New – Free on Kindle until midnight Wednesday 28 Oct, PST

3D WritingPublishing

Writing & Publishing For Yourself: The Indie Author Handbook, Self-Publishing Toolkit, and Staying Sane Survival Guide – or ‘The Adventures of an I.T. Helpdesk’ by Lisa Scullard (non-fiction/humour)

FREE on Kindle for a limited time (regular price $2.99 or equivalent) – Write a decent book, Tweet a few times, accept any spontaneous reviews graciously, and keep all of your friends…

Hi folks! Seeing as I didn’t know what I’d really done to earn recognition as a top blogger on here, a while ago I went through all of my posts on Writing and Publishing and compiled a list (see my Tutorials pages). Following that, and reading them through, I realised I had a whole lot more to add – to update – and articles elsewhere that were relevant. As well as journal entries of everything I’ve learned on the indie author rollercoaster.

I’ve now`organised them, fully-revised and updated, into this eBook above – containing my earliest advice on writing (reviewing the 27th Brussels International Film Festival, in 2000) to the latest. The eBook was was published yesterday, and I’ve just finished the final tweaks after uploading.

Here’s the blurb:

This isn’t a ‘How to sell a million copies’ or ‘How to be a New York Times bestseller’ guru session. This is not for seasoned ‘Authorpreneurs’ looking for new promotion and sales tactics. It is NOT a tried-and-tested formula for writing a blockbuster novel. And it will not tell you how to become a billionaire through exploiting your hidden USP (Unique Selling Point).

Neither is it a Zen lifestyle guide, telling you that it is simply a case of convincing the world (and yourself) that you are the world’s top author, and you will be showered with money, Nobel prizes, Oscars, Specsavers Daggers, retail sponsorship, street-value turnips, or whatever else takes your fancy.

None of the above. It’s a journal of the everyday life of a modern, under-the-radar indie author since the global self-publishing trend started, and a few confessions of advising others while being a Useful Technical Person to Have Around…

It is also a book for beginners, giving tutorials and case studies – on the subjects of inspiration, motivation, genre, legal hurdles, research, editing, and identifying your ideal market audience – along with the rocket science of formatting your documents, embedding illustrations, creating and linking to external content (such as audio and video), uploading them, and some gentle cautionary advice on publishing issues and promotions.

There will be laughs. There will be tears. There will be revealing examples made (and for readers with browser-enabled tablets or PC/phone reading apps, links to working samples of multimedia content).

Above all, it’s designed to save you time, hassle (and ultimately, save you money) when joining the indie author phenomenon.

Lisa Scullard went online one day in 2014 to find she was suddenly (and without warning) a WordPress-promoted top blogger in Reader on the subject of ‘Writing & Blogging’ – and promptly understood the full meaning of the phrase: “With great power comes great responsibility.” This subsequent book is an organised compilation of relevant blog posts, tutorials, articles, experimental book trailers and journal entries made over the years, covering the topics of writing, researching, editing, publishing and promotion. It has been an undertaking of mass rewrites, edits, revisions, expositions and updates, and some keyboard-crunching efforts at formatting, in order to justify such an unprecedented amount of recognition.

…And it’s FREE until midnight PST, Wednesday 28th October 2015, on Kindle worldwide. Grab it while you can.

Amazon.comAmazon.co.ukAmazon.deAmazon.frAmazon.esAmazon.itAmazon.nlAmazon.co.jpAmazon.inAmazon.caAmazon.com.brAmazon.com.mxAmazon.com.au

It’s already available in print on Lulu directly (postage £2.99 basic shipping) and should appear on Amazon in paperback form over the next few days.

Last updated: 14 November, 01.30 GMT – The latest updated version is now live. If you’ve downloaded your copy already, make sure it’s automatically synched to the newest version. You can use the Kindle Customer Services ‘Contact Us’ by chat/email method to request it to be re-delivered free to your app/tablet if it doesn’t update automatically from your reader settings. You’re always entitled to request the newest revision of an ebook for free, even after a paid purchase.

One of my supporting examples of fiction is also available FREE on Kindle for the same time period, for reference – Death & The City: Cut to the Chase Edition. (Also worldwide).

3D DATC CTTC cover

I hope you all have a great weekend, and for those of you off school and college, enjoy half-term break (and happy forthcoming Halloween) 🙂

L xxx

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The Voodoo Viewpoint: Is new media stealing our souls and memories?

Halloween bookshelf

I haven’t blogged for a while, having had new things to deal with through the summer and autumn along with writing, and waiting for other things to be resolved – everyday life has got in the way, and all of it worthy of my time – so I can honestly say I don’t feel I’ve missed anything by not procrastinating online too much.

This post has been on my mind for a while over the past year, and I’ve turning it over further in my mind since a topic came up on Facebook regarding the well-roasted old chestnut of ebook vs. print books, and what might supplant them in the future. When I made my comment, I didn’t realise how much of an observation it really was. But the thought of it keeps returning to me, so I’ll attempt to dissect it further now. (I’ve used ‘Voodoo’ in the title as I was originally going to post it as Voodoo Spice first – but there is another relevance to the reference).

My comment on the post was:

I think real books will stick around for another reason – the same reason as real music disc collections, and real movie DVDs, and real photo albums. The death of these things will mean the end of being able to remember lost loved ones. Imagine going into an elderly relative’s last residence, and instead of shelves full of their favourite media that you can pick up and read and smell, and admire, all that’s there is a computer tablet full of password-protected cloud-storage erotica. Supposing they’re survived by 20+ family members all wanting a memento? Will they have to take turns hacking into his or her tablet to read their, erm, favourites???

It’s not only the issue of having physical objects with which to remember a loved one, though. When you first make a new friend, visit their home for the first time, you see immediately by their books, music, film collections, and photographs what you have in common. Without those, it takes far longer to define. How do you learn about a person who wears nothing on their sleeve in real life? Are they hiding something about their personality, their cultural and entertainment tastes, behind password-protected anonymous digital storage products? How much of their social media persona is genuine – do they really like Top Gear, or do they just ‘Like’ it on Facebook? How long does it take to make early judgements of compatibility when all you see in their home is the faceless packaging and housing of technology? Is this creating the hacking, snooping, prying, suspicious culture that troubles present-day relationships?

Are we sacrificing our personalities, our ability to connect with one another in real life without the social media screens, in favour of electronic packaging?

Back to the subject of bereavement and memories, there is another agenda surfacing to consider.

Electronic media itself has no re-sale value. The tablets and electronic devices can be re-sold, but they lose value in the very short term. Unlike physical books, vinyls, cassettes, picture frames, CDs, and DVDs – when you buy anything in digital format, to watch, read or listen to, its solvency value is zero. So even if your descendants, friends and family don’t want to share the digital tablet and know your passwords to enjoy your *ahem* favourites, they can only sell the tablet itself. Even if you have bought 70,000 books, movies, and songs in your lifetime, they do not add up to £70,000 worth of house clearance on ebay to divide among the mourners. They add up to zero.

