It’s hard to know how to categorize my first traditionally published novel (which is why I think my publisher still doesn’t really know what to do with it). It’s one part clean romance and one part legit horror. It’s a ghost story with heart. It’s also about the everlasting bond between sisters and the power of forgiveness. It’s got all the fun, flirtatious banter and kissing of a romantic comedy and all the chills and thrills of a haunted house.
Basically, it’s like if Dean Koontz wrote a rom-com.
This week was a freelance writing week, so not a lot of progress happened on either of my WIPs. I’m using today to tie up some loose ends, and tomorrow my husband and I will be having our entirely grownup Halloween celebration that entails eating junk and watching scary movies all day until we can’t keep our eyes open.
Nanowrimo (that’s short for National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated) begins Sunday. And while I’m not participating in an official capacity, I am going to be taking a break from blogging and pulling way back on social media so I can hunker down and try to finish both of my novels-in-progress in November. Can I actually do it? That remains to be seen. But I’m going to give it my best shot.
I’ll still probably pop in from time to time on Instagram (although I’m really going to do my best to curtail the time I spend in that app), but here and everywhere else, expect me to be scarce until these novels are finished.
I hope you have a fabulous Halloween and may all of your candy be free of sharp objects and viruses. And since you probably won’t hear from me again before then, I also hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
It’s here! It’s here! At long last, book 3 of the Restless Spirits saga, Bound Spirits, in which the Wilson sisters battle an angry poltergeist, a weeping woman who woos people to a watery grave, mistaken beliefs about their parents, and–worst of all–wedding fever, is now available in e-book and trade paperback formats wherever books are sold online. Head here for all the links!
Chris admired the spread laid out on the kitchen table. She didn’t know how Marsha felt about Italian food, but she didn’t really care. It looked delicious and smelled even better, and she couldn’t wait to dig in. She picked up a fork and reached for the baked ziti, the recipe courtesy of Derek’s aunt’s Sicilian mother-in-law, intending to shave a tiny sliver off one corner that nobody could possibly miss. Derek caught her and smacked her hand.
“Oh, come on! A taste.”
“You already had a taste when it came out of the oven.”
“One more, then. It’s so good.”
He grinned. “I’m glad you like my cooking, but you can wait until the guests get here. Why don’t you open the wine? It needs time to breathe.”
“Fine.” Chris tossed the unused fork in the sink and retrieved a bottle of pinot grigio from the fridge. “Have I mentioned that you’re a lifesaver?” She nudged the refrigerator door closed with her hip and opened the drawer next to it to fish out the cork screw. “Where did you learn to cook, anyway?”
“My mom, mostly. But I also did a couple of stints subbing for the morning show anchors and helped out on some cooking segments. You tend to pick up a few things.”
“I’ll say. You saved me from having to serve takeout. My cooking skills are pretty much limited to picking up a phone.”
“Oh, come on, that’s not true. I’ve seen you pour a mean bowl of cereal.” He winked and then jerked his chin toward the table. “Besides, you did a great job with the salad.”
“Yeah, I guess chopping vegetables isn’t too far outside my skill set.” She grimaced as she pushed down on the levers of the cork screw. The cork was being stubborn.
“Want me to get that for you?”
“No, thanks. I’ve got it.” She pushed harder. The cork started to give. At that moment, the doorbell rang. With an exasperated sigh, she handed the bottle and the cork screw over. “Here. Remember, I loosened it for you.” With a wink, she headed out of the kitchen.
“Yeah, yeah,” she heard behind her, followed by a distinct “pop!” as the cork came loose.
Chris hurried toward the front door but slowed her steps at the entryway. This wasn’t merely the first time her dad had been to her new place. It was also the first time she and Derek had entertained together as a couple. Between that and the mysterious announcement she was about to hear, she couldn’t help the nervous flutter in her gut. She paused to take a deep, calming breath before opening the door.
It opened barely a crack when an admittedly impressive diamond was jammed in her face. “We’re getting married!” Marsha shrieked, shoving the door open the rest of the way and pulling Chris into a vice-like hug, all the while hopping up and down on her designer heels.
Chris’s gaze found her dad as she patted Marsha’s back awkwardly and tried to muster up sounds of enthusiasm. Even through her shock, she couldn’t help but notice how happy he looked underneath his obvious embarrassment. “Gee, Marsha, don’t keep her in suspense.”
Marsha released Chris and stood back, grinning as she fanned her face and blinked back tears before they could ruin her mascara. “I know we said we’d tell her together over dinner, but I couldn’t help it. I’m so excited!”
The sound of footsteps approaching from behind helped bring Chris back to her senses. “Excited about what?” Derek asked. Chris opened her mouth to answer, but Marsha beat her to the punch with an encore performance. “Hey, that’s great!” Somehow, he sounded sincere as she threw her arms around his neck and squealed right in his ear. Patting her back with one hand, he reached the other toward Chris’s dad. “Congratulations, you two.”
“Thanks.” Smiling, he shook Derek’s hand, then turned to Chris. “Do I get a hug?”
Chris blew out a breath. “Of course.” She leaned into one of his patented bear hugs and squeezed him hard. “Congratulations, Daddy.” They released each other, and she stepped back. “Come on in.”
The four of them moved into the foyer, where both Marsha and Drew studied the ornate staircase. “Oh, how beautiful,” Marsha gushed. “Sweetheart, wouldn’t this be a wonderful place for a wedding? Couldn’t you picture the bride coming down these stairs with her dress trailing behind?”
“I don’t think—” Drew began, but she cut him off.
“Oh, I don’t mean our wedding. We’ve got our venue all picked out. But for somebody, someday…” She looked meaningfully from Derek to Chris and gave Chris a big, showy wink.
“I’m pretty sure that whenever Christine does get married, she won’t want to do it in the spot where her sister died,” Drew said, his voice tight.
Everyone fell silent. Marsha’s hand flew to her chest. The horrified look on her face made Chris feel a little sorry for her. “Oh, Drew, honey, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know—”
Ignoring her, he turned to Chris. “This is it, isn’t it? Where it happened?”
Chris nodded. She looked around, hoping Ron had decided to sneak down for a peek at Marsha and was there to witness their dad’s obvious grief. But she and Joe had apparently decided to remain tucked away in the attic for the evening. Chris sighed. “Yeah. This is it.”
“Where did you find her?” The tremor in his voice was barely perceptible and would probably be missed by anyone who didn’t know him as well as Chris.
“Over here.” She led him to where she’d discovered Ron’s twisted body.
