History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Writing Scenes to Cut Them

Posted By on November 20, 2017

Writer at work on a typewriterRecently, I started working on a new story, and wrote what I originally thought would be the first scene of that story. As I worked on it, though, I realized that while something momentous was happening, it wasn’t the momentous thing that the story was going to need. But I kept writing it anyway, because it was helping me to work out the relationship between two characters, which ultimately informs how they got to where they need to be when the actual story opens.

It’s a scene that will likely never see the light of day, and yet it’s a critical part of the writing process for me, because without that scene, I likely would have been flailing around trying to shoehorn in the backstory and the relationship. Now that I’ve established all that in text, rather than just in my mind, I’ve got a point from which I can jump off for the story. I may reference some of what I wrote, but ultimately, it was an exercise in prewriting–getting ready to actually tell the story.

Many new authors need to practice knowing where their story actually begins, and this is exactly the sort of scene that, as a newer author, I would have written and included, not realizing that it’s really an extraneous detail to the actual story. I’ve learned to cull this sort of thing, but I still find writing them can sometimes be a boon to me.

So for this story, I’ll file this away in my notes, and refer back to it when I write the actual story. And I think that my story will be all the stronger for it!

Fun for Friday: Weird Word Origins, Thanksgiving Edition

Posted By on November 17, 2017

Thanksgiving greeting card from 1900Just in time to impress your friends and family members around the Thanksgiving table, here is a list of the origins of ten common Thanksgiving words. In addition it talks a little bit about what goes into some of the foods we consume at Thanksgiving, including why marshmallows really aren’t marshmallows any more!

So whether you’re celebrating with a big meal, or just watching some football and relaxing, have a happy Thanksgiving!

Dissecting a Book Cover: The Trouble with the Tick-Tock Tabby

Posted By on November 16, 2017

Cover art for The Trouble with the Tick-Tock TabbyWe recently went on vacation to one of our favorite spots, the Edgefield Hotel in Troutdale, Oregon. It’s one of the McMenniman’s properties, using the renovated buildings from the old Multnomah County Poor Farm. While we were there, I remembered that one of the trees on the property is the tree that I photographed to use on the cover of The Trouble with the Tick-Tock Tabby.

You can see the tree in the background, run through a number of filters to give it a hazy, twilight quality. (If you look very closely, you MIGHT be able to see the rows of grapevines in the background, cementing the place where I took it a bit better.)

For other elements of the cover, I knew that I wanted to have the girls (Chrysanthemum and Marigold) silhouetted, looking up at the chain-link tail of the clockwork cat that is a major part of the story. This mirrors the scene that opens the book, when the girls first discover this rogue feline in their family’s mechanical garden. The silhouettes started out as a picture of me as a young teenager, my head thrown back while laughing. I made small alterations to each of the silhouettes to make the two sisters look a bit different from one another.

The rest of the cover was all simple shapes, placed in the right spots on the backdrop of the tree and the silhouettes of the girls.

I’ve long said that I really want to pay someone to redo this book cover for me, since I wasn’t able to make a good enough cover for print books with the photographs I had available. But I plan to give this cover to whoever does the new cover art as their basic design, and simply have them remake in a higher quality version!

Comic Book Recommendation: DC Bombshells Enlisted

Posted By on November 15, 2017

Cover art for DC Bombshells: EnlistedI finally got a chance to read one of the many graphic novels on my stack, DC Bombshells: Enlisted. I’d been looking forward to this one because I’m a big fan of the Rosie the Riveter-like look that they gave Wonder Woman for this series (to the point that I’ve put together my own cosplay of this outfit).

This collection is, in large part, a sort of team origin story, which means you get a lot of tidbits from different characters as they all come together. To me, it felt like there was a heavy focus on Supergirl and Stargirl, with not as much time spent on my favorites, Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn. But overall, as the storyline needed to pull together all of the heroes from disparate parts of the world, it made sense to give each of the various Bombshells a bit of an origin story that showed how they got to where they were. In the case of Supergirl and Stargirl, who in this universe are Russian, it took a little more work to get them joined up with the team.

This is the first of five collections that have been put together, so I imagine the story gets deeper as it goes on. But even as a standalone, this book works as a way to show how they pulled together a large number of female heroes in the World War II era.

Superheroes in Other Times

Posted By on November 14, 2017

Venetian maskThe first Cobalt City story I ever wrote (which was also the second story I wrote) was a late nineteenth-century look at one of Cobalt City’s legacy superheroes, The Huntsman. Since then, I’ve written another story of The Huntsman that takes place after World War II. Because The Huntsman is a legacy hero, it’s super easy for me to pick a point in time, figure out who was The Huntsman then, and then write a story set in that historical period.

Between my love for history and the open sandbox nature of Cobalt City, the superhero history of which stretches back to its earliest days, I have a lot of fun playing with the idea of superheroes in other times. While my recent Cobalt City pieces have been decidedly more modern (one was set in the 90s, but that one drew from my own memories rather than extensive research), I still love piecing together real history with the history of this city of superheroes.

If you also like the idea of superheroes in other times, check out “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “Red Scare,” both available in my collection, Sparx & Arrows.

