I love reading stories about vampires and shape shifters, mermaids and other mythical creatures. Who doesn’t!? But when it comes to writing, I tend to go with the gold standard—ghosts.
My fascination with ghosts started at an early age, in mystery books and TV, but mostly in my real-life ghost experiences...or so I imagined as I sat around the campfire at the Girl Scouts’ Camp Nomoco, deep in the woods of Central Jersey. The sky pitch black, girls’ faces glowing eerily in the illumination of their flashlights held under their chins, and the thought of the ghost of Mr. Nomoco himself on the prowl. Legend told how he roamed the woods at night, searching for wayward Girl Scouts! And once he found them? ... I still shiver as I think about it! Later, after we’d gone to our tents, I’d invariably have to make a trip to the latrine. I remember racing through the dark woods to escape Nomoco’s clutches. (It was probably a distance of about 25 feet, but hey, I was 10 years old.)
For many of us, there’s something fun about being scared. According to articles I’ve read, you have to know that you’re not in any real danger to enjoy the feeling of fright. Like when you go through a haunted house at an amusement park, you know it’s all staged. The enjoyment apparently comes from the kick of the flight-or-fight hormones, followed by that almost instantaneous comprehension that you’re not in any real danger.
Another article I read speculated that we need that come-down effect on a psychological level, not just physical. That we push ourselves to experience fear so we can have an accompanying sense of satisfaction at having survived and vanquished that fear. I’m not sure I buy that one, but I do like scary stories, and ghosts provide the perfect scare-inducing medium. (Sorry..I love puns.) Throw in a romance, and even more fun is in store.
That’s what my goal was in writing Adrienne’s Ghost, a romantic suspense novella about the discovery of a body in the basement of FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. I wanted creepy, suspenseful. and romantic rolled into one.
Here’s the opening scene:
Jackson Yates wasn't easily spooked, but even he succumbed to a shiver of apprehension when he stepped onto Floor 3B of the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover Building. The air smelled of rotted paper and dust, and simmered with a cold clamminess that plastered an instant sheen of sweat to his neck. Overhead, a light flickered and buzzed, its life forces waning into oblivion. Somewhere in the dim depths, voices echoed, hushed and eerie.
Jack is about to find out that the body belongs to none other than agent recruit Adrienne Garza who had disappeared shortly before graduating the Academy.
Later, when someone–or some thing–that sounds just like Adrienne speaks to him in the deep, dark recesses of the echoing space, he fears he’s hallucinating and calls on the help of paranormal psychologist Rachael Sullivan to help him sort fact from fiction. (Cue the love story!)
In this scene, Jackson leads Rachael to the scene of the crime.
Rachael moved to the center of the taped‑off area, closed her eyes, and waited.
After several minutes of silence, Yates chuckled and said, “Yeah, good luck with that.”
“What?” Her eyes opened to see him watching her, arms crossed over his chest, mouth twisted in a half-smile, eyebrows lifted in obvious amusement.
“You really think you can conjure up her spirit?”
Lifting a shoulder, she said, “Maybe.” Even as she admitted it, the ridiculousness of her theory struck her, and her mouth scrunched with the effort to hold back a laugh. “I'm sorry. I don't mean to make light, but I got a sudden mental picture of antennae rising out of my head.”
“Yeah, me too. Only my vision has you in costume.” His half-smile turned into a grin, and he laughed in a tone so teasing, so engaging, she shivered with the warm tingle that ran up her spine, out to her fingertips.
“Really.” She crossed her arms in a pose mimicking his. “And what would that be?”
Before he could answer, the room chilled, instantly, as if they'd passed into a freezer container. Their gazes locked, wide-eyed.
“This is it, the cold I mentioned to you.”
“Shh.” She grabbed his hand and squeezed. “Wait.” ...
An aroma of amber and musk, strong and pungent yet not unpleasant, whooshed into the room, and along with it, a humming, a kind of energy Rachael had never before felt. Like a pulse. A heartbeat. ...
A frigid tingling filled the air, hovered overhead, and settled in front of them. The energy materialized, less than five feet away. A hazy image of someone dressed in khakis and a blue polo. The image firmed, took form. A pale, oval face, skin as smooth as melted caramel. Huge brown eyes, filled with despair, and torment. The apparition reached in slow motion, its hand slender, ringless, beseeching¼
Do you believe in ghosts? FBI Agent Jackson Yates never had . . . until now.
Paranormal psychologist Rachael Sullivan has spent her adult years searching for the knowledge of life after death.
Joined by forces beyond their control, beyond their understanding, together they seek a killer. Together they encounter . . . Adrienne’s Ghost.
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/adriennes‑ghost‑leah‑st‑james/1107017554?ean=2940014813709
Leah is a worrier, a self-described neurotic who tends to imagine the worst-case scenario in response to brewing troubles. She hasn’t decided if this leaning toward the dark side is what draws her to write edgy, gritty stories, or if the suspenseful mysteries and Gothic romances that filled her childhood bookshelves somehow imprinted their shadows on her psyche. Despite (or maybe because of) this propensity for infusing her fiction with murder and mayhem, she still craves those happily-ever-after endings and the romance of everlasting love.
You can read more about Leah at www.leahstjames.com
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