Flash fiction: Jealous

He wears flashy trainers. Likes Coldplay. Smokes. Any one of those is a turn off, but all three combined? What she sees in him is beyond me. But then, Jessie’s shallow. Must be to find a jerk like Josh cool. Josh and Jessie. Makes you think of soggy fish and chips.

He wasn’t cool in History today. Dipped a hand in his rucksack and… well, seeing how he freaked, it must have been seriously gross. And he snarls at me, ‘I’ll get you for this!’

What the…? Me? Because I sniggered? Everyone did. As if I care what she does. Jerk.


In response to Matt’s Flash Fiction Foray, where this week’s prompt was Labyrinth’s song Jealous. My thanks to Matt for hosting this – not only does it give me a chance to try my hand at flash fiction, but since I’m easing up on the blogging to finish Perfume Island, it allows me every so often to stay in touch.

Three new pages!

They’re all on my other blog, the one where I get to be a serious indie author posting about writing, promoting and… well, nothing else really, because that’s all indie authors do.

Aware that even the smallest exposure can help, I’ve added an Indie Books Page with bite-sized reviews of books I’ve read. Not many for the moment but I’ll add more as and when.

There’s a One Green Bottle audio page – the first four chapters recorded. If you who don’t like reading on screen, or want to be entertained as you cook, this is for you!

Finally, win a holiday break in Provence! That’s right – a short story competition, first prize being a long weekend in Provence as a guest of yours truly. Check it out!

OGB released!

It’s out! Took a bit longer than expected due to some cover issues. But here’s the link, if you feel tempted. And this is one occasion when giving in to temptation can only be good 🙂 For the moment it’s just the e-version, the paperback will be up in a few days. There are many people I’ve thanked in the acknowledgements, so here I’ll just say thank you to Aaron Meizius, who not only accepted it for publication but has been cooperative and supportive throughout the process.

I haven’t done a quarter of what one should in terms of promotion, so now I’ll have to get stuck into that. OGB is released, but the real work is only just beginning. Competitions, giveaways and things like that. In fact why don’t I start straightaway? Yes! For the next two weeks a free pdf version is available to anyone promising to write an Amazon review afterwards. As far as I can tell, honest Amazon reviews are the single most effective means of getting noticed. So if you want to share your opinion, click here to receive the free version, or write directly to curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com

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Speaking of covers, I ran a poll a while ago asking readers choose their favourite. Most opted for the black cover – the red one was third. But when I asked a couple of marketing experts, they said, ‘Oh, no. If it’s on an internet page, you’ve got to go for the red. Stands out better.’ So there you go. I thought I was being all democratic, but power today is with the marketers. As Stendhal no doubt realised, since he covered both angles very cleverly.

Back in the small place

So after a very pleasant, but quite distracting summer, we’ve just got back to Mayotte. I say ‘the small place’ because it is, well, small, but also because it was the first in Clara’s series People Who Live in Small Places. I was honoured to start that series off back in January – it now includes several others: Virgin Gorda, St. Croix (US Virgin Islands), Roatan (Honduras), Gibraltar and Brunei, to name just a few. You can check out the series here and for anyone interested in expat life, Clara has also written an excellent Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.

Though I’ve been away for almost three months, I only had to get on the barge, as the ferry between the two islands of Mayotte is called, to feel as if I’d never left. The lagoon, the bouéni in their colourful salouvas, and the occasional gendarme made sure of that. It’s good to be back, settling down to resume work on the sequel to One Green Bottle, provisionally called Perfume Island (i.e. Mayotte). Hopefully also get back into blogging, not just posting but exploring other blogs – it’s all been a bit sporadic of late. As far as this blog goes, Pic’n’Post will move to Fridays and from next week, the Thursday Interview returns. I’m grateful to Sir Souvenir Mug for agreeing to kick off the new series – find out what he has to say on 25th! In the meantime, to those who’ve recently discovered this blog, welcome, bienvenue, karibu!

OGB update: Announcement

I’m not generally superstitious, but I decided for some reason it would be unlucky for me to make this announcement before receiving the corrected manuscript of One Green Bottle from my proofreader / copy editor. Perhaps because I was afraid she might tell me it needed rewriting, or even worse, that it didn’t need rewriting because it wasn’t worth reading anyway. But the envelope arrived the other day and she’s not only zapped all the typos and ironed out some inconsistencies but written, ‘I really enjoyed it – quite a page-turner!’  So with no superstitions to prevent me, I can now announce that I signed a publishing agreement a few weeks ago, and OGB will be released shortly by the small, recently established indie publisher, Meizius.

