Category Archives: Mulgrave Castle – Harriet Twine the Saucy

Writing – Great Aunt Bertha at The Asylum.

Frankenstein's Revenge

It’s all go in The Laboratory.

Things are frantic at The Laboratory at  the moment.  We have a children’s play “Frankenstein’s  Revenge” being thrust on the public  at Hallowe’en and I am researching and editing Mulgrave Castle which is about the psychic Victorian detective, Harriet Twine.  Therefore, I thought I would share with you how I am getting myself in the mood for both writing and marketing.

The other week I went to Lincoln prison,  a Victorian gaol in Lincoln Castle, to help me envisage what it must be like to feel like a Victorian lady. Lincoln is a wonderful place for creating writing atmosphere and this weekend, the old asylum at Lincoln will host the biggest Steampunk Festival in Europe.  The simplest way to explain Steampunk is that it is a mixture of Victoriana and Sci Fi – that is a very loose term but it gets you in the picture if you are not au fait with Steampunk.

I find that I have a Steampunk heart as the motto is “Be Splendid!”  This basically means that we should show wonderful manners and try to dress with elegance.  This really appeals to me because I hate bad manners and I love costumes.  So I decided that if anywhere was going to get me in the mood for embracing my fictional Victorian world, it has to be The Asylum.

The costume is ready – almost – but then I thought of all the folks turning up with their gadgets and inventions in the true Victorian spirit.  This was when I decided that as I had been inspired by Frankenstein, I would take my invention from The Laboratory to the Asylum.

Here is a short film about the invention I’m taking to the Asylum.  If after watching it you can’t decide whether I should actually be in the Asylum or I have just got a whacky sense of humour –can you come down on the side of the latter please?

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Filed under Creative Writing, Frankenstein's Revenge, Inspiration and Us, Loony literature videos, Mulgrave Castle - Harriet Twine the Saucy

Writing – Embracing Characterisation in a haunted, Victorian Prison.

Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle.

Handcuffs on display at Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle.

 

I am working on a novel called Mulgrave Castle in which my main character Harriet Twine is a psychic, Victorian detective.  In order to really embrace my character as I re-write, I wanted to visit a place I had been to before which I knew had both a mixture of atmosphere and spiritual energy.  It is the Victorian prison in Lincoln castle.

Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle

A faithful dog on display at the prison. His master was a poacher who shot a head keeper in the knee. Unfortunately, the man died and William Clark alias Slenderman was hanged for it at Lincoln Prison in 1877.

I decided to do most of my journey by train as this was a popular Victorian mode of transport.  I would have liked to do the whole day in Victorian costume but after doing other experiments in costume, I decided it really was not practical and I would have to use my imagination as far as clothing went.

I have written about the prison elsewhere on the site under Exciting Excursions.  The place which impressed me most on my last visit is the prison chapel.  In 1849 the Separate System came into force.  It was believed that if prisoners were kept in isolation they would become rehabilitated.  They were only let out of their cells to go to the Chapel and for exercise.  It is said to be the only one of its kind left in the world.  The Separate System meant that the inmates would sit in closed in seats, in The Chapel, so that they could not see or speak to anyone else.  The seats are tilted, therefore if any prisoners dared to fall asleep during a sermon they would fall forward and be punished.  There was an open bench at the back which was especially for condemned criminals; obviously it was thought that they were beyond redemption.  Debtors also were not included in the separate system and they would be seated in the gallery with the men above and the female debtors below.  There were sloping seats at the front for the women.  Each criminal in the Separate System was locked into his seat before another could be let in.  In addition to not being allowed to see others, the prisoners also had to wear masks to cover their faces.  In 1851, it was realized that this system did not work and it was abandoned.

Lincoln Victorian Prison in Lincoln Castle.

This is the only chapel of this kind left in the world.

The remarkable aspect of all this is that visitors to the chapel today can stand in the pulpit and have the view which the prison chaplain would have.  Some seats are fitted with a dummy criminal wearing a mask.  The vision is intimidating and the atmosphere is awful and on my first visit it gave me shivers down my back.

Lincoln Victorian Prison, Lincoln Castle

This is the view from the pulpit.

