New things, old things and free things

Some of you might have been wondering where I’ve been. An occasional glance at my blog may have made you think, ‘gosh, it’s a long time since she’s posted.’ You might have even been thinking, ‘she’s not really been on FB and Twitter much! She’s been really quite quiet online.’

Others of you might be thinking, ‘what on earth is she going on about? I haven’t noticed anything’. Well, to both of you I thought it was high time I came out of the woods of writing. You will all know that upon occasion I disappear into them. When I’m trying to finish a first draft, going through edits or working on proofs. Of course, the day job doesn’t help with this, I’m always rather tight on time! But this time it’s a bit different.

Yes, I have been doing all three – I’ve been in the woods of writing, editing and proofing. Yes, that’s right,

I’ve been working on a new book!

It’s all very exciting actually, and some of you may have picked up on it. The reason it’s different is two-fold, on the one hand the genre’s different to what I’ve published before, it’s a fantasy novel in the style of Lord of the Rings and Narnia (for adults, although I still LOVE Narnia, and as far as I’m aware I’m a grown up). On the second-hand I will be self-publishing this novel.

Fantasy, you say?

To my loyal readers, let me just quickly take the time to say that I am still writing historical romance! Have no fear on that count, that genre’s going no where from my writing loves and agenda, but you see, I’ve always enjoyed writing fantasy. In fact, I’ve written it since before I tried my hand at historical romance. The book I’ve been working on was first written when I was seventeen, a decade ago, and revisited over a year ago. It’s a story I loved writing the first time round and have truly enjoyed editing. It is called, The Edict (click here to read the blurb), and follows the story of a courageous heroine called Kiara, a brooding Prince, a damned race and conniving courtier…

And of course, there’s love, a great love story. So for those of you who read my books because you love the love stories then The Edict could be your next read.

Self-published, hmmm…

There might be a few of you who cringe at hearing that. Truth be told, I used to cringe at the thought of it. But a lot has changed over the last ten years and now some of the best authors I read and know are entirely self-published (also known as independently published). New York Times and USA Today bestsellers, winners of Readers Choice Awards, B.R.A.G.G. indie author medallions and book cover design competitions. The honest truth is, that there are so many quality authors out there, the traditional publishing houses can’t keep up with them, and the opportunity to publish quality books, with access to Print On Demand companies, free eBook Conversion tools, formatting guides and freelance cover designers & editors, is better than ever before.

I’ll be honest with you, I sent The Edict to every Literary Agent I could find listed in the Writer’s and Artists Yearbook and a number of publishers, but it was all to no avail. It’s making me cringe writing that (apparently I cringe a lot), but I think it’s worth being honest, because there’s a lot of you out there who have had to suffer through literary rejections and I’m sure that’s not my last. It’s funny, because in my arrogance I thought it would be easy if I already had a publisher with three books published, but it wasn’t. The fact is, I love the story, and I’d already had several friends read it who loved it and were so encouraging with their feedback, and it was a book, just sitting there in my draw, waiting to be shown the public light of day. It seemed silly to keep it there.

So, naturally, I was frustrated that no one wanted it from the traditional publishing world, but I had always thought to myself, if I can’t find an agent I’ll release it myself. It’s not like it’s easier, to be honest, it’s LOTS more work, more investment both in terms of time and money. But it’s one of those things I felt compelled to do. I just want to share the story with everyone. So that’s what I’m going to do.

When’s the next book out?

So, if you’ve read this thinking you want to find out when my next book The Edict will be coming out then watch this space. You’ll be hearing more from me on The Edict in the coming weeks and months…

What can you read now?

Fool Me Twice - Historical Romance - Philippa Jane Keyworth

Fool Me Twice – Free on Kindle

But for now, why not pick up Fool Me Twice for free on Kindle? That’s right, for FREE!!! Wohoo! Grab it while you can as the offer’s only on for a few days.

Reviews are my friends

And if you do read Fool Me Twice then you could support it by reviewing it on Amazon. Reviews are so important, not just because it’s great to hear when you’ve enjoyed the book, but because it gives credibility to the book in both readers’ and Amazon’s eyes! If you think it would be something others would enjoy then please review it!

