Hope for Peace: 10 Ways to Effect Change

Just like you, recent events have rocked me to the core. As humanity’s ugly underbelly is exposed with mange and open sores that continue to bleed, I’m seeking hope. For me, it lies with children. I have seen first hand that these innocents desire justice and harmony. I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want. Here are ten creative ideas I’ve used with my students. Let’s all begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

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5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

Colby Jeffers: Change the World

10. Paint a self-portrait.

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Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!

About Laurie: 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

Ten Tips for Coping With Shelter in Place

As a writer, it is my job to be introspective, to observe, comment upon, and analyze. I feel it my duty to create works that act as a mirror for society, human interactions, and emotion. But Shelter-in-Place is so foreign that I’m finding it challenging to write.

Like many of you, I am fighting feelings of helplessness and depression. I long for human interaction, closeness, touch. I miss patting my friends on the back as we laugh over some silly joke, twirling on the dance floor goofily between hugs, and placing a hand on a gal pal’s arm in comfort.

As humans, we were not built for isolation. Remember that study from your reading in Psych 101? Back in the thirteenth century, the German king, Frederick II, conducted an experiment to discover what language children would grow up to speak if never spoken to. So King Frederick took babies from their mothers at birth and placed them in the care of nurses who were forbidden to speak to them. But a second rule was imposed, as well: the nurses were not allowed to touch the infants.  Frederick’s experiment was an absolute failure, because every baby died. Without touch and tender words they couldn’t thrive.

We all need connection. So what to do now when that basic human need is denied us? I have found the following things help.

1) Avoid the news. It will only depress you. Read just enough to stay informed.newsdepress

2) Limit your TV watching. toomuchtv

3) Put your favorite music on. Dance around the living room. musicnoteroad

4) Do some activities that don’t need much brainpower such as cleaning. I find toilet scrubbing a good one. happytoilet

6) Get outside. If you live in a house, weed, plant, mow, edge, blow. If you live in an apartment, sweep the walk.  gardener

7) Keep to your normal routine as closely as possible. I still shower early, do my hair and get dressed in the morning.

8) Give yourself a makeover. Try a new hair or makeup style. Get goofy and have fun with it. Laugh at your own silly antics! Bad-Hair-Crazy-Tattoos-Clown-Hair

8) Go for a walk.

9) Find a workout  video and dance along. Zumba Workout

9) Go for a drive and crank the tunes: pretend you are a rebellious teen behind the wheel. Shake it Off Video

10) Do art. Paint, color, sketch. Make a dream board.

Any more ideas out there? I’d love to hear them. Blessings for healthy minds and bodies, dear ones!

About Laurie: 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

My Sixth Novel is Out!

Can it really be true? Did my publisher just release my sixth novel? Or maybe I’m dreaming…

As I look back over the past five years I have to pinch myself. I went from self-publishing my first book to ghost writing Dean and JoJo and watching its release by Random House in Germany to sending out Artania I to agents and publishers and getting rejection after rejection.

Oh, I got close a few times. An agent here and there might be interested but eventually they’d pass. Random House even had it under consideration and one editor wanted it, but when it went to committee…Well you know.

Then in 2017, an author friend who I’d helped with a manuscript contacted me. He said that his publisher was offering finders fees for authors who found new talent and he thought of me. Was I interested? Heck yeah!

I polished my synopsis and with fingers crossed sent in sample chapters to the publisher. And the waiting began. Every day I’d check my in box for news.

Finally the email came. With a contract. And not just for Artania I either. They offered me a contract for all three Artania books I’d written. Champagne time!

Now I’m thrilled to see Portal Rift available so all of you can join the adventure too!

Get Portal Rift Here

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

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Portal Rift: An Artanian Excerpt

Far away, in a magical art-created land, the sculpted Thinker gazed into his steely hand as sparks fizzled down his bronze arm. The images of Alex flickered in his palm and faded.

How could this be? Alexander shouldn’t be seeing visions; nor traveling to Artania and back. Never had one Deliverer traversed their worlds without his knowledge, much less two.

He thought back. For millennia, every time a human lifted a paint brush or dipped hands in clay, a wondrous being, like himself, had been born. Over time, Artania’s population grew into a perfect blend of watercolor, collage, and mosaics; a mix of multihued lives.

