Ariele University: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

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The next installment in my fake master’s degree (click here to learn more about what I’m talking about), was a book titled Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini. He details six so-called “Weapons of Influence” that people, corporations, and marketers use on each other, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. He also uses the concepts to explain why we may make apparently irrational decisions. I found it fascinating to say the least, and thoroughly enjoyed the read. My assignment (click here for a refresher on my assignments), was to read the book and then write an essay discussing some of the concepts in the book and how they relate to my marketing tactics.

Below you will find my 5 to 7 page paper (let’s be real, it was a lot closer to 7 pages haha) in its entirety. Enjoy! (if you like psychology, that is)

RECIPROCITY, SOCIAL PROOF, AND SCARCITY: THE ETHICAL MARKETER

Marketing is tricky business. Even the subtlest tactics can have a positive or negative impact on the way a person views you or your product; this can then have a ripple effect, impacting not only whether or not they make a purchase, but how they feel about you and your product. In the book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini details six automatic behavior patterns that can help explain why a person makes seemingly irrational choices. In this essay, I will review three of the patterns: reciprocity, social proof, and scarcity. Then I will provide real-life instances when I have encountered each during the course of selling books.

The rule of reciprocity is simple. According to Dr. Cialdini, “the rule says we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided for us.”[1] That means that if a friend, family member, or even a stranger does something for us, we feel a need return the favor. This obligation can be overwhelming. Dr. Cialdini describes an instance in which a woman is unable to start her car, and a nearby young man offers to give her a jump.[2] She thanks him, and then offers to do him a favor in return. A month later, the young man knocks on her door and asks if he can borrow her car, since his is in the shop. She is so bound by the weight of the obligation to reciprocate the favor, that she loans him (a complete stranger) her car, only to have him total it. The law of reciprocity can cause individuals to make decisions that they know are poor; they might not even understand why they are making the choice. It is also a weakness that marketers leverage to try to manipulate people into purchasing a product or making a donation to a cause. Think of the mail you receive from large non-profits. Many of them send address labels, coins, and small gifts—simply with the hope that you will return the favor. But I would argue that knowingly triggering a person’s automatic behaviors for your own gain is unethical, especially if what you’re offering in exchange is essentially worthless.

I have seen the law of reciprocity in action in my own attempts to sell books. During comic cons and other events, I will occasionally do a promotion where I give away a free book in exchange for someone signing up for my newsletter. This nearly always works: the exchange is simple, and in the customer’s favor. Multiple times, I have offered someone a free book, only to have them turn around and buy the entire series, or at very least try to pay for the book I am offering them for free. This is the law of reciprocity in action. Even more surprising is when I give away buttons. They are simple, cheap, and have silly drawings on them. I put them on my table as a way to get people to come and talk to me, and have no expectation for reciprocation. The buttons have sold more books for me than any other in-person marketing tactic. The person takes a button, spends a few minutes looking at my work, and decides to buy a book—if not for him/herself, then for a friend. I even had one person offer to pay $10 for a button—the same price as a book! I offered her a book, but she refused—she just wanted the button and to support a local author, she said.

The principle of social proof “states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct… we view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”[3] Dr. Cialdini points to several major events in recent history that clearly call out the impact of social proof, but the one that stood out to me the most was the case of Catherine Genovese. In March, 1964, Catherine Genovese was walking in Kew Gardens, Queens, where she was stalked and stabbed in three separate attacks. Thirty-eight people witnessed the event, and yet not one of them called the police. Cialdini suggests that one of the main reasons for this was social proof: each of the thirty-eight people was uncertain of how to respond, and looked to the others around them for guidance. But they were all looking to each other and so no one acted, assuming incorrectly that if something should be done, someone else had already done it.[4] He cites two researchers, Latané and Darley, who asserted that, “no one had helped precisely because there were so many observers… with several potential helpers around, the personal responsibility of each individual [was] reduced.”[5]

