Is This The Matrix?

Is this all an illusion? Am I truly here on this planet revolving around the sun or am I a dream in someone else’s imagination? Is my mind my own or the extension of a large factory?

The movie The Matrix poses these questions with superb symbolism and poetic ideologues.  Through the use of a futuristic world whereby a machine race has enslaved mankind as a renewable energy source, we both question our own existence and our purpose here on Earth.  If we are but a dream inside of an elaborate world of dreamers, and controlled by image-makers is there any free will?  How can we fight injustice and inequality if life is only a mirage?  Perhaps we believe we are at battle but truly all is a simulacra; a construct of our minds and we are in conflict with our own alter-egos.

As the story unfolds we find ourselves intrigued by the young man, Neo who searches for something he calls the Matrix.  Is this not a symbol of our own search for a spiritual existence in a technical world?  As we further remove ourselves from a natural existence and find comfort and company ever more in electrical images does it not make sense that a quest for spirit would take place on the Internet?  Yet when Neo delves deeper into this world of computers he finds not a God but a race of machines who have declared themselves God.  So, does he embrace them and kneel before their alters? No!  On the contrary! He joins a force which seeks to destroy their temples in a holy crusade.  He is an unbeliever at first.  He doubts what he cannot see or touch.  But then again, what has he ever felt or touched that he can trust?

Morpheus says, “Welcome to the real world.” But Cipher quips, “Why didn’t I take the blue pill?”

Do we keep taking the blue pill today?  We wrap ourselves up in computers VCRS TVs, cellular phones, cars, and cubicles.  This cuts us off from our interaction with the real world.  Hell, we could have hundreds of conversations in a day and never touch another living human being.

Although violence is often a gratuitous tool used by Hollywood to entice movie goers, in this film the violence is essential to the plot.  How else could our protagonist realize that he is not of the Matrix World than to combat within it.  It is a symbol of man’s own struggle within himself of the intellect vs. the body or a life of choice vs. a life of enslavement.  As he fights his way through  we see him overcoming his own doubts about who he is and where he is going.

Just like me.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

The Breedloves: Jay’s Story

“Let the song breathe. It’s something from the heart. Enjoy.” says Jay Kirkland, of the acoustic duo the Breedloves. This axeman, half of an inspirational couple who are partners in life and in music, breathes ethereal rhythms into his guitar, ukulele, and mandolin which bathe the listener in warm and gusting zephyrs. The Breedloves’ website does not lie when it says, “Love is contagious and forever spreads in the presence of Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin.”  With Jay on lead guitar and Barbara on her 12-string keeping rhythm, the two shape musical constructs that both amaze and uplift their audience.

This father of three and grandfather of six shares as much from the heart as his fingers with his sublime riffs and compositions. I have seen many guitarists over the years, but Jay’s brilliant playing always makes me gape in wonder. Not only is he a gifted instrumentalist, but Jay also moves his audience with the loving looks he gives Barbara during their performances. 

Jay Kirkland was born and raised in Richmond, California a city on San Francisco’s East Bay. Culturally diverse and home to shipyards, the historical Ford Assembly Building, and multiple beach walks and hikes it was the perfect place for a creative boy like Jay to grow up. Raised in a very spiritual home, his mother with Lebanese and Syrian Orthodox Christian roots and his father a mix of Scottish, Dutch, French and German, Jay was blessed to have multiple cultural influences. They divorced when he was young, but soon after his mother married his stepfather, who had a profound impact on Jay’s love of music with his record collections and stereo blasting Motown and rock.

Rock and roll was everywhere during his youth. One of his early influences was Credence Clearwater Revival and he often paused to listen to their bluesy beats on the radio. In third grade he saved his allowance until he had enough to buy their album before begging Mom to take him to the store. Proud to actually purchase a record, he marched up to the counter and put a fistful of bills and change on the counter. Grinning ear to ear, he hugged that cardboard square to his chest the whole way home. 

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     Jay always loved to entertain his family and friends. As a little boy he used to put on Elvis Presley records and gather his family in the living room. Then he’d scrunch his face into what he thought was Elvis’s smoldering sneer and launch into his best impersonation of “All Shook Up” or “Jailhouse Rock.” Wanting to be authentic, he gyrated his little hips and even went so far as to splash water on his face to mimic perspiration.

