Sunday, 13 August 2017

Flashing for the first time

Before you get all excited I did not run starkers across a sports field of some kind. No, what I'm talking about it flash fiction. Something I knew about in a sorta, kinda, yeah yeah yeah way but not something that I'd actively got involved with before.

Recently I was offered the opportunity to write a 500-word piece for a guest blog spot and I could no longer punt leisurely round the outside of this new exciting vortex of words. I had to take the plunge.

Flash Fiction

So what exactly is flash fiction then? Sadly it's not writing from the perspective of Flash Gordon or indeed The CW's lovable Barry Allen. According to Wikipedia (yes, I know):

Flash fiction is fictional work of extreme brevity, that still offers character and plot development, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words).

Sounds super easy and straight forward. I instantly remembered an idea I'd had that I thought might work and when I mused upon it to my beloved he piped up with - yes, but how are you going to write that? And so instantly writers doubt crept in, making itself at home, settling down and refusing to budge.

Suddenly 500-words felt like an insurmountable amount. Not wanting to give up, I did what I always do. I ignored the problem and had some cake. But I also let my subconscious do it's thing and wrestle with the concept until something coalesced. I look forward to sharing it with you soon.

In the meantime, here is the link to the wonderful blog that is Working Title Blogspot where you can read other flashes of literary genius as they share their own snippets.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

How To ... join in with #sparklybadgersunite on Twitter

Myself and fellow indie author C.H. Clepitt host a #event on Twitter on Monday evenings at 9pm (UK time) called #sparklybadgersunite:


You can of course just follow both of us on Twitter for all our insightful writing updates and daily life tweets. I'm @Grasshopper2407 and she's @BadgersTweetToo. But if you'd like to get involved with #sparklybadgersunite then read on!

We talk about our own current writing projects & encourage other indie authors to share, books we have read, promote indie author news and generally chat about all things sci-fi & fantasy related that occur to us. We'd love to have you join us but first you may be asking what exactly is a #event?

What is a #event?

The use of a hashtag makes tweets and the people who use them a teeny bit easier to find because you can search for particular ones. However, if you are at all familiar with Twitter you will know that the live feed moves faster than the speed of light and often it is purely by chance that you happen to see something you want to see.

One way around that is to search for a specific hashtag. You'll then get a page with the following options - Top, Latest, People, Photos, Videos, News and Broadcasts.  You now have everything related to #sparklybadgersunite at your fingertips.

Latest feed on Twitter

Ok, great. But how does that help you join in? If you choose the Latest tab you will be able to follow the feed in real time. So at 9pm on Monday we kick off with a welcome message and prompt everyone to join in and chat with us. If you leave this tab open, Twitter will automatically refresh it as the #event goes on so you can see all the comments as they happen.

To join in just do what you'd normally do on Twitter - like it, share it and reply to it. 

BUT if you want your response to be added to the event feed you MUST use the designated hashtag #sparklybadgersunite in your tweet.

You still have the big tweet button on the top right of the screen so you can write your own unique tweets as well.
Tweet button

BUT if you want your tweet to be added to the event feed you MUST use the designated hashtag #sparklybadgersunite in your tweet.

It can move fast but don't despair - although our #event only lasts an hour the tweets will always be there and if you decide you want to come back later and join in that's great. All you have to do is search for #sparklybadgersunite and get liking, sharing and commenting.

We'd love to see you on Monday but if you have any questions in the meantime you can always ask them in the comments below or contact myself or C.H. Clepitt directly on Twitter. Happy Tweeting!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Raven Award Winner

I am so proud to announce that The Gaia Effect has won the 2017 Raven Award for favourite fantasy/sci-fi book.

Raven Award Fav Fantasy-Scifi The Gaia Effect

I am extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to vote for me. It means a great deal to receive recognition for my book.

The awards were run by Uncaged Book Reviews and the winners from each category were mentioned in their August newsletter. Congratulations to everyone who was nominated and to all the winners.

If you would like to buy a copy of the award winning book, The Gaia Effect, it is available in ebook and paperback on Amazon. If you'd like a signed copy from the author then get in touch in the comments box below.

The Gaia Effect book cover

Monday, 10 July 2017

Finding a Mistake

I probably shouldn't admit this but..... gosh darn it all to heck, we found a mistake in the new book.

Now, I know nearly every book probably has one - at least that's what I'm telling myself. You can only go over your manuscript so many times. At some point you have to pack its lunchbox, pat it on the head and let it go. But that sinking feeling when someone else points out that you've made a mistake is absolutely soul crushing and you're convinced that it is the only thing that everyone will see and judge you on.

But then it got me thinking. Is it actually possible to do anything in life without making a mistake? Mistakes teach us the things to avoid, the advice that doesn't work, the people that can't be trusted and apparently the complete lack of proof reading skills I possess.

I just have to keep telling myself that I won't be judged .... won't be harshly judged.... won't be stoned in the town square.

