Friday, September 25, 2020

Today's Special - - Creating the Castle with Nancy Northcott and Jeanne Adams


Nancy Northcott, Jeanne Adams and friends are back with another anthology set in magnificent Caynham Castle. While last year's Christmas at Caynham Castle treated readers to Christmas holiday revelry, this year's Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle immerses characters - and readers - into the spookiness of Halloween. Jeanne and Nancy join us today to give us a behind the scenes tour of the making of this ancient castle on England's Welsh border. 

Welcome, Jeanne and Nancy!

Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle
An Anthololgy by Jeanne Adams, Morgan Brice, Caren Crane, and Nancy Northcott
Publisher: Rickety Bookshelf Press
Release Date: September 23, 2020

Come to western England’s Welsh Marches and the wickedly, spookily fun Halloween Ball at Caynham Castle. Let the Earl of Caynham and his fiancée welcome you into Halloween fun.

Lovers from Cape May, New Jersey, take a Halloween holiday at the magnificent Caynham Castle in Secrets and Ciphers. As their love and trust deepens, they also stumble across and solve a 700 year old mystery! Enjoy this M/M Romance with Morgan Brice’s Erik and Ben from Treasure Trail.

Follow an archeologist witch from Idaho as she tangles with a sexy photographer from the witchiest town in America, Jeanne Adams’s Haven Harbor, Massachusetts. In Trouble Under the Tower, they discover a hidden chapel, fend off thieves, and help put a dark entity to rest. Somewhere in all that trouble, love sneaks in!

In Mr. Never Again, spies from Nancy Northcott’s Arachnid Agency come to Caynham Castle to guard a weapons designer and her family. When her son goes missing, her loyalty may be at risk. Hunting for him offers Blaine and Dana a second chance at love if they’re brave enough to take it.

In Caren Crane’s tale, Murky Waters, a landscape architect from Massachusetts finds much more than he expects, both in a floral designer from his friend’s shop, and in the woods south of Caynham Castle. Discovery of an evil waterborne spirit threatens the new love he has found, unless his lover figures out how to set him free.

Four spooky, witchy, spirit-filled stories set against the stunning background of Caynham Castle’s epic Halloween Ball and Bonfire Night!


Creating the Castle

by Nancy Northcott & Jeanne Adams



Thanks for having us, PJ, and hi to everybody! 

We’ve had great fun playing in our imaginary castle with our buddies Caren Crane, Seressia Glass, Donna MacMeans, Gail Z. Martin (a/k/a Morgan Brice), and Anna Sugden. All of us wrote novellas for last year’s Christmas at Caynham Castle. This year, we also have a Halloween anthology, Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle. Only Caren, and Gail, wearing her Morgan Brice hat, Jeanne, and Nancy had room in our schedules for Halloween, so we’re the only ones in this anthology. 

Creating the castle was a fun process too. It involved lots of back-and-forth, tailoring the place to the story needs. As we launch the Halloween anthology, we thought readers might enjoy a look behind the scenes of the castle’s birth. 

Nancy: At the Rust City reader event a couple of years ago, I saw a book on Amazon featuring holiday stories in a common location. I love holiday anthologies and have read many centered around events like balls or fairs or house parties. The common location, though, clicked with me in a way the others hadn’t. I don’t know any romance readers who don’t love castles, including me, so I naturally thought of a castle. 

Since Caren and Donna were also at that conference, I floated the idea by them. They were up for that. I also reached out to other writers whose work I enjoy. We ended up with a great group. Jeanne, being Jeanne, immediately offered to do maps and diagrams. 

Jeanne: It’s the former designer/draftsperson in me, Nancy! (Also because I’m a glutton for punishment.) Like Nancy, I adore castles, and the chance to literally create the design for this castle? That was too much fun to resist. Besides, we needed a common template from which to work. Between the basic outlines of the castle itself, we also needed to create common timelines so we all cohesively had something – the Halloween Ball, Bonfire Night, The Frost and Flame Ball, skating on the moat – happening at the same time. We wanted the reader to be immersed in the world with us. 

