Christmas Nighttime Pony Escape

This is a true story – it happened to me and a bunch of my friends the other night:

 

The wind is getting up a bit but it doesn’t matter because I am in the car. It’s about 11pm and we are driving a friend home. We’ve pulled over to let them out. I am looking through the passenger window, calling goodbye, and then as the door shuts and I turn back, what did I see?

10 loose horses and ponies appearing from out of the darkness and running past the car, the little ones cantering to keep up, the bigger horses trotting. They all shoot past us before any of us in the car can quite comprehend what is going on. We watched them turn down a country lane on the left and run into some farmer’s fields.

Well, this was not what I expected on the way home from a Christmas party. I jump from the car and crane my neck over the roof, squinting my eyes and trying to make out where the escapees might have gone in the gloom.

I’m a horsey lass, and thankfully, so is the guy we are dropping home and his wife who is already in bed. He goes to wake her and I trot around in my heeled boots on the road for a few minutes, trying to spot the ponies but having no luck.

When my friend’s wife comes out she shouts to call the police, which is swiftly done, and immediately walks down the track after the ponies. The rest of us follow in our car. When we’ve gone down the half road, half track and stop by the farm houses I leap out and run up to where the pitch-black fields stretch out before us. The wind is up, gusting against me, making me wish I’d worn hot pants under my dress for modesty and making me long for some more to cover me than some tights, a dress and a little blazer in December. This is most inappropriate clothing for catching escaped ponies and horses. But it doesn’t matter. We need to make sure they don’t go anywhere near the road.

Some of the big ones will be near to half a ton and if they are involved in a road traffic accident there could be a risk of fatalities. This is serious. Not to mention the fact that as an avid horse lover I don’t want any of these animals hurt either.

We peer through the darkness and then, suddenly, there! A white one, one of the big ones, I can see it, heading up the little herd, leading them across the fields towards the…the MAIN ROAD.

The neighbours are up with flashlights wondering what has caused the clattering, my friend begins explaining, but there was no time to lose. We turn back to the car.

“Come on! We need to get to the main road before they do!” My friend calls.

In the car again, bumping back along the small farm road. I’m tapping the dash, asking my husband to go faster, left back onto a side road, left again onto the main road. Thank goodness it’s night and quiet, with any luck the ponies won’t reach the road anyway. We pull up where we think they might be in the field and me and my friend start clambering through ivy and bramble infested undergrowth, avoiding grabby tree branches. I realise I’ll need some new tights after this.

Then we see them! There they are, metres from the road in the non-fenced field, but they see us and scarper! Trotting and running off back into the field. As my heeled boots find the field I realise there is mud, quite a bit of it, but it must be ignored. We jog after the ponies, another friend joins us with a flash light. I can just about make the ponies out. My friend who’s horsey says we should slow down, we can’t afford to spook them, she’s right. We spread out, all three of us, into a line between the horses and the road. They’re right back by the hedge line now.

I can see them wondering right and we follow them, that is until a 5 foot deep, 4 foot wide ditch opens up before us. I look left, the cheeky little ponies have jumped it. We have to too if we want to keep between them and the road. I shimmy down the bank so far in my heels, thankful for the darkness hiding some of the danger, and jump to land on all fours across the bank. I scramble up the bank and we’re back opposite the ponies.

By this time the police have arrived. Their estate car is patrolling down a lane, their flashlights peering into the field, I gesture towards the ponies, but soon the car drives off. They haven’t seen us.

Then the ponies turn, going left again, towards the farm houses and the small side road. We follow them back across the field, and again I shimmy down the bank and cross but this time both my hands land in bunches of stinging nettles I couldn’t see. The stings immediately lick there way across my palms.

“Ugh! I just landed in stinging nettles, son of a gun! These ponies better be damn worth it!”

My friend laughs across the bank, but we’re still focused, the ponies are moving faster now. Then, suddenly, I lose them. It takes me a while to realise they’ve gone behind the farm house. I run ahead and am so relieved when I see my friend appearing out of the darkness. I’m not alone in a dark field!

She starts running to head them off before they get back to the side road. She cuts across a field and I run the main farm track in my little heeled boots. I find out later that she thought the white horse was the leader of the herd too, but in the darkness a smaller black pony couldn’t be seen leading them, she had tried to get out in front of the white one but the black one was already ahead and suddenly they’re on the side road again, exactly where we didn’t want them.