That’s all for now, I hope it gets you excited for my next book. More to follow…

 

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Things to do in 18th century Bath

It amazes me that sometimes, in my internet wanderings, when I am trying to find little nuggets of fact amidst the fog of the past that might embroider my novels with authentic detail, Google presents me with nothing exact. I mean, it’s rather obvious that Google and Wikipedia and all other random, non-authoratitive sources, might present one with unexpected ‘facts’. Sometimes they present one with outright lies, and this is often the cause of amusement.

Only today I was amazed to see someone on the internet declaring their casting off of pleasure driven pursuits such as drinking and eating bad food as they had decided to, ‘pursue a more hedonistic lifestyle’…I mean, there really is no answer for that except a pained inward groan. Then one allows oneself a little titter of amusement…until one makes a similar blunder and realises we all make mistakes and one ought to get down off one’s proverbial high horse.

Anyway, I am becoming distracted. What I am meaning to talk about is Bath. You see, I am in the throes of writing another book, which I have been enjoying immensely, and after taking a breaking because of, well, life, I have come back to it. I was getting frustrated because I had forgotten what I had already written, and felt as though I had lost the firm grasp on my characters I had. So I spent this morning re-reading what I had already written, remembering who I had created and where they dwelt, and thinking onwards onto what I wish to write next, and I was considering what activities my character might take up. They’re staying in Bath, you see, the first time one of my books has taken place in this beautiful watering hole of the 18th century, and so I did what any modern-day historical romance writer might do (but not admit to of course), I went to Le Google. I typed in the most pragmatic of phrases, ‘Things to do in 18th Century Bath’ and was greeted with, well, not much – nothing exact, you see.

You’ll be happy to know, those of you considering planning little trips away in 2017 already, that there are a plethora of guides on what to do in modern day Bath. But, believe it or not, in the onslaught of online information, no article matched my expectations. So I’ve written one. I do that with books too, if I can’t find what I want to read in a bookshop, I’ll go home and attempt to write what I am desiring instead. Sometimes it even works.

I did the same with my Things to do in 18th Century London post. I wanted to find activities that took place during the daytime that a man and woman might both attend. After all, despite what many historical romances might teach you (and I love them all), it wasn’t just about balls and gaming hells in London. And neither was Bath confined to taking the waters and the Assembly Rooms. 

It took me some time to piece together things from online articles sourced at reputable sites. You see, I don’t have easy access to my books and must sacrifice my intellectual self on the pire of the collective online brain. So, here is a wee list of things one might do in Bath to entertain oneself in the 18th Century:

1. Afternoon Tea in the Bath Assembly Rooms

That’s right, it wasn’t all about the nighttime Assembly’s in Bath with the dancing and light suppers presided over by Beau Nash, master of ceremonies. Oh, no, during the day one could enjoy an afternoon tea in respectable surroundings with relatives, friends or even potential lovers. Visit Bath is keen to establish that Jane Austen herself enjoyed afternoon tea at the Assembly Room’s, so there really is no arguing with that, is there? And for those hailing from countries where afternoon tea isn’t tradition, it usually consisted of tea, the drink, and light refreshments of both the savoury and sweet kinds.

The Assembly Rooms, Bath - National Trust

The Assembly Rooms, Bath – National Trust

2. Lover’s Lane in Bath

It wasn’t just Vauxhall and Ranelegh in London that could provide lovers with a useful tryst spot, Bath had a few spots of its own. Lover’s Lane, common parlance for the Gravel Walk (some of you might remember from the touching final get-together in Persuasion’s film adaptation), was a handy walk often used by those under cupid’s sway. And of course, Bath wasn’t short of gardens in which two young people, or older for that matter, might become lost. Sydney Gardens, situated behind Jane Austen’s Bath abode (though it must be stated she wasn’t fond of the city unlike myself), was a case in point.

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Sydney Gardens, Bath

Lots of these gardens not only had lovely little winding walks, but also bowling greens and lots of little things they could o.

3. Promenading along the Royal Crescent, Bath

The Hyde Park of Bath, this place was ideal for showing off one’s gladrags, perhaps obtained from Milsom Street, the popular shopping street in Bath, and overlooking the beautiful grey/yellow bath-stone city. For those unfamiliar with Bath, the Royal Crescent is a stunning panoramic crescent of matching Bath stone terraced houses in a palladian style overlooking the city. It’s aesthetics are beautiful for their uniformity, classical lines, and prominent position. 

