Poetry

The pleading of characters in my books

[From a book under edit]

I’m hidden under the print,

reaching, reaching

clawing for my right to show on the page

and not just in the channels of your brain.

Hints and likenesses are what I have,

yet I yearn to be presented as I am.

Clear a path for me, I’ll give the depth

you’re seeking, I promise.

 

[From a book currently being drafted]

Ah, but at least she already exists,

life laid out for her paragraph after paragraph.

What have I got after me?

The empty whiteness under the last sentence.

Hurry up, author, her story is done.

I’m the one you want to work with,

spend time with me and we’ll see where we go.

 

[From the author, weary from juggling]

That’s enough, I won’t have any arguments.

You’re both important, both of you will shine.

Her story isn’t done, there’s more of her I can show

regardless of our knowledge of where she’ll go.

And as for you, I’m doing the best I can.

I’m crafting out time and space for you to grow,

to ink away the white until you’re satisfied.

So let me carry on as I am and stop moaning.

I’ve got work to do, you know.

 

Reviews

Book Review, Artania: The Pharaoh’s Cry by Laurie Woodward

Laurie Woodward is a fellow Next Chapter author (previously, they were called Creativia Publishing) who writes middle grade books the same as I do, and when I read the synopsis for the first book in her Artania series, I was so intrigued I had to grab a copy for myself.

The basic premise for the Artania series is that art is alive and the creations there have their own realm – Artania itself – that is under threat from monsters that want to wipe out all the hope and creativity from the world so they can take over Artania for themselves.

The denizens of Artania, fearful of losing their home, reach out to two young boys who have been prophesied to save them, both of whom have a passion for art but come from drastically different backgrounds: Bartholomew Borax III, whose mother is the head of a bleach company and has such an obsession with cleanliness that he has to hide his art from her lest she declare it unclean and confiscate it, and Alexander DeVinci, a cool kid who moves to a new home with a larger room for him to paint in where he spends most of his spare time, much to his mother’s sadness when he becomes so absorbed in his work that he rarely speaks to her.

As the plot gently unfolds by the switching of viewpoints between the two boys with each chapter, I found I sympathized most with Bartholomew, as his mother is so strict about him staying clean and presentable, and not picking up germs from anywhere, that he really has no interaction with other kids his age at all. When she reluctantly agrees to let him go to a public school, he is very much an outsider and knows none of the social nuances most of the kids in his class use, and it’s only when he draws a detailed portrait that he gains any sort of respect from them.

Alex is very much the opposite of Bartholomew – confident, lots of friends, easygoing parents etc, but his problems begin when his mother becomes seriously ill, and he blames himself for prioritising art over spending time with her. This neglect for art and the negative emotions around it are what the monsters feed on, making them stronger. Yet when the boys are summoned by the Artanians and learn to be friends, Bartholomew manages to help Alex rekindle his love of art.

As this is book one of a series, it only covers a small part of what the boys have to do to save Artania, focusing on a group of pharaohs who have been kidnapped by the monsters. Because of this, a lot of time and detail is spent building up their world, and it’s clear that a lot of research has gone into this book. Many of the characters are true to Egyptian mythology and history, and I actually learnt a bit while reading.

The characters’ motivations were all crystal clear, and I did find myself rooting for the boys when it got to the nitty gritty of the story. I did, however, find the pacing a bit too slow for my liking, but that’s just personal taste – I like fast paced middle grade that doesn’t let me rest, and this just didn’t have that factor. But the idea behind it was still fresh and well thought out.

I don’t know whether I will continue with the series, as despite the strong writing and plot, I can’t say it gripped me as much as I’d hoped it would. But I imagine it will be a firm favourite with many middle grade readers.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good read.

 

Official blurb:

Young Bartholomew isn’t allowed to go to school, play outside or make art, so he sketches in secret. When Bartholomew meets the skateboarding artist, Alexander DeVinci, he’s yanked into a mythical realm of living paintings and breathing sculptures: Artania.

The two soon learn that the strange world, where everything seems to be possible, is on the verge of destruction. With Egyptian gods and goddesses by their side, they face daring battles and narrow skateboarding escapes.

But can they defeat the evil Sickhert’s army, and bring art back to the world?

Artania

Poetry

Shuffle Huffle

It’s been a while since the spark of my mind

and the images it carves in the grain of my imagination

have wanted to come freely out through my fingertips

and drip into inky life on the page.

Usually, I have to drag them. Wrap my hands around their horns and heave

to get them moving. But of course, that only makes them more stubborn.

I show them pictures of the tumbleweed rolling across my notebook,

pick up handfuls of dry soil

so they can see how barren it’s become.

Guilt-tripping them all the way until they grumble into a slow shuffle

one by one, and cause ink blots everywhere as they do so.

