Wednesday 25 May 2022

A Slice Of Cake With... Jane Risdon

This week I am delighted to have a slice of cake with author Jane Risdon.

Following a career in the international music business, Jane has turned her attention to a lifelong ambition–writing full time. Jane fills her days writing and concentrating on developing her own career instead of those of the recording artists, songwriters, and record producers, whose careers filled her every waking moment for decades.

Over the past 11 years, Jane has been published in numerous anthologies, online and print newsletters, and magazines, including Writing Magazine and Writers and Readers’ Magazine. She also writes articles as well as short stories and flash fiction.

Jane is a regular guest author on global internet radio shows including The Authors Show, Chat and Spin Radio, and The Brian ‘the Hammer’ Jackson Radio Show.

Jane enjoys history, science, and astronomy, and adores walking. Photography is a passion, as well as a host of other interests. When she is not writing Jane can often be found out and about with her camera photographing places of interest, such as our beautiful English countryside, villages, churches, cathedrals, and our wonderful stately homes and gardens–which she often blogs about and calls them her ‘jollies.’ 

What kind of books do you write?

Hello Claire, thanks so much for hosting me on A Slice of Cake today. I am delighted to be here, and I hope your readers enjoy my interview.

I don’t confine myself to writing in one genre; I’ve written in many, although anyone following me will know that I have a favourite and I tend to stick to that mostly. I am fortunate in that I can turn my hand to most genres when the story dictates.

Can you describe your writing why?

My motivation comes from spending many years working in the international music business, and before that, working in the Civil Service, at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall, London.

Throughout both careers I encountered some very interesting characters and experienced some — what I call — ‘out there,’ moments, and having been an avid reader all my life who has always wanted to write, I just knew that some of my adventures had to be written about before I forgot them.

The international music and movie business is a fantastic place to uncover stories of crime, corruption, and power with larger-than-life characters running everything. You must be in it to see it.  Anyone really interested can seek out books written about the various shenanigans in Hollywood and about those who had to take the ‘Fifth’ to avoid jail, not to mention those whose careers were ruined if they put a foot wrong.

Working at the Foreign and Commonwealth at the height of the Cold War, afforded my young self so much experience and opportunity to discover how the diplomatic service works, and how embassies around the world are a hotbed of spies. I was fortunate enough to meet and be regularly vetted by the Special Branch Commander who tracked and arrested the infamous husband and wife Soviet spies, the Krugers, who were part of the Portland Spy Ring in the early 1960s; he used to tell me about his work and conquests. All this — and many other events — were a wonderful opportunity for someone who wanted to become an author one day.

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

Sharing a favourite paragraph from a book I enjoyed writing the most is a challenge. I love all my books and paragraphs I have written; I am sure all your interviewees say that! 

However, this one is a particular favourite: it is from Renza’s Diary, September 12th, 1969, from the novel, Only One Woman, which I co-wrote with Christina Jones. Renza and Isolde went to see Hair in Essen, Germany…

Poor Isolde nearly passed away in shock when the cast of men decided to walk across our seats from the stage, naked as the day they were born. I had to laugh at her poor face. I’d been half-expecting it having heard all about it in England last year. But no one prepared us for the live sex on stage. I’ve never been so interested in my own shoes for years. She sat and giggled, hanging on to my arm as I gazed steadfastly at my shoes, tears of laughter and embarrassment washing my black eyeliner down my cheeks. She kept nattering away in German as she tried not to look. I hadn’t a clue what she was saying but laughter is laughter in any language, and both of us were doubled up. How we didn’t get chucked out I’ve no idea. Everyone kept telling us to shhh!

Tell us about your latest project

My latest project is a series of books about a former MI5 Intelligence Officer, Ms. Lavinia Birdsong, who has been forced to take ‘voluntary’ retirement in order to keep her pension, after 20 years working in the Security Services, with her eye on the top job, Director General of MI5.  She was on secondment to MI6 with her now ex-partner, Michael Dante, when she was sent packing and he kept his career and continued working in Moscow on the joint MI5/MI6 Operation Matryoshka.

