It’s summertime, the season of lingering evenings and night skies ablaze with fireworks, the perfect time to invite like-minded friends over for a casual gathering in the garden to eat, drink and talk dirty. It’s my honor and pleasure to be the first hostess on our erotica writers’ Spicy Sunday Blog Tour (co-hosted and inspired by Marina St. Clare who definitely fired up the grill ;-). Already my mouth is watering at the thought of our traveling feast. From basil to thyme, we’ll tempt our taste buds and imaginations to summery explorations of our deepest sensual appetites.
To set the mood for a sultry erotic gathering, I offer this seasonal song from the legendary Ella Fitzgerald.
So, do come on back to my garden and pull up a lawn chair. As you see, we’re shielded from the prying neighbors by apricot and fig trees, mallow flower and maple (besides, in my part of the world, the neighbors themselves are probably doing things that would make us blush). There are plenty of beverages to quench your thirst: a nicely spicy Mas Malbec, some Sierra Nevada pale ales on ice and of course chilled Demon-Slayer sake—don’t we all have demons to slay?--which will be served in my signature 19th century Chinese erotic wine cups (feel free to take one home as a souvenir). Here there’s no need to hide what you do or explain why you’re writing smut instead of “real” literature. We all understand the call to adventure in the land of spice.
(I can't seem to get enough of this cup!)
For our inaugural gathering, I’ve chosen not to focus on any particular spice, but instead to celebrate the magic and potency of the whole array of tongue-tingling seasonings. Spices have played a key role in history and the human imagination. The Egyptians used them to mummify bodies for their journey to the afterlife. In medieval Europe, a hostess was judged by how many rare and exotic spices she used in her dishes, and the lust for more led explorers to map and conquer the world. Herbs and spices can profoundly alter the mood or the metabolism. Some are aphrodisiacs, cinnamon being the best-known (which means I might add a few more shakes to my morning yogurt!).
Spices are especially appropriate for an erotica writers’ movable feast because “spicy” and “sexy” are often used to mean the same thing. Witness the Spice Channel or the chili peppers used to designate adult language in emails. As erotica writers we bring spice to the written word. Our stories pique and arouse the libido as spices do the tongue. An exotic, spicy dish can transport you to a foreign land, just as erotica can take you to a world where the rules and customs are different from our ordinary lives. In each case, there’s always a danger a heavy hand can take you a little too far. And with both, a taste of something good always leaves you wanting more….
Today, in honor of world travel and a happy mélange of spices, I’m offering for your dining pleasure a Bengali lentil soup (see recipe below), along with some fresh-baked buttery naan. This recipe is good for supper on a gently warm summer evening because it’s so very simple, and of course spices are known to cool the body in hotter climates.
Don’t forget to save room for some of my signature cookies—pecan bars, Finnish spoon cookies and yin-yangs, which all make use of Mexican vanilla to achieve their transcendent flavor. For the health-minded, I’m also passing around some fresh blackberries, available by the basketful in the summery excerpt from my Best Women’s Erotica 2006 story, “Therapy,” appended below (the anthology also includes Emerald’s wonderful story “Deal”).
While we’re sipping and sampling, I wanted to suggest a discussion topic that’s been on my mind recently. As I consider the dozens of dirty stories I’ve written over the past twelve years, I can’t help but see certain patterns emerging, repeated images, recurring scenarios, characters stepping back on stage for encores. When I first started writing erotica, each story seemed like a way to explore totally new territory. My narrators were not me, or rather they were a much wittier, braver me, a self all wrapped up in swirling, seductive veils. With so many stories out there now, however, I sometimes feel what I’m actually providing is a clear a map of my erotic desires, a guide to fucking Donna--body and mind--exactly the way she likes it. And, damn, it’s too late to use a pseudonym!
