History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fun for Friday: A Writing Prompt

Posted By on September 22, 2017

Notebook with handwritten textSometimes, the thing you need to get started on a story is just the first line. This writing prompt from The Wesleyan Writing Blog is just the place to look for that sort of inspiration.

They suggest using a line from the nearest book, but you may not want to use it word for word if you’re hoping to publish whatever you write based on this prompt. Still, it’s an interesting idea to look at a sentence completely out of context and see what it might inspire you to write about!

“Miasma” is in the 2017 Write Well Award Anthology!

Posted By on September 21, 2017

Cover art for the 2017 Write Well Award AnthologyMy story, “Miasma,” was selected as one of the winners of the 2017 Write Well Award, which means that it’s now included in their 2017 anthology, which is now available! You can find it in print or ebook on Amazon!

Review of Everfair

Posted By on September 20, 2017

Cover art for EverfairMy latest review for Mad Scientist Journal is for Nisi Shawl’s Everfair, a fascinating alternate history steampunk-fantasy look at a nation forged from the defeat of King Leopold in the Congo in the late nineteenth century. This book really appealed to me as a historian and a steampunk author!

If you’re interested in learning more about it and what I thought, check out my review here!


Utter Fabrication is now available!

Posted By on September 19, 2017

Utter Fabrication cover artMad Scientist Journal’s fourth anthology, Utter Fabrication: Historical Accounts of Unusual Buildings and Structures, is available today. I’m one of the two editors of this anthology, which is filled with stories about haunted houses and other weird and creepy places. It includes 22 such stories, ranging from the cute and delightful to the downright haunting, so there’s a little bit of something for everyone.

We hope you’ll enjoy this book, and we’d love to know what you think of it! Please leave us your review at Amazon or Goodreads!

How Do You Know You’re the Protagonist? The Weird Stuff Happens to You

Posted By on September 18, 2017

Mold-O-Rama at the Brookfield ZooThe other day, one of my co-workers came by my desk and asked about the plastic penguin that I have there. It came from the Mold-O-Rama at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, and I had to explain to him the backstory of WHY I had to have a critter from the Mold-O-Rama, which involves the short-lived Bryan Fuller TV show Wonderfalls. In the show, the gift shop at Niagara Falls that the main character, Jaye, works at, also has a Mold-O-Rama, but their Mold-O-Rama creates a lion with half of his face melted. After she refunds the customer for the defective lion, she keeps it on the counter. And then it starts talking to her.

The talking inanimate object theme continues on through the show, but Jaye is the only person that the things talk to. Everyone else just goes on living their normal lives. And in a lot of ways, I feel like that’s what marks her as the show’s protagonist–the weird stuff happens to her. In reality, someone to whom inanimate objects started talking might seek out medical or mental health help. In the show, she just sort of runs with it.

I feel like this is a trope for a reason, but it also makes me chomp at the bit to want to divert from that trope. What would it be like to have a story in which weird stuff happens to all of the other characters EXCEPT the main character? Or would that just be flipping the trope to the point where it’s weird that nothing weird happens to them?

At any rate, it’s something to think about. Is your protagonist there because they are best suited for the job, or are they just the one that the weird stuff happens to?

Fun for Friday: Turning Drawing Prompts into Writing Prompts

Posted By on September 15, 2017

Tree drawn by writing many wordsOften times when I’m looking for a random inspiration for something to write, I turn to lists that are designed for artists who want random prompts for daily drawings. It’s not that difficult to turn a drawing prompt into a writing prompt. Instead of drawing whatever is on the list, you can write a story about that thing, you can include it as an element in a story, or you can write what a character you’re writing thinks about the thing.

A great source for these lists are websites that post monthly daily drawing lists. Sometimes, they are themed toward the month–for example, Drawlloween takes place in October, and the drawing prompts are themed toward Halloween. Other times, like for Inktober, they’re just a collection of words to prompt someone to draw. Or, in this case, write!

Sketchbook Skool offers monthly lists of drawing prompts, along with other mini assignments. So if you’re at a loss about what to write today, check out their latest posts to get some inspiration!

Character Inspirations

Posted By on September 14, 2017

Cover for Brass & Glass Book OneLast week, I finished up the first draft of Brass and Glass 2 (which doesn’t have an official subtitle yet) and started outlining book 3. In doing so, I had a chance to look at some of my characters, their motivations, and the inspirations behind them.

One of my friends read the first chapter of The Cask of Cranglimmering and said “it’s the crew of the Firefly, but gender-flipped.” And I stammered for a minute as I ran through each of my main characters, and finally said, “well, yeah, but they’re also not.”

