Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Somewhat Bumpy Road To An Award-Winning Self-Published Book Cover Design!

We were honored and delighted to have "Men & Women: Getting Into Each Other's Genes" receive the award for "Best Book Cover Design" in nonfiction from The Book Designer in June! There were lots of terrific entries. I am especially grateful the book received the honor, because I am not a graphic designer, just a girl on a budget. It was basically my first "solo flight" in book cover design. (I had a lot of help on my first book cover for "Aging With Ungirdled Passion" from my very talented graphic designer friend Lucy Thacker). While I really like how the "Men & Women" cover turned out, I must confess it took quite some time to get there! Fortunately, I had valuable input along the way. Here, I will take you on my clumsy journey to the final design! By the way, for my fellow authors, I have found to be a FABULOUS resource for expert advice and inspiration!

First, a little background. While I wrote "Men & Women's Genes" with my hilarious brother Bob Nery, sharing the writing 50/50, it was agreed I would handle the cover design solo. Since ours is a book of humor essays taking a balanced and seriously tongue-in-cheek look at the differences between the sexes, we wanted a cover that instantly conveyed "humor" and would appeal to both men and women. My research (and my gut) told me more women would buy this book than men. Still, because it's a perfect gift for a guy's birthday, anniversary, Christmas or Father's Day, men needed to feel comfortable being seen with it. I set to work using InDesign to try to come up with something.

Initially, I thought the cover should "jive" with the cover of my first book. (We girls love for things to match!) The cover of "Aging With Ungirdled Passion" features the illustration of the "ungirdled woman" created by my very talented artist friend Vicki Bruner who graciously allowed me to use it both for the banner of this blog and the cover of the first book. I thought another of Vicki's illustrations (and the same font) would be a great way to add cohesiveness to my "line" of two books. Vicki did the following illustration for a line of greeting cards we produced together. I thought it would be ideal. Hence, my first rough mockup:

Yeah. I know. While it conveys humor, it's too "cutesy" and not polished enough. Back to the drawing board. Here's the second try with a stock illustration from iStock:

To me, this design was less "cutesy" and cleaner than the first design, but it almost looks like it's a clinical guide to behavior in the sexes. Not the message we wanted to send. We chose the title "Men & Women: Getting Into Each Other's Genes," because the differences between the sexes seem to be innate. We also thought the play on words "getting into each other's jeans/genes" would be fun. Why not use an illustration with jeans? Perfect!

OK, the third time was not the charm. While it's headed in a better direction, I realize I need help. I ask good friend and graphic designer extraordinaire Liza Gibhardt if I could pay for two hours of her time to help me polish it. She reports her schedule is too overloaded to take on another project at the moment, but she is happy to take a look as I go along. Off the bat, she suggests making "and" an ampersand and "Men & Women" smaller in the title. Why didn't I think of that? She also suggests marrying the symbols for male and female together in a design to see how that works. Both she and Bob suggest a photo of a couple with their hands in each other's jeans (genes). Since a cover shoot is not in the budget, I go back to looking through stock photos. "You'll get there," Liza encourages. 

First I consider Liza's idea about marrying the symbols for male and female. In trying to "flush out" ideas, I realize the position of the toilet seat provides more downs than ups in the male-female relationship. It's gotta be THE hot button issue between the sexes. I try this idea: 

Nope. Gotta "can" this one! Too "Spencer's Gifts." Not what we're going for. OK, I'll look at photos of men and women getting into each other's jeans (genes).

Hmmm... the photos I'm finding are a little too "hot" for my purpose. They would make an intriguing cover, but seem to convey romance over humor. Also, the subjects in the photos I'm finding are too young. We don't want to turn off older readers. (I guess there's not a big market for photos of topless and frisky old folks.) We need something that appeals to couples of all ages. I also need something tamer that conveys humor. I know! I'll see if I can find a tamer couple in jeans and use thought bubbles to convey their different points of view!

Better. But still not loving it. It's also race-specific which I don't like. I'm also not liking all the type under the title. I need to think of something not age or race-specific and something cleaner. I play around in InDesign a little more. 