For this visit, I had strongly psyched myself up not to be so intimidated by the chapel, after all, Harriet is Victorian and has never witnessed the liberal world which I am used to.  As I stood in the pulpit looking down on the chapel to take the photographs, I felt a very strong sensation which made me lean backwards so that I could not be pushed.  I put that down to my own imagination and went down into the seats and sat on the front row.

I had not planned to do this but I found that I was sitting observing the other visitors.  People seemed reluctant to stay in the chapel, I found that most were scuttling straight through and not visiting the pulpit.  They seemed as if they should not be in there and were frightened of getting caught.  I decided to stop the next visitors and explain about the pulpit and directed them up to it.  They didn’t look happy and didn’t actually climb into the box.  So as the next people I directed up there were sneaking off, I pointed the pulpit out.  They declined going in.  I eventually witnessed one couple going in and their faces suggested they had eaten something which had gone off.

I felt at this point that my experiment had worked in that I had become like my intrepid Victorian heroine compared to the other visitors, I had lost my modern day queasiness for harder times than ours.

Lincoln Victorian Prison, Lincoln Castle.

A display portraying the gallows just in case we forget what took place in Lincoln Prison.

However, all of that fell by the wayside when I entered Cobb Hall which was built in the 13th century and has been used as a prison and for executions.  The stench of urine as I entered was overwhelming which puzzled me, later it actually made sense as when people are extremely frightened it is not unknown for them to wet themselves.  There is a ladder which leads down to the dungeon and there was very strong negative energy emanating from that area so I declined to go down.  I felt rather ashamed at that point as Harriet would definitely have gone down to try to find out what had happened down there.  For me however, the feeling of evil was too strong.  I did climb up to the top where the hangings took place.  In the mode of Victorian psychic detective, I did not sense anything there.

Cobb Hall, Lincoln Castle.

For many, when they went through those doors – they never came out again alive.

Whilst I was up at the top, unbeknown to me, my son had entered Cobb Hall seen the ladder area leading down to the dungeon and had left immediately, he too got a really negative feeling from that area and rushed to tell me about it as I left Cobb Hall.

Cobb Hall, Lincoln Prison

Down into the dungeon. There is a malevolent energy around this spot.

Did my experiment work?  I feel it did as I think that I have discovered that Harriet is rather more adventurous than I am.  I have discovered that leading a life as a sheltered Victorian lady has made her more likely to throw herself into situations because her life is dull and it is not enough for her.

Do you ever do experiments like this?  If so, please tell so that I know that I am not the only one hanging around Victorian prisons.

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Writing – Point of View Problems – What a Palaver!

English: Mulgrave Castle Well worth a visit

English: Mulgrave Castle Well worth a visit (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

At the moment, I am working on a supernatural Victorian novel called Mulgrave Castle.  My main character, Harriet Twine is a young woman who gets dragged mentally and physically into a suspicious murder because she has physic powers which she will not acknowledge.  She is also desperate to find love with the suspicious Dante DeGuise but we will leave bedroom matters for another day.

 

I am on a major re-write as I initially tried to write it entirely from Harriet’s point of view and then decided that I wanted much more insight into the mysterious DeGuise family of Mulgrave Castle and also wanted more of Jane, Harriet’s paid companion, personal thoughts to come through.  I spent goodness knows how long changing the point of view and then I posted the first few chapters on the loonyliterature website.  The posts have been removed since re-writing started again.

 

The extracts were extremely well received, the main criticism being that the point of view moved about too much.  As I had already  changed the point of view about once, I decided to completely put the work aside and leave it for a few months and then go back to it.  I find this really helps when I am not sure whether I agree with criticism or not.  It means that the manuscript I am working on has gone cold in my mind and I can look at it with the eyes of others, more than if it is deeply entrenched in my brain through constant working on it.