Reveling in rhythmic patterns, Jay began playing a toy drum set when he was five and guitar at twelve. He continued strumming on it for the next couple of years until ninth grade when he enrolled in a guitar class with Mr. B., who also taught Kirk Hammit from Metallica and Les Claypool of Primus. Under Mr. B’s tutelage Jay’s craft grew until he joined a neighborhood band at sixteen. Then between skateboarding, studying, and riding bikes, he’d jam with his buds at local venues such as parties and dances.

Jay also studied martial arts and boxing throughout his teens, training with golden glove champion Ron Esteep for many years. The discipline, which he continues to study, helped to mold him into the man that he is today. At the same time he was inspired by personalities such as Evil Knievel and Bruce Lee who illustrated a “Go big or go home,” approach to life, one he has incorporated in his own philosophy. Jay says, “Whatever you do, don’t just go through the motions. No matter what you do, do it with passion.”

Jay dabbled in small bands for many years until his mid-twenties when he began to take it more seriously. That’s when he became a second lead guitar player for Line Drive, a heavy metal group out of the Bay Area. His first professional band, they opened for acts such as BTO, Motor Head, Vicious Rumors, and Ruffians. At the same time, he was working construction, starting a family, and doing studio work.

One challenge he liked was to turn the radio dial to try and play along with whatever was on. Not only was it fun, but the practice helped to build his musical chops. This led him to auditioning for a slot on a TV show called, 30 Seconds to Fame, where each contestant exhibited his/her talent for 30 seconds.  Jay played a medley of nearly a dozen songs on the guitar in half a minute and, luckily, Eddie Van Halen who saw the show was so impressed with Jay’s playing he got in contact. Eddie continued to reach out with the two of them speaking often about his desire for Jay to become part of a super group with Sammy Hagar.

 Jay finally relented to Eddie’s requests and joined a project that wasn’t named yet, which consisted of Mark Anthony, drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Sammy Hagar.  They never performed any live shows, as they were working in the studio on material, but Sammy and Eddie were having a falling out, and Jay decided to not get in the middle and bowed out of the project, then they ultimately hired Joe Satriani and the band Chickenfoot was formed.

Over the years Jay has performed with Canned Heat, singer songwriter Eric Burdon of the Animals, Leon Hendrix, Lester Chambers, and Archie Lee Hooke. Jay was in Jokers-N-Thieves when he met Barbara ten years ago when he hired her band, Led Graffiti, to perform in a benefit concert. They had an immediate attraction, but Jay waited until they’d been dating a while before sharing his talents with her.

Barbara says, “When he stayed with me the first night…the next morning he was playing his electric guitar and I was in the other room. I had my mouth open, and tears were streaming down my face.” Still shedding loving tears, she came up to him and said, “You didn’t tell me you could play like that.”

Although he has always been blessed to feel every note, their relationship together forever changed Jay’s approach to music. In many ways, Jay’s beginnings with Barbara made him feel as if he were playing for the first time. This is evident to anyone watching them perform. His eyes light up as if he sees her bathed in glowing light. “It’s a trippy journey with us because I didn’t plan for this. I’ve taken lots of unexpected trips, but this is a wonderful, beautiful accident. Her style isn’t always mine. She’s East Coast and I’m West Coast.”  

Their relationship also introduced Jay to the organization called Guitars Not Guns. Barbara had already been volunteering some years for the philanthropic group and often spoke of the difference it could make in children’s lives.

What exactly is Guitars Not Guns? Their mission statement says, “Guitars Not Guns, Inc. provided guitars and lessons to foster kids, at risk youth, and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. No child is turned away for lack of funds.” They loan guitars to students that are used for learning and practice during the eight-week course. Students and guardians must sign a lease contract for the equipment, agreeing to care for it. One of the goals here is to teach the students to care for their possessions. The students are not told this but those who successfully complete the course, are gifted with the guitar at a completion ceremony. There the students perform, and accomplished musicians are brought in to further motivate them to continue playing.

     Soon Jay too was teaching at risk kids to play guitar and has found the experience moving. Jay recalls his most poignant moment was with a silent little foster girl. She had been in care for much of her young life but the only way she communicated was by whispering in her older sister’s ear. Not a word to her foster parents in two years. One day while Jay was teaching, he told her she was doing a good job. “Thank you,” she whispered.  