Royal Crescent, Bath

Royal Crescent, Bath

My favourite part of these buildings is the modern-day birds-eye view which shows the higgeldy-piggeldy backs of these houses where successive owners have made their own changes and extensions to the properties without harming the matching fronts.

4. Bathing in Bath

It wasn’t just the Romans who chose to bathe in the warm waters springing from the Somerset earth. Bathing in Bath was considered beneficial for health complaints including rheumatism and gout. It was something generally, though not exclusively, taken advantage of by the elderly in Bath, and took place in any of these three baths on offer: the Cross bath, the Hot bath and the Minerva baths. In fact, if you are a modern day visitor, you can always visit these at the Thermae Bath Spa who describe the city thus,

‘Bath and its waters have a long association with well-being and the word SPA is related to the Latin phrase ‘Salus Per Aquam’ or ‘health through water’.’

Thermae Bath Spa

Thermae Bath Spa give the best history of bathing and the medicinal qualities of the waters at Bath that I could find online on this page of their website. The key piece I found the most helpful/interesting I have quoted below:

‘Princess/Queen Anne visited Bath regularly to take the waters seeking a cure for her gout and dropsy, which prompted the renaming of the New Bath to the Queen’s Bath. These visits and aristocratic patronage set in motion a period of development in which Bath became ‘the premier resort of frivolity and fashion’ and led to the great rebuilding of the city to produce the 18th century layout and architecture of today’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.’

5. Taking those Bath waters like a pro

Funnily enough, 18th century people weren’t all that foolish as we might like to think in our modern state. They really were onto something with the water – containing 43 minerals, it certainly has a tangy taste (I’ve tried it) and some health benefits too. 

Taking the Waters in Bath

Taking the Waters in Bath

The Thermae Bath Spa list the highest proportions of what the water contains below:

Mineral Expressed as Concentration (Hetling Spring):

Sulphate mg/l 1015 

Calcium mg/l 358 

Chloride mg/l 340 

Sodium mg/l 195 

Bicarbonate mg/l 193 

Magnesium mg/l 57 

Silica mg/l 21 

Iron mg/l 0.5

Taken from the Thermae Bath Spa’s website.

6. Sham Castle – the Folly at Bedhampton

For those who have been to Bath, you might have remembered looking up above the city and seeing a medieval castle, a shell of bygone days, looking down on the predominantly Georgian city. Perhaps you even thought, ‘Oh, jolly good, I’ll get my medieval rocks of while I’m here and pop up to those ruins.’ Well, you’d be out of luck. The castle is a sham. Sham by name, sham by nature, this folly was constructed on local gentleman Ralph Allen’s estate to add some glam to the place, in fact, it was pretty common practice in the later eighteenth century to ornament your gardens with extra, more ‘picturesque’ bits and pieces like follys and rotundas (the latter sees a good example at Petworth House in Sussex). Some even went as far as getting in a hermit to live in their grounds and drag them in for a hot meal when conversation at dinner was a little slow…I kid you not.

Sham Castle, Bath

Sham Castle, Bath

So that’s a small list of what genteel people might do to pass the time while staying in Bath. I’m going to keep reading around the subject and I’m sure it’ll be easier to find out more when my books are to hand, in the mean time, my characters will make do with some of these activities. And of course a few of them will be riding out into the Somerset countryside too (I can never resist a good horse ride), in fact, it’s quite amazing just how dramatic and delightful a ride out can be with the right people…

Fool Me Twice has Launched!

Here we are, the day, when Fool Me Twice sees the public light of day. No longer is it just my story, it’s one which can be shared with others.

Here’s the blurb for those of you who’ve not seen it yet:

“Good evening,” she replied, cursing the inconvenience of his appearance. “I trust you are not intoxicated yet?”
 
“Alas, no, I have yet to succumb to the dizzying heights of inebriation this evening. I trust you have not undressed in the library yet?”
  

In the gaming obsessed 18th century, orphan Caro Worth is leading a double life. Acting the respectable Caro Worth by day – she plays the fictional illegitimate daughter of her deceased father, infamous gamester Angelica, by night. Caro, having been abandoned by her brother, plays Angelica in order to finance her respectable pursuit of a titled and wealthy husband to secure her future.

