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***UPDATE 3/28/14: “Fiction Magic” is now fully funded! Thanks to everyone who contributed. You still have 9 more days to get some fabulous pledge packages, too!***

Sometimes writers need a good kick in the pants.

Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal writing coach by your side every day to get you moving? She could whip the sheets off you each morning, bugle reveille in your ear, even toast  you an Eggo while you shower.

Eh, who am I kidding? Writers don’t shower!


Author Deb Lund brought together her 20+ years of teaching experience in a magical way—with 54 surprising writing prompts, tips and tricks for you to apply to your work-in-progress whenever you’re feeling stuck. It’s like having that writing coach right there with you, only a lot less annoying. It’s “Fiction Magic”!

Fiction Magic Title screenshotMagicalDebLund

For years, Deb taught 4th- and 5th-grade students how to write, and she wanted to make it cool for them, so she developed these cards. Her real “aha” moment came when she realized that she could teach adults the same way she taught children, using the same FUN strategies. ABRACADABRA! These “magical” cards act as triggers to pull something out of your head that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to coax out.

At the Oregon Silver Falls SCBWI Writing Retreat, star agent Jen Rofé of Andrea Brown Literary Agency attended Deb’s session and then exclaimed, “I want all my writers to have your cards!” Yep, she was that impressed. The only problem? Deb’s cards were a prototype that cost her $200 to produce. How could she make them for a dozen writers? A hundred? A THOUSAND?

Enter Kickstarter. Deb’s Fiction Magic campaign is on right now and it’s 94% funded already! But with just 10 days to go, she needs your help. And believe me, you want her help, too!

Let’s do a few tricks right now, shall we? Whip out your WIP and see if these magical remedies help!


Your characters must make some bad choices along the way. They may even have to negotiate for something they need or want with people they loathe. Characters may know they’re agreeing to bad deals but feel they have no choice. Or the deals appear good, but fall apart later. Or time factors make the deals even more ominous. Make the stakes of bad deals so high it’s difficult for your characters to back out of them.

When you feel stressed by all that’s on your plate, be gentle with yourself. Let your characters agree to bad deals, but the only agreement you need to make with yourself right now is to write, no matter how bad the writing may seem.


Secrets can be powerful tools or sources of trouble. Or both. What information could your characters unwittingly slip out to the wrong people? Characters could be in danger because of secrets. Other characters could reveal secrets that affect your lead characters, whether the secrets were theirs or not. In trying to cover up secrets or escaping from those trying to conceal secrets, what could go wrong? Who will be angry? Hurt? Feeling betrayed? Put in life or death situations?

Do you keep your dreams secret? Sometimes they need protection, but when you’re ready and the time is right, reveal them to others who believe in you.


If you’re lucky, you’ll pick this card over and over, because this is Key. Your characters are on quests. Delay them. Interrupt their journeys. Who or what could step in to make your characters stop in their tracks? The interruptions may be people, objects, circumstances, thoughts, feelings… Send your characters merrily down the road, and then run them into roadblocks. Keep tossing them unending hardship. Warm up your pitching arm and let it rip. Throw after throw after throw.

As a writer, you have plenty obstacles. For each one you throw at your character, remove one from your writing life! Where will you start?



There are 51 more Fiction Magic tricks for you to try. But only if you help Deb reach her goal.

Check out her Kickstarter and create your own magic! (Even if that includes the bugle call. But that’s not for me. I am NOT a morning person!)



***UPDATE 12/21/13: I’m thrilled to report that CHALKY has been fully funded! Congratulations to the gentlemen of Little Thunder Co., Jordan Henderson and Kyle Steed.***

Two weeks ago as I was wrapping up PiBoIdMo (and holiday gifts), this little fella arrived in my inbox:


I immediately connected with the illustration—even though I’m allergic to cats. ***AH-CHOO!***

But just look at him! Fluffy and soft, pawing his way into the sunshine for a day of adventure!

Captivated by the texture of the illustration, the color palette, the dapples of light, and the cat’s expressive body language, I wanted to know more.

I learned that his name is Chalky. CHALKY AND THE NEW SPORTS CAR is a picture book venture by Little Thunder Co., a trio of designers from Belfast. Chalky is a character based on a real cat, with illustrations by the talented Jordan Henderson and original typography by Kyle Steed. They’ve got a Kickstarter campaign that ends in FOUR DAYS and they need your help!

So I sat down with Gabriel, Tim and Michael of Little Thunder Co. to talk about the process of creating CHALKY and the behind-the-scenes challenges of launching a Kickstarter project. Mind you, I was sitting in New Jersey while these guys were in Ireland. And they probably weren’t sitting, they’ve been so busy promoting CHALKY! I imagine them floating around like superheroes, as in their photo…

Gabriel Muldoon, Tim Potter and Michael McKeever

Gabriel Muldoon, Tim Potter and Michael McKeever

Gentlemen, this blog often focuses on ideas and inspiration. Your main character, Chalky, was based on a real cat. Whose cat is Chalky and how did this evolve into a story for children?

