I Am More Than a Little Castle Crazy.

Taffy is literally beside himself with excitement about this week’s blog post:

Ha ha. For the record, those are two separate cats. You know that’s Taffy on our patio chair with his back to you, and that’s our neighbor’s cat, Dennis, giving you the hairy eyeball. And they are both simply livid with excitement about today’s blog post!!!

Thanks to Dear Reader Alex, who alerted me to the existence of this book, I have a great new [to me] resource for  my latest obsession:

This (below) is not the prettiest castle in the book, but it’s got that certain something that makes me want to build it. Namely,  it’s got that twisty, winding path that climbs up a rocky cliff:

Twisty, winding path. I want to do that.

First, I made some sketches to figure out how I could make those rocky shapes and castle bits:

Speaking of rocks. On my kitchen table, where I tend to dump my various tote bags, I have two rocks: a Himalayan Rock Salt lamp and a smaller rock that I keep around because it looks like a potato:

You’ll notice that Lickety has the whole kitchen table to himself but he chooses to wedge himself in a hard place between a rock and another rock in order to nap on top of my lumpy black tote bag:

Same nap, different day — and yes, Lickety is using my potato-rock as a pillow:

*Sigh* Other people have gifted and talented cats. Mine just have good looks.

But back to the rocky cliff and the twisty, winding path:

All I did was cut out a path on light-weight cardboard using a pattern (there, in white bond [typing] paper) and then I glued little “pillars” of graduated heights underneath it:

Then I glued the pillars onto a sturdy base, and let the heights of the pillars do the dirty work of raising the height of the pathway:

Dear Reader Birdie asked me, last week, Who taught you to make castles? Nobody did, Birdie — I just sat down and figured it out myself, which is about 75% of the fun of this whole process: figuring how to make it possible. It took me a long, hard think to work out how to make this path, and I got a great deal of satisfaction in making it in real life just to prove that my thinking was right. When it works out it’s a real thrill.

So now I have my underlying structure. Now is when I cut out the book pages to cover up the path:

And then I enclose the entire path and pillars in more book pages, to make what I call the Form for the Twisty Winding Path. It looks simple, but thinking about and making this structure took all day:

Here’s the other thing that I accomplished on my first day of Building Castle No. 8:

As I work on these castles, I keep losing my two most important tools — my circle-making thingy (called a template, in green) and my big bluey ruler with the right-angle edge — they get lost under the pile of mess that this castle-making hobby produces in mucho quantities. So I simply hammered a nail into the front edge of my work table, where I hang these two tools and will never lose them again.

I can’t tell you how happy this makes me, to have my tools so handy.

OK, having made the Form for the Twisty, Winding Path, I was pretty much gratified that I had conquered the hardest part of this particular castle. But I still had to go make the rest of the castle to justify the twisty, winding path. This next photo isn’t very explicative, but it serves to show you how I built the rest of the castle around that weird, centerpiece  Form I made for the twisty, winding path:

After three days, I was almost finished with this castle with the twisty, winding path and its bridge to another book (as theorized in last week’s blog post) but it was very ugly:

The bridge goes off at a gruesome angle due to my not thinking out the consequences of where I situated the castle on its book-base.

It does not make me happy to make an ugly castle. Although I made a darling little half-moon bridge (dedicated to Dear Reader Carol, who was very much looking forward to a cute bridge) with a cool-looking tower for the twisty, winding path, things fell apart when I assembled it all together. As an appendage, it was very awkward and ugly. I was very sad.

I actually had a bad night’s sleep over this. So  had no choice but to wake up the next morning and cut off the cute little half-moon bridge:

I couldn’t leave that twisty, winding path hanging out there as a dead-end. So here’s what I did to resolve my Ugly Castle Problem: I made another twisty, winding path that jigged to the right, where it terminated at a cute little tower glued into the corner of the book:

It doesn’t photograph well, but here’s maybe a better look at it:

No? Not better? Maybe this will show how I made a less ugly twisty, winding path for this castle:

Yeah, that’s probably the last time I carve into a book like that. It took forever. . . like, ten hours over two days . . .  and I really have to find a more joyous way to spend my ever-dwindling allotment of the time I have left in which I live and breathe and could be drinking martinis instead. Sitting in my dining room with two different kinds of scissors, hacking through 800 pages of Japan’s Imperial Conspiracy is not my idea of fun. I mean, I might get hit by a car tomorrow, and this is how I spent my last day on Earth??