Drew stood there, contemplating the spot. Out of the corner of her eye, Chris saw Derek move close to Marsha and slip an arm around her shoulders. She gave him a grateful look and patted his hand before pulling away from him and coming to stand next to her newly minted fiancé. She took his hand and simply held it in silence, and Chris thought maybe, if she tilted her head and squinted, she could see a little of what her dad must see in the woman.
After a protracted moment of silence, Drew tore his gaze away from the floor and smiled at Marsha. “I’m sorry.” He patted her hand. “I don’t mean to rain on your parade.”
“It’s our parade, and I’ll march through rain all day long as long as you’re by my side.”
Chris didn’t know whether to feel touched or slightly nauseated by Marsha’s pronouncement, but her dad seemed to be moved by it. He bent his head to kiss her forehead, then seemed to remember they weren’t alone. “We, uh, we brought some champagne.” He patted his pockets as if he might find it there. “I must have left it in the car.”
“I’ll get it,” said Derek. “Is the car locked?”
“The keys are in my purse,” said Marsha.
“I’ll get them.” Chris went to retrieve Marsha’s purse and dig out the keys. As she handed them to Derek, she leaned in and said in a low voice, “Please tell me you got that wine open.”
“There’s already a glass poured and waiting for you.” He pecked her on the lips before heading out the door.
Chris watched him go until the door swung shut behind him. Then she took a deep breath and turned to her guests. “I hope you guys are hungry!”
“Are you sure you don’t want to go down there?” Joe twisted one of Ron’s blonde curls around his finger.
“I’m sure.” She wiggled down into the couch cushions and wrapped her arms more tightly around him as if to declare that she was firmly anchored to that spot. “Believe me, there’s nothing going on down there that interests me.”
“I gotta admit, I’m interested. Aren’t you even the least bit curious about this Marsha character?”
“Not really,” Ron fibbed. The truth was that she was dying—figuratively speaking, of course, seeing as how that ship had sailed—to get a look at her father’s lady friend. But the thought of seeing her dad carry on as though he’d never even had an older daughter, let alone felt any grief over her tragic passing, simply hurt too much. “But by all means.” She extricated herself from Joe’s arms and sat up. “If you want to go down, don’t let me stop you.”
“Now don’t be like that.”
“All huffy and put out. I said I’m curious, is all. That don’t mean I’m about to leave you up here to stew.”
“I’m not stewing.”
A crease in Joe’s brow conveyed his skepticism as his gaze drifted down to her arms. Ron looked down to see that they were folded protectively in front of her. She hadn’t even realized she’d folded them. She forced them to her sides and adopted a relaxed posture. “I’m not stewing. I really don’t care that my dad’s down there.”
“Now that’s a lie if I ever heard one.”
Ron sighed. Joe knew her too well. “Fine. I care. But I don’t want to think about it. I’m too tired. Aren’t you tired? Today was a long day.”
“You got that right.” He made a show of stretching, then reached an arm over to pull her back against him. “How many people did we help out today?”
“Five. Two coaching jobs, and a whole lot of Googling for the other three. But you’re the one who did all the legwork.”
“If you can call the way we get around legwork.”
“Well, it’s still exhausting. Who knew Tulsa had so many dead people wandering around with unfinished business and having no idea what to do with themselves?”
“Your sister knew.”
Ron nodded, conceding the point. “Well, she can’t help all of them single-handedly.”
“She’s hardly helped any of them since you took over. Does she know how much you’ve been doing for her?”
She shrugged. “She knows enough. The whole point is for her to not have to think about it. She’s got enough on her plate with her new boyfriend and his YouTube channel. Not to mention all the physical therapy she needed for her leg.”
“Well, at least that’s done.” Joe shook his head. “I don’t understand this YouTube business, though. It ain’t like we show up on camera. What’s the point?”
“Some apparitions do. And don’t forget about voice recordings. Anyway, it’s spooky and people like it. I was trying to convince Chris that we should start a YouTube channel before I joined the corporeally challenged.”
“I guess I’ve seen enough horror in my time that I don’t understand why people go lookin’ for scares. All those kids who used to break into the house whenever nobody lived here… Thank Heaven Lilly and I managed to scare ‘em all off before Sarah got to ‘em.” He looked at her sideways. “Our scare tactics didn’t work so well with you, though.”
“Yeah, well, when I get scared I tend to be more fight than flight.”
“Don’t I know it.” He brushed her hair behind her ear. “Can’t exactly complain about the way things turned out, though.”
Ron leaned back in and snuggled up against him. “Neither can I.” It wasn’t that she was happy about being dead. But if she hadn’t died, she wouldn’t have known Joe, and they had managed to cobble together a pretty good existence here in their limbo between life and whatever comes next. Between this and watching over Chris, she managed to stay busy enough that she hardly had time to miss out on life.
She tilted her head to smile up at Joe. He returned her smile, his eyes crinkling in that way that made her feel warm all over. They held each other’s gaze for a long while before he brushed her forehead with his lips. “You’re right, though. I am a might tuckered out. I could use some shut-eye.”
“You and me both.” She laid her head on his broad chest and closed her eyes.
But sleep didn’t come.
Despite all her bravado about not caring, she couldn’t shake the sense of awareness that her father was right downstairs, or an intense curiosity about his girlfriend. It was only sheer stubbornness that held her in place long after Joe had faded out of consciousness. When she couldn’t stand it anymore, she slipped out of his arms and went downstairs.
She could have simply popped herself down there with a thought, but she wasn’t sure exactly where they were and she didn’t want Chris to see her and know she’d caved. So she transported herself to the second floor and took the stairs the rest of the way down, creeping slowly and listening for voices as she went.
Sounds of laughter drifted out of the living room. Ron approached cautiously, peeking around the corner to see where Chris was seated before materializing behind her, safely out of sight. While it seemed that other spirits could somehow remain invisible to her sister if they so chose, that was one trick for which Ron had never developed the knack.
From her vantage point behind Chris’s chair, she stood facing her father, who was all smiles as he leaned forward to pick up a wine bottle and refill his glass. He also topped off the glass of the woman seated next to him on the love seat, who could be none other than the infamous Marsha. Ron couldn’t help noticing the big diamond prominently displayed on the hand that was propping up her chin as she gazed adoringly at their dad. She also couldn’t help immediately comparing the woman to her mother, which she knew wasn’t fair, but still. The differences were striking.