 

A strange thing happened before I went back to rereading my last draft of Mulgrave Castle, I was reading Phil Rickman’s book “The Man in The Moss” and found the constant change of point of view really annoying.  I found that I had to stop and think every few pages about whom we were dealing with.  I was further irritated that my two favourite characters, who the back of the book suggested were the main characters, did not feature nearly enough as the point of view seemed so stretched out.  I normally love Phil Rickman’s work, his Merrily Watkin’s books totally transport me but although, I still enjoyed “The Man in The Moss”, I know that if that was the first novel of his that I read, I might not have looked for his other books and been the big fan that I am today.

 

I reread Mulgrave Castle and decided that the lovely ladies who had given me this critique, Maria Thermann and Ross Mountney were spot on.  It means that I have a huge job of rewriting as over half the novel takes place when Harriet isn’t there.  There are times, at the moment, when I could smack myself around the face with a cold fish for changing the point of view in the first place.  However, maybe if I hadn’t tried it another way, I would never have been truly happy not knowing that I had found the best possible solution to Mulgrave Castle’s point of view.

 

Has this ever happened to you?  I would really like to know about your experiences of point of view so that when I am banging my head against the laptop at 6a.m. I know that I am not alone.

 

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What sort of writer are you – explorer or planner?

English: Mulgrave Castle. Castle ruins situate...

English: Mulgrave Castle. Castle ruins situated in Mulgrave Woods, near Sandsend on the east coast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the moment, I am on a major re-write of my supernatural, Victorian novel, “Mulgrave Castle”.  I am having days where I am conjuring up the atmosphere I need to re-create the book in my head and I feel truly satisfied.  However, I am also having days when I will do anything before getting started and then find that I have wasted my writing time.  I am beginning to wonder if this is to do with the type of writer I am.

As I see it, there are basically two types of writers. (Of course, many will be a mixture of the two.)  There is the explorer who has maybe a very basic plot and outline ideas for characters and then lets the whole work evolve as she/he writes.  There is also the planner who has virtually everything worked out either on paper or in their head before they start to write.

I would love to be a planner but my writing muse hates it and I have to accept that I am an explorer.  Being an explorer can be tremendous fun as I sit and type and imagine and all sorts of scenes taking place which help me get to know my characters.  However, it means that I have to do about seven drafts of a book and by drafts I don’t mean spellcheck.  I mean doing a draft purely to re-write the plot, exploring the best point of view, then the same with character development and another one to put signposts in etc…

As I work, I have another file open which is called “Mulgrave Castle Leftovers”, this is basically the cutting room floor.  Being an explorer means that I have scene after scene which is cut because there might only be one relevant sentence in it – however writing these scenes are not a waste of time as they give me an intimate insight into characters and setting.  When we first begin to write, we find it difficult to cut, it is almost as if someone is threatening to cut parts of our person off.  The longer we work at our craft, the more we can see what doesn’t work or what simply is clogging the arteries of the story up.  I call it “boning the text” – basically, I am cutting it down to the bone.  To demonstrate the severity of it, I am on page 63 of my most recent re-write and the “Mulgrave Castle Leftovers” file has 10,000 words in it already.  Goodness knows how many words will be in it by the time I get to the end.

So, I’ve shared with you – now do tell, how do you write?

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I Feel Rather Stupid – To Post Or Not To Post?

 

Leading up to Castle Rising.

The reason I feel stupid is that I travelled for just over two hours by car to Castle Rising in Norfolk and spent less than twenty minutes in the castle itself.  Before we go any further, I have to state that Castle Rising is a wonderful place to visit and I would certainly recommend it to anybody.  So, if indeed it is such a good spot to visit, why did I only spend twenty minutes in the castle itself?  I believe I have a bit of explaining to do.

At the moment, I am working on a supernatural novel set in Victorian times called Mulgrave Castle.  I have been working on this, on and off, for a number of years.  At one point, I actually got rid of the supernatural element and decided to have it as a detective story.  The reason for this was that whilst writing it, strange things happened and it spooked me.  I have had a number of supernatural experiences in the past and I find them hard to believe and on occasions have been frightened, I am a sceptic but know what I have seen, heard and felt.

A short while ago, when I decided to go back to working on Mulgrave Castle, I decided that it would be what it had set out to be – a supernatural story.  I resolved that instead of cowardly hiding from the supernatural world, I would do lots of research and find out more instead of closing it firmly out.  This is how I ended up at Castle Rising.

