Monday, August 19, 2019

#StormInATeacup, #Onelumportwo,vicar by Ashe Barker

I live in Yorkshire, in the UK. For Yorkshire folk, tea is something akin to a religion. The elaborate tea ceremonies of the Japanese are as nothing compared to the rigmarole of preparing a decent cuppa in this part of the world.

The first dilemma – teabags or loose tea? The traditionalists favour loose, of course, which has the added bonus that you can read your fortune in the tea leaves left at the bottom of the cup. But tea-making with loose tea and fortune telling are both something of a dying art and by far the most popular choice is the humble teabag.

Simple, clean, accurately measured. You can’t go wrong.

Except, there is the next dilemma to overcome. Do you make it straight in the cup, or in a teapot to then pour out? Personally, I prefer the teapot approach, but I am in the minority in my house where the teapot is seen as just another thing to have to wash up.

Does the milk go in first, or the tea? Or even the sugar? What if you prefer your tea black?
Should it be strong, so strong the spoon almost stands up on its own? In God’s Own County of Yorkshire we call that builders’ tea. Or weak (known round here as witches piss) so that when you add a good drop of milk you get something the colour of chicken soup?

Then we come to the crockery itself, and for this there is a carefully choreographed code of etiquette depending on who is to drink the tea.

Posh visitors (i.e. The Queen, future in-laws, bank manager)

Best quality china with dainty handles, all cups and saucers must match, as well as sugar bowl with little knobbly lumps of white sugar and a milk jug; no chips or scratches.
Expensive chocolate biscuits or buttered scones
Not quite so posh but still need impressing (e.g. the vicar, the doctor, her from next door who you don’t know that well)
Good quality china, matching set, sugar bowl and jug. Granulated sugar permissible. Chocolate biscuits or scones
Casual acquaintances
Cups or mugs, still matching, sugar bowl and milk jug optional. Hobnobs (not the chocolate variety) no scones.
Ordinary friends and family
Mugs, not necessarily matching. Milk in bottle or carton. No sugar because it is bad for them.
Their choice of biscuits or scones
Folk you don’t want to encourage (inquisitive neighbours, insurance salemen)
Chipped cup or mug, milk in bottle, no sugar, plain digestives.
People you definitely don’t like (PPI salesmen, door-stepping religious evangelists, selected in laws.
Chipped mugs, preferably no handles. No biscuits. No milk or sugar.

So, there you have it, the noble and ancient art of tea snobbery.

One lump or two, vicar?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

More Victorian kink! #AnonymousSex #SecretDiary #Tea

Mirandas Masks Cover

For today’s promo post, I thought I’d continue the Victorian theme from my post earlier in the month by sharing a bit from Miranda’s Masks. Although technically contemporary erotica, this novel includes a parallel historical sub-plot detailed in the secret diary discovered by Miranda, the heroine, who happens to be writing a doctoral dissertation on Victorian erotica.

Here’s a kinky bit from that diary, for your reading pleasure!

Now is my degradation complete, my shame unfathomable. Now I know how deeply corrupt, how irredeemable, I truly am. I should be wearing coarse stuff, on my knees in the church, weeping and praying for forgiveness.

Instead, I sit here at my dressing table, compounding my sins by setting them down in writing. Sinning again, in fact, as I relive them, describe them, rolling the dark flavors around in my mind like sweetmeats on my tongue. In the mirror before me, I see my face is flushed, my eyes sparkle, the pulse is quick where the lace of my dressing gown reveals my throat. Oh, the shame makes me more beautiful, the shame and the tender pain of silk caressing my stripes.

I had completed a productive afternoon of errands and sent Pauline home with the packages, while I stopped at my favorite tea room on Newbury Street for some refreshment. My thoughts focused solely on domestic issues as I sipped my oolong. New shoes for Daniel, refitting the parlor drapes, the pearl earrings I had chosen for Margaret Booth’s daughter, to be married next month. The attractions of the flesh had never been further from my mind.

Something tickled the edge of my consciousness, distracting me from my mundane reverie. I looked up, slightly startled, and there he was, staring at me rudely from his table in the corner. When our eyes met, I felt that shock, familiar and yet always new. Recognition in the eyes of a stranger, secret knowledge. I might as well have been naked.

He was richly dressed in a fine costume of maroon wool, of the latest cut. A gold watch and chain were prominently displayed across his brocade waistcoat. Still, my immediate thought was that this was no gentleman. His complexion was swarthy and his features rather uneven. His brow bespoke intelligence, but his narrow lips had a cruel cast. His thick black hair, though well-groomed, was a bit too long to be proper.

A mental voice urged me to rise and leave the place, but I could not move. His gaze held me transfixed. Thus snakes are said to render their prey immobile and vulnerable. Before I could think or take action, he had approached my table, and was kissing my hand.

Madame,” he said, his voice deep and resonant, with the hint of a foreign accent. “Will you accompany me? I feel that we have some common interests to discuss.”

Sir, I do not know to what interests you refer,” I replied demurely, though of course I had some idea.

In response, he brought his walking stick up between my legs, raising my skirts almost to my knees.

I looked around in panic. All the other customers seemed to be occupied with their own conversations. “My dear, do not play the innocent with me. I know who you are. I know what you want.”

He let my petticoats drop back into place and offered me his arm. “Shall we?”