TIM: Chalky was a stray cat who was found in a friend’s shed circa 2003. I brought him back home where he has resided ever since as our family cat.

Chalky is a fun, friendly and curious cat. He has a particular passion for cars and enjoys sitting on the warm bonnets (hoods) of vehicles that have recently parked in the neighbourhood—and who could blame him given the Irish climate? He also enjoys peering up the exhaust pipe of cars and, being a white cat, he would often return home with a black ring of soot on his face. Big exhaust pipes are his favourite—the more of his face he can press up it, the better. I don’t know what the fascination is, but it gives us a few laughs when he comes home at night with soot on his face.


My father and author, Stanley Potter, turned his hand to writing short stories and poetry in his retirement and the things Chalky gets up to are a constant source of material for him. He wanted to write these stories for his grandchildren to enjoy and he sent me over this first story “Chalky and the New Sports Car” and I was so impressed with it that I shared it with the rest of the Little Thunder Co. team.

What kind of work does your production company, Little Thunder Co., typically do, and how do you think your experience translates into creating a children’s picture book?

GABRIEL: We’re primarily a digital design studio that creates high-impact digital products for the big screen, small screen and everything in between. This typically includes websites and apps but our main speciality is humanising the user experience by taking the best practices and principles of design to create an organic experience for the user.

Part of what we do involves storytelling, and apps and websites all have an underlying narrative. Some are good and we don’t even notice them, others are bad and stick out like a sore thumb so we look at transition, pacing, language—all important aspects of how a story unfolds over time—and apply these to our work. These storytelling techniques transcend different disciplines and has helped us in the production of our children’s book. We’ve been able to break the story down, identify key scenes and art direct it in a way that is fitting to the audience, the same way we would had it been a website. We’ve learned a lot of new things along the way about picture books that we can also apply to our craft as designers so there is a great cross-over and sharing of knowledge between both practices.

As designers we also understand layout and typography so we’ve been able to apply these to the design of the book. Typography is a really important ingredient for us and we consider it ‘clothing for words’ so we’ve put a huge emphasis on getting this right which has led us to commision typographer Kyle Steed to hand craft every word in the book. We could have picked a font and there are plenty of great ones out there, but we wanted to create the complete children’s picture book experience and we couldn’t achieve it without giving the words their own unique voice.


So you knew from the beginning that you wanted to take control of this creation and not go the traditional publication route. What led you to Kickstarter? What specific challenges come with launching a Kickstarter campaign?

GABRIEL: Over the past few months there have been a string of successful Kickstarter projects from companies based within a few minutes walk from our office (Brewbot, SeeSense & Patchblocks), so we felt the time was right to give it a go ourselves. Belfast is an exciting place to be right now in regards to design and we have a very supportive community that will get behind your project and support you.

MICHAEL: This is the first Kickstarter project that we have launched and one thing we have learnt is that preparation is first and foremost. There is an enormous amount of content you have to think about and prepare beforehand. The video itself is an important part of your pitch and we were literally filming right up until a few minutes before we needed to go live.

TIM: Once it went live you soon find yourself working around the clock to promote it, responding to questions and comments, thinking of new strategies to help gain pledges, the list is endless. It’s quite the emotional roller coaster as if you don’t make your goal, you don’t get a penny from Kickstarter. It’s all or nothing which adds to the intensity during the funding period.


What are your goals for CHALKY? How do you hope your audience will react to the story?

GABRIEL: Simply, we hope that the book resonates with the audience through the beautiful illustrations, typography and engaging story to create the sort of book parents will enjoy reading their kids and the book that the kids will ask for their parents to read them.

chalkycoverWhat will be your definition of success for the book?

MICHAEL: I would say success to us would be getting to the stage where we have physical copies of the book that people can own and can live on their bookshelves. Something that kids and parents will enjoy reading.

GABRIEL: Yeah, and just on that point, I think the greatest moment will be able to read our story to my kids and get to experience what it is all about at the end of the day, a book the family can enjoy.

Do you have a goal for the number of books you hope to sell?

TIM: In all honesty we’re doing this project out of passion to create something beautiful and different from what is already out there on the market. As far as sales go, it is hard for us to project this, because this is our first attempt at entering the children’s book market. All we knew starting this was we wanted this book to exist and every sale after that is a bonus, so we’ve no spreadsheet hidden away with projected sales and targets. To us it’s all about the craft of something great.

What about Chalky do you feel is different from what’s already on the market?

I would say we’ve researched the anatomy of great storytelling and what makes something visually compelling and tried to apply these to the production of CHALKY. An example would be the typography. We could have used an existing typeface for the book but for us to create a richer, immersive experience and to compliment the illustrations, we’ve wanted to get the words hand-crafted. We also have gone for a unique illustrative style, that is totally digital but calls on traditional painting techniques to create them.

