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Inspiration, Take Me! I’m Yours

(archives)

It’s elusive, it’s mysterious, it’s exhilarating, and we erotic writers crave it more than the sex we write about. We chase it shamelessly, we long for it passionately, we would gladly make ourselves slaves to its every whim and, no matter how fickle it is, we always welcome it back with open arms. When it’s with us, it’s at least as good as the best sex. And when it’s not, we mourn its loss like a lover. I’m talking about inspiration, of course. It’s the breath of life for every story ever written and the coveted ethereal presence that every writer yearns for.

 

The mythological link to inspiration is especially interesting to me in the light of a life-long fascination with mythology. From my very first novel novel, The Initiation of Ms Holly, which is a retelling of the Psyche and Eros myth, to The Medusa’s Consortium Tales,  and the reframing of Medusa’s story, the Greek myths have inspired me.

 

Greek mythology – mythology oany kind, really — is fabulous inspiration for smutters. The gods are always dipping their wicks where they don’t belong and finding ever more creative ways to do so. Nine months later, viola! A magical child is born, a child with gifts that will be needed to save the world, or at least a little part of it. But there’s one story where the lovely virgin resists, and no wick-dipping occurs. That’s the story of Apollo and Daphne.

 

The Muses serve Apollo, so of course this myth interests me. Apollo is the god oflight and the sun; truth and prophecy; medicine, healing, and plague. He is the god of music, poetry, and the arts; and all intellectual pursuit. Daphne is a mountain nymph and not interested in giving up her virginity to some randy god. While Apollo is pursuing her, she prays to her father, who is a river god, and he turns her into a laurel tree. Ovid claims it’s not Daphne’s fault that she’s not hot for Apollo right back. He claims that Cupid, who is angry at Apollo shoots Daphne with a leaden arrow, which prevents her from returning Apollo’s feelings. But what matters is that she misses out on Apollo’s inspiration.

 

My theory is that the whole mythology of gods coming down from Olympus, or wherever else gods come down from, to seduce humans is really nothing more than a metaphor for inspiration.

 

Consider all the different forms in which Zeus visits his paramours. He takes the form of a swan with Leta, he visits Danae in a shower of gold coins, he approaches Europa as a white bull. Writers understand that inspiration can take absolutely any shape, and often the very shape we least expect.

 

The gods aren’t always gentle in their seductions. Hades drags Persephone off to the underworld screaming and kicking all the way. Zeus turns Io into a white cow, who is tortured and tormented by Hera. In the form of an eagle, he abducts Ganymede and drags him away to Mount Olympus. Writers know well that inspiration doesn’t always come in a gentle form. In fact one of my creative writing teachers used to advise her students to go to the place inside themselves that most frightened them, most disgusted them, most disturbed them, and that’s the place where they would find inspiration, that’s the place from which their writing would be the most powerful.

 

Finally, whether inspiration comes in gentle, beautiful forms or whether it drags us kicking and screaming and tears us from limb to limb, the result will be something greater than what it sprang from. From the seductions of the gods, the children born were always larger than life. They were heroes and monsters and fantastical creatures, but they were all born of that joining of divinity and humanity, they were all the result of what happens when something greater penetrates the blood and the bone and the grey matter that is our humanity. What comes from that inspiration may indeed be monstrous or fantastical, but it will always be, in the mythical sense, born of the gods.

 

Which leads me back to Daphne and Apollo. The cost of inspiration is the loss of innocence. We are seduced, we are penetrated, we are impregnated with something new, something fresh, something possibly even frightening, something that we, as writers must carry to term and give birth to. But none of that can happen without yielding to the seduction. Daphne became a tree, unable to move, unable to think, unable to ever be penetrated or inspired. One can only imagine what may have resulted from the willing union with the god of light and truth and poetry and the arts and all the things we writers crave. I’ll be honest, I fantasize about Apollo. I fantasize about inviting him right on in and saying I’m yours. I’ll take all you can give me, and please, feel free to stay as long as you like. Though, in truth, in my fantasy, I skip the dangerous and scary bits. And encounters with inspiration can often be dangerous and scary.

