History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Review of The Awakening by Dusk Peterson

Posted By on October 27, 2021

The Awakening by Dusk Peterson (Love in Dark Settings Press, 2021) is the first book in their Dungeon Guards series. An alternate history story, it consists of four interconnected novellas about guards who work in the Eternal Dungeon and their lives both within and out of the dungeon.

The alternate history aspect of this book is that the eastern seaboard of North America is ruled by monarchies, though the timeframe is more Victorian. It involves detailed explorations of prison reform, which is a topic you don’t seen covered frequently by alternate history novels. The Awakening is also noted as being in the romance genre, though with an asexual protagonist, it handily avoids many of the tropes common to romance writing.

Barrett Boyd, the main character, is a guard who suffered a brain injury that has changed how he interacts with the world, as well as how he sees it. He has lost many of his memories from before the injury, much to the consternation of those who knew him before. He works to navigate his job and relationships in light of the changes he has undergone. His relationships include his lovemate, very much meant to be a life romantic and sexual partner, but for whom Barrett no longer has sexual yearnings. (The idea of a brain injury causing asexuality in Barrett may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is handled delicately and without the stigma of “broken” asexuals, for the most part.)

Of the four novellas, two take place wholly within the Eternal Dungeon, chronicling the lives of the prison guards at work, and the other two take place outside of the dungeon, showing the prison guards interacting with their non-work world. While I found aspects of the prison interesting, I really enjoyed the final novella, “Tempest,” as Barrett and his companions tried to have an enjoyable vacation that didn’t quite go as planned. I felt that this story, in particular, really let the characters shine as people. I also loved seeing them interact with people outside of their normal lives, people who they would never have met while at work.

The world of The Awakening was a fascinating look at an alternative Victorian era, and fans of that time period would likely enjoy reading this book and others in Peterson’s several series about prison guards in an alternate North America.

“Breathe Deep” in Old Legends and New Fables

Posted By on October 26, 2021

I’ve loved Greek mythology since I was a kid, and I was fascinated by the idea of the Oracle at Delphi, both in a mythological sense (speaking prophecy from the Gods!) and in a scientific sense that explains the “vapors” present there. But with a nod to the mythological sense, I wrote “Breathe Deep” as an alternate explanation of the Oracle at Delphi’s power and origin.

This story was interesting to write as I tried to add in some epithets in the style of Homer to make the feel of the language mirror that of tales from Greek antiquity. Just a handful of those, to me, went a long way to really make this story work as I wanted it to.

“Breathe Deep” can be found in Old Legends and New Fables, and it’s one of my few stories that might not be appropriate for all ages. The story has references to two characters engaging in sexual acts, though because of the Homeric-style epithets, you may have to read between the lines. But it’s definitely one I would recommend an adult reading before you give it to a younger person to read, to determine if it’s appropriate for them.

Poetry Form: Waltmarie

Posted By on October 25, 2021

One of the things I love about poetry is that new forms can be concocted from just about any idea. I’ve written several poems based on “unofficial” forms that I’ve found online, but many more based on “official” forms. What makes a form “official” vs. “unofficial”? Not much, honestly. But if I can find it on the Writer’s Digest list of poetic forms, it feels a little more “official” to me.

Even there, my latest form is called a “nonce” form, which means it was created for a one-time use. But since I’ve now used it, and since other poets have as well, is it still a nonce?

The latest form I tried out was one called the Waltmarie, developed by poet Candace Kubinec and named after two other poets. It’s a simple form: 10 lines, with the even numbered lines having only two syllables, and forming a poem of their own within the larger poem. The odd lines have no such restrictions.

Because I’m often looking at forms with a mind to using them myself, I often figure out little tricks to making a poem work for me. In this case, I wrote the even lines first, making the tiny internal poem, and then added the odd lines to fit into that structure. It was a fairly quick process for me once I’ve got that internal poem, so I share this “hack” in case it helps someone else figure out the Waltmarie! (This second link has several lovely examples of Waltmaries!)

Fun for Friday: Lots of Creative Writing Exercises!

Posted By on October 22, 2021

Writer at work on a typewriterIf you’re looking for a bunch of different creative writing exercises, Imagine Forest has you covered. This list of 105 creative writing exercises is sure to have some that will catch your attention.

