Self-Pubishing? Always Judge Books By their Covers.

When you’ve looked at something for a very long time you can find it hard to see it for what it is. We do it every day, allowing the beauty of the world to pass us by, with our loved ones somehow fading into the background noise of daily distractions. We fail almost every time to see them in all their unique human spleandour.

So imagine how hard it is to look at a damn book cover for the ten-thousandth time and try to decide if it is hitting all the right notes with a person who has just laid eyes on it for the very first time, or, is it falling flat on its face.  People say never judge a book by its cover and that’s really, really good advice if you’re being a metaphorical douche or you are an alien life form living on that one far away planet where books are not judged by their covers. But here, on Earth, books are definitely judged by their covers.

A person is drawn to a book by its attractive colour or its appealing or distinctive appearance. They will lift it and peruse the front. If the front cover does its job then the potential purchaser/prey will turn it over and possibly read some writing on the back. This is when the your writing flair will get its first real outing.  If your book has made it this far you have already managed to achieve what top writers pay marketing companies mucho dinero to achieve.  Congratulations, someone is officially checking out your rear.

BRAG rear coverSo, now that they have clamped eyes on your sweet derriere, the next stage is a mixture of blood, sweat and tears and a bit of pure industry evil. Firstly, you can, optionally, have what is called a Logline. This is a one sentence description of your story. A teaser, a pitch, a hook etc. Yeh, I know. Why would anyone write a ninety-thousand-word book if they could have told the story in one sentence. Pure evil, I told you. Even if you don’t ever intend to design a cover you should have a logline. Give it a go. Endless hours of fun, and if you look in a mirror while you’re doing it you can actually see yourself going grey.

Below that is the mythical beast known  as the perfect Back Cover Blurb, a nasty and elusive beast which is the El Dorado and  the Holy Grail of writing hidden inside each other then tucked neatly behind the male G-spot of an angry polar bear. Better men than me have died trying to track it down; the blurb, not the G-spot. It’s the literary chimera that many have written about, but few have actually written.

So how’s mine? Dafuk would I know?  That’s the whole point of this article. I’m blurb blind. Can’t see it. I may as well be reading a recipe for pea soup. Social media is full of aspiring novelists, whose key rule is Never be negative. Never allow anyone or anything to  impinge on your positive outlook. Well I say wait till you try your first back cover blurb, kiddo. That’ll wipe that friggin cheesy grin off your pasty little face.

If the cover, back and front, has done its job, your potential customer/victim will now open the book. And, at that point, that’s it! Game over for your cover which has scored a whopping 100% and achieved everything you asked of it. You have gotten the person to look inside, at your work, the very crafted words from your soul. You better hope they pick an interesting page to read and not that crappy smooching scene you buried on page one-hundred and thirty. Don’t put anything crap on page 99, by the way. Apparently The Page 99 Test is a thing. Who knew? What am I saying?  Don’t  put anything crap on any page. Positive thoughts, baby.

BRAG front coverSo with that in mind, here’s my cover. Judge it. Judge me if you like. Judge my life. Judge my family and my parents and the manner in which they raised me. Judge the educational institutions I attended to produce a hopeful fool like me.  Judge everything you can possibly judge, because if there’s one thing worse for an author than being judged for their cover, it’s being ignored for their cover.

Some of you might like it or hate it. Some of you won’t know enough about what goes into producing a cover to say if it’s a good cover or a mediocre cover or if this cover in fact sucks, blows, or bites the big one. Even those among you who have written books may never have taken the potentially expensive step to hire a graphic artist who will sit down and listen to your egocentric delusions about how you want the unicorns to appear as though they are jumping, and not flying over the burning dinosaur.  No wings, you damn professional artist, that’s a Pterippus.

But I am lucky enough to know a very good Graphic Designer who patiently assisted me on my journey to achieve what I feel is, and will over time prove to be, a good, solid  and market-worthy cover.  Remember this: long after I’ve gone to that great big writing bureau in the sky, this cover will still be peeping out from dark and wonderful spaces anywhere in the four corners of the world. It gives me shivers down my spine when I think of that.

And that lovely B.R.A.G medallion came at the end of a lengthy adjudication process during which I thought I would be institutionalised at times waiting daily for an email to say if I could put the logo on my book and fill that beckoning empty space that haunted me nightly in my sleep. A big shout out to Robert and Teri at IndieBRAG Medallion Check them out if you are an Indie Writer getting ready to self-publish.

The quote from the Award-winning Irish Film director was easier to get as all I had to do was stalk him until I was in a position to get him into the boot of my car without being seen. No I didn’t do that, I’m only kidding, there were always too many people around.