Lavinia purchases a cottage in rural Oxfordshire, in the Vale of the White Horse, and tries to fathom out how she can inveigle her way back into MI5 as she endeavours to fit into village life. A young woman goes missing and Lavinia sees an opportunity to make herself useful by investigating her disappearance and trying to find the young mother. During her search, Lavinia comes face to face with her old life and enemies in the form of organised crime involving the Russian Mafia and Ukrainian gun and people traffickers.

My love of crime writing and espionage come together in this series, and I have been able to use my past life experiences and knowledge in my writing. To ensure accuracy regarding Forensic Science and Criminal Justice, I studied the basics with various universities over a two-year period, and I am so happy I decided to do this.

Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva — book one — is with my agent who is seeking a home for her series.

What is your favourite cake?

My favourite cake is fruit cake but without the nuts.

You can connect with Jane here:

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with Pinar Tarhan. 

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 through Kofi - 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. Never miss out on future posts by following me.

Wednesday 18 May 2022

A Slice of Cake With... Eric J. Gates

Today I am delighted to have a slice of cake with author Eric J. Gates.

Multiple award-winning author Eric J. Gates has had a curious life filled with the stuff of thriller novels. Writing Operating Systems for Supercomputers, cracking cryptographic computer codes under extreme pressure using only paper and pen, and teaching cyber warfare to spies are just a few of the moments he’s willing to recall. He is an ex-International Consultant who has travelled extensively worldwide, speaks several languages, and has had articles and papers published in technical magazines in six different countries, as well as radio and TV spots. His specialty, Information Technology Security, has brought him into contact with the Military and Intelligence communities on numerous occasions.

He is also an expert martial artist, holding 14 black belt degrees in distinct disciplines. He has taught his skills to Police and Military personnel, as well as to the public.

He now writes thriller novels, drawing on his experiences with the confidential and secret worlds that surround us.

What kind of books do you write?

My novels and short stories have a couple of things in common. The first is that they often feature strong, female protagonists, women who are realistic characters, professionals in their work in the covert and secret worlds that surround us. The second involves the appearance of technology, occasionally as the villain of the piece, such as in ‘Death Mask’, but mainly as something misused by humankind either accidentally or deliberately to further personal agendas. They are all fast-paced, nail-biting tales that will keep readers up late at night. If I ever receive a bill from readers who have lost sleep because of my tales, I would be permanently destitute. One reader even forgot to collect her kids from school as she was so immersed in one of my books!

Can you describe your writing why?

Approximately one week after the dinosaurs died out, I discovered books. I learned to read at an early age and soon became known for undercover work. I read books by flashlight beneath the sheets for hours after I was supposed to be sleeping. By age eleven, I had read every single fiction book in the school library–all the classics from Charles Dickens, through Fennimore Cooper and Mark Twain to Agatha Christie. After came Ian Fleming, John Gardner, John le Carré, and a host of others, including the 150 books of the Destroyer series by Sapir and Murphy, a pulp fiction epic. Then came Alistair MacLean, Graham Greene, Isaac Asimov, and a host of others in both the thriller and science fiction genres. It was almost impossible to find me without a book in my hand. But it wasn’t just an addiction to reading–no, I was learning too. Before my eighteenth birthday, I had written over 200 short stories, and celebrated my coming of age with my first novel, a spy thriller, which now lives in a box under my desk.

Life then intervened. A non-stop carousel of international travel, new cultures, bright people, and shady projects took up my available time, and then some. Finally, this time, which I now refer to as ‘research’, came to an end, and I finally had time to dedicate to my passion for writing. I wrote my first thriller in this stage of my life, in 2003 (though the novel was called ‘2012’), tried the traditional publishing houses and literary agents for several years, enduring having one of my ideas ‘borrowed’ by a major film director/screenwriter. Then Amazon, of whom I had been a book-buying client since the days Bezos had hair, launched KDP (then called Digital Text Publishing or DTP). In 2009, my novel ‘2012’ appeared as an Amazon eBook. And the rest is history. The passion I had back in my teens for books, and particularly writing, has not only remained but grown over the years. Hello, my name is Eric and I’m a book and writing addict!

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

A very difficult question to answer. I tend to find my enjoyment of a book peaks as I write it. Paragraphs that I’m proud of having created constantly change as I endeavour to evolve positively and never stop learning from my peers. Forced to pick one, I think I’ll go with an extract from the first book in my The CULL suspense thriller series. Rather than just reproducing the text here, I’d like to share an audio clip:

Click here to play.