Dear Reader Marilyn asked me, last week, whether I could find some kind of electric tool to use instead of using up my mortality by hand-cutting with scissors. I looked into that, Marilyn, by researching the work of book artists who carve deeply into their books. The most famous book-carver is a guy called Guy Laramee, you should google him, and he uses — wait for it — a sandblaster.

Other book-carvers use scalpels or exacto-knives. I think their carving looks too rough, for my purposes, and it looks equally as boring as using scissors. I think I’ll just limit my carving time by making less ambitious landscapes, or by learning how to scissor while loaded.

Castle Naming: Dear Reader Casey suggested Whimsy Towers for last week’s castle. I like it. Way back, a book reviewer wrote that the writing and illustrations in my first two books “are charming and whimsical, but can come very close to twee.” I was not insulted, and I did a whole blog post about it — in short, twee is a Britishism for appallingly cute. I work on the edge of twee. No brag, just fact.

And I am the first to tell you that these castles are all about twee, so Whimsy Towers is a perfect name. Because, by the way, people who like my work frequently call me whimsical, which is a surprise to me since in real life I am short-tempered, foul-mouthed, and opinionated. I eat whimsical for breakfast, as a sprinkle topping on the bloody beating hearts that I have ripped out of the chests of my enemies. But I make castles!

Thanks to Dear Reader Mae’s Comment last week, I now have a whole list of literary castles to inspire me to name my other castles with something that hints of mystery, portent, and whimsy. I hope to be free-associating soon, with a glass of ice cold inspiration if you know what I mean.

Or maybe I’ll just be celebrating a most excellent news cycle!

The Resistance has had a good week. Between Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, and that Anonymously agitating (but, in its own way, hilarious) New York Times op-ed about the moles working inside the White House, we have der Drumpf  lit up like something hideous that lights up a frothing, unhinged shade of orange when things are getting too close to the truth in Crazytown (I suck at similes).

Let’s have fun and watch as der Drumpf goes even more insane trying to tamp down this opening of the floodgates leak. Now that it’s a matter of national security, let’s watch as he threatens to bomb the New York times, sue Woodward for libel, declare a Code Red because YOU NEED ME ON THAT WALL, that’s where I had them, they laughed at me and made jokes, but I’ll prove beyond the shadow of a doubt, with geometric logic, that I KNOW WHO TOOK THE MISSING STRAWBERRIES.

Oh, this is going to be so good.

So let’s sit back and watch this unravel.

And to Dear Reader Margot, who hopes for a Blue Tsunami, I’m saying that this public meltdown will prove to be the cause of the mutiny that produces a Purple Tidal Wave in November.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones.

Here’s the most recent precious Blue Jay feather that I have found in the Summer of ’18.

OK. Maybe I am a little bit whimsical.


17 Comments, RSS

  1. Casey September 7, 2018 @ 8:42 am

    I almost choked reading about you eating whimsical for breakfast! SO FUNNY! But for my health’s sake I can’t swallow honey=sweetened English Breakfast and laugh my guts out at the same time. It’s dangerous to read this blog while drinking tea.

    This was a great way to start this get-away-day. It’s like you bring the weekend early with your wit and snark and art and cats and bluejay feathers and WHIMSY.

    Yes, let’s watch Trump melt down in real time. I’ll make the pop corn, you bring the martinis.

    And I love the twisty, winding path castle. Yo should put these awesome creations in a traveling show so the world can see them, beyond the shores of Long Island.

    • Vivian September 8, 2018 @ 10:06 am

      I am the castle entrepreneur of Long Island, and I will make my fortune charging admission to come see them. What the hell. It beats having to write books.

  2. Adrienne September 7, 2018 @ 9:18 am

    The castle-building is really cool, but I miss the painting….

    • Vivian September 8, 2018 @ 10:07 am

      I have promised a Dear Reader to hold a Fall Leaf Painting tutorial as soon as — sob — Fall arrives.

  3. Birdie September 7, 2018 @ 1:21 pm

    You are so hard on yourself. The castle is amazing and I thought the path was so cool. I continue to be in awe.

    Lickety is between a rock and a hard place.

    • Vivian September 8, 2018 @ 10:08 am

      Thank you, Birdie. This castle proves that I have to think it ALL out beforehand, so I will slow down and be sure I have all the Twisty and Winding in place before I start gluing.

  4. Alex MacKenzie September 7, 2018 @ 2:44 pm

    So glad you found inspiration in the Alan Lee book, and goodness, what a challenge to take on! I’m even more impressed that you are a self-taught book artist — that makes it even more fun, as well as inspiring to the rest of us.

