Sunday 29 July 2018

In Conversation - Claire Buss and Benjamin Hope

Join authors Claire Buss and Benjamin Hope as they discuss the writing processes behind their speculative fiction debut novels, dystopian sci-fi The Gaia Effect and Victorian gothic-steampunk The Procurement of Souls.

On Creating a Believable World:

BH: I wrote a blog a few months back about researching for alternate history novels where I discussed the need for the fictionalised world or premise to be rooted in truth so that the reader has something to hang their hat on as it were from which the imagined world can grow. I gave the example of the steampunk sub-genre which develops from the industrial revolution and the notion that the steam-powered technologies never died out. In The Procurement of Souls (PoS), I was keen to ensure that the late-Victorian setting was truthfully woven into the otherwise fantastical world in which the story takes place – as I mention in the blog, I tried to do this through the clothing; the architecture; the social norms of the time; some of the technology; and also through aspects of Victorian philosophy such as spiritual uncertainty, which I also hoped would also lend itself to 19th century gothic overtones. By contrast, it occurred to me that you had to fabricate all these aspects, which I drew on as my ‘root of truth’, for The Gaia Effect, and didn’t have a reality by which to refer to, being that it’s set in the future. I suppose you took today’s world as a frame of reference and then projected that into the future in order to pitch it in a way that gave the reader that all important element of truth or authenticity. I’m thinking about the social media technologies of City 42 such as The Sweeps, or the baby tech developed by the Corporation. Was this a conscious part of your writing process? How did you decide how far to stretch the technological advancement within The Gaia Effect?

CB: Yes Benjamin, creating the technological aspects of the book was a conscious decision throughout. I thought about how technology might move forwards in the next two hundred years and tried to extrapolate accordingly. I also considered how things might have been hampered by the apocalyptic event in the story. In The Gaia Effect, it's called The Event, a worldwide war using high-energy radiation weapons which destroyed much of the natural planet. I tried to make the tech believable and realistic but also recognisable to the reader as an extension of what they use and experience today.

What about the technology in The Procurement of Souls? There is an interesting blend of science and mysticism – did you do a lot of research into Victorian-era science or was it intuitive guesswork?

BH: Funny enough, Arthur Macabe asked a similar question in our discussion for his 23rd Interview from the Void. He was asking me about the mechanics of the soul extraction process that Dr Weimer carries out on his victims. This blend of science and mysticism, as you put it, around the concept of the soul and the bio-alchemy that Dr Weimer exploits and Magnus struggles with within the story really underpins the gothic quality that I was striving for. It enabled me to explore and develop some key Victorian gothic tropes and ideas within my imagined world. For example, the theme of spiritual and scientific change and uncertainty that is so prevalent in gothic literature is played out within Magnus’ private inner journey but also more explicitly in scenes such as that between Abbot Ignatius of St VIllicus’ monastery and Dr Weimer, who debate what the soul actually is and what this means for religion. In terms of research, yes, I looked at belief structures around at the time (including the alternative work by the occult author Éliphas Lévi Zahed, whose work I quote at the beginning of each of the three parts of the book) but it was of course largely then developed further through good old-fashioned imagination!

CB: And what about the social aspect of your alternate Victorian world? Was it intentional to have such a marked class divide?

BH: Again, if you look to a lot of Victorian literature the class divide is a prevalent feature; it’s hard to avoid, I think, in such a time in history. My intentions go back to my aim to situate the fantasy story within a context that has that all-important seed of truth. This meant trying my best to portray a realistic version of that world: of the rambling back alleys; bowing tenement buildings; brothels; and all the character types that might be found in such places in as true a light as I could – again, this involved a lot of research (The Victorian Underworld by Kellow Chesney is a brilliant source for those that are interested). And then similarly, with the upper echelons, I did my homework to understand ranks at the time and the lifestyle for those of means. As such, I think the class divide within the book is a product of the time I was seeking to describe, albeit an alternative version.

On Language:

BH:  Language was also an important element for me in my efforts to create a believable alternate history. I ended up doing quite a lot of research into the etymology of specific words when I was unsure as to how appropriate their usage was. For example, I decided to omit the word okay as, although there is some disagreement about its heritage, it appears to hail from America in the mid-1800s and didn’t necessarily make it into common English parlance until quite some time later; I felt that it was too 20th century for use in my 19th century world. In The Gaia Effect, I thought that you were really successful in weaving aspects from your future world into the characters’ everyday dialogue; you use the verb to sweep in a social media context, much like ‘Tweeting’ and ‘Facetiming’ today and frag, presumably as an expletive. Where did that idea come from? Was character time-specific word-choice a conscious process for you when writing dialogue?

