This vintage sign is sadly out of stock at the moment.

My contributor copy of the paperback version of Coffee: Hot arrived in the mail a few weeks ago.

E-books are great for traveling, but there’s nothing like a “real book” to me. Leafing through it, I realized to my chagrin that I hadn’t read all of the other stories. I devoured it and feel even more honored to be part of such an amazing collection.

On the one hand, coffee signifies addiction, a perfect match for an erotic anthology. But coffee and coffee shops are refuges and places of comfort for many, leading to stories about romance and connection along with the passion. Add the many varieties and approximations of coffee that can be devised by the human imagination and you have the ingredients for an amazing anthology.

One of my favorites was “The Closing Shift” by JJ Poulos, in which an unexpected visitor interrupts Raymona’s fantasies as she cleans the coffee shop:

Finally the hopper was sparkling, and she turned to the new bag of beans. It was made of rough burlap, covered in writing she couldn’t even begin to read, and beautiful, colorful swirling lines.

She grabbed a scissors and sliced the bag open.

The scent that burst out was unlike anything she’d smelled. It was dark and rich and flowery. The beans were glossy with oil and slid about as if they were alive. Ramona closed her eyes and breathed in the smell. She opened her eyes and, leaving the bag on the ground, turned to grab the hopper.
There was a water-like patter as the bag tipped over, as the beans danced across the floor.

“Shit,” Ramona said, before turning around.

Far too large for the bag, like a coffee bean that sprouted into a tree and then grew until it burst from the bag’s darkness, and then grew some more, a woman lay. She was dark like the espresso beans and she gleamed glossily, like they did. They spilled around her like rose petals.

“Thank you for letting me out,” she said, smiling a brilliant smile.

The comfort aspect of coffee was most on display in K.L. Noone’s “One Mocha, With Enchantment”

Behind the counter, skillful hands busy dusting a frothy confection with nutmeg, Gavin paused to radiate worry in his direction.Nate made a face at him, because that was the only appropriate response to overt concern from one’s retired-deity present-day boyfriend, and although Gavin didn’t say anything the coffee-mug warmed up again in its spot on the table.

Little things. Heat suffusing unbreakable ceramic, pouring into his palms. The way Gavin smiled at him sometimes, sideways and astonished, which was ridiculous because only one of them had once crafted bronze and silver weapons for fellow gods, and that one of them certainly wasn’t Nate.

When he took a sip, the renewed warmth felt like a kiss.

The world-building and connection between Nate and Gavin suffused this story with a rush like a great cup of coffee on a cold night.

There were several stories adding a lighter blend to the mix with their use of humor. “…And Friday is Formal Day” by Owen James Franks is set at a pair of roadside “bikini” coffee drive-ins, where the narrator learns the secret behind Sexy Devils’ Coffee.

The last story in the anthology, “Magic Beans” by Django Wexler, combines humor, sex, romance and fantasy quest elements into a tale that never went where I expected.

“When you turned it on the first time, did you do anything else? Chant any spells or anything?”

“You said ‘It’s alive!’,” I said. “And then…” I paused.

“And then what?” said Lisa.

“Maybe it’s curry that was magic?” I said. “Magic curry. I mean, it could happen. Makes as much sense as magic beans.”

“Don’t change the subject,” Lisa said. “What happened—”

“We had sex,” Danny said, irritably.

“What?” Evan said. “Here on the table?”

“No,” I said, “in the sex closet.”

“Apollo’s has a sex closet?” Gil said. “How did I not know this?”

“It’s not a sex closet!” Danny said.

“More of a sex alcove, then, or—” Gil persisted.

“It’s just a closet,” Danny grated. “That one over there. With the kitten calendar.”

“So you had sex,” Lisa said. “While the coffee was brewing.”

“And it transported us to another planet,” Evan said.

“More like another universe,” Lisa said, “because of all the magic.”

If you’ve enjoyed these snippets, there’s a lot more where they came from. You can buy Coffee: Hot from Amazon, directly from Circlet Press or from your favorite e-book store.

Check out the blog archives for my interview with Greer Thompson, author of “His name Was Pumpkin Spice” and my coverage of the Google Hangout with editor Victoria Pond and several authors.