Jay says, “I looked over to see her foster mom crying. She said that that was the first time she’d ever heard her speak.”  He calls times like these God’s wink. “Your prayers might not always get answered right away. God is winking but he has a plan for you. It will happen at the right time.”

Now ten years into this beautiful accident, the Breedloves wheelhouse includes everything from romantic acoustic originals to jazz to blues to metal and fusion. The duo enjoys remixing covers and adding different instruments to their show, whether it is ukulele, saxophone, keyboards, or flute, with innovative interpretations of covers from Sly and the Family Stone to Fleetwood Mac to Johnny Cash. All the while having a blast doing it, says Jay. “I’ve played with a lot of musicians in my life, but she really loves it.”

The Breedloves currently have one CD and close to a dozen individual songs recorded out of seventy originals. Their music can be found on I- Tunes and Spotify as well as their website The Breedloves Band – Music, Musician, Music, Guitar (the-breedloves.com) They play at various venues from music festivals to wineries to an upcoming tour. For a list of events see The Breedloves Band – Shows, Music, Shows, Musician | The Breedloves Band (the-breedloves.com). You can also follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Jay and Barbara. Two musicians embodying symbolic sounds of beauty incarnate. See them play and you will know love personified.

And be part of the Breedloves’ magic.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and Forests Secrets.  Laurie Woodward  is also a screenwriter who co-authored Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at Author Laurie Woodward — Next Chapteria.net

The Breedloves: Barbara’s Story

Is it possible to breed love? What does that mean? Well, for one inspirational couple, who are partners in life and in music, to breed love is to create and share their ethereal sound with the world. As the first line of their website says, “Love is contagious and forever spreads in the presence of Jay Kirkland and Barbara Gorin, the Breedloves acoustic duo.”  With Jay on ukulele, lead guitar, and mandolin and Barbara on her 12-string keeping rhythm, the two shape musical constructs that both amaze and move their audience.

Barbara and Jay breeding love in Sausalito

Jay and Barbara met after Jay hired Barbara’s band, Led Graffiti, for a benefit concert. Barbara says, “We had a physical attraction the day we met…I didn’t know that Jay played guitar until months later.” As the story goes, they spent many weeks getting to know each other and growing closer, each sharing tales of family and youth. Barbara told Jay about being raised by loving Italian and Sicilian parents in Silver Spring, Maryland while Jay regaled her with his own history in Richmond, California.

Yet in all that time, she still hadn’t heard him play.

“When he stayed with me the first night…the next morning he was playing his electric guitar and I was in the other room. I had my mouth open and tears were streaming down my face,” says Barbara describing how she discovered his talent. Still shedding loving tears, she came up to him and said, “You didn’t tell me you could play like that.”

And so their musical journey began.

Barbara’s Story

Born into a friendly Italian and Sicilian Catholic family in Washington D.C., Barbara was raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. This middle child with one older sister and a younger brother happily recalls lots of big noisy dinners with her extended family. Close knit, her paternal grandparents lived with them until they passed.

Surrounded by music from infancy, her mother, a secretary and medical transcriber, played piano while her dad played mandolin, bass, and guitar. Although both loved music, it was her Dad who influenced Barbara the most. Between writing for the Washington Daily News and running a newspaper delivery business, he led his own band. The Sal Caruso Orchestra was a popular 7-piece ensemble that usually had gigs every weekend.

Barbara took piano lessons from the age of six until nine and started playing guitar around eleven. Early influences included Motown as a pre-teen and teens rock and roll later.  She took lessons for a couple of years in school, but a lot of her learning came from friends. Although she dabbled with it, Barbara preferred the sweet sounds of strumming rhythm over playing lead guitar. As a teen, she used to sit in her room and listen to bands like Eagles, America, CCR, and Neil Young while trying to figure out the chords. Barbara was one of the lucky few kids at her high school who could navigate from jocks to brainiacs to band geeks.  Popular, friendly, and attractive, she was nominated prettiest eyes in 9th grade.

After high school she attended the University of MD planning to major in horticulture. However, the campus life did not suit her, so she dropped out and began working office jobs, moving to San Francisco in the late ‘80’s. Always trying to position herself for better opportunities, she eventually landed a job as a legal assistant at a law firm where she spent the next twenty-nine years until she retired to play music full time with Jay.