But on first glance, they sure look like it. A female captain with a war-related background. A male first mate who is the captain’s dearest friend, and also comes from the same background. A sometimes contentious relationship between said first mate and the female pilot. A female doctor who really isn’t part of the rough and tumble life. And a quirky boy mechanic. Yep, it looks a lot like a gender-flipped Firefly crew.

And that crew (and the show around them) was certainly an inspiration for the crew of The Silent Monsoon. But it wasn’t the only inspiration. Svetlana is loosely based on a character that I played in a couple of other games, which was in turn inspired by an art card that I found years ago. It depicts a dark-haired woman wearing an eyepatch and slightly pirate-looking clothing, and holding a pistol. Perfect for the no-nonsense captain.

The other members of the crew grew organically off of Svetlana. If the ship had a female captain, how about a male first mate? And I wanted him to be a complete and utter flirt, with a jealous girlfriend as part of the crew, so there’s your pilot. Then I needed someone sensible for the captain to consult with, so that was the doctor, who I made a woman because there are still so many people who expect a doctor to be male. And because I didn’t want the first mate to be the ONLY guy around, I made the mechanic male as well.

Other parts of their personality came from the random photos that I found. The picture that looked like it should be Jo had really long hair, so I made that a key part of her character–she’s mostly rough and tumble, but she’s also REALLY vain about and protective of her beautiful long hair.

And some of it came from what was fun to write. Indy doesn’t always speak in complete sentences, because his brain is working at a million miles an hour, and who needs things like articles or even subjects when you’re busy? Finding the balance between his sparse dialogue and making the other characters able to understand him is a challenge that I enjoy!


Book Recommendation: A. Grimsbro, Warlord of Mars

Posted By on September 13, 2017

Cover art for A. Grimsboro, Warlord of MarsPreviously, I recommended reading Matt Youngmark’s hilarious take on the Wizard of Oz, The “Wonderful” Wizard of Futhermucking Oz. Now, I’m recommending his second book in the series, A. Grimsbro, Warlord of Mars.

A. Grimsbro, Warlord of Mars continues Arabella’s adventures through literature, to great hilarity. Now she has to deal with the world perceiving her as a muscle-bound half-naked guy, while she navigates the oddities of Barsoom, aka Mars.

If you enjoyed The “Wonderful” Wizard of Futhermucking Oz, you’re likely to enjoy A. Grimsbro, Warlord of Mars as well. You may even find, like I did, that you like it even more!

(As a disclosure, I was the copy editor for this book. The hilarity, however, is all Matt.)

Now available on Channillo: Cross and Circle

Posted By on September 12, 2017

Cover art for Cross and CircleI’ve added Cross and Circle to Channillo. If you’re already a subscriber, you can subscribe to it here.

If you’re not a Channillo subscriber, you should check it out. For as low as $5 per month, you can read up to 10 different books by a variety of authors. Jeremy and I both have multiple books you can read through the site, and we’ll both be adding more content as we’re able to. But you can also use it to find great stories and books by other authors! I’ve found several fun serial stories and short story collections that I’ve read on Channillo!

Of course, Cross and Circle is also available as an ebook. But if you want to read from the comfort of your computer and don’t have an ebook reader on your computer, you can read through your browser on Channillo!

Keeping Track of Story Ideas

Posted By on September 11, 2017

An overstuffed notebook

My friend Nate has a Field Notes notebook obsession. He is never without at least one of them, and often has several of them between his pockets and bag. More than a couple of times, he’s grabbed one, flipped it open, said, “no, it’s not in this one,” and had to go hunting for another notebook. We tease him about this, but he’s got a system for keeping track of his story ideas that works for him.

As for myself, on the other hand, I am not the most organized with my story ideas. Many of them wind up in an email folder that I call “*story ideas.” Assuming that I type up enough details, this can be a great way to track my individual story ideas. But some of them end up just being a snippet or an idea with no strong plot elements, and they ultimately sit in the folder until something more comes to me.

But I also have a notebook obsession, including stacks upon stacks of notebooks that may have nothing at all written in them, or may have things written on very random pages. (I rarely use a notebook from the beginning to the end in any sort of logical order. I work on one thing, and then when I think of something else, I flip it open to any random blank page.) Sometimes, when I’m looking for a blank page to write on, I’ll realize I had some neat idea that never made it into my email filing system. Sometimes, the idea is fully formed enough that I can still work with it, but more often than not, it’s something cryptic that makes no sense however many months or years down the line I find it.

How and where do you keep track of your story ideas? Do you have any suggestions that might help others keep their ideas more organized? If so, I’d love to hear them!