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Guest Post: The Heretic in Me by Kathleen Maher

In Guest Blogger, writing on May 19, 2013 at 11:01 pm

To quote the very eloquent Kathleen Maher, “Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping”. This will probably strike a chord with most writers, it certainly does with me, so I am thrilled to be able introduce Kathleen with this great guest post. Welcome Kathleen, and thank you.

Kathleen Maher - AuthorMany thanks to Amelia for giving me this platform to write about my passion, which is writing fiction.

I wanted to write fiction, it seems, as soon as I knew what is was. As a child I could see that fiction presented life as art. It distilled and validated my impressions. In contrast, non-fiction was interesting but rarely affected me to the core.

When I first attempted creative writing in elementary school, I earned praise without knowing why. This encouraged me, but, without guidance, it took years to find my way. I didn’t stop because the challenge of writing fiction filled me with such adrenaline that hours passed like minutes. Readers’ taste in fiction is so subjective, and the writing of it so difficult, that it still takes all my nerve to continue. Yet I can’t imagine stopping.

In the late 1990s, I woke up one morning with the character of Malcolm Tully, the diarist of Diary of a Heretic, at large in my mind. His comical sincerity, self-scrutiny, and hypersensitivity would not let me rest.

Malcolm is a reluctant cult leader, so I researched cults, and as the plot grew palpable (albeit vague as usual) I wrote the first draft. As thoroughly as Malcolm had claimed me, putting his story in words took me five years.

Rewriting has always been especially difficult for me, because sheer passion is not enough to carry it off. So in 2006, I created a blog, named after Malcolm’s diary (Diary of a Heretic), and began rewriting his entries as posts.

Serial online fiction is not especially popular, but serves me well. The form forces me to construct every line toward the conclusion. Online episodes cannot carry a superfluous word, let alone a tangent; few atmospheric descriptions or overwrought introspection. Diary of a Heretic, being a diary, depends on both. But the blog forced me to pick up the pace. Malcolm’s voice remains florid, but the final version, imperfect as it is, improved because of the blog’s forced discipline.

I rewrote Diary of a Heretic many times and put it away, I thought, indefinitely. My husband, who’s a wonderful writer and editor, revived it, because after reading it countless times, he still finds it entertaining. He formatted it for Amazon’s Kindle. Now I am reading it with fresh eyes, and although I see much to improve, I am happy to see my character Malcolm alive on the page.

Much of Malcolm’s diary is unsuitable for a family blog, but here is a short passage that conveys a bit of Malcolm’s (and my) passion:

We both stared at our feet until I couldn’t stand it, and blushing horribly, tried this: “Is it just me or what? Remember when people would say that?”

She smiled, answering, “When I was fourteen, I said, ‘Is it just me or what?’ And, ‘Whatever.’ And, ‘As if.’ ”

“‘As if’ came later, I think.”

We hugged. I pressed my cheek into her hair, which wasn’t as blonde as I remembered it, but much softer and straighter, smooth and reassuring. A veil of pure silk dried in balmy air after a fresh rain. I rubbed my cheek there and my hand played with the feminine waves. A sigh escaped and she pulled away. “I missed you, too, Malkie.”

…I never know what’s going to bring on a crying jag. “Is it just me or what?” was never, before or after its currency, said in earnest. People never said it unless they were referring to something indisputable, guaranteed to draw consensus.

So which do you think? Is it just me or does the irreversibility of time never let up? Is it just me or are there days when you, too, can’t get past every moment lost? I want every moment back: The good because they passed too fast, and the bad because perhaps with another chance, I could make them right.

Kathleen Maher is the author of Diary of a Heretic, a novel available on Amazon Kindle, and Underground Nest, a novella available in most e-book formats. She is a lifelong writer, with a number of short stories published in literary journals, print and online. Her fiction has won finalist and semi-finalist status in numerous literary contests, including the Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction, and the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her blog, Diary of a Heretic (www.diaryofaheretic.com), features serialized short stories and novellas.

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Amazon’s Author Page
Diary of a Heretic on Kindle
Underground Nest on Kindle
Facebook
Facebook Author’s Page
Twitter: @kathleenmaher

Underground Nest Book CoverDiary of a Heretic Book Cover

My Review of The Bridge of Deaths by M.C.V.Egan

In Amelia Curzon Reviews, The Bridge of Deaths on August 23, 2012 at 1:09 am

Review of The Bridge of Deaths featured on Amelia Curzon's Blog - Carte BlancheA Fascinating Blend of Fact, Fiction, History, Romance and the Metaphysical

Based on an actual event, The Bridge of Deaths tells the story of one woman’s search to uncover the truth behind the death of her grandfather.  On August 15th, 1939, an English aircraft crashed in suspicious circumstances in Danish waters.  Aboard were 5 important passengers, amongst them the author’s grandfather. Two weeks later, World War Two broke out. This part is factual, as is the incredibly well-documented data revealed throughout the book. And the factual information ties in masterfully with the fictional characters and plot.