They money you spend on electronic books and media to fill your device has gone for good. You cannot donate the products to an Oxfam bookshop after you have enjoyed them in order for others to benefit. You cannot have a yard sale or a car boot fair stand of portable entertainment to fund a party, or to pay a few bills. You have not invested your money in anything physically reminiscent that can be enjoyed as part of the soul of a lost loved one, or liquidated as an asset in the future.

The money has gone for good, into the great black hole of the business that also sold you the device to enjoy it on, or to store in some online cloud.

So in the future, without personal possessions for family and friends to remember us by – not even the chance to flick through the same books and photo albums we held, and no idea how to access our family photographs and music – and more and more social lives being conducted online – how will anyone remember their grandparents and great-grandparents beyond faces on a screen?

Will the youngest family members have the sense of identity and individual heritage that children before the digital age grew up with?

Will old people just die and disappear, leaving nothing behind but an online account full of media they spent thousands on, which is worth precisely nothing to their descendants even if they have the ability to access it? Will their living memories and personalities evaporate the second you tap on ‘Confirm shut down/log off device’?

Will folk start leaving clauses on their departure, that no-one is to hack into the tablet at all to avoid finding out how much porn and erotica they downloaded to keep them warm in their old age?

Never mind what to do with Granny, the last Will and Testament says we have to burn her Kindle first… aptly named device, if ever there was one. I see a new business opportunity looming – the “Kindle Crematorium” where dirty old reading habits go after you die…

It’s a mystery that leaves me very curious. I already find houses without books, music, photograph or film collections very odd – rather like pictures of home interiors in advertising, with no identity of the occupants visible. Sterile, like a showroom to sell a product or furniture lifestyle – not a working, living home. And if that is what remains in the future, when individuals die, what is left to know of them? An indentation in the sofa, perhaps – where they sat while playing Candy Crush Saga online?

So never mind that a computer tablet doesn’t provide the same decorative impact as a bookshelf, or provide the same soundproofing from your neighbours. Never mind that it’s a good way of hiding your reading habits, and a bad way of storing your nekkid selfies. It’s also a good way of spending your children’s inheritance – permanently. Throwing your small change onto the Kindle Fire (literally), never, ever to return as second-hand small change, ever again. Quite possibly thrown away along with the material potential for any of your descendants to remember you for more than one surviving generation…

Happy Halloween! 🙂 xxx

If you want to learn to how to format a print-on-demand book, publish and distribute for free, click here for my tutorial. You can also learn how to format ebooks and multimedia booksIf those still light your candle 😉 x

M*A*S*H*E*D: A Zombie Parody

Nirvana vs. Dead or Alive – Spins Like Teen Spirit mash-up…

“Justin Time!” a voice hails, and then, rather predictably I feel: “Traitor!”

“Who have you upset now, Justin?” I ask, struggling to my feet, brushing sand and alien squid-goo from my clothing.

“Bah, it is only my cousin,” Justin grumbles. “Everyone, meet Seymour Time. Seymour, meet everyone. There, introductions made.”

The wiry dark individual, in the combat trousers and red bandana, armed with a crossbow, sidles out of the tree-line at the top of the beach, eyeing us with the sort of suspicion reserved for doorstep salesmen.

“Your wife has been asking after you, cousin!” the newcomer greets our coolie-hatted rickshaw pilot. “She has tortured at least six good men to death already.”

“She is here?” Justin’s voice becomes a desperate squeak.

“Not now, she got bored, went fishing,” Seymour shrugs, and shoulders his crossbow. “Ah, Mr. Dry. A privilege to see you, sir.”

“Mr. Seymour Time,” Crispin acknowledges, straightening up. “Can you take us to the medical facility? My brother Homer needs attention. He has just delivered a pair of bouncing baby Squidmorphs.”

“You’re telling me,” I groan, having just performed service as ‘the bouncee’ – still trying to clean slime from my ears.

“Good man! That would kill a lesser person. Yes, you must come to the field hospital. That blanket will make a stretcher.”

“Of course.” Crispin arranges Homer on the old blanket. “Sarah, call the others, to assist.”

Reluctantly, I shade my eyes to seek out Ace, Carvery and Luke, who have wandered further down the beach to look at the blaze going on in the forest.

“Hey!” I yell. “We’re moving on!”

* * * * *

We trudge along the barely-there footpath through the jungle, the sad ravaged gray sack of skin and bone that is Homer suspended in the blanket between Crispin, Carvery, Ace and Luke. Seymour leads the way, and I follow behind with Justin Time, who is decidedly jumpy, and flinches at every waving leaf.

We emerge from the trees into an open encampment of khaki tents, some haphazardly marked with blood-red crosses. Men wearing a mixture of combat fatigues and Hawaiian shirts are occupied with moving crates of supplies, transporting patients from one tent to another, or playing croquet on the small air-strip.

“Good thing you didn’t choose to land here,” Seymour remarks. “The Colonel hates it when you mess up his game.”

“He’d have been even worse off, trying to catch a hatching Squidmorph,” says Justin wryly.

Seymour shouts in foreign, I don’t know what, and a few others hurry over and guide us to the largest temporary shelter.

As our eyes adjust to the gloom, lamps are switched on, and Homer is lifted and transferred onto a polished steel gurney – far cleaner and more hygienic than the one we just left in the Eight a.m. Lounge.

“Poor guy, he looks like the world dropped out of his bottom,” says Seymour. There is a flurry of activity, as people are lathering up their hands and being tugged into scrubs left and right. “We will need more than one donor, it appears.”

“I have organs here.” Crispin produces the linen bag from inside his jacket, containing the spare pieces of unfortunate Victorian streetwalker.

I blush horribly, from the inside-out. Seymour opens the bag, and sniffs the contents.

“These are lady-parts,” he observes.

“They were intended for another patient,” says Crispin. “But they are all we have to offer.”

“I don’t think Homer will complain,” Ace points out, while Carvery seems to be taking far too much interest in the array of surgical saws on the nearby trolley.

“Proceed,” Seymour shrugs, handing over the bag to a nurse, before turning to look me up and down. “You – Miss Hot-Limps. You are not sterile enough for this environment. Go to the outdoor shower and wash that Squid ejaculate off. Take some clean scrubs with you.”

I’ve seen enough spontaneous surgery already, after my housemate’s revival back at the University, and the streetwalker‘s impromptu dissection. I’m not sure I want to watch zombie quacks perform a sex-change on top of that.

I’d rather be back on the Body Farm, waiting for things to rot in peace. Not watching them get recycled and bounding around ghoulishly afterwards. Privately, I wonder how much of Crispin is original, and if he’s hiding something physiologically hijacked of his own up his sleeve – or anywhere else on his person…

“Now,” I hear Seymour saying, as I turn to head back outside. “Clean this V.I.P. patient up. Someone find the XY to XX re-plumbing diagram…”

“Ah,” Luke joins in, evidently fascinated, in his own cultural way. “I can see clearly now the brains have gone…”

I head back out into the sunshine with my armful of folded clean outerwear, just missing a golf-ball as it zips past my nose.

They seem rather playful for a warring tribe, here in the Nine a.m. Lounge. To my right, a one-legged man in a wheelchair is drinking something out of a cut-off Wellington boot. To my left, two soldiers sit playing dominoes, a wireless playing Barry White’s ‘My Everything’ crackling between them.