 

There is a cost to inspiration. It’s the obsession we all know as writers, the one that won’t allow us to think about anything else in the waking world and sometimes even in the dream world until we get the very last word down, until we make it shine exactly the way we conceived it, exactly the way it penetrated us. My heart is racing just writing this because every writer knows what it feels like, and every writer lives for it to happen again and again and again. So yeah, forget the tree rubbish, laurel or otherwise. Inspiration, take me, I’m yours. Have your way with me. I couldn’t be more willing if I tried.

 

Small Flashlight, Big Darkness

Today’s post is a hard one for me to settle into because it could so easily devolve into navel gazing, and one of the promises I made to myself and to my readers back when I wrote my very first ever blog post was that I would keep the navel gazing to a minimum. There must be a gazillion writer and write-hopefuls blogging, and each one is convinced that their journey to writing success is totally unique and must be shared. Well maybe not each one, maybe I’m only speaking for myself, in which case, I blush heartily and apologise.

 

My point is that all of the energy, angst, fear, adrenaline, exploration of dark places, exploration of forbidden places that used to go into the pages and pages of that gargantuan navel-gaze that was my journal now go through that strange internal filtering process that takes all my many neuroses and insecurities, all my deep-seated fears, all my misplaced teenage angst and magically transforms them into story.

 

That was sort of my little secret — that I alone, in all the world, suffered uniquely and exquisitely for my art. I took all the flawed and wounded parts of myself, parts I wasn’t comfortable facing, examined them reflected through the medium of story and found a place where I could view them and not run away screaming.

 

Originally it was a BBC article which asked the question, is creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness?’that brought on all this borderline navel-gazing. At the time I shared it on Facebook and Twitter to find that lots of other writers had shared it as well and the general response was simply that it sounded about right. There were some very moving conversations that came out of those sharings of that article along with the realization — something I’ve long suspected — that I am not all alone out there in my vibrant unique neurotic bubble. And really, it comes as no surprise that one has to be at least a little neurotic to be ballsy enough to try to bring, in one form or another, what lives in our imagination into the real world and to attempt to put it out there for everyone to see.

 

As the article was shared around and the responses mounted, I found myself thinking of C.G. Jung’s archetype of the Wounded Healer. The healer can only ever heal in others what she herself is suffering from. Empathy goes much deeper than sympathy. The human capacity for story is as old as we are. Before the written word, story was the community archive. It was our memory of who we are, our history, our continuity, our triumphs, trials, sufferings, joys, all memorised, filed away, and kept safely in the mind of the story teller. That had to do something to your head, knowing that you were the keeper of the story of your people! How could storytellers be anything other than neurotic?

 

It’s a lot more personal now that we have the written word. No one has to dedicate their lives to memorising the story of their people. Now we tell our own story, the story of the internal battles that wound us, the story of those wounds transformed. We all tell our stories in our own personal code. What may well start out as a navel gaze into the deep dark wilderness of Self can be transformed into powerful, vibrant story, and we’re healed! At least temporarily, or at least we’re comforted. And hopefully so are those with whom we share our stories. When I journalled my navel-gazes, I wasn’t interested in anyone else seeing what was on those pages. It was a one-sided attempt at a neurotic house-cleaning. Sharing the story is a part of the healing; sharing the story is a part of the journey. The Storyteller had no purpose if she didn’t share the story with her people.

 

As a neurotic living among other neurotics, I doubt that there’s anything we’re more neurotic about as a people than sexuality. I don’t think it’s any real surprise that there’s suddenly a huge market for erotica. Last night I sat on a panel of erotica authors, editors and publishers at the Guildford Book Fair – something that would have never happened before Fifty Shades of Grey, and even at 9:00 in the evening, we played to a full house. Each of us had a story of how we came to write erotica. We shared our stories with a roomful of people, who then took those stories away with them to possibly be shared with others. The archetype of the storyteller is alive and well. And I believe writers live out the archetype of the wounded healer on a daily basis.

 

Most of the time I write my stories because it’s just too much fun not to. That’s the truth of it. I seldom consciously dig deep to find those wounded, neurotic places. Really, who would want to do that deliberately? But the wounded places find me, and they end up finding their way into the story. And what surfaces is never quite what I expected, always more somehow, even if starts out to be nothing more than a passing dream I can’t get out of my head.

