn’t home all that often, Susan spends a lot of time hanging out alone at the house, bored. The marital sex is unsatisfying for both of them. And then there’s a new neighbor moving in next door, in the middle of the night.

The new guy on the block is named Ernest Donovan. The fun starts on his doorstep.

Ernest is the sort of free spirit who keeps a goat in his house (Temporarily. Sorry. I wish I had better news). He’s married, but he and the missus aren’t together just now. He has a weird, unpredictable energy about him. He’s the kind of guy who brings peyote on a camping trip the way the rest of us bring s’mores. He looks like he’s about to explode into waves of maniacal giggles.

Ernest doesn’t believe in rules, at least not the way society encourages people to. He’ll take a dip in a stranger’s pool and howl at the moon just for kicks. He’s taken a shine to Jack, so he shares the only rule he lives by with the rocket man.

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.

It’s the central principle of Thelema, a religion developed by Aleister Crowley. Thelema’s roots run deep, all the way to the ancient world, but in the California of the 1930s, Thelema is all about rituals meant to help its adherents manifest their true will.

And there’s sex magick. Did I mention the sex magick? Let’s stop for a second and talk about the sex magick.

About the k in sex magick. Crowley put it there to differentiate sex magick from sleight-of-hand stage magic, also super popular in the 1930s. In no-k-magic, it might look like things are disappearing, but nothing actually does. In magick-with-a-k, the sex is actually sex.

How do we manifest our individual will through sex magick? Well, Thelema might have only one rule, but I’m going to suggest some helpful guidelines.

1. Prepare to have your marriage melted. It’s not a huge surprise to say that partners are going to get passed around as part of Thelema, is it? I mean, if sex with your partner was enough to manifest your will, shouldn’t it already be manifested? Strange Angel mixes things up a little. Susan is initially reluctant to participate in that sex magick foolishness — she’s a Catholic in the 1930s, after all — and so she’s not a super willing participant with her very open-minded husband, Jack. Susan is, however, interested in getting Jack out of Thelema, which leads her back to the temple alone, which leads her to the high priest … which leads to sex magick. And once Susan has her first orgasmic vision, well, maybe that sex magick isn’t so bad after all.

3some strange angel

Just a couple making room for a little magick.

2. Prepare to have your will manifested. Don’t you love it when folks get whatever they want, all at once, and their lives buckle under the weight of it? Thelema has a way of doing that here. Jack’s rockets start working, which is what he wanted. Sure, some of them explode, and it’s hard to find a test pilot, and the military is a little too interested in the technology. But Jack wanted them to work, and they work. Susan wants to see behind a repressed spot in her memory. Soon, she has a pretty good idea what happened back there, but it’s some stuff she can’t unsee.

3. Prepare to learn something surprising about yourself. Marisol takes up with Jack’s partner, Richard, at the direction of the high priest. During their courtship, she discovers the depth of her powers — the innocent Richard looks at her like she’s a goddess. In turn, she confides that she’s more than willing to get past that timid personality and expand his horizons for real. No magick. Just the two of them. Learning that the sexy Marisol is into him — that way — gives him the confidence he needs to take the rocket project to the next level, without the far more charismatic Jack.

It’s a lot to take in. But I started with Ernest, right?

While everyone is finding their way into, around and through each other through Thelema, all that sex magick has separated Ernest from his wife for good. What Ernest wants, at the center of all that fun-loving, peyote-toting madness, is to be loved. He’s trying to fill an emptiness that’s going to swallow him whole, even with sex magick. He’s popular enough. But he’s not loved. And remember, he only knows one rule.

How far will a man like that go to be loved? And more importantly, how much will we get to see him do? Because I’m paying six dollars a month for all this.

I’ll try to keep you posted.

attending_romcon_button

In the meantime, I will be hanging out at RomCon this very weekend, October 6 in Richmond, along with a lot of really awesome authors. We will be at the DoubleTree Hotel in Midlothian, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by swag, checking out cover models, and hip deep in all the romance you can manage. Come join me in the Sweet Virginia Breeze!

Merger and Acquisition: An Excerpt from Passing Through

5 May

RT-18-Reno-Banner-V3

By Alexa Day

Ten days to Reno.

Ten days to the RT Booklovers Convention and days of splendiferous fun with loads and loads of romance authors and readers and books and parties and happy hours and general abundant good times. If you’re going, be sure to make a space on your calendar for the second coming of Never Have I Ever, Ever, hosted by my learned colleagues.

If you’re not going, hey, don’t sweat it. I’m not going, either. I expect to have my hands full right here.

Last year, I had some friends drop by to hang out on a fainting couch that wasn’t big enough for all five of us. If I were at RT with my friends and the couch, you and I would have had to have The Chat about how I’m not sharing and you need to bring your own friends. All that is easier to navigate if we’re each at home with our own couches, away from prying eyes.

But certainly it won’t take you all of ten days to get your calendar done or to get your own couch with your own friends. Honestly, some of you overachievers might manage to do both in ten days. What are you going to do with the extra time?

passing through cover

How about a trip to the beach? I can get you there and back in no time. You won’t even have to park. And this time you won’t have to bring your own friends. In my novella, Passing Through, you’ll get a whole summer with a very hot, very obedient Army Ranger, and you’ll be home in time for dinner.

You want to see a blurb?

The summer’s brought two surprises to bar owner Gigi Dean: the former Army Ranger she hired is the perfect barback, and he takes orders in bed as well as he does on the job. She swore long ago never to let a man come between her and her business, so pursuing the powerful attraction to her employee is a definite no-no. But how long can she resist the desire to put this alpha male on his knees?

Noah Monroe’s told his boss that he’s just passing through on the way to a more permanent job. He hasn’t told her that his hunger for her keeps him awake at night. He won’t have more than this summer with the gorgeous woman who is his perfect match. Can he coax her into his arms for a summer fling? Or will acting on instinct cost him everything he’s begun to love?

Sound inappropriate? Good. That’s my specialty. But don’t worry. Ever the responsible boss, Gigi has a conversation with her best employee right after their first night together. When Noah drives her home that night, she takes the opportunity to have that conversation again. Just so everyone knows where they stand. Or sit. Or lie down.

Check it out.

***

Driving home after work bothered Noah for reasons he used to have trouble naming. The traffic-clotted madness that marked his drive to the bar didn’t faze him. At rush hour, he was surrounded by people on their own missions, trying to get home or stop for groceries or meet friends for the evening. Late at night, he had the road to himself.

Not having all those people to pay attention to should have made things easier, but the empty streets pushed his senses to high alert. After a few weeks of making that late-night drive, he realized that part of him was looking for people. That side of him wasn’t nearly as hypervigilant as it used to be, but the quiet still bothered him.

Tonight, his boss’s directions provided just the right distraction. She led him deeper and deeper into the suburbs, away from the water and the highways lined with strip malls and hotels. Trees gave shelter to narrow drives, and petite houses lay in darkness. People envisioned this sort of place when they talked about settling down with a family.

“Nice neighborhood,” he said.

“This is where I grew up. Used to ride a bike up this very street.” She pointed out the open window. “Fell out of that oak tree once. Next right.”
As he made the turn, he caught her wistful grin. She had more stories to tell about growing up here. This had been the place she’d learned to drive a car. This was where she’d done homework. Daydreamed about a boy who would one day take her to prom. Her parents had left her with more than a business. She had a history in this neighborhood. She had a whole life with roots growing down deep in this place.

She had a home. Something stable to protect from transient barbacks passing through town.

Something inside him twisted painfully, but he willed the ache away. Whose fault was it that he didn’t have what she needed in her life? His whole history fit in the back of the truck with room to spare. He chose that for himself, connecting only with what lay inside his arm’s reach. Able to move and start over whenever he liked.

Her home and history still called to him, and the need to answer pulsed in his veins. When the time came, it would take all his strength to go.
She pointed at a farmhouse on the right. “There it is.”

He pulled into her driveway and coasted beneath the boughs of a tree to her carport. The ancient transmission clunked when he put the truck in park, and they turned to face each other as the engine gurgled.

