WATWB – Your Monthly Shot of News That Doesn’t Suck

Earlier this week someone released a video from Anonymous claiming that NASA was about to reveal the existence of extraterrestrials on Earth. While that would have been some mind-blowing stuff to drop into the world’s lap, it turned out they did it just for the lulz.

Which is probably for the better.

There’s been an ongoing conspiracy theory that aliens have been among us for a very long time, but hiding out lest they be seen. Whether or not this is true is a matter of some fearsome debate. What is interesting is a little known sub-conspiracy theory that says the powers that be are well aware of the existence of extraterrestrials and are ready to tell the world. There’s just one teeny little problem: that knowledge – especially after decades of claiming there are no aliens on the planet – would likely blow more than a few minds. So, in an attempt to minimize the damage a bombshell like that would cause, the information will be leaked slowly. Like, over years or decades.

I read that theory a long time ago when I was in college and for some reason or another, it stuck with me. Now, every time I see a new bit of news about new planets in habitable zones or the possible existence of microscopic life out there, I always wonder if it’s just interesting news or if the plan is proceeding as expected.

That said, we’re living on a planet that’s getting a little rough around the edges and run by a bunch of jack offs that don’t seem interested in fixing it up. So, it’s nice to see this might not be the only planet out there that can support life somewhat similar to ours.

We still have that pesky problem of actually getting someplace that’s multiple light years away, but at least we have a good idea that there might be something to get to. NASA has recently discovered ten new potentially habitable planets, so when the Earth finally kerplodes, we might actually be able to find a new place to live as a species.

Hopefully the new planets won’t be run by the slumlords that run the current one.

Check, check, check it out here.

If you’d like to get hold of more news that doesn’t suck, go check out this month’s hosts:

Lynn Hallbrooks, Michelle Wallace,
Sylvia Stein, Sylvia McGrath and Belinda Witzenhausen

