My novel writing process is a little weird. I typically start out writing a draft before outlining just to get a feel for the story and characters, knowing full well that the draft will never get finished. I call this exploratory draft my Zero draft. I actually got pretty far with the zero draft for Kindred Spirits, which at the time was going by the title Ghost of a Chance.
All of which means I’ve got a treasure trove of “deleted scenes” from that book. They probably shouldn’t ever see the light of day, but I’ve decided to share some of them anyway, just so you can see how, oftentimes, the initial version of a book is a completely different book than the one that ends up getting published. You can definitely see that in this scene, if you’ve read Kindred Spirits. There are plenty of things that don’t really fit in the final story–not the least of which is that Derek, Kindred Spirits‘ male lead, was originally a Doug.
This should be read as a curiosity, and nothing more. Consider it a peek at an alternate version of the Restless Spirits ‘verse.
Doug sat in the car and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, debating whether he should get out and go ring the bell. He was early, and he’d already been parked in front of her house for about ten minutes. He was starting to feel a little stalkerish. Still, most of his experience with women informed him that they hated it when you showed up early for a date. It interrupted them from getting ready.
Not a date, a business meeting, he reminded himself for the umpteenth time that day.
He hadn’t planned on asking her to dinner. When he’d stopped by that morning, the plan was to outline his proposal while she enjoyed the breakfast he’d brought her. The dinner invitation had slipped out in the heat of the moment, inspired largely by how cute she’d looked all rumpled and grumpy and just out of bed. He’d started inwardly berating himself the moment it was out, fully expecting to get shot down. He still couldn’t believe she’d said yes.
A neighbor went by on the sidewalk, walking her dog and eying Doug’s car suspiciously. He glanced at the clock. It was still five minutes till six. He smiled and nodded at the woman, who tried to pretend she hadn’t been staring at him as she pulled her dog away from the car. With a resigned sigh, Doug got out and headed up to Christine’s front door.
She took her time answering, which confirmed his suspicions about showing up early for these things. While he waited, he scanned the street. This wasn’t the nicest part of town—far from it. The north part of town had a reputation for high crime, a fact to which the barred windows and security doors on many of the neighboring houses attested. A seedy dive bar sat at one end of the street, and a couple of houses were boarded up and plastered with foreclosure notices.
Still, some of the houses, Christine’s among them, had been recently renovated, and featured picturesque front porches and landscaped lawns surrounded by picket fences, standing out like jewels in a trash heap. There was clearly a revitalization effort going on. Douglas hoped it succeeded.
He spotted the dog lady down the street, watching him from behind an overgrown lilac bush, and he smiled and waved. She again pretended, unconvincingly, to be minding her own business as she hurried down the street. Just then, the door behind him opened, and he turned around to see a vision that left him breathless and tongue-tied.
Christine’s blue eyes gazed up at him from beneath a side-swept fringe of bangs. Her fiery hair was done up in a sophisticated, if a little old-fashioned, up-do that went amazingly with her vintage boat-necked top in a shade of teal that made her eyes sparkle. She reminded him of a ginger Audrey Hepburn. Regaining the ability to speak, he told her, “You look amazing.”
She grinned. “Thanks.”
“Sorry I’m early,” he said. “I needed to stop for gas and I overestimated how much time it would take me. If you need more time . . .”
He stopped talking as her smile faded. Her hand flew to her hair and she looked down at her outfit. “Why? Do I look like I need more time?”
“No! Like I said, you look great. I just didn’t want you to feel rushed or anything.”
Chris gave him a skeptical look, then shut the door behind her. “It’s fine. I’m ready when you are.”
Doug made an “after you” gesture toward his car, then followed her to the sidewalk. She looked surprised as he reached past her to open the door for her, but she didn’t argue.
“Is sushi okay?” he asked once they were on their way.
“Sure. That’s great. So, um, you look nice.”
“That’s not really the sort of thing you say on the way to a business dinner, though, is it? Complimenting each other’s appearance seems like it should be firmly in date territory.”
“Huh,” said Doug. “I guess you’re right.”
“So is that what this is? A date?”
He tried to side-eye her while keeping his eyes on the road. “Do you want it to be?”
“I didn’t say that,” she said, sounding a little defensive. “I’m just trying to establish the dynamics at play here. Where is your head in all this?”
“Good question,” he said. “Well, A, you do look great tonight. That’s a statement of fact. B, I think taking you out for a nice dinner is the least I could do after what happened. And C, I really do have a business proposition for you. Hopefully one that will fix things.”
“Do you often feel like it’s your job to fix things?”
“When I’m the one who breaks them, yeah.”
They both fell silent as Douglas pulled onto the expressway. Christine stared out the window for a moment, then turned back to him. “So you don’t really think I’m a fraud?”
“No. And to be fair, the segment never said that you were.”
