Where do the nets go?

The Book a Break short story competition is in its third year. From the outset, it was decided to donate the proceeds of the resulting anthology to charity, specifically the Against Malaria Foundation. Writers who submitted their stories have all kindly accepted to forego any royalties, knowing that they go instead to the fight against malaria.

One key reason for choosing the AMF is that Give Well, which assesses charities for cost-effectiveness, "it offers donors an outstanding opportunity to accomplish good with their donations".

The two minute video here shows the distribution of LLINs (long-lasting insecticide-treated nets) in Malawi, which along with Togo has benefitted from the donation of proceeds from the Book a Break anthologies. 

By developed country standards, the revenue generated by sales of the anthologies is tiny - over two years, we're talking in the region of $200. But that sum has bought 70 nets, which now protect over 100 people for up to three years.

My thanks, then, to all who have helped with the Book a Break, writers and readers alike. For me, the experience of compiling and editing the anthologies has been enriching, and in the course of it, I've made the acquaintance of many wonderful people and excellent writers. 

I recently added a page on the AMF website where people can donate directly a sum of their choice. If they then contact me, I'll send them the two anthologies so far published (here is a review of the 2017 anthology). You get good stories to read, people get protected from malaria - there can't be a better win-win situation than that.

Thanks to   Shilpa GargSimon FalkLynn HallbrooksEric LahtiDamyanti Biswas and Guilie Castillobe  for hosting this month's WATWB.

The summit at last!

Last month I did something I should have done 25 years ago: climb the Ste Victoire. To live in Aix and not do that is like living in Athens and never visiting the Acropolis. Never mind the 28,764,319 people who've climbed it before me, it still felt like an achievement.

It isn't difficult. Steep in parts, to be sure, but the path is practically a motorway and in 90 minutes you're there. I was with Bruce, an old Scottish friend from my school days who visits regularly; this was his fifth ascent. My daughter must have been up it a dozen times at least. So you could say I have no excuse. You could even call me a sloth.

I shall retort with the astounding fact that the great man himself, Paul Cézanne, who painted the Ste Victoire 82 times (I'm  not kidding), never found it necessary to admire the view from the top. You see? It's like a Christmas tree - better contemplated than climbed.

All the same, it felt good to have done it, so I thought the moment deserved to be captured for posterity. This, believe it or not, was another first for me - a selfie. You might wonder why I look like a discombobulated turtle: it's because I couldn't figure out how to swivel the screen into selfie mode, so I'm fumbling for the button on the other side of the phone.

Bruce, by the way, has many talents, one of which is acting - we were in several school plays together. So when he was over, I asked him to record 35 (Slateford via Holyrood). that's the story by Sam Middleton Beattie in With Our Eyes Open, this year's Book a Break anthology. When I read the story, it cried out to be recorded - you'll see why when you listen to it. And I think you'll agree that Bruce did an excellent job.

Story Statistics

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I’ve always been something of a numbers nerd. I was once upbraided at school by Mr. McCartney, the maths teacher, for not doing his polynomial equation. In its place, based on a complex formula of my own, I was trying to calculate the position in the following week’s charts of You Really Got Me by The Kinks. It was obviously going to hit the top ten but the crucial question was in which spot? If I remember rightly, I was only out by a couple of places, which I considered very good. You’d think that with a name like McCartney, the maths teacher would be excited, but sadly he took no interest at all in pop music.

Anyway, the publication of With Our Eyes Open, 34 stories based on the theme of ‘a journey’, gives me a great opportunity to share a few statistics. Because you’ve obviously been wondering where and how the journeys were undertaken, so here is the breakdown for you.

Twelve are in the UK, no doubt reflecting the fact that most of the authors are British. The US has six and France two, with Italy, Poland, Kenya, Zambia, Iran, South-East Asia and outer space each getting one. Seven are unspecified. Regarding mode of transport, seven are by car, four by train, four on foot, three by bus, two each by boat and plane, and one by spaceship. The remaining eleven don’t involve a vehicle as such but describe a journey through life. There appears to be a correlation between ‘unspecified location’ and ‘journey through life’, but further research is needed to determine whether this is significant.

