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Broken Bridges

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Warning! Dragons ahead!

Greetings all,

As we gallop (or fly, whatever) towards the worldwide December 11th release of Burning Ashes, I felt I should update the blog a little and warn everyone – human, Remnant or otherwise – that I’m going to break with tradition and blog a little more henceforth. Over 4,000 hits worldwide in the past week kind of implies that it’s a good idea, no?

I’m still not sure how to stop Blogger from squashing my (entirely unfiltered and natural) new profile picture. But I can provide some solid info about upcoming news and releases.



Soon enough, there’ll be a US interview release (my first ever) with CasterQuest, which was a terrific experience. We talked about all things Fantasy in general, some authors I’ve loved since childhood to now, a touch of politics concerning the continuing exclusion in the SF genre, what I regard as the New Fantasy and I even gave a rare reading. CasterQuest will also be providing a giveaway of all three of the Ben Garston Novels to one lucky reader.
So there’s that.



And it looks like there’s going to be a handful of more upcoming recorded interviews too. It was fun! I feel that I’m getting better in terms of handling promotion in general.
All of this is a learning curve.

In press form, I’ve given a reasonably in-depth interview to journalist Damien (love that name) Seaman, which is one of the most personal I’ve given thus far.

And in the new year, I’ve volunteered to act as casual consultant for the excellent Horror website THE GINGERNUTS OF HORROR, who, answering the rallying cry of a certain Queen we won’t mention here, has decided to embark upon an LGBT+ themed Horror month (Please see website for details).
Dark genre knights Gary McMahon, Gary Fry and Phil Sloman have all agreed to provide LGBT+ themed stories for this, both to raise the profile of the endeavour and in the hope of welcoming minorities into the scene. I’m grateful to all of them. Gods know, that many LGBT+ authors find themselves consigned to submitting works on the margins of this great genre of ours and, as in all SF, this is what we’re looking to change.

I’ll be providing a new Horror story for this entitled Black Glass, as well as writing an article for Childhood Fears, which I assure you will make for neither comfortable nor cheery reading. But some things, I feel, should be said. And I feel ready to say them.

As for Orbit, the publisher is looking at a possible blog tour for the Burning Ashes release (Dec 11th, don’t forget!) and, as ever, I’m open to offers from anyone who may want to host yours truly in this regard.
Please let my agent, JohnJarrold, know if this sounds of interest to you.




In other news, I’m on the second chapter of a new Fantasy novel, which I’m rather excited about, and I’m sketching out a rough idea for a comic book character too. I’ll leave it up to your imagination who, and won’t leave any visual clues on social media or anywhere, for that matter, either.

So, along with continuing to pursue my beloved teaching career here in my beloved Barcelona, it’s a busy yet productive time.

Which is what we want, right?

Thanks for reading and for all your support of late. It’s truly appreciated.


JB 





Saturday, 27 October 2018

FantasyCon 2018: An Address

Once a year, the Queen of England gives a speech to the British nation. And, in that same tradition, once a year, one writes a blog. Queens, you must understand, are busy creatures, whether acting as Head of State or writing Fantasy novels. While we cannot vouch for the former, here at Palau Benito, we certainly can for the latter. So we hope you forgive our tardiness in this latest, annual address.

FantasyCon also happens once a year. And this year, our mind is drawn to the very first of these conventions that this queen attended. You see, once upon a time, back in the mists of 2007, a fledgling princess gathered his courage and summoned his carriage and travelled alone to the Britannia Hotel, Nottingham.

Oh, we were a young thing then! And somewhat awkward – as yet untried by the pleasures and perils of the UK genre scene. There were many kings and queens in attendance that year, we recall. Lauded champions of the Fantasy realm, such as His Highness Lord Barker and the famed wandering Duke of Dreams, Lord Gaiman.

Imagine! The very idea of standing in the same room as these genre giants was enough to make one flush with apprehension and dread. Not to mention one’s fear of acceptance, which, as you’ll see, is perhaps the thrust of this account, if you will. One was well aware, at that time, that the UK genre scene was primarily dominated by men, and straight white men at that. And one may not have attended at all, if not for the inspiration and thus encouragement provided by the aforementioned authors in their published works. To this day, Sacrament and the Sandman series stand as key revelations and reassurance to a gay teenage debutant embarking upon his first foray into the writing craft himself.