CB: I really wanted to have a pervasive social media aspect in my book. I think it's highly likely that current platforms will get much more invasive as technology improves and I also think that each generation will become more and more accepting of that level of intrusiveness. It made sense to use the Sweeps throughout the book - to refer to checking them, making them and talking about sweeping things out. After all, we already talk about the hashtag in everyday conversation, '#justsaying.' 

I write very organically; I don't have a set plan of what will happen and I tend to let my characters do the talking so I never consciously think 'oh, they must use this word'. Obviously once the way the characters interacted with the sweeps was established I had to make sure that rolled out throughout the book. I often find when I'm writing that I end up doing a lot of back weaving when I finish the first draft as I'm trying to edit the plot holes!

On Developing the Sequels:

BH: With PoS having come out this July, I have already begun on its sequel, A New Religion. It’s funny, as I never consciously set out to write it as a serial (although I also now have a prequel in mind!); rather, I had an overall story arc to PoS which developed as I wrote. It was simply that when I came to the end of that arc – and it felt the right place to finish the first book where I have – so much had developed in my inner narrative that I felt that I had to keep going. I think, for me, I had also invested so much in this world I had developed that I also wanted to see where characters would take themselves next. I’m enjoying bringing in other characters from the protagonists’ pasts too and introducing those who were mentioned in PoS but never actually interacted with the narrative. I don’t want to say too much more about A New Religion at this stage, but I decided to include the prologue at the end of PoS as a sneak preview! I know you've finished the first draft of the sequel to The Gaia Effect and that you’re currently busy editing. Was the development of this sequel a similar experience for you, given that to begin with you didn’t even set out to write a full manuscript?!

CB: The Gaia Effect was the result of a one-chapter competition entry. The entry requirements were for a first chapter which I duly wrote and sent in. I did not realise that if you were fortunate enough to make it through to the next round you had to submit the rest of the book so The Gaia Effect was written and edited in about three months. When I got to the end I had an idea about continuing the story but it wasn't anything clearly defined. I went away, worked on some other projects and have now come back to book two - The Gaia Project. The bulk of the sequel has been written apart from the end section which is still in development but I am working through my editing pass at the moment. I hope to have it ready for beta readers by the end of July because, with two small children, I doubt very much that I will be able to get a great deal of work done through the summer holidays.

On Gender:
CB: One of the things I really enjoyed about coming back to the world of The Gaia Effect was revisiting my characters and weirdly finding their voices again without a problem. It's very comforting to be writing for them again because of course, I know them so well. It's been commented by readers of The Gaia Effect that I write from my male character POV in a natural and believable way and I do find it very easy to write Jed's story. One of your main characters is Clementine, the plucky young heroine - did you find it easy to write from a girl’s point of view? Do you think the fact that she was a daughter and not a son made any difference to your plot?

BH: This is an interesting one. I think for any character to work, the reader has to sympathise or empathise with them at some point in their journey at least - even for the anti-heroes (granted, this is somewhat difficult with Dr Weimer who is sociopathic!). Thinking in these terms, then the writer also has to do the same. To a greater extent, in fact: to write from a character’s perspective we need to inhabit their minds and view the world through their eyes. My strategy when writing from Clementine’s POV was to do just this: yes, she’s a young woman of 17 but she has strong motivations and an unshakable sense of justice which comes with being the age she is. I tried tapping into these motivations and her particular stance partly by engendering these feelings from when I was this age but mainly from my imagination. And aside from anything else, the thing that facilitates writing from any character’s perspective, be they male, female, or somewhere in-between, is the fact that as their creator, you know them intimately. So, no, I didn’t find it any trickier writing as Clementine, than any other character. I think you have to believe in the courage of your convictions and know that you are writing their truth.

The second part of the question, relating to her influence on the plot as a daughter rather than a son, this absolutely made a difference and it was a conscious choice to go with this dynamic. Magnus and Clementine’s relationship is steered a great deal by the past trauma in their lives of the death of her mother, Anna. This has a huge impact on both of them, in terms of their interactions, their motivations, and their inner thoughts and feelings: Clementine is partly driven by the need to fill her mother’s shoes and complete her legacy; Magnus’ own journey is shaped by the mother/daughter parallels he recognises in Clementine and emotional changes he must face in accepting this. Magnus’ child had to be a daughter for the plot threads to work. It would be a different story had they both been male!