They watched each other in silence for a few seconds. Years ago, a teenage Gigi would have looked across the front seat at some hormone-plagued boy, wondering if he would kiss her.

Noah chuckled. Who was he kidding? If this woman wanted to be kissed, no way she was going to sit there with her fingers crossed, waiting for it.

“Something funny, Monroe?”

“Just thinking, boss.”

She rooted deep inside her purse before pulling out her keys with a jingling flourish. “I’ll call Heather in the morning, I guess.” She glanced down at his lap briefly before her gaze skittered to the gearshift.

Damn if he was going to make this easy for her.

“I can pick you up if you want. You know, if you want to make a run on the way in.”

Her tempting lips pursed as she shook her head. “No, no. Heather has to be up early anyway, and she has the supply list.”

He tried without success to keep from smiling. Was she even going to thank him? “If you say so, boss.”

A breeze tickled the branches overhead, making them sigh. She’d probably sit here all night rather than ask him for anything. But she wanted to. She wouldn’t still be sitting here, her knee up on the bench seat, if she didn’t want something.

“You have a second to come in?” Her voice lacked a little of the steel she used at work, and for an instant, he wondered if he was wrong about the teenage Gigi, waiting on the passenger seat.

He turned off the engine and the truck shuddered to rest. “Yeah, I have a second.”

* * *

Gigi shut the door behind them and leaned against it. Noah waited for her in the living room. The hodgepodge of furniture, most of which her parents had left behind on their way to retirement, looked small and insubstantial around him. He towered over the coffee table like a giant.

Her giant.

She shook off the thought and jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the kitchen. “Want anything?”

He smiled and sat down on her couch. “I’m good,” he said.

She opened her refrigerator and stood in the chilly air, acutely aware of the heat of his gaze on her back. She’d invited him in to ask about their conversation from the other night, to be certain that there were no awkward aftereffects from the Fourth of July. She had no reason not to take him at his word, of course; Noah was a straight shooter through and through. But at work, he could be such a closed book, even when they were alone after last call. He’d never let on that there was more between them than work and one hot night on the patio. And the cab of the truck—that was where kids made out.

If they were going to have an adult conversation, they’d have it in the living room like adults.

She finally closed the fridge empty handed, cutting off the spill of light into the darkened room. When she turned back to the living room, she found Noah holding the hefty glass ashtray that weighed down the coffee table. He turned the unwieldy thing over and over, his thick fingers moving in the grooves cut for cigarettes.

Gigi grinned and joined him on the couch. “It’s an ashtray,” she explained.

He nodded, smiling. “Yeah, I know. My uncle had one like this. I haven’t seen one in years.”

“Home décor secrets of the Seventies,” she said, watching as he set the ashtray back on the coffee table. “This is your uncle who was in Vietnam?”
He nodded. “My Uncle Tim.”

“You really loved him, didn’t you?” The question was out into the air between them before she could stop it, more personal than anything that had yet happened when they were alone.

In the soft light of streetlamps, his gaze found hers. “Yeah. He was my favorite uncle.” He leaned back on the couch. “My dad’s oldest brother. He was old enough to be drafted to go to Vietnam like a bunch of other guys. Dad worshiped my Uncle Tim when they were kids.” He smiled at her. “He said when people asked him what he wanted to be, he used to say he wanted to be Uncle Tim.”

Gigi laughed, and Noah shifted on the couch. His smile slowly faded into something harder.

“Anyway, he went to Vietnam and came back home. When he got off the plane, this gorgeous woman came up to him. My uncle thinks, hey, this is great, this woman wants to flirt with the man in uniform. He opens his mouth to say something to this girl. And she spits in his face and then turns around and walks off.”

Gigi felt her mouth drop open, weightless. He glanced up at her, sorrow darkening his features.

“Dad said Uncle Tim wasn’t the same after that. It was like someone had taken whatever he used to be and shattered it, and then he wasn’t able to find all the pieces.” He sighed. “When we went to visit him and my Aunt Joanie, they were always happy enough to see us. I could kind of see what my dad saw in him. But sometimes I’d look over at him when we were watching TV, and he’d be staring at the floor, almost like he was wondering what happened to him.” He laced his fingers and set them on his knee. “You know, we’re doing all this stuff for veterans now. Free drinks and all that. College girls who want to climb you like a tree. Which is great. All that is great. But no one wants to remember that, a little while ago, people would wait for soldiers to get off the plane so they could spit in their faces.”

The silence stretched and grew thick between them. In the dark, she could all but hear him breathing.

“You learn a lot in the Army, boss. You learn that everyone’s there, willing to put it all on the line, for a different reason.” He looked up to meet her gaze. “And I never met one person who went all the way to Afghanistan for free beer. But little things like that matter anyway.”

“You didn’t have to tell me all that,” she said.

He shrugged. “Your ashtray just reminded me.” A long sigh slid out of him. “I guess it’s been trapped in there for a while.”

She had to reach to pat his knee. Resisting this need to make contact with him proved harder than simply giving in.

His hand covered hers, setting her heart on a jig. More than the excitement she’d been trying to fight for so long, she ached with a new emotion. She felt safe. Like he’d opened this part of himself to her now and wanted to welcome her inside.

She stared at their joined hands, long enough for her skin to tingle. She knew he was watching her with the same intensity he reserved for potential trouble on the job, for anything that might not go as planned.

Yeah, this qualifies.

He shifted again on the couch, and she forced her eyes to meet his. His fingers twined with hers. A whirlwind pushed at her insides, fear and need and this forbidden excitement chasing each other around her heart.

He reached for her slowly, cupping her face in his large palm. His rough thumb stroked her cheek.

“What do you need right now, boss?”

Gigi found her breath. “You said this was whatever we said it was.”

He nodded. “Right.”

“So what are we saying it is?” she whispered.

He closed most of the distance between them, stopping just inches away from her. “What do you need it to be?”

She tried to yank her hand out of his but he tightened his grip. Frustrated beyond endurance, she turned her gaze up to the ceiling. “Jesus, Monroe.” She looked back at him and wanted to pull that smirk off his face. “Can you really not answer a simple question like that?”

He slid his fingertips up to her chin, gently tugged her toward him. Their knees touched when they kissed. His mouth coaxed hers, teasing her, making the spark she was trying to suppress into a hungry flame.

He pulled away from her and pressed his forehead to hers. “I want you like I want air to breathe.” The rough caress of his whisper made her catch her breath. “But Gigi, you make the rules.” He kissed the corner of her mouth, his lips lingering there. “You tell me. You tell me what you want.”

She wanted him. She wanted to see all of him and hear every sound he could make, and even if it never happened again, with him or anyone else, she wanted him tonight.

“The bedroom is at the end of the hall.” She pulled back and away from his embrace. “Go down there and strip.”

Without a word, he rose and headed down the hallway, peeling off his shirt as he went. She stood up on suddenly uncertain legs and slowly followed him.

***

Don’t you love it when work meetings go a little long? Click and find out how Gigi evaluates her best employee.

And in the meantime, follow Lady Smut.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

 

Romance in the Time of Black Panther

6 Apr

Okoye and Nakia are done with the benefit of the doubt.

By Alexa Day

I missed you all last month. I’m not going to offer you any excuses. Let’s just say that a lot of things went off the rails at the same time, and that I would much rather have been here with you, and we can leave it at that.

My plan last month was to present you with a post about the phenomenon that is Black Panther. I was going to give you a thumbnail review — short version: IT IS INCREDIBLE — and then I was going to ask some hard questions about why traditional romance publishing can’t be bothered with compelling stories by black creators about black characters. Then, like I said, things went a little crazy and I wasn’t able to get to you last month.

As March went by, I thought I’d have to write a new post. I thought the post I had in mind would certainly be outdated by April.

And I’m wrong. As it happens, the thrust of my post is even more relevant today than it would have been last month.

Let’s begin with the good news.