But today they danced out to a waltz,

a festival of colours and gowns and painted masks

because I chose to let them take control of my fingers

and make the shapes they wanted to,

and not force them to bend into mine.

Extracts/ Flash Fiction

Extract from my middle-grade WIP

When we have a sufficient crowd and I’ve warmed them up with my honeyed words, I step aside so pa can begin his first act – a standard card trick which relies on a story to draw them in.

In a deeply sonorous voice – a surprising trick in itself, if you’ve never heard it before – he starts his speech. ‘Once, there was a lonely jester who tried to fit in.’ From his deck, he produces a joker card and displays it for everyone to see, before placing it on the table face down. ‘He wanted to win the hearts of his peers,’ he continues, taking a ten of hearts and placing it face down on top of the joker, ‘but none would take him seriously. So one day, he decided to appeal to the king.’ At this point, he draws the king of diamonds from the deck, shows it, and then replaces it.

‘After being escorted by the guards into the palace and made to wait all day,’ he says, flicking the top face down card over to reveal that it’s no longer the ten of hearts, but a jack of spades, ‘the king finally took his audience.’ Here, he turns the other face down card over, to show the king of diamonds instead of the joker. There are a few claps and appreciative gasps for both expositions, at which point I offer my hat for tips. A few contribute, but not as many as I would like.

‘He said to the jester that if he completed all the tasks he was set, of which there would be three, then the king would grant him a title and have him welcomed at court. The first task was to seek out where his diamond crown had gone.’ Now pa dips into his deck, seemingly at random, and pulls out the ace of diamonds. He keeps it held up as he goes on. ‘And so the jester searched. He found the crown of hearts.’ Pa flicks the card and it turns into the ace of hearts. He does it twice more, pausing each time as he explains, ‘The crown of clubs. Of spades. But no diamond. Fearful that he would fail in his task, he approached the queen and told her of his dilemma.’ He flicks the card a final time, and it turns into the queen of diamonds.

More applause, but I hold off collecting for a few more beats. Wait for it…

‘She laughed, and told him to look where he’d least expect to find it. And so the jester pulled off his own hat,’ he says, grasping his own top hat, taking a breath, and then lifting it, ‘and on his head sat the diamond crown.’

As the crowd lays eyes on the ace of diamonds on pa’s head and applauds more enthusiastically this time, I whip round and gather their offerings. There’s more people joining by the second.

Poetry

Train of thought

The skies are dark, the chugging

rising from a growl into a beating drum

as the tracks curve up to the sky.

The clouds shift into giant birds, spreading their wings

to chase away the smog and

drift beside the train as it gathers speed

heading to its conclusion

that has yet to be built.

Poetry

Refined

The first line.

That’s all it can take. A statement.

Sometimes bold, sometimes not.

It is exactly what it needs to be.

It can grasp you, choke hold,

demanding to know who you are and why you’re reading it.

It can take your hand and guide you through.

It can push you, head-first, into another universe.

It can offer you a roll of the dice,

or a look into the mirror,

a table at the feast.

Leave you cold. Leave you warm. Leave you flustered.

Make you think you want to quit, then watch as you can’t bring yourself to.

Stamp itself into your mind.  A tattoo you forget about

until you look over your shoulder.

Permanent.

An experience that will never vanish.

Poetry

Seed webs

Anything can spark an idea. A casual remark from a spouse, the sign for a road, the scent of a stranger’s perfume that has been applied so thoroughly it lingers in the air minutes after they’ve passed. Away to another land, a pace beyond the street, or maybe to the final land. Perhaps their perfume is not just perfume, but a way for the organisation they work for to track them, figure out the exact code that unlocks the doors from world to world. Random or systematic. Like the mind.

Poetry

Once more, the quest

The trees are thinning now.

You grab my hand as I make

to sweep a branch from our way,

breath held in, tight, coiled.

Easy, you say. Easy.

I want to be rash! I want to be bold!

I know you’re right.

We have to wait, wait

until the sun dies and the ground

weeps at its parting,

until the moon sharpens the tip of the pennants

snapping to in the breeze.

Then, only then, can we move.

If only time didn’t halt at your closeness.

Poetry

Mind River

It trickles through my veins, pouring

across synapses, moonlight swirled

with mother of pearl

that pools in the corners of my eyes.

Here, in my hand, goading my muscles

to grasp the pen and shape the smoke

with definite, crisp strokes before

those snippet thoughts think to flee.

Poetry

Cover to cover

Hiding in the in-between,

tucked into corners and balancing on ends,

hanging from cliff faces

only to fall

into a change of pace,

your viewpoint shifts

as the plot thickens around your inner self.

You’re running wild, free,

almost off the page –

and then you hit the wall,

the final cover falling back into place,

locking you in once more.