History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

“Beer City” at Fantastic History!

Posted By on June 2, 2020

High plains in OklahomaCatherine Schaff-Stump is hosting some of my articles about the real history behind my stories from Unfixed Timelines at her Fantastic History blog. The first post, “Beer City,” is up now!

The history of the incident I portray in “Veli tis Artemidos” is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever researched. It involved mostly looking at blog posts and message boards, but I also got to dig into some contemporary newspaper articles. And even those didn’t agree on the facts! You can read all about those details in my post at Fantastic History, and you can read the story in Unfixed Timelines!

Day Off

Posted By on June 1, 2020

It’s been a rough few days, and as such, I don’t have a post for today.

Be kind to one another.

Fun for Friday: June 2020 Writing Prompts!

Posted By on May 29, 2020

Another month is behind us, and soon we’ll be halfway through the year. So here are some writing prompts for you to enjoy in June! They’re a fairly random mix of words, several of which could be read several different ways.

Check back on the last Friday of each month (or occasionally the first day of a new month, when that falls on a Friday) for my History That Never Was writing prompts!

Day Word 1 Word 2 Word 3
1 loud condition carapace
2 swim peanut inn
3 consensus covered slide
4 vine export buds
5 floral dry instinct
6 authority plane kind
7 cave choke stagnant
8 winter feel printer
9 friendly challenge gross
10 scream projection equinox
11 opposite ignore spine
12 soil serenity dust
13 water hour moon
14 mother sneeze urgency
15 physical onyx height
16 appear grief clearing
17 twin lead sky
18 fret present ignorant
19 kiss west bland
20 hotel lock dairy
21 damage blood cuisine
22 care belt work
23 salted smooth check
24 apology hotter remove
25 clean beat vegetable
26 calm loss rider
27 harsh mountain open
28 writing incentive desert
29 skate medium strip
30 quote shame enemy

Coming in June: Coast to Coast Stars!

Posted By on May 28, 2020

If you’ve been perusing my site recently, you might have noticed a new book cover on the front page! With the cover by Luke SpoonerCoast to Coast Stars is a collection of superhero short stories primarily set in Cerulean City, but with ties to Cobalt City.

Cerulean City is my creation, the West Coast’s answer to the East Coast’s Cobalt City. It’s a southern California city where the film industry reigns, and where the superheroes have adapted over the years based on outside circumstances. In the case of the stories in Coast to Coast Stars, there’s a villain who can drain powers, leading most of the heroes of the time to be tech or magic based.

The stories in Coast to Coast Stars span several decades–the earliest story is set in the mid-1970s, while the most recent story could have happened in an alternate 2020. They’re all linked to each other, however, primarily through Gray Dawn, the superhero identity of 90s pop star Cassidy Sweet. The other characters that appear in “Happily Never After,” the lead story in the collection, pop up in several of the other stories.

Coast to Coast Stars will be available in ebook format only, on June 30, 2020, through DefCon One Publishing!

Things I’m Looking Forward to in July

Posted By on May 27, 2020

It looks like we may be spending a lot of time at home this summer, without the big summer movie blockbusters that we’re used to. But there are still three major media things coming in July that I am super excited about.

  1. On July 3rd, Hamilton will be on Disney+. It’s the original Broadway cast, filmed. So it’s the songs as they sound on the original cast recording, but I will finally get to see it. Being a history nerd and a musical theater nerd, I’m surprised it took me as long as I did to get hooked on Hamilton, but it really took my sister-in-law and my brother’s kids walking me through a few of the songs before I could really get my ears to comprehend the marvel they were witnessing. Sure, it’s not entirely accurate history, but it’s a nice piece of semi-historical, semi-fantasy musical theater.
  2. On July 15th, Sandman will be on Audible, with an all-star castSandman is THE comic book series that got me interested in comics. My first husband’s roommate handed me the first graphic novel when I was bored one day, and I devoured it. This was just at the tail end of the 75-issue run, so I actually had to wait for the last few issues to come out. As I’ve worked on my writing, and occasionally re-read the series, I am constantly in awe of how neatly plotted the whole series was, even if it occasionally ran off in somewhat random directions for a bit. But the story arc of the Endless is amazing.
  3. On July 31st, the second season of The Umbrella Academy will be out. They announced the release date with an adorable video recreating one of the most iconic scenes from the first season, while all of the cast members are in their respective homes. I’m curious to see where the show will go after the end of the first season, but I’m looking forward to it.

Story Arc in a Triology

Posted By on May 26, 2020

The nice thing about writing a trilogy or other series is that you can have a story arc that lasts longer than a single book, allowing for a much larger story arc.

Taken individually, the books in the Brass and Glass series each have their own arcs: 1) find the Cask; 2) find the map; 3) find the treasure. But the arcs all piece together to create a larger arc, which illuminates the history behind each of the individual pieces, and shows the depth of the conspiracy that’s been put into place.

Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering started out as a short story. You can still see pieces of that short story in the book, as it worked very well to introduce the bigger picture. But ultimately, it wasn’t a short story because it was that introduction to the bigger picture–a picture that ultimately took three books to fully paint.

While I’m more interested in writing stand-alone books, having completed one trilogy, I still enjoy the way that having a trilogy for this idea gave it the room it needed to fully expand into something epic. I suspect I’ll return to the format some day, once I’ve gotten some of these stand-alone ideas out of my system.

In the meantime, you can find the series in ebooks or print, starting with Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering.

