And the title for Kendra Kandlestar 5 is . . .

. . . at last going to be revealed! It the number-one question I receive from fans and I’ve had lots of good guesses over the past weeks and months. You’ve all been incredibly patient (SORT-OF), but I’m finally ready to officially unveil the title of the fifth and final Kendra book.

So, what will it be?

Uncle Griffinskitch

Well, listen up—because here it comes . . .

Eldest of the Elders.

And the title is . . .

Jinx

Ta Da!

Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen

The obvious question now is, “Just what, in the name of all things Een, is Arazeen?”

Well, truth be told, this is really the crux of this book and rather hard to explain. But I’ll try! Simply put, Arazeen is a mystical place. Most Eens think of it as “paradise,” a place where all good Eens journey to after passing away from their earthly existence. If you know anything about mythology, then you might remember that the Norse had Valhalla, the Greeks had the Elysian Fields, and the Celts had Avalon.

So, the Een version of these heavenly realms is Arazeen. Though, I must tell you that many Een Wizards and sorceresses have a different idea about Arazeen: they believe it can be found before death. They don’t think of it as a physical place, but as a mystical state of mind or being. According to such beliefs, when a wizard achieves Arazeen, he has found inner piece, purity, or “oneness” with himself and the universe.

For those of you following Kendra’s adventures so far, you know she’s NOT been searching for Arazeen. In fact, she’s been on the hunt for the City on the Storm. And those of you who guessed that this book would be called Kendra Kandlestar and the City on the Storm were almost right. I strongly considered this as a title for the book. But it turns out that Kendra’s journey in this final tale is going to take her far beyond that castle in the clouds.

There will be plenty of action in this book as Kendra faces many old foes including Pugglemud the Dwarf and Agent Lurk. Other fan-favourites, such as Effryn Hagglehorn the Faun, Trooogul the Unger, and Honest Oki also play very important roles. And, of course, there will be some exciting new characters including Shuuunga the Unger Witch. You’ll even get to meet Oki’s little sisters (well, not ALL of them—he does have eight of them after all)!

The book will be released next Halloween. It’s a long time away—but no need to humph about it! I’ll keep posting updates on this blog to give you those sneak peeks.

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Do Eens belive in angels?

Well, if you have read the fourth Kendra Kandlestar book, then you know the answer to be yes!

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Crack in Kazah, partly because I’ve been working on edits for reprinting the entire series, partly because I’m working on Book 5, and partly because amazon is currently running a Halloween promotion in which you can download the book for free (click here for details).

One of the last changes made in the book involved the description of Een angels. In that book, Kendra and her companions are mistaken for angels, but my friend and editor Kallie George questioned the naming of these heavenly creatures. Would Eens really call them angels? I decided Kallie was right, and for the next week brainstormed in earnest.

Here’s my sketchbook page in which I recorded this process:

There are some interesting ideas on this page, though it doesn’t include the name that ended up appearing in the book: Eengels. Perhaps a little less original than some of the other concepts, but sometimes simplest is best!

Take a tour of the Een Museum – part 4

Here’s the final stop in the Een museum—at least for now. I always seem to be unearthing new items, so who knows what fascinating objects of magic may yet be uncovered?

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Eenwood
The smaller stick is a replica of Kendra Kandlestar’s wand when she first started her apprenticeship as a wizard. The longer piece is representative of an older wizard’s wand; notice its curves and its length—and the stones embedded within its gnarled wood.

Een Muesum - Eenwood

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Dragon scale and tooth
These two fragments may be relics from Kendra’s battle with Rumor the Red Dragon.

Een Museum - Dragon scale and tooth

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Skarm Egg
Straight from the Crags of Dredge, an egg from the one-eyed flying worm known as a skarm.

Een Museum - Skarm Egg

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Fairy dust
These come in different varieties. I’m not sure exactly what type of fairy this comes from!

