Tag Archives: book design

Book Covers designed by DARLENE for Stephen E. Crockett

This Gallery displays eight recent book covers designed by DARLENE for author, Stephen E. Crockett. Stephen’s subjects and themes are drawn from the mountains and foothills of his North Carolina home and each story is its own little slice of psychological horror…

About Stephen E Crockett:

Before turning his attention to autobiographical, truth-based fiction novels, Stephen E. Crockett started his writing career back in 2001 with the publication of  “The Prophet Code” by Aethyrea Books, which he followed up with “Bible Prophecy” in 2006.

In 2010, he published in Kindle, “The Dark Man” followed in 2012 by the biographical story, “Black Tar: For the Love of Heroin.” Then came “Ocular: The Monster in the Mirror” in 2013;  “Knob Hill: The Grey House Murders” in 2014 and “The Island” in 2015. “Ouija: The Devil’s Doorway” and “Diary of a Drug Addict” were both published in 2016 while “The Puppet Master” was published in 2017.

Stephen’s works are only available as Kindle ebooks on Amazon.com in the Kindle bookstore. Just use your ebook reader and do a search on Stephen E Crockett, or click on the titles below. 

For anyone interested in knowing something about any of his books, here are their descriptions:


  • Black Tar is a biographical look at the use of heroin and the toll it takes on the addict. It is written from an addict’s perspective and details the day to day existence of one junkie as he lives from fix to fix and watches as his life spirals from alcohol, pills, and Cocaine to heroin and intravenous drug use. His attempts to free himself and live a sober life are always half-hearted at best and so his casual drug use spirals from a clean life, with a job and the hope of a family to a heroin addict; living hand to mouth–unemployed and desperate on the mean city streets. In this smack-tinted world, our junkie bounces back and forth between the extremes of overdose and withdrawal, both of which have the ability to kill him. Life is desperate for a junkie and all too often, they find themselves dangling between the fix that will kill him and the sobriety that will let him live.


  • A heroin addict looks back over a life of misery and addiction. From his earliest days experimenting with “gate-way drugs” to his spiraling descent, through every available illegal drug – into the hell of heroin addiction. He gets pushed by his addiction to heroin from a manageable addiction that he can control, through the loss of everything he owns and holds near and dear to his life. Heroin becomes his ever-present companion and over the years it turns him into a homeless, jobless heroin addict living under a downtown highway bridge. At his lowest, suicide seems to be the only way out, but when he finally hits rock bottom he realizes that in the mess, the muck and the blood that his life has become, salvation may still be possible. If only he can stay away from the needle and be as successful sober as he had been as a drug addict.


  • Within every mirror, there is a reflection; and within every reflection, there is a world. It may be as simple as your face in the morning or as complex as the world behind you. But not every mirror projects a reflection of whatever you place in front of it. Some mirrors have depth and in that depth, there hides another world–a realm you will never see unless you go looking for it. Sometimes you can find it, most times you don’t. Those that do open themselves up to a realm beyond our physical world, a place where dreams hide and nightmares come true; where monsters are real, and a man can quickly find himself hunted by creatures he knows nothing about and has no control over.


  • Following Hurricane Donna, a struggling family of four follows their dream to own a house. They run the real estate gauntlet, never finding anything they like until their agent shows them the last house on her list. A run-down Victorian style mansion sitting all alone on a piece of property the locals call Knob Hill. It looms over the valley like some giant gargoyle and is known to the locals as a place of mystery and great horror. Undeterred, the family buys the house and begins remodeling it. But just as they are settling into their new home, the nightmare begins. A silent, residing evil force reaches out to the oldest child and establishes a connection that slowly but surely guides him through the house’s violent past. When he is commanded to exact the same horror on his own family he does as instructed, skillfully killing his family members until there is no one left but himself and the demon who then drives him to suicide thereby reclaiming the house that has been its all along.


  • A group of young friends form a club to investigate occult subjects. From witchcraft, to mysticism, to magic. They get together on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. In the beginning, nothing much comes from their persistence. But then, one of them suggests they test the Ouija Board to see if there is any truth to its fabled abilities. Their main objective is to see if they can use it to summon invisible forces from the other side. Their experiment is successful, but quickly gets out of hand. All but one abandons the project. The last standing member of the group takes the Ouija Board home and continues using it to contact spirits. Demons or Angels? He can’t be sure until they leave little doubt in his mind as to what forces he has been dealing with.