This comes on top of a mixed review for my previous book. The Gaia Effect. The reviewer said - as most people do - that's it's not their usual genre pick and hasn't dystopia already been done to death but actually, this one is different in that it's hopeful. So that's good. But they went on to wish the book was longer and the grammar more grammarly. I'm paraphrasing obviously.

My first reponse to any review is always to look at what the reader has said and make sure I understand what they mean. And I have to say - yes it is a short book. It's my first. I think there was a lot of fear in actually writing a book and fear affects you in so many ways. As for the grammar... well, I make no claims to have any deep grasp of complicated terminology - I just did my best. My proof-readers did their best and together we made a book.

It's a lot like being a parent. You can only do your best and if you spend all your time worrying about whether your best is enough (or even right) you'll end up frozen in indecision and nothing will get done or enjoyed.

I would like to clarify that I am beyond grateful for all my reviews and cherish each and every one, thankful that the reader has taken the time to comment on my offering.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Cover Reveal: Tales From Suburbia

I am delighted to be able to share with you the cover artwork for my new book Tales From Suburbia, a humourous look at life in the suburbs with short stories, plays and blog posts. Coming Soon!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Projects Update - Mid Year Review

It's so serious doesn't it? But I thought you'd like to know what I've been up to and if I write down what I hope to achieve by the end of the year then maybe I'll stop procrastinating my butt off and get it done!

The reviews for The Gaia Effect continue to arrive and I am chuffed to bits that my debut novel has been so well received. Thank you to everyone who has a) taken the time to read the book and b) been amazing and left a review. You can read them via my website.

Now I'm going to mention some dates but these are just ball-park guidelines, you can't hold me to them. Those who know me well will know I am a big fan of 'ish' so...

July (ish)
I shall be releasing a collection of works entitled 'Tales From Surburbia'. This will include short stories, humourous blog posts, a couple of plays and a monologue. It's designed to showcase my writing style and encourage new readers to come back and pick up new books. It will be ebook but I am tempted to also create a a paperback version for fans (Mum) to have a signed copy available to put on your 'I know an author' shelf.

July/August (ish)
I will have short stories in two different anthologies.

  • 'Patient Data' will be included in the Sci-Fi Knights of the Roundtable Quantum Souls Anthology 
  • 'Underground Scratchings' will be included in the Inklings Press Tales Of The Underground Anthology
Both of these will be available in paperback and ebook and look to be summertime so as soon as I know more, you will of course be updated.

September/October (ish)
The Rose Thief will rise victorious from it's languishing pit of editing and be officially released, hopefully in both ebook and paperback version. It's a humourous fantasy a la Terry Pratchett, bordering on the line of fan fic but it has been crafted with much love and if it's received well there are plenty more tales from that universe to come. I just need to come up with a name for the main city. Truly stumped.

November (ish)
The newest member of the Buss family will arrive - rejoyce, rejoyce. I shall be taking a small break from writing - at least I think I will. It may be that in my sleepless state I am driven to write more, you never know.

January 2018 
I will start working on The Gaia Effect sequel and despite the enormous pressure I already feel to bring my readers a sequel that satisfys their thirst for more, I am actually quite excited to begin work on this project. That's why it's a fixed date. There is no 'ish' for this!

Wish me luck! All donations of cake are gratefully received.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Running the Half Term Gauntlet

Now, to clarify, my little man is still relatively little so at least I don't have the added pressure of entertaining cynical, disinterested in everything, know-it-all, self centred, selfish & just plain mean teenagers. But.... half-term is still the equivalent of swimming in shark infested waters with bloody cuts on your arms and legs. And here's why.


Apparently guilt is not a feeling that exists naturally within the human body's natural chemical makeup. It is an entity that we apes with extra capacity brain power decided to invent because someone, somewhere clearly thought it was a good idea.

As a parent you generally feel guilty about something 99.99% of the time and it doesn't matter how many times people tell you you're doing great, parenting is hard and at least you only half filled the recycling with wine bottles this week - you still feel like a total failure.

Half term is meant to be this magical break from school where children get to spend 100% quality time with a parent of their choice doing super awesome fun stuff all the time and eating yummy scrummy food all week. Those with rich parents will be swanning off somewhere fabulous. The rest of us will be desperately scrabbling around on Woucher & Groupon trying to find money off deals that actually work financially to at least give the kids some kind of treat.

I barely remember what happened last week, let alone what happened in the half terms of my childhood but I do know that much of my school holidays were spent on my grandparents farm in Wales and subsequently upon the Welsh coastline. Very fond blurred memories.

This week I have planned several excursions - going to see the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace Park (free), going to see the helicopters & aeroplanes at the RAF Museum (free), going to one or several of the City Farms (free), going to the seaside on the train (40 mins, train ticket) and possibly doing the old faithful and going to feed the ducks in the park. Luckily for me picnics are a big thing at the moment so if we pretty much sit on any outside piece of grass and I produce a peanut butter sandwich, crisps, pear & flapjack - I'm on a winner. And yes it has to be those four things.

