Geekery and Creepery, Musings, Twitter

In the Footsteps of Bram Stoker

I spent last weekend with my family in Whitby, up on the Yorkshire coast. It was a birthday present for my husband, who turned 30 this month. We used to visit Whitby in the days before we had children, and it was a wonderful weekend full of nostalgia and unhealthy food.

It was also a weekend full of literary delights. Whitby has an important literary history, more of one than I had even realised, so it turns out!

Whitby, and more specifically, it’s abbey that sits, in ruins, above the town and the sea, is the spot that inspired Bram Stoker to write his famous book Dracula. He spent six years living in Whitby, taking walks each morning, looking over at the abbey, the 199 steps leading up to it, and watching the cargo boats coming in and out of the bay. Enter Dracula. I just had to seek out the sights, walk where he walked.

 

While I was looking for the location of the blue plaque that marked Bram Stoker’s history in Whitby, I stumbled across evidence of another literary visitor to the town. Apparently, before Stoker came here, Lewis Carroll, creator of Alice and Wonderland, was a regular visitor to Whitby. He stayed here six times, in a building that overlooks the same abbey that later inspired Bram Stoker to put pen to paper.

 

And then we found a second plaque for Mr Stoker. Well, I had to sit here and ponder the view for a while. Did it inspire me to write? Frankly, this entire town does. It’s brimming with history, all wrapped up in fascinating little backstreets of crooked houses crammed against one another. I’d quite forgotten how much I love this place.

A bench looking at the view that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula
Me sat looking at the view that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula

 

The guesthouse in which Bram Stoker stayed, is actually still a guesthouse today. You can rent his room, which has been restored to Victorian grandeur. Yes, I am planning to stay there. A writing retreat, I think. Watch this space!

When it came time to, sadly, bid farewell to Whitby, we drove onto the historic city of York for the day, where another literary delight awaited us!

A Harry Potter shop called The Shop That Must Not Be Named

Geekery and Creepery, Twitter, Writing

Where Are Your Stories?

Victorian correspondence My dad deals in stamps, and postmarks, and the like (you’d be surprised how much some postmarks can be worth!) Every now and again, he gets hold of piles of old correspondence: letters, envelopes, postcards, personal documents. And he lets me take my pick of the items that aren’t worth much.

To him, the interest is in the stamps and the postmarks. He can track and trace them, and that’s where his stories are. Where the letters have been, how much the postage was, where and when they were sent.

To my brother, the stories are in the actual paper itself. That’s what he gets excited over. The embossed pictures and patterns, the scalloped edges, the watermarks.

But to me, the stories are in the words. The names and addresses, the contents of the letters. The lives lived, the news shared. Even the seemingly mundane business correspondence has a story to tell.

This latest batch are all Victorian, dated between 1870 and 1900. Some still have their sealing wax, melted and pressed on more than 100 years ago. And even a Victorian mourning envelope, edged in black, used to inform of a death.

I love imagining these people; what they looked like, how they lived, and how this particular correspondence may have changed their life forever.

Geekery and Creepery, Writing

Writing Needn’t be a Headache

Being a writer can mean a lot of sitting down staring at a computer screen (ok, we are actually writing some of the time, but we also do a lot of aimless staring, right?)

Recently, I’ve found myself getting a lot of headaches from the screen, sometimes leaving me unable to use the laptop for even an hour. For a writer who likes to write for large chunks of time, this was getting problematic.

But I’ve found a great solution to those headaches (that I stole from my husband), and it comes in the form of NoScope gaming glasses. They work by filtering out the harsh blue light emitted by electronic devices, which, not only help with headaches and eye strain, but can apparently help with insomnia too. I’ve honestly found them to be fantastic, and I’ve been able to increase my screen time threefold.

NoScope Wraith (Black)
NoScope Hellfire Orange


The only problem I have found is that they sit very snug to the face, so they do mist up quite easily, especially with the copious amounts of coffee I drink! But, they do have a range of styles, so some of the others might not suffer from coffee steam quite so badly.