Of course, you may take Mr. McCartney’s view that my love of pointless statistics only says something worrying about what goes on in my brain. I beg to differ. It’s fascinating to see that 34 authors can take the same prompt and interpret it in so many different ways. There are some who take a broad perspective, with characters reflecting on life’s crucial issues, and others who focus on a specific time and place. But despite the differences, all have something to say about what it means to be human. Which is why, in fact, they were selected for the anthology. The shortest journey, incidentally, is about eight yards, the longest 2.7 billion miles. All of which goes to show, I think, that it isn’t the journey itself that counts but the story we choose to make of it. The authors here have all made stories that open our eyes as they take us travelling with them. And not even Mr. McCartney could argue with that.


The stories in this anthology were selected from submissions to the second Book a Break short story competition.  The proceeds from this book go to the Against Malaria Foundation.

The 2017 Book a Break short story anthology is available for now on Amazon as a kindle ebook in colour or directly from this site by clicking below. Alternatively, you can donate directly to the Against Malaria Foundation. Forward their thank you email to me (curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com) and I will send you the PDF file straightaway.

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Collecting the prize

Sherry Sept 17

At the end of last month, Sherry Morris came to stay with us, together with her partner Phil. I suppose you could say she came to collect her prize as winner of the 2017 Book a Break short story competition, though there wasn't actually a ceremony like they do at Wimbledon. Maybe next year I'll manufacture a cool trophy which the winner will hold aloft before making a speech.

Living here, I sometimes forget what a splendid place it is, notwithstanding certain discomforts of modern life such as the ever-increasing volume of traffic and rising levels of pollution. But Sherry and Phil weren't bothered: they live in a remote part of Scotland, so it was an opportunity for them to observe some human beings. Though apparently in summer they get a lot of them up there too. There are human beings all over the place.

Apart from Aix itself, they visited Avignon and Marseille, where Phil went to see a Black Madonna. For some reason, he developed a sudden interest in Black Madonnas whilst over here, so now he'll be trekking the world in search of them. Or else he might just write about them - he's a playwright, so maybe at some point there'll be a new nativity play starring Beyoncé.

After reading Green Tights, Sherry's story in With Our Eyes Open, one of the contributors said it was 'very David Lynch', which I thought nailed it perfectly - the same blend of startling imagery and delicious, twisting storyline. I'd imagined her rather similar -  eccentric, intense, prowling the garden in a creative bubble of her own. In fact she's perfectly normal, which reassured me that you don't have to be extraordinary yourself to produce extraordinary writing; you just have to roll up your sleeves and work at it.

My own company, of course, isn't part of the prize, but inevitably it's in the package, at least for part of the time. So I tried to keep on my best red carpet behaviour, though I stopped short of the bow tie, or indeed of any tie. Come to think of it, my dress sense - no, better not go there. Let's just say I'm better at cooking. On the whole, that is, though I managed to make a mess of Sherry's tea. I'm not sure how. I think it was George Orwell's fault - I was following his recipe. I'm a great Orwell fan, but maybe when it comes to tea, I should seek inspiration elsewhere.

The Book a Break competition is singular in that the organiser gets as much pleasure from it as the winner. Like Ingrid Jendrzejewski last year, Sherry and Phil were charming and interesting guests - my thanks go to both for making this year's edition so enjoyable.

The 2017 Book a Break short story anthology is available for now on Amazon as a kindle ebook in colour or directly from this site by clicking below. Alternatively, you can donate directly to the Against Malaria Foundation. Forward their thank you email to me (curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com) and I will send you the PDF file straightaway.

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The New Book a Break Anthology

With Our Eyes Open

Fancy a trip to Pluto? Or a fearful drive along a stretch of country road? Unless you prefer to go to church with a strange woman in green tights, her hair alive with electricity. Here you have 34 stories, each one a journey, whether funny or frightening, real or figurative, shared or dreadfully alone. ‘They had a long journey ahead of them’ was the prompt: the writers here, from award-winning authors to exciting new talents, took it and made it their own. Sit back and enjoy the scenery, then, as the stories open your eyes to destinations you’ll want to go back to again. Bon voyage!