Nancy: I went to Ludlow, a castle I love, and took more photos than any sane human could possibly want. While we took Ludlow as our inspiration, we also built Caynham Castle from others we’d visited in person or in photos and tailored it to story needs. 

Below is the round chapel, which we all loved. It’s all that remains of the original chapel, which extended back in a rectangle from this circular part to the curtain wall.



Jeanne: We did all love Ludlow’s chapel, so that became a feature in Caynham Castle. This unique, freestanding, round chapel features in several stories in the Christmas at Caynham Castle anthology. I had to draw a map of just the chapel because…well there’s a ringing room, with bells. And gargoyles. Shades of Hunchback of Notre Dame, right? Had to draw that.

Nancy: The first two pictures below are the great hall of Ludlow. Note the stones jutting from the walls’ upper edges. Supports like that are common for a hammerbeam ceiling. The third photo is of the hammerbeam ceiling in Westminster Hall, site of medieval coronation banquets. I love the hall and its beautiful roof. Thanks to Hollywood (looking at you, Adventures of Robin Hood), I think we all expect a castle hall to be as big as the one at Westminster, the fourth photo below. In reality, most are much smaller.



Jeanne: I didn’t draw the ceiling, but drawing the hall has been super fun. Of course, we adapted the Great Hall in the stories to be the Caynham Castle Hotel’s main dining room. It has an amazing, ox-roaster-sized fireplace with dragons and foliate (green man) heads on the mantel and side supports. Adding in the necessary “modern” amenities for a restaurant in a 11th century castle have been a fun challenge when it comes to the drawings, too!

Nancy: The definitely un-modern structure in photos below is the great hall of Middleham Castle (one with and one without Jeanne and me). The openings in the lefthand wall lead to what was the solar next door. Each had half of that level of the keep. See how much smaller it is than Westminster.


Jeanne: Nancy had to explain to the rest of us that a solar was where, in medieval times, the ladies would gather to sew because it had the best lighting. Virtually every castle has one, so Caynham had to have one too. Ha! In Caynham Castle Hotel, it’s an adjunct to the dining room and serves as sort of a lounge. It also houses the gift shop and can be closed off or used as an extension of the hall for special events, as it was in the Frost and Flame Ball for Christmas at Caynham Castle.

Nancy: At Middleham, the kitchen is below the great hall. This photo was taken from the kitchen, looking up at the platform that stands in for the floor of the hall. That placement made sense to us, so we gave Caynham Castle a kitchen below the great hall. We also added a terrace with parking underneath because modern hotel kitchens get deliveries via truck, not horsedrawn wagons.



Jeanne: That also gave us a chance to create hidden spaces beneath the castle – treasure rooms! – and add a more “modern” solarium to Caynham Castle. Every castle may have had a solar for the long-ago ladies, but not every castle has a Victorian glass-house solarium. I’ve always loved the one at Asheville, NC’s, Biltmore House, America’s Castle. So why not at Caynham too? 

Nancy: As you may’ve guessed, doing the maps meant Jeanne handled incorporating the features people needed for their stories. When you’re putting characters in a common space, it’s very important to have everyone visualize that space the same way in their heads and on paper. The diagrams have been invaluable for that. 

Jeanne: Of course I took great delight in mapping all the fun stuff people came up with into the castle as well. Secret rooms. Display rooms set up with set-piece displays a la Downton Abbey. Statues by the Folly (Yes, there’s a Folly!). And don’t forget the lucky gargoyles allllll over the castle! *Grins.* That said, Donna needed the Folly. Anna needed the Ringing Room. Seressia needed a shop in town. And everyone needed a room at the Castle! 

Nancy: We also created a town, Caynham-on-Ledwyche, to go with our castle. Ludlow is in the part of England bordering Wales, which is known as the Welsh Marches. The area is rich in history and legend, so we decided to site our town and castle there. We adapted features common to towns with long histories, including a mix of architectural styles spanning the centuries from half-timbered, thatched-roof buildings to modern British groceries like Waitrose. Jeanne did the diagram for the town, too. 