Een museum - fairy dust

Take a tour of the Een Museum – part 3

Here are four more items from the Een Museum.

A feather from the peryton

In person, you might be able to notice the scorch marks, a remnant of the damage done to this magnificent flying deer by the shard from Greeve.

Een Museum - Peryton Feather

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Buttons from Kendra Kandlestar’s cloak
As with the peryton feather, these buttons show the wear and tear of adventure.

Een museum - buttons

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Flowers from the fire flower
This magical flower grows only in the Land of Een and possesses potent healing properties.

Een Museum - fire flower petals

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Uncle Griffinskitch’s goblet
Uncle Griffinskitch would generally prefer a nice cup of dandelion tea; but when he was enjoying drinking eenberry mead he would use a goblet similar to this replica.

Een Museum - goblet

Take a tour of the Een Museum – part 2

Here’s a few more items in the Een Museum . . . some of the favourites!

Shard from Greeve

A replica of the dark talisman that granted Kendra great power—and caused incredible destruction.

Een Museum - shard from Greeve

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Een skull and book of Een legend

Most Eens would be too terrified to keep an Een skull in their studies; then again, Uncle Griffinskitch isn’t most Eens.

Een museum - skull and book

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Kazah stone

This is a replica of the cracked stone that caused Kendra to glimpse the past, see the future—and take a miraculous journey.

Een Museum - Kazah Stone

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Kazah Globe

A larger Kazah stone, this one is not so dissimilar to the magic orb that served as an oracle for the Elders of Een.

Een Museum - Kazah Globe

Take a tour of the Een Museum – part 1

Een MuseumThis past week I worked as writer-in-residence at General Gordon Elementary in Vancouver, and brought with me the travelling Een Museum. The students loved it, so I thought I would catalogue all the current pieces and display them here.

These items come from a variety of sources. Some were built with inspiration from the drawings. In other cases, the props inspired situations in the book. No matter the case, they are all “real” objects that you can hold and touch . . . making the Land of Een seem all the more real (which, of course, it is).

I’ll post all the items over the next few days. Here’s the first four items (some of my favourites) . . .

Box of Whispers
A replica of the box that Kendra searched for in the outside world.

Een Museum - Box of Whispers

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Kendra’s Whisper

A replica of the secret that caused Kendra such angst while searching for the Box of Whisper. Notice the swirling murkiness—ah, secrets are complicated things!

Een Museum - Kendra's Whisper

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Door to Unger

A replica of the door that guarded the temple maze of the Wizard Greeve. The teeth—the door’s gate—can actually open.

Een Museum - Door to Unger.

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A whisp of Uncle Griffinskitch’s beard

The ornery old wizard was rather fond of his full-length beard; here’s a snippet of it. When asked for the sample, the shaggy old Een only muttered, “Humph!”—so it had to be taken discretely.

Een Museum - a whisp of Uncle Griffinskitch's beard

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Help Revitalize Books of Wonder

One of my favourite bookstores in the world has fallen on hard times—hardly news these days, as so many businesses have been hit hard. But I have a personal fondness and connection to Books of Wonder, which just happens to be New York City’s oldest and largest independent children’s bookstore.

I first discovered Books of Wonder several years ago through their publishing efforts—they reprinted faithful reproduction of the Wizard of Oz series. When I looked up to see the publishing house behind these efforts, I discovered an entire store!

I made it my mission to one-day visit Books of Wonder . . . so imagine my joy when not only did I get to visit the store, but appear there as an author.

Back in 2007 I was a member on a panel of fantasy authors including Michael Buckley (The Sisters Grimm), David Clement Davies (The Sight), Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me), amongst others that presented at Books of Wonder. This was exciting, but to this day, I think my biggest thrill was meeting the owner Peter Glassman, who also wrote the editor’s notes on the reprints of the Oz books.  Peter is a kind and generous man with the heart of a child and I feel that his enthusiasm inspires all the staff.

