#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

All about Books, Meet the Author

Meet the Author: Christina Courtenay

It’s Monday! This means one thing – it’s time to meet an author and I’m excited to introduce Christina Courtenay, author of Whispers of the Runes to my blog, who is loved by myself and those who visit the Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf.

Meet the Author: Christina Courtenay

Christina Courtenay

Welcome Christina, I’m so excited you are here to chat about Vikings and your heroes. Over to you

The word Viking is one most people recognise and it instantly conjures up thoughts of fierce men, hellbent on plunder, rape and violence. But that’s not what I think of when I hear that word, because the majority of the Vikings were not like that. They were determined, courageous and adventurous, and totally fearless. They also had a well-developed justice system that was as fair as it was possible to be. Some totalitarian states of today could learn a thing or two from them!

With my Runes series, I wanted to show a different side to them. That yes, they did go plundering, but not all of them were bad people. They were just like us – some good, some not. And some of the things we think of as bad weren’t necessarily so to them. Also, those people who fell foul of their attacks weren’t really much better – in fact, some of them were far worse in many ways.

The hero of the first book in the series, ECHOES OF THE RUNES goes “a-Viking”, ie. he sets off on a journey with the sole purpose of bringing home thralls and treasure. Yet, he’s not your average marauder because his heart isn’t in it. The only reason he does it is to prove to his wife that he’s not a coward (she’s a horrible woman who knows how to push his buttons). And with the other books, especially WHISPERS OF THE RUNES, I wanted to highlight their intrepid travels across oceans and continents, all thanks to the amazing longships they developed, and their curiosity and sense of adventure. Setting off across the north Atlantic in an open ship, filled with supplies and even cattle, took true courage!

So I guess what I’m really saying is, I wish people would stop giving the Vikings such a bad press and really look at all their amazing achievements, rather than the small percentage who decided to terrorise Western Europe for a while. It would take nearly a thousand years before women in Scandinavia (and elsewhere) regained the sort of rights Viking women had, because once Christianity arrived, they became chattels. And whatever we think of them, an awful lot of us are descended from them because they spread far and wide. So beware what you say – you might be talking about one of your direct ancestors!

  • Your Runes series is based in the times of the Vikings, what attracted you to write about this time in history?
  • I’m half Swedish so the Vikings have always been part of my heritage, and of course at school there the teachers paid special attention to that era. There are reminders all around the country – runestones, graves and artefacts in museums – and as I was a history buff from an early age, I also read all the Norse sagas when I was quite young. They made a huge impression on me. Besides, there is something very romantic about Vikings, wouldn’t you say?
  • Your novels are highly detailed and blend fact with fiction seamlessly, how do you tackle research?
  • Thank you! Like any author writing historical fiction, I research the background and history in general first, then study particular aspects more in depth. I read lots of factual books, watched TV programmes, visited museums and attended events like the Jorvik Viking Festival. I also travelled to some of the places the Vikings were known to have occupied, and I went to outdoor museums where there are reconstructed houses and/or ships. I try not to get too bogged down in research as I’m always impatient to get to the actual story, which to me is the most important thing, but obviously I try my best to get all the facts right as much as possible.
  • What inspired you to write time slip novels? Do you write other genres?
  • Ever since I read one, I’ve wanted to write timeslip myself – it’s my favourite sub-genre. I think it was Barbara Erskine’s Lady of Hay that really tipped the balance for me – it was just such a great story and I loved the premise of having two timelines that intertwine. I have written other genres – pure historical romance and also contemporary YA – and currently I’m writing time travel which is slightly different. (It’s not a dual timeline, instead the protagonist from the present actually physically travels back in time). Timeslip is my preferred sub-genre though and I’d like to continue with that.
  • Rurik and Sara are your latest protagonists in Whispers of the Runes and Rurik also appeared in a previous book. Did you always intend for him to have his own novel or did the idea develop later?
  • He was always going to get his own book as I had planned a trilogy for the three brothers. Also, I really liked him as a character. I had to force myself not to let him steal any of the spotlight when he appears as Hrafn’s brother in THE RUNES OF DESTINY because otherwise the heroine might have fallen for him instead. That would have been awkward!
  • I have a bookcase full of books I will keep forever and regularly reread them. Do you reread books, or do you only read them one?
  • There are some books I reread occasionally – Georgette Heyer’s Cotillion for one as it always makes me laugh – but mostly I only read them once. There are just so many wonderful stories out there and only so much time, and I wouldn’t want to miss the next amazing one.
  • What are you currently reading?
  • I’m currently reading four or five books per week, so it’s a mixture of romance sub-genres. Among them Nicola Cornick’s The Last Daughter, Kylie Scott’s Fake, Kirsty Greenwood’s Big Sexy Love, Sarah Morgan’s The Summer Seekers and Loretta Chase’s Ten Things I Hate About the Duke. A mixture of timeslip, contemporary and Regency this week 😊
  • If you could go back in time, which era would you go to and why?
  • Obviously, I’d like to visit the Viking era to see if I’ve portrayed it correctly in my books, but I would also quite like to visit the haut ton of the Regency. Only if I ended up in a very rich household, of course, and not as someone’s scullery maid!
  • What is your favourite book?
  • Favourite ever has to be Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
  • Who is your favourite author?
  • I can’t really choose just one again, but if I must, Georgette Heyer again
  • Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
  • I suppose we are all influenced by everything we read but I hope by now I’ve developed my own style
  • Where is your favourite place to read or write?
  • Anywhere I can sit with lots of cushions behind me (I have a bad back)
  • When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
  • I began because I wanted to be a stay-at-home mum to my first daughter and not have to go back to work and leave her at day care, so I decided to try my hand at writing. As it turned out, getting published was a lot harder than I thought so it wasn’t until she left home, aged 21, that I finally made it into print! Good thing I’d been bitten by the writing bug and didn’t give up. I got my first book published following an introduction to an editor at an RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) party.
Book cover for Whisper of the Runes

You can discover more about Christina Courtenay’s new release Whisper of the Runes here.

Purchase link: https://smarturl.it/WOTRCC

Author biography

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014) and the RNA Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year 2021 with Echoes of the RunesWhispers of the Runes (time travel published by Headline 24th June 2021) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.christinacourtenay.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christinacourtenayauthor?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PiaCCourtenay

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ChristinaCourtenayAuthor/

Thank you so much Christina Courtenay for popping by and chatting about all things Vikings, books and writing. Good luck in your next project.

Have a wonderful week and take care!

Love