Disembodied Embrace: A Poem

Disembodied embrace

Of a dream lover.

He who exists beyond the

Corporeal plodding through

The mundane, that muck of life

That seeks to pull us under.

Ethereal, his voice transcends

Skin, scent, and taste

Until we are afloat

In a buoyant fantasy

Soaring in the sublime

Photos by David Stroup

About Laurie: The author of 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

Sludge’s Revenge: An Artania V Excerpt

With a final glance over his shoulder, Sludge stepped onto the shack’s dilapidated porch and knocked on the twisted door. When no Crone appeared, he tried the knob. “Locked. Of course.”

Expecting this, he pulled out the key he’d made. A year or two back, when the Crone was in the kitchen making worm tea, he’d grabbed the key on the wall and pressed it into a block of clay in his pocket. Later he’d taken it to an Artanian blacksmith he knew he could trust who forged a new one.

“Crone?” he called inserting the key in the lock.

No answer. She was probably meeting with the Mud Princess. She often did to scheme and plot. Sludge allowed himself a moment to imagine a dance with that alluring creature, torchlight illuminating their wreathing bodies as his minions looked on in envy.

Yes, the Shadow Swine will long tell tales of my glorious dance. He stared at the door. His lips curled up and serrated teeth glinted in the firelight.

 A splash behind him made him turn. He glanced back at Swallow Hole Swamp where larvae hatched. Even before he’d bowed before Lord Sickhert on the banks of the River of Lies, he’d practiced dream draining on his fellow nymphs there.  

Magnificent memories.

A dark worm crested the swamp, its segmented back rolling in and out of mossy waters.

“Swim, nymph, swim. Into shadows below,” Sludge whispered before stepping over the threshold. “Are you here, old one?”

Her shack was as quiet as a death.

“I’m coming in,” he said to the air.

 Once inside, he turned right toward the exact room he wanted. While each held a boiling pot, some forged like serpents or krakens, with others as round as witch’s kettles, the one he needed was misshapen and warped. 

This one held answers.

The view inside looked the same as it had weeks earlier when he’d stood there with the Crone. The firepit still lit the room in. The three-legged cauldron still held a long ladle and flames continued licking the bent and twisted iron.

Here he’d seen that human’s face floating in mist long ago. The artist who had gloriously drowned in mud months before young Bartholomew was born. Oh, the nightmares he’d sent Hygenette after that. They ensured that she would forever turn from art.

This had gained him recognition and put him in Lord Sickhert’s favor. But now the Crone suspected the truth and just a few choice words could strip all of that away.

If he wasn’t careful.

“Are you investigating me, Crone?” Sludge said stepping closer to the kettle.

The boiling surface was misty at first. No images. Not even the slightest hint of a human or Artanian. But as Captain Sludge looked deeper, a faint outline began to appear.

He leaned in closer. A sandy beach emerged. Melting clocks. Cliffs. Some hazy forms took shape. Two of the animated figures gesticulated wildly while a third with red hair paced nearby.

“New humans in Surrealia? How can that be?” Sludge gasped and stumbled back.

He mused for a moment. What was going on? Only the Chosen Ones should be able to enter portals. That’s how it had always been.  Had Thinker done this? If so, it made no sense. Artania’s leader was known for safeguarding humans. Only calling upon Alex, Bartholomew, and Gwen when necessary.

Maybe Crone had shown Lord Sickhert their new powers and now could open larger portals. Sludge straightened two of his hair spikes, thinking.  But no, she often ranted and raved about him being too strong. She would never share such powerful knowledge with their lord.

But she might take some for herself and leave Sludge behind.

Whatever the reason, he had not slogged through the marshes of Swallow Hole Swamp to waste this opportunity. When he first set out, he’d hoped to find what the Crone was up to. But never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that vulnerable humans would now be in Artania.

He nodded. This turn of events just might work in his favor.

He rubbed his hands together. “I think I’ll craft a bit of amnesia to send your way.”

Taking a deep breath, Sludge blew a long stream of black mist over the simmering liquid. The dark smoke entered each gurgling bubble before rising on the steam. Sludge smiled and blew more.

The hazy image of four teens on a beach rose higher over the kettle as the outline of a brain took shape in the boiling waters. A moment later it ascended, and Jose and Zach’s faces materialized in the air. Licking his lips lasciviously, Sludge blew harder, and all images sharpened.

“Blankness, oblivion, shade,” Sludge chanted between panting blows.  A cloud filled the brain image then darkened and drifted toward the teens’ faces.

Jose and Zach’s mouths dropped open.

