Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Chocolate Week - Chocolatier's Porridge

   Chocolate Week. A UK celebration of fine chocolate, not an excuse to scoff Dairy Milk, but to appreciate real chocolate - cook with it, taste a variety of bean-to-bar, and give artisanal and small-scale brands a chance to shine. My personal favourite is CoCo Chemistry, based in Lacock, and I had the pleasure to visit their store last Christmas. Their peanut and caramel chocolate salami is to die for. Try now, thank me later.
   So, in celebration of chocolate week, I decided to create a less sweet and more flavourful chocolate porridge - what else, right? - using raw cacao powder as both ingredient and garnish, the favourite cocoa nibs, some dark salted chocolate and some enrobed whole cocoa beans. This is not a porridge for your corner shop scoffer. This is dark, this is decadent - and, would you believe, healthy. Without all that added sugar, and with a focus on the actual cocoa beans and pre-refinement processes, you're getting a lot of the goodness the tabloids say all chocolate bars contain (though rarely do). And, while whole cocoa beans might sound like something you would have to source professionally and in bulk, that's not really the case anymore. Whole cocoa beans, chocolate-covered and otherwise, are becoming more common in both cooking stores and health food shops. Though I admit I sourced mine from Hotel Chocolat.

   This porridge is low in sugar, rich in antioxidants and all the good things about chocolate. It is dark, and sweetened only with that dash of melted chocolate - you can add a sweetener if you choose to, or keep it pure. It's much healthier than it looks, I promise! And the added whey - which is always optional - will keep you full for much longer and contribute to your protein needs (which should be about 1g for every 1lb of body weight). I've listed the brands I've used in the Notes section below, as always, but this post is not sponsored by any of them. You can also find the nutritional values at the bottom, too!

Ingredients
Serves 1
30g rolled oats
20g whey protein
100ml skimmed milk
100ml water
10g cacao powder
sweetener of choice, if desired
1 square dark chocolate, chopped
5g/1 tsp cacao nibs, for garnish
5g/1 tsp cacao powder, for garnish
chocolate-covered cocoa beans, for garnish


Method
Overnight Oats
1. Combine oats, whey, cacao and sweetener in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add the milk (or shake it all together and transfer to a bowl).

2. Set in the fridge overnight, then add 50ml water and heat the following morning in the microwave at full power for 1 minute, stir, and set back in for 20-30 second bursts until desired consistency is reached. Move on to step 3 below.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil water.

2. Thoroughly combine oats, whey, cacao and sweetener in a pan, then, stirring all the while, add the milk, then 100ml boiled water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until desired consistency is reached, stirring occasionally to keep from burning.

3. Transfer to a bowl and drop the chopped chocolate on top, let it melt and then stir through.

4. Dust with a little cacao powder (no need to use the whole teaspoon) and sprinkle with cacao nibs. Place your chocolate-covered cocoa beans in the centre and serve for rich, chocolatey goodness.


Notes
• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Aduna raw cacao powder
• I used 1 square of Green & Black's dark salted caramel
• I used Hotel Chocolat cocoa nibs
• I used Hotel Chocolate supermilk velvet cocoa beans (typically 4g a piece)


Nutrition
Without chocolate covered cocoa beans
347 cals, 10g fat (5.5g sat), 30.5g carbs (5g natural sugar, 3g added), 9.5g fibre, 29.5g protein




Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Inktober 2018 - Eyila

   This week, I drew Eyila, of the Ikaheka wind tribe. She almost didn't happen, I've been so excited about my book - I'm writing some big revelations right now, and my heart's been in my throat for days over it! The second book of the trilogy is nearly finished, too - it's so close I can taste it!! Of course, then comes some final redrafting, simmering and pondering before I send it out to agents, but the longest job is almost done, and I remain confident that it's my best work yet.
   Anyway, as for Eyila, yet another character from The Zi'veyn, I think I did a great job on her - which is odd, since it was the most ambitious. I chose to colour her skin because, while you can't really see it in this scan, it is actually bronze with a metallic sheen, and is quite a striking feature, so it was an obvious choice when it came to picking just one feature to colour. That said, I did also do her eyes... I'm really pleased with how she came out ^^


Faber Castell PITT superfine pen
Liquitex acrylic ink iridescent rich bronze
ZIG Art and Graphic Twin Tip Brush Marker Pen, baby blue
Winsor Newton liquid ink, black & white & silver

Inktober 2018 Archive



Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Inktober 2018 - Rathen & Aria

   This week I drew Rathen, the main protagonist of The Zi'veyn, and his daughter, Aria. This is more or less the only time you'll see Rathen smile. 'Prepare to have your heart stolen.'
   I admit, I'm not immensely proud of this one if just because there was nothing really to colour. I like to colour just one or two details, but there was nothing really striking here, which meant that if I applied any colour at all I would probably end up colouring everything, and that hasn't gone well for a long long time. So I didn't want to chance it, though I did darken belts :B I also don't think Aria came out too well, but I never draw expressions like that, and neither have I drawn kids.
   I don't think it's bad enough not to show, though!

Faber Castell PITT superfine
ZIG Art and Graphic Twin Tip Brush Marker Pen, warm grey

Inktober 2018 Archive



Tuesday, 9 October 2018

My Number One Fitness Essential

   To be honest, I can exercise in anything. I have multiple drawers stuffed full with leggings, half a drawer of tops, more socks than you can shake a stick at - even designated knickers that I can trust not to move around during burpees. But I don't really need them. I have exercised in my pyjamas. But there is one thing that I can't be without: a sports bra. And if it weren't for sports bras, there's every probability that I would still be unfit and a size 16.




   When I was a teenager, food was my best friend - it's a story you hear a lot from many fitness bloggers. But the thing is, I was also very...top-heavy. To the point that I was in and out of the doctors once a month because of it. Chest pain, inflammation, breathing problems. Well, to cut a long story short, I got a bra that fit and that cut down my issues by about half. It was amazing. But I was still top-heavy and very self-conscious of it, but there was nothing I could do to hide it, so I hid myself away entirely where I could.

   When I started exercising, I knew bras would be a problem. They were during PE at school. Nightmare. But when I got serious about weight-loss, I went hunting. Since then, though I have dropped from a UK size 16 to a size 8, a 32 inch bra back size to a 28 and 8 cup sizes (I am still too ashamed to share those specifics), sports bras have remained a crucial piece of kit.