The shower is a Heath-Robinson-esque contraption under a large rainwater-collection barrel, shielded only from the world by a curtain rail. A rickety wash-stand proudly features a sliver of enthusiastically worn-down soap, a completely flattened long-handled scrubbing brush, and a bloodstained wire-wool pad.

I gulp. Some quite possibly psychotic ablutions have been performed here.

I step onto the non-slip rubber mat on the bare earth, and turn on the creaking tap. Jungle-tepid, gray-tinted water sputters from the colander overhead. I’m not sure it has the power to move any of this rapidly-thickening sludge from my person, but I pull the curtain around, and strip off the heavy Naval uniform anyway. The stupid clockwork hand, now dormant again, is currently clamped around my wrist, inextricable, like an OTT piece of Gothic bling.

I make the most of the remaining soap. Although I think I’m only making the hard brown bar of goodness knows what cleaner, rather than it cleaning me. I can see why the wire wool pad is here… but I use the matted scrubbing brush instead, vainly trying to achieve the slightest squeak of cleanliness against my own skin. At least the soap smell is surgical enough under the grime… maybe sandalwood, or pine. Perhaps smelling like a tree helps a soldier to hide in the forest…?

“It looks like Homer will recover, Sarah Bellummmm,” that devastating familiar voice interrupts my thoughts.

“Er, really?” I rub the feeble suds from my eyes to see Crispin standing in the shower cubicle with me, fully-clothed and apparently unaware of the half-hearted cascade of dirty water. But he looks so downcast, I try not to make an issue of the fact. “That is good news…”

“I am not sure that having ovaries and a uterus will benefit him,” Crispin sighs. “It is enough that he goes around dressed in Mother’s clothes, without asking if they make him look fat and getting depressed on a monthly basis as well.”

“Mmmm,” I agree, vaguely. Damn! Why didn’t I pick up a towel beforehand? I try to make myself as small and modest as possible behind the long-handled scrubbing-brush. “Have you, erm, yourself, ever had any – transplants?”

“What?” His head raises from his introspective gloom. “No, Sarah Bellummm. I have only been dead a fortnight. Nothing has fallen off – or fallen out – yet. But Homer has put himself through the wars. This is at least his third alimentary tract replacement. He did himself terrible damage when I first found him in the shed, surviving on broken beer-bottles and hedgehogs.”

“Oh dear.” I try not to picture Crispin reduced to such monosyllabic unsophistication, forgetting his mansion and vending machine empire, chomping on rats and fast-food wrappers at the bottom of some alleyway garbage skip. I shudder, wondering how long such a deterioration took to set in.

“We will have to find other bodily replacements for your housemate, Miss, Er… back on Mother’s barge in the Five a.m. Lounge,” Crispin adds, apologetically.

“Oh yes, her… umm…” I nod quickly. One of these days her name will just pop into my mind, I reassure myself. “Can she be revived?”

“The ambient spells aboard the Great Barge will keep her suspended for a little while, by proxy,” he tells me. “Mr. Slaughter and Mr. Lukan have gone to rummage in the medical waste bins for any identifiable rejects which could be utilised. Although I think Mr. Lukan is convinced the entrails of a goat could be substituted, and Mr. Slaughter does not seem to be enthusiastic at all.”

“What about Ace?” I ask, recklessly, perhaps rebelling against the intrusion onto my al fresco toilette.

“He has been asked to look at a problem with one of the ambulance trucks, since his suggestion that human organs could be substituted with a 50cc water-cooled two-stroke engine,” Crispin sighs. “It is a good thing my Grandfather, Higham Dry Senior, is not within earshot. He’s always on the look-out for alternative technology to clockwork organ replacements. He would shanghai Mr. Bumgang away to one of his surgical sweat-shops in an instant…”

I have no time to respond, as the end of his sentence is drowned out by the low whir of a siren, getting louder and higher, like the whine of a giant hornet.

“Air-raid!” someone shouts. “Incoming rickshaws, twelve o’clock!”

“Quickly, Sarah Bellummm!” Crispin grabs my hand and tries to pull me out of the cubicle. “To the shelters!”

“But…” I make a desperate grab for the clean scrubs, clutching them to me defensively as I am hustled out into the open. “I’m not rinsed off yet!”

Arrows and spears are already thudding into the ground, as we race for the half-submerged corrugated-iron Nissen hut entrance. I am shoved unceremoniously inside, where the pitch darkness makes it impossible to see anything, at first.

The drumming of arrowheads off the iron roof, under its thin covering of earth, is almost deafening, while I attempt to pull on the cotton scrubs. It’s only when I find myself lacking a head-hole that I realise I must have put my legs down the sleeves, and have to start over.

A loudspeaker somewhere outside joins the sound of the siren.

“Camp update: Mr. Crispin Dry and his naked lady-friend, Hot-Limps, have made it to the air-raid shelter in twenty-two seconds,” the announcer says, cheerfully. “No more bets please, and the initial figures say we have only one winner in this morning’s race, not including the sweepstakes… And now, some music. Another track from the walnuts of love, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones – this one goes out to all of you with wives and girlfriends – let’s hope they never find out about each other, so we can all enjoy a little more of that Brown Sugar…”

M*A*S*H movie trailer, Donald Sutherland et al – enjoy 🙂

More mindless mayhem: The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum

Also available for all other devices, and online reading, on Smashwords

Lady Chatterley’s Zombie: Chapter Six

Feverish writings…

Wragby Hall, March, 1921

Dear Hilda,

Clifford speaks as if I could pick up a man to service me in the provision of an heir to Wragby as easily as I could pick up a pound of mutton from the butcher. But not just any mutton! Oh no. Best mutton, it would have to be. Not stringy, wastrel, unkempt mutton. It worries me that he may have solicited certain members of his writing coven on the matter already. One or two are most definitely friendly and accommodating towards me when they visit. I am afraid, my dearest, that I suspect their motives.

Michaelis, the playwright, suggested that we run away and marry, that I divorce Clifford in his inability to consummate our marriage. It would sound so much more romantic if I had not already consummate experience of Mick and his nether quill. Oh, he writes a clever scene, indeed. But he cannot even put on an act in the bedroom. Maybe it is a failing of authors and writers in general; that they feel their work is done the moment they pen The End. The rest is all the responsibility of the audience to worship, and to pay homage. The writer then just has to exist; to be idolised. Not to perform spontaneously. Hah! Actors do all the performing for them!

I am a little distracted by the queer creature that fills the post of gamekeeper here. At first I thought he seemed oddly elegant, and distant, for this day and age. Now I know it to be the case that he is not of this day and age at all. Not a ghost, to be precise. Some sort of living-ghost, in a partial human shell. Not nearly so partial as my husband’s, for the gamekeeper has legs, feet, is mobile, and articulate.

But I happened upon him taking a bath in his garden yesterday, only clad in his strange velvet breeches. His back was to me, and I could clearly see the bones of his ribcage, the skin parted like a rip in old white silk. The lesions did not bleed, and did not seem to bother him in the slightest. He just washed his hair like any normal man. But a man full of holes. Perhaps he sustained them in a foreign battlefield, and was kept alive by witch-doctors.