Still it's only a week right? It's not like if I don't tire him out he won't go to sleep in the evening or that even if we're all bone weary at the end of the day he's still going to bounce out of bed at 5am ready to play. 'Mummy - come!' The dulcet sounds of trains being shushed up and down laminate flooring is so loud. It's the downstairs neighbours I feel sorry for. Except they have 5 kids so maybe not.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Saying Goodbye

Losing a loved one is always going to be hard but does it actually get easier or do we just get numbed to it? Or is this sense of c'est la vie just our mind's way of protecting us from exploding into a thousand little pieces?

My Nana passed away last week. We knew it was coming. I mean obviously we didn't know the exact date and time but we knew this admission to hospital would be the last despite the valiant rally that had us all hoping against all hope that maybe, just maybe she would come home again. It's a really difficult topic to think about, to talk about, to share your thoughts about.

When my Grandad passed, seven years ago this Christmas, I was more involved with the ending. I was physically there for much of the decline. It is terrifically painful to watch your beloved family member decline before your very eyes. It was my first real death. I didn't handle it very well. Grief it seems was too massive an emotion for me to process and locking it away in a box didn't really work. I would spend hours with tears rolling down my face and simple, everyday things like travelling on the train became these immense undertakings with so many possible outcomes, I couldn't possibly account for them all so I became panic stricken and immobile. I had some counselling. I'm not usually one for talking your feelings but on this occasion it seemed to really help.

Now I have lost my last remaining grandparent and the generation line has moved up one. I am no longer third gen - now I am second. It is an incredibly sobering thought and has really impacted upon me that life will continue to steamroller along at its own, predetermined pace and you can either make the most of each and every second or you can waste your precious time and allow it to fritter through your fingertips.

I have had so much going on in my life recently that I don't even know whether I've realised that she's gone. I mean, I know she died. But I don't think I've realised that she's gone. Since my Grandad passed it seemed to me that we lost a large part of my Nana at the same time and, to me, my relationship with her was never as strong or as vibrant as before. In the beginning it was incredibly difficult for me to see or talk to her on her own so I cannot imagine what it must have been like for her. We still had some great times though - discussing recipes and the latest craft project, the various TV programmes that we all watched, who we thought was going to win Bake Off and of course chatting about her Great-Grandson, my little man.

My Nana taught me how to bake, she instilled within me the importance of a cup of a tea and biscuit in bed first thing in the morning. Both her and my mum brought me up to appreciate the importance of good food and looking after everyone. I shall miss her dreadfully. I just hope that when the reality hits that she's gone, I'm ready.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Dropping the Ball

You know that feeling you get when you're so on top of things you're like a lean, mean, efficient machine? I haven't felt that for a while but I have been there. Everything is in perfect harmony and your to do list is done. You're on top of the world.

Then something happens and you drop the ball. It might be that you relax and accidentally forget something or you decide to just not do x for one day. Then y, z, q, p and r all fall as well. And as quickly as you try to scoop the balls up, new ones fall down. Very quickly it's a case of losing the will to do anything as the whole damn lot feels like way too much hard work.

Being any kind of self employed means being highly motivated on a daily basis. Going that extra mile every single day to achieve maximum efficiency. I managed it from Dec 16 until the end of March 17 and then I hit the biggest wall I've ever seen in my life. It hurt. It knocked me out for a month. April was a total bust. I dropped balls I didn't even know I was juggling.

So now I look at the tasks in front of my and it seems like an insurmountable mountain. Everywhere I look indie author friends are kicking butts and taking names doing amazing things - great work guys. Am I intimidated? Yeah, a little bit. Am I finding it a little hard to get motivated? Yeah, a little bit. Do I hate blogging about it because I don't like coming across as a moaning murtle. Yeah, a little bit.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Editor's Block

I sit collapsed in my chair after a busy 3 days of running hither and thither culminating in watching my hubby run the London Marathon. Now it is the end of the Easter holidays, the little man goes back to nursery on Monday morning and I have no more excuses left. I have to get back to work on my WIP.

I finished writing The Rose Thief at the beginning of the year which was great but since then I've struggled to get to grips with the editing. Who knew there was editor's block??? I'll admit I've used writer events, a convention, life, illness and a back accident get in my way but no more, I need to knuckle down. I've realised what I lack is a plan and a deadline. With no competition looming over me this time I can finish when I finish. With no writing mentor I have no plan of action.

And then of course, writer's friend self doubt comes out to play. She loves to hang around, out stay her welcome and eat all the cake. Plain rude.

I can't edit it because it's no good. There's too much to do by myself, I need a team of editors working with me. I forgot how to spell!!!  Well, maybe not quite that bad but there's a large block of some sort in my way. Now is not the time to rest on my laurels.