About the Authors:

Claire Buss is a science fiction, fantasy & contemporary writer and poet based in the UK. She wanted to be Lois Lane when she grew up but work experience at her local paper was eye-opening. Instead, Claire went on to work in a variety of admin roles for over a decade but never felt quite at home. An avid reader, baker and Pinterest addict Claire won second place in the Barking and Dagenham Pen to Print writing competition in 2015 with her debut novel, The Gaia Effect, setting her writing career in motion. She has since released five books, has plans for many more and is hopelessly addicted to cake. You can find Claire at or follow her on Twitter @grasshopper2407.

Benjamin Hope is the debut author of The Procurement of Souls. He blogs regularly on the writing process and offers up recommendations in 60 words for novels within speculative and gothic fiction. He also occasionally guest lectures at universities on public speaking. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and daughter. Find him at or follow him on twitter @BenjamHope.

Friday 27 July 2018

Flash Fiction Friday - Real Estate

'This is the moon of Altoraki. Available for immediate settlement with pods already in place plus a healthy hydroponics set up.' The realtor adjusted his spectacles with one tentacle and folded two of them in front of him, the fourth one curling and uncurling on the table.

Menarsh eyed him with distrust. 'How much?'

'A mere 800,000 credits and the moon is yours.'

Menarsh could feel his wife's excitement as her antennae vibrated wildly. He tried to sound as nonchalant as possible.

'Why such a low price? What's wrong with it?'

The tentacles all spasmed briefly as the realtor cleared his mucus. 'There's nothing wrong with the moon, per se. It's just been marked for demolition.'

'When?' asked Menarsh.

'Oh, in about... seventeen thousand rotations.' The realtor swallowed nervously or at least his body convulsed and Menarsh assumed he was swallowing.

'A moment, please,' said Menarsh and he entwined antennae with his wife.

'OMG we can totally afford this moon! We should totally get it, don't you think? It would be just perfect and it's so within our budget. It's like the stars aligned for us Menny, the stars aligned! Can we buy it? Can we? Can we?'

He smiled indulgently and turned back to the realtor.

'We'll take it.'

The tentacles danced for joy. 'Oh that is wonderful news,' gushed the realtor as he readied the paperwork, the pen, the payment system and had a spare tentacle to shake Menarsh's mandible.


'We are really going to have to do something about this infestation, Doc,' complained Altokari Moon Base Commander, Rex Edwards.

'Oh they're harmless space bugs, Rex. Tiny lifespan of just a few rotations. We should take it as a good sign for the successful colonisation of Altokari. Now, what we really need to talk about is the growth rates in hydroponics chamber four,' said the bases' Doctor as they walked down the corridor.

Claire Buss is a multi-genre writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Wednesday 25 July 2018

A Slice of Cake With... Jeanette O'Hagan

This week I am delighted to be having a slice of cake with fellow indie author Jeanette O'Hagan

Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in Tied in Pink romance anthology, Another Time Another Place, Poetica Christi’s Inner Child, FAWQ’s Brio anthology, Let the Sea Roar, Glimpses of Light and Like a Girl Plan anthology.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She has lived in Australia and Africa. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love and is actively involved in a caring Christian community. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

What kind of books do you write?

I write thrilling tales of young (and not so young) people (often human) facing and overcoming struggles in fantastical worlds which are both intriguingly unlike and profoundly like our own.

Can you describe your writing why?

I began entertaining myself stories around the age of nine and these imaginative daydreams grew into a world full of characters, families, history, genealogies, maps, stories. I love the exhilaration of conjuring up the world and feel compelled to share that with others. 

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most.

Hard to pick a favourite, I enjoyed writing all my books. But I am fond of the opening paragraph in Heart of the Mountain.

An updraught caught Zadeki and flung him about like a spinning leaf. Clouds of snow blasted into his face, ruffling his feathers and blinding him. Another gust hit him side on, pushing him off balance. It had been a foolish decision to fly over the mountains. The clear blue sky of the early afternoon was a fading memory as he was caught up in a world of swirling snow and ice. If only he could find shelter, but even with his eagle-sharp eyes, he could see no more than a white fuzzy blur in every direction. Gathering his trembling muscles and spreading out his flight feathers, he fought against the might of the wind. 