Terry is a good guy. I made his acquaintance on social media then had the honour of being able to buy him and the gentleman Moe Dunford a pint of Guinness in the wee hours of the morning at the Galway Film Fleadh, though he may struggle to remember that because I know I do. He read my book and with the sincere generosity that comes with being a natural genius, he wrote those kind words about my book, and my balls too, for some reason. Thank you, Terry.

But oh, would you look at me, dropping names, la di da, it’s my friggin book I can do what I like.

full Cover BRAG_High-Res

So that’s what’s in a cover. Next time you’re in a book shop see if you can notice the order in which you appraise your next potential literary purchase. But more than anything else, make sure you go into a book shop from time to time, because if we lose those, we lose another spell of the purest magic. And we don’t have many of those left.


The Book a Break Short Story Omnibus

The Book a Break Short Story Omnibus

83 Short Stories selected from submissions to the Book a Break short story competition over three years.

cover 83

Quirky, sad, dramatic, funny, philosophical… the complete Book a Break collection has it all.

Get your copy now – and help to defeat malaria.

The Book a Break anthologies Cat Tales (2016), With Our Eyes Open (2017) and Second Taste (2018) now exist in this single scintillating volume.

To receive your copy of these 83 stories, donate a sum of your choice to the Against Malaria Foundation and forward their thank you message, specifying the format you prefer, to curtis.bausse(at) I will send you the appropriate file.


Curtis Bausse has done Amazing and Selfless work in promoting writing and in providing basic Malaria protection to people who cannot afford to protect themselves.

Any donations for a great cause and you will get to read some brilliant Stories.

Recent books from Northern Ireland you really should be reading!

In case you hadn’t noticed, on Tuesday evening, Anna Burns made literary history becoming the first person from Northern Ireland to win the Man Booker Prize. It’s a fantastic achievement and comes at a time when literature from this small part of the world is brimming with talent and excitement.

If your interest has been sparked by Milkman’s surprise win, here are a few other recent and upcoming books by writers from Northern Ireland that you might be interested in checking out.

Children’s Children by Jan Carson

childrenChildren’s Children is a collection of fifteen short stories which range in style from magic realism to traditional literary form. Experimental, funny and eclectic, these stories feature street preachers, disillusioned husbands and child burglars. This is life in post-conflict Northern Ireland with an absurd slant, dealing with the theme of legacy through parable and modern day fairy tale.

Jan Carson was born and…

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January 2018 Creative Writing Prompt

Absolutely delighted to have been informed by Creative Writing Ink, that my story was selected as the Feb/March winner of the Writing Prompts Competition

A Fistful of Salt - The Novel


No Tears for a Cuckoo

He sits in the front window framed in a halo of dusty light and frozen in the moment of contact between his fingertip and the cold arc of his half-pint glass of porter. A car horn sounds outside and in a flash he’s up, craning at the sash between the opaque and the clear panes to get a sweeping eye on the village street before sitting down once again to ogle his drink with the guilty satisfaction of his crime tickling his wet lips.

Frisky, they call him: a wiry little hoor who usually travels unseen by field or ditch pulled headlong by some sudden necessity. He’s like an urgent version of me and I can see he’s cut from the cloth, the last scrap of it, the bit you didn’t think you’d get anything worthwhile out of but were happy to be proven wrong…

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Art Wall – Exhibition Opening

Magnumlady Blog

I’m delighted to have been asked to be part of Bealtaine Festival Sligo this year. It’s a festival that is very dear to my heart and over the years I’ve loved listening to the stories of the people involved. I’d love to see some of you tomorrow at St. John’s Hospital 3.30pm.

The photographic ‘Art Wall’ exhibition is a collaboration between photographer Val Robus , Sligo Arts Service and St John’s Hospital. Over a number of months Val Robus has photographed an wide and varied range of views across Sligo’s towns and villages. These images have been catalogued for the residents of St John’s Hospital to view and select from. The photos that resonated most with the residents were printed and curated by artist Catherine Fanning for permanent exhibition in St John’s hospital.
The Exhibition opens May 2nd Wednesday 3.30 pm St John’s . All welcome

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The Good Son

The closing date is Tuesday the 31st of July (midnight).
First Prize: €2,000, a week-long residency at Anam Cara Retreat and publication in the literary journal Southword.
Second Prize: €500 and publication in Southword.
Four more shortlisted entries will be selected for publication in Southword and receive a publication fee of €120.

short_storyCLICK TO SUBMIT

About the competition
The Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition is an annual short story competition open to writers from around the world, submissions accepted from March to July annually. It is dedicated to one of Ireland’s most accomplished story writers and theorists and is sponsored by the Munster Literature Centre.
If the winner comes to Cork to collect their prize the centre will pay for hotel accommodation, meals and drinks at the Cork International Short Story Festival (September…

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January 2018 Creative Writing Prompt


No Tears for a Cuckoo

He sits in the front window framed in a halo of dusty light and frozen in the moment of contact between his fingertip and the cold arc of his half-pint glass of porter. A car horn sounds outside and in a flash he’s up, craning at the sash between the opaque and the clear panes to get a sweeping eye on the village street before sitting down once again to ogle his drink with the guilty satisfaction of his crime tickling his wet lips.

