Where do ideas come from?

In public, I get asked this question a lot: “Where do you get your ideas?” For the longest time I would answer “whatever makes me laugh,” but to be honest, I never truly knew. Until yesterday that is…

After having a deeply emotional day, I started looking for something to do with all of that emotion. As an aside, I firmly believe that emotion has to be expressed and dealt with, otherwise bad stuff starts happening in our body, mind, and soul.

I had been stuck coming up with another story for the “Nuts” family to go through, so in my sadness and frustration I linked the two problems together and asked this question: what would Wally do with this emotion? (Wally being the eight-year-old squirrel at the center of “Nuts”.) Just like magic, the story started to manifest.

So to answer the question of where stories come from, the reality is that, like so many other things in our lives, stories come from emotion. That problem of what to do with our emotions, how to express them, why anyone cares, is the basis for every writer that put pen to paper- even if they don’t consciously know the reason they are driven to write.

Now I have a question for you: How are you using your emotion?

“Nuts” volume 2 will be out next month, but if you can’t wait, you can check out the original by clicking here.

Real Lessons in Unreal Books, Jean Lee

I met Jean via Twitter and connected over the idea that sometimes the best way to communicate a solution to a real problem is through a fantasy story. Personally, I go back and forth between realism and screaming monsters, so this question is particularly pertinent. So here’s Jean Lee with an excerpt from “Lessons Learned, a collection of essays” to shed some light.


In Reflections on the Magic of Writing, Diana Wynne Jones notes more than once that she received flak for not writing “Real Books.” Real Books were to be about present-day, everyday-world children handling real, everyday problems: abusive parents, poverty, illness, etc. These books should then be passed on to kids actually experiencing said problems to…I don’t know, strengthen character or something. She didn’t get it either, which is why you don’t see any Real Books with Jones’ name on them. (Personally I like her recollection of fellow writer Jill Paton Walsh’s words on the matter: “If you know two people who are divorcing, would you give them each a copy of Anna Karenina? Can you imagine a less helpful book? Yet people do this to children all the time.”)

What I do love is Jones’ own style of handling Real Problems in Unreal Ways. Take Witch Week, or Year of the Griffin—who doesn’t experience some lousy spells (couldn’t resist, sorry) in school? It doesn’t matter that one of the main characters in Year is a griffin: she’s a still a new student trying to find her way through a school with horrible teachers. Eight Days of Luke, Black Maria, and Fire and Hemlock all have terrible adult guardians the child protagonist has to survive; some are mean, some are self-centered, and some are, well, magical.

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Now granted, I haven’t completed my journey through all of Jones’ work, but I did just finish The Ogre Downstairs. As I read the final pages, it occurred to me that this was the first book where magic was part of the problem, but not the solution. It’s a story of a mixed family created by a widow marrying a divorced man the widow’s children nickname The Ogre. The Ogre’s two sons are just as beastly at the outset. When The Ogre gives each group of children a unique chemical set (enter the magic!), everything gets profoundly worse with The Ogre, but better among the children. Why? Because they work together to figure out how to stop floating, or how to get their minds re-switched to their proper bodies. Magic forces them to see things from each other’s perspective, and from this they unite against The Ogre.

Magic completely destroys a party the widow wanted so badly to succeed, and the row afterwards drives the widow out of the house for space. Everyone feels terrible, including The Ogre, who is not, the children realize, an ogre at all. The story ends with a family that better understands each other and, thanks to a final round with the magical chemistry sets, enough money to live in a new house sans magic toffee creatures or living dust balls. So yes, I suppose the magic did help with a solution in the way end, but the primary conflict was not solved by magic, but by understanding and teamwork.

A Real Book kind of solution to a Real Book kind of problem in an Unreal Book. Fancy that.


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Jean Lee has been writing all her life, from picture books for preschool to a screenplay for her Masters in Fine Arts. Nowadays she blogs about the fiction, music, and landscape that inspire her as a writer. She currently lives in Wisconsin with her husband and three children.

Judging Your Book by Its Cover

The fantastic David (Maurice) Chuka created this post on the importance of your cover. Believe it or not, readers really do judge a book by its cover!


Writing is fun. Putting together a children’s picture book and getting it published is always an exhilarating experience. However, that is the fun side of writing. The not so fun side is actually marketing your book and getting as many people to know about it and hopefully buy it. This is the part of writing or publishing a book that leaves most writers frustrated.

