Gazette n° 3: contents

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Gazette number 3 goes out tomorrow – very different from the first two as it’s all about language learning. The first text, A Writhing Mass (2915 words), was originally published in the creative non fiction section of Spilling Ink Review. It’s an account of my attempt to learn Burmese. (I still have hopes of achieving that but it seemed a bit odd to study Burmese in Mayotte, so I’ve started Shimaoré instead. Not that I’ve got very far with that either). Then there are three short stories in both English and French: The Case of the Missing Guide (1895 words), Believe in Yourself (1972 words) and Shopping with Sally (1783 words). These were written for French learners of English, but to a certain extent it should work the other way round as well. The idea was to take a selection of useful words in English (i.e. those which occur frequently) and incorporate them in a story. So in each story there are 80 target words, which originally were presented with translations and pictures as well as in the context of a sentence. On top of that the words are recycled from one story to another, thus increasing the chance of them being learnt.

This is an ongoing project, with 20 stories planned and only five done so far. Making up the stories isn’t so difficult – what’s harder is to include not just the target words but the words from previous stories to recycle. Still, maybe it’ll get finished one day. If anyone wants to participate in this project, give a shout! Or if you want to know more about the research behind it, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the contact page.

There’ll only be one more issue after this, at least for a while. Not that I don’t have more material in preparation, but I’ve started the third draft of Perfume Island, and that requires the sort of concentration that can only come with sustained bouts of work. Sincere thanks to my subscribers!

Gazette n° 2 out tomorrow!

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The second issue of The Gazette has two stories in it. The first, A Typographical Error (1837 words) was simply inspired by an inversion of letters in a word, which gave rise to a completely different perspective on it and led me imagine a story around the two. Though it dates from a few years back I never sent it anywhere because I felt it was bit flippant for the seriousness of the topic it deals with. When I came back to it, though, it struck me that a lot more could be made of it, and that resulted in the second text Four Sisters: Susan (9182 words). This is in fact the start of a novel about, you guessed it, four sisters whose lives span much of the last century. A project I’ll come back to later, but writing up this first part enabled me to start giving it some substance. To subscribe to these free stories, click on the link on the right.


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Meanwhile, the first instalment of the weekly series What a Life! What a Day! is now available on Channillo, with the Muse Calliope telling us what makes her tick. If you want to know what she thinks of Tracy Emin’s bed, check it out! Or else, just spread the word – all proceeds go to the Against Malaria Foundation. Many thanks!

Gazette Issue 2 and other writings

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Many thanks to those who signed up for The Gazette. Issue 2 will be sent in a couple of weeks, and of course, to anyone who wishes, the first issue is also available – the subscribe link is on the right. Just a reminder – The Gazette is a free magazine containing two or three of my stories which may vary considerably in style or topic. For me it’s a useful way of sifting through ideas I’ve had for a long time but never got round to writing. So now I’m getting them into what you could call beta shape – not the finished product perhaps, but worked on enough to be put out for the judgment, and hopefully the pleasures, of others. Subscribers aren’t officially beta readers, since there’s no obligation to provide feedback (even if feedback is welcome). Details of the contents of Issue 2 will appear shortly.


Following my interview of T.J. Paris (author of, amongst other things, the wonderful Papa Bouilloire series), he has kindly reciprocated, with my answers to his questions appearing on his blog today. Many thanks, TJ!

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Finally, after writing a first piece about Mayotte to kick off Clara’s excellent series People Who Live In Small Places (now including Gibraltar, the Seychelles, the Netherlands and a village in the west of France), I was asked by Phoebe at Lou Messugo to do another piece, her series being devoted to France and its overseas territories. I didn’t want to repeat the same post as I did for Clara, so it’s quite different in fact, with the negative side (i.e. illegal immigration and its consequences) given more prominence.

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And that’s probably enough of me for the moment so I’ll sign off here. Ta ta!


Whatever is the world coming to?

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Harry Johnson, our French teacher (Harry J. as we called him), was fond of Balzac. I suspect he may have known him personally, as despite the occasional flash of humour, Harry J. appeared to have been recovered from the morgue, dressed in a suit too large, and tipped into the classroom to lecture us in a creaky Dalek monotone about the tribulations of poor old Cousin Pons.

On March 17th, 1971, however, rather than talk about Pons, Harry J. sat at his desk in silence, a somwhat disturbing gleam in his eyes, until he had our full attention. ‘Whatever is the world coming to?’ he asked. As usual, Richardson Major put up his hand. He rarely knew the correct answer to anything, but that never stopped him giving one, whether about Cousin Pons or what the world was coming to. Harry J. sensibly ignored him. ‘A whole page in The Times,’ he said, ‘with a picture of a naked lady.’ He had a copy of the paper, which he opened to the page in question, but he didn’t display it to the class, leaving it instead to our eager adolescent imagination. After a while, he closed the paper and said, ‘Right. Cousin Pons. Page 84, second paragraph. Hargreaves, start reading, please.’