Ron’s mother had been a natural beauty. Ron had inherited her curly blonde locks, which she had worn long, usually braided to keep them out of a face rarely touched by makeup. She simply hadn’t needed it. By contrast, Marsha was exactly as Chris had described—a brunette Barbie, dressed to the nines with perfectly winged eyeliner and a face expertly buffed and powdered to perfection. Actually, there was a name for the brunette Barbie, wasn’t there? Bridget or Midge or something like that. Ron should know. She had really been into Barbie dolls as a kid. That was how she’d inadvertently killed her mom, after all.
“—your sister could be here for this,” the living Marsha doll said. Ron blinked. She had been so caught up in her own thoughts that she barely heard a word anyone was saying, but that got her attention. “I would have loved to have known her.”
“I’m sure she would have loved you.” Drew reached over to squeeze her hand. Ron made an involuntary sound of disgust, which went unheard by all but Chris, who suddenly cocked her head and glanced behind her.
“Will you guys excuse me?” she said, leaning forward to set her drink on the coffee table and standing up.
“Everything okay?” asked Derek.
“Yeah. I need to check on something.” She headed into the hallway before glancing back and making eye contact with Ron. A jerk of her head commanded Ron to follow.
They were in the office with the door safely closed, but Chris still kept her voice low. “I thought you didn’t want anything to do with this.”
Ron shrugged and folded her arms. “So I got curious. Sue me.”
“How long have you been there?”
“I don’t know. Not long. A couple of minutes.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. So, Dad’s getting married, huh? Good for him.”
“Yeah,” said Chris. She didn’t sound overjoyed.
“Are you okay?”
Chris shrugged. “That woman’s going to be my step-mother.” She flinched and corrected herself. “Our stepmother. Sorry.”
“That’s okay. Pretty sure it doesn’t count when you’re dead.”
“So what do you think of her?”
“I don’t know. She’s really different from Mom, but other than the whole homecoming queen, sorority girl vibe she gives off, I haven’t really seen enough to form an opinion.”
Chris nodded. She was silent a moment as she watched Ron, seeming to consider something. Finally, she asked, “Do you want to come back in there with me? I could tell them you’re here. You could meet her, sort of, and maybe talk to Dad.”
“Oh, I’m sure Dad would love that. No thanks.”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. But you should get back. My curiosity’s satisfied. I’m going to head back upstairs.”
“Ron…” Chris looked like she wanted to press but wasn’t sure what to say. Before she could complete her thought, a thump out in the hall grabbed their attention. She turned to peer through the French doors “What was that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe the cat?”
Chris opened the door and leaned out into the hall. “Here kitty,” she called, but there was no sign of Miss Persnikitty, nor of anything else that could have made the noise. She eyed Ron sharply. “You and Joe didn’t bring home any strays, did you?”
“No,” she said, indignant. Then she considered and softened. “At least, I don’t think. You haven’t bought any antiques lately, have you?”
Chris glanced at her once-haunted desk. “No.”
“It’s probably nothing, but I’ll check it out. You should get back to your dinner.” When Chris hesitated, Ron shooed her away. “Go! I’ve got this!”
Her reluctance evident, Chris gave in and went to rejoin the living. Ron watched her go. Then, hands on her hips, she looked around the room. “Hello? Who’s there?” When nobody responded, she added, “It’s okay. You don’t need to be afraid. Come on out and let’s talk.” She moved to the back of the office, peering into each darkened corner, even looking under the desk. The creak of a door made her turn in time to see one of the French doors swing open.
Suddenly, Ron had a vivid flashback to her first day in this house. A sense of dread filled her. She crept toward the double doors, hoping she wouldn’t find that a spirit had followed her home. Leaning out into the hall, she heard a low growl. She sighed and slumped with relief.
“What are you doing down here, little guy?” she asked as she approached the pooch, the adorable ghost of a Jack Russell that had been left behind when his owner’s spirit was freed to move on. He stood peering into the living room, shoulders hunched, head low. As Ron got closer he grew emboldened enough to start barking. It looked like Marsha was the target of his ire, although he might have simply been put out by having strangers in the house.
From her spot back on the couch, Chris looked over at them and raised an eyebrow at Ron. She waved a hand dismissively before bending to scoop the pup into her arms. “They say dogs are a good judge of people,” she muttered as she carried him back upstairs, growling and barking the entire way.
Want more? Join my Launch Team and get your very own electronic ARC of Bound Spirits to read before everyone else!
The release of Bound Spirits is still three months away, but for those of you who are hungry for the next Restless Spirits installment, here’s a look at the cover to wet your whistle. And for an appetizer (…I’m carrying this metaphor too far, aren’t I?) scroll down to read the first chapter!
“What are we doing here?” Chris Wilson looked at her boyfriend and waited for an explanation, unable to make his face out in the darkness. Even if the street light behind him didn’t make him impossible to see clearly from this angle, his face would have been partially hidden by the video camera he had trained on her.
“What do you think?” Derek Brandt fiddled with the camera settings as he spoke. “This is a notoriously haunted location. Allegedly.”
“Yeah, a little too notorious,” Gus, the team’s tech guru, called from the edge of the parking lot as he walked the perimeter, taking readings of the temperature and electromagnetic field activity. “The Hex House is one of the first stops for every teenager wanting to scare his girlfriend and every amateur ghost hunter in the tri-state area. This isn’t exactly new to us.”
“Well, it is to me, and to my channel.” Derek stepped toward Chris. The whine of the zoom lens warned her it was time for her closeup. “Now say hello to the YouTubers, beautiful.”
She gave him a wary look. He lowered the camera, but it didn’t make his face easier to see. Still, she could hear the exasperation in his voice. “Chris, come on.”
“Gus is right, you know. This place might have been haunted once, but I think the spirits have moved on. I’ve never run into anything here. It’s just an empty parking lot.”
“Yeah, an empty parking lot on top of a basement where women were enslaved with some kind of voodoo magic. You’re telling me there’s nothing?”
“Sorry, babe. I don’t know what else to tell you.”
“What about you, Gus? Are you getting anything?”
“Nada,” he called from across the lot.
Derek sighed. But rather than calling it quits, he raised the camera. “Well, we’re here. We might as well make the most of it.”
Chris suppressed the urge to suggest they pack it in and go get pancakes. She knew this was important to him and wanted to be supportive. After all, the man had tanked a promising career in TV journalism for her. She owed it to him to help him salvage his career through his YouTube channel. Besides, that dogged determination of his was one of the things she loved about him. “Fine. What do you want me to do?”
“Talk about this place. Tell the viewers what happened here.”