The stories in this anthology were selected from submissions to the second Book a Break short story competition.  The proceeds from this book go to the Against Malaria Foundation.

The 2017 Book a Break short story anthology is available for pre-order now on Amazon as a kindle ebook in colour ($2.38) or at the reduced price of $0.99 from this site by clicking below. On 15th October, when it will be released, the price goes up to $2.99. Alternatively, you can donate directly to the Against Malaria Foundation. Forward their thank you email to me (curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com) and I will send you the PDF file straightaway.

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Fancy a story?

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Many days since I posted – my apologies! The reason is, I’ve been busy with Various Things, so without further ado, a list, in no particular order:

  • the new website: getting my mind round wordpress.org and Beaver Builder. It’s not too difficult, but still takes time. The longest was deciding on a theme, but that’s done now, so it’s a matter of working on the layout and getting some content together. Maybe ready towards the end of the month.
  • Making a Murder: six illustrated essays about the writing of a murder mystery. Plenty of humour, but informative too. To be released along with the new website – free to anyone signing up to my newsletter.
  • To The Right Place: a short story to appear in Dan Alatorre’s The Box Under The Bed, an anthology of scary stories. Due for release October 1st. Click here to pre-order your copy for just $0.99.
  • With Our Eyes Open: My own anthology of stories submitted to this year’s Book a Break short story competition. In the final stages of formatting. 34 stories on the theme of a journey. A great variety of voices, characters and situations that will take you everywhere from Nairobi to Pluto. Cover coming soon. Due for release 15th October – not to be missed!

So I’ve been pretty much tied to the computer. But still managed to take a few walks in the countryside round Le Beaucet, where we’re staying for a couple weeks. Just long enough to notice that it’s actually rather pretty.

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Now, where was I? Ah, yes – better get back to editing that story…

 

 

Call to Photographers

The 2017 Book a Break anthology has a Journey theme. The 34 excellent stories in it are currently being edited and proofread. So now is the time to ask all photographers out there to submit a picture which fits with the theme, either in colour (for the ebook) or black and white (for both ebook and print).

The theme is open to many interpretations. The journey could be on roller skates, by recalcitrant mule or at the helm of an intergalactic spaceship. Unlike last year, the pictures won’t be linked to specific stories, but illustrations of your own approach to the theme. They need to be of a high enough resolution to look good either printed or on screen (minimum 300 dpi). For the ebook, I’d like to include a wide variety of arresting pictures; for the print book, only a few in order to keep costs down.

All photographers will be credited and will retain copyright of their picture. They will be able to include links to their website or other examples of their work. There can be no remuneration, however, as the proceeds go to charity (the Against Malaria Foundation).

Photo submissions can be sent to curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com

Deadline: 20th July

Useless with a camera yourself? Not to worry – you can do your bit by sharing this far and wide. Many thanks, and happy snapping!

 

How much did we raise?

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We’re already well into May, and I’ve done no summary of last month’s A to Z blogging challenge. Actually, the culprit is Smith, who took over the blog for the whole of April, and left without writing his report. He’s now in Madagascar, where eventually he got round to sending an email, and then we hooked up by Facetime.

I don’t want to be too critical – on the whole he did a very good job. He finished the challenge for a start, with every story in the Cat Tales anthology getting its own post, and after a while he overcame his spoiler habit. But he could have been a lot better in seeking other A to Z participants and commenting on their websites. I think he found it all rather overwhelming.

Nonetheless, he joins me in thanking his supporters, foremost among them Sue Ranscht, who reblogged every post and encouraged her followers to support the two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation, by buying a copy of the anthology. Sue, by the way, is currently running a delightful series of bite size instalments about Elliot, an intrepid, lovable snail who braves a dizzying sequence of calamities in his search for love and adventure. Check it out – I guarantee you’ll love it.

