Author: Katie Rene Johnson

Writer ~ Dreamer ~ Photographer

What’s in a Name? Part 3: Assignment 1

week3

 

I’m running a bit behind this time around, but post 1 for the Week 3 challenge is up. Check out the details of challenge here.

 


 

Silence. Blissful silence broken only by faint lap of the water as the oars moved in and out. An easy motion, practiced and fluid. Caesar’s shoulders tightened and released, propelling the small boat languidly through the predawn mist.

The edges of the night glowed in pale light, revealing the horizon through blurred shadows. Caesar pulled in the oars, resting the heavy wood handles on his knees. He inhaled, the coolness of the mist clinging to to his breath. A shiver crept up down his neck and out his arms in a pleasing reflection of his efforts.

This morning, he had rowed to the middle of the lake, trading the shelter of his favorite cove for the vastness of the open sky, though the mists hadn’t begun to pull away just yet. They wrapped him in a comforting embrace.

Caesar pulled in another long breath, locking the oars in their bindings on the exhale. He reached for the long, wooden fishing pole at his feet. Primitive. Old. Simple. Not unlike himself. Pinching the rod between his knees, he reached for the small container of worms. The moist soil clung to his fingers as he poked around, feeling blindly for the telltale smoothness of the bait. He had only stolen a few nightcrawlers from their respite in the garden, but he had chosen them particularly.  Plump. Long enough to wrap easily around the hook without stretching them too tight. .

There. He clamped his fingers around a worm and pulled it slowly out of the soil. It coiled around his finger as he settled the container back on the floor of the boat and pulled the hook from its clip. Bait set, Caesar swung the pole back and then flicked it forward. The line spun out, the tension of its loop around his finger carrying the tension of the cast. A plop sounded in the mist, and he pulled back on the line, adjusting his grip on the rod.

A smile quirked the corner of his lips as he leaned forward, elbows on his knees. Caesar closed his eyes, breathing in the morning quiet. A bird called out somewhere in the distance, greeting the rising sun. He was home.

What’s In A Name: Assignment 3

 

INTRODUCTION

We have reached our final What’s In A Name Challenge. So far, the goal has been to not challenge character tropes or fight against typical naming conventions for certain character types. This time, we are doing just that. The important thing to remember in this challenge is reader perception. Readers all connect to characters differently. If we challenge a common naming perception, we as the author have to make the reader believe that it works.

Villains are an easy way to look at challenging naming tropes and conventions. We all know that Darth Vader, Voldemort, Darken Rahl, Hannibal Lecter, Hans Gruber, and Cruella De Vil are villains. They are all popular villains, and you probably know most of them, if not all. But the point is not to just know who the villains are by their fame. If we look at their names, they scream “bad-guy.” One prominent naming convention in villain names is death and darkness. Look at Darth Vader (dark father), Darken Rahl (darken), and Voldemort (flight from death).

Hannibal Lecter is a little harder to dissect. However, Hannibal does rhyme with cannibal. It is also the name of a Carthaginian general from Roman times. The name’s history doesn’t necessarily have a dark connotation, so we have to rely more on the way the name sounds. Hannibal itself is a strange name, and in this case it does benefit from the infamy of the character. Lecter is sharper and more harsh. When you put the two names together the compliment one another off the tongue. It could be surmised, in this case, that the strange name benefits his character, especially in comparison from the other characters Clarice Starling and Will Graham.

In most cases, the name should compliment the character. It is possible to challenge that ideal, assuming every reader carries the same expectations for the names of villains and characters. In that case, the writer has to make the reader believe that the name fits the character if the name is unconventional.

In this challenge, we are going to challenge naming tropes. If you write a villain character, maybe his name won’t be quite so villainous. The catch is, you have to make the reader believe it. Same goes if you write a non-villainous character with a villainous name. Your success in this will probably come down more to reader perception than any of the other challenges we have done. Some people might hate a villain named Queen Julia, while others might thing it is awesome that she doesn’t have an evil name like Ravenna (note the inclusion of raven in the name).

