Happy HallowEEN

Ratchet's jack o'lanternsIt’s been a very Een Halloween this year.

After a festive halloween party in my creative writing class on Saturday, I arrived home to find two delightful Een-mails. One included a picture of a girl dressed in full Kendra gear—her chosen costume for Halloween. I didn’t want to post it without permission—but I can assure you that it looks awesome. Her mom must have had a lot of patience with all the braids. (By the way, if you want to put in Kendra braids, you can find some helpful hints at the Kendra Kandlestar website.)

The second Een-mail I received, came with a great photo that I can post. It seems my Kendra jack o’lantern inspired an Oki pumpkin. Doesn’t it look marvellous? If YOU carved a Kendra-themed pumpkin or dressed as a Kendra character, be sure to tell me. I LOVE receiving these photos.

Oki Pumpkin

So, since I was hosting a Halloween party (it happened last night), I decided to go as an Een character myself. But since I don’t exactly look like any of the characters in my books, I decided I’d be an Een wizard from days gone past. Here are the supplies that went into my costume:

~ Pointed Elf ears

~ An Eenwand (in this case, a very cool piece of natural driftwood)

~ A ring set with Kazah stone

~ A mysterious ancient key

~ A set of Een braids

~ A long brown robe

Een props

Oh, I added a bit of face paint as well. If you want to ever dress up as an Een, I highly recommend the above props. You can also add an animal puppet—or, of course, you could dress as an Een animal! (I’d LOVE to see a Ratchet costume!)

In any case, here’s the final result of the costume, the wizard Leebo Lightheart. What do you think?

Leebo Lightheart

My friends and fellow writers all did a great job of our costumes. Below we have me, kc dyer as a zombie, James McCann as a Jedi Bond (don’t ask), and Kallie George as Sally from the movie A Nightmare Before Christmas.

Geeks & Freaks

Authors’ Day Out

Authors Like UsSometimes I feel like I never leave my house. Of course, I’m often out visiting a school or a conference, but I’m talking about just going out for something fun.

Well, in the latest edition of the Authors Like Us podcast James McCann and I decided to just catch up and do an interview with a twist. See, this time WE are the ones getting interviewed. Doing the honours is YA and middle-grade author is kc dyer.

You can listen to the interview by subscribing for free through iTunes or by visiting our website.

It took us weeks to get all three of us together in the same coffee shop—mostly because all three of us spent the year globetrotting (and rarely to the same place!). See James went east and I went . . . well Far East. But I’m going to humbly suggest that this interview was well worth the wait. Listen up to find out all about our scintillating summer . . . and be sure to listen to the outtake at the every end. (It’s a strange little snippet that James and I recorded at the Pirate Camp we taught this past summer. I had completely forgotten about it!)

We’ve got a great line up for the remaining of our Fall Season ~ Susin Nielsen, Barbara Haworth-Attard, Helaine Becker, and Kevin Bolger. Stay tuned!

Evil Laugh.

 

Kendra Jack o’ Lantern

Pumpkin CarvingIt’s an annual tradition in my household that my goddaughter and I carve pumpkins. I always feel like the pressure is on; because I’m an illustrator the expectation is that I should be able to carve a really beautiful pumpkin. But hey! It’s MUCH harder to carve out a drawing on a bumpy, ridge-lined pumpkin then on a smooth piece of paper.

Well, over the years (and under the watchful eye of my goddaughter), I’ve discovered that the key to carving a good pumpkin is the same as it is for illustrating a beautiful picture: Patience.

So, this year, as Charlotte worked away on her cat pumpkin, I spent a good hour diligently carving out a silhouette of Kendra Kandlestar. Here are some photos of the final result:

Kendra Pumpkin Unlit

Kendra Pumpkit Lit

So, what do you think? Did my patience pay off? I highly recommend that you carve YOUR favourite literary character into a pumpkin. You just might want to pick one with a few less braids!

The best laid plans of kids and creatures . . .

Krake Hatchery.In my ongoing attempt to coax my students to write using the five senses, I introduced a new activity this week to my creative writing class: Dragon Eggs!

We had just finished reading Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, so the connection was obvious. And, of course, there are plenty of eggs in the Kendra Kandlestar books that I could point to as inspirational examples for my students.

You might remember the story of the dragon’s egg from The Box of Whispers, or that rather horrific setting of Queen Krake‘s hatchery in The Shard from Greeve, where hundreds of giant eggs were waiting to crack open in a massive incubator. (By the way, that’s nothing compared to the egg scene you will discover in the forthcoming Kendra book!)

