Research today and yesterday


In today’s world of the internet if we want to learn something most often we go right to Google and pull up links on whatever topic we are interested in. There is a lot of crap out there and a lot of wrong info but if you dig deep enough you find gems.

You hear constantly that research was better and more accurate in the days before the web. Take it from me that is not true. There were tons of books, written with a slant that was that of the ruling attitude of the times. But there were also a lot of interesting books to be read.

When I was a kid I was really interested in the stories of before times. Of how other cultures thought of how the world began, would end and of other creatures. In seventh grade I had one of the most amazingly dry history teachers of all time. His delivery of information was almost ponderous up till he started telling us about Egypt. Then he came alive with burning eyes. It was like being taught by a mummy that had come unwrapped to tell us all about the legends of his people. It was then I decided I wanted to be an Archaeologist.  This was long before I learned the difference between archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, archivists, etc. I believed until I was in my senior year of high school if I wanted to study the tales of other long gone cultures I would have to be an archaeologist. But in my senior year I was disabused of the dream of becoming one. First by teachers and counselors who pushed me into business classes and then by my mom telling me that college was too expensive and that I needed to make a living.

Now I know that there were a lot of scholarships, grants and loan systems out there that would have helped me go to school but no one at the time mentioned them to me. Now I know it was because I was both from the projects and a girl. They didn’t think I was right for the college world and that it was best I go to work right away. Or if I was to take classes it should be data entry (yes that was a field of study back then) or bookkeeping courses. I worked for years as a bookkeeper and did data entry but I continued to pick up books on whatever subject interested me.

For the types of books I was interested in going to the local library was really useless. As wonderful as the Nashua Public library was, it was lacking seriously in books on ancient cultures belief systems and the fiction I liked to read. So I turned to places like the new age book store that I found in western Mass when I was visiting friends. I got a lot of books that would be considered white light nut job stuff by some of the people I know back then. They told thing from a nontraditional slant which is just what I was looking for at the time.

Thankfully now we have many more ways to do research and cultures to research. Any of you who have actually read the stories and books I have put out will see the basis in ancient stories of my work. Everything from Celtic to Japanese to some of the native cultures of the North American continent.

Now what started this rambling blog post is I was sitting down reading a novel I downloaded from Amazon on a free offer.  Like my Death Walks Through stories this had a different take on the incarnation of Death. You don’t realize it through most of the novel because it is written richly with lots of understanding of the Navajo culture to it.

I was drawn into the take by the detail and the feel of the story. Unlike many other Urban Fantasies written in the 21st century this one was gentle in pacing and very respectful of both the Navajo and the white people in the story. While there was a pair of MIBs trying to get the mysterious item in the story, they were really the only cliche in the entire novel.

Research and an open mind gave this writer a novel that was quietly amazing. I plan on reviewing it up on Amazon later today. If you are interested in reading my reviews of books over there just look for Lisa Williamson. Though that can be confusing as there are two of us with that name who are publishing. I am NOT the one who wrote the book about a young woman, The Art of Being Normal. That is NOT mine. I write fantasy, etc.

 

Hello once more


Well as you know it has been a while since I wrote anything at all. Lots of reasons but the biggest for this blog is that I just haven’t had the drive to write. Generally I write something but for months now I have been unmotivated.

While my own personal work, books, stories, poetry, drabble and dribbles, etc are on the back burner but my mind keeps going. So how about we do more analysis of trends in fiction of all kinds.

As a fan of good characters I have been enjoying the current takes on Sherlock Holmes. In the past decade there are three different takes on This classic character. Yes I am talking about all three today. From Robert Downey Jr’s movie take to Benedict Cumberbatch’s British Sherlock and Johnny Lee Miller’s American take on the same character.

In each we see a different face on the classic character.  The modern takes are in many ways so much better because the character has become very three dimensional. He is no longer the two dimensional character of the 1800s. He no longer is just the cold, ex druggy with just one drive. Now we see the reasons behind how he became who he is. Why he had the drug habit, why he only seems to trust a very small amount of people and why he is willing to go to extremes.

Plus one of the best parts is that they have, in this current century, started to make the female characters three dimensional. The recent takes on Sherlock’s paramore, on Doctor Watson’s wife and on Mrs Hudson has been so very much fun to watch. No longer in modern fiction can we have half the population under explored and that makes for fine watching.

Now as a writer I have done my best to explore characters in many ways. Sherlock is not one I have tried other than in a video game. The Great Detective is of course the basis of many of the detectives we read, watch and play to this day.

