August 2012

On my bookshelf, Le Road Trip is between Beatrix Potter and Serious Literature

…speaking of Le Road Trip, if you’re not ca va with Amazon.com, please feel free to leave a review at Goodreads or the interweb/social media nexus of your choice (hell…go walk down Interstate 95 screaming READ THIS BOOK!!!!!) and email me  with your address so I can put you on my exclusive, coveted ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!!!

(Hello First Time Readers! See two weeks’ ago post to decipher this.)

So, putting my work world problems on the back burner for now, do you all realize that this is the last weekend in AUGUST already???

Oscar and Taffy, seizing the day.

There’s only a limited number of days of that Summer Je Sais Exactement Quoi left.

It’s in that certain quality of light…

Amazing grace.

…that enlightens…

Notice the bonsai in the window box!

…even as it illuminates the ordinary.

PLEASE take a walk this weekend, and keep an eye out for something EXTRAORDINARY. You never know what treasures you might find out there…

…even if it only looks like some piece of tissue-paper trash that got blown against a neighbor’s fence that got rained on and that got baked to a crisp for a few days until it was totally disintegrated by the forces of nature…

…there just might be something special in that muck:

Oh, if only I could not read English and could imagine that this fine calligraphy which is melded unto this frail fallen leaf spoke of enchantments and longing and eternal devotion and stuff.

Anything is out there, in the last light of August.

 

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Yes, I suffer as a ham-handed paint scrubber artist.

Preliminary sketches, all of them totally wrong.

I don’t care how many times I have to draw it, over and over again, I am driven by despair and low self-esteem my ideals to get it right.

I don’t care how many times I have to paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it, and paint it again, I cry bitter tears over my inadequacies steadfastly pursue my  masochistic perversion artistic vision.

I don’t stop until I get it slightly less crappy right. And do you know why?

Because of you. Yes, YOU.

You, dear readers, are the best people out there in Book World . Thank you all for answering the call to give Amazon a piece of your mind re: Le Road Trip. I am deeply touched and profoundly grateful for your wonderful feedback and guidance to the millions of people who ave yet to buy a copy of Le Road Trip. You deserve the very best reading experience that this pea brained ink-stained egomaniac humble book writer can give, so I slave over every detail on every page that I offer to you, you thoughtful caring seekers of literature.

That goes for the bilge content of this blog too. So, today, I am going to share with you one of my trade secrets. I’m going to show you show you how to paint gravel, such as that which appears in the pathways (above) of my quaint knot garden in Edinburgh:

Let’s say you have a gravel path you want to paint:

The first thing you do is make a quick wash over the entire surface like this:

When the wash is dry, cover the un-painted bits with whatever is handy — anything will do, even scrap paper. For you, dear readers, I used my prettiest purple paper:

You’ll need an old toothbrush for the next step, and you’ll get a far better result if you use a float-topped brush, like the pink one shown here, rather than the fancy pointy one (which, despite its scientific appearance, did not have the necessary aerodynamics):

Dip the tip of the toothbrush into water…

… and scrub the tip of that brush into dark paint and load it up with pigment:

You can use dark brown paint, or deep blue, if you’d like — depends on the kind of effect you want. Feel free to experiment. You’ll notice I’m using my old paints here . For certain textures or color schemes, I like the slightly muted colors I get from these cheap paints.

Now you’re going to use your index finger to flick the bristles of your toothbrush and splatter paint:

Let dry, and reveal:

Now,  when I did this technique on my garden illustration (way above) it was a bit more complicated because the spaces that I wanted to cover with splatter were very intricate. Luckily for me, I had a false start when I first tried to paint this bugger (for the sixth time):

So I took that false start and I cut it up to make a stencil to lay over y painting before I let rip with the toothbrush splatter :

Voila:

Now, having finished painting this scene for the sixth time, I have recently learned that I might have to do this all over again.

After two books that were the same trim six (9 x 8 inches), I began doing pages for my garden book in that exact same trim size.  But just last week my agent asked me to consider working in a new format.”Try making your new book smaller, like reading book size,” she said. “It’ll help booksellers [people who own book shops] shelve it, and display it.”

I’m all about making life easier for booksellers. I want to make it easy as pie for them to sell hundreds of thousands of my books. I need them to sell hundreds of thousands of my books or else I have no validation as a human being. ha ha.

So what that means is,  my next book might have considerably smaller pages. That is, the same size as 50 Shades of Gray, or Eat, Pray Love.

Hmmmmmm. I like the idea, but I don’t know if I can work in such cramped margins. This might seriously cramp my style. But, if it means more books will be sold

That black rectangle is the size of your average multi-million-seller, compared to Le Road Trip.  This might be the size of my next book.

What do you think?

 

P.S. My sister pointed out a flaw in my request for Amazon reviews last week, in that some people don’t like Amazon. I forgot to address that in this week’s post, but I will have a Plan B next week. Sorry for the inconvenience — we’ll make it right! I need everybody on the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!

 

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I Went Camping!

