#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, All about Books, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, Writing journey, Writing process

Meet The Author: Karl Kiddy

As you are aware September is dystonia awareness month which makes having my next author to meet on my blog more exciting. Karl Kiddy is a writer and dystonia advocate who published Warriors of Dystonia which I’m proud to have my story so far in.

Meet The Author: Karl Kiddy

Photo of author Karl Kiddy
Author Karl Kiddy

A huge welcome, Karl. Please tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Karl and I am a Welshman living in Belfast, with my two amazing daughters, my wife and a cat named Willow.   I have been an artist since I was a teenager and have dabbled in everything from Pyrography (burning pictures into pieces of wood), to photography, blogging, video editing and production, to writing, and dipping in and out of podcasting.  I’m a heavy metal music fan, as well as having a passion for horror movies and pretty much anything in that genre when it comes to comics and books too.  In my spare time, I as the whole reading and project thing, I am a gamer, and would play a lot of Xbox, I also love cooking and would do just about all of the cooking for myself and my ladies.  I have self-published five books, with Warriors of Dystonia being my most recent book and project.   Only one of my other books have been written under my name, with the rest of them, as well as many of my other projects, being done under a pseudonym due to the shamefully juvenile humour that I use throughout.  About 14 years ago my journey with Dystonia began.

Q. The book released is a compilation of the stories of people with dystonia, what made you decide to raise awareness to this little known condition?

It’s difficult to really narrow this down as I believe that Warriors of Dystonia had been bubbling under the surface for a long time.  Having dystonia myself and knowing that due to very little being known or understood about the disorder I had been plunged into a few scenarios where I struggled and I was left feeling humiliated.  A combination of this and having to say that I had Parkinson’s for people to consider my limitations made me think, “enough is enough.”  I want to be able to live in a world where we can say, “I have dystonia,” and for people outside of our community to have some sort of an idea of what it is that we are talking about.  I knew that there was no way I would be alone with wanting this and so I thought about using one of my favourite mediums, writing! 

So, my goal was to make a book where fellow people who have dystonia can see they are not alone and that they can handover to a person and say, “this is my world!”

Q How easy was it to get people together to share their experiences and bring it all together.

As a whole, it was hard work.  I wanted the book to feel like you were having a conversation with the person or perhaps you were sitting in on a chat that they were having.  No matter what anyone tells you, we are a nosy bunch us humans, and we are naturally very interested in the ins and outs of the lives of others.  I’d originally been thinking of ways of directing the content that was share with me, but I am glad I gave everyone free reign now!
Getting people to share their stories was the easy part.  I won’t go into too much, as I will probably use the same methods again, but it snowballed to a point where I had to close the original submission date three months earlier than I planned.  At that point, I had so many and at that point the book was four hundred pages!  The hard part was the admin behind the scenes.  I needed to set up a form which logged the names and details of everyone who contacted me either sharing their story or offering to share a story.  The editing of the book was difficult.  I had a file which was a mass of various length stories, terms, medications and treatments that I had never heard of and I then had to work out how I was going to compile it.  This was before I even started to then format the thing!

Q. You are an active campaigner to raise awareness of dystonia, how do you fit it in with other aspects of your life?

Anyone who knows me will know that when I have my heart set on something I will do it.  Whether it is work related or a new artistic venture I want to try, if I want to give it a go then nothing will stop me.  Then, once I have set my mind on it, I will invest everything in it.  For as long as I can remember, I have never really slept for long and so I work on Warriors of Dystonia in the early hours of the morning.  It would also be these early hours that I would squeeze in some of my other passions too.  By the time my girls get up for school I have probably already got a few hours of my actually job done, an hour on the Warriors of Dystonia or perhaps I have been out and taken photographs of the lovely sunrise.  As I start my job so early, I often have a bit of time in the afternoons to work on my projects too.  Then there’s the weekends, where I will still be getting up and out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning!

