Last autumn, during the “back to school” sales, I bought myself a fabric day pack.
I’ll admit it. Part of the attraction was that these packs could be decorated with Sharpie markers. You even got your choice of two markers with the pack. (I chose a turquoise one and a purple one).
I told a few of my artistically inclined friends about the promotion as well. One of them – Tori Hansen – decided to see what she could do. Later, when she showed me pictures of the pack she’d decorated as a present for one of her friends, I was awed.
Time ambled by and my own pack stayed in my office closet, undecorated. To be honest, the doodle of a flower I include as part of my signature is about the height of my drawing talent. I’m much more artistic with three-dimensional things like beads or clay.
Then I had a brilliant idea. Why not ask Tori if she’d decorate a pack for me? She asked what I wanted her to put on it. I confessed that I’d love some images from my books. I gave her free rein as to what to choose and waited to see the end result.
What Tori delivered just in time for me to take the pack to the Tucson Festival of Books was totally, unexpectedly, overwhelmingly wonderful.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that the image illustrating this piece is one part of this decorated backpack. It’s a pretty good photo (my husband, Jim, by the way, gets photo credits for all the photos that accompany my Wednesday Wanderings), but even so it doesn’t do credit to the richness of color and delicate shading of the real thing. (And remember, this is in Sharpie marker, not paint!)
I was thrilled by how many of my books Tori managed to evoke in just this one picture. The girl is Firekeeper, hair ragged because it has been cut with her knife. Those dark, dark eyes are intense and strong. The small photo posted here might not show it, but this girl is even scratched and scarred, just like the “real” Firekeeper.
Next to Firekeeper, as always, is her closest friend and most sardonic critic, the wolf, Blind Seer. I wonder what he’s telling the moon now? Perhaps he’s sharing another of his favorite proverbs.
Below Firekeeper is the two-headed dragon Betwixt and Between. Despite being a rubber toy only about seven inches tall, Betwixt and Between is a major character in my first published novel, Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls. The original sits on a bookshelf in my office, by the way. He’s a bit quieter than he is in the novel.
Another character from Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls is featured on one of the side panels. Abalone – short red hair bright as flame, her lips adorned with her signature blue lipstick – manages to look both tough and just a little bit vulnerable.
To Betwixt and Between’s left are a collection of mah-jong tiles – key elements in Thirteen Orphans and the other “Breaking the Wall” novels. Tori’s depictions are very accurate, including the complex character on the “Green Dragon” tile.
The “Breaking the Wall” books are also featured in two other locations, not shown in this picture. First, the animals of the Chinese zodiac (including the Cat) are depicted in a highly detailed band that encircles the top of the pack. Second, a head and shoulders portrait of Flying Claw is the main element of one of the side panels. This portrait is bordered by two perfect tigers – each not more than an inch and a half long.
Tori also managed to slip in an allusion to the athanor novels, Changer and Legends Walking, by inserting a raven above the portrait of Abalone and a coyote (distinctly different from the wolf on the front panel) beneath Flying Claw. I thought this was a very clever way of illustrating Changer who, although a shapeshifter, has a private fondness for these two forms.
So, next time we meet up, ask to see the pack. Whether at a convention or a book signing, you can be sure I’ll be carrying it with me!