Visual Versus Written: When Words Help Artists

Make, and keep, talented friends.
I have two I want to share. I asked for assistance from ebook cover designers Alexa and Onyx Aker. As long-time friends, we have worked well together on different projects. Most recently, the pair created two stunning book covers for my wife Diana Star Helmer for The Three Scrooges and her forthcoming novel Maybe, Baby.
I wanted to see if the Akers could say how they do it. How can an author speak the language of an artist?
Of course, their first response was a timely visual!
WriterBlogLilianaHere’s their subsequent reply:
by Onyx & Alexa Aker

“You are in the process of writing a book, or have already written one. You have worked hard to get to this point. You will need a cover. People will judge your book, and buy your book in part because of that cover. How can you help make your book cover design a worthwhile investment?

 1. Hire a good graphic designer. Your book cover is an important piece in selling your book. Invest in a good designer with experience and vision. It will save you time and money on design flops and earn you money on sales.

2. Explain what you need.

a.     Is it a book cover for print or an e-book cover?

b.     What cover size?

c.     Information to go on the cover: Title, subtitle, author, publishing company, etc.

d.     Desired deadline

3. Explain what you want.

a.     What do you imagine your cover to be? (If you have no idea – mention that too, so your designer can give suggestions.)

b.     Give background information: Book genre, audience….

c.      What colors do you want? What style do you want (modern, classic….)?

4. What you do not want. This is optional but important if you dislike certain colors, styles, elements…. Mention this before the start of the design process.

5Be flexible. A good graphic designer will take your ideas, and infuse them with their design expertise and vision, and should take the time to explain to you why they picked certain design elements for your cover. Remember that you are hiring a designer to design, so try to give them room to let their creative juices shine. Your audience will thank you.”
I thank Onyx and Alexa Aker for sharing helpful advice.
The kind-hearted team had a bit of worry with their fifth point. However, I agree. Micro-managing doesn’t work. Onyx and Alexa are gifted collaborators. They want to represent an author’s thoughts and feelings visually. But they prove one point: freedom and trust make this recipe a success.
The best creation comes from someone working WITH you, not FOR you.
Learn more about the talented duo at their website, or write them at

Inspired By Cash Register Receipt Humor

Funniest butter around?

Funniest butter around?

I went wild this weekend. I bought a pair of corduroy house slippers.

I stopped the checker. Her scanner abbreviation read CRDY.

“Is that short for ‘cruddy’?”

She smiled. Her eyebrows arched.

“My dad bought some Land O’ Lakes butter,” she replied.


“The receipt said LOL Butt.”


Second Volume Of Poetry Back On Track

Volume 2 for Independence Day!

Volume 2 for Independence Day!

SIx months is long enough.

Six months of second-guessing. A half-year of doubting.

I offered 101 PO’ed Poems: Frustrations in Free Verse as a Kindle e-book in October, 2013.

Where’s the second volume?

For months, my plans sat in the shadows. What if I couldn’t match my efforts? Do any sequels ever outdo the original?

Pondering is not writing.

I decided to shut up and finish what I imagined.

I have 101 more ditties awaiting finishing touches. No sugary-sweet sonnets. Poetry for the masses.

I want to offer some free-verse fireworks. That’s why I’m pushing to have an edited volume and an appropriately-profane cover done in time for a July 4 release. The red glare won’t be from rockets, but the blushes from all those annoyers who prompted my muttering missives.

Stop editing the words before they reach your screen.


StepNpull Rewrites Public Restroom Story

StepNPull“You’ll love our public restroom!”

We may be years away from businesses including such a brag in their advertising.

I’d pay attention. I’m a frustrated dancer who tries to use his elbow, knee and a paper towel to open the men’s room door after washing my hands.

I was delighted to see that the Hy-Vee grocery store had added such a revolutionary gizmo to the base of the door.

StepNpull is a hands-free door opener. No more worrying about how germy that door handle might be.

I wanted to know more about this amazing invention. I peeked at the company website.

The logo is telling. The FEMALE shoe is seen operating the StepNpull. More women than men would be likely to complain about filthy door handles, it seems.