For many years she didn’t do much musically but strum her guitar now and then. All that changed in 2005 when she discovered Red House Studios, a cooperative organization dedicated to promoting musical learning. With a variety of classes and workshops, she was thrilled to find a place where you could bring a guitar and learn a variety of songs. They also taught people how to perform together and had “band foundries.” Her time there built both her confidence and chops but also helped her to meet the fellow musicians for the four bands she’d later become part of: Led Graffiti and Red Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin tribute bands, as well as an acapella group and Barbara and the 1, 4, 5’s.

For several years, Barbara was a legal assistant by day and a musician by night performing in shows and festivals throughout California. She loved the way the music richened her life and then, about fifteen years ago, she heard about a special organization that fostered guitar playing for underprivileged kids. She was at music festival cruising the stalls when she happened upon a Guitars Not Guns booth. She began to chat with the volunteers about music, playing guitar, and the group’s mission statement.

“Would you like to teach guitar to the kids?” Frank Darling, the President of the Contra Costa County Chapter, at that time, asked.

Barbara didn’t even think twice before agreeing to volunteer, a decision that forever altered the course of her life. She loved teaching the kids and watching their confidence grow with each passing week. Later, she began to take on organizational duties such as putting together “graduation” gift bags for the kids, garnering donations, and public relations work in the community. Within a few years she was the president and director of the Contra Costa County Chapter, a position she holds to this day.

In 2009 she was honored by Diablo Magazine with The Threads of Hope Award for her volunteer work with Guitars not Guns. She says, “It was honor I will always cherish. My Dad evenflew out from Maryland to come to the award ceremony.”

What exactly is Guitars Not Guns? Their mission statement says, “Guitars Not Guns, Inc. provided guitars and lessons to foster kids, at risk youth, and other deserving children in a classroom setting with qualified teachers. No child is turned away for lack of funds.” They loan guitars to students that are used for learning and practice during the eight-week course. Students and guardians must sign a lease contract for the equipment, agreeing to care for it. One of the goals here is to teach the students to care for their possessions. The students are not told this but those who successfully complete the course, are gifted with the guitar at a completion ceremony. There the students perform, and accomplished musicians are brought in to further motivate them to continue playing.

Barbara was already living a life of purpose when she met Jay ten years ago. With their immediate attraction they started to do things together like do live karaoke with a house band. She would play guitar and sing while Jay played guitar with the band. They had different styles; Barbara strumming to the Beatles and Zeppelin while Jay preferred the rocking sounds of Van Halen and Hendrix.

The Night Barb and Jay Met

One morning at Barbara’s they decided to give playing together a try. Although Jay rarely played acoustic, he slowed down and started to teach her the rhythm parts of his originals. Barbara found his pieces both moving and inspiring. As time went on Barbara shared some of her favorite classic rock tunes while Jay played lead.

Barbara says, “I started playing…and I knew magic was made.”

Yes, it was. And we, their fans, all are so thankful.

About Laurie: The author of the recently released Finding Joy as well as The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky of the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, and  Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Youssef Alaoui-Fdili: Poet, Musician, Filmmaker

“….Then where the pace of hilltop crags/ stands exposed and thirsting /in need of water clefts/ you must speed on my love….” recites Youssef, in his Critics of Mystery Marvel  film, based on a collection of poetry of the same name. “…Past despair in human tones/  then catch her vain boastings/ in dawn blaze the sun/ sword laden storm…”

alaoui coney island siren

Youssef Alaoui-Fdili ‘s sword laden storm comes in the form of  mystical and surreal writings. This poet and filmmaker is a man of contradictions.  Both irreverent and spiritual, he might go from reading  Tarot at the dawn to the Koran at midday, yet uses both as he communes with ideas that explore the human condition.  Grounded in the quiet of home while seeking a Don Quixote journey of penned knighthood, he exposes his readers to the mythos of the wayfarer.  Yet his steed is is no worn out work horse. Youssef’s Rocinante carries us to places dark, surreal, and at times carnal.

alaoui in paris, au chat noir

Youssef is an Arab-Latino, born in California to immigrants from diverse homelands: a Moroccan father and a Columbian mother.  As the Alaoui-Fdilis are originally from the historical city of Fez, Youssef was given a unique perspective on the Arab world, finding his family and heritage an endless source of inspiration for his varied, dark, and spiritual writings. This later lead him to study classical Arabic poetry, Spanish Baroque poetry, and contemporary Moroccan verses during his MFA stint at the New College of
California.