 

Lip Service

(From the Archives)

I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like it’s a proper sex scene, or even a proper PG love scene, unless there’s some serious lip action. Here are a few fun factoids about the lip lock that I discovered while I was writing my post for my Sunday Snog. They are from Psychology Today, How Stuff Worksand Random Facts:

 

  • The science of kissing is called philematology.
  • Lips are 100 times more sensitive than the tips of the fingers. They’re even more sensitive that the genitals!
  • The most important muscle in kissing is the orbicularis oris, whichallows the lips to “pucker.”
  • French kissing involves 34 muscles in the face, while a pucker kiss involves just two.
  • A nice romantic kiss burns 2-3 calories, while a hot sizzler can burn off five or even more.
  • The mucus membranes inside the mouth are permeable to hormones. Through open-mouth kissing, men introduced testosterone into a woman’s mouth, the absorption of which increases arousal and the likelihood of rumpy pumpy.
  • Apparently men like it wet and sloppy while women like it long and lingering.
  • While we Western folk do lip service, some cultures do nose service, smelling for that romantic, sexual connection. Very mammalian, if you ask me, and who doesn’t love a good dose of pheromonal yumminess?
  • Then there’s good old fashion bonding. It’s no secret that kissing someone you like increases closeness.

 

While all that’s interesting to know, what really intrigues me about kisses is how something seemingly so fragile can become so mind-blowingly powerful when lips, tongue, a whisp of breath, perhaps a nip of teeth are applied in the right proportion at the right time on the right part of the anatomy. And with the size of the human body in proportion to the mouth, the possibilities for a delicious outcome are only as limited as the imagination.

 

One theory is that kissing evolved from the act of mothers premasticating food for their infants, back in the pre-baby food days, and then literally kissing it into their mouths. Birds still do that. The sharing of food mouth to mouth is also a courtship ritual, and birds aren’t the only critters who do that. Even with no food involved the tasting, touching and sniffing of mouths of possible mates, or even as an act of submission, is very much a part of the animal kingdom.

 

The sharing of food is one of the most basic functions, the function that kept us all alive when we were too small to care for ourselves. The mouth is that magical place where something from the outside world is ingested and becomes a part of our inside world, giving us energy and strength. Not only is the mouth the receptacle for food, it’s the passage for oxygen. Pretty much all that has to pass into the body to sustain life passes through the mouth. I find it fascinating that the kiss, one of the most basic elements in Western mating ritual and romance, should involve such a live-giving part of our anatomy.

 

But the mouth does more than just allow for the intake of the sustenance we need. The mouth allows us voice. I doubt there are many people who appreciate that quite as much as we writers, who love words and the power they give us. And how can I think about the power of words without thinking about the power of words in song and poetry? Our mouths connect us in language, in thought, in the courtship of words that allow us to know and understand each other before those mouths take us to that intimate place of the kiss. And when that kiss becomes a part of our sexual experience, it’s that mouth, that tongue, those lips that allow us to say what we like and how we like it; that allow us to talk dirty; that allow us to vocalize our arousal; that allow us to laugh or tease our way to deeper intimacy.

 

The fact that the mouth offers all those wonderful, life-giving, life enhancing things, AND can kiss, makes it one of my very favourite parts of the body

 

“If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:

My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”

Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 5

William Shakespeare

 

In the Realm of Gods, Monsters and Billionaires

From the Archives

Aaaand, here we are on the billionaire ride at the fun fair again! You know, it’s a bit
like your favourite roller coaster. You know there are other rides, but this is the one you do over and over again. I always take that ride with binoculars and microscope in hand, because there’s way more going on in tales of power and wealth and control than … well … power and wealth and control. The thing is, while some of us may be sick to death of the 50SoG saga and others may be elated by still more Grey Lookalikes, the fact is, not only are billionaires here to stay, but billionaires have been with us in their more archetypal forms since the time of telling stories in the cave around the fire.

 

I know! I know! Here I go again. But the truth of the matter is that power and control, in all their guises have a facet of raw, primal lust, and few things are more darkly and secretly fascinating than the idea of being forced to give up control and finding that we like it. Being possessed, being under someone else’s thrall, being taken to the realms of ecstasy, whether it’s on Mount Olympus, in Dracula’s dungeon lair or in a penthouse apartment, is a part of that dark fantasy that makes up not only the mythological seductions, but every vampire story, ever monster story, and yes … every billionaire romance.

