New Project: Vampires vs Zombies FIGHT

The title is actually The Restless Dead Want YOU to Fight Necromancy, but I’ve been calling it Vampire Quest in my head. It’s an interactive storytelling quest, a cross between a RPG and a web serial. The twist is that everyone comes to a consensus about what the best next action is, which does suggest that Morgan, the main character, has a lot of voices in their head. (Shh, spoilers.)

Morgan is a telepathic accountant with a penchant for wine and musical theatre, and also a 600+ year old vampire who loves ritual magic and destroying those who disrespect the dead. I’m having a lot of fun.

Fanfiction

I haven’t mentioned my fanfiction here before, but I’ve been very active on AO3 the past few years. My biggest project is a 222k Harry Potter series, starting with Harry Potter and the Problem of Potions. It taught me a lot about writing long pieces, even more than some of my novel drafts, and I recently finished the sequel, Harry Potter and the Language of Serpents, which is entirely Cursed Child fix-it fic set after Hogwarts and I have no regrets.

Bright Sun and Shadows

Wrapping the July prompt call: A sword duel. Not for hate or honor but for life and love.

The duel bounced around the ruins, over fallen stones and under archways. He bounced off the walls, swung on a vine only to have her cut it,

The ruins sang with the sound of their blades. His heartbeat thrummed in his ears, his boots moving deftly over the stones and moss and thin air – falling lightly to roll and come up running, turning the chase into an ambush that sent her running in the opposite direction.

He caught her up against a wall, and kissed her, and she grinned at him, short hair wild around her head.

“Another, lover?” she asked.

“Another,” he agreed, and backed away to give her space to take her starting stance.

Once upon a time, he’d been a different kind of swordsman, whose sword had taken lives and ended dreams. Today, he had a student, a gifted athlete and wonderful woman, whose sword was for skill, not for victory.

The sun was setting in the western sky as he maneuvered her around to her defeat, and joined in her laughter.

#

“Nice job you have here,” said his brother, fading out of the shadows.

“Yes, it is.”

“Bit of a let-down for you, isn’t it?”

“Not really. I’m enjoying it.”

“I have a job for you.”

“Not interested.”

“It’s important.”

“Then you do it.”

“You’d be better suited.”

“I have my own work to do.”

“Sports, brother? Not exactly hard work.”

“It’s enough.”

He found it ominous that his brother left without argument.

The Annual United States Lycanthropic Party Convention

For the July prompt call:  Scales, fur and feathers.

“I’m here for the convention?” Basil asked, adjusting his wire-frame glasses.

The hotel was nice, upscale, with a modern water feature taking up most of the lobby. It was in a terrible part of town in a terrible city, but it’s not like he was here for the scenery.

The girl at the counter, his age, cute, with her hair in cornrows, grinned at him.

“Yeah, you want the third door on the end. Everyone’s in there now. Name?”

“Basil Smith.”

“Well, sir, here is your information packet and your ID badge. Shuttle information is in the folder. Enjoy the convention.”

~

The attendees were mostly white, mostly male, and loud. Basil hung back near the door, trying to figure out where to start.

It was decided for him when one of the attendees, a bearded white man wearing a leather jacket, snarled at a female attendee wearing a short red dress and sprang upon her, raking her with his nails. He had her pinned to the floor, claws digging into her shoulders, teeth at her throat, and Basil took great pleasure in the way he froze when Basil clicked the safety off his gun behind him.

“Sir,” Basil said calmly. “What you are doing is illegal. Let the lady go, and I won’t have to make a mess in here.”

“She challenged me, and you’re interfering.”

“Challenges are illegal at the annual United States Lycanthropic Party convention, sir,” Basil said. “It’s in the briefing packet, along with the information that there will be federal agents present to enforce the law. Agent Basil Smith, at your service. Your name?”

The man stood, teeth and claws still long and snarling.

“A human’s allowed in here?”

“Lycanthropes are defined as human according to LARA statute 1.5.2.”

“I could use an apology, asshole,” said the woman in the red dress, brushing herself off. “I liked this dress.”

Simon took the opportunity to fade back into the crowd.

“Can’t believe they let a human in here,” he could hear the werewolf muttering behind him. Basil saw no reason to clarify – his ability to turn into a parakeet really wasn’t relevant to his work today anyway.

The Strangeness of Family

For the July prompt call: What passes for strange.

Strange. Reality was strange. A man dead without a funeral, because his children said everyone who loved him was already dead. Why did they say that? What passed, to keep them from loving him? Did they mean it? Were they lying? What does family even mean, if it isn’t blood and it isn’t loyalty and it isn’t weddings and funerals and ritual?