At the same time, my son and I have been doing a lot of family history.  This has brought up some surprises which makes me question why I am sensitive to supernatural experiences even though I have always tried to block them out.  Whilst looking up family history in Lancashire, I stumbled upon MJ Wayland’s (author, paranormal explorer and relic hunter) website www.mywayland.com  In one post, he writes about the most haunted families in Lancashire.  As I read the names the Singletons, the Osbaldestons and the Southworths – I realised that I am descended from all these families.   I will explain further on why I am mentioning these three families.

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II...

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II of England. From http://www.william1.co.uk/pg1.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Further research discovered that Isabella of France is my 21st great grandmother, for those who are not au fait with her, she is otherwise known as She Wolf for allegedly being involved in the murder of her husband, Edward II.  Castle Rising in Norfolk is where Isabella was under house arrest for many years.  It has been said that she haunts the castle and people have heard her hysterical laughter.  The genealogical line which I followed to get from myself to Isabella involves the families Singleton, Osbaldeston and Southworth from Lancashire.  Are certain genealogical lines more susceptible to hauntings than others?

English: Castle Rising Castle. By William M. C...

English: Castle Rising Castle. By William M. Connolley; 2006/11. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we love visiting castles, we decided to go to visit Castle Rising.  I have to point out that I sincerely did not want the story of Isabella laughing hysterically to be true.  Ancestor or not, the thought of souls who cannot rest in peace leaves me feeling desolate.  I wanted to visit the castle and enjoy it purely for its history minus any supernatural incidents.  So not only am I a sceptic who needs proof of supernatural phenomena, I also think deeply about what some of these stories actually mean if they are true.

Do these creatures guard Castle Rising?

So we arrived at Castle Rising and had a very civilised picnic in the grass covered car park and used the exceptionally clean and well looked after lavatories.   After putting away our chairs and picnic basket, we sauntered down to the castle.  We decided to walk where the battlements would have been first to take in the magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.  After a few minutes, I started to feel unsure of my footing even though I had no need to.  We left the battlements and went into the castle.  By the time I had climbed the first lot of steps, I felt decidedly ill.  I felt so hot my head was pounding and I felt as if I had a huge lump of something in my right ear.  It was a hot day but we were in the cool darkness of the castle.  I complained about how hot I was and my son said that I was standing in what was once the fireplace.  I hadn’t realised as I felt too uncomfortable to read any information signs.

I was trying desperately to feel well as I didn’t want to spoil the visit for the rest of the party.  I looked out and saw a bridge and I heard myself saying that I could not go across the bridge; no one could make me go across the bridge.  I was aware that I sounded like a petulant child but at that point fear was a stronger emotion than shame.  My family asked if I wanted to leave as I looked on the verge of having a palpitation attack.  We hurriedly made our exit.

Within minutes of getting into the car, I was well again.  My son asked me why I was so afraid of going across the bridge.  I told him that at that point, I knew that if I went on that bridge, it would collapse underneath me.  He said that the floor had collapsed around that area in the 16th century.  I had been too unwell to read the wall plaques when I was in there.  The suggestion could be that my eye maybe had quickly skimmed it or I had read about it and not remembered.  The only problem with that theory is that I did not do much reading about the castle before I went to it once I had read about Isabella supposedly haunting it as I did not want any suggestions of anything which have happened implanting itself in my brain.  The other problem with the theory that I might have briefly seen the wall plaque or read about the floor collapsing was that I was truly petrified and I have been to many places where things have happened but they didn’t have that effect upon me.  Nobody would drive all that way on a family day and leave so quickly if not made to do so.

A way to make a quick exit.

Also, it left me feeling really stupid, it has taken me almost two weeks to write about it – in fact, I almost didn’t write about it because it seems too silly for words.  I will be going back; firstly, I am so annoyed with myself because none of us got to really see it and explore.  Luckily, my son had the sense to get some quick photographs before we left.  The other reason I will return is my curiosity – will I be able to overcome my fear of what looks like a perfectly safe bridge?

 

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