So fellow summer spice party guests, do you find that writing erotica is a way to hide the real you behind a mask of fiction, a different persona, even another gender (and of course a pseudonym)? Or do your stories end up revealing the hidden you in ways you may not have intended…or perhaps welcome? How risky does it feel to write erotica? Is it more like a foreign adventure or a homecoming? Or is it perhaps a little of both?
I look forward to hearing your spicy thoughts. And don't forget to join us next Sunday when Erobintica turns up the heat with hot chili powder!
Now, some food for the body:
Bengali Lentil Soup (serves 6)
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
2 T olive oil
1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds (a heavy hand is fine here)
1/2 teaspoons yellow or black mustard seeds (ditto a bit more is good)
4 cups onion (2 large), finely sliced
5 teaspoons garlic (3-4 cloves), chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Note: Fresher spices from specialty stores like Penzey's--the kind that make you pleasantly dizzy when you take a whiff from the jar--make for a better soup!
Mix lentils, broth and tumeric in soup pot, bring to boil and simmer 20 minutes until lentils are soft. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes longer, reduce heat.
Meanwhile in skillet, heat oil. Add cumin and mustard seeds and sauté until fragrant, for just a few minutes. Cook at low heat, be careful not to burn seeds. Add onions and garlic and cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes or somewhat more. (I sometimes add in chopped carrots or potato).
Add onion mixture to lentils and cook a few minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add cilantro, cover and let steam a minute. Serve hot—of course.
And food for the mind:
If you like fresh berries, I offer up this excerpt from “Therapy”—the story of a good doctor and a patient who tests his boundaries (clearly one of my recurring themes, not to mention the dirty picnic scene!). In this scene, analysand, Emma, is lying on the couch and setting her seductive plot in motion….
When I rehearsed my story this afternoon, my main worry was that I’d laugh and ruin the effect. But here, in front of Daniel, levity has turned to something more like fear. My insides are knotted, my mouth parched and ticklish. I take a deep breath and close my eyes.
“It was the summer after my sophomore year of college. I was nineteen. I’d taken a crappy job at the university library—English majors don’t have much to choose from, you know--but I took a few weeks off at the end of August to go to my grandparents’ farm in Pennsylvania. It beat reshelving books all day, but I was bored out of my mind. Then one afternoon I decided I needed an adventure, so I saddled up their horse, Mitsy, and rode up Peter’s Mountain.”
Under the veil of my lashes, I check for signs of boredom. Daniel leans forward, the picture of attention.
“I used to ride a lot back then, you know,” I continue. “Sometimes guys would make rude remarks about girls on horseback, but the truth is, a saddle doesn’t touch the right places. There is something else to it, though. Mitsy was a big bay mare with a rolling gait, and it did give me pleasure to feel such a powerful animal move beneath me, respond to the faintest pressure of my thighs….”
His chair creaks. I don’t open my eyes, but my legs suddenly feel hot, seen.
“It was very still up on the mountain. Just me, the song of the insects and the muggy heat pressing on my skin. After a while I realized I was riding past a row of huge blackberry bushes, heavy with fruit. There were so many fat berries I just had to reach out and pop one in my mouth. It was sweet. Not like we get in the markets here. You could actually taste the sun in the juices, tiny explosions of crushed berry essence. I ate another, then a few more. I slipped off of Mitsy’s back and shoved fistfuls into my mouth while she grazed. I didn’t stop until my stomach ached.”
A flutter of my eyelids shows that he is in fact staring at my legs, or rather, at the lacy band that holds the stockings in place at mid-thigh.
“And then, well, only then did I notice that everything was all too neat and orderly. I wasn’t feasting on wild berries, I’d stumbled onto a plantation, someone’s property. They raised these things for money. There I stood with my stained fingers and palms. My lips and chin were probably purple, too. A thief caught red-handed.”
Daniel chuckles softly. I know he enjoys word play.
