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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

 

Reading to Each Other

While I was in Oregon at my sisters on holiday, I rediscovered the joy of reading to
each other. I’ve been recommending Naomi Novik’sfantastic alternate history, Temeraireseries, to her for ages. It’s my favorite series of all time. While I was there and we were fighting the hundred degree plus heat and trying to stay cool, she downloaded the first novel, and one evening while sitting on her deck catching what little breeze there was, I asked her if she’d like me to read to her, knowing that if I could only read a little bit, she’d be totally hooked. To my surprised she said, “oh, I love to be read to.” That was all it took. I was off.

 

I LOVE the Temeraire series with a passion, and I never miss a chance to recommend it. Confession of a fan girl here: I’ve read the entire nine book three times and am reading them again. But I’ve never read any of them out loud before. Wow! Have I been missing out! First let me say that the series is set during the Napoleonic War, and the main character of the novels is a dragon. If that doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will.

 

Secondly, you all know I love to do readings from my novels for an audience, and a huge part of the fun is making whatever I read, even if it’s only five minutes worth, almost like a small radio play. You see, like all writers, I want people to love my novels and the stories I tell as much as I do. I want my characters to be as alive to them as they are to me. I want them to be as much gripped by the plot as I was when I wrote it. I discovered, as I sat on the deck breathing in the lovely high desert air, that I absolutely loved being able to bring Temeraire and Lawrence to life for my sister’s entertainment. And, as I totally expected, she was gripped.

 

For the next week, we giggled about sneaking some quality time with the dragon. When we weren’t reading, we often discussed the plot as it unfolded and I gave her little teasers about what was to come. Our afternoon coffee time quickly became afternoon reading time, and I discovered I was just as enthralled with the novel as I had been when I first read it. If anything, knowing what was coming, as I did, only excited me more – especially when I couldn’t wait to see my sister’s response to the plot as it unfolded. By day three, she got bold enough to take her turn at reading to me. We were halfway through the second novel before I left.

 

The pleasure of reading out loud to each other shouldn’t come as any real surprise to me. My husband and I used to do it all the time when we were first married. We just got out of the habit. We’ll have to change that for sure. Even more than that, I never send anything off to a publisher that hasn’t been read out loud repeatedly. I always know a passage is right when I enjoy reading it out loud.

 

For centuries people who could read read out loud. Up until the 17thcentury, reading was not the introverted occupation it is since reading silently has become the norm. While I’m the first to say I could curl up with a good book and never leave my cave, I’m also the first to say that I have loved being read to since I was a child. The art of reading to others came much later for me when I began doing readings from my books for an audience. You see, even I can be social when I have to.

 

What I had forgotten that I knew as a child and that I knew when Raymond and I read to each other, is how delightful reading to each other on a more intimate scale is. I’ve been home for two weeks now, and my sister and I are still emailing about missing our time together with the dragon. It does make me wonder how much of the meat of the story, the true life of the story, we miss by reading silently, by not sharing
a story with someone else. Plus, I have to say, it was a total delight to take on the
character of the dragon and of the people and other dragons who were a part of his story. I felt transported in a very different way than I do when I read silently. A part of that, I’m sure, was seeing the novel fresh through my sister’s eyes. Through her enjoyment, I got to enjoy the story twice-over.

 

Hubby is enthusiastic about adding reading to each other back into our free time. In fact, he’s enthusiastic enough to suggest we tackle Roger Zelazny’sentire Chronicles of Amber. I’m up for the challenge.

 

Demon Dreams

Dreams have been a driving force in story and magic since our ancestors told tales
around the campfire. The connection between what goes on in our dreams and our unconscious is so startling that it’s no wonder mythology and religion are full of stories in which dreams are the way for the divine to speak to mortals. When we dream, it feels like we’ve fallen asleep in one dimension and awakened in another where different rules apply every night – every dream in fact – and where, struggle though we might, we are most definitely not in control.

