The Galactic Glitch: In which we film a cheesy movie for our space camp

The Galactic Glitch: In which we film a cheesy movie for our space camp

In an earlier post, I described the creative writing “Space Camp” that I taught with fellow writers Stacey Matson and Marcie Nestman through the Creative Writing for Children Society (CWC).

In preparation for that week-long endeavour, we got together with our creative friends and filmed a short Star Wars-inspired film.

The project was developed by my friend Luke Spence Byrd. His day job is working for Industrial Light and Magic, but he recently had some time off and wanted to work on something that allowed him to have some creative license. He’s done previous films in preparation for our creative writing camps, so when he found out our theme was “space”, he went all in.

Luke rented a space for a day of filming and we set up multiple green screens so that we could shoot against them. I’m no actor to begin with, but filming with limited physical props and virtually no practical sets was very challenging!

The only real set piece we had at all was a console for our spaceship, which my friend Rob and I built in the days leading up to our shoot day.

The console began with a pile of household junk and some plywood reclaimed from Rob’s scrap pile!



This is how it ended up looking:


It turned out pretty well for a quick-and-dirty job. It even had functioning LED lights that sparked to life with the flick of a few switches.

The only other thing I really did to prep was to put together my costume. Thankfully, I had many bits and pieces left over from previous events:


It also helped that our friend Jeff Porter, our cosplay and costume guru, had many costume bits to help us out with the filming. And it also helped that Luke has a full-size Jabba the Hutt costume that we could use!


The cast consisted of myself, actor and playwright Marcie Nestman, authors Stacey Matson and Kallie George, the aforementioned Jeff Porter and Rob Stocks (who actually didn’t intend to be in the film, but got roped into it once he was on set). Oh, and, of course, R2D2, whom you will see in the photos below . . .









Well, the film turned out to be way more ambitious than originally intended. As it turned out, we could only finish a trailer in time for our space camp, plus a couple of scenes that really helped us when it came to a few specific writing activities. The rest of the film will be finished later this year.

But, for now, here is the trailer for CWC and the Galactic Glitch:




“Inspircation” Day 16: Secret Cinema, Star Wars style

Yesterday, was such a full day, I didn’t even get a chance to blog at the end of it. So I’m doing a bit of catch up.

It was our first full day in London, and boy did we make the most of it. After a quick breakfast in our hotel, we hoofed it south towards Westminster Abbey. Marcie and I always prefer walking to transit, when possible, because, of course, you get to see so much more of a place. In this instance, we inadvertently ended up trekking along part of the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. It borders some beautiful park land . . .


dianawalkplaque dianawalkparkpond dianawalkpark_ducks

We then arrived at Westminster Abbey and went inside to explore. I had been there previously, but it was the first time for Marcie and my mom. Collectively, I think our favourite part was the Poets’ Corner, where many famous writers are either interred or memorialized, including Chaucer, Austen, Wordsworth, Byron, Dickens . . . well, the list goes on and on.

We couldn’t take any photos inside, which started to really kill me as I encountered door after wonderful door. But at least we got a few pictures of the abbey just outside.

westminster_lef westminsterabbey_marcie

And, as it happened, as we exited the abbey, they were sonorously ringing the bells. Yesterday marked the day that the length of Queen Elizabeth II’s rule surpassed that of Queen Victoria. We heard that Queen Elizabeth wanted to keep the celebrations low key (after all, this occasion also marks the anniversary of her father’s death).

We stopped to get a picture at Big Ben, along with the hordes of other tourists (which is a fortuitous thing, since there are lots of people to take photos of one another). So here’s my big belly in front of Big Ben:


Afterwards, we headed to the Churchill War Museum. This is an amazing installation. Much of it is in intact from the way it was left at the end of World War II. It’s truly like a rabbit warren down there, with passages turning this way and that. It’s well worth the visit, but just make sure you do it in order and not get turned around like we did. (Which, should come as no surprise, given our history of getting lost on this trip).

I loved this wall of keys. These are the original keys from the period, which were used to open the various rooms.