Jeanne: Drawing the town truly was a study in collaboration, I must say. We added businesses as we needed them for our stories – a bookstore, pubs, tea rooms, a flower shop, a curiousity shop, an old and quite haunted church and churchyard, a secondary hotel, a brewery, some B&B’s. Each has its own history and some of them come with a touch of magic in them! 

Nancy: Everybody contributed to the businesses, legends, castle features, and characters, and each of us used bits created by others. The overlapping was a lot of fun, but it makes for a very long copyright page! 

Jeanne: Yes, but who could resist that pub? When we created the Boar and Knight pub everyone added a bit. Gail contributed photos of pubs she’d been in. Nancy and I used the concept of the fireplace area from a pub we’d visited in Yorkshire. I don’t remember who contributed the idea of the signboard listing the owners/proprietors down through the centuries, but that’s there too. I wrote in a happy macaw who welcomes people in. 

Nancy: Here’s a photo of the fireplace at the Rose & Crown in Bainbridge, Yorkshire. The inn and its pub date back to the 15th century.

So that’s a little about the fun behind the scenes of designing Caynham Castle. 

What’s your favorite book, TV show, or movie set in a castle? If you have any questions about the process of creating Caynham Castle or the anthologies, we’d be happy to answer them. 

One randomly chosen person who posts a comment before 11:00 PM, September 26, will receive an e-book copy of Trick or Treat at Caynham Castle.


  1. Camelot Loved the musical since I was a young girl. Heartbreaking love triangle!

    1. I've always found that triangle particularly heart-wrenching.

    2. I love that too, Laurie. Marion Zimmer Bradley put an interesting spin on that triangle in The Mists of Avalon. I read it a long time ago, but best I remember, the triangle was itself was not so sad.

    3. Hey gals! Laurie G., I love the music in Camelot but like PJ, find the triangle heart-wrenching. Sigh.

  2. I love the details behind designing your castle for the stories! The continuity between them is something I appreciate a great deal. As far as a favorite castle story. . . I really don't have a favorite.

    1. Thanks, Glenda. it was a lot of fun to create the castle and the common threads. For the Christmas anthology, Anna Sugden created the Frost and Flame Ball and related events, including decorations and menu. For this one, Gail/Morgan created the ball decorations, with Jeanne embellishing. Me, I just had my characters turn up and enjoy it. :-) (With and search and rescue, including fight with the bad guys, after *g*)

      All of our characters turned up at the ball. Back when Jeanne and Caren and I blogged with Romance Bandits, the group used to do a big gathering of our characters and the inhabitants of our Bandit Lair once or twice a year. Revisiting that was a lot of fun.

    2. Hi Glenda! Thanks for stopping into The Dish! As Nancy said, it was super fun to design and play in the Castle. I'm so glad you liked it. HOpe you enjoy the Halloween stories too.

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  4. Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) is a beloved favorite TV show from the contemporary era.

    Love the background of this anthology.


    1. Contemporary era of television is what I meant.

    2. I knew what you meant, Denise. I love Downton Abbey and Highclere, too. I tend to gravitate to older castles, ones built more like fortresses, but Highclere is just so beautiful inside.

      I'm glad the background appeals to you. We all had great fun with it.

    3. Hi Denise! Downton is so cool! Nancy, have you been to Highclere? I love seeing it in the show and its just gorgeous. Like Nancy, I tend to love the ruins and massive walls of places like Middleham and Pickering and Caerlaverock. That was part of the fun of creating Caynham!

  5. Camelot of course. Actually 2 of Julie Garwood's old books - The Bride and The Wedding. The stories are based on Scottish men in kilts, the women they marry and the clan's problems. Those books make me laugh and the castles are described quite well.

    I thank you for this post as well as the wonderful photos. Y'all have given us quite specific ideas of where the adventures take place. Thanks for that as well as the introductions to your creations.