The Value of a Writer’s Group

Posted By on November 13, 2017

Multiple people working togetherEven before I started writing fiction, my then-boyfriend (now-husband) introduced me to his writer’s group. Affectionately nicknamed the “Type and Gripe,” they were local like-minded speculative fiction authors who got together every other week to sit down and put words on virtual paper. (sometimes actual dead tree paper. We don’t judge.) It wasn’t exactly a critique group, though we sometimes shared manuscripts for critiques. It was more of a writer’s support group, for those of us dedicated enough to get words on paper and then try to get those words out into the larger world.

Since then, we’ve started meeting twice weekly–one regular evening after work, and one regular morning on the weekend. We don’t always get writing done. Sometimes, we’re too busy with the “griping” portion of our nickname. Sometimes we’re too distracted. Or goofing off. Or all of the above.

But in the eight and a half years, we’ve also been productive, thanks to the group impetus to just keep writing. For a while, I was in charge of yelling “SUBMIT” at a couple of the authors who had a lot of short stories written, but no good method of keeping them in circulation at viable markets. We applaud each others’ successes and lament each others’ disappointments. We’ve all been critiquers, beta readers, and even reviewers of each other’s stories, novels, and more. We help each other out with projects, whether they be fiction or website copy. In the end, we’ve become more of a family than just a mere writer’s group.

Sometimes, it takes a lot of work to find the right writer’s group, and sometimes, you just fall into the right place. You may have to go through a number of groups before you get there. You might make friends in person or online, depending on your location and the numbers of other authors near you. Living in Seattle, there is no shortage of writer’s groups, but only one is my wacky bunch of nerds and weirdos who take great joy in the nerdery and weirdness of each other. But though my mom and both of my sisters have also written, they’re not all the right fit for my group. (Never mind the fact that they all live in the Midwest.)

Whether you find your writer’s group in person or online, I hope that you, too, can find your writing family, like I have.

Fun for Friday: Autumn Leaves Story Seeds

Posted By on November 10, 2017

Autumn leaves on the groundOne of my favorite things about autumn is the leaves. I grew up in the Midwest, so for me, the colors are amazing, there’s a smell in the air from people burning leaves, and you can crunch through the ones on the sidewalk. All of these things are much less true in Seattle, but every once in a while, I get a good pile to shuffle through or some excellent crunchy leaves to stomp on.

I could probably write pages of text describing autumn leaves, but instead, here’s a couple of story seed if you want to write something about autumn leaves with a spec fic twist!

  1. A character is walking down a sidewalk strewn with leaves, being careful not to step on the leaves. But behind them, they hear someone or something crunching through the leaves, growing ever closer to them.
  2. A character is enjoying the autumn leaves, but then the leaves start floating upward, rather than falling down.
  3. Autumn has failed to arrive. The trees are still keeping all of their leaves and they’re all still green. Or, the temperatures have dropped as expected, but the trees aren’t doing their part.
  4. Autumn has come when it wasn’t supposed to arrive yet–maybe in an early summer month, and suddenly everyone is wearing sweaters and watching the leaves fall into their unused pools.

You could take any of these seeds a multitude of directions. So enjoy!

“Tarnish” to appear at Mirror Dance

Posted By on November 9, 2017

Venice Mirror wit BellonaNow that the contract is signed, I can talk about my latest acceptance, which I mentioned in my October 2017 recap.

My story, “Tarnish,” will appear in the Spring 2018 issue of Mirror Dance. This story first appeared in Unfixed Timelines as one of my historical fiction stories accompanied by an essay about the real history.

The history behind this story is that of the Veiled Prophet Ball in St. Louis, which is something I grew up knowing about. But it took flipping through a cute picture book of St. Louis at my mom’s house with Jeremy, and him subsequently being really confused about the Veiled Prophet, to give me the spark for this story, which ties into the King in Yellow mythology from Lovecraftian stories.

I’ll post again when the story is live, but for now, if you want to read it ahead of time, check it out in Unfixed Timelines!

Things to Look Forward To: Wayward Sisters comic anthology

Posted By on November 8, 2017

Art from Wayward SistersIf you’re looking for what promises to be an awesome anthology of comics by and about women and non-binary folks, you’ve got a couple more days to check out Wayward Sisters. This Kickstarter project is already fully funded, but they’re still trying to hit a few more stretch goals before the end of their funding period.

I personally adore the piece of art to the right. I’m a big fan of things that live in the water that want to kill you, so this pushes all the right buttons for me! But I’m also looking forward to reading comics about other monsters that I’m already familiar with, and some that I know nothing about!

Introducing Heroes of Necessity!

Posted By on November 7, 2017

Cover art for Heroes of NecessityMy next collection of short stories is in progress! This one is called Heroes of Necessity, and it’s about super heroes who don’t fit into the traditional molds.

While the heroes in these stories have powers, most of them don’t have substantial powers, none of the kind that would impact the entire world. But they’re still heroes in their own right, even if they’re just helping out on a small scale. And even if most of them wouldn’t refer to themselves as super heroes.

This collection will include three previously published stories and one previously unpublished story, all set outside of the Cobalt City universe. The planned release date is December 5th, and it will be available in ebook only. But if you’ve got a super hero fan on your holiday list, this might be a nice little digital stocking stuffer for them!