READER, BE YE WARNED: There is a big surprise at the end of chapter 1. If you don’t want to know, skip both blurb and excerpt!
Psychologist Elizabeth Cole prepared for the worst when she accepted a job on a newly discovered world -- a world where every colonist is tethered to an alien who manifests in the form of a dead loved one. But she never expected she'd struggle with the requirement to shun these “ghosts.” She never expected to be so attracted to the charming Irishman assigned as her supervisor. And she certainly never expected to discover she died in a transport crash en route to the planet. Reincarnated as a ghost, Elizabeth is symbiotically linked to her supervisor, Murphy -- creator of the Ghost Protocol, which forbids him to acknowledge or interact with her. Confused and alone -- oppressed by her ghost status and tormented by forbidden love - Elizabeth works to unlock the secrets of her own existence. But her quest for answers lands her in a tug-of-war between powerful interests, and she soon finds herself a pawn in the struggle for control of the planet…a struggle that could separate her forever from the man she loves.
We trotted up half a dozen steps and were passing through the glass doors when Murphy said, “We’ll be scanned by security just inside. I hate them being here, raising people’s anxiety level in a place where we want them to feel safe. But all new arrivals pass through here, and someone decided it was a good idea.”
Thinking about the illicit-substance and weapons scans in all the airports and public buildings back home, I raised my eyebrows. “What’s it for?”
“To get a sort of fingerprint on everyone,” he explained, walking through the doorframe-shaped scanner. “Just to make sure we know who’s who. They can’t do it at the transport terminal because no one has ghosts when they first arrive.”
I followed him through the scanner, and a long beep sounded somewhere off to my left as I joined him inside. Murphy’s head jerked toward the sound. His eyes moved to the glass doors we’d just come through, and slowly back to me. He glanced at the security desk on our right.
“Where is it?” Murphy called to the guard, whose fingers were flying over his keyboard. The guard’s ghost leaned against the wall behind him, little more than a shadow.
The man stopped typing and looked up. “I’m sorry, Dr. Murphy?”
“I heard the alert go off, but I don’t see her. My ghost, Simon,” Murphy added, growing impatient. “Do you see her?”
The guard blinked at him a couple times. Then he cleared his throat. “She’s standing right next to you, Dr. Murphy.”
* * *
Murphy looked at me, startled. He shook his head and walked over to the security desk.
I turned halfway around, searching for the missing Aunt Maeve.
Though the colonists were far from any real understanding of the aliens, Ardagh 1’s scientists had established that they were nearly identical to us physiologically. Only a specialized medical scan could reveal the differences in their insular cortex and limbic structures.
So the security scan was identifying ghosts—creating a record to help keep track of who was and wasn’t human. I joined Murphy at the security desk, and the guard swung the display around so Murphy could see it.
The screen was split into two halves, a picture of me filling one side. Opposite the photo was a crisp 3-D brain scan. Murphy touched the screen to manipulate the image, zooming in on a half dozen small, flashing red patches. He dropped his hand and stood staring at the screen.
“No question, Dr. Murphy,” said the guard. “This has never happened before. I’ll have to file a report, and I’ll need to do a full workup on this new one. My shift is over at three. Do you have time then for me to ask you some questions?”
Wait. One. Minute. The guard’s face wheeled as the ground lurched under my feet.
Sharon Lynn Fisher is the author of GHOST PLANET, a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist that Publishers Weekly calls “an absorbing and exciting story full of science, sex, and intriguing plot twists.” She lives in the Pacific Northwest, where she is hard at work on her next Tor novel and battles writerly angst with baked goods, Irish tea, and champagne. You can visit her online at SharonLynnFisher.com.
Jillian: Is there a playlist you’d recommend for reading your latest release?
Sharon: I heart playlists! They help me engage with my characters and story, and even influence my world-building. I compiled one for GHOST PLANET, available on both iTunes and Spotify. The list includes artists such as Swell Season, Snow Patrol, and Ben Harper. There are several Irish artists, as my hero (Murphy) is an Irishman. Also because I heart Ireland as much as I heart playlists.
Jillian: Be honest, when reading 1st person...do you miss the hero’s POV?
Sharon: Since GP is first-person with no hero POV, I guess I better say “no.” Honestly I don’t, though. I think the reason for that is most of the romance books I read fall more in the “strong romantic elements” category, and it never occurred to me that it can make the romance feel more complete to spend time in the hero’s head. With that said, however, almost all of the stories I’ve worked on since GP have included the hero’s POV. I think GP is a story for which first-person works especially well. I’m not sure I’d go that route again, because I’ve found I really enjoy writing male POVs! (Never say never, eh?)
