The Death of a Castle, the Birth of a Book

I was saddened to learn today that Castle Miranda (also known as Château de Noisy) in Belgium was slated to be torn down this month. Back in 2012 I stumbled across the gorgeous pictures from PROJ3CT M4YH3M of this heart-breaking, beautiful, decaying castle. The ceilings especially inspired me to put pen to paper and write the scene in my novel Glimmer of Steel where Jennica comes to terms with her fate while staring up at her bedroom’s ceiling.

Since I don’t own any of the copyrights for the images I saw back in 2012, nor have I paid for licensing rights, I have the next best thing… links to the owners’ sites so you can hop over a view them yourself.

The first link is for a website (in German) with historical photos/drawings of the Castle in its original state.

The second link is from Ian Moone’s and PROJ3CT M4YH3M’s website page that covered their first visit to Castle Miranda in 2012: 

Urbex: Castle Miranda aka Château de Noisy Belgium – December 2012 (Part 1)

The third link is from Ian Moone’s and PROJ3CT M4YH3M’s second visit in 2014:

Urbex: Castle Miranda aka Château de Noisy Belgium – May 2014 (revisit)

So just as I’m getting ready to release Glimmer of Steel to Kindle Scout this month, and I’m looking for Castle Miranda pictures to share as an important visual inspiration for my writing, I learned the castle is being dismantled. Pascal Dermien recently photographed the start of the demolition and shared his photos on YouTube. You can see former turrets cast upon the ground, including the weather vane that used to spin atop the highest peak. Only the blogs, and photographs, memories, videos, and the occasional book will live on.

Do not judge this book by its cover…

pinkhungergamescoverMy daughter brought The Hunger Games home from school this month. I told her she could read it since she was “almost thirteen” and I couldn’t locate my own copy for her to borrow. We’ve talked about the kid-on-kid violence in the book and the love triangle cliché. But there are themes and issues I think she’ll gain insight from: heroism in the face of oppression, the non-violent resistance expressed by characters like Cinna and Peeta, Haymitch’s PTSD. Besides, it’s a great read, written well.

No, the book’s not the problem.

The problem is the cover of the edition she brought home. This picture does not do it justice.

It’s pink and sparkly!?!

The Hunger Games is not a pink and sparkly tale. It does not warrant a fairy-tale princess cover with Dr. Seuss lettering. What are these publisher’s thinking? It’s a “girl’s” book so it needs a “girl’s” cover? Every twelve-year old girl in America has read this book so now we need to open up the market to six-year-olds? Call me crazy, but a pink cover with sparkly green lettering and the title The Hunger Games makes me think the book is a spin on Cupcake Wars.

I suppose they could use this technique on all sorts of “dark” books to trick readers into thinking they’re in for a lighter read. Word War Z with zebra stripes? The Kite Runner with a smiley face on the kite? The Shining featuring Frosty the Snowman? Too bad Amazon previews don’t take a sample from the middle of the books…

You’re off to the Hunger Games…”Today is your day…” to kill off some kids…”So…get on your way!”

Quote extremely modified without permission from Oh, the Place You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.


Quick Summer Project? No, Not Really.

The checkerboard table. Fun for the whole family.

The checkerboard table. Fun for the whole family, but make no promises as to when this project will be completed.

Okay, okay. I admit I move slowly in the summer. Turtle slow. Any “side” project without a deadline gets put aside so I can meet more immediate needs: running my business, weeding the garden, driving the kids somewhere, writing/revising, making meals, playing Bubble Pop… Then once school starts and the teaching schedule hits full force, I’m lucky if I can scratch out fifteen consecutive minutes to take a shower, let alone work on something non-essential.

Which is why that great light-bulb-moment idea I had in July to turn my square coffee table into a checkerboard took me nearly three months to complete. Truly the only reason I finished is because I needed to clear out the work space in the garage in order to park the van. Once the weather cools all the trees in my yard start vomiting leaves and berries and sap and acorns. Anything left out in the driveway is quickly doused with an autumn explosion of sticky. Starting in October, I had to scrub wipe down my van’s windows before I could see through them to drive. This ten minute morning ritual served as a nice reminder that I needed to get that #$^%!* (special) project done.