“All right.” She chewed her bottom lip, thinking of what to say before putting on her best announcer voice. “This parking lot was once the site of an old mansion-turned-duplex known affectionately as the ‘Hex House.’ In the 1940s, it was the center of a local scandal when Carolann Smith, the middle-aged woman who lived here with two younger women, was discovered to be keeping the two of them prisoner in her basement.
“Bizarrely, the women would leave and go to their jobs every day, but always return to their basement prison as though the mistress of the house had some kind of Svengali-like hold over them. They even signed all their paychecks over to her. They lived on rations and slept on orange crates while she lived in luxury. When the police finally raided her home, they found furs, expensive clothing, and cosmetics—even a new car.
“After her scheme was discovered and the women were rescued, they claimed that Smith had also beaten them regularly for ‘religious purification.’ Along with a house full of luxury items, authorities also found books on mesmerism, magic, and the occult.
“The house stood vacant until it was demolished in the seventies. The basement still exists underneath this parking lot. It doesn’t get a lot of use now, but back when it was used regularly, people reported car lights turning on and off on their own, horns going off at random, and just a general spooky vibe.”
“What about now?” asked Derek.
“Now?” Chris looked around. “If anyone—or anything—was ever trapped here, I’m pretty sure they’ve moved on.” She shrugged. “It’s just a parking lot.”
“I’d say it’s more than that.”
“Really? What would you say, then?”
“I’d say it’s a local legend.”
Chris smiled. “Guess I can’t argue with that.”
“All right.” Derek lowered the camera. “Let’s call that a wrap.” He let the camera hang from the strap around his shoulder and moved in closer. Chris turned, making him turn with her until the street light illuminated that handsome face she loved so much. “Have I told you that you’re a natural at this?”
“Pfft. I’m a total dork. I don’t know why you insist on pointing that thing at me.”
“Stop it. The camera loves you.” He grinned. “And so do I.”
She couldn’t help grinning back at him as he leaned in to steal a kiss. Although it couldn’t exactly be called stolen when she gave so freely.
Chris and Derek both groaned as they reluctantly broke apart. Chris looked over at Gus. “What?”
“Sorry. You know how much I hate to interrupt when you’re having smoochies. But I’m actually getting something over here.”
“Really?” Chris hurried over. Derek followed, turning the camera back on. “What have you got?”
“Electromagnetic field’s off the charts in this spot.” He held the meter out so she could watch the needle dance. “And does it feel colder to you?”
“Yeah, now that you mention it.” She hugged herself and rubbed her arms.
Gus pocketed the EMF reader and pulled out a thermometer. He walked back a few paces, waving the wand in the air. “A balmy sixty-eight degrees.” He returned to where Chris stood and held out the wand next to her. “Only forty-two.”
“Do you see anything?” Derek asked her.
She squinted around at the darkened lot. “Nope. But I’m starting to get a sense of…” She trailed off, too busy concentrating on the sensation to find a word for it.
“A general spooky vibe?” Derek supplied.
“Gus, get the audio recorder. Let’s get some EVP.”
Gus hurried back to the van. Chris continued to scan her surroundings. “Hello? Is anyone here?”
“Wait for Gus.”
She shook her head. “I don’t have a great feeling about this.”
Derek lowered the camera. “Do you want to quit?”
“No. I want to know what’s here. Nobody actually died here, as far as we know. So if it’s haunted, who’s haunting it?” She refrained from vocalizing the rest of her question. Or what?
“Wasn’t this lady also suspected of killing some people for the life insurance money?”
“Yeah, but nothing was proven. And they didn’t die here, even if she did murder them.”
Derek looked reluctant to share whatever he was thinking.
“Come on, what is it?”
“Maybe we’re dealing with whatever helped that woman control her prisoners.”
A chill ran up Chris’s spine as she let that sink in. “That’s not a very pleasant thought.”
“No, it’s not. Maybe we should get out of here.”
“And have your channel subscribers miss all the action?”
“Right now, I don’t care about my subscribers. I care about seeing you safe.”
“I can handle myself, Brandt. Here comes Gus. Start the camera.”
“Come on!” She gave him a look that brooked no argument as Gus returned with a digital voice recorder and a parabolic microphone. At Derek’s nod, she tried again. “Is anyone here?” She waited a moment. Nothing happened. “If you’re here, all you have to do is speak up. I can hear you. I can see you, too, if you’d like to show yourself to me. I might be able to help you move on from this place.”
Still nothing. Chris sighed and shook her head. She took out her phone and turned on the flashlight. “There are a lot of power lines running through here.” She shined her light on them. “Those could be throwing Gus’s readings off.”
“What about your spooky feeling?” asked Derek.
“That too, actually. High electromagnetic activity can cause feelings of wariness and paranoia. Not to mention headaches and nausea.” She shrugged. “Mystery solved.”
“But what about the temperature change?”
Before she could think of an answer, the lights on their van suddenly turned on. The three of them turned toward it as one. The lights began to blink.
Derek aimed the camera at the van. “Are the power lines doing that, too?”
Chris ignored him. “Why don’t you come here and talk to me?” she called to the entity. As if in response, the horn blared. Shouting to be heard over the racket, she asked, “Do you want us to leave?”
The horn fell silent. The blinking stopped.
“Okay. We can take a hint. Let’s get out of here, guys.”
“Wait. That’s it? We’re just leaving?”
“Do you want to stick around and see what happens if that thing gets angry?”
“No,” he said. Then, “Well, kinda.” At her look, he lowered the camera and turned it off. “No, you’re right. Let’s go.”
The three of them filed into the Village Inn. They didn’t have to wait to be seated. At a quarter past one in the morning, the place was well past the dinner rush and not yet inundated with the post-bar and club crowd. They barely had time to slide into a booth next to the front window before a waitress handed them each a menu.
Chris handed hers right back. “I know what I want.”
“All righty.” The waitress, whose name tag identified her as Vanessa, tucked the menu under her arm and whipped out her pad and pen. “What’ll it be?”
“I’ll have the Ultimate Breakfast.”
Derek also handed back his menu. “I think I’m more in the mood for a cheeseburger.”
“Fries or coleslaw?”
Everyone looked at Gus, who sat bent over his open menu. He glanced up at the waitress. “I’m gonna need a few minutes.”
“Gus!” Chris didn’t even try to hide her exasperation. “You always do this, and you always end up getting the patty melt.”
“Something else might look good to me this time.”
She reached over and grabbed his menu, eliciting a “Hey!” from him as she handed it to the waitress. “He’ll have the patty melt.”
Vanessa quirked an eyebrow at him. “You sure, sugar?”
“Yeah.” Defeat weighted his voice and made it come out sulky. “It’s fine.”
