#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, Guest post, Meet the Author

Meet the Author: Kate Ryder Author of Beneath Cornish Skies

Today I am excited to be chatting to Kate Ryder, the author of Secrets of the Mist, and her new release Beneath Cornish Skies and is on my TBR pile. So grab a coffee or tea and cake if needed and discover more about the person behind these books.

Time for tea and a natter

  • Hello Kate, thank you so much for popping by. Your books are based in Cornwall, what draws you to this setting for your novels? 

Three of my four published novels are set in Cornwall, which is such an inspirational county for the writer/artist in me.  As a Piscean I’m drawn to the sea, and Cornwall’s natural, ruggedly beautiful coastline always gets my creative juices flowing!

  • Did any of your inspiration for novels originate from your own real-life experiences?  

Secrets of the Mist (interestingly, the only novel I’ve set in a different county) was inspired by renovations to our 200 year old cottage during which a time capsule was discovered, secreted away by a previous owner.  Its contents were fascinating and it had me contemplating previous occupiers of our cottage and the dramas it may have witnessed.  Readers took the novel to heart and it achieved #1 best seller in Time Travel Romance on Amazon UK, Canada and Australia.

  • I loved the cottage in Secrets of the Mist. Is this based on a real place?  

The setting for the cottage is real – Walditch, in Dorset – but the actual property doesn’t exist.  It’s purely from my imagination.  However, the internal stained glass divide between the sitting and dining rooms and the ghostly presence were inspired by a conversation with someone who told me about an old Dartmoor cottage she once owned that she’d shared with a ghost.

  • 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 once?  

I have bookcases full of books (at least our old stone cottage is well insulated!).  I do reread books but tend to put several months between subsequent readings.

  • What are you currently reading? 

Several reviewers comment that my books remind them of Barbara Erskine’s writing.  What a wonderful compliment!  I’m currently enjoying the audible version of her novel, River of Destiny.  It’s a terrific adventure, which the narrator has done justice to.

  • I would agree with their assessment, Secrets of the Mist did have the atmosphere of Barbara Erskine novels. River of Destiny is a great book and will now have to add it to my reread pile. Do you have any tips for would-be writers? 

Remember that writing is a long-game.  Smile and enjoy the journey!

  • Secrets of the Mist and your upcoming release are time slip novels with elements of the supernatural threaded through them. Is this a genre you always wanted to write?  

In my late childhood/early teenage years, I was spellbound by Alison Uttley’s A Traveller in Time.  The mix of history and timeslip seemed so believable.  The story has remained with me through the intervening years, although I wasn’t aware this was a genre I would write.  Summer in a Cornish Cove (and its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff) is a contemporary romantic suspense novel that verges on psychological thriller, although (she laughs) there is a tiny smattering of the other side coming through!

  • What is your favourite book? 

Frenchman’s Creek.

  • Who is your favourite author? 

Daphne du Maurier.  However, during lockdown I discovered several terrific authors that I’d not read before, including Christina Courtenay, Georgia Hill, Nicola Cornick and Susanna Kearsley.  All historical dual-timeline/timeslip writers… funny that!

  • Is your writing influenced by the books you have read? 

Definitely.  When aspiring to being a good writer you should read a varied subject matter and as many books as possible.

  • Where is your favourite place to read or write?  

During 2020 – the strangest of years – I did a lot of reading in bed; probably because it felt safe and warm.  I write in my office, which is in the eaves of our three-storey Cornish cottage.  Being on the top floor, it feels like an eyrie, tucked away from the distractions of the rest of the household.

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

I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall, and I’ve also worked in publishing.  However, it took a certain milestone birthday to motivate me towards turning my dream of becoming a published author into reality.  I joined the Romantic Novelist’s Association New Writers’ Scheme and submitted a manuscript for a professional critique.  Taking on board my reader’s comments, I tweaked the manuscript and sent it to several publishing companies.  There followed the inevitable rejections (par for the course) but Aria responded and offered me a four-book contract.