Frisky, they call him: a wiry little hoor who usually travels unseen by field or ditch pulled headlong by some sudden necessity. He’s like an urgent version of me and I can see he’s cut from the cloth, the last scrap of it, the bit you didn’t think you’d get anything worthwhile out of but were happy to be proven wrong. He could have been my twin brother if he’d come out a generation earlier. Me and him would have been corner–boy legends in some town with our name fingered into fresh concrete steps and knifed into school desks for posterity. But he’s my son and we’re stuck here, internally displaced in this secret war, and even I never imagined that he had the bollox on him for a stunt like this.

Truth is, I can’t get my thoughts straight for long enough in this brutal light to know anything except that my knowing days are long gone, bar the one certainty that I’m gagging for a pint myself but my drinking days are also gone and it would seem that I have to follow him around now because he’s the only one left who gives a shite.

The girls, on the other hand, are out to finish us off for good. My surname is a legacy to be bleached from the collective memory and it’s Frisky here, my only boy: womanless, childless and usually penniless, is the last line of defense in this tiny genocide.

Prionsias, I named him, after the Da, to ensure that I projected at least his first name into the next century. That’s the very least I could manage to do for him. He learned to answer to Francie, but as a kid I often called him Princie if he poked a curious runt’s head around the parlour door in the whisky-soaked hours before a hopeless dawn.

He’s not exactly academic or physical, nor particularly handsome, so I reared him good and sneaky for getting his own way when it matters. But what he’s gone and done now is after giving me a proper bastard’s hangover.

His sisters will be time-traveling back here on the road from the city right now, having gotten the gossip from a septic classmate still festering in a crease of the land and holding some ancient grudge hostage for just such a moment of delicious scandal.

In the monastic hours of the morning a scrum of heads gathered around the neglected burial plot with phones and rosary beads clicking. I winged in for the occasion, looking down on the ancient plastic wreath framing the tightly cut hole. The washed out pink and purple blooms circumscribed the orifice like piles where the sacred ground had defecated back a nomad.

Francie was absent. He knew the crime scene better than any, having concocted it while nipping from his bottle of plum poteen in his cowshed. He baked the plan incrementally till he could smell it in his dreams because that’s how we do things: brave cowards like us.

Now he whips out his tobacco bag and assembles one for behind his ear then another for his mouth before secreting the bundle in a fragrant side pocket and raising his head for the parapet once again and—Christ knows—I’d destroy twenty Major but I’m roasted through with smoke at this stage and it would only leak out of me and leave a rank smell at the bar.

The puff of the match explodes in a sunbeam and the smoke curls into a floating question mark around him.

There’s a plastic bag in the hole under the tree where I used to let them climb and make their swings on Sunday mornings after mass with Patricia feigning happy behind the steaming window and basting in pious fumes. I’d leave them dangling from branches and presume that the girls wouldn’t hang themselves before their mother called them with that irritating cuckoo refrain of hers. I’d saunter away up the road into the village, stopping off to visit the Ma and the Da in the graveyard.

Standing astride the plot I’d cast a listless silhouette on the gravel with the tingling grip on my guts pulling me down into their loveless arms. But I could always sense my real shadow not far away: little Francie after following me again, straining on his tippy-toes to squirt piss against the trumpeting angel on the edge of the orphan’s tomb. Patricia would never miss the wretch and he knew I’d let him suck the cream from my pints if his sisters weren’t there to rat us out.

I would feel him X-ray my bones in that sickly light that comes in off the fields as I stood dead still with my hands buried in my pockets being lambasted by a tree full of country crows and just the tip of my slacks licking at the breeze.

Then I’d say my few words: Come out, ye little pisspot.

The moments that it took for the boy to tread his well worn path between the corpses were my favourite. My stone-cold hand would wait for his wet little fingers to push their way in and the spiraling would slow and give me a little more time to figure out in this moment of clarity what exactly had been lost, or given away, or stolen from me to make me hate this fucking place so much.