I’ve since been back to Books of Wonder and I hope it will still be there the next time I go to New York.

If you are interested in helping the Books of Wonder cause, you can click HERE to find out how you can receive some unique gifts for a small donation.

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Here’s me and Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder back in 2007.

Books of Wonder

Here’s David Clement Davis and me during our fantasy author panel at Books of Wonder.

Books of Wonder

You don’t find this in bookstores anymore: A whole section devoted to Oz!

Books of Wonder

Close and personal: I’m the cover story in the Fall edition of Wordworks

Wordworks Fall 2012One of my close friends, kc dyer, serves as the guest editor in the latest issue of WordWorks Magazine, which focuses on children’s lit and YA.

Lucky for her that the power-that-be wanted me to be the cover story; kc knows me so well I had absolutely no inhibitions during our interview. In fact, re-reading the story, I’m surprised at some of the things I said! Oh well. You can get a hint of what’s to come for Kendra Kandlestar in my upcoming book and read about my philosophies on how I think an author’s job is to “torture” his characters.

You can check out the issue here.

I’m pleased to see many of my other friends and colleagues featured in this issue as well. James McCann discusses the Zombie Apocalypse, Tanya Lloyd Kai has a piece on nonfiction, Jaqueline Pearce tell us about the process of writing about Japan, and Phyllis Simon from Kidsbooks relates life as a bookseller. And of course, there’s plenty form kc too!

Wordworks Fall 2012

Student mummies . . . just in time for Halloween!

The last two weeks, I’ve been teaching my mummy unit in “Picture Perfect,” the art history class I’m teaching for elementary students. In an earlier post I showed my somewhat-successful attempt at making my own Unger mummy. Well, after my practice run, I was able to lead my students more expertly. Their results have been excellent!

The first stage for them was to take my brainstorming sheet and begin designing their mummy, as you can see in the below snapshots.

Mummy design

Mummy design.

The next stage was the sculpting. Some students chose human-based mummies, while others chose cats. We even had one “ginger” mummy and a robot mummy (well, after all, we are a creative group!).

Mummy sculpting.

We had to wait a whole week (to let the self-hardening clay dry) before moving to the next phase. This is the really fun part: the embalming!

Mummy sculpting.

Mummy embalming.

The plaster of Paris strips that we use dry very quickly, so in only a few minutes after completing the embalming process, the students could then paint their creations.

Mummy decorating.

Mummy decorating.

I’m not sure what the Egyptian equivalent of “Voilá” is . . . but, in any case, here you have it: the Picture Perfect mummies. Well, they’re not all completed yet . . . we had a few “accidents,” which means two of the students started over. They can finish up next week. Oh, and many of the students sculpted some treasures to go with their mummies. Pretty darn cool, if I do say so myself.

Picture Perfect mummies.

So many characters; so many motives!

I’ve been writing my way towards the climax of Kendra Kandlestar V these past few days and it’s been causing my head to spin. After all, this just isn’t the climax of this book, but of the entire series. Well, I notoriously get myself into plotting trouble and whenever that happens I revert to diagramming.

As such, here’s the latest chart I’ve pasted to my studio wall:

Character Goals

This diagram lists all of the central “players” in the book and outlines their individual goals. Of course, most of their goals are in direct conflict with one another, and I’ve had to make sure that I keep each of them “on track.” I suppose there are really brilliant minds out there, ones that catalogue every little detail and nuance of character and plot systematically and automatically—but I don’t have one of them! I need plenty of notes, sketches and strange charts like the one above seem to help me.

Besides, one of my philosophies about writing is that you sometimes need a break from writing to do a related activity  just to give you some extra steam to keep going. I suppose it’s a way of celebrating the process too.

Even though this project started out as a bit of a fun distraction, it’s already proved to be a good brainstorming tool. You can see that I’ve already marked it up with my notes.

On a side note, I think I’ve pretty much decided what I will call this book; I think I will officially announce it on Halloween!