  • Scott Clemmons lives in a world of hurt. Abused by an alcoholic father who murders his mother when he was twelve years old, Scott must deal with his own increasing paranoia and insanity. A big black bird shows up, invades his sanity, helps him murder his father to avenge his mother’s death, and then attempts to protect him from attacks that Scott believes is launched by his father’s disembodied soul. As he spirals into alcoholism, he must defend himself from “The Dark Man” who haunts the family farm and seeks to destroy everything that Scott holds dear. Scott fights hard to live a normal life and for a few short years is able to do so. However, as time passes “The Dark Man” consumes each and every part of his life, from his sanity to the love of his life and in the end this evil aberration consumes Scott as well. This story contains graphic depictions of demonic possession, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, murder, death and suicide.


  • On a small island off the Carolina coast, there lives a beautiful woman whose life is marred by grief and tragedy. Her world is dark and loveless. Her marriage is miserable and the pain of losing her only child has almost destroyed her. Her pain is as real as the ocean that surrounds her and she has long made peace with the idea of committing suicide. And then a chance encounter with an uninspired writer turns romantic and although she’s married, she allows this stranger to swept her off her feet and into his arms with promises of a Summer she will never forget. For a time, their affair is a whirlwind of sex, wine, and cocaine. A life of excitement and pleasure await them at every turn and their secret affair is all consuming. As they share their darkest secrets she lets slip the fact that her husband is the island’s cocaine kingpin. He is a shrewd, evil man with illegal resources and no weaknesses. Once he learns of their affair he swears revenge and they are suddenly in great danger. As more and more details of the affair emerge, her husband’s contempt boils into a rage he cannot contain. They know their disappearance would be nothing more than passing gossip and the question is not IF he will seek his revenge but WHEN and, as she knows far too well, his actions will destroy everything and completely.


  • On a south-eastern Virginia farm, a dirt-water, back-woods rendition of fundamentalist Christianity dares to rear its ugly head. Heavily influenced by a little red book–based solely on a deep misunderstanding of basic religion and Biblical principle–written by a mysterious missionary, one believer’s brain is being cooked. He uses his Bible with the little red book to terrorize his family in the name of religion and stews in a vat of ignorance and superstition from which springs forth a most unholy doctrine. He’d totally inflict his insidious beliefs on his family were it not for his wife, who would stand for none of it. She’s ready to protect her children from what she believes is her husband’s religious insanity. And then the puppet master appears. Revealed as the author of the red book, he arrives with extensive plans to build a network of churches based on the dictates of his little red book. The farm is sold and the family reluctantly moves from Virginia to North Carolina where the first church is to be built. It is here that the shellacking begins. The church attracts its fair share of attention, however, nobody hangs around for long as the church evolves from great hope and possibility to empty pews and bankruptcy.

Typography Class: Book Design Tips

If I was still teaching first year Indiana University graphics students (after declaring Graphics as their major at IU), I could use the following examples to demonstrate some basic graphic design typographical tweaks and tenets.

Each page of a book should be inviting to the reader. Every unit of text must relate to every other unit and be in harmony while maintaining its typographical distinction. It’s a balance. For instance, the 2-page spread I’m using as an example (created for Kathleen Wiley’s first book, “NEW LIFE: Symbolic Meditations on the Birth of Christ Within,”) perfectly illustrates this. Each chapter’s beginning page has six separate elements to juggle. I managed this by sculpting the white space.

New-Life-spread-loThe first five sections within each chapter have centered text. First, I bunched the three uppermost elements together at the top as a unit because they appear together on the Table of Contents page. As the purpose of the first three lines is informational, I used the easily readable Gill Sans font family: light for the Chapter number (a), bold face for the chapter title (b) and regular to note the scripture.

The next section (4) is Kathleen’s first voice–her insightful commentary about the meaning of a particular biblical passage. I set it using Garamond Italic type and centered it. Usually, centered text in italics is difficult to read. I used italics anyway because I wanted the reader to slow down. I balanced readability issues by increasing the font size and leading and carefully manipulating the collective shape of the text by making sure each line ended with a noun or a strong word. I carefully removed hyphenations and eliminated widowed text (one word at the end of the paragraph taking up an entire line.)

Section (5) is the scripture associated with each chapter. I significantly indented the text block on both sides, making the biblical passages similar in feel to how they usually appear in context. Because it was of the same serif type family as Kathleen’s commentary above, I just used Garamond’s regular text font. I also wanted it to be significantly different from the major text font.