Tomorrow I shall pack up my MS - that's manuscript for those who don't know - a barrelful of snacks, drop my son off at nursery then go find a corner in the library to smash that block to smithereens. That's the plan anyway. I'm going to bring gold stars and I'm not sharing.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Who Am I - Brain to Books CyCon

You just stumbled across the next stop in the B2B CyCon SciFan & LitRPG Blog Hop Hunt!

Welcome, welcome, welcome. I am sci-fi & fantasy writer Claire Buss and this is my blog But I Don't Like Salad - an important stance to announce and stand-by in this dangerous climate of clean eating.

My earliest work included a direct rip-off of LOTR, I was eleven. There may be short snippets still in existence but we really don't have to talk about that. I used to write a lot when I was younger, then I turned into an awkward 13 year old and stopped sharing my work. Then I became a stroppy seventeen year old and stopped writing. It wasn't until 2014 that I really got back into the craft with great desire and determination. I wrote The Gaia Effect in five months as part of a writing competition and now that book is available to buy on Amazon in paperback & ebook - how amazing is that?

The Gaia Effect is a dystopian novel set two hundred years in the future after a mass extinction event has sterilised the human population and the ruling entity, Corporation, have created isolated, safe, cities for humanity to live in and be controlled. All babies are grown and allocated to couples as Corporation see fit and natural pregnancies are unheard of. The story follows a young couple, Kira & Jed Jenkins as they go to pick up their baby and try to figure out how to be parents. Then their friends start falling pregnant naturally and there have been several sightings of a mysterious blue lady. She is Gaia - the spirit of the Earth - who is trying to bridge the gap between man and nature.

I am also currently working on a fantasy novel called The Rose Thief. The Emperor, may he live for ever and ever, is very proud of his beautiful rose garden. So much so he has magically enhanced his red rose with the power of love. A wonderful idea. Until someone steals the rose and love starts to die. It's up to Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher and his motley band of catchers to stop the rose thief and return love.

Is my work science fantasy? Yes I believe it is. The Gaia Effect deals with what could happen to our current society and looks at the different ways technology may advance and invade our lives.  The Rose Thief has magic and Fae and an evil sorcerer - I am doing my best to ensure it does not have multiple cliches. I am a great believer in the fact that all fiction is fantasy, it is designed to take you away from the grind of the everyday mundane whether it is set in a recognisable city such as London or somewhere as fantastical as a spaceship in another galaxy.

You can of course sign up to my blog to keep up to date with my weekly musings. I can also be found on various social media sites - choose your favourite link below!

Twitter: @grasshopper2407

Thanks for stopping by my blog! To continue along the hunt, please click here.

Monday, 3 April 2017

My First Con

This weekend - the 31st March to 2nd April - I attended the SciFi Weekender or SFW8 in Pwllheli, North Wales. It wasn't my first convention ever, I have also rocked up to SFW2 and SFW3 but, it was my first convention as a writer and that was an amazing experience.

A big thank you to Telos Publishing, David J Howe and Sam Stone for making me feel so welcome and giving me a little bit of space on their book table.

It was a fantastic experience to talk to book fans and sell some copies of The Gaia Effect. I also took part in three author panels:

It wasn't all hard work though, my friends and I enjoyed watching the Pop-Up Puppet Cinema, dancing to DJ Leroy's sci-fi set and taking part in John Robertson's The Dark Room text adventure computer game.

Then of course there was the Cosplay Ball - a great time had by all!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Cover Reveal: Hunted by Aoife Marie Sheridan

Aoife Sheridan, part of Ultimate Fantasy Books, put together my book blog tour so one way I can thank her is by sharing her cover reveal for her new novel Hunted - check it out!

Hunted Banner

Cover Reveal: Hunted #2
Author: Aoife Marie Sheridan
Genre: Paranormal
Date: 26th of March
Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours

Hunted Part 2 ~ 2017 ~ For Smashwords.jpg

Hunted (Part two of the demon series)

"Evil has awoken..."

Abigail finds herself in Hades, and it isn't long until things start to go from bad to worse.
Cathy nearly dies, and Abigail is taken by Nicolas Frost. Zombies, man-eaters and dragons are just some of the things she has to face. But the worst thing of all is herself, and who she really is.


↓Buy Links↓

Author Bio:

AoifeAoife Marie Sheridan has loved reading from a very young age, starting off with mills and boon books given to by her grandmother. Her love for romances grew, by the age of 14 she had read hundreds of them.

Aoife has a passion for writing poetry or in her eyes her journal entries. It was something she did throughout her teens and into her twenties. Aoife won first place for two of her poems and had them published at a young age of just nineteen.

Aoife's first book Eden Forest (Part one of the Saskia Trilogy) took first place with Writers Got Talent 2013. Aoife continues to write tales of fantasy and romance.

To find out more about Aoife Marie Sheridan you can visit her at:

Amazon Page:
Google Plus:
Mailing List:


Friday, 24 March 2017

Book Review: Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer

Today I am reviewing Darkstorm by M.L. Spencer, a fantasy novel about rapidly shifting allegiances, the end of magic and two mage brothers with turbulent pasts who try to save the world.

