Category Archives: GQ babble

Valentine’s Day visuals

doubt notI must confess, I think telling someone you love them for the first time on Valentine’s Day is embarrassingly corny–but that’s Henry. He’s sweet and sappy, and he wants to do the same things any young man in love would do. He wants his love to receive the same consideration as a “normal” person’s.

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Hetaeria and wedding customs

handfasting 2
There is a serious dearth of good handfasting pictures out there

Henry is fortunate enough to be invited to attend a slave party and wedding in early February 1901. Now, I must say, my husband (who knows everything about Henry and Martin despite never reading a word I’ve written) was incensed when I told him Henry was going to a slave party. He was adamant that the slaves deserved something of their own, separate from masters, and I don’t actually think he’s wrong, but the fact is that Henry wanted to go and Martin wanted him there, so he went. I do think it was very unusual for Henry to be there, but it’s well-established that Henry does a lot of unusual things.

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visual aids: talismans & waistcoats

H & M talismansIn case you hadn’t noticed, as above, in either in the right-hand column (if you’re on a computer) or at the very bottom (if you’re on your phone), I’ve uploaded a graphic of the protection stones Henry and Martin give one another. Henry gave his to Martin at the end of A Proper Lover (GQ Book 2), and Martin gives his to Henry near the beginning of A Willful Romantic (GQ Book 3). Ulvar did a perfect job rendering them for me, and I’m so grateful for her talent and her patience in dealing with my requests.

Near the beginning of AWR, Henry and Martin go shopping for waistcoats at Hamilton & Sons and Henry persuades Martin to wear something a bit fancier than plain black. Unfortunately, it’s too subtle to be seen on the book cover in most formats, I think, but Martin’s waistcoat does indeed have chrysanthemums and stripes, as you can see here :)

Henry’s choice is so very, very LOUD, but I would have had it even louder if I could. However, the only way I could think of to achieve that end would be to animate it (fireworks? glitter?), and we can’t do that with book covers (yet).


Ice skating on the Lake in Central Park

Near the beginning of A Willful Romantic (GQ Book 3), Henry and Martin go ice skating on the Lake in Central Park with their friends. This clip from 1902 is a good example of what I was picturing when I wrote the scene.

There was a signal to let people know the ice was ready for skating in Central Park: a red ball raised from the bell tower. Was it on a stick? Did it levitate? I haven’t a clue. For skating in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, they would fly a white flag with a red ball/circle from the streetcars to alert the public, so this red ball thing is pretty consistent. I have to say, the red ball=ice connection isn’t really an obvious one to me.

I have Henry and his friend Freddie Caldwell (and Martin and Tom, of course) go downtown to buy skates for the slaves, and what I had in mind was Modell’s, a sporting goods store that’s been around since 1889, with a store in Lower Manhattan dating from that time. I don’t know for a fact that they carried ice skates, but there’s no reason to think they didn’t.

(I was pretty good at rollerskating, but I’ve never gotten the hang of ice skating, and I have no idea what the difference might be.)

common themes

(my idea of a hot ginger is on the scrawny side)
(my idea of a hot ginger is maybe a little on the skinny side)

So, in addition to the series I’m currently putting out, I’ve got all these notes and fits and starts of future stories, and I can’t help but notice that certain things come up again and again.

  • Tall, dark and handsome.
  • Hot gingers.
  • Severe Nordic blonds.
  • Twins.
  • New York City.
  • Cross-dressing.
  • People who are perhaps a little neurotic.
  • Elaborate world-building.

The GQ books do indeed include all these elements by the end of Book 4.

It’s not as if these common themes are a surprise to me, of course. I’m well aware of my obsessions. These elements don’t all show up in every single story, and my expanded casts have a wider variety of hair and skin colors, but the above tend to be the features of the stories I tell myself.

The Mr. has a fantastic idea for a contemporary paranormal story that would require writing burly, macho dudes doing stereotypically male things, and it would probably sell really well, and I might end up writing it after all, but right now it seems so far out of my wheelhouse. I keep wondering where would I put the flamboyant people and the descriptions of outfits?

If you write, what do you know to be your common threads? If you’re a reader, what details or themes make you want pick up a new book?

Martin, Martin, Martin

art of being a slave diogenes
It’s fitting, but somehow I don’t think Diogenes had a Martin situation in mind when he said this.

