The changing role of mental illness in fiction


In this bright new world of more openness about mental illness, we writers have to change how we use mental illness and those with it in our fiction.  Thirty or forty years ago if you referred to a character as a retard you were both using the vernacular and being rude.  If you more politely said that he or she was mentally retarded then a certain image came to mind.  Mental illness was not something that was looked at too closely.  But times have changed.

Now when we write our tales we take into consideration just why they might be reacting the way they do.   We can no longer say that they are purely evil or purely nuts.  We now need to see just what made them that way and is it something they evolved into our out of.  With research comes understanding right?  Not always true of course.  There is much that needs to be done to help those who suffer and for those who don’t.

The reason I decided on this topic this week is that when we write fantasy we have a blank canvas to do so much.  In reading or more re-reading Mercedes Lackey’s books I realized that she has done just this.  She has researched what is known and wrote it appropriately for the timeline she is working in.

Today we understand that PTSD is a real and horrible thing.  That men and women who have been in horrible places, seen and done horrible things, suffer from this in many ways.  From the self medicating homeless to the ones who go off into the woods to become hermits, we have a lot of it.  But when writing fiction we have to be careful.  If you are writing urban fiction set in the modern day big city, then you will have people with an understanding of the true cost of war but if you are writing, say a historical fantasy, then how the people around them would deal with those suffering.

And not just PTSD.  After all today we understand a lot more about things like depression, anxiety, compulsive disorders, obsessive behaviors and many others.  When writing our fiction we need to both pay respect to those who are suffering and to the time and place we are writing about.

I haven’t put much of this into my writing so far.  I have of course been dealing with light and dark, good and evil and in the more classic view of the fantasy realms.  But if you looked deeper into some of my characters you could see the hints of what I understand.  As a woman who grew up with a clinically depressed mother, a father who was both a criminal and abuser and a brother who has just recently been diagnosed with bi polar I had a lot of research from just living.  I have not put my family into the stories I have all ready published but do not be surprised in later stories will have a touch of them.

But how do we deal with mental illness as a writer.  There are those who think that people who write fantasy are nut jobs…yes I said that.  I have over the years i have been writing been looked at like I was crazy for doing so.  You are respected if you write a book about the real world or a poorly written book about sex but writing fantasy puts you in a weird place.  We make leaps of logic that makes no sense to those normal people out there.  We don’t write things based on science, we don’t necessarily write about the demons in the dark that the horror writers do, we write fantasy.  We write about elves and dragons and we try to show a light in the darkness.

Personally I find that fantasy is just that.  Many of the stories could be taken to heart as that battle inside our own hearts between madness and sanity, light and dark or good and evil.  We hope to become the hero but fear that we are the villain.  We find ourselves both in what we write and what we read.

So as a writer if you plan on use mental illness, you need to really do research.  Not just online, go and speak to people.  See how they respond.  It will help you write a real character.

Coming Soon – Deadman’s Fury by Linell Jeppsen


Originally posted on Ch'kara SilverWolf:

I am so pleased to bring you a sneek preview of Linell Jeppsen’s new novel Deadman’s Fury .  Linell’s usual genre’s are Fantasy and Sci-Fi.  Then she branched out and wrote Deadman’s Lament a totally awesome Western novel.  This is the first chapter of her soon to be released second book in this series.  I know you will be totally in awe of this novel, so do yourself a favour, read this chapter, then read Deadman’s Lament and be ready for Deadman’s Fury when it is released.

lament authorNell has won several awards for her writing, these are just two of them.

Nell2013_RONE_Nominee_200                Nellclick

DEADMAN’S FURY

Deadman's Fury 02  

Chapter 1

Amelia

Amelia Winters stepped off the train and gazed at the dusty little town with delight. Her adventure had begun and she wanted to twirl around on tiptoe with excitement. She was on her way to live…

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What makes a man?