We must say that any niggling reservations were soon put to rest at that convention, simply through the warmth and the welcome of the other readers, writers and artists present. One was quickly drawn to the bar and found oneself speaking to Her Dark Majesty Pinborough and Lord Chadbourne and Emperor Campbell, not to mention a host of fascinating cunning folk, from the head of the UK Vampire Society to the publishers of 2000AD and onto the bawdy barons of the national Horror scene (too many to mention here), who proved to love a good-natured and sarcastic argument as much as oneself did, albeit in the privacy of one’s then-Leicestershire court.

Later, we even found ourselves in conversation with Lord Barker, who signed one’s hardback first edition of Weaveworld, yet seemed surprisingly more interested in our own early attempts at writing and impressed upon me the importance of keeping at it. We had our photograph taken with Duke Gaiman and though one never dared, one very nearly forgot all decorum to express to him how Brief Lives had, at one point, saved a young princess’s life in a Very Dark Spot, simply through the power of his words.
But we never dared, you see. And so, one states it here, for your delectation and insight.

At that convention, Lord Barker gave a speech, in which he declared war on the idea of Fantasy as a genre and instead advanced the idea of it as a continent. A community. A family. And, to move things along a bit, let’s just say that this somewhat awkward princess found a fire lit within him and perhaps took his first faltering steps towards his own throne.

And yet… and yet… most of that room, and indeed the realm itself, was mostly comprised of straight white faces, and diversity was still but an inkling of the movement that it would eventually become. Sparked, I believe, by this seminal moment and the goodwill of (mostly) everyone who attended.
In short, we realised then that the situation needed to change. (And, as mentioned before, one disclaims that one has no issue whatsoever with straight white faces, or straight men for that matter, some of whom one has had the dubious pleasure of courting in one’s salad days).

Now, with an eye on the word count here, please take our fair and regal hand and help us leap over the 8 or 9 conventions we’ve attended since that legendary event to the current one, FantasyCon '18, which took place at (ironically enough), the Queen Hotel in Chester.
Chester, of course, being one of the best preserved walled cities in all of England, while also serving as the birthplace of Lady Godiva, the erstwhile countess, and Daniel Craig, the best Bond ever (gauntlet thrown).

But we digress.

Chester may have a beautiful wall, and one does hope that you took the time to walk around it, but on the subject of walls, there were none in evidence at FantasyCon this year.
Now, one didn’t write this dispatch to reel off the names of the countless talented authors, artists and filmmakers in attendance - friends all. To do so would be to single people out and thereby distract from the central thrust, if you will, of this account.

All we really wanted to convey is that this queen found that much had changed in the 11 years since his first convention in Old Nottingham. In fact, it was fairly edifying to see so many artists from such a broad variety of cultures, lifestyles and experiences in attendance and enjoying such grand success with their art to boot. In fact – and while one would rather see you beheaded than admit it – on more than one occasion, one had to retire to a rare quiet corner to dab one’s eye with a silk brocade handkerchief (specially monogrammed and gifted from a somewhat amorous Earl of Barcelona, no less) in order to contain oneself.

Other authors, many of them far more talented than oneself, have already described the events and the panels that took place at said convention. We appeared on four personally, speaking, one hopes with the expected candour, about history, mythology, dragons and underrepresented voices in genre fiction. We spoke to so many people, and every conversation burst with warmth and bubbled with humour, not to mention the odd sip or two of an alcoholic beverage. *cough*.

We apologise to anyone we might have missed, or not found enough time to converse with longer, but you see, behind all these illuminating encounters, it soon became apparent that certain pretenders were vying for one’s throne in the lobby, unfortunately left vacant as one went about one’s duties.

No matter. We are nothing if not a merciful queen, and such treachery was soon looked upon with polite mirth and the general spirit of the game of thrones (and naturally, taking those tales as an inspiration, one already has one’s forge roaring and one’s blacksmiths hammering away at a new, and less comfortable seat for such pretenders in future).

