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 JoJo: The 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
I miss you.
Your strong and calloused hands
Massaging, probing, stroking,
Clavicle, rib, sternum.
Eyes closed, I reach out
The curve of
Pelvis, abdomen, and thigh.
Brush fingers over a
Fine dusting of man down.
Your voice echoes
A virile timbre of
Power and pitch.
Your scent lingers
On this drowning woman’s
Long deprived lungs
Then, in shadow
I see your soft brown eyes
Locked on mine
A candlelight memory.
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 JoJo: The 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
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.
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 JoJo: The 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
“You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Try to run
Try to hide
Break on through to the other side.”
With a voice as savage and untamed as his vision Jim Morrison calls us to action in “Break on Through.” But this is no gentle supplication. Using raw energy palpable in every syllable he summons that hidden part of us to emerge from light and find shadow, entreating us to throw off our ideas of what is proper and moral while crashing through glass to another place.
I have heard this song my entire life, but it wasn’t another hollow-eyed night that I tried to find some meaning in their words. During the sleepless hours I tossed and turned, clutching at lonely sheets wondering how to break through in a relationship pierced with gashes weeping the piquant odor of wounds.
In my personal life I am fearless. I have no problem traveling the world and leaping into the abyss of new experience. I’ve scuba dove through coral caves and kelp forests, hiked over lava flows with steam rising all around, backpacked over unmarked mountains, and flown over remote glaciers where bear roamed below.
My interpersonal life has been more cautious. Ever since the discovery of my ex-husband’s multi-year affair and subsequent divorce, I have lived in fear. So afraid of the hurt I might incur or the inevitable lies all relationships seem to have that I could not break through.
I want that to change.
So I listen to Jim.
Laurie Woodward is the author of The Pharaoh’s Cry, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles, as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. She co-wrote Dean and JoJo: The 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 on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net
While the smiling Mona Lisa strolls the cobblestone paths of this art-created world, dark forces wait.
“I’m perfectly fine. Now stop being so silly.” Placing a painted hand on The Thinker’s bronze arm, Mona Lisa patted it.
“But child. The attempts.”
“Failed. And now you and Father have me tucked away in this fortress. Worry not.” Without giving him a chance to argue more, Mona Lisa turned and glided down the stone steps of the castle.
Artania’s leader leaned over the parapet of the castle gazing at the renaissance city below. Florence. Red tile roofs topped sunflower yellow or misty white walls. Crushed granite alleyways and cobblestone side streets zig-zagged from one end of the town to the other. The Arno River snaked through this muted palette as gently as dear Mona Lisa’s smile.
Mona Lisa. Ever since the attempted kidnapping, she had stayed within these castle walls. Making the sweet child restless. Today was the first time he’d agreed to let her stroll along the river. Accompanied by soldiers in striped bloomers and metal helmets of course.
“Nicolo, you must be ever vigilant. You know what will happen if the Shadow Swine capture the Smiling One,” he had ordered the guardsman earlier.
“Yes, as do all citizens, whether they be painting, sculpture or sketch,” Nicolo said.
“Keep her close. Keep her safe.”
“I do swear,” the guardsman said, bowing with one hand across his chest.
Nicolo’s presence should have calmed The Thinker’s fears, but for some reason he still felt uneasy. All around, soldiers patrolled the parapet wall or stood guard behind the notched battlements in the rectangular towers.
The iron grating of the portcullis was down leaving only doors vulnerable. And after the last kidnapper had made his way inside, The Thinker had ordered them locked at all times. Even so he knew that in these terrible times anything could happen.
His bronze gaze rested on the river and the short docks built beside the walkway. The Smiling One emerged from the doorway below and gave him a short wave before turning toward the cobblestone path skirting the river. All was as it should be.
He had just relaxed his shoulders when a flash caught his eye. He shouldn’t be there!
A man dressed in rags leapt out of one of the rowboats tied to the dock and began running toward Mona Lisa. But with her back to him, she didn’t notice
“Lisa!” The Thinker cried.
When she turned, the snarling man grabbed her by the arm and began pulling her toward his boat.
“Let me go!” Mona Lisa screamed.
Soldiers appeared and rushed down the embankment, Guardsman Nicolo in the lead.
Mona Lisa strained against the beggar’s grip. But it was no good. He was half a head taller and probably outweighed her by fifty pounds. He dragged her ever closer to the rowboat. A few more feet and they’d be on the river.
“No!” Mona Lisa cried, clutching her veil in a milk white grasp.
“Halt,” Nicolo cried, booted feet flying toward the dock. “Halt, I say!” He sprung over the cobblestone path and drew his sword.
The ragged man dragged her closer to the water. The Smiling One’s feet skidded over wood.
“Hurry,” The Thinker whispered.
As soon as they reached the dock’s edge, the beggar shoved Mona Lisa behind him. And turned.
With a snaggle-toothed grin, he bent forward and unleashed a tremendous kick. Crying out, the painted girl hurled upwards. She shot over pilings arcing toward the river below.
The Thinker’s bronze heart froze. He gripped the coping stone tighter.
Mona Lisa splashed and disappeared beneath the murmuring waters.
All eyes turned toward the river. Every Artanian from castle keep to the guard tower and down the stony walls held a breath. Waiting in silence.
But the waters remained calm.
“Find her!” the bronze man cried.
With a desperate leap, Nicolo dove into the River Arno. The Thinker scanned east and west for a veiled head but only the guardsman surfaced.
Nicolo submerged again, his booted feet kicking deeper. Only to break the surface for quick gulp of air before diving down. Twice. Three times. Seven.
When the exhausted soldier floated up after the twenty-fifth descent, he turned to the gathered crowd with a sad shake of his head. “She is gone.”
The Thinker fell back against the wall and sunk to the ground. “All is lost.”
My publisher is offering The Kidnapped Smile for free on Kindle until Tuesday.
For a limited time you can get The Kidnapped Smile for free. Venture into a land where paintings speak with sculptures and collages work alongside sketches.
Mona Lisa kidnapped? Her father, Leonardo, in tears? What will the Deliverers do?
It has been a year since Alex and Bartholomew first ventured into the mystical Artania. Once again they are called upon to keep this art-created world safe.
But peril waits at every turn.
Traitorous Pirates. Fearful gods and goddesses. Monsters of the deep. A world’s safety lies in the hands three twelve-year-olds. Alex and Bartholomew, with their spunky sidekick Gwen, return to Artania to wrench the kidnapped Mona Lisa from the hands of ruthless pirates.
Mona Lisa kidnapped? Her father, Leonardo, in tears? A land on the edge of destruction? What will the Deliverers do?
It has been a year since Alex and Bartholomew first ventured into the mystical Artania. Once again they are called upon to keep this art-created world safe. For if they don’t rescue Mona Lisa from the pirates before she is taken to Subterranea. the Renaissance Nation will fall.
But peril waits at every turn.
Traitorous Pirates. Fearful gods and goddesses. Monsters of the deep.
A world’s safety lies in the hands three twelve-year-olds. Alex and Bartholomew with their spunky sidekick Gwen will venture into Artania again and try to wrench the kidnapped Mona Lisa from the hands of traitorous pirates.
Will they be successful? Read The Kidnapped Smile and find out.