Let’s look at two more examples before we get into the challenge.

In Bound by Duty by Stormy Smith, the main characters are as follows: Amelia, Aiden, Micah,  and Julia. If I hadn’t mentioned villain Queen Julia above, which name would have stood out to you as the potential villain? Can you pick one? Or are there none you would see in that role? In this story, we don’t get to learn a lot about the villain (to my recollection) but she could have a history or her own story that gives her stock as a Julia. Maybe she wasn’t always evil. For me, as a reader, I had a hard time getting behind evil Queen Julia, though I did quite enjoy the series regardless. You would have to read the book yourself to see what you think, but that is where reader perception comes into it. Where I had a hard time with the name, another reader might not think twice about it.

In The Sword of Truth: Wizard’s First Rule by Terry Goodkind, we have a wide array of character names, three of the main ones being Richard, Kahlan and Zeddicus. In a Reddit AMA, a reader asked Terry Goodkind how he chose Richard as his main character when so many of his names are so unique.  Terry Goodkind replied, “Specifically because it was fairly common and I’ve always loathed fantasy names that unpronounceable. I hate stumbling over names repeatedly through-out books. I wanted a name that would be memorable for its simplicity and commonality.” (source)

Terry Goodkind challenged a naming pit-fall of high fantasy: names that are hard to pronounce and potentially pull the reader out of the story as they stumble over it. If I were to say, I just read a book about a guy named Richard, you probably wouldn’t jump to fantasy. It is a very common name. However, he does give Richard a last name that makes it more interesting, and potentially more fantasy – Richard Cypher.  Having such a unique last name does help Richard move more easily into the fantasy genre. The first and last name flow well together and create a more memorable character than just another Richard. However, some readers may still have a hard time accepting Richard as the hero in a high fantasy when he is surrounded by characters with much more unique and even melodic names.


THE EXERCISE

 

This is a two part challenge.

Part 1:

We are going to revisit the lists that we have used for information over the last couple of weeks (listed below). For this challenge, we will pick a trope, a name, and a location, and write one piece of flash fiction where the name might not match up to the character it portrays.  We are challenging the naming conventions with this. If you want a villain named Princess Flower, you have to SELL it to the reader.

  • Movie Star
  • Jock/Cheerleader
  • Evil villain
  • Gallant Hero
  • Romantic
  • Nerd
  • Uneducated/Hillbilly
  • Emo Kid
  • Loner
  • Boy/Girl Next Door
  • Damsel in Distress
  • Mad Scientist
  • Village Idiot
  • Swashbuckler
  • Artist

_

  • Caesar Frayne
  • Jane Anderson
  • Ron Evans
  • Garron Amos
  • Victor Reyes
  • Lillian Cross
  • Poliquin Vane
  • Sarah Francis
  • Paul Marcus
  • Davion Meadows
  • Wilmer Kaine
  • Emmaline Cooper
  • Andrea Sullivan
  • Charles Hall
  • (or, use one of the methods from Challenge 2 to make up your own character name)

_

  • An orchard
  • A lighthouse
  • A castle tower or castle dungeon
  • A slaughterhouse
  • An attic
  • An underground storm shelter or apocalypse bunker
  • A high school prom
  • A hair salon
  • A used car dealership
  • A fishing boat
  • A hotel room
  • A condemned apartment building
  • A Vegas stage show
  • A cemetery

Part 2:

Let’s take a quick recap of some of the characters we have come up with over the last couple of weeks.