I fumbled in my purse for money to pay the tariff, but he waved it aside. “I have already settled that matter. Come, my coach is waiting.”

My escort’s carriage was in keeping with his clothing, richly ornamented and expensive. The driver gave me an odd look as we climbed in, simultaneously lustful and resentful. He wore lavish maroon livery, but he was unshaven and rough-looking. Like his master, he seemed to be acting a part.

I settled myself on the velvet upholstery, feeling more and more nervous. My companion leaned out the window, signaling the coachman to proceed. Then he reached into his coat pocket and retrieved a white silk handkerchief.

For reasons that I am sure you will understand, my dear, I must blindfold you. I cannot have my partners seeking me out after we have concluded our little diversions.” I did not resist as he bound the cool silk around my brow. I could sympathize with his concerns.

The coach galloped on for perhaps three-quarters of an hour. I tried to judge by sound where we were or at least what direction we had taken. Very soon, it seemed, we left the bustle of the city behind. We must have been in one of the fashionable suburbs, Brookline, or Newton. The warmth of the late afternoon sun, slanting in through the window, suggested we were travelling southwest.

My companion neither spoke nor touched me during the trip. However, I was acutely aware of his presence beside me, radiating a kind of magnetic attraction that made me perspire under my layers of clothing. I kept my hands tightly clasped in my lap, resisting the urge to touch him. Indeed, I had the sense that he was tempting me, testing me, with his physical closeness and psychic distance.

At last we slowed our pace and turned into a drive. I heard gravel crunching under the wheels. My companion removed the blindfold, and I saw that we had stopped before a gracious residence, surrounded by gardens. He handed me down from the carriage, and I naturally turned toward the main entrance, with its fanlight and leaded panes.

No,” he said sharply, reaching out to grab my hand. I looked at him, puzzled. He gave a little laugh. “No, I think it is the stables for you. Go on now, follow Montrose.”

The coachman leered at me. I was about to object, full of righteous disdain, when I realized several things. First, I was alone and unprotected here, in some unknown house, far from the help of any friend. Second, despite both fear and indignation, I was mightily aroused. The trip in the carriage had taken its toll on my senses. I desperately wanted to be touched by the mysterious, dark gentleman with the suspicious accent.

Still, I hesitated. My abductor frowned. “You do not want to cross me, Madame. Do you?”

I felt suddenly meek and pliant. “No, sir. Of course not.”

Then do my bidding. To the stables.” He lifted his stick and gave me a solid whack on the buttocks. My bustle absorbed most of the force, but the act was so surprising, I could only stare. He raised the stick again. “Now!”

I needed no more persuasion. I followed the surly driver across the gravel to the barn. He slid the door open, and my nostrils twitched at the rich blend of smells: leather, hay, manure. The interior was dim; the only window was a grimy square of glass high up on the wall. Several fine horses glanced at me as I stumbled across the threshold, but they soon lost interest.

I stood in the middle of the room, my boots buried to the ankles in the straw, at a complete loss. Montrose lit a kerosene lantern, adding to the pungent combination of smells. His master sauntered into the building and looked me over. My confusion must have been apparent, for he smiled, came over and cupped my chin in his hand.

Now, little angel, it is time for you to prove yourself. Do you want to please me?”

I nodded, spellbound by his dark gaze.

I can see your soul, little one. It is dark. You need discipline, punishment. You need a strong hand, like mine.”

I need a strong cock, my mind screamed, but outwardly I remained silent and demure.

Remove your clothing,” he said. I was about to resist, on principle, but his eyes cowed me. “Do it yourself, or if you prefer, I will have Montrose do it for you.”

My skin crawled at the thought of that degenerate touching me. As quickly and gracefully as I could, I shed my overskirt, bustle, underskirt, petticoats, and waist. Now I wore only my drawers, stockings, corset and chemise. I went to undo the corset, but no matter how I tried, I could not reach the lacings.

Please, Sir,” I said, turning my back to him, embarrassed and excited. “I cannot manage my stays by myself. Would you assist me?”

With pleasure,” he said. Finally, his hands were on me, surprisingly competent as they released the cords and loosened the confining garment. Please, I thought, let him touch my breasts, and he did, reaching around to cup them in his palms. Only for a moment, though, then he turned me around to face him.

You are very lovely, Madame. You would tempt the devil. Off with the chemise and the drawers. Montrose, bring the bonds.”

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Thursday, August 15, 2019


by Jean Roberta

The following scene in my story “The Feast of the Epiphany” is definitely stormy, but it includes glasses of wine and bowls of soup rather than cups of tea.

This story first appeared in Coming Together: Into the Light, a more-or-less erotic anthology of stories about surprises and discoveries. The "Coming Together" anthologies are sold to raise money for good causes.

Consider the context: I suspect that most people have taken part in a meal at which someone makes a unexpected announcement to a group of relatives or friends. The scene in which a young-adult son or daughter “comes out” to the rest of the family has almost become a movie cliché, but the revelation of a secret can be more complicated than it is usually shown.

In my story, Joanne (the narrator) is divorced from Peter, and she has a crush on Wendy, who seems like a more experienced dyke. Joanne has agreed to go out for supper with Wendy and her friends Mark and Roland, who seem to be a gay couple. All four friends, who would all say they are “not religious,” are ironically celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany, one of the oldest Christian holidays, when the wise men supposedly arrived at Bethlehem in January to see the baby Jesus. (This is also called Twelfth Night.) An epiphany is a revelation, and all sorts of secrets are revealed over supper, including the waiter’s interest in the proceedings, and his role as a referee.

