#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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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

#DystoniaAroundTheWorld Challenge, Dystonia Around the World Challenge, Just life, Writing journey

How did August get here so fast? A catch-up and Dystonia Around the World

How is it August already? This year is galloping by and I feel I’m still stuck in March with a never-ending to do list and a WIP which is going slower than a garden snail despite my best efforts. Unlike last year when everyone was in lockdown and zoom calls to boost morale and word counts were the norm, being ‘good’ as a clinically vulnerable person is much harder and soul destroying. The world carries on outside and it’s hard not to feel left behind, trapped and bored. Even my imagination has got fed up with my sense of gloom and decided to scarper  – not ideal when have a deadline to meet. Yes, you heard someone wants to read my WIP about ballet and friendship when finished. Time for a happy dance followed by a frenzied panic. How do authors write under pressure without sobbing in a corner with their inner critic shouting at them? Answers in the comments below, please.

The last couple of months have ground productivity to a halt with the unexpected death of Randall, the inspiration of many stories and dear friend, and umpteen other things life has colluded to throw at me at once. But it’s time to turn things around, take back control, get some writing done, wake up my brain cells, and encourage seeds of ideas and my word count to grow. To start living again. Accountability is key so the arrival of the Dystonia Around the World challenge email was perfect. I’ve signed up and ready to go with a new pen, paper and walking shoes.

Dystonia Around the World Challenge

Dystonia is a neurological condition affecting in the UK and can range from focal dystonias affecting one part of the body and linked to a certain activity, such as writer’s cramp or musical dystonia, to more general ones affecting many areas. All types create challenges throughout the day. After living with dystonia for over twenty years, the charity Dystonia UK is dear to me and supported me often. Last year I wrote several short stories but now it’s time to convert chapters of my WIP, catching up with my overflowing TBR and increase my dwindling mobility into miles. Every 10 minutes of activity equals a mile. The hope is as a collective everyone who signs up will manage to walk around the world.

Let the globe trotting adventure begin.

I’ve signed up for the #DystoniaAroundTheWorld challenge

More information can be found here and on my From Under the Duvet blog. Or follow my progress on Instagram. If you would like to sponsor my efforts and help fundraise for Dystonia UK click here.

How have you all been? Are you out and about enjoying the summer weather or still shell-shocked from the last year and struggling to join back into society?

Take care and stay safe!

More soon.

Love