The company’s website stays mellow. There’s no paranoid warnings about plague-carrying customers or employees sliming your door.

I thought I’d see a testimonial from the device’s inventor. What messy public restroom, or unwashed co-workers inspired the creator?

Most of all, I like how the company stresses recency, a trait writers overlook. Why spend tons of money updating a public restroom, if the customer leaves only thinking about how infested the exit door might be?

Readers might have the same attitude. Your intro sparkles. Your story’s body shines. The ending is lackluster and forgettable. The ending disappointment matters most to many.

Of course, your readers always wash their hands, right?

Zombie Dogs? Funny Words Await Writers

Feasting under a full moon? Hmmm...

Feasting under a full moon? Hmmm…

Where is the inspiration?

I want original humor!

I discovered this product marked down at Wally World, our infamous big-box store.

“Where’s the sale items for cats?” I growled.

However, cat treats don’t have such amazing descriptions.

Was it Halloween? What was the label saying:

Human Grade Ingredients.

Made From Humans?

Made With Humans?

Funny, unique ideas are everywhere. Watch, listen. Just stop thinking so hard.

The zombie dogs might notice…


Cheers For Michael Nobbs’ Reissued ‘Beany’

beany1-reprint-cover-160Happy 10th Anniversary, Michael Nobbs!

He’s done a grand reissue of The Beany #1: In which we meet Michael, find out a little about him and read out how he came to draw this journal…

Originally, this self-published gem wasn’t full-color. The anniversary edition changes that.

This is the story of how it all began, how a life was changed and transformed by ME/CFS. The energy-sapping condition inspired Michael to do more with less, beginning with his blog “Sustainably Creative.”

He’s resurrected this vintage creation that lets readers share in the courage and excitement of making something. He explains how creativity might be the best medicine:

“When I draw, really draw, I have to be completely in the moment. I’ve no choice. I have to look at what I’m drawing. Really look. My head can’t be off thinking about illness, or what to do next. I can’t be rushing off somewhere trying to escape how I’m feeling.”

Also, he added a then-versus-now summation of his efforts:

“I would rush at my drawings with great gusto, assured of seeing what I was doing I think, hoping my speed would produce something worthwhile,” he wrote back then. “Now I try to draw slowly. Very slowly. I drink in what I’m drawing.”

As an author, Michael provides a witty honesty. How many of us would have courage enough to close their first book with “100 Things About Me,” let alone reprint the list a decade later?

I love the hand-lettered pages and the spontaneous drawings. Then and now, Michael captures the beauty in every-day objects.

For anyone fearful about not having enough time to create, here’s 52 pages of possibility. Even 10 years later, “The Beany” stands apart as one memorable memoir.




The Prolific Writer’s Toolbox Brings Fun, Fast Help

Writer's ToolboxI’ve been a fan of David Masters writing in the free newsletter Freedom With Writing.

David teamed with talented blogger Greg Scott to create The Prolific Writer’s Toolbox: No Nonsense Tips For Writing Fast.

Their e-book offers a calm, welcoming approach to writing more quickly. This title differs from most on the same subject, in that Masters and Scott’s suggestions are balanced between new techniques to add and old habits to discard. Often, all the new advice in the world is bound for failure when one existing behavior can topple all effort.

For example, they provide one tip that restarted my writing. The pair kick the butt of one’s inner critic with one knockout punch of an analogy. Compare yourself to another occupation. “Does a farmer stand there leaning on his pitchfork asking himself, I don’t know; do I suck at bailing hay?”

When it comes time to edit, the authors talk about “the jumpy monkey mind.” This is when a writer’s train of thought derails. It happens when writing quickly. Masters and Scott point out potential trouble spots for fixing, not fretting.

This isn’t a generic, 96-page pep talk. The authors are giving specific do’s and don’t’s that any level of writer can adapt for an immediate difference in their productivity.

The moral I take from Toolbox? It’s pointed out that fast writing is CREATIVE writing. Like a kid creating with LEGO blocks. Masters and Scott keep the fun in productivity.

Only through the month of March, you can get this $4.99 e-book for just 99 cents. I consider this title one of my best buys so far in 2014. Well done, gents!