Their is a common thread coming up in a lot of fiction now a days.  With our world swiftly barreling into the future we have a lot of things that only the wildest of science fiction writers thought of a century ago.  Heck less than a century ago.  There are tv shows and movies that are trying in the good old fashioned hammer way to deal with just what makes a man (or woman for that matter)

Does a synthetic add on make that human being something other than human? Does the fact that they are a clone make them less human than a being who is birthed the old fashion way.  Now of course I say no but lets take a look at this for a minute.  In the old days before science and medicine had evolved beyond put pressure on a wound and hope people commonly thought anyone who was different than them were not human.

We can easily see through out recorded history just how bad mankind was and how inhuman he was to those who had differences that were just skin deep.  At one point being a woman you were considered less than human and closer to an animal.  Having darker skin made you less than human and closer to apes.  And the gods help you if you were born with a defect.  Something as simple as a wine birth mark would mark you as a demon or worse.  Now those who are civilized think that those beliefs are both wrong and quaint, not realizing they still exist in both the real world and its reflection, fiction.

Does having a cyber limb make you less a person?  Does having a chip in your brain make you a robot?  No it doesn’t of course.  Each and every living thing on this world (in my opinion) has a spirit and soul.  How we use it is what makes us different of course.

In science fiction we have so many different species and faces to go with those species.  In anime we have living dolls, androids and ghosts in the machine.  Heck there is a new Johnny Depp movie where he is just that, a ghost in the machine.  Where does the body end and the person begin right?

The thing is when writing we need to look at ourselves and our beliefs when we deal with what makes or doesn’t a man.  Has the added on parts changed the man in our minds from a strong and noble character to a soulless killing machine?  Are we commenting on technology or telling a tale of a man gone past the limits of his own heart and mind?

As a fantasy writer I have mostly dealt with natural and supernatural creatures.  Each and every one of them is a man in the sense that they have a spirit or a soul.  How they use it of course tells you whether or not they are becoming more a man or less.

As I am trying to both stretch my wings and stretch the readers imagination I wonder if I should introduce a character who is less flesh and more steel and see how he or she deals with the prejudice of a culture that sees only those who match a certain criteria at human.

Using religion in fiction


Wel it is another Monday and time for my rambling thoughts.  I have been working hard on the next tale set in the Guardians of the Gate City universe.  What I thought was going to be a simple short story is quickly moving into the novellette category and just might end up as a novella.  You never know when you start a tale where it will end up.

Now to go with the title of this blog.  Religion is a hot button issue on a lot of the social networking sites right now.  Who is right, who is wrong and who is being persecuted.   This topic can be a very tricky one to deal with, especially if you are not a part of the majority or even the vocal minority.

As a writer of fantasy, much of it lately in the urban fantasy category I have dabbled in this topic.   I admit as a follower of a nontraditional to the world path that i have lifted some of the villains in my pieces from the real world.  I think most writers have but will not admit to it.  We write what we see and what we know.

Now most people out there, no matter their religious affiliation are really good people who would not harm others just for being of a different faith, or so we hope.  It has become a bit of a trope that the terrorists are all Muslim, the pedophiles are catholic or that the fundamentalist Christians are all gun toting nut jobs.  We KNOW this is not true but modern fiction seems to be writing that over and over.

They are both easy for the reader to recognize and a bit of a trap.  As a follower of Wicca I have come across so many evil witches in fiction that it makes me grind my teeth.  They are portrayed as super sexy women who use their bodies and their magic to get what they want, not realizing that most witches are the same as everyone else, working and living peacefully.

Now I won’t say I haven’t fallen into this trap.  I have a number of stories in the works that have mobs of people who claim to be upright Christians acting just like mobs are expected to react.  Burn the Witch, kill the infidel, etc, etc.  As I sat and worked on my newest tale, Music is My Mistress, I had started out with a new take on a bard and a different take on what they do but I slipped into the same trap that we all due when I brought in the villain.

