History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Writer Essentials: My Laptop Accessories

Posted By on July 24, 2017

I do 99% of my writing on my laptop (the other 1% is usually on my phone or sometimes in Google Docs during my lunch break). But it’s not the newest laptop, as you can tell by the excellent accumulation of stickers. It’ll be five years old this November! In general, it’s still running strong for my writing projects. But it’s doesn’t have the best processor when I do things like play The Sims 2. That game makes it overheat on a semi-regular basis.

I started trying to remedy this by buying a bamboo lap desk. And it works okay in terms of keeping the heat from the laptop off of my lap. But it wasn’t quite sufficient in keeping my laptop cool, so I had to upgrade.

The new option I got is a cooling pad with fans and pretty blue lights! This has been working well to keep my laptop from running too hot. And I can put it on top of the bamboo lap desk so that I can angle my keyboard with the cooling pad. All in all, this has made working on my laptop MUCH nicer, especially on warm days!

I know that eventually I’ll need to get a new laptop (and begin the very important process of choosing what stickers will go on the new one), but for right now, I’m pretty happy with my laptop accessories!

Fun for Friday: Twitter Bots

Posted By on July 21, 2017

Are you on Twitter? If you are, and you like weird stuff (which I suspect you might, since you found your way here), you may enjoy following some of the many “bots” on Twitter.

For writers in particular, I’ve found that there are some really wonderful and weird bots that can be used for prompts, characters, settings, and more. Here are a few of my favorites!

Writing Prompts – @howboutyouwrite: Fairly straightforward writing prompts. Some require a bit of knowledge of pop culture, but many of them do not. Occasionally pieces get left out, due to the programming of the bot, and they can be the funniest ones.

Magic Realism Bot – @MagicRealismBot: If you prefer your prompts a little more surreal, the Magic Realism Bot has you covered. When one of these makes logical sense, it’s a strange day.

Unknown People – @neighbour_civs: This one is a recent addition to the bots I follow, but it gives you prompts for groups of people. They look to be mostly for fantasy settings, but that may not entirely be the case.

If you’ve got other fun bots you like to follow, share the links in the comments!

Cross and Circle available for pre-order!

Posted By on July 20, 2017

Cover art for Cross and CircleMy latest book, Cross and Circle, is a contemporary fantasy novella.

Evie and Carlotta are expecting the imminent arrival of their first child when an unusual group of men claims to have come for their son. Building off of a pendant that one of the men wears and her own research into pecked crosses across the world, Evie uncovers secrets related to the organization the men serve, pecked crosses, and her wife’s family history.

You can pre-order this novella beginning today, and it will be available on August 1st!

Pre-order on Amazon

Pre-order on Smashwords


Book Recommendation: Ink Calls to Ink

Posted By on July 19, 2017

Cover Art for Ink Calls to InkToday, I’m recommending a book that I read a few years ago. This is one where I wrote a review as well, which you can find at Mad Scientist Journal. But even though the book has been out for a while (my review is almost two years old now), it’s one that’s worth checking out if you haven’t already.

It’s urban fantasy without heavy handed romantic subplots, and it’s characters you already know and love but in a setting unlike anything they’ve experienced before!

You can find this book on Amazon in paperback or ebook!

Podcast Version of “One for Every Year”

Posted By on July 18, 2017

“Dark Hallway” by TheArtistDarklady

My slightly creepy flash fiction story, “One for Every Year,” now has an audio version! You can find it at The Centropic Oracle. Since it’s such a short story, it only takes about 7 minutes for the whole thing, so it’s great for a quick break in your day!

My Giant Spreadsheet of Doom, Part 3

Posted By on July 17, 2017

(For the first two posts in this series, click here (1) and here (2).)

The image here is a little on the fuzzy side, but since what I’m talking about today is more about the shape of things than the details, I think it’ll work out fine. You can also click on it if you want to see it slightly larger. What this image shows is the pattern I use to schedule my short story writing and revisions. Each column represents a week. So I spend up to four weeks writing a story, a minimum of two weeks letting it sit, and up to three weeks on revisions.

I’ve learned over time that most of my short stories end up just shy of the 4,000 word mark. This isn’t universal–I’ve written some longer and some shorter, but it’s a pretty good guess on how long a story is going to be. So if I give myself four weeks to write, that means I only need about 1,000 words a week, or roughly a scene a week. This is totally doable in the larger scheme of things, when paired up with the other writing and revising that I’m doing and how much time I have to write most weeks.

I always make sure I’ve got at least two weeks between finishing a story and reopening it to work on revisions. I need the distance from the story in order to be able to say “this works” or “this doesn’t,” and then figure out how to improve it.

In practice, I rarely spend three weeks revising a story. Either it’s in relatively good shape, and it takes me about a week to do some last minute tweaks, or it’s in really bad shape, and often needs more work on the writing part of it. In the former case, it means I’ve got a little more breathing room for other projects. In the latter case, I throw the story back into the schedule, and act like it’s a new story all over again–four more weeks to work on the writing, two more weeks to let it rest, and three more weeks to work on the revisions.