Of course, it’s one thing to come up with an idea for an activity, and quite another to deliver it. I poked around the internet for some different egg-decorating techniques, and finally came up with a hybrid idea involving hot glue guns, metallic acrylic paint, and hollowed out eggs. Thankfully, I also had plenty of fairy dust left over from my Magic Potions class, so that went into my kit as well. Then, of course, I made up a worksheet and collected some photos and video clips to for extra inspiration.

You can view the results for yourself. Each student went home with his or her eggs, ready to write a story about what will happen when it hatches. What do you think? Would YOU want to be around when these enchanted eggs crack open?

Dragon Eggs

Dragon Egg.

Dragon Eggs

Dragon Egg

What was your first stuffed toy?

My friend Kallie loves toys. It seems to me that she always has some story in the works about toys. So I wasn’t too surprised this summer when she asked me about Een toys. I hadn’t really thought too much about it before—after all, Kendra is a little too old for dolls, not to mention the fact that she’s usually too busy dodging dragons and giants to be worrying about playtime.

But of course, the question had been put in my mind, so before I knew it, I had the below sketch to show Kallie, along with this explanation:

An Een mother handmakes a stuffy for her child and stuffs it with the cotton from a cloudtail plant. This is a magical plant (of course!) and gives the toy a special power, so that the toy binds itself to the first child that loves it. The stuffy then is connected to the child’s mood and can give him or her comfort, laughter, or snuggles when he/she needs it.

Sketch of Een Stuffie.

Kallie adored this explanation and it turns out that this idea of Een toys has ended up playing a significant role in my new book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah. Here’s the final pen-and-ink version I completed:

Een Toy.

Now, why a rabbit you ask? At first I wasn’t even sure. Sometimes my pencil just moves across the page with a mind of its own. After I had inked the drawing and included it in my manuscript, I thought maybe I had chosen a rabbit because, once upon a time, Kendra herself was portrayed as a rabbit in the early versions of my manuscript for The Box of Whispers (but that’s a whole OTHER story).

But then I realized that my very first stuffed toy was a rabbit! And when I dug into my old storage crates to look for it, I was kind of surprised to see a certain similarity between Kendra’s rabbit and my own . . .

Stuffed rabbit toy.

I guess that’s the workings of the subconscious mind! This little (and well-worn) critter obviously brought me a lot of comfort when I was a child. Rumour has it that it even once had whiskers, but I guess they didn’t survive.

So, now I ask YOU—what was your first toy?

Read BC with me!

If you were excited to hear about the title of my new book that I announced Monday, then you might be just excited to see a photo of my very first book. No, I’m not talking about my very first Kendra Kandlestar book or even my first published book, Corranda’s Crown.

I’m talking about the book I wrote when I was five or six: Farm 7720. You can see a photo of it as part of the interview with me at the CWILL BC blog.

readBCAt CWILL, we think British Columbia is a pretty special place to live and also a great place to create wonderful children’s literature. So we launched readBC, an initiative to make sure everyone knows about the fabulous books the talent in our province generates. As part of this, we are posting a series of short interviews to introduce our readers to our authors and illustrators. You can read the complete series here.

Make sure you check out and comment on my interview. You can also see a photo of my studio; look really close at the photo and you’ll see the plot outline for Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah hanging on my wall!

What’s the new Kendra Kandlestar book going to be called?

It’s the number one question I get from my readers. Indeed, some of you email me on a weekly basis (you know who you are). But I’m glad you care. Keep emailing—because I’m sure you will have other questions to ask.

But in terms of the title, your wait has come to an end. I’m finally ready to officially unveil the name of Book IV.

Kendra Kandlestar

And it is . . .

Professor Bumblebean

Wait for it . . .

Honest Oki

At long last . . .

Lady bug.

Ta da!

 

 

Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah

And just what is Kazah? Well, Kazah is a special type of stone that can only be found in the Crystal Peaks that tower above the clouds beyond the borders of the Land of Een. Kazah is said to have a mysterious power, one that provides a glimpse into the past or future. Traditionally, young Een wizards and sorceresses are given rings made of Kazah stone once they have completed their training. However, these rings are usually just crudely-cut gemstones and possess limited powers.

