History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Atmospheric Sensory Detail vs. Sensory Detail for Plot

Posted By on April 19, 2021

A lot of writing advice suggests that you need to load your writing with sensory details. However, other advice suggest that the only sensory details you include should be the ones with direct bearing on the plot.

This article suggests a much more balanced approach–including enough sensory detail to establish the atmosphere, but also using some of that detail in service to the plot. I think it’s a nice happy medium between the two, and it’s the advice I think is preferable. It’s lovely to immerse your readers in your setting, but it’s important to take care to not overwhelm your readers, too, lest they miss significant sensory detail because they’ve taken to skimming long passages of descriptive text.

Fun for Friday: Superhero Writing Prompts

Posted By on April 16, 2021

Action figures of Batman, Superman, and Wonder WomanI’ve got superheroes on my mind lately, as I’ve been working on some Cobalt City stories and proofreading a friend’s Cobalt City-adjacent novella. So for today’s Fun for Friday, check out these superhero writing prompts. They’re in the form of first sentences/paragraphs, so you may want to make some changes to make your story a little different, but they’re definitely useful as ideas to get your mind going on a potential story for a hero … or maybe a villain? Your choice!

Patreon Reminder!

Posted By on April 15, 2021

Link to my PatreonDid you know that I have a Patreon? I do!  It’s a way for my fans to throw a small amount of money my way to support my writing and learn about what I’m working on!

I haven’t reached my first goal, which involves a monthly video of me reading one of my stories or an excerpt from a longer piece! If I get enough support, you’ll get to see my face reading my words. And I have written a great many words!

I’ve just released Promise Me Nothing and Barren, and my backers at $3 a month or more get ebook copies of my self-published/DefCon One Publishing books. I’ll have at least four more books out this year, so back now, and get them all. And if you back me now and shoot me an email, I’ll get you a copy of Promise Me Nothing and Barren too!

Book Recommendation: Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Posted By on April 14, 2021

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron is a fantastic book for writers who want to work more on their writing craft. Using facts about how readers’ brains work, Cron explains how you can use and defy expectations in ways that will satisfy your readers. At the same time, she gives excellent insight into why some writing “rules” are actually counterproductive when you want your readers to enjoy your writing!

The advice this book offers is extensive, and while it’s geared primarily toward long-form writing, there are a number of pieces of advice that can just as easily be applied to short-form writing as well, especially in the area of figuring out what to cut and what to keep in stories where you’re trying to make it under a specific word count. I highlighted and flagged a large number of pages throughout the book, especially the chapter summaries that Cron offers at the end of each chapter as a “checklist” to go through when you’re considering what you’re planning to write or have already written.

Throughout the book, Cron uses movies and books as examples, and while the movie references are most useful if you’re familiar with the movies in question, she excerpts bits from the books to illustrate the points, making those accessible even if you haven’t read the books. The movies are not obscure, and if you haven’t already seen Die Hard, you’ll want to watch it before reading this book (and other books I’ve read on writing craft), as it’s touted as one of the best movies for learning how to tell a complete and satisfying story.

I do think this book is most useful to experienced writers rather than new writers. If I had tried to read this book when I was a novice writer, the amount of details I needed to juggle would have overwhelmed me. But reading it after having written a few novels meant that a lot of the advice really resonated with me and showed me why some of the things I’ve done in previous novels haven’t worked as well as I’d hoped. And some newer writers might be able to parse all of the information this book gives you–your mileage may vary.

I also noticed as I read this book over the course of several evenings, that when I sat down to work on my current WIP novel, it informed some of the choices I made for the details to include or exclude, even while I still followed my novel outline. Just having a few of the snippets of information that I’d retained already made the writing smoother and less likely to need heavy revisions later, since I’m already using the techniques I learned to write the best version of these new scenes.

So if you’re a writer who wants to improve your craft and who enjoys learning about how stories work or don’t work for readers, Wired for Story is a great place to start!

New Stories and Poetry Out Recently

Posted By on April 13, 2021

I’ve got three new stories and a new poem out recently.

First off, “Blind Tasting” appeared at Every Day Fiction in late March. This is a flash fiction story with very minimal speculative elements, which was inspired by a duet between two of the members of Pentagon, mixed with the idea of an unusual wine.

My poem “The Fall of the Undying Sailor” appeared in inaugural issue of The Common Tongue, which came out at the end of March. I wrote this one based on the title, which conjured up ideas of a Davy Jones-like sailor, without some of the camp that Disney gave that character.

Corporate Career Counselling Construct” was podcast at The Centropic Oracle at the beginning of April. This was one of my sporadic attempts to write something based on a tarot card spread, and this may be one of the more successful pieces, with the tarot spread reimagined as a computer program with possibly sinister intent. This piece is also flash fiction, so it’s quite short.

Finally, my short story, “Fiddle in the Middle,” was published in issue 16 of MYTHIC Mag in early April. This one was inspired by traveling on the bus in Seattle some time ago. I’m glad to have found it a good home at MYTHIC! This is a short story, so slightly longer than the other things on my list this month.

I also have a reprint story out: “Vodyanoi” has been reprinted in The Chorochronos Archives, an anthology of stories involving time travel. This is one of the first stories I wrote, and it’s been published and reprinted a few times, so you may have caught it elsewhere. But if you’ve missed it, and you enjoy time travel stories, The Chorochronos Archives is full of them!

If any of these sound like fun, check them out and let me know what you thought!

Fictional Maps

Posted By on April 12, 2021

World map from 1689My current work in progress involves a couple of different maps of the same place, one including significantly more detail than the other. I’ve got the map pictured in my head, but that’s the only place it exists right now.