“I probably should have gotten back on Mitsy and high-tailed it out of there, but I was frozen to the spot, waiting for someone to discover me, scold me, force repayment for my theft. But nothing happened. Just birds chirping and the noon sun pounding down and little by little my fear turned to something else. I felt…brazen, for lack of a better word. As if I were an actor in someone else’s X-rated dream and the director was whispering—go ahead, honey, don’t be shy. Almost in a trance, I pulled the picnic blanket from the saddlebag and spread it out on the ground. Then I took off my halter and shorts, even my underwear, and I lay down, my pale and tender parts exposed to the sun, and I…”
My throat closes around the next word. This isn’t going the way I’d planned at all. I meant to unsettle and arouse him, but instead I’m back there again, a naked girl on a blanket, quivering with shame and excitement.
Daniel’s patient voice floats into my head as if from far away. “What did you do, Emma?”
I tried to speak, but all that came out was a croaking sound.
“Did you masturbate in the field?”
Did they give classes in that in shrink school, too, saying naughty words out loud with nary a tremor?
“Yes,” I squeak. “Funny, I can’t seem to say that word here.”
“Don’t you feel safe?”
“I know I should. But instead I feel nineteen again.”
“There is no reason to be ashamed about any of this, Emma.”
“But there’s more. You see, I didn’t do it the usual way, trying to get off as quickly and quietly as I could under the covers. This time I rubbed myself very slowly until I was sopping wet and just about ready to come, then I’d ease off and start again. As if I were daring someone to catch me. Then I saw him….”
“Who?” For Daniel, the timing is uncharacteristically abrupt.
“The workman, the caretaker. In the shadows at the far end of the row. He was watching me.”
Daniel sucks his breath, faintly, as if drinking through a straw.
“His hand was moving, about waist level. Up and down. What a normal girl would do, if a normal girl happened to find herself naked on a mountainside jilling off, is cover up and get out of there fast.”
“But you didn’t.”
“No. I spread my legs wider and spit into my palms and circled them over my nipples and made all sorts of sounds in my throat, like an animal. By the end it wasn’t even an act. My thighs trembled and my chest was so flushed you’d think someone had slathered berry juice all over my breasts. When I came I groaned so loud, Mitsy walked over and nuzzled me to see if I was okay.”
“And the man watching?”
“When I looked over again, he was gone.”
“Do you think I’m sick?” I hadn’t planned to say that either, but my heart skips two beats as I wait for his answer.
“I don’t believe labels are very productive, Emma. ‘Sick,’ ‘exhibitionist,’ they’re all terms of judgment and shaming. What matters here are your feelings, in particular your desire to have your sexuality be seen and accepted.”
I can tell he makes a living at this. But I didn’t come here for soothing words. “Isn’t it a problem if I act out those feelings? In front of a stranger?”
“It could be, but in this case….”
“You think it was just my fantasy, don’t you?” I sit up suddenly.
Daniel’s head moves back an inch or two, in what for him must pass as surprise. Is it the strength of my reaction or an unexpected flash of naked pussy?
“I’m not sure that matters so many years later. The scene itself has elements that would be beneficial to explore whether or not it happened in fact.”
“What if I told you I checked afterward and found a puddle of spunk in the grass right where the guy was standing?” In truth I didn’t, but I want to keep the engagement on my territory: action, not analysis.
His upper lip curls slightly. Jealousy? A touch of counter-transference?
“I still believe what’s most important now are your feelings and why you chose to tell me this today.”
I check the clock on his desk, conveniently turned to the couch for the client’s benefit. Twenty minutes left and so much more to accomplish.
“Okay, sure, I’ll admit most of my sexual fantasies are about being seen and accepted.”
“And loved?” Daniel asks softly. “That’s what we all want, isn’t it?”
I nod. He is good at this. Unable to meet his eyes, I study the Oriental rug that covers the floor between us. The pattern seems backwards—the round flowers are like roots, sprouting stems and leaves that beckon with graceful green fingers—tell me, tell me. “The truth is I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Since the beginning really. I want to do it here. On this couch. I want you to watch.”
The room falls into silence….