And here’s an original map—in fact, all the maps there were intact, left exactly as they were in 1945.


And here’s the office of Churchill’s secretary:


As you can see by the above photos, the lighting wasn’t great, so we didn’t take a ton of photos and instead just chose to enjoy the experience.

Here’s a few doors from the day’s explorations . . .


london_doorrippledetailwestminsterabbey-doorhandle london_door_handhandle

Then, in the evening, came the BIG EVENT. Months ago, Marcie and I booked tickets for Secret Cinema Star Wars. I had only found out about this event after we had planned our trip and since we were already planning to be in London during its run, we decided we better go. The tickets were quite expensive, but now, after having gone, I would have paid double.

Actually, I can’t even begin to express how amazing and surreally awesome Secret Cinema Star Wars. It was like walking into the movie. Or like playing some sort of Dungeons & Dragons game—except that it was the 5D version (6D, if you count the Force—and why wouldn’t you?).

Marcie and I had both been assigned identities months ago; she was Losa Starkiller and I was Joruus Macaque. Since we have been on the road a lot this year and coming all the way from Canada, we had not pre-ordered costumes. We had assumed we’d be able to buy costumes on site, so were much distressed when we discovered the shop is far away from the event. So, we arrived in our plain old clothes and there wasn’t much we could do about it. Everyone else, it seemed to us, was dressed head to toe in the most amazing costumes!

As it turned out, we did arrive at a stage of the event where we could buy some simple accoutrements, and we did—instantly we felt better.

But I get ahead of myself. Basically, the first part of the event focused on immersing us—the audience, the participants, whatever you want to call us—in the world that you seen in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Together, Losa Starkiller and I played Sabaac with Lando Calrissian, bartered with Jawas to buy valuable spice, drank engine oil in the cantina, watched the Modal Nodes play, sat at Aunt Beru’s kitchen (she served blue milk), witnessed Chewbacca break out of a Mos Eisley prison, were interrogated by imperial officers, personally booked passage to Alderaan with Han Solo, and were recruited—just the two of us out of at least two hundred people—by General Madine to prowl hidden corridors on the Death Star so that we could located Stormtrooper TK-144 and negotiate procurement of the secret plans vital for destroying the Death Star.

Which we did. Then watched Obi-Wan fight Vader, Luke destroy above said Death Star, and stood in the award ceremony to see the rebel heroes get their medals.

At the very end, we watched a version of The Empire Strikes Back. I say a version, because while the film played there was some live-action events going on, too.

There were no photos, phones, or devices of any kind allowed at this event, which made it an even more immersive experience. Honestly, the event would have been wrecked otherwise. But we did get a couple of photos outside at the end.

If you can go to this event . . . GO. Honestly. No matter how many words I write about it, it wouldn’t do the experience any justice. Best. Play. Ever.


secretcinema_loot secretcinema-l&m secretcinema_marcieplans

Best. Play. Ever.

“Inspircation” Day 3: Minor misadventures in the Cotswolds


Our “inspircation” continues! So far, it has been really successful. In some cases too well—last night, I woke up in the wee hours and spent a half hour or so jotting down scenes in my writing journal. So, not a great sleep, but I roughed out some interesting concepts for the book I’m developing.

Yesterday, we made the trek from Stone Henge to the small town of Ilmington, where my wife Marcie had booked us a B&B. As usual, the driving was tasked to me, but after being failed by our sat nav, our GPS directions, and every other electronic tool we’ve tried, we finally pulled over at a petrol station and bought an A-Z.

Armed with this took, we had much better success! Though, at one point, my mom did completely lose her place on the map and, unable to find where we were, just shouted out, “There are too many roads in this country!”

Then, today, I pulled out of the car park of our B&B, only to have my copilot (Marcie) immediately announced, “I have no idea where we are.” (I swear, our back tires were still crunching on the gravel drive of the B&B).

But that’s getting ahead of myself. We actually began our day by taking one of the suggested walking routes through the town and into the surrounding sheep fields. Full disclosure: We also got lost on the walk, but not too terribly. Here’s Marcie and I, trying to look like we’re enjoying a pastoral experience. (Apparently, my attempt to do so makes me look like a prat.)


