History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fun for Friday: A Writing Prompt a Day

Posted By on April 20, 2018

Handwritten text in a notebookIf you’re someone who wants to find writing prompts, but wants to be surprised by what they are each day, you might like A Writing Prompt a Day on Tumblr. It’s certainly not the only daily writing prompt supply, but this one has a wide variety of types of prompts–some that seem to encourage pieces set in the real world (or something like it), others clearly part of a fantasy or sci-fi setting. And then there are others that could be taken in a multitude of ways so that you could write whatever story they inspire in you!


What Makes a Hero?

Posted By on April 19, 2018

Cover art for Heroes of NecessityIs a hero defined by their actions or by their powers? I’m inclined to think it’s the former, because there are a lot of “super heroes” who don’t actually have superpowers. Batman, Hawkeye, and many others just have training and skill, rather than powers that come from some weird source.

By that token, even the heroes with weird powers can still be some of the best heroes, assuming that their actions are worthy of the title. So if you’ve got the ability to run quickly, amplify and diminish sound, determine the eventual cause of death at a glance (and maybe prevent it from going that way), or enter a digital landscape to help a computer program, you might still be a hero.

Those are the sorts of powers that the characters in my collection, Heroes of Necessity, have. But I think after you read these stories, you’ll agree that heroes are defined by their actions, whether they’ve got powers to help them in those actions or not!


Review of Long Hidden

Posted By on April 18, 2018

Cover art for Long HiddenIt’s been on my to-read list for quite some time, but I finally have read and reviewed Long Hidden, edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older. It’s an anthology of 27 alternate history speculative fiction stories featuring marginalized characters.

If you’re curious to see what I thought of it, check out my review at Mad Scientist Journal!

Brass and Glass 2 Edits are DONE!

Posted By on April 17, 2018

Cover for Brass & Glass Book OneI finished up the last of my edits to the manuscript for Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map on Saturday, and sent it off to my editors. Barring anything major that they find, the writing is basically done!

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the book is also done. It still needs a copy edit, because even copy editors (like me) can miss things, especially in a manuscript that they’re heavily invested in. And it needs a cover, which I will hopefully have and be able to share very soon! And there’s layout and book blurbs and all sorts of other things that we still need to take care of.

But it’s good to have it done. And I’ve already started writing book 3, because there’s no rest for those wicked authors who plot out a trilogy …

Punk in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Posted By on April 16, 2018

At Norwescon, I spoke on a panel about punk in science fiction and fantasy. At first, I was pretty sure that I didn’t have very much to say on the subject, especially in comparison to my co-panelists. But it wound up being a great conversation about punk music, the punk aesthetic, and the many, many genres of stories that have the “-punk” suffix.

In introducing myself, I mentioned that I write steampunk, and one of the other panelists asked what it was about my book, in particular, that tied it to that genre. My honest answer is that it’s what other people would classify it as, because it involves steam technology and that sort of “Victorian world with the serial numbers filed off.” Is it punk? Nope, not really. But a lot of the “-punk” genres are marketing tools, more than anything else, hence why my book is steampunk.

(We had other thoughts about steampunk that actually is punk, like an old game that I ran and C.J. took up after me, which we called “God Attack the Queen,” where the player characters were actual counter-culture revolutionaries who happened to live in a Victorian-like setting.)

One of the things that I brought to the conversation was talking about hopepunk, which the other panelists weren’t familiar with. I have my friend Torrey to thank for my knowledge of the subject, which she gleaned from a post from Alexandra Rowland (who seems to be the one who coined the phrase). In short, hopepunk is the opposite of grimdark. Hopepunk’s protagonists don’t have to be amazing, they just have to people who continue to try–to have hope that what they are doing will make a difference. And I see a lot more parallels between hopepunk and punk than I do between steampunk and punk, in that hopepunk is often bucking the status quo. Much hopepunk is set in what would look like a dystopia, but rather than it being a grinding, horrible place with no escape, the characters are looking for ways out of the badness, and having hope for the future.

On that level, you could classify a series like The Hunger Games as a form of hopepunk, especially as you get farther into the series. But even that gets pretty bleak in places, and a lot of hope is lost by the end. This is not to say that hopepunk needs a “happy” ending. It just needs an ending that shows that all is not lost.

Hopepunk is definitely something that I’m exploring in my writing, having just sent off a hopepunk story to find a home recently. Here’s hoping that it’s something the world would like to see more of!

If you’re interested in reading more about other types of “-punk” in fiction, check out this Tumblr post from Chris McKitterick!

Fun for Friday: What’s So Bad About Friday the 13th?

Posted By on April 13, 2018

Friday the 13th circled on a calendarIt’s Friday the 13th, a day that strikes dread into the hearts of many. But why?

People who fear the number thirteen are said to have triskaidekaphobia, and the fear of the number seems to stem from religious sources–Judas was said to be the thirteenth apostle at the Last Supper.

But even for those who don’t suffer from triskaidekaphobia, there is still paraskevidekatriaphobia, the fear of Friday the 13th. It’s suggested that this is a more modern phenomenon, possibly dating to a 1907 novel, Friday, the Thirteenth, in which “an unscrupulous broker takes advantage of the superstition to create a Wall Street panic on a Friday the 13th.” Where the author got that idea, however, is much less clear.

