Only minor explosions in the magic potions lab

Here are some photos from my latest “Magic Potions” workshop.

I don’t deliver this one very often, as it is rather hard to scrounge up all the ingredients. And then there’s the aftermath. It can all be rather exhausting. ( A student’s mothers said to me afterwards, “I  commend you for this. You have a lot of energy.”)

But when you see an eyeball floating in a brew of pixie juice, mummy dust, and burning acid . . . well, it’s all worth it:


This workshop doesn’t look like it on the surface, but it actually has a lot of educational writing value. It is an excellent way to teach the five senses. The young wizard’s apprentices record their observations as they concoct their enchanted elixirs: what their potions look like, smell like, sound like, and feel like to stir. Of course, I don’t let them taste them. That has been a problem in the past. This time, just to cover myself, I made them sign a waiver:


Here’s some other photos of the activity in progress . . .












There is usually a few explosions in this workshop. Thankfully, this time, there were only two of note . . .



At the end of this workshop I always receive a common complaint: “Why can’t we take our potions home?” I try to explain that riding home in the back of mom’s car with an open cup of a concoction that includes burning acid, basilisk blood and slime of toad is not a very good idea. I remedied this problem for this class, by bringing little vials so that I could still a portion of each potion and give it to the students. Alas, the bottles are too small to fit an entire goblin eye. But, as one mother said at the end, “Well, at least the eye ball goop is in the vial.”


You can catch a closer glimpse of many of the ingredients in my current kit by visiting my Pinterest page.

Mapping your way through the muddle

Writing is hard. Especially for me. I’m just not one of those people that can sit at a computer screen and have magic instantly flow from my finger tips. For me, it seems my ideas always have to take shape through notes, doodles, sketches . . . and maps.

I’ve been doing a lot of mapping lately, more than ever before. Sometimes I work on detailed maps on the computer to help conceive of a world or building. However, these days I find that I’m doing lots of quick sketches in my notebook to quickly diagram a specific room or space while writing a scene. This is more or less so I can just track the logistics of the character movement. I guess I just don’t have the type of brain that can figure it out until I map it out on paper.

This photo of my sketchbook shows some of those maps, which, of course, make no sense to anyone on the planet except for me. But they helped push me through a couple of scenes, so they have served their purpose. The other diagram is the more detailed floor plan of a world I’m building. After a while, I find I have to print out a computer-generated map and just mark it up the old-fashioned way.


I also did a side view of this particular environment. I must have done five or six versions of this building so far.


I’m also helping the editor of my Kendra Kandlestar series, Kallie George, work on the world for one of her new projects. These are just some of the rough sketches so far. They need to be very much refined! In any case, I think she is going through the same evolution as me, and deciding that she needs to rely on mapping more and more. It not only helps her figure out a world for herself, but so that she can communicate it to her editor.