Black Panther is incredible. Created by black people, featuring a predominantly black cast, and set firmly in the Marvel Universe, it presents an easily accessible story. You don’t need to know anything about superheroes to get into it. The sibling relationships speak to people with siblings. The female characters speak to women who don’t need to be rescued, who have to make a place for their identities in a world that’s constantly changing around them, who have relationships that challenge the traditions they might have grown up with. Things get blown up. Sterling K. Brown will make you cry. No film is perfect, but this one is mighty close.

The New York Times captures the importance of Black Panther’s success — and the essence of my joy surrounding it — in this article. Black Panther is a wildly successful story, featuring black characters, set largely in Africa, that is not about ‘black poverty, black pain, or black suffering,’ the ingredients that typically spell box office billions for movies with predominantly black casts. No slavery. No Jim Crow. No drug abuse. The closest we get to rap music is Klaue, one of the film’s two white characters. I haven’t even said anything about natural hair. Or representation for darker-skinned black women in these powerful, beautiful roles.

When I first wrote this post a month ago, Black Panther was closing in on $800 million dollars in international box office receipts. Today, it’s at $1.3 billion worldwide. It was released about six weeks ago.

People worldwide wanted this story. They loved it. They told their friends and went back for seconds.

At about this time, The Ripped Bodice released the 2017 results of its survey on diversity in romance publishing. This is the romance-only bookstore’s second year asking romance publishers how many of their releases were created by authors of color.

This year’s numbers are worse than last year’s. Last year’s numbers were not good. Here’s a highlight: the imprint with the highest number of romances produced by authors of color in 2017 was Crimson Romance with just over 29%, up from around 12% in 2016. Simon and Schuster shut the imprint down without fanfare within days of the report’s release.

The news gets worse.

In the month since I wrote the first version of this column, Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for the RITA award, which recognizes excellence in romance fiction. RWA noted that there were no black finalists this year. RWA further noted that no black author has ever won the award. The organization recognizes this as a serious problem. I do, too, but I think of it as a symptom of an even larger problem.

I’m damned impressed by the phenomenon that is Black Panther. Don’t get me wrong. But black creators have been producing stories with black characters for decades. Stories that don’t center on poverty, slavery, racism and pain. Stories with loving family relationships and with families facing the same kind of troubles families face all over the world. Stories with heroines who don’t need to be rescued. Women who find love while saving the world or just handling their business or looking the other way.

These stories are everywhere. Sure, some publishers are hiding them (yeah, I said it) in their own separate lines and imprints where readers of other races will have trouble locating them. But they do exist. Indeed, The Ripped Bodice can’t keep some of them on the shelves — some of their best-selling books are romances by black authors.

So if the stories exist, and they are selling, what’s the problem?

Perhaps romance publishing is fully aware of what Black Panther is doing for Hollywood (i.e., stuffing everyone’s pockets full of money) and does not want to risk that happening for them. That seems an odd business model, but hey, I’m just a writer.

Alternately, romance publishing thinks that you, the reader who pays the bills at romance publishing, are too racist to read those books. I do not believe that is true for most of you. I know that describes some people with photographic perfection, but I don’t think that’s most readers.

The obvious answer, of course, is that romance publishing itself is so racist that they will deny access to black authors and will resort to any available excuse to avoid giving black authors access to the marketplace. I will not address this issue further here. I will instead refer you to The Ripped Bodice’s Twitter account. The proprietresses are calling publishers to account for their embarrassing numbers, and I will allow them to speak for themselves.

Not all superheroes wear capes.

Let us proceed with the presumption that you, the non-black reader, want to address the problem black romance authors are facing. What can you do?

Start by finding some books.

So where do you find romances by black authors? A couple of easy answers come to mind. First, find a black author. You already know me, and everyone knows Beverly Jenkins, and this is probably the last time you’ll ever see the two of us in the same sentence because I’m not worthy. But if you’re wondering who else is out there, well, can I introduce you to Google? When I wanted to know where the nearest auto parts store was, I went to Google for answers. When I wanted to know if my cat would eat me if she were large enough to do so, I went to Google for answers. (She would.) Try Google. Just put in ‘black romance authors.’

I don’t want to fall into the very, very popular trap of making Beverly Jenkins the first and last stop in the world of black romance, and you should avoid that trap, too. Go see WOCinRomance.  There are more black romances than you can shake a stick at, and it’s run by a black author, Rebekah Witherspoon. Joyfully Reviewed presents another list of authors of color, complete with Twitter links. So you have a lot of black authors, and an extensive reading list.

Now you have to actually read the books. I wrote about this before. It is not enough for you to spend the money and then pat yourself on the back.

Well … what are the books going to be … about? This is an easy question. I’m glad you brought it to me because I like you all, and I want to make sure you hear this the right way.

The black author’s romance is going to be a romance novel. It will be about the same things any other romance would be about. My friends-to-lovers romance, Illicit Impulse, is at its core much like any other friends-to-lovers romance. There’s another dude in it, and a sex pill, but the center of it is two people wondering if it would be weird to sleep with each other. (Little plug: If you’re interested in Illicit Impulse, you should click that link today. It will be out of print in a few weeks when its publisher closes its doors.)

The sports romances are sports romances. The paranormals are paranormals. The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.

Honey, you’re not going to catch anything from a black author’s romance novel. Find one you think is interesting and read it. If you cannot find a single book on WOCinRomance that you think is interesting, you may be a bigger part of the problem than you realize.

How did you find the last book you read? Word of mouth? Amazon also-boughts? A trusted, romance-only bookstore’s list of bestsellers? This really is the same process.

I’m not trying to be small.

Look, when I was a girl taking the stagecoach to school, I learned very quickly that if I wanted to read about kids having adventures, rescuing racehorses, traveling into the frontier, exploring space, or living in the world outside my small hometown, that meant reading outside my race. I say “kids” because in the era of the stagecoach, it was hard to find books about girls, let alone black girls like me. So while I’ve been reading outside my race forever, I recognize that this was not a requirement for everyone. Let’s be frank. If you’re white, you may have gotten all your fictional needs met without having to read outside your race. You didn’t have to build that habit as a kid, and all habits are harder to build as an adult.

I know it’s hard. Start building now. Ask questions. If people are perhaps a little sharp with you when they answer, ask someone else. But don’t stop reading. Don’t stop discovering.

Twitter has had a lot to say about race and romance in the last few days. I want to leave you with this tweet from a completely different discussion. It’s from a librarian, about one of her young patrons.

Doesn’t that make you tear up, the thought of a girl learning that there are shelves and shelves of new books to discover?

That magical, hand-on-heart, oh-my-gosh feeling is here for you, too. I promise.

Google. Go to WOCinRomance. Hit Joyfully Reviewed’s Twitter list. Enjoy that moment of joy as all those covers appear in front of you.

Then get to reading.

The world is waiting. Climb inside.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

After the Fire: Where The Last Jedi Takes Us

5 Jan
unhuxed

Behold Domnhall Gleeson, unhuxed in The Revenant. I just thought you should see that.

By Alexa Day

Where do I start with The Last Jedi?

I spent a little while, probably longer than I should have, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to say about the latest cinematic installment in the mighty Star Wars franchise. Star Wars isn’t my family the way that Star Trek is, but the giant chord that gives way to the opening crawl still gives me goosebumps after all these years. My affection for the characters and the story runs deep enough to make me protective. I want the best for the series. So when I challenge the filmmakers to do better, I try to do so firmly but lovingly.

I loved The Last Jedi. It’s challenging an audience that needs to be challenged. It takes us into a darkness more subtle than its predecessors have shown us. Despair and hopelessness settle over these characters like a chill in a damp room. We’re restored to light and hope by the end of the movie, but there are a couple of places along the way that bother me.

And so, firmly but lovingly, let’s start with those places.

It’s all spoilers after this Tweet from Emo Kylo Ren.

Still here? I know. Kylo Ren has problems. We will address that in a moment.