OK, I LOVE this! Much cleaner, not race or age specific, and I think it conveys humor. It reminds me of something I've seen before... I know! It kinda reminds me of the cover designs on some of Jen Lancaster's popular humor books for women. I'm kinda proud of myself. "This is a great cover," I think. I send it to Bob and Liza. Bob replies, "It looks like a baby shower invitation." Next I hear from Liza. "I like it. You're getting closer. What does Bob think?" I tell her he thinks it's too girly. "You're almost there. You've got this," says Liza. OK, I am not as slick as I thought. I try to "butch up" the design:

I don't like this at all. Too much going on. Sigh. Back to the drawing board again. I am thinking of perhaps using a stock illustration now instead of a stock photo after the problems I was running into with photos being too young, too hot, and/or too dated. I do more searching through stock photo companies' inventories.

I find this illustration I really love that I can license from iStock. It's titled "Adam & Eve" which is perfect, as the problems that arise from the differences between the sexes are as old as time! To me, this illustration conveys humor without locking into a specific race or age group. I try it out in a cover design:

I really like it, but I'm not loving it yet. I play around with size and fonts a little bit...

There! By George, I think I've got it! I like the font in varying sizes between the two figures. I started with the type in stark black, but I found I like it better in charcoal gray, as it seems to go better with the almost pastel figures. I play around with the subtitle a bit, and I think we have a final version! I send it to Bob and Liza. "That's it! Perfect," says Bob. "I knew you could do it," says Liza. Glad she knew! I was having serious doubts! I purchase the license from iStock. We publish the book, and it gets to the #3 spot in "hot new releases" on Amazon in our genre during the first couple of days! We also get lots of compliments on the cover. I nervously submit it to The Book Designer Awards. We win "best nonfiction cover" in June! I'm over the moon! 

Thanks for coming along on the bumpy but successful ride. They say it's not the destination but the journey. I guess that's true. It's good to have talented and honest friends (and plenty of Krispy Kremes) along the way! The lesson I learned was not to settle too quickly and to ask for feedback throughout the process!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July! Why The Fourth Would ALWAYS Be Celebrated In An All-Male World

Happy Fourth of July to all! In honor of this special day and all it represents, an excerpt from the "Holiday Celebration Gene" chapter of "Men & Women: Getting Into Each Other's Genes" on In this chapter we note that those possessing the WHY? chromosome seem to lack the "Holiday Celebration Gene," except in certain cases. One of those would be the Fourth of July. In an all-male world, this would be one holiday that would be observed. Frequently. See if you agree:

The Fourth of July

The Female Perspective:

In an all-male world, this holiday would probably be celebrated weekly throughout the summer, as it features four things men love: beer, meat, fire, and pyrotechnics. The USA is a ballsy nation, with ballsy beginnings. We fought hard for our independence and we continue to fight hard to protect it. Men feel there’s no better way to honor these truths than to take two of the biggest farm animals there are -- a pig and a cow -- and cook ‘em up in the form of hamburgers and hot dogs over an open flame while downing ale, the nectar of our forefathers. After drinking lots of ale, they ignite small explosives in the backyard. Because of men’s dominant Me Like Fire Genes, backyard Fourth of July fireworks shows double as entertainment and sport and provide continued employment for area firefighters and emergency room personnel. Yes, this is the American way, or actually, the male way, to celebrate a holiday.

Ladies, please don’t make the same mistake I did one Fourth of July by NOT serving a meat that formerly wore hooves. Thinking of my guests’ health, I served turkey and veggie burgers for our Fourth of July party. You would have thought I had doused the flag in kerosene and put it on the grill. The men in the group thought they’d received a “bum steer,” and I was deemed unpatriotic. Even my devoted father joined in the mutiny, calling out, “Happy Thanksgiving!” as everyone came through the buffet. I learned the hard way that if you can catch it and kill it with your bare hands, it is not worthy of your Fourth of July table – at least to the male guests at your party. Men will say they’re all for replacing beef with turkey and tofu – just not while they’re eating.