   The ligaments in your breasts are not elastic, which means that, during high-impact activites like running, jumping and anything that might cause them to, well, move, they get stretched a little and it can cause damage to the underlying tissues. This means that a sports bra is scientifically crucial, as well as for comfort and, to be honest, confident. With a good sports bra, you don't have to run or jump while holding your chest!
   For this reason, sports bras go through rigorous testing, and every brand is looking to improve upon the science of their product. For example, the Catalyst -  a high impact sports bra from Knix - went through 3 years of testing and the finished product features moulded cups to 'encapsulate' and reduce movement, a ventilation panel between the breasts where most of the heat sits, a more friendly clasp to help escape the bra when you're done (we've all been there) and, of course, more sizes, ranging from an A to a G cup, 32 inch back to 42.
   All this research means they're not cheap, but a good bra is reliable and durable, so even if you only have two - one on, one in the wash - you're fully set. And you'd be surprised how much a good sports bra can up your game.



Friday, 5 October 2018

Friday Favourites

This week has been...different. I'm still hesitant to talk about it because we still don't know which way things are going to go, but we remain cautiously hopeful. Otherwise, I've been busy. I've been prepping Etsy for Christmas, sorting through ex-exhibit pieces, painting brand new pieces, working on a few character drawings that I'd decided to show for Inktober, and generally bouncing up and down for Christmas. I'm allowed. It's October. It used to start September. I'm growing up.
I've also been watching a series while working which I think is well worth the attention of anyone looking to live a healthy lifestyle: BBC's Food: Truth or Scare. It looks at food myths, scary headlines and the research behind them - if they're even true or not - and fad diets and crazes, such as the health and dangers of certain diets like raw food and veganism, and the facts behind the bullet-proof coffee and activated charcoal. All of which confirmed what I already knew about it.

I'd always been afraid of watching BBC's Food: Truth or Scare - I was worried it would tell me I wasn't as healthy as I thought I was, or that the fads were actually totally rubbish and unproven and that I was wasting my time. Or, worse, that the occasional indulgence was a bad thing. I happened to catch the first episode of the new series the other day, though, and they were talking about chocolate, and, in fact, were saying everything I already knew - cocoa content, where the good of chocolate lies, and even talking about cocoa nibs, not just high-street bars. I decided to stick around and they ultimately confirmed everything I knew about chocolate with science. I was so happy. They also debunked the whole 'chocolate cake for breakfast' diet, thought to help you lose weight - which anyone with an ounce of sense knows is rubbish - and ultimately said "yes, eat chocolate - dark will always be better, but if you enjoy white or milk, you don't have to cut it back, but the lighter the colour, the less you should eat." White chocolate is essentially just cocoa butter and sugar.
I recorded it and have worked my way through half of the series, learned a few things and confirmed many I already knew. They have nutritionists, scientists and everything on hand, and are actively tearing apart the headlines that people find both convenient and terrifying. Such as mercury in fish - you would have to eat a lot of fish for it to become an issue, the mercury is greater in larger, older fish, but even the fish guiltiest of mercury content like swordfish or shark can still be eaten no more than once a week. I mean, I don't, I typically have haddock and salmon each once a week, but ultimately, it's just another scare-story. It's well worth watching.

Also, Hotel Chocolat's pod cups are designed based on cocoa pods. We first saw them in their limited edition anniversary box, but there were too few other things in it that appealed to me so I didn't buy one. Now they're bringing out their Velvetiser - a hot chocolate maker - these cocoa cups and single-serve hot chocolate packs are appearing on their website. I need them.








Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Inktober 2018 - Petra

   I'm starting Inktober 2018 off with Petra. In my last post I talked about using characters from my book, The Zi'veyn, rather than a prompt list, and I decided to start with Petra. Mostly because I wanted to do her hair. It's not quite the right colour, but it will do. I'd love to have coloured her a little more beyond that, but lately I've developed a habit of going too far, so I decided to keep it simpler than past pieces rather than rush into experimentation with thinning the inks. It got to a point that I was so happy with the line drawing that I didn't want to risk ruining it, which is a shame since it looks so empty, so I may go back and revisit it now that I at least have a picture of this version. I'll update if I do (and it doesn't look a mess).
   In the mean time, though, meet duelist, Petra Dalton!
Faber Castell PITT superfine
Winsor & Newton drawing ink, silver & brick red



Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Inktober 2018

   Yes, it comes about every year, fills my twitter feed with wonderful things and makes me feel inadequate. I try to join in, but I can't find the desire to eradicate writing time for drawing, so I never manage to participate fully, and the pieces I do come up with are under a lot more pressure. Oh yes - it's Inktober.
   Despite the fact that it feels more like a chore than much else, I do enjoy doing it. I used to draw all the time as a kid and I got pretty good at it, but when I started writing in earnest in my teens, that all stopped. Now writing is my life, and I love it; I feel the same about it as a lot of the artists I follow on twitter do about their work. The thing is, I take both too seriously; I struggle to write short stories, which means that I only bring out a new piece of work every year and a half, which makes it very difficult to catch people's eye, whereas illustrations are far more prolific and a new work for artists could come out every week. If one is a flop, it's disappointing for them, but they're able to recover more quickly before anyone forgets about them. I cannot.

   I digress, though I suppose the two matters are linked. Inktober. Drawings. This year I'm returning to a past plan of one drawing a week. That's still going to be a challenge because, as I said, I take drawing seriously too, I can't just have fun with it, it needs to be perfect. With my writing, that's because I'm trying to sell it. It has to be perfect. With drawings, however, I always feel like I have something to prove, and that makes me nervous. But, ultimately, I do enjoy the tactile sensation of gliding a pencil over paper, and how different inking can feel. I love a brush with liquid inks; it's much different from painting.

   This year, though, I'm not following prompts. With one drawing a week, there's no point. As long as I'm taking time out to draw, that's what counts, because I do want to do it more, but...I want to write even more than that. But that means that Inktober is the perfect opportunity - I know it's coming, I can set some time aside, and I can also cheat and come up with some foundational lines before the fact.

   Rather ambitiously, I'd like to try to post one drawing a week on Wednesdays, which means a total of 5 drawings. I'm crossing my fingers that it will happen. I've decided to draw some of the characters from The Zi'veyn because I draw people more comfortably than other things, but because I'm inking it, I plan to keep it simple. It'll be more about character getting through than how they actually look, so I can sit happily with that.


https://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/10/inktober-2018-eyila.html http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2018/10/inktober-2018-rathen-aria.html #WNInktober #Inktober2018



Monday, 1 October 2018

October: Core de Force MMA Mash-Up

   If you caught my training round-up, you'll know I'm going back to Core de Force this month, but not the original plan. I've signed up to BeachBody On Demand to access the six new videos that aren't on the DVD (which itself is 6 full workouts of 20-40 minutes, 3 core on the floor routines, 1 extended core workout, an active recovery workout and a pre-bed stretch sequence) and I am excited. There is one new body weight resistance workout, three new cardio, and two agility training workouts that involve the use of an agility ladder, all of which range from 20-30 minutes. I've also bought a ladder, but it hasn't arrived yet, so I suspect I'll be using the first run without one, because rather than a 4-day workout week, I'm going for 5.