Then I see them turn left.

They’re heading for the main road.

This is a nightmare.

I’m running full pelt now. Someone could get hurt. There could be an accident. My friend goes back to her house and picks up her car to follow the horses and I continue running, turning left onto the side road and I see the ponies trotting miles up ahead, about to turn into the main road.

I’m praying there won’t be an accident. My lungs are burning. I’m afraid of turning over on my heels, I don’t care, I have to run, my heels pound the pavement. I look ridiculous. I don’t care.

I see my friend’s car shoot up past me. The horses are already somewhere on the main road. I see her hazard lights go on, she turns left. I’m a little way behind but when I reach the road I see she is rounding them up with my husband’s car on the other side of the herd, trying to keep them from turning back. I run into the middle of the road, it was probably a dangerous idea, but imagine if a car came tearing up and crashed into them?

I raise my arms either side of me as a car approaches and make slow downward gestures like a bird while I rake air into my lungs. I keep turning back to see what the ponies are doing and they have turned back on themselves. The black one is leading them past my friend’s car, towards me. I’m used to horses and ponies, but having ten of them coming towards you is a little disconcerting. I can’t cower, they might trample me, I consider grabbing the head collar on the black one, but I might be dragged, that could be dangerous, or he could kick me if I lunge at him. I’m making the low sounds every horse person knows to try and calm them, my friend and I have been doing it for the past half hour to forty minutes we’ve been with them in the field.

They don’t listen, they run past either side of me, I’m fortunate not to be bumped and thankfully they shoot BACK down the side road again. This just feels like a repeat.

My friend turns her car around and slams on her breaks just beside me.

“Get in!” she yells.

It’s like we’re in an action movie. I leap in the back and we bomb off after the ponies – obviously no where near them, we’re not scaring them, they’re too het up to calm down anyway.

We slow as we draw nearer and they’ve made it to the level crossing. They slow down. They stop…ON THE LEVEL CROSSING.

The barriers are up for the moment, but now we’re looking at a MUCH larger accident. I see a little grey welsh mountain turn to look down the track. If they start down there we won’t be able to get them out and with ten of them on the track they might derail a train. This is horrendous. I’m so close to tears, so is my friend.

“We have to get them off the track!” my friend calls.

“I’ll go.” I open the car door while it’s still moving, not really realising, I stick my foot out and the back tire of the car catches my heel. I yank my leg and I have no idea how but my foot doesn’t go under the tire and I leap out.

I am close to tears. I am also starkly aware, as is everyone, that if nothing is done in the next few seconds these ponies might go down the track, or the barrier might come down, this is awful.

I run forward, clapping my hands, hoping beyond hope that I spook them off the track, not down it. My manliest, loudest voice comes out without intention, it must be the fear, the knowledge that this is so serious, and I run at them.

They shoot off the track and back onto the road on the other side. Thank the Lord. We follow them, now I am just walking, recovering from the adrenaline rush. Then we catch up with them and they’ve shot into the front of a caravan park on the right. My friend is out of her car, I’m not sure when that happened, and shouts to me.

“Pip, block the other entrance!”

I jerk to the right, heading for the entrance. The ponies are running fast. I stand in the middle, clapping my hands, shouting, but it’s no good, they run past me. I can’t believe we got that close to trapping them and they got out!

Then we’re chasing them down the road again for the second time in the same direction. I can’t believe they’re heading for the main road for the second time tonight.

Then, out of no where, at least that’s what it seems like, a police car, THE police car we saw earlier, comes out of the darkness towards the horses and ponies, he swerves right, driving them into a driveway and garden.

I run into the head of the driveway. The horses have gone around the back but they’ll circle back when they realise they’re trapped.

“Shut the gate!” yells the policeman.

How did I not see there was a gate? This is ridiculous.

I leap forward and grab up the gate on one side, dragging it shut. The policeman tries to get the other but the ponies are coming back, he explains later he has no experience and in this moment it shows a little, he doesn’t go into the drive to try and get the gate. Ignoring the ponies I run across the entrance and get the other gate.

They are secured!

Or so I thought, I’m so thankful for cleverer people, the policeman who told me to shut the gates, and my friend who immediately says,

“We need to check the fencing is secure.”