My mom was thrilled to see all the sheep. On the flight over, she kept telling me that she was dreaming of green fields of sheep. I promised her she would get them—and get them she has, in spades.

ilmington_goats&sheep ilmington_sheep ilmington_barbwirefence momwithsheep

I finally asked Mom why we never had sheep on our family farm, at which point she revealed to me that we did indeed have a sheep when I was just a toddler (I guess I was too young to remember). According to the story, my dad tried to sheer the wooly fellow one day, only to accidentally nip him. He was so grieved by the incident that he passed the sheep onto my grandparents. Who ate him. (By the way, in case you didn’t know, most farm stories end with “then we ate him.”)

As for me, I particularly enjoyed all the old doorways in the village. Yes, I am a great collector of doors, and I found many today. Here are just a few of my favourites . . .



ilmington_doorwithplantstairs ilmington_gardendoor ilmington_gardendoor_gate ilmington_gardendoor_hingedetail ilmington_gardendoor_hinge ilmington_gardendoor_top

After the walk, we decided to go explore Warwick Castle. The only other castle my mom had ever been to was Highclere (two days ago), so we thought this would be a fun outing. After getting lost (see the “gravel drive incident”, above), we got lost some more, back tracked to our B&B, started over, then most expediently arrived at Warwick.


I’ve been to a lot of castles, and this one wasn’t for me. It was more a playground for families, so a lot less about history. Still, there are many fun things there, especially if you are a wee one. You can try your hand at archery, watch jousting, and see the giant (and I mean GIANT) trebuchet fire a flaming payload (we, unfortunately—or fortunately?—missed that show).


We did enjoy walking the ramparts and seeing a view of the city. It was quite the hike up and down the spiral staircases, especially for my mom, who had never taken such a dizzying climb before. But, as I say, the views were worth it.


Eventually, after navigating our way through the swarms of weaponized children (it seemed every one under the age of ten had bought a wooden sword from the gift shop) and made our way to the haunted dungeons exhibit. I thought this would end up being one long fright-fest, but this was actually the highlight of our Warwick experience. It had some history mixed with humour, featuring great performances by the actors who picked on various members of the audience throughout the tour.

My mom was the first to be hauled out of the audience and made to be “operated” on by a cook-turned-surgeon. Marcie was then cast into a dungeon cell for torturing purposes, while later on in the tour I was put on trial for “widdling” in the town’s water supply. Actually, Marcie was then picked on again, this to read out the judgment of another audience member who was about to be beheaded. (Don’t worry, he was spared—as the executioner’s axe came down, the lights went out, we were all sprayed with “blood”, our benches tipped backwards, and then the lights returned to reveal that the axe had missed and only cut off one ear. It was a surprising moment—a bit of what the kids these days call 4D.)

The interaction is what really made the experience worthwhile and gave us all a chuckle.


Finally, we ended the day in the local pub, which has a large alcove in the fireplace for a table.


So, all in all, a fun day, though I didn’t exactly accomplish much in terms of gathering inspiration. Tomorrow, however, is a big day; we’re headed to Stratford-on-Avon to do all things Shakespeare! I can’t wait . . . I teach a lot of middle-grade books about Shakespeare, so this is going to be collecting a lot of “connections” for my students.

Shiver me timbers! This is how we prepare for pirate camp . . .


In just a few days, I’m headed to Korea to teach two creative writing camps. The first one will be a writing intensive for young, but experienced creative writers. The second is for a more general range of students and will celebrate the theme of pirates!

Imagine my delight when I discovered that there’s an interactive pirate adventure right in my own back . . . er, sea, here in Vancouver. Marcie and I decided to give Pirate Adventures, based on Granville Island,  a spin last week—not only to help me prepare for pirate camp, but to coincide with our five-year-old niece’s visit. (You know, the proverbial two parrots with one stone.)