And to clear up a belief about the superstition, it likely did not stem from Friday, October 13, 1307, being the date Philip IV of France arrested hundreds of the Knights Templar. This belief appears to have been first suggested in 1955, but widely popularized by The DaVinci Code.

Whether you consider Friday the 13th a bad omen or just a bunch of superstitious nonsense, I hope the day goes well for you!


2019 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide!

Posted By on April 12, 2018

Cover art for The Trouble with the Tick-Tock TabbyAs I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve sold the next Marsh sisters story. And now that the contract is signed, I’m pleased to announce that it will appear in the 2019 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide anthology from Dreaming Robot Press! This will be my third appearance in this anthology series, and the second time that the Marsh sisters appear within its pages. (Their original adventure, “The Recondite Riddle of the Rose Rogue,” was reprinted in the 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide.)

I’ll have plenty more announcements on this front, as there will be a Kickstarter for the anthology later this year, and we typically have a cool Facebook event for this anthology as well. So stay tuned to learn more about what my girl detectives are up to!

Comic Book Review: Captain Phasma

Posted By on April 11, 2018

Covers for Captain Phasma comicWarning: herein be spoilers for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens and Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi!

Today’s quick comic book review is my first requested comic review. While at Norwescon, I moderated a panel on Star Wars, and I talked a little bit about the recent Star Wars comics. I’m woefully behind on most of them, but one of our audience members came up afterward to ask what I thought of Captain Phasma, whether she was underutilized, and whether I’d read her comic run. Since I hadn’t yet, I read them soon after getting back home.

The comic run in and of itself covers the period between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. After lowering the shields on Starkiller Base, Phasma wants to cover her tracks. She discovers that someone else has been in the records, and sets out to ensure that he doesn’t reveal what she did to anyone. She winds up recruiting a young Stormtrooper to be her pilot and sets out in pursuit of the potential snitch.

What follows is a tantalizing look at Phasma’s backstory, without actually going into enough detail to tell much about her. She shows a little bit of potential softness, but then covers it right back up and returns to being the no-nonsense, stone-cold arm of the First Order that she always has been.

After I read it, I had to do a little poking around about her backstory. Wookieepedia has some great information on Phasma, which answered most of the remaining questions I had. And now, I’m just a little meh about the whole thing. I think I was hoping that there would be a sympathetic side to Phasma, and there’s the faintest glimpse of one, but then it’s gone again. I find villains much more compelling when they feel more sympathetic, and here, that was definitely lacking.

I’m still hopeful that we’ll see a bit more of Phasma in Episode IX. (Yeah, I know she fell into a fiery crack in a spaceship in VIII, but hey, there’s no body, and that means she’s not definitively dead.) If we do, I really hope that she gets something more than she’s had in the movies and in this comic run, because right now, I do very much feel like she’s been underutilized. Granted, I haven’t read Phasma by Delilah S. Dawson yet, so I might change my tune after that book. But I make no promises that I’ll get to it any time soon!

Conventions as a Learning Experience

Posted By on April 10, 2018

Pages of a book in the shape of a heartOne of the things that I love the most about going to conventions like Norwescon is the opportunity to learn from other writers. Even if I don’t get a chance to go to many (or any) panels that I’m not on, I still wind up in conversations while working at our table, or at parties, or just wandering the halls of the convention. I’m firmly of the belief that we are ALWAYS learning as writers, and that if you stop learning, your writing will stagnate. Even if you think you’ve learned everything you can learn on a topic, there’s always something new!

Most of my learning this year involved meeting new people and listening to their perspectives on things. I was on a couple of writing panels (which I’ll talk about more in coming days), and they gave me loads of new information and things to think about! Bits and pieces of this information will definitely seep into what I’m working on in the coming months!

There are also so many opportunities to make new connections with people. At Norwescon, we made some new friends, reconnected with old friends, and introduced loads of people to one another. As per the usual, I’ve now got a (virtual–thank goodness for my Kindle!) stack of new books to read, and I’ve got new markets where I want to send stories! All in all, it was a wonderful time!

Norwescon General Recap

Posted By on April 9, 2018

Norwescon 41Easter weekend in Seattle always means Norwescon to me! I attended a little bit sporadically the first few years I was in Seattle, but now I pretty much go every year. In many cases, we have a table for DefCon One Publishing, my Scary White Girl Designs craft business, or both businesses in the dealer’s room.

This year was my first year on panels, my first year with a solo reading, and my first year critiquing stories in the Fairwood Writers’ workshop. All of these things were super exciting! I was predominantly on the pop culture track, moderating panels on Doctor Who and Star Wars (and I would have moderated another on comic book adaptations, but we had no attendees). But I was also part of some writing-related panels, and I’ll talk more about those later this week or early next week.

Overall, it was a wonderful weekend. I was a little bit nervous going into my first panel, but it went smoothly, and it was pretty much smooth sailing after that. I did my reading (from Brass and Glass) before a small audience, but that actually made me less nervous than a packed house would have. And I met some awesome and wonderful new people throughout the weekend!

If I had any advice to give new authors on conventions, it’s this: GO TO THEM! It might take some time before you get really involved with things like readings and panels, but you won’t get into those things at all if you’re not already attending! It really is about who you know, and you can’t get to know people without attending!