How do I explain to non-writers what it’s like to “let go” of a book that is so dear to my heart? Think about saying good-bye to a loved one for what could be the last time. That’s how it feels. You are leaving your mother or father for some place far away and might never see them again – or your child is going off to Afghanistan – maybe just to college – but you have to let go of someone – maybe a loved one who is dying – and you know you will never see them again. Believe it or not, that’s how it sometimes feels to be “finished” with a story that has been an integral part of your life and your heart and your passion for months, maybe years.
When I wrote SAVAGE DESTINY, I literally mourned for Zeke for years. And after writing the 7th book I went through “withdrawal” all over again over Zeke’s children, especially Wolf’s Blood and Jeremy – and of course I mourned Abbie’s leaving this earth. Since then no other book has affected me so deeply other than OUTLAW HEARTS, which ate at me for years until I could finally write this sequel. And now I am so attached that I already know I need to write a third book. However, if things happen that I know need to happen in the third book, I’ll probably need counseling for that one!!! Jake’s wife, Randy, can’t imagine living without him, and, readers, neither can I! I think a third book should really feature Jake’s son Lloyd and his daughter Evie, but we all know what that means, and I’m not sure I can do it. Only one other time did I bury a hero, and that was in Savage Destiny #6 - MEET THE NEW DAWN. But boy, that sure left an impression on readers, and it all worked out fine, so now I’m glad for the decision I made. Believe me, I bawled like a baby writing that one.
DON’T WORRY! I haven’t decided yet I can even do that to Jake, and a third book isn’t even sold yet. Maybe it will never happen, but it’s something I need to start thinking about.
In the meantime, here I am crying over Jake and Randy and the family and the beautiful, beautiful love story this is – a story of forgiveness and redemption. I see this book VIVIDLY as a movie – and in the opening a very hard, tough-looking, well-armed, 50’ish but still-handsome U. S. Marshal is riding into a prairie town with 4 wounded, beaten prisoners in tow, one of them dead and slung over a horse. The scene would be interspersed with the town itself, where a lovely woman in her 40’s is walking down the street, shading her eyes to see in the distance that the person riding in is the man she’s been waiting for. And as the opening credits are displayed, the hymn Amazing Grace is playing in the background with harmonica and guitar – a very western version of the song. OMG, that would be so fitting! Or, of course, the old western song, DO NOT FORSAKE ME would play softly. Maybe the movie would open with that, and in the closing credits comes the song Amazing Grace. When you read this story you will understand why these songs are so fitting.
It absolutely hurts my heart to think this story will probably never make it to the big screen. If it ever did I would absolutely lie flat-out face-down in front of a cross in church and thank Jesus. Maybe if all of you, my oh-so-faithful readers, say the same prayer it will happen. I only know I feel guided by the good Lord to write the stories I write, so surely there is a reason.
I must move on after this to my next project, and my only comfort is that my next planned story is another one very dear to my heart that has simmered in my brain for years. It will be my first contemporary and my first attempt at suspense, but the characters are very “Bittner” characters, the hero a Lakota (Sioux) man. It’s a great love story, and the characters will be as memorable as I always write. I have wanted to tell this story for a long, long time, so that will help me set Jake aside for a while.
I will, of course, have to re-read OUTLAW HEARTS when the print proof is ready – and will have to re-read DO NOT FORSAKE ME – most likely more than once before it’s ready to be published – so I will get to go back to Jake a few times yet over the next several months. I CAN’T WAIT to see the covers Sourcebooks comes up with for these books. My editor told me that they will be designed by someone who is just about the best in the business, and he prefers the more old-fashioned grand, dramatic covers from the 80’s and 90’s, so the covers should be sensational!
As soon as covers are ready, I will definitely share them with all of you! In the meantime, cross your fingers that my editor loves this story as much as I do! By next June you can all read the book. I can’t wait to hear from you!!