Finding Joy: A Novel Excerpt

I hardly recognized the girl that stepped off the boat. Could that tanned kid twittering away with other girls, wide grin showing the gap between her teeth, be my daughter?

Not trusting my own eyes, I raised my hand in a tentative wave.

“Stop making a spectacle of yourself,” Ron hissed under his breath. He wrapped an arm around my waist and dug his fingers into the soft flesh under my blouse.

Immediately, I lowered my arm and clasped my hands in front me to look like the well-trained wife Ron demands. Wincing as his pinch tightened down like pliers and bowing my head, I peeked through my false eyelashes to see if anyone who’s important in Ron’s eyes had noticed my faux pas.

Nouveau riche mothers with flared jeans and glam tops flicked cigarette ash from their manicured nails, while the Beverly Hills elite in Perry Ellis skirt suits rolled their House Beautiful magazines into canvas bags.

But the only person that I noticed was Joy, whose high-stepping filly gait sunk to a slow shuffle. With every step, her wide smile folded deeper into a scowl.

I wanted to run to her, take her in my arms like when she was five and spin her around, but Ron’s hand was there. If I dared move, it would tighten on my waist like a spring-loaded clamp. I put on my half-smile placid mask.

“Hi, Mom. Hi Ronny,” Joy said, giving me a dutiful peck on the cheek before copying my clasped hand pose.

Ron greeted her with a grunt and had started to turn toward the exit when that actor from the Mary Tyler Moore show walked by, arm slung over his son’s shoulder.

Suddenly, the Ron that wooed me all those years ago appeared. Pivoting on his Ferragamo loafers, he lifted a rakish brow and trumpeted, “Who took my daughter and replaced her with a tan goddess?”

When the actor, Ted Kite, glanced our way, Ron squeezed Joy so tight I thought he might break her ribs. She stood there, arms stiff at her sides, lips pressed into a smile that never reached her eyes.

The next thing I knew, Ron was shaking hands with Ted Kite. After a boisterous joke or two about sending kids to camp, he swept an arm in our direction.

“My wife, Iris and this tanned goddess is my daughter, Joy.” He didn’t say stepdaughter.

While Joy stared at her shoes, I nodded politely and gushed how I was a huge fan. Ted’s chortling was cut short when Ron shoved a business card into his hand.

“If you are ever looking for real estate in Santa Juana, give me a call.”

Ted held it up like a mini-flag and said he had to go.

Ron shook his hand heartily and led us out of the terminal. Once we were all buckled into the Lincoln, he rolled up the windows and turned on the AC. But that cold air did nothing to dim the rage in his face.

“Did you have to fucking embarrass me?”

“What?”

“Your head bobbing like a plastic Jesus in a Spic’s low rider.”

“I was only trying to act how you want me to.”

“Looked like an idiot. You could have said something about my listings, but I should have known when I met you, you were just white trash. Take her out of the sewer, she’s still covered in shit.”

“I never was trailer trash,” I retorted.

I felt the heat before the sound. It spiced the cool air, a flashing palm burning skin with brutal piquancy.

My husband, father of the year.

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

Artania’s Prophecy: A Poem

Our world was born from the magic of two.

The smiling twins whose creations grew.

They painted walls with ideas anew.

Until the dark day we came to rue.

When one jealous hand used mud to undo.

And the life of many too soon was through.

 

But listen to this prophecy with open ears.

To know what happens ever thousand years.

The Shadow Swine will make you live in fear.

Bringing death to those whom you hold so dear.

For they will open the doorway so wide.

That none of you will find a place to hide.

 

And the Creators will stop

As their dreams are drained.

Before 12 moons wax and wane.

 

But hope will lie in the hands of twins

Born on the cusp of the second millennium.

On the eleventh year of their lives.

They will join together like single forged knives.

Their battle will be long with 7 evils to undo.

Scattered around will be 7 clues.

And many will perish before they are through.

But our world will be saved if their art is true.

             Buy Artania Here                                              artchronpic

 

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

 

Dragon Sky: Discounted

Right now Dragon Sky is only $0.99!  My publisher is discounting the book until Friday. Join the adventure for less than the cost of candy bar here: Buy Dragon Sky

 

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

Burning: An Excerpt

Once, when I was a fifteen year old camper at Catalina Island camp, I snuck out to party in the lodge with some of the counselors. They were all all older than me, some almost twenty, and in my eyes way cool. I felt honored to be included with a group that had shared so much hippie wisdom with me,  that I probably grew an inch taller in that hour.

Well,  one minute we were all laughing and chugging down Boone’s Farm sweet wine and the next there was this horrific crash as I watched the party disintegrate into a jealous punching match.

Two of our ski boat drivers, Matt and Steve were on the floor rolling over and over in a vicious brawl. I guess they pined for the same counselor, a tanned California blonde named Gail. And when she turned her attention to Steve, Matt lost it. He attacked Steve with a vengeance even my step-father didn’t have.

They rose to their feet and I watched horrified as Steve’s face swelled under Matt’s bloodying blows.  He hit the door and then bounced back like a racquetball rebounding off a court wall. Even now Matt didn’t let up but hit him again and again as Steve tried like hell to block his blows.

“Stop!” I cried leaping out of the way. I shouted again but they kept at it. Now Steve bent over and head butt Matt in the gut forcing both of them against the pool table.

I retreated to the corner of the lodge and curled up into a ball. Why won’t they listen? I thought sobbing uncontrollably.

“You guys p-please, no more. No more. No more..”

I guess my tears must have finally got through to them because a moment later they were all gathered around me.

“This is horrible. You guys should f-forgive each other,” I begged between gulping sobs, hoping my  innocent eyes  would open their hearts.

