About Lyndi Alexander
Lyndi grew up a poor black child….
No, wait. That’s a different movie. Lyndi grew up in the Midwest, knowing from the time she was very young that she wanted to write stories. Science fiction and fantasy were the fuels for her imagination in those days, from Madeleine L’Engle’s tesseract stories, to Ursula K. LeGuin, on to Anne McCaffrey’s dragon books, Heinlein’s classics… too many to name. Then as those huge stories spread across space, both on the small screen, like Star Trek, and the big screen, like Star Wars, and eventually as man (and woman!) entered the cosmos via rockets, inspiration continued. (Though if challenged, she would claim that Browncoats rule!)
Her urban fantasy series, Clan Elves of the Bitterroot, is set in Montana, just outside Missoula, a beautiful location very possibly shot through with magic. The series has its own page here, but you’ll find news at this site from time to time too.
Now that Lyndi has her very own space stories in print (TRIAD and the Horizon Crossover series, published by Dragonfly Publishing, Inc. in ebook, paperback and hardback), she needed a place to stretch her wings a bit. She’s expanded her reach to science fiction romance with A SMALL DEGREE OF HOPE, and her YA fantasy works, the WINDMILLS series and THE LOST CHORD.
Stay tuned. Always something happening around here. A little adventure, a little romance, interesting characters and stories that don’t just rehash what you’ve already read. Welcome!
If you’d like to send a note, a message, a review, even a warm comment about one of the stories, that’s great–I love to hear from people! You can email at lyndialexander AT gmail DOT com, and sign up for my Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/lyndialexander13
THE LONG VERSION (for those who REALLY want to know more)
- A Dead Rabbit and The Letter
My journey to writing began as so many do, in a love of reading. My mother taught me to read when I was three years old, and I devoured everything I could get my hands on. We didn’t have a lot of books in our home, because she was a single mother and money was often tight, but I read the Bible, enjoying all the drama of the Old Testament, and whatever else we had, until I started reading Dr. Spock’s baby wellness book and self-diagnosing with all sorts of horrid maladies. Then we got a library card.
In third grade, I wrote the first piece that anyone really paid attention to, sitting inside my living room window watching my sister’s cat kill and eat a rabbit outside. The future journalist in me carefully noted each organ as it was torn out and chewed, documenting the entire event for posterity. My mother was so impressed, she took it to my school and my teacher read it to the class. The girls were grossed out, but the boys actually thought I was a little bit more cool.
As I moved into high school, my writing tastes graduated from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (one of my all-time favorite books) and The Island of the Blue Dolphins to romantic suspense. I read everything by Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Jane Aiken Hodge, and Dorothy Eden. Back in those days, romantic suspense was more about the mystery and danger than it was about sex. I knew in my heart I could write stories like this, and when I was 14, I wrote my first, a terribly Gothic time travel story about a young woman who enters an old house and is mysteriously transported back a hundred years, becomes the governess, falls in love with the young master of the house…you know. Pretty formula stuff. What the heck? I was 14.
Sure this was the next great thing, I packed it up (yes, we still sent snail mail submissions then) and mailed it to the Romance Editor at Doubleday. Looking back on that now, I’m flabbergasted. What’s even more amazing is that in 1970, a 14-year-old wannabe author without an agent could be read by a Doubleday editor and receive a polite and encouraging rejection letter, personally written and signed by said editor.
Of course I was devastated, but this editor’s encouraging words fanned those creative flames, and I was off to manuscript number two.
- The Adventure of Science Fiction
They That Have Power, though certainly an exciting and very dramatic tale of international espionage at a state teacher’s convention, was also a bust, and cooled my enthusiasm for writing for awhile. That was just about the time I discovered science fiction, and I thought I’d moved to a state of nirvana.
While I still read my earlier favorites, I expanded into Asimov, Spider Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke and many others, finding the flights of imagination in these books incredibly stimulating. Once I hit college, I found Robert Heinlein, not his earlier, more hard-science stuff, but Stranger in a Strange Land, I Will Fear No Evil and the Lazarus Long books, and they meshed perfectly with that time in my life, discovering the world away from home.
Also in college, I studied English and journalism, and wrote a novel as my Honors Thesis, the story of a young woman from a single parent home, parentified and raising her two sisters, working part time at a call-in Crisis Line—very much drawn from my own life. Working with a professor/mentor to draw the tale and polish it was a delight and I thought I was back on the road to writing again.
But, as usual, real life intervened. I fell in love.
In my last semester of college, I met my first husband, a childhood friend of some of my high school girlfriends. For some whacked-out reason (or maybe because I felt I had nowhere else to go), when I graduated, I moved in with him. He had a year of college remaining, and by the time it was done, I was working in a pizza shop to support us, and I was pregnant.