“What do you think you’re doing?” an ancient voice cried from the doorway.

Sludge didn’t turn. “Capitalizing on an opportunity.”

“I didn’t give you permission.”

“Yet here I am.” He blew again. “Watch.”

The floating image enlarged until it filled the room. Then Jose and Zach’s eyes clouded to milky white. An instant later there was a loud pop, and the smoke cleared.

Sludge ran a claw-tipped hand over where the image had been.

The Crone nodded approvingly and slapped him on the back. “Well perhaps you are not quite the pupae I took you for.” She began to cackle.

Sludge joined in and their screeching voices filled the shack and floated toward the quivering nymphs of Swallow Hole Swamp.

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

Review of The City of Dreaming Books

This book by Walter Moers is wonderful combination of fantasy and ridiculous farce. Probably the most imaginative book I’ve ever read with absolutely unique settings, characters, and symbolism. It is told in first person by an author-wannabe-dinosaur named Optimus Yarnspinner. He begins his tale in Lindworm Castle at the deathbed of his authorial godfather, Dancelot Wordwright. Wordwright gives him a manuscript, which he claims to be the greatest piece of writing ever. Upon reading the manuscript, Yarnspinner is so blown away that he feels he has to go to the City of Dreaming Books to find its author. There, Yarnspinner meets the shark grub Pfistomel Smyke, who offers to help find the author. Unfortunately, Smyke is not who he seems; he poisons Yarnspinner with a hazardous book, and maroons him in the city’s catacombs. Here he must watch out for bookhunters, harpies, the fearsome booklings, and the legendary Shadow King.

Will he ever find his way out to become the writer he has heretofore only dreamed of? Read this amazing tale and find out!

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

World Building: Creation and Prophecy

How do writers world build their fantasy novels? Is there a technique to help visualize details? There are several strategies for writers from sketching to outlining to stream of consciousness journaling but two that I’ve found effective are the creation myth and a prophecy.

When I started writing Artania some years ago one question I asked was, “How could an art-populated land begin?” It made sense to me that it would have begun with the beginning of the first art. So I researched ancient archeological findings and used this to envision early humans making cave drawings. From there it was easy to visualize the cause and effect relationships for these art pieces to birth an entire planet. The next logical step was to wonder what might endanger Artania and how soothsayers would give their people hope. This lead to writing The Prophecy in poem.

Reading The Prophecy Using Voiceover

The Prophecy has helped to guide my writing multiple times over the years. I’ve used it in both the books and here in videos. So if you’re trying to world build and are frustrated, why not try creating your own.

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

Artania V: The Crone’s Kettle Excerpt

With a final glance over his shoulder, Sludge stepped onto the shack’s dilapidated porch and knocked on the twisted door. When no Crone appeared, he tried the knob. “Locked. Of course.”

Expecting this, he pulled out the key he’d made. A year or two back, when the Crone was in the kitchen making worm tea, he’d grabbed the key on the wall and pressed it into a block of clay in his pocket. Later he’d taken it to an Artanian blacksmith he knew he could trust who forged a new one.

“Crone?” he called inserting the key in the lock.

No answer. She was probably meeting with the Mud Princess. She often did to scheme and plot. Sludge allowed himself a moment to imagine a dance with that alluring creature, torchlight illuminating their wreathing bodies as his minions looked on in envy.

Yes, the Shadow Swine will long tell tales of his glorious dance. He stared at the door. His lips curled up and serrated teeth glinted in the firelight.

 A splash behind him made him turn. He glanced back at Swallow Hole Swamp where larvae hatched. Even before he’d bowed before Lord Sickhert on the banks of the River of Lies, he’d practiced dream draining on his fellow nymphs here.  

Magnificent memories.

A dark worm crested the swamp, its segmented back rolling in and out of mossy waters.

“Swim, nymph, swim. Find darkness below,” Sludge whispered before stepping over the threshold. “Are you here, old witch?”

Her shack was as quiet as a death.

“Now to find out what you’re up to,” he said. Once inside, he turned right. He knew exactly which room he wanted. While each held a single boiling pot, some forged like serpents or krakens, with others as round as witch’s cauldrons, the one he wanted was misshapen and warped. 

This kettle held answers.

The view inside looked almost the same as it had weeks earlier when he’d stood there with the Crone. A three-legged cauldron with a long ladle inside still rested atop a fire pit, flames licking the bent and twisted iron.

Here he’d seen his face floating in mist. The Deliverer’s father, who had gloriously drowned in mud months before young Bartholomew was born. Oh, he’d reveled in bringing Hygenette nightmares after that. Ensuring that she would forever turn from art.