I brought in what I am calling the Gray Men or the GIGs (guys in gray).  Now you have all probably seen them in your hometowns.  The young men dressed in gray slacks, white shirts, ties and with a gray sweater over top.  They seem to all be tall, with dark hair and walk in pairs.  Before I moved to Canada I thought they were just a oddity of living in NH but to my surprise they are up here in Canada too.

The rational part of my mind said, oh those are the Witnesses, on their way to church or whatever but the wild and crazy author side saw something else.  The fact that these young men all look like twins or near twins, always dressed the same, even on the coldest days I have never seen them wearing heavy coats and they walk everywhere.  The writer in me took that image and mixed it with all the religious rhetoric that I have been dealing with on groups like Facebook or LinkedIn.  Thus the Gray Men were born.

I went along merrily writing the next sequence of my tale and things got dark fast.  The world that the heroine Jessalin walks through is much like our own.  The bright safe daylight world is crumbling under the rising wave of prejudice, hatred and misconception.  In fiction we can take this to what is the logical conclusion.  We can have those elements that are in power and easily influenced be effected by magic taken and twisted to a dark purpose.  Can have religion returning to the dreaded dark days of the inquisition.  Anyone different is rounded up and killed.  In a world with magic that most do not even believe exists the first to be rounded up would of course be those whose very being is magic.

The part of the tale I just finished was both hard to write and a bit enlightening to me.  I was falling into the trap of blaming the religion and not the practitioner of said religion.  It means I will need to do a bit of a rewrite and you readers know how much I hate to do that!  But we have to remember that most of the current religions out there preach peace and understanding.  Yes there are factions of the big religions that are hammering heavy on the opposite but there are still more good people than bad in the big three.  Oh and by the big three I mean Christianity (and yes that includes Catholics!), Muslims and Jews.  They all worship the same single god, no matter what they tell each other.  And no matter the factions in each group it really is the same.  So those from Westboro Baptist worship the same god as the Muslims and the Jews…

So back on track.  If you are going to write fiction with religion in it do your best not to fall into the trap of blaming the whole for the actions of a small group.  I plan on going back and fixing just what I have.  The Grey Men look outwardly like those Jehovah Witnesses you see all over but they are really the magical descendants of every hate mongering religious group using magic to look innocuous.  And that is a great way to make a villain.

A look at writing villains in fantasy


Yes i know lately I have been using my blog here for a bit of a rant fest but I think i will get back to talking about writing.  In Fantasy we have a lot of tropes to play with.  One of the biggest of course is the villain of the piece.  Some of the greatest bad guys of all time have come from this genre as we all know.  Be it the Ice Queen from Narnia, Voldemort from the Harry Potter books or Sairon from the Lord of the Rings, they are big, bad and evil.

In fantasy you can have your villain be from any number of races.  That is one of the reasons that fantasy is such a strong genre.  True fantasy villains are evil to the bone.  They do things that strike at the heart of goodness in ways beyond understanding.  They prey on the weakness of the common man and of the hero.  The battles are both outside of your hero and inside, for the best evil villains will have something that makes them compelling to the hero that is fighting them.

Now I have written a lot of villains over the years.  Some of them are trope, I admit that, but I hope that not all of them are.  While Samuel Elvenbane from my Saga of Loralil Greyfox is the villain you would expect, the Orc, there are lessor villains in that duology of books that touch on some of the darker things that haunt the human and nonhuman mind.

In Traveler I wrote a female villain.  One that let the darkness inside herself overtake her.  As an elf, most would think she would be good but each and every race of fantasy has its heroes and villains.  Having an elf who has decided that so called half breeds are toys to be tortured and destroyed was both hard and fun to write.  The back story was filled in as the story evolved and we must remember that every hero and every villain has a back story.

In Fall Into Nightmares yet again I did a female villain.  This time it was desire that led to my villain becoming who she was.  Desire for control over the object of our desire is something that can easily turn a good being into a villain.  Powerful emotions will create powerful creatures.

