Saturday, October 23

Saturday Morning Ramblings

It had to happen sooner or later.  I've hit the 2/3's mark in the story I'm working on and I've hit the dreaded "what next" wall, so here I am blogging instead of writing!

Let's recap the story thus far and see if I can't get my brain around "what next".  The story (which has had four working titles thus far) is an m/m romance set in Victorian London, one year after the Whitechapel murders.  The Ripper case has no direct tie-in, other than as a backdrop, people are still antsy, especially in the Whitechapel area.   Tensions rise when a new body is discovered, her wounds eerily similar to the Ripper case from a year ago.  There are some paranormal aspects, werewolves, demons, ghosts, but honestly, I don't consider it paranormal since the main story doesn't hinge on what the characters can do so much as what they are.

The main players (thus far) are a constable and a werewolf.  It begins with boy meeting boy overt he body of a dead woman, presumed to be a prostitute.  Boy ends up taking boy home for the night... nothing happens other than some heavy duty flirting that both are trying to deny--or at least the werewolf is.  The constable can't explain why he's smitten, but he is.  Both boys are comfortable in their sexuality.

Come morning, the werewolf is gone--not that the constable knows his guest was a werewolf! 

They meet up again a couple of weeks later after the wolf has had the snot beaten out of him by the local werewolf packs--if you thought Victorian attitudes towards homosexuality, you should hear Victorian werewolves talk.  They have no tolerance.  They know about our hero-wolf, he's been out of the wardrobe (that's closet to us Americans) since he was 14...but every once in a while the local pack leader decides to smack him around a little, just to remind him that he's lower than pond scum.  The pack leader has also decided that our hero-wolf has to find out whose cutting up prostitutes, mostly because the pack leader is a jerk and doesn't reckon he can actually find the perp.  When he fails, the pack gets to beat the snot out of him again.  But in the meantime, the constable finds him, beaten and bloody and takes him home.

The wolf finds that his wounds heal unusually fast that night, even for a lycanthrope and remembers something his mother said about how when a wolf lies in the rest of his heart's true home (his mate), all kinds of miraculous things happen.  Not that a wolf could ever have a human for a mate.  Impossible.  And a man?  Never.  Only a male and a female can mate, the Elders said so.  (I did mention in another post that the boys' worst enemies were themselves.)  Meantime the constable is falling head over teakettle in love and he knows it... he just doesn't know how to convince a proud East Ender to move in with him... oh, our constable?  He's wealthy.  No, really, he is stupidly filthy rich, although he tries to downplay it at every turn.  He's also humble, honorable and adorable.  And possibly a tad bit overly trusting for continuing to invite the East End ragamuffin back to his, but the story wouldn't get very far if they didn't make the erm... connection.  Yes, cue the music, sex is on the horizon.  This is an erotic romance, so the sex is pretty fully described. 

But sadly, the wolf bolts again come morning.  After all, this can't be happening, he can't be falling in love with a human, and even if he is, it can't possibly be mutual, humans don't mate for life the way wolves do.  Humans are fickle, difficult, hateful creatures who beat their spouses and children, who cheat in relationships and if he allows himself to fall in love with this human male (not that it's even possible), he'll only end up heartbroken.  (Yeah, boys are dumb sometimes.)

A week passes and the constable finally corners him and convinces him to come back to his "one more time."  The constable is idealistic enough to believe that maybe it's possible to live happily ever after with another man despite the "black mail charter" of 1885--assuming his lover isn't married or otherwise attached (which of course, he isn't).  By this time the wolf is hooked and he knows it... but honestly, if the other guy ever found out what he was, it would be like a scene from Mary Shelly's Frankenstein--villagers and pitchforks.  Humans have no tolerance for "monsters", which is what his lover would call him if he ever found out, so in love or not, it won't work, it can't, it's just not possible.  Nonetheless, the constable convinces him to come back again tomorrow--he's certain that if they just spend more time together, get to know each other, that things can work out.  He's got no idea what he's really asking.

