Year in review ~ some of my favorite doors

I was very blessed to be able to travel a lot in 2014, so I thought I would recap the year’s journeys by showing some of my favorite doors that I discovered.

I’ve talked a lot about each of these doors in past blog posts, so all you get this time is the photos.

Tokyo, Japan ~ February

tokyo_sensoujitemple_door_gold_detail02 sensoji-bike&door yasakuni_door_florette yasakuni_door_staffonly yasakuni_door_florette_below yasakuni_door tokyo_sensoujitemple_door tokyo_sensoujitemple_door_gold_detail01 sensoji-reddoor

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England, June 2014

york-devildoorknocker york_tigerdoorknocker yorkminster_door_flourish york_doorknocker_hand york_church_door alnwick-barbicondoorhandle yorkminster_door_studded alnwick-dungeondoor

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Scotland, June 2014

dunning-highupdoor dunning-fadeddoor royalmile-door02 royalmile-reddoor01 sterling-door01 sterlingtown-door02 royalmile-door04 edinburghcastle-dungeondoor01 royalmile-door08 pitlochry-reddoor

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Korea, August 2014



Korea - temple

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Hawaii, November 2014

Hawaiishackdoor Hawaii-purpledoor

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And here’s one final door, from Steveston, BC, just to prove that you can sometimes find interesting doors near your own backyard . . .


Brainstorming from Hawaii

As I mentioned in some earlier posts, I was surprised to discover so much story inspiration on my recent trip to the big island of Hawaii. I’m not much of  a beach person, but I did figure I’d spend a lot of time swimming, snorkeling, and unwinding.

As it turned out, my brain never did turn off and I came up with some crucial world building details for a project I’m working on. Thankfully, I had made sure to bring my brainstorming journal with me and I was able to scribble down a few pages of furious notes and doodles . . .

qq_brainstorminghawaii_01 qq_brainstorminghawaii_02 qq_brainstorminghawaii_03 qq_brainstorminghawaii_04

Messy, as usual! But these types of pages always turn out to be a lifeline during the writing process.

Critters and creatures in Hawaii

As I mentioned in a recent post, I discovered a lot of inspiration when my wife and I visited the big island of Hawaii in November. In addition to the varied (and often fantastical) landscape, the petroglyphs, and the totems, we encountered a lot of wildlife—much to my surprise.

Kids often ask me how I get inspiration for some of the monsters in my Kendra Kandlestar books. The visual appearance of my characters come from all sorts of sources, but there’s no doubt that the emotion that Kendra feels when running into the Ungers, Krakes, skarm, and countless other creatures is derived from my own personal experiences. I’ve seen giant water lizards in Bangkok, found myself standing between a mama moose and her calf in Canada, and crossed paths with a jaguarundi in the Guatemalan jungle near the ancient temple of Tikal.

Some of those experiences were a bit dangerous. I didn’t have quite the same excitement in Hawaii, but I did get plenty of animal-related inspiration for a world (well, actually two worlds) that I’m developing as part of a new book.

Here’s some of the critters we encountered . . .


Geckos are everywhere in Hawaii. You’d be hard pressed not to find these colorful characters. They would scurry past my feet in the morning when I would go out on the lanai each morning to drink my coffee. Yes, they’re pretty skittish, but at one of the cafes we went to, we saw an amusing sight. The staff puts out little pots of jelly to attract the geckos. Despite the nearby patrons, the geckos sneak down for a tasty treat. The way they slurped down the jelly reminded me of my cat at its dish.


Below is a leaf bug that I saw perched outside of a park bathroom. I’ve never seen one in real life before. I did a double-take when I saw this one.


Of course, one of the things Hawaii is known for is sea turtles. I once illustrated an entire book about them (I’ll Follow the Moon). I kind of wished I had been to Hawaii first and experienced these turtles before doing that book! We saw the turtles in many places, but one day we hiked out to a remote beach where we found many of them out on a low-lying spit of land. It was shallow enough to walk right across and get a better look at the turtles—though we also obeyed the signs and made sure to keep our distance, so as not to disturb them from their rest.



The turtle below came right up alongside me while I was perched on the rocks. It came so close that I could have almost touched it! I affectionately called it “Big Red.”


We saw many sorts of crabs, but my favorite ones were these big black ones that were perfectly camouflaged against the black lava rock. These scuttling critters, along with the sea turtles, really helped me formulate a clear idea for a very specific aspect of the worlds I’m currently building in my new book.


The picture below is of a dolphin in a pool at a hotel nearby where we were staying. My wife adores dolphins and we were lucky enough to also see them in their natural habitat when we were snorkeling. We couldn’t get a picture of those ones, even though we swam out to try and interact with them. Alas, it was too far out, and we had to turn back.