When the process breaks down is if I have an idea for a story for a specific call or project, but I don’t wind up with a decent first draft after four weeks. Then I have to do a bit of shuffling of the schedule in order to hit a deadline. But in general, my 4-2-3 pattern works to get a story written, revised, and out the door in just about two months (nine weeks).

You’ll also notice the overlap pattern in the image. I stagger my stories so that I’m only writing a single story at a time. So for the first two weeks that I’m writing a new story, the previous story is resting, and I may be finishing revisions on an even earlier story. For the second two weeks, I’m starting the revisions on the previous story. In previous years, I gave myself a more aggressive timeline, which sometimes had me working on writing two stories at the same time. But since I’m juggling novels and short stories at this point, I shifted the short story schedule to give myself a more relaxed, less aggressive schedule. And so far, it seems to be working out!

There are probably a lot of little things that I’ve glossed over as I’ve talked about my giant spreadsheet of doom. If you’ve got questions, please do drop me a comment or an email, and I’ll see if I can answer your questions. If I get enough questions, perhaps a Q&A video might be in order!

Fun for Friday: Quick Character Ideas

Posted By on July 14, 2017

Some of my Funko Pops collectionI have an ELABORATE collection of Funko Pops. It started as just a handful, but I’m now to the point where I have purchased 24 of them. (23 for me. 1 for the hubbie.) The picture doesn’t show them all.

I have a game that I started when my collection was much smaller. I stack them three high (at four high they get too wobbly), and so the stack of three is a “team,” and I think about all of the messes that “team” could get into. For example, I have one stack that is Harry Potter, Charlie (from Supernatural) and Cosima (from Orphan Black). So what would a boy wizard, a girl hacker, and a geneticist do together?

Though I haven’t written anything based on any of my teams, I’ve realized that with as many Pops as I have now, I ought to do something with them. So I’ve come up with a way to make this game a character idea generator. I broke down each of the Pops I own to a basic character archetype. I’ve tried to make these somewhat broad (applicable to fantasy or sci-fi or whatever other genre you like) and non-gendered. But there are some that do have a gender attached. You’re welcome to change that, of course.

So, ready for this? Here’s what you do.

  • If you’re a gamer, you’re going to need a d12. If you’re not a gamer, and I’ve just spoken “nerd” at you, grab a six-sided dice from any board game.
  • If you have a d12, roll once on each table. But I’m not the boss of you. You can roll twice on the same table. You can roll more than once on each table if you want more characters.
  • If you have a six-sided die, roll first to determine which half of the table you’re going to use. A 1-3 means use numbers 1-6. A 4-6 means use numbers 7-12. Then roll on the half of the table you’ve gotten, treating 7 as 1, 8 as 2, etc. Then do this whole process a second time. (And a third, or more times, as above.)

Table 1:

  1. The mystic investigator
  2. The teenage tempter/temptress
  3. The child prodigy
  4. The bullied kid
  5. The anti-hero
  6. The “crazy” kid
  7. The scavenger
  8. The young wizard
  9. The plucky companion
  10. The last of her kind
  11. The warrior woman
  12. The sentient critter that’s kept as a pet

Table 2:

  1. The villain with a heart of gold
  2. The athletic girl
  3. The secret agent/spy
  4. The hacker/nerd/bookworm
  5. The king of a far off land
  6. The ace driver/pilot
  7. The infected scientist/scholar
  8. The super genius
  9. The general
  10. The sentient plant
  11. The fallen angel
  12. The scientist who is also an experiment

So with my magical app that rolls me dice, I’ve got … a 7 and a 12. The scavenger and the scientist who is also an experiment. Sounds like a fun post-apocalyptic setting, perhaps? Still needs a plot, but it’s a good start!

After you’ve got your characters, write them into a scene. Write a whole novel about them. Do whatever you like! But the idea is to keep them generic, not to try to figure out who they’re supposed to be from pop culture and write a weird cross-over fanfic. I mean, that’s a fun game too, but it’s not the point of this game! Let your imagination go wild!

Write Like You’re Alive

Posted By on July 13, 2017

Cover for Write Like You're Alive 2016Last year, I took part in a month of creating called “Write Like You’re Alive.” The goal was to create something each day during the month of July. The end result was a collection of short stories, poems, and artwork. My personal contribution was a photograph I took in Kansas City.

This year, Zoetic Press is doing the challenge in August instead of July. I’ll be doing it again this year, hopefully writing some microfiction and poetry. And you can join me! Sign up at this Google Doc, and then, come August 1st, start creating!

Book Recommendation: School of Sight

Posted By on July 12, 2017

Every so often, I read a book that I don’t wind up writing a review for, for whatever reason. In this case, I think it was because I was busily scrambling to pull together the pieces of my own book.

But if you’re looking for a fun urban fantasy read, School of Sight will deliver. There are magic users, vampires, and more, all set against a backdrop of Seattle (which I, of course, love).

You can find it on Amazon or at the Razorgirl Press website!

My Patreon

Posted By on July 11, 2017

Link to my PatreonDid you know that I have a Patreon to let my fans help me create more fiction?

Check it out here!

Any level of support gets you access to behind the scenes looks at what I’m working on. Higher levels, of course, give you more. There are even levels at which you can get hand crocheted items or story critiques every month!