Broken Bridges

Monday, 16 March 2020

Writer's Bum and How to Beat It

So to speak.

Weight loss is a tough one. 4 years ago I weighed almost 16 stone (a personal best) and I had a big round belly. For context, I'm 5'9, of average frame and medically speaking, this is 4 stone overweight (224lbs/101.6kg).

No, it’s not obese. It isn’t great either. But I know it's an issue that many men in (early) middle age face. And a reasonably sedentary life as an author doesn't help.
Writer's bum is a thing. I didn't choose the snack life etc. 

I hated it. It affected my confidence and my general state of mind. Eventually, I got bored of it and decided to do something about it.

Dieting. Ugh. 
But diet I did and I soon found – as with most challenges – that starting was the hardest part. Think of it as a lifestyle change. Sure, it's an ongoing battle (believe me, Satan Burger wants my body to be fat), but with a little up and down I've managed to keep my weight down to around 12 stone since I made that decision.
Needless to say, I feel much happier. 

In the end, I learnt that it isn't so much about weight, but shape. Calorie counting is a waste of time. Just eat foods that don't pile on the pounds. It's that simple! 
And while everyone is different and there's no shame in any individual body, I've picked up a few things along the way that really help. 

Look, I'm no gazelle. I'm not Gwyneth Paltrow either. But in the event that it might help others, I'm going to share my findings here:

1. Forget deprivation diets. They don't work. Or rather, they only work short-term and they aren't sustainable. In many cases, you'll find the key to weight loss is to eat *more* than you usually do. 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. High fibre/protein and low carb foods only. Fuck fruit juice. Eat whole fruit. 

2. Give up salt and sugar. Or drastically reduce consumption. I can't stress the impact that this will have on your weight. It's likely you'll even suffer withdrawal for a day or two (I got actual headaches), but you'll notice the results quickly. Hello cheekbones! Natural foods provide enough salt and sugar already. Essentially, with processed foods, you're slowly being poisoned. 80% of your average supermarket shelf is designed to make you overweight.

3. Some good cheats to add sweet and saltiness to meals are low sodium soy sauce, grated ginger on veg, hot chilli sauce and my absolute lifesaver, vanilla protein shakes. 

4. Whey protein shakes are GOD when it comes to weight loss. I have one with breakfast and one with lunch every day (30g per serving). It kicks up my intake (protein burns fat) and it's pretty much like having a milkshake. Again, the acceleration rate of the diet is noticeable. Pounds fall off. But never substitute them for meals! Supplement instead. (see point 1). 

5. Reverse the polarity. For faster results, make lunch the main meal of the day. You'll be burning up fuel longer. A reasonable snack mid-afternoon and a light meal in the early evening. Then for fuck's sake stop eating! Don't eat after 8pm unless it's a piece of fruit. Replace potato chips in front of the TV with popcorn, if you must. Even lightly salted popcorn is way way better for you and your waistline than crisps. 

Remember: Drink lots of water! Green tea is gross, but it's proven to help.

Dedication is key. Consistency too. Steady as she goes. Don't put yourself under any undue pressure. If you fall off, get back on and do it for longer. You'll still see results.
Allow yourself a treat once a week to celebrate them. 


Goes without saying that exercise will help things along. You don't have to go crazy unless you're aiming to be the next Schwarzenegger (I find that a lot of exercise info for men is predicated on this conceit. It's macho and dated, not to mention off-putting. Being slim/toned is a different matter entirely). 

Yoga is my latest thang that I'll add as a footnote to my list. I love it. The results have honestly surprised me (and others!) I do a 45 min vinyasa session every morning before breakfast, then take a rest day and repeat. On the days I can't be bothered, I scale it down to hatha yoga and just gently stretch and breathe. The focus lies solely with yourself and remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Same way that all of this is a lifestyle change, not a diet. You do it for you. 

And you'll thank you for it. 

Further reading: 

Friday, 13 March 2020

Many Paths to God (I mean publication).

No one asked for the benefit of my experience, but as a professional writer of 15 years, I do have a little, you know. One thing I keep seeing crop up is debates about the different routes to publication.
I honestly don’t think one way trumps another. It depends on what you want as a writer, but having tried all three, my experience is as follows:


I think this is the hardest route. Like it or not, there is a stigma attached to self-published works, which before you jump down my neck, isn’t really anything to do with quality. I think readers react to self-published works in the same way that people react to writers saying, ‘My Mum liked my book!’ That’s an inherent hurdle to overcome.
It’s an extremely crowded market (judge by Facebook page invites if you don’t believe me) and nigh on impossible to gain the necessary attention to make decent sales when you’re the sole author, publisher and marketer behind it all. I’m no snob. I’ve self-published stuff before. For all the feedback and sales it’s generated over a decade, I might as well not have bothered.
That’s my reality.

Indie publishing:
Anyone who knows me knows I’m rather fond of the indie pub scene and I always will be. My stories in indie mags and anthologies got me noticed to a degree (a couple of nominations, 3 indie awards, several reviews etc) and definitely set me on the path of a writing career. It also created a background for bigger publishers to look at. It created a presence.
Yes, there are sharks, but there are many fine indie outlets too (hi Fox Spirit!) where you’ll enjoy the help of talented editors, artists, gain a few readers and most importantly make some friends. You might even make £10 now and then.
In 15 years of publishing, the income from my many indie published works hasn’t amounted to more than £100, I don’t think.
So don’t do it for the money. Do it for the love. 

Traditional publishing:
Or the Big Kahuna as I like to call it. Now trad publishing can sometimes get a bad rep in the former two circles, but the truth is that only trad pub will get you any real clout in the book world (and yes, there are exceptions, sure). That’s simply by virtue of visibility. If you can inject your books into the mass market, then obviously your presence as a writer will rise dramatically and, if you’re any good, you’ll even sell a fair few books. I mean books from the thousands to the tens of thousands, something that I’ve personally never come close to publishing via the first two methods.
You might enjoy an advance on your novels which should allow you time to write. Few authors tend to earn it back and yes, your rights will belong to the publisher in question. But in terms of the professionalism you’ll encounter, both in editorial, artwork and marketing and publicity spheres, it’s inarguable that traditional publishing will give your books a far greater reach than either self-publishing or indie publishing can offer.
Again, don’t expect it to make you rich.
*sips ridiculous cocktail* *considers beans on toast for lunch*

NB! No route is a cure-all. Nothing is guaranteed in publishing.
I think the healthiest focus you can have as a writer is simply to write. Honest, guv.

One thing I can say without doubt is that everyone I’ve encountered in all three routes to publishing love books with an equal passion. They love these genres. They want to produce great stories.
So, there really isn’t a right way or a wrong way to get published, as far as I can see it. It’s simply a question of deciding what you want.

For me, I’d say my heart lies in indie publishing, but then I love to see my work reach readers and the best way to do that is via bookshops. And I love bookshops. I love to see my books in them. It really is that simple.
Hence why I’ve pursued a traditional route, which I’ll add, is also by far the narrowest route.

This is my experience. Thanks for reading.


Friday, 29 November 2019

Black Glass

Black Glass is now available as a downloadable story (ePub format).
This story first appeared at The Ginger Nuts of Horror Jan '19 as part of their LGBT+ Horror Focus month.

Or read at:

New interview with Fantasy Focus

Somewhere in the Aegean

Sat down with the wonderful Michael Evans for a chat about The Ben Garston Novels and what's happening next. [Click the pic for the full interview]

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.


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.