 

 

The difficulty of picking a title


All writers know that we need a good title to catch the attention of our readers. After an eye catching cover, the title really brings people to at least take a moment to look at your book.

Now as many of you know I have been writing for a long time. Coming up with titles is a real pain. There are thousands of books out there, all using titles that you just might have wanted to use. What to do right? Searching every single e-retailer would make any author throw up their hands and just give up. Thing is you just can’t do that with every story you write. Think about it folks. The average novel writer might just put out one book every year or two, but those who write shorter fiction like I do would be going back and forth, changing their title a thousand times before they could publish.

As an example one of my earliest online stories was a Ranma 1/2 fan fiction that I titled Sins of the Father. Go to Amazon and you will easily pull up 20 pages of work with similar titles, 15 on the first page alone. They come from every single genre out there for sure.

Now I could go on and make a chart of how many other titles that I can used would have multiples but it would be depressing.

Writing and emotional pain


In the word of writing what goes on in the life of the writer effects what they write. If good things happen, authors can write happy, upbeat stories. If bad then the author can write darker things.

They tell us all the time that you need to write what you know, but as writers of fiction, especially fantastical fiction, we will write abut things we don’t know personally. It is taking what we do know, what we have experienced that helps make these children of our mind become real to the reader.

In the past few months I have had many sad things happen in my life. Loss is one thing that can make or break writing. I have always used writing of one type or another to deal with emotions. The amount that have come at me since the beginning of this year have put me in a confused place.

I have started a handful of different things, from fiction to nonfiction. I hope today to sit down and type up the many notes I have scattered through three different notebooks. From a story about a mute dancer priestess to a letter to the dead, I keep scribbling down notes and hoping they will make sense in the future.

Every author goes through periods of time when they cant write, this has seemed to be mind again. While I have put out collections over the past few weeks I haven’t really written a lot of new and amazing stuff. Today I plan on changing that.

How about we be original folks


There is a lot of argument all over the web about making more inclusive characters in books, comics, tv and movies. Now I am totally for having characters of every race, color, religion, sexuality, etc. What I am not for is taking well established characters and forcing them to be something their creators did not intend just because it is a current thing.

Taking heroes and making them villains because people don’t want heroes anymore is just wrong. Deciding that two same sex characters who are FRIENDS have to be in a secret sexual relationship just because we are now more accepting of those of different sexualities doesn’t make sense. We have gone over board lately. Two people of any sexuality can be just friends, very close and not want to have sex.

If people are so desperate for great characters who are evil or gay or transexual or anything, then you need to WRITE them, MAKE them.

This blog is yes a complaint from a writer and reader and fan who is getting really annoyed with people.  As a watcher, a reader and yes a fan, I want new and wonderfully rich  characters to sink my teeth into. I don’t want beloved characters that I have read or watched gutted and made into something they never were meant to be just because some young person wants them changed to fit their idea of fandom. It might be me being an older fan but I think it is really just I love looking for new and amazing characters to love and enjoy.

I have for decades read fanfiction and this is never more clear than in the fanfiction world. There are thousands of authors out there writing new stories in old worlds. The best of them stay true to the characters they have come to love and they add in new characters that interact and fit into the worlds they are playing in.

In fanfiction people have been exploring those topics that are so hot right now for ages. The best of the authors there have been taking characters who are ambiguous and make them fuller is okay. They make the stories rich and intriguing. They don’t take established characters who are either straight or traditionally sexed and turn them into a chimera of themselves.

You fans out there need to realize that these characters, including the ones I write, are not yours to take and warp into your version. They are gifts to you to enjoy, to get a brief glimpse into the mind of the creative souls who make the characters. Realize that the writers, the creators, pour their heart and souls into these people, the children of their minds and hearts. Don’t mess with them. Read them, watch them, love them but if you desperately need a character to be more like you, Write them, Create them and then gift them to the world.

 

 

Been a while and look what happens


Hey you few brave and loyal blog readers. Yeah it has been a while. Life threw me a number of curveballs since last summer. The details are too many to go into but I apologize for not being a good little blogger/writer and keeping the world up to date.

Today I have seen one real sign of what happens when a writer drops out of sight for a while. When I googled myself I found that another Lisa Williamson who is a writer has taken over. Now what bugs me is a writer with just one book with the same name is a big name. Okay I am sure her book is a good one but really it is just a book about the current hot topic of transgender people.

First off, NOT ME. Those who have contacted me thinking I was her, sorry. I am a writer of short stories, flash fiction, poetry, novels and so much more. I write fantasy, science fiction, horror and paranormal romance. I try not to grab onto something that is the hot topic and write a tale. My stories are filled with wonder, magic and other worldliness along with real issues. My characters are diverse but I haven’t and dont plan on making a character who is focused on their sexuality. I write about issues that are old yet always new.