He finished school and moved us from Ohio to Montana, where he intended to work for his brother-in-law’s business, his degree nothing more than a “Would you like fries with that?” piece of paper. After a few months it was clear that wouldn’t work out, so he joined the Air Force. Another move, this time to sunny Homestead, Florida, just after our daughter was born, and soon our second daughter was on the way.
The day after she was born, Fidel Castro changed my life.
Who knew newswriting wasn’t like Lou Grant?
For awhile, it seemed like I was destined for stay-at-home-mom land, but the Mariel boatlift quickly put an end to that. I’d done some floral design work in Montana, and filled in for holidays once we’d gone to Florida. While I was still in the hospital, one of the florists in town called, desperate for me to come to work—his Cuban designer had bailed to grab a boat and go get his family.
That job lasted the better part of a year, until an ad for a reporter appeared in the local paper. My fingers had been itching to start writing again, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I jumped at it. A quick interview and some rusty attempts to remember the upside-down pyramid that comprises a news story, and I was in.
The South Dade News Leader was a Monday through Friday paper in an area served by the Miami Herald. Clearly we were not the main source of people’s news. We concentrated on the local folk, the heartwarming human interest stories and the things that were just too small for the Herald’s notice. A news staff of five or six split up the beats and covered everything pretty well. Over the four years I was there, I covered schools, local government, the farm beat, the page two weather updates, and a host of other unmemorables. From the first month, I got chosen as religion editor, though I wasn’t a practitioner of any flavor and didn’t understand most of it. I did get to eventually take over the yearly hurricane tab, which was one of the best parts, since I was a weather crisis junkie, and I went to the National Hurricane Center (just up the road) to interview Dr. Neil Frank, then Dr. Robert Sheets, and a host of other weather dignitaries.
I also developed a couple of series, including one called A Day in the Life, where I would spend a day with different professionals, then report what it was like to be them. Some of these full-page articles won state awards, which was great. The one on morticians, however, got a whole lot of nasty phone calls from our elderly readers, who apparently did want to think about such things. Sorry about that.
What surprised me the most, and was probably the most fun, though, was the camaraderie among the reporters. They weren’t all serious, drenched in acronym-speak and wearing bad ties. In fact, the first lunch they invited me to, Jim and John spent having food fights with peeled-open pats of butter and creams at The Branding Iron, which I really remember as a much classier establishment than that. Each day after deadline, someone would tear off the unending press releases from US Attorney Atlee Wampler III from the teletype, and they’d roll it up into a bat for an impromptu game of newsroom baseball. And at Christmas, they’d haul out the tackiest decorations ever, most of them homemade from office supplies and gaudy stickers and hang them thickly around the office.
As I became more proficient, I moved up the ladder and eventually became assistant editor, even as I became a single mother. But the paper was flexible and understanding about my personal needs, and everything seemed to be flowing well. These were some of the best days of my young professional life, and I thought this was where I would be forever.
The more things change…the more they change
Writing for a living was surely what I’d always wanted to do, but as time went on, I felt restless. Fiction didn’t call me at that point, although I know several of my fellow reporters always had ‘that book they were working on’ simmering on the back burner. Though I could expose something I felt was wrong in a news story, I still didn’t feel like I was changing anything.
I covered a small town called Florida City, the very last place before the Florida Keys began, and the city attorney there took me under his wing. He and his secretary/wife suggested I look into law school. My father had suggested the law back when I’d left college, but of course with my life drama at that time, it hadn’t been realistic. I still didn’t picture myself as a stuffy, three-piece suit kind of person, but I thought, what the heck? I took the entrance exam.
I scored well.
As a single mom of two, I knew I couldn’t go without some assistance, so I applied for scholarships and grants, and a place to live on campus.
I got it all.
When I received my acceptance letter to the University of Miami School of Law, I almost fell over.
The next three years was spent in a very different sort of writing—legal briefs and essay exams. It wasn’t easy, but I got through, and our little family survived, even thrived. When I graduated, I spent the summer awaiting my Bar exam scores back at the paper, finding reporting and editing thrilling again.
When no law firm gave me an offer, I opened my own office instead, practicing family law. I’d been a child of divorce; I’d been divorced. I knew a lot from personal experience that I could pass on to my clients. Besides, most normal lawyers couldn’t stand the drama of family law, the raw emotion, the occasional outbursts of violence. For me, it was the kind of sustenance I found appealing, all the way back to those early romantic suspense thrillers, and it would turn out to be some of the best fodder for the writing to come.
- Another hurricane, another move, another try
I practiced law in Florida for four years, then we got tired of the random shootings (five in the neighborhood within the six months before we left) and moved to Pennsylvania, closer to my family. I had to retake the bar, my new husband had to find a job, but it was all worth the effort—two years later Hurricane Andrew hit the Homestead smack-on and if we had stayed, we would have lost everything. One house we had lived in was wiped from the face of the earth, along with the 10-acre grove around it. My husband’s two daughters came north to stay with us, and with the child we now had together, we were a very busy household raising five girls, without time for writing.
