Monday, July 25, 2011

Welcome Lyndi Alexander! Before Page One: The Creation Process of a Story

Thanks so much, Alison, for the chance to visit your blog today!
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.
Her adventures with the elves continue in The Elf Child, as the ruling entity of the clan, The Circle, takes over her life in ways she doesn’t want. She finds being a queen isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and in fact, new dangers surface because of her status. But her friends come through to save her, and this story continues in The Elf Mage, which comes out in early 2012.
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 Like us on Facebook! The series is available at, 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 or
Thanks so much, Lyndi! Your stories sound fascinating! What a great imagination!

Visit Alison Chambers on the LASR Birthday Bash July 30!
Next Week: Vonnie Davis!

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