Wednesday 27 January 2021

A Slice of Cake With... M T McGuire

This week I am having a slice of cake with author M T McGuire.

M T McGuire enjoys the real world but wouldn't want to live there full time. That's why she writes books. She grew up, or at least got bigger, halfway up a windy down in Sussex. Her home was also the first location choice for Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, so maybe it's not so strange that she's ended up writing spec-fic. Perhaps there's something in the water up there, apart from chalk.

After a short stint as a stand-up comedienne, M T sat down, got married and moved to East Anglia. She now lives in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, with a McOther, a McMini, a McCat and a selection of very silly cars. She hasn't found a way to make any of the cars fly, and none of them is fitted with ordnance, but she and her team of evil scientists are working on that.

M T would like to be able to tell you she's an NY Times best selling author but that would be lying. Some of her books have won Wishing Shelf Awards though, a bronze and a silver.

Despite being over fifty now and supposedly an adult, M T checks all unfamiliar wardrobes for a gateway to Narnia. She hasn't found one so far but lives in hope.

What kind of stories do you write?

Well, mostly I aim for funny. But to answer this question more comprehensively I cheated and looked up my reviews on Amazon to find out which authors the punters compared me to. The answer: Pratchett, Adams, Fforde, Rowling and the Stainless Steel Rat series. Well, that’s no help. Extremely flattering: yes, but helpful? No, not really.

Where next then? Ah yes, influences. If people know what goes in to make my weird writing come out that might help. MTM rubs hands together. Right; off we go then. A lot comes from the kinds of books I read as a kid. My parents read the Narnia books to us, so for me, all books should be set in a parallel reality if they’re going to be really interesting. Ideally, they should also contain, at the least, a talking cat. I also love it when there’s some kind of secret also-world coexisting with this one. 

Other influences include – try not to laugh – historical novels. Yep, stuff like The Scarlet Pimpernel books, The Children of the New Forest and The Adventures of Robin Hood which my parents also read to me, or Moonfleet, and The Three Musketeers, of course. Because big hats, frilly shirts, thigh boots and sword fights! What’s not to like? I also read a lot of weird Victoriana like the Five Children and It. I grew up in a house full of books and some of them had been in the family for, literally, hundreds of years. I got bored, and there was no internet back then, so I read them all, even if they were first published in the 1800s, Stanley Weyman anyone? So I have this odd old-fashioned prose style with smatterings of modern slang. 

The way the bad guys in my KBarthan books talk owes more than a nod to the plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan – although no-one actually says ‘Zounds!’ Not yet, anyway, although it’s probably only a matter of time. And then you throw in 1960s cult TV on the BBC; stuff like The Prisoner, The Persuaders, The Avengers, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) the original Star Trek, Dr Who, James Bond, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Add a dash of Red Dwarf, any comedy sketch shows the BBC has taken a chance on since about 1968, a full-on embracing of Punk plus a love of The Beatles and psychedelic 1960s music (minus the drugs because trust me, I really, really don’t need to expand my mind) and you get ... um ... K’Barth, or the Huurg Quadrant, or the other worlds I’m building which aren’t published yet – U Station and its surrounding space. So for example, in K’Barth there’s a sword fight but they also have laser pistols and drive flying cars, while in my non-K’Barthan stand alone, we have slime-covered lobster-shaped aliens who breathe through their coating of ectoplasm and find the idea of lungs repulsive. I’m also a dab hand at making up religions so my characters can use convincing amounts of invective to be credible without actually offending anyone.

As a kid, I ‘wrote’ my first book when I was five. It was called Charles the Dragonslayer, although to be honest it was mostly pictures and writing words was hard work. Charles was a taciturn man and because my drawing skills weren’t much better than my writing we only ever saw him in profile. Even my dolls had a space-base like the one in the volcano in You Only Live Twice. Can you imagine how overjoyed my mother was when she happened on her little darling – plus friend – playing with The Space Base, only to discover that the master control panel was made from a used contraceptive pill packet? Nice round buttons, all labelled. I’d painted the insides different colours so that when you turned it over and put it on the stand I’d made, it looked properly Star Wars-like with the labels and everything. (Except the Star Wars ones were more like strips of throat sweets weren’t they?) She never threw anything like that away in the bathroom bin again (I know because I continued to check extremely carefully). After my friend had gone home, she took her ten-year-old spawn of Satan darling aside. Her only comment; 

‘Sweetheart, is that essential?’
‘Yes. It’s the master control panel.’
‘I see. Well ... could you please ensure the control panel stays at home.’
‘The master control panel.’
‘Yes, that: the master control panel. Could it please stay here?’
‘Oh ...well ... um ... I took it to Lottie’s last week.’
‘I see. Probably best it doesn’t leave the house again then don’t you think?’
‘It just ... shouldn’t,’ a beat, ‘After all, you wouldn’t want to lose it.’
‘Good point Mum.’

