Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Showing posts with label Medieval castles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Medieval castles. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Ghostly Stories Behind the Once Upon A Haunted Castle Collection

Happy Release day to wonderful collection mates! Today is the release of our fun anthology: ONCE UPON A HAUNTED CASTLE.

'Twas a dark and stormy night in the Highlands... 
5 Scottish Castles... 5 Restless Ghosts... 5 Epic Love Stories.

In our own words, check out a bit about the history of the ghost stories in our epic anthology!

Dunstaffnage Castle, the setting for Eliza Knight's LAIRD OF SHADOWS
A funny thing happened to me: two friends approached me with ideas that meshed perfectly. Ruth A. Casie wanted to do a ghostly Celtic collection and Madeline Martin wanted to write about Scottish ghosts that help a hero and heroine fall in love. Immediately my mind exploded with ideas! I’d worked with Kathryn Le Veque and Terri Brisbin and thought they’d be perfect for the project, too!

I love a good ghost story, and in my travels to Europe, I’ve often felt the otherworldly presence of those who lived in the past. One of my favorite castles in Scotland is Dunstaffnage Castle, and I was lucky enough to visit there on my last trip! The history behind it is fascinating and haunting. There is this tale of a glaistig, or green lady, who haunts the grounds of Dunstaffnage. She is called the Ell-Maid of Dunstaffnage, but no one knows who she might have been. She appears in green, gliding over the walls, and through the forest. Her appearances often were brought on by tidings of joy or sadness within the family. This gave me an idea—in fact, it sparked a whole series! LAIRD OF SHADOWS is the opening book in my new MacDougall Legacy series (and will be releasing with bonus/expanded scenes in January 2017). In this story, we learn the origin of the Ell-Maid of Dunstaffnage… It was exciting to write this story, and I can’t wait for you all to read it, and to see what happens as I follow the MacDougall family throughout generations in my new series!

In Eliza Knight’s LAIRD OF SHADOWS, a decade old vow and an attack of Vikings brings Lady Elle Cam’béal to Dunstaffnage Castle seeking the help of the new, handsome, provocative laird with a beastly temper—Beiste MacDougall. As battles and treachery rain down upon them, Beiste and Elle find an unlikely ally in a ghost, and discover that a few stolen moments of passion can bring light from the shadows… 

Find later Castle, the setting for Kathryn Le Veque's DEEP INTO DARKNESS

In my novella, DEEP INTO DARKNESS, I drew a huge amount of inspiration from one of my favorite poets, Edgar Allan Poe. This was also my first story set in Scotland and I really wanted to do it right - creepy castle + Poe = Delicious Eeriness! 

I've done novellas based on Poe's works before, so it's really my interpretation of his poetry. In this case, the 'host' that narrates one of Poe's most famous poems, "The Raven", is also the host in my story. He's an old Viking who takes in two travelers for the night. And that's when the fun happens. I loved my hero and heroine so much that I had to write a full-length novel for them - THE RED LION will be released October 4th so readers can see how Jamison and Havilland met. But the bottom line is that I had a great time writing about a highlander hero and a great time writing a Medieval ghost story. I hope readers enjoy!

In Kathryn Le Veque's DEEP INTO DARKNESS, Findlater Castle in the Scottish Highlands becomes a place of mystery and doom for Jamison Munro and his wife,Havilland. Traveling across the highlands one dark and stormy night, they stumble upon a lonely Host in Findlater Castle, a pathetic soul waiting for his wife to return to him. It is a terrible tale of a tragic love story that the Host tells the travelers but when Havilland becomes curious about mysterious tapping sounds that go on in the middle of the night, she soon realizes the danger that she and her husband are in. It becomes a race against time for Havilland to free a trapped spirit and save both their lives in the process.

Duntulm Castle, one of the castle's in Terri Brisban's UPON A MISTY SKYE

When invited to contribute to this collection, I was lost! LOL! All I knew was that it must somehow involved Duntulm Castle, which I’ve visited several times and is known to be haunted. Once I was set on that location, I looked at the clans in the area and knew that the MacLeods and the MacDonalds were rivals for control of the Isle of Skye for centuries. A perfect choice for battling families. . . and forbidden love!

    I kept hearing the opening line of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as I was planning out my story – “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers. . . .” Of course, I wanted a ‘happily-ever-after’ so I adapted my Romeo and Juliet to make sure that happens! I suspect I will revisit the MacLeods and MacDonalds of Skye again....

In Terri Brisbin’s UPON A MISTY SKYE, Alexander MacDonald and Isabel MacLeod were not supposed to meet or fall in love or marry. Now that they have, both of their parents plan to separate them, by any means possible. But the ghost of Duntulm Castle has other plans for the forbidden lovers and those who stand in the way of true love.

Castle of Park, the setting for Madeline Martin's A GHOSTLY TALE OF FORBIDDEN LOVE

I’ve always loved haunted castles and the stories behind them. When first starting coming up with the idea for A Ghostly Tale of Forbidden Love, I read through all the ghost stories in Scotland until I came to one about Castle of Park. There were two ghosts: one of a monk who had been walled into the castle and left for dead, and another of a woman in green who was a servant – she’d  fell in love with the laird, ended up pregnant and then leapt to her death after having been fired. Then I thought, what if I saved the servant? Don’t worry – there still ends up being a second ghost to placate history, but who will it end up being?  