He has several published books. THE BLUE DEMON: A novella in the tradition of classic horror in the style of Edgar Allan Poe. The crew of a Spanish merchant ship discovers they have a stranger among them: a Moor with an odd nickname and worse yet, debilitating agoraphobia. The ship is thrown far off course by a cyclone and stranded in a giant kelp field. Added to their misfortune, an invisible visitor snacks on the crew at night, using their half-rotted heads like puppets, beckoning to them from the water. The crew must make an effort to understand their odd  mate before they can vanquish their assailant together.

alaoui blue demon

CRITICS OF MYSTERY MARVEL: Youssef Alaoui’s debut full length poetry collection, which explores human relationships between individuals, cultures, races, and genders. alaoui critics of mystery marvelAlaoui deftly utilizes archaic tones to formulate an artistic approach to metaphor in verse creating images that appear wholly in the mind and not on the page. This volume consists of ten sections that blend surrealism, magical realism, and language alchemy as he explores the human mythos of love, gender, poverty, politics, racism, and war.

FIERCER MONSTERS: Youssef Alaoui’s short-story collection, is concerned with the
symbology of letters and the word as invocation, contrasted with the futility of language. In these stories, Alaoui presents a Neanderthal oracle, a little girl in Venezuela in the 1950s, a 19th-century hallucinating sailor, and a WWI soldier. The voices are sometimes salty, always salient.Each voice ultimately laments the fall of the tower of Babel and the resulting confusion.

alaoui fiercer monsters

When asked about his process, Youssef says, “Writing is a reaction to my ongoing process of self-discovery. My story is different, but similar to many mixed-blood firstborn people in the USA. Our story is the process of confusion primarily, then one of assimilation or rebellion from the illusion that white Christian life is “normal” and anything outside that is “unusual.”

Youssef also has several thought-provoking films available at vimeo.com/aldeboros

CONEY ISLAND SIREN: Like a siren, the spirit of a broken hearted daughter calls out to the spirit of her father at sea, hoping that this time he’ll remember what’s most important.

alaoui coney island siren 2

SACRED AND PROFANE/ FACELESS JACKS: An experimental, anti-narrative, cinematic tone poem for those of us lost, unsure and comfortable living within that dialectic.

BARON SATURDAY OF CONEY ISLAND: Baron Samedi must lead the character “Coney Island” to his death so that the new iteration of Coney Island may be born, but not before recalling the pangs of love and sadness that dotted his life. Marred by bleak visions, this movie is narrated sweetly by Youssef Alaoui who offers a cosmic perspective on life, death, and the changing of the times. baron of coney

The following is a recent interview with this satirical wordsmith.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about your writing journey? – I began writing when I was 16. My grandfather had given me a typewriter. I didn’t use it regularly until I fell in love for the first time. We would sit in my room writing poems to one another on it.

Where are you from? – I am from “here” and yet not. I was born in San Luis Obispo, and yet, I only lived there until I was three years old. I am from Los Angeles, Davis, Albuquerque, Tempe, Lille,Paris, Seattle, Oakland, Rabat, Casablanca.

What has been your favorite book/poem/screenplay to write so far?– An unpublished poem about Marrakech called “The Baths of Azahara.” I am quite proud of it.

Why?– Because it sort of rose up out of a dream and also is a pastiche of my recent experiences in the fabled city.

Are you currently working on a book/short story/project?– I am.

Will this be your next release?– Indeed I hope so

What do you enjoy most about writing?– Getting the RIGHT words out. No filler words.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it? – Yes, I think that’s what it’s called. Basically I find myself “quitting” writing and I take up music again or I dive deep into event creation and promotion. Or I travel. I had a dream recently. Someone was selling me a device to keep the corner of one’s palm ink- free when writing extensively with a fountain pen. The writer rests their palm on this small square of wood so their hand doesn’t track ink all over the page. What was it called? A writer’s block! I don’t think I’m the first one who has thought of this, but how crazy is that for this object to appear to me in a dream? Every writer needs a writer’s block.

Have you ever had one of your characters take a twist you weren’t expecting and surprise you? – Once one of my characters did that. I took them aside and disciplined them thoroughly by dragging them through a number of complex poems, then I dropped them back into the story. They never stepped out of line again.