Q. Lots of stories must have been overwhelming to hear, do you have a support network around you?

Yes, absolutely.  I have to be honest, when I knuckled down and began to really read the stories back-to-back I was struggling at times.  Reading the book is different and there’s a bit of a barrier or distance between the reader and the storyteller. I was interacting directly with every single person in the book.  Many of which we were in back-and-forth correspondence.  Going through the story and knowing that person and talking with them was a very different experience.  However, with that being said, it also made me so proud to be able to do this.  There were a few people who I spoke with who have dystonia so bad that this book was their first opportunity to tell the world what it was that they were battling and dealing with every single day.  The sheer determination was inspiring.

I’ve always been very open with my feelings, so have no problems of just saying, “I am having a crappy day.”  You know, that feeling when you wake in the morning and you think to yourself, “I don’t know why, but it’s going to be one of those days.”  I just warn everyone.  That way, it isn’t a great shock to anyone if I am not my self.

I have a great support network in my wife and daughters.  Just having a cuddle from them or listening to their stories about their little lives is priceless.  I love going for walks, so I would often go for a long walk with my wife and talk at her about whatever it is that is going around in my head at that point.     

Q. Have you found this project has impacted your life more than you expected?

Yes, definitely.  I have made so many new friends and my faith in humanity has been restored thanks to the dystonia community being full to the brim with some of the most lovely and sincere people I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with.  Absolute warriors and so inspirational!  From the very start of working on the book, I was exposed to a whole world of forms of dystonia that I had not only not heard of, but wouldn’t have ever stumbled across if it hadn’t been for the work I was doing.  It showed me that dystonia awareness is not only vitally important outside of the dystonia community, but within it too.   Finally, I guess what I almost selfishly planned to be a one-and-done in regard to this project has lead to me wanting to champion and awareness as much as I can whenever I can.  Warriors of Dystonia continues to grow, and I am proud to have started it.

Q. You are also a self-published author, can you say a bit about this or is it top secret?

Being a complete control freak means that the self-publish route suits me just perfectly.  Whenever I have written a book, the formatting, layout, cover art and pretty much every other aesthetic as well as the writing must look exactly how I want.  There’s a method and plan behind my madness!  The downside is that you discover that writing a book is easy, it’s the getting it out there into the public eye that is difficult.  Although it would be fantastic to see Warriors of Dystonia in books shops, the word Dystonia isn’t something that you just stumble across, so I would expect that most people who are looking for a book about dystonia will stumble across my book when scouring the internet. 

Anyone going down the self published-route needs to be prepared to have a plan of how they will release their masterpiece onto the world, and this needs to begin before the date you plan of unleashing it.  You need to drum up interest, use all of the tools the internet gives you, put yourself out there so that people get to know you and then talk to your audience.  Warriors of Dystonia the book didn’t exist in January 2020, but by the time it was released, everyone who had been following the project knew exactly what it was that I was putting together, when it was coming out and knew a lot about me.  Once the book is released, you must keep up that momentum.  This is where I struggle, because I keep thinking that any time that I am investing in marketing could be time spent writing or working on a new project!

Q. What is your next project?

I have been writing under a pseudonym for many years and my plan is to continue something I started many years ago under that alias.  When it comes to writing, my passion is in surreal, off-the-wall comedy and horror.  As well as that, I have drafted a plan for a podcast that I will be hopefully starting this year, it will be another one-man-show, and will be a mix of reviews, random stories of the week and probably a lot of swearing.

These are regular questions I ask everyone, but you may want to skip some if you don’t want to discuss your other books.

Q. What is your favourite book? 

The Pilo Family Circus and the Skulduggery Pleasant Series.  Pilo Family Circus is one of the most unique horror stories I have ever read.

Q. Who is your favourite author?

Derek Landy, bit that’s because I absolutely love the Skulduggery books.

Q. Is your writing influenced by the books you have read? 

I would say not really.  My writing is a messy amalgamation of influence from films, comics, music, with a splash of books.  One of my biggest influences is life and the characters I meet along the way. 

Q. Where is your favourite place to read or write?

I enjoy reading in my living room with movie soundtracks or instrumental music playing in the background.  If I have music on that has lyrics my brain tends to start drawing me to the music.