But Hilda, the sight gave me such a jolt as I have not experienced in a long time. The bare back of a man, standing unsupported and unaware of a casual observer; the vulnerability of being outdoors, in such a state of undress and in a private moment of function. That his body was incomplete did not deter my thoughts away from that white skin, the shape of the man’s hips visible above the loosened belt, the water as it trickled down his spine… Only a blink of a scene did I witness before retreating, Hilda, but it is burned into my memory forever.

I cannot sleep or eat for thinking about it.

Then obliged to speak to him, there was no sign he was wise of my intrusion. And yet his eyes are so knowing! So distant, but somehow speaking volumes that cannot be filled with words. I found myself almost wordless in turn in his presence, barely able to pass on my message and make a cordial small discourse.

I wonder perhaps now, looking in the mirror, without eating, how long it will take the holes to appear in my own body. I can barely support one side of my husband as he transfers from bed to chair to seat at the washstand. But he will never yet take a nurse. He rejects all that holds indication of hospital surroundings.

‘No longer an invalid!’ he shouts. ‘Just a man with a strong wife at his side.’

I wonder how long his strong wife can last, with no support of her own.

Much love,

Connie

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Zombie: Chapter Five (continued)

Part two…

Constance Chatterley’s diary, March, 1921

A little put out that my knocking had gone unheeded, but not discouraged, I turned around the side of the cottage to the back yard area, and there I got a shock.

The gamekeeper had his back to me, and was naked to the hips. In front of him, a bowl of soapy water, in which he dunked his head and patted his hair and ears, shaking droplets off, as likened to a dog.

The breeches were loose on his frame; his back white in the sunlight, thin, and bones even poked through the skin. He was not of this world; but my mind scolded me. Just a man, taking a bath! Nothing to fear here!

But my heart beat faster, and I retreated out of sight again, and sat awaiting on a small stump. How curious! To have come across him in such a way. So white, and ghostly, and somehow vulnerable. Surely he must feel the chill of fresh air on those exposed bones? And to wash himself… does that not make him mostly human, and modest? I found myself wondering about the rest of his body, hitherto concealed under those ill-fitting green velveteen gaiters; by what standard did he consider himself mostly a man, or in contrast, a ghoul? His style of dress… perhaps indeed of the last century, I realised. For a man as physically decimated as he, would surely have died long ago without some special dispensation of extended life. His elegance and his distant air now made so much more sense to my querying mind.

I waited a respectable amount of time, and then returned to knock at the cottage door, timidly. He answered, wearing a clean shirt, damp tendrils of his fair hair curling over his pale forehead and reddish sideburns.

“Your Ladyship?” he greeted me courteously, only a slight local indication in his sombre voice.

“A message from Sir Clifford,” I replied.

“Won’t you come inside?” He held the door open wider. “My apologies. I was just combing my hair.”

“Please,” I acknowledged. “Do not let me disturb you. Continue as you wish.”

He nodded as I entered his abode, gestured to a comfortable chair, and I took the seat as he quickly finished his grooming. I passed on the message, and he confirmed it would be seen to immediately.

“You are quite alone here?” I enquired.

“Ay! Your Ladyship,” he confirmed. “The Lordship is a good employer.”

I looked around the small room. There were a few comforts. The spaniel curled in the hearth, contented.

“I will not take up any more of your time,” I said at last. “Thank you for your hospitality.”

“Any time, your Ladyship,” he nodded.

I felt him watching my back as I tripped back along the pathway out of the wood. How curious he was! What creature is he? And how did he come to be working on the Wragby estate?

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence.

Lady Chatterley’s Zombie: Chapter Five

Part one…

Constance Chatterley’s diary, March, 1921.

My husband gave me a message for the new gamekeeper; I do not usually run his errands, so this was unexpected.

We have only met the once, previously. Clifford and I took a drive in the park; he drove his motorised chair, and I walking alongside. He was of a strange humour that day, and while looking at the saplings growing on the denuded zenith of a certain hill in the woods, suggested I should take another man for the purposes of having a child. This child to be raised as a Chatterley, to take over the estate once he is gone. I found the suggestion strange, in a way that he should discuss my womb being made available in this way, but also that he hinted I should not choose an unsuitable man.

Hah! Michaelis, the playwright, would have been his every concept of unsuitable, until now. On Clifford’s request, Michaelis brought his first Act of the play in which he caricatures my husband as a lame and wealthy soldier, returned to a family seat. Clifford is enamoured of it; but it is his own affair with Fame that he sees growing, not a passing flattery. But I myself have grown apart from Mick. For an affair to become more than a dalliance or flirtation, the man must have some sense of a woman’s needs. Not that she is merely a chamber-pot into which he spills some spare emissions. Michaelis is very sheltered in that way. The issue of his own celebrity means that he has as many chamber-pots at his beck and call as he could desire, none of whom request to be satisfied in turn.

So the affair between myself and the playwright is over, just as it begins between himself and my husband. An affair of words, and Fame, and stories made of nothing. I ache for my ghost-lover, my German youth. Mick did not fill that void; he just pointed at it, and one would think he also laughed that a woman should be considered to have such a void.

After the strange discussion about an heir to Wragby being made in this indirect fashion, Clifford and I came upon the new gamekeeper and his spaniel, patrolling the woods. I must say it gave me rather a shock; a tall, thin, red-moustached fellow, with a slightly listing gait, but elegant in his deportment. Wearing velveteen gaiters! One would think, almost from the last century. Something about him spoke of a class unknown to Tevershall village, and spiked my curiosity.

He helped my husband steer his carriage uphill over the mound, and was then gone again, doffing his cap. Clifford is outrageously ignorant of the fellow he has hired, and knows nothing useful of him to speak of.

“He seems special. Is he interesting?” I asked, at dinner.

“Not to my mind,” said Clifford. “He had a wife… who left him for… many men, I believe, and who now shares with a collier elsewhere. He keeps his mother and a small child in the village, who come to visit him on Saturdays.”

“But he seems rather elegant,” I remarked. “Was he also a soldier?”

“Oh! His manners. I believe he served in India. Possibly where his deference was learned. But I do not think anything more particular about him is special, as you wonder.”

A few days later he made the request for me to take a message, the errand boy being sick. So I set off to the gamekeeper’s cottage alone.

As she came out of the wood on the north side, the keeper’s cottage, a rather dark, brown stone cottage, with gables and a handsome chimney, looked uninhabited, it was so silent and alone. But a thread of smoke rose from the chimney, and the little railed-in garden at the front of the house was dug and kept very tidy. The door was shut.

Now she was here she felt a little shy of the man, with his curious far-seeing eyes. She did not like bringing him orders, and felt like going away again. She knocked softly, no one came. She knocked again, but still not loudly. There was no answer. She peeped through the window, and saw the dark little room, with its almost sinister privacy, not wanting to be invaded…

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Zombie: Chapter Four

The hopelessness…

Wragby Hall, February 1921

Dear Hilda,

Clifford is spending a great deal of time with his writing coven. It pains me how much they speak of Mick (Michaelis) in derogatory terms; of his birth into lower-classes, of his ‘undeserved’ success.