   I've been eating more lately and feeling energised and healthy and amazing, but, unsurprisingly, I have put on a little bit of fat in an area that's hard to miss or mistake, and is an area my body is known for storing its fat quite quickly. This is very, very sad, of course, but it's natural. I've been under-feeding myself for so long that when I began finally giving it enough, its natural reaction is to store it in case famine hits again - because why else would I have been feeding myself so little? The body is not the reasoning centre, it's wired up quite simply and relies instead on the brain's decisions. Unfortunately, when it comes to weight loss, our reasoning is a bit squiffy.
   So, I have put on about 1kg, I'm not happy with it, but I know it's a good sign. I'm not going to start eating less, 1750 is good for me - if not still a little under what it should be - instead I'm going to stick with it and trust the exercise.

My October workout plan is:
Monday: CdF MMA cardio of choice (out of 3)
Tuesday: CdF agility of choice (out of 2)
Wednesday: CdF body weight resistance (1)
Thursday: core strengthening, personal build or CdF
Friday: CdF MMA cardio of choice (out of 3)
Saturday: CdF body weight resistance, but from the DVD, so alternating between the two offered there.
Sunday: bed and books all day.


   I'm excited, I've got an agility ladder coming, and I have new clothes. YAY. It's simple, but I love the tie-back VS top with a copper-gold panel, and a rather old print for Fabletics but one whose colours appealed to me big time. And the May The Force Be With You was too much to pass up at £4.99 on Sports Direct. I went in there to get Seeg jumpers...
   I'm keeping to 1750 calories a day, I'm adding more oats into my porridge, and half a scoop of protein, and I'm generally enjoying eating more and not restricting myself so much. My concentration and performance has improved, and all the more so since I started taking iron + vitamin C supplements. I've heard they can have bad effects on people - like constipation or cramps or similar - but I've been okay. Should that change - or be the case for you - try gentle iron instead. It's made from a different strain of iron that is absorbed much more quickly and easily and so doesn't lead to...um...clogging. And remember: tea, coffee, eggs and calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, while vitamin C improves it. So if you have red meat or leafy greens, don't eat them with cheese or milk. Try instead some veg high in vitamin C like broccoli, cauliflower or sweet potato or lemon salad dressings.



Sunday, 30 September 2018

Resistance Training - 3-Month Check-In

   It's amazing how the last week or two of a 3-month plan can fill you with such energy. The end was in sight and I wanted to reap as much as I could while it lasted, so I pulled out all the stops. This past week I increased all reps and sets and weights wherever I could - 4 sets became 5; 12 reps became 15; 17.5kg became 20kg. I am so ridiculously proud of myself. And sore. I was focused, I was determined, and I felt every single rep. I hit muscle fatigue, I shredded my glutes and hamstrings to pieces, my foam roller became my new best friend, and I had a bit of fun with new proteins - flavours and types. I'd previously decided to try collagen, hearing it was also very good for bones and joints, but after buying a bag and then doing a little more research, it looks like I jumped the gun. Collagen is great for bones, cartelidge, joints and such, but it's not a whole protein (it contains only 8 of the 9 essential amino acids that the body cannot make, and it isn't balanced, with much higher amounts of three in particular: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline) and isn't so reliable for muscle repair. But rather than get rid, I've returned to using whey but I add half a scoop of collagen to it, too, which ultimately frees up more of the proteins in the whey to act on my muscles rather than trying to repair muscle, bone and joints at the same time. Also, rocky road whey.

   But throughout my first training plan, and towards the end of the second month of this training plan, I was fatigued. I knew I could do better, but with every week that passed I seemed to slip further and further from my PBs, and it really had a bad effect on me. I was still determined and focused, but I wasn't enthusiastic as much, and it got worse every week. But I knew I was eating enough, so I had a look at what I was eating, and I realised: I'm low in iron. Women, it seems, find it quite easy to become iron-deficient, especially at certain times of the month, and, especially, if they work out and lift weights in particular. Iron is responsible for lots of things including blood quality and circulation, and low iron leads to fatigue, moodiness, dizziness, headaches - all of which I've been getting with increasing frequency over the past two months. So, about three weeks ago, I started taking an iron supplement, and adding red meat into my diet and ensuring wherever I can that it is coupled with vitamin C and not with calcium - so no beef lasagne, but beef with broccoli, cauliflower or sweet potatoes is a winner. Calcium inhibits the absorption of iron, as does tea, coffee, cocoa and eggs, whereas vitamin C increases it, so I've been paying particular attention to when I take it. And I've genuinely been feeling better, so I think I've hit the nail on the head. Only time will tell, though. Because on Monday, I'm starting Core de Force, and that means fatigue will come more easily.


   Yes, I'm returning to Core de Force. But not the DVD. There's nothing at all wrong with it, but in these 1-month training breaks, where I focus on cardio and body weight resistance instead, it's nice to ensure there's something new to do. I've far from exhausted the DVD, even though I used it all the way through June and have supplemented my training from July-September with it, but when I found out that there were a few other videos on BeachBody On Demand, I had to have a go. So I have. It's not cheap, but I got the DVD for £15 on Ebay and I know it's going to be worth the money.
   I'm excited, and I've bought an agility ladder. It was last-minute so I hope I get it in time, but I can make do the first week without it if need be.

   I'll start a new 3-month training plan in November, and I have 5 weeks to put it together. It will follow the same format as this one: lower body, total body, lower body, HIIT, and probably with a core-strengthening sequence on one of my down-days and an active recovery on another. We're moving swiftly into the autumn now, so warm evenings and afternoons are no longer an excuse for active recovery/rest days to be so sedentary.



Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Autumn Spiced Porridge, Honey-Soaked Pears And Chestnuts

   Oof! I've been AWOL for over a week, but for good reason. Seeg and I just had a week together at home while my dad took my mother away on holiday again, so it was our second week of the year as non-carers. Yay. It's always great; our living situation is so difficult and unusual it's a wonder we've managed to function for eight years, but we have! But it means that these rare weeks alone together are precious - and, as always, leads to us cooking foods we never usually get to have because we can't be troubled to cook different meals for us and different meals for mum, which means we can finally have rice, noodles, soups, stews, ribs, wings...it's amazing. I also reached an epiphany: rather than feeling guilty for the treats that come with such a week and obsessing over cardio to getitoffgetitoffgetitoffgetitoff, I realised that there wasn't all that much wrong with what I was eating - it was all home made stuff so I knew what was in it (except, perhaps, that ridiculously delicious Meateor Domino's Pizza) - and that I should view the rise in calories and nutrients as fuel. Therefore, I upped the ante, increased my weights and my sets and tried to get as much out of the increased fuel as possible. It made a huge difference to my mood and my outlook towards the food itself.