Those dream invasions had gained him recognition and put him in Lord Sickhert’s favor. But now with Crone suspecting the truth, just a few choice words could strip all of that away.

If he wasn’t careful.

“Are you investigating me, Crone?” Sludge said stepping closer to the kettle.

The boiling surface was misty at first. No images. Not even the slightest hint of a human or Artanian. But as Captain Sludge looked deeper, a faint outline began to appear.

He leaned in closer. A sandy beach emerged. Melting clocks. Cliffs. Near these some hazy forms took shape. Two of the animated figures gesticulated wildly while a third with red hair paced nearby.

“New humans in Surrealia? How can that be?” Sludge gasped and stumbled back.

He mused for a moment. What was going on? Only the Chosen Ones should be able to enter portals. That’s how it had always been.  Had Thinker done this? If so, it made no sense. Artania’s leader was known for safeguarding humans. Only calling upon Alex, Bartholomew, and Gwen when necessary.

Maybe Crone had shown Lord Sickhert their new powers and now could open larger portals. Sludge straightened two of his hair spikes, thinking.  But no, she often ranted and raved about him being too strong. She would never share knowledge with their lord that would give him more power.

But she might take some for herself and leave Sludge behind.

Whatever the reason, he had not slogged through the marshes of Swallow Hole Swamp to waste this opportunity. When he first set out, he’d hoped to find answers to what the Crone was up to. But never in his wildest dreams had he imagined that vulnerable humans would now be in Artania.

He nodded. This turn of events just might work in his favor.

He rubbed his hands together. “I think I’ll craft a bit of amnesia to send your way.”

Taking a deep breath, Sludge blew a long stream of black mist over the simmering liquid. The dark smoke entered each gurgling bubble before rising on the steam. Sludge smiled and blew more.

The hazy image of four teens on a beach rose higher over the kettle as the outline of a brain took shape in the boiling waters. A moment later it ascended, and Jose and Zach’s faces materialized in the air. Licking his lips lasciviously, Sludge blew harder, and all images sharpened.

“Blankness, oblivion, memory loss,” Sludge chanted between panting blows.  A cloud filled the brain outline. It darkened and drifted toward the teens’ faces.

Jose and Zach’s mouths opened in gaping confusion.

“What do you think you’re doing?” an ancient voice cried from the doorway.

Sludge didn’t turn. “Capitalizing on an opportunity.”

“I didn’t give you permission.”

“Yet here I am.” He blew again. “Watch.”

The image of the teens enlarged and then Jose and Zach’s eyes clouded to milky white. An instant later there was a loud pop, and everything disappeared.

Sludge ran a claw-tipped hand over where the image had been.

The Crone slapped him on the back. “Well perhaps you are not quite the pupae I took you for.” She began to cackle.

Sludge joined in and their screeching voices filled the shack and floated over Swallow Hole Swamp.

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

H2O

H2O: The one molecule that is common to all life here on Earth.  Water. We drink it. We exhale it. Our very blood is made of it.  When it is near we are calmed. The sight of river, pool, sea, or rivulet turns furrowed brows into softened gazes. The sound of liquid water quiets the chatter of worried voices, soothing din strained ears. The taste of the cool liquid on tongues renews one’s strength. Its touch cleanses, exhilarates, and revives.

If I were a single molecule of this amazing compound where might I journey? What wonders might I behold? Who might I become a part of? What life might I sustain? Or inspire?

As I follow this path

from cloud

                                    To droplet      

                                                            To rivulet

                                                                                    To  pool

From rivers large and small. Frozen in ice and snow. Traveling from sky to mountain to valley. And finally colliding with oceans and seas in an endless cycle of constant change.

Become the nomad. Drift over the Rocky Mountains.  Roam the falls of Yosemite. Trek across the Pacific to the Hawaiian Islands. Feel the sulfuric mist of lava meeting salty sea. Or join in the warm humid breeze of a tropical night.

Then turn back. A hitchhiker on a trade wind. Blow north. Rest in the frozen tundra of Alaska. Or bob on a glacial ice floe. Bring life to the forest there. Smile at the good works you have done.

Sail across the world. Find another continent. Join in the changes of the centuries. From rings of stone to castles to the modern.  River Thames, Arno, and Tiber fueling the growth of European industry.  Stretch out your arms and touch the past.

Return home. See the small pools and fountains minds have designed. To bring peace to a park or a field. Or a home. Dip your hands in. Let the water fall between your fingers. Cleansing you. Renewing your spirit. Making you ever thankful for this wonder, this life-giving compound. H2O.