A few years into my solo law practice here, the writing bug bit me once more. I crafted the story of a family law attorney and a cop (another reflection of real life) who battled domestic violence and injustice as they battled each other in a romantic suspense setting. I set the story in Pittsburgh, which I’d found to be a vibrant city, and I was excited enough about the manuscript to send it out, the first time in twenty years, but got no bites from the agents I contacted.
Realizing I was out of practice, I set this story aside and went on to a Star Trek novel, reconnecting with my love of science fiction. This was politely rejected by the folk at Pocket, as I had not made the main character one of the canon characters. Where I thought that gave me more freedom, they apparently thought that ruined their series. It was their series. So fine.
When I spent a couple of summers practically living at the county fair while the girls worked at Nick’s Sausage Sandwich booth for school clothes money, I wrote a YA vampire story about ill-intentioned carnies and innocent young country girls, several years too early for the Twilight craze. Still no sale.
About that time, I got divorced, again, and with the girls growing up, I found I had a lot more time on my hands. I published a number of articles in various magazines and newspapers and even sold a romance to supermarket staple Woman’s World.
Nostalgic for my reporter days, I penned a novel about a reporter who gets sucked into a mystery of serial killings, and nearly becomes a victim herself. I ventured into historical romance territory with a tale set in Key West during the Spanish-American War. I wrote a romantic suspense story about a lawyer trapped in a voodoo nightmare in New Orleans. Then I found an agent in Erie who agreed to circulate my work for $75 per month. I got letters from various publishing houses, showing she’d sent it out, but nothing sold.
Finding my divorce and custody practice often led to my giving the same advice over and over again, I thought about writing a non-fiction book of advice, and with the then-current trend of have “101 Little Instructions for…” things, I called it “101 Little Instructions for Surviving Your Divorce.” I sent it to my agent, who told me it would never sell. Unconvinced, I sent out fifty queries and received a dozen polite rejections. Ready to move on, almost ready to give up writing for good, I received a phone call out of the blue some ten months later, wondering if that manuscript was still for sale.
Stunned, I replied that it was. Robert Alberti of Impact Publishing then offered me my first advance if I’d allow him to add the book to his new line of Rebuilding Books, designed to help people recover from various life crises. You bet I said yes! I was a published author.
When I went to call my agent, to inform her she was wrong, I found out she’d died. Was that karma? I hope not.
Frustrated that my fiction wouldn’t sell, but my creativity still burning, I threw myself into a sci-fi based online role-playing game, where I could let my imagination run free. At the same time, I wrote a space opera about a trio of female commanders fighting over their little corner of space. I sent off queries to several of the science fiction houses that didn’t require agents for submission of novels; still nothing.
But the whole venture into role-playing wasn’t a complete loss. I fell in love again and completed derailed my writing efforts because of something I’d never encountered before: autism.
- Surviving the diagnosis and getting back on track
Not one, but all three of my husband’s children were eventually diagnosed on the autism spectrum, the two boys with Asperger’s and the youngest, a daughter with autism, language delays and sensory integration disorder. For the first year after the diagnosis we had about seventy hours a week of therapy, divided among physical, speech, occupational and behavioral. It was a chore just to keep moving forward day by day, much less have the energy for creation. But at least with the two younger ones, we caught it early enough that the therapy yielded some pretty good results, and the burden eventually eased up.
I wrote another science fiction novel, encouraged by my new connection with a local Pennwriters critique group, this time about a rebellious spaceship captain seeking justice, called Horizon Shift. I pitched it to an agent at the annual conference who agreed to look at it, but eventually said no, thank you. A post-apocalyptic YA novel that was like a synthesis of The Stand and Crash, with multiracial issues and deep themes was turned down by 100 agents and editors at the query stage, before they even read it. Encounter was the story of a law firm retreat in the New Mexico desert that goes wrong when a truckload of illegal Mexicans crashes in the snowbound vicinity. No one asked to see it.
By this time, though, I really felt these stories, and they were coming out almost faster than I could keep up. Beta readers found them interesting and compelling, as did my husband, who is one of the most well-read people I know. They passed through critique groups and workshops, with countless rewrites. What wasn’t I doing right?
I faithfully attended conferences, particularly those of Pennwriters, where we were told time after time that the only way to become legitimately published was to be picked up by a literary agent and signed on by one of the Big Six. Self-publishing was right out, and no “real” author would consider any of the small or independent presses. Not if they wanted a career.
So I kept sending out letters to agents with my first five pages, and kept getting rejected, with none of them ever reading one of my books.