But what of the results? How much money did we raise? Well, there were 8 purchases through the website and 4 via Amazon, generating a total of $15.68. Not a huge amount, I admit, and Smith was a little down in the mouth when he told me. I was quick to console him though: on the one hand selling books is hard (there so many), and on the other, raising money for charity is hard (there are so many). I told him people can be wary, often with good reason, of donating to charity, and he was right to stress that the Against Malaria Foundation ranks consistently as a top charity in Givewell’s cost effectiveness table, offering donors an outstanding opportunity to accomplish good with their donations. 

And the fact is, I said, that the money raised will buy 6 LLINS (long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets) each of which will protect on average 2 people for 3 to 4 years. That’s a dozen cases of malaria avoided. Moreover, I added in an attempt to boost his spirits further, I’ll double that sum myself, so 24 people who might have caught malaria won’t. Thus I managed to cheer him up, and he promised not only to stay in touch but to send me some pictures of his travels. I look forward to sharing them with you.

Sincere thanks, then, to all who bought Cat Tales. Although the price on Amazon has now gone back up to $3.99, for the next three days it will still be possible to get it at for just $1.99 by clicking the button below. Also available in print (black & white, $9.50).

Z is for Zero

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Well, guess what? I didn’t get to Provence after all. I must have got into the wrong bag or the wrong queue, but I ended up in Madagascar! The flight was very long and I was stuck in the hold without so much as a Tom and Jerry cartoon to watch, but now I’m here, I think it must have been fate. The other day, I told you about Cats Protection, but I’ve never explained why the other charity the proceeds from Cat Tales go to is the AMF – Against Malaria Foundation.

Curtis was in a taxi once, riding back into town, and the taxi stopped, as they do in Madagascar, to pick up other people. One of them was a young woman with a baby in her lap. The baby wasn’t crying but it didn’t look very happy either. It looked absent, awake but unaware, staring straight ahead but without reacting to anything. When the mother spoke to the driver, Curtis understood enough to gather that she was taking her child to the doctor. ‘Malaria,’ he was told when he asked what was the matter. The young woman seemed very calm. It was just one of those things.

To her, of course, it must seem that way. But it isn’t really, because if her baby had slept beneath an insecticide-treated net, it would never have caught malaria. Curtis never knew whether the baby survived – quite possibly it did, if adequate treatment was given before the parasites began to wreak damage on the major organs. But there were an estimated 3000 deaths in the country that year, and 438,000 worldwide. 90% of the deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa.

Accelerate to Zero is the anti-malaria programme put forward by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: Any goal short of eradicating malaria is accepting malaria; it’s making peace with malaria; it’s rich countries saying: ‘We don’t need to eradicate malaria around the world as long as we’ve eliminated malaria in our own countries.’ That’s just unacceptable.

There are many ways to attack malaria, several that involve costly and sophisticated research. While such research is vital, a lot can be achieved in the short term by distributing mosquito nets. Long-lasting insecticide-treated nets (LLINs) […] have been associated with sharp decreases in malaria in countries where malaria programs have achieved high LLIN coverage.

Why, amongst all the available options, choose to donate to the Against Malaria Foundation? Because it focuses on distributing LLINS and because, according to Givewell, which classifies charities for cost-effectiveness, the AMF is one of our top-rated charities and we feel that it offers donors an outstanding opportunity to accomplish good with their donations.

So there you have it. There are so many charities and causes vying for your attention and money, but if you have doubts, quite legitimate, about whether the money is well spent, rest assured that in the case of the AMF, it is. Zero is not a fanciful figure. In the countries where it still exists, malaria can be defeated.

As for me, your feline guest blogger for this past month, I now hand the blog back to Curtis. But he’s come to rely on me so much that I’ve now earned a spot as a regular contributor. So have no fear – Smith will be back before long!

The proceeds from Cat Tales go to two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation. So please don’t hesitate to spread the word and help us save lives. And of course, by clicking on the button, you’ll also be getting 21 great cat tales to enjoy. Thank you!

In a special promotion deal, the price of Cat Tales is just $1.99 for the whole month of April (NB the price will go up to $3.99 on Tuesday). Available as a PDF (or epub / mobi) complete with colour illustrations directly from this site* by clicking the button below. Also available in print (black & white, $9.50).