That night a third woman is killed; she's a prostitute known to both men.  Our wolf finds her as she's dying... and a moment alter a couple of constables arrive on the scene.  The wolf is about to tear out of there (literally if necessary) when his lover comes onto the scene (now tell me you didn't see that coming!)   Frozen because he doesn't want his lover to see him for the monster he really is, the wolf is arrested for the murder of the dead woman and in order to save his lover, he does his utmost to convince him that he really killed her (without quite confessing, but he makes a good case of it.)  The constable is understandably heartbroken.  He is also convinced that there is no way the man who made love to him not 12 hours before could possibly have killed the dead woman.  Being a man of wealth and status, he seeks out an old family friend who is also an attorney to take his lover's case--carefully dancing around the fact that they're lovers.

The wolf languishes in prison for a few days, convinced that he's done the right thing in pushing the constable away, but heartbroken because he's finally realized that as impossible as it seems, this human male is his soul mate.  When he gets a visit from the attorney he feels some glimmer of hope... his hope is realized and he's discharged by the magistrate.  (The Victorian legal system included a preliminary 'examination' stage, in which a magistrate heard the case, including witness statements, and the accused could cross examine the witnesses.  Most times attorneys weren't present for these cases, even in capitol cases.  Without an attorney, our wolf wouldn't have gotten discharged).   There is a huge, angry, public outcry when he's discharged--the local wolf pack isn't too pleased either.  What our boys don't know (or the readers for that matter) is that the third murder was a set up.  The wolves killed her in order to set up our hero-wolf (there are plenty of clues that this killing was different, but lacking modern forensics it's not a foregone conclusion.)

The wolf realizes also that it's time to come clean with his lover.  Bracing himself for the worst, he reveals his big secret... only to have the constable love him all the more for the trust he's placed in him by showing him what he really is.  It doesn't hurt that the constable is a rational thinker who doesn't believe in the supernatural... yeah, his world is going to get set on it's ear all right, but that's in the sequel when the couple becomes a triad.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

So now the constable wants to find the killer to help his mate, not only to get the local wolves off his back, but to clear his name in the press as well (because at the moment they're not sure its safe to for him to show his face in the East End again.)  The problem I'm having as a writer is the lack of bloody forensic science!  It is a real challenge to write in an era devoid of Internet databases and mobile/cell phones.   The science of autopsies was in its infancy--many people, even those in law enforcement, found it macabre to cut into dead bodies.  There was very little know about toxicology and even less about gathering, preserving and using evidence to convict a suspect.  As always, I'm enjoying learning things I didn't know before... and let me tell you, I am very grateful to live in the era in which I live.

In Victorian homes, kitchens and sculleries (where all the washing up was done) were usually in basements with little to no ventilation.  In most homes, the maid slept in the kitchen.  Twelve hour work days were common--unless you were a maid, then you could count on a longer day.  Laundry was usually started on Monday, but it could take all week to finish.  Rooms were cleaned and aired on a weekly basis.  Servants ate poorly and were often treated badly by their employers, many of whom feared they would start to get above themselves, a very dangerous condition indeed. The entire fabric of Victorian society would certainly unravel if servants were to consider themselves in any way equal to their employers.

Most homes did have flush lavatories and many had hot and cold running water, at least into one or two rooms (the scullery being one of them), but methods of heating water were inefficient and sometimes dangerous (gas hot water tanks were known to blow up.)  Showers were in their infancy, although still not practical.  Most people--of the middle classes and upwards--bathed once a week or so.  Daily, they sponged off their faces and hands and "personal bits". 

Raw sewage was dumped into the Thames.  Drinking water came from the Thames.  You do the math on that one.  If you got sick, you were almost better off staying at home than going to a hospital.  Surgeons didn't wear rubber gloves as a regular course.  Neither did coroners.  (Gloves did finally come to be a regular part of medical and post mortem procedures in the early 1900's.) 

In 1885, all acts of homosexuality between men were made illegal in Great Britain.  Homosexuality remained a crime until 1967.  In 2005, laws in the UK were passed that allowed for same-sex 'civil unions'--essentially the same thing as a marriage, just under a different name. 

Here in the United States, we're still fighting for equal marriage rights.

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