 

Why is that? What makes that dark fantasy such a powerful one. Well, I have a theory, and I’ve been playing with that dark fantasy from the writing of the first Lakeland Witches novel. Certainly, Medusa and her Consortium keep me coming back again and again for more of that dark fantasy. I think that no matter how appalled we are, no matter how stubborn and independent we are, we want to know what it’s like to be with and to be taken by a force so much greater than us. What’s it like to be bitten and seduced by a vampire? What’s it like to make love to a monster?  What’s it like to be seduced by a god? What’s it like to be the object of lust for a billionaire? And ultimately what price are we willing to pay for entrance into Club Billionaire, Club Olympus, Club Undead? It’s more than lust. It’s more than love. In fact it’s all a little mercenary really. We want, we long for, a chance to take into ourselves all that we’re not. We want to know their secrets. We want those divine, powerful, filthy rich, forbidden lovers to reveal to us their inner workings just as much as they want to possess us. The ultimate question then becomes can we pay the price and survive to tell the tale ? Can we achieve our HEA and find some sense of balance in a world to which we are the interloper?  Oooh! It’s always so much fun to find out.

 

Sex and Ritual

from the archives

Those of you who follow my blog and read my books know that I’m fascinated by the
connection between sex and spirituality. I’m not a mystic. I’m a bit of a skeptic these days, but I’d be the first to say that there’s definitely something spiritual, something magical about sex, and not the least of it is the ritual involved.

 

I’ve always loved ritual. I made rituals up when I was a child. Later, I was involved in everything from conservative Christianity to practicing in a Wiccan coven — drawn in by the ritual. I spent three years training to be a spiritual director. I did it for the ritual. Contemplative prayer, meditating upon passages of scripture, the use of movement, dance, chant, are all tools of ritual. During my time spent in the Wiccan coven, the year itself was lived out in ritual — full moon, new moon, the changing of the seasons, the celebration of spring and harvest. During that time my husband and I even underwent the ritual of hand fasting in the stone circle at Avebury.

 

Ritual is a set of actions performed mainly for their symbolic value. But that’s only the beginning. The real power of ritual is that it’s the gateway to something beyond itself, it’s the gateway to a deeper understanding of what it represents.

 

That ritual infuses my erotica is not surprising. Sex is steeped in ritual, and often the rituals we practice before sex are strikingly similar to religious rituals. We often wear special clothing for the occasion, just as priests and acolytes do. We may share a romantic dinner together before hand, with special foods, just as the priest serves the Eucharist. Flowers and gifts may be offered. And all this we do in hopes of experiencing and celebrating le petit mort, the sexual version of death and resurrection.

 

When life was a lot more tenuous than it is now, fucking the world into existence was an act of high magic, sympathetic magic. One hoped that by having sex in a field or a cave or possibly a stone circle, the birds and the bees would see what was happening, and take a hint. Pollination would take place in the plant kingdom, plants would grow. Procreation would take place in the animal kingdom, animals would give birth. There would be food to eat, and the next generation would be guaranteed. Our ancestors got it — that there was something in the act, something in the lust driving the mating rituals of all living creatures that brought about new life. New life was in itself magic.

 

Today sex is more about recreation than procreation. The urgency is no longer there, nor is the belief that our efforts will encourage the cattle in farmer Jones’s field to breed. The urgency may be gone, but the ritual is still there. Strangely and wonderfully, so is the magic, albeit a different kind of magic.

 

 

The beauty of sex as ritual is that we don’t have to be members of a religious group; we don’t have to undergo years of training to practice the rituals of sex. Whether it’s BDSM, kink, vanilla or masturbation, sex contains the built-in default rituals of all humanity, just like it does for our animal cousins. Yes, I get that it’s biology. But when cranes dance and grebes do synchronised swimming and apes groom each other, it certainly seems like more is happening than just the old in and out.

 

Giving and receiving pleasure is the ultimate ritual of human connection, even if it’s
just some much-needed connecting with ourselves. There are as many versions of the ritual as there are people to practice it. No organized religion can offer a ritual that is more personal nor more universally compelling. Perhaps that’s why so much effort  has been made through the centuries to regulate it, to control it, to limit it.

 

Back in the dawn of humanity when sex was both ritual and religion, our ancestors got it right. Though the science wasn’t yet available to back up that intuitive connection, that visceral urgency of fucking the world into existence, even back then, our ancestors already knew that the ultimate ritual, the ultimate magic takes place in the arms another.

 

 

 

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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