Category Archives: General Blog

Selfish writing

I’m not a fan of the modern day mantra,

‘just do what’s right for you’.

Controversial, I know, but it doesn’t seem logical to me. I may be being a bit Vulcan about it (yes, that’s a Trek reference and I’m going with it), but it seems to me, only thinking about oneself isn’t doing the world any favours. When we think like that we are choosing to purposely ignore other’s feelings, desires and wellbeing in favour of our own.

Getting kicked in the teeth

That being said, my Dad always says if you get kicked in the teeth, you don’t go back to get kicked in the teeth again, i.e. if someone treats you badly, you don’t give them no consequences and carry on as normal. So there’s this fine line, isn’t there? Where we’re balancing between self-obsession and self-protection.

We understand we must love and care for others if we want to build a decent society, but what about when we feel drained and need to care for ourselves? I don’t have the answer. I guess every situation is individual, though there may be underlying principles that always remain; like loving others more than yourself, and protecting your heart because it’s the well spring of life.

Exploring writing styles

Notebook

Anyway, in the midst of working on my next novel for publication, I am being selfish. I’ve realised that if all my creative energy is directed towards publication I lose some of that pizazz I love. I get that from having my own secret world that no one else gets to go into. Exploring writing styles and characters that might not work or people might not like. I’m not ignoring my other work, but I am snatching at whisps of time to write a story just for my eyes, my heart, my soul.

Woods

I like to think this will keep developing me as an author, and give my readers better books to read. I wonder if other authors do the same? And I’m not talking about a story you never finished that will never see the light of day, but rather one you loved and finished but will remain yours and just yours.

There’s something a bit mysterious about creativity, and creating something all your own.

And here I am, trying to maintain that balance between self-obsession and self-protection.

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Assertive characters

Assertiveness is something that I think is undervalued in current society.

The book Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend describes assertiveness and setting boundaries as:

‘When to say yes, and how to say no.’

Not being aggressive, but being firm about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to your boundaries.

Pride and Prejudice - Assertive Characters - Philippa Jane Keyworth

We might love to complain and moan to our friends, but often, we fail to grow the backbone needed to address something head-on with the person it concerns. We feel safe when we complain to those who we know care for us, but if we confront someone who doesn’t have that vested interest they might reject us.

Worse, they might think ill of us.

‘I cannot bear to think that he is alive in the world…and thinking ill of me.’

– Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

They might think we’re horrid. We’re a cow or… bull!? (is that the male insult?). They might think we have no integrity or values. Or they might just think we’re plain wrong.

Pride and Prejudice - Assertive Characters - Philippa Jane KeyworthThat’s why often, we so love assertive characters in books. We watch them word-spar and defend themselves as we wish we could. They say exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time, almost as if it were perfectly and minutely crafted…

I, for one, can never stand a push over in a book. And that is not because I cannot be pushed over sometimes. Back when they were all the rage, I read the Twilight books, and the one thing I really remember vividly when looking back is the whiny nature of Bella in the second book. Man alive did she complain, and worse, she didn’t do anything about her situation. She didn’t choose to move forward or fight for more. I CANNOT stand a character who sits and grumbles. I can’t invest in them. I begin to stop sympathising.

It really comes down to the fact I can’t admire them. And the Lord knows I love to admire a character in a book. Preferably the main character. Even if they don’t always do the right thing, I like to see that backbone, that willingness to fight another day, to overcome. That spirit.

I once described my female characters to my husband, saying they were kick-butt heroines both verbally and physically and he chuckled, saying,

‘Basically you want to be them.’

Absolutely.

 

 

An assertive excerpt from Fool Me Twice:

“Lord Avers!” Lady Rebecca responded with the same warmth she greeted every friend. “And who is this gentleman with you?”

Caro was immediately and acutely aware that it was not the voice of Lord Avers that had made her stomach turn. It was not his voice that had spoken of sweetmeats and Bergamot ices, and it was not his voice that sounded again, this time far closer to Caro’s ear.

“Oh!” continued Lady Rebecca. “It is Mr. Felton!”

“Lady Rebecca,”—the other gentleman bowed, his hat creeping into the corner of Caro’s vision—“I have been dragged here most unwillingly to order some kind of pastry for Avers’ mother’s ball, but now I see you here I am quite pleased I relented in my protestations.”

Caro turned then, using all her strength to break out of her statue-like trance. A closer inspection of the gentleman confirmed her worst fears.

“How delightful it is to see you again!” said Lady Rebecca, oblivious to her friend’s discomfiture. “I had no idea you were back from your Tour.”

“Ah, yes, the weather of Europe is nothing in comparison to that of England. I quite missed the rain, you know?” The man’s voice was full of amusement, so like it had been last night when he had accosted Caro while she played the role of another.

