Monday, July 25, 2011
I’ll be talking about the genesis of a book, from beginning to end. What I’d like to say is that I sit down at the computer and the words magically flow from my fingers. Sadly, that’s not the case.
For example, with my urban fantasy series, the Clan Elves of the Bitterroot, what came to me first was the image of a glass slipper, a twist on the Cinderella story. What if…. What if a young woman found a glass slipper lying on the sidewalk, and tried it on? That would be kind of an odd experience, but still not fascinating.
So. What if a young woman found a glass slipper lying on the sidewalk, tried it on, and it broke? A little more interesting, but not compelling. Yet.
What if a young woman found a glass slipper lying on the sidewalk, tried it on, and it broke—and then a bunch of tiny men ran out from the blood on the sidewalk and disappeared under the buildings around her?
Now that’s a mystery.
And so Jelani Marsh, heroine of The Elf Queen, was created. I needed to make her interesting, too, outside of her job as a barista, so I created her enigmatic past, as an orphan whose parents vanished under mysterious circumstances. She’s also a quitter. Dropped out of college, got dumped at the altar, she’s never finished anything in her life.
I wanted to set it in a place that could be mystical, so I chose the western end of Montana, in the Bitterroot Mountains, which are pristine and beautiful. Seemed to be the kind of place elves might live in the real world.
But of course, she can’t go through this adventure by herself! So she needs friends. Life skills coach Iris, computer geek and online gamer extraordinaire Lane, and “Crispy” Mendell, an agoraphobic abuse survivor filled out the cast well.
Then I needed to create the elves she comes to meet—and also their nemesis, the evil renegade elf Bartolomey.
What I find is that when the characters are right, the story tends to flow well, and this was the case here. Each chapter leads her further into the mystery of her past, with the help of various characters, until she reaches the hidden truth that she never expected to find.
Once the story is written in first draft, I circulate it among some trusted readers, making sure my story arcs are complete. Since I’m a pantser, I don’t write outlines and plan chapter by chapter. I let the story take me. Sometimes it takes me on a rather circuitous path—and I need to be yanked back in line! I take suggestions into consideration and then polish the manuscript up for submission.
For more information about the Clan Elves, see http://clanelvesofthebitterroot.com. Like us on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Elf-Queen-Clan-Elves-of-the-Bitterroot-Series/158076904227479 The series is available at amazon.com, or can be ordered from your local bookseller.
Lyndi Alexander dreamed for many years of being a spaceship captain, but settled instead for inspired excursions into fictional places with fascinating companions from her imagination that she likes to share with others. She has been a published writer for over thirty years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at a newspaper in Homestead, Florida. Her list of publications is eclectic, from science fiction to romance to horror, from tech reporting to television reviews. Lyndi is married to an absent-minded computer geek. Together, they have a dozen computers, seven children and a full house in northwestern Pennsylvania
LANE drove Jelani to the airport.
She had really expected him to return from his investigation with his trademark smarmy look and snappy comeback about how it was a real cute trick and ha-ha-ha, you got us. But that hadn’t happened.
“Sent your video to a couple friends of mine,” he said, after the engine on the ancient truck had finally rolled over, followed by a roar from the rusting tailpipe. “They verified it wasn’t faked. It’s legit.”
Wishing the seatbelt still worked, she eyed him from the passenger seat as they lurched forward. “Well, gee. Thanks.”
He grinned. “I had to test it out, Jelly Bean. Not that I don’t believe you, but—”
“But that’s one helluva story. Your foot healed up right then and there, and the shoe—”
“Disappeared before I put my boot back on.”
Lane stared forward, waiting for a traffic light to change. “You know some of the Magick-type games hold that wizards use an injured creature’s own healing power to mend injuries. By focusing their energy on the pattern of a healthy body inside the injured one, they can speed the process of natural healing, even drawing from their surroundings and other living creatures nearby to jump start the process.” He glanced over at her, an odd look darkening his face. “But as much respect as I have for Iris, she’s no wizard.”
“My life is no D&D game, either.” Irritated, Jelani hunched back into the seat. “What about the little men?”
“Yeah, well.” Lane accelerated onto Broadway, heading west to the airport. “Those are a little more difficult.”
“No, no, Lane, listen. This is where you’re supposed to tell me there’s no such thing as little men, blue, green, or otherwise. And I should put it out of my mind as a piece of undigested potato or something. You know, like Scrooge and those damned ghosts.”
“Blue?” He looked over at her curiously.
“Never mind.” She fidgeted with her purse for a moment. Then split her attention between passing cars and the river running alongside the highway.
“My research showed a lot of references to the homunculus, or little man, in all kinds of scientific circles, both biologic and alchemist. Back in the Middle Ages, they had mondo theories how you would make little men, just like you described. Did you ever hear of a mandrake?”
“The magician guy?”
