This is Who I Am

Lexi“But Lexi Maxxwell isn’t real.

That was what one of my best girlfriends (one of the few I can tell about Lexi) said after I shared a particularly soul wrenching piece of writing.

I had to read it several times before I was wiling to share it. I cried most of those times. I cried when I wrote it, too. I even cried when I thought about writing it.

But that’s par for the course: I’ve been crying a lot. 

I’m a tough gal. But last year was hard, for a variety of reasons. Yet, in an odd way I’ve never felt stronger — or more ready to stick around and bare more of me for you.

I’ve never been this driven.
I’ve never been more hungry.
I’ve never been so creatively sparked. 

It doesn’t matter that “Lexi” isn’t real, because I sure as hell am.

After a long and ranting hour-long explanation to my girlfriend — along with more tears — she finally got it, too.

Lexi isn’t just about selling books, she’s about affecting change.

She’s about making a difference.

She’s about moving people to feel better about themselves, one at a time — no matter how long that takes, or how much of me gets poured into my pen name.

Once my girlfriend finally got it, she wanted to wave the flag beside me. I hope you do, too.

I’ve been gone for a while, so I’d like to catch up. I’m not quite sure where to start, so I suppose we’ll go back to the beginning.

I’ve Always Wanted to be a Writer

When I was a little girl I used to make up stories. Constantly. I rarely wanted to do anything else. I thought dolls were stupid (and the crimes against humanity Monster High dolls hadn’t even been invented yet). Most of the time I pretended to think writing was kind of dumb, too, because though my family sometimes acted like they cared about what I wrote, none of them actually did.

Most of the time my brother and sister made fun of me. My mom was the nicest, and my dad the worst.

I love my dad, but he’s always thought writing was stupid. He figured I’d eventually grow out of what he saw as a juvenile pursuit, and wasn’t especially happy when I went off to college still determined to turn words into paychecks.

By then I’d mostly abandoned the dream of writing fiction. I figured my father was right: I’d be poor forever if I tried to sell stories, and I’d already had plenty of that. So I majored in journalism (just like Sam in Together Apart).

But honestly, my heart was never really into it.

I-Always-Wanted-to-be-a-Writer-1024x1024I grew up loving authors, not reporters. I graduated feeling like I was stepping into another person’s dream.

I fell into a marketing job almost immediately. It was creative and paid surprisingly well (definitely more than I expected). I was good at my work and quickly excelled.

Clients liked what I did (even though some said I was a little too loud) and my bosses rewarded me well for my intelligence.

Yet through it all I felt a stir in my gut. I pushed it down when it bubbled, afraid of what might happen if I allowed the gurgle to grow too loud.

I got to write every day, but most of my words were designed to make people buy things.

I told myself I was content.

I had to be: I could never be an author.

That was my lot.

Dad was proud and that made me happy.

Or at least happy enough. 

At the end of 2011 a gale came to sweep me from nowhere. It ripped the roof from my life and hurled me into Oz. I blinked at the color around me, unable to believe my eyes.

The eBook revolution had already happened, but I’d barely noticed since I was still a paper and ink girl. Fifty Shades hadn’t come to birth the phrase “mommy porn,” and I had yet to buy my first Kindle.

I clicked on a headline, read how much things had changed for writers like me, and knew life would never be the same.

I wanted what those writers had already grabbed for themselves, and I wanted it more than anything I’d ever wanted before.

I wasn’t sure what I would write (erotica was far from an automatic. Ironically, I’ve always wanted to write for children), but knew I had to get my stories out there. 

But, I had a great job and my family was proud of me.

I had a lot to lose, too much to give up.

I didn’t want to hear that my dreams would amount to nothing.

I didn’t want to hear that I couldn’t do it.

I didn’t want to believe them.

My Life as a Secret 

My-Life-as-a-SecretIf I was writing in secret, why not write the most secretive stuff?

I’ve always loved erotica. I wrote dirty little stories to myself back when I first started reading the stuff, as barely more than a girl.

I almost saw it as sort of a joke (I’ve always appreciated the confluence of sex and humor), and using a fake name gave me the freedom to play.

Honestly, I never expected to stick around long. I figured I’d use the erotica space to “figure things out,” then move on to the genres “I really wanted to write.”

I never expected to feel so at home. 

My earliest erotica was awful. Well, that’s not true. I think it’s actually pretty great for what it was, but what it was is so much less than what it is now and will continue to be. 

I was going through a rough patch. I had just left a long term relationship and was having a lot of meaningless sex. A LOT of meaningless sex — many guys and a handful of girls. My writing reflected that.

I wrote single serving fantasies, exaggerated versions of the life I was already living. They were cathartic, written to get my readers off as much as myself.

Then something happened.

Something I never saw coming.

Something that changed my life and made me want to keep the name Lexi forever, if not legally change it.

Fan Mail Turned Me Inside Out

At first it was a trickle, one every few days, then came the flood.

One day I got 17 emails, all saying versions of the same thing.

Thank you, Lexi.
You say what I’ve always felt.
You’ve helped me in my relationships.
Your stories help me to feel less ashamed.
I feel like you’ve saved my life. 

It embarrasses me to write that — it seems so grandiose — but it’s true. And as much as I might have helped those readers (unintentionally at first, believe me), they helped me in a way I never saw coming, and didn’t even know I needed.

But I did, and am better for it, even though I had more hard times ahead.

Because my readers cared, I started to care. I wanted to change my game. I stopped seeing my smutty stories as a commodity, and began to see them as the art they could one day become.