Social proof can be faked, unfortunately. Set up a table at an event and hire actors to come wax eloquent about your product. Draft an ad for TV where an “expert” comes to speak about your product, thusly convincing viewers that the product is of value. Dr. Cialdini references a historical example of two men named Sauton and Porcher who hired people to come in and applaud during opera performances.[6] Modern day canned laugh tracks is another example of this. Commercial producers will even hire actors to give fake testimonials about a product, to convince viewers that “normal” people like and use the products. It can be extremely obvious, and yet it still works because social proof is nothing more than a mental shortcut. [7]

 Look at all these nice people.

Look at all these nice people.

A couple of years ago, I ran a free book promotion through Amazon. I dropped the price of the second book in my series, The Clock Winked, down to $0.00 for a period of five days. Within the first twenty-four hours, I had over a thousand downloads, which was a huge number for me at that time (compared to my average paid sales which were 0 - 3 downloads per day, and the highest number of downloads I’d ever had in one day being 40). So I posted on Facebook to share my success with my friends, explaining that the higher the number of downloads, the greater the impact would be on Amazon’s ranking algorithm. I concluded with a request for them to download the book if they hadn’t already done so. Within the next couple of hours, I had dozens of likes, comments, and shares on my post (with subsequent likes, comments and shares on the shared posts), dozens more downloads, and even an outpouring of support for the book, with people commenting or messaging me that they had read and enjoyed it, and were looking forward to reading the rest of the series. (My total downloads for the five-day period ended up at around 3500, and my highest rank was #3 on Amazon free books.)

This type of support is incredibly difficult to garner in the writing world. Reading is not the most popular sport, and even when friends and family choose to read the work you’ve published, they rarely take the extra step to offer encouragement. I believe that the reason there was such a sudden influx of support was because of the principle of social proof. If thousands of people were downloading my book, it must be worth reading, even though none of those thousands of individuals had actually read it. Simply by reading my statement that I was having a successful day, others were motivated to participate (aided, presumably, by the buy-in cost of $0).

Scarcity, the idea that “opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited,”[8] is a particularly powerful motivator. It explains why misprinted money, which should seemingly be less valuable, actually becomes more valuable. It explains why bread sells out at the grocery store before a storm rolls in. It explains why people will go to such lengths to acquire rare Pokémon or Beanie Babies or collectibles, even when such items have no practical value. This concept is most easily seen in marketing campaigns that use phrases like, “Limited Time Only!” or “Only 100 copies in print!” or “Sold Out!” Think of the ever-scrupulous car salesman that has his manager on the phone, and if you “Buy Now!” he can get you a deal on that old clunker you brought to trade in.

Cialdini cites the story of the vice president of prime-time programming for American Broadcasting Company in 1963. The only showing of the movie, A Poseidon Adventure, was placed up for auction. He was competing against CBS and NBC. They went back and forth until ABC won the movie for $2 million, a price so high they couldn’t hope to make it back in ticket sales.[9] Scarcity plus rivalry can make even the smartest man a fool. Dr. Cialdini says, “it is instructive to note that the smiling man was the one who had lost the highly sought-after prize. As a general rule, whenever the dust settles and we find losers looking and speaking like winners (and vice versa), we should be especially wary of the conditions that kicked up the dust…”[10]

Before I even knew what the scarcity principle was, I had an idea: whenever I got down to my last copy of a book, put a sign up that said, “Last Copy.” It never fails. To this day, as soon as I put up a sign that says, “Last Copy” at an event, the book sells within the hour. But my most remarkable story of scarcity, one that still boggles my mind, is in regards to my more recent book, Tentacles and Teeth. I had decided to release the book one chapter at a time on Patreon, so even though the book had been completed, it was not actually available for general purchase. When I launched my Patreon, I made a big fuss through email, social media, and advertising, and made everyone aware of this new project. Then, I had 50 copies of the book printed. I labeled them as “pre-pre-release edition copies” and set them on my table at double the price of the rest of my other books. My reasoning was that I didn’t want my Patreon subscribers to feel jipped because I was out selling the books while they had to wait for each chapter, but if I sold it for double the actual price, the subscribers would be getting it at a 50% discount. I didn’t expect them to sell, but figured it was worth the cost of production, if only to get a few more eyes on the product.