She and I go into the enclosure, ignoring the ponies, they are still trotting around but they don’t actively engage with us. At the back my friend sees some holes in the fence work and we put up panels to cover it and then stand there in the dark, watching the silhouettes of ten horses and ponies who are milling, some starting to eat, and we both start giggling, already reminiscing over running through the field, on the road.

“Of all the people who could be dropping my husband home.” she says, referring to my horsiness.

“I know! Thank goodness it was outside your house.” I reply to the horse owner.

My husband comes into the garden with a coat for me, he’s followed by my friend’s husband, they leave the gate slightly upon, almost in unison my friend and I yell without kindness.

“SHUT THE GATE!” Both finding it incomprehensible they might have left it ajar after a chase of over an hour. But then we start giggling again.

The ponies are safe. There has been no accident. My friend and her husband sort out the herd’s water and stay well into the wee hours with the ponies and the police.

When I wake up the next morning I wonder if it was real. When I move beneath the covers I realise my hands are stinging. Yep, that happened.

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Things to do in 18th Century London

So, I have been editing Fool Me Twice and in my first draft the hero and heroine have a scene where they meet in a public place – quite by chance obviously. The only problem is, that now I’m editing it, I’ve realised that where they meet is not quite appropriate so I’m going to have to change it. This prompted me to think of places that a man and woman of polite society could meet in London – what did they do during the day in 18th Century London that could lead to them bumping into one another?

panoramic_view_of_london_in_1751_by_t-_bowles
A view of London from the East 1751 by T. Bowles

 

Now, when I write a first draft I’m not one for stopping every page or so and checking my historical accuracy or doing a little research, I’m more inclined to speed on ahead because I’m excited and want to get it all down. It’s in the editing stage that I really dig into those more time consuming but ever-so enlightening research moments and this is one of those.

Now, although I do have a few books knocking around which I could have flicked through, being the lazy 21st century sort of person I am I just whacked the query ‘what to do in 18th century London‘ into Google. It brought up a bunch of results, the only problem was, the results were focused on either things that were primarily domains of one or other sex, or they were looking at activities to do at night, such as visiting Vauxhall gardens which opened around 5/6pm or popping to Almack’s, or enjoying a ball. But I wanted something that my characters could do during the day.

More than that, I wanted something different to shopping or strolling in Hyde park, there must have been more to do in a bustling metropolis right? With that in mind, I did some digging and came up with 4 things to do in 18th century London, during the day-time, for both sexes. It was quite interesting actually, I’ve learnt rather a bit, added to my research folders and popped it down here for anyone who’s interested as I couldn’t find a list myself:

  1. The Pot and Pineapple (later Gunter’s Tea Shop) at no.7-8 Berkley Square. 

Originally owned by the Italian Domenico Negri from c.1757 and taken over by James Gunter completely by 1789 (it would become known as the famous Gunter’s Tea Shop), the Pot and Pineapple was a confectioners. They had all sorts of sweet-meats (meaning candied or crystallised fruits), cakes, biscuits and ices to try (not to mention their catering business for soirees and so on) and one could enjoy it all with a good pot of tea.

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Domenico Negri’s Trade Card

Jane Austen’s World has a great post on The Pot and the Pineapple and Gunter’s which goes into far more detail.

2. Twinings Tea Shop at 216 Strand

twinings-tea-shop-and
Twinings has inhabited the same building since  was established in 1706.

Britain Express gives a good run-down on the growth of Britain’s tea-craze and its ironic emergence first from coffee houses! But aside from that history, popping into Thomas Twining’s Tea Shop would have been just the thing and one might bump into a person of the opposite sex in there with far more propriety than in a male-dominated coffee house.

Interestingly, the characteristic touch of Bergamot (oil extracted from the rind of a Bergamot orange) in Earl Grey tea prior to that tea’s formation in the early 19th Century, was used to flavour ices at The Pot and Pineapple.

3. The British Museum at Montagu House in Bloomsbury

Let’s face it, I can’t put it any better than The British Museum’s website itself:

‘The British Museum was founded in 1753, the first national public museum in the world. From the beginning it granted free admission to all ‘studious and curious persons’. Visitor numbers have grown from around 5,000 per year to today’s 6 million.’

montagu-house-by-james-simon
The original location of The British Museum was Montagu House

Made up of Sir Hans Sloane’s (1660-1753) collection of books, manuscripts and natural specimens with some antiquities such as coins, medals, prints and drawings, The British Museum was not quite what it is today, but did I mention that Sloane had collected a total of 71,000 objects?!