In her major commentary section (6), Kathleen is in a more analytical mode. That’s why I changed the typeface back to the sans serif, Gill Sans, and split the text into a two column format. The tone is different, more intellectually removed from the subject, but contemplative. To set off each chapter head so as to give the eye a focus, I inset a decorative initial capital letter within the first paragraph of text. The major text continued in its two column format until Kathleen’s ideas were complete. To signify the end of the major text, I placed Kathleen’s iconic key lock.

The last section, chapter (7), is “Inner Reflections,” the chapters’ quiet Call to Action.

Although this final section may appear to be centered because of the title, the type is in fact justified left, ragged right. I used Gill Sans Light and indented it within a thin-bordered box to make it easily found for those who wish to quickly refer to the meditation.

Even with all these typographic rules in place, no two spreads appear alike. Each thought is a visual an expression unto itself, yet contributes to the harmony of the book as a whole

Two Publications, Side by Side

Two books designed by Darlene in 2015.

Two books designed by Darlene in 2015.

This week in the mail,  I separately received physical copies of both books I designed in 2015 for two different authors and the subjects could not be more different from each other.

The first book project, a behemoth 336-page hardcover, “Mythos Arcanum” (written by Joe Aragon, published by MAGI), was completed and signed off by me during the summer of 2015. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, I created the lion’s share of the illustrations. I am surprised at the amount of time it took for the actual printed product to appear. MAGI took the route of having a traditional print run.

I started my second book design, “NEW LIFE: Symbolic Meditations on the Birth of Christ Within” (written by Kathleen Wiley and published by Soulful Living, Inc.), immediately after the first book was put to bed. I spot-illustrated this 98-page soft cover with line art of different birds and signed off on Kathleen’s book last week. Then I prepared the book for publication through a digital vendor and it took only about a week to become available. That’s how I received physical copies of both books in the same week. The difference in the time factor astounds me.

When looking at each title, side by side, it is difficult to believe they have anything in common. Yet I designed both books to conform to the principles of the phi ratio. Now, the first edition of Kathleen’s book had already been publicly available for two years. But a good friend of ours (who had helped me proof read Mythos Arcanum) recommended to her friend Kathleen that she consider having her book redesigned by me, using the golden mean.

When I first contacted Kathleen, mid-August 2015, about a possible re-design, I wrote: “To most people, in and of itself, a page of words is just a page of words. Anyone, even those without an aesthetic sense, can create perfectly reasonable page presentations from templates. But there is no life, no sparkle or soul to an uninviting wall of words. When the eyes get tired, reading becomes a chore and comprehension suffers. To rest the eyes, the book gets put down, producing an unconscious psychological resistance. It’s harder for the reader to resume. Without a compelling incentive, the book may never get picked up again. And that is sad, for both reader and author.

“I’m telling you this because it’s something you may never have before considered. When done properly, the design aesthetically serves the text. The eye is pleased. The result is happy. Good presentation has power. That is what I offer…

“When I undertake a book project, as I read the text, I can “see” the page take shape in my mind’s eye. Is it channelling or divine inspiration? To use my gift responsibly, I must carefully choose which projects I am to undertake. When Patty first mentioned your book to me, I felt the “rightness” of working with you and thus feel led to work with you. The fact that you recognized the potential of the golden mean proportion also speaks volumes in your favor.”

My passion is to create a thing of beauty. Beauty speaks. Eloquently. With book design, my facility is to create a visual portal through which people may more easily access the depth of the ideas being expressed. It’s like opening a gateway to a different world. Resonance is achieved through the subtle balance of negative (white) space, text, and graphics using correct proportion and placement. It is my gift, my genius.

Its only been a couple of weeks since Kathleen’s second edition has been available and already it has generated some notable buzz. For instance, she showed up at a bookstore in her town and inquired if they were interested in selling the book of a local author. They were so she left some copies behind. Before the day was out (or at least a short time thereafter), the bookstore called and offered to promote her book and do an author signing. They are even willing  for Kathleen to do talks and give classes about her material through the bookstore on a monthly basis. I’d venture to say the book cover design worked in her favor.

It is a joy to see how Kathleen’s star is now rising. I am so pleased to have been an integral part of her success. Kathleen is now anxious for me to begin design work on a second title of hers and I’ve already started.
The publication of Joe Aragon’s book will be officially announced on December 5th, 2015. I trust that Mythos Arcanum will receive similar notoriety albeit from a different audience. Only time will tell. I’ve decided to submit this book to an RPG design competition. Because good design has mostly not been a large consideration within the Role Playing Game industry, I am more than curious to see how well aesthetics can be recognized and honored.