As art changed, separate countries emerged. From the Renaissance Nation where the competing Michelangelo & Leonardo watched over Mona Lisa to the Land of Antiquities where Greek, Roman, and Egyptian gods raced over sands to Gothia where medieval knights fought dragons; he had watched his world expand.

Until the time of danger.

Shadow Swine horrors were becoming all too common. The new millennium brought constant tales of Sickhert’s army attacking from their underground lair. With increasing frequency, they pulled his brethren below to become mindless slaves. Or, at chosen times, they opened their horrible mouths, and with great slurps, swallowed brilliant chunks of this land’s beauty.

Like a fading photo, every bite turned the earth whiter causing the Blank Canvas to grow. Now they were attacking the Impressionist Republic, that place where muted light and color capture a moment in time.

Closing his bronze fist, The Thinker lifted his gaze to the man in the bushy beard and linen suit in the wooden chair opposite. His words echoed in the nearly empty cafe as he spoke. “The Shadow Swine seem to have some new power. I fear for the soft hues of this land.”

Claude Monet took a long draught on the stub of a cigar in his mouth and blew a wisp of smoke over The Thinker’s head. “As do I.”

“The Blank Canvas grows.”

“Oui, there have been reports of new areas bleached white. The sinking village of the Alps.”

“When you ceased dipping brush in paint.”

Monet looked at his feet and nodded sadly. “I was immersed in depression.”

“Do not berate yourself, friend. It was he who painted you. His poverty got the best of him and no one, not even I, could have altered that.”

“Gauguin would argue otherwise.”

“Is he spouting more talk of revolution?”

“Larger crowds come to listen. Many say you are growing old and unable to lead us.”

“My strength does not wane with age but with the belief in the power of creation.”

“I know that, but others do not.”

The Thinker shook his head. “It seems that no matter how hard we try; it is never enough. The Shadow Swine capture more and more of our kind.”

“We are weighed down, every moment, by the sensation of Time. And there are but two means of escaping this nightmare: pleasure and work. Work strengthens us.”

“True. I only hope Bartholomew realizes this before it’s too late.” The Thinker shook his head.

“Yet now he struggles.”

“Leaving ripples of despair here. If he’d just–”

The Thinker heard a buzz. Then a whine. The gaslights in the café began to flicker. Tilting a confused head to one side, the sculpted man glanced up. Every glass lampshade was quivering and expanding as if Vulcan was filling each with superheated magma.

As the sound amplified into a din, Monet dug his boots into the floor and scooted his chair back. Although a painting, Thinker knew that his friend could be injured as easily as any human and rose to protect his ally.

Diving over the table, he extended his bronze arms and tackled the gaping painter to cover the creation’s body with his own. A moment later, the crystal globes exploded in a deafening blast, shooting glass in all directions.

Streaming shards sharp as knives rained down. The Thinker pushed Monet beneath the table.

Strong back heaving, he glanced to the side at the blinking barkeep, now dusted with glass shards. A few slivers jutting from the painted man’s balding scalp began to bleed.

“Help me,” he said, lip quivering.

Artania’s leader had just begun to stand when a hissing sound from under the floorboards stopped him mid-crouch.

A stunned Monet angled a finger at the ground where rotten steam rose from cracks in the wood. “Shadow Swine, here?”

White tendrils twisted upward filling the café with sulfuric fumes. Then, as if someone were using a crowbar to pry them open, the floorboards next to the bar began to part, and a dark arm slithered from the opening.

The barkeep gasped, stepping back. Opened and closed his mouth in silent screams. The arm grasped him by the ankle and the painted man stumbled. He fell against the wall.

The crack in the floor widened, swallowing half his leg, then a thigh and soon his hips.

Arms outstretched, Thinker vaulted toward the barkeep, crossing the room in two strides.

He reached out, clutching at air.

It was too late. The injured barman was gone. Another water-colored being taken below to become a mindless slave in Subterranea.

“No!” he cried as the floorboards closed.

Snapshots: A Poem

Shutter opens

On flash of mane

And spotlight smiles

Across the room.