 

People have always believed that there’s something magical about dreams, that in our sleep, we can see the future, be warned of coming catastrophe, see the face of a lover, even see our own doom. These days there’s not a lot that can’t be explained by science and technology. Magic is the realm of fantasy novels and super heroes, but dreams, well there’s still something almost magical about them. We can tell when someone is dreaming; we understand the physiological process, we can understand in part why we dream certain things. But even knowing what we do about the anatomy of sleep and dreams, a nightmare is still terrifying, a disturbing dream still stays with us for ages after it happens, and a sexy dream, well who doesn’t wish we had a lot more of those?

 

One of my very favorite classes in Uni was a psychology class that involved keeping a dream journal. All we had to do was write down what we’d dreamed every night. I was surprised to find that, in the beginning, I had trouble remembering much more than an image here and there, but then I’d never thought much about my dreams before that class. My teacher suggested I keep a spiral notebook and a pencil on my bedside table and that I set my alarm at two-hour intervals. Each time the alarm went off, I was to jot down just a few key words that would kick-start my memory in the morning, then go back to sleep. At first it was mostly mundane bits and pieces that I remembered, but it didn’t take long until I was remembering multiple dreams and detailed sequences.

 

I was so impressed with the results that I kept a dream journal for a long time after the class came to an end. I only stopped because it was beginning to take more and more time as I remembered more and more details. Later, when I worked with a Jungian analyst for a couple of years, dreams once again took center stage in exploring my inner workings. The thing about dreams is that every image, every action, can either symbolize something that could be important for the dreamer or, as Freud observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

 

Long after I stopped keeping a dream journal, I still wrote down powerful dreams, dreams that disturb me, or dreams that left me feeling like maybe I’d touched something deeper in myself. I recorded them and then I analyzed them and explored what they meant to me, what the Self was trying to communicate. I almost always found my efforts rewarding and enlightening.

 

There are dreams we’d like to linger in a little longer, there are also dreams we can’t wake up from fast enough. In the interviewing of the Guardian, which I am sharing now on my blog, as it unfolds, I am doing a lot of dreaming. In fact, I must approach the Guardian’s prison inside of Susan through a dream, and even from there, I am never sure I am in a nightmare I can’t wake up from or a dream I want to linger in.
While Talia, the succubus who helps me enter that dream state, promises me I’m perfectly safe … well, between a powerful succubus and a demon imprisoned inside a vampire who is herself a Scribe, with a capital S, I’ve seldom felt truly safe since I began the interviews. And no matter the reassurances I get from both succubus and vampire, how can anyone guarantee my safety in the Guardian’s presence.

 

New episode of Interview with a Demon coming up Tuesday.

Stay tuned.

 

Writing it Down

 

Sometimes you just have to improvise, as a writer. My good friend, and fabulous
writer, Kay Jaybee always writes everything long hand before she transfers it on to the computer. I seldom do any more because generally speaking I can’t write fast enough to suit myself.  And more importantly, I can’t read my own hand writing. But sometimes needs must.

 

Last Thursday I found myself waiting for a friend in a coffee shop with a dead battery on my phone, no laptop, and the Muse poking me really hard in the ribs with her big stick. The friend was stuck in traffic, and here I was with time on my hands, a story to write, and not a damn thing to write it on. I couldn’t even find a napkin.

 

The Muse, however, does not take excuses under any circumstances, so I was forced to find another way to get the ideas down. There was a roll of blue paper towels — the kind sometimes used in bathrooms and for cleaning tables — sitting on the edge of the counter. When the barista wasn’t looking, I nabbed a couple of feet of it, dug a pen from the bottom of my day pack, and started to write.

 

An hour later, when it was clear my friend wasn’t going to make it before I had to leave, I had filled a good bit of my “scroll” with tiny, but not too terribly sloppy, chicken scratches. I had to slow down to keep from ripping the paper, and the resulting story, believe it or not has benefited. The claustrophobic, trapped, unable to move feeling I was hoping for comes across well on the medium of blue paper towel.

 

Inspired by the necessity of the situation, I have taken to carrying a small notebook in my day pack now. It’s a lot lighter than my laptop, and the feel of pen to paper does access my creative self differently. So far, I’ve managed to keep my handwriting relatively legible for easy transfer into the computer. I’m pleased, and better still, the Muse is pleased.

