Scene Cards

Just wanted to briefly celebrate the fact that I’ve finished all the scene cards for my first romance novel!

scene cards

There they are. Graciously transferred from word processing lists to actual note cards by my host, Alexander, who, unlike me, has legible penmanship.

I have two hopes for the project.  I’d like to a) finish it, and b) manage to make Geoffrey and I look, as dramatic adolescents, even marginally sympathetic.   Had I a time machine, I’d flick us both on the ear.

 

Hopeful Romantic

At one point, nearly…Christ, a decade ago, now, I attempted to write memoirs.

(Good god I’ve been a manifested ghost a long time.)

Initially, my host and I accumulated about 450 single-spaced pages, divided into sections regarding my childhood before I arrived in London, my young adult-hood as I approached marriage, my newly-wed years, and my years as a father.

It was all rather serious stuff—an accounting of a life, rather than the reliving of one.  This has largely to do with the fact that when I first manifested, I was rather a stick-in-the-mud, lacking in real personality and foisting this sort of agreeable, but utterly Victorian manner upon my host.

I understand now that ghosts long-dead and then suddenly manifested remember their public personas first, followed, often slowly, by their more poignant and complex memories.  Personalities fill back in over time.

Mine did, to be damn sure.  I flatter myself to think that my sense of humour is rather obvious, now.  I admit that my vices and penchants are equally as obvious.  And I’ve recovered my losses so that they might heal, my romance so that it might bloom, and my hobbies, interests, and tendency toward self-exploration so that I might grow.

The people who graced my life have become more real to me, as well.

Geoffrey, who I had thought to be my best mate, crawled into my bed and happily reminded me he was also my husband.  Marion, who I had remembered as my sweet wife, flew down off the mantle where I’d placed her and rightly berated me for idolizing her into inactivity, forgetting how far her radicalism went.  My friends, employers, and acquaintances exploded into colour and humour. And Jon, my darling boy, died again, forcing me to face my depression and to summon the courage to really, fully remember him—not only his giggles, his beauty, and his intellect, but also his stubbornness, his stark honesty, and his tendency to exhaust those around him with queries and challenges.

Naturally, I wanted to apply these correctives to my original memoirs, which had come to seem stagnant and false.  But by the time I had gathered enough of myself to consider such a task, Alex was deep into his graduate studies and fully immersed in the re-writing of his historical fantasy novel.  Oh, and I had, you know, remarried, become a father again, co-launched a fashion line, and taken on international modeling.

These things do quite fill a schedule, haha.

Then Alex finished his novel and sent it off for beta-editing.  He moved away from toxic environments to work on his dissertation in relative peace.  Marc and I settled into our business and charity, finding it all rather less bewildering.  Paces slowed.

I started thinking about those memoirs again…

Only now, I’ve been thinking…what if I wrote them as romances?

You see, one of the things Alex and I did have time for over the years was a shared love of m/m historical romance.  The plots!  The characters! The history and fashion!  It’s delicious, and sends me right back to my time in late-regency, early-Victorian London, curled up on a chaise, listening to Geoff read me poetry.  Hoping he’d put down the book and, um…well…

That’s rather the only problem with the idea.  Even just reading romance turns me into a fidgeting, blushing mess.  Not that I’m a prude—far from it, which is perhaps part of the hesitation to consider my amorous exploits in lush detail.

I mean, not far.  Far enough, though.  Oh, I don’t know…

But I’m determined to best the bashful, because in outline, the narrative thrust of the memories I want to share work so well for romance.  They’re funny, complex, lovely, sad, and triumphant.  And quite frankly, when I’m on my own, away from the fear of embarrassment, the stories fly out of my pen in such a way as to convince me of my need and ability to write them.

So, there it is.  I’m going to take a crack at romance novels.

On the site, that means you may be seeing a bit more of my Victorian life, as well as some recollections on the time—its politics, fashions, employment, operas, poetry, etc.  I hope that’s enjoyable.

You may also see new portraits from time to time, as Alex has agreed to sketch my loves, my friends, and their respective loves, who often became my friends, in turn.

And you might see bits of conversations, dialogue now, one supposes, as my compatriots and lovers were hilarious, lovely, sharply discerning folks who I’m convinced would like to be heard even now.