Darkstorm High Res Cover.jpgBlurb:
Faced with an imminent cataclysm that will destroy the magical heritage of their people, a conspiracy of darkmages resolves to open the gateway to Hell. The only mages who stand a chance of opposing them are Sephana Clemley and her acolyte, Merris Bryar, along with their protectors, Braden and Quin Reis: two brothers with a turbulent past and a caustic relationship.

Will Braden and Quin be able to protect Sephana and Merris long enough to prevent the unsealing of the Well of Tears? Or will they fall victim to manipulation and become darkmages themselves?


Initially I was confused by the prologue, it almost spoiled the book because I already knew part of what was going to happen. I always think a prologue should be set either a very long time ago or a very long way into the future.  I also struggled initially to get into the stride of Spencer's writing style - for me, it felt a little overwritten but then I am of the one word will do school of writing. Once I got used to the liberal sprinkling of adjectives I was able to get into the story and it is a highly readable book.

I loved the world building in this book although I can't help but compare any horse-based clan to the Rohirrim. The brothers were believable characters with enough shared backstory for the readers to feel compassion for them. When we initially meet Quin he is a bit of a disappointment then he shows his true nature and it starts to get exciting. I also liked the fact that most of the main characters don't get a happy ever after - that felt very satisfying. I can't say too much more - *spoilers*.

I had the most difficulty with Merris - to me she wasn't a believable character. She went from timid child to wanton hussy to power hungry mage. I think if we'd had a bit more backstory we might have been able to follow the personality changes better - she was a scared acolyte when she arrived in Bryn Calazar and within pages she was a brazen sex  monster - it just didn't track. Perhaps it was an indication of mental instability but I felt it needed a little more development.

Luckily that niggle didn't detract from the story arc and I was pleased to see a fresh take on the end of the magical world. The polarity reversal made sense as did the group of mages prepared to do anything to protect their magical power. As always with fantasy novels you need to keep all the different names of places and people in your head but there were times when I was asking - who is that again?

All in all, an enjoyable read and Sephana's actions at the end of the book make you wonder what will happen next in this world. 
3/5 *

↓Buy Links↓

Author Bio:
M.L. SPENCERM.L. Spencer grew up on the works of Steven R. Donaldson, Stephen King and Frank Herbert. She wrote her first novel-length manuscript at thirteen. Her debut novel Darkmage won the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Award for Fantasy. She was also awarded 1st Place Prose in in the San Bernardino County Writing Celebration.

Ms. Spencer lives in Southern California. By day she works as a biology teacher; by night she sweats over a beaten-up keyboard. She is now in the process of expanding the Rhenwars Saga into a trilogy.

Visit her at:

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Gaia Effect - Book Blog Tour

The Gaia Effect is going on tour! The lovely people at Ultimate Fantasy Books have put together a book blog tour for me.  There's going to be interviews, excerpts from the book, blog posts, spotlights and a few reviews of the book. You can join in by reading & sharing the posts and entering the prize draw for a free signed copy of The Gaia Effect.

Tour Dates

20th March

21st March

22nd March

23rd March

24th March

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with the blog tour - you're all fabulous. And for all you readers out there, don't forget to write a review!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

My Dystopia

I'm doing quite a lot of interviews at the moment about my novel, The Gaia Effect, which is brilliant but I was particularly taken by a piece I was asked to write about my dystopia for A.W. Cross's blog.  I thought I would share it here in case you missed it.