As the whiteout lessened for a few moments, a sharp angular peak loomed in front of him. His heart racing, he tilted his wings in a desperate attempt to turn. His flight pinions clipped a ledge. He lurched. His right side slammed into the icy rock, sending him spiralling down, ricocheting off the sheer cliff face. Pain screamed through him as fragile wing bones snapped. All control of his descent vanished. So much for showing the Kinleader he was old enough to be a pathfinder. His thoughts frayed and darkness took him.

Tell us about your latest project.

My most recent publication is Ruhanna’s Flight and other stories. It’s a collection of many of my short stories and one novella (Heart of the Mountain is included) mostly set in my fantasy world — Nardva — and has many of my favourite stories, including Ruhanna’s Flight, and some sci-fi as well. And I had a lot of fun writing a story for the collection — Before the Wind.  A fantastic way to dip into a fantastic world with engaging characters. 

I’m also working on sequels to my novella series and to Akrad’s Children.

What is your favourite cake?

I’d say pavlova, but that’s not a cake, so probably Black Forest cake which combines two of my favourite foods, cherries and chocolate.

I reckon we can count pavlova as cake Jeanette! And for those of you who like a baking challenge, here is a recipe for Strawberry Pavlova.

You can keep in touch with Jeanette across social media:

Like her on Facebook @JeanetteOHaganAuthorAndSpeaker
Follow her on Twitter @JeanetteOHagan
Connect on GoodReads 
Follow her on Instagram @bythelightof2moons
Check out all her books on Amazon
And visit her website: Jeanette O'Hagan Writes 

Sign up to Jeanette O’Hagan Writes newsletter too!

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with indie author Johanna Aldridge, grilling them gently about their writing life and of course sharing their favourite cake.

If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please fill in the form found here. I'd be delighted to have you.

Sunday 22 July 2018

So it begins...

The summer holidays have officially begun, here in the UK. And they started with a bang in the Buss household because a certain small person had his 5th birthday so we've had having your birthday at school, very exciting - end of year school party - playdate round a friends house - birthday party at soft play AND a day at the fun fair. I don't know about you but I'm already knackered and there are another six weeks to go!

So how can a writer survive the school holidays? By being realistic and by being prepared. Allow me to explain.

Be Realistic

If you've been able to spend a couple of hours a day working on your latest WIP while your children have been at school, do not make the tragic mistake of thinking that if you put a DVD on or plonk them in front of an iPad they will let you work in peace. They won't. It'll be the noise of the DVD/YouTube, the constant chattering, the constant request for juice, snack, I'm bored, I need the toilet, what can I do now, I'm hungry, can we go outside etc etc etc.

If you have older children you might be able to get away with a bit more but with a 7-month-old and a 5-year-old, I can get away with nothing. I can't even get away with eating that sneaky chocolate bar in the toilet anymore *sigh*

So instead of several hours of work, be grateful if you manage five minutes here and there. Heaven forbid you're working to any kind of deadline (me), trying to finish writing a sequel (me), trying to get your WIP to beta readers (me) and trying to keep the social media machine running (also me). 

Be Prepared

If your children are early birds and want to get up at 5am, roll with it. Get out that red pen and do a bit of editing while they watch Peppa Pig for the umpteenth time. As long as you can put a few Weetabix in a bowl and supply milk, you're good for at least three hours. But always be ready to drop everything to play when asked. These years are precious and you'll never have the same day again.

Have your current WIP within reach at all times, you never know when inspiration will strike but you also never know when you might get a small window to do some work. Yes, writers have to be selfish when they're honing their craft but at the same time as a parent, you don't want to miss out of anything. Plus you want your children to have a great holiday.

Quash those dreams of balmy summer evenings with a glass of something cold. It's more than likely going to be a case of extremely tired parentalisis with yourself curled up in the fetal position, desperate for a good nights sleep. You will instead be working from the moment the children go to bed to the moment you can no longer keep your eyes open.

Basically, the summer holidays is no break for you. You are the entertainment, the holiday rep, the chef, the waiter, the cleaner, the bank, the taxi and the handyman. Same as usual really but with extra heat and less downtime thanks to no school, Monday-Friday, 8.40am-3.20pm.

One good thing is all the other mums are facing the exact same fate and are looking for get-togethers where we can share the load. I wonder whether they'd mind if I brought my laptop with me to carry on editing? 

Claire Buss is a multi-genre writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Friday 20 July 2018

Flash Fiction Friday - The Complication of Heroism

Last Monday I was a hero for pulling a woman out of a burning building after knocking down a couple of walls with my bare hands to get to her.

