Over the past year in “Cooking Up a Storey,” I’ve shared my secret recipes for creating unforgettable stories and mouth-watering cookies. In January, I discussed the power of sharing our experiences as artists with each other to get a necessary grounding in reality. In April, I talked about the one sure-fire way to make your work stand out—care passionately and give it your all. In July, I suggested we all look at the damaging myths of what “success” means for a writer. In the common understanding this is external validation like money, fame, and awards, which are bestowed on only a tiny fraction of working writers. In September, I suggested a cure for writer’s block: an undying curiosity about the workings of the human heart, mind, and libido. November brought a focus on the ridicule we face as erotica writers, and our secret revenge—getting in touch with pleasure by celebrating it, listening to it, exploring it.
While the writing life may seem glamorous to those who only dream of becoming the next Shakespeare or Tom Clancy, anyone who actually tries to write a good story knows how difficult and complex the task is. We often feel discouraged when our personal path does not fit the myths. Thus the final “secret” I’d like to share is this. In our media-saturated society, we are constantly urged to compare ourselves to world-famous celebrities, but holding ourselves to such standards can rob us of an appreciation of our own creative power. The truth is, we don’t have to have our own cooking show to bake something that will have diners smacking their lips in delight. We don’t have to win “The Voice” to sing a lovely song that will touch hearts. We don’t have to be followed by TMZ to be a worthwhile human being. And we don’t have to be E.L. James to write erotica that will put sizzle in our lives and arouse readers. We have the power to create something magical from the most mundane ingredients, be it a story from words or a batch of cookies from sugar, butter and flour. Let’s use it well and never let anyone take that power from us.
But to borrow some wisdom from Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, with great power comes great responsibility. One of the most appealing myths of publishing is that our most popular and/or revered writers are actually demi-gods, gifted by the Muses, who dash off their brilliant novels Kerouac-style in a week or two, then spend the rest of the day lounging by their pools giving interviews and signing movie deals. If fiction writing doesn’t come this easy to you, then obviously you aren’t a Real Writer. This same trick is more obvious for cookie bakers. The TV chef mixes up some ingredients, then reaches into the oven and immediately pulls out a tray of perfectly baked treats. But let me assure you, when you get a box of my holiday cookies, a dozen years of experience and dozens more hours of toil and worry come along with them.
Frankly, I’d rather not waste calories eating something that was mass-produced with an eye to maxim profit or my precious time reading something that was just dashed off for a quick buck, even if the author is a “famous” writer or celebrity. My life is already crammed with junk information and noise, and I’ve sworn off processed food long ago (except at Halloween when I life some fun-sized Mounds and Kit-Kat’s from my son’s trick-or-treat bag). The stories and food that change our lives are created with love, passion, and a search from something deeper. These creative acts don’t only make magic, they can change your world.
So, my fellow erotica writers, let’s keep on changing the world—one dirty story at a time!
In January 2008, when I sat down to compose my very first installment of “Cooking Up a Storey,” I was nervous about taking on the commitment of a column and unsure if I’d have anything to say after a month or two. Five years and dozens of recipes later, I’m writing my very last column. Looking back, I know that I’ve learned more about writing, reading and sensual pleasure because I had the opportunity to write “Cooking Up a Storey.” I thank you all for reading, although I will still be weighing in on erotica writing topics over at the lively ERWA blog on the eighteenth of every month.
I’ll leave you with perhaps the most popular, crowd-pleasing recipe in my files. These cute little cookie mice do take some time and dexterity to make, but the delighted response is worth every minute. Allow yourself a few practice mice to get the hang of it. Bon Appetit!
Holiday Cookie Mice
(Makes about 60 mice)
A miniature version adapted from DeDe Wilson’s A Baker’s Field Guide to Christmas Cookies with lots of tips for success from yours truly.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
—Sliced natural almonds or jelly beans cut in half
—Pull & Peel Twizzlers or licorice laces in red or black, cut into 3-inch lengths, trim off a triangle shape at both ends of licorice to angle them for easy insertion and tail-like appearance (pull off in two’s, then separate to minimize tearing)
—About 2 ounces semisweet chocolate bar or morsels, melted and cooled to lukewarm
Whisk flour and salt together in a separate bowl. In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then egg. Add about 1/3 of flour mixture and mix at low speed. Gradually add remaining flour, mixing until blended. Scrape dough onto a large piece of waxed paper, wrap and refrigerate until chilled enough to roll into balls, at least 2 hours to overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon-sized cookie scoop, make balls of dough and roll between your hands to form teardrop shapes (with slightly pointed noses, but not too pointed or they burn). Insert two almond slices about 1/3 of of the way back for ears. Bake about 6 to the cookie sheet, until light golden brown on the bottom about 13-14 minutes (depending on your oven).
When you remove the pan from the oven, straighten any almonds that have moved out of position, line up mice along edge of cookie sheet and insert a wooden skewer pointed end first into the rear end of two mice. Twirl the skewer, then insert blunt end and do the same. Insert a piece of licorice and push about 1/2-inch into soft cookie. Repeat with other mice in pairs. Place on a rack to cool.
Melt chocolate, let cool almost completely, then put into pastry bag with smallest writing/plain tip. Pipe eyes and nose onto mice with the lightest touch to avoid smears, let cool before storing in airtight tins.
Tips for Forming Bodies—Roll into smooth ball, then into oval; use scant teaspoon
Ears—Smaller almonds for ears are better; match similar pairs on a plate beforehand; angle at 90 degrees, leave a little space between ears; don’t insert into dough straight from the refrigerator, wait 2 minutes
Nut-free Jelly Bean Option—cut cherry jelly beans in half, use thinner side; insert into unbaked mouse, but don’t bake with jellybeans, insert beans again into indentations gently when mice come fresh out of theoven while still tender
Tails—Line up all six at edge of a rimmed cookie sheet, rest skewer on rim edge, angle skewer straight, low, with a slight upward rather than downward angle to prevent piercing “skin” of mouse
Donna George Storey
December 2012 – January 2013
“Cooking up a Storey” © 2012 Donna George Storey. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.