“Are you still a scoundrel?” One of Lady Rebecca’s fine dark brows rose, her characteristic truthfulness challenging the man playfully.

“My long-suffering parents will confirm as much.”

Caro breathed rapidly, dreading the moment that Mr. Felton would turn towards her. She reminded herself that she was not Angelica Worth today, but the fair-haired Caro. He would not recognize her—others did not. She must not panic. All would be well.

“Lord Avers, Mr. Felton, may I present Miss Worth to you both.” Rebecca stretched a hand out, gracefully indicating Caro, and both gentlemen turned their attention to the golden-haired woman dressed in dazzling aquamarine.

“Miss Worth,” Lord Avers bowed and smiled affably, “An additional pleasure to find you in the company of Lady Rebecca once again.”

“Miss Worth.” Mr. Felton, being the nearer of the two gentlemen took her hand and bent over it in a perfunctory bow.

That same boyish face Caro had seen by candlelight was before her now. By the light of day, Mr. Felton’s face still held the handsome, careless, amused expression that had captivated her for a brief moment last night. But the same face in the morning’s light was more worrying than captivating. Her legs began to tremble beneath the full skirts of her gown.

When Mr. Felton’s head lifted, he caught Caro’s eye, and the look that appeared on his face sent ice running through her veins. It was recognition.

“I say,” he said, repeating his customary exclamation, “how intriguing.”

His green eyes ran quickly over Caro’s face. They paused on her hair for a moment, his brow furrowing and then clearing, and then they returned to her brilliant blue eyes once more.

“Am I remiss? Have I not made your acquaintance before?” His brow was furrowing again. He was trying his hardest to place her face. She was praying her hardest he would fail.

“I do not believe so, sir.” Caro removed her eyes from his, desperate to keep away from his intent stare, desperate to steer his mind away from remembering.“I am sure of it, I would not forget those eyes anywhere, or….” Mr. Felton stepped back a little, looking down at her skirts as though expecting to see through them. To anyone else he looked as if he were only trying to gain a better view of the woman he thought he recognized, but Caro knew exactly the memory that was being conjured up in his mind. “You look very much like a woman I have already met.”

She colored.

“I dislike excessively to say it, Miss Worth,” said Mr. Felton, a boyish grin resuming mastery over his shapely lips, “however, I believe if we have met before as I suspect, it was in quite different surroundings.”

Clearly, he thought he was being subtle, but Caro knew the irreparable damage he could do to her. Tongues were already wagging where Caro was concerned, and his attempts at the finer arts of concealment were poor. Caro was overcome with a desire to strike him again, wishing to destroy that amused smile on his face that so carelessly put her future at risk.

“I don’t know what you mean.” Caro’s body stiffened, her voice containing the same rigidness reflected in her frame. She suppressed her urge to react and instead resurrected the feeling of satisfaction she had gained from slapping him last night.

“That exact turn of phrase,” he murmured again, still staring at her.

His words were far from proper, even to those whose minds could not fully understand what their ears were hearing. Caro was aware that other guests in the confectioner’s shop were leaning in to hear the unusual conversation from the loud young gentleman.

Both Lady Rebecca and Lord Avers had been staring at the interchange, confused—however, the latter was rapidly catching up to his friend on the gentleman’s path of assumptions.

“But that hair….” Felton murmured to himself.

He was looking at her gold curls, trying to reconcile them with the raven hair he had seen, with the wig that sat on her dressing table at home. He recognized her face, her eyes—but the hair remained her one defense.

“Yes, I do not powder my hair. My mother always told me not to because of its fine color.” At least there could be a little truth in her life of falsehoods. “I dislike the way you stare, sir,” Caro used her severest tones, trying to break through the mesmerized state the gentleman seemed to be in.

“Felton.” Lord Avers stepped forward, attempting to stop his friend before more damage was done. But his friend carried on like a runaway horse pulling away from its pursuer.

“I have never been so sure and so unsure. Are you not the lady I met last night at Mr. Russell’s?”

Again she blushed, and taking her blush to be confirmation, Mr. Felton gave her a saucy wink.

Caro shot up from her chair in a surge of red hot fury. “Sir! I must ask you to desist!”

“Mr. Felton,” he corrected, not in the least perturbed, the curl of his grin still evident on his mouth.

She was trying her best to ignore those lips, the ones that had uttered the word “pleasure” in such a fascinating way last night. She hated how his careless attitude at once riled her and intrigued her. Her anxiety was laced with a desire to meet this gentleman on the word-sparring field…but she knew better. She shook off any vestiges of her ridiculous humor. Now was the time to draw the line between her identities in indelible ink before he had a chance of furthering this course of inquiry.