The Gaia Effect is set on Earth, two hundred years in the future, after a High Energy Radiation (HER) War has wiped out much of the human race and devastated the surface of the planet. Shortly after the war ended a company known as Corporation was instrumental in creating fifty safe cities across the world, each one protected by force fields from the toxicity beyond yet isolated from each other and left alone to survive. Toxic radiation had sterilised the remnants of the human race and so Corporation began to genetically engineer babies, assigned to couples at its discretion, maintaining as much genetic variation as possible. Technology rapidly advanced, finding new ways to keep people safe and firmly under Corporation control.
The Gaia Effect takes place in City 42 where Corporation is embedded within everyday life and yet there are institutions such as Force, which exists apart from Corporation and upholds the law, and Anti-Corp, who resist everything Corporation stands for. I felt it was important to have an organisation that stood apart from Corporation and could, if need be, prevent this powerful organisation from abusing its position. Of course, Corporation hides its secrets well and we learn that they have been lying to the public for quite some time. The original creators of the independent cities must have known that no one company could handle that much power and did have contingency plans in place which my characters access and implement.
City 42 has a social media vehicle known as the sweeps, a similar sort of platform to Twitter but more invasive and one that everyone uses to send their news across the city. The news sweeps system is a self contained technology, unhackable and not linked to the other cities. It is a bone of contention to Corporation and Anti-Corp that neither one of them can gain control over the system.  It is a fast-paced information service which Corporation try to flood with their own propaganda but are not always successful.
As far as the main populace of the city is aware, it is still toxic outside the city however Anti-Corp have found a way to bypass the forcefield and access the nearby beach, reporting no adverse effects. In the book, Kira & Jed Jenkins go to pick up their assigned baby and try to deal with not using the various invasive technology available whilst close female friends find out they have fallen pregnant naturally – a medical impossibility. We learn that Gaia, the spirit of the Earth is trying to bridge the gap between nature and man. Now that the planet has started to recover, she needs man & his ingenuity to continue to heal.
The book was in part inspired by my own struggles as a new mum to deal with all the conflicting advice given from various professionals when all I wanted to do was to hold my new baby close to me and I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a parent when everything could be done for you by technology. That idea grew into a society that was so dependent on their tech they had stopped going outside and I wondered what would they be missing? The image of Gaia herself was in part inspired by the artwork of Josephine Wall.
I wrote The Gaia Effect almost instinctively. The first chapter and a loose synopsis were written for a writing competition – the idea came from some short pieces I had written about sterile women becoming pregnant via elemental spirits. I was fortunate enough to make it through to the finalists round and then found out I had to submit an entire novel in six months time! I stuck to writing a minimum of 700 words a day, just sitting down and letting the words flow and my assigned mentor/editor was literally editing one chapter behind me. I had no writing plan and often no idea what was going to happen next. It took me four months to write the novel giving myself two months for editing.  After the competition deadline I left the book alone for about six months before picking it up again and making a third and then final draft before publication. I was incredibly proud to place second in the competition and have the opportunity to publish through New Generation Publishing, an opportunity I would never have had without the help of the competition.
Watch the trailer - read the reviews - add me to your Goodreads to-read list.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Competitive Writing

Now I'm not talking about lining up ten writers in front of ten desks and setting them a time limit to write a competition piece but then again....

Once you start looking there are a lot of competitions out there for writers. Short stories, flash fiction, novellas, novels, plays and scripts on every subject imaginable. The question is should you write competitively or should you try to fit your existing pieces to the competition?

Often I will see a competition that I think I might have a pre-written piece for only to find that the closing date was last week or that the required word count is either half what I have or double.  It's another huge mountain to try and climb but I think competitions can be a great motivator especially to write new things.

I recently entered a couple - one was nothing but dialogue and the other is for a radio play. Obviously I hope to win win win but actually what I'd really like is the opportunity to see how the other entrants prepared for the comps, what they wrote and most importantly the inner thought processes of the judges.

The judging feedback I got from Pen to Print was patchy at best - in fact it sounded like they had read a completely different piece of writing!  Not that I'm desperate for heaps of criticism but sometimes it is really useful to have a decent critique otherwise how will we ever improve?

Perhaps we should propose competitive writing for the next Olympics, see who steps up to the plate. Any takers?

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Whatever you do, write a review

Apart from buying the book in the first place - the absolute best thing you can do, for any aspiring writer, is to write a review of their book.  Obviously you need to read the book as well, hopefully that goes without saying but you would be surprised.

Now, lots of people are very happy to read my book, The Gaia Effect, which is fantastic however not everyone feels confident enough to write a review.  I know it feels like you might be back at school or that you worry about upsetting the author if you say you didn't like parts of the book but seriously we'd rather have your honest opinion then no opinion at all.

Amazon can be a huge tool.... and can be extremely useful to an indie author - IF they have reviews. Most people have bought something on Amazon these days.  To write a review you search for the product in question, scroll down a little and there is a little box that says Write a customer review. Easy.

But there are stars - how do I know how many stars to give??

Right - this is my theory.

  • 5 stars means it was the best thing you've ever read, you couldn't put it down, you were desperate to know what happened next, you really enjoyed it and you'd definitely read whatever the next book is by that author.
  • 4 stars means you enjoyed reading it but there were just one or two things that niggled at you. You could put it down but you also really wanted to know what happened and you would read the next one.
  • 3 stars means it was alright.  You finished it so it wasn't awful but you took your time so it wasn't great either.  Maybe there was a character you didn't like very much or you felt the author spent too long drumming a particular point home.  Basically there was a degree of disappointment.
  • 2 stars meant it was poorly written, plot holes, hard to understand, uninteresting, definitely wouldn't read anything else by that writer.
  • 1 star meant you couldn't finish it, it was that bad.
If you have your own star ranking system, please do share in the comments below.  I'd love to know how other people rank.

OK, so you've done the difficult bit, you've find the button, clicked write a customer review and chosen your star rating.  Now all you have to do is talk about what you liked, what you didn't like. That's all.  You might say I really liked the main character, I was rooting for her to get a happy ending. Or you might write I didn't understand the bit about the aliens, were they friendly or unfriendly?  It is just an opportunity to write what you did and didn't like.  Some people write paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs, others write a single sentence.  It doesn't matter.  The important thing is that you reviewed the book. Oh and, you don't have to regurgitate the plot, it's already there in the book listing.