The price didn’t seem to matter. Within three events (I had four scheduled), I had sold out of every copy, including my proof copy, which went for three times the price of my other books. With success like that, it’s no wonder marketers are tempted to create artificial scarcity to boost sales.

So how can you use these strategies for your marketing without being manipulative? Without lying, falsifying, or cheating your audience? I would argue that the key is in the truth. Are you telling the truth when you say a product is scarce? Are you creating a product that people can genuinely get excited about and share with their friends? Are you offering a free book because you honestly want to provide something of value to potential customers?

I think it’s important to remember that everything reflects back on you, the author. Every marketing tactic you try, everything you say, and everything you do shines light on who you are as a person and as a business. If you lie, falsify evidence, or try to manipulate your audience into buying your books, it might work for a time, but eventually, people will come to see you for who you really are. As authors, we aren’t big corporations that can hide behind “corrupt CEOs” and “I didn’t know my employees were doing that.” It’s just us. Me. You. We are responsible for the words we write on the page, the actions of the people that work for us, and the stories we tell in our marketing.

So don’t be a creep. Or, in the words of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis:

“Make the money, don't let the money make you

Change the game, don't let the game change you

I’ll forever remain faithful

Stay true, stay true, stay true.”[11]

———————————

[1] Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Collins, 2007), 17.

[2] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 34.

[3] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 116.

[4] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 130.

[5] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 132.

[6] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 158 - 159.

[7] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 160.

[8] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 238.

[9] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 264 - 265.

[10] Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, 265.

[11] Macklemore, “Make the Money,” Macklemore LLC, ADA, 2012.

A Rose By Any Other Name (such as Ariel Seiling)

It’s time for a little Shakespeare, and blog post with a little extra specific SEO value. For those of you that don’t know what SEO is, it’s an acronym for “Search Engine Optimization.” A search engine is something like Google or Bing, where you type in a query and, SHAZAM, it gives you an answer.

 For example, you could type in “Can I eat my cat?” or “Can I eat my pet named Steve?” and see what sage advice Google has for you.

For example, you could type in “Can I eat my cat?” or “Can I eat my pet named Steve?” and see what sage advice Google has for you.

Search engine optimization is when you want people to find your website using these types of search queries, so you use strategies make it more likely to appear when someone types in, “Can I eat my cat?” Or in my case, I would want you to find me if you typed in something like, “science fiction authors in Baltimore” or “Ariele Sieling” or “Land of Szornyek.”

But most recently, I came across a conundrum. What if someone tried to find me, but didn’t know how to spell my name?

After all, my first name “Ariele” is a less common spelling, and my last name “Sieling” (which is pronounced like ceiling, the thing over your head), is also a rather uncommon spelling. What would come up?

So I tried it. I went to Google and typed in “Arial Seeling.” That’s logical, right? It’s a phonetic spelling of my name, at least. Here’s what I got:

 Needless to say (though I’m saying it anyway)—this isn’t me.

Needless to say (though I’m saying it anyway)—this isn’t me.

I’ll be honest with you, The Little Mermaid is one of my least favorite Disney movies (mostly due to the fact that people constantly asked me, “were you named after the little mermaid?” over and over and over and over again growing up—and the answer is no, I was born before the movie came out by a good 18 months), so this isn’t my favorite result.

I even tried clicking the link that says, “Search instead for Arial Seeling” but the results were equally disappointing:

 Also not me. Not even close. Though it’s possible I’m distantly related to a Heinrich Seeling? Possibly?