What a pleasure it must have been to raise; such a lovely child but Mum was a master manipulator and knew how to wrangle logic and reason to achieve her will with meltdown-free results. The control panel never left the house again. Hang on! Sorry I’ve wandered off the point. When it comes to what I’m aiming at, well yes, I can’t lie, I do aspire to be as funny as Adams, Pratchett, Wodehouse and Bryson – I can aim high. But I actually write like M T McGuire.

Can you describe your writing why?

I write because I have to. Seriously, there is zero choice here. I’m an authorholic. If I wasn’t, I’d probably stop because Real Life is quite emotionally draining right now in some respects. My father died of Alzheimer’s last year. It took him 14 years and it spared him, and us, nothing. Now my mother has dementia too; same shit, different parent. I also have a 12 year old son and a husband who keep me sane but also quite busy. And I suffer quite badly from chronic arthritic pain and brain fog (I’m 52 so ... you know ... time of life although pain fogs you up a bit, too).

In early 2019 when Dad was dying and Mum was beginning to get very muddled things were so tough that I nearly went under. I thought it would be nice to give myself some slack and that I should, maybe, stop writing. I coudn’t. I literally had to re-learn how I write because I need to do it so badly even when I have no time and no brain capacity.

It’s more than an addiction, and interestingly, I was talking to the lovely guy who is doing my audiobooks at the moment about the whys and wherefores of doing anything ‘arts’. He’s an actor and he described it as feeling more like a calling. That actually sums it up perfectly. Something in me has to do this. Writing is my calling: my vocation. Writing is what I’m for. 

It does my head in sometimes, but at the same time, now I’ve learned how to set things up so I always can, it’s become less of a frustration and more of a total godsend. I still have to concentrate very hard on not looking at other people’s output and just follow my own slow path. Even though the emotional turbulence means I can’t always make things as complex and textured – or funny – as I want to. That’s why the current series is called ‘shorts’. They had to be about characters and a world I already knew and they had to be simple. They’re really novellas but they’re also, sort of, episodes. Well ... except for the current one. I thought that was finished but it’s ballooned into a 70k novel on the second edit. Another slight cock up on the series naming front there then. I knew I should have called it K’Barthan Extras, just as I should have called the four book ‘trilogy’ a series from the get go. Amazon still won’t change that so it’s a Trilogy on Amazon and a series everywhere else ... I feel a similar scenario approaching. Never mind.

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

This is tricky. The worlds I create are a bit complicated so it’s hard to find a short extract to share that’ll make sense to the uninitiated. But I think this one might work ... possibly. To set it up: the male lead of most of my books, or at least most of the ones in the public domain, is a bloke called, The Pan of Hamgee. He is a self-confessed coward and until a few hours before this excerpt, he was an outlaw on death row. In this bit, he has been released and given a business and amnesty for a year while he adjusts to legal existence. He’s also found the K’Barthan ring of state, in a bag in the cellar. He doesn’t know the why to his situation and I can’t tell you either because ... spoilers but he is now wearing it because he has to. All our hero’s close friends are still in police custody held by the Grongles, who are mostly the baddies.

The business turns out to be The Pan of Hamgee’s local pub and the bad guy – Lord Vernon – has set him up so it looks as if he won his freedom by informing on his friends, two of whom were the original publicans. For want of anything better to do, The Pan opens the pub but when the punters arrive, things are tense and it looks as if they might fall for Lord Vernon’s plan and lynch him. This bit demonstrates my style quite well and also the comedic technique. That is to have lots of words that sound funny together, coupled with mildly amusing half-jokes and silly names that build up over time spent reading. Hopefully producing a laugh at the end of it.

When The Pan of Hamgee walked back out of the kitchen, into the bar, he was alarmed to find just about every one of the regulars waiting in silence. There were a lot of them and, as they gathered round him, he couldn’t help noticing that nearly all the hardest male regulars were at the front – along with Pub Quiz Alan. As the defending trivia quiz champion for Upper Left Central Ning Dang Po, Pub Quiz Alan was the nearest to ‘the brains’ for their enterprise that the Parrot’s regulars would have access to. Another thing The Pan couldn’t help noticing was that everyone was armed; conspicuously and mostly bluntly. Lord Vernon’s plan was working but at the same time, if they were here to beat him to a pulp, at least it looked as if they were going to speak to him first. He prayed to The Prophet that he could persuade them to enter into an actual dialogue rather than a statement like, ‘You’re going to die, scumbag,’ followed by swift execution – The Pan eyed some of the weapons – or probably not so swift. Yikes.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” he said in a squeaky voice. He cleared his throat and attempted to sound more manly when he added, “What’ll it be?”
“We’ll buy nothing from you, traitor,” said Psycho Dave, who was rumoured to be a professional henchman and was one of the largest and most violent-looking of the Parrot’s regulars. Unfortunately, at the same time somebody else ruined the effect by saying,
“I’ll have a packet of beef rubbings.”