First, let me join the long, long line of people delighted to see so many women in The Last Jedi. Star Wars has always been reasonably friendly to women in leadership for the Rebels, but the Empire and First Order have kind of been boys’ clubs until now. In The Last Jedi, I saw women working desk jobs for the First Order, down in the trenches working the switchboards with the buttons and the blinky lights. They call to mind a lot of women we know — working a crap job for a giant corporation because that’s how you keep the bills paid.

The First Order’s highest ranking woman actually appeared in the preceding movie. Captain Phasma made quite an impression in The Force Awakens, with her blinged-out Stormtrooper armor. In the giant corporation that is the First Order, Phasma is like so many of us out here toughing it out on the day job. She’s better than the drama that Supreme Leader Snoke uses to keep Kylo Ren and General Hux circling around each other, and she knows it. She’s not just trying to avoid the Disciplinary Chokey-Doke ™. She’s about getting her job done because that’s what effective leaders do. But all that hard work isn’t getting her the attention she deserves. The First Order rewards drama a lot faster than hard work. Raise your hand if that sounds like your job beneath the great ceiling of glass.

I want to see more of the woman in the gleaming armor (with a red-trimmed cape, no less), so I hope Finn didn’t succeed in killing her. I’m approaching this question the way I would approach it in a soap opera — no one is dead until there’s been an open-casket funeral and the box is in the hole. But Star Wars killed off Darth Maul just as he was becoming the most interesting character in his film. They’ve taken out characters with strong potential before. I was just hoping not to see that mistake more than once.

There is apparently a movement to ship Kylo Ren and Rey. That actually makes sense to me on one level. Over the years, I’ve had many, many friends who wanted to set me up with the only other black person they knew because we “have so much in common.” Sticking Kylo Ren together with Rey makes the same kind of sense, and it promises to have the same kind of results. The fact that Kylo Ren and Rey are both strong in the Force is not enough to build a dinner date on, much less a relationship. Kylo Ren and Rey are both living in a vacuum right now, so they can’t see that.

But I do. I see it.

Before I saw the movie, one of the spoilers that slipped through to me was that the mystery of Rey’s parents would be solved at last. I like Rey, so I was a little curious about who her parents are. I didn’t think Luke Skywalker would repeat the cycle of well intentioned abandonment that marked his own childhood. But who else could her parents be? Who else did I know?

Somehow I got to the end of the film with no answers. Concerned that I had missed something, I turned reluctantly to the Internet. At what point had the mystery of Rey’s parents been solved?

The answer was unexpected.

Rey’s parents were nobodies from nowhere who sold their child to get a fix and were later buried in a shallow, unmarked grave, forgotten by a world that was better off without them. We know that, the Internet says, because Kylo Ren says so.

He did say that, yes. I remember. I’m just surprised anyone believes him.

Sit down with your Aunt Alexa for a moment. This is important.

Kylo Ren — who needs to keep a shirt on at all times because the unnatural pallor of that poorly defined torso is not sexy at all, pookie — is lying to Rey. I think a lot of you have been told a lie just like this. I thought you knew it was a lie, but now I’m not so sure. So I want to help you out.

A person who cares about you will not tell you that you are nobody from nowhere who came from nothing. He will not do that even if he knows it to be true. He will not do that even if you know it to be true. He will definitely not do that if he knows this is something that bothers you. This is not to say that he will run along behind you, polishing your ego. Not at all. He might not constantly sing your praises to the mountains — but he will not tell you that you are insignificant, or that any part of your identity is insignificant.

You know who does tell you that you’re nobody?

That predictable, played-out lie is the trademark of a man who has figured out (a) that you are out of his league and (b) that you have not yet discovered this. You are nobody from nowhere who came from nothing, and you have no significance at all … except to me. Your Aunt Alexa and most of your friends can all name one useless dude who tried it with them because he had nothing to offer and he knew it. He probably needed to keep all his clothes on, too.

I hear some of you out there. But Vader —

It’s true that Darth Vader also gave Luke Skywalker some unwanted news about his parents. That situation was very different. For one thing, Vader was telling Luke the truth. His information was about as reliable as it gets. Vader was also trying to get Luke on the same side of the Force. Vader was trying to lift Luke up with him, using the truth. Kylo Ren is trying to drag Rey down with a lie.

I love you because we’re the same is a very different message from you can’t leave because you don’t have anything else. If you don’t hear me say anything else today, I need you to hear that.

The long road from farm boy to Jedi Knight to Jedi Master has not been kind to Luke Skywalker. His decision to follow Obi-Wan brought him to the highest point in his life, a place of meaning and purpose and fulfillment and enlightment. And then the bottom fell out, and the way of the Jedi cost Luke everything he had. This is the Luke who greets us at the beginning of the film.

Mark Hamill said, at one point, that he was opposed to where director Rian Johnson was taking his character. “[A] Jedi doesn’t give up,” Hamill said. The idea that Luke would find himself in such a dark place, no matter the circumstances, was simply unthinkable.

That really spoke to me. Because I am not in a place emotionally to hear from someone who never gives up. I’m tired. I’ve given up. And the idea that I would find myself in such a dark place was once unthinkable to me, too.

In a film filled with strong and vulnerable and multi-dimensional female characters, I saw myself most clearly in Luke. He doesn’t want to be involved in anyone’s spiritual transformation anymore. He wants to be left the hell alone and leave other people the hell alone in return. When I saw Luke hiking up to the Venerable Jedi Tree with a good old-fashioned firebomb in one hand, I pumped my fist. I don’t need another cheerleader. I need a good old-fashioned firebomb and a venerable target at which to hurl it.

Yoda’s appearance, just as Luke is about to let that firebomb fly, turns the film away from its slow but inexorable march into the dark. Yoda being Yoda, he does this in a way that feels backwards to the rest of us. He doesn’t stop Luke from burning down the tree. He starts the fire himself.

It raises an important set of questions.

When the tree is gone, Luke will remain. Who is he now, in the ashes? What will he do now that he’s closed the door on his past?

What will he make of his freedom from the order and structure that informed his entire life?

It’s a big question. Luke finds an answer in his most defining moment, before he truly passes the torch to Rey.

That question is out there for all of us. Who will we be after Burning It All Down? What will we do in the ashes?

I didn’t need a cheerleader or someone who never gives up, but dammit, I needed that question. I needed that as much as I needed to Burn It All Down. I think Hamill saw that for himself, too, because he walked back his doubts about the film and his character upon further consideration.

I don’t think fandom is entirely ready for all that. Not right away. There’s a reason AMC Theatres felt they needed to warn people that the interval of silence in the middle of the story was intentional and not a defect in the sound system. Some people aren’t ready, and some of them won’t be ready for a long time.

But are you? Are you ready to consider who you actually are, without the identity and the structure you’ve been trying to grow into?

Isn’t it worth asking?

Follow Lady Smut.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

 

 

 

How I Married the Rock Star

1 Dec

 

By Alexa Day

In 1992, I married a rock star. Did you know?

I’m sure some people thought I was one of his phases. That was a big part of his career, the transition from one part of his identity to another. I’m sure people thought this was like that. Something new for him to try out.

How many times have you heard that one, right? I’ve always wanted to try one.

But this wasn’t like that at all. The man the world knew as a rock star was very different at home. When we were together, we didn’t have to wear the faces we presented to the world outside. We were just … us. Just the two of us, boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, father and mother. Just us.

Our 25-year relationship might be the most vanilla thing he had ever done. But he made it extraordinary.

Fifteen days ago, I married a millionaire. Did you know?

When we started seeing each other, I didn’t know about Reddit, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t follow tennis. I wasn’t so sure about him at first. We spent a lot of time together, just hanging out. Six hours wandering around Paris. The rest grew out of that.

I wore three dresses at the wedding, starting off with a beautiful ball gown. It came with a cape. The sort of thing girls dream of wearing. Something that would let them be superheroes and princesses at the same time.

He called me a queen. He said his whole life had led him to me.

In the end, we were swept away on carousel horses.

Next spring, I’m going to marry a prince. Did you know?

How do you meet a prince? Through a well-connected friend. The same way lots of women meet princes. The same way they meet us, if they’re lucky.

