Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

It has come. The Book 100.

The Book 100 is Heather Sellers' brilliant idea of reading 100 books that are similiar to the book you would like to write. And you dissect them and put down your findings on a notecard, one for each book. You pick apart the greats and see what makes them tick. And the not so greats as well because those are fine teachers on what works and what sure as hell doesn't.

You start by writing down 100 books to read. I think I'm around the forty count- it isn't so easy. But that's no matter because you'll take things off and put things on. I don't think Sellers believes in reading tons of classics, mostly moderns. That's just too bad. Maybe I'm (once again) setting my bar way too high but there are so many older books I want to read, why not pick them apart and see what I can use for emulation?

I decided to kick off Book 100 with Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant. Lady Susan by Austen has joined in too. What do I have to say from my current dissection of Miss M.? That adjectives when piled three deep on any one noun leave little to the imagination. And also people interrupting other people's visits is as good a device as any to hurry the plot along. I wish I could say more. I'm sure there must be more, I just can't perceive it. The book was initially a magazine serial so that might have something to do with the lacking of "finds."

As for Lady Susan…there's no details about life only thrilling gossip and plot. I really enjoy reading great authors' early works because you see what they had to work hard on and how they managed to work around things they had little talent in. Lady Susan is a perfect illustration of this. It's a story written in correspondance form, a form that Austen doesn't shine in (as in later works) and while it was a popular narrative form in her day, she dropped it. Those are things that I, as a embryo writer, am currently wrestling with. Which narration form best suits me? How much detail is good detail? But that as Stephen King notes is something you figure out by writing tons.

The Book 100, I Salute You.

 

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Life Lessons from a Cardinal

Outdoor living is coming in fits and starts now that it’s June. Last week it was in the 90’s (30C) and today it is gentle and cool with thunderstorms passing by north and south, bringing coolness in the wake of their stormy skirts. The sun shines but the thunder rumbles nearby and my cats retreat farther indoors to snooze on chairs instead of near windows.

It is tempting to join them. The heat break means that deep good sleep is possible again. Even with air conditioning, I sleep poorly when it’s hot. I sleep best when it rains.

And it has been raining at night but in great torrid thunderstorms where the house shakes and the windows rattle. Sometimes I lie in bed as the thunderstorms march by and wonder at the fate of all the creatures and people living outside.

It is summer and I have no arguments with it. It’s too hard to argue with the seasons. On the beautiful days, I sip my breakfast tea outdoors and watch the birds and squirrels to start my day. There’s always a drama playing out in the backyard. My favorite is the cardinal who walks along the deck rail, casting his bright black eye here and there and then breaks into song until a robin kicks him out. When the coast is clear, he returns and does the same thing all over again. Despite my nearness, he doesn’t mind me at all and I adore his bright red plumage and courageous laughing heart. His song cheers my soul and I’ve come to recognize his particular song. It falls under the same lines as all cardinals but it has a bit of improvised trill at the end. I think he’s been hanging out with song sparrows and got Ideas.

He’s a hard individual to photograph (all flash and movement) but I’ve shared a photo of a cardinal from National Geographic so you can get the idea. He’s hard to ignore and is a permanent on the robins’ blacklist. I aspire to such a level of happy insouciance.

How to Get Through a Big Book

How to get through a Big Book and have a little fun too.

  1. Make and eat food mentioned in the book (big books always include food, usually in meticulous detail).
  2. Read a little bit each day.
  3. Make a soundtrack.
  4. Dress like a character from the book for a day. Or a week. Or a month if it really grabs you.
  5. Ten minutes to kill? Daydream about the landscape or what the characters are seeing as they move through their day.
  6. Read passages you enjoy out loud. If you’re in the right mood, record yourself reading passages and share it (Instagram is great for this). Include illustrations if you like (thank you, Shirin).
  7. Whip out a highlighter or some sticky tabs for those great parts.
  8. Pace yourself and remember, reading gigantic books isn’t a race. It’s about the journey. Might as well bring along snacks, good drinks, great lighting, and enjoy the ride.