I was impressed by the adventure—they went the full nine leagues. The actors stayed in character, used their pirate lingo, and all the visitors were dressed and face painted to look like pirates. (Er . . . I showed up in my own pirate gear; no need to dress me!) The ship, the Black Spirit, was a wonderful, full-operational, set piece. I would have been happy to just float around on it for an hour! But there is a plot to the story, complete with hidden treasure, a message in a bottle, and an encounter with a scalawag of a villain.

Here are some of the photos from the day.






At one point, as was tried and found guilty (I can’t remember for what) and almost made to walk the plank. I was saved by a last minute intervention!

pirateadventure_plank        pirateadventure_izzy


For me, the best part was when the kids got to fire their water cannons at the villainous Pirate Pete. (But it’s okay; it looked like he could have used the bath.)



What’s a pirate adventure without a treasure map?


I have always loved pirates; they are featured in one of my books, Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve. Of course, those pirates are Gnomes and Dwarves, but other than that, they have all the characteristics of pirates. They hunt treasure, sing sea shanties, and fend off (or TRY to fend off) a deadly sea beast. I sure wish I had gone on this adventure before writing (and illustrating) that book . . .

dirtybeardstrokesbeard pugglemudspet goldenloot squaggle ruckus_rustybucket dirtybeard


A tour of my writing studio ~ Part 2


After months of working on a project to revitalize my writing studio, I’m now posting some photos of the finished space. Because there’s a lot of little details, I decided to break the tour into parts . . . so here’s Part 2!

Kendra Kandlestar Display

One of three custom-made box shelves displays my Kendra Kandlestar books. This is the main thing that students see in the background when I do Skype visits. There is also a miniature peg figure; that’s not a character from Kendra Kandlestar. That’s a miniature version of me, which my wife made to help celebrate the “miniature worlds” writing camp I taught earlier this year. (I’m not sure why the miniature version of me looks so stunned.)


* * *

Dol Hareubang

This little figure sits on the top of my Kendra Kandlestar box shelf. It is a miniature version of a dol hareubang (“stone grandfather”), which I picked up during a stay on Jeju Island, Korea. You can see many large versions of these delightful figures on the island. They are meant to ward of malevolent spirits. The regular-sized ones come to about my chest; I would have loved to bring one of those home, but had to settle for this miniature version, which has been fashioned from the island’s abundance of lava rock.


* * *

Map Case

This is an old leather map case from World War II. I picked it up for just a few dollars in Budapest, Hungary, during a visit to the underground hospital museum there. The map case has many neat pouches and compartments and reminds me of something Indiana Jones might wear. It sits on the shelf next to my dol hareubang.


* * *

Green Man

This is a reproduction of a “green man” relief, which I bought on a visit to Yorkminster in England. The green man is a common symbol in Celtic mythology and can be found throughout Northern European architecture. I’ve always thought of the green man as a sort of gargoyle—but a friendly one.


* * *

Dragon Door Knocker

I bought this dragon door knocker in Edinburgh, Scotland, then mounted it on a piece of wood. I’m obsessed with doors (and all the parts that go with them), and have a lot of them in my children’s books. I have a few keys decorating my studio and so really wanted at least one door knocker. I had trouble deciding how to display or mount it, and finally decided to place it on this panel.


* * *

Shelf of Magical Items

I take a lot of these items to the creative writing workshops I teach at schools and conferences, and have always thought it was a shame that they spent most of their time in a box, waiting to be shown. Now, I can keep my favorite items on permanent display. These are the kinds of things you might find in the Wizard Griffinskitch’s library in my Kendra Kandlestar books. An added bonus is that the goblin eyes match the color of the background wall.


More to come in Part 3!

A tour of my writing studio ~ Part 1


For months I’ve been working on an ambitious project to “revitalize” my studio space. I’ve been showing glimpses of the work along the way, but now the project is complete, and I can post photos of the finished space.

So, if you are so inclined . . . take this first part of the tour. (More to come in the days ahead).

Star Wars Corner

I actually have TWO Star Wars corners, but this is the first one, in the orange section of the studio. It features the 10th anniversary poster of The Empire Strikes Back (my favorite Star Wars film), plus some cool mini-posters of the original trilogy films featuring designs by artist Olly Moss.