I suppose I should not take slight. Mick did propose to me, after a fashion, on his return to England.

But he is unmatched to his success as playwright by his fumblings in the bedroom. I love his attention, and his neediness; his act of isolation in the world appeals to me. But he criticises me that my climax does not come as his, quickly and finished, like a man’s! He thinks just his being inside me should be enough, that his mere entry should cause me to explode with passion. But without time spent on worship of the female body, the performance being all his own, how is a woman to feel anything?

His mind on the matter is made up. He thinks it is a female dysfunction of mine, that I cannot achieve with such spontaneous abruptness, that I cling to him and wait, hoping for some action to bring about my own release, even if that action is ultimately my own. His attitude is that of a schoolboy, a selfish, obstinate one, fed by passing ships in the night who worship his success and put on a performance to please him, to support his ego and his delusions on the matter of limited female sexual need.

I remember our lovers in Dresden. How adventurous they were, how thoughtful, how free of the closed male ego apparently so common in England!

My husband’s friends often fret about the subject of sex in their work. They do not think it appropriate to discuss the life of a mating couple, any more than they think the scatological aspects of their partners’ lavatorial functions should be open to gawping and dissection, in life or in their fictional adventures. The debate goes around and around, never leading anywhere, stopping off only to scathe at the success of the ‘unworthy’ Michaelis, or to sneer at foreign politics.

The male mind is indeed an interesting landscape, but I tire of its daily excursions on the same old routes, the same arguments. It is a distraction from the lack of physical intimacy in my marriage, but it does not replace it. I am not disabled, as my husband is. It is true that I should not shrivel and suffer as a result. But in the same way that Mick thinks I should achieve gratification from his brief exertions, my husband believes that his writing excites me in a way that is equal to that of copulation. That he shares his inner world and his mind, his stories made of pure nothing in the real world, is of the same mutual glory.

Perhaps if there had been no Dresden, dear Hilda, I too would believe so.

But whose is it to say how the end should be achieved, for either a man or a woman? If the end is not achieved, then the deed is unfinished. It is not for the putting of blame, or responsibility; just that either out of haste, or selfishness, or hopeless abandon, one has neglected to note that the other is lagging behind, and has been focused too much on their own destination to wait for the other to catch up, or to encourage them.

I believe Michaelis enjoys his own story of solitude in the world, of being that unlovable under-dog. In that sense I may never reach him, he may always reject that which professes to love him unaccountably. And it allows him to be selfish, to keep his other beliefs in women, in their small needs and easy satisfaction. In that way he is indeed a dog, and I am ashamed to say it.

I thought for a brief moment that it might be love, but it was just a drizzle after drought.

When I am back in the woods, I dream of being a nymph of the forest, that I may find a fantasy creature with which to start a very different affair; an affair without celebrity, or stories made of nothing, or analysis of society. I dream of a love so far beyond society that none could comprehend it. Perhaps a ghost! A ghost lover would satisfy all spiritual needs. Maybe my German young man is not yet gone altogether, after all.

But if a ghost has not a corporeal body of flesh, then my other life is still not satisfied. My woman’s life, tied to this thinking-woman mind. Oh, it is very noble to stand by my lame husband, and hear his stories, and always to take his stance in a merry debate. But my body retires to bed hungry, and my womb empty, and my thoughts entangled in the world of fictional affairs and their author’s appetite for Fame.

Where is Connie in all this? I do not see her any more, barely in the mirror. A strange thing is an unused naked figure, reflected in the glass. The shape is there, but no life or energy dwells within it. I remember my body as it appeared reflected in mirrors in Dresden. So bright, and full of sparks and life, it almost hurt to look.

I should go now. Clifford wants to take another drive in the park. He is brooding about something, and I must brace myself for whatever artistic slight he wants to vent.

Love,

Connie

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Zombie: Chapter Three

A growing restlessness…

Constance Chatterley’s diary, February, 1922.

I hide in the woods often now, and lie prone in the bracken, as if awaiting the invisible fox. I must get away from it all; the house, the servants, the guests… my husband. My body twitches, from the top of my head to the inside of my womb, a possession of madness and excitement which convulses me when I would rather lie still. Like the deceased old gamekeeper, perhaps I wish to jump into water and swim away from this oasis in Hades. My heart beats wildly without impetus to do so; unknown thrills take over my body at this growing restlessness.

I am now, indeed, getting thin.

Although my sanctuary, there is no spiritual connection between me and the woods. I do not believe in such a nonsensical thing, although I am drawn there, for my own peace, in search of my own soul.

Before he left, my father made yet another statement of warning:

“Why don’t you get yourself a beau, Connie? Do you all the good in the world.”

…And then Michaelis, the anarchic playwright of the Bond Street set, came to stay. Clifford invited him, for although strangers, they were known to one another in their writings; and Clifford hoped to be a muse in one of his plays, which were now being discovered in America. A Dubliner by origin, and only thirty years of age, Michaelis penned smart society plays, which were widely celebrated; but the smart society themselves found it was they who were being ridiculed, and now shunned him. But he was a great success, in an under-dog, outcast sort of fashion, and my husband’s love of ridicule and his yearning to become a ‘celebrity’ in his own storytelling made the man an appealing thing to him, to entertain, and to pick the brains of.

He was certainly successful. He arrived in a new motor-car, with his own driver; his dress was of the same Bond Street style that my husband favours. But my husband quickly assessed him to be the pretender, to whom money easily bought such accessories which were not by birthright his. However, this did not mar Clifford’s cordiality with the man. It was his success, his notoriety, his fame that my husband wanted to absorb.

The concept of fame eats away at Clifford with an insatiable appetite. Night and day it gnaws on him, as he studies every review and every appearance of his stories in the magazines. He too dreams of being discovered in America; of being discussed in all the colonies abroad. He wants to spread his seeds of stories and ravish society unashamedly. He wants to learn the young playwright’s tools of promotion, of being read, and watched, and studied by patrons in turn. One such means would be to become a character in one of his new American plays, by which the intrigue of who inspired the piece would draw the public eye upon himself. I think Michaelis would draw well upon my husband as character; as a lame aristocratic soldier of war; but still with faint ridicule, my husband’s recurring nightmare of the tables being turned upon him in his seeking of celebrity, by celebrating the clever taunting of others.

We passed a civil evening in which there was much talk of plays and writing, and of courting the fickle charms of Fame. Michaelis professed that his plays did not chase fame, but were there merely to be famous for the time that they appeared; that Fame needed a home as much as any living thing, and had settled upon his plays for a while. It was this self-effacing remark which drew my own curiosity to the young Irishman’s hitherto solitude in life.

“Are you alone?” I asked him.

“How do you mean? Do I live alone? I’ve got my servant. He’s a Greek, so he says, and quite incompetent. But I keep him. And I’m going to marry. Oh yes, I must marry.”

“It sounds like you are going to have your tonsils cut out,” I laughed. “Will it be an effort?”

