Yo Ho Ho and a Very Merry Christmas!, published in December of 2013, came about because we always had our hearts set on writing a classic Christmas story. Then, one day we came across some Christmas wrapping that had a pirate theme and said “Yo ho ho!” instead of “Ho ho ho!” and we ran with it. That night we lay in bed chatting about adventures and the plot until around 2:00 am.

A couple weeks later Yo Ho Ho and a Very Merry Christmas! was written and we had our first small book to publish. We hired a talented, aspiring illustrator, ElizaBeth Swenson, to color pencil drawings we provided to her, designed the print layout, and published just in time for Christmas.

Our audience for Yo Ho Ho and a Very Merry Christmas!

Kids enjoying a great pirate story

A few inside pages

The pages are printed on white paper, but we used an image of old worn paper in the background of all pages to give them a classic pirate feel. Doing so allowed us to POP white wherever we chose not to add color on the page. People compliment us on the paper all the time. In fact, we even had someone argue with us once, insisting that “we had indeed printed on colored paper and we must be mistaken.” LOL. Sorry to disappoint! It’s all an illusion. :)

Yo Ho Ho inside spread examples from paperback book


Coloring in the dragon

We used Photoshop to color in behind the line drawings, layering the color for a smooth airbrush feel.

Four steps showing how the dragon was colored


Before and after the cover was colored

It’s easy to overlook all of the subtle detail in our cover image, but to get the beautiful end image, ElizaBeth had to layer in fine detail throughout. Beautiful work, Beth. Thank you again!

Before and after the cover was colored


Close up of the characters after the background was colored

Every piece of the image was colored carefully in Photoshop, paying special attention to shadow and highlights to make the image come alive.

Close up of characters when background was complete


Little girl who wants to be a pirate

We dug through stock photography to help us figure out what our characters looked like.

Photo the little girl was inspired by


Inspiration for the little boy in the blue coat

Since the characters were already written in the book, finding real people to look at who matched our vision was a little bit of work, but well worth it in the end!

Little boy in a blue coat


Captain Blackjack Rob with first and last layer of color

The very first coloring of the first drawing (left) was flat. Beth was simply checking to make sure she was on the right track before continuing on and creating the fantastic finished image of Captain Blackjack Rob (right).

Captain Blackjack Rob before and after


Detail of the Flynns’ ships

The water and sky that Beth painted in this image really are beautiful, we think.

The bad pirate ships


Inspiration for Abigail

It was really important to us to have strong, confident women, like Abigail and her sister, Fortuna, on board the ship.

Inspiration for Abigail and the pirate map


Before and after Abigail was colored

The pencil sketches we provided to Beth were in terrible shape (see the rough edges on the left). She smoothed out all the black and white drawings before coloring them in (right). Notice how the white of Abigail’s eyes really pops! That’s only possible because of the white paper that the book pages are printed on.

Before and after Abigail is colored in

Yo Ho Ho is coming soon to audiobook! Listen to a sample at the book page.