People watching

file0001711682994I don’t advocate, as a writing tutor in Brisbane once told me, that you should actually follow people to get ideas for your story or to experience what it’s like to ‘shadow’ someone. BUT I must admit I do covertly eavesdrop and watch people, especially in a coffee-shop situation.

I remember overhearing one yoof talking to another about his baseball cap. Yoof 2 was admiring the cap and trying it on. Yoof 1 said, rather anxiously, ‘Don’t you lose my cap, man. That cap is my identity.’

And what I see and hear often gives me ideas for a story. Here’s what happened one day. I must just add, as a disclaimer, that all I saw were two people in a coffee-shop—my imagination, tawdry and cynical, and my love of detective fiction did the rest!

So I was sitting there with my cappuccino and my triangle of ‘tiffin’, in a Coffeebucksta Emporium in the town where I live. And I saw this:

A smart young man, late twenties, in a very modern suit, latest hair-do etc., all smiles and full of conversation and with him a frail and bent old lady in a wheelchair. She was also smartly dressed and her white hair was also short and chic a la Dame Judi Dench. But she was way too old to be his mother. Grandmother? Great aunt?

I’m already plotting a story around them. He parked her at a table and went to join the queue. She was reading the paper. Maybe she’s not a relative but his Sugar Mommy?

The idea appeals to me. I can remember several detective novels where scandal ensues due to an inappropriate attachment between a favoured young man and an older, vulnerable woman. I like the idea that even in this day and age, a young man can still cash in on his good looks, and an old lady can still enjoy having someone to dance attendance on her.

I think she’d have someone at home to help with her personal care. And also the cooking and cleaning. I’m picturing a large sprawling mansion, empty of people but stuffed with suits of armour and gloomy, grimy portraits of people who have been dead for hundreds of years. Lots of wood panelling. Surrounded by vast expanses of grass and tall dark trees. Maybe some peacocks? An old uneconomical car, with her cosseted in the back under blankets, and him in front at the steering wheel.

And I don’t want to think there could be anything sexual involved (eww!) but that he acts as chauffeur, secretary, assistant, companion and entertainer. He flatters her, makes her laugh and she pays him for his smiles.

I think of the people that know her, local villagers? I imagine them talking to me. Or to a policeman sent down from Scotland Yard to investigate some awful crime. Perhaps she’s been murdered? Or him? Perhaps he’s the victim, not the perpetrator? Over our coffee, my informant tells me, “Well of course she gave out that he was her great-nephew, though I’ve never believed it. But she said it—you know—for appearance’s sake. He certainly is a charmer. And so patient. Well all I can say is, he’s worked damned hard for the money she’s left him. If there is any money. No one seems to be too sure about that.”

Was he a little too friendly with the nurse who looked after the old lady? Is that what they’ll say when her body is discovered? Did the old lady resent him giving those smiles to someone else?

Back in the real world, I’m picking up on tiny details. He returns with a coffee for her. Nothing for himself. Odd. He sits. She leans forward and says something to him, and he takes her cup and has a sip of the coffee, and shakes his head. He returns it to its saucer. Too much sugar? Not enough? Does this taste a little odd to you? I’m not sure what is going on, but she doesn’t drink it.

They don’t stay long. I think he was actually in the queue longer than they sat over the drink that went almost untouched. Why didn’t he have anything? Does she hold on a little too tightly to the purse-strings?

Even though he is smartly turned out, perhaps his shoes are showing signs of wear? Not quite as new or of such good quality as they first appeared? Perhaps she doesn’t pay him so well after all? Are there arguments over money? She thinks he spends too much, or asks for too much. He thinks it’s unfair that he has to beg and plead and justify what he needs, thinks she is too keen on having power over others. Perhaps it’s not worth it after all? Perhaps it’s time for this ‘arrangement’ to come to an end?

For one mad moment I think about taking her cup for analysis before the table is cleared. Then I remember. Only in my imagination am I a detective. Here in the real world, I’m just another person sitting in a cafe. But in my mind, and in my notebook, I have the bones of a story.


A couple of simple tools to help the Indie author.

Night and Day by Caron Allan

Night and Day by Caron Allan. I created this ebook cover in Canva, using a gorgeous image from Pixabay and slightly changing the colour. The wonderful font is a Canva one and is called Text Me One. I love it!

If like me you’re an Indie author with a low or non-existent budget, you will always be on the look-out for something to help you save time, money or boost sales. Ideally all three.

My two favourite new (to me) sites for 2016 were these: Readers Gazette and Canva.

Readers Gazette is a promo thing, they tweet your books to approximately 100,000 followers. You have to sign up and obviously in order for them to tweet your book to their followers, you need to spend some time entering the information about yourself and your books on their site. But get all the information together before you start and it shouldn’t be too much of a pain. Their site isn’t a total breeze, and I admit I got a bit lost once or twice, but with trial and error, I got all my books onto their site. When you sign up for free, they tell you it will take 30 days to get the promos up and running, or you can pay them the teeny fee of $5 – yes, that’s what I said, $5 – and they will start within a day or two. I find that even after being with them for at least six months, they still tweet my books two or three times a week, and they ring the changes so it’s not always the same book that goes out. I don’t have any exact figures but I am convinced the result is improved visibility for me and my books, and therefore, improved sales. And obviously, if you retweet their promo of your book, it gets seen by even more people. The great thing about retweeting, is you can add a little quote or snippet or special offer to the tweet to really catch the eye of anyone who sees it.

Readers Gazette is at:


A recent Tweet from Readers Gazette sister page RGBookWorld

Canva is also free – woohoo – and it is the most wonderful site to build ebook covers, create social media headers, social media posts and even promotional materials such as bookmarks and thank you post cards – and so much more if you are looking beyond simply offering writers’ tools. You can create from scratch, or near scratch or if like me you’re a bit technically challenged, they have tons of wonderful templates to choose from, with stunning backgrounds and a huge range of fonts. Some of the images do have a charge attached, but these charges are pretty small. However they have oodles of free images, and you can also upload your own. Then, when you have created your fab new whatever, you can download it in several different formats, for example, jpeg or pdf, and use as you wish. Another thing I love about Canva is that they often have little how-to tutorials, so if you want to improve the look of your website, Facebook page or Twitter page, then this is the place to go.

Canva is at:


Taking the idea from the way Readers Gazette (and others) Tweet my books, I used Canva to create this promotional graphic which is actually a Facebook Header – simple style, quick and easy to do, but eye-catching.

This week someone contacted me just to tell me how much he liked these graphics. I so wish I’d heard about both these sites before 2016!