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.

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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:

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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.

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

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

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

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You could choose from a whole collection of brooms:

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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.

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

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

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

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Well, we were proud of ourselves at the end!

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

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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.

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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 lifeonplanetmarce.podomatic.com and consider subscribing on iTunes.

A fun time for all, Yoda Yulefest is

Last night we hosted our annual holiday part, Yoda Yulefest, a time for all the geeks to skitter out of their dark corners, rub their eyes at the bright holiday lights, and embrace in some festive cheer.

We’ve been hosting this for a number of years, and it keeps seeming to get bigger and better, with new decorations and entertainments. This year, in addition to kc dyer‘s annual reading of “Twas the Night Before Yoda Yuletide” we performed a group reading of Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Verily, A New Hope, by Ian Doescher. Marcie prepared the scripts and directed the reading.

Here are some of the photos of our decorations, and from the evening . . .

Our interactive R2D2 TRIED to be festive, though his hat kept falling off every time he crossed the floor.

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Speaking of R2D2, check out Marcie’s new toque:

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Crochet seems to be a theme of Yoda Yulefest. Our favorite new gift was a little crocheted Yoda that was delivered to us by our friend, Emily. Amazing!

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He goes perfectly with the Ewok we were given last year:

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Here’s the girls enjoying some “Yoda Soda.”

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Plenty of Yoda cookies to go around.

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I spent WAY too long making these snowflakes. (The patterns are designed by Anthony Herrera; you can check them out here.)

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Best costume goes to author Diane Haynes:

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Some of the geeks were playing the X-Wing  miniature game. I didn’t play because I was too busy making Yoda Soda.

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Here’s the soundtrack for the evening’s festivities, Christmas in the Stars, featuring such classic tunes as “What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas (When He Already Owns a Comb)”
and “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

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The lightsabers were hung by the chimney with care:

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And here’s just a few more decorations around the house . . .

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Well, I can sum of the evening by quoting my friend and author, James McCann: “Best. Yoda Yuletide. Ever.”

Meeting Jeff Kinney – creator of Diary of A Wimpy Kid

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Wow! Last night Marcie and I went to the launch of the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Hard Luck. I’ve never been to a book launch quite like this one! Author Jeff Kinney didn’t speak or present—he just signed, hour after hour. But he didn’t leave all his faithful fans to just fretfully stand in line. It was more like a carnival!

We first got a sense of what was happening when we approached the event site and saw a giant tour bus, all decked out with Wimpy Kid graphics. We should have taken a picture then, because by the time we left, the bus was gone. So we had to settle for photos of the Wimpy Kid van.

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Inside, it was a zoo. There were apparently 800 tickets sold, but I’m sure there was at least a thousand people there. There were all sorts of carnival-style games for the kids to play, as well as a Photo Booth, a fortune teller station, and a DJ who rocked the joint the whole night. As the night wore on, and the kids started getting restless, the DJ started cranking the tunes and the floor turned into a mosh-pit of eight- to eleven-year-olds! I have to credit the crew; they started handing out free T-shirts to all the kids. When they ran out of shirts, the DJ gave the one off his back!

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By the time we met Mr. Kinney, we had been there for about two-and-a-half hours. I couldn’t believe he could still function. He graciously signed our books and gave us a moment of chit-chat.

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I was really impressed by everything and was pleased to experience this style of book launch. I had done something similar for my own last book launch (you can see the post and photos here), but of course I had only a hundred people or so at mine. Still, I think this is what a launch of children’s book should be all about—a raucous celebration filled with games and activities all based on the books.

So, here’s a big congratulations to Mr. Kinney and his team. You thrilled a lot of kids (and kids at heart) last night.

A trip to Platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station

It can be hard work to chronicle Kendra Kandlestar’s adventures and the comings and goings in the Land of Een, so now and again a vacation to another world can do my mind a world of good. That’s why during our summer trip to London, Marcie and I made sure to visit King’s Cross Station where Harry Potter famously caught the Hogwart’s Express.

You can push your trolley through the brick wall. The cue to do so was short and we enjoyed watching people from around the world taking their turn before it came to be ours.

Here’s the photos we took of each other:

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We also had the “station masters” take a photo of us as a pair and decided to part with the eight quid for the photo afterwards.

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Of course, you can pick up the official photos in the shop just round the corner. Here, they have all sorts of wonderful displays set up and, of course, lots of Harry Potter themed merchandise threatening to lighten your pockets.

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Wares on offer included not only all the books, but chocolate frogs, Bertie Botts every flavour jelly beans, wands, scarves, sweaters—even “wanted” posters. You name it, they have it!

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I already have my own Elder Wand and Hogwarts baggage tag (given to me, respectively, by fellow authors Kallie George and Kari Lynn Winters from their trip to the Harry Potter park in Florida), so my temptations were tempered. Other than the photo of Marcie and I, my only purchase was a Ravenclaw scarf. Why not? Practical AND geeky.

King’s Cross Station itself is quite something. It’s one of the busier stations in the London Underground and I was eager to explore it in order to do some research for another book I’m planning to write after Kendra Kandlestar is done. But more on that another time . . .