Is someone family, if  you see them for holidays every year for ten years and they know nothing important about you? Is someone family, if they’re you’re blood and you’ve met them once and they sulked the whole time?

A man raised children. They grew up and raised children. Great-grandchildren happened. Everyone was fed, clothed, sheltered, advised. Would adding a unicorn make this story more believable? Would it make more sense if it was in space?

Reality is the strangest thing of all, and humans contain multitudes. There’s something missing from this story, and you will never know what. Friends are the family you choose, but their family can still tear them apart.

We celebrate the strange. We have parties for the dead, and bless children who are leaving their parents behind. We open our hearts to politicians, who are strange creatures indeed, and dance and sing for religion, the core precept is ‘we cannot know, we cannot comprehend.’

Comprehension is for losers anyway. Love is a mystery, doesn’t everyone say that?

A man without a funeral, loved by many, not loved by some.

There’s no ending to this story.

Petals Closing

For the July prompt call: “Imagine a world where seasons last approximately 140 years, where shadows occasionally come in triplets, where heat and pressure wring iron rain from the atmosphere, and where sunrises and sunsets are spectacularly variable: Sometimes there’s one sun in the sky, sometimes two, sometimes three.”

It was the smell that got to him, more than the darkness. The excavations of the town, away from the radiation of triple sun days (affectionately called triples), were dark. Darkness was easy. It was just that everywhere on Goldilocks, Hydra’s habitable planet, smelled of flowers, all the time. And now, with true night falling, the flowers were closing. Huge white trumpets, tiny pink limpets, blue twists of petals with white fluff inside – their scent dispersing into the night air, leaving only the lingering smell of jet fuel and coffee.

He shivered. It wasn’t even that cold. Space was cold. The space station above their head was smelled sterile. Why did the flowers closing strike him so badly, when it would be so much more logical to be terrified of the endless blackness overhead?

He wasn’t the only one upset, either. People trailed out of their homes, standing in clusters, talking quietly under the blanket of stars. Coffee was shared around, and he found himself very determinedly having a rousing conversation about Earth baseball with four others from his apartment complex.

“At least the night doesn’t last too long,” a young woman offered in a pause.

“Don’t,” he said. “Just – don’t.”

He took a deep breath of coffee-scented air and tried not to think about smells that meant home.

So Sharp He Cut Himself

For the July prompt call: He didn’t expect them to fight over him…

“Does anyone here have reason to object to this duel of honor?” asked the officiant, looking sternly around at the brightly-colored gathering of the curious and the noble. The two duelists, clad in their house colors of midnight blue and sunset scarlet glared around at the assembly, daring them to object. People did, sometimes.

He should. He should say, no, I want her. Except Robin couldn’t say that, because he had been truthful with neither of them. Now two beautiful and deadly women stood proud, with rapiers drawn, and he stood frozen on the sidelines.

“Seconds ready?”

The seconds, more soberly garbed in brown and black, nodded.

“To your places. En garde. Remember, you have chosen to fight until one of you yields. Fight well.”

The Duchess of Elmholt smiled at him. He smiled back, hoping his nerves didn’t show. He’d never meant to get anyone hurt.

“Begin!”

Robin hadn’t realized how fast duels were. He couldn’t follow the flashing steel – the swords chased each other through the air, darting forwards to find openings and back to block the opponent’s flickering blade. The duchess’ hair was a ribbon of fire as she cut and parried, the marchioness’ black bound up in a sensible net.

The marchioness stumbled, and then her sword was flying through the air and the duchess had her blade touching the pale column of Eliza’s throat.

“Do you yield?”

Eliza’s green eyes narrowed, and she said nothing, breath coming hard and fast.

“Do you yield?”

“She yields!” he found himself crying, not liking the glint in Adelaide’s eyes. “Please, your grace.”

She did not take her eyes off her opponent as she asked him, “You admit she has no claim on you? You’ll be mine?”

Well, that was going a little far-

Whether through choice or carelessness, the sword nicked Eliza’s skin, just enough to show red.

“Yes, yes, please, Addie- your grace. Surely, this settles the matter?” He stepped forward, hands open and unthreatening.

“I yield,” said the marchioness, stepping back and bowing.

The duchess cleaned and sheathed her sword. Robin brought her a cup of water with mint, and she drank it in one swallow.

“Walk me back to my room?” she asked, with a sidelong glance.

He nodded, and accepted her arm around his waist. He did like her, after all.

“I’m glad you accepted my suit,” she said.

“It’s my honor, your grace.”

“Mmm. Did you know that Eliza and I were childhood friends? Our estates border each other.”