Lane cackled. “I thought you didn’t know about comics. No, not that kind. This is a kind of plant whose root grows to look like a human form. Legend held that mandrakes would grow from the sperm hitting the ground when a hanged man convulsed and ejaculated.”
“Ugh! That’s disgusting.”
“Do you want to hear this or not?” Lane gave a dramatic sigh. “You had to have a black dog retrieve the root for you. You’d feed it milk and honey until it became alive. Then it would do your bidding.”
Jelani snickered. “Better than a real man, apparently.”
“Not really. The homunculus would run away from its creator after a while.”
“Oh, just like a real man.” She looked out the window, her own left-at-the-altar experience still raw after nearly three years.
Lane was silent, and she could see she’d hurt his feelings. Like Crispy, he often took serious offense to what she considered gentle teasing. “Is that the only way?” she asked to draw him out again.
He sulked for a few minutes. “Sometimes, alchemists would take a bag and put in bones, pieces of skin, and human sperm. Then they buried it in dung for an entire lunar cycle, during which the embryo formed. Then presto! One home-grown homunculus!”
Lane pulled into the turn lane, waiting for the cross-traffic to pass. Then turned onto the wildflower-lined airport drive, and continued along the route to the Departure gates.
Surely, Lane didn’t believe all that crap. “But that’s all myth, right?” Jelani asked. “I mean, alchemists aren’t really scientists. Not like, you know, doctors? Right? They’re quacks.”
“Well, true. There aren’t a whole lot of them around today. The most common uses I found of the term ‘homunculus’ in modern times are a bio-psychological theory of a small man inside a brain, kind of overseeing the body. And, second, some women finding dermoid abdominal cysts with hair and teeth in them. But they’ve got to be surgically removed. They don’t just appear out of your blood on a sunny sidewalk.”
There were a fair number of people waiting to check their bags, as they pulled up at the departure curb. Already nervous, she hoped they wouldn’t all be on her flight. “You think those little men came from my blood?”
“Where do you think they came from?”
“I thought they must have come from the shoe. I mean, I cut myself at work all the time. If little guys were going to escape through my blood every time I needed a bandage, I’d have repopulated the city with them by now.” She climbed out of the truck and retrieved her overnight bag and her purse, planning to carry everything with her to avoid delays. She’d steadfastly emptied all her liquids and chosen thin-soled sandals she could just slip off at the security gate.
Lane set the hazard flashers. Then climbed out and walked around the truck. He studied her for a moment, concern etched on his face. “I’ll keep researching while you’re gone. You sure you’re going to be all right with the wicked stepmother?”
(read more here http://www.dragonflypubs.com/dfp/elfqueen.html or http://stanza-ebooks.com/sample/19803/the-elf-queen)
Thanks so much, Lyndi! Your stories sound fascinating! What a great imagination!
Visit Alison Chambers on the LASR Birthday Bash July 30! http://lasrguest.blogspot.com/
Next Week: Vonnie Davis!
Monday, July 18, 2011
Aaah, the Hero. (With a capital H, of course.) Where would a good romance novel be without it’s hunky protagonist? Whether he swoops, swaggers, stomps, or strides into the Heroine’s life, he’s an essential part of every standard romance. We simply can’t do without him.
Heros thrill us with their confident, alpha attitudes. They’re protective and possessive, and we wouldn’t have them any other way. Even a strong, take-charge heroine needs a man who can stand up to her. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Shahara Dagan in Born of Fire, is a the best bounty hunter in the universe. Stands to reason the man who steals her heart is the most notorious thief alive. And what about Alexis Morgan’s Lusahn q’Arc in Redeemed in Darkness? She can swing a sword better than most warriors in her homeland. No surprise that the powerful Paladin and swordsman extraordinaire, Cullen Finley, is the one to slip past her guard. (Doesn’t hurt one bit that she thinks he looks magnificent with his shirt off.)
Let’s face it, nothing suggests romance like a sexy, half-naked man on the cover of a book. Be he a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief…oh, wait, that’s another list. Actually, the most recent list I’ve seen of popular Hero professions does include doctors, but sadly, no lawyers or Indian chiefs. Cowboys and ranchers made the list. So did bosses. (Definitely not my favorite.) Surgeons, too, though I rather thought they should be lumped in with doctors. Kings and princes (as in Prince Devlin in my first Bloodsworn book), and sheriffs, knights, and, what do you know, bodyguards.
Check out Bloodsworn II: Linked by Blood, and find out how fate and a five-year-old boy bring our Hero and Heroine together. You can purchase Linked by Blood at www.thewildrosepress.com or from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
Live, Laugh, Love, and Read Lots of Romance ;)
Available now from www.thewildrosepress.com & www.digibookscafe.com
Bloodsworn: Bound By Magic - 2011 PRISM 1st Place in Fantasy and BEST FIRST BOOK!!!
And don't forget to check out Bloodsworn II: Linked By Blood now available!!