Tell us about your latest project

I’ve written a new series about K’Barth. I’m an idiot. Things K’Barthan are about as popular as a fart in a space suit, or at least, until someone reads one. Then a good 90% read all the others. The readers who like K’Barth ... they really like it so I know a small band of folks are happy about this. On the other hand, writing something a bit more straightforward for the normals is now top of my agenda ... Not to mention all the legions of people on my mailing list who send me chatty replies to my mailings and have been supporting me for years but who haven’t actually read any of my books at this point, as far as I’m aware. I’m working on something that I hope will be more commercial but at the moment K’Barthan stuff is about all I can manage. I think the other stuff may have to wait until I’m in calmer emotional waters.

What is your favourite cake?

I love fatless sponge. You just get two eggs, weigh them and then put them in a bowl with the same weight of sugar and beat it until it goes thick and a bit gloopy. At this point, you fold in the same weight of plain flour (or the weight in plain flour and two tablespoons of cocoa powder, combined if you like chocolate cake). Then you cook it in a three-quarters hot oven (180 fan) until you can stick a skewer in and it comes out clean. I usually put them in muffin cases and make buns. They are lovely with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee. Otherwise, it’s two 9” tins and butter icing in the middle. Om nom nom.

You can connect with M T McGuire:

Join me next week when I have a slice of cake with Marjorie King.

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.

You can also support my writing endeavours and buy me tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

Tuesday Poem - Another Baby

Let's have another baby he says
Like it's been on his mind for days
I have to pick myself up off the floor
I was certain we wouldn't have more
Pregnancy doesn't like me you see
And my body wouldn't survive three
He says if we had money and space
Got ourselves a lovely big place
We could have another one or two
By now my face is turning blue
I love my kids don't get me wrong
But I am not that mentally strong
Having a boy and a girl is just right
Plus they both sleep through the night
I'm not natural mother material really
And as much as I love hubby dearly...

This time I'll be saying most definitely
Thank you but no! 

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Monday 25 January 2021

Not Such A Spring Chicken

I recently had two huge awakenings to the fact that I am no longer a spring chicken.

The first was last weekend when I decided to go for a 3-mile jog after not having run at all for over a year. I refer you back to my blog post, I May Never Run Again, to let you know how that went. 

The second event was last Friday. My little girl came in at 2am to tell me she wasn't tired anymore and then proceeded to throw up. So, like a well-oiled machine (second child), hubster and I cleaned up and administered first aid. She was burning hot so we stripped her off and made a nest (duvet and pillows) in the front room with the window open. Medicine administered and water given, my little girl and I proceeded to watch Ben & Holly's Magic Kingdom for the next couple of hours. She fell asleep at 4.30, I stayed awake - too nervous to sleep in case she was further poorly. 

Thankfully she wasn't sick again but remained feverish and sorry for herself for the rest of the day, and who can blame her. As it was a school day I had homeschool to get through, a work meeting plus my own writing work so I powered through. And kept on powering until bizarrely it was 10.30pm. 

Needless to say, I was tired. And also thoroughly delighted when I woke up at 9.45 the following day. Don't worry, hubby was off and very capably looking after our two little monsters. (He's been well trained.)

I figured with all that sleep I would be a powerful machine through Saturday. Alas, I soon hit a wall and my eyes were gritty and sore. What was this? Tired already? 

An early night was soon on the cards as I thought this would surely sort me out. Up early on Sunday though - kids, you know the drill - and a day of doing. That's when I realised the work I tried to do on Saturday hadn't exactly gone to plan - thank god I save various versions of my work otherwise my work-in-progress would have gone backwards instead of forwards. 

Trying to sort that plus entertain two smalls plus jobs and by 2pm I was absolutely wiped. I can't do this no sleep malarky anymore. I must hang up my spring chicken credentials. I do turn 40 this year after all. 

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

A Slice of Cake With... Pierre C. Arseneault

This week I am delighted to have a slice of cake with author Pierre C. Arseneault.

Pierre is a dreamer from New Brunswick, Canada. Having mostly been published as a freelance cartoonist, publishing both cartoons and cartoon puzzles in newspapers since 2004, co-writing works of fiction is not as alien to him as most would think.

What kind of stories do you write?