In a recent May I: The Write post, Izzy asks the excellent question: How much detail is enough to introduce a main character and still entice readers to flip to the next page? When I read that, it immediately made me think of Cousin Pons, described by Balzac in such meticulous detail that none of us had the slightest desire to flip to the next page. The most exciting moment is on page 29, when you get to his ear lobe (the left one – the right is on page 34). Harry J. explained to us that these physical details provided precious insights into Pons’s character, but nincompoops that we were, we didn’t get it.

Description is partly a point of view issue. The more internal the POV, the less likely you are to know the colour of a character’s hair. ‘She ran her hand though her unruly blonde hair.’ That’s OK if the POV is external, but with internal POV, it becomes an inconsistency – not the character’s perceptions anymore, but the author wading in to tell us her hair is blonde. Izzy’s question got me thinking of my own main character in One Green Bottle. Though I have a clear idea of what she looks like, she’s never described in detail and the colour of her hair or eyes is left for the reader to decide. Conversely, in The Mystery Man, a whole paragraph is devoted to describing a woman, because the narrator at that point is observing her and trying to figure out what’s going on.

I’ll never know why Harry J. started his lesson that way. Was he making some subtle comparison between Balzac’s exhaustive description of Pons and our own imagining of the picture in The Times? Or simply saying that, shocking as it was, what the world was coming to rather pleased him?

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Channillo on my Plate

It’s funny, but I seem to have managed to get rather a lot on my plate. ‘Here in Mayotte? Doesn’t he get bored?’ people ask my wife when she says I’m retired. To which she replies an emphatic ‘No, not at all!’ Apart from the novel, already on the go, the blog eats up a variable portion of the day, and then a few weeks ago I decided to launch the Gazette (see subscribe link on sidebar – first issue going out tomorrow!). As if that wasn’t enough, I received a tweet from Kara Monterey, founder of Channillo, asking me to submit an idea for a column, which I duly did. So for a year, starting 1st June, What a Life! What a Day! will be a weekly column for her recently founded serialised writing website. Many thanks for the opportunity, Kara!

I guess that’s called workaholic. On the other hand, if you’re doing what you enjoy, I find it hard to think of it as work. I was a bit the same when I really did work, taking on responsibilities that left me with very little time simply because I enjoyed it. As my wife still has to go out and deal with traffic jams, meetings and reports, I really ought to do all the housework. Strangely enough, though, I somehow never seem to get round to it.

PS Currently travelling, so please excuse me if I’m less reactive to comments, or less able to visit other sites myself. It’s not that internet access is difficult, just that this activity called ‘sightseeing’, which appears to be part of the deal, takes up a fair part of the day.

Gazette Issue 1 out soon!

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So as promised, a few more words about the first issue of The Gazette. There are three stories in it, each one self-contained, but all interconnected to form a whole, And It Came To Pass. The first story, Away Too Long (970 words), was originally published by Leaf Books Magazine in an anthology of the same name. The other two, The Mystery Man (3778 words) and Quite Contrary (5627 words) were written specially to form the trilogy in this issue.

As I mentioned in my initial announcement, the themes and style of The Gazette will vary considerably. Though far from entirely bleak, this issue leans towards the dark side. But don’t let that put you off – subsequent issues will be brighter!

Three stories, over 10,000 words, all for free! Scheduled release date, 5th May. Sign up to receive an email PDF by clicking on the subscribe link to the right (if you’re on a smartphone, depending how smart it is, you may have scroll down to the bottom).

The Gazette

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A couple of weeks ago, I discreetly added a widget to my sidebar inviting readers to sign up for The Bausse Gazette. Here I announce the forthcoming appearance of the first issue and explain the reasoning behind it. Each issue of the Gazette will contain two or three stories. A few have been previously published in online or print magazines, but most are being written specially for the Gazette. I work best to deadlines – the first Tuesday of each month, when the Gazette goes out, the stories will have to be ready. Without that deadline, they probably wouldn’t get written.

It’s experimental – not the writing itself but the idea. While I’ve been concentrating lately on crime fiction, I’m also attracted to literary texts, with themes that may be dark or humorous, whimsical or weighty. My team of marketing advisors (i.e. me and myself) had quite a debate about this. Some said too broad a variety is bad for ‘brand identification’. Others said no problem, it’s a ‘product diversification strategy’, just like Unilever, really. The bottom line? I enjoy developing ideas of all sorts so why not? (Not that I’ll be straying into E.L.James territory, if you’re wondering).

What’s in it for you? Well, a couple of free stories if you want. As always, when it comes to writing, the reader’s in control – you stop reading or unsubscribe any time you want. And if you like them, you’ll have had a few minutes of whatever pleasure reading gives you.

Watch this space for upcoming details of the contents of issue one. (For the moment, this is just The Bausse Gazette, but there’s no reason the name can’t change one day and other contributors be welcomed). And now all that remains is for me to really commit myself by pressing ‘publish’. Here goes…