An Observer’s Guide to Understanding Author Behaviour

Modern cities and towns offer many opportunities to observe and analyse human and animal behaviour. Below is an example of one rare but increasing specimen you may encounter – the author.

Activity: Impromptu dancing, playing with imaginary drumsticks.

Where: Usually in the author’s living room. (If occurring elsewhere, be worried).

Probable Cause: The author’s book has received a good review. Even a positive rating on Goodreads can induce this behaviour.

Action: Wait until dance subsides, expect to be informed of good news and react accordingly.

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Activity: Contented smile, clear eyes, dreamy expression

Where: Home, supermarket or public transport.

Probable Cause: Writing is going well and plot problems are solved.

Action: Do nothing, as author may still be “in the zone” and need to return to desk/writing nook suddenly.

Activity: Author sullen, eyes downcast

Where: Chance encounter with author on the street.

Probable Cause: Many. The author may have looked at their sales reports or received a snarky review. Behaviour may occur around the time a real-world bill is due, and author may be reflecting on their income.

Action: Be upbeat, do not mention writing or other stressful topics. The true author will quickly recover as a spark of creativity lifts their spirits.

* * *

Activity: Author’s mouth drops open, eyes widen and swivel to nearest writing implement.

Probable Cause: Inspiration has struck.

Where: Literally anywhere.

Action: If behaviour occurs in a domestic environment, ensure the author has a clear path to a writing desk and small children/pets are distracted. If in a work meeting, slip your writer buddy a piece of paper and field questions from the boss, until the author is finished scribbling down ideas.

Activity: Author’s hair is uncombed, clothes crumpled, cannot recall when they last ate.

Where: Coffee shops, parties.

Probable cause: Writer’s block.

Action:  A serious condition, which if untreated, can end friendships. Gently encourage author to join you in an uplifting activity such as walking in the park, along the beach or watching a movie. It may take some time for this condition to lift, but the author will soon be showing behaviours suggestive of inspiration, as described above.

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Have you noticed any author behaviour that needs an expert’s opinion? Let me know in the comments below!

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And finally – If you like to read historical mystery/romances with a hint of the supernatural, “In the Time of the Forest” is free on Amazon for the next few days. Don’t forget to do the Goodreads quiz afterwards 🙂

The Surprising Difficulties of Photographing #Booksandmacarons

The Alchemist of Paris

Coffee, macarons and The Alchemist of Paris

#Bookstagramming on Instagram combines three of my favourite things – taking pictures,  microblogging and discovering new books. With hashtags such as #booksandnature, #booksanddogs #booksandcafes #booksinthewild etc etc, it all looks so chic and simple.

However all those artful pictures are not as easy as they look, as I discovered when I decided to photograph ‘The Alchemist of Paris’ (which is finally a real, “hold in your hands”, “put in the bookcase”, “throw on the backseat of the car” book!) and a box of macarons (a popular hashtag being #Booksandmacarons).

I set aside Saturday morning for this task, which progressed as follows:

9.30 a.m. Consider taking the book to the patisserie to colour coordinate with the macarons. True, I have never seen anyone else do this, but how else do you select the right colours?

9.42 a.m. Trusting my judgment, I visit the patisserie and make my selection by eye.

(In case you are a macaron enthusiast, my selection was: red velvet, strawberry, chocolate, cookies and cream, salted caramel and nutella).

9.50 a.m. Returning to the “studio”, aka my apartment, I get the props ready.

The Alchemist of Paris

The props are ready

10.05 a.m. I realise macarons need to be photographed on their side. Otherwise, they look – kind of round.

10.10 a.m. Line macarons up in the box, then try to get them to artfully stack on top of each other.

The Alchemist of Paris

The macarons aren’t lining up straight

10.16 a.m. Consider the merits of the book cover v. open book page shot.

10.21 a.m. Worry about the colour combination – is the bright pink strawberry too jarring?

10.22 a.m. If the strawberry macaron is too bright, should I eat it?

The Alchemist of Paris

The macarons are becoming distracting…

10.26 a.m. Salted caramel is melting. The top has slid sideways. Get some filling on my finger and seriously tempted to eat entire macaron.