I love all types of stories but my favourites are the ones that keep you in the dark, wondering who did it, or what is behind the bizarre events unfolding. Which is why my first book Dark Tales for Dark Nights, an anthology written in collaboration with my friend Angella Jacob (Cormier), is filled with mysterious dark figures that come in the night, unbreakable bonds, mythical creatures, mayhem, a mysterious old man in a park and a life-changing night for the Jenkins boys.

My second book Sleepless Nights, also an anthology, is filled with mysterious deaths that plague a university town, a strange mystery uncovered while taking up birding, afflicted residents of a nursing home and bizarre journeys of self-discovery. There are tragic tales of unbearable sadness, futuristic murder, bizarre premonitions, a mysterious mute boy, and happenings in a small town where nothing usually happens.

The first two novels in the Oakwood Island trilogy, which were co-written with my friend Angella Cormier, explore an island that is plagued with seemingly unexplainable evil that haunts its inhabitants. 

My novel, Poplar Falls – the death of Charlie Baker, is my first dark comedy. A small city abuzz with gossip after a body is found, the obvious victim of foul play. This book contains a variety of quirky characters, subplots and shouldn’t be explored if you consider yourself prudish.

Be warned.

And because I love variety in stories, I plan to write a variety as well. Book six which is written is horror and book seven which is half-written is dramatic suspense. At least that’s the label I would affix to it so far. 

Can you describe your writing why?

I have a deep love of stories of all genres and the idea that I might be able to tell stories was something that always intrigued me. At the age of forty, I finally decided that I had put it off long enough and started writing, starting with short stories. Since then I’ve written 20 short stories, a handful of which were published in a short-lived upstart magazine and so have yet to see publication in book form. I’ve written 4 novels so far, the last one yet to be published. And with all this, the desire to tell stories is only growing stronger.

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

The most fun part of writing for me is the very beginning as the possibilities are endless. This is the opening scene from my novel Poplar Falls - The Death of Charlie Baker. This excerpt is used with my permission for publication on this blog interview only.

Standing at the foot of the bed, a salt-and-pepper-haired Senior Detective Franklin Dodge elbowed his partner as if to say, Look at that. The much younger Detective Roxanne Tilley just stared on in disbelief. 

“I didn’t think that was possible,” Detective Tilley said in a hushed tone while shifting her stance a little. Her facial expression was riddled with embarrassment, which her dark skin somewhat hid from her partner, who was clearly observing her reaction. She shifted uncomfortably and tugged at the collar of her white blouse under the grey feminine suit jacket. 

“I guess it is,” Dodge replied, sounding unsure even though the evidence stood before them. He wore faded jeans with a battered suit jacket and his face was flushed. He tugged at his shirt collar and loosened his tie a little in an attempt to cool off. The hot June morning sun shone through the sheer curtains, making the room warm, but under the circumstances it felt even warmer, as being uncomfortably embarrassed can have that effect on anyone.

Tell us about your latest project

The latest project would be the novel Oakwood Island - The Awakening, written in collaboration with Angella Cormier. The second volume in what is set to become a trilogy. In book one of said trilogy, much evil had plagued the small island and its residents. Volume two picks up the story five years after the events of book but also delves into the island’s history, shedding light on some of the island’s many mysteries. And one should know going in that this trilogy is horror.

What is your favourite cake?

I know this will come off as cheesy, but the best cakes I ever ate would be the ones my mother baked when I was little. And while most would assume this wouldn’t need explaining, it actually does. You see, as the youngest of eleven children, my mother’s baking eventually stopped altogether. With most of my siblings being grown and moved out and I still little, she no longer needed to feed so many hungry mouths. Soon this meant store-bought baked goods became the norm in our household. But before she stopped baking cakes, I recall them being set to cool on the kitchen counter so the frosting could be applied. And one thing you need to know about my mother is that being born in the late 1920s, she was not from the Tupperware generations. So the cake would remain sitting on the kitchen counter, simply covered by a cut open paper bag to protect it from dust. This meant the cake would quickly dry up and become stale. For most people, this would be a problem but not for this young boy. With a tall glass of milk to go with it, nothing beats my mother’s homemade cakes. And yes, the staler the better. This is why, to this day, I prefer my baked goods stale instead of fresh. True story. 

You can connect with Pierre at the following places:

Website: and





Join me next week when I have a slice of cake with Mary McGuire.

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.

You can also support my writing endeavours and buy me tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Tuesday Poem - SPAG La What Now?