So here is my little table painting project, in picture steps, just in case you ever have a square table and some time on your hands. I’m sure you’ll finish much faster than I did.

Step 1: Sand the table so it’s as smooth as . . . [insert appropriate noun here].

The square table, once covered with child graffiti, now sanded to pristine perfection.

The square table, once covered with child graffiti, now sanded to pristine perfection.

Step 2: Using painter’s tape, mask off a border. My table had a built-in border with a groove, so I masked to the inside edge of the groove.

Blue painter's tape is magic on a cardboard roll. Use it to create clean, straight paint edges.

Blue painter’s tape is magic on a cardboard roll. Use it to create clean, straight paint edges.

Step 3: A standard checkerboard is eight by eight squares. The size you choose for your squares will depend on the size of your table. In a perfect world the size of your table will evenly divide by eight. Mine didn’t. It was off by about 1/4″. So I found the center point of the table and with a yard stick and a pencil I divided the table into quadrants, then split those in half, and then half again. As a result my center squares are just a little bit smaller than the ones around the edges, but the difference is so small, no one but you and I will ever know.

Note to self: Pine wood is soft. Don’t press too hard when drawing lines with a pencil as gouges may result. More cursing sanding will ensue.

Step 4: Now here is where I used a lot of painter’s tape. I placed the outside edge of the tape on the outside of what would be the red squares in the first, third, fifth, and seventh columns. To remind myself which squares I planned on painting I marked them with a scrap of tape.

Press the tape down securely so the paint doesn’t seep underneath and ruin your edges.

Step 5: I painted three coats of red, drying at least two hours (to two weeks) between coats. I used a flat finish water-based paint with primer already in the mix. I cleaned the paint brush after each coat (with soap and water) and made sure the paint brush was completely dry before proceeding to the next coat.


Only paint the perfect squares (marked with a scrap of blue tape–pull off the scraps as you paint).

Step 6: When the first set of red squares was finished, I removed the taped edges. Then, I taped again on the outside edge of what would be the red squares running in the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth columns. I repeated the entire process: painting three coats of red, cleaning up and drying between coats. After the last coat of red dried, I removed all the tape, except the outside border (see below).

It's September and the red squares are done!

It’s September and the red squares are done!

Step 7: Now on to the black. I used a flat finish water-based paint and repeated the taping/painting process for the black squares making sure I taped the outside edge each time. I painted the even columns of black squares first, and then the odd. Three coats were used for each square.

When painting, always have your brush strokes go in the same direction as the grain of the wood.

When painting, always have your brush strokes go in the same direction as the grain of the wood.

Step 8: After the last coat of black dried, I removed all the tape, except the outside border. Using a yard stick and a black permanent marker (medium chiseled edge Sharpie) I smoothed any rough edges caused by paint seeping underneath the tape.

When the black squares are done, remove the tape and prepare to paint the border.

When the black squares are done, remove the tape. Tidy edges with a black permanent marker.

Note to self: If you leave your project in the garage for more than a month, household members will start putting things on top of it, including the remote control for the TV in the garage. Any flat surface is at risk.

Step 9: I removed the inside border tape and re-taped the outside of the border to protect the red/black grid. Then I painted the border. I used three coats of black.

Step 10: I painted a thin line of silver metallic craft paint into the groove on the inside edge of the border. I used three coats of the silver, a small, thin paint brush, and a steady hand.

Step 11: I applied six coats of a flat polyurethane, drying between coats, lightly sanding with steel wool between the third and fourth coats. I let the last coat of polyurethane cure for one week and brought the table into the house.

Next up, the winter project. Sewing and stuffing red and black checkers. Six red checkers done . . . check back in three months.

Checkers anyone?

Checkers anyone?

Extra tips: Use a paint that already has primer in the mix, otherwise you’ll have to prime the surface before painting. I painted a pine table with knots so coverage was important. You might not need so many coats. Follow instructions on the paint and polyurethane regarding drying times. For example, the polyurethane I used required an extended drying time after the second and fourth coats. Advice from the Home Depot paint guy who sold me the paint: Don’t shake your can of polyurethane. Ever. Always stir. Shaking puts bubbles into the medium which are next to impossible to remove.

Questions about this project? Ask in the comments and I’ll try to help.