Which of your characters is your personal favorite?– I love a character who has not yet had the grace to be published. I’m hoping they will see the light of readers’ eyes before too long. They are an alien species in a science fiction novella I wrote.

Least favorite?– Once I wrote a little oration spoken by Idi Amine. But he is asking for forgiveness and instruction from the ghost of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. So, is there redemption for such a sadistic and cruel dictator? I generally like one aspect or another of each of my characters.

So far, what has been your favorite scene to write?– There is a scene that happens deep in space, on a rocky moon, deep beneath its surface, in a cubical cell, between an alien and a human, where they discuss the nature of light, the cosmos, the self, and infinity. Mindblowing.

What lessons have you learned since becoming a writer?– Patience & tolerance of the self & others. Acceptance. Maybe I learned that over nineteen years of yoga practice. Maybe I learned that over 35 years of writing and not writing. Maybe I learned that over 20 years playing music in bands. Maybe I learned that in a puppet show I walked past on the Amalfi coast four years ago. Maybe you wrote that into a cocktail napkin and handed it to me. Maybe the leaves assembled themselves into an Andy Goldsworthy installation and expressed this to me. Maybe I heard it in the drum beats of a Black Sabbath album. Maybe the cat staring at me from the fence is a psychic oracle.

Do you have any tips for new writers?– Let go. Let go of your ego. Let go of your mental ladder rungs of success/ progress/hierarchy/ power lechery. Let go of your preconceived notions of being a writer or what writers “do,” where they go, who they talk to, who they can or cannot talk to. Embrace. Embrace all ideas. Embrace the void. Embrace the blues. Embrace not writing. Embrace your peers. Embrace your elders. Embrace your juniors. Don’t try to be anything. Write the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t write the first thing that comes to mind. Keep a notebook. Use it. Do not use it.

If you were to recommend your books to a stranger, which book would you advise them to start with?– I would advise someone to begin with Blue Demon because it has all the elements in it that make up all my writing, but it is meant for a wider audience. Young and old readers both will like this story. It is a salty tale of the high seas. A merchant ship gets stuck in a kelp forest and something in the water plucks sailors on night watch off the deck with no warning, unseen, never to be seen again… No one can figure out what’s going on until they finally listen to a stowaway, an Arabic man who has agoraphobia and must work in the darkness of the galley. No one believes him until they absolutely must believe him, and their lives are on the line.

Do you have any extras you’d like to share, like a teaser about an upcoming new release, a summary of a deleted scene, or a teaser about a surprising plot twist or character?– As I said above, I have written an upmarket science fiction novella. This is a remarkable event because Arab American writers very rarely write science fiction. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I have. I am very excited about this book. 

Now it’s time to get to know you! What are some of your favorite books to read?– Right now I’m reading The Phoenix by Manly Palmer Hall. The Tarot is a book. Yes, I look at it as if it is a picture book with 78 pages and innumerable plot twists and character variations. No one knows how this book will end. I try to read it every day. I also read from the Koran most days.

What about television shows?– Right now I’m watching the original Star Trek, watching the set get shinier, with more active displays, wondering how they know what each of those jolly rancher buttons mean, because they click them all the time, y’know? Five times and then they get sophisticated results… From that one single green jolly rancher button? What is Spock looking at in his little viewmaster? Sulu has one too. “Sensors indicate an armada of Spanish Galleons firing their cannons, closing fast!” Turn your head and Chekov is gone. Turn your head again and now he’s back with a new mop wig.

Movies?– Tarkovsky. Kurosawa. Wenders. Miyazaki.

Is there a book that you have read that you feel has made a big impact on your life?Don Quixote, the Norton edition. This novel has all the power of any novel that followed it. It is the first and the foremost novel. There might be others, earlier novels, certainly epic tales and poems, but this one captured my heart, and the hearts of millions over 500 years. It is an indelible monument to novel writing, novelists, protagonists, antagonists, knight errantry, traditions, delusion, companionship, love, tears, death, and imitation.

Can readers/viewers find you at any live events, such as book signings or conventions?– I am going to be at the Write of Way Book Festival in Santa Clara, on the University of Santa Clara campus, on April 18, 2020. Please come visit. I will have books with me.

If you had to sum up your life as a writer in ten words, what would you say?– To sum it up: the waiting is the hardest part.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?– Yoga, music, my life by the sea.