SPAG got renamed
It's GPS now
And all the parents at home 
Are scratching their heads
Trying to figure out
Present Perfect tense
I have bought more wine since homeschool began

Maths is confusing
Is it column method
Or part-part whole
Or show as equal groups
Or create an array
Or skip count
Or repeated addition

PSHE stands for...
How to
It seems to mop up 
Pretty much everything

There's a link for assembly
I'm not doing that
It's hard enough wangling
English and Maths
Guided reading and GPS
Plus Topic AND homework
(PS they're already at home #justsaying)

And why do they keep sending
Extra resources through
Are they trying to catalyse
Mass mental breakdown
I can barely get through my own work
Let alone homeschool plus extras
Mums have to eat too you know

Just take it one day at a time
One worksheet then a break
Don't cheer too loudly when you finish
Stockpile plenty of adult snacks
Be prepared to lose all your pens
For your printer to stop working
And your internet to die

It's a whole new vocabulary
And you're doing spectacularly
Poems and lists and report writing
Sums six different ways, so exciting
Make a poster, make a storyboard
Do experiments, find a dragon horde
Don't forget to go out and play

Take a breath, take a moment
School's just five days a week
Weekends are for lie-ins 
Whether your kids agree or not
Just remember the washing, the cooking,
The cleaning, the food shopping
And seventeen rounds of snakes and ladders

Smile at Peppa, at Thomas and Sam
Thank Justin and Octonauts and Mr Bloom
Purple Mash and Times Table Rockstar
Zoom lessons and online tasks galore
BBC Bitesize, Horrible Histories and then
Fire up YouTube for PE with Joe
Sit down, have a cuppa, you've earnt it you know

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Monday 18 January 2021

I May Never Run Again

Oh my days.

Yesterday I decided to go for a run. I've been eating well and exercising, building my fitness level and the goal has always been to start running again but I have dodgy knee so I need to be careful. I'm actually waiting for a knee arthroscopy as apparently, I have the knee of an 80-year-old. Fun times.

In my infinite wisdom, I have decided to add running to my regime. I used to belong to running clubs in my youth and I have lots of fond memories from those. I also used to be able to run 5k in 21 minutes but let's not dwell on the incredible awesomeness of youth. 

Before I had my second baby, I even ran a couple of half marathons and regular running was part of my routine. But we all know what it's like when you have kids - things change and I dropped the running ball. 

Like any good writer, I spent a good deal of time procrastinating and getting ready to start running became another procrastination task - one that I was very good at! 

This Sunday however, all the running gods had aligned. I had my running trainers - ones that I had bought after getting my gait analysed correctly. I had brand new running socks from Christmas. I had workout leggings that actually stayed up and didn't fall down when you moved. I had earbuds for my phone and a new fit watch. And the clothing delivery I was waiting for had finally arrived with my long-sleeved running tops. (It's bloomin' cold out there!)

So off I go. To begin with my knee hurt and I was limp-running. This is not good I thought, I will have to stop but instead, I pushed on and tried to relax into my running stride. Half a mile there, half a mile back I thought but when I ran that half-mile I felt great, so I figured I could run one mile there, one mile back. I hit the mile and thought well I probably ought to just round that up to a mile and a half, I feel okay, let's do it. 

Then comes the fun part. The bit where you turn around and run back to where you began. And that's when the quads started to hurt and the pace slowed down a little and it seemed to take forever for that distance number to increase. 

I got to two miles and my friend's voice, he happens to be a runner, says "It's only a mile. Anyone can run a mile." So inside my head, I started pushing and willing and urging myself to finish without stopping. 

And I bloody did it. Thirty-five minutes for three miles after having not run a lick in forever. I was pretty chuffed with that. 

And yeah my muscles were a bit stiff and a bit sore and yeah my knee was grumbling a bit but I figured I'd done the hard bit and all would be well.


Fast forward to today and I can't move. Everything hurts. Plus my knee is angry at me. On reflection, it probably wasn't a very good idea. And I may never run again.

But next Saturday I have the opportunity to go for a run, so we shall see...

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Wednesday 13 January 2021

A Slice of Cake With... Christopher Long

This week I am delighted to have a slice of cake with Christopher Long.

Christopher is a writer hiding out in the early stages of his forties, where he spends the majority of his free time sending out ghost stories to help deal with his own morbid paranoia.

He lives in the UK with his wife, Sam, and things are going well. Which makes you wonder where all the horror is coming from, really. 

Chris has previously released two novels, six novellas and three collections with KGHH Publishing.  His stories have also featured in Sanitarium Magazine and The Ghastling and appeared on The Lift and The Wicked Library podcasts, one of which was nominated for a Parsec award.  

Along with these, he's also had a story on the first series of the Shadows at the Door podcast, based on one of the ghost stories for Christmas he wrote for their website. He’s also had the honour of appearing in both The Wicked Library and Shadows at the Doors anthologies and the Infernal Clock’s Deadcades anthology.

What kind of stories do you write?