This story is from my newest collection, Spring Fever and Other Sapphic Encounters (Renaissance Publishing, 2019).

We sit across from each other at a corner table while the waiter makes a show of lighting a candle which must then be covered by its little shade. He seems to be going out of his way to be gracious –- because he needs good tips to pay his post-holiday bills? Because he wants us to know that he is willing to serve two women who look like a couple? Because he knows we are waiting for two men who are entitled to good service?
The waiter offers to take our coats, and we hand them to him. He goes away, leaving us to enjoy the warmth and the dim light.

Wendy leans forward. “Joanne -–“

A gust of cool air brings Mark and Roland toward us, led by the waiter. Roland’s dark hair and sideburns are literally frosted, and Mark looks like a skinny homeless puppy, teeth chattering from the cold. “It’s damn cold,” says Mark as though we don’t know this. “We had to park halfway down the block.”

They settle into their seats, rubbing their hands. Roland looks around the restaurant, then lets his gaze caress my hair (medium-short, streaked-blonde) and linger on my necklace (a pearl pendant from before Peter) and the neckline of my dress. He smiles.

“So what are you lovely ladies drinking?” asks Mark. We all agree to share two bottles of wine, one red, one white.
The waiter returns. Wendy and Mark order the steak and seafood. I’m not sure I can eat all of it, but I am feeling greedy and decide that I can justify the cost to myself if one-third of my meal becomes tomorrow’s lunch. Roland orders a steak by itself.

The waiter is not yet out of earshot when Wendy announces her agenda. “Let’s tell each other what we all did for the holidays.”

Mark grins. “How we kept warm. Man, this is a great season for hooking up.” I look at Roland. I’ve never been told that they have an open relationship. Maybe they haven’t opened that can of worms yet.

Roland looks at Mark, and takes a contemptuous swig from his glass of ice water. “If you don’t care who you hook up with.” The ice clinks as the glass is placed firmly back on the table.

Mark fidgets. “Hey Ro, we agreed to have a good time tonight. No flaming at this table. Not that kind, anyway.”

Wendy leans over and pats Mark on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, baby, I have a thick skin. Roland, we’re all adults here.”

I hate this conversation. Everyone here seems to know something I don’t. I try to keep my face neutral and gaze at the wall beyond Wendy’s head.

She reaches across the table and grabs one of my hands, forcing me to look at her. “Joanne, Mark and I had a thing. It started out as a good friendship, and we didn’t think it would go any further. Well, I didn’t. One time he came over and it got so late that I just invited him to spend the night. My place is closer to his work anyway. It’s really no big deal. We talked about it after he met you” -– she nodded at Roland -– “and I said I would butt out to keep things simple. Obviously, we’re still friends. That’s not going to change.”

“So he can hop into bed with you and your girlfriend and get you pregnant, is that it?” Roland is openly showing his teeth. His hair is free of frost, and now he seems to be steaming. “That’s what all the dykes are doing these days, isn’t it?”

I am really afraid that in an instant, someone’s fist will plow someone else’s mouth. I don’t know who is more likely to strike first, Wendy or Roland. I feel unreasonably responsible for this mess.

“You need to apologize to Joanne,” says Wendy. “She has nothing to do with this.” But I have a stake in the outcome.
Mark is standing up, holding Roland by the shoulder. “What are you doing, man? You knew about her before.”

The waiter appears with the wine, and everyone freezes but me. “Who wants to taste this?” he asks, looking around with raised eyebrows.

“I will.” The resident connoisseur, that’s me. The waiter pours a small amount of wine into my glass with exaggerated concern. The look of it reminds me of fresh blood. I take a sip, nod and say, “Robust and fruity. Very good.” This means go away, and the waiter takes the hint.

“Okay, chill out.” It’s not clear to me if Roland is speaking to the other two or to himself. “I’m not an asshole. I just want to know what the hell is going on. If you’re both straight, you need to stop playing games.” He is looking at Mark.

“Dude, we talked about this.” Mark reaches across the table, and Roland pushes him away.

Wendy is staring hard into Roland’s eyes. “Hey. Roland. Get a grip. You can’t tell me what I am and what I’m not.”

“I think I should just go,” I say quietly, almost hoping no one will hear me or notice my absence.

“Don’t go, Joanne. Please stay. We need to talk.” The look in Wendy’s eyes could melt a stone.

As if to coax me further, the waiter approaches with bowls of soup. Its warm, rich smell reaches us first.

Mark’s expressive face can’t seem to hide anything he feels or thinks. Now he looks upset, and he can’t stop watching Roland. His shaggy hair hangs over his ears in an artless way.

Mark looks feminine to me. Why would Wendy be sexually attracted to him? Because he has the qualities that attract her. They play video games together, and they understand each other. As long as I can keep my own feelings out of the way, it’s not complicated.

Soup is a consolation. The earthy taste of spiced carrots is satisfying, but my stomach isn’t ready for it. I alternate between sips of soup and gulps of wine.

“Is this about sexual identity, Roland? Do you think we all need to be labelled?” Wendy is demanding a logical answer from a man who is choked with emotion. He seems as unable to admit his real fears as any of the heterosexual men I’ve known. Roland is vibrating with the effort not to jump up and lash out.