They both shook their heads.

“But it’s wrong. There should be peace in the world.” I sniffled.

“Sorry, kid. That’s just a dream. Or a song on the radio. You understand?” Matt asked.

I shook my head. No, I didn’t. And all these years later, I still don’t.

(The above is an excerpt from a new novel I’m working on. I think this scene embodies its theme. )

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

Artania IV: Almost Done…

Fifteen months. Sixty-three weeks.  Four-hundred forty-one days. Since I set out to write the new book.

For this installment of the Artania Chronicles I decided to push myself in new directions. No longer would my heroes spend long days  in that art-created world pursuing a near impossible task. This time they would pop in and out without notice. Alex and Bartholomew would be in the middle of  battling a raging fire or a clawed monster when, poof, they’d be transported.

To a place strange and unknown.

Disoriented, Bartholomew would cling to something solid while Alex dashed to The Thinker’s aid. Neither knowing if anything they were doing would help this imperiled land.

And so it went.

I researched Paris and Impressionists. Made lists of symbols. Spoke with teens near the age of my heroes. Tried to remember what it was like to navigate those early days of high school.

Slowly my outline turned into pages. And pages to chapters.

Now, I’m nearly done. But there is a battle to write.

And it’s time to sculpt some scenes in my mind.

Teaser from 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 flag pole 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. Knowing that 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. But 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 article 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. But one thing she had never been 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.

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, poet,  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.

What Is Your Bullying Story?

Recently, I shared how  bullying affected me. How by fourteen its unrelenting cruelty made a forever sleep look like the only solution.

I know that many of you have suffered just as much or more and want to provide a forum to share your stories. If you were taunted, teased, pushed, called names, and lived in the shadows, please share.

Who knows, one of your stories just might help someone else feel a little less alone.

Let’s change these statistics.

According to the National Education Association, PACER Center, and StopBullying.gov:

• 1 in 7 students in grades K – 12 are either a bully or have been a victim of bullying.
• An estimated 160,000 U.S. children miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students.
• 83% of girls and 79% of boys report experiencing harassment.
• Six out of 10 teenagers say they witness bullying in school once a day.
• 35% of kids have been threatened online.
• Nearly 9 out of 10 LGBTQ youth report being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
• 57% of boys and 43% of girls reported being bullied because of religious or cultural differences.
• Bullies often go on to perpetrate violence later in life: 40% of boys identified as bullies in grades 6 through 9 had three or more arrests by age 30.
• One out of every 10 students who drop out of school does so because of repeated incidents of bullying.
• 75% of shooting incidents at schools have been linked to bullying and harassment.
• 64% of children who were bullied did not report it.
• Nearly 70% of students think schools respond poorly to bullying.
• When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds  57% of the time.

 

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.

Storyteller

“Story transmits deep wisdom and insight through its imagery. The archetypes in the story are a part of the collective unconscious of all of humanity…” says Zette Harbour, award-winning storyteller, life coach, and visionary. So many of us are struggling to create a story that fulfills a deep sense of purpose, but don’t envision, much less write the tales our psyches need. Zette Harbour understands this, and has made it her life mission to empower others to discover their purpose and to live with passion.

What does it mean to be a storyteller? For Zette,  storytelling is a time to connect with others, to go beyond mere words and travel into the heart and mind. As she performs at festivals, in programs, and workshops, people are able to experience shared laughter and joy in ways as ancient as humanity. Her stories are as diverse as the human landscape ranging from traditional Christmas tales to native people’s myths to modern women navigating their way through an ever more complex society. But whatever story Zette tells, her goal remains constant: be present.

I  remember attending one story telling festival where Zette Harbour performed, my seven-year-old son at my side and my toddling daughter snug in my lap. We sat on wooden benches in the shade of pines as she came up and told of a time before. A time of the ancients. Both of my kids were mesmerized as Zette tiptoed, strolled, and hopped from one end of this natural stage to the other. The warmth and intimacy of that day is a memory I still cherish.

A native New Yorker that grew up in Pennsylvania, Suzette Harbour has always been enchanted by stories and spent her childhood immersed in books. Fast forward many years to 1992 and being a mother reading to four-year-old. It was then that she realized the power story could have and began her journey into storytelling. For the past twenty years she has performed, workshopped, and recorded a multitude of tales all the while honing in on her own personal voice.

ZH photo Sandprints

In today’s digital world the idea of coming together to listen to a story might seem alien. I mean, why not just watch a video or tune into one of the hundreds of channels now available? Zette has a poignant answer to this. It has been her experience that people are looking for the shared, authentic, emotional connection that participating in storytelling brings to community. Even the word community comes from two principles essential in the human experience: commune, or come together, and unity, make as one.

For Zette that is her story in spades. Create a community and all will feel like one.

For more information about Zette Harbour’s work see: http://www.successfulawakenings.com/   or       http://www.zetteharbour.com/

A Hungering Muse

 When the words are stilted, like a stubbed toe limp or a stunted tree seeking sky on a windswept cliff,  quotes can summon the muse.

muse in ear

Piers Anthony said: “Keep writing, because not only does practice improve skill, it gives you more chances to score on the market.”

piersanthony

William Shakespeare: “O! for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.”

shakespeare

Ray Bradbury’s advice is this. “To feed your Muse, then, you should always have been hungry about life since you were a child. If not, it is a little late to start.”

raybradbury

“Finish what you’re writing.  Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.” -Neil Gaiman

neilgaiman

And multiple authors say the same thing.”If you want to write sit down and do it!”

So what are you waiting for? Put your butt in the chair and write!

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