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.

Skateboarding in My Mind

Lately I’ve been skateboarding in my mind. Escaping to a place where whirring wheels spin beneath my feet.  And a Canadian maple deck flexes under my weight. I’ve been kicking ever faster with my right as my left balances on scuffed grip tape that’s curling and torn at the edges. I find a place where worries disappear and no one is standing with crossed arms in judgement. Wind whips my hair back as I approach the fourteen-foot high vert ramp and dip the nose over the coping.

For a moment I turn my my face upward to the Southern California sun.  Feeling it warm my skin while I plan the series of tricks I’m about to perform.  Frontside 180. Fakie. Hurricane Stall. Backside Rock-and-Roll.

Then I drop in, rolling down the half-pipe, bending my legs and extending my arms in ways I never have before. One trick. Two. Seven. I am laying it down like Tony Hawk or Shaun White. I am no longer a teacher with papers to grade or an author with chapters to finish.

I am airborne, off to that skateboard in my mind.

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 on the Central Coast of California.

Links to her books can be fund here: Laurie’s Amazon Page

Mud Dancer: A Poem

As we watch life become a growing pustule

On the face of humanity

A question arises,

How did we ever get so far from the smooth,

Idealistic, innocents we once were

With brown mud squishing joyfully

Between our toes

Keeping us ever so clean?

We wash

La cara muchas veces

Our face many times

But the pustule remains

Urging us to  dig deep inside

Until maybe the roots of the infection

Are cleansed

And we can return to our former

Mud dancing selves.

 

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.

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.

James Cudney: An Author’s Journey

I write because I love to tell stories, …share knowledge, and thoughts, ” says cozy mystery and family drama author James Cudney.  “I always wanted to be a writer…but ultimately found myself working in technology. ”

James did well as a technical writer for a telecommunications company  but as the years passed, felt like something was missing. There was constant buzzing in his brain. A whispering in his ears kept saying, You have other stories to tell.  Let them be known.   So after more than a decade of trying to ignore the whispers, James decided it was time to abandon the safety of a  day job and give full-time writing a chance.

He hasn’t looked back since.

Now some might dip into writing as if they were testing the waters of an alpine lake. First a toe. See if it’s too cold. Then another. And if it’s bearable, slowly immerse the legs. But not James. He took a deep breath and canon-balled right into those frigid waters managing in just two and a half years to write five novels, land a publishing contract, gain thousands of followers on his popular blog, and garner the respect of both reader and author alike.

If only we all could make such a splash, huh?

So, how has he been able to achieve so much success in such a short period of time? “I have a one-year-old shiba inu dog named Baxter who likes to keep me focused on him and only him!” he answers, acknowledging the challenges of being a full time writer.  He manages with organization, determination, and ignoring what others might find distracting still he was kind enough to grant me the following interview: 

Tell me about your work .

“My first two novels are stand-alone family drama contemporary fiction books—Watching Glass Shatter, Father Figure. My last three are part of a light and cozy mystery series about a college campus in Pennsylvania, coincidentally based on where I went to school. The Braxton Campus Mysteries includes—Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. My books will always focus on family drama and mystery to varying degrees, as this is where my heart and mind work best. I am planning to dabble in other genres over the next few years. I wonder how it will turn out!”

Cudney books

Can you tell me about your writing process?

“Since my books tend to have complex story lines that weave clues and connections throughout all the chapters, I have to plan them. I start with a ~25-page outline that lists the basic plot, setting, characters, and goals. I include a few high-level descriptions for scenes within each chapter, noting which characters are involved, what their purpose is, and what settings will be used. From there, I write 2 chapters per day on writing days. With the first two books, it took ~6 months from start to finish. With the three lighter mysteries, each is about a ~3-month process to outline, write, edit and prepare for publication. When I’m writing, I tend to sit at my dining room table on a laptop staring out onto the terrace in my NYC apartment. I spend about three hours per chapter, but sometimes it can go more quickly or take all day!”

What inspires you?  How do you come up with your ideas?

“I’m plot-oriented. The first thing that comes to mind is some wicked or devious story that is chock full of surprises. Then I decide who the villain will be. Sometimes it’s a minor character, but others, I want to shock readers by making it someone core to the story. Once I know the villain, I create side-stories that allow me to show red herrings or create sub-plots to entertain and distract. I tend to be quiet and shy in person, so I’m often thinking about new books even while in a group setting. I listen and observe rather than talk and share in person. It’s a blessing and a curse!”

What is your favorite part of writing?

“My favorite part is interacting with readers to know what impression it had on them.”

How did you break into publishing?