They’re priced very reasonably and, while based in the US, they do ship internationally. Honestly, I’ve found these glasses a godsend, both with my laptop and my tablet.

Now, full disclosure, this link is my husband’s affiliate link, but if you want to cut down on screen-induced headaches, I whole-heartedly recommend NoScope. Check them out Here.

NoScope

Geekery and Creepery, Writing

It’s OK, You’re Normal

We all have our quirks, our individualities, our own unique traits. It’s what makes the world interesting.

But then there’s the things you fret over. The things that seem so bizarre that you’re scared to mention to anyone else in case they brand you a freak. The things no one else talks about for the same reason. So no one gets to discover they’re not alone. This was one of the most comforting things I ever found online:

Intrusive Thoughts

The first Intrusive Thoughts I remember began during my teenage years, starting off with thoughts of dropping the glass-bottled pint of milk I was holding. When I learned to drive, I used to think about driving full speed into the backs of lorries parked in laybys. These days, most of my Intrusive Thoughts revolve around knives and scissors. Even knowing they’re normal, I still feel like a lunatic.

But, as a horror writer, I’ve learnt to harness these thoughts, to use them to my advantage. All those dark thoughts I have, all those that, in everyday life, I try to push away as soon as they enter my head, I gather them together when I write. I become an absolute sadist, and my poor characters suffer the fallout. But, hey, that’s my job.

You can learn more about Intrusive Thoughts on Wikipedia. What Intrusive Thoughts do you have? What do you do with them?

Geekery and Creepery

Cancel Christmas!

Not yet satisfied, 2016 dealt us another huge blow yesterday with the sad passing of actor Alan Rickman.

This year has already left music, film, and theatre fans reeling, additionally so with the late December passing of Motörhead’s frontman Lemmy, and has left many worrying who might be next.

While Alan Rickman will probably be best remembered in his role as Hogwarts’ Professor Snape, his film, and theatre, legacy reaches far beyond that, and there’s probably a lot of movies you never even realised he was in. To me, he will always be the notorious and hilarious Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Last night, however, it was the Dogma movie that found its way into my DVD player.

Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham

I looked up his entry on IMDB, and the trivia section there was quite interesting. He often turned down, no doubt higher paying, film roles to return to his “first love” of theatre.

And while the studio wanted Tim Roth as Professor Snape, Alan Rickman was always J K Rowling’s preference, in fact, she originally wrote the character with him in mind. And during the filiming of the franchise, she kept slipping him exclusive character titbits from the future books to help inform his portrayal of the character.

I really do feel his loss; an actor who could put so much hilarity into the portrayal of a villain without losing any of the villainous edge. The world is a lesser place without him.

Geekery and Creepery

Lost in the Labyrinth

A large portion of the world is in shock today. Stunned by the news that the legend that is David Bowie has passed away after a battle with cancer.

I’m a bit too young to have been a proper fan of his music at the time, but I certainly grew up with it all around me. And, whatever someone’s age, I doubt there’s many who couldn’t sing at least one of his songs. He was a true icon; one of the few people in the world that created their fantasy world and lived it every day.

My big influence from David Bowie came from the 1986 movie, Labyrinth. I was only six years old when it was actually released, and I can’t tell you when I first saw it, or how I came across it. But it’s still a regular disc in my DVD player.

Labyrinth

Through my teens, it ‘spoke to me’ in the same way it ‘spoke to’ many teenage girls: through my adolescent belief that the world treats me unfairly, through my love of fantasy and escapism, and, although we giggled at his very tight trousers, the massive crush we all had on the Goblin King.

But, even more than that, it showed that a girl could be a hero, even when her heart is getting tangled up into the romance of it all. Even today, there are still too few positive pop culture role models for young girls, but back in the 80s and early 90s, it was barely thought of.

With Sarah’s words—”You have no power over me”—I discovered that I could be the hero of my own story, even if I do still want to fall in love with the bad guy, or wear pretty dresses. Because those things don’t have to be contradictions, they don’t have to be opposites.

So, thank you Mr Bowie, for the magic and the fantasy. I hope that, wherever you are now, it’s everything you ever dreamed of.