10.30 a.m. Wonder if the white table or wooden tabletop looks better.

10.45 a.m. Very tempted to eat the props.

10.50 a.m. Should I stand on a chair to get a better shot? The chair is kind of wobbly.

10.51 a.m. How will I explain to people if I am injured falling off a chair while photographing a box of macarons?

10.52 a.m. It’s getting hotter. Salted caramel is sliding sideways again and not going to make it.

10.53 a.m. I’m feeling very hungry.

The Alchemist of Paris

Okay, that’s it – I’m hungry

11.00 a.m. Find a few pictures I am happy with – casual and relaxed, like I spend my days in a cafe reading books.

11.09 a.m Can’t believe I’ve spent over an hour and a half doing this.

11.10 a.m. Impressed at the skill of bookstagrammers.

Flash fiction – Hipster Hunting

Betty didn’t want to go home without seeing a hipster.

Betty had spent the previous week visiting Sydney with her husband Merv, seeing the sights and remarking on how much had changed since they had last visited the city. Before they returned to their retirement village on the Central Coast, Betty was determined to go to Surry Hills, the official hangout of the hipster.

Merv went along with her idea, as he had gone along with many of Betty’s ideas over the years. Clutching a map and a newspaper article, they headed south along Elizabeth Street.

“According to this article,” Merv squinted, “hipsters are known for their full beards, drop crotch pants and ironic lumberjack shirts. The girls wear floral dresses, leather jackets and ankle boots, or animal-themed onesies. Hipsters are commonly found in coffee shops, blogging or developing internet start-ups.”

“That’s unusual,” Betty nodded.

Although Betty and Merv followed the map, they found themselves in a maze of streets that led past old industrial buildings and concrete office blocks. Not realising Surry Hills was just over the crest of the hill, they wandered, lost, for half an hour.

“We didn’t see one hipster,” Betty lamented as they reluctantly turned around.

“Don’t worry love,” Merv patted her arm, “Next time.”

*  *  *  *   *

High above the street, the creative team at an advertising agency was desperate for ideas, fearing the hipster trend was ending. The director peered out the window, his eyes lighting on Merv and Betty.

“Polyester jackets, pastel pants, sun visors. I’ve got it! How about – ‘senior citizen chic’?”

A young woman in an animal onesie, said slowly, “You mean, not hipsters, but senior cit-zers?”

The ad executives nodded wildly. Although Merv and Betty had not found a hipster, they had unwittingly become the inspiration for the fashion’s next great trend.

© M. C. Dulac 2015

Click on the flash fiction menu above for more!

Flash fiction logo

17. Real Jobs

“One of us is going to have to get a job.”

Billy, the aspiring game designer, looked around at his roommates in the crowded apartment.

It may have been in Sydney, Australia or Brooklyn, New York or London, England. Anywhere where rent was high and dreams were so hard to reach.

“I’ve already got a day job,” said Sally, the cartoonist, poking her head over the top bunk of the bed.

“I’ve got a day job and a night job,” said Lizzie, the writer, appearing through the curtains of the bottom bunk.

“I’ve got a day job, a night job and a dawn job,” said Evan, the aspiring illustrator, from the makeshift desk in the linen cupboard, “I start courier deliveries at 4 a.m.”

Only Kenny, the strange guy who lived on the mattress on the balcony, seemed undisturbed. No one was sure what Kenny did. He stared into space a lot.

“We’re going to have to get another job because the rent has gone up again,” Billy said, “And – we might have to take a break from our dreams for a while.”

“Dreaming makes the world go forward!” Sally cried.

Billy’s nostril’s flared, “We can’t eat half-edited novels! And 3D vectors! And cute drawings of cats! And ebooks!”

Everyone had leapt up now as their dire situation became clear.

“How much have you made from your ebooks this year Lizzie?” Billy spun around, “33 cents?”

The room was silent.

Lizzie’s cheeks grew red.

“$17.00,” she murmured.

“$17.00?” they all said incredulously.

Lizzie shrugged.

“That’s enough for a whole pizza!”

