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…?

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?

OGB Cover: The (pre)reveal!

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The above is not the cover. But when I needed a cover to post One Green Bottle on Book Country, that’s one picture I came up with. The bottles were on google and the red band on the right was the consequence of me messing about with some editing software and finding no way to undo it. And then I discovered anyway that it didn’t have the right number of pixels, and when I fiddled with those the result was even more disastrous.

So then I thought I’d take a picture myself, the basic ingredients being a knife, some blood and, you guessed it, a green bottle. All of which was easy to find, though the blood involved a trip to The Magic Joke Shop in Cambridge, where I spent some time admiring the magnificent disguises before heading over to the blood shelf.

fancy dress 1         fancy dress 2                   fancy dress 3 www.mrcrumbles.net

http://www.mrcrumbles.net

I had to ask for help. Blood, I discovered, is like aftershave: spray, bottle or gel? “Oh, bottle, definitely,” said the hemoglobin assistant, who clearly knew her stuff. When I got back, I tied some string to the bottle and dangled it from the wall outside the house, observed all the while by the neighbour across the road. He was fixing snow chains to his car, which I thought was odd. It was a cold day in January, yes, but bright and sunny all the same. But then, I suppose, I was hardly well placed to describe other people’s behaviour as odd. Eventually, each convinced the other was mad, we sauntered cautiously into the no man’s land between us. “I’m getting in some practice,” he explained. “Off skiing soon.”

“Oh, right. I thought we might be in for snow.”

“Oh, no I think we’ll be fine.” He glanced at the sky. “For the moment, anyway.”

I was holding the blood-covered knife. He was too polite to ask, so I came to his aid. “For a book cover.”

“Ah, OK.” His look of relief turned to worry. “That would be fiction, would it?”

“Oh, yes.” I glanced at the knife. “For the moment, anyway.”

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!

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.

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.

Thursday Interview: Simon Retsky

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– Now Mr. Retsky, you’re not very well-known. In fact, being a minor charatcer in an as yet unpublished novel, it could be said that you are literally a nonentity. Does that bother you?

– Not especially. I’ve never hankered after stardom. Small as my role is, I’m quite happy not to be centre stage.

– What exactly is your role?

– I run a small supermarket in Sentabour, the village in Provence where Magali Rousseau lives – she’s the main character in One Green Bottle, the detective. She saw I was looking for a part-time cashier and applied for the job, which I gave her. She looked a bit down on her luck at the time.

– So it was out of the kindness of your heart?

– Oh, no, she was clearly a bright woman, quick on the uptake. My fear was that she’d get bored – it’s hardly the most exciting of jobs, after all. But she coped with it very well.

– And I suppose she kept you up to date on the progress in her investigation?

– Not at all. She was very discreet, secretive in fact. Of course, we all found out afterwards she wasn’t a qualified private detective, which explained it. There was quite an outcry. What with that and the murder, it was a story such as Sentabour hasn’t seen in many a year. And hopefully, will never witness again.

– So you contributed nothing to the investigation yourself?

– No, I’d say my contribution was in helping Magali find her feet at a time when she needed to get herself back on track. She tends to have her head in the clouds, and it did her good to sit at the till – she said so herself. We got on well together. I’m a bit of a gossip, I must admit, and she loved listening to my stories. Well, I know everyone in Sentabour, of course. She’d only arrived a few months before and for her it was the best introduction to the village she could have.

– Any plans for when the novel comes out? A celebration, perhaps?

– I haven’t been told when it will be yet. Some time this year, but not for a few more months. When it does come out, I’ll probably just have a quiet drink with Magali and a few friends. And then get back to the shop. I’m happy enough just to have been included. She could have worked in a different shop altogether, and I wouldn’t have been in the book at all then. Now that’s what I call a nonentity!