I actually was fortunate enough to stay for two nights at Castle of Park while in Scotland a couple weeks back. While I didn’t see any ghosts, the stay was absolutely magical.

In Madeline Martin’s A GHOSTLY TALE OF FORBIDDEN LOVE, Gavin MacDuff is a laird with a cruel and bitter aunt he’s sworn to protect. Senara is the new lady’s maid at Castle of Park and has sacrificed everything for the betterment of her family. Their paths tangle and lead to a road of hidden longing and secret passion – all of which is threatened by the power of one ghost who is fixed on revenge.

Caerlaverock Castle, the setting for Ruth A. Casie's THE MAXWELL GHOST

When I wrote The Guardian’s Witch I developed a character, Jamie Collins. He’s the hero’s close friend, confidant and at times conscience.  I’ve wanted to give Jamie his own story I just didn’t know what it would be until we started planning this collection. Castles, highlanders, ghosts, these were the elements that screamed Jamie Collins to me. When I sat down the story almost wrote itself.

My story is about Jamie and Laura Reynolds, two childhood friends who find themselves trying to solve a double murder not only to bring the murderer to justice, but to put a ghost to rest. Jamie and Laura’s relationship turns from friends to lovers but their whole story couldn’t be told in a novella. I have so much more to tell you about them that I had to write a full-length novel for them - THE HIGHLANDER’S ENGLISH WOMAN will be released in December. Readers will be able to see how Jamie and Laura’s relationship is tested and who helps Jamie along the way. This was a fun story to write. I hope you enjoy reading about them.

In Ruth A. Casie’s THE MAXWELL GHOST, traitors, deception, murders and ghosts run rampant at Caerlaverock Castle. Jamie Collins, a man of reality not hocus pocus, serves Lord Herbert in exchange for a his own farm.  Laura Reynolds, the Herbert's distant cousin comes to the castle to solve the murders and put the ghost to rest. The two, long-time friends find their destinies intertwined with hidden passions, but all is in jeopardy when Laura becomes the murderer’s next target. Jamie will find he needs some ghostly assistance to save Laura and declare his love.

Want to read more? Check out our anthology, now available in ebook and print!

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Little Castles That Could by Sharron Gunn

Please join me in welcoming Sharron Gunn back to History Undressed! Sharron is an genius when it comes to history! A go to gal for many writers with questions and presents various historical workshops. Today she's written a great article on Motte and Bailey castles. Enjoy!

The Little Castles That Could 
by Sharron Gunn

Windsor Castle

William the Conqueror knew that it was one thing to win a battle and that it was quite another to hold the conquered land. Controlling people from a stronghold is what does the trick. The bigger the castle the stronger, and a bigger, stronger castle could hold a larger garrison, and that should be what won England for William. Right? Nope. Not at first.

The castle William used to solidify his hold on England and Wales was called a motte-and-bailey: a pudding bowl turned upside down with a wooden tower on top and a palisade around the base of the bowl. The palisade looked like the forts of the Old American West (and Canadian too). Later one or two baileys, enclosed by palisades extended the amount of men a castle could accommodate. A more comfortable residence for the noble or monarch and was usually constructed in one of the baileys.

William built his first motte in England in the ruins of a Roman fort at Pevensey, then he moved to Hastings which was closer to a Roman road, and built another before the battle of Hastings. The advantage of the motte was that it could be built quickly and cheaply--less than 15 days for Hastings Castle--and provide a defensive structure on flat land which could easily withstand a cavalry attack.

The English chronicler Odericus Vitalis gives the lack of castles in England as a reason for the success of the Normans. 'For the fortresses which the Gauls (French) call castella had been very few in the English provinces: and on this account the English, although warlike and courageous, had nevertheless shown themselves too weak to withstand their enemies.' And he complained that they [the Normans] 'sorely burdened the unhappy people with forced labour on the castles, And when the castles were made they filled them with devils and wicked men'. (Rowley 1983: 59)

After the Conquest, William carefully controlled the distribution of land; only his most loyal followers received grants of land and permission to build a fortification. Hundreds of motte-and-bailey castles were built in Britain in the 11th-12th centuries. Many weren't long used, but they served their purpose admirably. The Normans preferred to fortify a hill if one were available. However, they made a motte, an artificial mound, when they wanted a defensive structure on flat land.

Building a motte from the Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry (actually an embroidery) shows the construction of a motte on flat ground. The image shows men digging out a ditch and heaping the earth in the centre to make an artificial mound. The top of the mound was flattened, and a wooden tower or donjon was built on top. It could be used as a lookout tower or the last refuge in an overwhelming attack. The bailey was an enclosure which contained the residential buildings: a great hall, a separate kitchen building, chapel, stables and barns, a chamber block and at least one well--very important that last. Both motte and bailey were surrounded by a palisade of wooden posts, connected by a wooden bridge or gangway.