On 7th June 1753, an Act of Parliament established the museum and opened its doors on 15th January 1759 for free to all of the public. This was a landmark moment for us today and it would have been a great place to visit in the 1770s.

4. Royal Academy’s Annual Exhibition at the print warehouse on Pall Mall

Generally open from 1st May until July, the Royal Academy’s (founded 1768) exhibition could certainly draw a crowd and in the 1770s, artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds were showing their glorious works.

If one wanted to check out their rivals, one could always pop over to the Society of Artists from which the Royal Academy stemmed. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find where their exhibitions were based so if anyone can shed light on that it would be great.

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The Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy (1771-72) by Johann Zoffany

And I’m afraid that’s all I have time to research and share with you, I must get back to editing!

Now that I have chosen one of these for the setting of a scene in Fool Me Twice, and you won’t know which one until you read it ;-), it’s back to editing for me.

Thank goodness my great neighbour just gave me the rest of a chocolate orange torte she made and couldn’t finish – this’ll keep me going…

References:

Books:

Cunningham, Peter , Handbook of London: Past and Present (London: John Murray 1850)

Kloester, Jennifer , Georgette Heyer’s Regency World (London: Arrow Books, 2008)

Postal, Martin, ‘Visual Arts’ in Samuel Johnson in Context, ed.Jack Lynch (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp.385-392.

White, Jerry, London in the 18th Century: A Great and Monstrous Thing (London: Random House, 2012)A History of 18th Century London by Jerry White

Websites/Blogs:

Jane Austen’s World

Britain Express

The British Museum

 

Keeping Warm Whilst Writing

Okay, so this is a real issue I genuinely struggle with. It’s also pretty funny. My husband complains that I’m always going on about how cold I am, which is true, but for those of us with bad circulation and a body absolutely incapable of maintaining a reasonable temperature it really can be a struggle.

Writing Novel - Philippa Jane KeyworthI mean, take this, right now I am writing this blog post in a sleeping bag. This is what it has come to, the necessity of mobile beds for productive writing sessions. I think if I had a choice I would probably take this sleeping bag to work. I’ve already got a handy ‘work blanket’ to wrap myself in on cold afternoons. Yes. You heard that right. Thank goodness for understanding managers.

I wonder if other writers find this? When you’re writing you’re often stationary, unless you’re one of those super-beings who manages to get on an exercise bike and write. Being stationary just isn’t conducive to warm body temperatures.

And then there’s that pesky mouse-hand, the one you’re using for the clicking. If your right handed like me, you’ll find that after spending a while writing or editing, when you decide to sit back and read what you’ve written, you place your hands together and YOWCH your left hand is a normal temperature whilst your right is FREEZING.

Writing Books - Philippa Jane Keyworth

It’s not even like this is a particularly cold British November, in fact it’s incredibly mild. For those writers with RSI and bad circulation then it’s just terrible. Your hands get cold, you’re typing lots when you’re on a writing roll, and then the RSI kicks in and the cold just makes it worse.

I tell you, the hardships of being a writer aren’t just mentally and emotionally when we’re bearing up under criticism (even fantastic constructive criticism), or when you’re pushing through an inspirational dry patch, or when you’re on the 100th draft of your novel that never seems like it’s going to be finished, there are physical hardships too! Haha! I just know my husband is rolling his eyes at this point.

Maybe the answer is to be completely encased in a sleeping bag and merely dictate my stories. Yes, now I know what to ask for for Christmas…

So, whilst I’ve been suffering under the duress of mildly chilly days, I have been cracking on with the blurb of my Georgian romance WIP Fool Me Twice of which there is a first draft below for you to enjoy:

“Good evening, my lord,” replied Caro. “I trust you are not intoxicated yet?”

       “Alas, no.” Lord Felton smiled. “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 Caro Worth is leading a double life. Infamous gamester by night – respectable lady by day. Acting both lives of twin sisters allows her to support a respectable life of pleasure in pursuit of a titled and wealthy husband.

After a successful year in Town, Caro is targeted by a sadistic Marquis and the life she has built in the ashes of her past begins to crumble. The persistent presence of Lord Felton, the haphazard and ineligible younger son of a Viscount, only seems to make it worse.

Whilst Caro tries to maintain the line between her dual identities, the re-appearance of her estranged brother, the growing threat of Marquis Ravensbough and the delving of the mischievous Lord Felton make it increasingly impossible.