Tell us about your latest project

My current project, recently renamed Betrayed (yes, this is a world exclusive!), is the third book in my Outsourced series featuring Defense Intelligence Agent Bridget Mason. It will be available very soon, which means there’s time to read the first two books in the series (Outsourced and Primed) as well as the prequel, Pride & Extreme Prejudice beforehand.

What is your favourite cake?

Without a doubt, Carrot Cake. I love cooking and spent many a year searching for a recipe for the ‘perfect’ carrot cake. For the moment, this one is topping my list. It’s a secret recipe, so please don’t tell anyone:

Eric’s Secret Carrot Cake recipe


250 gms butter
360 gms sugar
5 eggs
360 gms grated carrot chopped very fine
4 large tablespoons hot water
60 gms crushed almonds
300 gms self-raising flour
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder (Royal)
Half a teaspoon salt
250 gms honey
4 tablespoons cognac (optional – hell, no!)

Mix sugar and butter well. In another bowl, beat eggs, add carrot and hot water and mix well. Add the latter to the butter mixture. Sift flour with baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, then add little by little to the mixture, mixing well. Add almonds and honey. Add the cognac. Thoroughly mix, then put in an ovenproof cake dish. Bake at 180ºC for an hour and fifteen minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.

Accompany with chocolate, syrup, honey, liquid caramel etc.

You can connect with Eric at the following places:

Amazon Author page links:

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with Jane Risdon. 

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 through Kofi - 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. Never miss out on future posts by following me

Wednesday 11 May 2022

A Slice of Cake With... Dan R. Arman

This week I am delighted to have a slice of cake with Dan R. Arman.

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, Dan decided he wanted to tell stories. Stories about other worlds populated by interesting characters, because he thought these people and worlds would help him reflect on the world he was living in, its beauty, horrors and absurdity. While he was starting to pursue this dream of being a science fiction and fantasy author, he began teaching English Composition at Stark State College in Ohio. For several years, he worked as a newspaper reporter, an editor and now teaches literature and writing at an online high school. He holds a master’s degree in English literature and rhetoric from Kent State University. He currently lives in Akron, OH with his wife and three cats.

What kind of books do you write?

I write the sorts of stories I love to read. I tend to disregard strict genre boundaries. If I want a little spaghetti western mixed in with my dark fantasy, that’s what I write. Heck, maybe get my characters into a slapstick or romantic comedy situation, I’m fine with that.

But I think that no matter what type of story I write, whether it’s science fiction, magic realism or any variety of fantasy, I think it must start with characters that, at least on some level, are relatable and likeable. I want the reader to want to get to know these people and spend some time with them, weather the storms with them and maybe care even more about them when they come out the side. Or, if the characters don’t make it, I want them to be missed when they’re gone.

Can you describe your writing why?

I think many writers start at an early age to fill a need. I started when I was 8, writing silly stories about the adventures of four talking raccoons and their fantasy adventures in a post-apocalyptic world. It was part Teen-aged Mutant Ninja Turtles, part Animal Farm, and part Mad Max. For reasons I cannot fathom, my 4th-grade teacher encouraged me to write more of these tales and so I did.

I went to college for journalism to get a “sensible” job that was writing adjacent and even during that time I continued to write. It was one thing that truly gave me happiness and the few times I’ve tried to stop while switching careers to become a teacher I’ve had severe anxiety attacks. The characters and stories just want to come out now. Sometimes it’s hard work, but it’s writing that has filled my life with joy and purpose. I would do it even if I didn’t make a dime on a book but it’s always gratifying when a reader tells me how much they enjoyed a story or liked a character.

I also think that where I’m from—Ohio—punches above its weight class in terms of number of artistic people per capita. Maybe it’s the persistently ugly weather or the geography of the rust belt cities that inspires us to find creative outlets, whether it be with art, music, or writing, so I’ve always lived near and in awe of artistic people and wanted to be part of that.