Fan-MailI had to step things up, and the timing couldn’t have been better.

I don’t want to bore you with a lot of crap about the self-publishing industry, but essentially I made a decent amount of money in 2012 by leveraging free books on Amazon.

I’d make something free, get a ton of reviews (I’ve always held a 4.9 out of 5-star average) from fans, then raise the price and enjoy a post free bump in sales.

But that stopped, and unfortunately I didn’t have a large enough fan base to support my paid work.

I hit a wall, and slammed into it hard enough to smash my pretty little nose.

2012 was good enough that I quit my job — the one I had worked hard to get, killed myself to keep, and made my family proud of who I was — but I did so prematurely.

I told everyone I was “working online,” because I “preferred the freelancing life,” which is a bit like preferring cholera to perfect health. In truth I was scrambling, hoping to get my art into the world and broadcast it in a way that would feed me.

It didn’t, and 2013 was the hardest year of my life.

Last year I had two relationships that absolutely did not work out. Both led me to tears. One was a guy, and the other was my indie career. I took a lot of freelance work that I hated, and spent much of the year as a mess.

But I never sold-out. 

I never returned to the single-serving fantasies.

I never allowed myself to be anyone other than me.

Instead I did the best work of my career so far: the second season of The XXX Files, followed by the absurdly funny Adult Video and maybe my favorite story so far, The Future of Sex (both of those with Johnny and Sean).

But I’m not willing to be a starving artist, and if I spend another year trying to make ends meet writing copy I loathe, I’ll have a spectacular suicide and make national news.

But you’ll never know it was me. 

I spent the last bit of last year building my personal bridge to a better tomorrow. I told the asshole who didn’t treat me with the respect I deserve to get the fuck out of my life (I should have known he wasn’t for me when I realized I could never tell him about Lexi), and started designing my perfect 2014.

By late October I was impatiently tapping my foot as I waited for the new year.

I-Got-StrongerI couldn’t wait to get going.

But then I hit the roughest patch of all.

I can’t get into specifics — it isn’t right despite the anonymity — but I can say it had to do with my family, and the events left me feeling more conflicted than I’ve ever felt before.

I was raised to feel ashamed, and that shame threatens to eat me.

That shame threatened Lexi.

And I almost allowed it.

I came close to surrender, inches from giving it up: the name, the stories, the dream. 

But I didn’t. Instead I Got Stronger 

And now I’m here for good. 

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing that Lexi, I found that very moving and inspiring. I’m glad you didn’t give up and are still with us stronger than ever.

  2. There is nothing wrong with being more than one person. I am three. There is me, the normal guy that goes to work and hangs with his friends, there is the DJ whose heart beats to the sound of a kick drum, and there is the writer who wants to create worlds. I am glad you are here to stay.

  3. What a powerful story. Go get ’em Lexi, looking forward to your inevitable conquering of the world.

    Plus, you are smoking hot and have sexy elbows.

    :8^ )

  4. Jan Schloesser says:

    Having read this, I’m going to bump “Together Apart” to the top of my reading list. Or actually, not to the very top, but second only to Yesterday’s Gone Season 5 🙂

  5. Every time I see your picture, I can’t help but get focused on your ears. It makes me think you’re an elf or pixie or something! 😀

  6. Terri McMillan says:

    You are an unbelievably strong woman. I like your wit, and your little drawl, and love the thing that most men, (including mr pond scum) will never see; the biggest set of balls out there. Booyah! It doesn’t need to be a fight to the death of the you, you are when your elbows are down and you’re surrounded by family. It is a fight for survival for the Lexi we know and love, need and respect. Sterling and Stone has needed a woman’s touch since the early days of the SPP.
    Thanks for sticking around. I am one of your tribe.
    T.

  7. Thanks for writing this! It’s inspiring, glad you’re here to stay 🙂

  8. I’m so sorry for what you’ve been through and grateful you’re sticking around in spite of it. I love your writing and I love YOU. Er, not in a creepy way, I hope, but you’ve been an inspiration to me and my husband.

    When I listened to the SPP episode starring you – there were some other guys talking, too, but I didn’t pay any attention to them 😉 – I was floored. As soon as my husband came home, I stuck my phone in his face and said “Listen to her! Her name is Lexxi and she writes like we’ve always want to!”

    We had had been wanting to write erotica for YEARS, but when we started exploring the idea and encountered a lot of the erotica our friends suggested, we drew back. It was a lot softer in focus and faded to black far more what we wanted to do. We tried to come up with a similar story, but it just wouldn’t gel. It just wasn’t what we wanted to write.

    But then I found you. You wrote like we always wanted to, with no Vaseline smeared on the lens – just sex and fun and great stories. (Agent Hammer. I still giggle.) Reading your stories gave us the ambition and inspiration to try again. We plotted out a 12-novella series and a collection of bondage stories, wrote them and trembled in terror when we sent the first two pieces out to beta readers.

    And the response was amazing. Aside from one minor scene rewrite, every single beta reader told us they loved our stories. Many of them blushed as they confessed, but they yummed up every word. My husband and I high-fived each other so hard we just about broke our effing fingers. So the first book will be coming out in July, the second on Halloween of this year.

    That’s thanks to you, Lexi. I’m hoping to dedicate the first book of the novella series to you, Erika Moen and Jesse Fink. (Those two ladies have been amazing forces for sex-posivity and openness in my life, too.) I uh… really hope that’s going to be okay because I have NO idea how to contact you to ask about it.

    You’re amazing and we’ll be reading. And pimping your work like mad to everyone we know.

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