   That said, it does mean that I also work on healthier recipes, too, and buy more unusual ingredients in general - a big, unrestricted shop opens my eyes to other things on the shelves I either never noticed before, or never bothered to look for. And so I bought lots of different fruit and had all kinds of porridges for breakfast! And that's not taboo anymore, either, because autumn is now upon us! The leaves are turning, there are speckles of yellow and orange among the green, soon to become red and brown and beautiful. I can now openly eat porridge to my heart's content.


   Among others, I was drawn to red pears this season - Bartlett or Williams. They're much softer than typical pears, juicier, and striking, and if you add some spice it is irrefutably autumnal. Because spice is reserved for cooler weather. It's a rule of life. In my house, anyway. Warm honey and chestnuts top the whole thing off beautifully, and the added protein on top of all that fibre keeps you going all morning.

Ingredients
30g oats
20g whey protein (or preferred)
10g chestnut flour
1/2 tsp mixed spice
Sweetener of choice
100ml milk
100ml water
5g honey & 10ml hot water
1 pear
30g chestnuts
Optional seeds


Method
Overnight Oats
1. Thoroughly combine the oats, whey, chestnut flour, spice and sweetener in a bowl (or shaker bottle) and, stirring all the while, add the milk until mixed (or shake it all together and transfer into a bowl).

2. Set it in the fridge overnight, then move on to step 4 the following morning.
If you'd like to heat it the following morning, add 50ml water and set it in the microwave for 1 minute on full power, stir, add the pears from step 7 and mix, then heat for 20-30 second bursts until desired consistency is reached. Add more water if needed.

Oats on the Hob
1. Boil 100ml water

2. Thoroughly combine the oats, whey, chestnut flour, spice and sweetener in a pan and, stirring all the while, add the milk, then 100ml boiled water until mixed.
3. Bring the pan to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until desired consistency is reached. Add more water if needed.

4. Meanwhile, slice the pear in half then cut segments/slices out of the middle of one half; remove the core and dice the remainder of the pear.

5. Set the diced pear in a pan with 1-2 tbsp of water and bring to a boil, then simmer until soft, about 10-15 minutes. Add more water if needed.

6. While the porridge is thickening and pear softening, lay the segments/slices of pear out flat on a plate or dish. Mix 5g honey with 10ml hot water in a small bowl or cup (add more honey, if you'd like - more water means thinner consistency, so adjust however you'd like) and drizzle half the warm honey carefully over the flesh of each flat slice. Reserve the rest of the honey for later.

7. Chop your chestnuts.

8. Empty the softened pear and any water left into the pan of porridge, mix and heat for a further few minutes.

9. Transfer the porridge into a bowl, top with soaked pear slices, chopped chestnuts, seeds if using, and drizzle over the remaining honey. Serve immediately.


Notes
• I used Pulsin premium whey
• I used Amisa chestnut flour
• I used a red Bartlett/Williams pear
• I used 5g wildflower Rowse honey
• I used Merchant Gourmet roasted chestnuts


Nutrition
Without seeds
432 cals, 4g fat (0.5g sat), 64g carbs (33g natural sugars), 9.5g fibre, 27.5g protein, 1 of 5 a day






Friday, 14 September 2018

Friday Favourites

   Oh, what joy, it has been cold this past week! It's as if it's been waiting for September to return to tolerable temperatures. It is amazing. And I could swear some of the trees in the field behind the house are starting to turn. There are yellow leaves of a few choice trees, and, I'm sure, some orange on one in particular. It's true I do my best work in the spring, but I'm at my most creative in the autumn, particularly with food. It's when I start spending more and more time in the kitchen. Spices may have something to do with it...
   It's also so dark. I'm sure the sun didn't set until 9pm two weeks ago, and now - I write this at 7:34pm with a clear sky - I'm having trouble seeing. Give it ten minutes and I'll be writing beneath a light beside closed curtains. It's baffling. But wonderful. I've been smiling more easily lately, and sleeping longer.
   And I'm excited for our 'staycation'. My dad's taking my mum on holiday so Seeg and I aren't carers for a week! It's such a breath of fresh air, and a holiday for us as much as them. She needs full-time care, so while my dad works full-time, she's our responsibility, and it's a tough one. So a week off is amazing, and only comes twice a year.

   This week's favourites, though, are simple. Aside from the changing leaves, I also nabbed Seeg's old hoody. I said when he bought it that I'd have it when he got bored of it, and I have. It's a gorgeous deep burgundy, and, while it is huge, it's so comfy. And broken in. And smells of him.
   He also finished Destiny 2: Forsaken, and earned the soundtrack. It was a great expansion, it made me cry, and I have to wonder what's going to happen next. It's always a good expansion when it leaves you wondering like this - because there is more to come.
   Also, MyProtein's virtue bars. High fibre, low carb, and more delicious than protein bars usually are, with crispies and a thin layer of melted chocolate - not 'chocolate-flavoured coating'. That's always dubious... And and and, here's 30% off of your first MyProtein order of £35+ - try their rocky road whey, too! I love to use their chocolate peanut whey with 1/2 banana in my porridge. Uh yum. But this week I've been working through the pears the neighbours brought over last week.




Destiny 2: Forsaken   ♥   MyProtein Virtue bars
Autumn is coming   ♥   Witcher 3 burgundy hoodie



Friday, 7 September 2018

Friday Favourites

You wouldn't think I'd like it. I didn't think I would. A film about a man in a wheelchair and his carer? No thank you, too close to home. Sounds like my every day life. But Seeg's mum recommended it, so we gave it a go. Never has a 'feel good' film actually made me feel so good. It was hilarious, and while it was real, there was a whole layer of comedy intermingled with the honesty, making fun of the situation in the kind of way you have to in order to handle it on a day-to-day basis. The same way we cope with my mum's disability. If you don't laugh, you'll cry. Honesty, I hugely recommend this film. Les Intouchables (or 'Untouchable' in the UK market) is a French film and based, I might add, upon a true story. And while I can't guarantee you won't cry at the happy ending, I can guarantee that you will laugh. Please watch it.

