There's a good book in there somewhere.

I feel like this could be a good book. I'm a sculptor staring at a block of granite and I can glimpse the beautiful shape inside. I've almost afraid to take a whack at it.

So I'm chipping away at it, not really getting at the core, hoping for the moment when I'll know exactly where and how hard to strike. As long as I'm chipping away at it, I feel like I'm making progress. Not as fast as I'd like -- but only because I think there is something there that needs to be coaxed out.

The potential is just a feeling, but that feeling is always a good sign. It means that the book is worthy of pursuing. I always say that I write for entertainment, that the most important part is coming up with a good story.

But usually I decide on an underlying theme, which gives meaning and purpose the scenes, gives the characters and the plot a little more depth.

I don't know how well I succeed at it, but I know I want to give the books a little extra texture.

So Led to the Slaughter isn't so much about the werewolves as it is about loyalty and endurance and honor.

The Dead Spend No Gold isn't about Bigfoot as much as it is about greed and the Indian genocide.

This new book, The Darkness You Fear, is about family abuse and the helplessness of children and women in the Old West.

So for instance, one of the three storylines in the book is the actual haunting of the miners. Now I could just make this a horror show, and I'm going to try to do that -- but adding extra dimension is the theme that the ghosts represent an injustice that must be resolved, that they are are a manifestation of remorse and regret? That what really haunts the miners isn't some supernatural beings, but the memory of their own failings.

Not only does that add a little to the story, but it makes the story easier to write. I can create for a purpose more than just the story and the entertainment. But only in so far as it adds to the entertainment, the story. Not to take the place of the story but to add some underlying meaning.