  • Mr. Whiskers, AKA Silverstreak, a gallant hero (who is a cat)
  • Charles Hall, butcher and aspiring author
  • Lady Amelia Rothburg, damsel in distress
  • Sarah Francis, a reporter trapped in a storm shelter.
  • Wilmer Kaine, retired  agent with a dark past.
  • Poliquin Vane, a silky, imprisoned thief
  • Ron, the used car salesman, or the man on the hunt for a used car to buy
  • Niven, the damsel in distress.
  • Vance Walker, the movie star
  • Dylan Osbert, the swashbuckler
  • Lillian Cross, novelist
  • Caeser Frayne, ghost reverend who greets the dead
  • Percival Blake, a construction worker hearing voices
  • Rose, the romantic.

I would say these names are all pretty fitting for the characters they portrayed in each flash fiction piece.  Now, pick one of the characters above (either one of your own or someone else’s) and drop him/her into a new scene (chosen from the list from Part 1) that contradicts the original character’s perceived story. Write a scene that makes the reader trust this name as a character in a scene where the perception of the name might not naturally fit.

 

As you read each participants posts and comment, take the following questions into consideration :

  • Did you believe the character fit in the situation they were in, if you take their name into consideration?
  • What was your perception of the name chosen, and were you able to look over that to see the new story?
  • We should all still be utilizing the things we learned during the POV challenge, so make sure voice any observations you have on whole as well, not just the name.

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME, PART 2: ASSIGNMENT 2

week2

Check out the details for this week’s challenge here.


 

The rich aroma of sweets and fresh baked break mixed with coffee wafted through the open glass door. Almost strong enough to cancel out the city stench. It had been over a year, and I still couldn’t get used to the smells that came with the crowds. Maybe it was the acclimation to the craft services tables on set. They never smelled… edible, and they reminded me of the city, even a thousand miles away.

Today wouldn’t be the first time I considered offering the staff of Whistle and Thorn a position on my team. And it wouldn’t be the first time I talked myself out of it. I needed something to look forward to when I came home.

The hairs on the back of my neck ticked up. I had hovered outside for too long. The eyes had found me. I flipped up the collar of my blazer and the prickling dissipated. With a side-gaze over my collar, I spotted a trio of teenage girls hovering two stores down. They seemed indecisive enough. I might be able to slip inside without them following. Or I could acknowledge them. The choice was always a gamble.

I had hesitated to a further point of awkwardness. More eyes would follow if I didn’t make a decision. One of the girls had pulled out her cell phone, and was trying to discreetly take a picture. Honestly, it was more obvious that way than if she had just held the thing up in front of her.

Smiling to myself, I popped my collar back down and turned to face them. The one with the camera froze, cheeks flushing. I dug out my best publicity smile with a touch of snark. Feet spread apart slightly, back straight. Hand raised to my brow with a look into the distance. Hold. If their hands weren’t shaking too bad with excitement, they should have been able to take a few photos. Three, two, one.

I rolled out a sweeping, over-exaggerated bow, and with a wink, I stepped inside Whistle and Thorn. I could see the girls’ silhouettes through the squares of privacy glass that made up the street-side wall of the cafe. The girls had moved closer, but I had judged correctly. They wouldn’t follow me inside.

Turning to the counter, I pulled off my blazer.

“Afternoon, Mr. Walker. Your usual?”

“Yes, please. Thank you, Jane.” The ladies behind the counter were always so sweet. I couldn’t guarantee that they didn’t dissolve the facade behind the kitchen doors, but they treated me like a human. They welcomed me home. I smiled. “And please, call me Vance.”

 

What’s In A Name, Part 2: Assignment 1

week2

Check out the details for this week’s challenge here.


The crystal pins pricked against Niven’s scalp, and her eyes strained in the corners at the tightness of her swept back hair. Normally, she preferred the more relaxed style of the court – the flowing locks, dresses that didn’t suffocate. slippers instead of rigid heels with laces that pinched her smallest toe. But tonight was her brother’s night. His coronation. The highest ranking lords and ladies had traveled weeks to be here. They all had to be at their best. Even three-year old Letta.

Niven smiled as her sister pranced regally behind their mother, greeting each arrival with a clumsy curtsy and a twirl of her skirts. Her smile relaxed into a resigned sigh. To be that free again.

