Please welcome my guest today, fellow North Carolina romance author Donna Steele, talking about her new book Wraith’s Heart. Oh, and if you want a post from me after reading Donna’s, check out her blog, Steele Stories: Do I Believe in Magic?
Where did that come from?
By Donna Steele
To tell you the truth, I’m not sure myself where all the ideas come from. I do know that I have been fascinated by arcologies (self-contained cities where one never has to go outside) since I was first introduced to them by Larry Niven. But what if you wanted to go outside? That’s what brought about Rth Rising.
I walked into one of the most beautiful lake houses I’ve ever seen and spotted the picture window looking out over the lake. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write, but I wanted it to take place in that setting, and Learning Trust was born.
My publisher put out a call for stories for Memorial Day, for men in uniform. Not a normal topic for me, but when I sat down Welcome Home was already written in my head, from my memories of the Vietnam War.
I understood about Homecoming. I did have to clean out the family home when my parents were gone. Fortunately not alone, like my heroine. We really did find some of the things I mentioned. The story was therapeutic for me.
But I’m drawn to the paranormal, science fiction worlds. So now there’s Wraith’s Heart. I had the idea of someone waking up in a dark place with no memory of how or why they might be there. I write strong women, so I had to make her angry rather than scared but I had no idea what I was in for. That’s why we’re called pantsers. Gail grew with the story. I thought it would be a much shorter tale, but when I got to the point that I thought would be the ending, she wasn’t ready to go and started telling me all about what else she could accomplish. I finally decided not to argue.
I hope you enjoy!
“Ryan, come on in.” Doc motioned to him and he moved inside. Another death to investigate. Gail took one look at the woman on the table and decided it would be a wonderful time to check in with Hank. Ryan might not be here long and she didn’t want to miss her ride. She slipped out and headed upstairs.
She found Hank sitting patiently in the corner of the waiting room, watching as a family waited for word.
“Gail, I’m surprised to see you.” He stood to greet her and she gave him a quick hug.
“You are? Why?”
“I figured you would’ve moved on.”
“Not yet. I want to ask you about some stuff.”
“Sure, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to answer everything.”
Gail grinned at him. “I don’t think anyone can.”
“Shoot,” Hank nodded.
“Can you touch anything?”
“Touch? You mean people? No.”
“Actually I mean like the magazines on the table or that ugly fake tree.” She indicated the dusty plastic green thing in the corner with her chin.
“No. My hand just goes through them. Why?”
“I can touch things.”
“What kind of things?”
Did she blush at her first thought? He made no comment, so she continued. “Computer keys, papers.”
“Show me.” It wasn’t really an order, but he was obviously surprised.
She stepped over to the side table. Several older copies of People Magazine and Time were spread out on the surface. Gail glanced around to make sure no one was paying attention, then reached over to lift the cover on the top one.
She looked over at Hank, who was watching with a “Sorry, honey” look on his face.
“No. Really, I can touch things. I have been touching them at the police station and the apartment.”
“Then why can’t you touch that?”
She was silent a moment, thinking. “I need to get back downstairs. Can you come with me?”
“Sure. I’m not bound to this floor and you obviously aren’t.” He walked with her toward the stairs, to avoid disturbing the live people using the elevator.
“There’s more I wanted to ask you. Why am I still here?” She took one last look at the offending magazine, then followed Hank into the stairwell.
“Well, as far as I know it’s different with each person. Maybe you need to hang around until they catch your killer. You were murdered, right?”
She nodded. “But what if they never find out who did it?”
“I wish I could answer that, honey. Are the police still working on it?”
“Yes. I’m staying with the detective in charge of the case.”
“Staying with him?” Hank stopped right there on the stairs as a young orderly swept past them, then turned to look at the “empty” spot as he shivered and picked up his pace to get to the next floor. “Is that the apartment you mentioned? Isn’t it uncomfortable for him?” He cocked his head at the retreating back of the orderly.