Then I got a flyer for the Context Convention, a small sci-fi and fantasy con in Columbus, Ohio. For $60 I could have a real live New York editor review my first three chapters and my synopsis and sit down and talk with me about it in person. Maybe here was the place I could get some of my answers.
I met with Paula Guran of Juno Books, and she did exactly that. In addition to the wealth of knowledge I received in workshops at that con, I found out from her what editors were looking for. She wasn’t looking for the book I’d sent in for review, but she invited me to send her something else. I finally had an open door.
When I sent her the urban fantasy I’d put together, then titled Take Me Alive, she didn’t feel it was right for her line, where the females were pretty kickass and tough. So I had a complete, polished manuscript and nothing to do with it. I had to make a choice. Was I going to keep to the company line and try only agents/New York? Why was I writing? To have people read what I wrote. So far, that just wasn’t happening. There was no point in continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result, right?
I knew I was changing my expectations at that point. I wasn’t going to get a six-figure advance. I wasn’t going to get a publicity machine and end caps at Barnes and Noble. But I might have a novel in print. The rest of it I’d have to earn. It was 2009 and I wasn’t getting any younger. So I sent queries out to a number of small press publishers looking for urban fantasy, and got a bite from a small Oklahoma firm called Dragonfly Publishing. It took the editor less than two weeks to offer me a contract, and not just one—she thought it would be great as a series. Was I interested?
- And then it began…
Of course I was interested! Holding the first print copy of the book, retitled The Elf Queen, was like holding my child in the delivery room. I had a publisher, and an editor, someone I could talk with like a real person, who enjoyed my book as much as I did and put out a well-edited, solid product.
Inspired by this success, I took one of the storylines my husband and I had concocted on the sci-fi RPG and set it in modern-day America, the love story of a doctor on the run from evil and a lonely brothel madam. On the suggestion of a fellow Pennwriter, I sent that in to The Wild Rose Press, another indie publisher, but one that seemed open to dealing with authors directly. It was accepted as Secrets in the Sand, and another conversation begun with a real editor. I was delighted!
Once I could have open dialogue with professionals and had gone through the editing process a couple of times, so I could really see what was desired in a manuscript, and more importantly, what not to do, I found the connections with these two women invaluable. At TWRP, I was referred on to other editors, who ultimately accepted several more novels, including a reworking of my attorney/cop love story, which became Conviction of the Heart, the first in the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer series in 2012. That Girl’s the One I Love, my third TWRP novel, was released in September 2012.
TWRP didn’t accept everything I sent, of course. But conversation with the editor helped me determine that what I’d written wasn’t romance but women’s fiction. Once I understood that, I placed the second volume in the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyer series, Second Chances, with Zumaya Publications, released this summer, and after that, Voodoo Dreams, also from The Wild Rose Press. It’s amazing what being able to talk with someone, not just sending off a letter and getting a form letter in return. can teach you!
Meanwhile at Dragonfly, the editor ultimately accepted four books in the urban fantasy Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series, and I’m finishing up the last one of those now. She also published my earlier space opera, Triad, and has accepted Horizon Shift, expanding that into a series as well, three books contracted for now, released in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Another chance meeting at a second Context con introduced me to the editor at Hydra Publications, and he published my reporter/vampire novel, retitled Love Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me.
Best of all, my YA post-apocalyptic, the book of my heart, WINDMILLS, was picked up by Liz Burton at Zumaya, who has called it the book that will replace The Hunger Games, and expanded it into a three book series, too, so I am spending much more time with those characters, which feeds my soul.
So I’m extended across four small press publishers, with little to no budget for marketing, but I’m slowly building a network. Pennwriters has great groups, and I’ve made good writing friends there. The Wild Rose Press and Hydra both have author groups that swap interviews and blog tours and support each other. After that first novel in 2010, 2011 had two, 2012 had six, and there are six contracted to come out next year, with two each already lined up for 2014 and 2015, and more coming after that.
Barbara Mountjoy (writing as Lyndi Alexander and Alana Lorens) dreamed for many years of being a spaceship captain, but settled instead for inspired excursions into fictional places with fascinating companions. She has been a published writer for over thirty years, including seven years as a news reporter and editor in Homestead, Florida. Now retired from her career as family law attorney, she lives as a post-modern hippie in Asheville, North Carolina, a single mother of her last child of seven, a daughter on the autism spectrum, finding that every day feels a lot like first contact with a new species.
If you’d like to contact Lyndi, you can reach her here: lyndialexander at gmail dot com. Learn more about her work at https://lyndialexander.wordpress.com, http://Alana-lorens.com and http://barbaramountjoy.blogspot.com. Please feel free to ask questions about the books, characters, upcoming booksignings, book club arrangements and anything else that fascinates you about her books.