With the evolution of the genre we are seeing more and more female villains but also seeing more and more strong villains of both sexes.  In the early days of the genre your villain was generally of two types.  The evil warlord or the evil sorcerer.    They are of course still used but now we no longer accept a villain that is one dimensional.  We want to know the back story to our villains.  We want to know what made them a villain and what their true goals are.  Yes, Voldemart wanted to rule the world in the Harry Potter universe but he also was dealing with that difficult thing known as racism.  He was of course a mudblood, as that universe uses.  One parent was a magician and the other was not.  Now in that fun culture you have those who rise to the occasion, like Hermoine did and then you have those who don’t.  By angrily denying his human parent he became the villain.

In one of my WIP I have been tossing between two villains.  The first one is a man who desires power.  He was damaged during a raid by the good guy organization and now he has really one major goal.  To control and destroy the heroine of the piece.  He is willing to go to any length to get his revenge.  In this case he went to summoning a demon.

Now demons have been portrayed as both good and bad guys lately but I decided to stick with the bad for Whether to Save Face or Family.  The demon has the same goal as any evil demon.  He wasn’t free reign to stay in the human world and to in fact open the gates between the worlds open and take over the world.  That is what they do right?  It has worked.

So before I go crazily overboard on this, let us just realize that writing a villain can be as complex and interesting as writing your hero.  Don’t make them two dimensional.

The ups and downs of being creative


As a writer I like to think I am a creative person.  I write, of course, but I also paint, crochet, cook, draw and a few dozen other creative outlets.  Thing is writers, like all creative people, are emotional people.  We handle it in ways that others probably don’t but we all have ups and downs.

We all during our up times create like made.  In my case I write tons of tales that fill my mind with their cries for attention.  Last year I was in a major creative streak.  The sheer volume of tales I put up over the past year is clear proof of that but since the beginning of the year I have had to struggle to write anything I consider worth reading.  When a writer puts their works out to the world to be read it is a touchy thing.  We don’t get the immediate feedback that a singer gets or an actor.  We don’t get the reviews as quickly as an artist who puts their art out for the public to see and cherish.  No we play a waiting game.

Sales is one way to say things are going good.  Not the best in my opinion but one I was gladly having for a couple of month.  While my numbers are no where near amazing they were for me. And that made me a happy if a bit blocked writer.  I worked on a novel and a couple of short stories and figured I was just having trouble with the extra long winter we are having in Canada but then March started with all the crazy things on places like Amazon.

I have commented all ready about my frustration with them deciding to drop D2D books and having to relist half of my 80 odd titles with them.  I did that and was glad when it was done.  Then I went with the suggestion of another of my writer friends and updated all the product pages with information about my series and myself (that was the hard part!)  I was hoping with all those changes that I would still see the steady if slow sales of December and January and even the slightly less of February.  Now we move onto the downs and for them they have been tough.

First I woke up one morning to what I thought was a nice batch of sales.  Not a ton of one title but one of a bunch of different ones.  Within moments though the strange person who did this returned them.  Once is a mistake, okay even twice but in total so far I have nine purchase/returns with only three sales still holding fast on Amazon.  OUCH.  When I go over and look at places like Kobo I see I have had no sales at all on them and the same goes for Smashwords and D2D.  Again Ouch.

A little up was getting a nice review from a reader for The Traveler.  Very nice, blush worthy for me but then I lost some reviews.  Seems that Amazon thought they were from an editor or friend.    That made me more than annoyed.  I was starting to get a serious case of angry going on.   I am no threat to any writer out there after all.  My total sales since I started selling my work is still under 400 for nearly two years of selling.  Not a threat at all right?  I have a very small group of readers who have oh so generously took a chance on my work and seem to mostly enjoy the weird tales I tell.  So why are my reviews disappearing?  It isn’t like everything has reviews that are all five stars.  I have received reviews from two stars to five stars and I like to think I earned those five stars with good solid story telling.  Okay yeah I need more editing.  I admit that.  Someday if i ever come up with real money I will have a professional go over all my stuff but for now I am happy with my work.