 
All is going according to her carefully laid plans until the arrival of the haphazard, younger and totally ineligible son of Admiral Viscount Felton – Mr Tobias Felton. The persistent gentleman is far too interested in her life. To her horror, at the same time a sadistic Marquis whom she was considering for marriage suddenly starts to target her alter-ego Angelica, driven by anger and lust. Soon the life she has built in the ashes of her past begins to crumble.
 
Whilst Caro tries to maintain the line between her dual identities, the re-appearance of her estranged brother, the growing threat of the Marquis of Ravensbough and the delving and mischievous Mr Felton make it increasingly impossible.
 
Between confectioners shops, card parties, the British Museum, London’s most fashionable balls and the capital’s most infamous hells, Caro is taught the worth of a reputation and that no matter your plans, life and love have a habit of falling quite spectacularly out of control!

Buy Fool Me Twice on Amazon UK

Buy Fool Me Twice on Amazon US

This book is different from The Widow’s Redeemer and The Unexpected Earl in that it is set in the eighteenth century rather than the beginning of the nineteenth century. It focuses on a woman who has drawn herself up from obscurity to a position of relative independence and a man who’s irresponsibility is challenged by her. I’ll leave you with this excerpt and the wish that you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it:

‘In spite of his graceless entrance and obvious inebriation, the man’s eyes were exceedingly quick. As he righted himself, they made contact with a heeled shoe, a pleasingly long leg beneath the flimsiest of materials, and a gathering of skirts. His eyes continued their journey upwards, over her bodice, her neck, and then they stilled at those indefinable blue eyes.

In the odd pause that followed, a cat-like smile slowly unfurled across the young man’s face. Angelica threw down her skirts and stepped back.

“I say…” was all the gentleman offered. He half-raised the tankard as if in salute, and Angelica could only be thankful that he had knocked the door set during his imbalance. Or was she thankful? She took another step back, hitting the paneling of the wall.

She did not recognise the man, but he was undeniably handsome. Aware that she was looking him over, his boyish face gained a mischievousness. His green eyes twinkled merrily at her, lingering – to her utter infuriation – on her lips. He stumbled towards a book-lined wall and rested an unsteady elbow upon one of the shelves, leaning jauntily on one leg and most clearly making himself at home.

“I say…” he repeated himself, but did not move towards her as Angelica feared.

Her wits finally returning, she put some ice into her stare.”You say what, sir?”

She was buying time. She was not yet sure how to work the situation to her advantage. Should she play upon his intoxication and hope a little flirtation would gain her access to the door? Or should she give him a set-down and storm out, risking that he might attempt to stop her? If it had been someone she knew she might have been able to guess which would be the best course of action.

As it was, she could not rely on John’s appearance – he always waited downstairs for her with the carriage.

“I say,” the man responded affably, as if they were acquaintances encountering each other during a promenade through Town, “that is a rather clever trick you have there.” He gestured to the compartment recently concealed in her skits.

“I don’t know what you mean,” she replied too quickly, her heart still fluttering.

The gentleman merely smiled and shrugged his shoulders. As though he had not just learnt a valuable secret. As though he did not intend to rob her. As though…well, as though he cared not a whit for the precarious positioning in which he had found her. Apparently he was not going to take advantage of it – but neither was he planning to ignore it.

Angelica was momentarily stumped. But then, choosing the course of action that had worked most successfully in the past, she took two small steps forward. She raised her head so that her neck was shown to the best advantage, relaxed her full lips so that they pouted attractively, and brought a hand up to play with the cravat encircling the man’s neck. Teasing the folds, she noted that although she had at first guessed his age to be just above twenty, a closer inspection showed him to be nearer thirty.

“And just whom do I have the pleasure of addressing?” Her tone dripped with honey, though her eyes still searched his face shrewdly for any sign as to his intentions.

“Pleasure?”

For a moment he looked dashing. She found herself looking no longer at his eyes but at his lips as they curved in a pleasing smile. Her stomach fluttered.

“Is that what you feel?” he was leaning closer now, sending the smell of cloves and ale wafting toward her.

The spellbound moment end rather abruptly. The gentleman’s elbow which up until now had been wedged between two rows of false books, slipped. The jolt of movement turned his enticing lean into a headlong plunge towards Angelica’s bosom.

Angelica immediately assumed he was attempting to steal her winnings – or worse.