“Well, Lady Chatterley…” He looked at me with an admiring glance, for my wit. “Somehow it will! I find… excuse me… I find I can’t marry an Englishwoman, not even an Irishwoman…”

“Try an American,” suggested Clifford.

“Oh, American!” Michaelis gave a hollow laugh. “No, I’ve asked my man if he will find me a Turk or something… something nearer to the Oriental.”

For the first time then I looked upon his sculpted alabaster face, the rather full lips and darting, inconstant eyes. It was said he made fifty thousand pounds already in America alone; how could anyone call this artist, this under-dog, a scoundrel and a bounder? How much stupider my husband appears in his presence! How much more bounder-ish, and vampire-like, wanting to suck notoriety out of society’s hands for his own fulfilment of manhood!

I think the young man knew he had made his impression on me (young! I am yet to be so young!) for the next day he sent word up to me in my rooms that he was thinking of taking a drive into Sheffield, and could he be of any service to my Ladyship?

I did not hesitate; I sent reply for him to come up to my sitting-room, on the topmost floor.

He appeared in a sort of trembling eagerness, still self-effacing as last night. He exclaimed upon how bright and pretty my apartments are, how wise I am to keep to myself away from the rest of the house. My husband always breakfasts in his bedroom in his own apartments on the ground floor, and never goes above that level; mostly he graduates to the library after lunch, to progress in his writing, and his study of the public‘s response to his work.

We talked of his family, and background, and my curiosity was peaked again by his state of being a lonely bird, which he turned around onto me. Was I not also a lonely bird? And I felt the terrible appeal in those words, in his eyes, and in his glance.

“It’s awfully nice of you to think of me,” he said at last, rather laconically.

“Why shouldn’t I think of you?” I exclaimed, but my breath was caught.

“Oh, in that way!” He gave a hiss of a laugh, and then turned serious again. “May I hold your hand for a minute?”

And he fixed me with a gaze of almost hypnotic power, sending out that appeal again which was direct to my womb. His glowing eyes rendered me incapable of resisting; the yearning flowed out of my breast over him.

I must give him anything, anything. It meant nothing, except that I shared myself with him.

He stayed that time for three days, and without word of our affair, was as civil with Clifford as ever. Afterwards he wrote to me with the same melancholy distance, wry wit, and a sexless affection. I wrote in turn, and on a few occasions visited him in London.

His thrill was always over so quick; he achieved his end too soon, and was bashful, and rather grateful. He wanted me to have mine, and that he wanted to give it to me was enough, for the time.

Clifford benefited greatly by my renewed inspiration and vigour in his writing work, with my attentiveness, and in a way, a return of happiness. It gave me a mechanical confidence in everyday life. It was not a marriage, and it was so far from being love. But it was something, something that was needed.

But already, with Michaelis now left for America, bringing an end to our affair, I am irritable again, and distant, and lying in the desolate bracken of the woods, wanting to run away from it all myself. Clifford wishes my enthusiasm would return.

Perhaps if he knew, he would have appealed to Michaelis to stay.

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence – himself, a self-published author!

Lady Chatterley’s Zombie: Chapter Two

A demi-vierge, or demi-monde?

Wragby was a long low old house in brown stone, begun about the middle of the eighteenth century, and added on to, till it was a warren of a place without much distinction. It stood on an eminence in a rather fine old park of oak trees, but alas, one could see in the near distance the chimney of Tevershall pit, with its clouds of steam and smoke, and on the damp, hazy distance of the hill the raw straggle of Tevershall village, a village which began almost at the park gates, and trailed in utter hopeless ugliness for a long and gruesome mile: houses, rows of wretched, small, begrimed, brick houses, with black slate roofs for lids, sharp angles and wilful, blank dreariness.

D.H. LAWRENCE

 

Wragby Hall, January 1921

Dear Hilda,

I am disturbed by the landscape of the Midlands, being far more used to Kensington, or the hills of Scotland, or the Sussex downs. The rattle and clank of the colliery, and the stench of the burning pit-bank, left to burn itself out for lack of funds to smother it, loads the air around Wragby, even on windless days. Black ash settles on the white Christmas roses, like manna of doom.

At night the low-slung ceiling of cloud over Tevershall ripples with a red light, dappling and quavering. It is the reflection of the furnaces; the sight fascinates me with a horror, as I watch from the windows of these rather dismal rooms at Wragby Hall. I could believe that Wragby Hall exists here under the Earth itself, in the bowels of Hades. The morning brings sullied rain, washing away the illusion, but bringing more of the air-borne slurry with it, darkening windows, and smearing picket fences which are never able to remain white.

Clifford is invigorated by Wragby in a way that London could not afford him; it matches his cold, grim determination, and he professes that the people here have ‘guts’.

In my opinion, they certainly need them, being not possessed of either eyes nor minds. They are a queer, haggard, shapeless folk, as dreary as the countryside they occupy. Something in their deep-throated slurring of the unfamiliar dialect, and the thresh-thresh of their hobnailed boots, as they troop home in their gangs from the pits, is strangely terrible and mysterious.

I have learned to harden myself to the inhospitable denizens, not to take every stare as a slight, nor to expect friendly greetings from folks who did not consider me their equal, or vice versa. Clifford, although keen to observe the work done, as a scientist views things through his microscope, detached, feels humiliation in his being lame. His sister Emma, having been thwarted in her desire to retain childhood plans, had long ago left Wragby for a flat in London. I suspect he felt as much pain of rejection there as in any circumstance.

He has re-invented himself as raconteur and literary artist, writing stories for the most modern magazines; witty, cruel, timely, and observational, but again at the same scientific distance. I expect you have read a few in the London circuit! He obsesses over these tales and their subsequent reviews, and sometimes my entire being feels as if it is drawn into analysis of his new image, of the finer points of his writing; that his demand for my attention in these things is like sex, the needy animal of single-minded fixation. I am pleased to be sought in the matter, that he wishes my mind turn inside-out, to join him in his learning curve. In a way perhaps that I am unable to provide in physical gratification, in the nuptial state of union. He is morbidly sensitive; he pesters me for advice on finer details of sensual things that he can transcribe into narrative. I am honoured and thrilled to be treated as his muse.

In physical ability he is also needy, and still impatient at times. But it is his fragile ego which suffers most. Although a sturdy and bucolic man not at all like the feminine fops in most of the high society, his upper self as vibrant as ever, to have no motility, no impetus of his own, is a disability far beyond that of the body. For this reason he occupies his mind; studies the workings of the mines as a gardener studies an ant-hill, and studies the smart set of society in his stories in much the same way. He enjoys to dress well; appearance is all to him, that he must appear sound in both brain and in taste. The new Bond Street neckties you sent for Christmas were very greatly appreciated, I can tell you! I hope soon he will consent to a nurse being employed, for although our companionship is so close, I feel I also require the constitution and strength of a work-horse to meet his every small need, day and night.

Do I have needs of my own? Oh, so many, dearest Hilda! But none of which I dare to speak. They only haunt my dreams now. It has been more than three years since our honeymoon. I have become as a small child again; of a mind to whom the minutest distractions separate each living moment, with no thread of congruence in-between. It is my husband’s life, his own mind, which seeks meaning and purpose. I am there just to wait with baited breath on each esoteric whim, that he may be fulfilled.