Agent LurkThe Kazah stone you will discover in Book IV is different. For one, it is perfectly round. For another, it is severely cracked. And, finally, it is not worn by an Een wizard, but none other than the insidious Agent Lurk, whom you first met in Book III, The Shard from Greeve. Indeed, if you look back at your copy of Book III, you’ll see that Agent Lurk is wearing the round stone upon his finger.

Agent Lurk’s ring is very powerful, and—as Kendra will come to learn—it’s because of its crack. It will be this crack that will propel Kendra forth on her most epic adventure yet.

The book’s release is planned for next October. I know it’s a long wait, but I think it will be worth it! And to help ease the time, I’ll continue posting new illustrations and—eventually—a sneak peak at a chapter or two.

By the way, here’s just a few more of the questions that will be answered in Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah:

  • Why does Burdock Brown have such hatred for Kendra’s mother, Kayla Kandlestar?
  • Why was Kayla Kandlestar so obsessed with the Legend of the Wizard Greeve?
  • Who exactly is Agent Lurk and what does he look like under his hood?
  • What is the secret name of the peryton (the winged deer)?
  • How did Uncle Griffinskitch manage to escape Burdock’s dungeons in Book III, The Shard from Greeve?
  • Why do Eens wear braids?

Well, there you go! Be sure to comment and let me know what you think of the new title.

I never wanted to be a farmer

There is a lot of lore in my family about how terribly inept I was growing up on an orchard. Mostly, I was better at destroying trees than nurturing them (my sister will happily recount an incident between me and a certain apricot tree).

Yet, I finally found the one tree that I can actually cultivate: A Character Family Tree.

See, I am always looking for new ways to get my students to think about characters and how to build personal histories for them. Finally, I think I have an activity that will help my students—in a fun and illustrative way.

In truth, this idea comes from one of my teaching partners, Kallie George, but since I did a lot of the grunt work on preparing the workshop package, I’m going to take my share of the credit.

I designed the tree template, and then to test it out I ended up filling in Kendra Kandlestar’s family history. Most of this history has rattled around in my coconut for years, but I have never actually transcribed it on paper before (at least not in this way). So, here’s a look at Kendra’s family tree:

Kendra's Family Tree

Young Uncle GriffinskitchIt’s a fitting exercise as I work on Kendra Kandlestar IV, because in this book I’m really exploring Kendra’s family history. A few weeks ago, I posted a sketch of Uncle Griffinskitch in his younger days. I liked that idea so much, that I’ve inked a final version of the drawing and am going to try and find a way to work that into this latest book.

Poor Uncle Griffinskitch. He sure became hunched in his old age. And if you thought he was grumpy NOW, you should have seen him back in those days. EEK!

By the way, Kallie and I decided that we should also do a family tree for a villain. I haven’t gone to the lengths of filling out one for my own villainous character, but maybe I will in the weeks ahead. What do you think? Who would have the most interesting family tree? Burdock BrownPugglemud? Rumor the Red Dragon? I’m thinking it’s probably Agent Lurk (but then again, I know something that YOU do not).

Villain's family tree.

Eek! My blog has been taken over . . .

My name is Darby Christopher, and since I’m a huge fan of Kendra and the other Eens, she’s letting me take over her space for today, while she’s off helping Mr. Wiz sort out her next adventure.

[Hmm. Now that I look at it, it seems he’s spending time turning himself into a cartoon . . .]

Facing Fire by kc dyerOkay, while Mr. Wiz gets busy trying to NOT look like a Simpson’s character, I’m going to tell you something about myself. I’m not an Een and I’ve never actually been through the Door to Unger. My specialty seems to run more to windows . . . and time travel. This month, I’m celebrating the release of my new book, FACING FIRE. It’s a story in which skateboards are ridden, adventures are shared, and unfortunately—some fires go out of control.

This story picks up after the magical summer that you may have read about in A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW.

Haven’t read it yet? Well . . . now’s your chance! If you comment on this post, your name will go into a draw to win a free copy of the new book – FACING FIRE. And if you actually link to this post somewhere else [like in another blog, or facebook post or even a tweet] Kendra and I will put your name in for the draw for BOTH of my books. So comment away!

By the way, if you’re into looking for prizes, check out my blog HERE at Darby Speaks. I have an AMAZING contest going with some totally fantastic prizes. If you like twitter, you can follow all the latest on the contest and the blog tour and launches @DarbySpeaks.

And if you’re interested, you can find out more about the book at www.kcdyer.com.

Thanks for sharing your space with me today, Kendra! Can’t wait to see what adventures you get up to next!

~ Darby