His family doesn’t do things small. Spectacle might well be a shared middle name. But he and his brother know that all the opulence in the world can’t save a failing marriage, and the two of them know what makes a relationship work. More importantly, they care about what makes a relationship work. We were actually making dinner when he proposed. The prince and I. Making dinner.

The wedding’s going to be enormous. A word can’t capture how enormous it’s going to be.

After that, though, I think we go right back to being a couple living in the public eye, using the attention to do good for others, and enjoying dinners at home.

I remember the first time I heard I wasn’t beautiful.

I remember the first time someone let me know I wasn’t special.

I remember the first time I was told I’d never get married unless I shrank some part of myself and made myself small. I was too much. Too smart. Too talented. Too plain-spoken. Who would want that, after all? Who did I think I was?

I’m not the only one. You have friends — a lot of friends, I promise — who had exactly the same experience. If you’re good friends, she might tell you who let her in on these essential truths. She might tell you who made sure she knew she was so undesirable. She might not tell you. She might not ever tell anyone because she still feels a little silly for thinking she was beautiful and smart and capable and good enough and wonderful, just as she was.

The truth became a pericardium of stone. Protective at first for a little girl, or so everyone says when they realize there isn’t really an excuse for telling a little girl she isn’t beautiful. No one says that the stony wall will stifle a woman’s heart as she grows and the barrier doesn’t. That kind of a warning might lead her to think that the wall is unnecessary, and that really would be a problem. She has to live with the truth of her smallness and inadequacy, the reality that she is not beautiful, in a world wallpapered with cartoons that depict her as a man or an ape wearing a dress, where the only literature about her glorifies her for the depth and nobility of her endless suffering.

We’re not supposed to marry rock stars and millionaires.

We’re not supposed to wear glittering ball gowns with bejeweled capes.

We are certainly not supposed to face all the ways our lives will change when we join a royal family.

We’re supposed to live with the truth. Someone told us so, and they wouldn’t have sealed our hearts up with words like “not beautiful” and “not special” and “who do you think you are” if there were no truth to these words.

So it matters when someone tells any one of us that love is very different from the tomb we are taught it is.

It matters when he makes his way under or around or through the wall, like it doesn’t exist. It matters when he shows us a way under or around or through the wall.

It matters when he says, “Of course you’re beautiful! Who said that foolishness?!”

Or when he says he couldn’t sleep before your first date, like the rock star did.

Or when he says your life together is a fairy tale, like the millionaire did.

Or when he says he knew you were his match immediately upon being introduced, like the prince did.

When something like that happens to one of us, or three of us, or more of us, it happens to all of us, just like it’s happened to me.

So we all married the rock star and the millionaire, and next May, our family trees will reach up from slavery into the British royal family.

Maybe it shouldn’t be amazing, but it is.

So enjoy the spotlight. Revel in the magic.

And don’t forget to bring a little girl with you.

Follow Lady Smut.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

Don’t Call Me Darlin’

3 Nov

By Alexa Day

Darlin’.

It’s a popular term of endearment in Romancelandia.

I hate it.

The word darlin’ inspires in me the same disgust many people experience upon hearing the word moist. If I had to choose between the two of them (and please don’t make me do that), I might actually choose moist. I hate darlin’ just that much.

I’m not totally against pet names and such. Honey and sweetheart always sound condescending to me; perhaps this new Age of Sarcasm has sucked the sugar out of them. Speaking of which, I could be sold on Sugar, under the right conditions. I’d pick babe instead of baby. I like the idea of the secret nicknames that my special friend(s) and I might choose for each other. Hell, I wrote a short story in which the cowboy hero called the birthday girl Sugar Tits. Perhaps a bit coarse for some people’s tastes, but the heroine didn’t mind it one little bit.

Sugar Tits, coming from the right mouth with the right intent, would sound like music. Hot, sexy music. The kind a woman tells stories about later. Darlin’ lacks that potential.

But why?

Maybe it’s the newish trend of assigning cutesy-boo nicknames to things that once bore more straightforward nomenclature. Ghosting and submarining, for example, refer to specific classes of behavior that we used to call fuckwittage, or simply being an ass, back in my day. (For those unfamiliar, ghosting is when someone disappears in the middle of an established pattern of communication, forming in the early stages of courtship. Submarining is when the ghost suddenly reappears as if he had not been an ass in the first place.) I guess a single girl is more likely to read advice about how to handle submarining than she is to seek insight about what to do when a man is being an ass. No one wants to feel responsible for communicating with an ass. Still, calling it submarining or ghosting or whatever makes this fuckwittage sound like normal, acceptable behavior.

Darlin’ strikes a nearby nerve. It sounds like baby talk to me. Something women think men say. Something a little phony. The kind of thing a man calls a woman when he doesn’t remember her name. My knee-jerk reaction upon reading it is to wonder what led this man to call this woman darlin’. Where did he hear it? Isn’t it straight out of country songs and black-and-white movies?

As I was taking my notes for this part of the post, I thought of my esteemed colleague, award-winning author Kiersten Hallie Krum. In my mind’s eye, I could see her smiling and shaking her head. In my mind’s eye, Kiersten called bullshit.

If Jason Isaacs called you darlin’ just one time, Kiersten said, I bet you would abandon this line of complaints forever.

She’s not wrong. Two weeks ago, I did a giddy little dance while throwing six dollars plus a generous tip at my television. (That’ll make more sense if you click here.)

There’s also a rumor that looking directly into Jason’s eyes renders one susceptible to suggestion. So I suppose that if we were looking right at each other, I would not be inclined to make much fuss over darlin’. I’d prefer Sugar Tits, but it should be noted that no one has asked about my preferences in that regard, least of all Jason himself.

This is an exceptional case, though. It matters, but it doesn’t alter the general rule.

Don’t call me darlin’. Or Sugar Tits, just to be safe. Maybe avoid honey and sweetheart. The sound of my own name, on a familiar tongue, is endearing enough.

For now.

Follow Lady Smut.

Curious about that Sugar Tits story? Well, signing up for my newsletter is the only way to learn how a woman goes looking for a mechanical bull and ends up finding a hot cowboy. Click here for that win-win story and the fast track to news about my new releases, free reads, and other exclusive content. See you there, darlin’.

Jason Isaacs and the Six-Dollar Seduction

6 Oct
harmless at a distance

He looks harmless enough from here, but in one hour, Jason Isaacs coaxed six dollars from my tight fist.

By Alexa Day

My longest, most functional relationship is with Star Trek. We’ve been together since I was a teenager. We got through the frosty cynicism of my college years together. I stood by it through the worst of the movies and the first unsteady steps of The Next Generation.

Star Trek is my heart. It’s my family.

So when I found out that we were getting a brand new Star Trek television series, I felt a deep, warming joy that sustained me through some pretty dark times. The rest of the world might be going to hell, but new Star Trek was coming, and it would be here every week. Constant production delays didn’t bother me. Weird staff changes didn’t bother me. I just thought of Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh together, on the bridge of a starship. How could this be wrong? How could anything ever be wrong again?

At or around the last minute, CBS said they were going to put the new Star Trek behind a paywall. We could have those first two episodes for free. After that, new Star Trek was going to cost six dollars a month.

I had a little mental argument with CBS.

Me: Six dollars?

CBS: Well, it’s not that much in the larger scheme of things.

Me: That isn’t the point. Six dollars might not be much, but it’s more than I’m used to paying for CBS, which is zero.

CBS: Look, Alexa, we think you’re going to be cool with giving us the six dollars.

Me: That isn’t really the point, either. Star Trek is my family. You know how Star Trek people are. We’re going to give you the six dollars.

CBS: Oh, good.

Me: But then we need to ride you about it. I can’t just give you six dollars on a silver platter. You need to work for it. Otherwise, you get things like Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan.

CBS: I thought we were done talking about that.

Me: I did, too, but now you want six dollars. What is my six dollars for? What are you doing to earn six dollars?

CBS: You get Sonequa Martin-Green for an hour a week for six dollars. Sonequa plus Star Trek. That’s good for six dollars, right?