If you went to a named supermarket and bought something from their new range of desserts and it was so delicious, you'd tell all your friends wouldn't you?  This is the same thing.  Indie authors can't grow beyond their circle of friends and family without reviews and even if you just write 'Loved it', you could find yourself honoured as a character in the next book.  We're very grateful.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Author Interview: Claire Buss by Richard Gibney

***Guest Blog Post - Ragtag giggagon***

Author of The Gaia Effect – available at Amazon – Claire Buss presents a world where the characters are protected by the “radiation beyond the wall” – and have all of their needs 
serviced, including reproduction – by an entity called “Corporation”. But when friends 
around the couple at the story’s core start to fall pregnant naturally, questions are raised
about what they are expected to believe.

It’s an intriguing title - The Gaia Effect? The Gaia principle goes that Earth is a naturally life-sustaining planet, that conditions always prevail to allow a return to a balanced ecosystem?

Yes that's right - the idea that eventually the planet will put itself back into balance. 
However in my book, the spirit of the Earth - Gaia - lends a hand.  The book is set 
200 years in the future, 150 years after the devastating radiation attacks but I can't 
tell you any more!

Aww. AWWWW. ARRRRGHHHH!!! C’mohhhhhn!
Are you agented, Claire? Did you go the self-publishing route?
I don't have an agent although I did go through the whole 
query letters and submission hoops with The Gaia Effect 
last year.  I got a lot of positive no thank-yous so I left it 
alone for a while then went back and had another editing 
pass.  I was fortunate in that the book was entered into a 
local competition and part of the prize was to have your 
book published with an Indie Publisher called 
New Generation.  I came second and so the competition 
organisers paid for the publishing.

Congrats on the contest. Wow! So you used a small indie house rather than wait around 
for the traditional publishers?
I felt that it was too good an opportunity to pass. None of the other finalists have 
had their book published yet. At least this way it's an indie author learning-curve 
for me and I can start building a back catalogue. It seems to me that agents like to 
see that you're semi-established already.  I will try the agent route again with my 
next novel - The Rose Thief.

What's The Rose Thief about?
The Rose Thief is a humorous fantasy novel. The Emperor, in his infinite wisdom, 
magically imbued his red rose with the power of love so when the Rose Thief stole 
it, he also stole love. It's up to Chief Thief Catcher Ned Spinks and his motley band 
of catchers to find out who the thief is and get the rose back before love dies forever.

Interesting stuff – sounds like the late great Sir Pratchett!
Yes, The Rose Thief is Pratchett-esque.  I have read almost everything he ever 
wrote and been a fan for nigh on twenty years.  I didn't set out to write a book in 
that genre, I just started writing and it has evolved from there.  I'm very happy 
about that. Perhaps you should sign up to my newsletter?? I'm giving away all my 
news here! 😀 This is my website - have a poke around.

I hate to break it to you but I am interviewing you for my blog! 😃 Would that be okay?
And is The Gaia Effect self-contained or is it a planned series, or is it just screaming out 
for a sequel, or what?
There is a sequel to The Gaia Effect but at the moment it lives in my head. 😃
The Gaia Effect is self-contained but there are questions and it could be sequeled 
and prequeled which is exciting.

Yes I see it on Amazon. Good work from the teaser! Great use of terminology. It's peppered
 with technology, but the story's central. What's funny is the "natural" childbirth is anything
 but in ways, right?
You found the first chapter then! Yeah I wanted to make the whole getting-a-baby 
scenario feel really really wrong in as many ways possible.

The Gaia Effect concept reminds me a bit of Wall-E, or The Island (with Ewan and Scarlett)? 
And do you consider it feasible in any sense, or is The Gaia Effect fantastical? Is it social 
critique, or laser beams and jetpacks? Hard or soft sci fi?
Not really WALL-E and sort of The Island but not clones.  It's definitely feasible and 
social critique - to be fair it's only sci fi because it's set 200 years in the future & has advanced technology. More a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel.

A streptococcal what? Stay back, everyone – Claire’s contagious! And what about advertising 
and promotion? Is finding success difficult in the glutted market?
I have been building my social media platform and learning about all the different tools available out there. I'm still trying to sort out some traditional marketing and getting 
ready for a couple of events and all of this is squeezed in around my 'day-job'! It's 
interesting to call the market glutted, I'm not saying it isn't but I still think good stories 
stand out. More people are reading, especially ebooks and reading more books was 
one of the top new year resolutions for 2017.  It's hard work but it's good fun and it’s 
always great to chat to someone about the book. You are the first person to comment 
on the scientific theory behind the book title - kudos.