There are three main characters in the book: Bill, Maggie and Catalina. These characters are well-developed and likeable.

The fiction begins with Bill and Maggie meeting in the self-help section of a book store in London.  They are instantly attracted to each other and become close.  Bill tells Maggie of the nightmares he is experiencing involving the numbers on the side of a plane, visions of a bridge and the taste of cold salt water; all from a past life. Maggie suggests he try Past Life Regression. She then finds details of the air crash on the internet which leads her to contact the third character, Catalina.

Catalina, a Floridian woman, who has spent many years researching the crash herself – which also shows all the signs of a conspiracy – is delighted to find someone else who is interested in the mystery.  Maggie and Catalina agree to help each other and keep in touch via email and Skype calls, which also involves drinking several glasses of wine each, and smoking loads of cigarettes. The trio decide the best way to solve the enigma is through Bill’s regression, which in turn allows Bill to unravel his dreams. Between them they manage to put together the facts; before, during, and after the plane crash.

M.C.V.Egan has authored a book that screams years of dedicated research, to say nothing of how well-written it is. I was captured from the very first page. Throughout the book, I particularly enjoyed the Skype discussions between Maggie and Catalina which made me feel I was sitting there listening to them first hand, being part of the conversation, not reading about them in a book.  Although the narrative is extremely detailed in parts, I found myself wanting all the information I could get.  I was completely enthralled and found it difficult to put down. Though I did, through necessity, several times, but found the thread was easy to pick up again.

It is quite clear many years of love and hard work have gone into this work. It is also clear there is a very strong personal motive behind the writing of it. Having now finished reading, I would say those twenty years of research have unquestionably paid off.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book which is now taking its rightful place on my ‘to be read again soon’ shelf.

Without any hesitation, I am giving The Bridge of Deaths the full 5 stars.

The Bridge of Deaths is available to buy on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Between Covers and In the Fridge

In Guest Blogger, writing on June 24, 2012 at 12:01 am

  This week I am delighted to welcome my Guest Blogger, Tori L. Ridgewood.   Tori shares the life issues which surge forth when she is writing!

Where do I begin?

When I am writing fiction, three issues from my life always seem to bubble to the surface, in no particular order:  poverty, the strength of women, and food.Author Tori L. Ridgewood - Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Carte Blanche"

Let’s talk first about food.

I have a love affair with pastries.  Chocolate truffles make me swoon.  I am married to a chef, and he spoils me terribly with delicious plates of stir fry, home-made meatballs, spring rolls, salads, pieces of cake made from scratch, scrambled eggs so light and fluffy they practically float on the fork, waffles loaded with his patented stewed apple mix (the recipe is a secret, but involves cinnamon, orange juice, and vanilla)…  The only thing he’s yet to make for me from scratch is spaghetti, fettuccine, or any similar dish with the pasta maker I bought for him.

There is a reason for my passion for food.

I was never without while growing up.  My parents always had food in the house, I learned at an early age to help my mother with supper, and I took it for granted that if my stomach growled, all I needed to do was go to the fridge or the cupboard and snack away.  Grocery shopping with my mother was torturous as an adolescent.  I didn’t care how the food got into my house, as long as it was there.

And then I moved out in my final year of high school, to share a bachelor apartment with my soon-to-be husband, and learned just how valuable food really is.

I learned that you can survive on a diet of high protein, high-msg processed foods, like peanut butter sandwiches, balogna fried or plain, ground beef mixed with whatever pasta was handy.  I also learned to hate most of those things.

I learned how good a fresh apple can taste after a week of stale cereal and breads.

I learned how painful walking through a grocery aisle could be, when every penny counts and your stomach is so empty it feels sick.

I learned that you can live on love, but it’s hungry.

We got through the lean years as students, and had our babies.  I had the inexplicable cravings and aversions for the foods we were just beginning to afford again.  I nursed our babies, always making sure to buy food before paying bills so that none of us would go hungry.  I felt a great deal of empathy for Scarlett O’Hara, standing in her barren field, searching for at least one more veggie that would keep her family fed just a little longer.

It’s better now, but having been through times of need awakened me to the privilege it is to be able to go into a store and fill your cart with nutritious foods.  It’s something I don’t want my own children to experience, nor take for granted.  And being hungry goes hand in hand with poverty.