“All righty, then. One patty melt, one cheeseburger with fries, and one ultimate breakfast, coming right up.”
“What’s got you so cranky?” he asked Chris after she left.
“I’m not cranky. I’m just not in the mood for your usual nonsense.”
He pointed at her. “See, that’s cranky.”
“You do seem a little on edge,” said Derek.
Chris rolled her eyes. “I’m not cranky. I’m hungry and I don’t want to wait an extra five minutes so Gus can read the entire menu before he decides to get another frickin’ patty melt!”
“Okay, you’re right,” said Gus. “That’s not cranky. That’s actually called ‘hangry.’”
Chris took the paper tube off of her straw, crumpled it up, and threw it at him. It smacked him right between the eyes.
“Guys.” Derek’s tone was that of a parent calling down a pair of unruly kids. He turned to Chris. “Are you sure that’s all that’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong.” She met his stern gaze and sighed. “Fine. I just hate to lose, is all.”
“What are you talking about? Tonight went great! The footage we got—”
“It’s not about getting great footage.” As his brow furrowed, she hurried to add, “Look, I know the footage is important. Your channel’s important. I’m not saying it’s not. But you know that’s not why I do this. I do it to help people.”
“I know that. But not everybody wants to be helped.”
Chris thought about it a moment, then sighed. “Whatever we were dealing with back there, I doubt it was even human.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because human spirits are usually glad to show themselves. They’re grateful for someone to talk to, and they do want my help.”
“Maybe. Scottie Tucker sure didn’t.”
Chris drummed her fingers on the table while she considered this. “Scottie Tucker was terrified for his mom. As soon as he knew she’d be safe, though, he was happy to have us pass on a message to her.”
“There’s another explanation,” said Gus. “One that you guys never seem to think of.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
Gus turned his gaze from Derek to Chris. “Your sister’s messing with us.”
“What?” Christine grabbed Derek’s empty straw wrapper and launched it at Gus. “Shut up. Ron wouldn’t do that.”
“Sure she would. She used to play practical jokes on me all the time back before she kicked the bucket.”
“Come on, man,” said Derek. “That’s not—”
“Ron wouldn’t do that,” Chris repeated, enunciating carefully. “Besides, she can do a lot of things, but she can’t hide from me.”
“You sure about that?”
“Yes. Anyway, she had plans tonight or she would have tagged along.”
“What kind of plans does a ghost have on a Friday night? Other than interfering with our investigation for kicks and giggles?”
“I don’t know. I don’t pry into her afterlife. Whatever it was, I’m sure it included Joe.”
“All right, look,” said Derek. “Let’s just listen to sound recordings to see if we picked up any EVP. You brought it in, right?”
Gus nodded and patted the duffel back on the bench next to him.
“Okay, then. Maybe we got something that can help shed some light on whatever it was we encountered tonight.”
While they pulled out devices and headphones and searched for an outlet for Gus’s laptop, Chris let her gaze drift to the window. A homeless man caught her attention as he shuffled along in the parking lot. Tall and skinny with a long salt-and-pepper beard, he reminded her of an even more grizzled and tattered version of Phil Robertson. She watched him, wondering if she should leave him some of her leftovers in a take home box or whether it would be better to pay for a meal and have a waiter take it out to him.
Suddenly, she realized he was looking back at her, the intensity of his gaze startling her. She turned back to her companions, who were arguing over the settings on Gus’s audio program. Looking back at the window, she screamed as she came face to face with the man pressed up against the glass.
Derek ripped off his headphones. “What is it? Are you okay?”
“It’s nothing. This guy just startled me.”
Derek glanced at the window, then back at her. “What guy?”
“Ah. Of course.” As she spoke, the man in question started to melt through the window. “Oh, come on. Please don’t do that.”
“Do what?” asked Derek.
“He—” Before she could finish, the ghost straightened up abruptly, turned, and shuffled away from the window in the opposite direction. “Never mind. He’s leaving. I should probably go talk to him.”
“This is a ghost thing, right?”
“Right. I…” She trailed off as she spotted what had gotten Dead Phil’s attention. He had stopped to talk to a petite young woman with short, blonde curls. Very familiar curls. “What the…”
“What is it?”
“I’ll be right back.” Chris got up from the table and headed out to the parking lot. Making her way across the lot, she kept her eyes on the ghostly pair. The blonde spoke animatedly to the transient.
Chris had almost reached them when the homeless ghost shuffled away, fading from sight as he went. The blonde watched him go with a grin on her face. Her smile grew brighter as she finally noticed Chris approaching. “Hey, sis! What are you doing here?”
“You just stole my line. Ron, did you follow us here?”
“What? No. It’s a total coincidence.”
“You know I don’t believe in coincidences. Why are you here?”
Her sister’s spirit let out an exasperated huff of non-breath. “I had some news for Burt. He asked me to check up on his estranged daughter.”
Ron jerked her chin in the direction Dead Phil had disappeared. “I saw him approaching you the other night when I tagged along on that taco run and I headed him off at the pass.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Why would I? It was nothing I couldn’t handle. Anyway, he agreed to meet me here tonight to find out what I learned.”
Chris felt a little ashamed of her suspicion. Ron could sometimes be a meddler, but her heart was always in the right place. And ever since Chris’s abduction last spring, Ron and her partner Joe were more protective than ever. They’d been running interference with the spirits who came to Chris for help so she could recover and focus on her new relationship with Derek. Chris appreciated the help.
“Is there anything I can help with?” she asked.
“Nope, it’s handled. You should go back to Derek. He’s probably wondering why you’re out here talking to yourself.”
“Derek can wait a minute. I just need to ask…” She bit her lip. Ron was out here doing something nice for her. Still, Gus made her wonder… “You weren’t out at the Hex House lot tonight, were you?”
“No. Why would I be?”
“No reason.” She waved away the notion. “It’s just… something was out there—”
“Really? I thought that place was all tapped out.”
“I did too, but something showed up. It wouldn’t show itself, but Derek got some good footage for his next video, so that’s something. Anyway, Gus is convinced that you were there messing with us.”
“Yeah, well, Gus can go ahead and—”
Chris’s back pocket rang before Ron could finish her instructions for Gus, which Chris doubted she’d want to deliver anyway. She held up a finger and pulled out her phone, expecting Derek to be calling to see what was taking her so long. Her surprise at the caller ID filled her voice as she said, “It’s Dad.”
Ron’s eyes widened. “This late? I hope everything’s okay.”
Chris answered. “Hey, Dad. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Drew Wilson’s voice crackled with static. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, I thought you’d be in bed. I was going to leave a voice mail.”
