Old stuff

Jo here. My husband and I took a short break over into Dorset to visit  the coastal visit of Charmouth on the JuraQ3458t Ammonite, c50mm, C-beachssic Coast. This stretch of coastal cliffs  shed rocks under the influence of the sea, revealing fossils from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, so we thought we'd go fossil hunting. We didn't find a great deal, but it's always pleasant to wander about at the sea edge.

Charmouth We realized we were almost half way to Stonehenge, so we decided to leave early on the third day and go there. The delights of living in a small country with a lot of interesting old stuff.

For one reason or another, we'd never been, which was a shame as people used to be able to wander about the stones at will. However, we were curious about the new set up there and it was only about 90 minutes further. There's a new visitor center over a mile from the stones, and shuttle buses running continuously to take visitors there.

Q3537w Jo at StonehengeIn my opinion, the trouble with really famous places is a) that there are always a lot of other people there, but b) that we see and know so much about them that we don't get the impact that others did in the past. However, the organization is now very smooth, and the stones are impressive, no matter how you look at it. Of course, people are fascinated by how prehistoric people moved such stones from far away and arranged them in a purposeful design. I'm more interested in why, especially with a place like Stonehenge, where people went to great effort to create structures over millennia. The stones are only the last of many effortful layers.

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Whitby, North Yorkshire.

Having been here as an interviewee so recently, I'd thought I'd do a short blog about Whitby. I recently bought a local book called Life In Regency Whitby by Prudence Bebb. It's more bits and pieces than a coherent whole, but still full of interesting material. I see she's written a number of Life in Regency xxxxxx books which could be useful for using any of those places in a Regency novel. (check out Amazon UK for a listing.)

The View From On High

There are lots of aerial views of Whitby here.  You'll see, for example on this one that the town sits on both sides of the River Esk, and it's the safe harbour of the Esk that made Whitby a good port back to early times.

The North Sea Coast is a rough place for shipping, even though so many people have made their living up here from the sea. This picture of a rough sea was taken on a day pleasant enough for a walk into town! Bebb has interesting detail about the way captains caught in a storm would see if Whitby could offer refuge. I high flag on the harbour tower meant deep water in the river harbour. Middle meant a shallow draft, and low meant impossible.

Famous Connections.

One Whitby wreck was a Russian ship, the Demeter, which carried Count Dracula to England — fictionally speaking. Hence the famous Goth weekends here. The next one is on the 24th and 25th of this month.

Cook The other important connection is Captain Cook, who trained here as an apprentice and then began his seafaring career, which is why there's a statue overlooking the harbour.

The Past Is Not Always Comfortable.

In the Regency, Whitby was a whaling port, which brought in a lot of wealth as whale oil was used in oil lamps.I just looked whale oil up on Wikipedia and was interested to learn that it's a liquid wax not an oil.

I also came across an interesting article about old oil lamps.

I assume most of us aren't too happy about killing whales for their oil. Will this affect our reading of a novel in which the characters are using oil lamps? The oil was also used to make candles, so unless beeswax is specified….

Is this yet another way in which the past can be uncomfortable for the modern conscience. Would it bother you?


Let's Hear It For Young Heroes!

 Whaling, good or evil, demanded heroics, and I liked one story because William Scoresby, the captain of a whaler, was only 26. I write young heroes but sometimes people seem to think that young means callow.

Briefly, the ship the Esk was holed by ice in Greenland. Other ships came to help, but everyone thought the ship lost. William, however, came up with a plan. Everything was taken off the ship onto the ice so it floated high, then it was rolled on its side and the huge hole mended. Then, with the help of his brother-in-law, the captain of another ship and no older, the Esk limped home to Whitby.

William was also a scientist and made important discoveries about the Arctic. You can read more about him here.

My sort of guy!


Some Regency Houses.

A few years later he rented a house in what is now called Saint Hilda's terrage. I'm not sure this is the one, but it would be like this. The annual rent was 34 pounds.

Here's another candidate.


And to balance the picture — how the lower orders lived. Some 17th century cottages, which now sit below street level.


I hope you've enjoyed this little bit about Whitby.



Gothic wonders

Charliedrac  It's Halloween weekend, and in Whitby, Yorkshire, where I now live, that means Goths!

Whitby, you see, is where Dracula was shipwrecked, and Bram Stoker partly wrote the book here, inspired by the ruined abbey on the cliffs. As it happens, some lovely morning light a few days ago let me take this atmospheric picture of the scene. You can click on it to see it enlarged. I am proud of it, but it's mainly that it was all being very photogenic right then.

I've put this and some other pictures on line here.

Back to Goth weekend. Twice a year, Goths from all over Britain come to Whitby, but of course Halloween is the big event. People of all ages dress up, there are dances and exhibitions and movie marathons. I'm told it's all very good humoured. I'll find out, because this will be my first experience.

There are some pictures part way down this page. And here. I'm hoping to take some pictures myself and if so, I'll add them to this blog.

Tfuk My next UK reissue is Tempting Fortune, and I think they've made Portia somewhat gothic. What do you think?

So what about gothic in romance? What would you say are the great gothic romances? Rebecca? Victoria Holt did some, yes? I confess that gothic has never been a big favourite of mine, though I did enjoy some Victoria Holt, I think. Mauleverer Hall? The Singing Sands? Or was it "shivering?" I'm deliberately not looking these up, just digging into my misty memories.

(Here's a very ungothicky picture of Whitby harbour, taken today. It was a gorgeous warm day.)

I'm told I can edit posts without destroying the blogosphere, so here goes with some pictures from the Goth Weekend. It's great to see so many people of all ages enjoying themselves.

Gothwithbaby Here's a stylish Goth mummy (that's mother, not corpse! Got to make that clear in such  context.

And here's a great Goth pram.Gothpram 

I loved these baby  Goth T-shirts.


And the hearse.


There's also a huge selection of Goth clothes, including corsets.


There are more images at my photo site


When gothics dominated the genre in the '70s I pretty well stopped reading romance. I've been trying to think why the gothic doesn't really appeal. It is based in Victorian times, and I have a deep dislike of nearly everything Victorian except the pre-Raphaelites, who are anything but gothic!

Gothics also tend to lack humor, and I require a thread of humour in a book, not matter how grim everything else is. Anyone know a gothic with humour? (I'm trying to relearn British spelling, but I keep forgetting which is which or what is what!)

Then there is the fact that a gothic almost demands that the heroine do something really stupid.

I think the other killer for me was that the classic gothic romance had two men in it — the nice guy and the dark and dangerous guy, but we knew from the first page that the D&D guy was the hero, and the nice guy was either a useless wimp or the villain. Yawn.

h, and I'm not that keen on D&D guys, especially if they're snarly, and especially if they turn violent.

So, what's your opinion of gothic romance, past and present? Can you define what makes a romance a gothic? Any recommendation of one I might enjoy, given what I said above?Lwbnewsm

I'm chatting in the Barnes & Noble book club this week, mostly about Lord Wraybourne's Betrothed (which is selling really well, by the way) but it can be about anything.


Next week I go on my mini book tour in southern England, visiting places that Cyn and Chastity visited during their adventures in My Lady Notorious — or Lady Notorious, as it is in the UK. If you're in England or Wales, check out the final itinerary here, and come along to meet me if you can.

I know I didn't pick a winner from my last blog, so here goes.

Randomly picked. From North America,  TC. From the UK, Larenda. Please contact me at jo@jobev.com with your address.

And talk to me of gothics and goths,