[PUTS ON SPECTACLES.] Jim Lovelock’s Gaia Theory is an interesting example when it 
comes to the problem of induction in the scientific method. We cannot always leap from the 
specific to the general – if we take a soil sample from a forest and it’s irradiated, we may 
assume that the soil will be similar a few feet from where we took this sample. So scientists frequently make assumptions in leaping from the specific to the general – and the same 
can be applied loosely with the Gaia theory. Some calamity MIGHT wipe out most of the 
life on Planet Earth, and the Earth MIGHT restore itself to a balance in order for life to 
flourish again. But who’d be left to see it? Are your characters those people?
The Gaia Hypothesis is such an interesting scientific concept. I have met Lynn 
Margulis and heard her talk on the topic, she worked with Lovelock on the 
hypothesis.  It is a rather hopeful concept during these days of severe global
environmental change and I suppose the fact that I have a Bsc(Hons) Life Science 
degree might have influenced the use of some science in the book.  My characters 
are the remnants of the human race which has been sequestered in numbered cities throughout the world.  They don't have a mythology per se, all texts and information 
related to religion and deities are stored in Archive which is accessible to all 
inhabitants of City 42.

Some claim that world civilisations were quite advanced before the last Ice Age, and then 
we lost all our science and entered a Dark Age caused by a disaster such as massive 
tsunamis – which may well have been the cause of the floods, hence we have stories like 
Noah's Ark. Bearing this in mind, discuss flood myths in relation to your own book! Is there 
a similarity?
I hadn't heard that particular Noah's Ark theory but it certainly makes a lot of sense.  
I have heard the idea that we fell backwards into a Dark Age. Weren't the Mayans highly advanced?  Their civilisation seemed to stop abruptly for no apparent reason.  
Those myths are probably in Archive.

I notice Kira has brown eyes and Jed has gray eyes. You cite eye colour a little in the 
opening pages, and when it comes to selecting babies, you also use it alongside other traits 
like gender and personality. Is eye hue important? Plot-related? Something to do with 
genetics? Can we profile your characters based on their eye colour, and determine their 
behaviour? Or is it just description for the reader?
The use of eye colour is mostly description for the reader but also to highlight a 
couple of things – the fact that eye colour is a genetic marker for other health issues 
and that the eye colour of parents don't necessarily match the eye colour of the children assigned to them by Corporation.  This is because Corp try to maintain a certain 
level of genetic variety with eye, hair & skin colour regardless of parental match.

I like the punctuation of the storyline in The Gaia Effect with little ads and announcements 
about events – tell me about that.
The short announcements are called Sweeps.  Everyone has access to the News 
Sweeps and can sweep about anything and everything whenever they like.  It's very
 similar to Twitter except that absolutely everyone uses it and gets a daily digest 
depending on their own personal interests.  Corporation don't run the sweeps they 
just try to control them by flooding them with their own propaganda. 

The book trailer for The Gaia Effect:

Is there any religion in your novel? Is the Corporation a nanny-state entity, regarded as 
a deity? Orwell’s Big Brother with kid gloves, or even just Big Brother?
Corporation is in charge of everything, they picked up the pieces after the radiation

wars and continued to build their power base.  They are such an integrated part of
 everyone's life - it's impossible to do anything without them involved in some way.  
There are a few limiting factors however, the fact that Corporation don't run the 
sweeps and that a couple of entities like Force exist independently of Corporation 
and are not run by them.  But yes, Corporation does have a Big Brother sinister feel 
to it, I hope.

Claire Buss with the Mayor of Barking & Martina Cole who was the patron of the Pen to Print competition.

I see you’ve written a play too? If you have an idea, is there a point at which you think “This 
might be better as a play or movie script?” Do you always think in “novel-terms” first? In which 
other media/mediums do you write?
Playwriting is fairly new to me and I've adapted a short story into a play which worked 
well.  I think if you have a story to tell it can be used in different mediums easily.  Short stories are my nemesis and I'm hoping that the playwriting will help me get better at 
telling shorts. I certainly don't lack for ideas.

Who inspires you?
I am inspired by my favourite authors to read because of the whole “if they made it, 
maybe I can” aspect.  I am inspired by people who face adversity every day and still 
get up in the morning and do their best.  I am inspired by the friendly network of 
indie-authors out there and at the sheer vastness of books available to read.

Fave writers?
My favourite sci fi & fantasy writers off the top of my head are: Sir Terry Pratchett, 
Robin Hobb, John Scalzi, Sara Douglas, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Greg Bear, 
Pierce Brown, Brent Weeks, Becky Chambers, Joe Abercrombie, Justin Cronin, 
Jim Butcher, Jasper Fforde, Katherine Kerr, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson, 
Ben Aaronovitch, Robert Jordan, Iain M Banks, Orson Scott Card and probably 
fifty others that I can't think of right now!  I do read non sci fi and fantasy books as
well, recent favourites have been I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh and Big Brother 
by Lionel Shriver.

Claire Buss is on Twitter and Facebook. You can sign up for more news at her website.
The Gaia Effect is available from Amazon.