As for the rest of the really quite mundane things in this week's compilation, allow me to explain.
I have been looking for a brown top for years. You'd think they'd be more common, but you would be wrong. Brown, dark green, deep red, burgundy and deep purple are my favourite colours - foresty, autumnal, I'm suddenly realising - but while I have an abundance of the rest (though perhaps not quite enough dark green; it all seems closer to teal), brown has eluded me. The best I've done is a brown waterfall cardigan, which broke years ago. But look!! Finally I've found one! It's nothing special - that doesn't matter. I don't want 'special', I want 'brown'. And it is. And it is beautiful.
As for the pears, our neighbours brought over a bounty of them yesterday, as they do every year. The previous owners had a pear tree and it hung over the side wall so you could see they were never harvested. When the new occupants moved in a couple of years ago, they started harvesting them - free, organic fruit; who wouldn't? But they always have so many, and so they share them with the people of the street. Last year I used one of them to make Clangers' blue string pudding. Because I'm cool. This year, though, they brought over a lot more, so I've now got pear crumble and pear porridges for a week or so! I am so happy.
Also, it is my parents' 30th wedding anniversary on Sunday, and while I don't usually follow the annual traditions, I thought this was a good landmark to try it. I bought a gorgeous and tiny porcelain bowl handmade by Melissa Choroszewska with an interior pearlescent glaze, and some crispy pearls from Godiva which I'm going to attempt to coat in an edible pearlescent spray. I am also going to make a Japanese cotton cheesecake and spray that pearl, too! Wish me luck...




Les Intouchables (also 'Untouchable')   ♥   3/4 sleeve brown top by H&M
Conference pears   ♥   Handmade pearl bowl by Melissa Choroszewska



Monday, 3 September 2018

September [and Handling a Perpetual Sweet Tooth]

   September.
   I am not eyeing up my jumpers. I did not pre-order a Naked Marshmallow advent calendar the moment they became available on Saturday morning. I did not I buy a few tins of pumpkin puree. I am not noting down recipe and craft ideas for Christmas. I have not started my Christmas shopping.
   No, I am. I did. I have. It's all true.
   Calendrically speaking, it is autumn. I don't really count it until it comes around meteorologically, but as that's only on the 23rd, I'm just rolling with it. 24 degrees or not. And I'm not the only one. I've seen Christmas products sneaking out into shops - decorations, food and the like. And I may already be compiling a list for our homemade advent calendars. Yes, that's right, two again. Ask me if I'm bothered.


   But aside from all that, I'm also excited about the start of a new month. I'm a firm believer that if you want to make a change, you do it right away. If you do it 'tomorrow', or 'Monday', or 'the 1st' or 'January', you're putting your decisions on a pedestal and that means you have a lot further to fall when you inevitably slip up - and much further to climb to get back onto it. Because you will slip up, it's only natural, and strength and progress come with acknowledging that likelihood, acknowledging your mistakes, and climbing right back on the horse.
   All that said, when you do happen to make a decision or experience a sudden rush of determination to reinforce a change that has started to slip on a Sunday night on the 2nd of a fresh month at the start of a brand new season, it makes it that much sweeter. Because a new week, a new month, they are great places to start, and you are that much more likely to persevere.

   Sugar has started slipping back into my diet - I never gave it up, but it's coming in more frequently than it used to. One or two chocolates will not hurt, but if it's one or two chocolates every single day, and you're not acknowledging them because it's just a little bit, then that can become a problem - because, in my case, that can, and has, become three or four. And when a single chocolate averages 75 calories, three chocolates equate to a chocolate bar, and a chocolate bar a day, while still not really an issue, it's not going to help with fat-loss and it's only going to fuel my sweet tooth, especially if I'm not acknowledging it in my food diary.
   I've said it before: I don't drink alcohol or sweet drinks. If it's not water or tea, won't drink it. With the exception of the occasional light Chocomel or hot chocolate. I get about 5 take-away dinners a year, and I would sooner cut off my hands than step foot in a fast food 'restaurant'. I also only eat out about 3 times a year, and that's assuming my in-laws are around. Otherwise, it's just the once. I don't smoke, I don't drink coffee, I don't do anything like that. My one and only vice is sugar.
   I know that if I cut it out, I will lose my mind. So I learned long ago to appreciate a single chocolate. It takes me about 2 minutes to each a single chocolate, and I will have it in 3-4 bites, each of which I melt in my mouth before moving on to the next bite. It's the best way to eat chocolate because you really get to savour flavours and textures without scoffing it down, and it's much, much easier to be satisfied with it that way. It may take some...'training', I suppose, but it's a trick well worth mastering if you have a sweet tooth like me.

http://www.ablackbirdsepiphany.co.uk/2017/10/halloween-jack-o-lantern-canvas-cake.html

   All that said, I've also learned that it takes me just 3 days without sugar to eliminate the craving. 3 days. I usually have a chocolate or two about an hour and a half after dinner when I sit down with my laptop. If I don't have chocolate within 30 minutes of sitting down, I'm not likely to have it at all. When I'm in the habit of chocolate, those 30 minutes are a lifetime. When I've gone 3 days without, however, I don't even think about it when I flip the laptop on, I just get right on down to work.

   All that said, though, there is also the fact that it's mostly just Hotel Chocolat, and they have always been high cocoa, low sugar, and no artificial nasties, so even then the chocolates in question aren't as guilty as they could be...

   Either way, it's Monday, it's autumn, it's September, it's my final month of my present training plan, and chocolate is edging its way in a little too easily. I'm trying, as I said before, to meet maintenance calories, and empty calories - ie sweets and foods with little nutritional value - should not play a part in that. A chocolate every other day is absolutely fine, but when it becomes routine, it isn't. If the fancy strikes, no problem, but if it's a need, I have to ignore it. And with Christmas on the horizon, it's time to get it in check. I've got a few sweet recipes to try for the blog, and with my parents' 30th wedding anniversary this Sunday, now is as good a time as any to shed the cravings so that when I do taste-test or have a slice of cake, there's no guilt to add to.

   September-October is the perfect time to start getting in shape for winter, by that physically or mentally. There's enough time to make real and safe progress towards a little black dress - and as strange as eating more is towards that goal, that is mine, and shedding the sugar is part of that.

   Do you have any goals to set in motion?