“Well, I’m up, so I guess you can just tell me why you called.”
“Marsha and I were wondering if you had any plans tomorrow night. We’re heading up there in the morning and were hoping we could all have dinner. Derek too, if he’s available.”
Chris winced. She’d love to see her dad, but dinner with his girlfriend was always a torturous affair. Still, she couldn’t think of a good excuse. “Sure. I mean, I’ll have to check with him, but I can do dinner. Just tell me when and where.”
“What about your place?”
Chris paused and looked at Ron, who looked back at her questioningly. “My place? Really?”
“Sure. You’ve been bugging me to come see that house of yours.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s just…you’ve never…”
“I think it’s time. Besides, Marsha and I have some news, and it’s not really something I want to announce in a crowded restaurant.”
“News? What kind of news?”
“Nothing bad. You’ll find out tomorrow night. Listen, I’ve got to get off and wrap some things up so I can turn in. We’ve got to get an early start tomorrow. We should be to your place by seven, if that works for you.”
“Um, okay. Yeah. I’ll see you then.”
“Great. Now get to bed, kiddo. Love you.” He hung up without waiting for a reply. Chris stared at her phone, feeling slightly ambushed.
“What’s going on?”
Chris looked from the phone to her sister. “Dad’s coming over for dinner tomorrow night.”
“He’s coming to the house? Really?”
“Yeah. He said it’s time.”
Ron’s eyebrows crawled up into her bangs. “What does that mean? Time for what?”
“Time to face where you died, maybe?”
“I doubt that.” As usual, Ron was dismissive of the idea that their father grieved her passing in any way. “He probably just means it’s time to get over himself and come see where his only daughter lives. And he’s right about that.”
“Anyway, he’s bringing Marsha, so you’ll finally get to see what she’s like.”
“Not unless she comes up to the attic, I won’t. I think Joe and I will just keep out of the way.”
“That’s not necessary.” Chris glanced at the phone. “He said they have news.”
“Good news or bad news?”
“He said it’s not bad, but that could be subjective.”
“You don’t think… I mean, they’ve been together a while now. Do you think—”
Chris held up a hand to cut her off. “Don’t say it.”
“But you’re thinking it.”
“I’m trying not to think about it.”
“What else could it be?”
“I don’t know. Lots of things. Maybe Dad won the lottery, or got a new job. Or maybe they got a new puppy.”
Ron smiled. “You’re cute when you’re in denial.”
“Yeah, well.” Chris pocketed her phone. “I’m going back in to tell Derek. If you won’t be there for moral support, at least he will.”
“And you can tell me all about our new step-mommy-to-be in the morning,” Ron called after her as she went back inside.
If you’ve read any of the alternativescenes from the original draft of Kindred Spirits I posted–or if you were one of the unlucky people who, to my embarrassment, were sent the wrong Kindle file on the day the book launched (a faux pas that was quickly resolved by my publisher, so if you blinked you missed it; I’m hoping you blinked)–then you won’t be surprised to learn that Chris Wilson’s nemesis-slash-love-interest was originally named Douglas Batey, and in my mind he bore a strong resemblance to Jeremy Renner.
Sometimes characters evolve as you write them, and in more ways than just character growth. This was one of those times.
And it turns out that the actor you envision in the role can make a big difference.
Writing the second draft of Kindred Spirits coincided with marathon binge-fests of Gilmore Girls as I got myself all caught up and ready to watch the revival mini-series on Netflix. And while I am not a fan of Logan Huntzberger (Team Jess all the way!), it wasn’t very far into his introductory season when Douglas/Derek suddenly morphed into Matt Czuchry, and everything clicked into place.
In my mind, Derek Brandt shares Logan’s looks, mannerisms and penchant for banter with none of his spoiled poor-little-rich-boy childishness. While he does have a stubborn streak a mile long, a tendency to become too single-minded in pursuit of his goals, and a penchant to be overprotective of the people he cares about, he’s also smart, caring, and he eventually comes around to admitting when he’s wrong. He also possesses courage and a mighty sense of justice, and he doesn’t let sentimentality or even loyalty stand in the way.
As for the name change, you can thank my husband, who pointed out that Douglas is a terrible name for a romance novel hero. While I happen to think it’s a perfectly manly name, I had to concede his point–plus it no longer fit the new and improved version of the character. I’m happy that I caved. Derek Brandt is a much better foil/match for Chris than Douglas Batey ever was.
If there’s one word that I could use to describe 2017, it’s unsettled. Chaotic would be another good one. It was a year full of disruptions, from moving and everything involved with that, to emergency oral surgery (my husband, not me) to our dog’s illness and a flurry of vet visits. Looking back, it feels like I didn’t accomplish much, even though moving and downsizing our home was in and of itself a pretty major undertaking. I easily forget that I launched two books in 2017, and also wrote a third. But it took me all year to write that third book, which feels ridiculously slow.
Which is why it feels more than a little bit crazy for me to set a goal of writing not just one, but three(!) new books in 2018. But this year is starting from a much more settled place, and barring any more major disruptions (which I wouldn’t rule out entirely; after all, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, the only thing that’s certain in life is uncertainty, and things rarely go according to plan), I don’t think it’s an unrealistic goal. At any rate, here is my rather ambitious writing and publishing To Do list for 2018:
Revise Bound Spirits and turn it in to my publisher
Handle subsequent publisher edits
Launch that book in August
Write and publish a non-fiction book on book marketing for people like me who really, really hate book marketing
Outline the final two books in the Restless Spirits series and draft the next one
Outline the rest of the Dominion of the Damned trilogy
Write and publish the second book in that series by end of year
That looks like a lot, and that’s not even counting the fact that I still need to make slight tweaks to all of my indie books and publish them on other platforms now that they’re no longer enrolled in Kindle Select, or the fact that I still hope to send out at least one short piece of original fiction to my mailing list each month. But over the last couple of months I’ve settled into a routine that has let me be pretty productive, and I should be able to write about 2,000 words of fiction every morning and still have plenty of time in the afternoon for blog posts, freelance articles and other non-fiction projects.
The real question is, do I have the stamina to keep that up all year? I guess we’ll find out. I’m kind of counting on the likelihood that it will increase with steady practice. I’m also planning to keep up a steady pace here of one post a week (not counting newsy posts), but if I need to slow things down here to keep up my book writing pace, then so be it.
