I also had a review from a fellow college graduate. We played chess and I learned from him, but never beat him. He is one smart dude, and seminary graduate. He and his brother also have a publishing company. I reviewed a book he ghost wrote for a dying man's autobiography. He wrote a review of HS.
Both of them mention the opening as horror and then it changes into other themes. Berthold wasn't familiar with the religion part of it, but my other friend should have and he missed it.
The horror of Mal as a face in the back of a park by two evergreen trees with the lights of the city acting as flames for a god of death was my hook.
That's what I did with the theme by explaining Jan's trauma. An abusive husband that puts her in the hospital, friends that side with the husband and against her, a pastor that turns the small town against her trying to keep her from teaching. The stress of starting your first job, learning how to control a classroom and deal with parents and administrators is just as traumatic.
Trauma adds up, and I know of worse abuse from a number of women I've worked with. This is not my imagination. I wanted to tell their stories.
My sister was a resperatory therapist working nights in a hospital in Dallas. When I was writing this I posted each chapter on a different blog. She would pull it up and read what I wrote. Soon all those on her floor were reading it.
She told me one of the nurses asked if a preacher would be that abusive? Three other nurses spoke up and said they knew of several that were just like that. This told me I was on the right path here.
In the transition from horror to dealing with the trauma I gave a scientific explanation for her hallucination.
I grew up watching Scooby Doo. The team would encounter scary houses, zombies, ghosts and other phenomena, but always figured out it was someone playing tricks. The rational mind wins again, except they never explain a talking dog.
Trauma comes in many forms. It can be physical abuse, emotional abuse, seeing something horrible that can't be forgotten. Trauma happens in all people. Soldiers coming back from combat, police officers and fire fighters come to mind, but everyone will have to deal with some form of trauma in their lifetimes; maybe not as extreme as the examples above, but it's a part of life.
It's PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the problems associated with this kind of stress is sleeplessness. I have Jan suffer from this condition. I use it to explain the hallucination of Mal, and how each time she has problems Mal comes back to haunt her and she can't sleep.
One of the techniques I used to help Jan, I picked up from the book: Adrenaline and Stress. The Doctor Hart uses this technique to help people erase their demons and get sleep. Jan uses a white board and every time she sees Mal's face she takes an eraser and wipes him away.
Since Berthold's review I took his advice and did a revision clearing up some of the technical problems.