A light finger tapped Niven’s shoulder, and she sucked in a startled breath, spinning around. A half-quirked smile greeted her, and she laughed, bumping playfully into her brother.

“Jumpy tonight, I see.” Stefan swept her a bow, and Niven returned a curtsy. She couldn’t dip as low as she normally did, the boning of her corset digging into her ribs.

“It is a big night, brother.”

“For me, or for you?” Stefan winked and stepped away, letting himself be swept into the meandering crowd.

Surely he couldn’t mean her engagement. This was his night. If their father had orchestrated this night for that… well. Niven didn’t want to think about it.

Trumpets sounded from the dais and the crowd turned in a hushed wave of rolling attention. Niven shifted her way towards the back of the room, weaving through their guests with nods and half curtsies. She would make her way to the front of the hall from the sides of the room. Slip into her spot at the table with out anyone noticing. Niven was good at avoiding attention. Or maybe everyone was good at ignoring her. Either way, her parents preferred it that way, especially on a day like to day.

For me or for you?

Niven frowned, excusing herself as she trod on a young lord’s foot. What had Stefan meant by that? She glanced up at the head table, and stopped. He wasn’t there. Of all people, he should have been right there, standing next to their father. Niven’s frown deepened and a twist of anxiety clenched her stomach. Her father maintained a perfect court mask as he welcomed the lords and ladies to the event, but even from her spot half way through the room, Niven could see the telltale twitch of his left eye. Concern? Or something else.

A cloth pressed roughly to Niven’s nose from behind as a hand yanked her back.

“For Valen!”

Niven’s ears rang from the yell. Sinuses burned, clouding her vision. The room swirled in a blur of color. Someone screamed. Niven tried to scream, but an arm had looped around her throat. Spots joined the clouds in her vision and she tried to kick back with her feet, but she couldn’t find them.

The force at her throat pulled her away from the crowd. Her eyelids fluttered as she tried to keep them open – but they were so heavy. A moan of despair escaped her lips, the failing of her breath giving in.

“Just relax, love,” the voice whispered in her ear. A familiar voice. A warm voice.

“Stefan?”

The light disappeared.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? ASSIGNMENT 2

INTRODUCTION

In our first exercise regarding character naming, we were given a list of names and a list of settings and told to create a piece of flash fiction based on our intuitive perceptions. Now we are going to look at naming characters based on archetypes and stereotypes.

We are all familiar with the Hero archetype. Joseph Campbell’s analysis of the hero’s journey tracks the narrative of our standard hero through a series of “steps” evident in such prolific stories as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. In these stories, Luke Skywalker and Frodo Baggins are our heroes, set on a path of saving the world through a Call to Adventure.

Archetypes can be found in most stories on one level or another. However, in creating fiction, we also deal with stereotypes. I have found that these two terms can be often confused with one another. The difference is that an archetype is a building block for creating a character’s story, where a stereotype is a character contained by a set level of perception. Take for example, the jock and cheerleader. Those two stereotypes probably drew an image to your mind immediately. The challenge of changing these stereotypes into an archetype is creating a character with depth and pushing them beyond our perceived interpretations of these stereotypes.

One example can be in the show Heroes. The show begins with cheerleader Claire Bennett. On the surface, she is a cheerleader, which is a stereotype. However, we learn very quickly that she is much much more than that. She has superpowers. Now her character faces struggles, moral dilemmas, and has to help save the world. If she was a “stereotypical” cheerleader, would those things be possible?

Character naming can play into the archetype/stereotype study. Think of three cheerleader names. One. Two. Three. Do you have them? I came up with Chelsea, Klarissa, and Faye. For me, these names come across a little snobbish, with Faye being the slight exception by having a name that is more old fashioned but has been made cool by her status. Faye might be the worst of the character of the bunch, or she could be the softy amidst the snobbery, depending on my mood or the story. What about the names you picked say “cheerleader?”


