Tag Archive for: Dystopian

Typography in Acme’s Menagerie

I like drop caps. I also like small caps. I especially like when they’re used together. It makes my writing feel important. 🙂


As I was formatting Acme’s Menagerie for print, I knew I wanted special formatting to begin my chapters. I set up a Paragraph style (above), which was based on my main body style. The type is a beautiful Garamond 11/15 (11 point, 15 leading).  I removed the beginning line indent.

I searched high and low for a capitals font that would fit well with the story, which is about robotic animals. Unfortunately, animal fonts were mostly comical and didn’t fit the mood of the story. However, through perseverance, I found a great initials type based on old woodblock carvings. It’s not animals, but has a pseudo industrial feel. I decided to use that for my drop cap.


I created a Character Style (above shows character style in paragraph style options) for the drop cap. I set the size to look pleasing but not overbearing when held up to the body text. Even so, I felt there needed to be a smooth transition from the large drop cap to the body text. So that’s where the small caps comes into play.


I created another Character Style based on the main body text, but set to small caps (11 point, +25 tracking). When using small caps you should add extra tracking (more than your main body text) to give the glyphs room to breathe. In my paragraph style, I chose for the first four characters to be formatted as small caps.

Once I looked at the formatted paragraph, I noticed that the drop cap height didn’t align to the small caps, so on the drop cap character style I shifted the baseline down so that the top was flush with my small caps. For the chapter first paragraphs that began with left quotes (“), I simply deleted the left quote so the first character was a letter. (I could’ve hung the quotes, but that’s a story for another day.)

In the end, I like how the page formatting worked. Below is a snippet of a beginning section of a chapter. Notice how the drop cap spans four rows in height, how the left is aligned, and how the top is even with the small caps, which have extra space between the characters. Now if only the ebook version would format this well…


Click cover to pick up a print copy of Acme’s Menagerie:



From the Indie Side

My Review:

I enjoy a good story. To help alleviate my ongoing dilemma of finding good stories, Michael Bunker, one of the featured authors in this anthology, provided me an Advance Review Copy of From the Indie Side (FTIS).

FTIS is an eclectic anthology of short stories, written by some of the premiere names in the indie author movement. Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe not. Either way, the authors, for one reason or another, decided to self-publish their work, not going the “traditional” publishing route. This freedom of movement adds to the dynamic nature of the anthology.

Like any good collection of shorts, FTIS offers a wide range of styles and genres. From the looming planet on the cover (also designed by one of the authors-these guys and gals are talented), you get the impression that sci-fi is a common thread throughout the collection. While this is the case, sci-fi is where the similarity begins but also where it ends. Just as every author has their own voice, so every story carries its own unique vibe. If you’re looking for quirky, it’s there. You’ll also find young adult, post-apocalyptic, dystopia, and urban fantasy. Maybe even a vampire or two. Even though these terms can help define sub-genres, they only paint a one-dimensional portrait of the quality of writing. True to the indie initiative, the stories defy pigeon-holing into a simple genre or sub-genre. They are dynamic and entertaining, crossing conventional boundaries of typical, formulaic stories. That is the heart of indie. If this is what you’re looking for, then pick up a copy (download to Kindle) of FTIS.

What’s more, I enjoyed the author comments at the end of each story. Some talk of the inspiration for their story. Others provide a hint of an underlying idea woven in the fabric of the words (you know those authors, always planting subtle ideas in their stories). Each one speaks with pride for their work. You can feel the care and passion they put into their craft.

I have my own tastes. I liked some stories more than others and liked some writing styles more than others. But then, isn’t that the beauty of anthologies? You get to try and experience a wide range of authors. But as a whole, FTIS is a worthwhile, entertaining investment. So if you’ve heard of indie authors and have wondered what the buzz is about, then grab a copy of FTIS and see for yourself. You will not be disappointed, and you will mostly likely end up with a list of many more authors to follow.

Pennsylvania Cover


My Review:

Hmm, science fiction plus Amish. Future speculation versus anachronism.

At first when I found out about Pennsylvania by Michael Bunker, I naturally assumed it had to be a satire; a poor man’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or something like that. How can a work of science fiction incorporate a people known, by religious ideology, to shun some technological advancement? So what I expected when I started reading and what it turned out to be were two different things.

Michael spins a great yarn in Pennsylvania. Jed is the name of the protagonist in the story, a young Amish man that is destined for great things. His great thing is moving to New Pennsylvania, a foreign, alien world with as much promise as the foreign land his forefathers inhabited when settling in America. New Pennsylvania is the utopia, the land flowing with milk and honey. But as young Jed finds out, things are not always what they seem, especially in New Pennsylvania.

It’s interesting to see how Michael relates Jed’s experiences to the reader. A wide-eyed, innocent Amish boy swept up in a world that is foreign to his comprehension. His reactions to situations carry the story along nicely and makes for an entertaining read. Many stories I read, especially Sci-Fi, typically contain one or two items that puts me off from the larger narrative, either religiously, morally, or ideologically. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do that. That’s the beauty of stories, that expression of varied ideas. What I’m saying is that it’s not often I read a story that I can so easily embrace. Pennsylvania is one of those few  stories. There’s no cursing (it is an Amish protagonist, after all) and no sexual situations. To me, it’s the type of story that would fit well with younger adults and children, yet it’s not necessarily young adult literature.

Plus, the cover is great. I mean, a horse and buggy with an ICBM (I think) launching in the background. You can’t beat that.

Luckily I came across this short story on the heels of Michael releasing the second part to his story, Pennsylvania 2: Non-electric Boogaloo. This means that I don’t have to wait long before I can indulge myself in the continuing journey of Jed and his companions. I’m sure the quality of the next installment will equal the quality of the first.

The Spiral Arm