Monday, July 25, 2011

How to Spot the Christian Villain: Ten Tips

It happened again. I was watching an episode of the British mystery series Midsomer Murders, one of the best cozy series of all time, and once again the villain of the story was a Christian. And I knew early on, as soon as this character mentioned God, that he would be the killer. Some whodunit, huh?

You’d think TV and movie screenwriters would want to vary the Christian-equals-villain formula just to keep viewers guessing, but the enjoyment they get from sticking their fingers in Christians’ eyes seems to overwhelm their sense of storytelling. Even when they stray from their formula and make someone other than a Christian the murderer, the Christian character is still, somehow, at the root of all of the misery (think Mrs. White in Stephen King’s novel Carrie).

I love mysteries, so although I like to think I can guess who the murderer is, I don’t like to be assured of it almost every time a Christian character appears on screen, and I don’t like to waste my time watching a mystery when I know what the outcome will be. So in the interest of saving my fellow mystery lovers time, I’ve compiled a list of ten ways to spot the Christian villain. When you see one of the following characters, you’ve found your killer—and you can change the channel or go to the next movie in your Netflix queue:

1. If a character has the impertinence to bring God into everyday conversation—say, at a lunch with friends or during a card game—he’s clearly deranged and thus a Christian. At the very least your field of suspects has narrowed. Watch for further clues.

2. If a character is an unbearable prude—often illustrated by her not hopping into bed with a guy ten minutes into their first date—she’s a rabid Christian and she’s killed somebody.

3. Any character who talks about God and has a southern accent is sure to be the villain.

4. If the above-mentioned character (talks about God, has southern accent) possesses less than a full set of teeth, he is more than a villain. He’s a serial killer. The semi-toothed Christian preys on full-toothed agnostics and atheists, particularly attorneys, social workers, and politicians.

5. If a character has "no use for that fancy book larnin’ thing," he’s a Christian. His ignorance and bigotry may have caused another character to snap and commit murder.

6. Does the character get up early in the morning, own farm animals, or dress like it’s 1940? These signify "Christian" to the formulaic screenwriter, so be on the lookout for other important clues. You may have found your killer.

7. Although the religious villain is often portrayed as a cleric in the Catholic Church, if a religious figure is an evangelical, the chances of him or her being the villain more than double.

8. The Christian character will scowl at the mention of sex, alcohol, or laughter (because all three are outlawed by the Bible). Make note and watch for other telling clues.

9. Does a character home school her children? This is a red flag indicating the presence of an unstable Christian mind. Such a character is not only a killer but also a child abuser.

10. If a character says "God," keep an eye on him; if a character says "Jesus," change the channel now, you’ve spotted the killer. (Note: If a character calls God "the man upstairs," he’s probably not your murderer.)


Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

I’ve been slack with the blog posting over the past month, but with good reason. My debut mystery novel, The Witch Tree, will be out on (for the Kindle) in mid-July and on Barnes & Noble (for the Nook) shortly afterward. It’s been a long road—writing the novel, of course, but also learning about indie ebook publishing, something that just a year ago I didn’t know existed as a reasonable alternative to traditional publishing.

As a writer, I can’t claim to have a string of query letter rejections behind me. I have a grand total of two. The second one, in fact, wasn’t really a rejection because it came from one of those "No answer means no" agents. After writing and rewriting the query and following this agent’s extensive instructions to the letter, I got zip in return. Not even a "No thanks" email. That got me thinking.

Then, last January, I came across a post on the indie ebook revolution by author J.A. Konrath on his blog—and that really got me thinking. Konrath has been at the leading edge of this revolution in publishing, and his generosity to other writers in describing his journey—and laying out the hard numbers on it—has amazed me. Frankly, he’s changed the lives of many writers.

After reading Konrath’s blog (for days), I started reading everything else I could find on indie publishing. And I began to wonder: Should I forsake "legacy" publishing for the indie world? Don’t I need the validation of a traditional publishing deal? Well, no. Wouldn’t I regret not funneling my work through the traditional gatekeepers? Again, no.

There are many business issues that affected my decision to go indie—the sea change in publishing, the rise of ebook sales, the shrinking number of brick-and-mortar stores, writers’ need to maintain their publishing rights, the skimpy royalties in most traditional contracts—but I won’t detail those here.

Suffice it to say that as a writer, what I want, first and foremost, is to get my work into the hands of readers. And in mid-July, I’ll be able to do that. As a secondary consideration, I want to control my work, from the content to the cover to the day of publication. Independence.

Before I close this post, let me give a long overdue thanks to all of you who have signed up as followers on my blog. I appreciate every single one of you.

Happy Independence Day, everyone!