History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Scenes from a Quiet Apocalypse “Pinspiration”

Posted By on May 23, 2019

Cover art for Scenes from a Quiet ApocalypseWhen I write many of my longer pieces, and even some of my short stories, I make a Pinterest board where I collect images that connect to the themes, characters, or other aspects of my writing. For Scenes from a Quiet Apocalypse, which drew on the major arcana of the tarot deck for inspiration, my Pinterest board is largely a collection of different interpretations of the major arcana.

As I wrote each of the chapters, I went back to the Pinterest board to look at what versions of the associated card I’d collected there, and drew upon those cards for imagery in the scenes. It’s more evident in some chapters than others, and certain cards spoke to me more clearly than others. But they’re all there, in one way or another.

In case you’re curious about some of the inspirations for the characters and visuals of Scenes from a Quiet Apocalypse, here’s the Pinterest board in question.

Show Recommendation: Cowboy Bebop

Posted By on May 22, 2019

Characters from Cowboy Bebop with all their faces squeezed into the frameI know I’m WAY behind the curve on this one, but with the Cowboy Bebop live action show in the works, I’m trying to get through the entirety of the anime series (and movie) in advance!

It’s alternate parts ridiculous and weird, and I’m a little surprised that no one has been able to make me sit down and watch it before now. Radical Edward has been my favorite character since long before I actually watched the show, just from hearing descriptions and the name. Now that I’ve finally seen it, I am even more in love with Ed. After watching a recent episode in which Ed said, “Baka! Baka! Baka!”, I’ve been repeating that in the exact same intonation, and it makes me giggle.

So yeah, sometimes you just need a popcorn show, and for me, Cowboy Bebop is exactly that. I’m certain there’s a deep storyline in there too, which I’m completely missing. But I’m watching it for the sheer joy of Ed, Ein, and Yoko Kanno’s amazing music.

Inspirations for Cross and Circle

Posted By on May 21, 2019

Cover art for Cross and CircleCross and Circle grew out of a strange note I found about a circle and cross inscribed on the roof of a car. It rustled around in my ideas folder for quite a while until I made the connection between this symbol and pecked crosses. Once I dug further into pecked crosses and realized that symbol had been found across cultures and across geography, the first inklings of a plot started coming together.

Even with all of these connections, it still took me a while to get this novella pulled together. There were some false starts and rabbit holes, but eventually, I got the plot narrowed down to the story I wanted to tell, which is ultimately about why the “chosen one” isn’t always the right choice.

If this sounds like your jam, you can buy Cross and Circle in ebook or read it with a subscription on Channillo.

Growing as a Short Story Writer

Posted By on May 20, 2019

Chart with an arrow going upwardI started writing regularly in 2009 and lucked out by selling my first short story early in 2010. After that, things were a bit more hit and miss for a while. Between 2010 and 2014, I made a total of 11 story sales, some of them for no payment, and mostly for very small payments. My numbers were still pretty good, since I had written 16 stories in that time frame.

In 2015, I finally made my first pro sale, and I finally started making more than 2 or 3 sales in any given year. I also started writing a lot more around the same time. My numbers of written stories edged upward into double digits for a couple of years, and then started exploding into years like last year, when I finished 44 stories or poems.

These days, I’ve got more than 100 stories and poems written, and I’m approaching 60 sales. I’m not at a point where I can do this full time, but I’m making money on my writing and getting more recognition for my stories. And it’s not only about sales and recognition–I feel like my writing is getting better, too. I can look at an idea and say “hey, yeah, this is really cool, and I think it will work” vs. “I want to try this thing” only to discover that it’s not a viable idea.

I definitely credit my willingness to write a lot and submit a lot to my improvement as a writer. Personal rejections are uncommon, as most markets are deluged with stories to read. But when editors have given me personal rejections and feedback, it’s helped me learn how to write better and sell more stories.

So the takeaway here is write a lot, submit a lot, and keep going, even when it is a slog!

Fun For Friday: Writing Workouts!

