My various alter egos have written a lot of romances over the years, but one of my favorite is Jessica Starre’s A Certain Kind of Magic. This was the first anything I’d ever written with paranormal elements, and I found the whole process so much fun. Here’s a peek at the first part of Chapter 1:
A Certain Kind of Magic
Morgan Reilly’s step faltered when she caught sight of the shimmering in the bushes. Resolutely, she turned up the sound on her iPod and picked up the pace, her leisurely jog turning into a flat-out run as she tried to get the shimmering out of her line of sight. Surely she could outrun it. Just because she hadn’t yet didn’t mean she couldn’t.
When she reached the stop sign at the corner of Tenth and Main, she paused and sucked in a deep draught of warm September air, wiping the sweat from her forehead and wishing she’d brought a water bottle. Wishing all she had to worry about were the usual dangers to a woman jogging alone: shin splints and rapists. She did not, under any circumstances, look over her shoulder.
The four-way intersection was clear. No surprise: it was almost always clear, despite being the juncture of the two main thoroughfares in this sleepy hamlet. That was why she’d chosen this place for her recovery, which wasn’t going very well, not if she was still seeing things.
Focus on the facts. She repeated the phrase like a mantra in time to the Ramones on the iPod. Focus on the facts, focus on the facts, focus on the facts. She needed to ground herself in the physical, the things she could smell and taste and touch. A detective did not need an imagination. Leave that to the DA who had to make the case. A detective looked at facts, collected facts, cold hard things that you could hold in your hands, that you could subject to scientific tests and store in the evidence room. First day of class back at the Academy. The job had saved her life then. No reason it couldn’t save her life now.
She forced herself to pay attention to the tall, leafy oak trees shading the street from the midday sun, the cracked, buckling sidewalk beneath her feet, to see the blue sky, partly cloudy, arching above. Very real, very concrete. She was not imagining that. She took in a deep breath.
New-mown grass, wasn’t that a good smell? Drowsy hum of a lawn mower at work, wasn’t that a pleasant sound? Nice and real. Didn’t get much in the way of blue skies and new-mown lawns in the 5th Precinct. Sweet-smelling breeze drying the sweat on her face. Wasn’t that a good change from the smog and the dirt? The scatter of pebbles beneath her running shoes. She concentrated on the feel, the sound. Real. She crossed the street.
Sometimes trauma to the brain could cause visual and auditory hallucinations after a head injury, the neurologist had reassured her. But did other people participate in their hallucinations? If, for example, you hallucinated a big, orange-striped Cheshire cat with a wide grin and the habit of dematerializing, did you also feed it, and brush its coat to get the snarls out, and smell the distinct cat smell, and feel the needle-sharp prick of claws on your skin? Did you sweep its shed fur up off the kitchen floor? Did you empty the damned litter box?
She was thinking no. But that was how vivid her hallucinations were. They weren’t getting better, despite her best intentions, despite being on leave from Manhattan South, despite the utter desperation that had driven her here. The hallucinations were getting worse. She had begun to worry that instead of dealing with a minor head injury, she was suffering a major mental illness. Not that worrying had improved her mental health any.
The small yellow house she rented was halfway down the block but even from here she could see the figure sitting on the front porch. She stumbled a little on the curb. Maybe she could keep running past. Just go on running and running, never stopping.
With a sigh, she crossed the street, trotted down the sidewalk, and took the three steps up to the porch. The individual sat cross-legged on the narrow porch rail, unlike a real person who would at least have the sense to sit on the step. He wore faded, worn work clothes, neatly mended, probably not by him. The afternoon sun glinted off his blond cap of hair. As she walked across the porch to the front door, he jumped off the rail and stood up. He was shorter than she and lighter. He glowed in the sunlight, reflecting dazzling waves of light. She recognized the pointed ears right off.