Between coffee houses, gaming hells and London’s most fashionable balls, Caro is taught the worth of a reputation and that love can never be planned!

Changing Seasons – Changing Genres

I was planning on writing a blog all about the crispness of autumn, the crunch of brown, red and yellow leaves, the startling brilliance of the sunsets, but guess what? It’s raining. It’s been raining for several days. Gone is the crispness. Gone is the crunch. I can’t even see the sunsets.

But that’s a British autumn for you, and the strawberry plants some friends kindly gave us are just loving the rain since I’ve put them in the vegetable patch so there is always a win somewhere 😉 That being said, I do have some beautiful autumn pictures from a walk I went on a  few weeks back which I’ve put in this post.

Autumn Walk - Writer's Blog - Genre ChangingChanging seasons puts me in mind of where I am with my writing at the moment. I’m changing projects. I don’t know if other writers find this, but changing projects is something I find really difficult. It’s like you’ve been cruising around in 5th gear for ages, working on the same novel, honing it, polishing it, and at the end it all seemed to become rather easy, then you think, I’ll put it down for a bit. What’s next? Well for me, it’s putting down my fantasy, working title The Edict, and changing gear by going back to a historical romance I wrote a few years ago which I want to edit and get ready to send off to my publisher so they can tell me what they think.

That’s like putting the clutch in, pulling out of 5th and into 1st, and suddenly the engine breaking kicks in, the car is groaning and working on overdrive trying to maintain the speed it had before, and where am I? Struggling along at 10 miles per hour, struggling to gain traction on these wet autumnal roads and just trusting, that if I push through hard enough, I’ll start moving up the gears again.

Autumn Walk - Historical Romance Author - Fantasy AuthorEveryone works differently when it comes to writing. That’s what makes such a wonderful variety of things for everyone to read. For me, although I never like to clear-cut my writing process because it sucks my creativity, I would say I tend to write a very rough first draft, put it away for 6 months, come back to it, re-read it first without doing anything to it, and then go into editing mode.

It’s the re-reading that really gets me. My friend M.M. Bennetts told me to do it and I find it so helpful. I usually fall in love with my characters all over again, enjoy the plot-line, see scenes I forgot I wrote, and avoid with a screeching swerve the many grammatical errors that riddle the manuscript. But this time has definitely been tougher.

I guess it might be switching genres. I’ve been writing in the genre of historical fiction for about four years without much of a change in scenery except now and then. So to switch to fantasy, to get my head around the larger bulk of writing, the multiple plot-lines and creating your own world’s rules, however much fun, actually took my brain a lot of time to get the hang of. Now suddenly, I’m like, ‘Brain! Switch back, go back to the rules of the 18th Century, change style, get enthused about this period you love so much again.’

Autumn Walk - Writer Blog - Fantasy and Historical Romances Genres
My Autumn Walk

It’s not like I don’t love both genres. I do, I really do, but this change in gear, particularly this time, is definitely feeling like a clunkety-clunk shift. In fact, the way I got through reading the rest of the historical romance manuscript whose working title is Fool Me Twice, was to take a bath with nothing but the manuscript to read. It’s like creating a bubble-filled prison until the work is done…okay, it’s not much of a hardship and it does work! This morning I’ve finished the re-read and I’m ready to go up a gear into editing.

Changing writing projects can be like changing seasons. It can feel exciting at first, with that crispness of something new, the crunch of a new challenge, and the sunrise of new purpose, and then sometimes you get a few rainy days. But the rain won’t last. 5th gear here I come.

Philippa Jane Keyworth – Historical Romance Author

Considering Abuse

I’m not sure I wanted to blog about this, but it has been running around in my mind for a few weeks and I wanted to get it down. I recently read a book which contained a considerable section of abuse in it. You knew as a reader that it happened (although I was surprised by the plot twist) and then later it was explicitly described.

I’m going to be honest, I read it without realising what I was reading until it was too late, and almost broke down in tears. I spent the rest of the day battling in my mind to keep the images out and felt very sick.

Now I’m not here to rant on the internet about something I could just deal with in private or go direct to the author. In fact, I’m not sure it’s my right to bring up anything with the author, but it made me think, I mean it really made me think. Some friends I spoke to said, “Didn’t you read reviews before you read the book?” Yep, that would’ve been helpful, but I didn’t because I was afraid of reading spoilers. I can’t bring myself to read a book I already know the ending to. Now I wish I had.