Sunday, 2 September 2018

Resistance Training - 2 Month Check-In

   I'm moving into my third month of this training plan, week 10 of 13, and it's going well. I started trying some body recomp recently, too, which requires me to eat more than maintenance calories on training days (which goes against every fibre of my being, making it very difficult) and just under maintenance on rest/cardio days. 'Training day' means weights and resistance training, muscle building - if neither are involved, it doesn't count as a training day, even when 30-40 minutes of Core de Force is involved (which I am still doing and loving).
   The added challenge to this has been actually acknowledging my maintenance calories. I've been eating more these past few months than I used to - 'used to' being 1300 a day, and more recently 1600 a day. But I used seven different BMR/AMR calculators before changing my eating (none of which compare, of course, to the personal evaluations of a nutritionist and a trainer, but I quite simply cannot afford that), and all of them say that that's too low for me. Two said 1750, three said 1850, and two were up around 2000! Maintenance! That means the calories needed to neither lose weight nor gain muscle, and I want to do both. That doesn't typically go hand in hand, but body recompositioning is possible.
   I've taken these numbers with a pinch of salt and have been aiming for the 1750 bracket. I'll know if it's working, too, because I'll see muscle gain before I see fat loss. If it doesn't work by the end of this training plan at the end of September, then I'll increase it to 1850 when I start my next plan in November.

   Otherwise, it's been amazing. Once again I've been loving the fact that I don't repeat anything in a week; I have one lower body workout for Monday, a total body workout for Wednesday, another lower body workout for Friday and 30-40 minutes of Core de Force on Saturday, of which I have 6 different options in itself. Which also means that I only actually repeat a workout four to five times in a whole month, and it really helps to keep the boredom away. Strength grows with every workout, however, both physically and mentally, and when the end of the month rolls around, I always up the weight, and that timing is just right.
   I started with a 12.5kg (27.5lb) barbell in the first month on both lower body workouts, and 15kg (33lb) barbell on the total body. I switched that to 15kg for lower body and 17.5kg (38.5lb) for total body on week 5, then on week 9 (last week; one week sooner than planned) I switched it to 17.5kg on lower and 20kg (44lb) on total. It feels amazing. And, what's more, when I was doing the triple alligator push ups in Core de Force last Saturday, I was finally able to jump switch my hands and feet at the same time, rather than just my feet and then replace my hands. That is a huge achievement for me!

   I'm feeling awesome, but I'm not checking my results. No mirrors, no tape measures, nothing. Not until I've finished. Though, that said, I can't escape the fit of my clothes - either all of my jeans are starting to shrink in the wash, or my bum has gotten bigger. And as someone who has never had a fat bum (or any bum at all, in fact - seriously, lower back -> hamstrings), that is just...impossibly good news.

   One month to go, and I'm still buzzing. Sometimes, I admit, I don't relish the idea of working out, but when I actually get down to doing it, I love it. Then there's also the fact that I've not listened to music while training since I started this program - I've been watching The Secret Life of the Zoo. So has Seeg. I stay focused enough, and I enjoy the work enough to concentrated and ensure I get the very best out of it, to the point that I completely miss some episodes, but it does result in the occasional outburst should a baby otter flounder onto the screen. Or, I admit, a few tears when another animal dies. I don't want to work in a zoo. I couldn't do it. I love animals too much. Fortunately I can hip-thrust 20kg. And it made me ridiculously happy to see that that's what Cassey Ho is hip thrusting. #GoalsMetGoalsSet.
   And chocolate caramel protein powder helps, too...



Friday, 31 August 2018

Friday Favourites

I've been stressing a lot about a few things this week, my book among them - both The Zi'veyn, and the second installment which, as I mentioned last week, is nearing completion. So I've been trying to give myself other things to think about. It's not been proving easy, so I've been throwing myself into making new stock for Myth of the Wild for Christmas, and into video games. Seeg and I just hit 120 in World of Warcraft and have been moving through some pretty great stories and zones, but better yet has been Kingdom Come Deliverance, which took us a month and a half to finish - it was such a big game!

Kingdom Come Deliverance is a medieval RPG (non-fantasy - shocker, I know) steeped in history, set in the Kingdom of Bohemia during 1403, and filled with as much historical accuracy as a game can reasonably - or, sometimes, unreasonably - have. One particular event jumps out, during which you must pose as a monk in a monastery in order to carry out your lord's orders, which means you have rules to adhere to - rise at 3am, morning prayer, eat, carry out studies and work, pray again, eat, bed at 9pm. Only during the hour after rising and before morning prayer, and the hour before going to bed, do you have any time to actually act upon your lord's orders, so imperative is it that you maintain cover. And yet, as restrictive as it was, it was...fun. And informative. I learned that I do not want to be a monk, and that, for the most part, few people choose the life. In many cases it's the only option against living on the streets, or it's given as a punishment for disgracing their family. A banishment, in other words. Despite bugs - it was Warhorse Studio's first game, in their defence - it was a wonderful story and I look forward to its continuation and DLC.

Also, Rini's absolutely adorable art style deserves a mention, now that she's put a few of her Celestials prints up. Niuzao was always my favourite - I love oxen :B




Kingdom Come Deliverance   ♥   Hotel Chocolate 45% milk Ecuador
Niuzao, The Black Ox print by Rini   ♥    Wild Bangarang Nightborne leggings




Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Lately

   It's been a while since I've blogged properly, hasn't it? But it's been a busy few months. But so wonderful. May, Seeg and I got married. June, my gallery exhibit went up. July, my book was prepped and readied for release, and made available for pre-order. August, my book came out and I was, just recently, Fantasy Writer of the Day on the Fantasy subreddit page. Then there were all the porridge recipes for Battle for Azeroth's release, which I was focused on keeping as successive as I could. All in all, it didn't leave me much time for general posts.


   Now, though, things have mellowed out. Aside from collecting my exhibit next month, everything is as it is, and we have a little holiday coming mid-September, too. I'm really looking forward to it!
   World of Warcraft's new expansion came out last week so Seeg and I have been playing that together (for the Horde) in our free time, and I've been working on new pieces to stock my shop with for Christmas. It's been ages since I listed anything new because of just how busy this year has been so far, but I am at least aiming to get some new things up for Christmas. I'm restocking popular pieces like koroks and foxes, and I'm making new pieces, too. I'm also open for custom orders until about mid November, too - after which point I tend to get too busy to guarantee any completion in time for Christmas delivery.

   I've also been writing - obviously - and I'm making progress in leaps and bounds towards the end of this second book of the trilogy. That's not to say that it will be out in a hurry - once it's finished, I have to redraft it several times and then sit on it for a while to make sure I'm happy with it. I will in that time begin writing the third book, and only once I'm a good ways through that will I submit the second to agents. So you can expect it out about a year after completion, maybe a little less. But when November rolls around, I'll likely have to put writing on hold until January in favour of filling Etsy orders, so I only have about 2.5 months left to write this year. I'm hoping to be finished by then.
   I wish my writing was at a place where I could close my Etsy shop and just focus on it completely, but I could never make ends meet - not yet. I hope that will change in time. I hope it changes, period. But all I can do to get to that point is write and write and write whenever I have the time, just as I have been for the past 15 years since I was 12! And do you know what? It doesn't feel like a chore at all. I still live and breathe for it!

