I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, lately. With anxiety, that’s usually par for the course, and, all too often, too much thinking, given to many bunny trails, several transfers on the old logic train, and sometimes veering off the tracks entirely, to go directly from A to Z. I honestly don’t remember what it was that got me swiveling the office chair around, to look at my Bertrice-Small-only bookcase, or what made me pluck Duchess from the shelf. Maybe it’s part of the “when you feel like quitting, remember why you started” idea, but A) I do not feel like quitting (and am not) and B) remembering why one started is always a good refresher. For me, it was that purloined copy of The Kadin, by Small, that got me started in this whole historical romance game, and I did want to touch that feeling again. Maybe I picked up Duchess because it was the closest book to my hand when I swiveled the chair, or because it’s a standalone, or maybe it was luck of the draw.
When I opened the cover, (Elaine Duillo remains my all-time favorite illustrator) I found not one, but two surprises. First surprise was a sticky note I’d written to myself while writing Orphans in the Storm, a snatch of dialogue between Jonnet and Simon. Second surprise was a long, thin, white envelope, so, of course, I had to investigate that, and its contents. Said contents proved to be a bookmark from a once-upon-a-time friend, whom I’d met through a once-upon-a-time fandom (not Once Upon a Time fandom, in case there’s any ambiguity) with a note declaring herself a fan of my work. At that time of the writing of the note on the back of that bookmark, said work consisted of fan works, one long manuscript that lives in a storage unit, where it cannot hurt anybody, and, if I am doing the math right, maybe My Outcast Heart. There’s not date, so I can’t say for sure.
I can’t remember if this friend ever read My Outcast Heart, as life took us in different directions, but I still love her dearly and hope she’s well, with lots of great books to read. I have no idea why that bookmark was in that book, and no, I did not make note of which page or scene it marked. What I do remember is that my first inclination was to arrange them all on my desk and take a picture, then ask myself what these three things had in common. Why did I have them all in the same place?
For the second question, I don’t have an answer, and I’m not sure if I do for the first one, either. What I do know (and here I give away my secret for keeping writing when I have no idea what comes next: write “what I do know is:….” and then something will usually come, even if it has nothing to do with the topic at hand. There’s probably a way to connect it later. First job is to get things written; they can be prettified later.) is that this collection of objects felt perfectly right for where my brain is at the moment: kind of jumbled, still madly in love with reading and writing, especially historical romance, and more determined ever to bring the best of my reading and writing roots into the work I am creating now.
There have been a lot of eras within the historical romance world, between the day I stole that book from my mother’s nightstand and my opening of Google Docs today. Whole careers have come and gone, and, for some, come back again. Other favorite authors have sailed off into the proverbial sunset, either to a hopefully happy retirement, or the great beyond. There have been a lot of eras in my own life, as well, both personal and reading/writing. I am no longer involved in the fandom in which I had met my once-upon-a-time friend, but I still cherish this bookmark, and have put it into my bookmark jar, to go back into rotation. I like using bookmarks that give me a sense of connection, and this certainly fits the bill.
Out of the three items, the one I find myself going back to the most is the sticky note.
Right now, I have no idea whether this exchange actually made it into the book, but if it didn’t, now we know why. If it did, well, good for me, because I like it. (And no, Simon, you were never a coward. You have been many things, but a coward has never been one of them. Trust your author.) I also like sticky notes, and no notebook is truly mine unless it has a bunch of them sticking out from between the pages, covering pages, hopefully color-coordinated, but sometimes, obviously whatever was at hand at the moment I needed it. That’s kind of how this writing thing works.
Still getting my ideas on historical romance in general together, in semi-coherent form, but, on a personal level, finding these things all together had that feeling that always sends the right kind of tingle along my spine. Yes. This. Here’s why I do what I do. One book by the author who made me love historical romance, and recognize it as my genre. One bookmark from a reader who loved something I wrote. One note from myself, to myself, in the process of writing a book that has gone out into the world. Since all of my backlist is currently e-book exclusives, I have not yet reached the point of someone pulling one of my books from the shelves and finding anything inside it, but there’s only one way to get to that point.
The route to that point is made of a thousand more sticky notes, a thousand more hours of reading, the lovely surprise of a kind word from a reader, at unexpected moments, and a thousand other things. Write, revise, submit, repeat. Yes. This. Thanks for the reminder, writer, reader, and me.