THE EXERCISE

First, pick two of the following character archetypes or stereotypes:

  • Movie Star
  • Jock/Cheerleader
  • Evil villain
  • Gallant Hero
  • Romantic
  • Nerd
  • Uneducated/Hillbilly
  • Emo Kid
  • Loner
  • Boy/Girl Next Door
  • Damsel in Distress
  • Mad Scientist
  • Village Idiot
  • Swashbuckler
  • Artist

Now, using a favorite or new resource, pick a name for each of the archetypes or stereotypes.

Name Source Examples:

  • Also, take the following things into consideration when picking your names, based on the type of flash fiction you plan to write:
    • How does a name look on paper vs how it would be pronounced. What if you story was made into an audio presentation?
    • Readers don’t always pronounce the names in their heads as they read. They see the written word as a picture associated with a character, so varying spelling can be used with serious consideration to its necessity. For example, spell out a name phonetically to make it look pretty. (works good for fiction… not your children…. FYI)
    • Consider the setting and genre of your story. You can often be more creative with names in fantasy, sci-fi, steampunk, and alternative universes.
    • Names have a “sound” to them. Does that “sound” fit your story?
      • Sci-Fi with robots – more metallic sounding names
      • Sci-Fi in Space – gallactic sounding names. (look at planets, solar systems, galaxies)
      • Fantasy – Elves (flowing, melodic names)
      • Fantasy Humans
      • Gutteral names
      • Elegant names
      • Sharp names
      • Stale names
      • Simple names
      • Cultural names

Finally, write two pieces of flash fiction with the choices you have made. Again, we are not trying to challenge tropes with this (look forward to that next week!). We also need to move beyond a simple stereotype of a character – by expanding on them, not challenging the trope. How much depth can you give them in a piece of flash fiction?

As pieces are finished and posted, be sure to read and comment on everyone’s posts considering the following questions:

  • Does the piece give a stereotypical picture, or add depth to the character?
  • Which archetype/stereotype did the author choose?
  • Can you see the character fitting the name they have been given? Do you BELIEVE this character based on their name?

 


Blog Roll

Frankie’s Wining Room

Katie Rene Johnson

K.S. King

Shannon Writes Things

Corrie Lavina Knight Edits

 

 

 

 

What’s in a Name: Writing Challenge Week 1, #2

Running behind this week, but here is #2 for our first week of Character Names Study. Details for this week’s assignment can be found here.

 

week1

 

 

Sunlight seeped through the small, barred window on a mist of yesterday’s rain. At least Poliquin had a window, though he was almost sure he would have preferred the darkness. A window counted out the days of his imprisonment, which had lasted longer than it should have. He picked at the frayed hem of his tunic, cringing at its filth.

Poliquin stretched his legs out and leaned back into the damp stone wall. He supposed the window was a luxury for most, but really, he could have used a cot, or a chair. Even a straw mattress would have been nice, provided it was free of maggots and vermin. No, a cot would be better. He would put in a request with the guard, next time he came by. The man had seemed reasonable.

Or bribable.

They had, of course, taken his coins when they locked him up. And his ruby earring. He would have to talk to Kraz about that. Rubies were hard to come by these days. Regardless, the coins would be unnecessary. His name would be enough.

He was Poliquin Vane.

 

 

What’s In A Name: Writing Challenge Week 1, Sample 1

We are moving on to  a new set of writing challenges for a few weeks, this time focusing on characters and setting while applying our study of POV. Details for this week’s assignment can be found here.

week1

Chipped chrome glinted like diamonds in the glaring Florida sun. Ron reached up and shielded his eyes, despite the dark, thin-wired aviators. He pulled in a long breath, tasting the oil and gasoline on the breeze. The exhaust of passing cars. The pungent smoke of a cheap cigarette. He followed his nose to the shack on the corner of the lot. Two of the four windows on the rusty garage door had been broken out and taped over with plastic bags that pulsed in the raking wind. They framed the source of the cigarette, the king of the car lot on his throne. His mesh-backed hat perched loosely on the top of his balding head, a chrome nameplate flashing like a silver crown.

