Posts Tagged ‘#ThursThreads’

Cat’s Honors

Writing | Posted by davidludwig
Aug 05 2019

I have been exploring the world of my upcoming high fantasy adventure novel, Cat’s The Pajamas, in 250 words or less over on Siobhan Muir’s Thursday Threads as well as doing weekly polls on my Twitter to introduce the characters–which I invite you to engage with for a bit of diversion at the least and some insight into the characters if you look for it.

The week before last, judge B.A. Tortuga gave me Honorable Mention for my second flash fiction about Hunter Lee–so I thought I’d share both flashes of him here in order.

HUNTER 01

Once discovered, ruins tended to be cleaned out quickly. Most were inactive these days. Active ruins took a little longer. Sometimes their contents ended up in museums or those fancy learning places, but usually they just disappeared into private collections. There was big money in raiding ruins.

The Cistern was discovered sixteen months ago and had yet to be breached. Very unusual, even for an active ruin. Word in port was that was about to change. The navy found a cliffside grate they determined connected to The Cistern, planned to open it by bombardment, and come in behind all those nasty defenses.

Hunter couldn’t see the grate from the sea’s surface, but he knew its location, and had something the navy didn’t. Patting his twenty foot saltwater crocodile on the side, Hunter pointed to the break in the cliffside.

“Okay, Schooner, let’s get paid!”

Feeling his croc surge under him, Hunter laid low on his back and soon they were sailing through the air and through a conspicuously destroyed grate. Standing up once inside, Hunter looked around the bottom level of The Cistern, strewn with the remains of more automaton defenders than he’d seen in his entire career.

“What the brink happened here?” Hunter whistled.

“Just a bit o’ fun!”

A small girl in a captain’s coat and hat perched on the edge of the next level.

“Did you leave anything for me?”

“Defenders, or treasure?” she adjusted her oversized cutlass. “Either way it’s no. But I like yer crocodile!”

HUNTER 02

Hunter Lee squinted out at the sunbaked sand of the arena from the ready room shade. Heat radiated in search of his exposed skin, promising a rough ride. The cowhide vest covered about as much of his chiseled torso and broad arms as he was used to, but the ass-less chaps were not his idea of a good time. He held the ten-gallon hat Jerem gave him over his crotch and kept his other hand over his exposed bum.

“This is the most degrading thing I’ve ever done for money…”

The effeminate Jerem looked up from his checklists at Hunter’s grumble.

“You expect me to believe that? Remember, I’m the guy you come to every time you hit bottom.”

Hunter clenched his fist angrily, then hurriedly relaxed it to restore coverage.

“That ruin should have been my biggest score yet! Instead that girl beat me to it!”

Jerem returned to his lists with a hum.

“Try not to mention that. The Duchess and her ladies aren’t paying to see a performer who got beat by a little girl.”

Hunter slapped his hat against his thigh impatiently.

“Fine! But do I have to rope from horseback? You know how I feel about horses!”

Jerem peered over his half-moon spectacles.

“Says the man who rides a twenty-foot crocodile. The ladies are looking for an authentic experience.”

“Authentic my ass!” Hunter snorted.

“It’s gonna be. A busy night should see you financially solvent again though.”

Then this past week I was again honored by judge Katheryn J. Avila for my flash concerning Sforzando Alighieri. As with Hunter, I’m going to share two flashes here–the second one being the prize winner. I actually hadn’t figured out how old Melody was when she and Sforzando first met when I wrote the first flash, so I have changed 1 word compared to the version I submitted to Thursday Threads on that older flash.

SFORZANDO 01

“Thank you so much for responding to our summons, Maester Alighieri!”

The tonsured Brother Everard bowed as deeply as his pot belly allowed. Sforzando Alighieri tossed his long prematurely grey hair back with one hand, grateful for the brief air on his sweaty neck. The hill up to the temple had been steeper than it appeared.

“As a humble researcher, I’m honored to be summoned by The Celestial Temple.”

“Please, come in.” the priest bowed and ushered Sforzando inside. “We have fresh tea in the welcome room.”

Sforzando stood head and shoulders above Brother Everard, despite the priest’s subtle orc heritage. The young arcanist occasionally struggled to find fashionable clothing in his size, but never to make himself the center of attention. In the welcome room Sforzando lowered himself into a high-backed basket chair while Everard attended to the iced pitcher of tea.