So if you read this thinking I was the Lisa Williamson who wrote, The Art of Being Normal, I’m sorry. You can find her other places. If you are on the other hand a fan of things like elves, dragons, guardians, wizards, witches and more? Well I am the author you are looking for.

I took off time after my last novel, A Fragile Peace, at first because I was burned out, but then for technical and yes health reasons. Now I am back to putting out work and I have released six collections of short stories and flash fictions, some that have bee seen before and some that have not. I am back to writing things both as Lisa Williamson and as LA Mason.  Hopefully totally new work with spark a resurgence of people reading my work.

A sad time


Over this weekend the indie writers community suffered a sad loss. James Anderson, a writer of newspaper thrillers and childrens tales passed away.. A long time newspaper man, he had developed an interesting world in his writing. Stories that dealt with the headlines but set in Canada. Most thrillers I have read have been set either in the US or the UK, so these were very interesting reads for a person new come to Canada.

When I first dipped my toes into the world of self publishing James was there with an encouraging word and even a review of one of my first published short stories. He had a sense of humor and a gentle heart that mentored me and many other writers through those tough and scary days of starting a writing career.

I first found him over on the Amazon discussion group The Wordsmyth. A great group of fantasy and science fiction readers and writers who take in every type of writer or reader. We all would talk about many things. James was usually right there with us talking about writing, about his grandkids and about life. He will be greatly missed.

Yesterday I wrote a poem, which I shared on my facebook page but I thought I would put it up here for those of you who don’t follow me on facebook.

Goodbye

A friend

A mentor

A Master storyteller

So much to so many

Learned you passed

Suddenly you were gone

And you left a hole behind

In the hearts of all you touched

You taught us courage

Taught us how to use words

Kindly shepparded the new

Till we found our feet

Now we sit stunned

So close you were

Yet now so far

You will be missed

I know my poetry doesn’t really follow rules but it is heartfelt and I hope gives comfort to those who read it. We will miss you James. May your words continue to inspire new readers and new writers.

If you can’t afford a professional editor the next best thing is writer friends


As many of you know I am busy working on my novel. Over the years I have found that I commonly work by writing and editing at the same time. I have been known to go over my work from ten to thirty times. While a lot of more successful writers will tell you that you can’t do that. Thing is that might be true for the kids coming out of the education system now but I was in school in the old days.

Now i am not saying I can do it all, I know I can’t. But what I am saying is that while there are things I still need to learn. While my characters, dialog, pacing and world building are good, I need a bit of help getting the punctuation right. Now this is where the help comes in. Finding a set of eyes that can catch what you miss.

Thankfully I have found some. I won’t say who because well…like many writers…I’m greedy! Yes my beta readers are great people who are kindly helping me put out better work. I thank them in what ways I can.

In my newest work I have received back the first of the edits. I was surprised as how many little things I missed. See even when you use spell check, grammar check, programs to make sure you don’t over use words and read through and through you will miss things.  You will spell words correctly, only they will be the wrong word. You will be missing words that would make things flow better and of course more readable.

So I am very glad that my beta readers are old school like I am. They find things I miss like commas and hyphens.  Growing up back in new england I found that reading my work out loud won’t get those commas in the right places. See we are fast talkers. Things that seem to bother those from slower places. The beta readers who have so generously taught me things that I didn’t know three years ago…or more reminded me of things I learned and forgot.

So if you are short of funds the smartest thing to do is to look at your friends from writer groups but realize that you need to give as well as you receive. Read your friends work and give them constructive criticism. If you are like me looking for punctuation help then you can help them find plot holes, pacing issues and character things. I can always tell if a character is coming across two dimensional.

So folks why am I babbling like this? See So many talk about getting an editor, they never comment about which type. You need to find people who will yes help you with line editing. If you are not strong with spelling and grammar you will need that. If you write slow and overly worded prose, then you need someone to help you with pacing. If your dialog drags or is stilted, well then you just might want a friend who writes believable dialog.

So make friends, write, write a lot and listen when they tell you that your pacing is slow, that your dialog is crappy and that your story has a hole in it.

Getting back into the saddle


As a lot of you know I have been blocked lately. Having trouble writing is nothing new. Everything author goes through times like that. I have gone from writing pages and pages a day down to years between. This time it was not so much life and kids blocking me but a lack of drive for a lot of things. Yesterday I sat down and I am happy to say Loralil has finally started talking to me again.