Seven hundred motte-and-bailey castles show that most of Britain was conquered; they are found all over England and are particularly dense in Wales as resistance to the Norman invasion was fierce. In Scotland, the Normanised David I gave land to Anglo-Normans in the Lowlands and the north-east of Scotland.

Chroniclers record an enormous flurry of building by the Normans. Odericus mentioned how castles were raised at Warwick, Nottingham, York, Lincoln, Cambridge and Huntingdon. Castles weren't meant to protect the inhabitants of English towns; they were meant to intimidate the English. They were:

…a forward base and refuge, the fighting the hub of an appropriated estate. Every castle in later years would have functions other than military; it would be a residence, a treasury, a centre of administration, and a prison. (Platt 1994: 1)

Motte-and-bailey castles were built until the 13th century and, by then, they were seriously out-dated. The disadvantages were many: the palisades could be pulled apart with picks or rammed; heaps brushwood could be piled up by its palisade and set on fire. They were abandoned or the wood was replaced with stone. At Duffus Castle, near Inverness in Scotland, a stone tower replaced a wooden one, resulting in a little problem with settling. One corner of the castle cracked open like an egg and is sliding down the motte to this very day. Oops.

The stone towers built on top of the artificial mounds were called shell keeps. They often required a stone wall or revetement built around the base to keep the ground from settling and the castle from falling apart. The picture of Windsor Castle shows a shell keep in the centre, the oldest part of the castle, and the upper bailey to the right and the lower bailey to the left.
Berkhamdsted Castle -- Motte

Once replaced with stone, some continued to be used. Berkhamstead was given to Edward the Black Prince in 1339. There were newer, better designed castles by the 14th century, but the prince did not say, "Uh, no thanks. It's a bit out-of-date." He gladly accepted it as his first command. And at Windsor Castle, the shell keep is used to house the Royal Archives. While visitors may prefer to view grander stone castles, the motte-and-bailey was William's equivalent to the Roman camp, and he successfully conquered England with them.

Note: The word motte (mound) shifted in meaning to become 'moat', the water-filled ditch surrounding a fortified structure.

Hearts Through HistoryRomance Writers will sponsor Castles ofBritain  taught by Sharron, from 4 February to 5 March 2013. The course describes the development of castles from the 11th to the 13th centuries and gives much information about life in a medieval castle. The writer has a degree in Scottish history and Celtic Studies and has lived in Europe for eight years.


Bates, David, William the Conqueror, 2004
Hogg, Ian, The History of Forts and Castles, 1989
Kaufmann, J.E. & H.W.Kaufmann, The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages, 2004
Platt, Colin, The Castle in Medieval England & Wales, 1982
Rowley, Trevor, The Norman Heritage 1066 - 1200, 1983
Wilson, David M, The Bayeux Tapestry, 1985, 2004

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Castle of the Week: Bodiam Castle

This week's castle is Bodiam Castle in England, and one that I find so incredibly enchanting. So much so in fact, it is the backdrop for my website and facebook page.

Bodiam was built in East Sussex in the late 14th century, to help defend against the French invasion during the Hundred Years War. The castle is surrounded by a moat, houses seven impressive towers, a main twin-towered gatehouse and an outer barbican. The very center of the castle was a large courtyard, which the castle surrounded with its various towers (3 stories high each) and then its connecting buildings within the curtain walls which were 2-stories high: apartments, chambers, a chapel, the pantry, great hall, service rooms, kitchen, stables, etc... There would have been a few bridges to the castle, one at the postern tower at the rear, a drawbridge would have connected the barbican to the main gatehouse. The barbican and outer causeway were on their own sort of island and beyond them was a bridge leading over the massive moat.

Note: all of the garderobes drained to the moat... Any enemy attempting to swim would essentailly be swimming in a large sewer.

Bodiam Castle is now operated by the National Trust, so you can visit it!

Now for some pics...

Looking into the interior of the castle

A view from the moat

The main twin-towered gatehouse

An aerial view of the castle and moat

This painting was done in 1906 showing the overgrowth and  lack of maintenance on the castle, which was then shortly after taken over by the National Trust, cleaned up and restored.

My favorite picture, a sunset surrounds the castle.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Seduced by Medieval Castles

Today I'm blogging at Seduced by History on medieval castles. Come on by to visit!

Here's a sneak peak...

Castles in medieval times varied greatly from large wooden forts to magnificent stone structures. Earlier castles were built up on large man-made hills called mottes. Surrounding the motte was a bailey, which is like a courtyard. Atop the motte was the castle or better known as a keep, which was fenced in. Surrounding the bailey would be a wall or fence, and sometimes a castle could have more than one bailey, an upper bailey and a lower bailey or inner/outer. Inside the bailey were huts for the people, stables, a chapel, blacksmith, tanner, etc…All the things that will keep the people within the castle thriving—especially if they were caught in a siege. The bailey could be surrounded by a mote and a drawbridge could be raised or lowered to allow entry.
To read more, click here.