Introducing Charla Charmsong

In my ongoing celebration of the release of my new book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, I am profiling some of the new characters. So far, I’ve introduced Tuttleferd T. Thistle Toe and Paipo Plumpuddle.

This week I’m introducing the youngest of the new characters: Charla Charmsong.


Who she is:
Charla is a young Een girl that Kendra Kandlestar meets in the City on the Storm. The interesting thing about Charla is that she was actually born in the City on the Storm, which means she has never seen the Land of Een. Because of this, Charla serves as a symbol for a new beginning for Eens, and their possible future. She has a beautiful singing voice, and when Kendra first meets her, the young girl is singing I Dream of Clouds.

Charla also plays another important role in the book. So far, Kendra has always been the student. Now, she has someone who looks up to her, and Kendra finds herself thrust into the role of a mentor.

Where she came from:
I named this character after my goddaughter, Charlotte, who has pretty much been around since the beginning of the Kendra Kandlestar series. As a matter of fact, Charlotte has played Kendra at many of my book launches or other literacy events, as you can see by these photos . . .



Kazah Launch.

So I think Charlotte pretty much deserves to have a character named after her!

The one problem is that Charlotte is a pretty opinionated person. She certainly didn’t like the first few drawings I did of Charla. Here’s the page from my sketchbook where Charla was first born (though, as you can see from the note, I had originally named her Charlo).

Tuttleferd and Charlo


And this is the first illustration I did, based on that sketch:

Charlo Charmsong

Well, thankfully, Charlotte eventually approved my illustration of her namesake, and that’s the one at the top of this page!


Introducing Paipo Plumpuddle

In my continuing celebration of the release of my new book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, I am profiling some of the new characters. Last week, I introduced Tuttleferd T. Thistle Toe. This week, it’s yet another animal character: Paipo Plumpuddle.

Paipo Plumpuddle

Who she is:

Paipo Plumpuddle is a young Een rabbit who lives in the Land of Een and is a member of the underground resistance movement known as the Knights of Winter. You see, in this final installment of the Kendra Kandlestar series, all animals have been enslaved by the would-be emperor, Burdock Brown. As a member of the Knights of Winter, Paipo leads many secret missions to disrupt Burdock’s rule. Especially, she is involved in rescuing many of the Een animals who have been thrown into Burdock’s prisons.

Paipo is young and small, but known for her courage. She is also the great-niece of another famous Een animal, Luka Long-Ears.

Where she came from:
For The Search for Arazeen I did something I rarely do—and that’s specifically base characters on real people I know. I figured it would be a way to honor some of the people who have helped me with the Kendra Kandlestar series. Paipo is based on a bookseller named Paige from A Good Book Café in Sumner, Washington.

I only ever came to know Paige because of her love of the Kendra Kandlestar series. A few years ago, when I was midway through the series, Paige began corresponding with me and then I eventually appeared at the bookstore where she works. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves. Not Paige—she wears it on her skin. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Paige got a tattoo of her favorite character, Oki:

Oki Tattoo

Yes, that’s real! Well, I think if someone is going to get a tattoo based on your books, then you pretty much have to base a character on them.

The name for Paipo Plumpuddle also came from Paige. You see, I have this handy form on my website that I give to kids so they can make up their own Een name (you can download it here). Paige completed the form and came up with Paipo Plumpuddle. So, after hearing that, it was just a matter of trying to figure out what role a character with such a name would play in The Search for Arazeen. I decided that Paipo needed to be someone who was important! Her page time may be short, but there’s no doubt that she is a significant character . . . especially at the very (and I mean VERY) end of the book.

Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen

Introducing Tuttleferd T. Thistletoe

As part of the celebration for the release of my new book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, I thought I would profile some of the new characters that are introduced in this final installment of the series.

Meet Tuttleferd T. Thistletoe!

Tuttleferd T. Thistletoe

Who he is:
He is one of the prominent inhabitants of the City on the Storm, a magical city that Kendra Kandlestar finds near the beginning of the book. Tuttleferd works as a close advisor and aid to the king of the city. He is friendly, very fussy, and very passionate about the culture and history of the mysterious city in the clouds.

Where he came from:
I’ve always loved fussy characters! When I was a kid, I wrote a story with a character called Thomas T. Tuttleberg. He was a quail and can be seen in this painting:


When I was first writing Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, I stole this character from my earlier story, but turned him into a budgie bird. He was still fussy, as well as forgetful. His name became Tobin T. Tuttleburg. This is what he looked like:


As you can see by the hat hanging on his perch, he was also a wizard. Eventually, this character became Kendra’s Uncle Griffinskitch. So instead of a bird, he became an Een, and lost the fussy personality (anyone who knows Uncle Griffinskitch, knows he’s quite the grouch).

Well, for many years, that was the end of this character with the three-part name and fussy demeanor. Then, when I was working on The Search for Arazeen, I realized I had a chance to resurrect this character. This is when he became a mole. Here’s my original sketch of him:

Tuttleferd and Charlo

You can see that his name is listed as Tuttleferd and that he is described as a servant for the city of Feenix. That name of Feenix was eventually dropped, but the “Tuttleferd” stuck to the character. I just ended up reinstating the “T” and the last name “Thistletoe.”