Thanks, Kathy and Congrats one more time!
Next Week: Lyndi Alexander
Sunday, July 10, 2011
I never thought about writing. I thought that, in order to write, you had to be a writer. I know, garbled thinking, right? So I moved to Canada with my Canadian husband and became an actor. Flushed with success and making a living as an actor, I continued for another bunch of years, finally moving back to the U.S. and settling in L.A. Unfortunately, enough years had passed so that I’m now an o-l-d actor, and we know what happens to female actors as they get older. Except for Meryl Streep, of course.
Then I discovered Kathleen Woodiwiss, and I was in romance heaven. After reading and absorbing for another bunch of years, I broke the ice with Autumn Desire, a contemporary romance published by The Wild Rose Press. My mother went back to college at age 50 and had a great four-year adventure, so I thought that might be a stepping off point for a romance novel.
I wish I had the discipline and skill to plan my books and write an outline, but I’m a complete failure. I guess I’m either lazy or just inept, but I wait until I hear the first line in my head, then I just follow where that leads. The result is that it takes forever to get started. I think that’s called seat-of-the-pants writing, and I don’t recommend it as a writing technique. I frequently find I’ve written myself into a corner with nowhere to go. That’s the point at which I invite my son out to brunch and ask for help. He’s cleverer than I am, and he usually offers at least three solutions to my problem.
My Autumn Desire heroine, after being widowed suddenly, decided to go back to college at the university where her husband had been a respected chemistry professor. There she met his detested rival, and (of course) sparks flew – hers in anger, his in attraction. You know where this went, of course.
Passion’s Design took my heroine to South America where she was to design an elaborate wedding for two aristocratic families, but (silly girl) she fell in love with the groom – who just happened to hold all things American in contempt. You know where this went.
Velvet and Topaz is the giveaway today. It’s an ebook, so no fuss, no bother to send it along to one of you.
So while I wait for that first elusive first line, what do I do? I read romance novels, of course.
Next week: Kathy Lane
Monday, July 4, 2011
I fell in love with a pretty blue convertible.
The fireworks show had ended, but traffic over the bridge toward home had come to a full stop. So my friend and I turned in the other direction, toward the beach.
I saw the pretty blue convertible parked at the drive-in restaurant. Two men sat in the car, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. At that point, I wasn’t interested in men. My last boyfriend had been arrested for selling something that didn’t belong to him, and I refused to have anything to do with him again. I wouldn’t even take his phone calls.
I worked as a secretary at Patrick Air Force Base, and there were plenty of Air Force guys around, but they didn’t make much money in those days, so the guys were usually broke. Some of the men who worked in the same office building hit on me, but most of them were married, and I absolutely refused to date a married man. An old boyfriend proposed and I turned him down. He was a sweet guy, but I didn’t love him, and his family made me uncomfortable. The engineers who worked downrange were so love-starved, it was like dating an octopus, and I wasn’t that kind of girl. I was so discouraged, I’d just about given up on men altogether that Fourth of July when I saw the pretty blue convertible.
The two guys in the blue car struck up a conversation. They slid into the backseat of my Corvair and we talked for over an hour. They said they were in the Navy, stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, and they served on the Polaris submarines.
The guy who drove the car invited me to go to the movies with him the next evening, and I accepted. He seemed really nice, and I figured anyone who owned a car like had to have something going for him. He was good looking and had the sexiest brown eyes.
Two weeks later he sold the car, but by then I was already smitten. We only dated three and a half weeks when he proposed. I said yes, then had second thoughts. He was Jewish and except for one boy in my high school class and some merchants in Miami Beach, I’d never known anyone who was Jewish.
I went to the library and tried to find books on the Jewish religion and traditions, but this was Central Florida. In the early 60’s. The schools were still segregated. I couldn’t find any books to tell me what I’d be getting myself into if I married a Jewish guy. No surprise there. If you weren’t a white Christian, you didn’t fit in.
I didn’t know if his family would accept me. Would they expect me to raise our children Jewish? I had no idea. He said it didn’t matter, he loved me and wanted to marry me, and I could raise our kids however I wanted. So we set the date.
We only knew each other six months when we married in January, 1963.
If I hadn’t pulled into the drive-in, we wouldn’t have met. And if he hadn’t been driving that pretty blue convertible, I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention. Now, instead of driving a pretty blue convertible, he drives me crazy. But after 48 years, we’re still married. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
That’s my Fourth of July story. What’s yours?
Sue has written over two dozen books. The Gregory Series: ON THE RUN, ON THE LAM, and ON THE EDGE, are available exclusively at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. THE MITCHELL MONEY is available through The Wild Rose Press, DigiBooks Cafe, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.
Win a free Kindle at DigiBooks Café. You can find the link and a clue to the puzzle for the contest on my blog at http://suefineman.blogspot.com/
Thanks, Sue, great post!
Next week my guest is Sharon Noble