Do you have anything else you’d like to share with readers?– Live, love, give, forgive.

you illust

Youssef can be found at http://www.youssefalaoui.info

Readers can follow him on:

facebook.com/iuoala

youssefalaoui.tumblr.com

IG @iuoala777

twitter.com/iuoala

vimeo.com/aldeboros

transfigureight.bandcamp.com

 

 

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Children Honoring Dr. King

This Martin Luther King Day I am thinking back to making an anti-bullying video last year. When I first heard about the contest, I thought it’d be a great way to teach my kids about how to deal with bullying. So I wrote a script, had some auditions, and started filming the munchkins in imaginary bullying situations. I was lucky to have such good actors this year who were open to retakes, but still it was pretty tough to try and fit filming into our already busy schedule. Most of it occurred during recesses.

And the due date was fast approaching.

One of the greatest challenges was finding a quiet place at school to film the scenes.  We don’t have any special equipment like muff-covered microphones or special lights. Just an IPad. We’d be in the middle of one with the kids rocking their acting and the bell would ring or a ball would roll our way with a second-grader right behind.

So with a groan I’d delete that take and try again.

On the last day before all entries were due, I tried taking the kids to behind the school, thinking that would be quiet and protected from the blustery winds of Santa Maria. And it worked, sort-of. But then there was another announcement while filming.

With recess over, what choice did I have? We were out of time so I had to use the scene.

And was surprised as heck with how good the video came out.

But would we win?

Weeks passed. No news. The kids kept asking me if I’d heard anything and I had to shake my head no. Then one morning there was an email in my inbox.

“Dear Laurie,

We are delighted to inform you that you are a Winner in the Take A Stand Against Bullying Video Contest sponsored by Oxy Skin Care. The Scholastic and Oxy teams were so impressed with the caliber of work; your students should be very proud!” I read the other morning as my fifth-grade students were getting out their homework.

“Yahoo! We won! We won!” I crowed jumping up and down in front of my astonished class.

“What, Ms. Woodward?”

“The video we made won the national contest!”

There was silence for a moment then a roar of cheers, applause and desk pounding so deafening  I was sure the principal would come in any second and tell us to quiet down. Kids leapt into the air, high-fiving each-other while I did a victory Salsa dance across the room.

I love being a teacher.

 

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The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Here Comes the Judge!

I am thrilled to announce that I’ve been selected to be a judge in the New Voice Short Film Festival! And I’m the only woman chosen as a judge. What an honor!

This film festival is designed to showcase the work specifically for non-professional, non-union related filmmakers. If you are a filmmaker, writer, director, and/or producer at least 18 years of age and living in the Southern California area, you are welcome to submit your film project here:

Submission Information

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Binary Philosophers: A Poem

In the Desert of the Real

We are the creatures

Who lope, crawl, and slither

But here

On the circuit board

We are noesis.

Binary philosophers

Espousing 1 and 0.

 

We ask the screen:

When we are zero

In the hard drive of our souls

Do we lose mass

And become antimatter?

Or in the vacuity

Of nothingness

Do we escape the desert

And touch the infinite?

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote the biography Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

 

 

 

 

A Beginning: Portal Rift (Chapter 1 of Artania IV)

Bartholomew Borax III staggered back, bouncing off something hard. He thrust out his hands, but still tumbled over, landing on all fours. Gasping for breath, he dug his fingers into the ground and clung to the grassy soil.

Please stay this time, he prayed.

Arching his back, he gulped in a lungful of fresh air, choking on the ash in his throat. His body spasmed and he sputtered, coughing up dark phlegm. He spat twice.

Dew soaked through his silk pajamas to his knees. The boy leaned back on his haunches and tried to calm his breathing. He closed his eyes and began a silent count. OneTen…Thirty-one…Thirty-three. Once he could take a breath without spluttering, he opened them.

The shining moon broke through the clouds illuminating the Spanish style building beyond. The school was still standing?

But he had just watched it melt away.

A breeze blew back his blonde hair. He stood, bare feet slipping on the wet grass.

Bartholomew leaned against the flagpole and brushed his cheek against metal. Cool as the dark sky above. No hint of that fiery furnace now.

That he was back in the real world.

The fourteen-year-old had traveled into the mystical Artania three times before, and while each journey was unique, he’d never experienced anything quite like this. Every other crossing had been with Alex by his side knowing full well that something magical was about to happen; he was about to breach an enchanted doorway.

