So… drove to Oregon, surrendered the truck into the keeping of Beloved Offspring, and also took in a Free Expressions writing workshop. For a week, I soaked my head in the craft of fiction, and the book I focused on was my old pal, the Welsh Duke, aka No Other Duke Will Do. (There’s a sneak peek at the cover!)
Julian St. David, Duke of Haverford, rode shotgun all the way out to Oregon, and I still arrived to the conference feeling as if he just hadn’t quite come clean with me regarding his defining trauma.
After 455 miles of Nebraska, 403 miles of Wyoming, and about 2000 miles of Everywhere Else, my hero was still holding out on me.
Dukes can be like this.
So every day, his ducal behonkis got the brunt of my workshop focus. All the exercises were about him, the homework was about him, the in-class prompts were about him. I was NOT going to let up on that guy until I’d figured out what, what, what had hurt his heart so badly that he was turning up a ducally magnificent nose at true love.
I got nowhere. If anything, His Grace climbed higher on his castle parapets, hid more deeply in his vast library. GRRRR.
Finally, I gave up. Told him to just be like that, because I’d brought along Loretta Chase’s Captives of the Night, and the Comte D’Esmond was a lot more fun to hang out with than some pouty old workaholic duke…. Guy has a library of 30,000 volumes, which treasure I bestowed on him in my capacity as author, but does he bother to thank me? Does he meet me in the library for a heart-to-heart? Nooooo.
I flounced off to bed with the Count, but as soon as I started reading, somebody or something tapped me on the shoulder: Pssst! The duke never reads. He owns all those books, and much interesting stuff happens in his various libraries, but why doesn’t he ever, not once, read? He’s nearly bankrupting himself to keep the family book collection together, but HE NEVER READS.
I shoved poor Esmond out of bed, and got back to my keyboard, because that was the loose thread that unraveled the mystery of what needed to happen with the duke.
But guess what? Somebody besides Haverford had stopped reading.
Sometime since the new year began, I’ve grown too busy, too tired, too focused, too something to be sure I have good fiction with me at the end of every day. Reading has a zillion benefits–lower blood pressure, better heart and liver function, increased empathy, stronger vocabulary, better memory, less stress, less likelihood of Alzheimer’s–but I’d stopped reading.
And I hadn’t noticed that I’d stopped reading regularly. I’d instead felt a malaise of undetermined origin, which I blamed on that dratted duke. Once I got Haverford straightened out (or he got me straightened out), I climbed back in bed with Esmond, who made the return trip with me. Captain Gabriel Lacey is on deck, Alistair Carsington is in the bull pen.
Whew! So… What does reading do for you? To one commenter, I’ll send my Advanced Reader Copy of Mr. Rochester–A Novel. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre from Edward’s perspective, and it is TERRIFIC.