If you’d like to join up with We Are The World Blogfest, I have good news for you: it’s free. Go check it out here.

~~~GUIDELINES~~~

1. Keep your post to below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. All we ask is you link to a human news story on your blog on the last Friday of each month, one that shows love, humanity and brotherhood.

3. Join us on the last Friday of each month in sharing news that warms the cockles of our heart. No story is too big or small, as long as it goes beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD Badge on your sidebar, and help us spread the word on social media. Tweets, Facebook shares, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. More Blogfest signups mean more friends, love and light for all of us.

5. We’ll read and comment on each others’ posts, get to know each other better, and hopefully, make or renew some friendships with everyone who signs on as participants in the coming months.

6. To signup, add your link in WE ARE THE WORLD Linky List below.

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Father’s Day 2017

A few jokes for you for Father’s Day 2017.

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During the Middle Ages intelligence was just as important as it is now. Wars are won and lost by intelligence and while a strong army is necessary to win the day, it’s intelligence that tells that army where to be and what to expect. Without good intel, armies can wind up in the wrong place or get smashed by a vastly superior force that could have been defeated if only they moved the fight to Thermopylae.

Gregor Badnick wanted desperately to rule the country. He had the best army, the best weapons, and the best uniforms. The problem was, he was fighting an invisible force. The best way to fight a numerically superior force was with hit and run tactics and since Badnick’s army was the best, his enemy nipped at his heels and disappeared into the wilderness.

Badnick understood intelligence and his spies managed to capture an incredible asset: the Count of VanGoodstan. The good Count was responsible for commanding his small, but mobile army in the ongoing war and he knew where the small army was going to be next.

The Count of VanGoodstan was strapped to a wooden bench with a masked man holding a giant hatchet standing next to him. He knew that telling Gregor where the army was would mean death for everything they stood for, so he clenched his fists and refused to answer any questions.

“Where is the army?” Gregor roared.

Nothing.

“Tell me or I’ll slice your head off and decorate my carriage with it!”

Nothing.

Gregor snapped his fingers and the masked man brought the blade down in a sweeping arc, stopping inches from the Count’s throat. Count VanGoodstan gulped hard. His resolve was already wavering.

“Where is the army?” Gregor asked quietly.

“What army?” the Count asked.

Gregor snapped his fingers and the blade swept down through the air. This time, the blade caressed the Count’s throat. Blood welled up through the cut, thick and warm, and dripped down his throat.

“Last chance,” Gregor said.

The Count steeled his resolve. He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t want to see anyone else die. “Never,” he whispered through white lips.

Gregor snapped his fingers again. The blade arced through the air like a mighty sliver blur. Thoughts poured through the Count’s mind as time seemed to slow down. He saw his wife, all flowing hair and beautiful smile. His son’s bright eyes flashed.

“Wait!” the Count said, “I’ll talk!”

But it was too late. The hatchet took his head. Gregor roared his anger to the heavens. His last chance at success was bleeding out all over the floor. In the end, Gregor Badnick lost the war and his head because he forgot the cardinal rule of warfare: Never hatchet your Count before he chickens.

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People say “mad scientist” like it means something. Every idea that changes the status quo is called “madness” by small-minded people who cannot understand the great plan.

Dr. Wilford Ostenhoffer was not man who cared what the little people thought. He wanted immortality and when it was right he would offer it to the world. Then they would appreciate his greatness.

So, Dr. Ostenhoffer did what he did best: he stuck his middle-finger in Mother Nature’s face and found a way to clone himself.

The clone was perfect! A magical creation that looked and thought just like him. While the clone Ostenhoffer traveled the world speaking about the wondrous new science being created, regular Ostenhoffer continued on his quest for immortality.

Unfortunately, the clone began to break down. It started with his mind. First, he just started using smaller and smaller words, but soon he started releasing the occasional obscenity during his speeches. Eventually, the speeches were nothing more than shrieking tirades.

Real Ostenhoffer knew he had a problem on his hands. He still had work to do and the clone was causing problems. Ostenhoffer wasn’t a violent man, though, and couldn’t bring himself to shoot the clone. He lured the babbling clone to the top of the biggest building in the city and they both watched the city below. As the clone continued ranting, Ostenhoffer pushed it off the building.

Unfortunately for him, a CCTV camera caught the event and, before Dr. Ostenhoffer could finish saving the world, he was arrested for making an obscene clone fall.

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Have a happy Father’s Day, everyone. Try to at least crack a smile when us dads casually toss around some bad jokes.

Cover Fonts – Evoking Emotion Through Typography

Since the explosion of self-publishing, a cottage industry of graphic designers has cropped up to create the covers that sell the books. I know, I know, you should never judge a book by its cover, but let’s be realistic here: we all look at covers as our first line of decision making. Imagine for a moment you’ve never heard of Ray Bradbury. He’s just another guy cranking out books. You come across this cover.

Booooring.

Would it catch your eye?

Probably not. To be fair, I just grabbed some clip art I had lying around and threw some text on the cover, so it’s admittedly not my best work. The font, by the way, is the default Inkscape sans-serif font, cleverly named “sans-serif”.

If you’re unfamiliar with Fahrenheit 451, drop what you’re doing and go read it. It’s an important piece of literature and that’s not something I say lightly. If you are familiar with it, you’ll recognize the element of a burning book that is central to the story.

So, okay, it’s not a good cover from really any point of view, but rather than worry about the images of the flames and the book, we’re going to focus on the fonts and the emotions they invoke. That’s right, your font choice can elicit an emotional response. And that’s a very good thing, provided you’re eliciting the response you intend to elicit.

Inkscape’s default sans-serif font doesn’t do much to evoke a response, but it probably wasn’t intended to. It’s clean and easy to read, but it’s about as emotional as VCR instructions. Fahrenheit 451 is a very passionate book and saddling its cover with a font meant for memos and yard sale posters isn’t doing it credit. This is where exploring your font choices can make a huge impact. Just like you’d take the time to find the right images, it’s extremely important to find the right fonts – and that’s where a lot of beginners take a hit.

I’ve harped on fonts and typography in general before, so if you want a bit of background (including some cool free tips on Inkscape and GIMP), check these out. This post is going to be less historical and technical than some of the past ones, but no less important in terms of effective design.