*Buying from this site results in $1.61 after the PayPal commission, as opposed to just $0.70 when buying from Amazon. An insecticide treated mosquito net, which protects on average 2 people for 3 to 4 years, costs $2.50. PLUS, if you buy from this site, you’ll get a personal message of thanks from Curtis along with a short story of his own (in which Nibbles the cat, I’m sorry to say, comes to a rather unfortunate end).

Y is for Ystwyth

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That’s the river Ystwyth, which flows into the sea at Aberystwyth. It chose that spot because ‘aber’ means ‘mouth’ in Welsh, though not the sort you eat gizzards with. I’ve never been to Aberystwyth but Curtis has. It was where he saw the sea for the first time. I saw the sea for the first time yesterday. So it could have been Y for Yesterday, but Ystwyth is more exotic, don’t you think? Not that there’s anything exotic about Aberystwyth. According to Curtis anyway, but I suspect he’s just blasé because he lives by the Mediterranean.

I didn’t actually go on the sea because my plan didn’t work out. I wanted to take the ferry to Calais, so I joined the queue and then a security man came up and said, ‘Sorry, no cats.’

‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘I’m Smith, Terror of Tawnton, Lord High Clawncellor, reincarnation of Sir Thomas More.’

‘Think that makes you the cat’s whiskers, do you?’ He thought that was funny. ‘Now skedaddle!’

So I did. Plan B was the Eurostar, but the same thing happened, except this time it was a woman who was nicer. ‘Oh, aren’t you cute?’ she said. ‘Trying to get to France on the Eurostar. Have you got a ticket? Where’s your passport?’

I was slinking away when a man tapped me none too gently on the shoulder. ‘I wouldn’t bother, mate. What do you want to go to France for? We’ve got all we need right here. Don’t need Johnny Foreigner, that’s for sure.’ Then he went off shouting insults and bragging about Brexit.

‘What an awful yahoo!’ said an old lady behind me. ‘Pay no attention to him.’ I thought Yahoo was something to do with the Internet, but she said, ‘They’re in Gulliver’s Travels. Uncouth, nasty, cowardly brutes. Unfortunately, we have quite a few in Britain.’

‘If I’d known that, I’d have done Y for Yahoo instead of Ystwyth.’

yahoofight‘Ah, so you’re doing the A to Z,’ she said brightly. ‘What a clever cat! I’m doing the #WATWB (We Are The World Blogfest). We combat negativity by pointing to stories that show kindness, compassion, hope and the resilience of the human spirit. And this month I simply want to say that not all of us here are yahoos. Councils have been overwhelmed by community support for the scheme to resettle Syrian refugees, with many local authorities increasing their pledges after campaigns from local charities and citizens’ groups.  So I think, you see, that despite the negativity in the news, the reality is more uplifting. Not only does altruism exist, but it’s far more common than we think.’

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She demonstrated this by driving me to Heathrow, where she gave me a tin of pilchards and advised me to stow away in someone’s luggage. So now here I am, about to set out on an epic journey of discovery, hopeful that I’ll come across more altruists than Yahoos.

The proceeds from Cat Tales go to two charities, Cats Protection and the Against Malaria Foundation. So please don’t hesitate to spread the word and help us raise as much as we can. Thank you!

In a special promotion deal, the price of Cat Tales is just $1.99 for the whole month of April. Available as a PDF (or epub / mobi) complete with colour illustrations directly from this site* by clicking the button below. Also available in print (black & white, $9.50).

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watw-turquoise-badge-275-x241-white The WATWB co-hosts this month are:
Belinda Witzenhausen, Simon Falk, Inderpreet Kaur Uppal, Mary J. Giese, Peter Nena

*Buying from this site results in $1.61 after the PayPal commission, as opposed to just $0.70 when buying from Amazon. An insecticide treated mosquito net, which protects on average 2 people for 3 to 4 years, costs $2.50. PLUS, if you buy from this site, you’ll get a personal message of thanks from Curtis along with a short story of his own (in which Nibbles the cat, I’m sorry to say, comes to a rather unfortunate end).