I just wanted to talk about some of the things it highlighted for me. Personally, I’ve realised through some good friend’s conversation, that it’s good to focus on the good and the edifying in this world, rather than glory in the terrible things. I want books to be escapism for me, that’s a personal choice, but that is not desiring ignorance. I want to know what’s going on, well, sometimes I would rather not read the news but I do, however, I don’t want to glory in fictionalised versions of the things in life which horrify, which damage and which cause pain. It’s a personal choice. I think the thing that really upset me, was that my personal choice was taken away.

If a writer thinks that explicit descriptions of abuse are essential for their storyline and character development, I’m not here to argue in a public space, but what I would appreciate would be some kind of indication that the book is going to include it. From the blurb and all the information I’d read about the book I had no idea it would contain anything like that. Is that fair? Shouldn’t I, and everyone else, be given a choice? That’s why films have age certificates, not just so parents can decide what their children watch or cinema’s can police recipients of their content, but so ordinary people can decide if they want to watch something. I’m not arguing against free-speech, that’s a whole debate I’m unqualified to start, but I am asking for a choice.

It’s sad for me to realise that I now have to read reviews very carefully before I even buy a book to read. Is that naïve? Maybe. Maybe I just wish that when I pick up something to read, something which I can enjoy the words of, that I can get involved with the characters lives, that I won’t be blind-sided by something I didn’t sign up for. I feel like sometimes people look at me funny when I say I can’t watch a certain type of movie or TV series because the storyline is too dark, because the events in it would give me nightmares. I’m a grown woman but I can still get nightmares. There are horrible things in this world, and it’s worrying that people’s sensitivity is numbing.

A really good friend of mine once said to me that some author’s mistakenly assume that abuse-victim characters can be sorted out in 80,000 words. She told me that it was trivialising what they had been through and insulting their journey. I think for the first time I understand what she means – at least in part. I’m not saying that abuse cannot feature in books, so don’t read what I’m not writing, my heroine in The Widow’s Redeemer had suffered physical abuse when the book starts. But authors have a duty to their readers to take these things seriously, to give them due attention and not use them as a quick-fix to give a moody hero a reason for brooding without understanding and considering the real repercussions of it. I guess no one can fully capture emotions and things in life, maybe that’s why writers continue to write and hone their craft, to get closer and closer to truth.

Is there a chance in this pursuit that authors can forget the affect they have on their readers? What I thought after I read the book was, “What if someone who had suffered that read it? What would they think about the description? What would they think about the fact the character appears cured of any after-effects after an intense conversation with someone?” I don’t know, but it definitely made me wonder these things.

It’s been weighing on me, and from looking back over this blog post, I’m not sure I’ve come to any bright light-bulb moments. I guess I wish I had had a choice. And I wish authors (including myself) would really think about the necessity of explicitness, the consideration they give to characters who suffer abuse in their books, and the realisation that what they are writing affects more than them.

I’m turning off the comments on this post because I’m not trying to start a debate, I’m trying to express how I felt.

I left a piece of my heart in Scotland

I’ve also left a piece of my heart in Cornwall, so apparently I’m becoming rather careless over the article, but those are the only two places as of yet. It takes something spectacular to capture a piece of my heart, there are certain criteria that need to be met, and writing them down in this blog post will not do my feelings justice, but I shall carry on nonetheless.

Scottish Loch - Scotland - Philippa Jane Keyworth

It needs to take my breath away, and no, not some over-the-top hyperbole, but physically leave me forgetting to take a breath because I’m so awe-struck. That’s the second criteria, awestruck. I want to stand before a country that leaves me standing in awe of its beauty. A country that makes me realise my own insignificance, which leaves me in awe of it’s creation, which sends my mind on a myriad of paths considering all those who have lived in this wild and desolate place.

Bleak Loch - Scotland - Philippa Jane Keyworth

It also needs to set every fibre of my writing mind to tingling until my imagination is darting here and there with concepts and characters. Where my favourite heroine could live at the foot of that ridge, or where my hero could ride down the narrow rocky tracks. Or even where a mighty battle could take place, because they have, in real life, taken place on these very grounds, and now they do again in my mind.