A vignette

Surrounds soft focus

Form

Drawing me nearer

While outstretched  hands

Invite waltzes

Of pirouettes, pliés,

And telephoto twirls.

Until soon

Sweet skin sketches

Are etched

In memory.

 

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

Men’s Song: A Poem

I love men.

Their musky scents.

Car grease, salt,

And briefcase leather

Linger in my lungs.

 

I love how they move.

Purposeful fingers pounding keys

Or the deliberate way they

Place one sturdy foot in front of the other

As they swagger
Across floors.

 

I love men’s stalwart shapes

Muscled arms, broad shoulders

Carpeted chests

Inviting touch

And nuzzling faces.

Their small hips

And the way belts

Ride just so.
I love the sounds they make.

Dressing for the day.

Snapping buttons, razors buzzing

Water splashing.
And deep voices

Which resonate

Their mesmerizing tune.

***

I hate men

Their strong smells

Of sweat and musk

Shoulders so wide

As to make walls

While daring  hands to

Touch.

I hate the way they

Peacock preen

Over the ground

Deliberate steps

Crushing insects

Flowers

And my dreams.

 

I hate their discordant

Voices

Crooning cacophony

Reminding me

Of glory days

Real and imagined.

As they say goodbye.

(photo by David Stroup)

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

 

Kidnapped Smile: An Excerpt

Sweat poured down Alex’s face and ran into his eyes. The ship’s galley was like an oven. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand envisioning a cool protective suit.

Until he could work.

“Toss the iron balls in the flames,” Vulcan instructed between hammer beats on the anvil.

Alex followed each step carefully. When the metal inside the stove changed from black to red, he removed it with tongs and placed the crimson coals on Vulcan’s anvil.

The smith-god demonstrated how to strike the anvil and then handed the hammer to Alex. Alex raised an arm and began. Clang. Iron met steel. Pound. Teeth and scales emerged. Bang. A body took shape.

Buy Kidnapped Smile Here

Faster his arm fell as the creation force cursed through his veins.  Lumber became flicking tongues and iron swaying heads.  A long thin tail appeared.

“Thank you, Vulcan. Nearly–”

Smash!  Snapping teeth crashed through the hull just inches above his head. Alex leapt back just inches from dripping jaws.  Ducking down behind his incomplete snake, he attached the last green plates.

Its body grew as long as the ship and thicker than the mast. Cool scales shimmered, and the sculpture morphed into a two-headed cobra ready to do his bidding.

Alex cradled one face in his hands. “Wake up,” he said.

Blue slits opened.

“Attack the Leviathan. Now!”

It swayed back and forth as both cobra heads rose, forked tongues flicking at the air. One head hissed.

In response, Leviathan gnashed its jaws.  Double rows of sharp teeth tried to close in on Cobra, but the snake heads dodged in opposite directions.

Bellowing, Leviathan struck again. This time Cobra whipped around, each head sinking curved fangs into its neck.

Sickhert’s monster thrashed and shook, but the snake held fast. Pupils dilating, it jerked to one side. Alex scrambled out of the way as its huge head smashed against the galley walls.

“The poker!” Vulcan cried pointing at the hot stove.

Alex leapt over a barrel and grabbed it from the fire. The end glowed red, a steel cigarette poised to strike. Alex jabbed but came up short.

Leviathan turned toward him. It jaws snapped like a thousand slamming doors. Alex felt a tug and clapped a hand to his head. His hair was wrapped in those teeth lifting toward that hole.

Gritting his teeth, he jerked. “Yow!” he cried gaping at the tufts of hair still in the Leviathan’s mouth.

Dropping to one knee, Alex raised his firebrand and waited for the Leviathan to sway his way again. Counted. Four seconds. Five. At six he thrust, and the metal punctured the creature’s jaw like a hot knife in wax. Slowly, Alex stood and drove the poker deeper into the creature’s mouth.

The shrieking monster jerked its head throwing Alex backwards. He landed with a thud near Vulcan’s barrel.

Cobra sunk its fangs in deeper as the monster retreated out of the crack in the hull. Then, with a sucking whoosh of air, both creatures disappeared into the sea.

