Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Welcome to Sandy Lender

Today, let's welcome Sandy Lender to Alien Places.

Creating a story-world isn't easy, even when you research real places in today's world. Even when you've been to those places and can still walk those streets in your memory.

But what happens when you have to build an entire universe from scratch, invent its rules and rulers, its positive aspects and its dangers?

Let's hear from Sandy Lender how she does it. And don't forget to leave a comment! Sandy will be giving away a signed copy of her hard cover book to a lucky winner!

Sandy Lender!

Researching an Alien Place

By Fantasy Author Sandy Lender

I don’t get to do this for a living yet, but, for my second career, I build alien worlds in my imagination. I use research skills honed by 21 years of writing research papers and magazine articles to borrow from the Anglo-Saxon past of our real world, keep track of the legends, lands, and characters I create, and double-check the traditional elements of fantasy literature against the pros who’ve come before me. I’m a fantasy author who loves to put medieval symbolism in her work.

It’s difficult to explain why. Maybe I lived (for a really short time) in Anglo-Saxon England in a past life and I still carry part of the romance inside me. Or maybe I just enjoyed my Old English literature classes in college too much. Or maybe the year I lived in Mallorca, Spain, impressed upon me a yearning for old buildings alongside cliffs that overlook the spray of crashing ocean waves. Of course, in Anglo-Saxon times, those old buildings were quite drafty and cold…and I don’t do well with the cold.

So I made some changes to the OE themes that I admired so much in my research when I plugged them into my made-up world in CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS. First of all, I’ve brought everyone’s lodgings “forward” a bit in technology. No drafty, cold castles. Also, the “hero” of CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS is a lady. It’s all girl power with Amanda Chariss as far as I’m concerned! A writer also has to tone down the OE propensity for mead-drinking and boasting in our modern book marketplace. While the folks sitting around listening to a scop tell the tale of BEOWULF would have loved all that, readers today think it’s kind of annoying for a hero to go about bragging on himself. So, of course, my hot and handsome Nigel Taiman sits in the shadows that blanket him like comfortable clothes and doesn’t tell a soul how he protects his family from his father’s rages.

Mostly, the elements I put in my fantasy novels don’t come from the real world. You can’t pick up an encyclopedia and find the origination of The Ungol race. I made it up for my fantasy world of Onweald. In my early scribbled notebooks, you’ll see them called Lognu, but I thought that sounded strange when I read it aloud. The Ungol are a peaceful, artistic race of beings that live in the underground network of sapedrels known as Tiurlang. (And then, just recently, I found a reference to ungol in a Tolkien book and, once again, cursed Tolkien for being a literary god. I was already upset with him for using the ultimately perfect name Smaug for a dragon.)

Be that as it may, the names of gods, goddesses, villages, and rivers in the alien land of Onweald are reminiscent of OE words and people. Symbols all over the series hearken back to OE themes of exile, ring-giving, serfdom, and loyalty to one’s leader that send me to the research books from time to time. The problem with checking on something in, say, ELENE or THE BATTLE OF MALDON, is that I get sucked in and end up reading the whole thing. The next thing I know, I’ve used up my writing time for that evening…Bummer!

Other than that, it all comes from my slightly off-kilter imagination. My research books for Onweald and the CHOICES MEANT FOR GODS series currently consist of tons of spiral notebooks, file folders full of stories and legends and character descriptions on the computer, a recipe box full of vocabulary words, and a bunch of other papers and notes and napkins with scribblings. My research includes a huge desk calendar with the phases of the moons of Onweald mapped out so I know exactly when both are full and when both are waning. It’s important when you’ve got an announcement to make by their light, you know. To a new reader, it’s only an alien place for a little while. I welcome you all to travel there with me!

“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”


Skhye said...

LOL about Tolkien! Can you imagine an amazing worldbuilder leaving anything fabulous for the rest of us to use? Wonderful post! Your book sounds fascinating just in this wee glimpse into your mind.

Sandy Lender said...

Thank you, Skye,
And, yes, I agree on the Tolkien concept. He used up so much great stuff...blast!
Sandy Lender
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Skhye said...

Love "Some days, I just want to be a dragon to win." My first published hero is a time-traveling shape-shifting dragon, King Arthur. Best of luck to you!

Nancy G said...

Hi Sandy,
What more can I say about your worldbuilding and this book. I want to go visit Nigel and the crew really soon.

Kelley said...

Thanks for your insights.
I agree, some days I want the dragon to win too.

snulfers said...

It's a great talent to be able to take the world in your head and translate it to paper. This is not a ability I have, but I love to read about the worlds that others have brought to life.

Sandy Lender said...

Hello, Nancy,
I need to get Nigel to update his blog (at so you can visit him anytime you like.
Glad to see you today!
Sandy Lender
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Sandy Lender said...

Kelley, snulfers,
It's all about the dragons. Life in any world would be boring without them.
Sandy Lender
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

SFWriterMasha said...

Thank you for visiting my blog!
I fell in love with your tag line. I haven't written dragons (yet), but it's not the plain-vanilla humans I usually want to see win, either!

Now Russian epics have both the high-bragging hero and the modest one, but in the end, their feats become known to all. After all, they're epic tales!

Kathye Quick said...

World building is fun. There are so many possibilities.

And thanks for the dragon insight. So many of us have thought that and never said it out loud!

robynl said...

building alien worlds is quite the feet; kudos to you. You have amazing talent.

Sandy Lender said...

Thanks, Kathye,
I'm laughing. Too many slayers in the past have been crunchy and begging for a good munching. I just figured it was time a couple dragons came out ahead of the game.
Maybe it goes back to that boasting thing that Masha and I let get under our skin in the epics.
Sandy Lender
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

Sandy Lender said...

To robynl,
Thank you for your kind words! It's good to have you joining us today.
Sandy Lender
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

deb said...

Your wordbuilding is fantastic and sometimes I just want to "be" the dragon and to win.
thanks for the great blog,
Debby Creager

EdgesAngel23 said...

Awesome post! I will keep that all in mind!
Dragons RULE!!
Ashley A