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

So, I had this scene from my last book Kamatari and Minoru go to the Library in which my main character gets married and during his wedding reception, he and his best man and bride discover that a pair of assassins are at the tavern during the merrymaking and they are intent on killing Kamatari’s patron—a mysterious woman known as the Dark Lady. I don’t often write intending to be funny, so initially, I had the scene as a straight fight scene between the main characters and the assassins. I quickly realized while blocking out the fight scene that none of the characters were particularly motivated to fight and that maybe this was an opportunity to have a little fun with the absurdity of the scene. So instead of fighting I had each man take turns threatening the others and seeing if they would stand down. Further revisions had them even precisely measuring their weapons, which as you’ll see is a not-so-subtle stand-in for measuring some other manly parts in a vain attempt for each guy to show how tough they were. The resolution to this non-fight was surprising even to me, but the more I added absurd elements to the scene, the more I found myself giggling and enjoying writing it.

Here it is:

Kamatari grunted but continued up the stairs without further protest. When they reached the top of the stairs, they spotted two men in black creeping down the hallway. One was checking doors to see which were locked. Kamatari surmised that they didn’t know which room the former queen mother was staying in.
“Hey!” he barked at them. The men’s attention turned to him like two predators spotting a mouse. “You’re not guests here, so why don’t you shove on.”
“What’s it to you, friend?” one of the men, baring a scarred hook nose snarled.
“He means this area’s for residents only,” Minoru said. “And we’re here to kick you out.”
“You can try,” hook nose grinned.
The other man stepped forward. “That’s the groom from the wedding. I bet he’s in league with the Dark Lady too, the both of them.”
“So what? What if we are in league with the Dark Lady?” Rubi said before Kamatari could stop her. “What are you going to do about it?”
The man who had bumped Kamatari at the bar tilted his head, revealing a scar across his eye. “Well, first, kill you all, then have my way with the Dark Lady and take the magic book she’s been looking for,” he hissed. “Or you can just give her up and walk away from here with your lives.”
“Not gonna happen,” Kamatari spat.
Hook Nose growled as the two men closed to within six feet of Kamatari. “You will hand the woman and the book to us.” 
“No,” Minoru said, grasping the spear and taking a defensive stance Teuta had taught him. “Try and take her and I’ll run you through with six inches of my spearhead.” 
“Oh,” Hook Nose smiled, drawing a sword from beneath his cloak. “I think not, as I impale you with three feet of tempered steel.” 
Kamatari pulled his dagger from his belt. “Not before I gut you with six inches of wrought iron.” 
The other man in black solemnly drew a pistol and leveled it at Kamatari. The gun clicked as his finger pulled back on the trigger lock. “Pointless, as I will fill your gob with three ounces of molten lead before you even move.” 
Rubi pulled up her sleeves and balled her hands into fists. “Fine, then I’ll have to give you three feet of antique rug.” 
The two assassins lowered their weapons a moment and exchanged confused looks. It was enough of a pause to allow Rubi to drop to her knees, grasp a fistful of rug, and yank as hard as she could. The two fell backward. The pistol went off as its butt bounced off the hardwood floor and the projectile struck the chandelier above them. Its wire snapped sending it crashing down on the men and scattering broken glass everywhere. Hook Nose’s body twitched twice and then went still. Both were bloodied and mangled messes. They were dead. 
“Oh,” Rubi said, placing a hand to her mouth to keep from retching. “That was a bit more than expected.”
“Is it bad luck to kill someone on your wedding day?” Minoru asked.

Leave it to Rubi to pull the rug out—both literally and figuratively-- from under the boys in the room.

Tell us about your latest project

As you probably guessed, my latest book, Kamatari and Minoru go to the Library, is a less-than-serious collection of short stories about two characters I introduced in my Night Maiden trilogy. Together they roughly tell the story of how these two illiterate peasants discover a secret book of prophecy that foretells the end of their world and how they try to stop it. While it is part of a larger universe that I established in other books, this anthology is a standalone and it’s not necessary to have read the prior three books to jump in and enjoy the exploits of these two loveable losers and their friends. It’s also not a straight dark or epic fantasy. Some stories veer towards a little steampunk, some blend in my favorite elements of old western movies and samurai films.

It dropped last May and the audiobook, narrated by the awesome Canadian actor Sam Rosenthal, was just recently made available through audible.
In addition, another standalone in the Night Maiden universe, is also on deck and revolves around another character from the original trilogy that was screaming for her own story:

What's a soldier do when there are no wars left to fight? What's a fighter to fight for when the one woman she cared for is gone?