 

 

 

 

Instant Replay

When I lived in Croatia a hundred years ago, I spent three weeks every summer camping on the Adriatic near Pula. At the campsite where I stayed, there was a small store and a restaurant that had live music every night. There were several buildings with showers and toilets. That was the extent of the place.

 

One of the shower blocks not far, from where I set up my tent, was a narrow concrete pre-fab with a row of cubicles, each containing a shower, each with a door leading right out onto the main path through the camp. One year one of the six cubicles was missing a door. That meant more congestion for the remaining shower units, which were in high demand in August. There was almost always a queue.

 

Early one evening on my way back from the grocery store, I noticed two very fit German blokes I’d seen wind surfing earlier in the day queuing for the shower, but they got tired of waiting, so they stripped off their Speedos and waltzed right on in to the cubicle without the door.

 

I happened to be with a friend who was a bit more prudish than I, and she averted her eyes and dragged me away in a huff, me nearly breaking my neck for one last glance over my shoulder at naked, wet maleness. The whole incident couldn’t have lasted more than a minute. What I saw was fleeting. But what I imagined – over and over and over again – was most definitely not!

 

Sometimes it takes nothing more than an image to capture our imaginations, to inspire us. An image can inspire us because once we’ve seen it, processed it – especially if it’s a little scenario like mine with the shower and the naked wind surfers, our glorious, super-high-tech instant replay brains take over. Not only can we replay that image over and over again, but we can change it simply by imaging what might have happened IF … It’s were our fantasies come from, it’s where a writer’s story ideas come from, it’s built-in entertainment.

 

My voyeuristic encounter at the showers stands out to me as outrageously erotic, and yet nothing happened. Two blokes got tired of waiting in queue for the shower, probably anxious to get to dinner and a cold beer, so they chose to shower in full view of hundreds of people they didn’t know, hundreds of people who would never see them again. BUT, they were wrong, I’ve seen them countless times in my imagination – sometimes sun bleached and golden in the late afternoon light, sometimes dark, tattooed and dangerous just before dusk, beckoning me to come join them, speaking softly to me in German — words I don’t understand, though I completely get their meaning. I know exactly what those boys want, as they leer at me and I leer right back. Well, in my imagination at least.

 

In some of those instant replays, I meet them on the beach at midnight to share a bottle of wine and a naked swim in the warm moonlit waters. In some of those instant replays, I shoo my prudish friend back to her tent, then strip off shamelessly and join them, letting them soap me and rinse me and protect me with their naked, glistening bodies from gaping onlookers. In other versions, they come to the shower late at night when everyone else is asleep, and only I’m there to watch them lather and bathe each other, thorough in their efforts to get clean, more thorough in their efforts to relieve the tensions of the day.

 

Our delicious instant replay allows us to rewind, slo-mo, enhance, zoom in on any part of any experience or image that catches their fancy, and then enjoy it a second or even a 50th time around. We can take that experience and totally change it if we choose. We do it all the time; in our heads, we rewrite the ending of an interview that didn’t go so well or an argument with a lover so that we can take back what we wish we hadn’t said. Sometimes we imagine what would have happened next if things had been allowed to unfold to the end, if I had been allowed to linger a little longer in front of the showers. In fact, we can be really neurotic about it, playing the same scenes over and over and obsessing on them, for good or for ill.

 

Writers are especially adept at using this instant replay to inspire, to arouse, to tease out and focus on details we might otherwise have missed, details that might have totally intrigued us the first time around, even details that weren’t really there. Then we write those details into whole new scenarios, sometimes even whole novels.

I know, I know! It’s all a part of memory. Anyone can hit the ole instant replay button at any time and experience the

past all over again. We all do that. But there’s nothing ordinary about the ability to relive our experiences and imagine ourselves in a different life – perhaps even as different people who make a different decision; perhaps the decision to strip off and shower with the German wind-surfers. The creative process of a writer quite often depends on the exploitation of that instant replay button. I can’t think of anything I’ve written that isn’t grounded in some way, no matter how miniscule, in my recalling of an experience, my reimagining of a moment, or my reworking of an image that intrigues me. In a very real sense, we are what we write as we wind back the video in the editing room of our brain and hit replay, then hit slo-mo, then zoom in real nice and tight-like so that we can enhance and recreate every detail to tell a brand new story.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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