Ron had found his kingdom, now he needed his steed.

What’s in A Name? Assignment 1

We are going to shift gears a little bit for a new set of writing challenges. Building off our study of Point of View over at Frankie’s Wining Room, it is time to look at character creation, specifically naming characters. This will be a three week challenge, with a new assignment each week.

 

INTRODUCTION

Without characters, our stories wouldn’t exist. Characters are who we, the readers, connect to and remember. We all know who Harry Potter and Bilbo Baggins are. Their names are synonymous with the stories they embody. It could be argued that the story would exist the same way, even if the characters were named differently, though these characters have become a part of our literary culture as much as Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy.

I have always felt that a name can make or break a story. However, that fact really depends on the individual reader. Where I have a hard time seeing Julia as an evil queen, the next reader might like the juxtaposition of a soft, melodic name against the evil persona they take on. The typical sound of a villain’s name is sharp, tense, or abbreviated. The name origins often relate to darkness and death. Take for example, Voldemort. In French, Vol-de-mort translates to “flight from death.” The name has a rolling sharpness to it, but also a built in meaning. The suffix “mort” means death. There are a lot of layers to the name Voldemort above and beyond the French translation and the Latin root, but we will save that concept for later.

Now, if we take the idea of Julia as a villain, we are fighting against the perceived evil villain name trope.  Who do you immediately think of when you hear the name Julia? For me, I think of Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles and Julia Child. Julia Roberts and Julia Stiles are both actresses. I picture Vivian from Pretty Woman, Tinkerbell from Hook,  and Julianne from My Best Friend’s Wedding. Then we have Kat Straford from Ten Things Hate About You  and Sara Johnson from Save the Last Dance.  Julia Child makes me think of food – and Meryl Streep. Maybe my problem is that I am a very visual person who watches a lot of movies.  None of these images draw up EVIL VILLAIN…… to me. As a reader, if you name a villain Julia, you have to make me believe that this person can be evil. Other people might just accept it, or they may like it because it goes against the norm.


THE EXERCISE

Every person is going to have a reaction to a written name. There will be a connotation to it based on the reader’s own experiences and interests. We all see the world in a different light. For our first exercise, we are going to look at our own perceptions of a name through two pieces of flash fiction, due by next Sunday, January 8th.

From the list below, chose two character names:

  • Caesar Frayne
  • Jane Anderson
  • Ron Evans
  • Garron Amos
  • Victor Reyes
  • Lillian Cross
  • Poliquin Vane
  • Sarah Francis
  • Paul Marcus
  • Davion Meadows
  • Wilmer Kaine
  • Emmaline Cooper
  • Andrea Sullivan
  • Charles Hall

Now,  choose the setting that you think best fits each character you have chosen above (based on your perception of the name):

  • An orchard
  • A lighthouse
  • A castle tower or castle dungeon
  • A slaughterhouse
  • An attic
  • An underground storm shelter or apocalypse bunker
  • A high school prom
  • A hair salon
  • A used car dealership
  • A fishing boat
  • A hotel room
  • A condemned apartment building
  • A Vegas stage show
  • A cemetery

Using your character names and settings, sketch a scene for each character that gives the reader an insight to who this person is and why they are in this place. Be sure to use what you have learned from writing different POV’s to help draw the reader into the setting based on the character’s viewpoint and description of the location. When writing the character for this exercise, it is important to go with your gut intuition. We aren’t trying to break any rules or challenge a trope. This is purely about your perception of a name and the character that it draws to your mind.

As the week progresses, be sure to check out everyone’s posts and take the following questions into consideration as you comment on their pieces:

  •  Based on your own perception of the name, did it seem fit the story being told?
  • Which setting did the author chose?
  •  What personality traits did you pick up on from the character?
  •  Could you relate to/commiserate with this character?