Jillian: What’s something you’d like to tell your fans?
Sharon: Thanks. Seriously. You guys ROCK. I hope I never let you down. And regarding a second book in the GP world: I hope I will get that opportunity!
Jillian: What’s the first thing you do when you finish writing a book?
Sharon: Breathe a ginormous sigh of RELIEF. I don’t know what other people’s muses are like, but mine is more like Golem than the shiny, benevolent being you might envision. I never know what she’s going to get up to. She can disappear for days. WEEKS. With no forwarding address. Sometimes when she comes back she has all kinds of half-baked, half-CRAZY ideas.
“I hate writing, I love having written,” said Dorothy Parker. I don’t hate writing really, or I wouldn’t do it. Because when you’re in the zone there is nothing that feels better. Almost nothing. But it can be a lonely, scary journey at times.
So to finally answer the question, when I finish writing a book, I break out the champagne, and Golem and me crank up the music, precious, and go whirling arm-and-arm around my apartment cackling like the deranged creatures we are.
Jillian: What is your favorite tradition from your childhood that you would love to pass on or did pass on to your children?
Sharon: When I was a little girl, I had a pocket fairy for an imaginary friend. I was painfully shy, and when I was at school, she would hop out of my pocket and sit on the edge of my desk, making it feel like not such a scary place.
My daughter (6) has the same interest in fairies (though thankfully NOT the shyness). A good friend of mine bought her the book HOW TO SEE FAIRIES, which has a pop-up page with a compartment for leaving them gifts and notes. She has been corresponding with them for a few months now.
Jillian: Does she know about the fairy doors in the town of Ann Arbor, Michigan? Really, here's a link: http://urban-fairies.com/locationspages/locations.html
Jillian: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?
Sharon: I do read reviews, yes. Compulsively. (Doesn’t everyone?) When they’re positive I like to roll around in them like a horse does when first loosed into the pasture. When they criticize, I try to hear them with an open mind. Clearly reviews are subjective. One reviewer will praise an aspect another will blast. I think the road to madness lies in taking every criticism to heart. But I think criticisms taken as a whole can point to areas for improvement.
Jillian: Tea or Coffee? And how do you take it?
Sharon: In Seattle the answer to this question can be complicated. I used to chuckle when I’d overhear in Starbucks, “Grande, extra-hot, nonfat, vanilla latte with double syrup and lots of foam.” I chuckle no longer. My current hot beverage of choice is a tall Irish tea latte made with 1/3 water, 1/3 lactose-free milk, and 1/3 almond milk, no sugar. I could explain why, but seriously? Just chuckle at me. I deserve it.
Jillian: What does it mean to love someone?
Sharon: I love this question, because discovering the answer has been a life-long journey for me. In my current stage of life, I believe true love is about celebrating someone for exactly who they are, and wanting them to be happy, no matter what that means. Once we start loving a person for who we want them to be -- expecting them to be what we think we need -- everyone is unhappy.
Jillian: What would you say is your most interesting quirk?
Sharon: My split personality. I feel like I am exactly one half logical and rational and critical-thinking, and one half completely open to everything. Just as an example, if you told me you believed in ghosts, very skeptical feelings would arise in me. If you told me you *didn’t*, I would start working up my argument for their existence. I think this is probably common among the writerly tribe. I think it’s the “open” side that writes and the “rational” side that edits. But damn, it can be unsettling at times.
On that note, half of me believes in psychic ability, and more specifically, that I have premonitions. I sometimes dream about stuff that happens the next day. Little stuff, like an ad I’ll see on the side of a bus. Never anything useful, like lottery numbers.
I hope 2013 will be a year of opening up more to that curious and open side of my nature, for the sake of creativity as well as overall happiness.
Jillian: What’s your favorite kid joke?
Sharon: My daughter once looked me in the eye and observed, “Ear boogers don’t taste good.” As opposed to the nose kind, you know. Which are delicious.
Sharon has a question for commenters: Please share one quirk about yourself, something not many people know about you, or something about yourself that makes you blush! (I promise not to put it in a book. At least not with your name attached. ;)
As an alternate: What thing has happened to you that you consider “magical” in some way? (ESP, ghosts, fairies, or just everyday magic)
Sharon has a copy of Ghost Planet to give away to one lucky commenter chosen at random. Please leave e-mail contact information if you wish to be included in the drawing.
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***Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only. If an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) is available, the author may utilize that option for International participants. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.