“It sure as hell implied it. If you don’t think I’m a fraud, does that mean you believe in what I can do?”
“I believe you believe it.”
“Oh, wow. Condescension and an implication that I’m nuts. You really know how to flatter a girl. Or butter up your potential business associates. Whatever.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” He sighed and gripped the steering wheel more tightly. “Remember what I told you when I first asked to feature you? I try to keep an open mind. I haven’t seen anything to convince me . . .” He let his voice trail off as he remembered the coffee cup incident that morning. “I haven’t seen a lot of evidence in the supernatural. But I’m not so arrogant as to deny that sometimes things happen that defy explanation. I’m willing to be convinced if you can show me compelling enough evidence.”
“So you’re a science guy,” she said.
“Basically, yeah. I just want to get to the truth.”
“Well, I can’t explain the science behind my abilities, but there is science behind our investigation methods. You saw that for yourself.”
“I don’t know. The evidence you guys showed me was pretty sketchy.”
“Like the so-called electronic voice phenomena. Maybe those were disembodied voices, but they were so faint and staticy, they could’ve been a lot of things. Sure, some of them sounded like they might be saying certain words, but it was hard to tell for certain. Besides, the human brain is so wired to look for recognizable patterns that sometimes we see and hear patterns that don’t exist.” He slowed the car and moved over to exit the expressway. Once they were safely on the exit ramp, he continued, “If ghosts are real, and they want to be seen and heard, why are they so mysterious about it? Why don’t they just jump out and say, ‘Hey!’”
“That’s how they are for me,” said Chris.
“Okay, but why you?”
She sighed. “That’s a question I’ve been asking since I was eight years old. Anyway, they don’t do that for everybody because it’s hard. It takes a lot of energy, and most ghosts have no idea how to even work up the strength to break through, let alone channel it productively. I guess that’s why people like me exist. To help them.”
Doug didn’t have an answer for that. They both lapsed into silence as he navigated through the city streets to find the restaurant, thinking about his levitating mug along the way. He almost spaced out and drove right past the sushi place, but he noticed it in the nick of time. “Here we are,” he said as he turned in.
She didn’t wait for him to open the car door for her, but he did hold the restaurant door for her. She gave him a wary look as she walked past him into the restaurant. They were quickly seated, and didn’t pick up their conversation again until they’d placed their orders and had their drinks and appetizers delivered.
“So are you ever going to tell me about this business proposal?” Christine asked him.
“Here, have some sake first.” He picked up the flask and poured some into her cup.
“You know, if this is the sort of thing where I have to be liquored up to even hear it, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a no.”
Doug grinned. “It’s just good sake. Give it a try.”
She took a sip, then nodded appreciatively and set the cup down. “Okay, I’ve officially waited long enough. Now spill.”
He looked around to make sure there wasn’t anyone within ear shot who might tattle on him to his station bosses. Just to be safe, he leaned in and kept his voice low as he told her, “I’ve been in talks with the Syfy channel about hosting a new reality show.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Wow. That’s actually big news. Congratulations.”
“Thanks. It’s not a done deal yet, though.”
Christine picked out a pod of edamame and cracked it open. “What’s the show about?”
“It’s sort of what I’m doing now, on a grander scale. Exploring legends, strange sightings, hauntings, that sort of thing, but looking at all the angles to dig up the truth.”
“Great. So you can ruin people on a national scale.”
He sat back with a sigh. “I don’t plan to investigate people so much as places and stories, so there’s not a lot of danger of that.”
“So what’s this got to do with me?”
“Well, I’ve been working on my pitch for the pilot episode. I was thinking of bringing you and your team to a famous haunted location and letting you do your thing on the site while I dig up the history on the place.”
Christine folded her arms as she looked at him incredulously from across the table. “You’ve got to be kidding.”
“I’m not. It would be great publicity for you, and give you a chance to vindicate yourself. On national television, no less.”
She frowned as she seemed to think it over, and poured herself another shot of sake. After tossing it back, she said, “I don’t know. I can think of plenty of things that could go wrong. Anyway, that channel has plenty of haunted house shows. What makes you think they’d even go for that?”
“Because I pitched it to them over e-mail this morning and they loved the idea. It’s practically a done deal. All you have to do is say yes.”
She looked like she was slightly in shock. “I’d have to be insane to say yes to you again, you know. Besides, I need to discuss it with my team. They’re all pissed off too, you know.”
“I kind of figured.”
They were interrupted as their waitress brought their order. Once she was gone, Christine picked out a piece of dragon roll with her chopsticks and asked, “So what famous haunted location did you have in mind?”
“Ever heard of Pythian Castle?”
She paused with the roll halfway to her mouth. As she looked at him, a grin slowly spread across her face, lighting up her whole demeanor. “I’m in,” she said.