I just finished my fourth Outlaw story, THE LAST OUTLAW. It’s 622 pages and about 135,000 words. Because of their publishing schedule, Sourcebooks needed my manuscript by October 1st in order to be sure it could be published in 2017. I did NOT want that book to move into 2018, so I agreed to meet their deadline. That was in May. I knew the book had to be done by at least September 1st because when you finish a story, you aren’t really “done.” You have to print the thing out and sit down and read and edit and read and edit – and they you have to go back into the computer and make all the changes. The whole process can take at least another month.
When you have so much to write in such a short time, the “writing adrenaline” kicks in and you don’t realize what a number you are doing on your back, your legs, your shoulders, your brain, your “everything,” until you are finished. I’m 71 years old, so all of the physical part of so much sitting and writing begins to catch up with me. I ended up with a hip problem that will require physical therapy, but (thank God) it is NOT arthritis and is completely treatable. So far I have no arthritis or any other of the common maladies of old age, so I feel blessed in that respect, and I have a lot of energy (liquid B-12 helps!), but this much writing does take its toll. THE LAST OUTLAW is actually the SECOND book I’ve written this year. I also finished a new Indian romance the first part of the year that was about 450 pages long, so my poor old body took a beating between January and August!
The mental stress is also hard, but hey, they say keeping your brain active helps ward off Alzheimer’s and other “old brain” problems. Ha! Still, I find myself reading PEOPLE magazine and stupid stuff like the ENQUIRER. I do love WOMAN’S WORLD and always do the crossword puzzle. Sometime I color – yes, color – those new detailed coloring tablets they publish now that you use colored inks or felt pens to fill in. I need the relief of not “using” my brain for anything important.
The biggest challenge when finishing such a big book, especially when it’s the end of a series that meant working with the same characters for years, is the EMOTIONAL toll. I literally “crash” emotionally when I finish a book like this one. I absolutely hate the thought of not working with these characters again, especially my beloved Jake. I covered 32 years with these people. They are “my” family. Jake is “my” husband and his children are “my” children, his grandchildren “my” grandchildren. It was the same when I wrote my seven SAVAGE DESTINY books. I “lived” with that family for 45 years. I truly mourned Zeke Monroe’s death. I’d lost “my” beloved husband.
This emotional roller coaster leaves me truly depressed for a couple weeks after I finish a book like this one. Literally. It takes me a while to get out of my “funk.” Sometimes, emotionally, my own husband can’t “reach” me. He totally understands. Not many men would put up with their wife’s emotional absence the way mine does when I’m in the middle of writing a big book. The poor guy lives like a widower when I’m that immersed in my writing.
So … THE LAST OUTLAW is technically finished. I actually look forward to editing and re-writes plus the editing and re-writes my editor at Sourcebooks is bound to come up with over the next few months, so at least I get to keep revisiting Jake and the family and this story for several months yet before the book is finalized and actually is printed and on book shelves next September 2017. Meantime, I already have an idea for a fifth book, but I doubt Sourcebooks will want another one in the continuing series. If not, I have high hopes they WILL want the story I would like to write about Jake’s grandson Little Jake, all grown up and, of course, drop-dead gorgeous! He would be just the right age to get involved in WWI – and of course he would be a sharp-shooter/sniper. What else would the grandson of Jake Harkner do in the army? And there could be a young woman waiting for him back in Colorado – maybe one whom a rival lover tries to steal away while Little Jake is overseas – and maybe some kind of feud involving ownership of the J&L. The prospects for plot are endless!
I have to add – honestly – I think THE LAST OUTLAW is no-holds-barred the best book of all four. It’s a wild ride from start to finish. I didn’t come across one boring part or one period where I didn’t know which way to turn with the story. It just poured out of me, event after event, and through all these books I have shown Jake’s emotional “growth” from a very, very troubled outlaw/wanted man who knew nothing about love and who lived with deep hatreds and deep regrets – into a strong, mature man who in Book #4 realizes he can’t keep living the “old way” any more – i.e. dealing out his own form of “justice.” There are laws now, and Jake has to abide by them, not an easy thing for Jake Harkner. And in #4 Jake has to be emotionally strong for Randy because of something that happens in LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE (#3).
In the first three books it was usually the other way around because Jake walks a fine line between sanity and insanity because of his incredibly cruel childhood and witnessing his drunken father murder his beloved mother when Jake was only 8 years old and not strong enough to defend his mother. At 15 Jake killed his own father (for good reason) but he lives with that guilt his whole life. Now in Book #4 it’s Jake who has to deal with his wife’s mental stability. He is incredibly strong and understanding and kind and patient with his beloved Randy, which shows tremendous growth on Jake’s part. Normally he rides off for a few days when faced with something like what happened to Randy, finding it difficult to face without breaking into an uncontrollable rage. This time he handles it beautifully, making the first part of this story unforgettably romantic and touching.
This past weekend I had a signing for Jake #3, LOVE’S SWEET REVENGE, a September 2016 book, so I continue to be immersed in this wonderful family and this incredible hero for a while yet, and I don’t mind at all. But at least now I can go to bed at a decent hour and maybe get some “real” sleep. This old body and brain need some “down time!” Meantime, I CAN’T WAIT to see what the fabulous Jon Paul does with a cover for THE LAST OUTLAW, and I am so, so anxious for all of my wonderful readers out there to read this amazing story!