“Oh…oh, I am sorry!” he managed, pulling himself out of her décolletage and into balance.

But even his boyish green eyes could not save him.

Angelica delivered a resounding slap across his face. Gathering her skirts, she marched from the room without a backwards glance. If she had looked behind her, she would have seen a gentleman utterly bemused, his mouth hanging open like a catfish while he stared after the angel who had departed so suddenly.

Oooo, exciting. Enjoy all!

Caro Worth’s story

On the eve of my 3rd novel’s launch I’m sitting writing this post and it only seems natural to look back to the beginnings of that third book, Fool Me Twice

Only the other day someone asked me why I wrote my books. It’s funny, because it’s a completely reasonable question, but I was stumped. They were asking particularly about my first book, why did I write it, what made me do it, what was the reason I wrote it. It’s strange because I guess I view writing as more of a compulsion than something I set out to do. I mean, there is planning in a novel, and you set out with the determination to write and finish it, but the reason, what made me do it, why I started writing it, well that doesn’t really feel like a choice.

And that’s not a negative. There’s something cathartic in writing. Even now, writing this blog, I feel calmer for it. It’s like drawing out the things from within which might otherwise struggle to find voice, and allowing them freedom. That’s how it was with Fool Me Twice. Quite randomly, I was listening to the song Welcome to Burlesque by Cher for the motion picture Burlesque, and there she was, sitting in my imagination; Caro Worth.

She wasn’t sat there for long. She rose and began to traverse the gaming tables, and that’s when I realised she was in a gaming hell. Her dress gave away her origin as the 1770s, and the darkness of the place, creeping in at the edges as candles worked their hardest to push it away, it hinted at the secrets that Caro Worth kept hidden.

And there she stayed, in my mind, winding around the tables, playing another game of cards, waiting for her story to be written. She was beckoning me, and only her face, her path, was clear to me from among the blurred faces of that hell. I couldn’t ignore her, not when she dwelt in my mind, she compelled me to write her story, from that first night in the hell where we met, until…

Well, I guess you’ll just have to read the novel when it’s released on the 1st…

 

 

Reconfiguring: Why attending the HNS conference is essential

I attended my first writing conference at the beginning of September. It was the Historical Novel Society conference held in the beautiful town of Oxford and it was a truly wonderful day.

You see, I’ve never experienced it, that incredibly swell of excitement when you walk through a crowd of writers. When you know that every one of them, if you were to stop them and tell them the buzz you get from writing; the fact your characters don’t behave; and that you’d give anything to walk through 1790s London; would be able to understand.

There’s something rather special about that. 

Historical Novel Society Conference | Oxford 2016 | Philippa Jane Keyworth

And then there’s so many of those authors that you admire, and you’re getting to sit with them, meet them, hear them give there tuppence worth.

Mixed with this crowd are the heads of industry, the titans who have previously only been a name on a website, in an article or on your query letter. You get to hear them talk about historical fiction, its importance, its direction, its future.

My highlights in no particular order were: meeting Authors I’ve known online for years, normal author-people, and the warm welcome made by everyone.

1. Meeting people I’ve known online for years

It really was an absolute pleasure to meet people I’ve known online for years, interacted with, promoted books with, had guest blog posts and interviews with, in the flesh!

In fact, it was one of the first things I did when I came through the door. I spied out the authors who I knew and went straight up to them introducing myself. It was wonderful to chat to Helen Hollick who had done a fascinating and popular post on my blog about Riding Aside. She’s lovely by the way.

Then there was Anna Belfrage, a woman who’s writing and knowledge I admire immensely. We chatted about POV (the bane of my life by the way, which Emma Darwin made a little better in her workshop) and writing. Anna has a lot of knowledge bouncing around in her head.

And Paula Lofting, who I have tried to meet before at a book signing which was cancelled. It was great to see her in her re-enactors garb, shouting war cries and threatening the conference-goers. What a rush. You can see the picture I tweeted here.

And of course, it was a pleasure to meet Laura Purcell, Jacqueline Reiter and Lizzy Drake – more about this lot later.

2. Normal author-people being there.

This was fabulous and mainly down to one lady (though I assume that the majority of attendees were normal ;-). I thoroughly enjoyed Jean Fullerton’s workshop on creating believable historical characters.