“You are mistaken, sir. I can guess which surroundings you refer to, and they are the haunt of my father’s illegitimate daughter.” If the house of cards was to fall, she would be in control of its destruction, not some impertinent cad.

 

 

The Creative Psyche needs sleep

It’s amazing what sleep does for one.

The Creative Psyche needs sleep

It can be entirely too easy to dismiss the qualities of decent sleep. When we’re in this busy, fast-paced, always-connected world, sleep can often be consigned to when we’re dead.

I kind of get this mentality. As a person who loves a to-do list, to plan, to make the most of the time I have – though I’m not immune to a Netflix binge of the Shannara Chronicles – it can be easy to think,

‘Well, if I stay up for that extra hour and a half I’ll have so much more time for activities.’

True, but after keeping a mood diary for a few weeks, I realised the impact that lack of sleep has on my next day. I wake up cranky, sometimes with a headache, I have no zeal for the day, I’m irritated by everything including sunshine, and all I want is to sit down and veg-out. Suddenly that next day becomes wasted time, the wasted time I was trying to avoid the day before.

One of the clearest impacts it has is on my creativity. If you are a creative, someone who likes to paint, draw, write, craft, DIY or innovate, then you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to have a stimulated, excited mind, roving over possibilities and making them into reality when your brain is half asleep.

And yet I rationalise the staying up late as making the most of time, or because I’m too busy to go to bed, and I rationalise the lack of creativity as,

‘I’ve just been too busy.’

‘I don’t have the creative mind-space.’

‘I needed a break to recharge my creativity.’

And all it really came down to in the end, was going to bed on time. If you’re a tired creative, who wants more time to do creative things, then get some sleep. You’ll find you’re more on point, make more use of the limited time you have, and feel more satisfied at the end of the day. The bonus is, you’ll often be tired enough to go to bed on time.

The Widow’s Redeemer Audiobook

The Widow’s Redeemer

has been released on Audible!

The Widow's Redeemer Audiobook - Narrated by Alex Lee

Available on Audible at £18.29 or FREE with a 30 day trial

I’ve been enjoying rather a long break away from online activities. It was partly for the ‘having a break’ thing and partly to give myself some creative space. Everything’s so busy and buzzing and instant these days, and I confess to not always being able to shut out the noise of everyday life long enough to take a step into my fictional worlds.

Thankfully, while I have been enjoying a sabbatical of sorts my publisher, Madison Street Publishing, has been hard at work behind the scenes working on the creation of my first audiobook!

The Widow’s Redeemer, my original Regency Romance novel has been transformed into a wonderful audiobook narrated by the talented Alex Lee.

Alex is a lovely lady who has worked tirelessly to bring The Widow’s Redeemer with its indomitable widow Letty Burton and its wealthy but scandalous Viscount to life!

“I was thrilled to audition and be given the opportunity to narrate The Widow’s Redeemer and also Fool me Twice both written by Philippa Jane Keyworth for Madison Street Publishing.

I loved the Georgette Heyer Regency romances which I read when younger and love the genre. Pip’s books transport you back to that wonderful era and I have loved narrating these stories.”

– Alex Lee on narrating The Widow’s Redeemer

Listening to The Widow’s Redeemer being narrated has truly been a pleasure for me. I find that once I complete a story and it comes out in book form I’m already onto my next one. My head has moved on and so one can forget exactly what has come before.

Listening to my first novel, read so beautifully by Alex, was so enjoyable. To remember the characters I had left behind, Letty with her quiet determination, Major Deveril – humorous yet honourable – and the complexity of a wealthy Viscount who bears emotional scars. I’d forgotten that world, and staring through a window of narration to remember it was perfect.

Pick it up today at Audible.

A sip of morning coffee

StourheadOne of the things I enjoy most in my life is the first sip of my coffee in the morning. And I’m not just saying that because it seems popular or like something a person would write next to an Instagram post of a super-fancy-over-the-top-latte. Let’s be honest, what we see on social media is not the whole story. We see fragments of a shiny diamond, and we feel as though it out-does us, yet the rough, uncut and unpolished aspects don’t see the light of day. To be honest, I’m not sure I would want to see them, or share them myself. But being aware we’re only seeing part of life, perhaps makes us more likely to go off and live the other parts of ours rather than wasting it ogling what other people are doing.

Anyway, getting back to that coffee (I’m on my second now), it really is one of my favourite things. I think lots of life is in the small things and it’s good to focus on the little pleasures, or what happens is the bigger things, which can sometimes be a little pants, are likely to obscure anything great that’s going on. Like when that first sip of velvety, bitter-sweet coffee, with the right balance of milk to black nectar, hits the tongue and then the back of your throat. That moment you choose to lean back against the kitchen side, the battered work-top pressing against you reassuringly, and stare out the window at your neighbours’ houses.