Beneath Cornish Skies by Kate Ryder

Blurb

Beneath Cornish Skies

To an outsider, Cassandra Shaw‘s life looks perfect. She lives in a beautiful, luxurious house in the English countryside, with a handsome, wealthy boyfriend who insists she needn’t do a day’s work in her life. But Cassie knows that something is not right. Her boyfriend has grown colder, treating her more like a housekeeper than a future wife. And her time feels empty and purposeless.

Cassandra has always been riddled with insecurities and self-doubt, but, just for once, she decides to take a chance on a new beginning. She answers an advert for a live-in nanny, dog walker, cook and all-round ‘Superhuman’ for a family living in a rambling manor house on the rugged North Cornish coast. The work is hard and tiring, but Cassie has never felt so fulfilled.

As Cassie learns to connect with the natural beauty unfolding around her, Cornwall starts to offer up its secrets. Soon, Cassie starts wondering if she was drawn to this isolated part of the coast for a reason. Why was she guided to Foxcombe Manor? What are the flashes of light she sees in the valley? Is it her imagination or does someone brush past her? And who is the mysterious man living deep in the woods?

A beautiful romance with a hint of ghostliness, Beneath Cornish Skies is for anyone who has ever longed to start their lives again.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/364FTKy

Kate Ryder

Author Biography

Kate Ryder is an award-winning, Amazon Kindle international best seller who writes timeslip and romantic suspense in a true-to-life narrative. On leaving school she studied drama but soon discovered her preference for writing plays rather than performing them! Since then, she has worked in the publishing, tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely.

Kate is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.  In 2017, she signed a 4-book contract with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of Zeus).

Summer in a Cornish Cove, a contemporary romantic suspense set on the Lizard Peninsula, gained her a nomination for the RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award, while its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff, reached the heady heights of #2 in Kindle Literary Sagas.

‘Secrets of the Mist’, a mysterious timeslip romance, not only achieved #1 Kindle best seller flags in the UK, Canada and Australia, but also reached #49 in Amazon UK Paid Kindle. In the original, self-published version (The Forgotten Promise) it was awarded the first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month”.

Originally hailing from the South East of England, today Kate lives on the Cornish side of the beautiful Tamar Valley with her husband and a collection of animals.

Social Media Links –

Author website: http://www.kateryder.me
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KateRyder_Books
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kateryder.author
Instagram: @kateryder_author

Thank you so much for joining me for a natter. I wish you luck in your new release and can’t wait to read it.

Happy writing, reading and keep safe!

Love

All about Books, Guest post, Writing journey, Writing process

Guest Post: WORLD BUILDING with Guardian: Recruit author, Catherine Rull

Catherine Rull

Today I am excited to introduce Catherine Rull, the Australian author of paranormal romance, Guardian: Recruit as a guest on my blog. Her book is about guardian angels that watch over a psychiatric facility in London. She’s here for a quick chat to tell us more about world-building, and hitting those word counts.

Hi, Kate. Thanks for having me.

Hello. Shall we get started? Okay, so first up: how did you come up with the world for Guardian: Recruit?

Well, it actually came to me in a dream while I was pregnant in 2008. In my dream, I was driving and saw some small things flying around. When I got out of my car, I realised they were pixies. One of them was someone I knew as a child, but he’d died. And he told me, children’s souls got to grow up but as pixies. When I woke up, I wrote down the idea. But of course pixies aren’t really sexy so I went with angels.

Good choice. Was there anything else from your dream?

No. That was it. The rest, I had to figure out myself.

Well, the world in Guardian: Recruit’s quite fleshed out. Do you have any advice for other paranormal writers?

I think there are probably five things you’ll need to do to build your own world.