Me: I’m not giving you six dollars for Sonequa. Look, I saw the first two episodes. Sonequa is turning it out as Michael Burnham. She’s a brilliant badass with a tough past and big trouble in her future. I’ve seen some of that before, with The Walking Dead. They didn’t want six dollars.

CBS: Right, but —

Me: Plus, I think you could put Sonequa and her brilliant badassery into any of those free shows. Seal Team 40. NCIS: Des Moines. Washington Crisis Mode. Whatever. So if I pay you six dollars for Sonequa, that’s like saying it’s okay that she’s not on the actual network for free. That’s not okay.

CBS: Okay. How about the effects? That stuff’s expensive.

Me: Dude, I’m not crowdfunding your special effects. Star Trek is about making more with less. Grab a salt shaker and make us use our imaginations. Seriously, what is the money for?

CBS: What do you want it to be for?

Me: Well, in an ideal world, I want you to surprise me. I want to be excited to give you six dollars. I want to do a giddy little dance when I give it to you. I want to lie awake in bed, wondering when I can give you six dollars. I want to be seduced. Seduce me into giving you six dollars.

I really did not think Star Trek: Discovery would seduce me into paying six dollars a month to watch a single television show. I didn’t think Star Trek could seduce me at all anymore. This is what happens in these long-term relationships. The fire dies, and it’s just familiarity and requests for six dollars.

But then something special happened. On Sunday, Star Trek seduced me.

It’s all spoilers from the music video to the end. Proceed with caution.

I was told that Jason Isaacs would be in Star Trek: Discovery quite some time ago. I admit, I was distracted by Sonequa and Michelle. I didn’t know any better. And those tiny photos on my phone make a lot of people look the same. So I was not really ready for Jason’s entrance as Captain Lorca toward the beginning of episode three, “Context Is For Kings.”

He has a way of occupying the darkened room. That voice is an invitation. And those eyes. Hmm.

Later, I took this question to my esteemed colleagues at Lady Smut: “Where has Jason Isaacs been hiding his fine self all this time? I know nothing.”

Madeline Iva responded that most people who have not been under a rock like me recognize Jason as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies. So apparently, he’s spent part of this time hiding his fine self underneath that wig. I’m glad we rectified that. For six dollars, the absolute least I expect to see is a man’s face.

Kiersten Hallie Krum provided me with a syllabus. I cleared a Saturday on my calendar for tax-deductible research, so that I can better work FOR YOU. Then I returned to the man who is going to earn that six dollars.

Context Is for Kings

That moment when you’re trying to determine exactly how much trouble this is.

Back to the darkened room. The six-dollar seduction awaits.

1. The mystery. Michael Burnham meets her next commanding officer in the dark because his gorgeous eyes are sensitive to changes in the light level. He’s more comfortable in the dark. He says he thinks it adds an air of mystery to him. It’s working. He’s got mystery in spades, and charm to go with it. But all that charm has a predatory undercurrent. The mood lighting and the man himself create a subtle tension. It’s hard to look away and dangerous to get too close, and Michael keeps up her end of the dance, sliding away as he advances toward her.

This is not a very Star Trek thing to do. There are only a handful of Star Trek captains, and we usually know everything we need to know about them within minutes of being introduced. Captain Lorca is not a complete mystery — he feels dangerous. Immediately. Still, this is a new experience. I want to know more … but maybe not this second. Maybe right now, I just want to enjoy the danger and not know what happens next.

2. The Innocent Look. Michael was on her way to prison with some other inmates, when her shuttle was picked up by her new captain in the middle of a storm. Michael is no fool. She suggests that her encounter with Captain Lorca’s ship is not entirely coincidental.

His response to this implication is a prize-winning Innocent Look. Me? I rescued you and your trashy prison friends from a storm. What are you suggesting? He glides smoothly from injury to confusion to offense, without being too genuine. If we had a hint before that the man was trouble, the Innocent Look is confirmation.

I like trouble. Trouble is where the real story starts. But mostly, I’m into the dirty, tangled potential of it.

3. The Wanting and the Getting. It’s not that Captain Lorca won’t take no for an answer. Michael spent much of the episode saying no to him, and he’d listen and nod and let her come all the way to the end of what she was saying. But he’s used to getting what he wants. He’s good with just pulling rank if he has to — and with Michael, he had to, at least the first time. The second time, he had to seduce her.

Not like that. I’d have paid CBS sixty dollars for that, and you would be reading a very different column.

The captain seduces Michael in a very traditional way. He reassures her that he already knows everything about her, including whatever flaws she thinks she is hiding. He identifies something she wants. He shows her that he has something she wants. And then he waits for her to reach for it.

It’s not sexual in this instance, but practiced seduction always has a sexual undertone. That’s worth my six dollars.

4. The fearlessness. Captain Lorca is described by his first officer as “a man who does not fear the things normal people fear.” Trek nerds like me get a quick glimpse of that right away; the captain has exactly one tribble on his desk, not far away from food. But there are less subtle clues. Michael is on her way to prison because she’s been convicted of mutiny. She assaulted her last captain in order to take command of the ship. Her belief system is the mirror opposite of Captain Lorca’s. But he knows everything about her, and he must know a similar showdown is imminent. He’s just not worried about it. That means Michael is going to get a long overdue comeuppance, or her captain is in for a big surprise. Either might be worth six dollars.

5. Who is we? So I’ll be honest. By the end of the episode, I was still a little conflicted about giving up my hard earned six dollars. How do I know Jason Isaacs and his delightfully wicked character won’t go the same way as Michelle Yeoh’s Captain Georgiou? (If you were going to spend six dollars to see Michelle, you can maybe hang on to it. Sorry. I wish I had better news.)

I think CBS knew I was having some doubts. But seduction is about anticipating resistance and acting on the other person’s hesitation. So they waited until the last few minutes to make a play for my money.

Star Trek has historically been a little short on sex appeal. Sure, the new universe has its share of pretty faces, and Chris Pine’s Jim Kirk is unabashedly sexual.

But Jim Kirk is a frat boy at a party school compared to Captain Lorca. Kirk is all about straight-ahead flirtation on a highway flanked with a few laughs and the occasional sweet gesture before we arrive at the inevitable destination. Captain Lorca is a fearless, mysterious man who is used to getting whatever he wants. It’s hard to say what to expect, but I doubt traditional flirtation will be involved.

I see your skeptical expressions. Fine. Let’s skip down to the end of the episode.

The captain and his security chief Landry, played by Rekha Sharma, are standing very close together indeed. The two of them don’t have a lot of screen time together yet, but the way she talks about him is pure something-is-happening-between-us. I’m kind of on the edge of my seat, intrigued but not fully committed to giving up that six dollars.

The captain turns those eyes to his security chief. In the dark, the room seems very small. I give the television a side-eye. Are we going there? Is that what we’re doing with my six dollars?

Ever have a moment when you think you’re giving someone 100 percent of your attention, and then they say something that makes you sit up? Yeah. Here it comes.

Very quietly, in the dark intimacy of this room, he says, “I think we will spend some time together this evening.”

Not a question. This is what we are doing.

In return, I have two questions. Who is we? And what will we spend this time doing? Because for six dollars, I expect to be fully integrated into this evening’s activities. Fully integrated.

Alas, Lorca and Landry are not going there. Not right now, anyway. Turns out she’s brought him a little something. It’s kind of like a lethal cockroach about the size of an ATV. She and Michael barely escaped it with their lives earlier that episode, and I’m sure no one else knows it’s on board. It’s a little secret on a ship full of secrets.

Anyway, something about the way Landry says, “Anything, anytime,” is telling me that this conversation has gone a couple of different ways and might head down those familiar paths again soon. I hope it’s before I have to give up another six dollars.

Back to Sonequa.

I had started to worry that Sonequa had gone from playing one brilliant badass to another. She had only just started to explore Sasha’s vulnerability and emotional depth when she was cut down on The Walking Dead, and I worried that she was going to be just another Strong Black Woman on a TV show I was paying six dollars for. Who was going to test Michael Burnham? Who was going to break Michael down and watch her rebuild herself? Who will make her giggle? Who will make her sigh?