Clifford has invited many fine folk to visit, now armed with his notoriety in books and stories, and there is barely a week goes by now without company. Miss Emma Clifford has so far visited rarely, with a standoffish arrogance. She feels ousted, it is plain; and her attitude reflects that she also felt she herself should be inspiration enough for his stories. They should be Chatterley stories, and Chatterley books, grown out of childhood tales shared between siblings together. For me to inspire them, means that no organic connection exists with the name that ought to be carried forth; yet again, an implied indication of the ‘impotence’ in our marriage, as viewed by outsiders. I bear her visits lightly, as I do in contact with the rest of the family, his visiting friends, and the villagers. I do not wish to arm my sister-in-law for any lawful assault of character.

In this I sense my husband’s pride in me. His impression of my loyalty from my calm unruffled presence, is all that is required on such occasions, and reflects very well upon him in his social circle.

I miss you, dear sister; I hope this letter finds you well.

With love,

Connie

…And in this way, Sir Clifford and Lady Constance Chatterley passed a year in the gloom of Wragby, in the shade of the smoky foulness of Tevershall pit.

Constance Chatterley’s diary, January, 1922.

My father has come to visit, and it is a delight to see his warm familiar face among so many existing here that are grey and debilitated!

But for a few days he has carried a strange countenance about him. His concern that I was not eating was met with much argument from myself and Clifford alike; I eat very well. Perhaps not with the great, gutsy appetite of a young woman in the bloom of her honeymoon, for I have none to gorge about. But I fare well, and showed clean dinner plates at every sitting, as proof of such.

It was this afternoon that he made the most curious statement, as I was gathering my coat for a solitary walk in the park.

“I hope, Connie, that you won’t let circumstances force you into being a demi-vierge.”

“A demi-vierge!” I repeated, not in the slightest knowing of what he spoke, but only curious as to his tone of disapproval. “But why? Why not?”

“Unless you like it, of course!” he replied, a little too hastily, and retired at once to the library, where Clifford was working on a new story. His seriousness in opening the subject followed by such an abrupt retreat peaked my curiosity further, and I regret to say I eavesdropped outside the door while buttoning my coat.

“I am afraid it doesn’t quite suit Connie to be a demi-vierge,” my father told my husband, as if somewhat fixated on the words.

“A half-virgin!” Clifford replied, sounding rather startled.

Goodness! I could picture his face turning very red indeed, in the uncomfortable silence.

“In what way doesn’t it suit her?” he asked at last, stiffly.

“She’s getting thin… angular. It’s not her style. She’s not the pilchard sort of little slip of a girl, she’s a bonny Scotch trout.”

“Without the spots, of course!” Clifford joked.

But I could hear the denial in his tone, the awkwardness with which such matters touched him. We were too intimate in one another’s innermost thoughts, on weaving stories and their meaning; and far too distant on the corpus delicti of our non-existent sexual congress.

So close, and yet so out of touch.

I wrapped my coat tightly around against the chill frost, as I took my turn into the park. Clifford would not care if I were a demi-vierge or a demi-monde, a demi-mondaine! What he would neither know nor see would matter not to him. I could pickle away as a married old maid, an owned nun, with only sloe gin as my nightly companion; or service idle squires around the country. Neither would he see, and neither would he fret about.

But this is life, in the void. The cold great house; the oasis of the park; the encroaching nether-lands of the pit. The spectral denizens, barely real in our world. I enjoy the park, and the woods beyond. The freedom of a child; not the same as the freedom of womanhood (so long ago Dresden seems now! So long!) but the freedom to run in the open air, to kick fallen leaves about, to search vainly yet for those first snowdrops, crocuses and other spring flowers. I look forward to the primroses… and still I see myself from the outside, a wood-nymph, haunting the park; maybe I am of it, as much as the gangs of lurching, unintelligible men are of the village and the colliery. A part of this unreality, a woman-child, without physical contact in this world. A spectre of this empty space, where an heir of Wragby Hall should appear, to put forth new seeds in turn. A ghost of a non-mother.

If only this life with Clifford could bring forth such a life in turn! This endless spinning of yarns and webs of complex nature, on the page in a fictional world! The minutiae of consciousness revealed; if not of substance, then of the appearance of reality, until such a reality existing can be fully denied; whether by his critics, or by his own insecurity, and then he writes no more.

It is true, I am not ‘a little pilchard sort of fish’. When I am hostess to my husband’s guests, they partake of a sherry and remark upon my freckles, my brown hair, and then my feminine shape; for me, no boy’s flat chest, or little buttocks of no movement. I treat those observations in vague quietness, too loyal to flirt. I like my husband’s comfortable smile when he notes how unaffected I am by these strange compliments.

His relatives are kind, although I know this means they do not feel threatened by me. But why should they? I am in turn Clifford’s nurse, and muse, and counsel. Perhaps the least of which in traditional concepts, his wife. But we are man and wife, on paper, and in exchanging vows.

Just not in fulfilling them, in the bedroom. Or anyplace. I blushed in the gathering dim fog of the wood, thinking of many secret places that we could, but forever would not, explore.

Time passes quickly, and reluctantly I turned out of the woods before dark could fall. Half-past seven might as well be half-past eight in winter! Something crackled in the frozen bracken behind me; perhaps a creeping fox, hoping to snatch a remainder of the winter game fare. But I did not stop to look for its questing snout.

In darkness, all poachers are alike, and I still have yet to meet the new gamekeeper since the last one passed away between Christmas and New Year, merry on brandy, and skating on the lake without his long-johns.

I picked up my pace a little, and hurried back to the Hall.

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence

Lady Chatterley’s Zombie: Chapter One

Ours is essentially a tragic age…

Constance Chatterley’s diary, Autumn, 1920.

My husband’s recovery was a miracle, but it was ultimately the death of his father.

Now the poor man is buried, Clifford and I are installed at the family seat of Wragby Hall, here in the smoky, industrialised Midlands. My husband is risen to baronet, SIR Clifford Chatterley. And I am his Lady Constance. Connie, in affectionate address.

In the past, he would have found such societal fripperies all so ridiculous… he feared himself one day to become such a pillar of his own ridicule. It has come, but has brought with it so much of regret.

Clifford ascended to heir of Wragby Hall by surviving his elder brother, Herbert, in the war; but only barely. It was fallen to him to provide the next. I would be a willing chattel; yet returning home from the fighting as he did, only away but six months following our brief honeymoon, all hope of such joy is dead. My husband lives; his ability, his seed, does not.

And so the elder Sir Geoffrey Chatterley has pined away, unfulfilled. It is a time of great tragedy in the world, but we must strive not to dwell on tragedy inside. It eats the soul; it poisons the heart.

Clifford and I shared a great intimacy. Not that of love-making; he was a fellow as to whom such a thing was mechanical, a by-product of marriage, into which he entered still a virgin. For him, passion was politics, and coal; engineering, and public service. We shared an affection and rapport, within which the physical exertions of lust would have been an unnecessary distraction. It was wholesome; it was modern; it was spiritual. There was nothing that he did not give me, or allow me to be. I could be seen AND heard. We did share the sexual act in our honeymoon, but it was a courtesy. An acknowledgement of the marriage vows; not a celebration. A simple address of the ‘dearly beloved.’