The reality is that just because a book is published does not mean it can never be revisited. I always read and re-read books I’ve written to see if there’s something I need to edit that can improve a reader’s experience as well as boost sales. With this in mind, one of my books has been given me cause for concern.

An author’s books are like his babies and he/she wants them all to do well. All my children’s books so far have been favorably received by the market and have all achieved best seller status in one or multiple categories in the Amazon store. However, What Do You Call a Baby Lion? hasn’t done so well. I’ve really been thinking of what I could do to make it more popular.

Over the weekend, I believe I discovered what has made this book not so popular. Two things actually and they are:

  1. The Title
  2. The cover

The Title – I believe (and please feel free to disagree) that the title doesn’t lend itself to a wide audience. Anyone who isn’t interested in lions will overlook this book. Also the title doesn’t fully represent what the book is really about – BABY ANIMALS. The concept behind this book was to introduce little children to the names of baby animals. The book starts with a little boy whose mom has just had a baby girl and he wonders what baby animals are called.

The Cover – You know the popular saying ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ Well, with regard to a human being, I totally agree. You might be making a big mistake judging as hopeless the scruffy, shy looking guy in front of you at the check out till who might actually be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, when it comes to books, your cover is everything. Or at least is the first frontier upon which the battle is either won or lost.

Of all the books I have published, I never had that YES feeling (with What Do You Call a Baby Lion?) when I got it back from my book cover designer. Too much white space, I really wasn’t feeling the brown font, the square around the lion seemed forced etc.

So for the past month, it’s been rumbling in my mind what to do with ‘What Do You Call a Baby Lion?’ And over the weekend I came up with the solution.

The title of the book will be changed to ‘I Love Baby Animals

Also, based upon the feedback I have received, the cutest animal in the book was the baby hedgehog.baby hedgehog This will now be the main character on the book cover. There will be yellow text on a green background for the cover. This has worked really well on my other books and I’m hopeful it’ll be the same on this book.

My designer is currently working on the book cover and once that has been completed, I will relaunch the book and have a free download day.

If you’re an aspiring author and wondering why your book isn’t selling so well, there’s always something extra you can do. I’m hopeful the tweaks I have done will have a positive effect on the sales of this book. Will report back sometime next week to let you know how it went. Also watch out for the announcement on the free download day.

I would really love your comments with regard to this post.

Thank you.

David (Maurice) Chuka

Protect Your WordPress Blog, Save Your Sanity

Eagle eyed readers may notice that my site recently underwent a major transformation. That’s no accident. On the contrary, it was forced.

My web host service (IXWebhosting.com) notified me that my website had been compromised by malware. To be more specific, my WordPress blog had been infected and was busy sending out spam email to heaven knows where.

The spike in traffic raised a flag, IX shut down my site, and I lost everything. The malware had been installed through brute force password cracking (a computer kept trying to log in until it guessed right, literally millions of times.) Once inside, it created an account for itself, gave it full permissions, and started executing PHP scripts while modifying the other PHP files that were there already.

PHP files are what makes WordPress function. They are basically programs that can be run server side. Once the malware virus started changing these though, it made it almost impossible to recover from. IX cleaned the server and removed the bad files, but the damage was done. The malware had changed critical WordPress PHP files and I couldn’t get them back without reinstalling everything.

If all of that sounded confusing or full of jargon, don’t worry, I only understand it because I had to. You don’t have to understand PHP though to protect yourself. Here’s three easy steps you can take right now to keep this curse from happening to you.

  1. Install a firewall program on your WordPress blog.

    Under plugins search for Firewall and find one that both stops robots from accessing your page and also limits the number of password attempts. WP Security and WordFence come highly recommended.

  2. Make your password stronger.

    Your last name combined with your birthday won’t cut it anymore. Even adding extra characters and punctuation won’t help much either. Use the password generator under Users to create a strong password. Those are usually around 16 characters and have random numbers and letters. Copy and paste into a password file if you can’t remember it.

  3. Backup your files.

    I didn’t have any backups so I had to start from scratch, however, WordPress supports backups and restores. Follow this tutorial to learn how to save your work.

Preventing an attack is much easier than recovering from one. I’m lucky that it was isolated and that I have such an awesome and supportive community, however, if I had known better earlier it would have saved a ton of stress. These steps only take a few minutes but they can save you weeks of work.

As for me, I’m making a tall pitcher of lemonade out of these lemons.

😉