Michael is in an untenable position; Captain Lorca is trouble on a stick. He is going to make her life difficult in ways she hasn’t started to think about yet, and she’ll have to evolve outside her comfort level to survive that.

And Jason Isaacs is hot. I’m telling you that the man seduced me so thoroughly in one hour that I put a song from Fifty Shades on a blog post with my name on it.

Once. Don’t get crazy on me. You’re not getting anything related to Fifty Shades from me EVER again, unless it’s vitriol and scorn.

Two minutes after the episode ended, a receipt for six dollars landed in my inbox. Well played, CBS. I am already wondering about how you will get the next six dollars.

I didn’t do the giddy little dance, though.

For that, I’m going to need someone to take off some clothes.

Follow Lady Smut.

Looking for something to read? Check out this big, beautiful fall giveaway — 24 hot romances running the gamut from age play to dark BDSM to futuristic fun to historical heat. You’ll even find my short story, 1-800, for your amusement. Find something new! Click here to try out a new kink!

 

Of Men, Masquerades and the Monkey Trap: Naked Snctm is a Surprise

13 Sep

By Alexa Day

(Strong and Sexy Week continues to celebrate colleague Elizabeth SaFleur’s new release, The White House Gets A Spanking, a fabulous and timely novella up for preorder right this second! But I couldn’t wait until October to go after Snctm again. I don’t do delayed gratification all that well. You know, sorry.)

The morning I discovered the email announcing that Snctm had a television series airing on Showtime, I began preparing to hate-watch it. I haven’t been terribly shy about my feelings when it comes to the Beverly Hills-based sex club. I figured a TV show was just another way for founder Damon Lawner and his inner circle to congratulate themselves for building this emporium for the male gaze.

After watching the first two episodes, I decided I was right about it. I only watched the third because I had something in the oven and my craptacular cable package didn’t have any better ideas.

Because of my chicken and rice casserole, I’m now writing a very different post from the one I thought I’d be writing.

But let’s start at the beginning.

I hesitate to call Naked Snctm a reality show. It has some of the trappings of the reality show, leading the viewer along with Damon as he goes about his version of a normal day. We even have those little confessional-style clips with his staff and some of Snctm’s members. Despite all that, Naked Snctm feels more like a documentary. It doesn’t feel cheap. It doesn’t even feel exploitative, really. And while I can often sense the producer’s hand at work in the typical reality show, Naked Snctm looks like it was assembled by a storyteller.

I have a LOT to say about this show, and I know you all have limited time. Everyone is busy these days, what with pumpkin spice lattes and the holidays swiftly approaching. I understand. I’ll keep this to two highlights per episode, for four episodes.

Near the beginning of the first episode, we meet Damon’s ex-wife as they sit down for a drink. Melissa explains to us in the confessional that she and Damon met when she was 18. She was raised to think of marriage and relationships in a relatively conservative way, and he … well, he wasn’t.

At the bar, Melissa tells Damon that their twelve-year-old daughter came home from school in tears. Some of the boys in her class have been giving her a hard time. They found Damon on Instagram, followed the breadcrumbs back to the Snctm website, and then did what the average twelve-year-old boy would do in a situation like that.

Damon’s response to this bothered me.

The only way to protect his daughters (he and Melissa also have a nine-year-old) from Snctm is to get rid of it altogether, he says. He isn’t going to get rid of it. It represents his only income stream, he says, and “I don’t have a Plan B.”

I’m not a parent. But I have lost my only income stream without warning. I’ll admit that it’s a little scary and would probably have been more scary if I had human dependents. Wanna guess what I did?

I fucking created a goddamned Plan B.

If I knew that my job was causing my daughter pain — and I think we both know that at 12 years old, this is probably not harmless teasing — I would quit that job, unless my job were critical to the continued existence of Planet Earth. Damon’s job is not critical to the continued existence of Planet Earth. I hope he’s not going to try to convince his daughter that it is.

This exchange takes place early in the first episode, right as we’re getting to know Damon. I can’t help but wonder why. Why tell us this now? Why tell us at all?

Damon (left), with Nicolas, making an important business decision

We don’t have much time to think about this before we’re spirited away to Damon’s place for Diner. Nicolas, Snctm’s operations manager, is on hand for the event. Nicolas — a bright-eyed, clean-shaven, briskly accented opposite to Damon — explains that his job is to make sure everything on the premises is running smoothly. He keeps his eye on the multitudinous candles. He keeps glass off the floor. He isn’t all that interested in the erotic theater himself because that would detract from his job performance. He’s like the security guard at the museum, specifically chosen because he isn’t interested in the art.

Nicolas also reviews the written portion of the Snctm applications. He gave someone a thumbs-down because her essay was “pretty pathetic.”

Nicolas is now the most interesting person I have encountered thus far, in all my dealings with Snctm. Snctm people, take note: had you put me in touch with Nicolas, I might have been a little nicer to you. A little. Let’s not get crazy.

I am a little surprised to find that the artistic director at Snctm is a woman; the club strikes me as a little tone-deaf when it comes to what women would want. Still, Alina arranges the performances for Snctm events. At Diner, the performance is two women going down on each other, on the dinner table, before a third woman in a maid’s costume spreads cake frosting on them both for the consumption of the guests. Alina says this isn’t “some sloppy porn thing,” but where was the last place you saw two women eating each other out on a table where people were having a meal just moments before? It was porn, wasn’t it? Nothing against porn, but wasn’t it?

And if you answered this question, “Actually, Alexa, this sort of thing happens every night at the table for me, you plebeian clod, and no one cares that the wooden surface soaks up emissions like a sponge,” then I apologize. Sorry.

One of the second episode’s highlights is Osa. Osa is the first black woman I’ve seen in any of my writing on Snctm. At her audition to become a performer, she explains that she’s into fetish, including the fart fetish.

I have never heard of the fart fetish. Even the unflappable Nicolas seems flapped by it. Osa assures us that it’s on Wikipedia. It is, but it’s just on a list. Check out this article on eproctophilia from Psychology Today instead. Go right now. I will be here when you get back.

In gratitude for teaching me something I honestly did not know about the world of fetish, I will withdraw exactly one mean-spirited thing I have said about the Snctm people. I’ll let you know when I decide what it is.

The other highlight is a little less pleasant.

The Snctm audition.

There are two dudes auditioning for roles at Snctm as well. One of them is dressed like Nicolas, in a suit with his shirt open at the throat. Like he’s looking for a job. Nice. The other is wearing a blue tank top and a pair of pink shorts. This one, Robbie, takes the top off for a moment to show his interviewers what he looks like in a state of undress. As soon as they get a look at him, that shirt goes right back on. Maybe that’s normal for a man’s interview. Everyone felt Osa up during her audition, so I guess it’s hard to tell what normal is.

Robbie is sent upstairs with the other hopefuls to wait for the next stage, whatever that is. While he’s up there, he’s generally making an ass of himself. “Can I get a kiss?” he asks one of the women who hasn’t auditioned yet. “Should we fuck so you aren’t so horny later?”

Word gets out that Robbie is going to be a problem. Damon and Nicolas send security upstairs to have him removed at once. They are adamant that this kind of thing doesn’t fly at Snctm, and indeed, the Snctm people have always taken that position with me.

Security is Johnathan, one of the performers. Sometimes, he wears a military-style uniform, and he was a cop stripper before Snctm. Evidently this qualifies him to be security at Snctm. Something to keep in mind before dropping money on a base membership.

The third episode takes us to New York and an East Coast Snctm masquerade. Two highlights from this episode as well.

First, as she’s auditioning performers for that night’s party, Alina says the performance has to be more than “two girls in lingerie making out because you can see that everywhere.” I will gently remind the reader that Alina was kind of excited about two girls in lingerie making out in the first episode. Just a reminder, no judgment. Reminds me of the time, also in the first episode, when Damon said Snctm members came from all walks of life and then in the next breath said the base membership cost $15,000. That, to me, excludes some walks of life, but again, that’s just an observation.