   Though things have mellowed, there are a few things still floating around that we both have hope for. But until any of it lands, we're trying to disregard them. Better to forget about things that are out of our hands rather than get disappointed. And I don't want to talk about them, either, until anything comes of it - I live by the idea 'don't tell people your plans, show them your results'.

   What have you all been up to so far this summer? x



Monday, 13 August 2018

Fantasy Writer of the Day + Free Book!



Head over to the Reddit thread, live on the Fantasy forum, and ask me any question you want.
It can be about writing, books, games, fitness, squirrels, mugs, the intricacies of ants' musical preferences - anything. I'll answer as best I can.

Also, The Zi'veyn and The Archguardians of Laceria are free on Kindle until Friday 17th!
Snatch them up while you can!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kim-Wedlock/e/B01FSVX566




Thursday, 9 August 2018

Fantasy Author AMA - Monday 13th


   Yes, just as with my first release, I've been lucky enough to have bagged another stint as the Fantasy Writer of the Day over at the Fantasy reddit page! As with last time, come over and ask me anything - it can be about my newest book, complaints comments about the first, or it could be about gaming, fitness, cakes or puppies! The clue is in the title: Ask Me Anything!
   Also, The Zi'veyn and Archguardians of Laceria will be available on the Kindle for free for everyone from the 13th to the 17th, so be sure to snap them up! They both take place in different worlds, and I feel that that of The Zi'veyn is much richer - perhaps because the basis of the story is steeped in the world's history, and it's planned as a trilogy rather than a stand-alone as Archguardians was. Either way, I'm immensely confident that The Zi'veyn is a much better read.

   Be sure to mark your calendars and head over.
   Also, I've added it to the 'events' list on my GoodReads author page, which I've only just established. You can RSVP on there and get a reminder. Otherwise, keep your eyes on my twitter page because I'm sure to mention it a handful of times!

   Head over to the fantasy reddit page on Monday 13th August, 3pm GMT - I'll add a link here with the Fantasy Writer of the Day thread when it's up.




Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Benefits Of Elliptical Machines

   Believe it or not, there is no one workout that fits all. Sure, there are workout methods that are guaranteed to burn off fat - like HIIT or circuit training - but they will be more effective for some than others, and some people just don't have the willpower, especially if they're just starting out with fitness and find interval training intimidating. And then there's also the fact that some days we just don't feel like ourselves, but want to get in a workout rather than skip it all together. Generally, skipping a workout will only make you feel worse. Hello, guilt!

   Personally, I'm an advocate of using your own body weight or free weights - barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells dominate my kit, with a few various resistance bands thrown in. You can gain so much utility from your body with body weight workouts, and so much power - and burn so much fat! But it's not for everyone, and, to be honest, it's not for every day, either. Sometimes you feel run down and would rather something a little more straight forwards or with a little assistance, and gym machines can provide it - leg press, treadmills, elliptical machines. I bet you're thinking that those machines are pretty limited in use, right? How much can you really do with a treadmill? Turns out, a ridiculous amount. The same goes for most gym machines, to be honest. If you follow Jillian Michaels on Facebook or Twitter you'll probably already know what I'm talking about. There are so many ways to get the most out of a single piece of kit, it just takes know-how. I still prefer to use the weight of barbells and my own body, but, like I said, some days you're just not up for anything too explosive, and sometimes low impact really is the way to go.

   Emily Roberts has written a brief intro article to one of the more popular pieces of gym equipment: the elliptical machine. It's well worth a read if you're thinking of expanding your home gym.


--------- 


   Finding the right workout for you can be quite difficult when there are so many different types that you can do. One of the most popular workout routines just now is an elliptical workout which works both the upper and lower part of your body. In this article, we are going to take you through some of the benefits of using elliptical trainers. Make sure to keep reading if you’d like to find out more.


Dual Action

   Our first benefit of using an elliptical machine is that you can work two parts of your body at once. When using a machine like the Bowflex Max Trainer which is one of the most popular home workout equipment choices, you can work out your glutes, back, chest, hamstrings, quadriceps, triceps and your biceps. This is a total workout and you won’t find any other machines using these many parts of your body. Make sure to check out these types of machines if you want to enjoy a dual action workout.


Low Impact

   One of the great things about elliptical machines is that they are actually low-impact exercise. This is great for those people who cannot use a high-impact machine but still want to work out. When you use an elliptical machine, you are keeping your feet on the machine at all times. This means you won’t have to worry about running too hard on your legs and damaging any parts of your body.


Quick Workout

   When you use an elliptical machine, you are working your body quite hard. You’ll burn calories pretty quickly, meaning that you don’t have to use the machine for as long. This is great for those who don’t have a lot of time to work out as the whole thing is over in a relatively short space of time. Make sure to try an elliptical machine if you want to enjoy a quick workout but still be able to see some results.


Adjustments

   If you like to personalise your workout then you will love elliptical machines. These machines can be adjusted to do different types of workout and you can change how hard it is to use. This is great for those who want to take up hill walking but cannot get out to a hill. With an elliptical machine, you’ll get lots of options and you’ll be able to personalise your workout.


Burn Lots Of Calories

   Our final benefit of using an elliptical machine is that you will burn a lot of calories. Because of the dual action workout, you’ll burn calories fast and you’ll be able to lose some weight a lot quicker. Using an elliptical machine is fun and you’ll love how easy you can burn calories when you use one.


Final Verdict

   There are lots of benefits to using an elliptical machine with things like burning calories fast and getting a total workout being massive draws for a lot of people. Make sure to try out an elliptical machine if you want to get fit fast and for a reasonable price.



Sunday, 5 August 2018

Resistance Training - 5 Weeks Later

   I've been on this resistance training program for five weeks now, I upped my weights this past Monday, and I'm seeing all the same progress as I did in my last program April-May. From the end of the first week I noticed my skin looked healthier - it was more vibrant, smoother, tighter, and generally looked and felt amazing. It wasn't necessarily that I'd built up new muscle - it had only been a week, after all - but rather to do with circulation and nutrition. Just like last time, I've revisited my eating habits and piled more nutritious foods onto my plates like grains and a greater variety of veggies. I've never been remotely vegetarian so I'm still getting my protein from eggs, salmon, chicken, turkey, whey and milk, and with them a variety of other nutrients.
   After three weeks I felt stronger and slimmer, too, and being able to increase the weight by 2.5kg, I'm absolutely certain that my strength is improving. My reps crept up after two weeks by about 2-3 per set, and I've increased my weights to 15kg - it's not a huge amount, I'm sure lots of experienced ladies reading this might scoff, but the movements/position of the weight in the workouts I'm using in this program were new to me so the last thing I wanted was to injure myself. But as far as the familiar moves like deadlifts go, I've increased it to 20kg, which is the highest my barbell can go at the moment and while that's presently an appropriate challenge - a little over one third of my body weight - I'm sure I'll need a new pair of plates by the end of the month! Yay!