    I’m looking forward to more whimsical fun — surely if there are now bridges, a moat can’t be far behind?

    • Vivian September 8, 2018 @ 10:09 am

      I DO have an idea for a moat, but it involves cutting, a lot of cutting, and I am currently looking for non-cutting castles to make. But I know that the most will haunt me until, as they say, I JUST DO IT.

  5. Leslie September 7, 2018 @ 5:58 pm

    Castle name: Twee Towers ? Cats Castle (this one would bear resemblance to a cat, two short outer turreted towers, central barbican with drawbridge, two gleaming yellow-green windows, winding path to the rear ascending, four buttresses below, with white boulder bases.). Some place Catwoman could call home.
    Politically the ride is thrilling, but I still won’t feel good about our situation until we can get off this roller coaster. It is dangerous and frightening. Sometimes things go horribly wrong and take so much time to sort out. Could we ever have imagined this?

    • Vivian September 8, 2018 @ 10:10 am

      OK. Now I can’t rest until I ave made a Cat’s Castle.

      der Trumpf is beyond imagining, but really, with this latest development this is the most fun I’ve had since November 2016.

  6. Kirra September 7, 2018 @ 9:15 pm

    I’m like Casey, drinking tea while reading and laughing at you eating whimsical for breakfast! Your cats are also very entertaining in their sleeping arrangements, and general disregard for the attention of the camera.

    Once again I’m very impresse with your castle building, starting with that small twisty path and ending up with that amazingly carved base and many turreted castle. Pity the bridge didn’t work out.

    Drumpf imploding is good for the rest of the world to see, we are also suffering from far right leaders in our governments here in Australia. My state government has just slashed already cut back arts funding in it’s latest budget which is rated depressing. Look forward to the purple tidal wave from America which hopefully spreads over the seas as well!

    Lovely blue jay feather 🙂

    • Vivian September 8, 2018 @ 10:11 am

      Ah, Blue Jay feathers are the best. I still get excited every time I find one.

      Are you still heading out to Austria? They have nightingales there, but the name is lovelier than the feather (it’s a rather plain brown bird) but still, I wish you may Nightingale feather findings.

  7. Carol September 8, 2018 @ 5:51 pm

    You did not disappoint with this castle, even with the loss of the bridge. It is a fine specimen indeed!

  8. jeanie September 9, 2018 @ 3:56 pm

    I found my first blue jay feather and thought of you. Biggest sigh! Now I’m on a quest!

    I think it’s Lickety Towers. Any cat that sleeps on a rock deserves a castle named after him. I love the path — jolly good thinking on that one. After cutting all that you must have one hell of a painful hand. I hope you’re ambidextrous with those special scissors so you can ease the wear and tear. Wonder if an electric knife would work. Probably not. Or a dremel. Do they have a blade for a dremel like that? Probably not either. All I know is that this is bloody amazing. And while that’s one of the most overused words in the English language, I’ll hold by it!

    You say better than writing books. Well, I think you’ve half written a new book on how to build a castle. Just sayin’…

    And finally, it appears there might be good news. Well, at least he’s “livid.” And “apopleptic.” I love it when that happens. Now if we can just make the midterms count….

  9. Sylvia September 9, 2018 @ 4:12 pm

    I love your castles. And your cats and your watercolors and your champagne-o-meter. Especially your champagne-o-meter. Especially your castles. I found an article in our german newspaper today and you came in my mind. Take a look:
    That’s about a guy who is building a town from paper boxes – since 65 years. I don’t know if you need a translation but I think the images will give you an impression of what could happen.
    Take care of yourself.

  10. Steve September 10, 2018 @ 11:47 am

    A good blue jay feather is a thing of beauty, as is your newest castle. Well, beauty AND whimsy! I love the sloping, curving path and I even liked your hated little footbridge.

    I keep hoping that each new revelation will push Trump into the resignation zone, but his survival power is amazing. I sometimes think no matter what is revealed about him, his supporters will dismiss it as FAKE NEWS and see only their own reality.

  11. Marilyn September 11, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

    I adore your whimsy in the castles. You are having so much fun and I love it all. And those cats should show a bit more enthusiasm. Now politically it just isn’t falling apart quick enough for me. It is hard to just watch. Please make it hurry. A friend gave me a book the other day called Make America Grape Again, How one misguided orange almost ruined the whole fruit salad. It is a children’s book, but quite entertaining for us adults. My almost 6 year old grandson immediately caught on to the theme and knew exactly who that “bad man” was. Wishing he could vote.

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