Q. When did you begin writing and how did being published come about? 

I have been writing ever since I was a young teen, but I really got into it after I wrote a controversial short story about my secondary school, a killer bear and the carnage that ensued when that bear got to the school.  It was over-the-top, completely inappropriate comedy mixed with horror; a printout of the story started to circulate around my school and I became a legend!  I absolutely loved hearing about how funny people found the story.  Years later, at university, I wrote a series of stories about my life and once again I found it fantastic to see people reading my work in the workshops and laughing.  In 2006 I completed Nanowrimo and at the end of it I put the transcript into a book.  Seeing an actual physical copy of the story in this way made me want to put more out!  I then created my first writing alter ego and haven’t looked back.

Q. If you have a genre you write, how did you begin writing in this style?

I love writing comedy that is mixed with horror, occult and it always tends to be quite surreal and totally unpredictable.  Some of my inspirations would be the unpredictable comedy of Reeves and Mortimer, the surrealness of Monty Python and the crude, horror-tinged shock tactics of League of Gentlemen.  I also love to listen to paranormal and conspiracy podcasts too as they offer a writer such a diverse pallet of characters and stories!

Thank you so much for joining me for a natter and all you do for the dystonia community. More information on Karl’s book follows.

Warriors of Dystonia by Karl Kiddy

Book Cover for Warriors of Dystonia by Karl Kiddy

Blurb

“Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder behind essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease, yet hardly anyone has heard of it. Little is known about the condition or what causes it, but what is certain is that it can affect anyone at any age, at any time, any part of the body and has no cure.  Whether directly having dystonia or caring for someone who has it, Warriors of Dystonia shares the candid, emotional journeys and experiences of people from all over the world whose lives are affected by this chronic neurological condition.”

Warriors of dystonia
Website – https://warriorsofdystonia.wordpress.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WarriorsOfDystonia/
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/warriors.of.dystonia/
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEFh6BtXWlE8BYM_T7AC6cw

Purchase book: https://warriorsofdystonia.wordpress.com/

More information about dystonia: https://www.dystonia.org.uk/

Thank you again Karl for joining me and good luck in your next project.

An update on my challenge for Dystonia Around the World, migraines and dystonia attacks have meant I’m slower than normal but I’m now on book 5 of my readathon to raise awareness and fundraise for dystonia UK. I will be updating my page here

Happy reading and writing!

Love

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, All about Books, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, Guest post

Guest Post: Cured or Dead by A.G Parker

Like many I was glued to the Paralympics in the last couple of weeks especially the swimming as I followed fellow dystonian, Tully Kearney. What an achievement to get a silver and gold! Channel 4 did a wonderful job at presenting the Paralympic games and it was great to see disabled people in the limelight on mainstream television which was not limited to just those competing which had happened in years previously. I only hope the representation of disabled people continues and not downgraded until the next games. Representation matters. It gives people, who are normally forced into the shadows, a voice, shows them they are not alone and what can be done if given the opportunity but also shows that we are like everyone else with our own stories. Representation is also important in publishing and books. I’m excited to pass over my blog to A.G Parker, author of Twisted Roots, to discuss this further.

Image: graffiti of two people in wheelchairs about to kiss

Guest Post: Cured or Dead by A.G Parker

“If in the first act you see a disabled person, by the end they must be cured or dead.”*

Don’t look at me, that’s what Chekov said.

Ok, he didn’t, but that’s my version of Chekov’s gun, and after eighteen months leaning on escapism – oftentimes being at the mercy of whatever’s on, in stock or wedged in the shelves – I can tell you it sadly rings too true. From romance to science fiction, fantasy to crime, disabled people are rarely anything but plot devices to make an able-bodied protagonist look good/bad/kind/sadistic. Disabled characters aren’t given the nuance or the opportunity to represent the disabled community authentically. Heck, we’re not even given agency or a personality half the time.