Not this time.

This time he’d plodded into Mother’s office to dutifully say goodnight and submit to inspection. After taking his third bath and patting his head to tame the cowlick that refused to stay down, Bartholomew had applied hand sanitizer, deodorant, and cologne. Since Hygenette Borax’s sense of smell was stronger than a Mudlark elephant, he doubled each application before descending the winding staircase to make his way down the long hall toward her office.

As his footsteps echoed down the lonely hallway, he considered asking to return to school. Maybe the months of being extra clean were enough for her to say yes. It had been almost two years since the incident. When he saw her from the doorway, he knew it wouldn’t do any good.

The monitor light shone on her pale skin as she mumbled something about cleansers.  As she stared at her laptop on the Plexiglas desk, he felt a pang of pity. Those diamond blue eyes used to cut him to the core, but not anymore. Now, Bartholomew understood her cool glances were simply a mask protecting her from the world. A world where a husband can drown in inches of water and leave you to raise a child on your own.

“I’m ready to rest Mother,” the fourteen-year-old said.

Her gaze stayed fixed on the computer screen. Mother must have been preoccupied because, for once, she didn’t beckon him closer to look for dirt under his nails or specks of dust on his monogrammed robe.

He stepped up behind her. “Mother?”

“What?” she demanded, closing the laptop. She set a hand over it protectively.

That was strange. She usually reveled in sharing articles about how germs live everywhere or a new cleanser. What was she looking at?

“I-I uhh have bathed.”

“Hmm,” she sniffed raising her nose in the air. “Hand sanitizer?”

He held up his hands for inspection.

“Fine. Good night.” She waved him away with a flick of her wrist but waited until he was back at the doorway before returning to whatever was on the computer screen.

Back inside his room, Bartholomew pondered her strange behavior. Hygenette Borax was many things; controlling, fearful, and of course, obsessed with cleanliness. One thing she had never been though, was secretive. All his life Bartholomew had heard her tell stories of the horrors that waited just outside. How if he weren’t careful, he could end up just like his father, drowning in mud.

For many years he’d believed her, but over time came to realize that it was all lies. Lies she told herself to explain Father’s death.

He shook his head and had just hung up his robe when the humming began. Then there was a flash.

And that crazy night began.

 

My First Live Interview!

Last week I had the profound honor of being a guest on Dave Congalton’s radio program,  “Hometown Radio with Dave Congalton.”  Although I’ve known Dave for years: he’s long been one of my writing mentor’s as well as a fellow Nipomoite,  this was the first time I’d had the pleasure of joining him on the air.

Listen to Interview

What was it like? Terrifying, at first. I mean it wasn’t like other interviews I’d done that were taped and could be edited if I made a mistake. This would be LIVE and if I blew it, there was no rewind and re-record button.  My heart was pounding and I had the strongest desire to run right out of that studio and head for the safety of home when I slipped on those headphones and faced that microphone.

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But I fought through the fear and stayed.

Dave, ever the consummate professional, must deal with guest nerves all of the time because he seemed to know just what to say to help me with my pre-interview jitters. Before we started recording he helped me relax  with a few warm up questions. These were so easy to answer that by the time the microphone was turned on, what I thought would have been absolute torture turned into a friendly chat between friends.

And before I knew it, our thirty minutes was up.

In addition to hosting a popular radio show for the past 26 years, Dave Congalton is a screenwriter, producer,  former director of the Central Coast Writer’s Conference, and award-winning author.  His books include Three Cats, Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss, When Your Pet Outlives You: Protecting Animal Companions After You Die, with co-author Charlotte Alexander and The Talk Radio Guest Book with co-author Deborah Bayles. His screenplay, Author’s Anonymous, starring Kaley Cuoco and directed by Ellie Kanner was released as a major film in 2014.

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Thank you Dave for this amazing opportunity!

For more information about Dave see: http://davidcongalton.com/# or http://www.920kvec.com/

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

Binary Philosophers: A Poem

In the Desert of the Real

We are the creatures

Who lope, crawl, and slither

But here

On the circuit board

We are noesis.

Binary philosophers

Espousing 1 and 0.

 

We ask the screen:

When we are zero

In the hard drive of our souls

Do we lose mass

And become antimatter?

Or in the vacuity

Of nothingness

Do we escape the desert

And touch the infinite?