Jean is just so normal and practical. That’s the kind of person I can relate to. She gave the most straight-forward, applicable and easy-to-implement advice on creating believable characters. Especially interesting were her points on attitudes in the past and how to best represent them in your stories.

Although I wouldn’t usually go for her era of books, I have to say, in this case after meeting her, I’d make an exception!

3. There really was a spirit of camaraderie.

I walked into the large, glass entrance hall not knowing anyone in the flesh for a Saturday of conference lasting 9am-6pm. I’m a chatter, but there are times my heart is in my throat. This was one.

To say that the staff and delegates were friendly is an understatement. I was greeted by two ladies on the reception table who were lovely, and not only told me all the info I needed, but we’re very warm and welcoming.

When I had grabbed my coffee and looked around nervously for some people to hang with I recognised Laura Purcell from afar. I’ve known her online for some time and she had sent me a friendly message to come and say hi and so you know what? I did. I went over and introduced myself. Laura was with Jacqueline Reiter and Lizzy Drake and they were all so welcoming. They were so friendly and made the whole thing all the more enjoyable.

Finally, at lunch, I had been chatting too much and at workshops etc, so only had half an hour to quickly eat. Most people had eaten or were already in groups, so I quite happily sat on a table on my own, checked notes I’d taken and any tweets. Lo and behold, I hadn’t been sat down five minutes before a fellow author just came and sat down with me, asking if the chair was free, introducing themselves and becoming a lunchtime companion. No sooner had they then disappeared, but another person did the same! How friendly can you get?

So, it turns out, that though I had been accepting that I may well spend the day ‘alone’ with people at the conference without anyone to chat to, the opposite was the case. I’ve been to a few work conferences and nothing quite rivalled this one in the spirit of unity amongst all the authors and industry professionals. It wasn’t like we were there, worrying about copying each other’s notes or industry secrets.

We were all together, on the band-wagon that is historical fiction, and we were laughing and joking and enjoying the ride.

I guess that’s what made it so great.

The only thing which would have made it better, would have been if I could have attended with M.M. Bennetts. It was wonderful to be around people who knew her, and to hear her commemoration when the M.M. Bennetts Literary Award was given, but I would have loved to have sat with her again and listened to her satirical comments on all the happenings.

That being said, I am sure I shall be attending again when I can, and as I only made the Saturday this year, perhaps I’ll manage to make more of it next time.

Essential attendance?

You know what makes it an essential for writers? Writing is a lonely occupation, and this event makes you realise you aren’t in it alone.

Thank you, one and all

Thank you to the organisers, the volunteers, the authors, the industry professionals and everyone who made it such a blast!

Writing is lonely…

Writing is lonely. You are surrounded by characters, in another world, another time, another place, and yet you can go for hours without talking to anyone. And then, when you do find someone to talk to, you can’t quite bring yourself to articulate well what you are feeling. All the words which tumbled into your head whilst you were writing desert you. You enviously remember how well your character turned their phrases under your watchful fingers and fail to do the same yourself.

Writing is a peculiar occupation. I have often thought so, as have most others. It requires not just time, inclination and motivation. I believe it requires emotion, desires, fears, a questioning of humanity and an examination of ourselves in the written word. And at other times it’s just light-hearted fun that trips off the end of our fingers joyfully. It can be exhausting. It can be exhilarating.

Writing is Lonely | Philippa Jane Keyworth Author

Often one feels as though they go through these emotions alone. How can one explain that feeling unable to write due to a lack of inspiration cuts us. Or that looking sideways at other writers excites us to start and deflates us in the end when we realise just how far we fall short of where we endeavour to be. Writing is a little selfish. Perhaps it is the loneliness of the occupation which makes it so. But we selfishly develop our worlds to escape into, our characters to love and know for ourselves, our irritations and frustrations to be a martyr too. And then, perhaps it’s all self-indulgent.

But tomorrow, we’ll sit at our computers again, or with our notepads before us, and conjure up that escape, feed that need, frustrate ourselves all over again. Because we’re writers. That’s what we do, it’s what we breath, and dream and be. We try to shake it off now and then, but it won’t go, it’s probably the same with most creatives.

We have been marked and whether we will be a known, or an unknown or a barely known, we’ll write anyway, because, it’s mostly for us when it comes to the end of it all. Everyone else is a happy coincidence, a positive addition to the stream of consciousness we can’t help but draw out in letters and words and sentences. We write primarily for ourselves and then like a child excited to show another of one’s ‘find’ we hand it over giddily for others to view and hope they derive the same satisfaction, enjoyment and love from the thing we created.

