Three summers ago, I learned not to set any book writing/publishing goals during the hot months. I was so excited about publishing my first book in the autumn of 2012, I set the goal for my next book to be finished by July 1, 2013. When I missed that goal, I shot for October but accomplished nothing. I reset the goal to the next October, in 2014. Once again, nothing got done. I reset the goal for October 2015.
When my adult adopted son called me for the first time in a very long time nearly a year ago now, my heart was tugged toward that old book once again.
In 2013, I learned I can't set super ambitious summer goals while I'm working full time and trying to get in shape for cross-state bicycle tours. It sets me up for failure, which in turn leads to depression, which I'm trying to avoid because writing and depression don't always go together so well. At least not for happy books...
It's a little easier for me to devote time to long-term writing when there isn't enough light outside to ride, garden, natural dye or take pictures of flowers, wildlife and landscapes. However, because I battle Seasonal Affective Disorder, I have to put a little more effort into making sure winter blues don't show in my hibernation compositions.
The idea for "Heart Strings" was born in 2002 (in the dead of winter, I might add) when I took a day off work to look for my adopted son, who had taken an unauthorized field trip. (He ran away.) My plan was to check all his hangouts, and the school, just in case, because surely someone would know where he was and if he was all right.
Imagine my reaction when I learned the school knew where he was.
I was so shocked, I was speechless for a jaw-dropping length of time. Then I was devastated. The school couldn't tell me where my son was unless I filed a police report, which I had not done because he was just weeks away from turning 18, and I didn't want him to begin adulthood with a police record hanging over his head. I also was concerned he might go on the run again if police were actively looking for him, and there was a degree of comfort in knowing he had a roof over his head, even if I didn't know the location of that roof. A degree of anger toward the unknown harboring parents for not letting me know where he was also throbbed, but a degree of comfort knowing he was safe and fed trumped the negative emotions.
I felt so helpless. On top of the whole abandonment/rejection issue.
I went home and began to type.
"Heart Strings" is the result of that day. It is not the story of my son, although he did indeed inspire portions of it. Yes, he really did throw a bowling ball at one of my framed photographs!
Because "Heart Strings" originally was written during winter, mostly during darkness, and mostly while I was feeling I was a failure as a parent and living a meaningless life, the original ending had a very dark tone. VERY dark. There was no resolution. No happy ending.
In the book club I was a member of at the time, many of the books we read were criticized for being too fairy-tale. My peers said real life doesn't come out like that. They yearned for something genuine, not sugar-coated.
Those comments definitely had an influence on the ending of "Heart Strings". When you adopt through a government agency, believe me, there is no fairy-tale ending. You get years and years of labor pain! (Yet I'd adopt again if the situation were right.)
More recently, friends and a few readers who indulged in the first chapter of "Heart Strings" at the end of "Heels Over Head" expressed a yearning for happy endings. Life is tough enough these days without being glued to a depressing book that leaves you hanging at the end.
That's why this book wasn't complete in 2013. Or 2014. I had to rewrite the ending. I finished and copyrighted it in 2015. All it needed was a cover.
Last week, I finished a quilt I thought would make the perfect cover. I had a couple of other cover ideas... a child's hand appliqueing fabric hearts, a distraught and frightened young boy slung over a man's shoulders, reaching out to his mother and screaming, or a framed appliqued heart. I'd scheduled photo shoots with two different children during the last year in an attempt to compose one of those cover ideas. Both times, real life got in the way for me or for them, and the photo shoots never happened. When I finally finished my Heart Strings quilt last week, I decided I should just use it and get this book going instead of waiting for the perfect photograph.
The quilt fits in perfectly with the new ending. The new ending makes me very happy every time I read it. I love "Heart Strings" like I love both of my adopted kids. (But books don't sneak out the window in the middle of the night, run up your phone bill or wreck your car, even though the characters in the books might do those very same things... ha ha!)
"Heart Strings" has always been my second-favorite composition. Now, with this new ending, I like it even better. I guess even I need a too-good-to-be-true ending once in a while!
"Heart Strings" now is officially available at iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, and at Smashwords. In addition, "Heart Strings" also is available print-on-demand at Lulu. Even though "Heart Strings" was released symbolically on February 14, the book is not a romance. This is a tale of parenting like you've never read, heard, viewed or experienced before. Unless you've been the foster or adoptive parent of a troubled child.
I hope you will enjoy "Heart Strings" as much as I do!