If successful with this book, what will you do next? A Chalky sequel or other picture books?

GABRIEL: We actually have another four Chalky stories written and ready to go which will introduce new characters and adventures. If this first book is successful, we’ll start to work on the next one and develop Chalky as a brand. The bigger picture is to become an independent publishing house and work with other story writers, designers, typographers and illustrators to create a rich and varied collection of picture books all created to an exceptional standard.


Thank you so much Gabriel, Tim and Michael, and I wish you much success with CHALKY!

Dear blog readers, ’tis the season of giving. The gentlemen are shy of their Kickstarter goal, so won’t you consider backing them? Remember, when you back them, they give you something back! 

Click below to go to the Kickstarter campaign.


Plus Gabriel, Tim and Michael would love to hear what you think of CHALKY! Do you have any questions about their creative process or Kickstarter? Please leave them a comment below.

P.S. More PiBoIdMo prizes to come, so stay tuned!

kickstarterGot a great creative project? Kickstart it! Author-illustrator Ryan Hipp did! is a website that enables artists to pitch a project, collect pledges in exchange for incentives, and finance their creative endeavors.

My friend Ryan Hipp recently went through a personal crisis and emerged triumphant on the other side. He translated that experience into a delightfully charming story, LITTLE STEPS: “Thru the short life-cycle of a caterpillar, we learn life is difficult, yet precious.” In order to bring this project to life, Ryan turned to Kickstarter, and he’s here today to explain the genesis of LITTLE STEPS and his Kickstarter experience.

He’s only a few hundred dollars short of his goal, so I hope you’ll consider backing LITTLE STEPS, too! (I did!)


Ryan, what inspired you to create LITTLE STEPS?

Great Question. Normally, I struggle and struggle to come up with an idea for a good story. But when the idea for LITTLE STEPS came to me, it came to me when I needed it the most, and came to me quite clearly. LITTLE STEPS wasn’t part of my plan, but, in a way, that is exactly why it was a perfectly-timed inspiration for me. It was at a point in my life where my plans all fell apart. I’ve had a pretty carefree life up to a point. I guess I had been living my life thinking I was in a protective bubble, and couldn’t see that it was about to pop. Then my life really changed abruptly without warning, and I was a mess after. During the time trying to pick up the pieces and rediscover myself, it dawned on me there was a way to universally sharewhat I learned on my journey through the power of words and pictures—what I know best.

littlestepsHow did LITTLE STEPS become a Kickstarter project?

I knew this project I needed to keep pretty close to my chest. Being much more of a personal expression of myself than any other work I have done, I just didn’t want to expose it to the familiar channels of traditional publishing like my other books. I had to do this one on my own. So that was when I thought of Kickstarter. Kickstarter is allowing me to create the book the way that I need to and 100% on my own terms.

Beyond the Kickstarter seed fund, what are your goals for LITTLE STEPS?

My goals for LITTLE STEPS is to help people. Especially families. If I did my job right, the book will resonate just as much with adults as children. I think LITTLE STEPS carries so many strong themes that anyone can relate to. Life can be really hard, and I tried to make the symbols in the book be applicable to all the myriad struggles, fears, roadblocks, and hardships that we all face. I want LITTLE STEPS to inspire those that read it to overcome anything that is thrown at them. To overcome adversity stoically and be better people when they get to the other side. Life is short, and precious, and we should not waste a single day.

littlesteps2What are some do’s and don’ts you learned about Kickstarter projects?

I have learned a lot about Kickstarter. I meticulously scrutinized before pressing the “start” button, but after dotting my I’s and crossing my T’s for the Nth time, I just decided to roll with it. The best advice I can give is use your network. Start with your social media, your friends and family—and then watch the chain reaction. Word-of-mouth is all you really have with a project like this. The biggest “don’t” I learned is don’t assume your audience understands how Kickstarter works. I try to make it really clear to all that if I don’t hit my goal by the deadline, I lose all the pledges. I try to let them know that it is not a donation, but a pledge—a trade for cool incentives. I also try to let people know that a pledge today only gets charged if the project is a success. Anything you can do to ease people into a pledge helps. A lot of people have intentions to pledge, but the secret is getting them to take the action. Everything rides on the supporters.

Is this a great time to be a creative, or what?!

I think in our modern world, it’s becoming much more obtainable for those who want to shine their light on the world to do so. Technology is a gift of opportunity for those brave enough to take their hopes, dreams, and ambitions into their own hands. I say, be creative first. If you make something truly great, the rest will work itself out.

Thanks, Ryan, for letting us know about your worthwhile project and giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse at Kickstarter.

You can learn more about Ryan at his website or pledge your support for LITTLE STEPS at!

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