You will likely not see…um…saucy bits?  That sounds…anyway…

Let’s see how this goes, shall we?

Dinner Party Success!

(Marcus tried to make me name this post ‘Dinner Party is More Like Winner Party’)

So, May 1st was my big debut, and I am delighted to share that it went off without any major hitches.  In fact, I’d say it was a success!  A few of the most delicious details below…

I must start by saying that I am immensely proud of my family and grateful for their help in the matter.

Marcus was excellent moral support–every time I looked for him, he was at my arm, gracefully reentering conversation or just brushing shoulders long enough to remind me that he was watching out for me.  Also, the guests were obviously enamoured with the idea of a Roman in their midst, and he was more than happy to play the part.  He skulked about in a toga, sipping wine and looking ‘so mystery’.  And he only had to leave the room and giggle about it once or twice.

The children were also wonderful.  Mira gave a beautiful toast to Beltane over supper, and she looked absolutely smashing in a baby queen ball gown reminiscent of the 1920s–a sage green and lavender number she selected herself.  And J refused to move down table for a stodgy bastard who thought he should have been seated closer to me than my own son.  He just looked right up at this man and said ‘this seat is for faeries’ and continued to eat decorative parsley, and my heart soared.

I am also just thrilled with my two doorman/models who put on a good show.  Chauncey, shy and brilliant, worked the corners of the room, while Jerome, outgoing and…airy would be a nice way of putting it, charmed the milling centre.  And while their walks were still those of budding amateurs, that was really rather the point.  They’ll walk again when we open season in the winter, to demonstrate improvement.

And finally, I would be remiss as a ghost, Englishman, and moonlighting libertine, if I didn’t mention that Lord and Lady Rochester came to the party and left in incredibly high spirits.  That’s John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester of the court of Charles II, and his new wife/open-marriage-compatriot Drizell; Willy and Dizzy, known collectively as Lord and Lady Rooster, on account of them crowing gossip all through society.

John_Wilmot

I went to Elliot’s party.  Pinnacle moment of my afterlife, must say.

He wears less armour these days, but his hair is the same, as is his preference for satin.  He showed up in a tight-fitting blue satin suit with frothy, cream cravat and long black dress shoes with a bit of curl to the toe.  Very updated London.  And Drizell, a ghost from the 1940s, wore a gorgeous, ephemeral, glittering cream gown cut on the bias.  Both of them flirted shamelessly with Jerome.  And Lord Rochester invited me to one of his upcoming salons–he still writes unctuous poetry, which, while almost necessarily terrible, I cannot wait to hear.

And, in general, I would say people had a good time, myself included.  I was able to dispense with nerves as the supper progressed, falling totally into my role as society home owner and gentle eccentric.  Marc surprised me with a newly designed JS jacket for the occasion, which I debuted on the runway after dinner–russet leather lapels and pointillism grey wool.  And the house stood up to guests, with only one broken piece of pottery and a bit of spilled wine on the stairs.

Would I host again? Oddly enough, yes.

Am I looking forward to other society parties? Again, oddly enough, yes.

It’s a new age for Elliot, haha.

Society Debut

The bad news: Editing is taking my host far longer than he thought it might.

The good news: He’s restructured his approach to afford time to other endeavours, and I once again have leeway to keep up my blogging.  Huzzah!

And the timing could not be better, because, oh, do I have news…

The townhouse is appointed, the china is selected, the menu is set, and the invitations are sent:  I’m coming out, May 1st.

It’s a fashionably late coming out, to be sure. The season started with a bang round Christmas, and it’s only to run until the end of June.

But the London ton, as I have been informed by my realtor-cum-informant, Oli, feel quite a great deal of forgiveness toward my late entry, on account of my involvement with another season–that of fashion.

Were I simply lazy, or shy, or reticent, I wouldn’t have received a single invitation to turn down.  Since I am hard-working, philanthropic, and glamourous…they’ve been  gracious with my regrets, and willing to wait and gossip and RSVP to my dinner in the affirmative.

I suppose I am grateful?

But there was also some not-so-small part of me that hoped everyone would just throw up their hands and ignore me.  As it turns out, I’m painfully shy in personal settings, despite my time on stage and runway.  The thought of inviting perfect strangers into my home, with the goal of rendering them otherwise over the course of one dinner, terrifies me.