And the fact is, we can see all too clearly just by looking at our pandemic statistics how art and popular culture influence life and vice versa. In the UK, 60% of deaths in this pandemic were disabled people†. The mechanism by which this was allowed, even pushed for, goes thus: Society is sold a story, saturated with multiple stories, actually, which depict disabled people as, as a certain government phrased it, eaters – a drain on the precious economy, offering little in the way of contribution. The public, already operating under fear because pandemic, follow the brutal logic that herd immunity and prioritising the economy over disabled lives is the right course of action. Because, despite ¼ of us being disabled, most people absorb the stories they’d fed rather than rely on evidence. Even if they don’t consciously believe it, information shared this way goes in. It’s one of the most vital and effective ways of sharing knowledge. But at the moment stories, along with politicians, aren’t doing us any favours. Internalised ableism – as a result of media, politics, literature, society’s perception of us – was one of the main issues I had with being disabled. Because aren’t we all wheelchair-bound, benefit cheats and scammers? Isn’t our disability as a result of sin? Either that or we’re inspirational.

Ableist storytelling is nothing new. It’s a ripple from decades past which has gathered strength – political manifestos and the media and literature ricocheting off each other – until finally, at the peak of the crescendo, the wave breaks and we’re left with 80,000 (disabled people) dead to a virus, and no-one is even asking for the government to be held accountable.  

So how do we change that? How do we stop disabled people, too, believing the narrative that we are ‘less than’, others. How do we eradicate the deadly ableism?

We have to be represented.

Simply put, we have to change the narrative perpetuated by media, politicians, economists, and fearmongers. We have to push for representation which authentically shows the disabled community as it is. We need protagonists and side-kicks, background characters and entire casts who are disabled.

(We don’t need more disabled villains.)

We need disabled characters whose raison d’être is disability-focused, and we need others whose disability is incidental. And we need to imagine futures where there is equality for disabled people. That mainstream speculative fiction and fantasy haven’t achieved this yet makes me incandescent with rage. You’re literally writing about made up things; if you’ve got a talking dragon or a hat that can see into your soul and choose which school house you belong to, you can damn well envisage a disabled person being a hero. We do not deserve to be side-lined or sideshows.

I won’t list the abundance of ableist nonsense I’ve read, watched or heard in the past two years, but I will say, I read a SFF book about a deadly pandemic where NO DISABLED PEOPLE SURVIVED, but suddenly, fairies appeared. Another book where the MC sampled multiple versions of their life and in none of them were they physically disabled. You can guess how that affected my mental health.

But.

I’ve also read S. L. Huang’s Zero Sum Game, which has a badass disabled character who doesn’t die and even, how dare he, remains steadfastly disabled and badass until the end. No cure or desire for one in sight.

I read apocalyptic fiction where a bunch of disabled people banded together and lived.

I watched Ryan O’Connell’s Special and loved it.

I read Stephen Lightbown’s The Last Custodian. (And cried.)

I watched disabled burlesque performers.

Saw a disabled stand-up act.

Read books with protagonists working through mental health crises.

Attended an exhibition about eugenics put together by disability activists.

Connected with other disabled writers and talked about disability representation in literature and other media, and listened to poetry written by other people in our community. There’s work out there. We just need more of it.

Luckily, somewhere along the course of this pandemic, I remembered I’m a writer. So, in the last year or so, I’ve written and performed spoken word about disability, queerness and politics. I’m 40,000 words into a SFF where two of the main characters are disabled. I’ve written essays and articles and been interviewed by the FT about disability. In short, I’m being LOUD. Because that’s what our community deserves – more authentic voices telling our own stories, reminding the non-/not yet-disabled people that we are just like them. Deserving of life, and all the wonders of creation.

