Some years ago I was living in Tesuque, New Mexico, just north of Santa Fe. I had made a habit of visiting the nearby arroyo every day to walk in the sand– the closest thing I could find that reminded me of my Northern California coastal home. (For those who don’t know, an arroyo is a dry river bed– very dangerous during the monsoons, New Mexico’s rainy season, because it quickly fills with fast-running water that tumbles down from the mountains surrounding the area and sweeps away everything in its path.) One day I discovered a strangely shaped little root. It looked like a dancing woman, and to me she personified the spirit of that river– so I named her the River Goddess, built a shrine to her, and continued to visit her every day, until one morning I arrived at my shrine and saw– nothing! Horrified, I searched the area and finally discovered my Goddess half-buried in the sand. Apparently she’d been dug up by a dog or some passing kids, and I decided the safest course was to take her home with me and hang her up in the window of our little casita.
About a week or two later I was having lunch with a friend and shared this experience with her. “I’ll bet you can’t write a story about this,” she challenged. “Well, maybe I can,” I replied. “Let’s see.”
So when I got home, I sat down in front of my typewriter (no computer at that point), typed in the title “The River Goddess,” and waited for inspiration. All of a sudden my fingers began to move of their own accord and, one by one, the characters in what I now call The Alyssa Chronicles began to appear and introduce themselves. The heroine, Alyssa, and her parents Heart and Owl were first. Then came Rolf and the Trees. Next, a giant red Ant named Mr. Two, and various supporting characters– a Raven, a Mole, a Snake; and finally a narcissistic Sea Princess. These creatures dictated the four stories that make up the first book of the Chronicles, and I wrote steadily for two weeks.
When the stories ended I thought I was finished– an entertaining interlude in an otherwise fairly placid routine– but no! After about a month the cast returned. I was told there was a second book, so I sat down and got to work on Starfriends. I’m currently about a third of the way through writing Book III, which has the working title Strange Trips.
To some extent, The Alyssa Chronicles are autobiographical, especially The River Goddess & Other Stories. I’ve had many of the experiences described in the Stories. I assume the reason for this is that most of us writers tell our own stories in various ways. (Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander series, has said that each of her characters, including the most callous ones like Black Jack, are aspects of her own personality.)
People ask if I’ve written the Alyssa Chronicles for children or grownups. The jury’s still out on that. Alyssa grows progressively older in each of the first four stories, reaches her late teens in Starfriends, and in Strange Trips is a post-graduate psychology student. Adults who’ve read The River Goddess tell me it reminds them of their own childhood and teenage years. I can only say that Alyssa’s adventures seem to appeal to the youngster in each of us– the one who never really grows up or grows old.
In any event, I hope you’ll have fun with these stories as you get to know Alyssa and her friends, and enjoy this world full of real magic!