But between the lack of sales, the loss of reviews, seeing so many writers who write the same way I do getting tons of reviews and me not and the lack of inspiration I am starting to feel depressed.  Something I despise.  In general I am a calm and quiet type.  I do have highs and lows but I am not like others who have a real problem.  A part of me feels like i am whining but I do wonder right at this moment why the hell I am putting myself through this whole thing?

When your biggest sellers have a total of between thirty and forty total sales and others who write the same type of tale tell of hundreds or sales and many many reviews you begin to feel total worthless in your self chosen job.  Should I keep trying?  Should I keep marketing and improving my tales?  Writing new ones, completing things in the works?  Or should I just give up, delete all the massive files I have and sit on the couch and watch soup operas, eating and getting fatter than I all ready am?  I don’t know.

I know I usually use this blog to lift spirits and give writing tips or tales about my works in progress but i really don’t know why I am doing anything right now.  I should stop whining, get back to doing something and hope for the best.  The sun is out, the snow, while still deep is starting to melt and maybe my muse will come back from her vacation in the sun.  I am going to try doing some drabbles and if I can come up with anything I will post them over on my Books by Lisa Williamson blog.

Forgive my attitude good readers.  Your tired, sad and depressed writer.

Another snowy afternoon and a day late


Okay  I had planned on working on my blogs every Monday but well see…okay I admit it.  I stayed up way too late watching the Oscars and then dragged my butt around yesterday in a haze and fog.  I should have taken a nap but well…I was stubborn!  So instead you get me babbling on a Tuesday.

Usually I just go on about what I am working on currently but well while I am working on a new Sheldon story I will babble about that over on my Books blog.  Here I thought I would go on about the Smashwords Book Read an Ebook week long sale.  Like the last time I have put a bunch of titles either on discount or for free!  While it doesn’t help my bottom line I am hoping I will get more reviews out of this process.

Thanks to another author over on the Amazon discussion boards I went through my Amazon book pages and did a major over haul.  Two days of adding a LOT of information to all my individual titles.  Giving a little extra information on my other series and hopefully nice little bits to attract attention to my work.  I still need to do a lot more of course.  The second half of the major overhaul will involve spending a ton of time on Shelfari putting in all kinds of little things that tease and entice readers.

Also I am doing a read and review over on Goodreads for The Traveler.  I was hoping for more than the handful of requests that I got but if i get reviews how can I be upset right?

Now back to Smashwords.  Any of you who are interested you will need to go to Smashwords to get these little treats.

Distance Means Little to love is currently up for $1.50 till the end of hte week

All four of my poetry books are on sale for 99 cents each

And the following short stories are free for this week only

Under the Black Bridge

The Words that Bring Peace

Reality is a Dream

Not to the Grave Go I

oh yeah and my novella, Endings is also free for this week.  If any of you wanted to try out the first Loralil story this is the time to try it.

Also I thought I would do a shot in the dark.  If any of you reader s have seen reviews of my work, places other than Amazon, let me know.  I like to keep track of the reviews and I can’t always find them.  Thanks

The other side of self publishing


Now you my readers have heard me complain before about the hard part of being a writer.  The marketing of your work is the hardest part of the job really.  Finding the right places to plug your work is both a trial and a journey of self discovery.  But the thing is that is not all you need to do.  If you post your work up on Amazon you need to make sure you get more than just the title up.

Amazon gives you a place to do a lot.  The Author central page is were you do most of this.  You need to to join if you haven’t yet.  What this does is allow you to link all your titles so that when a customer searches your name all your titles will pop up.  Now that is all well and good but that is not the place to stop.  Once you have linked your books you will need to go into each title and add in information.  Under the editorial review tab you will see six categories of information that you can put in that will enhance your books appeal.  They are:

Reviews – meant for reviews you have received off of the Amazon site…I put in my good reads reviews

Product Description – this will be whatever you put in on the KDP page when you listed the book – so you don’t need to fill this in but if you need to make changes this would be the easiest way to do it!