Also not me. Not even close. Though it’s possible I’m distantly related to a Heinrich Seeling? Possibly?

So I tried another: Arielle Ceiling.

This result was pretty great.

 CEILING FANS. It’s one of my favorite puns. Get it?  Sieling fans?  hahahaha  As in people who are fans of people who are named Sieling? Yup.

CEILING FANS. It’s one of my favorite puns. Get it? Sieling fans? hahahaha

As in people who are fans of people who are named Sieling? Yup.

Hilarious, perhaps (still laughing at Sieling fan/ceiling fan pun), but also not me.

Luckily, the closest variation to my name (and most common misspelling), Ariel Seiling, actually does pull up my website.

 (That’s not my Facebook, though.)

(That’s not my Facebook, though.)

So the problem is: how are people going to find me on the internet if they can’t spell my name?

So I came up with an idea.

Keywords.

Yes, keywords.

Keywords are those pesky phrases that you type into Google when you’re trying to learn something or find something. For example, “can I eat my cat” is a keyword phrase. “Can I eat my pet named Steve” is also a keyword phrase. In my case, my name (“Ariele Sieling”) is a keyword phrase.

So I asked myself, “What if I just wrote a blog post that included all of the possible misspellings of my name? That way, if someone does spell my name wrong, hopefully they’ll find this blog post, which should guide them to the rest of my website.”

So that is literally what I am doing right now. This blog post is specifically designed to help people find me. And hopefully be mildly entertaining at the same time.

Below, I am going to list out some of the interesting variations of my name that I’ve seen. Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do if someone can’t remember my name at all. But if they remember it wrong, maybe this will help.

I’ll start with my first name:

  • Ariel

  • Arielle

  • Arial

  • Areyel

  • Arel

  • Erin (I don’t know, don’t ask me, but people call me Erin all the time)

  • Arian

And now my last name:

  • Seeling

  • Seiling

  • Ceiling

  • Cieling

  • Siling (Sometimes people pronounce it with a hard “i” too)

  • Sileing

The correct spelling is as follows: Ariele Sieling.

Now hopefully Google can do the math and incorporate all of those spellings into its all-powerful algorithm, in all of their various combinations.

And there you have it. I’m still me, no matter how you spell my name. I just hope you are able to find me, even if it takes a while.

Good luck.

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September/October Monster Report: Latra

I’ve combined my September and October Monster Reports this time around because I’ve made a rather embarrassing mistake.

I went to visit my parents in upstate NY, and my dad and I took a walk in the woods. While we were out, I saw the strangest sight—trees which looked completely normal the first time we walked past, but had suddenly changed when we returned. Of course I didn’t take pictures of them before—why would I, when they looked like completely normal trees?

You can see some of my after pictures below, however.

 Night was falling, so it was hard to take clear pictures, but you can see the strange bite marks near the ground.

Night was falling, so it was hard to take clear pictures, but you can see the strange bite marks near the ground.

 This one happened a little closer to the water, farther from where we saw the initial damage.

This one happened a little closer to the water, farther from where we saw the initial damage.

 In this one, I could’ve sworn I saw something move, but of course poor light made it impossible to get a clear photo.

In this one, I could’ve sworn I saw something move, but of course poor light made it impossible to get a clear photo.

 I was a little nervous to get so close, but if you can see the damage, the creature is usually gone.

I was a little nervous to get so close, but if you can see the damage, the creature is usually gone.

You see, there is a monster called a latra. It’s a sort of long, flat garg that disguises itself by wrapping itself around a tree. It shaves a good amount off, and then settles itself into the tree. Then, when prey walks by, it launches out, from seemingly nowhere, and latches onto its prey’s leg or arm or whatever. Its teeth are filled with a venom that can cause its prey to feel extreme pain. When the latra leaves the tree, it looks like a big gouge has been taken out of the bark, like a big mouth came and chomped down on the tree.