Since I’ve set such a high bar for myself in the writing department this year, I’m embracing a low-bar lifestyle when it comes to everything else. Outside of writing and publishing goals, my only other resolution, if you could call it that, is to be sure I don’t neglect my health by letting self-care fall by the wayside. In fact, if I have an official word for 2018, it’s health. That includes not just physical health so I can keep up my stamina, but also spiritual, emotional and marital health. So while those will all be priorities I’ll also be doing the minimum necessary to keep myself and my marriage in a good, healthy place and saving the rest of my energy for the writing.
This is, of course, all part of a two-year plan with the end goal of being completely done with both Restless Spirits and Dominion by the end of 2019 so I can move on to other things in 2020. But those of you who love those worlds still have plenty to look forward to for the next couple of years.
Happy New Year, guys! I don’t know about you, but I’m determined to make this a great year. And I’d love to hear your goals, resolutions, One Word, etc. in the comments!
Joe Bentley carried his daughter down the stairs, watching her face light up with wonder as the Christmas tree came into view. The Collier children were already stationed around it, tearing into packages and squabbling over who got the best Santa presents. “Merry Christmas, Joe!” Mr. Collier, his employer, raised a mug in greeting from the settee in the parlor. “There’s coffee in the kitchen. Go on in and help yourself.”
Joe set Clarice down and whispered in her ear. “You go on and watch the other children. And mind your manners.”
“Yes papa!” She took off like a shot as soon as her little feet hit the floor. Turning toward the kitchen, Joe smiled as he heard her say, louder than necessary, “Merry Christmas Mr. Collier!”
“Merry Christmas, Clarice!” he boomed back, just as loudly, amusement plain in his voice.
Mrs. Collier was coming out of the kitchen just as Joe was heading in. She was carrying a tray loaded down with a coffee pot, mugs and a plate piled high with cookies. “Oh, Joe! Good. Here, will you take this into the parlor? And help yourself to a cup. I’ll be in in another minute.”
“Yes ma’am.” He took the heavy tray from her and turned back the way he’d come.
“And don’t let those children touch anything at the back of the tree ’til I get in there!” she called after him before disappearing back into the kitchen.
In the parlor, he set the tray on a little table beside the settee before settling into a chair on the other side of it. He helped himself to a cookie and a cup of coffee, keeping an eye on Clarice while he poured. She sat a little distant from the other children, knees pulled up to her chest underneath her nightgown. She watched, enraptured, as the others opened their gifts, most of her attention fixed on little Sarah, the Colliers’ only girl.
Sarah knew it, too. A flame-haired tomboy who usually preferred balls and fishing gear to dolls and frilly things, Sarah also knew that Clarice adored all that ladylike stuff. Sarah’s own preferences didn’t stop her parents, especially her mother, from foisting girly things on her. Usually she’d complain, but seeing the longing looks from Clarice, Sarah made a big show of how much she loved each and every item–and also of placing it far away from Clarice before moving on to the next present.
Joe did his best to swallow his dislike of the girl along with a bite of ginger bread. She was only a child, barely older than Clarice, and it wasn’t her fault that she was the youngest and the only girl and that her parents and brothers doted on her so. And didn’t he dote on Clarice just as much? That she was such a sweet child and not at all spoiled was more a testament to how much of her mother was in her than any particular fathering skills Joe possessed.
A fog of sadness tried to settle over him at the memory of his late wife. He wished she could be there to see how well their little girl was growing up. Of course, part of the reason he doted so much on Clarice now was to ease his guilt over how much he’d neglected her in the beginning, driven so out of his mind with grief that he’d held that precious, innocent baby to blame for her mother’s passing. It wasn’t her fault Martha’s constitution had been too frail to endure childbirth. Once he’d come to his senses, he’d sworn to Clarice that he’d never stop making it up to her. And that was a promise he intended to keep.
Watching her now, he wished he’d given her the rag doll he’d picked out for her before they’d come down instead of saving it for later. It had to be torture for the girl to watch the other children open presents when there was nothing under the tree for her. He was debating whether he should go get it when Mrs. Collier came bustling into the room with another tray. He and Mr. Collier both stood as she announced, “Hot chocolate and gingerbread for the children!” She set the tray on a sideboard and went to join her husband on the settee.
“It was right kind of you both to include Clarice and me in your family’s Christmas celebration,” Joe said as the three of them took their seats.
“Nonsense. You two are gettin’ to be just like family. And I wouldn’t have missed seeing that angel’s face on Christmas morning for all the world.”
Joe smiled and nodded. “Even so, we sure do both appreciate it.”
“Not as much as we appreciate the help you’ve been to us,” Mr. Collier said around the pipe in his teeth. He took it out and used it to point toward Joe. “Speaking of which, if you turn around you’ll find a token of our appreciation propped up there in the corner.”
Joe turned and spied a brand new fishing rod standing in the corner, tied with a big red bow. He looked back at the Colliers. “That’s too generous. I can’t accept that.”
“Sure you can. The boys got new rods, too, and we can’t have you joining us on fishing expeditions with that old broken down reel of yours.”
Joe grinned as he got up to inspect the rod. “Well, if you put it that way.” It wasn’t top of the line, but it was a far cry better than anything he could afford on his farmhand wages, made of polished bamboo with a shiny new reel. He had mixed feelings as he looked it over. Good manners wouldn’t let him refuse it, and truth be told he couldn’t wait to take it fishing. But it also made the lace handkerchief and tin flask he’d picked out for each of the Colliers seem woefully inadequate by comparison. Still, he swallowed his pride and focused on his gratitude. “Thank you,” he said. “You’re both too kind.”
“We hope you put it to good use,” said Mrs. Collier. Before he could promise that he would, she called to Sarah. “Why don’t you hand out those gifts there in the back?”
Sarah frowned. Joe couldn’t tell if it was from puzzlement or because she was being torn away from her presents and put to work. But she got up and went around behind the tree. Sorting through some boxes there, she handed one each to her brothers before grabbing one for herself. As she settled down and started tearing the paper off, Mrs. Collier, her voice filled with exasperation, said, “Sarah, you forgot one!”
She shrugged. “That wasn’t any of ours.” She kept tearing at the wrapping paper before squealing with excitement. “A baseball glove!” She held it up admiringly before shoving her hand inside, clearly genuinely excited about this gift and not just putting on a show for Clarice.
“I know you’ve been wanting to play with your brothers. Now you can.”
“Thank you, pa!” She ran over and threw her arms around his neck, looking so happy that for a moment Joe forgot the bad feeling he usually got from the girl.
“Clarice,” Mrs. Collier called, “why don’t you have a look at that last package behind the tree?”
Joe looked at her, surprised. “You didn’t.”
