Tag Archives: Curtis Bausse

Catless

The thing about cats is that, well… they’re furry, aren’t they? Which is a good and a bad thing.

Good: because there’s nothing like stroking the smooth fur of an arching back for a taste of tactile pleasure. I’m talking about cats’ backs, here. And if they purr while I’m doing it… that’s my day made.

cats-for-dinnerAnd bad: because my partner is allergic to fur. So when we got together I had to choose between my cats and the new man in my life. Or dishing up the cats for dinner. Look, they’re all ready!

Several years after I gave my cats away, the fluffy devil came to tempt us again. This time it was the children who pleaded for a kitten of their very own (“promise we’ll take care of it, Mummy”). I explained they would have to choose between a furry pet and their Papa. After suggestions of sleeping in the garage (their Papa, not the desired kitten), they agreed that life was hard and full of difficult decisions to make. And they waited a whole week before asking again.

So, being catless, I found the most obvious solution. No, not borrowing the neighbour’s cat for secret stroking. And not giving up my job to work in a cat shelter. I wrote about them. Subconsciously.

There was a cat in my Novel Zero. There’s a cat in my short story Quark Soup. And there’s a cat – called Acrobat – in Tree Magic. The lovely literary agent who read Tree Magic many years ago said she loved the parts about Acrobat best (but didn’t represent YA authors). I find there’s something about a cat that completes a mental picture of a person or a place.

tini-with-montyWhen I wrote Tree Magic, there was a special cat in my mind. Here he is, Monty, in the early 1980s with my little sister (sorry about the quality – it was my first ever camera). In Tree Magic, this is what Acrobat does when Rainbow first meets him, which is why she calls him Acrobat (soon shortened to Batty or Bats). Acrobat is actually ginger.

It was only when I entered Curtis Bausse‘s Book a Break competition, however, that cats became the protagonists in a story. In his novel One Green Bottle, Curtis had written that two tabby cats deserted his protagonist. The cats’ story was never told. So, for the competition, Curtis gave us the paragraph and asked us to tell him about the two tabbies. It didn’t need to have any link to One Green Bottle – which was just as well, as I hadn’t read it at that point. (Having now read it, I’d thoroughly recommend this crime story set in France).

Here’s Curtis’s paragraph:

A long time ago, when life was tolerable, almost good, he had two cats that kept him company. How old was he? Seven? Eight? Before his father began to question the worth of his existence. Back then, presumably, he was cute, almost as cute as the tabbies. He never knew what happened to them but they disappeared, both of them, all of a sudden, and he was left only with an inconsolable sadness.

My story, Three Goddesses, is about the way cats make a place feel like home and how they can bring people together. Or not.

Atthys J. Gage, author of Flight of the Wren, Spark and Whisper Blue, judged the competition, after which Curtis spent loads of time compiling his favourite 21 stories into an anthology.

51irj8ydbpl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Like T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (on which the musical Cats was based) the anthology contains cats – and stories – of very different types. From spooky to cultural to historic, there’s something to suit every feline taste. Curtis himself has also contributed, via the cat ‘Smith, Terror of Taunton’, who writes the preface. I’d like to meet Smith. He seems to have a great sense of humour.

So here we are, at the objective of this furry, purry blog post: the illustrated ebook and paperback versions of Cat Tales will be on sale tomorrow, 15th December 2016, here on Amazon. The proceeds go to two charities: Against Malaria Foundation and Cats Protection. There’s also a facebook page where you can leave your comments and follow news of the contributing authors.

Many thanks to Curtis for organising the competition and the anthology. It’s been fun to work with the other writers.

Breaking news: next year’s Book A Break competition to win a weekend in Provence is now open. The deadline is 19th February 2017, the length 2000 words and the theme is The Journey (prompt: “They had a long journey ahead of them.”). 2016 winner, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, will judge the competition and winners will be announced on 19th March. There are more details on Curtis Bausse’s website here.

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Threes

“What comes in threes?” I asked my family at the dinner table last night.

“Triplets,” said one daughter.

“Granola biscuits,” said the other.

“Petits cochons,” said my husband. “Et les Trois Mousquetaires.” (He’s French)

This was much more fun than arguing about who left the tap running or why we’ve banned mobile phones from our bedrooms.

“Buy 2, get one free. Star Wars trilogies. 3 Cheers. Triathalons. Christopher Columbus’s 3 ships, Triple Leffe beer,” my family continued (I’ll leave you to guess who said what).

“The 3 parts of the ear. Darts. The boyband Two be Three – or was it Free? Three times a lady. World War 3.”

Actually, there’s a lot you can learn about people from their brainstorming ideas. I must remember to try this during aperitifs with friends.

Triple jump. Three-leafed clover. A trouple (what’s that? I asked. A couple, but with three people in it, my 13-year old replied. They learn a lot at school in France).

yippee before“Anyway, why do you want to know?” they asked, around dessert time, when things had passed from ridiculous into boring.

The thing is, I was looking for a title for this post. I wanted to use ‘Good News Comes in Threes’, but the grammar devil sitting on my shoulder (drinking a cocktail) swiped me around the ear and growled that news was an uncountable noun and so I couldn’t have three of them.

I considered ignoring him. It’s fun to ignore your grammar devil from time to time, as long as you’re good at dodging his swipes. Then I thought of all the grammar devils sitting on your shoulders – you who are reading this – and I got a bit scared.

Good News sounded too biblical. And ‘Three Pieces of Good News’ was too long and finicky. (As you can see, I have an issue with titles). So I thought about Curtis Bausse’s agent friend, Sydney Lushpile from the Books Ahoy Literary Agency, and cut it to one word.

You may have gathered that I’ve received some good news this month.yippee

Firstly, one of my short stories is going to be published in the October issue of The French Literary Review. This journal is edited by poet Barbara Dordi, and invites submissions with a French connection. Contributors include Ann Drysdale, David Pollard and Katherine Gallagher.

By the way, you can meet Katherine Gallagher at the excellent St.Clementin Literary festival in the Deux-Sèvres on 24, 25 & 26 June. This festival promises inspiration, with special guests including Patricia Duncker and Lemn Sissay. I’ll be there, playing the groupie and learning from the greats.

Secondly, my short story ‘Three Goddesses’ – you’d think I had a bit of a fetish for threes at the moment – is going to be published in a competition anthology. It’s being edited by Curtis Bausse (yes, him again. You should check out his blog if you like a good laugh) and is full of cool stories about cats.

And thirdly… well, I’ll come back to you later about this even more exciting one. (Take that, Grammar Devil).