Photos by David Stroup

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

Bleached Memory: A Poem

Father’s memory betrayed.

In revisionist history

Sketch after sketch erased.

Canvases unpainted.

She hides his true face

From the world.

Morphing the second Borax’s

Paint-splattered cloak

Into the bleached mantle

Of a king’s antiseptic empire.

The above poem follows the theme of my new novel: Artania V. What is memory? Why is it important? Here fifteen year old Bartholomew realizes that his mother has always lied about who his deceased Father was.

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

Raucous Éclair: A Poem

The mute speak in raucous voices

Spewing chocolate éclairs and ice cream

At satiated audiences.

The blind behold paper movie-set flames

Licking the walls of war-torn villages

Where no one lives.

The deaf attend to the muffled sirens

Of disgruntled men in leisure suits

Who cry “Buy!” and “Sell!” into cellular phones.

I see only darkness through my colored contact lenses

As pop bands play, “My future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.”

I tap my foot, sans rhythm, to the minstrel mime blaring silent recordings on a blank tape.

Voices clamor for the sky.

Tears fall on the shadows of shoulders.

While I orate and conversate.

And emit passionate cliches and sublime euphemisms.

But only the mute hear me,

And they can’t respond.

Photos by David Stroup

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

Artania V: Frozen in Time Excerpt

Hugging her knees, Gwen looked up at the sky where a bat suspended on silent wings defied gravity and all logic. The palm trees waited, mid-sway, their motionless fronds pointing at a distant plane hanging amidst stars.

She glanced around. Lacey Zamora’s finger was still poking Coco’s chest. Zach hung mid-air in a surprised leap. The tiki torches continued to cast icy shadows on Jose’s sexy face.

Rising, she stroked Jose’s cheek. His skin was kinda like one of those sculpted people in Artania. Of course, they moved and talked. But Jose… He just stared with eyes as cold as stone.

 Come on Gwen, try something. Anything.

She ducked under Zach’s suspended feet and looked up. The bottom of Mr. GQ’s dress shoes was stamped with a paisley pattern. “You are one stylin’ soul,” she said chuckling at her own pun.

But Zach said nothing.

Stylin’ soul. Get it, Zach?”

Shrugging, Gwen strolled over to the dance floor. Imitated a few kids’ poses. Even got a couple good Charleston kicks in. Paced back over to the pool with its unnatural ripples frozen in time.

When she bent over and saw no reflection, Gwen swallowed hard.

I don’t want to be alone here..

She backed up. A stiff hand caught her hair.

“Let go!” She jerked away but the statue kid’s fingers were still tangled. She recoiled, losing a clump of hair in the process.

Clamping a hand to her head, Gwen streaked for the French doors. She peered inside before bounding down a hallway. “Can you hear me? Someone, anyone!”

Gwen ran faster, dashing from room to room.  She poked a head inside the kitchen where the caterers were in the middle of chopping, slicing, and arranging gourmet hors d’ oeuvres. Turning on a heel, she rushed upstairs to the master bath where a motionless Mrs. Zamora faced a mirror and aimed a lipstick at her mouth.

“Sorry!” Gwen called as she exited, glad she hadn’t caught the woman in a more embarrassing situation.

She raced in one bedroom. Another. Back down the stairs. Down corridors and around corners. Nothing but frozen people everywhere. By the time she returned to the pool, she was out of breath and her red hair was sticking to the sides of her face. She wiped some of the slick sweat from her brow with the back of her hand.  

And waited, hoping for a repeat of the year before.

Last year when the world had frozen in time lightning had crackled the silence. Then, after the low rumbling of thunder and a pop, a confused Mr. Clean had appeared. She thought he was there to save the day, but he had no idea how to start time again.

The two had had tried buko things before finally getting it going. None of which she could do on her own.

“Where are you guys? I need you.”

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 Tombs of Atuan Review

This book reads like a myth. I felt like I was one of many villagers sitting around a fire centuries ago our ears cocked in rapt attention as we listened to the storyteller reveal her tale. It all began long ago in a poor but loving household where a toddler rushes into her mother’s arms. Father cautions Mother from getting too attached as this girl-child is not theirs and soon will be taken to fulfill her destiny. Since she was born at the same hour of the High Priestess’s death all believe her to be the guardian of the tombs reborn. Taken at just five years old, she is then raised as has been done for countless generations. She tries to accept her role as Arha,she who is eaten but then when she is in her teens a stranger appears who makes her question everything she has ever been taught.

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