* * *

Diorama of the Treasure Chambers in the Elder Stone

This box shelf displays a small diorama I built of the treasure chamber in the Elder Stone, from Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers. You can see the Box of Whispers, as well as the dragon egg that eventually hatched and caused the poor Eens so many problems.


* * *

Replica Helmet

This is a helmet that I bought at a prop sale after a local theatre company closed its door. The helmet is very well constructed and, I believe, was used in a production of Macbeth. When it’s not on my shelf, it’s on my head (for Halloween or other inspirational purposes).


* * *

Mysterious Key

This is a very large and heavy key that I plucked from my editor’s treasure trove. I’m obsessed with old keys, so it’s best not to leave them in my presence unattended.


* * *


This is an interesting piece of wood—look closely, and you will glimpse the stones naturally embedded within its twisted shape. My brother found this piece of driftwood on a riverbank in the BC wilderness and passed it on to me, telling me that it looked like something magical, something you could find in “one of my wizard books.” He wasn’t wrong; this piece has served as inspiration for Eenwood, the magical staffs used in my Kendra Kandlestar series.


Stay tuned for Part 2 of the tour!

Doing England, Harry Potter style

My wife, Marcie and I, are currently travelling through northern England. We didn’t really plan it this way, but it’s turned out that we’ve had quite a bit of Harry Potter-themed adventures.

It started in the city of York, when we were wandering through the park near St. Mary’s Abbey. We happened upon a little parliament of owls on display.


So, as one does whilst in such a situation, we decided to let them perch on us. There were six owls to choose from. I chose the one that I thought was the prettiest of the lot:


Afterwards, I told the handler that my wife would have a go with the “baby” owl. Then I turned around to see her holding the BIGGEST of the lot.


She was even brave enough to stroke its feathers . . .


Then we headed north to Alnwick Castle. This is the location where they filmed crucial quidditch-related scenes for the Harry Potter films.


As soon as we saw this sign at the entrance, we knew what we had to do:


You could choose from a whole collection of brooms:


Our training was with Professor Bottomley. He was stern with both of us. In fact, he seemed to think the other kids (er, I mean participants) were better listeners than us.


Marcie even got selected from the crowd for an extra lesson.


Despite our lackluster performance during the class, we still managed to succeed in levitating our brooms:



And we also did quite good at flying (eventually):



Well, we were proud of ourselves at the end!



But, really, we are just novices. We didn’t even get to play a quidditch match . . . but we did get to witness one!




In the eye of The Nerdado

I spent Saturday at the Vancouver Fan Expo—or as my fellow author, kc dyer, and I referred to it as, The Nerdado.

We meant it in a loving way. kc and I have travelled a lot together, to conferences and camps, and we are used to being the ones who stand out and shine. In this case, we knew we couldn’t compete with all the wonderful costumes, so we didn’t try. We just wen toni our civvies.

We enjoyed all the shops and stalls in the exhibition hall, as well as the Q&A we attended with Billy Boyd, one of the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings. It was actually quite interesting to see how Mr. Boyd handled the crowd and all the queries. As a speaker and presenter, I found some inspiration!

There were many other celebrities at the event, including Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars), Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter), John Delancie (Q from Star Trek), and Charisma Carpenter and Elisha Dushku (both from Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but we only got to see most of them from afar.

Here are some of the photos of some of the wonderful displays and costumes.











Introducing Life on Planet Marce

Life on Planet MarceAnyone who has met my lovely wife Marcie knows that she is beautiful, kind, talented . . . and quirky! After a lot of pestering from some of our friends, we decided to start a podcast that will try to capture her personality, as well as our ongoing discussions about the highs and lows of working in the arts. Since Marcie is an actress and voice-over actress, I’m an author and illustrator, and we both do a lot of specialized arts-education, we feel we have a lot to talk about.

We hope that people find our podcast humorous, fun, and a bit informative. Two episodes are currently posted and we’ll be adding more soon.

Please check it out at and consider subscribing on iTunes.