From the Author – this can be a note from you to that reader.  Since  I am a short story author (mostly) I put in a little comment about that

From the inside flap – now think back to the last hardcover you bought.  There is generally something there about the book, an excerpt or a teaser or in my case a little hint of what that particular series is about

From the back cover – now this part was the most important for me.  I used it to let the reader know that I have many other series and let them know the first tale from each of those series.  Hopefully this will drive the readers to my other books.

Finally About the Author – now you can use your author bio from your main page or you can put in a secondary one.  I opted for a secondary one.

If you are wise you will do this when you set up your account.  Being me I didn’t even know about it till I had nearly 90 titles to update.  Took me the whole weekend but it is now done.  I plan to make sure i do this with each new release.  I only have one completed that I haven’t published yet but we all know I have many more in the works!

Okay onto another little feature that Amazon allows access to.  Shelfari is one of the sites they connect to.  Like Goodreads you have things you can do there that will help you sell.  What you will do is go to the book extras for your title and click on the shelfari link.  Now if you have signed up all ready it will pull up the page for your book and you can go in and add in little things like a synopsis or info on a character, quotes from the book, alternate covers, even a glossary of terms you use or something about the theme you are writing.  This will build a better connection for your reader and heck that can only lead to readers, right?  So I am going to go and do this on my titles…the fiction ones that is.  Can’t see this working so well on my poetry and photography books.  Gonna have to research how to get those before a reading audience.

 

Soon to be found in a ebook near you!


Okay silly title but it works right?   Last week I put up the cover for Secrets Can be Deadly and I have that working its way through the etailers right now.  I have also put up Cha-cha-changes.  Both of these tales are part of my Magic and Nightmares series of short stories.  Fun and odd…my usual for short stories, or at least I hope they are!

I have also finished up the covers for three more Death Walks Through Tales.  I will be posting those closer to the end of the week, I think.  Here are the covers for the three stories.  I will be putting up excerpts of those tales over on my BooksbyLisa blog.

love-you shadows-speak no-more-the-smiles  These are my sad tales of course.  Yes my tales have taken a darker turn but don’t worry, I have others in the works that will be lighter and more fun.  Just getting everything up and out there for you voracious readers.

Another new cover and excerpt..why not?


Well I figured time to get some work done and here you go.  This is another  darker tale from my Magic and Nightmares series.  Nothing is what it seems is it?

secrets-can-be-deadly  Not totally sure on this one.  But it might work.

Here is a bit of the opening of the story

***

Secrets, we all have them.  Some are good, some are bad, but they are all meant to be kept close.  What can you do if the secret you must keep close might just destroy an entire world?  You hide it away and hide yourself at the same time is what.

 

Abby has just such a secret.  Something terrible enough that she left her comfortable life in the city to hide in the deep woods back beyond.  Took off, without telling anyone where she was going even.  She was lucky that there weren’t many who noticed, even fewer who cared.  In today’s society if you don’t fit in most just gloss over you and forcefully ignore you.

 

In the deep, ancient woods she lived peacefully and simply, totally off any grid that mankind had developed.  While most from this day and age would be lost without their cell phones and Internet, Abby had come to enjoy the peace of the land.  The nearest neighbor was more than ten miles away, across rivers and streams.  Those very rivers and streams were another way of breaking any trail to her.  They had no roads leading to them or bridges crossing them.  You had to take a boat across and getting that boat to the bank was not easy.  Here in the little pocket clearing she grew vegetables and herbs, wrote and painted and lived peacefully, missing very little from her life before.

***

Should intrigue are reader or three, or so I hope.  Probably toss this up in the next few days.  Just haven’t decided yet.