“That’s another thing I wanted to ask you. He doesn’t feel the cold when I touch him. He never shivers and pulls away. It’s almost like he’s aware of me.” An understatement after last night, but she didn’t want to share any of Ryan’s revelations to her. And she certainly wasn’t going to confess her role after Ryan had fallen asleep.
“Aware of you? Are you sure?”
Okay, be careful how you phrase it, Gail.
“Not exactly. His hand has brushed against me in the car and in his office and he never shivers. He almost seems to look for me. And I have touched things in his office and apartment. I’ve typed on his computer. Is that normal?”
“Well, I’ve never heard of it. Of course, I’m not really an expert. I’ve been here for a relatively short while.”
“Do you know why you’re still here?”
He chuckled. “I think of myself as one of those Wal-Mart greeters. Hi, you’re dead. How can I help you?”
She chuckled with him. “It did help me, because I was in deep denial.”
“Most everyone is when it’s an accident or murder. The ones waitin’ for it just go on as soon as someone from the family or friends come to pick ’em up. In cases like yours it seems to take a little longer, like they’re caught off guard. You must have an assignment you haven’t handled yet.”
“Great. Think I’ll get points taken off for being tardy?”
“No, you’re doing fine. And if this cop really is aware of you, he probably has something to do with it. I haven’t heard of that before.” They continued on down the stairs, meeting no more of the live inhabitants of the hospital.
“Ryan’s here about another case. Another DB—see, I’m picking up the jargon.”
Hank chuckled and patted her on the shoulder. They’d arrived at the morgue and he looked around. “I haven’t been down here in awhile.”
“Yeah, I don’t much like it, but when Ryan gets called here I come along.” Her head came up as an idea occurred to her. “I’d like to try something.”
“Do you mind coming in with me?”
Hank shook his head and they stepped through the door together. The doctor continued to talk but Ryan’s head came up and he glanced toward the door. His lips lifted into a small smile.
Gail stopped just inside the door. She knew her eyes had to be big and round with surprise. He had sensed her come into the room. It wasn’t possible, but he had turned instantly and he’d smiled. There was no way he had heard her, there was nothing to hear. By her estimation she hadn’t reapplied her blueberry body splash in at least a week.
But it had felt like they were looking into each other’s eyes for a moment.
Should she admit she felt very warm and safe?
“Gail, he knows you’re here.” The wonder in Hank’s voice drew her back.
“Yes, he does.”
“That’s what I asked you.” She shook herself. “Watch.” When Ryan turned back to the doctor, she carefully raised the corner of one of the reports on the counter.
Hank stared at the paper. “You couldn’t do that upstairs.”
“I know. But I’ve been able to every other time.”
“Have the other times been when you were near him?” Hank looked over at Ryan who now had his back to them, listening to the doctor.
“He doesn’t feel the cold from you?”
“I have no idea.” Hank shook his head. “But I bet if I touched him, it would be cold.”
“Please don’t try.” Gail spoke immediately.
“I won’t.” He moved to the report and attempted to move the same page. Nothing happened. “How well do you know him? Were you friends before?”
“No, I’d never met him before he came here to begin his investigation.”
“So you don’t know if he maybe had a near death experience?”
Gail looked up at him. “I think that might have happened.” She spoke slowly, thinking hard. “Do you know anything about something like this?”
“Not really. I’ve not had anything like it happen to me. It’s a puzzle, but I don’t think I can find any answers for you. You’re going to have to get them from him.” He looked toward the door. “I’m gonna get out of the way. It could get too crowded in here and I don’t want to freak anyone out. Keep me up on what’s happenin’ with you. Let me know if you figure out your assignment or what’s going on with him. I’m learning as much from you as you did from me.”
“Of course I’ll check back. Guess there’s not a better way for us to keep in touch?”
“Not that I know. But it was good seein’ you.”
Gail gave him another hug and watched him slip through the door.