Author Biography

A.G Parker

A. G. Parker is a London-based writer, editor, and Best of the Net nominated poet. Their debut dark fantasy novel, Twisted Roots is now available to buy, and their poetry, fiction, and essays have been featured in various publications, including Mslexia, The F-Word, Elevator Stories, The Feminist Library, Prismatica, Ogma, Sufi Journal, Sage Cigarettes, Earth Pathways, and more. Their craft essay about disability representation in fiction features in Human/Kind Press‘ anthology Musing the Margins. They are the English Language Editor for Angeprangert! and a staff reader at Prismatica Magazine. They run mindful writing workshops that encourage people to explore and develop a connection with Self through creativity; Sacred Anarchy will run from September 2021. As a pansexual, genderqueer and disabled writer, they hope their work offers readers an inclusive perspective. Will read your tarot for a price.

Purchase link for Twisted Roots

Instagram @a_g_parker

Twitter @amara_gparker

Website amaragparker.wixsite.com/agparker

Book cover: Twisted Roots by A.G Parker

Thank you for popping by A.G Parker and can’t wait to catch up with your book, Twisted Roots which I have been recommended to more than once.

Happy writing and I’d love to know your favourite book with disabled characters. Please comment below.

Love

P.S Currently reading book 5 on my reading challenge for #DystoniaAroundTheWorld challenge. More info can be found here.

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Weep, Woman, Weep by Maria DeBlassie

Book Review: Weep, Woman, Weep by Maria DeBlassie

Today I’m excited to share my review for Weep, Woman, Weep by Maria DeBlassie. I was thrilled to be invited to read this novella in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, after falling in love with her non-fiction book Everyday Enchantments. The blurb promised a dark, unusual with a strong character and premise, scroll down to see if it was achieved.

Weep Woman Weep by Maria DeBlassie

Title: Weep, Woman, Weep

Author: Maria DeBlassie

Genre: Gothic fairytale

Release Date: 25th August 2021

Purchase:

Amazon UK

Blurb

A compelling gothic fairytale by bruja and award-winning writer Maria DeBlassie.

The women of Sueño, New Mexico don’t know how to live a life without sorrow.  That’s La Llorona’s doing.  She roams the waterways looking for the next generation of girls to baptize, filling them with more tears than any woman should have to hold. And there’s not much they can do about the Weeping Woman except to avoid walking along the riverbank at night and to try to keep their sadness in check.  That’s what attracts her to them: the pain and heartache that gets passed down from one generation of women to the next.  

Mercy knows this, probably better than anyone.  She lost her best friend to La Llorona and almost found a watery grave herself.  But she survived. Only she didn’t come back quite right and she knows La Llorona won’t be satisfied until she drags the one soul that got away back to the bottom of the river.

In a battle for her life, Mercy fights to break the chains of generational trauma and reclaim her soul free from ancestral hauntings by turning to the only things that she knows can save her: plant medicine, pulp books, and the promise of a love so strong not even La Llorona can stop it from happening.  What unfolds is a stunning tale of one woman’s journey into magic, healing, and rebirth.

CW: assault, domestic violence, racism, colorism

My Thoughts

Weep, Woman, Weep is a dark, creepy and atmospheric gothic novella following the life of Mercy, who lives in a town blighted for generations by the actions of the water witch, La Llorona. Set in New Mexico, the descriptions and tone immersed in the culture and scenery. My knowledge of the area and culture is limited; it was refreshing to be somewhere different, hear Mercy’s voice and come away with a longing to know more.

Told in first person, Mercy’s voice and voice leapt off the page and it often felt like she was sitting in the room with me recounting the story. With strong characterisation and sense of place, reading it was a highly visual and haunting experience that often sent shivers down my spine and I felt grateful I am far from any waterways. Mercy’s observations of her fellow neighbours and town folk highlighted the racial and gender prejudices and raised many questions about interactions between communities and family. Witchcraft and magic are threaded in throughout, but differently to any book I’ve read. Like many fairy tales, there are many layers that could be unpicked and discussed, making it a book you long others to read so you can have long and deep conversations. The constant threat of La Llorona and Mercy’s fight for survival against her magic made me keep turning the pages long after bedtime.

Would I recommend?

Yes, if like me you’re a fan of the unusual or gothic and haunting reads this is one to try. With a strong voice, atmospheric creepiness and powerful storytelling, it’s one to enjoy as the nights draw in and we head towards my one of my favourite times of year, Halloween.