But that time is all gone now and here he sits in the window like my fidgety twin and there’s a plastic bag in the hole under the hanging tree with human remains in it and the Sisters of the All Consuming Silence are gunning for him before nightfall.

They sent Patricia to die in a home, saying that’s why they had to sell the farm, but even Francie knew you could buy an awful lot of dog food dinners and scrape the dwindling shit from a tower of bedpans for what they made. They let him keep the cowshed and the old tree, but not much else. He put two windows in the front so he could see them coming the next time and a red double-glazed door in the back with a scaffolding plank over the shitting ditch for a theatrical getaway. But he needn’t have worried.

In the end they buried Patricia’s urn using her maiden name and slipped her in with her parents up in Headford Town, making children of us both before God and erasing the proof of our union along with the fear that my surname might come back to haunt them.

With me already dead, that officially made Francie the very last bit of evidence. But nobody pays heed anymore to a wiry man living in a shed and washing in a trough.

He empties his glass, blows hard for courage then crosses the grey floorboards and winds up against me ordering another glass of porter and a bag of crisps. He turns and looks through me with his cow-eyes and I through him until I can see that the seed of a familiar loathing has taken root.

Fair play to ye, Princie.

I rub him on the back and he shivers, taken by surprise, and grinds to a halt with the realisation that in digging me up he has inherited the mantle of the carrion-king who looms over skeletons. He squints his birthright into stark focus for a moment then goes back to his lookout to savour the bitterness of vinegar and salt against the wound he’s just gnawed inside his own face and—Jesus Christ forgive me—I’d love a fucking crisp but the sting of it on my guts would surely make me howl like a stray mongrel in this valley of sheep.

The Ma and the Da never thought of that when they first laid eyes on me in the convent in my short pants and split shoes: maybe the boy’s just a hoor’s curse on the world.

They had a son, my brother, of sorts, marooned in London, still sucking air, but not for long, and his inappropriate finesse has long wilted in the years since we last saw him, leaving him emotionally paralysed from his dancing shoes up. When the time comes for him to take his final bow he wants to come home and go in the hole with his folks and reconcile with them for being born a little too colourful for the place.

But the grave has been desecrated—or so he said, when he eventually condescended to see what the daughters had done with my remains. Never ones to disappoint a stranger, they offered to root me out of it when he said he’d pay for a spot in a graveyard wall in the town where I was reportedly born to an alcoholic spinster with a reputation for a loose hinge and the late night leg-over.

He fanned his scrawny neck with his leather gloves and swooned for his audience of weeping angels and silent tombstones, but he never stooped an inch to pick up the faded plastic ring of hemorrhoids he’d sent me when I died and was buried shallow with just my Christian name and some dates embossed in tarnished gold on a flat stone the size of one of the Ma’s half-read romantic novels. Until the wee hours of this morning, when Francie here took a hammer and chisel to it.

If it were up to me I’d be happy to stay in the plastic bag under the hanging tree. I could watch Francie marinating in the ripe juices of each autumn night with only his cowshed windows to illuminate the briar-strangled nest of dead grass and leaves There’s a few sweet memories squirreled away down there from the early years, when the Ma and the Da took me in and fixed the nightmares and finally resolved to let the farm fall into these vagabond hands after their progeny ponced off to conquer the West End.

And each spring, the cuckoo would return and the ghost of Patricia’s voice calling us to wash our hands at the outside tap, still too mortified to call it a cattle trough since the day I sold every last cow and closed the gate on the family meadow for the last time.

Francie has a bus ticket to Headford Town in his breast pocket and we’ll be on our way once he’s collected enough courage to see the next phase through. I can see it now, me and him on the Intercity, in a week, or a year, letting the fields and the stonewalls slip past us from out of a sunset blur. An aged plastic bag on the seat: hammer, chisel, sandwiches, a bottle of poteen and a can of ashes, headed for another invigorating moonlight excavation.

Who knows if he’s going to put and end to the nomad and drop me in with Patricia or if he’ll root the poor girl up again and scatter us together from a stumbling point on some precarious cliff edge. Maybe he’ll just lose interest along the way and leave us at the bus stop and head back for the long vigil in his cowshed Alamo.

I’m going to sit here for now and see can he take it on the chin, like I taught him, knowing all he has to do is draw the line between him and the world with a blatant lie and a bastard’s grin. And if it wasn’t for the fact that it’d only run through me and leave an alcoholic stain on my favourite bar stool, I’d certainly murder a few hot ones while I’m waiting.




The New Book a Break Anthology

Available to preorder now for Kindle at a discounted price, my short story along with 33 others from award-winning authors and newcomers. With Our Eyes Open, an Anthology of Short Stories.


With Our Eyes OpenFancy 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…

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