Welcome!

This is the website of Claire Musters, freelance writer and editor. Please feel free to look around – check out ‘About’ for more details of Claire’s publishing career.

Watch this space for some personal blogs from Claire on subjects ranging from juggling a writing career with young children to what life is like now her record-producing husband has become a full-time pastor!

Thanks for visiting the site – hope you enjoy it.

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A day in the life of a jobbing writer

Today I am welcoming Edoardo Albert on my blog. He is a copywriter, editor and writer and his latest books, the series known as The Northumbrian Thrones, are published by Lion Fiction. The second book in the series, Oswald, has recently been published and, to celebrate, I invited Edoardo to give us some insights into his life as a writer.

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‘Alarm: 5am. But this morning, I didn’t need it. Son number three, two-year-old Isaac, had arrived in our bedroom at 1.30am, had settled in until 4.30am and then, with the hyperactive midsummer sun blasting through the curtains, woken up, thirsty, hungry and disinclined to go back to sleep. We got up. I fed and watered Isaac, and attempted to persuade him of the benefits of sleep. By 6am, he had agreed.

‘Luckily, I had switched off the alarm before heading downstairs, so wife number one and only was not disturbed. Sons numbers one and two had not stirred. The house was quiet, the street was quiet, I had an hour of calm to get some work done. The cat then came in, requiring breakfast.

‘This pretty well sums up the life of a modern-day writer: struggling desperately to fit some writing time in between the demands of family and making some actual, putting-food-on-the-kids’-plates money. Add to that long hours and every third person you meet telling you, ‘Oh, I’ve been meaning to write a book,’ and I sometimes wonder why I do it. But then there are times, as happened in the writing of Oswald: Return of the King, that you fall through the page into the story – it is as if a secret fire has lit inside the characters and, for want of any better way to describe it, they come alive.

‘Now, this is particularly precious but, also, particularly perilous for me, since what I am doing with Oswald and the first volume in the trilogy, Edwin: High King of Britain, is writing imaginative history. In most historical fiction, the history is the backdrop in front of which invented characters play out an invented story – sort of science fiction of the past. That’s all well and good, and at its best makes for wonderfully entertaining reading, but too often it slides into wish fulfilment. What I am trying to do with The Northumbrian Thrones trilogy is to take real people and actual events and show why they happened in a manner that is artistically satisfying and historically plausible. So it is a great privilege when these characters, most of whom were once real, living people, come to life in my mind, but a temptation too, for they are imaginings. Yet, at one level, I suppose if asked I would say that yes, I really do think Oswald was as I portray him: Tolkien, as he wrote the stories of Middle-earth, began more and more to believe that he was discovering rather than inventing. I am no Tolkien, but on the other hand seventh-century Northumbria lies on a somewhat firmer foundation of fact than Middle-earth.

‘As far as bringing this world to life, a great advantage is the fact that I have already written a book about the history and archaeology of the time – Northumbria: the Lost Kingdom, with archaeologist Paul Gething. Paul is director of the Bamburgh Research Project, which has been excavating in Bamburgh for over a decade now, and through writing and talking with him I gained the sort of insight that is simply impossible to find in books alone. For if I am trying to write imaginative history, Paul is doing imaginative and experimental archaeology, down to gathering bog ore from sites around Bamburgh, smelting and smithing it, to see if he can recreate the extraordinary weapon, the Bamburgh sword, that they rediscovered at the castle.

‘All this has gone into writing Oswald: Return of the King. I hope it doesn’t show (at least, not in a flashy, look-at-me sense, although I hope it appears in a sensed authenticity of detail).

‘As for my writing day, I squeezed in 45 minutes before catching the tube in to work. You think writing pays the bills? Think again.

‘There are some days I can devote entirely to writing, but these mainly result from not being able to find any better paying work for the day. Most often, I catch an early tube train in to work at Time Out or one of the other magazines where I play catch with my cash flow, settling in there for a day spent staring at a screen. This is good work for a writer: editing other people’s work, from the excellent to the barely competent, and marvelling how some writers, hardly able to craft a sentence, have managed to pursue careers in publishing.

‘The great joy of working in central London is the tube journey, for it offers uninterrupted reading time. As with all professions, increasing proficiency often entails doing less of what drew you to the subject in the first place. I became a writer, first and foremost, because I loved stories but, being a writer, I have less and less time to actually read any stories. Hence, all glory, laud and honour to TFL, and may their trains continue to take half an hour to get me in to central London: an hour’s reading a day is the vital word infusion that keeps the words fresh and renews the love of story.

‘So, there you have it, a writer’s day: words and screens, family and work, all in all not so different from other people. But I’ve done other jobs – deliveries, TV repairs, office work – and believe me, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about with words.’