Glencoe - Scotland - Philippa Jane Keyworth

It needs to be a place in which I would be happy, joyful even, to become lost. Somewhere I could disappear into and be content to roam forever, (provided there was coffee available, obviously, in fact, that’s what I’m drinking right now).

Finally, and most importantly, there has to be a sadness in leaving. I have wanted to travel to Scotland and visit the Highlands for years, and I finally got to go. It was the best holiday myself and my husband have ever had (I can vouch for the former’s opinion of that statement). Perhaps that’s a bizarre comment in light of the other places we have been, but the Highlands just captivated me, they captured me physically and emotionally in their presence. Whilst we were waiting in the airport to come home at the end of our break, all I could think was how much I wanted to stay, all I could feel were tinges of sadness that we had to leave that beautiful country behind and all the friendly people that inhabited it. I couldn’t stand forever in the shadow of Glencoe or on bleak Rannochmoor, or on the shores of the deep and mysterious Loch Ness. I had to go.

Glencoe - Scotland - Philippa Jane Keyworth

I want to go back, and that’s what I always say about Cornwall and the West Country where the wind whips along the coastline and the craggy cliffs are beaten by the relentless sea. It is clear, therefore, that another fragment of my heart has been left in the north of the United Kingdom, and I hold very little hope that I shall get it back.

Giveaway Winners and Whatnot!

So, I shall not do any ado, I shall just say it:

The winner of the hard-copy giveaway of The Widow’s Redeemer and The Unexpected Earl is Emily Nazer!

The winner of the e-copy giveaway of the above is Luann Braley!

I really hope that both of you enjoy the books – what an excuse to make yourself a hot cuppa, curl up under a blanket and forget this cold winter weather 🙂

I’ll end with an awesome song by Seth Lakeman that a friend played me the other day:

FREE BOOKS…well, if that doesn’t get you to click then perhaps we shouldn’t have a blogging relationship…

Haha! You clicked! In fact, let me just roll out the villain laugh, MWAHAHAHAHAHA! Of course, I’m kidding, for those who don’t click through, we can still have a blogging relationship, but to be quite frank, if you’re not interested in books you’ll find my blog rather dull.

The Widow's Redeemer - Philippa Jane Keyworth
The Widow’s Redeemer – Philippa Jane Keyworth

January can be quite a drear month, so I won’t drag this out, I’ll just try and brighten this time of year for you. I want to give away both of my books. First of all, I want to give away hard copies of both my books, The Widow’s Redeemer and The Unexpected Earl to someone. And it’s easy, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post with your name, an email address for me to contact you, and your best reason for loving historical romances. I’m rather cheeky, the last one is purely because I love hearing why people love books – so call that a treat for me.

The hard copies will be restricted to the UK I’m afraid. However, don’t you worldwide people feel that I’m letting you down. For those of you beyond our channel, and across that pesky Atlantic, I’m going to give away an e-copy of both novels in .mobi format. Same rules apply as above, leave a comment on this post with your name, email address, and the reason you love historical romances.

I’ll leave this running for a full week from today – so it will end at midnight on Tuesday 20th January 2015.

The Unexpected Earl - Philippa Jane Keyworth
The Unexpected Earl – Philippa Jane Keyworth

Everyone who enters will be put through a random generator so it’s all fair and fun. And, just because I want to promote my own ends shamelessly, those who share this blog post on a social media platform, and send me a link to where they have done so in their comment, will get two names in the ‘hat’ (both your name of course…d’uh).

So, brighten my day – all I’m doing at the moment is staring at a screen endeavouring to work (not writing I should say, but other, far less interesting work) – so let me do something nice and read some fun comments 🙂

I suppose resolutions are in order

I suppose resolutions are in order. This is the time when on my blog I should tell you that I will, in 2015, be blogging thrice a day, that they will be stirring, inspiring and utterly motivational, that I will have them hand-delivered via carrier-pigeon… or does that make them bird-claw-delivered? I don’t know.

I should also say that I will be writing 1,000 words a day for the next full stretch of 365 days. That these words will rival any Dickensian novel in both style and story. I should say that by the end of this year I’ll have 15 novels out (maybe I should up my daily word count?). That I will also, all this while, be enacting the role of perfect housewife. That I will go on fabulous holidays. That I will broadcast all of this via Facebook to keep people in a  state of enthralled jealousy. By the end of this year I shall have reached perfection on every level, and next year, resolutions will simply be obsolete in my life. What need will I have for them when this year’s resolutions will set the bar, form the path, create the way to travel in order to attain everything I have ever wanted?