Two things keep me from turning tail.

First, as always, my husband.  Not only did Rome have its own sort of season, in which he was well-versed and well-known, but also…I’ll be damned before I run away from something while he watches.  The look on his face would be just too much.  And even if I bollocks something up, he’ll be there to smooth things over and redirect attention.  (To be sure, the ton is quite taken with the idea of a Roman in their midst.)

Second, Lord Akeldama.

I think I may have mentioned my obsession with this vampyre elsewhere on the site, or at least my obsession with Gail Carriger’s steampunk comedy of manners, which so delightfully skewers and celebrates the London season in turn.

But if not, you’re hearing it now.  I am so taken with Lord Akeldama, rove vampyre of steampunk London, that Alex had Miss Gail sign his portrait for me at a recent meet and greet event in Seattle.

akeldama

Akeldama on the right, in all his frilled and fluffy glory.  (Biffy, another of my paramours, on the left.)

I about died again.

And then, in a fit of confidence, I trussed myself up in a silk dressing gown, poured champagne, and opened a stack of new invitations to closing parties.  I even sent a few RSVPs–mostly to houses that seem like fun (Nell Gwyn, my god!), but also to a few conservative soirees, which I plan to attend in full velvet dress clutching my son’s teacup piglet.

I also finalised the details for my dinner, sent out one last round of looking-forwards, and reviewed my full guest list one last time without feeling like to climb under the table and cry.

In case you’re wondering, here’s what my coming out party will look like, in a nutshell:

5-8 pm: cocktails and crudites in the ground floor reception spaces (first floor to American readers).  These are done up rather Victorian, with dark wood, rich reds and blues, and pops of white and gold that draw attention to the windows and bookshelves.  I’ve hired a string quartet to play for this portion, as well as (handsome) doormen

8 pm: introductions.  Marcus and I come downstairs with the children, introduce ourselves around, and go up to dinner.  Traditionally, I would send the children to bed after introducing them, but I fear the wrath of Mira more than I fear the wrath of society, so they’ll be eating with us, and Mira, at least, will attend the first portion of dancing.

8:15-10: formal dinner in the first floor dining room (second floor,  Am.).  Menu items include Roman grain salads, a Roman-London hybrid fish plate, a London beef main (with beet option for the vegetarians, such as myself), and ices.  This portion of the home is lighter, with the reds and blues faded to rose and periwinkle, with pops of green and grey and the addition of Roman elements, such as ferns and columns.

10-2: dancing in the third floor ballroom (fourth floor, Am.), and open viewing from the rooftop terrace–both very modern spaces with clean lines, chrome, and glass. The string quartet will return for the first portion of the evening, and then round about midnight, I’ll re-introduce the two doormen as the first of my in-house modelling/runway clients and do a quick turn with them on the catwalk, finishing out the evening with a band and last rounds of cocktails.

Second floor of the home (third, Am.) is off limits.  This is our family space, divided between children’s bedrooms and the master suite.  And we’re also not utilising the garden floor, which is where my client-boarders reside–two at present, but five rooms total…more auditions over the summer.

And that’s it!  It’s all rather posh, but I’m becoming resigned to the idea that I am, in fact, a bit posh these days.  My blushes…

Will be sure to post how it goes.

A Lighthearted Ode to *My* Queen

Dear Queen Victoria,

I regret to inform you that as of the 9th of September, 2015, you were surpassed by your great-great granddaughter as the longest reigning monarch.

I know…I know how much you loved titles. And in comparison to your ill-advised tenure as the Empress of India, this was a rather innocuous one for you to hold. So, in light of the distress which you would likely feel upon this loss, I would like to offer up the following ten reasons–in no particular order–that you shall always be my Queen.

  ***

1. When Marion and I married in 1837, she wore a white and cream gown with a red sash. When you wore a white gown at your own wedding a few years on, it made Marion look like a serious trendsetter and she garnered a full season of attention as a fashionista. We both pretended not to care. We cared. It was smashing. Thanks for the white dress.