“I’m sorry to have come between you.”

“Yes, why did you do that?”

“I – your grace – I meant no disrespect. I did not realize that her ladyship would take my words as she did, as a promise-”

“And yet you said them.”

“Your grace, if I’ve angered you, I apologize.”

“No, not at all. You see, Eliza and I were all set to be cross with each other, until we had a nice long talk. It’s not your fault we let you play us off each other to see who would give you the most expensive presents, darling, but we decided enough was enough.”

“…your grace.”

Well, this did not seem promising. Not promising at all.

“What do you think that duel was about, love?”

“Me?”

“Oh, yes. We were quite furious with each other, you know.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You are, aren’t you? Six months of teasing and flirting and playing, and you’re sorry.”

“You’re very dear to me, your grace. Addie. I don’t wish to – I didn’t mean to-”

“Shh. We’ve gotten it all decided. I won the right to have you first, and she and I will just have to share.”

Robin gulped.

“Any objections?”

For once, after a lifetime of making his living on his wits, Robin could think of nothing to say.

Delving Deep

For the July prompt call: What lives in the darkness?

No one believed in dwarves anymore. It was like believing in unicorns, or elves. This was the era of steel and industry. Men had conquered the oceans and superstition. There was no room in the Industrial Age for dwarves. To think anything else would be chaos.

This would be why laying in the new sewer had been delayed due to intersection with the tunnels of another civilization, obviously. Sheer contrariness. Sheer chaos.

“I want to steal their engineers,” her little brother said, eyeing the steel walls and molded-stone floors. “All of them. Yesterday.”

Her little brother was an architect, not an administrator. He didn’t understand schedules.

“You can’t steal their engineers. I have to blow them up.”

“I know you love your blasting jelly, Samantha, but isn’t that going a little far? I’m sure anyone who can build something this beautiful will be reasonable.”

Anyone who can secretly build steel and glass tunnels underneath and between the roots of the greatest city on Earth will be dangerous, she didn’t say. Her little brother had never been to war, never seen what the new machines of war could do. He was fourteen, a genius, and she would keep him safe and innocent. Let him build sewers and roads. She’d worry about guns and, yes, blasting jelly.

“You wanted to show me the tunnels, Simon,” she replied. “You have. We had best return to the surface now, don’t you think?”

He twisted his hands together, eyes glinting behind his glasses.

“Well, you see.”

“Simon.”

“I made some friends.”

Simon.”

“You’ll like them!”

“Ahem,” said a deep voice in the shadows. “You will introduce us, Lord Simon?”

Samantha folded her arms, resting one hand on her pistol.

“Sure. Samantha, these are the dwarves. Everyone, this is my big sister I told you about! She’s great, she’ll help.”

Oh, yes. Samantha would help, all right.

July Prompt Call

I’m in the mood for action, for political intrigue, for space battles and sword fights and bishie boys. I will write at least 250 words per prompt, and may write more if the urge strikes me. I’ll be taking prompts from July 30-31, and my goal is to finish writing all prompts by Sunday evening.

Patreon patrons get automatic story extensions. Give me two prompts or one prompt you would like double-length. You make me happy, and you keep me writing.

Now, if by some happy chance, you want me to write more than 250 words or on more than one topic, tips are greatly appreciated! Anyone who tips gets twice as much story. Money’s very tight for me right now, and every little bit helps. Here’s links to my Paypal and my Patreon account:




Patreon

 

Prompts can be about anything, including extensions of ongoing stories, fanfiction, or even nonfiction. I have to be sufficiently familiar with the universe in question for fanfiction. Stories I’m currently working on:

  •  Tapestry, an alternate-history fantasy story.
  •  Colony X, a science fiction story.

Written so far and to write:

Patronage, Web Serial Writing Month, and Dragons

Very happy to welcome Wispfox into my little circle of patrons on Patreon. We’re quite close to buying me a subscription to a short story news service that helps me find places to send out short stories.

Speaking of short stories, I put Dragon Attendant up for subscribers/patrons. It’s a 4,600 word fantasy Rome story about gladiator dragons. I’m still very pleased with it. It honestly feels like it wants to be a novella, but I must finish my second draft of the sci-fi novel (character profiles currently going up for Patrons on Patreon as I finish them) and get Tapestry a buffer.

Speaking of getting Tapestry a buffer, it turned 8 years old this year and has just about a week’s worth of daily updates in the hopper. I’m writing it in the mornings before work and trying to get up to a month’s buffer before the end of August. That’s about two periods of work eating my life, so hopefully it would be enough to keep things even-keeled.