I feel a surge of compassion for the man who wants to know what the hell is what. Of course he wants a secure relationship, and he wants to avoid being humiliated or left behind. He wants a lifelong, unbreakable promise from his partner, as Peter did. Men like this can’t really get what they feel entitled to, but I can understand why they want it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

In the Name of the Father ~ M/M Daddy Kink by Morticia Knight

Hey all! I thought I'd drop in and share a bit about my new Daddy Kink book, In the Name of the Father, coming out at the end of the month. This is an angsty, age gap, hurt/comfort story with a heaping dose of kink, and is now on preorder. Keep scrolling past the blurb and links for a short preview :-)

I was living a lie. I couldn’t be caught in my deception, or my family and friends would abandon me. But my fears became reality and I was cast away as if I were garbage. Then this man, a stranger, took me home and showed me that love can take on many forms, that I’m not filled with sin or doomed to go to hell because I’m gay. He showed me that I’m not broken. I don’t need to be fixed. What I need is to be nurtured and cared for.

 This man showed me that it’s okay to be his boy and to call him daddy…

Seth was a good Christian son raised in a very conservative church.

He learned early on that the world is evil and filled with sinners—but the most horrible thing you can be is gay. When his shame is discovered, he’s shipped off to a special camp that fixes deviants like him. Years have passed since then, yet he still runs from himself every day.

Malcolm was a good daddy for almost 10 years before his boy died.

No longer daring to be too close with another man again, he’s avoided clubs and old friends that remind him of a life filled with a joy he can no longer have. Unable to find a purpose in his lonely existence, he spends night after night in a dive bar at the edge of town. However, witnessing a scared young man being harassed by two bullies jolts him out of his misery.

No one messes with someone vulnerable and helpless on his watch…  

Malcolm took a measured sip of his favorite single barrel bourbon. He sat at the bar with his back to the room, one foot on the rail and the other on the rung of the thickly padded, red leather cushioned barstool. Most of his nights were spent at Woody’s. The low-key gay bar at the edge of town provided him with the basics. Top shelf booze, marginally edible food, no hassle and a decided lack of dancing or other hook-up encouragements.
He was done with that shit.
Resting his elbows on the counter, he clutched the half-full tumbler between his hands. Or half empty. The cliché was one of the many he despised. The trite statement meant nothing when life unexpectedly reared up and kicked you in the balls. Not that he wallowed in self-pity—far from it. He had much to be grateful for. He still gained a lot of enjoyment from life and understood that he had it better than many.
However, that knowledge did nothing to take away his personal pain.
“Excuse me. Bartender?”
Malcolm glanced sideways at the young man who was now leaning toward the counter, but for whatever reason, hadn’t edged the other empty stools out of his way to do so. He stood a few seats down from him, and while his voice held a masculine edge to it, he spoke with little confidence. Malcolm’s immediate assessment of him was that he needed someone else to take charge.
The man leaned forward more. “Um, excuse me? Bartender?”
Or to learn how to speak up.
“I don’t think he can hear you.” Malcolm turned from the man who’d appeared startled to be addressed by him then called out to the unaware barkeep. As usual, Larry was at the far end of the long bar chatting up a bear, yet on the wrong side of the alcohol barrier. Only a regular like himself would know Larry was employed at the joint. “Hey, Larry! You’ve got a customer down here.”
Larry acknowledged him with a jerk of his chin then went back to whatever conversation he was engrossed in. Malcolm chuckled then regarded the poor kid who wasn’t having much luck getting a drink.
“He’ll remember he has a job in the next minute or two.”
The young man nodded shakily as he shoved his hands into his pockets. “Thanks. I’m in no hurry.”
Malcolm gave him a non-committal smile then went back to staring into the deep amber abyss of his whisky. Most nights he could be found at Woody’s nursing a drink or three. The goal wasn’t to get shit-faced or even all that buzzed. An alcohol overload wouldn’t do him any favors. Booze was a downer and too much of the stuff could launch his emotions into places he’d rather avoid. The idea was to keep the feelings at a safe distance. Not drown in them.
No, marking time at Woody’s was about not being alone with his thoughts in a big, empty house. The less of his past he dwelled on, the better chance he had of maintaining his sanity. Malcolm glanced up right as Larry jogged over. He seemed a bit rushed and a tad breathless for someone who was working an especially slow night.
Larry regarded the young man. “Before I ask what you want, can I see some ID?”
“Oh, yeah, sure.”
The kid dug around in his slightly baggy jeans that appeared as if they’d seen better days, then retrieved his wallet. Malcolm hadn’t been paying much attention to the guy, but now he realized the T-shirt he had on was a bit worn. There weren’t any stains or holes that he could detect, but whatever design or logo that had once been pressed on the front of the khaki green tee was almost completely faded away. And even though the chill of the fall Oregon air had gotten sharper in the past couple weeks, he wasn’t carrying a jacket.
Maybe he left it on a chair.
Malcolm tore his gaze away, took a sip of his drink and willed himself not to look around the room in search of the kid’s jacket. It wasn’t his business—wasn’t his responsibility to worry about this stranger who was standing next to him and buying a drink while radiating vibes of desperation. Malcolm purposely tuned out the discussion regarding what beer the young man wanted and whether he’d prefer bottle or tap.
Not listening.
His own boy, Everett, had been gone for almost ten years and Malcolm was done with that life. Didn’t socialize with that crowd anymore, didn’t go to clubs that catered to men who enjoyed dominating and boys who loved submitting and he sure as hell never went after any of the guys who patronized his almost nightly hangout. As crappy of a place as Woody’s was overall, it was his social safe haven. He didn’t shit where he ate, or whatever that stupid cliché was.
After what seemed like ages, the attractive, well-built man took his bottle and went to sit down, or play pool, or lean against the wall or whatever it was he was about to do.
Still not looking.
Malcolm rubbed his eyes with thumb and forefinger, sighing as he wondered what it was about the guy that had made him take stock—even as he’d been convincing himself he wasn’t doing such a thing. Yeah, okay, he hadn’t been able to help but notice the muscled biceps and broad shoulders, the strong jawline and how the old T-shirt fit across his defined chest. After all, the kid hadn’t been wearing a jacket.
Unavoidable. That’s all it was.
But now, the young man was gone, and he could go back to sitting, sipping and staring at nothing.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Midsummer Moonlight and "A Dance of Three Queens"

Sacchi Green

I’ve known about The Nobilis Erotica Podcast (“The Most Prolific Science Fiction and Fantasy Erotica Podcast in the Known Universe” for a long time, and finally got around to submitting a few stories. Reprints are permitted, although a podcast isn’t exactly printed, so maybe “reprint” isn’t the right term. In any case, I sent three, the maximum allowed at once. The Podcast is specifically for erotic speculative fiction short stories, and I certainly have some of those, but it turned out to be harder than I’d expected to choose some that seemed likely to fit.

It was even tougher than I’d thought. The “first reader” got back to me very quickly, and turned down the two I’d thought most likely to work. “Freeing the Demon” is too close to horror for their purposes, which I should have realized; after all, the demon trapped in a stone gargoyle does eat several bad guys in the course of the story. And “Jessebel,” an old-West vampire story, took too long to get to the actual sex. Too much story up front. Okay. Good to know. The third story, though, was passed along as a borderline possibility. The reader said she couldn’t quite decide which side of the border it belonged on, but if she didn’t pass it along, she thought she’d keep reading it over and over to try to figure out why it was borderline. And it was accepted!

This story is one I wrote many years ago, for Best Transgender Erotica, edited by Hanne Blank and Raven Kaldera for Circlet Press. “A Dance of Queens” is quite an odd story, actually, set in Elizabethan/Shakespearean England on the Lord Chancellor’s country estate where A Midsummer Night’s Dream is being produced. The three main characters are the actors who play Queen Titania and Queen Hippolyta, and Queen Elizabeth herself, nostalgic for her youth when she might roam free in disguise through Midsummer revelries. I thought this one might be too story-heavy, too, but apparently I spread the various kinds of erotic action and allusion thickly enough that it worked, and it also covers various twists and turns of gender complexity, more than you might at first suspect.

Let’s see whether I can fit in enough excerpts here to give you a proper—or improper—taste of the whole.