“It was an alternative path. I started out by querying literary agents using an online database that matched author style and genre to agencies. I took 6 months while I was writing and editing Watching Glass Shatter to search for an agent to help me succeed, but like most people, I had very few responses and leads. I also had zero connections in the publishing world until I began writing a blog. After I posted two chapters, a fellow blogger read my work and privately messaged me. She was a life-savior who introduced me to her publisher, Creativia. Within a month, Creativia and I decided to partner together to build my career. Five books into it, I’m still shocked things are working out!”

What is the strangest thing you have ever had to research?

“How to create an explosion in a laboratory that has two different reactions—a minor one to distract a villain and a larger one to kill someone unexpectedly. It’s a good thing I didn’t get into science, or I might have blown up a few too many things! The scene will be in Flower Power Trip when it is published on March 30th, 2019.”

Any tips for new  or aspiring authors?

“Be sure you know what your goals are before you publish something. Is it for fame? Money? Prestige? Accolades? Self-worth? Boredom? Hobby? Profession? Literary merit? Humor? Until you know what you want to accomplish, you can’t define your marketing plans or your reaction to critics. Few writers survive on income from books alone. It’s important to know that and focus on the right plan to meet your goals.”

Tell about your writing education. 

“I took a few creative and fiction writing courses in high school and college.
Since then (20 years), I have done nothing formal nor obtained any
qualifications. I personally don’t learn from sitting in a classroom and
studying textbooks. I learn from talking with people, reading other people’s
works, and paying attention to what’s happening in the realm of publishing.
Should I brush up on grammar, yes. Should I take a course on marketing,
yes. But when it comes to building a character, I know enough from reading
and reviewing close to 1000 books in my lifetime. But it doesn’t mean I am
an expert. It means I have enough to be successful. I can always learn, and
if the right class came around about how to develop certain writing skills, I’d
fully jump into it!”

Who are your favorite authors and novels? 

“I’ve got a bunch depending on genre. For historical fiction, I’m obsessed
with Ken Follett and Kate Morton. For mystery, I adore Agatha Christie. For
contemporary fiction, I’m enamored with Fredrik Backman and Amanda
Prowse. I’m a huge fan of Follett’s Pillars of the Earth series, but ultimately, my two
favorite books are And Then There Were None’and Murder on the Orient
Express by Christie.”

What are your plans for the future?

“I’d love to have enough of a canon and following to spend time working with younger or newer writers. I’m adept at story development and figuring out what characters will attract readers. I’d love to mentor and give back in the future once I’ve proved my skills and capabilities.”

What are you working on now?

“I’m writing a sequel to Watching Glass Shatter and the fourth book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series. Hopefully I keep the plots separated!”

If his recent books are any indication, I’m sure he’ll have no problem.

“I write because I love to …develop characters, create settings, and share … with other people,” says James.

And we are all so thankful that you have.

 

For more information about James Cudney’s books see below:

Websites & Blog and Social Media Links

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/   Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/James-J.-Cudney/e/B076B6PB3M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

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.

 

Artania Writing Trek: Phase 1

When I first set off on a writing trek to finish Artania IV I didn’t know what to expect. I’d read about other writers who used solitude to create, setting off on adventures across the country while scribbling away at their yellow pads or pounding at ancient keys on black Royal typewriters.  The romantic in me imagined a Steinbeck, Hemingway,  Thoreau journey into the profound.

As I began driving down Highway 166 I could barely contain my excitement. I cranked the radio singing along  to “Are You Going to San Francisco”  and  “Free Fallin'” at the top of my lungs. I was in a twirling fantasy of whatever might come. I even stopped by the side of the road just to twirl in circles.

The further I drove the more beauty I saw. The hills grew softer, the sky bluer, even the cows were looking like sublime mythical creatures.

I was going inward to a place of my own making.

Embrace the Fulcrum: A Poem

The intermediary

The one

The fulcrum borne on our shoulders.

How do  we sustain such a crux?

By saying:

This is the moment

Embrace it.

For you are the axis of two worlds.

 

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.

 

Acceptance

Have you ever put a mirror in front of a toddler and watch her smile? That baby loves the face in the glass.  But then place that same mirror in front of an eleven-year-old and what does she do? Pick herself apart. By 21 most women, myself included,  could give you a laundry list of a hundred things they want to change. For me it was,  My nose is too long, my thighs too heavy, my hair is a frizzy wig, and oh shit another zit! Why can’t I have skin like Erin and a nose like Pam?

You know. It goes on and on.

What happens in those years? Why do we go from seeing our beauty to the opposite?

I believe it’s acceptance. Such a simple word. Easy to define. It’s something a child does without question. But adults, no way.

Today I woke up to yesterday’s smeared mascara, depressing book sales, hair I have no idea what to do with, and a chapter I can’t seem to finish.

And began to beat myself up.

Then I thought. What mirror always reflects the toddler I once was? What reflection is always beautiful? And I realized, my expression. My creativity.

So instead of looking in the mirror and at royalty reports I wrote.

And began to feel acceptance.

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.