I suppose one way to put it is that I write stories which never quite finish exactly how I expect. For a long time, I loved to write stories that thrived on escapism. I grew up obsessed with Roald Dahl and I was reading a lot Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett back when I was first finding my voice. Watching a lot of Terry Gilliam and Jean Jeunet movies. I was forever tinkering with the idea of worlds that exist parallel to ours, some of which had a habit of bleeding through. Over time, though, those pulp fantasy stories changed into something darker and uneasy. I started to grow a real interest in psychological horror. Nightmare stories where the lead characters are challenged to confront something that’s threatening their stability without ever offering an easy explanation or a solution. I definitely grew to love a story that didn’t tell the reader exactly what’d been happening behind the scenes. There is something so fun in crafting that sort of seemingly abstract and alien logic.  

Although, these days, I am leaning a bit more towards escapism again. An escapism that likes to quietly close the door behind the reader after they’ve stepped through with the characters. I want to take them to a place which seems familiar on the surface and then tell them a story which will keep them off guard and keep them turning pages while, hopefully, slipping that world under their skin ready for when they reach the end. I always love finding out when my stories stays with someone after they’ve read it.

Can you describe your writing why?

If I’m being honest, it’s taken me a good few years to admit to myself that I started out writing to get people’s attention. I copied a lot from the writers I loved growing up and spent a lot of time telling stories which I hoped would attract a similar audience for me. Those stories, which could be pretty good at times, were never really fulfilling for me. It was more about trying to think what might jump off the page or, as childish as it sounds, let me show off for a bit. That changed for me after I wrote a story called The Gallow Glass for the Shadows at the Door anthology.  

That story really came from a different place. It didn’t arrive fully formed or with an aim to attract a certain audience. Instead, it was a story I thoroughly enjoyed telling myself. The first draft kept me guessing and pushed me way out of my comfort zone in order to keep it on track.  

These days, everything I write comes from that same intention. It’s not about trying to fit myself into a genre or onto a particular shelf. It’s not about asking people to give a story five stars or aiming for something that might win an award. The way I look at it now, once a story’s out in the world, it’s really its own thing. I’m more interested in the process of finding the best version of it for me. I want to write the stories that allow me to answer a question I’ve had lurking in the back of my head or fulfil a need for something I wish I could’ve already found when browsing through a bookshop.

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

London is a city trapped mid-stretch. The yawn half finished. It’s mouth wide open. It’s eyes tight shut.  It’s clenched fists straining to reach further. Those long, London arms are a sprawl of thorny traditions, zealous clustering cliques and cleverly constructed tourist trap streets.  

Nestled close to its more famous places are the untidy piles of history. The estates that paint themselves grey as they blur through your train window. They’re pushed aside, swept beneath the rug. These are not the grand parades of royalty, politics or great thinkers. These are the streets of people marginalised down to sheer statistics due to the presence of the victorious and the mighty. These are streets worn smooth by the trudge of feet unable to escape the gravity of this scar tissue Capital.  

It was through an area such as this, with its own undeniable, backstreet character, that I found myself scurrying one Friday afternoon.

Tell us about your latest project

Well, I’d been solely writing horror and ghost stories for about a decade, with varying degrees of success. 2019, in particular, saw my work appearing on a few podcasts, as well as in a few magazines and anthologies. During that time, though, I’d found the tropes of the genre were really starting to trip me up. It was like they were adding an extra drag factor to any new idea I was trying to start. It meant I spent a lot of mornings just staring at some very angry notes or a very blank screen. It really made me feel like a tourist in the horror world.  

This came to a head at around the time the contract with my previous publisher ended. That change, along with a couple of rejections and the lockdown, really spurred me into trying something completely new. I wanted to write something which built a new world around it and which didn’t need to follow any set patterns or rules. After a lot of head-scratching and some false starts, I began to work on the first draft of something called Figaro Farewell.

The plot combines elements of an apocalyptic Spaghetti Western with a neo-noir detective story, all relayed through the lens of addiction. It’s taken a while find my feet, but it’s really coming together now. Plus, it’s been an incredibly interesting journey for me as a writer. Some of the characters it in might be my favourites out of everything I’ve ever written.  

I won’t deny there have been times when I’ve worried that it might all sound like cosplay outside of my head, but I’ve had some friends and fellow writers take a look at the rough edits and they’ve really helped me out. Plus, the freedom of trying something so different is taking my writing to new places.  I’m loving the feeling that there’s no exact goal here. There’s a real sense of freedom that comes with not knowing where a book might end up. Which is something I did not expect.

What is your favourite cake?

Okay, I see, save the hard questions for last, hey? Well, I’ve gotten involved in far more arguments about the best flavour of cakes than seems appropriate for a man in his 40s. Not unlike the similar arguments I’ve had about ice cream.  It’s rum and raisin, by the way, obviously. Hands down. Rum and raisin wins ice cream. Cake, though, is a different matter.  