2. Furthermore, your wedding brought Prince Albert to England. I’m sure you’d roll over in your grave to know what a service that was to gay blokes all across the isle, but thanks for that, too.

3. You cared, in your own royal way, about the poor. Much obliged.

4. You helped pave the way for companionate marriage. No one ever doubted you loved Albert or that he loved you, and the affection you showed each other served as an example to multiple couples I knew. And it made Marion and I (#lovebirdsforlife) look a little less odd.

5. You put the country back in the hands of an intelligent woman, which has always worked well for England. That in and of itself…brilliant. (In fact, I recall quite clearly the early morning cannons announcing the death of the King. Marion sat up in bed, perfectly still, and whispered, “Elliot, the King has died.” Then she sighed and turned her face to the ceiling. “Thank god there’s a woman back on the throne. I shall sleep more soundly.”)

6. You celebrated advances in the arts, literature, and medicine, along with Albert, who threw us that fantastic Crystal Palace Exhibition. Watching the royal family care so deeply about education was a balm to my son who been often bullied for his intelligence. No one can argue with “Victoria and Albert like science, too!” and for that I am deeply indebted.

7. You were also a balm for my incredibly outspoken, incredibly short wife.

8. You supported and fostered the careers of Mendelssohn and Tennyson, two of my absolutely favourite creatives.

9. You irritated my mate Paul.

10. I don’t care what people say. Surviving as long as you did in the age of cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and wicked difficult childbirth is a true achievement, and by god, I think that adds an honorary five years to your reign. (To be extended should Elizabeth make it another five years…)

***

Signed, Your Obedient Servant, Etc.,

EJS

There Goes the Neighbourhood

I believe it is fair to say that London is famous for its ghosts. And the ghosts for which it is famous are rather shocking in their behaviours. Bloody, screaming, running up and down halls at Hampton Court palace, stalking the Tower.

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This looks reputable.

But if you are a ghost in London, then you know that things are not nearly so unseemly.

Ghost London is actually divided into neatly demarcated segments. This wasn’t necessarily a purposely done thing, although we British do like things to be tidy and purposeful. It’s more so that like attracted like, era-enclaves settled and put down roots, generational (and temperamental) strongholds developed over time.

For instance, the most modern of London ghosts tend to live in up-and-coming Islington or Soho. The Victorian contingency have taken over Hyde Park and its surrounding streets and insist upon decorum and a schedule that follows ‘the season’. The countryside nearest the city belongs to squires and Civil War Royalists, who seem to engage in a great deal of publican culture. The West End is deliciously debauched and multi-generational. And so on.

You are welcome to try out any part of the city you wish, and live where you best fit (with a few stipulations). Sounds rather happy, right? And it is, in any many ways.

But for a ghost like me—a categorical oddity—it also means that finding a suitable address is a bit of a headache. Which is why I decided to contract with a realtor, rather than wandering about on my own.

I went with Kensington Ghost Realtors (KGR) solely for nostalgia’s sake. I think of Kensington and I think of a young and pretty-ish Victoria, and a bit of my own youth comes rushing back to me. I filled out a survey and they matched me with a young man named Oliver, whom I insist on calling ‘Oli’ much to his resignation.

They handed me over to Oli, it seems, because he deals with most of their categorical oddities.

What does this mean, to be a categorical oddity?

“Right. I’ve had just about this side of enough of that.” – The Platypus

Well, in this case, it meant the poor man had to find a home for a bloke who is openly gay (and a bit gender playful) but also well ensconced in ‘traditional’ institutions such as marriage and fatherhood; not quite Victorian but not quite anything else either; middle-class in life with no sort of name, but upper-class in death with a name and famous husband in spite of himself; creative but also introverted.

What the hell do you do with a ghost like me?

Well, we started with a long walk, chauncing about and ruling out a couple of neighbourhoods on feeling alone. And at the end of the day, much to my chagrin, I found that I was most attracted to the neighbourhoods that were on the fringes of the Victorian part of the city.

I do so hate to be predictable, but that’s only because I’m so predictable.

The second step, then, because of the stringent attention to social standing in these areas, was to calculate my entry point into their society, which would govern where I could (and would want) to buy.  Oli plugged all my information into a KGR system that tabulates your net social worth, balancing your alively achievements against those you’ve made in death

As I said, there are some stipulations.