 Since I didn’t actually see a latra, I couldn’t take a picture. But here’s the general idea of it.

Since I didn’t actually see a latra, I couldn’t take a picture. But here’s the general idea of it.

Latras are particularly dangerous because they reproduce rapidly, and can hibernate for great lengths of time. You could have a whole colony of latras living in your woods and never realize it, because they just look like tree bark and blend perfectly with whatever tree they’re attached to. If you walk by at the right time, you may think for a second that the tree has eyes, but if you see that, I recommend that you don’t take the time to look closer—just run.

So after seeing the trees in my parents’ woods, I thought the latra had been there when we walked by initially, but then left before our return. It could’ve been stalking us, for all we knew. We hurried out of those woods, let me tell you. Having to fight off latras in the dark doesn’t not sound like a relaxing visit home.

So we raised the alarm, warned their neighbors, hung flyers in town, posted on social media…

Anyway, you can imagine my embarrassment when my mom sent me this video from their wildlife camera:

It was just a beaver! I was extremely embarrassed, and had to rescind our proclamation that latras had invaded upstate NY.

In any case, don’t worry. There have actually not been any sightings of latras. Just a beaver or two.

Stay cool, and watch out for monsters!

Ariele University: A Whack On The Side of the Head

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I know you haven’t heard from Ariele University in a while, but I’ve been working on it, slowly plugging away in the background. I’ve made progress on a few of the books I’m reading (about halfway through a couple), have done two more assignments, and figured out what I want to do for my thesis! More on that after I’ve gotten a bit more of my readings done, though.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to A Whack On The Side of the Head by Roger von Oech. This book was originally published in 1983 (though I have the 1990 edition), and is a bestselling classic on how you can become more creative. I’m not sure I need to become more creative, exactly, but I figured that it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few more tools in the toolbox. The book has “puzzles, anecdotes, exercises, metaphors, cartoons, questions, quotations, stories, and tips; this book systematically breaks through your mental blocks and unlocks your mind for creative thinking.” That’s what the back of the books says.

Anyway, the reason I added this to my list was because I owned it, and thought it might be a sort of unnecessary side concept—like a gen ed course in undergrad.

My assignment (you can see updates to my progress here) was to do three of the assignments listed in the book. I have them included below.


The Assignment

1. Metaphors.

This chapter talks about hard and soft thinking. Put each item from the list on page 34 into one of the two categories, either Hard or Soft, along with an explanation of why you put it there.

HARD

Logic— creates a set of rigid guidelines to help direct a thought process or idea

Reason—the process that creates the guidelines, which now that I think about it might actually be more soft because it involves exploring a variety of ideas, following bunny trails and tangents—but hard because it all has the goal of creating something very tangible and accessible

Precision—hard, as in difficult, but also in exact and solid; it means understanding all the details of the situation and medium

Work—difficult and not fun in most cases, also guided by a specific set of rules and guidelines

Exact—same as precision

Direct—focused, forward, and no-nonsense; it knows itself and its needs

Focused—attention is all on one thing (or a cameras) creates a set of restrictions & blocks out other stuff, strict set of guidelines

Reality—there are rules, social and physical, that govern the world we live in and can’t be broken, like walls

Paradox—difficult to understand, but with a very specific problem to be solved

Analysis—subject to a specific set of rules

Specifics—specific lol

Adult—we are governed by the rules of our world and society, and are expected to be able to bear the brunt of the pain the world brings

SOFT

Metaphor—because it doesn’t translate exactly, there’s always wiggle room, room for interpretation and subjectivity

Dream—because its fuzzy, hard to grasp, hard to pin down exactly what’s happening and why

Ambiguity—because it’s flexible and leaves room for subjectivity and interpretation

Humor—room for subjectivity and interpretation

Play—because it’s fun, easy, and can take the form of anything; there are very few rules

Approximate—fuzzy, not sure, close enough but room for movement, wiggling change, not constant

Fantasy—not real, easy to change and manipulate

Diffuse—spreading outward, no central point, you can’t really tie it down or solidify its position

Hunch—it’s just an idea, not yet full formed, has no shape

Generalization—fuzzy, broad assessments based on loose patterns, and a ton of room for error

Child—they are small and while resilient, easily injured or affected, you can shape the way they think and feel and what they do, flexible

 

2. Be Practical.

Free write for 5 minutes about the picture of the chair on page 68. Include 3 impressions you have of its value.