Right now, I’d say my favourite cake is carrot cake. Boy, I can just hear the 12-year-old me screaming and flipping the table for that one. It’s been a long old journey to get to carrot cake. There was no doubting the grand champion when I was younger. Chocolate cake had a hold on me back then. And I won’t lie.  I took a trip down the rabbit hole that is red velvet, but carrot cake has my heart these days. It sounds healthy for a start, which is never a bad thing. It’s rich, whilst light. It goes well with a decent cup of tea or coffee and I rarely turn down a second slice these days. Also, as a lifelong Bugs Bunny fan, I guess I was always working my way around to finding the one carrot flavoured food I could enjoy.

You can connect with Christopher on Twitter - @cjlongchris

Facebook –

Website –

Join me next week when I have a slice of cake with Pierre C Arseneault.

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.

You can also support my writing endeavours and buy me tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Tuesday poem - Tears Before Breakfast

Locked down but unable to stay in bed
As children bounce out at 5am
Staying up late, listless, without purpose
Makes early mornings hard to bear
The darkness outside matches the darkness within
As we attempt to pull the covers over our heads

For months now we've turned that frown upside down
We've gone sunny side up
We've smiled and adapted and bent and swayed
All to keep things going and moving and working
Alarms set and routines met and boxes checked
Every step moving forwards yet going nowhere

It could be worse the daily mantra
And it could, it really really could
But a daily mantra that could be worse is no mantra to have
And all those emotions and fears and worries
That you bottled and saved and shoved way down
Become tears before breakfast that you can't stop

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Sunday 10 January 2021

The Silk Thief Cover Reveal

 The Silk Thief (The Roshaven Series Book 2)


A Humorous Urban Fantasy Novel

The Blurb:

Fourteen, heir to the Empire of Roshaven, must find a new name before Theo, Lord of neighbouring Fidelia, brings his schemes to fruition.

Not only has he stolen Roshaven’s trade, but he plans to make Fourteen his own and take her empire in the bargain.

Her protector, Ned Spinks, is plagued with supernatural nightmares whilst his assistant, Jenni the sprite, has lost her magic. 

Can they figure out how to thwart Theo’s dastardly plan before it’s too late for his city and her empire? 


The Silk Thief is the second quirky magical mystery adventure set in the Roshaven series of humorous fantasy novels. If you like the wit and humour of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, then you’ll love The Silk Thief.

The Silk Thief will be released in paperback and ebook on 4th June 2021.


More about the Roshaven books.

The Rose Thief, The Roshaven Series book 1

Someone is stealing the Emperor’s roses and if they take the magical red rose then love will be lost, to everyone, forever.

It’s up to Ned Spinks, Chief Thief Catcher, and his band of motley catchers to apprehend the thief and save the day.

But the thief isn’t exactly who they seem to be. Neither is the Emperor.

Ned and his team will have to go on a quest; defeating vampire mermaids, illusionists, estranged family members and an evil sorcerer in order to win the day. What could possibly go wrong?

Available in paperback and ebook everywhere:

The Interspecies Poker Tournament, Prequel Novella to The Rose Thief

Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher, has a new case. A murderous moustache-wearing cult is killing off members of Roshaven's fae community. At least that's what he's been led to believe by his not-so-trusty sidekick, Jenni the sprite. She has information she's not sharing but plans to get her boss into the Interspecies Poker Tournament so he can catch the bad guy and save the day. If only Ned knew how to play!

Available in paperback and ebook everywhere:

Ye Olde Magick Shoppe, a Roshaven short story

Join Ned Spinks, Chief Thief-Catcher, and his sidekick Jenni the sprite in this short story about an unwanted magick shoppe.

This free short story is available in ebook everywhere:

What Readers Say

“Loved the quirky banter!”

“Entirely delightful and captivating.”

“A wonderful tribute to the Late Great Sir Terry.”

“If you are a fan of the discworld you will love this book.”

“A hilariously thrilling fantasy mystery.”

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Wednesday 6 January 2021

A Slice of Cake With... Sydney Scrogham

This week I am delighted to have a slice of cake with Sydney Scrogham. 

Born and raised in Virginia, Sydney Scrogham has always loved horses and books. She has been a horse owner for 14 years and moved to Indiana to be with the love of her life whom she met on Twitter! While in Indiana, Sydney taught horseback riding lessons to individuals with special needs. She now lives in northern Alabama with her family where she writes under the watchful ownership of a miniature dachshund. 

What kind of stories do you write?

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who loved crafting expert stories with engaging plots, characters, and hints of true love throughout all the land. But victory would not come easily—dastardly villains reared their heads to consume the hero’s heart until, at long last, victory was in sight. With one final act of bravery (an opportunity to be true to themselves and embrace who they really are) the hero conquered all evil to win the day. And if the ending wasn’t happy, it wasn’t the end.