“Lemon or sugar?”

“Lemon, please.”

The holy half orc passed Sforzando a tall glass with a lemon wedge on the rim before shoveling several scoops of sugar into his own glass.

“The whole temple is thrilled to welcome the man who single handedly lifted the art of Song Magic out of myth and legend into a modern science! Maester Alighieri, you are truly a saint!”

Sforzando laughed earnestly.

“I’m no saint! And please, just Sforzando.”

“As you wish, Maester Sforzando. This winter a child was brought to this temple to be raised in faith.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“She is the new Songstress.”

SFORZANDO 02

Mother Josephine stood like granite between Sforzando Alighieri and the door to the cloister. He hadn’t noticed when his half-orc guide, Brother Everard, dropped behind him but there was no one between Sforzando and Josephine. Easily a head shorter than him, there was still something about the sour-faced woman that frightened Sforzando.

“I, ehm, I’m here to meet the child?”

The old priestess harrumphed dismissively but deigned to scrutinize Sforzando further with sharp clear eyes.

“This is Maester Sforzando,” Everard offered delicately. “He’s here to train the child?”

The Mother’s eyes narrowed and Sforzando could feel Everard step back, abandoning him to the terror of every religiously schooled child.

“Neither Songster required training to fulfill their destiny. What can this layman possibly teach young Melody?”

“We talked about this,” the bulky Brother squeaked from a safe distance. “The elders all agreed it was a good opportunity…”

“Not all.”

Josephine cut Everard short. Sforzando took a breath and centered himself. It didn’t seem like his smile that had charmed the Queen would help here, but he was too nervous to go forward without it.

“My studies of Song Magic have shown good results; I’ve even taught myself to perform it without being a Songster. Perhaps Melody can teach me something?”

The Mother uncrossed her arms with a reluctant sigh.

“Before I let you through, I need to know; are you confirmed?”

Sforzando scratched the back of his neck.

“Actually, I’m not religious.”

Her arms re-crossed.

“We need confirmation.”

Honorable Mentions

Writing | Posted by davidludwig
Jul 11 2019

A week ago I earned another Honorable Mention for Siobhan Muir’s #ThursThreads as judged by George Varhalmi. If you’re interested in my current novel project I’ve been working out characters and backstory over on #ThursThreads for a while now. Keep an eye out for Cat’s The Pajamas, because I mean for it to be big.

***

“I told you they were real!” The dwarf elbowed the half-elf next to him on the trawler deck.

A hopelessly entangled mermaid was the sole occupant of their net. The fishermen had been quick to gather the pearls that rolled across their deck while their catch had thrashed, whined and squealed. The half-elf studied his handful of glistening white pearls.

“Where do you think the pearls came from?”

The dwarf ran stubby fingers through his thick beard.

“My granddaddy used to say merfolk cry them.”

His companion licked his lips and watched their captive with hungry eyes.

“So if we keep her…”

“We’ll both be wealthy men!”

The mermaid shrilled and slammed her tail against the deck hard, prompting the dwarf to turn with raised fist.

“Would you stop that racket! What is wrong with you? Can’t you speak speaking?”

Their captive responded with narrowed eyes, a sneer and a sequence of low clicks and throat squeaks. An unexpected voice cut in.

“I’d say the question be what is wrong with ye? That’s no way to treat a lady.”

A little catgirl in captain’s regalia perched on the trawler railing. Where she came from was anyone’s guess.

“Nextly,” she continued. “Are ye going to give me any trouble returning the lady to the sea.”

The tiny captain patted her flintlock pistol. As the fishermen backed toward the aft cabin, she turned kindly to their captive. Grateful pearls from the mermaid’s eyes brought a grin to her rescuer’s face.

I also scored an Honorable Mention on this week’s #MenageMonday over on Cara Michaels’ website, where I am still working with my Fantasy Fighter characters. I particularly appreciated judge Miranda Gammella’s curiosity as to whether Wenona or Caldwell was more dangerous, since with both of them being playable characters for a fighting game that is a question that could easily go either way.

***

The man who found me in the eastern field says his name is Caldwell. I believe him. I feel safe near him. When I’m alone I feel anxious.

I wake up much earlier than Caldwell does. I can’t seem to cook at all, so I go out and watch the sun rise over the field. He says that my name is Wenona, and I believe him.