Blog Roll

Frankie’s Wining Room

Katie Rene Johnson

K.S. King

Shannon Writes Things

Corrie Lavina Knight Edits

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POV Challenge: Week 3, Sample 2

challeng-banner-pov-week-2

The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


oneworld

The viewing deck was too empty. The pale, wet weather obscuring the view of the city had kept the crowds away for days. The plan had seemed like a good one. Tourist traps were the best feeding grounds – so many people, so many distractions. Easy accidents. But there had to be enough people.

Skell tightened the hood over his face with gloved hands, pressing himself further into the corner. He pulled the newspaper from a pocket of his jeans and flicked it open. Inconspicuous. So far, he hadn’t drawn the attention of security. With the crowds so thin, they seemed more concerned with last night’s game than the creeper in the corner. They should be fired. The might be, by the time the day was over. Or, one or two of them might be missing a limb. Skell clicked his jaw in amusement. He had to feed on someone.

POV Challenge: Week 3, Sample 1

challeng-banner-pov-week-2

The POV challenge continues! Details on this week’s goal here.


oneworld

Cam Cross paced her finger along the rim of her glass. She should have passed on the wine, two glasses ago. The third rippled red waves in tune to her movement, and she chewed her lip, tasting the heavily applied lipstick. She had chosen the restaurant and the table for the vantage point, not the overpriced liquor, which she would be billing to her client. Necessary expenses.

Three people leaned against the two story windows below, looking out over the city. The view sucked, clouds and fog rolling in and out. Rain pelted the windows, but Cam couldn’t hear it over the spattering of tourists. Either that, or the windows were too thick. She couldn’t decide. She preferred the sunshine.

Ghosts preferred the mist. The thought bristled hairs on the back of her neck and Cam sipped at the wine. Ghosts were bad for business, or so said the tower manager. They were good for Cam’s business, when she could stomach it, but she took the hunter jobs as a last resort. Demons,witches, vampires, whichever – no big deal. Cam took a longer pull than was acceptable on her drink, avoiding the gaze of the waiter as he passed by. He didn’t know why she was here. To him, she was just a lonely, over-makeuped patron who had spent too much time at his table already. Not that there was a line waiting at the door to get in.

Cam signaled him for another glass of wine, chugging the last few sips. The waiter filled the glass without a word, and Cam felt the judgement rolling off of him in a wave that prickled her stomach. Maybe she should have ordered an appetizer. Except, she maintained a purely liquid diet on a ghost hunt. Less temptation for her stomach to turn itself out. She nodded her thanks and the waiter walked away. Cam tried to ignore the looks between him and the other man behind the station. They weren’t even trying to hide it at this point.

Grumbling to herself, Cam returned to the finger pacing along the rim of the freshly filled glass. The air around her shifted, sharpening as the sounds of the tourists below faded out. The rolling mists outside the windows were suddenly inside, undulating around Cam’s table in a damp, cold breath. Her skin prickled with goosebumps and the hairs on her arms stood straight up. She looked up from her wine glass straight into pale, transparent eyes that glowed with a tinge of red.

Cam’s elbow slipped on the table and her wine glass toppled over, spewing wine over the fine white linen. The bowl of the glass bounced once and then shattered, and somewhere outside the mist, a man cursed. Across the table, the ghost chuckled breathily and the mists cleared in a snap. The waiter had returned, and was sopping up the spilled wine. He brushed the bits of glass onto an empty plate, and Cam forced herself to look at him.

“I am so sorry. Such a klutz.” She couldn’t hide the shaking in her voice, and the waiter hesitated for a moment, then shook his head and walked away. He hadn’t noticed the entity sharing the table with her. Or the mists. Or the icy note to the air. Cam turned back to the ghost, fingers gripping the edge of the table.

The ghost tipped an invisible hat at her and smiled. “Caesar Frayne, at your service.”