Let us speak no more of it.

Sunday afternoon arrived and we stepped into our carriage filled with love for this community and yet so regretful to depart. And our prevailing thought as we galloped off for Spain was that, after years of being asked if things were changing in the genre (and generally – and curtly – responding with a bitter laugh), Fantasy, and indeed all of SF, has changed. And for the better. And in a fashion that all upon this literary continent, be they from any walk of life, should have reason to feel immensely proud of. For, as Lord Barker once prophesised years ago, this is a huge continent. And, as such, there is enough room for everyone.

At this point, we want to thank the organisers, the incredible and selfless Redcoats, and everyone who bought a ticket and came to the event – if not the bartender who treated Lady Stephens with such disrespect by pouring her drink away and only remains free and unfettered, and indeed in employment, through the munificence of this visiting monarch (one jests).
Also to once again extend our congratulations to all the thoroughly deserving winners of a BFS award.

Knights all.

In parting, we wish to praise each and every one of you and to assure you all that you remain a leading light in this genre, both morally and internationally. And while, yes, we are perfectly aware that there is still much darkness around us and work to be done, we are fathomlessly proud of you and honoured to be a part, however royal, however small, of this community.

In our absence, may we ask one thing of you and one thing alone?
Please look after this genre while we’re gone. And please keep up the magnificent work, both on the page, on the canvas, on the screen and within this society.

Oh, and keep your covetous and bony arses of one’s throne.

With love

Your self-appointed, yet formidable queen.

JB




Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Man on the Hill

Three years ago, a man sat on a hill in Wales and wondered why he wasn’t living the life he’d always dreamed of. He lived in a city where he didn’t belong. He loved a man who didn’t treat him very well. He had a job he couldn’t stand. He couldn’t get anyone to take his writing seriously and, yes, he had come to believe that he’d never be good enough. That it wasn’t going to happen, not for him. That he’d squandered his youth and all of his chances. That he’d wasted his life on a pipe dream.

Up on that hill, the man wondered what the hell he was living for anyway.

He made a decision. A promise to himself. With nothing left to lose, he decided to try to change things. To find the courage to say, ‘No’.
No to everything.
It was that simple. He was curious to see what would happen.

And it was like a forest fire.
He ended his relationship of ten years.
He told his boss, ‘Stick it’ and he moved to Nowhere, Wales.
He ended up living in a caravan on the beautiful Welsh coast and he finished writing a book.
He was getting better at it, you see? Saying, ‘No’ without an apology and without justification. Exorcising anything and everything in his life that didn’t make him happy.
And he poured everything he had into his book.
‘One last shot,’ he told himself. ‘And then you’re done.’

The book was called ‘Chasing Embers’. Looking back now, the fiery motif doesn’t surprise him. Because he was breathing fire. Then he landed an international book deal and his world flipped upside down.
A seismic, life-changing event.

Aflame, he ran. He ran to Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Hong Kong and Istanbul. He ran to Spain and later, he ran to Puerto Rico. In time, he tumbled back to England with another book complete. A better book, he thought.
And then, after a long summer writing and walking in the Kent countryside, he returned to his beloved Barcelona, his adopted, spiritual home.
He stopped running. Started doing something else instead.
And he finished another book.

There had been a big fire, however. What on Earth was left of him? Not much, to be honest. The man on the hill had all but burned away. He’d burned away in breathtaking cities. On rattling trains through the desert. On misty, sacred mountaintops. In deserted temples. On illuminated dance floors. On the viewing decks of skyscrapers. In the cat-haunted backstreets of the bazaar. In subways choked with refugees. On empty tropical beaches. Among a host of musical, wine loving angels on the road. In world class casinos. In bars where famous writers drank themselves blind. And yes, in cowboy’s arms.

The fire settled into constant embers. The man on the hill was gone now and there was a stranger standing in the mirror. One he rather liked. One who could look himself in the eye and smile in the morning and feel that he’d grabbed his dream. One who lived in a place he adored. With a fantastic career. Two fantastic careers! With dynamic, heroic and fascinating friends. With love.
A world had ended somewhere. Reduced to ashes. Blown away by the wind.