The other highlight of the third episode? The IV Doc. Something else I’m learning about for the first time from Naked Snctm.

After a night of overindulgence, Damon is quite unable to get out of bed. Nicolas and Alina need him to get up; there’s business to handle before the masquerade. Nicolas suggests that this happens more often than he’d like. He even seems a little annoyed. What’s a guy to do?

Enter the IV Doc. The IV Doc will come to you, wherever you are, and administer an intravenous pick-me-up that will help you get out of bed to face the day. You can choose vitamins or other supplements, depending on whether you need hydration, detox, or even recovery from food poisoning. It’s actually kind of reasonably priced, when you consider how much it should cost to have a medical professional come to you and give you anything at all.

I had to go onto their website to learn all this. I have a little bit of an issue with needles, so I wasn’t about to watch Damon take that IV, even for you all. There is no way I personally would volunteer to get an IV because I can’t get out of bed. We would just have to write that day off. Perhaps the IV Doctor has a discount package where they open the packet containing the needle and you leap, rejuvenated, out of bed in order to avoid it.

The fourth episode reunites Damon with his mom.

Damon and his mom don’t see eye to eye. It feels personal and not totally appropriate to go into it here. I’ll say that despite Melissa’s suggestion in the first episode that Damon’s parents lived a carefree lifestyle that makes him who he is, I think Damon is actually trying to break free from the world his parents created for him in childhood. Snctm is his world, and at first blush, it does look like a traveling orgy. But in reality, the Diners and the masquerades and all the rest of it operate in a very structured way. Membership comes in tiers. Certain people are allowed to do certain things. There are rules upon rules upon rules. The sex is choreography, designed to entice invited guests.

When Damon ultimately reconciles with his mother, I don’t get a theater vibe from their embrace. He’s made himself open and vulnerable, and he owns that moment completely. I think that if Damon and his mom had ended the conversation by cursing each other out, he’d have owned that, too. This is what I meant when I said that Naked Snctm didn’t feel like reality television. We are in a space with Damon that feels intimate. It’s just unclear whether he considers it intimate. It’s unclear what intimacy means to him, which makes it harder for us to find our footing with it.

Also in the fourth episode, Damon goes on a date.

He’s been set up with a lovely woman named Violine. They’re enjoying a glass of wine and some conversation, and Damon tells us in the confessional that Violine has no idea what he does. He says the experience is refreshing. I know that feeling all too well. I’ve been on that date myself, before the guy across the table knows I write erotica. I treasure the moment when he looks at me and sees the girl he met at Petco or the attorney who works downtown, the one with the weird sense of humor and an unfortunate taste for disco. There is no way to know, without telling him, whether that guy would date a woman who writes erotica. So I know Damon’s desire to preserve the bubble, where he’s just Damon, a guy Violine met through a mutual friend.

But then Damon tells Violine what he does. On the first date, just after telling us how wonderful it is just to be Damon. He explains to Violine about Snctm and his role in it. He asks if she could date a man who did that for a living. Violine touches the napkin to her lips, and I know the answer is no before she says it.

Did you forget the preorder? Don’t forget the preorder. Click here!

I am reminded here of the monkey trap.

In the historically problematic miniseries Shaka Zulu, Edward Fox’s character Francis Farewell describes the monkey trap to Henry Cele’s King Shaka, leader of the Zulu nation. The trap is a gourd with a narrow neck, baited with something monkeys find tempting, like a piece of fruit or a shiny object. The monkey can reach into the gourd with no problem but he cannot withdraw his closed fist. To escape the trap, all the monkey must do is surrender the bait and open his hand. But monkeys won’t do that. Indeed, I saw a film the other day in which a trapped monkey frantically yanked at the gourd, desperate to flee the hunter but unwilling to relinquish his shiny prize.

I’ve come to realize that Damon is caught in a monkey trap. He himself observes that Snctm has cost him dearly. He’s lost his marriage. He’s leaving messages to speak to his daughter. It’s complicating his love life. He needs an IV to get out of bed.

But he won’t let go of it. While the club’s revels seem like the heights of sexual abandon to an outsider, Damon explains, “for me, it’s how I understand love. Sex is love.”

Snctm is Damon’s answer to some deep-seated question. It is the proof to some equation locked within him. It feels like a purpose and a solution to him, and with so much of himself wrapped up in it, I’m not sure what would remain if he let go of it.

He’s at home with his choice, and you all know that I stand for respecting a man’s choice. But I can’t help but see a gourd with a narrow neck, baited with something shiny.

Follow Lady Smut. We’re full of surprises.

I want to give you a hug for getting this far! Instead, I have two announcements.

I will be moving to a monthly post starting this month. Look for me on the first Friday of the month, beginning in October, and I promise to look for you, too. You’ll still get everything you’ve come to know and love from me — whatever that might be. You just won’t be seeing me as frequently.

Also, we at Lady Smut will be starting a new feature this week: Throwback Thursday. As we settle into this sophisticated new format, we’ll be featuring some of our greatest hits every Thursday! Tune in and get yourself a history lesson.

Sexy Saturday Round Up

15 Jul

Don’t look now, friends, but we’re midway through July! Yikes, where’s summer going?? You better be sure to set aside ample time for some fun or summer will fade as frighteningly fast as your tan. But don’t worry about having to hunt around for great reads this weekend, ’cause we’ve got you covered. Just check out the fun stuff we’ve gathered below.

From Madeline:

Please do not put glitter in your vagina.

This mom wants you to know that she f*cks.

This one’s for you, Alexa Day: abduction fantasies played out in real life. 

I wanna see Atomic Bomb! How Charlize Theron navigates playing a female spy who kicks ass and takes names.

How you make a relationship work when you identify as a pansexual man and your partner identifies as a lesbian who likes casual hook-ups.

Are your hook ups practicing good hook-up etiquette? Are you demonstrating good boundaries with your hook-ups? See what these women have to say about how they expect to be treated when doing a little bonk-da-bonk with no expectations.

From Elizabeth Shore:

One gutsy woman’s response to a guy trying to rape her – biting off his tongue.

Are you a THOT?

A two-fer: 10 yoga poses that double as sex positions.

Yeah, Dirty Dancing turns 30 this year – but here’s how not to celebrate that.

Finally! Game of Thrones season 7 kicks off on Sunday! Get caught up on everything you need to know before the big event.

And watch the trailer to get yourself in the mood to fly atop dragons and kick some Lannister butt.

 

 

 

 

Sexy Saturday Round-Up

24 Jun

By Elizabeth Shore

It’s summer solstice time! Long days, frozen drinks, and all things hot: the weather, the beaches, and the sizzlin’ summer fun! Too hot in your neck of the woods to be outside? Worry not. Sophia Coppolla’s historical thriller The Beguiled opens this weekend. Sexual tension, dangerous rivalries, Colin Farrell! It’s a recipe tailor-made for savvy Lady Smutters who prefer their heat coming from the inside. 😉 Oh, and we’ve got a round-up of some pretty awesome clips from this past week, as well. So grab a frozen margarita or three and enjoy.

From Madeline:

Love your period? This woman does.

Watching porn: “jizz journalist” Lynsey G. deconstructs the medium and its global fanfare

An Oral History of Quentin Tarantino As Told To Me By Men I’ve Dated

Got relationship woes? Relationship anxiety may be to blame.

Abstinence for your feminist-type.

Jessica Chastain shudders over the representation of women at Cannes

From Elizabeth Shore:

Grab a book, hit the sand! And if you’re wondering what to read, here are some picks for best summer beach reads.

Here’s something you may not have seen coming: John McEnroe says Andy Warhol ruined his sex life.

Here’s some messed up s**t: in North Carolina, no doesn’t mean no.

Feel like stalking your ex? There’s an app for that. Thanks, Snapchat.

It’s Pride month, everyone! In celebration, here’s what kind of gay porn is searched for, state by state.

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: