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Looking for the Wintergreen with Trish DeVene

I’m so excited to have Trish DeVene as my guest on A Hopeful Romantic! Her story, ‘Looking for the Wintergreen,’ from the fabulous Oysters and Chocolate anthology, Nice Girls, Naughty Sex, is one of my favourite stories ever, erotica or otherwise. Trish is going to tell us the story behind ‘Looking for the Wintergreen.’  Welcome Trish!

Walking down a market street in Tokyo, a friend of mine saw a man with a long shine of black hair, cat-like in his stride—a person who halted her own casual walk and made her turn for a gasping gaze. That was twenty years ago and she hasn’t forgotten him, or that moment. Why not? What did it awaken? How did he pass over the threshold of her mind and become housed in her?

Another friend once told me that he and a friend were pulling up beside a car in traffic—a woman driver whose blonde hair flowed over her left shoulder, and whose smooth tanned arm draped lazily the wheel. They sat straighter; they waited for the car to press evenly beside hers. And they asked, “But does she have the face? Does she?” Oh, she did, and the friend wrote a poem because the moment was monumental, stamping his memory. For that moment, had she awakened something, created change? A new poem was born.

Every now and then, we happen upon something or someone that for unknown reasons snares us. I wonder if beauty catches the eye but something else deeper draws the longer look and holds the memory: the mystery, the potential, something sleeping in ourselves come to life? Or is perfect beauty—in nature, art, or people—a balm for the pain in life?

When I began writing “Looking for the Wintergreen,” I wanted quite simply to explore the possibilities of a beautiful man entering a sensitive, withdrawn young woman’s world. Aurelio literally steps up the porch steps, and through the front door of Leah’s remote family home that’s buried under swoops of snow. Except he isn’t made from their remote, white landscape; he is brown-skinned and warm, fit for a house of adobe. In him, Leah sees the summer valley at sunset, the gentle slopes that ride out to the tree line.

Does beauty make us vulnerable? Leah quickly monitors herself, noting as he passes casually into the house that care should be taken in crossing thresholds. “Think first, know the destination, prepare. There should be commitment in any crossing.” No one has crossed this threshold since her father’s sudden and soundless departure from their lives. And Leah, like the house buried in snow, has buried herself in literature—lust and love relegated to daydream only, as the family tries to recover.

Her pain is silent, her loss of trust unexpressed. In books, she finds fascinating heroes who reflect her own desires; she has no need for the messy, disappointing, fleeting attractions of real life, the kind that only leave you vulnerable.

She wonders if this beautiful boy knows what he steps over and into? But when he shakes out his hair, darker than their starless nights, he smiles and his gold-brown eyes sparkle on her. His face is open with trust. And for a moment her fantasy worlds blend with reality. She wants him to step in.

I was a child of gothic romances and fairy tales with noble kings, larger than life men who made the heroine take a second, longer, ever-lasting look. My grade-school girlfriends would get mad at me, asking why I never liked any of the boys in school. It wasn’t because I had too-high expectations, wanting real life to mimic books. It was because, for the moment, my own imagination excited me more. I wasn’t yet intrigued enough to take that messy step out of self and into another.

When Aurelio crosses the threshold into Leah’s house, it is her moment to step out—out of herself, out of fantasies, to take a chance on real life. He sees her desire. He acts on it.

When her brother, heading into town, hesitates at the door, paused in the white slit, one foot over the threshold, Leah urges him out, waiting for the door to slam, and suction Aurelio in.

But Aurelio, in turn, leads Leah outside where the white world melts, where behind the tool shed, he approaches her, his dark frame, his lush copper face, sunlit eyes, the petaled lips that part … kissing him, like gulping a sky of effervescent stars. She relinquishes to her very real desire.

In the end, when they return, he puts his hand on hers on the doorknob. Snow melts and her home’s threshold is new and solid with trust.

For me, stories are like crossing over thresholds, whether we’re closing our eyes to step into a new world in writing them, or we are readers entering an unknown tale to sit in someone else’s skin. And how often in life do we come across something, like the man on the Tokyo street, that opens our eyes or our hearts to a new landscape of possibility?

Thresholds are about change, one room to another, or one life to another. Sometimes the threshold is defined by great circumstances. But sometimes it’s just the passing gift of beauty and our own moment of trust that opens a new door.

Blurb:
In a remote house, buried under silencing snow, a young girl takes refuge in the fantasy world of literature to bury the pain of her father’s leaving. She disdains the clumsy antics of her brother and his friends, certain that in real life there is no one worth relinquishing her trust to, no Arthurs or Lancelots or Sir Galahads.

But when her brother’s friend Aurelio comes to spend the night, she finds herself watching him, sleepless with fantasies about him. In the morning, at their kitchen table, where he sits in his easy beauty, he catches her staring, and she discovers how it feels when a man knows a woman’s desire. A man who won’t leave it buried.

Excerpt:

The next morning, rattling pans woke me. My mother was making breakfast for the boys. A hearty breakfast always for my brother. I understood. I was here; he was away. He had that freckled-face enthusiasm that she remembered in dad.

I wondered for a moment what she thought of his friend Aurelio. Would she flush when she passed him a plate of eggs? Did girls scramble for the desk next to his at school? Teachers change Cs to As when he flashed that smile?

I was angry in the melting morning. Icicles dripped outside my window, and I brushed out my hair, vowing not to shower until I had coffee. When I walked into the kitchen, his mouth was open to a forkful of scrambled eggs. He shoveled them in before he smiled. Anger dissipated. I was the melting icicle.

Between him and me were twelve tile squares, two chair backs, one oblong table with a cracked Formica top, and a great wash of blurring sunlight. No slim belt-line barrier this morning. It was as if the entire room were a blockade. I was braless under the sweatshirt I’d thrown on, and the soft fabric scratched my nipples, sharpening them.

“Morning,” I managed, skirting the counter, as far from him as our small kitchen allowed. He grinned again and bit into the toast.

I was used to pale: The kitchen walls a faded yellow wash, the curtains sheer to sunlight, and all of us fair-skinned Irish. He was a shaft of dark color sitting at our table. Raven hair cut a straight line just above his black shirt collar, only a sliver of brown neck, and his hair fringed down his forehead, meeting black, defined brows. He looked down at his plate, focused on food. And he looked warmer than a hot plate of fresh pancakes, that syrup-colored skin shining in the streaks of sun.

I was staring at the sheen on his cheekbone when I realized he’d looked up. The smile was gone, his warm eyes darker. He knew I’d been looking. I tried a small smile and picked up the coffee mug on the counter, but he only stared.

So this was how it felt when a man knew a woman’s desire. I bit my lip, immediately annoyed with myself for this foolish reaction. Bitten lips. What did that mean?

His arm stretched toward me, that smooth hand wrapping the cold chrome of the chair. Here was a bridge – fingernails, knuckles, forearm. “Are you having breakfast?” he asked, and the chair scraped toward me.

I held the coffee pot up. “Just this for now.” I ignored the bridge, poured the dark liquid into my mug, and started back toward the bedroom.

“Did you get to look at the paper?” he called.

The paper. Yes, it was on my bed. I was stalled in the hallway, between the pull of his stare and safety. I pointed toward my room and nodded. The coffee mug steamed, my hand burning around it. I felt my clothes dissipate with the steam, left standing in his stare. “Yes,” I managed. “It’s …”

“I’ll come get it when I’m done,” he said.

I trusted my feet to take me back. I sat on the bed beside the papers. I wanted him.

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Nice-Girls-Naughty-Sex-Erotic/dp/1580053432

Author Bio:
Trish DeVene (also writing as Patricia J. Esposito) has been a writer of edgy paranormal fiction most of her life, but always knew she had a romantic heart and a tendency toward the sensual. Two years ago she decided to explore that sensuality and sold her first erotica short story. She hasn’t wanted to stop. She’s had numerous stories and poems published in anthologies, such as Nice Girls, Naughty Sex, The Cougar Book, Apparitions, and Lights of Love, and in magazines, including Rose and Thorn, Oysters and Chocolate, Clean Sheets, Karamu, Hungur, Sounds of the Night, and Midnight Street, and her GLBT vampire novel, Beside the Darker Shore, was released this year. Long-time married to the “boy-next-door,” she has two daughters and works at home as a copy editor, when she’s not off exploring the intoxicating realms of the imagination and chasing muses.

Personal Links:
http://patricia-j-esposito.blogspot.com/
http://patriciaesposito.wordpress.com/

Buy Link Beside the Darker Shore: http://www.amazon.com/Beside-Darker-Shore-Patricia-Esposito/dp/1615724168
Buy Link The Cougar Book: http://www.amazon.com/Cougar-Book-Jolie-du-Pre/dp/1905091567

 

Jordan LaRousse and Samantha Sade talk about all things Oysters and Chocolate

I’m very excited to have two of my idols from the world of erotica on my blog today. Welcome, Jordan LaRousse and Samantha Sade of Oysters and Chocolate fame! As a Colorado girl myself – I grew up in North Park — I feel a real sense of camaraderie with the two of you. I adore the Oysters and Chocolate website, and I’m very excited to have you both on my blog.

 KD: The list of writer’s in the Nice Girls Naughty Sex anthology reads like a who’s who in the erotica author’s hall of fame. What inspired the two of you to put together this yummy anthology, other than just having so many fab contributors to O&C, which says a great deal about the website, and the quality of fiction published there?

 Jordan & Samantha:  Ever since we began the Oysters & Chocolate website in 2005 it was a dream of ours to compile an erotic anthology. We actually envisioned a set of four anthologies, each corresponding to the four flavors on our site (Vanilla, Licorice Whips, Oysters, and Dirty Martini). It turns out publishers were more interested in all four flavors put together into one anthology. After compiling our first anthology in 2009 (Oysters & Chocolate: Erotic Stories of Every Flavor, Penguin Group), we were eager to do another one. They are just so much fun! When we got the opportunity to work with Seal Press, we jumped on it. Seal Press is a smaller publisher (smaller than Penguin, anyway) that is women-oriented – which is very cool.

 We are super pleased to have well established writers like Donna George Storey and Rachel Kramer Bussel in the anthology mixed in with some new voices like Venerato Petronius and Julian Augustus Finisterre. We selected each of the 20 stories (out of hundreds of submissions) based on their “turn-on factor” and literary merit, as well as how well they flowed with the compilation as a whole. It’s not surprising that a lot of these stories come from talented and well-liked writers. Those writers are the best at what they do!

 KD:  O&C is a site designed for women, and as the market for women’s erotica grows, I wonder, what are the differences that you find most striking between what turns women on and what turns men on – based on your experiences at O&C.

 Jordan & Samantha:  Our original vision was to design a site that was “for women, by women,” because when we got into the industry in 2005 there was a serious lack of erotic/pornographic material geared towards the ladies out there. However, the industry has changed and a lot of people are entering the market with the same idea. At the same time, we noticed that we have a huge number of men who visit our site regularly, and we get some really good work from male writers. So our vision evolved from being exclusively women-centric to providing the best literary erotica we can get our dirty little paws on. Good sex is good sex and readers love to read. It turns out men and women are more similar than we think.

 KD:  What has been your most exciting moment in the history of O&C, if you had to choose just one? Okay, you can choose two if it’s a tough decision.J

 Jordan & Samantha:  It was definitely the day that we signed on with our amazing literary agent Emmanuelle Morgen. When we realized that she was really interested in helping us make our dreams of editing, writing, and publishing books come true. We were on a phone conference with her, and while our voices were playing it calm, cool and collected, we were both beaming ear to ear and giving quiet high fives to each other. When we hung up the phone we both fell to the floor screaming and laughing. Then we hurried to the bar and got drunk on cava. 

 KD:  Having edited several books for O&C and published countless tantalizing works of erotic fiction and poetry on O&C, are there any trends you see developing in women’s erotica since the founding of O&C? Any major changes?

 Jordan & Samantha:  There is a lot more erotica out there now than there was ever before. We’ve seen the industry grow from a closeted, secret society to a more mainstream business. It’s exciting to watch it grow like this, and it’s thrilling to know that we are some of the pioneers that are working hard to give erotica the respect it deserves. There’s still a stigma that erotica is just “sex stories” and not literary, but we feel that is one of the things that is slowly changing. After all, good erotica should be given the same esteem that any other form of genre fiction receives, whether that’s mystery or sci-fi. We’re working our little butts off to bring sexy, literary masterpieces to the light of day. We’d like all erotica writers to be able to talk about their work at any old dinner party with pride and without blushing.

 Along the same lines, we’ve watched the quality of erotica improve. When we began, we saw a lot more submissions with cliché situations and plots – similar to what one might read in the Penthouse Forum (not that the Forum doesn’t serve it’s own titillating purpose, but we were looking for well developed, incredibly sexy short stories, not confessional, scripted letters that start out, “I never thought this would ever happen to me, but…”). Now we see work that has such unique voice, great characterization, real creativity – and of course, amazingly hot sex.

 KD:  With so much quality erotica now available on the internet, and with more women writing and reading erotica of every flavor, do you think that it has narrowed the gap between what women find arousing and what men find arousing? Do you think the time will come when our gender will have nothing to do with what turns us on?

 Jordan & Samantha: We’ve been delighted to discover that anyone who loves to read and loves to have sex is into the smart smut, whatever his or her gender. But yes, we’ve noticed that as both men and women read and write more, they give themselves permission to have more varied fantasies. It’s a natural progression that as they imagine different scenarios and experiences, their imaginations take them to more common sexual ground. For example, a woman may grow up thinking she should only be turned on by vanilla, straight sex – like what she might expect to experience in her marital bed. But when she starts reading a variety of erotica, she may realize that (gasp!) she is authentically aroused by the thought of penetrating a man with a strap-on (a traditionally male sexual act). Would she have ever known this had she not read erotica? She would probably have had an inkling of her true inner desires, but erotica is a safe and creative way to explore new sexual ideas and territories. It’s a way that both men and women can discover and enjoy their real sexual interests with no gender-identities attached. And yes, hopefully the time will come when we are no longer taught that what is sexy is linked to our gender, so that we can authentically just experience what turn us on.

 KD:  Plans in the works for another anthology?

 Jordan and Samantha:  Heck ya! We have several ideas percolating for our next anthologies. We hope that this is just the beginning. Putting together anthologies is an addictive and rewarding experience.

 KD:  What do the two of you do for fun when you’re not O&C-ing?

 Jordan – as you well know Colorado is rich with the beauty of nature. I love to get out hiking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. I grew up running barefoot in the woods with my red hair atangle, so being in the forest as an adult is still the place where I find my happiness. I also love eating at fancy restaurants with my two bestest friends, going on hot and sexy dates, or just chillin’, with my amazing boyfriend, snuggling and running with my two big dogs, and traveling the world with my awesome daughter. She and I just returned from a two week adventure in Israel. Holy moly!

 Samantha – life is a crazy mess right now, so I’m finding fun in new places. I’m trying to learn how to cook, whether I’m successful or not is another question, but I’m loving making a mess of the kitchen, chopping away at vegetables with my new chef’s knife while pots overflow and things burn in the oven. I used to be in bed by 9, but now I’m enjoying spending time outside at night, gazing at the stars. And of course, there’s my favorite stand-by, cuddling up with a good book and a bottle of red wine (the good book is sometimes replaced with watching a whole slew of United States of Tara or Big Love episodes right in a row).

 KD:  How do you see O&C evolving in the future?

 Jordan & Samantha:  O&C constantly delights and surprises us with how she grows and stretches beyond our wildest dreams. We have ideas for a complete website redesign in the nearish future, which will reflect our new vision of literary erotica (vs. female-centric erotica). We also intend to put out a lot more books. Jordan is interested in getting back into the writing side of things and is working on an erotic novel as well as submitting several erotic short stories for publication. Samantha is thinking it might be time to begin an “In the Flesh” series (started by Rachel Kramer Bussel in NYC) right here in Denver. There’s always a new adventure waiting for us at O&C and we’re excited to see where it takes us next.

 Thanks Kd!

 Thank YOU, Jordan and Samantha! It’s been a real treat for me to get to know both of you a little better!  Best of luck with all the fab O/C-ness yet to come!

You can buy your copy of Nice Girls Naughty Sex here: http://www.amazon.com/Nice-Girls-Naughty-Sex-Erotic/dp/1580053432/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1300836324&sr=8-1


 
© 2017 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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