You could read through the list and do them in order, or you could use a random number generator to select one for you. Either way, you could get three months of daily writing exercises out of this list! And if you can turn those into stories or poems or something more, that’s a lot of things, whether they just be starts or complete pieces!

99 Tiny Terrors Anthology Kickstarter!

Posted By on October 21, 2021

I’m super excited for the 99 Tiny Terrors anthology, because it includes a tiny terror by Yours Truly! My story “Vantablack” will appear alongside 98 equally bite-sized bits of horror. (Yeah, you read that right, I wrote a horror story!)

There’s currently a Kickstarter that runs through the end of the month. If you back and the project funds, you’ll get the ebook version right after the Kickstarter ends, with print rewards to come down the road!

There are also some cool additional ebooks that get added to the rewards if the project reaches stretch goals, and there are print books that you can include as add-ons with your pledge!

Guest Post: Catherine Schaff-Stump on Dante’s Inferno or The Devil’s Fan Fiction

Posted By on October 20, 2021

Dante’s Inferno or The Devil’s Fan Fiction

By Catherine Schaff-Stump

On October 31st, an auspicious date to talk about the devil, I will be releasing the third book in my Klaereon Scroll Series, The Wrath of Horus. This book is a great place to jump into the series, because it is a book about the second generation of the family. It’s good to know the background from the first two books, but you can read this book without it. In case you’re wondering from the title, I am sending my characters to Dante’s Inferno.

It’s an easy thing to do. The Klaereons are demon binders, hooked up with ancient Egyptian gods banished to an Abyss by the sorcerer King Solomon, in that king’s attempt to teach them humility. Through a series of unfortunate events, our characters end up in the Abyss on the eve of Gregorius Klaereon’s Trial against the god Horus. The Hell they end up in is patterned after Dante’s.

There are lots of issues in the novel about why the characters end up in this version of the Inferno, and if this is the only version of Hell that there is. These are philosophical questions that will follow these poor souls into their next book. What I want to do in this article is talk a little bit about The Divine Comedy itself, focusing on Inferno, and talk a little bit about what Dante was doing when he wrote it.

Who was Dante Alighieri? Dante was born around 1265 in Florence and died we think in 1321 at age 56. He was a poet, a writer, and a philosopher, and some will tell you the current Italian language is based on the language he used to write Italy’s most famous poem. His vision of the divine afterlife fueled the church’s vision of the afterlife ever after.

To understand The Inferno, we must understand the unique blend of political commentary, theological thought, classical poetry, and biography Dante used to compose it. Dante was a political exile from Florence caught in papal machinations of the time. He was ordered to pay a fine to return to Florence, but instead stood by his innocence. His exile fed the political commentary in the poem. It’s interesting to read the poem and come across many of the biggest sinners who are people who have wronged Dante in his past. Dante’s most obscure references in the poem are personal, and only extensive scholarly footnotes will get you through these encounters.

That said, Dante draws heavily on classical poetry to shape what he feels the poem must be. Dante’s guide through The Inferno and the first part of Purgatorio is the poet Virgil, who is a fictionalized version of the Roman poet Vergil, as if no one would notice. Virgil is a pagan guide who has no chance of entering Christian heaven. Virgil and Dante encounter many twisted mythological versions of creatures and legends, such as King Midas, who herein has a tail which thrusts souls down to their judgment level of Hell, and more familiar underworld characters such as Charon and Cerebus. Dante also infuses his poem with a platonic love for the character Beatrice, who sends Virgil to Dante to get Dante up to heaven, and help Dante understand he must change his ways before he dies to avoid damnation.

Dante draws heavily upon the theology of the time. There is a level outside of the circles of punishment for virtuous pagans. As we progress through each level of the Inferno, the sins become more and more serious. The outer levels are sins we commit against ourselves, such as sins of lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, and wrath. We then enter the city of Dis and we go into deeper sins, such as violence against as others, self, and God, the lands of murderers, suicides, and those who participate in what Dante’s contemporaries thought of as unspeakable acts. Interestingly, I found Dante not as anti-gay as I thought he would be. In many cases acting upon the deed is more important than the desire for it. Then we have levels of flatterers and corrupt churchmen, which is considered a far worse sin than violence. Finally, the ultimate sins of betrayal finish the Inferno, with the only way out being through Lucifer’s body himself.