The Man’s Take:

Okay, guys. Go ahead and take a deep breath here before reading on. I know after reading the above you are likely fuming and assuming my sister is either British or a communist. Our family thought so too after the fowl turkey burger atrocity, so we had her vetted, and she is indeed American. Hey, tolerance, acceptance and inclusion are what make this country great. We don’t put to the sword those who serve turkey burgers on the Most Holy of Holidays. Fortunately, there are men still alive to tell the tale of that fateful Fourth of July that will live in infamy. For years, we kept that debacle quiet to save my sister from the angry mobs with pitchforks and torches that would have surely overrun her house if word got out. We started a day of remembrance that we observe every July 3rd. The survivors of the day gather around a pit into which we drop a couple of turkey burgers and … gag… veggie “dogs” as an offering to the Fourth of July gods. We then roast a proper meal over the flame: a special meat masterpiece created by a local artisan butcher who deals only in hooved meats. He makes up the hooved version of the turduken for the ritual we call the “Cowpigal.” It is a small calf (veal) placed inside a pig that is then placed inside a cow. Although July 3rd is a somber affair, we rejoice in the knowledge that, by the dawn’s early light, the new day will bring our rockets’ red glare and proof through the night that our beef is still there. For ours is the land of the free and the home of the beef! Can I get an Amen?

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, safe Fourth to you and yours! 

(Find "Men & Women: Getting Into Each Other's Genes" on as both an ebook for $3.99 and paperback for $8.99. Great anniversary or birthday gift!)

Friday, May 16, 2014

"Men & Women: Getting Into Each Other's Genes"

A Humorous Look At The Differences Between The Sexes - From Both Sides Just Released On Amazon

Opposites attract. And when it comes to men and women, they can also confound, repulse, amaze and torment.

Differences in men and women are hardwired into our DNA -- many are obvious, but some reveal themselves in surprising, unsettling, annoying, even disgusting ways in the course of the typical male-female relationship.

Early in a romance, a woman doesn’t think to ask the man she’s involved with, “Do you think the pairing of a screen door and two dildos makes for a romantic anniversary gift?” Or, “Does your idea of a relaxing vacation involve sailing unfamiliar islands during treacherous storms on the cheapest, leakiest rental boat you can find?” Or, “Do you see your role in co-hosting a dinner party as more (A) folding cloth napkins into swans days before the event or (B) merely showing up some time before the entrĂ©e is served?”

Similarly, it doesn’t occur to most men to ask their intendeds, Just how many moods will you be expressing in a week, and are you thinking they will each require seventeen pairs of shoes?” Or, “When the car starts making a funny noise, do you (A) immediately pull off the road to investigate and call AAA or (B) continue driving to meet your friend at the T.J. Maxx across town?” And, “Do you invest five times more money in face creams, bath gels, hair goop, makeup and other stuff to clutter the bathroom than you do your savings account each month?”

Unfortunately, the answers to such questions often catch us by surprise, leaving us irritated, nauseated, scratching our heads, or ready to call for legal counsel. Forewarned is forearmed. Knowledge, preparation and laughter are powerful coping mechanisms. (Occasional cocktails don’t hurt!) In this spirit, "Men and Women: Getting Into Each Other's Genes" examines certain dominant and recessive genes in both genders in an effort to foster understanding and acceptance of those possessing the WHY? chromosome as well as those possessing double X (known to many men as “two strikes and you’re out”) chromosomes. Truly inspired strategies for coping with the irksome habits of each sex are provided throughout.

We are so excited to announce the publication of the book co-authored by me (Tracy Kunzler, author of "Aging With Ungirdled Passion”) and my  brother Bob Nery. If you've ever lived with a man or a woman, we know you'll enjoy it! Because my brother if full of... well, let's just call it "machismo," men will especially enjoy this one! We humbly suggest it as a much-appreciated Father's Day gift when paired with his favorite brew! 

Genes examined include: 

• Reluctance to Call a Professional Gene • Private Parts Pride and Prejudice Gene • Shoe Acquisition and Appreciation Gene • Selective Sight, Memory and Hearing Genes • Tupperware Party Gene • Common Cold = The Bubonic Plague Gene • "Look At Me! Look At Me!" Gene • Home Accents Appreciation Gene • Proper Gift Selection Gene • Proper Party Attendance Gene • Holiday Celebration Gene 
...and many more.