Teuta was the Night Maiden's guardian and sister in arms. She protected her from an assassin's hands but could not shield her from the betrayal by the very king that she fought to put on the throne. And she would have gladly traded places with her when she made the ultimate sacrifice to end the generations-long war against Fiorian invaders. 

Now Teuta must find a way to move on with her life and carry the burden of a life full of scars. But the arrival of a pretender threatens to open old wounds and throw the kingdom of Orloins into chaos.

The race is on to unmask the false Maiden before a shadowy organization can get their hands on her and use her for their own evil designs.

What is your favourite cake?

My grandmother was a master at cooking many things but eating her Angel Food Cake was like having a cloud rest on your tongue. It was so light and sweet and I can still recall its taste 11 years after her death as though I just had some yesterday.

But, barring a time machine trip to the past, I must say that my current favorite cake is a cheesecake with sour cream topping and graham cracker crust, preferably served with blueberries or cherries.

You can connect with Dan here:

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with Eric Gates. 

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 on Kofi - 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. Never miss out on future posts by following me.

Wednesday 4 May 2022

A Slice of Cake With... Sue Barnard

This week I'm delighted to have a slice of cake with author Sue Barnard.

Sue is a British novelist, editor, and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.  

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird." The label has stuck.  

Sue speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.  She now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

What kind of books do you write?

My books are very difficult to pigeonhole.  I’ve written in various genres and cross-genres.  Some are based loosely on my own experience, whilst others have been written in response to other existing works.

Can you describe your writing why?

I write for myself (which is how it all started).  If other people also happen to like what I produce, that’s just a massive bonus.

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

The Ghostly Father was my debut novel, and it was written in response to the prompt WRITE THE BOOK YOU WANT TO READ.  I’ve always loved the story of Romeo & Juliet but wished it didn’t end so tragically, and the book I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of the story–the one in which the young lovers get the happy ending they deserve. The novel is part-prequel, part sequel to the original tale, and is told from the point of view of the Friar.

The following extract takes place in the Capulet vault and describes the scene in which the story takes a different turn from the original:

I lifted up my flambard and slowly eased myself to my feet.  A ghastly sight met my eyes: young Romeo, his body racking with sobs, was clinging desperately to Giulietta’s body, his streaming face buried in the folds of her white wedding dress.  So absorbed was he in his prostrate grief for his lost love that he was clearly utterly unaware that I was now standing at his side.

I was so taken aback at his arrival that it took some moments for me to ask myself: What in Heaven’s name was he doing here?

I received the answer to that question in the next instant.  The broken-hearted boy was reaching into his pouch and pulling out a small glass vial.

Oh Merciful Heaven, I thought, as I recalled Giulietta’s words: ‘I have no doubt that he would wish to follow me to the grave…’  I had no time to wonder what had happened to bring him hither in this desperate state; I knew only that I had but seconds to prevent a true catastrophe.

Romeo, still evidently oblivious of my presence, had now drawn the stopper from the vial.  He raised it towards his lips and declared, “Here’s to my love!”

The vial, with whatever deadly substance it contained, was inches away from his open mouth as I leapt forward and seized his arm.  Romeo screamed.  In his shock and amazement he lost his grip on the vial, which fell to the floor and smashed.  Its contents trickled across the flagstones, as the musty air of the vault was pervaded by a faint odour of bitter almonds. 

Tell us about your latest project

My most recent release was Never on Saturday – a paranormal time-slip romance novella set partly in medieval France and partly in present-day north Wales.  The story is based on an old French legend.  I’m currently working (rather slowly) on a French edition of the story.

What is your favourite cake?

I don’t have a very sweet tooth, but I do enjoy a good carrot cake or chocolate brownie. I’m also rather partial to the occasional scone with jam and cream. Opinions are divided about whether it should be jam first or cream first, but I know which order I prefer!

Connect with Sue here:

Twitter: @AuthorSusanB
Instagram: @suebarnardauthor

Join me next week when I will be having a slice of cake with Dan Arman. 

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 on Kofi - 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. Never miss out on future posts by following me