My husband knew of my former life as a free, willing Bohemian music student, with my sister in Dresden. We were well-travelled by the age of fifteen and seventeen respectively, taking in Paris, Florence, Rome, the Hague, Berlin; all for the absorption of art, language, and civilised culture. Hilda and I had already lost former lovers in the war, by the Christmas of 1914; German young men, philosophers, musicians, from whose embrace we were torn, at the start of hostilities. We were so young. The young men so vibrant! How they talked. How they sang. How they persisted in physical intimacies… Afterwards, so strange to think of them gone, no longer existing. A passionate loss to suffer. I was home again, helping a little in the war effort, barely twenty years old.

I find myself thinking more of their passions, their eagerness and excitement, since my husband’s luxury of exploiting the marriage bed has been stolen from him. I never thought I would miss it; I had Clifford. He had me. We were yet still young, and time was our cohort, in which to feel the heat of tenderness and closeness if we so wished. But now the bedroom door is closed forever between us. There is no more luxury of that option. There are only the marriage ties of law. There is no marriage of consummation.

Clifford does not punish me for being modern, and cosmopolitan in upbringing. In fact it rather suits him, to have a little exotic inspiration in the package of what would be a ruddy, wholesome country girl in appearance, as I have been described; not brash like city folk, or wilting like a kept flower. The same time that Hilda and I were in Dresden with our German young men, he had been in Bonn at the time of early unrest, studying the science of mining and its application; conscription to active service in the response was his impetus to hurry home, and fulfil the vocation of every worthy aristocrat. The company of academic intelligentsia stimulates him, and defies the awkwardness he feels in the wide world outside of his family home, and limited higher echelons of society. As children, his sister, brother, and he had vowed never to leave Wragby Hall, but to live as privileged hermit siblings under the rule of their private, obstinate father, Sir Geoffrey. Clifford’s sister Emma, although ten years older, had clung to this childhood ideal; until finding that she could not put a stop to his marrying me to fulfil the new obligations of heir, in the wake of his brother Herbert’s passing a year earlier.

We met while Hilda and I were back at home in Kensington, mixing with the earnest young Cambridge anarchy. Hilda married an elder member of this sometimes foppish group, and they moved into a small Westminster house; a good man ten years older, with a government post achieved through his family, who wrote essays in philosophy. While not in an elevated position of power, he occupies the ranks of those with true insight and intelligence in this country. Clifford was also in this Cambridge sect, and we became good friends. That he found me fascinating was an entertainment in itself. He admitted he envied my self-assurance in the world. In turn, I found his rebellious streak and fondness of making ridicule of all traditional structures in society refreshing. That his ridiculing emerged from insecurity, his sheltered aristocratic upbringing, mattered not. In the same way that my own worldly experiences of passion mattered not to him.

We married in 1917, while he was home on leave for a month, from Flanders. I was twenty-three; he was at the time twenty-nine. Six months on, he returned again from Flanders, a shattered remnant of former manhood. He was two years under the care of excellent doctors; they grew him back together in physical form, but they could not engineer his lower limbs to function, nor his serviceability as a husband.

My husband has his toys, with which he is well pleased. A motorised bath-chair, so that he may take a drive around the gardens of Wragby Hall park, or the village. He shows concealed pride in the gardens, but it is the proprietary pride of a man who cannot dig into the earth, or plant a tree, or create the life they contain with his own hands. As for the village, they mumble greetings filled with pity and fear. Pity as they look upon me, the strange married nun of Wragby Hall; fear as they see Clifford, that for the grace of God they suffer such a fate. Or indeed, survive such a fate as he.

My husband clings to small joys like an ivy. His intellect is not affected. He exclaims upon good weather and good news alike; every moment of every day is a blessing to him. His complexion is full of vigour; his eagerness to participate in work, in thinking, and in discussions, is as avid as before. Perhaps more so. He compensates for his losses greatly by this, and his attentiveness to my own wellbeing is unmatched. That I am fed; that I am warm; that I am well. He is a good husband, if not a husband in the sense of being whole, or of participating in the marriage as such.

He only defects through his own frustrations. Of bathing, and of dressing. He is useless below the waist, and feels greatly his own weight when moving, if not his own sensations there. So far he resists the employment of a nurse. But his look of impatience at times when I try to help, makes me feel in my own way impotent. I think he will struggle for some time before asking for qualified assistance.

There is a skeleton staff at Wragby Hall; a cook and maid; a gardener. There is a cottage in the grounds occupied by a gamekeeper, as yet unseen by me. My husband has not yet been in a shape well enough to take the full tour, and make introductions. The Hall and park are very quiet, melancholy and haunting. Even here we can feel the desertion left behind upon our land by war; all the strongest and most vigorous of us have been away fighting. Many of them dying. A few returning, like Clifford, to a half-life, a half-marriage.

I would not wish such an event on any young married couple. I feel fortunate, that I am me, and he is he; for between us, there is still the marriage we entered into. That of spiritual intimacy and debate, of small entertainment, and of companionship. Were it not for his father’s deterioration and death, blamed on my husband’s condition, we would not notice the cloud over our heads. We are not those old-fashioned people in our minds, to whom a marriage without sex is a dried-out empty husk, left without pollen.

But in my pre-nuptial brain there are stored memories of campfires, of singing under Dresden stars, of flirting eyes and wandering hands. Of the beautiful congruence of a shared conversation, continued over many days and nights! Never before had I known such a continuity could exist, a perfectly hung debate on all things, forever balanced and profound. The breakfasting on German sausage… how they insisted on the sex thing, like dogs! It is these memories, accompanied by the plucking of remembered guitar-strings, love-notes written on skin in the firelight, and the salt of tears at the mourning of deceased lovers whom God saw fit to draw into his net rather than cast back, which fill my waking nights, alone in the supposed marital bed.

Ah! It was easy to play with the emotions of young men. If we surrendered our bodies, but our minds remained free. The men were always that bit more attentive; that bit more persuasive and persistent; that little bit more lustful. But as students abroad, Hilda and I had no need of commitment, or of emotional bonds, or financial support. Our parents were artistic, broadminded, and we rejoiced in the freedom of womanhood. The freedom to speak, to sing and to make love. Our futures were vast. Our time on Earth was unlimited. There would be many lovers in our future; many husbands, even; possibly many children. These memories, these memories of plans, are now my aching dreams in solitary moments.

But those futures were drawn up before the great storm of war came, and suddenly there was no more abroad. Future dreams were shadowed. Suddenly we were home, and there was honour in obligation, especially to marry a lieutenant, to become his rock, his correspondence. New futures were drawn up, not in celebration of the freedom of womanhood, but in support of the freedom of our country. The sisterhood was now a military conscript, drying her tears, and tilling the soil, so that her husband would eat on his return.

The war brought me my marriage, my security; but it also closed my bedroom door forever.

Inspired by D.H. Lawrence