As my oldest character there are so many tales that she has to tell but she gets a wee bit stubborn from time to time about the details of these tales. Well yesterday I managed to get almost up to 11K words in her newest tale.

This picks up just months after the end of Revenge and as I have said before it is not as action heavy (so far) as it was before. I am at the moment trying to decide if I will stop this story when she reaches the Grey elven city or if I will just keep going. I have two parts. A Fragile Peace is the story and the first part is Found…the second is Broken and it takes place fifteen years later. So most likely this will be two stories, either novella length or novel, we will see.

Now one of the things that is helping is I finally did a rough map of Loralil’s world. Okay really just of the Kingdom that she is currently in. Based very roughly on my old home state I have three mountain ranges, Three rivers, a massive forest, A inland sea, a fen, a swamp and various town and cities. I haven’t detailed things like the grasslands and plains between the other places. The fun part is after the research I did on how fast you normally travel via horseback or with a pony cart I can estimate how long travel will take from place to place.

This is important folks. Even when you write fantasy like I do, you need to do your research. Writing stories set in the horse and buggy times travel will take so much longer than you realize. Never mind fun things like what type of horse could carry a Minotaur! (Yes in my fantasy world Minotaurs and intelligent farmers who rider horseback…on those huge draft horses that are practically extinct in our modern world.

Also one of the things I will be working on today is a cover for an erotic fantasy that I will be releasing. Now this is not light on the erotic side. There is a lot of steamy sex before I even introduce the true fantasy elements in this tale. I do plan on doing a bunch of these, not a tale type for the general reader of my work. I have written a lot of erotica that is either sweet or very wild. I have a very small following for those tales and I will be putting them out as I get them edited to completion. If you are looking for something hot and steamy with a touch of fantasy elements, then this will be for you. The title is “It was a Dark and Stormy night”” Yes a cliche but it works in the story.

Another thing I am looking at doing is some free complete stories over on either my website or on Wattpad. I have not seen a lot of attention over there, so I am hoping to get some attention for my work.

Diversity in writing and research


Okay something has been bothering me a bit lately. There is a huge hue and cry about diversity in writing lately. That we as writers are not doing our job by writing diverse characters in our books. That we need to write less white characters and more of everything else.

Now as a writer who put characters in my books of all kinds this had me thinking for a bit if I was doing enough. Guess what? I am.

I decided to pull up the most recent census data for both the US and Canada. Why both? Well I am an American living in Canada so it made sense right? When it comes to my home country the figures surprised me a bit. The break down of races in the US is a lot less than people try to tell you. I have put more diversity in my books than there really are in the US.

Well you see in the US 77% of the population is that dreaded color, white (yeah like me) so it is 23% that breaks down the rest of the wonderful colors of people who live in the states. The black, the brown, the yellow and the red…or more accurately those of Asian decent, African descent, Latino or Hispanic descent and of course those of Native descent.

In Canada, my adopted country, the break down is even most white. In fact if you look at the breakdown the next largest group is those of Native decent. Interesting because Canada seems more racially diverse when you look at the shows and news.

In most cases when you are reading a book the character’s clothing is described but not always their face. You have no idea if the character is a beautiful caramel skinned goddess or so pale that they glow in the dark (my skin tone!)

If we go on to describe our characters in our books, it is because we want you to see the character as we see them. From the rich mahogany of her skin to the deep sapphire of his eyes we want you to see our character.

Now for other diversities. Yes, most characters I write are straight. It is what I know and of course we write what we know. Writing LGBT characters takes research to get right. I want them to be right, not a caricature of what I think they are. I will work toward good ones I hope.

But what about those who are not as physically able? Now in my work I have a lot of action, so I haven’t yet written a handicapped character but that will be coming. As a writer who is slowly growing older I am finding my joints are stopping me from doing things I want to do. This will help me write but like everything, I will need more research so as to not insult those who are less physically able than I am.

And finally there are two types of diversity that we don’t see enough of. That of strong characters who are neither sexy/thin or under the age of 35. I admit I have fallen into the trap of writing a lot of characters that are around 25-40 and are all in the sexy/buff build.  We write them because we want our books to sell but since I mostly don’t write romances why should I do this? I mean what is wrong with a strong big bodied woman who happens to be a grandmother?

I think there is an audience out there that would be glad to read about that woman. So why not write her? It couldn’t do worse than any other of my books right?

Try doing this readers and writers, put in a character that is not common to your work and really write them. Don’t just make them the background, make them your main character. Don’t make them a teenager in an adults body. Write a nicely rounded adult character with all the wisdom that they earned by making it to adulthood and even grandparenthood.