Oswald cover

Edoardo’s first book in the series, Edwin: High King of Britain, is currently on sale in ebook form at a reduced price. It is also available in paperback.

To buy Edoardo’s new book, Oswald, please click here.

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How well do we listen?

the-art-of-listening pic

I have been struck recently with how bad I can be at listening. So often I am catching people at church, while needing to speak to countless others, so I can have half an ear on what they are saying, my eyes wandering around to catch the next person on my list – and of course a necessary eye on what my children are doing too. But God has been teaching me how bad a model that is.

Listening is a skill that needs to be learnt well. As the old saying goes, “You have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you speak.”

Who is it that you would say listens to you best? The person who grabs you quickly while on the way elsewhere, asks how you are and nods and smiles before zooming off? The one that takes more time, stands and listens but then begins to interrupt with their own story or advice on what you should do? Or the person who makes a particular arrangement to meet you, sits down, gives you their full attention by looking in your eyes and then simply sits quietly, taking it all in?
Being listened to is one of the main ways we can feel cared for. It gives us a sense of validation because another is interested in hearing about how we truly are.
Please click here for eight practical listening tips.

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What I’ve been reading: May and June…

I’ve decided to create another category on my blog in order to share my thoughts on the books I’ve been reading. As a book reviewer and interviewer I love receiving a range of complimentary titles, and I thought it was about time I highlighted a few of them for you. Some of them will be titles I’ve been reading for work purposes (in order to interview the author for example, or to research a subject area) while others have simply caught my eye. So here’s a selection of titles that I’ve read in the last couple of months.

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Savor by Shauna Niequist

This is a daily devotional that covers a whole year, so I’m certainly not finished with it yet, but it has been a real welcome addition to my time with God each morning. While Shauna covers general everyday life issues (parenting, friendship, self-image etc) with great honestly and integrity I’ve been especially encouraged and enriched by the comments she makes about being a writer. It almost makes it feel like I’ve pulled up a chair at her kitchen table and she is openly sharing the things most on her heart. I’d definitely recommend the book – and it would also make a lovely gift. It includes some extra little touches – some of her favourite recipes. I’m always a sucker for some of those :)

the hole in our holiness coverThe hole in our holiness by Kevin DeYoung

I really get a lot out of Kevin’s books, and definitely wanted to read this as, when I first stumbled upon it, I was writing a set of Bible study notes on holiness (for CWR’s Inspiring Women Every Day – due out in 2016). The book is a very clear, challenging, truth-filled look at why we seem to miss the mark on holiness so often. With a loving but balanced approach, Kevin reminds us that the point is not to be legalistic nor should we be ambivalent about sin, but that, through Jesus, all of us can be holy. The mystery of how grace and holiness work together is beautifully described in this book.

chosen coverdesired coverChosen and Desired by Ginger Garrett

I have to confess I picked these up when they were free Kindle downloads. Ever since reading Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love I’ve been exploring other fiction that retells biblical stories. Of course, there is a plethora of such books out there and some are much better than others. Ginger has a great imagination and really transports you into the lives of Esther and Delilah in these two books. There was certainly much that made me think, although I didn’t always feel that the portrayals were as I would have imagined them. I enjoyed the Esther book – Chosen – more than Desired, although the latter interestingly moved between Delilah narrating her own story and Samson’s mother sharing hers.


ultimate justice cover kicking tree coverThe Kicking Tree and Ultimate Justice by Trevor Stubbs

Described as fantasy adventure fiction these books are part of the White Gates Adventure series and are aimed at people aged 14+. I have read them in order to interview Trevor (the interview will appear in the Sept/Oct issue of Families First magazine). I have to admit I don’t know a lot about fantasy fiction, and it isn’t a genre that I would have chosen to read from. However I was fascinated to see how Trevor would provide the ‘spiritual heart’ that he says is in his books. The first story is based around two young people from different worlds that travel through mysterious white gates that transport them to different places. Once they meet, they find that each time they are transported it is for a particular reason; the Creator has chosen them to help others. I know my 15-year-old niece loves fantasy fiction and so I was interested in passing them on to her. While reading, I did wonder if the books are a little basic, naïve even, when compared to something like The Hunger Games trilogy, which I know my niece has read (I’m making no comment about that fact!). However I will give them to her, as I’d like to hear what she thinks of them. I do also like the way that Trevor has managed to really inject the big questions of life into his writing, such as what makes us human?, why do we suffer?, as well as tackling issues such as justice, power and free choice. Even with my reservations, I have to admit I was eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens!

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Learning how to ‘one another’

many hands together: group of people joining hands showing unity and support

‘One anothering’ is a term I have heard since the early days of our church (which started in 2003). While it may seem slightly strange – even old-fashioned perhaps – it is still one that continues to challenge and motivate me today.