Last Tuesday I got a court summons for criminal damage and a massive invoice for repair works. I was sued for physical and emotional distress by the woman whose life I saved. I lost my job after being late a few times and missing Monday's staff meeting.

Last Wednesday I defaulted on my mortgage for the first time ever, the cat threw up on my interview suit and my wife left me because I can't be depended upon.

Last Thursday armed police arrived to escort me to a holding cell where I was to await judgement on whether I was a danger to the public, thankfully I got bail. When I got home I discovered my bank accounts were frozen and all my friends had turned off their phones.

Last Friday I was fitted with an ankle monitor and put under house arrest. I had to ignore frantic screaming for someone to come and rescue a little boy who'd been exploring a construction site, fallen and caught his leg under several heavy timbers.

Last Saturday I was crucified in the media for not saving the little boy and my house was attacked with Molotov cocktails that night.

Last Sunday morning I was pronounced dead at the scene, once the firefighters had managed to get the blaze under control and find my remains.

Claire Buss is a multi-genre writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

New Book - Tales from the Seaside


Tales from the Seaside is a humorous collection of short stories reflecting on life by the seaside, attempts to successfully wrangle two small children and the result of being inspired by the sun, the sand and the sea. The perfect beach read, it will have you chuckling in your deckchair.

This collection of sixteen tales has been inspired by our new life here at the seaside, all that fresh air and seaside strolls has certainly refreshed my imagination so I hope you enjoy reading these short stories throughout your summer.

The book is laid out in three sections - Life at the Beach, Kid Wrangling and Inspired by Sun, Sea & Sand. You can watch the book trailer here:

Life at the Beach
Find out where Sandra and Derek (from Tales from Suburbia) are going on holiday this year, read about Maud's road to recovery and learn more about the WK101 Writing With Kids Summer School.

Kid Wrangling
Enjoy the hilarious racing commentary from The School Run, join in with the Buggy Brigade chant and commiserate with the mum who has No Time.

Inspired by Sun, Sea & Sand
Read some eclectic tales including the Prime Minister discussing Green Man Correctness, two unlikely heroes teaming up in They Fight Crime and a serious message for visiting your local beach in Pick Up Your Plastic.

If you enjoyed reading Tales from Suburbia, you'll love this new addition to your bookshelf, it'll have you giggling in your deckchair. 

Claire Buss is a multi-genre writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

A Slice of Cake With... Lawrence Harding

This week I am delighted to be having a slice of cake with fellow indie author Lawrence Harding.

Lawrence Harding is the literary alter-ego of a PhD Medievalist at the University of Cambridge. He enjoys reading, writing and discussing all manner of fiction but his chief loves are fantasy, science fiction, ghost and other speculative genres. 

His days are taken up with reading about and discussing the weird and wonderful lives of medieval saints so his writing could be considered something of a busman’s holiday! 

Lawrence appreciates the literary style, but is also a great lover of cheese and cliche, when done well.

What kind of books do you write?

Welp. How to do this without sounding utterly pretentious? I write about otherwheres and otherwhens, where the familiar is bent just a little in interesting ways. I like to write stories where the journey is not so much physical as internal, where both the characters and the readers learn something about themselves.

Can you describe your writing why?

To entertain, mostly. Entertain myself, my beta-readers, my friends, anyone who chances to pick up something I’ve written. And it helps me explore things that are important to me and those around me. A lot of my more recent writing has involved gender and mental health among other themes. If I can open minds to other ways of being then that’s a bonus. 

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most.

Before him stretched an enormous expanse of smooth water. It was far greater than any pool he had seen before. Beside the craggy rock of the land, it was the only thing in sight that was not utterly alien to him. He reached out to touch the comforting firmness of the rock, but drew his hand away in shock as he felt weird, prickly fur growing there. Tall fronds waved at him, caught in a cool draught as the air raced around him as if in joy. It was like the breath of some great, benevolent beast; along with the strange hair-like growths, he found it all too easy to believe that he walked on the skin of some great creature, no more than a tick skulking on its flesh.

Something flew past him through the air, soaring with beats of its strange, flat arms as if it were swimming. It landed on one of the many great branching pillars that grew out of the earth, among the eruptions of dark green that grew from the pillars like a head of hair. His eyes rested on the great growths as they rustled in the draught that stirred the air. Then his gaze drifted upwards, and he gasped.
(The Beasts Above, Tales from the Underground)

I really enjoyed this part because I had to try and imagine how the surface would appear to eyes that have only ever been underground and have no conception of things we take for granted like wood, birds, wind and so on.