The thought of pizza immediately lifted the young people’s spirits. They spilled down the narrow staircase to the overpriced gastropub across the road.

Out on the balcony Ken looked up. He’d got it at last! The artificial neural network algorithm that would propel the next generation of computer technology. Tomorrow he’d go out and pitch it.

After all, dreaming does make the world go forward.

 

Fictionbynumbers

An exercise in micro-fiction – stories which run from zero to fifty

click the Flash Fiction tag for more!

© 2014 M. C. Dulac

 

Speaking of ebooks, Four Ghost Stories is just 99 cents on Amazon! A spooky read for this Halloween month.

14. Time Travel

This week, a lighthearted tale…

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“Do you want a seat?” the guy sitting by the bus window asked.

“Sure,” Janey had been happy to stand, but now she saw the seat was free.

The guy moved over and she perched next to him.

He had a slide phone. Janey hadn’t seen one of those for years.

“Can I ask you a favour?” he said.

Janey raised an eyebrow. The guy looked normal. He was a little preppy, with an over-the-shoulder sling bag she hadn’t seen for years either.

“I know it sounds weird,” he said, “But there’s something special about this bus seat. What if I told you, that if you sit here, near the window, you can see what it’s like seven years into the future?”

Janey raised her eyebrows higher.

“Don’t you want to see what it’s like in 2021?” he said, putting his iPod Shuffle in his pocket, “I wanted to see 2014. The problem is, I think I like 2007 better.”

“2007?”

“Yes, and if you took this seat, I could go back home.”

“Home?”

“To 2007.”

Janey thought about all those warnings about talking to crazy people on the bus.

“You see, I can’t go back unless you agree,” the guy went on earnestly, “That’s what the guy who gave me this seat told me.”

“That’s crazy. You can’t have a time-traveling bus seat,” Janey shook her head at the absurdity.

“This is my stop!” the guy said, “Can I get off here?”

Janey swiveled her legs so the guy could get past. He winked at her, “Thank heaps.”

Janey looked at the seat near the window. Time travel to 2021. That was crazy.

Would 2021 be better than now?

She moved across, closed her eyes and smiled.

 

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An exercise in micro-fiction – stories which run from zero to fifty

click the Flash Fiction tag for more!

© 2014 M. C. Dulac

Fictionbynumbers

For longer fiction, click on the ebook menu above!

6. Monsters

 

Six monsters lived in Lizzie’s closet. They looked a bit like the monsters in Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things are”, only smaller. When Lizzie was a kid, they would come out at night and sit on the window sill, or walk with her in the park, or just listen to her childish chatter.

Lizzie had pretty much forgotten about the monsters, until some years later, when she opened the closet of her apartment and saw their six faces.

“What are you doing here?” she took out her cocktail dress.

“We needed somewhere to stay,” said Larry, the wild-haired green monster.

“You can’t stay here!” Lizzie said, “I’m thirty-two!”

The monsters gazed up at her with their huge, cute eyes.

“Just for a little while, okay. I’m busy these days.”

The monsters stayed in her apartment for a week. As Lizzie sat cross-legged on the couch one night, they told her their problems.

“Kids today – it’s all iPads, apps, T.V., baby ballet classes. They don’t have the time to daydream anymore.”

Lizzy nodded sympathetically and offered the monsters a Dorito.

“They just don’t believe in us,” said Betty, the blue fluffy monster.

Lizzy slowly realised the monsters weren’t going to move out, until she found them a new friend. She took them to the coffee shop on the weekend. Not one of the kids gave them a second look.

They walked around the city, browsing in the shops, eating lunch in the park, just the seven of them, like in the old days.

Then, on the bus home, a child peered around the bus seat several times. She glanced at her mother, then at the monsters, and broke into a huge smile.

The monsters whooped. “See you Lizzie!” they waved, as they hopped down the aisle.

Lizzie felt a little sad as she walked home alone. But then, it was pretty cool she could still see monsters.

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An exercise in micro-fiction – stories which run from zero to fifty

click the Flash Fiction menu on the left for more!

© 2014 M. C. Dulac

Fictionbynumbers