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The chair has a back and a front, with a sort of triangle going through the center, and empty space on the legs, like it would fall down if you actually tried to use it. It has cushioning, which is probably comfortable, but the triangle through the center would make it very difficult to sit on, that’s for sure. And since the legs don’t really work, you’d have to balance on the bottom part of the triangle, which also seems less than safe. The only kind of person that would really fit in this chair would be two skinny people, one on each side. And the chair wouldn’t stand up with the legs broken like that. I’m trying very hard to find something good to say about it, but… Okay, here’s what you could do with the chair. Flip it 90 degrees, so that its back is on the floor. Then you can have two kids sit on it, with a divider between them so they can’t talk to each other, like if they’re siblings fighting or they don’t like each other or something. That might be a use for the chair.

This chapter is encouraging us to be open minded, but know when to reel in our imagination. Just because you can think of something (like this ridiculous chair) doesn’t mean the idea has value, or will turn out the way you imagined it during implementation. Yes, someone thought of this chair and even drew a picture of it, but I doubt it would sell, and it certainly wouldn’t be something to invest a lot of money in developing. So then, I need to practice recognizing when I have good ideas or bad ideas, and figure out how to determine which is which in writing. And I need to be willing to back down when my idea is, shall we say, less than stellar.

 

3. Mapping Dissatisfaction.

Go through each of the steps starting on page 171. Write a paragraph.

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What are you dissatisfied about?

I want to be a better writer. I want to be a better marketer. I want to make more money doing what I love (writing, reading, supporting authors, being a part of the literary community).

What are you going to do about it?

Well, I made up this fake master’s course to help with my skill. I started my Patreon plan to work on my marketing and BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals). I am making more money (not enough though) so I’m going to follow through on my Patreon plan, and work on refining my marketing plan so that more money goes into my bank account, and less goes out, and I’m going to write more books (strategy number 1).

Can you visualize yourself reaching your objective?

Yes! I have been trying to imagine what I will do with my time when not freelancing. I have imagined getting invited to do interviews and what I will do to engage my fans and followers. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that will ever be a reality, but I am going to stay focused on it as much as I can, and keep working.

What are three things you can do to reach your goal?

  1. Re-prioritize my education. I have sort of put it aside, but I want to refocus.

  2. Set time aside every week specifically for visualization (like Sundays when I listen to classical).

  3. Prioritize getting more books written. Sometimes I get distracted by marketing stuff. I need to focus on writing. More books = more money.

What three factors make it difficult to reach your objective? How can you get rid of these excuses?

  1. Stress. I am working on this—relaxation, regular exercise, better diet. It’s not perfect, but I’m way better off than I was before.

  2. Getting distracted. I could ditch FB again. [I did!]

  3. Thinking I’m a terrible writer. Practice positive self-talk!

What do you have at stake?

Everything. I quit my job to do this, and while I’m fortunate enough to have Josh to help with the bills, I need to press forward. The longer I go without having a job, “freelancing,” the less hireable I become (at least in my mind). I need to be successful, or pursue a different career track.

How can you create a support system around you?

What I already have: Josh, my parents and brothers, Zoe, Sarah, Deidre, neighbors, stability.

What I can work on: expanding my network, building a larger online community (and in-person community), not trying to reach out to everyone, but find people who are like me, growing fan base

How can you make your idea attractive to other people?