  1. Base it on something real. Any novel requires a certain level of world building, regardless of the genre. I think the more you can ground your world in reality, the more believable it is. The setting for Guardian: Recruit is similar to the hospital school where I worked in London. Of course, it wasn’t creepy there at all but that’s the beauty of creating your own world. You add your imagination to the mix and hopefully create something vivid and realistic for your readers.
  2. Research. Researching different aspects of your story (eg. your character’s job; angels from different cultures) often leads to more ideas for your books.
  3. The new character. Another important tool in world building is to have a character who is new to the world. This allows you to explain some of the rules of the world to the reader in a more organic way. You see this all the time, including in Harry Potter. As someone who didn’t know he was a wizard, Harry had to be taught the way the wizarding world works and the reader learns about it with him.
  4. Layering. If you have the time, I suggest editing the book with some breaks in between. This allows you to notice things you may not have realised before, or come up with new ideas to add to your world. This gives the book its many layers.
  5. Series Bible. It’s important to keep track of the rules you’ve set for your world. I keep a “Series Bible” for all my books (not just the paranormal ones) to ensure continuity.

Thanks, Catherine. That’s a handy list. Did it take you long to write Guardian: Recruit?

I wrote about five pages in 2008. Then, in 2014, I picked it up again and set myself 800-words minimum a day until it was finished. And it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, I would fall asleep at my laptop trying to hit my word count for the day and I would wake up to find a row of “bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb” where my hand rested while I was sleeping. But then I’d wake myself up and keep going till I reached that word count. There were times when I felt like what I was writing was absolutely terrible, but when it was time to edit, those parts were never as bad as I thought. Sometimes, they were actually quite good! Either way, it’s better to edit bad writing than to have a blank page.

I completed the first draft of Guardian: Recruit in about 8 weeks, and then I edited it lots of times. I’m a “pantser”—that means I like to write “by the seat of my pants”. I find that this gives me space to surprise myself. I personally find plotting very restrictive. “Pantsing” allows the characters the freedom to get themselves into trouble, instead of me plotting their challenges 😊

Anyway, after writing the first draft, I print out my manuscripts to edit on paper, input the changes to the digital copy, edit on the laptop and print again. I usually edit books between five to ten times in this way. But I editing is all part of making a tight story and a clean manuscript. In 2015, Guardian: Recruit was shortlisted in the UK’s Mslexia Women’s Novel Competition.

That’s great. Congratulations!

Thanks.

So, do you already have other books lined up after Guardian: Recruit?

Yes. I’ve already written Book 2 of the Guardian Series and have the basic premise for the third book. I think the sequel will come out some time in 2021. I am currently working on other projects as well—some sequels to the chick lit and rom com that have already come out this year: The Fat Chicks’ Club Series and my Swim Bike Run Series.

You sound very busy. Do you have a set routine or favourite drink while you’re writing?

Not so much a routine. Like most writers, I have a day job. Plus, I have young children so I fit my writing around my other responsibilities. However, before the lockdowns, I sometimes used to go to my local library to get away from the distractions at home. That was usually when I needed to write or edit something in time for a competition or a submission to an agent or editor.

As for a favourite drink. I’m a big kid, so I like cold drinks like bubble tea and frozen Cokes. I like to keep it fun. Writing brings me so much joy, and I hope my readers feel that in my stories. You know, even though Guardian: Recruit has a seemingly sombre premise, you’ll find there’s a lot of humour in it as well. I don’t think I’d like to write anything too sad or depressing—I like my characters to have a sense of humour. It’s important to be able to laugh at life.

That’s good advice. Well, all the best with all those projects!

Guardian: Recruit is the first book in the Guardian Series. It’s available in ebook and paperback from Amazon, Book Depository and Barnes & Noble.

Social media contacts

website: www.catherinerull.com

Facebook: Catherine Rull (novelist): https://www.facebook.com/CatherineRullnovelist

Twitter: @catherinerull13

Instagram: @catherine.rull 

Thanks again Catherine, and I can’t wait to read your book. We are heading into November and NaNoWriMo so let me know if you are joining in and have any other word building tips.

Happy writing and stay safe!

Love