Posted By on May 17, 2019

Old school timerIf you’re looking for a quick writing workout, check out this list of six 10-minute writing workouts you can try! Some of them lend themselves well to writing longer pieces, while others just flex your writing muscles as a warm-up to doing some different sort of writing. There are a lot of great ideas contained within the article, so check out the whole thing first and then try out the exercises that speak to you most!

Steampunk Technology, Real and Imagined

Posted By on May 16, 2019

Cover art for The Trouble with the Tick-Tock TabbyThe steampunk technology that I write into my novels and stories is often partially real and partially imagined. For The Trouble with the Tick-Tock Tabby, the idea of the clockwork animals was pulled primarily from my imagination–while it’s certainly possible to have mechanical or robotic animals with modern technology, I used a lot of hand waving regarding the technology in this steampunk setting.

Other items, however, are based in reality. “The Recondite Riddle of the Rose Rogue” (which you can read in the 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide) includes a recording cylinder that is based on Victorian technology. And batteries, like the one used to power a Built Boy in The Trouble with the Tick-Tock Tabby are even older than that!

I wind up doing a considerable amount of research while I’m writing my Marsh Sisters adventures. Because of that, I can explain some of the technology that appears in the stories and books. But I think I have more fun making up the non-realistic bits of steampunk technology!


Review of Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water by Vylar Kaftan

Posted By on May 15, 2019

Cover art for Her Silhouette, Drawn in WaterI’ve got another review up at Mad Scientist Journal this week because I’ve been tearing through books lately. Her Silhouette, Drawn in Water is a brilliant queer psychic thriller by Vylar Kaftan.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I really loved it. The characterization and language use are both wonderful, worth reading over again!

You can read my full review here, or check out the book here! (It comes out on Tuesday!)

The “What-Ifs?” of Alternate History and Historical Fantasy

Posted By on May 14, 2019

Cover art for Unfixed TimelinesWhile I don’t often write the traditional sort of alternate history that posits a major change in the timestream (like a different outcome in a war or election), even within the alternate history and historical fantasy that I do write, there are often “what if” moments. The big difference is that my “what ifs” tend to insert some paranormal or supernatural element into established history to explain or expand reality.

In some stories, the history itself is so weird that it begs to be explained another way. For example, “Veli tis Artemidos” began with me trying to sort out the truly ludicrous details of the murder of a small town sheriff in territorial Oklahoma. There might be a rational real-world explanation, but having witchcraft and gods in play made it much more interesting to me.

In other stories, the history might not be particularly weird, but injecting a weird element can make it interesting. When I was writing “Tarnish,” I found no evidence that otherworldly entities were involved in an annual beauty pageant–there’s plenty of history of the rise of pageantry in that era with non-supernatural explanations. But there was also nothing saying that there couldn’t be something stranger going on behind the scenes. So I wrote the story to fill in that behind the scenes possibility.

If this sounds like your sort of alternate history or historical fantasy, you can find both “Veli tis Artemidos” and “Tarnish,” along with three other short stories and brief essays about the real history of all five stories, in Unfixed Timelines!

Improving Through Learning and Doing

Posted By on May 13, 2019

SwordfightingI recently got comments back on a story that complimented the fight scenes I’d written. This was a major achievement for me, since I’ve often groaned about needing to write a fight scene. And I credit my growth in this area to continuing to learn and continuing to do.

I’ve now attended two workshops related to writing combat, and with each one, I’ve learned a little bit more. I’ll probably continue attending workshops and panels on the topic, though, because there is always more that I can learn. I don’t anticipate I’ll ever reach a point where I feel like another workshop, class, or panel won’t be beneficial in some way. If nothing else, they can reiterate what I’ve already learned, but possibly in a way that I can connect to better.

The other aspect of this improvement, though, is doing, which for me, means writing the fight scenes even when I hate them. The more I write, the better they’ll get, informed by the knowledge I’ve collected and the experience of writing what works and writing what doesn’t work.


Fun for Friday: A Person, A Place, and A Thing

Posted By on May 10, 2019

I’ve got another trio of images for this week’s Fun for Friday: a person, a place, and a thing. What sort of poem or story can you turn them into?