I think practicing blurb writing is going to be really important, and investing in high quality covers. I love the idea of drawing monsters, but I need to find a way to make my other series more appealing as well.

What gives you courage to act on your ideas?

A solid plan is nice. But I think most of my courage comes from Josh, who believes in me 100%, and my parents who give me solid, helpful feedback on my work.

What deadline can you give yourself?

End of the month, baby! I have to have 35k by the end of the month, and I’d like to put this Sagittan book out by next year. I also want to have the next LoS book drafted by the end of the year, so I can get started with the chapter releases not too long after Book 1 ends.

What resistance do you expect to your idea?

Not everyone will like it. I will get negative reviews, no matter how good I think it is or how much work I put into it. But I need to ignore all that stuff, and focus on being the best I can be, and producing the best quality product that I am capable of producing.

How persistent are you?

Very, and becoming more so every day.



August Monster Report: Dublagat

I'm a bit late getting to my monster report this month. I'll be honest, it's because I thought the melc and the plat were anomalies, and that maybe the monsters weren't as common as I originally thought. I hadn't seen anything indicating monsters during my walks early in the month, so I focused my time and efforts on a hundred other things--other projects, other books, survival--you know, the usual. 

The truth is, I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

This summer has been very wet. We've been plagued by rain and thunderstorms. I personally like rain, though my wonderful dog hates it (he also hates lightning, thunder, fireworks, alone time, birds, vegetables, and motorcycles). I frequently walk in the rain, or right after. 

The first time I walked after the rain, I noticed these mushrooms. Cute, white, with speckles. They grow in circles--fairy rings, I thought. 

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After the second rainstorm, I noticed several trees scattered throughout the park, their limbs torn from the trunks. I though it was odd, as there hadn't been any major winds, but you know--city trees, am I right? 

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After the third storm, I noticed another patch of mushrooms, these ones much weirder than the first. I stared at them for a few minutes--and that's when I suddenly saw it. These weren't mushrooms. They were EGGS. 

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And not just any eggs--dublagat eggs! Don't worry, I kicked, stomped, and smashed those eggs until nothing was left except fragments of chitin scattered through the grass. 

Once I realized they were eggs, that's when I saw the pattern as obviously as if someone had circled it in red marker and painted it on my face. 20/20 hindsight, you know? They lay their eggs in the middle of fields, because the eggs draw nutrients from the soil and plants around them and so can grow extremely large--they need a lot of space. They also grow in a variety of shapes and sizes, so the first mushrooms I saw were probably eggs as well. 

The other thing about dublagats is that they love sun and hate trees. They will make a point to go around and try to assassinate trees--hence all the arboreal damage. As for why they did everything in the rain? My guess is because they're in the city, and when it's raining there are fewer people around. Easier to not get spotted. But who knows--they're monsters.

dublagat.JPG

I'm actually not surprised that I didn't notice a dublagat in the park. They are masters of disguise. They have long stringy fur that can adjust to any texture color, making it easy to blend into whatever is around them--and the more texture and the more color, the better. They also make their eggs blend in (ie mushrooms). They're probably hiding in the community garden, come to think of it. Lots of food there (rabbits, birds, tomatoes), as well as plenty of places to hide among the vines and raised beds. 

A dublagat can grow as many heads as necessary. It's fur is really rough, and can be turned into thread. They're pretty easy to decapitate, and barring that, you can always run away (they're pretty slow). 

The thing you've gotta watch out for is their spit. Imagine a llama or a camel--except with acid. Yup. Lots of it. Your best bet is to sneak up behind them and slice off their heads as quickly as possible (in one stroke, preferably), or if you can't manage that, use a distance projectile weapon, like a slingshot or a bow and arrow.

Now, I can't emphasize this enough: BE CAREFUL. The world is riddled with monsters, and you just never know where they might be hiding. Stay alert and don't let your guard down. 

I'll let you know what else I discover in the coming days. 

Watch out for monsters and may the garg's blood rain!

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