New Year's Resolutions 2015 - Philippa Jane Keyworth
New Year’s at the Savoy 1907 – swanky, eh?

In truth, I wasn’t laughing, or even smiling when I wrote that. I was grimacing. It’s not at all that I have anything against New Year Resolutions. It’s that yesterday, when I was listening to someone talk, they said something bordering on the profound. They said that New Year’s Resolutions were rubbish – I know what you’re thinking, the rant will continue, but no – their reasoning was the interesting part. They said why do we have to wait for a New Year in order to enact change in our lives?

I’ll add to that, that usually, if we set a bar at a particular height, we are bound to fail. I’m not saying we’re all useless. History runs contrary to that point often enough, doesn’t it? Nope, I’m saying that humans are flawed, and most of us have good intentions – that clichéd phrase – but that quite often our actions fall short.

That leads often to guilt, to frustration, to feeling as though you are useless (note that I didn’t say you are useless, but feeling like it). Then you decide a change needs to be made, then you make another resolution. Maybe not everyone’s like me – shock horror – maybe your thought patterns work differently, but maybe you’re reading this and thinking, ‘Gosh, this seems familiar.’

Do I have any New Year’s Resolutions then? Nope, not as of yet. I’ll let you know if I do end up having any. At the beginning of a New Year I just want to say to other writers – give yourself credit where credit is due, and don’t beat yourself up too hard when you don’t reach the word count or the goal you had intended. I think I’m writing this to myself – the first sign of insanity? Ha!

So, I’m not saying I have any kind of answers, any particular pearls of wisdom, life is a complicated and utterly bewildering thing, and that is usually at the best of times 😉 Neither do I want people to discount New Year’s Resolutions, but maybe it’s worth viewing them more as, I don’t know, part of a continuing journey, rather than the be all and end all? After all, something I rarely take into account when making plans, is that life very rarely does as it’s told.

Something I shouldn’t know about…

I’m such a fan of Christmas – but I’m sure everyone’s saying that on blogs right now. I mean it’s true, I won’t deny it. Michael Buble’s Christmas in New York is playing in the background, the fire is burning away and outside it’s chilly, it’s all rather Christmassy. Better yet, I KNOW what I’m getting on the 25th.

Naughty, I know, one shouldn’t really know what presents one is to expect, but the thing is, as one ages, one’s taste becomes refined, and suddenly only that specific thing will do. I know what it is I’m getting. I shouldn’t, and I certainly shan’t let it slip on here. Oh, no. It’s going to be extremely cosy, extremely slate grey, extremely wonderful. But I shan’t tell you. Mwahahaha!

What’s this? A bit of fantastic music – I think so

Christmas breaks are the best. When other work ceases and you can finally get a look at that pesky manuscript that’s been enacting itself in the back of your mind is very nice. That’s what I’ve been doing. Not in a disciplined manner. Not in a work way. Just in a, let’s surround myself with notebook, pen, laptop and music, kind of way. Idly tapping away between jaunts to Pinterest, into the pages of Outlander, and just watching a lot of cartoons and movies. It’s so nice, though I’ll admit rather difficult, not to be looking at the word count, or worrying about the time because I should be getting to work soon, or thinking I should really put the keyboard down in favour of an essay or my to-do list.

It’s helpful, certainly, to have some time to write. I am trying to sort something rather tricky – the timeline – and when you have several on the go at once, it’s a little complex to make sure everyone in the book is getting enough words. In fact, scratch that, it’s difficult to even remember what’s going on with all the characters that bumble across the white lengths of Microsoft Word. After all I’ve never written a story quite like this before. I’ve been trying to write down the timelines separately on a piece of paper in parallel lines – a clever idea I thought – to figure out what’s happening with each character and when, and having some free time to do it is rather handy.

It won’t last though, it never does, but I think that’s a good thing. Writing is very solitary, and this time of year isn’t for solitariness. It’s for friends, and family and people in general. That’s why Jesus came to earth, for people. So I shall relinquish my hold upon this backlit typing board, shut down the laptop, and go and giggle, and sing Christmas songs, and probably bicker and probably have fun. Maybe I’ll come back to the story at some point, tap a few more words down, but maybe not. It’s a lovely feeling, all this free time.