Our poverty was deliberate at first:  two adults barely out of high school, choosing to live together because we couldn’t stand being apart; it was no wonder we were flat broke.  Being penniless also seems to be part and parcel of the college experience.  At times, we were so broke that we did our laundry in the bathtub.  I hoarded sandwich cards like gold, coveting the free submarine that I’d earn every few weeks.  We lived without cable for a while, courted disaster with overdue utilities, even faced being evicted twice.  We endured it and came out with many of our goals fulfilled, though we’re still more in debt than we had expected to be at this point.

So, in my writing, I find my characters struggling through the same uphill battles that I experienced over the last decade and a half.  My heroines — Charlotte in “Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts), Kate in “Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011), Trisha in “A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2) — all are students, recent graduates, or struggling professionals aiming to move past their time of hunger and poverty to be self-sufficient and comfortable.  My protagonists are familiar with the sick feeling of a stomach left too long without food, have experienced the backache of scrubbing dirty jeans in a bathtub, have scrimped to buy the basic necessities, and have their sights set on a better life.  They’re not wealthy by virtue of inheritance, lottery, or employment.  My characters are real to me because they struggle, like me.  Through writing them, I understand my own progress and inner self in new ways.

Including my strength as a woman.

I don’t like labels, as a rule, because I believe there are so many facets to your personality that it seems unfair to partition a human or constraint him or her to a single impression.  We are glittering gems of life.  I am a woman, but I also have strongly masculine qualities.  I am Wiccan, and I am a witch, but I was raised Anglican and I have strong affinities for Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian mythologies, and Celtic traditions.  I am a feminist, but that doesn’t mean I won’t let a man open a door for me — I’m just as likely to open the door for him as well.  I believe in a woman’s right to her own body and its functions.  Yes, that’s contentious.  I believe in the right of others to disagree with me.

I believe that we are only given as much as we can handle by The Universe.  What if each of us has chosen the path we are on, to learn about life through the choices we make and take our knowledge back to the Cosmos?  Therefore, whatever we undertake, endure, survive, has the capacity to make us stronger.  It’s how we choose to interpret and move forward that determines the worth or impact of the things that happen to or by us, positive or negative.

For example, I have two children, but I have also lost two pregnancies.  The experiences of loss, the invasive, painful, and at times lengthy procedures involved to make sure I would remain healthy, the subsequent battles with deep and chronic depression — all have built me as a person and helped me realize how strong I am.  How strong women can be, and need to be in order to survive everything life can throw at them.  So in my writing, I challenge my heroines not only with the supernatural, but with life’s more mundane journeys as well.  They face the daily risks of driving in poor weather, inadequate housing, stalkers, loss of family, sexism, and their own fears of both failure and success.  Charlotte, Kate, Trisha, and those to come — Rayvin, and Tabitha — are not confident women.  They question their own strength and their decisions, being human enough to feel the impact of society’s judgement of their individuality.  They have to learn to believe in themselves and their potential, before they can grow.  And yet they remain vulnerable and sensitive enough to appreciate the support of a mate.  In my life, I have learned enough to understand that solitude has its place and its benefits, but so does partnership.  It’s achieving the balance that can be the real problem.

So when you have an opportunity to read my work — and I dearly hope you do — my wish is that you will see something of me in those strong women, and something of yourself.  That you will recognize the power inherent in a cup of welcoming tea, a plate of food, the handful of coins that will help you to wash your clothes.  Life isn’t easy for my characters, as it’s not easy for most of us.  But the challenges make the achievements that much more beautiful and meaningful.

Biography:

Tori L. Ridgewood is a full-time secondary school teacher, a mother, a partner, and a writer and reader of all things fiction and non-fiction.  Tori enjoys writing vampire / paranormal romances, sweet and humourous looks at pregnancy and childbirth, and horror fiction.  Tori enjoys writing plays for her students, watching thunderstorms, walking her dog, needlework (quilting, cross-stitching, and embroidery), collecting miniature furniture, traveling, and watching movies.  Currently working on a trilogy of adult vampire novels to follow “Mist and Midnight”, Tori also plans to write young adult fiction in the near future.

Ridgewood’s published works include:

“Mist and Midnight” (Midnight Thirsts, Melange Books, 2011)

“Telltale Signs” (Spellbound 2011, Melange Books, 2011)

“A Living Specimen” (Midnight Thirsts 2, Melange Books, 2012)

“Tabitha’s Solution” (Having My Baby, Melange Books, coming fall of 2012),

“Brain Games” and “Bio Zombie” (A Quick Bite of Flesh, Hazardous Press, coming in 2012).

“Thy Will Be Done” (Dark Moon Books, date tbd)

Links:  

Blog:  Tori L. Ridgewood – Romance and Other Dangers

Facebook: Tori L. Ridgewood

Twitter: @ToriLRidgewood

Goodreads: Tori Ridgewood

Midnight Thirsts - A novelMidnight Thirsts (also available in paperback)

Spellbound 2011 - A novelSpellbound 2011 (also available in paperback)

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