   I'm also trying to eat a little more on training days - I've been reading about body recomposition, a means of losing fat while gaining muscle, which is a bit of a contradictory thing since losing fat means creating a calorie deficit while gaining muscle requires a calorie surplus, but it's basically what I've already been doing. I try to create a small deficit on rest days anyway, and eat a little more on training days, but I've always wondered if I wasn't still eating too little on training days and, according to my research, I have. So I'm going to increase training day calories by another 100-150, totalling about 1750 calories a day, while my rest days will be about 1500 calories. It may still not be enough, but I'd think I will see an improvement. Only time will tell, though.
   I'm in resistance training for the long-haul; I don't expect to see fat-loss happen in a few weeks and neither am I focusing on it. Instead it's strength, ability and efficiency I'm working towards, and that means range of movement, depth and weights. I'm still supplementing with Core de Force, though, for its MMA-HIIT fusion.
   It's also possible, as far as I've read, that trying body recomp as I am now may not work as well as it would if I'd stopped training for a couple of months or never trained at all, but I've got a low-impact month pencilled in for October, when I finish this 3-month training plan, and if I start with body recomp right off the bat in November, I may have an easier time of it.

   But, as it's so close to what I've been doing anyway, just eating a little more on training days, it takes little adjustment and might result in better, leaner gains, so I'm going to give it a shot all the same.

   I'll increase my weights again in 4 weeks and update again then if there's any progress worth mentioning. Otherwise, on I go!




Wednesday, 1 August 2018

It's Release Day!

Yaaaay!!


   I'm so excited!! It's such a huge feeling! It's not my first book, but I feel no less buzzy about it than I did 2 years ago. To have two years' worth of work culminate into a book release, it's the most rewarding thing ever. I couldn't sleep last night, and I've felt sick with excitement and nervousness for days.
   It's available on Kindle for £1.99/$3, or Kindle Unlimited for free for those who subscribe to the prolific reading service. It's also on paperback for the painful price of £13.50/$22 - print-on-demand; rest assured it's definitely not greed on my part :(.
   Otherwise, you can read chapter 1 & 2 for free on the Kindle product page.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FSQLYRZ


   I will admit, though, that it hasn't all gone the way I've wanted it to.
   It's proven very difficult to find willing book bloggers. I totally understand their aversion to self-published works for review - it will cost them time, and time is valuable, and a self-published book is statistically more likely to be a pile of rubbish than a traditionally published book, but - read on - there are so many reasons to be rejected by a literary agent that have nothing to do with writing quality.
    A literary agent can reject you for any number of things. The first to come to mind is that the book is rubbish. Fair enough. But then there are many more reasons that can lead to the rejection of something that could well go on to become a best seller. The market may not be quite right; the story could be too radical or new; it could be that, based on the first chapter or three that they read, as is the standard practice, it appears too similar to other things on the market whether there's a unique twist or narrative or not. It could also be rejected because they're not taking on any new clients at that time, or that they don't handle that genre (so you should always check agents' websites and twitters to find out what they're doing), or that they just don't have the contacts to take your particular use of their approved genre where it needs to go to be worth either of your time. And there are many more besides.
   In short, every writer really needs someone to take a huge chance on them.

   So, while it hasn't started the way I'd have liked it to, I genuinely believe it's worth everyone's time. I'm very, very hard on myself all the time, but even after all of my second- third- and sixteenth-guessing, I still believe it's worth reading. I would not have self-published it and put it out there in front of the masses where I can so easily be shot down, ridiculed and slated.
   But I did get great feedback and compliments from the agents who actually responded (which they're not actually supposed to offer unless they're considering taking it on), and was told that it was both very enjoyable and very unique. But the trouble with a literary agent's job is that they make no money until I do - ie, when the book actually sells. And it takes a lot of work on their part to get a book into that position, so most agents only take on one or two new writers a year, and every time they do, it's a huge risk - potentially a lot of time and work for zero reward. Now consider how few literary agents deal with fantasy, and you see my dilemma.

   And the other side of the coin, of course, is that self-publishing is too easy. Anyone can do it. Which means that the world of Kindle is, for the largest part, a slush pile. No one is interested in us because we could well be awful. If we were any good, we'd have an agent and have gone the traditional route, right? If you said 'yes', read that first paragraph again. If you still say 'yes', then I can't argue with you because I'm of the same mind. I'm not interested in self-published books because, odds are, they're awful. The ideas could be under-cooked, they could be repetative, they could be ridiculous; the writing could be equally half-baked, unproofed, unformatted, void of all paragraphing; the spelling could be...painful.

   The thing is, I genuinely believe that my work is worth your time and their time, but none of the nine agents have seen fit to give me a chance, and I completely understand and respect that. I don't like it, but I understand it, and that's what counts. But, see, everyone else who has self-published doubtlessly thinks the same thing, and I'm shouting as loud as they are. I have to let my work do the talking - but I have no idea how to get it out there. That's another area a literary agent handles. Marketing and distribution. I haven't the foggiest.
   So I'm looking for fantasy book bloggers to give it a read and write a review, or for a few reviews on Amazon, or even just a few organic mentions on twitter or Instagram. But I don't know where to turn for it. Advertising has always been my weak point.

   But enough of that. It's release day, and I'm happy. Whether it's traditional or not, it's out there, and I'd love you all to read it.

   Get The Zi'veyn on Kindle, or on your Kindle App (free and usable on smart phones, tablets, laptops, PCs, Macs, etc) for £1.99, or free with Kindle Unlimited. Paperback is, regretfully, £13.50. Another issue with self-publishing is everything being print-on-demand and Amazon being penny-pinchers, but I'd rather it was available as an over-priced paperback (for which, I must point out, I only make 50p from) than digital-only.
   I'm hoping to be able to offer some proof copies for reviewers, but at this point in time, I can only offer reviewers digital copies. If you'd prefer a paperback, let me know and I'll add you to a list. When I'm able to afford it, I'll start contacting.