Kingston LacyYou’re not really looking, but then the neighbour’s dog just coming back from a walk catches your eye and you can’t help your mouth turn up in a quick smile at the cuteness. And your mind, free and open trips over the things you’re doing that day, what needs to be done, what’s realistic, what can wait. The good bits of the day coming up and the pants bits. And because you’ve taken this moment to consider the opportunities of a new day – and if you’re like me (when I remember) you pray about them – Hatfield Houseeverything seems to fall slightly more into perspective. You smile, because nothing’s really too big, nothing too far, nothing too hard. Then you smile again because you’re being soppy and will probably still have a melt-down when things don’t work out later. But you’ll still have much to be thankful for, you’ll still be able to giggle at something silly and enjoy the life you have. Then you finish your coffee and you plunge head-on into the fray.

Of course, all this is made far better when my husband brings me the coffee and I can be lazy about making it. Ha! But it’s one of my favourite things. There really is nothing that tastes quite like that first sip of coffee. So, what will I be up to this year story-wise?

Well, last year saw the launch of my first fantasy novel, The Edict. This was so exciting for me as I wrote the first draft of the novel when I was 17 and I’ve finally been able to share it with everyone! It’s received some great reviews so far,

The Edict…is in a class of its own. Fantasy is a genre I find I am increasingly drawn to & in this fictionalised re-telling of the history of Esther, consort to King Xerces, the author has developed something really special. The characters in the novel are extremely well crafted, especially the heroine, Kiara, who certainly knows her own mind, and heart.

I can’t wait for Book 2! This book was read in 2 sessions & comes highly recommended.’

– Maureen Wright, Amazon reviewer

Romance and magic against the backdrop of war; The Edict has all the ingredients of a great fantasy. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the author is brilliant at building tension, I was hooked; especially towards the end. Now I just have to wait patiently for book two!

– Victoria Jones, Amazon reviewer

The plot of this story is hard to predict, and the same can be said of the well thought out characters. This makes for a thoroughly gripping read…One word of WARNING: Don’t read this book on your holiday unless you don’t want to do anything other than read…!

– Joe Leach, Amazon reviewer

Initially drawn in by the unfolding adventure, I found that the author’s trademark intelligent writing style gave real weight to the individual characters, particularly Trevisian (dark, mysterious, moody, flawed). By underpinning this fantastical world with a fiery romance and many plot twists along the way, Keyworth keeps her reader hooked to the very last page, delivering both a satisfying ending – and promising more!

– An Amazon reviewer

So thank you to all the readers – you make my job possible! And this year I’ve got lots of plans. I rarely stick to schedule, such is the life of a creative writer, if I did I’d have 30 books out by now…if only! However, I don’t think there’s harm in telling you I’m working on a sequel to Fool Me Twice!!! It’s so exciting!!! It’ll be my first Historical Romance series and I can’t wait for you to meet the new hero and heroine. They’re great – the heroine is wonderfully eccentric and funny, and the hero a reserved gentleman – so you can imagine the conversations… It’s going to be easy to read as a standalone, so you won’t have had to read Fool Me Twice, but if you have it’ll be fun for you to see where this new hero and heroine fit in, and also to see several of your favourite characters again, further on in their stories. It’s something I’m enjoying, writing romances that don’t just end in ‘and they walked into the sunset’, but rather continue on, like they do in real life.

Then there’s the second book in The She Trilogy, which is obviously on the cards. I’ve done some initial foraying back into that fantasy world and it’s going to be exciting meeting up with old characters and seeing some powerful new ones come to the fore. That’ll probably be worked on more definitively later in the year.

A sip of coffee in the morningI also started some time ago an 18th century romance adventure set in Cornwall. This one has been so enjoyable for me to get my teeth into as it’s involved plenty of research, especially into King Arthur and smugglers! Then there’s been the actual site visits I’ve undertaken. Like visiting the inn that my main character frequents and examining the local smuggling beaches. As is my passion, it’ll have a love story at it’s core but there will be plenty of adventure and perhaps even room for more than one story. It allows me to sate my appetite for Cornish culture and that beautiful West Country, so I’m a happy bunny.

Finally, it’s exciting to be able to say that there should be some audiobook versions of my novels coming out during the year and into the following few. It’s been wonderful to work with a narrator who’s really bringing my stories and characters to life and it means that if you’re a busy bee and struggle to find the time to sit and read without feeling guilty or rushed, you can fit in some wonderful stories while you’re going about your business, in the car during your commute or gardening, walking or cooking! More on that to follow in the coming months.

So, there’s lots going on, and we’ll see how it goes getting all these stories up on their feet and out the door into the big wide-world. Whatever goes on I am determined to enjoy myself doing it 🙂

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