The clothes and bangles Caldwell gave me feel good on my body, keeping me company while he sleeps. He says they look good on me, and that he’s glad I like them because I bit him the first time he tried to make me wear clothes. I believe that too.

A single strand of weathered barbed wire isn’t much to separate me from the field, or the forest beyond. Caldwell says that I used to be the mystic protector of that forest. Looking at it across a lone length of wire and an empty field I feel impossibly far from home. I believe that the distance I feel is not physical.

Caldwell tells me that our friend, Karl, is still out there somewhere. Caldwell thinks I can help him find Karl, even without my memories. He believes I will help him out of friendship.

If Caldwell finds where I buried Karl, I’ll have to bury him too.

Valentines’ Love

Writing | Posted by davidludwig
Feb 16 2019

I won Cara Michaels’ #MenageMonday again this past week! This time judged by Siobhan Muir, whose #ThursdayThreads I was given an Honorable Mention on by judge Louisa Bacio!

As has been my pattern this year, Monday was set in my Fantasy Fighter universe you can learn more about on this site, and Thursday was set in the Magical Girl Alternate Universe of my Four Sisters story–which you can learn about through my Twitter posts.

Also, since Thursday was Valentine’s day, we were encouraged to wax a little romantic. I encourage checking out the prompts and other stories through the links above.

Major Stevie Cannon initiated a background system diagnostic while she visually scanned the forest around the old enclosure. The result always came back normal or better, but she still checked every time she thought she heard the alien’s voice in her mind. Every time she held still for more than a minute. Trying to sleep was hell.

No movement. The structure appeared empty, but there was a lead lined under level that scans didn’t penetrate. Biomass Delta was smart. A lot smarter than it was supposed to be. If it had learned how to hide from government scans that would explain why Major Cannon had been called in. Normally the boys in the bio division did their own cleanup to keep their secrets in house.

Personally, Major Cannon agreed with the need for the country to develop and control the next generation of weaponry before their enemies even knew it existed. The second part of that had been particularly troublesome recently. If she had it to do over again, she still would have signed on for the moon base project, but she couldn’t shake the irony of being asked to cleanup a weapons program gone sideways.

Her right arm became a literal energy cannon and she activated her personal force field as she approached the enclosure. As convincing as her prosthetics were, precious little of Stevie Cannon was still human.

It was time to get her fellow weapon back under lock and key.

The purple hued magical elf, Emathyst, pushed past the bullet scarred door of the dive bar. Desperate characters huddled in isolation over their drinks in the dim light. She exchanged a nod with the grizzled bartender and made her way to the desperate character at the bar, staring into his shot while his pint foamed.

Her luxurious hair floated up and away, leaving her normal black faux hawk. The Giant’s Ring was once more a trinket on a chain around her neck, her elegant dress replaced with her biker’s leather jacket, torn jeans and combat boots. She was again the punk chick, Violet Li.

“You alright?” Violet sat next to Cole Dooley.

Cole did his shot and moved on to staring into his pint.

“I don’t know what to feel. You’re really one of them now, aren’t you?”

Violet smiled as the bartender brought her Shirley Temple.

“A magical girl?”

Cole took a gulp of his beer and nodded glumly.

“I just… Why? Why you? You’re like, the one person who can pound those monsters without any powers at all. Why’d you have to change?”

Violet cocked her head thoughtfully. “Fighting monsters is a lot easier with powers. And I’m still me.”

“I feel like we’re losing you. I know the city needs magical girls now, but we needed you first! You were the only one who ever expected anything good out of this side of the tracks.”

Violet gripped Cole’s hand on the bar firmly.

“You’ll always have me.”

Winning Week

Writing | Posted by davidludwig
Feb 03 2019

I had the good fortune of winning both Cara Michaels#MenageMonday as judged by Ruth Long this week AND Siobhan Muir‘s #ThursThreads as judged by Cara Michaels! Winning either of those is a pretty great accomplishment–though for any writers seeing this, I recommend giving them a shot anyway just for the excellent practice and to see all the great stories. Winning both of them, I just don’t have the words.

So instead, I’m letting you guys have both stories! The first is from my Fantasy Fighter universe which you can learn more about on this site, and the second from a Magical Girl Alternate Universe of my Four Elven Sisters story which you can learn more about on my Twitter account.