By far, my favorite creature experience of the trip was seeing a family of chameleons. They lived on an avocado tree on a coffee plantation that we visited. We would have missed this experience all together, except Marcie asked why there was a “Chameleon Crossing” sign next to the gift shop. The tour guide took us over and showed us the chameleons by lifting two of them out of the tree.

I had never seen chameleons up so close and was completely fascinated by them. We even got to hold the baby one.

hawaii_chameleon-adult hawaii_chameleon-baby-lef hawaii_chameleon-baby

Of course, there were plenty of other creatures that I don’t have pictures of. I never could snap off a picture of one of the mongooses that were darting about our residence. Maybe next time . . .

Peeking at petroglyphs . . .

My recent trip to the big island of Hawaii was meant as an escape from the dreary weather that plagues Vancouver in November. Little did I know that I would find so much inspiration there!

I love the things left behind by ancient and early civilizations, so was excited to find instances of these during my time in Hawaii. In an earlier post, I talked about my visit to Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau, the royal grounds. On another day trip, my family and I explored the petroglyphs of Puakō.

Our day began with a short hike (maybe half an hour) through the woods. Marcie felt like she was a princess traipsing through a fairytale wood:


As for me, I fancied myself as entering Jurassic Park!


Along this walk, we saw our first petroglyphs, which were carved on individual rocks. These, as far as I could ascertain, were “modern” petroglyphs.


This one in particular, caught my attention, since the figure rocks essentially the same hairstyle as me:


This one of the sea turtle was quite cute.


Eventually, we arrived at the main park, where there were countless petroglyphs carved into the vast bed of red rock.



According to the information sign, the ancient Hawaiians had to cross the long plain of hardened black lava flow to reach this area. That must have been quite a long and exhausting trek. Most of the figures are oriented towards the mountain.

As we circled the site, we came upon many other petroglyphs carved into various rocks or fragments of rocks.


I love getting a glimpse at an older world. I’ve seen petroglyphs on Gabriola Island in Canada and hieroglyphics in Egypt, plus many other ancient sites in Europe and Asia. It’s the foundational history of our societies, the same type of foundational history that I try to invest in my own imagined worlds.

In Kendra Kandlestar and the Door to Unger, for example, there are old carvings in the Elder Stone that play an important role in the story. The old sorceress, Winter Woodsong, introduces Kendra to the carvings at the beginning of the book, but by the time Kendra’s adventure is completed, she has come to view them in a different way. The carvings not only offer a glimpse of the history of Kendra’s people, the Eens, but serve as a symbol of her own personal growth.


I’m currently working on a new project, and the trip to Hawaii helped me in some unexpected ways. I’ll be talking more about that in future posts!



Inspiration from the royal grounds of Hawaii


I’m currently vacationing on the big island of Hawaii and have had a lot of fun exploring the local flora and fauna. Yesterday, however, I had fun of a different sort by exploring Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau—the royal grounds. This area rests on the black lava flats of the southern Kona coast and shows some of the aspects of traditional Hawaiian life.

I’m particularly interested in threshold guardians and totems, and have collected quite a few photos of them in my travels. This is my first time in Polynesia, so was excited to see these totems (called Ki’i) up close:


Here are some more of the Ki’i. These ones are situated just outside or within the rebuilt temple. The temple itself once held the bones of the noble chiefs (the ali’i).


puuhonua_o_honaunau_totemcluster puuhonua_o_honaunau_totemgrowling puuhonua_o_honaunau_totemcloseup


These are smaller wood carvings I found in one of the thatched structures where you could also see some traditional fishing gear.



This is a traditional Hawaiian game called Kōnane, set up near the shore.


You can see lava beds throughout the site. These fascinating formations have really inspired me for some of my world-building activities. I’ve been taking many detailed pictures of rock patterns and lava shapes.


Below you can see the great wall, with the palm trees growing up around it. This wall is ten feet high and up to seventeen feet thick. It was built in 1550 to separate the royal compound from the common folk. The rocks are packed so tightly that no mortar was required.


Here’s another, better, view of the wall, stretching towards the sea.


This is the Keōya Stone. Mark Twain, on a visit to Hawaii, said this is where the high chief of Kona would sit. I was actually quite fascinated by the rope, made of natural grasses.


Beyond the great wall, the lava bed stretches out into the crashing waves. The sounds and sights were breathtaking. My wife took this photo as I stood out at the edge, taunting the water to catch me.


We have more adventures planned in the coming days . . . which, of course, means more inspirations.