Can you describe your writing why?

I did start writing as a “young girl” as the previous answer described. There’s always been a story inside of me. I love following it until the end to uncover the truth bomb nuggets that hide along the character journey like gems waiting to be polished. But those life-changing gems aren’t just for me—they’re for the world. Writing is like an act of love unto myself and others. If I discover something that’s setting me free, then I want to put it in story form for others to experience living in that freedom, too.

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

Once a year, blood-thirsty astrorses land on Earth’s farming moon to raise their young. Jedediah Easton never thought twice about competing in the Astrorse Races until his daughter Sage enters to try and save his farm. The only problem is Sage is a paraplegic rider, and Jedediah will do anything to protect his daughter.

Drawn to him for safety and financial problems of her own, Jedediah’s ex-wife Elizabeth steps back into the life they tried to build together. A warrant for her arrest hangs over their heads. They race time to train a wild astrorse to compete for the winner’s purse while dodging the dangers of an uncivilized universe.

Together, they must fight for what matters to them most—a chance that the Astrorse Race prize money will redeem their debts and grow them back together as a family. To The Moon And Back is a fast-paced story of hard work, reconciliation, and second chances.

Tell us about your latest project

What happens when a horse-loving child of the earth marries a rocket scientist? Okay, that sounds like a pretty fun book in and of itself, but that’s what happened to me in real life—and the result is an epic space western with killer astro-horses. At first, I thought it was just going to be a one-off, but no. A series is calling. I love all the different elements of faith, family, diversity, and how one young woman’s risky relationship with a killer astro-horse can change the world. I’m halfway through the second book right now and hope to publish early 2021. (Spoiler alert: There may or may not be a pandemic influence in this next one—how can a writer live through COVID-19 and not throw all that experience into a story somewhere?)

What is your favourite cake?

Chocolate chip cookie cake, for sure (with loads of icing), but if we’re going more traditional textured cake… Give me the good old-fashioned yellow cake with chocolate icing, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

A great choice! You can find out more about Sydney and her books at her website

All her books are available on Amazon.

Join me next week when I have a slice of cake with Christopher Long.

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.

You can also support my writing endeavours and buy me tea & cake - it's what makes the world go round!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Tuesday 5 January 2021

Tuesday Poem - Mrs Mummy Teacher

Mrs Mummy Teacher staggers out of bed
Her pupils are already wide awake

Mrs Mummy Teacher contemplates her morning routine
Her pupils have already trashed the 'classroom'

Mrs Mummy Teacher makes her breakfast
Her pupils are on the prowl for seconds and thirds

Mrs Mummy Teacher prints out her worksheets
Her pupils have somehow killed the printer

Mrs Mummy Teacher asks the class to settle down
Her pupils say no, don't want to and humph

Mrs Mummy Teacher dreams about school runs in the rain
Her pupils refuse to logon to their schoolwork

Mrs Mummy Teacher survives the first lesson
Her pupils cover the 'classroom' floor in lego

Mrs Mummy Teacher learns powerful negotiation skills
Her pupils dry their eyes

Mrs Mummy Teacher changes clothes to Mrs Mummy Dinner Lady
Her pupils turn their nose up at lunch

Mrs Mummy Teacher finally has a cup of tea
Her pupils spread crumbs across the 'classroom'

Mrs Mummy Teacher girds her loins for afternoon school
Her pupils do maths

Mrs Mummy Teacher pours herself a glass of sherry
Her pupils eat an entire chocolate selection box

A successful return to homeschool!

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

Monday 4 January 2021

Hello 2021

Changing the year is always something I look forward to. I like the arbitrariness of going to bed in one year and waking up in another, just because numbers say so. I also enjoy thinking about what I’m going to conquer in this new fresh year, because, even if my ‘can-do’ attitude only lasts for a couple of weeks, it feels really good.

I’m not one for making New Year Resolutions but I do like to start a fresh To-Do list. I adore opening my new page-a-day diary to January 1st and writing with a new pen on that crisp white page. Admittedly, by the end of the year, I’ve succumbed to using the nearest Crayola and my writing is more of a scrawl, but that first page, that’s the good one.

This year, my smallest monster starts nursery. I will only be gaining two hours a morning, five days a week, but I have very high hopes that those ten hours will be the most incredibly productive ten hours ever. Already I have mental lists as long as my arm with all the things I’m going to be able to do. I think the bump back down to earth may be a little hard but, that, too is something I enjoy about the new year.

Dream big, reach for the sky, aim high, stretch yourself further than you ever have before and then, if you do bump back down, you get to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again. This time with a bit more padding!

Have a fantastic 2021. I hope it brings you joy, peace and a sense of fulfilment in whatever you resolve to do.

Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.