Maybe, the man would tell you, you should go and find your own hill. There’s one in Wales that he could point you to. It might be deserted now. It might not.
But one thing's for sure. It doesn’t have a certain man sat on it wondering why the hell he’s alive.

Thank you.

JB

Author's own photo. 

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The RAISING FIRE launch



It isn't every day that you get to appear in a venue where Lady Gaga has performed, so I thought I'd turn my hand to a little write up about last night's event. How great is the Phoenix Artist's Club? Well, the answer is very. A stylish art deco interior, plush seating and warm pink lighting (not to mention some lovely cocktails) made this a perfect place to talk about all things Fantasy with some of the leading authors of the day. Joining me on stage were the abundant talents of Jen Williams (The Copper Cat Trilogy, The Ninth Rain), Lucy Housom (Starborn) and Mark de Jager (Infernal). We had ourselves a magic pot with a lucky dip full of quirky and illuminating questions.


The evening saw us choose our favourite weapons for a fantasy setting, talk about our favourite dragons and books (Fantasy and otherwise), and who we'd like to star in imaginary film adaptations of our novels, among other things. I had a chance to publicly drool over Tom Hardy. It was an interesting, warm and amusing night where I got to learn a bit more about my fellow authors while unleashing RAISING FIRE, the next volume in The Ben Garston Novels, upon the world.

You should know that I'm reasonably proud of this book, particularly because it took 3 attempts to write, a wealth of research and all during my first professional deadline and the sad passing of my father last year. I dedicated the novel to him and I guess this one will always feel pretty close to me. Landing an international book deal with Orbit was nothing less than seismic in terms of my life and my, well, somewhat meandering direction in it, but the upheaval has been affirming and inspiring, for the most part. I'm truly thankful. The days I went through writing this novel probably show on the page, in fiery and dramatic form. I hope readers enjoy the ride and please do seek out the works of the other authors on the panel. If you're looking for exciting and forward thinking Fantasy, you won't be disappointed!



As an aside, I'd love to see more of these events, both as a participant and as a member of the audience. Getting authors together is always fascinating and a lot of juicy stuff seems to bubble to the surface as a result. There's probably a science to it. Or a magic. And it was certainly a magical night. In the meantime, I'll see you all at FantasyCon 2017 for some more verbal jousting and general hilarity.

Thanks to my fellow raconteurs and to our skilled compère John Harrison, with heartfelt thanks to all the staff at Forbidden Planet Megastore. Special shout out to the fearless Danie Ware for arranging the UK launch of RAISING FIRE (out worldwide in all good bookshops, eBook and Audible!) and to Nazia, my cat herding publicist for making everything run like clockwork. Big hug to Anna Jackson, my amazing editor, for taking time out from her anniversary evening to show some love and keep a steady supply of G&T to hand. Also to my family, whose unfailing love and enthusiasm keeps me smiling. Thanks for coming.

And major props to everyone who came along for a drink, a chat and to buy a book. Your support means a great deal to me.

Thank you!

JB

RAISING FIRE

Out worldwide in all good bookshops, eBooks and Audible format.

For those who love this series and this genre, Raising Fire offers the fantasy you're looking for
RT BOOK REVIEWS

Inventive and vivid . . . This is smart action storytelling, and Bennett is assembling the materials for a terrific conclusion
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY (starred review)




Monday, 29 August 2016

Books To Africa

Hello,

This morning I became a patron of Books To Africa. As some of you know, I spent most of my teenage years in apartheid era South Africa and I am aware of the poverty that haunts this beautiful land, from hunger to disease to the absence of equipment and decent reading materials. In the writing of my novel, I drew on the richness of African culture and mythology, as well as my experiences living there. Now I would like to give something back.

Together, I believe we can make a difference. To this end, I have decided to donate 10 new copies of my novel ‘Chasing Embers’ to the Books To Africa charity. The charity collects and distributes books and educational materials to equip libraries within classrooms, institutions and communities across Africa. I urge you all to consider making a small monthly donation or sending copies of your books to help.  It’s easy enough. You simply package your items into cardboard boxes and deliver them to Books To Africa or the charity can collect them from your address.

Thanks for listening.

James Bennett