Category Archives: General Blog

The Kingdom of Emrilion

I got carried away. It was one of those days I have dedicated to writing. I woke up and instead of picking up a keyboard or lined paper, I picked up a sketch-pad and pencils. I’ve always enjoyed a bit of doodling and sketching. In fact, you might be interested to know that the faces of the characters from both my historical romance and fantasy books are residing between the leaves of several sketch books.

It’s a funny thing when authors draw out their characters as I imagine they don’t always line up precisely with what you have in your head when you’re reading. Anyway, I’m getting off track, because it wasn’t people I was drawing at all, you see. I spent my whole writing day trying my hand at fantasy cartography.

Fantasy cartography

Yes, it’s a thing. I had no idea until I started googling fantasy maps. I wanted some inspiration and not just that, some visual know-how for how to draw hills, mountains, lakes all those sorts of things. How did I draw them and get them to look the right way in for a map? It was all a bit trial and error, quickly sketching a practice hill on one piece of paper and then drawing it properly on the map I started.

People actually do this for a living. I guess artists, illustrators or designers, or a bit of all three. What a cool job. I wonder if they have to read the books to know where everything is? Well, for me I already had the equivalent of a stick-figure map from when I had been writing The Edict. It was in my edits that I couldn’t remember whether the characters should have been travelling west or east to get somewhere. I realised I needed a map.

It’s an old habit

Drawing that basic one (and laminating it, because I’m a geek), took me right back to when I was a kid. I used to LOVE drawing maps. I drew them all the time, usually of made up places, not even related to stories. I don’t know why I love it so much but I did, and suddenly as a grown woman I was like, ‘yeah, that’s right, I’m using my part-time author job to draw a map’. It was sweet, as you can imagine.

So, there I was drawing it all and, although I wouldn’t say it’s a master-piece, it’s legible. And it really added that last bit of something I was missing from the book. Every fantasy book I’ve enjoyed has had a map, the sort that makes you turn the book sideways and upside down to read all the names and figure out where your characters are or are travelling to. And it was as if the final piece of creativity for this writing project was finally completed 10 years after it started.

The Kingdom of Emrilion

Stretching from the Northern Moors south to the Tao Desert the Kingdom of Emrilion is made up of many races ruled by the conquering Reluwyn. Bordered by it’s neighbour Castir to the east and the Western Sea to the west Emrilion is home to forests, moors, plains, deserts and mountains and of course to characters you’re going to meet…

Map of Emrilion - The Edict - The She Trilogy

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The Edict Cover Release

I am so excited to finally be sharing more with you on the run up to the release of The Edict in December! The cover of The Edict starts with an old friend. Venetia and I go way back. We’ve been friends for several years now and she’s easily one of those people I describe as lovely inside and out.

When I first met her I said, ‘One of my favourite authors called Georgette Heyer wrote a book called Venetia.’ She promptly replied that the very same volume was one of her mother’s favourites and her namesake! I mean – it was like a meet-cute for friends.

When I started my journey towards becoming a hybrid author (both published through a publishing house and self-published) I came to Venetia to talk cover design. We’d chatted years earlier about the idea of it when we worked in a shoe shop together in between aggy customers and trying on shoes under the counter. I knew she was a graphic designer and had been working with an independent publishing house so it was perfect. Just a few years in the making.

First design meeting

When I started planning out The Edict (read the blurb here) project and had my manuscript sent away to the editor I asked to meet with Venetia to finally talk about that fabled cover. We met in Costa and talked about the project over hot chocolate and coffee (or something of that variety). She was so enthusiastic from the outset, she let me rabbit on about the story, the project timelines, what I envisioned for the cover. All the time she listened and actually told me it was so much more helpful talking 1:1 with the author about the work and I really think this collaboration is why the cover became such a clear embodiment of the book.

Talking styles

We talked colours, styles, themes, elements and while she let me talk she also dropped ideas in here and there which I would never have thought of and which really started to tie the whole thing together into a fully fledged concept. We worked out the timeline and payment arrangements and parted ways with her promising an initial design.

She started working on individual elements first and then came up with the full front cover. The best part was, when I asked to meet to discuss the initial designs, Venetia came with a gift! I was asking her how she managed to create the seal on the front cover, she said, ‘it’s funny you should ask that…’ and proceeded to pull an unassuming little cardboard box from her bag.

The seal

She handed it to me saying it was a gift for me and when I opened it lo and behold, Venetia had not only imagined a wildcat from the world of The She Trilogy she had commissioned a real seal to be made and it came complete with sealing wax, candles and teeny wax pouring spoon!

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It was AMAZING! Here in my hand was a seal like those I imagined they used in my book. The wildcat is a creature specifically from Emrilion, the kingdom in which the story takes place, and Venetia had listened to my descriptions and created it! The seal is a really important part of the book. In The Edict believe it or not, there is an edict, a few actually, a type of law and they are sealed with the royal seal, the one you see appearing on the cover of the book. It’s one of these edicts that forever changes the life of my heroine Kiara so you can see why it’s a central aspect of the cover. Keep an eye out for up-coming giveaways on the run up to The Edict’s release, because you might just be receiving a copy of The Edict sign, sealed and delivered!

The initial designs

I’d told Venetia about the richness of the Reluwyn people in the The Edict. They’re originally nomadic tribal peoples who have become a settled nation and risen up to rule an empire. They enjoy feasting and fighting and it’s this lavish lifestyle which is brought out by the deep reds, jade and almost golden yellows. It’s the colours of the cover which make it so exciting.

The finished cover

After tweaking and amends and getting it just so, we ended up with a cover that Venetia did an awesome job of making and which I’m so chuffed with. You can see it here:

The Edict - Fantasy Book - P. J. Keyworth

The Edict - Fantasy Book - P. J. Keyworth

 

Venetia Jackson

If you’re looking for a designer for your covers whether they’re fantasy or another genre, I can highly recommend Venetia. She’s friendly, professional and enthusiastic. She’s just as keen as you are to give your book the cover it deserves. You can find her on Facebook & Instagram.

Next?

I’m looking forward to sharing with you the sneak peak of the VERY FIRST copy of The Edict, which is my proof copy. There’s nothing quite like holding your book in the format of a book (not on a computer or in A4 print-out versions), for the first time and this one was extra special because I had seen it from the first tiny idea I had when I was 17, right through to print…

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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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.

The Widow’s Redeemer on Amazon Kindle Daily Deal

My first novel The Widow’s Redeemer the story of a widow with an indomitable spirit and a Viscount with an unsavoury reputation is on Amazon Kindle Daily Deal today!

Get her for £0.99 while you can!

Historical Romance The Widow's Redeeer | Kindle Daily Deal

Ah, look at her there sitting so nicely with the other books…

Just whack in this URL: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/feature.html?docId=1000577623 and tharrr she sits!

The Widow's Redeemer | Amazon Kindle Daily Deal

I like the little hover-box on this one, in case you didn’t know what you were looking at…

Want to sign-up to Kindle Daily Deals?

And, if you’re an avid reader and haven’t heard of the Kindle Daily Deal before, it’s well easy to sign-up, there’s a handy little box in the top right hand corner of the page looking like this:

How to sign up to Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon

Just click the subscribe button on the page and be prepared for your social life to disappear…

Enjoy my wee readerites!