By the way, on this page, you can also see a sketch of another new character, Charlo Charmsong . . . but more on her in a future post!

Captain Four Face and the Attack of the Giant Robot . . . and other stories

I received a delightful package in the post yesterday—a thank you book from a school I visited in the spring. The cover shows some photos of the workshop I did with the Grade One class at Mulgrave School. My workshop started off with a presentation on how I develop my own inspiration, specifically the Land of Een in my Kendra Kandlestar series. I then led the students in an interactive world-building activity that could set up each of the students up for a story.


And, on the inside were many wonderful stories written by the students, complete with title page. Just check out some of the interesting titles and artwork:

mulgrave2015_captain4face mulgrave2015_wasie&wolf mulgrave2015_soccergame mulgrave2015_bear&jewel mulgrave2015_mouse&queen mulgrave2015_theninja&badguys mulgrave2015_itch mulgrave2015_knightVSdragon mulgrave2015_dragonwars mulgrave2015_lion&theman mulgrave2015_magiccrystal

I don’t always get to see what the results of my inspirational activities are at a school, so it’s a real joy to receive this anthology of wonder!

An interview on CBC radio


Since I’ve been announcing the official release for my latest book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, I thought I’d post the link to an interview I did on CBC radio earlier this year.

I’ve done many interviews before, but I think this might be the first one where I actually went into the studio. I found it a little intimidating to be surrounded by all the equipment and to have to sit in a separate booth from the interviewer. However, you’ll never get a sense of any of this when you listen to the interview. Host Sheryl MacKay does a fabulous job of making both the guest and the audience feel like they are just having a cozy morning chat!

The official trailer for Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen

Since I announced the official release of Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen yesterday, I thought I would post the book trailer here.

I wrote, designed, and animated (if you can call it animation) all the trailers personally, though I had some technical guidance along the way. In truth, I find writing a script for a trailer to be one of the hardest things to do. Since I’ve done a trailer for each of the five books in my Kendra series, one of the things I’ve learned to do is to do a lot, and I mean A LOT, of storyboarding before moving on to the production stage. It can save HOURS of effort!

In any case, without further ado, here’s the trailer:

It’s here: My new book, Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen

Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for ArazeenIt’s been a long time in the coming!

Even though I received my advance copies of the final book in my Kendra Kandlestar series back in March, it’s only this week that the book is officially available to the public.

You can buy or order it at your favorite bookstore, and I ask that you please do, especially if you have a young fantasy author in your life.

We celebrated the launch of the book at the end of May with a giant party. I suppose we weren’t just celebrating the new book, but the entire series. Here are some of my favorite photos from the event . . .

My lovely wife, Marcie, was the official greeter. She spent hours doing her “Een” hair:


But she wasn’t the only one wearing Een-style braids at the party. In fact, we had a “braiding station.” Even the boys put braids in their hair. (Because everyone—boys included—wears braids in the Land of Een to honor their founder, Leemus Longbraids.)


Also, everyone who arrived had to fill out a form to invent their own “Een” name. So, pretty much everyone had his or her own alias for the entire evening.


Here’s the entire series on display, along with the museum of Een artifacts.


What’s a launch without great food? Check out this beautiful Kendra cake, designed and baked my friend, Carrie. Gorgeous!


Plenty of Eenberry beverages were on hand, too! arazeenlaunch_eenberryjuice

It was almost a shame to have to cut the cake. We ended up removing the Kendra topping (I just couldn’t bear to damage her).arazeenlaunch_cakecutting

There were many activities at the party, including “Pin the braid on Kendra” and “solve a secret code,” but there’s no two ways about it—the most popular station was “Survive the Rumble Pit”, which was managed by friend, author James McCann. It’s a card game played with Dungeons & Dragon dice. You pick a warrior and a weapon and then battle other contestants. Nothing is more fun that to watch a mouse with an onion try to fight a giant with a pickle. (But, hey, those are all things from the Kendra Kandlestar books!)


As part of the festivities, I did a short presentation on the background for Kendra Kandlestar series. This was a lot of fun because I got to show photos of some of the real-life places that inspired the book and talk about how they connected to Kendra’s overall journey.


We had a lot of great prizes at the launch, including T-shirts, buttons, and posters. But the grand prize was an original piece of artwork from the book. Here’s a photo of my emcee, Dona, and the winner, Joseph. (He’s looking pretty pleased with himself!)


Of course, the great thing about a launch is that you get things coming the other way. This is a card made by Sarah (or, as it says on her tag, Sarla Sunstar) and her brother. (Looking at this photo now, I see that I was really rocking the Tin-Tin hair that night!)


A big thanks to EVERYONE who helped make this a huge success. I called in all my author friends to help. James McCann ran the Rumble Pit, kc dyer took photos, and Kallie George (who is also the editor of the series) managed the braiding station. And a super big thanks to my actress wife Marcie Nestman who squeezed in all that extra time during a busy week of directing and acting to help with the launch.