Tell us about your latest project.

I don’t have anything specific in the works at the moment, but I do have two new stories out. The first is “In the Asps’ Nest”, a tale of smoky assassins-guild intrigue, in Guilds and Glaives (Zombies Need Brains). That was one I had a lot of fun writing. The other is “Hounded” in Hidden Menagerie vol. 2 (Dragon’s Roost Press), which is a cryptozoology anthology. I opted to write about the dobhar-chú, a legendary Irish killer otter. I would definitely recommend both books!

What is your favourite cake?

Truly, a fiendish question. Though if pushed, probably chocolate.

Thanks Lawrence! That's a great cake choice - lots of scope for the bakers amongst us. I'm thinking there may be some brownies in my future - click here for a recipe.

You can keep in touch with Lawrence on Twitter @lhardingwrites.

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with indie author Jeanette O'Hagan, grilling them gently about their writing life and of course sharing their favourite cake.

If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please fill in the form found here. I'd be delighted to have you.

Claire Buss is a sci-fi, fantasy & humorous writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Tuesday Poem - Carried You Far

I've carried you far
Travelled many miles
It's been hard work
No time for smiles

I trudge on and on and on
Never a moments rest
One in front of the other
I try to do my best

You've been a heavy load
Though sometimes its been lighter
I've run and danced
Even been a bit of a fighter

I'm curled and bent
Hardened and cracked
If you looked a bit closer
I'd surely be sacked

Take a moment, please
A little love and attention
If you do it now
It'll act as prevention

You'd struggle without me
I may not look sweet
But how would you manage
Without your poor feet?

Sunday 15 July 2018

5 Years Old

This week my little boy turns five. 

I cannot remember exactly what life was like before I had children. I used to work a 9-5 in the city. I used to commute every day. I used to be thinner. I used to have a cinema card and go to the movies a couple of times a week.

But I also never wrote anything.

Sometimes it's difficult to remember who I am besides a mummy, wife, homemaker and writer. But then I consider perhaps this is all I am and that's ok. 

I can still love movies and be a mum. I can still have friends, go out and socialise (very occasionally) and be a wife. I can still drink tea with a good book and keep on top of the housework. And I can still write. I can't eat cake and lose weight though - that one I'm still working on.

After five years of motherhood, I still feel that 97% of the time I don't have the faintest idea what I am doing. If I allow the crippling feelings of doubt to overrun me I begin to panic. Am I doing the right things? Is he happy? Is he healthy? Could I be doing more? Am I being a bad mum?

Much the same thoughts that run through a writers head. However, even after the crippling self-doubt and anxiety, I publish a new book. Readers read and enjoy the stories and so I start to feel a little more confident. Maybe I do have an inkling of what I am meant to be doing.

My little boy is five years old. In the most simplistic of terms, I have kept another human being alive for 157,680,000 seconds. Every day he astonishes me with something new and every day I love him just a little bit more.

So I might not have the sharpest wardrobe. I might be so broke that buying chocolate digestives is splashing out. And I might not have had a face-to-face adult conversation for several weeks. But I do have a funny, handsome, exasperating and loving child and I wouldn't change that for the world.

Claire Buss is a sci-fi, fantasy & humorous writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Wednesday 11 July 2018

A Slice of Cake With... Jaleta Clegg

This week I am delighted to be having a slice of cake with fellow indie author Jaleta Clegg.

Jaleta Clegg was born some time ago. She's filled the years since with many diverse activities, such as costuming, quilting, cooking, video games, reading, and writing. She's been a fan of classic sci-fi books and campy movies since she can remember. Her collection of bad sci-fi movies is only rivalled by her collection of eclectic CD's (break out the disco accordion polka folk music, please!).

She loves teaching kids of all ages about stars, constellations, nuclear fusion, space travel, mythology, writing, and rocks. She volunteers with the Boy Scouts of America among other groups. She was even on her local library board for a while. She believes in teaching people to think for themselves and to be self-sufficient. It's self-serving, though. Kids who know how to do housework, laundry, and cooking.

What kind of books do you write?

I write the kinds of books I like to read - lots of action, fast-paced, just a touch of romance and whimsy, with plenty of futuristic gadgets and of course, spaceships. The characters have to be people I like, too. Sometimes I write magic and elves and airships and steampunk powered by magic because I thought it would be fun. And it was. So to put it simply, I write science fiction adventure and magical steampunk with elves and fairies and creatures from legend.