Back in 2006, the Wichita State University’s Software Usability Research Laboratory conducted a study to see how people perceived certain fonts. Attaching something as nebulous and fleeting as an emotion or a perception to a font is no easy task, but the results were interesting. Using some standard Windows fonts, the researchers asked people to associate a font with a personality trait. You can go read more about that here, but the takeaway was people associate fonts with traits, sometimes quite strongly. Interestingly enough, sans-serif fonts didn’t seem to raise any noticeable good or bad personality associations, which would explain why the cover text for our mock-up of F451 looks so bland. But they did make some interesting associations (from blog.hubspot.com/marketing):

  • Serif fonts were rated as “stable,” “practical,” and “mature.”

  • Sans serif fonts didn’t receive any particularly positive or negative personality associations.

  • Script fonts were perceived as “feminine,” “funny,” and “casual.”

  • Modern fonts were categorized as “masculine,” “assertive,” and “coarse.”

  • Monospaced fonts were called “dull,” “plain,” and “unimaginative.”

Recently, CreativeMarket.com had a font sale – a whopping 43 fonts for 21 bucks (link at bottom). Some of them I’ll likely never use, but there were enough standouts in the collection to warrant purchasing it.

Just to show how font choice can affect the tone of a word, I chose a handful of the fonts and applied them to one word: Evolution. The word itself is something that could conceivably fit almost any genre of book from sci-fi to romance to horror. Watch what happens:

Inkscape default sans-serif, not bad, but not exciting, either
Inkscape standard serif font. At least has a bit more oomph, even if it’s evocative of newsprint.
Flanela Sans. Now we’re getting somewhere. The stark, thin lines could be good for sci-fi or a thriller. There’s a certain coldness to the font. Very computer-y without resorting to the standard monotype fonts that people seem to think computers still use.
Beautiful Friday 01. A playful font that’s more evocative of harmless fun. This would definitely not work for horror or thriller; it’s too happy. Would be good for romcom or feel-good fiction.
Castrina Typescript. Maybe it’s just me, but this feels very feminine. Probably a good choice for romance or summer beach reading.
Mutiara. The harsh lines don’t speak of safety or even sanity. Mutiara has an almost sinister, slasher-like feel to it. This would be a good choice for horror, but probably not a lot else unless it’s paired with another font; it’s too rough thrillers and far too in your face for romance.
Lost Volution. The Gothic lines are neat and tidier than Mutiara’s, but the decorative nature of the font is still overpowering. Emotionally, this has a somewhat sinister feel to it that would work well with horror or even steampunk. Westerns could possibly make good use of this one.
Solid70 Type System. Even though this is really retro font (those of who grew up in the 70s will recognize the style) it’s been modernized enough that it could work today. It’s a playful font, but the harsh angles still give it a very technical feel. With a bit of work, this could be effective in sci-fi or cyberpunk settings. Especially a 70s cyberpunk with big, clunky, plastic phones and loud keyboards.

Just a gander at those should evoke different emotional responses. They feel different. And even though each of them spell out the same word, that word takes on a different sense of meaning based on what font is used to present it.

So, if a font can impact how we feel about a word, it’s easy to imagine how a font can change the feel of a cover. Take the Fahrenheit 451 cover above, for instance. We know it’s not a lighthearted tale, so Beautiful Friday and Castrina are right out the window. Mutiara wouldn’t work on its own (more on that later) and Lost Volution is far too fussy. That leaves the default Inkscape fonts (which we’re going to ignore), Flanela Sans, and Solid70.

Much as I love Solid70, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the cover, but Flanela Sans just might work.

Not great, but better

The problem with Flanela is the coldness it inspires with its thin lines and tall letters. It’s a good font, but Flanela alone ain’t going to cut it a book about burning books; it needs some heat.

Which leads me to another point. There is no rule that says you can only use one font at a time. Mixing fonts is a bit of an art form, but it’s not completely inaccessible. Creative Market has a bunch of infographics on how to do it and do it well.

Let’s see if we can do some mixing and evoke more of an emotional response. Rather than sticking exclusively with Flanela, I’m going to bam it up a notch with Mutiara.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

The images and the layout still aren’t spectacular, but the text is looking pretty good. Now we’ve got Flanela’s cold, sterile feel combined with Mutiara’s in-your-face passion and a title that is a hell of a lot more eye catching than the original. And bear in mind, we did it with two fonts and only white. Adding yellow or orange to the 451, especially with a faint glow effect, might make it pop even more.

FahrenheitColored
Bam.

 

You can have the absolute best image for your cover and completely blow it with the font choice. Fonts elicit an emotional response and that response has to match up with what the book feels like. Just like it wouldn’t be appropriate to use Castrina Typescript or Beautiful Friday 01 for Fahrenheit 451, using a combination of Flanela and Mutiara for Lady Chatterly’s Lover or The Girl On The Train would be a recipe for disaster. Although, I guess if you were to rewrite Lady Chatterly’s Lover and include zombies (Lady Chatterly’s Zombie Lover?), Flanela and Mutiara might work.

And, please, unless you’re designing the interface for Microsoft Bob, avoid Comic Sans.

Got any comments or other tips you’d like to add? Drop ’em in the comments. I love comments.

Get Lostvoltype’s Mega Font Bundle on Creative Market for only 21 bucks.

A couple posts about fonts and emotion.

By the way, if you’re wondering what the current cover for Fahrenheit 451 looks like, it looks like this. It’s a clean, clever play on the book and matches with a start font-set and stark color scheme that’s evocative of repressive governments everywhere. Brilliant, if you ask me.

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Celebration Week Marches On

Freebooks

Today (6/1) and tomorrow (6/1 + 1) will be the last days of the celebration week, celebrating this week by giving away free ebooks on Amazon. I had intended to have the Complete Saxton free, too, but due to some error or another on Amazon’s end, that will have to wait for another time.

Still, you’ve got some time to get the latest and greatest in the Henchmen series: Transmute for the cost of absolutely nothing. You don’t even have to leave a review (but it would be nice if you did).

All he wants is a dinner date with his girlfriend, but there are jerks everywhere.
As if Steven doesn’t already have enough problems dealing with the Dreaming Lands actively rebelling against his rule, the freshly minted God of Dreams has to learn how to be a god, deal with overzealous followers, and generally get his head in the game. To make things worse, a powerful enemy has set its sights on Steven and Jessica, and the entire world could be at stake.
New god. New powers. New problems. At least he’s still got friends.

transmutecomiccovercs2

Get your copy here