Awhile back, I posted a poll that a few people were kind enough to respond to (feel free to click a button there if you haven’t done so yet), and I am not at all surprised to discover that Martin is generally the favorite between the main characters. Many people did not wish to be forced to choose between Henry and Martin, which is understandable. Poor Henry alone is much less popular than his beloved. Which is also understandable ;)

Anyway, I’m in the midst of working on the Martin story that will accompany Book 3/A Willful Romantic, so my brain is full of Martin and Ganymede and slaves.  I know there are a number of people interested in Martin’s back story and training, and some particularly significant parts of that will be covered in this piece. As I’ve said before, I really like doing the Martin stories. I can’t promise I’ll write it, but if there are any specific aspects of the GQ world readers might like to know about from Martin’s point of view, please do feel free to tell me what you’re interested in.

As for the poll, Henry and Martin are both my babies, so I guess I’d have to be in the “don’t make me choose” camp. I think they’re both ridiculous, really, but  I have an affinity for Martin, although Henry certainly endears himself to me through his foolishness. I have things in common with both of them (Henry’s social anxieties, Martin’s work ethic), but I actually think Henry’s cousin Jesse is most like me, albeit a better version, friendlier and less cynical.

So: Be on the lookout for books in the near-ish future. I’m still aiming for mid-March.

scratch and sniff

vetiverroseI’ve always been interested in scent, but I’ve been pretty obsessive about how things smell over the course of working on the GQ series. It is mentioned many times in the GQ books that Martin smells of vetiver. I have a bottle of it on my desk and I periodically dump some out onto a cotton ball so I can write while smelling what Henry loves to smell. Arid, woody, sensual rustling grasses. I go through phases of being obsessed with the need to smell it and then being content to smell other things. Right now I’m into frankincense and  champaca flower.

I don’t ever say what Henry smells like, but he’s definitely not odorless. I became obsessed with rose scents about a year ago and auditioned dozens of fragrances. Yay for decant shops! I thought I was trying them for myself, but over time it became apparent that these were something Henry wanted–along with all the bouquets I bought (there is a very dead one in a vase on my desk as I type). Like many flower perfumes, rose was definitely a men’s scent in 1900. You may have noticed that flowers have been returning to contemporary men’s fragrances over the last few years, as well.

I read a description of a Penhaligon men’s fragrance from the era (Hammam Bouquet) that read exactly how I wanted Henry’s Uncle Reggie to smell. I ordered a sample of it and was practically vibrating with excitement waiting for it to arrive. Of course, nothing could have been as good as I anticipated, but it was very disappointing to have it end up smelling like especially soapy soap. Whatever. I have the correct smell in my head, and eventually I’ll find the cologne that goes with it.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I’m writing a modern story with H&M, and in fact I do  have their colognes picked out, though I’m not sure I’ll ever refer to them by name in the book. But for the record, modern Martin wears Chanel Sycomore and modern Henry probably wears L’Artisan Voleur de Roses. Vetiver-heavy Sycomore is supposedly a women’s fragrance, but I’ve tried my sample on both the Mr. and myself and I prefer it on him. Voleur de Roses is unisex, heavy on the patchouli and faint on the rose, and I liked it enough to buy a big bottle. The Mr. and I take turns wearing it when we go out, though I usually augment mine with an additional blast of Sonoma Scent Studio Velvet Rose.

If you’re not familiar with decants, they’re samples decanted from full bottles of perfume, as opposed to the limited range of available manufacturers’ samples. Additionally, decant shops often sell samples of vintage perfumes that are no longer available otherwise. I’ve bought samples from the following:

The Perfumed Court
Decant Shop
Surrender to Chance

With decants, it’s sometimes a lot to pay for a little sample vial of cologne, but since some of the things I’ve bought decants of cost ~$300 a bottle, it’s definitely worth spending $5 to see if I like them at all.

I wish there was some way to share scent electronically. I would LOVE to offer an olfactory extra for the series.

omnibuses and artistic license

5th Avenue Stage
Fifth Avenue Coach circa 1900 (

The masters and slaves in the GQ books do a lot of traveling by omnibus. The masters sit and the slaves stand in the aisle beside their seats. Historical omnibuses, whether horse-drawn or electric, would not have allowed for standing, or even aisles. Looking at pictures, there’s something of the clown car about them, absolutely crammed full of passengers.

1898 electric 5th
Fifth Avenue Coach electric omnibus 1898 (

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