And then there are my short stories. Anything that I want to explore, at least a little, I write into a short story. Weird is almost too normal for most of them. Strange, unsettling, creepy, but still light and silly. A monster made out of green jello isn’t too exotic. Evil little girls who dress like Shirley Temple and dream of conquering the world aren’t either. But it isn’t all dark. I also write about llama barbershop quartets and space battles and evil wizards who won and now are bored.

I dabble in a lot of things. I’m easily bored.

Can you describe your writing why?

The simple answer is that it amuses me. The more complex answer is that I use it for therapy. I write about the things that bother me, the monsters that lurk under my bed and in my subconscious. I write to escape. I write because it forces me to confront emotions that I’d rather keep buried.
I write because it makes me feel alive.

I publish because then I can share my stories and it lets me connect with cool people and make all kinds of new friends.

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most.

That’s a really tough one. I’ve written so many things and they are like my children (who are also many). Each one is my favourite for different reasons. I like this one, even if it’s a little longer than just a paragraph. It’s from a short story, Destiny Date at the Diner. Shirlene is about to meet her destiny, which involves a were-lemming of Viking heritage.

Shirlene thought she’d seen it all. She’d waitressed at the Grizzly Bar for almost ten years. Drunks, cowboys, city dudes, hookers, cops, families—Yep, she’d seen them all. Nothing would surprise her anymore.
She snapped her gum, bored almost to tears as she manned the register. Hank insisted on having someone at the register no matter how slow the restaurant and bar. She picked at a hangnail. Her manicure was showing signs of wear. Time for a new coat of polish. Maybe orange this time, or that new lavender Lois was raving about down at the beauty parlour.
“’Scuse me, miss?”
She looked up through her long fake eyelashes. The man’s deep voice could have belonged to one of those overly handsome romance cover types. The reality was only a little disappointing. He was tall and his wide shoulders promised muscles, but the flannel shirt made it hard to tell. He was too hairy, though. Big bush of a beard, eyebrows that could qualify as epic moustaches if they were located lower, and another full bush up top. Were those braids behind his ear? And whoever did the colouring dye job had really messed up. The beard was red and white but the hair up top was black.
“Yeah?” She snapped her gum again.
The man set his ticket on the counter. “There seems to be a mistake here.” He had buck teeth, not bad, but enough to notice. Enough to bump him off Shirlene’s radar.
Shirlene clicked one pink and white nail on the ticket. “What’s the problem?”
“I ordered a salad, not the chicken platter.”
Salad? What kind of weenie was this buff dude in the plaid shirt?

Tell us about your latest project.

I recently released a collection of short stories featuring non-human characters. Llama Tell You a Story… is sometimes sweet, sometimes frightening, sometimes sad. But the llama barbershop quartet story I wrote didn’t make it into the collection because it was picked up for an anthology, What the Fox? Look for it in volume 2 of Llama Tell You a Story…, which will probably come out next year sometime.

What is your favourite cake?

Hmm, cake isn’t my favourite dessert, but then I’m pretty egalitarian when it comes to sugary confections. I love cakes with fillings and chocolate curls and pudding in the middle. Looks aren’t nearly as important as taste. So I’d have to choose a multi-layer cake with different fillings and flavours, frosted with a nice chocolate buttercream, and garnished with fresh berries and chocolate shavings.

Darn it! Now I have the urge to go make myself one of those cakes.

Thanks Jaleta! I can see I'm going to have fun trying to find a recipe to match your description.

You can keep in touch with Jaleta via her website and on Facebook via her author page and her personal page

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with indie author Lawrence Harding, grilling them gently about their writing life and of course sharing their favourite cake.

If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please fill in the form found here. I'd be delighted to have you.

Claire Buss is a sci-fi, fantasy & humorous writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Tuesday 10 July 2018

Poetry Tuesday - Back Pain

On a Monday no less
I have to confess
I wasn't up to anything new

When I left for the school run
Although it's never much fun
Everything was normal

But as I bumped down the step
I didn't see any obvious threat
To my back

There was a sudden internal crash
An immediate debilitating flash
Of crippling pain

I rang for some help
As every step made me yelp
But it was to no avail

I had to take the boy to school
It's one of the rules
He gave me a hug

Getting home I was crippled
The pain totally rippled
I collapsed at the top of the stair

My back is in spasm
The pain a black chasm
But with some rest it will mend

I can't stand up straight
So I'll just have to wait
And hope it doesn't take long

Sunday 8 July 2018

Changing Lanes

I've decided to stop posting work on Wattpad. It's a great site and a brilliant opportunity to post work, especially serial chapters. It's very popular with fans of YA and those who read on mobile phones but I realised that I can just as easily post my work here on my blog.

