Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

grape hyacinth on blue

 after the last few busy days full of shopping (ugh) and seeing friends (yay!), I was able to set my props and enjoy most of the day at my new kitchen table. It's a bitty thing, only three feet by two foot but the kitchen is long and narrow and not big neither so it works. The table is old, from the 30's or 40's lets say and the top is metal with enamel over it. There's a bit to repair, where it looks like someone mistakenly placed a frying pan on it or something way too hot, but it's small and I'm pretty confident I can repair it. I heart this table and I have my good friend, Brit, to thank for helping me haul it home. It was a true flea market find (something I've heard talked about but rarely encounter) and I hope to visit the same sellers next month and perhaps pick up another piece of furniture. I'm a hopeless buyer of antiques and their painted antiques work for me! All the furniture they sold seemed good and solid and for excellent prices as well. Better prices than even the resale shops around here! This area is just far too expensive, I think.

I've enjoyed this gloomy day with my grape hyacinths (muscari if you really want), puzzled over a recent film adaptation of a Balzac novel, "The Duchess of Langeais" I viewed last night, read at a novel and generally just wrote away. Though not fiction. Not today. That's something I've got in the back of my head, sifting through. How much can a character be yourself? That's the genius of fiction though. There's no rules in that department. I think this time though…I made the main character do something too like me and for that, her voice may have hesitated and then slumped.

Tonight is PBS and Kate Beckingsdale in "Emma" and guess what? I can watch tv right from the kitchen table.

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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.

How to Search for Story Settings

A big city not far from mine has a casino. I’ve heard a few stories from friends that have worked there. Most center on being treated badly by a customer and revenging themselves by throwing the customer’s car keys into the Fox River. Karma is enacted on a regular basis at the casino.

There’s something about that river, flowing by, murky green during the day and black at night, a bottomless pit for car keys.

The river divides the city in half, east to west. The Fox flows along the old warehouses, limestone and brick, built back when the city had manufacturing plants and industry. Now the warehouses sit sturdy and silent, crumbling ever so slowly. Their roofs are flat and give the illusion of brick walls running straight into the sky. Some were built like prosaic wedding cakes, higher and higher, until the final topping is small square with tiny windows. Industry has never been about aesthetic needs and wants.  And yet by some miracle, these old turn of the century warehouses have achieved it just the same.

I observed the warehouses from the back deck of the riverside café, clutching my cup of earl grey and wishing I had put sunscreen on. It was the first time I had ever been to this café and I came because I needed a new setting for a fiction story I was working on. None of the cafes I remembered from the past were working for me. I needed this kind of café, one that hung out in an old manufacturing city where there wasn’t much industry left. There was, at least, a casino and many local businesses and this café hung on, here at the water’s edge.

A little further up was the casino where my friends had thrown those keys into the water. From my point on the deck, I could see the grimy metallic white heel of the building jutting out. Another friend told me that he goes there regularly to play black jack. It relieves stress and earns a little extra cash for his family.

The wind picks up a little and despite the sun, it’s chilly. Spring plays these tricks on us.

There is no sign of life in the warehouses all around me. We’re all boxed in together and the light plays off their empty windows, open and blank to the sun. I sip some tea and play “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Led Zeppelin just to see if this café will work for my story. It only takes a few bars of listening to the song and I know that this place is perfect. This spot on the river is perfect for many stories. It’s  been perfect for all the stories I know nothing about and the ones that I’ve caught the smallest glimpses of.

A mallard suns himself in the weeds that line the water’s edge. The river moves fast and sure and I turn off the music. No need to for further noise. The song is already there.