From “A Dance of Queens”
Sacchi Green

Midsummer’s Night, the play safely done, dusk sweet as a languorous touch on yearning flesh...and still I could not take my love into the greenwood and lay her on my cloak and be consumed in her fire.
I cursed my own impatience. We should have pressed on without pause, but Quenta had tormented me so, slipping a hand beneath my shirt and then down into my breeches until I could scarce walk, and must stop for a taste of the feast to come.
So the Queen’s messenger had caught us. And truly, by the shimmer in the air at the instant she appeared, I knew there had never been hope of escape. In the Welsh hills and valleys we have tales, more than tales, of such creatures, though I had thought the filth and disbelief of London must repel them. At another time I would have been glad that the green countryside along the Thames still held such folk. Glad or no, we had no choice now but to let the greenwood’s promise fade into shadow.
Frustration pounded in my veins. I jerked away from Quenta’s touch, the mere
brush of her hand making me forget that I must not even think of “him” as “her” until we could be blessedly alone.
I focused on the wide skirt sailing just ahead. Though the farthingale was not devised with a lady dwarf in mind, its absurdity was more than countered by the messenger’s bearing and the Queen’s crest broidered on her sleeve. It scarcely needed Quenta’s nudge to put me on guard against those keen, merry eyes, though they looked up at me from about the level of my belt.
Such danger should have chilled my ardor. But surely the Queen would waste little time on us, might have forgotten already her whim. At most there could be a gracious word or two, perhaps a small purse. Why, then, command that we bring our play-garb? A jest among her ladies?
But in the great bedchamber we found Her Majesty alone, a slim, pale figure whose aura crackled through the paneled room like heat-lightning.
Our diminutive guide swept a curtsy. “The player boys, Madam. Quentin O’Connor and Kit Rhys.”
Bright tired eyes assessed us. “Well enough, Gwen. Now keep us private for a bit.” The attendant gave me a wicked sidelong glance as she went to sit between the great oak door and the carven screen before it.
Quenta elbowed me sharply. I joined her in an elegant stage bow, feeling the royal glance caress our snug-hosed calves. Her Majesty was said to have ever an eye for a well-turned leg; if it went farther than a look, or a leg… But I had never heard so much as rumor that it did.
Her voice was cool enough. “So, Titania and Hippolyta. You played the queen’s part well, each in your own way.”
“Never so well as you, Your Highness.” Quenta’s green eyes gleamed wickedly, and I suppressed a groan. This was no time for her sly wit!
An answering gleam lit the Queen’s eyes. “Ah, but I have performed the role far longer!” Her face seemed less weary now; it was hard to credit that she had more than twice our years. “Do you not think I could play Queen of Faery as well as England’s monarch?”
I tried to break the manic current between them. “Yes, in truth, Highness. Or Queen of Amazons, or any ruler ever conceived.” I knelt with Hippolyta’s tunic and gilded leather breastplate across one knee. Her gaze turned toward me, lingering on my long legs; I felt as when Quenta would stroke me from calf to thigh and beyond, and my flesh would melt and surge in sweet torment.
“I have not your height, lad, to play the Amazon,” she said. “You did well enough, though one could scarcely credit that you would yield to Duke Theseus, whether in battle or in marriage bed. But come, it was bravely played, if a slighter part than Titania’s.”
She turned to Quenta with a thoughtful look. “Have you two played Master Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet?’ You would suit well as lovers.”
Did she toy with us? What hope had we against the wits of one who played with envoys, kings, even the Pope, for her own and England’s gain?
“Quentin is acclaimed as Juliet,” I answered cautiously, “but to tell truth,Hippolyta is my first speaking part, and well may be my last. I am more like to play an accompanying lute, or rattle distant armor.”
“It is an awkward age, I know,” she said. “Your voice is nigh too low already for a woman’s part. Indeed...” Those keen eyes scrutinized us closely. “I might think you both somewhat old for boy players.”
I tensed inwardly, forcing my body to reveal nothing. To stifle Quenta’s special genius would be a crime against art, against life itself! But if she were judged tobe a woman....A woman appearing upon the public stage was such outrage that the penalty could only be surmised.
Quenta laughed, and in that instant the tilt of her head, the cock of hip and shoulder, were entirely those of a brash youth. “I can play you any age, Lady, any sex.” She took on the bombastic voice and gestures of Bottom the Weaver. “I can play you a roaring Lion, or a most excellent Wall...” and then her voice softened, its husky purr making my flesh quiver with longing for the velvet touch of her tongue.
“Or I can be the Lady Moon herself.” She stepped toward the high window, every motion, every line now utterly female, despite the padded trunk-hose muffling the sweet curves of her hips. Had
I been a jot closer my hand would have slipped of its own accord between cloth and smooth, seductive skin. And had she turned, and my fingers found what waited between her thighs...
“Look you, Lady, how the new moon burns, no silver bow, but a crescent slit through which the passions of the sky pour forth. Can you not see in me that same bright fire?”
And she was, in truth, the very essence of the new moon, its tremulous yearning in her slim grace, its hot intensity in her smoldering eyes. Then I stepped toward her and broke the spell, and it was not her madness but mine that gave us away.
“Sirrah! Do not force me to see that which were better kept hidden!” If the Queen sensed that we were lovers, she had no wish to bring it to an issue. I did not think that she had yet sensed more.
“But Titania may see what England’s Queen may not.” Quenta knelt, proffering her red wig, leaf-green draperies and silver demi-mask. “On Midsummer’s Night, the fancies of mortal and fairy alike may roam free. Come with us, Lady, to observe their merry frolics!”
Even through my outrage I saw what Quenta had recognized at once. Though the Queen might conceal it even from herself, it was for this we had been summoned.

[Then much later, after extensive viewings of many bawdy revelries and pantomimes outdoors in the celebration:]

A slim, imperious hand gripped my shoulder. “Enough, lad. You have done nobly, but the Midsummer’s magic I recalled is gone forever.”
 “Nay, lady, there is magic still!” Quenta’s eyes glowed cat-like in the torchlight. “Kit has found a place a fairy queen might lie, and takes me there this night. We shall see what magic three queens together may ignite!”
I could have wrung her slim white neck. The Queen, though, waved dismissively. “I doubt not such a tryst is meant for two alone. Only see me back to the Hall, and then be off wherever youth and Midsummer madness lead you.” She took my arm. “You may divert me as we go. Is there indeed ‘a bank where the wild thyme blows....With sweet musk roses and with eglantine?’”
“As to that, Lady, the scent was more of mint and fern. I saw daisies but no roses, though there were berry brambles aplenty. Perhaps by daylight you might view it.”
“Ay, perhaps.” Her voice was bleak.
“Now!” said Quenta. “Now, by moonlight, or not at all!” Her fierce eyes held mine, her meaning all too clear. When I turned toward the greenwood the Queen, a gleam restored in her eye, did not demur.

  [Then the erotica goes deeply into where erotica usually goes, and somewhat beyond, entangled with history and fantasy and layers of even deeper emotions. Oh, and here’s an inconsequential spoiler from Gwen near the end:]

“No matter. Our sweet Lady has more need of you than you can know, for service quite apart from this night’s frolic. Neither of you will strut upon the stage much longer; who would credit such protracted youth? But two who act so well can do it on the Queen’s behalf, and be her eyes and ears about the world. Be sure I will send soon to tell you of her needs.”
“We are truly hers, body and soul,” I said. “But Gwen...who, or what, are you?”
“Need you ask?” she said impatiently. “The realm of Faery takes yet a care for England’s welfare, and for her rightful monarch. As for me, think you the Puck must be ever confined in male form?” It took her sharp pinch to make me close my gaping mouth.