    I hope everyone is taking care and staying well.

    1. Thank you Annette! Glad you enjoyed it.

      I haven't read those books, but people keep telling me I should. These days, we can all use a laugh.

      I would love to have seen the Camelot set. The version in Excalibur was beautiful too. I love the Arthurian legends and anything connected to them.

    2. Hi Annette! Thanks for you kind words. I'mm pretty sure I've read The Bride, I'll have to go look up The Wedding. As Nancy says we could all use a laugh these days. Hope you too are sayting safe and well.

  6. My all time favorite is The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn and Olivia DeHavilland. My favorite book is The Prize by Julie Garwood.

    1. Pamela, I love that movie! It's my all-time favorite Robin Hood (even if the hall of Nottingham Castle is way bigger than it would really have been). You can't beat it for swashbuckling romance, though Captain Blood comes close.

      You and Annette have similar taste in books. I'm always looking for recommendations.

    2. Love, love, love me some Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks. Nancy, Captain Blood is one of my all-time fav old movies. Grins. Pamela, the music in that Robin Hood is good too! The castle used in the "new" Robin Hood with Kevin Costner (I know, I know) was filmed a a couple of my fav castles - Alnick and Carcassone in France.

  7. What a wonderful post. I always wondered how authors coordinated on anthologies or series that were set in the same location. It seems you have gone into much more detail than I would think most do. How much fun to design your own castle and town in as detailed a way as you have. Thank you so much for sharing the photos. It would be interesting seeing the drawings done for you all to work from. I love anthologies, especially those set around holidays of all sorts.
    As for my favorite castle, I don't really have one. Julie Garwood was the first romance author I read and she had some interesting castles in her historicals. Considering the time period in which they were set, they were rather basic castles and not at all the "Cinderella" castle style. I have looked up these older castle on line and they are fascinating. They were built for defense and utility, not so much for comfort and looks. The plan was to try and visit Ireland and the British Isles next year, but that is now in question. Maybe the year after that.
    I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.

    1. Thank you, Patricia! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I love holiday anthologies too. I'm particularly fond of Christmas ones, but any holiday will do.

      Julie Garwood's castles are clearly very popular. :-)

      I also prefer the plainer castles. You won't find the ones with pointed roofs in the UK. The castles there are built more on the Anglo-Norman pattern of flat-topped towers with crenellations (the dental-molding-type border) around the tops of the walls.

      I'm sorry you have to put off your trip, but I agree it's smart to wait.

    2. Hi Patricia! I'm glad you liked the post. While I'd agree that a lot of authors don't go to the lengths Nancy and I - and our compatriots in both anthologies - did, it sure was fun! The drawings were fun too. Hope you get to go to the UK in the next couple of years as things settle down.

  8. What a fun concept for an Anthology! I love Castles - I've gotten to visit a few. When thinking of movies set in a castle I thought of Prince Valiant and Camelot, but also High Spirits with Liam Neeson.

    1. Thanks, Di! I've loved the art of Prince Valiant since I was in grade school. I was always so disappointed our local paper didn't carry that strip. The castle in Camelot was wonderful. I'm not familiar with High Spirits. I'll have to check it out.

    2. OMGosh, Di! I ADORE High Spirits. While it's not his first movie, it's the first movie I saw Liam Neeson in. I think he's a fab actor. Nancy, High Spirits is a seriously campy ghost/body switch/HEA movie, a comedic farce in the good sense. The castle's pretty fun too. Grins.

  9. Hi Everyone! Thanks for coming out to play on The Dish! Sorry not to have been more on the ball yesterday, it was one of "those" days. Hope you're all staying healthy and well - and reading! #GoRead

  10. I read this post yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed the details in creating a castle. I have not been able to think of a favorite book, show or movie set in a castle.

  11. Hey Lil! So glad you stopped by. The details are fun, aren't they? We really did have a lot of fun creating it. I hope you enjoy the stories!