Alex peered out the jagged hole in the wall. The setting crescent moon and the patchwork of stars barely illuminated the water. In the faint light, all he could make out was the splashing of dark waves against the ship.

Boom! The cannon shot again, lighting up the sea just enough to see the thrashing monsters. One snake still had its fangs in the Leviathan’s neck.  The other one was somewhere beneath the surface.

When they rushed up on deck to watch, Alex grasped the railing and stared out to sea. The water began to bubble and simmer in a tangle of twisting scales. In the lanterns light he could just make out Leviathan’s scaly back, spiked wings, and clawed feet. With gnashing teeth, it rolled, pitched, and plunged until Cobra raised one head and jerked Leviathan below.

A few minutes later, the sun began to light up the sky turning the sea a steely grey. The reflecting moon looked like a snake’s fang, one he hoped would strike any moment. He could make out the Italian coastline but no movement anywhere.

Gwen sidled up to his side. “See anything?” she asked.

“They disappeared,” Alex replied continuing to scan the waves.

The Mediterranean was as smooth as Venus’s skin. Then far off he saw the waters rise.

“Look.” Alex pointed.

Like braiding seaweed, the monsters wove through the waves. Coiling and wreathing, they battled. He couldn’t tell who was winning.

“Go on. Dig your fangs in.”  Alex said.

“Yeah, get him.” Gwen punched at the air.

They were about fifty yards away when the battling monsters rose out of the water. The sea dripped off the Cobra’s hooded heads. Their triangular faces hung suspended as if on invisible threads, but they didn’t attack.

Alex raised his hands in exasperation wondering what they were waiting for. More seconds ticked by.

When Leviathan rolled over, both heads struck. Curved fangs sank into the tender flesh of its soft underbelly. Convulsing venom glands pumped poison through their teeth.

The weakened Leviathan slapped at Cobra with its tail. Thrashing from one side to the other, its jaws snapped open and closed three times. Then a lolling tongue drifted over jagged teeth.

Alex’s two-headed snake edged closer to the ship, the limp Leviathan in tow. At the port bow Cobra unhinged both mouths.

It floated on the sea.

“Whoa,” Gwen said.

“Well done, Deliverer.” Vulcan reached out to shake Alex’s hand.

“Thanks, it–” Alex started to reply. Then Leviathan raised its horned head.  “Cobra, watch out!”

Leviathan’s tail smashed against the hull. Almost losing his footing, Alex grabbed the gunnels.

The monster leaned back, head poised to crash into their boat. Then two snakes rose, dripping water like gaping wounds and coiled around the monster’s neck. Once. Twice. Three times.

The Leviathan threw its horned head back with a guttural bellow that drowned out all sound. Tighter Cobra constricted, twining round a fourth and a fifth time. The great beast thrashed wildly in their coils trumpeting its protest.

Bloody tears began to weep from its eyes, but the snake squeezed more, muscles rippling as it twisted and tightened.

The Leviathan opened and closed its jaw in silent protest. It raised its head toward the sky as if imploring the clouds for help.  With a final convulsion, it withered in the snake’s coils.

And moved no more.

Only now did Cobra release it. Leviathan’s body bobbed on the surface before shrinking back into the sea.

“Yes!”  Alex cried taking Gwen in his arms. He swung her around and around laughing hysterically. Until he realized that he was hugging a girl. Then he set her down abruptly and stepped back, blushing.

Did she notice? He quickly turned to shake Leonardo’s outstretched hand, hoping that no one had seen the red creeping up his cheeks.

Suddenly Michelangelo, Leonardo, and the crew were all on deck applauding and congratulating him. The Three Graces joined hands, hummed in harmony, and began dancing in a circle. Meanwhile, Alex’s snake crisscrossed from bow to stern their gentle splashes lapping off the hull in time to the music.

“Our world was born from the magic of two, magic of two, magic of two,” their tinkling voices sang.

But many will perish before they are through. Alex thought as he stared at the Leviathan’s watery grave.

           

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’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

 

Giveaway: Artania The Pharaoh’s Cry

Looking for an adventure like no other? A place where all art is alive and creation a superpower? Right now my publisher is offering Pharaohs’ Cry for free. But act fast. This offer disappears on December 18th.  Get your free book here  

Enjoy!

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