I don’t yet know when my story will be up on the podcast. If I can possibly fit it into one of these posts, I will. I’ll also mention that “A Dance of Queens” was reprinted in my first collection of my own work several years ago, A Ride to Remember from Lethe Press. It’s available in Kindle format on Amazon for $3.00, and quite likely on Smashwords as well. For that matter, just ask and I’ll send you a pdf copy. The book was a Lambda Literary Finalist, the year two out of four finalists in the erotica category were mine—but neither won. That’s okay, a good friend did win the category that year, and I’ve had winners both before and after.    

Friday, August 9, 2019

Storm in a Green Tea Cup

I visited China for the first time last June, and I certainly hope it won’t be my last visit. But I don’t mind saying my first visit got off to a bit of a rough start. For the majority of our time, I was in a remote area of Shandong province with my husband, who was training in martial arts. I figured with no distractions, I could use the time for a writing retreat and get some serious words on the page. At least that was the plan. Our stay on Daijishan mountain included room and board, so it should have been ideal for amassing a good word count. While the rooms were basic, the food was awesome. Their attention to basic Western caffeine requirements was, however, not so much. 

China is seven hours ahead of the UK and it’s over a nine flight to get there. Jet lag was inevitable, but I travel enough that I usually get over jet lag pretty quickly and just get on with it. Not so in China. While hubby was off training all day and into the night, I found myself in the alarming situation of being unable to put two sentences together without drifting off. I felt like my head was full of cotton wool, and my body felt like it was made of lead. Not only was I unable to put coherent words together on my laptop, but I couldn’t manage more than a couple of paragraphs of the particularly gripping novel I was reading on my Kindle. There were over a dozen Westerners on the mountain with us at the time, but majority of the people training were Chinese, and the meals were catered to suit Chinese taste buds. Everything was served family style in the middle of the table on a huge lazy Susan. There was lots of food, lots of variety and not a Western morsel in sight. Being a pretty adventurous eater myself, I found the meals one of the highlights of the ten days we were there, and yet when I attempted to do anything beyond stuff food in my mouth, I couldn’t focus, and I couldn’t settle into work or leisure. 

By the second day, I was beginning to get depressed, which is usually the first thing that happens to me when I’m under-slept. I couldn’t imagine how I could be under-slept though, when all I wanted to do was sleep. Oh, and I failed to mention that I was also getting just a tad bit grumpy. Though he was exhausted from so much training, funnily enough, my husband remembers my grumpiness. Can you imagine? 

After lunch on day two, with me having finished a whopping two paragraphs worth of word count, my husband and I contemplated my problem, which was really beginning to worry me. At last, he said, thoughtfully scratching his head, “maybe you’re not getting enough caffeine. You haven’t had any coffee since we got here, you know?” 

To which I responded in the fashion of a true addict, “but I don’t drink coffee because I need it, I drink it because I love it.” 

He responded with that look, the one that says, wife, the only one you’re fooling is you.I think I might have flipped him off at that point, but no violence was done, quite possibly because I just lacked the energy. But he went immediately to the kettle and heated it up. Each room had mugs and a small canister of loose green tea. He made me a very strong brew that might have passed for lawn clippings, shoved it into my hands and fell into bed to snooze for the twenty minutes until his next training session. 

That afternoon, in spite of not really caring much for green tea, I drank the stuff until I was floating, and then drank some more. The Westerners booked a couple of taxis for a trip off the mountain to the nearest town’s grocery store later that day, and with trembling hands, I pulled a jar of instant coffee from the shelf and clutched it to my rapidly beating heart. Oh the utter delight of knowing I could have my full dose of caffeine without having to drown my kidneys in tea that tasted like it had just been mowed with nowhere near enough kick to satisfy my addiction. 

Soon after that, we discovered others training with my husband, kindred spirits, who shared my addiction to the dark brew. And while his routine revolved around training, I won’t lie, and I’m not proud of it, but my routine revolved around the blissful knowledge that my next cup of coffee was never far away. Every morning we started our day with a nice big mug of instant jove. I’m a coffee Philistine, yes, I know, but I’ll take it however I can get it, and needs must. I don’t mind telling you instant never tasted so good. 

As it turned out, a lovely Australian woman, who trained on the mountain regularly and had endured the green tea daze before, came prepared with a cold press, a hand grinder and enough coffee to share. Oh, the delight! Each afternoon in the little break between training sessions, Mr. Grace and I met in the mezzanine of the hotel with like-minded addicts to partake of the obsidian elixir of life. After that my word count skyrocketed and suddenly the adventure of being in China became an adventure again, rather than an ordeal. 

I’m not proud that coffee rules my life, but at least I’m no longer in denial of the facts. They say admitting you have a problem is the first step to the cure. Of course that’s assuming you want a cure. I assure you, I do not. Later, while in Beijing, we discovered that we could get both bottled tea and coffee cold, and while I would never add sugar to iced tea or coffee, it’s amazing how unpicky one becomes when feeding one’s addiction. Beijing also had coffee shops, which are just now becoming trendy there, though still fairly rare. Not to worry though, I found them. Even in my exploration of the Great Wall, the local shop had bottled caffeinated goodness, so my loins were well-girded and my courage was up for finding my way on the local bus. With caffeine, all things are possible. I did get to the point at which I didn’t mind the taste of green tea. I even found I could enjoy a delicious cup of hot water from time to time, but the true delights of China only opened up to me after once the caffeine balance was restored in my life. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Trouble in Paradise?