Then the questions come flooding back. Am I selfish? Am I lonely? Am I really a writer? And because it’s easier, we sweep with the brush of to-do’s, the questions under the rug of busyness, and we get on with the job at hand, we climb back into the world we created and keep painting the scenery, we meet our characters and we follow their story. Because that’s what we do.

Taking a break in Canterbury

Canterbury Street | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane KeyworthThis summer just seems to be dwindling rapidly. I feel like usually there’s a bit of a slow down in the summer months. Activities that I’m involved in usually peter out a little and I’m given some extra time to do creative things, garden and relax.

I have been on holiday which has been great, but apart from that everything’s been going at 100 miles an hour, and I’m not sure if any other creatives can relate, but all my head-space is currently taken up with ‘stuff’ and there is nothing left over to think about writing.

Life comes and goes in seasons, and things will change, I’ll have more time and subsequently more space in my creative brain (yes, I do believe I have two, one for everyday and one for creativity, both on the rather small side though…hehe)

Creating my brain space

What does help is having some time out in some beautiful and historical places. I recently went to Canterbury to celebrate my wedding anniversary with my husband. It was absolutely stunning. We stayed right on the high-street and could wander out onto the old streets, where hundreds of thousands of people have walked over the centuries.

There were a myriad of chain and boutique shops and coffee shops surrounded by higgledy-piggledy buildings which have been built over the centuries in multiple styles, around, next to and on top of each other, the kind of architecture I love. It’s a very green city with lots of trees and some beautiful parks too.

Inspired by historical places

We went to the Cathedral. It costs £12 for an adult to get into the Cathedral precincts and the building itself but I have to say it’s worth it. It costs a lot for a historic building to be maintained so the price does sort of make sense, and it’s less painful when you’re told that the ticket lasts for a year, and that there’s over a 1000 year’s history in one place 😉

It’s fantastic. It’s a beautiful building, it’s been added to over the millennia, and it’s the last resting place of the Black Prince, Henry IV and it is of course the notorious death-scene of Thomas Becket.

We didn’t do the audio tour – but I’d like to go back and do it again properly – we had so much to see and do in a short time. Y’know what? We can go back with our year long tickets!

The one thing it did make me realise, being in all that grandeur and walking up the various elevations to the stone throne, the ‘chair of St Augustine’, is that there really seems to be a separation between normal people and the clerics, maybe even form God? It made me realise perhaps a fraction of what so incensed Martin Luther in the 16th century. There is historic value in the traditions and artefacts and architecture of the place, but I can’t help but question if all these traditions miss some of the point of what Jesus preached about a personal relationship with God? A very interesting series of thoughts to ponder.

Cruising around

We also went on the Canterbury Historic River Tour which is well worth it. We had a friendly chap called Pete row us along the river which is protected (no motors allowed) along the stretch we enjoyed. The water is so clear you can see everything below and I couldn’t help thinking what might be lurking in the river bed from the past…just like I always wonder who’s feet have trodden in exactly the same places that mine are treading…I’m curious about things like that.

A new favourite bookshop

King's English Bookshop | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane KeyworthI’m a big fan of bookshops, and have recently realised I think I am actually a bit of a book collector. You only have to have a peer around my book case to realise it. I especially love second-hand bookshops. There is just something a little magical about the smell of dusty books, rows of mismatched and well-loved spines, like thousands of tiny windows into thousands of tiny worlds.

I bought one of those worlds at the King’s English bookshop, a particularly crooked house, in Canterbury. I collect older Georgette Heyer’s and added The Conquerer to my collection on my trip. The 17th century house is also known as Sir John Boys House and is reputedly mentioned in the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. That great writer’s words are threaded in gold across the front of the building:

‘…a very old house bulging out over the road…leaning forward, trying to see who was passing on the narrow pavement below…’

Charles Dickens, 1849

Canterbury King's English Bookshop | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane Keyworth

The gold writing above the crooked door

Canterbury King's English Bookshop | Historic Canterbury | Philippa Jane Keyworth

Sir John Boys 17th century House

All in all, I’ve got a lot of time for Canterbury.