It's lots cheaper than counseling or a divorce attorney and way more fun. At just $3.99 for the e-book and $8.99 for the paperback, we guarantee you’ve paid more for certain coffee drinks or sandwiches you didn’t find half as funny or insightful. Besides, spousicide is still a felony. We checked.

Thanks so much for checking out our new book. We think you'll have a lot of fun with it. It makes the perfect gift for someone who has everything but the answers to male-female dilemmas as old as the ages! Make it the centerpiece of a gift basket for an anniversary or wedding shower with a bottle of wine and some pretty wine glasses or bar supplies. They’ll think you’re pure gene-us!

Friday, April 25, 2014

"The Mother Of All Meltdowns" -- A Great Mother's Day Gift For The Young Mom

The Mother Of All Meltdowns is a
great Mother's Day gift for the 
young mom. Find it here.

How I wish this collection of essays was available when I was a young mother! It would have provided me with much-needed relief and an emotional lifeline! “The Mother of All Meltdowns” is a collection of essays from 30 of the today’s most popular mommy bloggers who share personal parenting meltdowns. I really like it for a couple of reasons.

First, 30 moms totally spill regarding some of their biggest parenting meltdowns -- what got them there, the fallout and what they learned. I expected a humor book, and while there were plenty of funny moments, there were a lot more poignant and relatable ones. Feelings of  “Oh, I remember having a day like that,” alternated with feelings of “Wow! I’ve never had it quite that bad” while reading it. These moms bare it all – the good, the bad, the ugly and the funny. In doing so, they make you feel normal, relieved and connected to the greater sisterhood of mothers. While there are tales of mothering meltdowns involving kids of all ages (there’s an entertaining story about a meltdown with teenagers that results in a memorable powdered sugar war), it’s an especially great read for the young mother. I know I would have loved to have a copy when my now 21-year-old boys were little. At that time, I felt too ashamed to admit that once in a while, motherhood had me screaming on the inside! These moms are brave and generous to share these stories.

Second, this book is a great way to get a “taste” of and introduction to 30 great blogs! If you get the kindle edition (a real bargain at just 99¢!), you can link to the blog of each author with the tap of a finger! It’s like a wonderful sampler box of chocolates -- some are rich and deep, some are a little nutty, and some are really sweet! All are deliciously satisfying!

“The Mother of All Meltdowns” is a terrific gift for the young mother or mother-to-be this Mother’s Day. The paperback version is just $8.99 and is available for two day shipping with amazon prime membership! Pair it with her favorite bottle of wine and take the kids for a few hours for a most-appreciated Mother’s Day gift combo. 

For the, ahem, more mature mom, may I humbly suggest a copy of “Aging With Ungirdled Passion” also available on Don’t worry about getting her a bottle. The more mature mom has learned to keep herself well-stocked. Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Audrey Hepburn On Beauty, Aging And Chocolate Cake

I have been collecting quotes on growing older and thought I'd share them with you. I especially love this one from Audrey Hepburn: 

Audrey Hepburn was a true beauty inside and out, not to mention a talented actor and devoted humanitarian. Adore the following advice and "beauty tips" from her:

"For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone." More words of wisdom:

"I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it's the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It's probably the most important thing in a person."

"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."

"I heard a definition once: Happiness is health and a short memory! I wish I'd invented it, because it is very true."

"Let's face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me."

Amen to that, Audrey!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Meryl Streep on Aging

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Snow Storm Survival

If you're like me and everyone else I've talked to, you are OVER snow this winter. Here on the Virginia coast, we are snowed in for a third time in six weeks with schools and most everything else closed. I can only imagine how ungirdled sisters up north are handling it. Thought I'd share this handy guide for surviving being snowed in with good spirits - namely vodka - but gin or tequila will work equally well. We ungirdled girls are flexible and able to improvise in the worst of conditions. 

Stay warm and well hydrated! Spring HAS to be coming soon!