The team at the The Enchanted Emporium would also recommend and know it will be a firm favourite with customers on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. In fact, if Dr Marie DeBlassie visited England, Willow would invite her for a cup of tea and a chat about all things witchy and folklore.

Author Biography

Dr. Marie DeBlassie

Dr. Maria DeBlassie is a native New Mexican mestiza and award-winning writer and educator living in the Land of Enchantment. She writes about everyday magic, ordinary gothic, and all things witchy. When she is not practicing brujeria, she’s teaching classes about bodice rippers, modern mystics, and things that go bump in the night. She is forever looking for magic in her life and somehow always finding more than she thought was there. Find out more about Maria and conjuring everyday magic at www.mariadeblassie.com.

Social Media

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YouTube

Thank you Maria DeBlassie for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review and I look forward to reading more gothic tales in the future.

Love

All about Books, Book review

Book Review: Restless Dead by David J Gatward

Book Review: Restless Dead by David J Gatward

Restless Dead by David J Gatward

Title: Restless Dead

Author: David J. Gatward

Publisher: Indie

Genre: Crime

Release Date: 29th April 2021

Purchase: Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Restless-Harry-Grimm-David-Gatward/dp/B093RZGH5C/

ISBN: ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 979-8742125907

Blurb

Be careful what you wish for.

When no nonsense retired Army Colonel James Fletcher starts seeing his recently deceased wife around the house again, his friends and family are more than a little worried.But when James turns up dead, and the accident that killed him is found to be anything but, DCI Harry Grimm and his team must uncover the grisly truth before anyone else falls prey.In a house torn in two by ghosts and betrayal, Harry may soon find that death isn’t always the end. Sometimes, it’s only the beginning . . .

Restless Dead is the fifth book in the DCI Harry Grimm crime thriller series, set in the Yorkshire Dales, and perfect for fans of L. J. Ross, J.R. Ellis, Margaret Mayhew, Jeanne M. Dams, J. M. Dalgliesh, Roger Silverwood, J. D. Kirk, Adam Croft, and Simon McCleave

Yorkshire Dales

My Thoughts

As a lover of all things spooky, the blurb and dark, foreboding cover caught my eye when I was invited to this tour. Though it’s not strictly a full-on ghost story, the creepy location of Black Moss House, a house split into two with a paranormal history gave this crime thriller a supernatural edge I enjoyed and the more I read, the more I fell in love with the characters and their world. Set in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, it mentions many places I fell in love in with a couple of years ago when I went on a writing retreat at Garsdale, adding to my enjoyment. David J Gatward brought the dramatic and atmospheric landscape to life, immersing me into the story which follows DCI Grimm and his team’s investigations into the sightings of a woman who died in a dreadful accident, and a grieving family in turmoil.

Highly visual, with a blend of warm, humorous banter within the team, realistic rural locations and thrilling crime investigations, I’m hoping my first meeting with DCI Grimm won’t be the last. Restless Dead is the fifth book in the series; I was aware many characters had a backstory I didn’t know but it was easy to catch up with their situations allowing it to be read as a standalone.

Would I recommend?

Yes. With a ragged and broody rural setting, this series is perfect for fans of George Gently, Vera and regional crime novels. Well written and littered with realistic banter among DCI Grimm colleagues while they investigate crimes, this is a series to follow and enjoy. It could easily be adapted to the screen.

With the eerie Black Moss House and its ghostly goings on, this novel will happily sit on The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf to be loved by all who visit The Enchanted Emporium.

Author Biography

David J Gatward

David J. Gatward lives in Somerset and is the award-winning author of the DCI Harry Grimm crime novels, and the Padre horror trilogy. He has also written numerous books for children, teenagers and young adults.

 You can find out more at facebook.com/davidjgatwardauthor

Twitter @davidgatward

Other blogs on this tour

Thank you Random Thing Tours for inviting me to this tour and providing an advanced copy for me to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.

Take care and happy reading!

Love