By Tim Smith

He’s as cool as a Pina Colada on a Key West beach, he’s the kind of guy your mother wouldn’t let you play with, and he’s every bad guy’s worst nightmare. Nick Seven is back in “The Neon Jungle,” a gritty tale of crime and revenge on the mean streets of Miami.

 “In the laidback Florida Keys, former spies Nick Seven and Felicia Hagens found a paradise far removed from the covert world of the CIA. Nick, content to run a bar on the Gulf and maintain a low profile, breaks his self-imposed exile when a friend asks for help in getting a local mob boss off his back. Popular singer Jimmie Rae wants to get free from the notorious Turk Morgan, a crooked music mogul who controls the Miami entertainment scene. Jimmie reveals that his girlfriend has gotten caught in Turk’s web, and he wants to get her out before it’s too late.
“As Nick and Felicia explore the neon jungle of South Beach, they encounter the dark underside of the music business. Drugs, prostitution, street thugs, and political payoffs are Turk’s stock in trade, and he isn’t one to relinquish control over his empire. Nick goes undercover as an international criminal to challenge him, but will he succeed in breaking Turk’s hold over Jimmie and his girl? Can Nick use the sting operation to solve a cold case murder he discovers by accident? What other secrets will he uncover?”
This story is a bit different from the other entries in the Nick and Felicia spy thriller series. If you’re familiar with TV shows like “Burn Notice” or “Leverage,” you’ve seen the trope of people pulling a scam on someone to bring them down. In this case, the target is a vicious Miami crook masquerading as a music mogul. He’s sort of a black Godfather, using a network of street thugs and paid-for cops to maintain his illegal empire.
It was fun to write because I got to send Nick undercover using an old alias from his days as a CIA spook, a Greek arms smuggler named Nick Stavros. Along with Felicia and his former partner, the somewhat trustworthy Bones McCoy, Nick concocts a plan to make Turk Morgan think his empire is crumbling around him.
There are colorful locations, quirky characters, snappy dialogue, action, and romance. I made full use of South Beach as a backdrop, with its art deco buildings, bright neon lights, and endless parade of street hustlers to add atmosphere. There are also some dark secrets hiding behind the flashy façade that add to some of the sexual tension.    

Nick and Felicia sat in silence for a few minutes, absorbing the night sounds of waves gently lapping on the shore, accompanied by surprised laughter and squeals from people out for a moonlight beach stroll along the water’s edge. The half-moon peeked through a few wispy clouds that lazily rolled by, subtly illuminating the stillness.
Felicia took a sip. “Looks like we have the rest of the evenin’ to ourselves. What do you want to do?”
Nick looked at her, his playful side coming out of hiding, one reflected in his voice. “What we’d normally do when we’re away from home on an overnight.”
Felicia gave a seductive chuckle. “You weren’t kiddin’ when you said you liked this dress.”
“No, I wasn’t. Were you kidding when you said you liked what I’m wearing?”
 She stood and slinked toward him, giving Nick a smoldering look that was evident in the dim light. She perched on his lap with her legs straddling his and rested her hands on his shoulders. Her gaze bored into his with a look that communicated more than words.
 “Mm-hmm,” she cooed while undulating against him. “I like it a lot. Wanna know a secret?”
 She stood, backed up to the railing a few feet away, and rested her butt against it. She grasped the dress near her waist and slowly gathered up the material, raising it an inch at a time along her toned legs and thighs. Nick’s heart beat faster as more of her body was teasingly exposed. His eyes widened a bit when Felicia pulled the fabric over her crotch, revealing that she was au naturel under the cocktail dress.
 Felicia cocked her right leg to the side. Even in the dimness, Nick could make out her trimmed pubic patch glistening with the dampness of her desire. Felicia moved her hand between her legs and lightly ran her fingers over her sex.
 “Like what you see?” she teased while fingering herself.
 Nick rose and approached her. Felicia opened her arms, and he stepped into her embrace. She held him firmly, easing her head back. She opened her mouth ever so slightly and ran the tip of her tongue along her lips, giving him a silent invitation. He accepted. The fit of her lips was as perfect as ever, and he could taste the lingering sweetness of strawberry lip gloss. He pressed deeper and lost himself in the kiss until she drew away. She touched a finger to the stubble on his cheek, traced a slow line down his jaw, and gave him a dreamy-eyed gaze with a hint of a smile.
 Nick became aware of voices from the beach below. He took Felicia’s hand, led her inside, and closed the balcony drapes. No sooner had he turned around than Felicia was on him like a lynx that had cornered its prey. She pulled him close, forcefully pressing her lips against his. Her tongue invaded his mouth and engaged his in an erotic dance. Nick moved his hands along her back until he reached her firm butt. He pulled her dress up while they kissed until her ass was exposed to fondle and squeezed her cheeks, all while pressing against her, his hard-on straining against his pants.
 Felicia pulled back slightly and flashed a teasing look. “Are you carryin’ a blackjack in your pocket?”
 “No, it’s all me.”

#FloridaKeys #SouthBeach #InterracialRomance #thriller #spy #EroticRomance #UrbanCrime