“Hazuki, your grandmother fell…”

Hazuki Akiyama rushed past her mother to her grandmother’s bedside. The room was warm, but the tiny teenager had no coat to add to those by the door. She had stayed in America an extra week, but hadn’t expected to come home to this. Her grandmother was even smaller than Hazuki, and appeared to be sleeping. Hazuki took the old woman’s hand.

“Gran-gran…” Hazuki’s voice caught in her throat. “You said there was a new demon in town. Why didn’t you wait for me?”

“A demon?!” Mrs. Hamada, their neighbor, gasped from the other side of the bed.

Suddenly aware of the other person in the room, Hazuki clammed up. Hazuki’s mother cleared her throat and placed a hand on Mrs. Hamada’s shoulder.

“Whether they are dealing with fact or fiction, Hazuki and her grandmother are very close. Why don’t you and I have some tea?”

Hazuki’s mother winked at her daughter as she escorted Mrs. Hamada out of the room. Once Hazuki was alone with her grandmother she took a breath and returned her focus to her mentor.

“I’m the hero now, Gran-gran. But I’m not ready to do this without you. Please, come back to me.”

The old woman sat up with a hacking cough, then blinked until her eyes refocused.

“I can’t be gotten rid of that easily, Hazu-chan. I was just astral projecting to make sure the demon didn’t try to slip away while I waited for you. Let’s get the bastard.”

The dopey dog that hung out on the corner was no longer what anyone would call little. An infusion of dark energy blew his bug eyes up like balloons, lifting his head to his new height of eight feet. Burn patterns leading up the street suggested his salivary problem had become more aggressively acidic too.

Esmeralda clenched the Crystal Arrowhead in her fist and took a deep breath. The darkness had never attached itself to an animal before. How was she going to calm his spirit to seal the breach? Before she could transform into the magical archer, Vedania, she felt a tug on her sleeve.

“Can I help you catch him?”

It was the sophomore, Coco, clutching the Crown of Heaven with hope shining in her eyes. Esmeralda gave Coco the Crown last week to save both of their lives. Still, it bothered the senior how much the younger girl enjoyed turning into an elf and saving the day. This wasn’t a game.

“Any idea how we do that?” Esmeralda dodged the question.

“Yes!” Coco slammed the crown on her head.

In an instant the underclassman’s stupid pigtails fell off, her ears became pointed, and the Crown transformed into a halo. Now the magical saint, Oaklie, was dressed in a floofy gold party dress instead of Coco’s school clothes. She even loved their sickeningly girly costumes. This wasn’t dress up, either.

“Douglas loves scritches behind his right ear!” Oaklie pointed ahead as wings of light sprouted from her back.

It’s Like Competition, But Participating is its Own Reward

Writing | Posted by davidludwig
Dec 11 2018

I recently had the honor of judging for Siobhan Muir’s #ThursThreads where for now I’m exploring Lucy’s story in my New Team Neoshieldfront universe. You can see who I judged as winning that one here.

This post, however, is because just yesterday I got to judge Cara Michaels’ #MenageMonday and that one comes with a badge for judging! You can see the three prompts and all the entries on the initial post, jump to the results post for who I deemed the winners, or just keep scrolling down for my own ineligible entry from my Fantasy Fighter universe in 248 words.

Wintery wonderland stretched out on all sides. Its vastness masked the ancient steamer’s speed but for falling snow rushing past the windows, as if fleeing the train’s destination. Hand carved benches and warm décor gave the passenger car an old world charm. Hazuki Akiyama kicked her feet contently and stared out the window.

“It’s like being in a Christmas snow globe.” She mused aloud.

“That ends at sundown.” The man across from her rumbled.

The man’s face was hidden by the hood of his night black robe. His attire would have better suited a time long before even the invention of the antique they were riding in.

“Ah! Gomen! I didn’t wake you, did I?” Hazuki bowed deeply.

There was far more space in the passenger car than Hazuki was used to. She sat across from the only other passenger on reflex. He waved a large scarred hand reassuringly.

“No, but how did you come to be on this train?”

Hazuki tucked her feet under the bench to keep them still.

“My gran gran got the tickets.”

The man sat up straighter, resting his hands on his knees.

“Your gran gran got you tickets to the underworld?”

“Too many demons have been escaping! As a champion of justice, I must put them back in their place! It’s like cops and robbers but with costumes, ne?”

Hazuki planted her fists dramatically on the hips of her poofy pink dress.

“Then I guess that puts us on the same team.”