The medieval mind is very different, or perhaps it is Dante himself. People are often punished for acting on desires that are against parsimony and prudence. Churchmen are punished severely for selling false penance and acting in ungodly ways. Yet, it seems that someone who is gay or someone who wants to kill themselves would be something we would consider very differently in our contemporary world.

Dante’s Divine Comedy’s most famous and favorite part is The Inferno, which tells us something about our fascination with sin and human suffering. Purgatorio is interesting because it shows the ways in which souls can be remade for Heaven. Paradiso is highly theological, if not as interesting.

If you’d like to follow Gregorius and Marcellus Klaereon and their friends and family through the Abyss, you can pre-order the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Wrath-Horus-Klaereon-Scroll-Book-ebook/dp/B091DGQXW6/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=The+Wrath+of+Horus&qid=1630540938&sr=8-1

The paperback will be available around that time as well. For more information on my writing, you can visit https://cathschaffstump.com


Cath Schaff-Stump writes fantasy for children and adults. She writes funny stories, dark stories, and everything in between. She is the author of the Klaereon Scroll series and the Abigail Rath Versus series. Cath lives and works in Iowa. During the day, she teaches English at a local community college. More of her fiction has been published by Paper Golem Press, Daydreams Dandelion Press, and in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk. You can find her online at FacebookGoodreadsAmazon@cathschaffstump, and cathschaffstump.com. Follow Cath’s Kindle Vella serial The Autumn Warrior and the Ice Sword.





Mythology in What If I’m a Merfolk?

Posted By on October 19, 2021

There are many myths and legends about merfolk, other sea creatures, and the gods and goddesses that are the patrons or inhabitants of the seas. Many of the poems in What If I’m a Merfolk? touch on this mythology, but none as much as “A Paean to the Goddesses,” a poem that pays respect to goddesses of the seas.

The goddesses named in the poem are a largely Eurocentric bunch, but I tried to bring in some goddesses from non-Eurocentric cultures as well, to show the breadth and depth of sea goddesses. (Yes, there are some sea gods, too, but the poem is about the goddesses. And anyway, the sea is typically feminized, so it’s only right that this poem speaks to its feminine protectors.)


Tips and Tricks for Horror Fiction

Posted By on October 18, 2021

There’s a lot of great advice out in the world on writing horror fiction, including this piece from Writer’s Online. In addition to having some wonderful tips for overall horror fiction writing, they also present a short horror writing exercise to get you started on a story or other horror fiction piece! They recommend mining your own spooky experiences for story fodder, which is a fantastic place to start! I could write tons about my weird nightmares and spooky places I’ve lived and visited!


Fun for Friday: Haunted Images

Posted By on October 15, 2021

It wouldn’t be October without some spooky image prompts, now would it?

The first image is of a person wearing a hooded coat and carrying a backpack standing on a tree-lined road that leads to a large, old house, with a full moon overhead. It’s a nighttime scene in blueish shades.

The second image is of a short set of stairs leading to a set of double doors. The stairs have stone railings along either side, and the doors are curved at the top. The doors also have glass panes, and behind the doors and also one of the windows are three sets of glowing red eyes.

The third image is of a room with a bed made up with bloodstained sheets, possibly a hospital bed. A slightly translucent figure hovers above the bed with back arched and arms and long hair hanging down. The wall at the head of the bed has the word “HELP” written it what appears to be blood. There is a curtain covering part of the background, while the rest is dark. On a table in the foreground sits a skull with glowing eyes, possibly a candle, and some paper.

“Hashtag TPE” in Intercity Illusions

Posted By on October 14, 2021

My story “Hashtag TPE” was written for a Miskatonic University anthology, where it found its first home. But it was also a perfect addition to Intercity Illusions, as it’s right on the edge between Mythos and urban fantasy.

I wanted to write a very modern take on Miskatonic University, with the characters embracing present-day culture (like the hashtag of the title). I wound up writing a story about a student tour guide who was trying to get prospective students to enroll but hadn’t had much luck previously. And while there are other things than campus tours that lead students to enroll and stick with a college, having this characters and these set of circumstances appealed to me as a goal that could be explored within the constraints of a short story.

“Hashtag TPE” is just one of the cute, slightly humorous stories you’ll find in Intercity Illusions, which is available in ebook and paperback formats!