“I didn’t do anything,” she said with an air of innocence. “It was all Santa Claus’s doing.”
“Mrs. Collier, I can’t let you–”
“Hush,” she said, and it was already too late. Clarice had already found the package and brought it out where all could see, holding it reverently in her little hands. It was a box half her size, wrapped in bright red paper. She set it on the floor and just gazed at it in awe. “It’s so pretty, papa,” she said, her voice barely more than a whisper.
Joe could no more refuse the gift for her than he could live without his own head attached. Relenting, he said, “Well, go on and open it.”
Slowly, taking pains not to tear the paper, she worked to remove it from the box. Joe glanced over at the Colliers to see the amusement on their faces, but instead his gaze landed on Sarah, perched in her pa’s lap, watching Clarice with an intensity that made it clear she’d forgotten all about her beloved baseball glove. The look on her face sent a shiver down his spine. He quickly turned his attention back to his own girl, who had managed to open the wrapping at one end.
“Here, punkin, let me help.” Joe got down on his knees and slid the box out of the wrapping, then placed it before Clarice. She glanced up at him with pleading and hopeful eyes, so he went ahead and pried the lid off the box. As he lifted it away, the look on her face made it worth all the extra odd jobs he planned to do around the place to pay back the Collier’s generosity.
It was a doll. A fine porcelain doll, with real hair, blonde and curly like hers, and a dress finer than anything Clarice herself had ever worn. It made the rag doll Joe had gotten for her look like, well, just a bunch of rags by comparison. With a gasp of delight that seemed to come from deep in her little soul, she scooped it up and hugged it tight.
“Why does she get a doll?”
All eyes turned to Sarah, who had dropped her glove and now glared at Clarice, her face flushed as red as her hair.
“Because Santa decided she’d been a good girl all year,” Mr. Collier said, trying to make light of the situation.
“But why didn’t I get a doll?”
“You don’t play with any of the dolls you already have,” said Mrs. Collier. “You’ve complained every time we’ve ever gotten you a doll.”
“But none of ’em looked like her!” Sarah pointed at Clarice’s doll. “It’s not fair!”
“Sarah Jane, don’t you talk to me about what’s fair.” Her mother pointed at the pile of toys and new clothes that belonged to her. “Look at everything you got this morning! And Clarice only has the one present! You’re being ungrateful, not to mention rude to our guests.”
“They ain’t our guests, they’re hired hands.” She pointed at Clarice. “And she ain’t even that!”
Mrs. Collier got to her feet. “That is enough!” She pointed emphatically at the stairs. “Go to your room!”
“Right now, young lady!”
Sarah closed her mouth and stalked away toward the stairs, glowering at Clarice with a look of pure contempt as she went.
“I am so sorry, Joe. I don’t know what on earth’s gotten into that girl.”
“Probably too much sugar and not enough sleep,” said her husband. “All she needs is a nap and a good breakfast, then she’ll be right as rain.” He looked down at the baseball glove and stooped to pick it up, frowning at it in disappointment. “I sure thought this was what she wanted more than anything this year.”
“It was,” Mrs. Collier said. With an exasperated sigh, she shook her head. “Please don’t pay her any mind, Joe. Nor you, Clarice. You enjoy your dolly.”
“What do you say to Mr. And Mrs. Collier?” Joe prompted her.
“Thank you for the doll, Mr. And Mrs. Collier.”
“Don’t thank us,” Mr. Collier said with a wink. “That dolly came from Santa Claus.”
“Well then, we’ll have to write a thank you letter to Santa, won’t we?”
She nodded emphatically, still hugging her doll.
Mrs. Collier reached over and patted Joe on the arm. “You two should head on up and get dressed. Breakfast will be on the table in half an hour.”
“We’ll be there,” Joe promised as he scooped Clarice into his arms. “Come on, punkin. Let’s go put on our Sunday best.”
Joe carried her and her new doll up the stairs. The second flight of stairs leading up to their rooms on the third floor sat at the other end of the hallway. To get there, they had to pass by Sarah’s room. The door was opened, and although Joe tried not to look, he could feel eyes on him as he went past. Glancing over, he saw Sarah sitting on her bed, glaring at them with pure hatred.
Looking straight ahead, Joe hugged his girl a little more tightly and picked up his pace.
I’m giving away an e-book “boxed set” of all three books in the Restless Spirits series for Christmas! This is your chance to get to know the Wilson sisters and catch up on their saga before the next book, Bound Spirits, comes out next summer. Click here to enter for your chance to win!
Christine “Chris” Wilson, the protagonist in Kindred Spirits and subsequent books in the series, started out as a supporting character in the original Restless Spirits. Ron Wilson’s younger sister, Chris has an ability to see and communicate with spirits that manifested when she was a child, shortly after the death of their mother. Chris was integral in helping Ron accomplish her goals in the first book, and when it came time to write the sequel, it made sense for her to step into the spotlight alongside her big sister.
Although she’s the younger sister, Chris is the more level-headed and cautious of the two. Her supernatural gifts have saddled her with a sense of responsibility and mission that you don’t often find in the youngest child. Coupled with her guilt over dragging Ron into her ghost-hunting business, a vocation that ended up getting Ron killed, Chris is as determined to protect her loved ones from any fallout associated with her talents as she is to use them to help those who are incapable of helping themselves.
Initially, as I wrote Restless Spirits, a couple of different sources served as inspiration as I developed Chris’s character. One was Ali Larter’s character from Final Destination, who shaped Chris’s appearance more than anything. But I was watching a lot of Ghost Hunters back then, and I think unconsciously Chris was also partially based on Amy Bruni, although I didn’t really realize that until I started following her on Instagram.
But as I started fleshing Chris out more for her role as a protagonist for Kindred Spirits, neither of those felt quite right. I wasn’t far into my exploratory draft for that book before the perfect casting dawned on me. It needed to be someone who not only came across as having brains and good sense, but also strong-willed and sarcastic enough to keep up with Ron. And of course she had to be a redhead.
Once Emma Stone came to mind, everything clicked into place for this character. Mind you, this was the pre-Oscar, pre-going-blonde-for-Spider-Man Emma Stone from Easy A and Zombieland. She’s got beauty, brains and plenty of sass, just like Chris. She also has a self-deprecating sense of humor that’s perfect for Chris.
Of course, if my wildest fantasies ever come true and this series gets made for television, this particular bit of fantasy casting is pretty much guaranteed not to come true, thanks to those Oscars. But this will always be the definitive Chris Wilson as far as the movie in my mind is concerned.
Have you read Kindred Spirits? Who is your definitive Chris?