This is a weird thing that I seem to do when I’m writing something that requires a map. I don’t actually put it on paper right away. In the drafting stage of things, this allows me to make changes to the map if they’re needed for the narrative. But when they’re part of a series of books, they suddenly become much more solid once the first book in a series is published, as now locations have fixed positions, rather than the amorphous map that existed previously.

I’m not always good about drawing up my maps after the first book in a series, either. Embarrassingly, I didn’t draw the map for the Brass and Glass series until I was working on the third book, when I finally needed to be able to picture the map as a globe, rather than a flat object. Such is the peril of a world that needs the edges of the map to meet.

In my current WIP, I’m only dealing with one large landmass, so it still works to have the map solely in my head, for the time being. But I think that in this case, I should probably make a draft map sooner rather than later, especially if this book precedes the series that I think it will. Anyway, a draft map can still be tweaked, at least up until the book is published, when it definitely makes a difference what places share a border, and which do not.

Fun for Friday: Photos of the Distance

Posted By on April 9, 2021


This week’s three images are all taken from an interesting perspective that’s more about what’s in the distance. With each of these questions, you can ask what’s in the distance, what the perspective is moving toward, or whether that perspective is just looking back at what it’s left.

The first image is a pair of bridges set at roughly right angles to each other, with one in the foreground and the other one to the right in the background. The surfaces are paved, and they are lined with rust-colored metal railings. Both bridges have semi-circular metal defining the bridge shape. The water below the bridge is still, and there are deciduous trees alongside the bridges.

The second image is a long wooden pier sticking out into the water. A small group of half a dozen waterfowl sit to the pier’s left. In the far distance, the city of Seattle is hazy and partially enshrouded with clouds. A very large container ship sits between the pier and the city, obscuring some of the details of the city.

The third image is taken from onboard a ship toward a brilliantly colored sunset, primarily in shades of purple and orange, with a few small clouds. The water around the boat is lightly choppy, and the boat appears to be headed toward the sunset.

March 2021 Recap

Posted By on April 8, 2021

A birthday selfie, complete with cat gaming headphones and one of my crowns (I have four).

By the numbers:
Stories out at the beginning of the month: 213
Acceptances received: 3
Rejections received: 125 (+22)
Stories withdrawn: 4
Resubmissions: 85
New Submissions: 4
Stories out at the end of the month: 154

The numbers are a little lower than normal in some places this month. Lots of rejections, along with a TON of stories/poetry at markets that seem to have died, and a few stories or poems withdrawn for a variety of reasons.

I had three sales in March, though, and I’ve signed all three contracts! “Just Smile” will be published at The Dread Machine, “Fiddle in the Middle, will be published in MYTHIC Mag, and “Amanita” will be published at Flash Point SF. I’m excited for all three of these–“Just Smile” is a fairly new story, while the other two have made the rounds a bit more.

I finished writing four stories this month. Two were brand new flash pieces, based on prompts for contests this month. One was a lengthening of a flash piece from earlier in the year, and the other was putting the finishing touches on a story started earlier.

From my March to-do list, I’ve finished 6 and 2/3 of the chapters for dreams–a little behind where I wanted to be, but still making good progress. I finished both eyes and the rewrite of angel. I put morgue on the backburner, and I haven’t been able to start revising eyes yet, as I haven’t gotten feedback on it yet. I wrote my two book reviews, and I finished the indexing project, ahead of schedule even!

In April, I plan to:

  • Write about 9 chapters of dreams
  • Write four flash pieces: two for contests, two for fun
  • Revise eyes
  • Start revisions to angel
  • Finish the first draft of morgue
  • Start the first draft of a new story, codenamed “dragon”
  • Put together a couple of collections
  • Edit a book for DefCon One

I’m taking a small break from reading fiction for book reviews, but I’m reading a handful of recommended books on the craft of writing that are proving really useful, and I’ll be beta reading a novel for an online associate. I’ll likely post some thoughts about the craft books, as I think there’s a lot of good material there that will resonate with some writers!

What I’m Reading, Watching, and Listening To, Early April 2021 Edition

Posted By on April 7, 2021

Clip art of headphones, TV screen, and cat reading a sheet of paperReading: I’m currently taking a short break from reviewing books to beta read a novel and to read a couple of recommended books about writing craft. I’ve got Wired for Story and Story Genius by Lisa Cron, and Save the Cat by Jessica Brody. I’ll probably be talking more about these in the coming weeks, as I’m able to finish reading them and digest their contents.

Watching: Falcon and the Winter Soldier is top of the list, but also keeping up with shows like Riverdale and continuing shows like V and The Owl House.

Listening To: New K-pop from Pentagon, and occasionally checking out some new bands that have releases. There’s always a lot of fun promotion from groups when they’ve put out something new, so I’ve been watching random covers and other videos from Pentagon as well!

Barren Out Today!

Posted By on April 6, 2021

Today is the release day for Barren, my climate change apocalypse novella. It depicts a world in which the ocean levels rose dramatically, flooding what was once beachfront and a number of inland areas on large bodies of water as well. And while the sea level rise was particularly dramatic to lead to the apocalypse here, scientists have warned that if the polar ice caps melt, we will see some sea level rise worldwide. This story looks at the impact of such, while also featuring an older female protagonist, LGBTQ+ characters, and found family thriving in spite of the odds.

The oceans rose, plant life withered, and humans could no longer reproduce. Now, years later, Lemy has found evidence of a place impacted only by the ocean rise. But the politics are even more treacherous than they were at home. With only a child to trust, she must navigate this new landscape to keep herself and Sky alive.

You can get Barren in ebook format only at present. We’ll see how it sells and if it needs a print edition too!