An issue

In my preparation for attempting to write a romance novel, I have been reading some current romance novels. Two so far.

Perhaps it’s coincidence, but the male counterparts to the heroine both seem to be very self-assured (read: arrogant) men who know what they want in life, damn it, and are going to just go out and get it. Both heroines are almost equally self-assured, and hold the initial opinion that the hero is a, well, jerk. Then sparks start flying, etc.

My hero, Aisircul, doesn’t fit this mold, although my heroine, Delilah, is closer. At present (hah!) she is about 25 years old, running her family’s small homestead/farm close to Lawrence after her parents died a few years back. She’s used to being in charge and not taking (too much) guff from men, including the man who is determined to make her his wife. Thankfully, this man isn’t quite Gaston from Beauty and the Beast wearing a hat; he is a good man, and means well, but he’s not quite right for her because he’s more rational than she is.

If a stranger comes to town claiming the town will burn, that more than 100 people will die, and all this will happen in five days, that’s someone who should perhaps be kept away from the town citizens at large because otherwise he’ll start a panic that could be worse than what he’s predicting. Delilah doesn’t see it quite that way, and ultimately takes Aisircul (the doomsayer) to her farm. (If she didn’t, then there’d be very little chance of them meeting and getting to know each other, let alone fall in love.)

Aisircul, given his true nature, isn’t looking for love — he doesn’t feel he deserves it, and he feels disconnected from life on Earth on a fundamental level. He’s not assertive unless he’s trying to prevent devastation; the rest of time, he’d be flabbergasted and shy if anyone showed interest in him, especially romantic.

These things being said, would this story sell? Would anyone want to read this?

Anger and creativity

I find this somewhat annoying. After this much work, all the thought and time expended, I find myself perhaps unwilling to continue small exorcisms.

For years I have suffered from tremendous anger, a poisonous cloudy ball in my soul that had no source, or at least none apparent to me. What do I have to be angry about? Good, solid home, loving family, a career and good health. And yet I get just as angry over trivial matters (this person in front of me at the store is SO SLOW!) as I do about actual problems (Syria, poverty, Donald Trump).

But why? Every time I asked myself where my anger — at times so strong and senseless I feared for myself and/or my children — where it comes from, I get nowhere.

Until this past Sunday and Monday.

While listening to the sermon, the sun shone directly on us through a stained glass window. I felt it as a hug, as though God was saying “I am here, and you are loved.”

On Monday, I finally decided to get help. I sent an email to a therapist I found here in Manhattan through the power of Google. Within an hour or so, I had an appointment set for mid-November.

Since then, much of my anger has lifted. I don’t feel as though I have a new outlook on life or any large issues, but I feel lighter in spirit. I’ve had an outburst or three since then, but I think I’m doing better, thanks to God’s hug and the knowledge that I’m going to get help.

As I said, though, this lightness in spirit has muffled my willingness to work on my novel. I can’t seem to work up the want to spend time with those characters. Not at the moment, anyway.

Yesterday, Azrael and Jordan watched several episodes of one of their favorite Netflix shows, Veggietales in the House. One episode, involving Laura Carrot and painting, Bob sang a song about how what we make can be pleasing to the Lord. This also made me pause and think about small exorcisms and it’s plot — how can a story involving kidnapping, revenge and torture be pleasing to the Lord?

Now that I think about it, the primary themes are forgiveness and how love for one another can redeem… Maybe it can be made pleasing after all!

A !$@%$#@ problem

Is small exorcisms a Christian novel?

Could it be presented to a Christian audience, a Christian publisher?

If so, what might people think of all the !@$^% and darkness? What would a Christian publisher think of the fact that one of my characters is a gay priest? Who gets the ever-loving %$$@&* tortured out of him?

I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. — Psalm 101:3

Owen, a psychopath incapable of feeling regret, is quite capable of vile acts, and does them. Most are merely alluded to, but the last one is described, and it’s a nasty one.

However, Frank and Sophie — the main instigator of the kidnapping, and his daughter — wrestle with their guilt, and struggle with understanding forgiveness and God’s love. There’s a strong theme of forgiveness and letting go of the past. I’m presently writing a scene where Sophie asks a Christian friend/coworker about forgiveness.

I’m concerned that the message — God redeems and forgives — will get lost in the muck of Mischa’s torture at Owen’s hands. But I don’t want to write a novel that dances around, either. Vengeance, rape, torture, possible suicide — these things happen in this world!

A quote from Mike Duran, author:

We are called to think pure thoughts and meditate on that which is good. However, that does not mean we should live in denial about the darkness all around us. Nor should we eschew the horrific simply because it is unsettling. In fact, it is this “unsettling” that may make our stories more efficacious.

I’m glad I’m not alone in my thinking. But will I convince a publisher? Or a reader?

Tell me your thoughts. Please. And then go read Duran’s article.


I’m seldom kept awake by my characters.

My flesh-and-blood children? Sure, they’ve kept me awake in the past. My husband? He has asthma, and tends to snore. (As do I, apparently.) My own personal anxieties? Absolutely.

But my characters? This does not often happen. Certainly not for two hours.

Last night, as I worked on finding a comfortable position, I realized that in small exorcisms Mischa cannot do the same. He is a prisoner, tied down against his will. Whenever my muscles became stiff or sore, I thought about how he must feel in the story, the desperation of body and mind to stretch, to relieve the pain. When I became thirsty, I reached for the bottle of water at my bedside, thinking my thirst was too annoying for me to ignore if I wanted any sleep. He can’t do that in the story either.

Millions of people in real life can’t, either. Slavery and imprisonment are still enormous problems in our society today and around the world. And that realization, and Mischa’s musings on whether or not he is a good person – if, even though he is a priest, if he was truly doing all he could, truly loving his fellow man – is what kept me awake.

As I listened to my creation question his worth as a Christian, and as a person, I started to question myself. What do I do? I do what I can, but is it enough? Can I do more? Can we all?

The answer is simple: Yes, I can. Yes, we can.

National Human Trafficking Resource Center

FBI: Human Trafficking

The return of Sarah

This came about when I realized that as written and planned, Lily was superfluous.

Her job, as Mischa’s adopted daughter, was to give him someone to protect from my villains’ attentions, and to sit on the sidelines and fret for his safety – essentially, be the useless woman on the sidelines, a character type I really dislike. If your only contribution to the story is to wring your hands and demand others solve your problem, then according to Roger Ebert’s Law of Economy of Characters, you get the axe.

So what to do? I didn’t want to get rid of Lily. I like her, and I like the idea that Mischa was able to find happiness and have a family.

But she was, if not flat, than without purpose.

(Re)Enter Sarah.

Sarah’s story – feeling her life is without meaning, that she is an awful person who only deserves death – is a big part of the tale’s redemption focus. She is not quite Lily’s foil or opposite, but she knows what is happening to Mischa from the beginning, and through her questions of herself about her life and family, she shows herself as being Lily and Mischa’s best hope for his rescue.

She’s needed after all. Her presence helps round Lily out more, or at least I hope it will, as I’m now farther away from finishing than I have been – Sarah’s return required the tearing apart of everything I’d written to this point!

Frank, one of my two villains, is questioning his change of heart near the end. I don’t want the story to reek of Easy Evangelism, but I do want a theme of forgiveness, repentance and love to flow (despite the cover – see sidebar – and scenes of torment). Sarah may be able to assist him with this.

In short, she’s back!