Yes, it counts as camping even if it’s only overnight. I was wondering how we would fill up the entire day up there in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York, out there in nature, with nary a baguette vending machine in sight. (I was pretty sure there’d be rustic versions of the pissoir all over the place.)

Here’s all you have to do to keep yourself occupied for hours and hours on end, up there in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains in upstate New York: all you have to do is get yourself —

Top Cat was the Skipper, I was Gilligan, and it was supposed to be a three hour tour. Well, it was supposed to be a 1.3 mile walk, but it turned out that it was a 1.3 mile walk just to get to the trailhead of a three-mile hike, the first two-thirds of which was uphill, the last one-third of which was downhill. I think I’ll take uphill any day (easier on the knees). I took this picture in a clearing on that first 1.3 mile saunter…

…never dreaming that I’d soon become intimately acquainted with every rocky gully and root-entwined slope of that mound on the left.

Fast forward a few hours and many existential musings on the endlessness of suffering and we arrive at our destination:

This is the place that the most bored map maker in history named Big Pond. (What? Were all the good names used up by the time the settlers got to this corner of the Adirondacks? Was there no more poetry to be wrung out of the native American languages that gave us place names such as Chicago etc???

Top Cat dove right in. I stayed on shore, wishing I were a dog splashing my heart out for the sheer joy of being a DoG.

It doesn’t look it, but these DoGs were tearing up and down the shore, pulling sticks twice their size out of the mud, chasing each other in and out of the water, leaping through the tall grass and barking to one another “It’s a GREAT day to be a DoG!!!

There were a few other groups of people there too (Big Pond does not have a lifeguard so it’s not — thankfully –“kid” friendly) and they all brought their dogs. (I have no problem sharing a swimming hole with pooches.) There was an older (my age) couple there with their dog, named Miles Davis, and another older (my age) couple there with their dog named Ruby Tuesday. No Comment.

It was getting on towards cocktail hour dinner time, so Top Cat and I headed back to the campsite. It was a thirty minute walk, on flat land, to hie our way back to the all the comforts of camping. Why? Because there’s a freaking ROAD that links our campground to *!**#  Big Pond. NO DAMN COMMENT.

Home Sweet Home:


 My chef prepares his specialty, Chien Chaud de la Turkey:

Note glass of red wine to the left of the flame.

(Yes, this is how Top Cat gets his Bordeaux to chambre when he camps.)

I swear it was hot as Hades in New York this past weekend — isn’t it the hottest Summer on record all over the US? — but we were cool as a cucumbers up in the foothills of the Adirondacks…

…which brings me to the cool breezes of ChrisHanuKwanSolstice in August:

Since 2007 it has been a tradition here at VivianWorld to send out a ChrisHanuKwanSolstice card every year to my beloved Blog Readers:

These cards are handmade by Yours Truly

…completely original and signed by Moi

…and Suitable For Framing

But this year it’s a little different.

Usually I limit my ChrisHanuKwanSolstice cards to the first 50 readers who sign up on December 1…

…but this year you can get on my list if you post a review of Le Road Trip on Amazon.com. Post your review and then send me an email at vivianswift at yahoo dot com with your mailing address (anywhere in the world) and you’re on the List for being Nice in 2012.

I think this is a fairer way than a first-come shout-out to distribute my annual card (I’m giving you all plenty of warning!!). So  review the Damn France Book now and get on the list!

As they say in France, Merci Mucho.

 

 

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When I was writing Le Road Trip I stayed away from traveling to Paris because I didn’t want any new information or experiences to corrupt the specific memories I was trying to pin down in my Damn France Book. But that didn’t stop me from gathering my Wish List, my Must Do List of people, places, and things I have to check out the next time I’m en ville. Top of the list: this baguette vending machine (above).

And I want to see the last pissoir in Paris (on theBoulevard Arago, near the famed La Sante prison, 14th arr.).

For now, though, for my daydreaming, I’ve been revisiting my favorite Paris book, Paris Cafe, Le Select Crowd by Rick Tulka.

Rick is a MAD magazine staffer who lives in Paris and hangs out, every day, at Le Cafe Select.

He brings his sketch book with him and “works” at the cafe.

I don’t know if I am more envious of his supreme skill…

…or of the fact that his “office” serves champagne.

Self Portrait by Rick Tulka, at “work” in his “office”.

If you could use a little Paris in your life today, check out Rick and Paris Cafe, The Select Crowd.

But then again, I have cats in my office.

Which is a lot like having an endless flow of champagne in the office, except for the fun, the bubbly, and the good tasting part.

Oh, that little painting of a Japanese tea house that Coco is ignoring?

Yes, that’s a peek at some stuff I’m going for the garden book. Now, I like tea houses…but I detest macha tea (the powdered green stuff they serve in the Japanese tea ceremony) so I’ve never bothered to sit in on this particular cultural event. I’m probably missing out on a fascinating and deeply moving esthetic experience…or not. My poll for the day is: If you had a choice, would you go for the Tea Ceremony, or Champagne at a Paris Cafe?

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