So, I finally finished what we might call the first act of A Gift of Time yesterday. Six chapters, about 25,000 words, and the story is established: background, Natalya’s gift, the history between Natalya and Colin, and most importantly, the major aspects of the plot, which involve Natalya’s precognition and a lost little girl.

Woo-hoo! So on to what we fondly call the “murky middle”–the part of the story that leads to where I know I’m going, the outline details of which consist of clear guidance like, “Stuff happens and time passes.” I actually kind of like this part of the story, because it’s where there’s the most room for surprises. Instead of trying to get things done, it’s when I expect the characters to take over and do what they do. In the case of Natalya and Colin, I expect arguments and fun, some movement toward romance, heat in unexpected glances and most importantly, a gradual pulling together as they work towards rescuing a hurt child.

All of that is great. I’m happy with it and it’s good news.

But–why is there always a but?–I went back and re-read the last draft that I still have in order to see if there were any parts that I wanted to save. And damn it, damn it, damn it.

I pulled Rose out (mostly) of the latest version of the story. I realized that one of the things that I was not satisfied with in A Gift of Thought was that writing from a ghost’s point-of-view is limiting. Dillon’s sections sometimes feel slow to me because he can’t talk to people, he can’t act, he’s limited to watching. And a watchful point-of-view is hard to write and hard to make interesting. So I cut Rose. But re-reading the draft that I haven’t looked at in months made me go “ARGH!” and want to pull my hair out because Rose is awesome.

I should learn from this to stop editing myself, at least until I’m done. Really, it’s depressing to go back to a version that I tossed and declare it good. But here’s a little angelic Rose for a Sunday afternoon read. (It won’t be in the final book most likely, but don’t read if you hate all spoilers. Also, it’s first draft, unedited, ya-da-da-da.)

Rose really hoped the sheriff wasn’t counting on her angelic nature to do him much good. She’d tried telling Akira that with no wings, no halo, and no harp, she couldn’t possibly be an angel. “Mmm-hmm,” Akira had murmured. “So why exactly are you babbling about hospitals and safe places in the middle of the night?”

Rose hadn’t had a good answer.

Natalya, though, said, “Pfft.”

Rose approved.

“So far our angelic assistance has consisted of vague presentiments of danger. I’m gonna want something a lot more concrete before I consider that useful,” Natalya snapped before stilling. Glancing around warily, she added, “Um, Rose? Are you here?”

“Yep,” Rose replied, laughing. “Don’t worry, I don’t mind. I can’t say as useful has ever been much in my nature.”

Natalya looked at Colin questioningly.

He shrugged and shook his head. “I don’t hear her. Did Akira call you earlier?”

Rose pursed her mouth. She leaned down, as close to Colin as she could get without letting her ghostly energy move through him and yelled in his ear. “I’m right here.”

Colin rubbed his ear as a faint frown creased his forehead. “Or maybe…” He tilted his head slightly, turning it up.

Rose tried again.

“Almost,” Colin murmured. He glanced back at Natalya. “Or I could be imagining it.”

Rose wrinkled her nose. She’d thought last night that Colin had heard her pretty clearly, much more so than most people did. Maybe that was because he’d just died. Maybe being a spirit, even if only briefly, had left him more perceptive than usual. But if so, it had been only temporary.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Natalya muttered, before saying, in a louder voice, “If you’re here, Rose, can you give us a sign?”

“Help Wanted?” Colin suggested.

Natalya’s lips twitched, but she didn’t smile. “Trespassers will be shot?” she offered instead.

“Now how angelic would that be?” Colin drawled, his grey eyes alight with amusement.

Rose looked from one to the other, her lips curving up. She couldn’t read minds and she didn’t know the sheriff well, but she could tell that his thoughts were not angelic. Good for him, she thought. Life was meant to be lived after all and she’d always enjoyed a good flirtation herself.

“Dillon can send text messages,” Natalya told Colin. “If Rose can do the same, maybe she’ll let us know what she wants us to do now.”

“Oh, that’s so hard,” Rose protested. She’d tried, she had, but she’d never succeeding in replicating Dillon’s skill at controlling cell phones.

Still, Natalya had only asked for a sign. Maybe Rose could manage some other ghostly feat? She was good at switching channels on the television, but that wouldn’t work while they were outside. They wouldn’t notice unless the little girl came out and complained, and she didn’t seem like the complaining type.

With a sigh, Rose stepped away from Colin and into Natalya. Standing on top of her, her legs lost in Natalya’s body, she tried to think of the worst, saddest, bleakest thoughts she could.

It took her a minute. Death, the obvious tragic thought, just didn’t scare her anymore. Not hers or anyone else’s. Sure, it would have been sad if the little girl died, but she probably had a nice granny waiting for her through the passageway, and Colin, why he’d practically been looking forward to seeing his parents again. No, death wasn’t scary.

Loneliness, though, that had power. Rose imagined herself still tied to her house, but without Henry, without the boys in the backyard, without Dillon or Akira or Zane, without music or television or visitors.

Natalya shivered, tugging the light cardigan sweater she wore closed, and tucking one hand into a fist by her neck.

“Do you hear anything?” she asked Colin.

He shook his head. “Not a word.”

“Huh,” she said. “Well, maybe she’s not here.”

Annoyed, Rose tried harder, concentrating on the thought of a completely silent, completely empty world. Why, it was such a miserable idea that she almost wanted to cry herself. Natalya couldn’t possibly miss that.

Natalya shivered again, wrapping her other arm around her body in a tight hug.

“Weather’s supposed to change tonight,” Colin remarked. “Cold front coming in.”

Rose stamped her foot in frustration. “Cold front? I’m not a cold front! You asked for a sign. I gave you one.”

Natalya stood. “It’s lucky we’ve had warm weather for the past few days. And dry, too. If there’s rain tonight and the temperature falls much more—well, it’s good that you found her when you did.”

Colin rose to his feet as well, standing on the step below Natalya so their eyes were level. “So no angelic assistance, huh?”

“My phone’s not ringing.”

Colin slipped his phone out of his pocket and thumbed it on, glancing at the screen. “Nothing on mine, either.”

Natalya dipped her head in acknowledgement. “If Rose is here, she doesn’t seem to have anything to say.”

Rose snorted, finally stepping outside of Natalya. “I’ve always got plenty to say. You’re just a terrible listener.”