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.

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Flash Fiction: The Poet and the Forest

Here’s a little flash fiction for Friday about the importance of nourishing your imagination.

*   *   *   *   *

There was once a poet, who came upon an enchanted forest. The poet wandered beneath the towering trees, discovering hidden paths and flowing streams. The poet learned all the songs of the birds and the scents of the wildflowers. The forest crept into the poet’s heart, and when the poet sat down to write, words poured onto the page like summer rains.

But there was no living to be made in the forest, nor was there much to eat, so the poet went to find work in the desert, where the wind chafed the poet’s hands and stung her eyes. The heat of the sun burned away all smells and the landscape was too barren for birds. The people in the desert were harsh too. “Who are you?” they asked by way of greeting, “Are you rich yet?” They walked on and stared at the desert with despairing eyes.

At last the poet had earned enough to return to poetry. But as she tried to write by a flickering fire in the desert, she had lost all words. The desert had entered her soul, and her imagination had withered.

So the poet returned to the forest. As the branches closed overhead, her creativity returned. She had learned that imagination must be nourished, just as the body must be fed. One day she would return to the mines of the desert, but for now, she let the forest embrace her.

Leaving Paris

Paris had never looked more beautiful than on that last run through the city. I had forgotten the squalor and smells of the narrow streets now and saw only the grandeur of the rooftops against the sky. Gerard guided me out of Le Marais and along the broad boulevards near the Louvre Palace. We ran through arcades and before churches, past statues and under stone carvings. We passed the scaffolds and skeletons of the new Paris that was being built. We saw sudden vistas of the Seine and the hills above the city. I had no idea why I thought this city frightening when the carriage had first rolled through the city gates. Paris was my city now and I knew all its lanes and colonnades and bridges.

– Elise flees across 19th century Paris in ‘The Alchemist of Paris’

Having left her idyllic country home, Elise has found herself in a web of greed, betrayal and deceit – and magic. Can she escape in time?

Leaving home

At twilight I slipped out of the convent and into the herb garden. Unlocking the gate, I strolled under the old stone arch to the fields beyond. The sky was blue violet, and a golden moon was rising over the hills. The air was sweet with the scent of the rustling grasses. Wildflowers, some blooming only for a day, shivered in the evening breeze. I walked through the fields, until the monastery and convent were only a dim silhouette behind me. I breathed in over and over, wanting to savour the scent and the taste of the countryside. The forest on the hillside was dim and silent and the tree branches were like lace against the setting sun. The meadows rolled out to the horizon, where the river glittered through banks of poplar trees. I tried to capture each part of the landscape in my mind, so that I could imagine it, wherever I might go.

– Story Excerpt “The Alchemist of Paris”

 

Like the character Elise, I grew up in the country before moving to the city. (Strange fact – I grew up next door to a convent!)

Are there places that you have left behind in your life? Do you think of them often? If you are a writer, do you incorporate those memories into your writing?

Flash Fiction – Social Media Anxiety

A sweet tale for this Valentine Day’s Month.

*  *   *   *   *

Tim wants to be your friend.

Natasha sat before her computer. Sunlight peeked through the morning clouds outside her window. She sipped her coffee and stared at the screen.

Tim was the cute boy she had met at the party the night before, whose smile made her heart soar and whose shy eyes made her swoon.

Did Tim really want to be her friend?

HER friend?

Her FRIEND?

Did he WANT to be her friend?

Did he want to be MORE than friends?

Natasha tucked her hair behind her ears nervously. It was only a Facebook friend request, for crying out loud. How could such simple words cause such social anxiety?

Okay. Tim wants to be my friend. So what should I do?

I don’t want to accept straightaway or he’ll know I like him.

But I don’t want to wait because he’ll think I thought about him.

I’ve got to be cool, Natasha decided.

She hit accept, pulling her finger away as if the laptop was on fire.

She rested her head in her hands. It probably meant nothing. He just wanted to be Facebook friends. It wasn’t like it was the start of something.

*  *   *   *   *

Tim sat in a cafe across town. Should he have sent Natasha the friend request so soon? He only met her the night before. Maybe he shouldn’t have sent it at all.

What would he do if she ignored him?

He shouldn’t have done it. He was an idiot. He was always an idiot.

A message appeared.

Natasha wants to be your friend.

Tim broke into a wide grin.

The day suddenly seemed brighter.

© 2016 M. C. Dulac

Flash fiction logo

Your Novel Stinks! Including all the Senses in your Writing

The quickest way to immerse a reader in your character’s world is for the reader to experience that world through your character’s senses.

Most writers are familiar with the “show don’t tell” rule. The closer we are to the character’s actions and reactions, the more gripping the story becomes.

Sight and sound are easy to write. But what about including the other senses in your work – what does your character touch, taste and smell?

Scentsandsmells2

Here are three writing tips I have developed on how to include all the senses in my writing:

  • Use smells to build atmosphere. There’s positive smells (scents, perfume, aromas) and negative smells (stinks, odours and fumes). Layer the smells with what your characters see and hear to create a mood. A dark swamp becomes more sinister with the stench of rotting foliage. An apartment becomes more alluring with the sweet scent of fresh cut flowers.
  • Use smells to tell us something about the character. What is the character used to and what might they notice if they go somewhere different? Your character might be living in a medieval village next to a pigsty. Surrounded by these smells since birth, they probably never notice. But how would they feel if they went to a castle and breathed in the perfume of beeswax candles for the first time?
  • Think about scents and smells that you remember personally and the feelings they evoke. Do you remember the overpowering scent of fields in summer? Or the strong smell of seaweed on a beach in a heatwave? Work your memories and feelings into your character’s experiences.

© 2016 M. C. Dulac

Character Sketches

I am surrounded by creative projects in various stages of completion. Here are some character sketches from an ambitious plan I had to write an illustrated novel.

Our beautiful heroine has been captured…

 

The Heroine

The Heroine

By a mean and pompous vampire-hunter…

The Villain

The Villain

And held captive in a terrifying prison, where the guards keep watch…

Imprisoned!

Imprisoned!

Due to her association with the vampire with the smoldering eyes…

The Hero

The Hero

There was an airship and other plot twists too…

Proposed drawings

Proposed drawings

I hope you enjoy the pictures!