It was almost like a lightning bolt because really, why wouldn't I post my work on my blog? I want people to read my work and I want them to read it in a place that's connected with everything else I do. 

So from this week, as well as my usual Sunday Ramble and A Slice of Cake With... interview on Wednesdays, I'll have Poetry Tuesday (yes, I write poems) and Flash Fiction Friday. I'm excited. I have no idea how I'm going to manage the backlog but as soon as I've figured it out, you'll know.

Being an indie author is a huge learning curve. Sometimes it seems like I'm learning a new thing every day so I'm trying to accept that as a good thing rather than thinking 'oh god, why haven't I been doing that already!' 

I'm always striving to do my best - I want to show the world that I'm serious about being a writer. But it's tough, you know. Writing is a solitary endeavour and you need lots of self-determination and willpower to get through the bad days when the words won't come. A sense of calm acceptance for the days when everything else in your life conspires against you and you don't get anything done. The feeling you get when you publish your book wipes out all those negative worries and doubts. And then you get to write another! 

Finding out what you want to do in life is so important - you've got to love your work.

Claire Buss is a sci-fi, fantasy & humorous writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Wednesday 4 July 2018

A Slice of Cake With... B. K. Bass

This week I am delighted to be having a slice of cake with fellow indie author B.K. Bass.

B.K. Bass writes at his studio in Tennessee. He enjoys crafting science fiction, fantasy, and gothic horror. B.K. has long been an avid reader, film buff, and all-around geek.

He recently wrapped up the first wave of The Ravencrest Chronicles, a series of nautical-themed novellas and short fiction in the dark fantasy genres.

B.K. is starting work on the Tales of Durgan Stoutheart, a series of pulp-fiction-inspired novellas. These stories will be in the style of the old pulp heroic fantasy tales, but with dwarves!

He is also working on a science fiction novel called What Once Was Home, a very serious take on the themes of loss and maintaining one’s moral compass in the face of impossible decisions.

There’s some epic fantasy brewing in the background, too, but that takes time!

What kind of books do you write?

I write medieval adventure tales set in fictional worlds with exotic locations, characters, and creatures. I also write stories that take place in the future and examine how life may be changed by future technologies and events. Finally, I am delving into alternative historical dramas and adventures using anachronistic levels of technology.

Can you describe your writing why?

I have been a lover of storytelling for my entire life. Be the medium books, theatre, movies, television, or gaming; the story has always fascinated me. My imagination has always run wild with my own stories, and writing is my way of sharing them with the world.

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most.

Inside, he could hear the sounds of frivolity fueled with plenty of drink. There was a loud crash of splintering wood and a curse, and he could hear shouting from within. He stood beside the door, counting aloud, “One, two, and three.” On three, the door swung open and a skinny sailor was tossed out into the rain-soaked street, blood from his nose mixing with the running water in a swirling red cloud.

“Evening, Fergus,” Gareth said.

Tell us about your latest project.

Warriors of Understone is a heroic fantasy set in a medieval fantasy setting. The focus is on a society of dwarves, who take the spotlight instead of being secondary characters. Durgan was born the son of a stonecutter in a rigid caste-based society. He wishes to become a warrior, but he finds that he must also become an advocate for social change to do so. Meanwhile, he must overcome his rivalry with his cousin and try to win the respect of the thane’s daughter.

This is planned to be the first in a series, and the second book is already in the planning stages. This will be Companions of the Stone Road and will continue the adventures of Durgan along with a colourful cast of compatriots.

What is your favourite cake?

New York style cheesecake, preferably with cherry topping.

For the baking inclined reader, here is a recipe for a New York Cheesecake from Good Food. Topping of your choice! 

You can keep in touch with B.K across social media:

Facebook: @bkbassauthor
Twitter: @B_K_Bass
Wattpad: BKBass
Instagram: @bkbass_author

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with indie author Jaleta Clegg, grilling them gently about their writing life and of course sharing their favourite cake.

If you would like to take part in A Slice of Cake With... please fill in the form found here. I'd be delighted to have you.

Claire Buss is a sci-fi, fantasy & humorous writer and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.