a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
earlier sprouts 
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Remember how I started writing a novel and then the whole pregnancy thing happened and I kind of dropped it for a while? I'd like to get back to it, but it's hard to regain my momentum.

A technique I've seen for getting past a writing block is to write fanfic of your own characters--it feels less serious, and you can play around and get to know them a bit without being constrained by your plot outline.

To that end, I would really appreciate it if you could toss a fanfic prompt or two my way. Obviously you haven't read the canon, because it doesn't exist yet. :) And I'm not quite certain enough of my outline to share it. But here's jacket copy of a sort:

Nathaniel Axton is in a bit of a bind. The printing shop he works for, Carroll & Co., is losing money hand over fist. Everyone expects him to marry the shop's owner, Eliza Carroll, but he's mostly interested in men, and she's mostly interested in printing salacious Sapphist poems to sell to her bluestocking friends. Cautious Nathaniel isn't sure the potential profits are worth the risk to the shop's reputation--or the chance that someone will discover that he too was once a bluestocking.

Sir Algernon Smythe enjoyed his years in Canada, hiking through the woods by day and fooling around with his fellow explorers by night. Then his father summons him back to London to start building the family fortune. Algernon hopes to marry Sarah Silverthorne, the daughter of a well-known and wealthy adventurer. But she's looking for someone to build a home with, not another man who will abandon her for years at a time. And Algernon soon realizes a wife isn't what he wants at all.

When Algernon strolls into Carroll & Co. and locks eyes with Nathaniel, both men are smitten. When Sarah approaches Eliza about publishing a book of poetry, sparks fly. Can the four lovebirds find a way to make all their dreams come true?


And here's the backstory of the protagonists:

Nathaniel's story

It's been just a few months since George Carroll died and left his printing company to his 27-year-old spinster granddaughter, Eliza. This puts George's 25-year-old apprentice, Nathaniel Axton, in an awkward position. Everyone expects him to marry Eliza and attain master printer status, but she's a Sapphist and he only likes her as a friend. However, many people who previously did business with George--particularly his fellow older gay men--have no interest in working with a woman. So as the business's copyrights begin to expire, Eliza and Nathaniel are scrambling to find and publish new writers before their income ebbs away.

While Nathaniel and Eliza figure out what to do about this, they also continue running the business, which includes a small bookshop. Nathaniel handles most of the artistry while Eliza does the accounting. Their other employee is Matthias, an experienced bookbinder who escaped Belgium shortly after Napoleon invaded; he has bad arthritis in his hands and can't work long hours, but he's pleasant to work with, and more importantly, his wages are low. Eliza has a large social circle of lesbians, bluestockings, and other outrageous women, and she wants to start printing sapphic poetry, but Nathaniel is wary of being outed and would prefer to continue in their usual line of advice manuals and lighthearted, slightly moralistic novels, many of which contained stealth queer content.

Nathaniel was raised a strict Methodist in a small town about 140 miles north of London. His mother is the daugher of a minister. His father, a surgeon, abandoned the privileges of the landed gentry to study medicine and marry for love. He has two younger brothers. Sensitive Peter wants to follow in his father's footsteps; tough Mark is a builder. Nathaniel's mother has been flirting with joining the Primitive Methodists and becoming a preacher, a prospect that Peter and Nathaniel both find quite alarming.

Nathaniel was comfortable with a female identity in childhood, to the extent that he thought about it. He was also always drawn to the idea of asceticism and transcending the body. When he decided to journey to London and seek work in the book business, he dressed in male clothes for safety and found that being Nathaniel suited him better than being Mary ever had. Eliza saw through his disguise, mostly because he wasn't very good at it at first, but no one else knows. He's relatively tall and eats barely enough to live on--in part to keep himself from developing curves--so he easily passes for male. He regularly attends a Methodist church (where he sings badly but enthusiastically in the choir), donates more to charity than he can really afford, and lives in a threadbare rented room with his elderly terrier, Lord Wuffington (known to all as Wuffles). He had been living over the shop but had to move out once George died, as it would have been too scandalous for him and Eliza to live together alone while unmarried.

Eliza, who still thinks of Nathaniel as a "mannish woman" rather than a man, keeps trying to set Nathaniel up with her lady friends. Nathaniel keeps trying to tell her that he's a) a man and b) not interested in sex or romance. The truth is that he finds some men very attractive, but he has no idea what to make of that--does it mean he's really a woman after all? and how could he ever marry a man if it would mean leaving the job he loves and going back to being Mary?--so he keeps it to himself.

Algernon's story

25-year-old Algernon Smythe is the oldest son of Sir Francis Smythe, a second-generation baronet. Sir Francis is extremely proud of his title and determined that his son should be upwardly mobile, especially as the Smythes are well-off but not wealthy. Algernon has no interest in obligations of any kind, and has spent the past five years exploring the Canadian wilderness with renowned explorer Capt. Lord Thomas Silverthorne, a retired Naval officer who thinks this is an excellent way to spend his family funds. While off in Canada, there were some occasions when men bundled together in tents found that sex was a nice way to share warmth and pass the time, but Algernon assumes he'll leave all of that behind when he goes home. Since he enjoys it a lot, that's an additional incentive to stay in Canada.

Finally, having grown up a bit and started to feel rather guilty, Algernon leaves the expedition a bit early, comes home, and is promptly sent to London to be knighted (his due as a baronet's oldest son), which should have happened on his 21st birthday. The Prince Regent graciously makes an exception for him.

Coming off the ship, Algernon stumbles and wrenches his right leg. The knighthood ceremony involves a lot of standing and kneeling, and by the time it's done he's in a great deal of pain. Unable to travel, he takes quarters in London and begins a program of daily walks, firmly believing in the power of clean air, exercise, and good food to cure nearly any ailment.

Algernon's father has been pressuring him to get married, and finally cuts off his funds until he finds a wife. He decides to look for some nice wealthy biddable young woman who's willing to keep the home fires burning while he goes off around the world. However, not being able to dance makes social events rather awkward, and he doesn't have any real connections in the upper echelons of society. His best prospect is Sarah Silverthorne, Tom's daughter, but he feels he ought to wait for Tom to return to London so they can be properly introduced.

And to refresh your memories, a bit of Nathaniel and Eliza at work and Algernon's grand entrance.

Is that enough to inspire a prompt or two? Perhaps? Help me out here, folks; I'm really struggling to get anything like back in the groove.

EDIT: No AUs, please, but I'm willing to introduce speculative elements.
 
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