Tag Archives: cardboard castles

World Building


As a novelist I am very aware of the importance of setting.  It is an essential part of of telling a story, to be able to set the stage upon which the characters will act out the plot.  The setting pictured here is one created for my family’s on-going D&D Role-playing set in the campaign world of Eberron, here on the continent of Xendrick which was long ago ruled by magical giants.  It is built around details.  There are in this picture three elements that are actually aquarium decorations (the two jewel-eyed skulls and the Egyptian ruin construct in the background).  The silver skull and the Princess Jasmine figure come from gumball vending machines (Jasmine comes from a vending machine in the hotel lobby in Anaheim when we took the kids to Disneyland).  The thatch-roofed house in the background is from my manic urge to create cardboard castles.  The skeleton-faced statue came out of a box of cheap plastic toys from Dollar Tree that Grandpa bought for my eldest son back in 1998.  If there is any kind of point to this paragraph, it is that this detail-rich setting photo is created with unusual parts, parts that lots of people would not think to include in the world-building process.


If I have any claim at all to a talent for creating a good setting, it comes from my creative juxtaposition of widely disparate objects.  (In English, it means I like to stick weird stuff together in the same place.)  That, of course, is the very definition of surrealism.  Making the bizarre seem natural and right.  It is how you create a science fiction setting, a fantasy novel setting, and even a setting for a hometown novel set in the little Iowa town I grew up in during the 60’s and 70’s.  (You might not fully believe me yet, as I have not published more than one of my hometown novels, but I do have a hometown setting made of a hidden fairy kingdom, a haunted house, a mad scientist’s laboratory, a witch’s hovel, a mysterious sea captain’s house, a house haunted by rumors of werewolves, and a connection to the dream lands that often lets other-worldly clowns wander our streets.)  (That last now holds the record as the second-longest parenthetic expression I have ever used in my writing.)


Of course, setting by itself is meaningless.  It must be interactive with the characters that inhabit it.  As the dragon crashes through the castle wall behind them, Princess Aurora and her little mechanical body guard, Clockwerky, are not even facing it.  Are they ignoring it because they are actually quite stupid?  Or since it seems to be heading out of the scene to stage left, are they simply assuming it has to be somebody else’s problem?  Either way the setting and the characters don’t mesh in a way that furthers the actual story… at least, not without a lot of additional explanation.

So, can I explain in any sort of a simple fashion how this 500 word treatise on setting is to be understood?  Yes.  Very simply, settings are built of details… lots of details.  And settings and characters have to work together.  Here endeth the lesson.


Mervin the Minotaur and Barrabas the Half-Ogre each roll a natural 20 to double-slay the dire elephant that was threatening princess Jasmine, while in the background, Oneorb the Cyclops rolls a 1 and bashes himself in the head.

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Filed under Dungeons and Dragons, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, playing with toys, setting, surrealism

Building Cardboard Castles


The current state of my cardboard castle is pictured above.  I probably need to remind you that I am making this thing with my own hands.  It is made from old Ritz Cracker boxes with a layer of cutout skin printed from the computer.  It is put together with glue, tape, and a little bit of ingenuity… oh, and a lot of “insert tab A into slot B”.  It is shaping up into a very Elizabethan style of castle.  I originally started it to create props for use with the family Dungeons and Dragons game.  But it grows into a project existing for its own sake, a piece of artwork that is made just like so many others I have done before, in many small steps, one piece at a time.


Here we are stepping back in time to what it looked like before, with fewer elements created.  You can see that the essentials are already added in here… the tavern and the outhouse… can’t live without either of those.


It does, indeed, make a worthy addition and contribution to the ongoing D&D campaign currently journeying through the eastern cities of Aundair in the realm of Eberron.  We are seeking the stolen dragon eggs, and have recently conquered the castle of the Duke of Evernight, freeing it from its terrible curse.

But I do truly believe that the key to this art project, in fact, the theme of this whole post, is that big, impressive things are built our of one small step following another over time.  You build brick walls with a bricklayer placing one brick at a time.

Novels, too, are accomplished this way… one small step after another.  As are both the marriage and the raising of children in the life of a family.  Nothing worth building goes up in a flash… unless it’s built by the Flash… but he is only a character from a comic book and not real.  So, I continue to build.  One day soon, I shall have battlements capable of warding off goblins and orcs.  And for today, I have added another brick to the walls of my blog.


Filed under artwork, humor, photo paffoonies, Uncategorized

I Has Done a Good Thing


In 2015 I decided I would post a blog post every single day of the year.  And so I have done it.  WordPress didn’t count every single post on the day it was intended for.  My computer clock doesn’t work right, and their day ends something like four to six hours before mine does.  (Greenwich Time?)  So some of my posts were counted on the wrong day from my point of view.  But that is just a technicality.  I accomplished this writing goal while finishing a contest novel that has made it into the final round, and I did final edits on my novel Snow Babies so PDMI Publishing LLC can make an actual book of it.

WordPress says my blog was viewed 9,500 times in 2015.   I am up to 759 followers, some of whom seem to like every post I put up.  I have gotten no real troll comments so far (probably due to the fact that the only people who look in on my humble blog are the kind that like to read the sort of stuff I write).   No readers have as yet made it their personal mission in life to try to save the world from my brain-boggling goofiness and potential for killing people by making them laugh themselves to death.  Either those readers haven’t found me yet, or my posts are not as grin-inducing as I tell myself when I am lying to myself on a semi-daily basis.

I will have posted 776 posts with the posting of this one in all the time I have been writing on WordPress.  It is a lot of wordy talkiness in printy printyness.  And I have not stopped the flow yet.  I need a break from posting, but just as I posted every day for two months before 2015, I will probably need some time to break the bad habits I have developed over the last year.  I still need to blog, because it is the only writing I do that gives me any kind of feedback beyond editors saying, “You can’t write that in a young-adult novel!” or, “People don’t actually talk like that in real life.  You can’t just go around inventing new language.”  (But Shakespeare did it… or, rather, whoever really wrote Shakespeare’s plays did it… so I have the right to try, consequences to the sanity of Western Civilization be damned.)  So I will continue to cut and paste purple paisley prose into this brain-bogglingly bumptious blog, and I will continue to illustrate it with perfectly pickled Paffooney pictures.



Filed under announcement, humor, Paffooney, Uncategorized