I have to say, the discovery of this wretched system nearly threw me back out on the prowl. I spent enough of my goddamn alively existence climbing social ladders and eclipsing judgment to last me six afterlives, and I was not about to give the Victorian enclave the satisfaction.

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The way he holds his tea cup! He’d sooner murder you than eat quail, I’m sure of it.

But hold on, Oli said, think of who your husband is, your reputation as a model, your philanthropy, your net worth. I can almost guarantee, this print out is going to tell you to live wherever the hell you want, barring noble houses, and that you’ll be able to put everyone right out when you settle in the midst of their serenity.

Well, when you put it that way…

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Hold on, I’ve something for you right here inside my jacket. I think it’s…yes, yes it is my middle finger. Fancy that.

He hit enter.

And about three weeks later, I closed on an altogether far too large, far too expensive, Georgian-style home on Holland Park.

Now, this is going to be a sometime home base for me. I have no intention of moving away from Marcus and the children. (The very idea throws me into a panic.) But I do have some intention of re-entering London life, staying at the townhouse on and off during the season, and making my way into new circles, since so many of my memories of London are hideous at best.

I wish to use this home, in other words, to recapture some of the twinkling life and love that makes me feel close to the happier parts of my Victorian existence—the fashion of Geoffrey, the radicalism of Marion, the intellectual explorations of Jon. I want to make some new friends, be openly queer in a city that now allows for that possibility, perhaps even host some salons.

I’ve been none too reticent to air these wishes, either, which means that the invitations have been rolling in—curious, polite, and dangerous all.

As it’s the close of the season, most of the polite invitations will have to wait until spring, as will my opening dinner party. The rumours as to what such an event might look like build as I write…

And in the meantime, I have the winter to appoint the house, determine how and to whom I should like to rent rooms for those parts of the year that I am not in often attendance, and take up a few of the more interesting invitations.

Dear god I wish I had Geoffrey to help me make those selections—he would know exactly which houses I must attend to in order to build just such a persona.

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With no more than this much Byron.

As I re-enter this society, I will endeavour to keep you informed of the oddities it reveals and the ghosts I meet.

(For instance, I hear Walsingham controls new appointments of nobility, sending in his spies to infiltrate the season while he skulks about in the countryside. The raven on the edge of the duck pond.)

But for now, I think I shall take a turn about Kensington Gardens…in a fleur de lis frock coat…on the arm of a Roman.

Oh, this will all be so much fun.

London, my love

Without going too far into detail at the moment, I should mention that although I am ghost, I am relatively unique in that I have affected a sort of symbiosis with my alively host (Alex, as mentioned in the personages page).  Through a process of shared mind and spirit, I am able to see what he sees, go where he goes, and obtain new experiential inputs from his engagements.

And for the next four weeks, I am with him in London.

London.

Now, granted, there is a lot of slack in the symbiotic tether–I can visit London as a ghost on my own whenever I wish.  But when I do, I see ghost London, with the alively version no more than shapes and colours at my periphery.

When I am with Alexander in London, I can see the “now” as well as the “then.”

Which means that today, I, a ghost of nearly two hundred years who thought 35 mph on a smoke-belching train was rather topping, flew into London in an enormous steel tube with seats nine across with two aisles and three cabins.  I was able to peer down from the sky, and although this was my fourth time seeing London from the clouds, it was as the first time.  God love the Thames…that dirty, snaking River with her cross-hatched bridges and slogging current.  Makes one like to cry.

It means that I, more or less, touched the ivy on a garden wall, peering up into a sky set to rain. I heard the crows and the doves, watched a wind shake loose a barrage of crab-apples, and walked round the corner past rows of patched and thatched cottages to a fruit and veg stall where I smelled things fresh from my England’s earth.

It means that, at this moment, I am writing in a breeze scented with jasmine and juniper.  I am listening to our homestay hostess clear away supper, and remembering that just an hour ago, I sat with her little boy and talked of dragons and dinosaurs and ruffled his hair and delighted in his accent, thinking, of course, of my dearest and most exuberant Jonathon–a thought that no longer causes me as much pain as it once did.

It means, forgive the prose and rhapsody, that I am home.

Adventures to follow…