So, my new novel, a follow-up to The Little Girl Waits, is finished.

Well, maybe.

I adore the plot, love the way the returning characters have changed and grown, and how they are also very much the same people they were in TLGW, and I think the story is tight, just the way I like it.  Unless your name is Tolkien, Asimov, Rowling or Homer you probably shouldn’t be writing winded and wordy works of fiction.  So this is not an issue of length for me.  I’m not trying to make it longer.

But I feel like something is missing–like I need to add something.  Not much, mind you, but something.  Here are my options, as I understand them.puzzle

  1. I could add a mysterious stranger.  I’m thinking an additional chapter somewhere, before the rising action really takes off.  In TLGW this function is played by Shark, who only has a brief appearance in the story but is pivotal.
  2. An action scene might help.  I am hesitant to add action scenes “just because” even though readers really like them. I believe action scenes should further the story, but sometimes you need something like that to keep the reader keyed in.
  3. Flashbacks have helped me in the past.  There are several flashbacks in TLGW, and that can give great insight into what a character is thinking.  My thoughts right now are for the bad guy (actually, in this story it is a woman) to have a protracted flashback.  This might give the reader a little more insight into why she is doing all these horrible things.
  4. Maybe it is the ending.  I finish the novel with Butch talking with someone about the why and reason of the events they go through in the book, but no real clear resolution is found other than the world is messed up.  At first I liked that ending because the world is messed up, and sometimes good people get caught between different factions of evil pulling in different directions.  But perhaps I need a tidier resolution.  Perhaps.

There is one other thing.  It might be the title.  I have yet to decide its title.  For the entire time I wrote it was simply “Butch Gregory 3” but titles like that only work for Iron Man and X-Men movies.  Right now the title is “How Great The Darkness” but I don’t know if that will last.  Perhaps I’ll feel better about after I title it officially.  However, my experience is that often the title gets changed or adjusted during the publication process.

Writer’s neurosis and self-doubt might also be at work here.  I find that letting go of a manuscript is one of the hardest things I ever do.  This is true whether it is a novel, short story, poem, or sermon.  I want to hold on to them like children, and never let them go.

I need to make a decision this week so I can get the project finished, hopefully get it published, and then get back to my retro-scifi stories.  They have been on hold until this is complete.

puzzle image from


One of the most popular, blogs I have ever posted was titled Retro Songs Make Great Sermon Titles.  I thought I would share a few more retro-songs and the way I might, hypothetically, employ them in preaching.  The catch is never the actual song itself, but the title as a cultural touchstone, or hook, to launch into a way to look at life from a biblical worldview.  It is a fun exercise.

1.  I Heard it Through the Grapevine—This Motown classic could be used in so many different ways.  The most obvious is to discuss gossip and how gossip is dangerous to meaningful relationships.  But it could also be used to speak of the ongoing work of telling people about the Lord—and the one who is doing the singing (and hearing) is the Devil . . . “not much longer would you be mine.”  The song could likewise provide a launching point for discussing how to nurture relationships, or alternately, the right way to end one.

2.  Margaritaville—I love this song, so I might be pressing a bit to include I here.  I already have a sermon in which Margaritaville is prominent.  That sermon is about Nabal being a fool and Abigail being suddenly available.  If I preached it as retro-song series I think I would emphasize regret and lost opportunities.  Note, however, do not confuse Jimmy Buffet with Warren Buffet.

3.  I Wish It Would Rain Down—This one is for my wife.  Mrs. Greenbean is a huge Phil Collins fan.  Any person who is best known as having a group called “Genesis” ought to be in serious consideration for a retro-song sermon title.  This sermon could focus upon the desire every human being has for cleansing—but also for the fresh start that the rain represents.  Alternate take might be to pair with the traditional Christian hymn “Showers of Blessing” and speak about the heavenly rainfall of the Holy Spirit.

4.  Break on Through (to the Other Side)—Jim Morrison was demon possessed, I freely admit that.  However, this song title and subsequent lyrical beat call to mind the deep ontological angst of life and death.  The other side in Morrison’s twisted lyric is a drug tainted death or the afterlife.  The sermon could move from the myopic fatalism of the song to the hope of the gospel in Jesus Christ!

5.  All Along the Watchtower—This Bob Dylan song has been covered by just about everyone.  Recently, and to my delight, it was highlighted, in all places, in the remake of Battlestar Galactica.  Awesome.  While no one, including Dylan, really knows what it means I think the title could be used to emphasize the “watchmen” concept in the Old Testament or the “watch and pray” motif.  Needless to say the songs apocalyptic and medieval tone would also set up a nice “end-of-the-world” sermon.  But hey, save that for the next one.

6.  It’s the End of the World as We Know it (And I feel Fine)—R.E.M. is similar to U2 in that a great many of their songs have religious undertones and would be useful, such as Happy Shiny People.  However, I choose this one because it might be useful in an apocalyptic tone (see #5 above) or it could be helpful in speaking about how, when we come to faith in Christ our old way of living is gone—our old world and way of life ends, but there is a new world on the horizon that is better than the old.  2 Corinthians 5:17 comes to mind.

Okay, that is enough for now.  I resisted the urge to get more Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, or The Eagles in there.  Someday, though, I will preach these.