You might imagine me at this point doing cartwheels of joy round the garden. But that’s not the case. Mainly because I can’t do cartwheels any more and even if I could, I wouldn’t, because the garden’s strewn with pyracantha thorns. But also because my joy is of the measured, restrained variety. I’ve been down this road before. A few years ago, a small, recently established indie publisher brought out a book of mine and it disappeared without trace. So delighted as I am, I’m making no assumptions, nor building up expectations. On the other hand, I have two good reasons to hope that this time it might be different. Firstly, the previous novel was long, complicated and by all accounts difficult to read, whereas OGB is much easier. And secondly, I’m now at least aware that the hardest part is still to come – the marketing and promotion.

One immediate consequence of landing the deal is that I set up another wordpress site at curtisbaussebooks.com. I didn’t announce it and I thought it would remain invisible for a while, but a few wily explorers have found it, and although it’s still embryonic, even started to follow (for which, many thanks!). The reason I set it up was to focus more on the book, its sequel, and writing in general, as opposed to the rambling sort of stuff that goes on here. So the other blog is for the millions of fans occasional visitor people who actually want to know about the books, and this one is for anyone who wants to read the general hotchpotch it appears to have turned into. That doesn’t mean you won’t get stuff about writing here (that’s why I started it, after all), but whereas on the other one I’ll try to be serious all the time, on this one I feel able to faff around as the fancy takes me.

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Now over the past few months, I’ve read a huge amount about building a platform, setting up a brand and what have you, and I’m fairly sure my approach is contrary to all established wisdom in the matter. But what all that reading gives me mostly is a headache (this post by Atthys Gage gives a fuller analysis of the problem), so I’m adopting the one piece of advice I read very early on, which is to do whatever you feel comfortable with. I’m sure one day I’ll feel comfortable with the other blog too, but for the moment it feels like when I go over there, I’m putting on a suit and tie. Which is fine (every so often), but it’s always nice to slip into something more casual. So before I start thinking a bit more about my suit-and-tie blog, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s visited, liked or commented on this one, and made it a place where I feel so comfortably at home. Since following the excellent blogging 101 and 102 courses at the beginning of this year, I’ve been in touch with a whole variety of interesting, supportive, creative people who have all helped to make this blog what it is. My sincere thanks to you all – and now, if you’ll excuse me, I must see to the other blog. Now where did I put that tie…?

Pic’n’Post n° 15

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What is the picture of?

Well, last week’s picture of an object drew a few responses, so maybe an alternation of where and what would be a good idea, with another what for today. Many thanks to all of last week’s participants!  Guesses came in from Thumbup at Live Love Laugh, Matt from thebookblogger, T.J.Paris at amaviedecoeurentier, Atthys Gage at Speak More Light, and Johanna Massey. Both Matt and Johanna said the spout of a watering can, so are worthy runners-up, but the first to do so was Atthys, a relative newcomer to blogging, which goes to show one doesn’t need to be an experienced blogger to recognise a watering can.

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Congratulations, Atthys!

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Actually, it wasn’t a spout but a snout 🙂

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Atthys being the first to get the answer gives me the opportunity to put in a word of praise for Spark, a YA / sci-fi / paranormal novel he has recently published. It’s not only well-written and entertaining, but includes some fascinating (but understandable) discussion of topics such as entropy, so if you like that genre (or blend of genres), it’s well worth reading. Along with a few others from Book Country, notably G.D. Deckard (who had the idea), Atthys and I are setting up a Writers’ Cooperative as a place where writers can promote their books and find tips on marketing. Making hesitant progress, I should say, but we’ll get there eventually – I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, happy guessing with today’s Pic’nPost! As it may be a bit easy, for those who really like guessing, here’s a second picture to tax you a bit more:

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Toddler Talk

Blogging focus: The cook

It’s winter here in Mayotte. There’s a cool breeze in the evenings and when we went snorkelling yesterday, the water had a little chill to it. Back in the Metropole, where we’re heading now for the summer, it’s much hotter, up in the mid-thirties. Poor Mrs. B. – she’s been yearning to escape the heat all year. Having grown up in the frozen hills of Wales, I’m all for a bit of warmth myself – 32° is about right. But I digress: the point is, there’ll be people visiting, things to do in house and garden, life in both its chores and joys to resume. Furthermore, having taken a three month break from Perfume Island (sequel to One Green Bottle), now’s a good time to get back to it and work on draft number three with fresh eyes. So although I’ll be posting over the next three months, it won’t be as often: no more Sunday Poem, for example, and no more Thursday Interview (hopefully both will be back in September). Now is a good time to take stock as well – this blog is six months old. Still a toddler in many ways, but old enough to give rise to a few thoughts. Clara at expatpartnersurvial did a good post recently about that six-month milestone, and Itchy Quill, at a similar stage, gives a thorough account of 12 good reasons for blogging. Both bring up some excellent points which I won’t repeat here. So just a few remarks:

  1. If it hadn’t been for blogging 101 and 102, I’d never have made it this far. There were two aspects to those courses: the advice from the Word Press team, and the support from other bloggers. Both were vital in giving the blog an impetus I’ve so far managed to maintain. Along the way, I’ve come across a whole host of other blogs with totally different content, many of which I now read with eagerness. Many thanks to everyone who’s helped to make the blogging experience so enriching!
  2. The blog has settled into something I wouldn’t have been able to predict at the start. Probably because I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to take it. Which goes to show it’s perfectly OK not to have a clear idea – stick at it, and an identity will eventually emerge.
  3. All the same, I started this blog with a purpose. Now, I’ve just been nominated by Matt at thebookblogger2014 for the Encouraging Thunder award. For various reasons I don’t normally do awards but I’m happy to accept this one, firstly because it’s Matt (thank you, Matt!) and secondly because there’s nothing I have to do except enjoy the award (I’m enjoying it), thank the person who gave it you (done) and state your purpose in blogging. Well, the purpose was to build a ‘platform’ in order to promote OGB. I just didn’t know how to set about it, other than knowing what not to do, i.e. bang on about it non-stop. So if you do have an aim of that sort, blogging can only be an indirect means towards it. Blogging, in fact, becomes an aim in itself and product promotion is embedded within it, part of a whole.
  4. Nonetheless, a blog can (some might say should) have a focus. Thus there are blogs specifically devoted to food, photography, inspirational quotes, health, blogging itself (e.g. how to attract followers) and marketing. The focus attracts people with similar interests, and if they find your content useful (you offer advice, for example) your indirect product promotion may be more effective (only may, because it doesn’t necessarily follow that if you offer tips on book promotion, say, people will rush to Amazon to buy your own book). Well, this blog is pretty unfocused – precisely a result of not wanting to overdo the product promotion part, it flits from one topic to another as the fancy takes me. The blog, then, isn’t the platform, it can only be one part of it. So I’ll also use the months ahead to figure out more clearly how the platform as a whole can work coherently.

So there you go – the accumulated wisdom of six months blogging. Maybe in future, when the blog’s fully grown, I’ll bore you stiff rambling on about my wealth of experience in building an author platform. Now, there’s something to look forward to, eh?

Barefoot on Lego

One of these days, I’m going to take the time to understand Twitter. Just writing that sentence means I’ve come a long way – it used to be a different planet altogether, which I had no inkling or intention ever to visit. I still don’t get it, much less live there, but I’ve visited, breathed the atmosphere, despatched a few tweets and followed some of its inhabitants. But that’s about it so far, which on its own is pretty pointless. When I do explore in earnest, I could do worse than start with a case study of L.T. Vargus. Now, when I follow a twitter user (most of them are writers), I often get a message along the lines of “Thxs for the follow. Check out my novel XYZ at buymybook.com.” Sometimes I do, because after all, writers support other writers, right? But it doesn’t often go further than that, because according to my calculations, if I got them all, I’d end up with 1.2 zillion books and be reading for my next 98 reincarnations.

What L.T. Vargus wrote was, “I’d step on a Lego barefoot to get you to read my book’s free sample. Don’t make me do it!” I thought that was funny so I didn’t make her do it. And I ended up reading Casting Shadows Everywhere and liking it. So now I must write a review of it. Which reminds me, one of these days I’m going to take the time to understand Goodreads.

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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The Writing on the Wall

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The race was on – pool versus book. They were starting the wall, he was starting the second draft. He’d been away – they hadn’t got much done. He’d worked well, got up a head of steam, knew where the plot was going. The story was clear as an architect’s plan. The book was the odds-on favourite. No question.

The view from the window. Every so often, he rose from his desk to look. They were doing well too, no doubt about that. It spurred him on: they poured cement, he poured out words. For each of their planks, he nailed a dozen lines, hammering the words into place. Finished the chapter, set it in cement.

They were out in the sun, hauling and drilling and sawing, helmets heavy in the heat. He was inside with the ventilator. He went to the window and watched. They were mixing a paragraph with sand, tipping it into a barrow. They were building a row of chapters to support the wall. They’d need four or five, maybe more.

He went back to the desk, and saw that his words were loose. The screws weren’t right. They belonged to the story, but they wouldn’t fit. He leant back, trying to capture the music of the paragraph. It had to be there somewhere, hidden deep in the screech of the saw, the throbbing rumble of the drill.

With a howl, he gathered his notes and threw them out of the window. The workers watched the sentences roll down the road. One of them took a broom, swept the words into a pile and shovelled them into the barrow, verbs, nouns, adjectives tumbling in pell-mell. He showed them to the foreman, who examined them, nodded, and added them to the cement. The writing was on the wall. In the wall. Forever.

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The writer went back to his desk and stared at the screen, smooth and empty as a freshly built facade of cement.