So why ‘one anothering’?

There are 100 instances of the phrase ‘one another’ in the New Testament, with almost half of them being direct instructions to the church.

A third of those instances are about loving one another, while another third instruct us on unity. I really believe that God wants us to take these verses seriously and wake up to the fact that being a Christian isn’t about being isolated, focusing on what we feel we want to do in order to express our faith. It is about being together, and learning to look out for one another.

We’ve already seen how caring for each other, yes even those we may find difficult, is actually a way that we grow into maturity as a Christian, but it’s more than that. One anothering expresses God’s heart for His community.

To read the rest of this post, please click here.

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Church: God’s design for caring community

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Churches are really unique places aren’t they? There are very few other places where you will find people from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities, ages, stages of life coming etc together regularly. I personally think the more varied a church is the more it is a wonderful picture of God’s grace and design.

However, the diversity within churches does bring a unique challenge. Jesus prayed to His Father: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23).

Reflecting on this is pretty humbling. Jesus is basically saying that the way in which we model unity speaks to the world the truth of the gospel. And how do we become unified? Through showing love and care to one another, choosing to lay down any petty squabbles in order to see the best in one another.

In a church full of variety there are going to be those that we are naturally drawn to, as well as others that we find difficult. I think part of God’s wisdom in this is that our own rough edges and foibles, which are such a part of us we don’t really see them, can be taken off as we rub up against those that are different to us. Indeed Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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The incredible power of the gospel

Puppets2What do singing puppets, friendly face painters, church members praying with passers by and a visiting evangelist preaching the gospel have in common?

Well that’s what a recent Saturday looked like on our town’s high street. Our church had evangelist Jonathan Conrathe come and work with us for the weekend. We had plenty of gatherings at church but we also set up in town during the day on the Saturday. My husband was involved in the puppets, which always draw a crowd, and my daughter and I were face painting.

Those types of activities are almost ‘safe’ evangelism – we are ‘doing’ things so don’t have to put ourselves on the line too much (although it was good to have some fruitful discussions with parents, who were so much more open because their kids were happily entertained).

What struck and challenged me most about the time, however, was how people responded to the gospel being preached. I was amazed (and then repented of being amazed) by how Jonathan simply gave the gospel message and people responded to it there and then on the street and we had the privilege of praying with them.

Listening while face painting I can remember thinking a few times “I could never say that” and “Isn’t that rather politically incorrect – can you say that on a British high street?” Don’t get me wrong, Jonathan preached with grace and clarity, not damning fire and brimstone. And when he called for a response there were those whose hearts had obviously been touched who wanted to make a commitment to Jesus.

The experience of being on the high street that day caused me to reflect on how the gospel certainly is timeless – and it also holds an unfathomable power. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

To read the rest of this post, please click here.

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Five reasons why we need to repent more

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The words ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ seem somewhat old-fashioned don’t they? I’m often told to change them when I’m editing Bible study notes, as people don’t relate to such terminology these days.

It is true that sin and repentance are concepts that seem to go against the grain. Our individualistic society feeds off the thought that ‘I’ should focus on myself – and that ‘truth’ is simply what I believe and how dare anyone challenge that. But that smacks of a hardness of heart – whereas we are called to be softened and malleable in God’s hands.

God has been talking to me a lot recently about how vital our need to say sorry is. I’ve come to realise that repentance actually holds the key to unlocking so much freedom within us as Christians.

We need to say sorry both to God and to others. We need to have the grace to allow others to say sorry to us and forgive when necessary.

It is true that, as Elton John says, ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’. However, here are five compelling reasons to put in the effort.

1. It reveals a humble, honest heart.

God wants us to be humble enough to acknowledge when we are in the wrong, rather than trying to cover it up. When we come to Him with honesty it shows integrity; we aren’t trying to pretend we are better than we are. Saying sorry and asking for forgiveness demonstrates our continued need of a Saviour. We can’t do everything in our own strength – repenting when we trip up shows that we recognise this and are leaning on God.

I love spending time in the psalms – David is one of my biblical heroes. So much strength, wisdom, depth of feeling and a worshipful heart, and yet he wasn’t perfect. He stooped to an all-time low in his episode of covering up his sin with Bathsheba, but, when the prophet Nathan confronted David his immediate response was ‘I have sinned against God’, and he wrote Psalm 51 to God soon after. Here’s a snippet:

Have mercy on me, O God,

 according to your unfailing love;

according to your great compassion

 blot out my transgressions.

Wash away all my iniquity

 and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,

 and my sin is always before me…

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

 wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

To read the rest of this post please click here.

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