Guest Post: Gary Jonas on Mind Control

Posted By on May 25, 2020

Today, I’m hosting a guest post from author Gary Jonas, whose story “Bluebird Killing in the Dead of Night” appears in Psi-Wars.

Mind control.

Two words that suggest so much more.

Back in the 1950s, the CIA started Project Bluebird, a program designed to develop mind control techniques by using drugs on unwitting subjects. Initially, it was to be used on prisoners of war during interrogations, but soon the CIA was dosing our own troops with LSD to see how they’d react. Eventually, Bluebird became Artichoke, and later MK-Ultra. The existence of the project came to light in 1975 during the Rockefeller Commission. Unfortunately, Richard Helms, who headed the CIA back in those days, ordered the records to be destroyed in 1973, two years before he faced Congress, so we’ll never know the whole truth.

I’d been researching MK-Ultra, Monarch, Naomi, and the various offshoots, as well as Operation Paperclip (where the US government recruited Nazi scientists and brought them to America after World War II) for a suspense novel I wanted to write in which the mind control program wasn’t shut down, and continued to the present day.

I read various books, including The Control of Candy Jones by Donald Bain and the Sinister Forces trilogy by Peter Levenda (which is about a lot more than MK-Ultra, but the program is prominently featured) and many others. I watched some cool movies like The Killing Room and revisited old favorites like the Bourne movies and Conspiracy Theory. Yes, as a writer, watching movies is called research.

One of the more fascinating things I discovered on my deep dive into all aspects of the mind control subject was that in the 1980s, psychiatrists kept running into patients who showed signs of having their minds altered through drugs, hypnosis, electric shock, and who knows what else. I listened to a recording of a doctor who specialized in dealing with multiple personality disorder. A small percentage of those patients showed signs of having had mind control experiments performed on them to compartmentalize them into different people for different things—assassins, spies, sex slaves, you name it. In the lecture, he went through the techniques for digging into the programming to turn off Omega codes (suicide commands) and what to do if a subject had (or believed they had) Theta programming (psychic killers) or worse, Gamma (you’ll have to read the story).

Naturally, that stuff had to go in the book. So I wrote a scene I loved where my protagonist is convinced he’s been turned into a Manchurian Candidate (from the Richard Condon novel, or the two films based on the book starring Frank Sinatra and Denzel Washington respectively) so he goes to a specialist to have the Omega codes removed. After all, if you’re going up against some bad dudes running a shadow government, you don’t want them to be able to just order you to kill yourself. Right?

Real life interrupted my plans to write that book. The thriller was taking too long. In order to keep paying the bills, I needed to write a novel in one of my urban fantasy series. Alas, that book underperformed, which led to me writing several more urban fantasy novels, and somehow I never got back to my thriller, though I hope to finish it one of these days.

Fast forward a few years.

When Josh Viola reached out to me about Psi-Wars, my first thought was that scene I’d written for the thriller. I plucked it out of the partially written book, slapped it into a new file, and realized that I was way over the requested word count for the short story. Novels give you a lot more elbow room. A scene isn’t a story, so I needed an opening and an ending to make it work, but I wanted the bulk of the tale to be about the deprogramming of a government assassin, and the delicate manner in which such things had to be handled.

While I took some artistic license, the techniques in “Bluebird Killing in the Dead of Night” are as close as I could make them to the actual methods used by psychiatrists trained to deprogram the unfortunate souls who suffered through MK-Ultra, Monarch, Naomi, and other programs. The government doesn’t always have our best interests at heart. Who knew?

It’s hard to take a scene from a novel which is infused with character and thematic bits from what has gone before in the book, as well as setting up things to come, and get them to work in a short story. A lot of it had to be chopped out just because of the word count. In the novel, the viewpoint was mostly through a former government assassin, but that wasn’t going to play for the short story because a story works best when you focus on the person with the most to lose or gain, and in this story that was the doctor, not the assassin, so I had to switch the point of view. In that sense, I got to switch lives, something as writers and readers we get to do all the time. A reader going through the original scene would have a much different experience seeing it through a government operative than they would seeing it through the eyes of a doctor worried about getting killed if he plays the wrong mental chord. The same basic building blocks can create a much different life experience.

I began by stripping the scene down to just the dialogue so I could more easily adjust the viewpoint (or change the life). I wanted to use my original introduction to the doctor as well, and initially kept far too much of it. Again, a novel gives you room to play. In a short story, every word has to earn its keep. I managed to cut most of the extraneous words, and because Josh is an awesome editor, he caught the things I missed.

As writers, we have all these grand ideas in our heads, but all that matters is what ends up on the page. Readers aren’t psychic. So the trick is to take the right details, and to dole them out to paint a much bigger picture in the reader’s head. In that sense, the writer is using mind control on the reader. A word to flip a switch here, a suggestion to pluck an emotion there. Using our words correctly can take a reader on a roller coaster ride filled with excitement, emotional catharsis, and so much more. How far down the rabbit hole should we go? Is it safe? Can you escape with your mind intact? Will you find yourself caring about people who never even existed? Do they sometimes feel more real than your next door neighbor? Did you cry at the end of Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows?

And we wonder why writing is so addictive.

And when the writing works, the reading is even more addictive.

One more story. One more book. One more life.

In the real world, we have but one. In the world of books, television, and movies, we have so many more. In Psi-Wars you get to live thirteen lives. And if one is too scary, don’t worry, the next life might be more to your taste.


Gary Jonas is best-known for three urban fantasy series: Jonathan Shade (12 novels), Kelly Chan (5 novels), and The Half-Assed Wizard (4 novels). He’s written novels and short fiction in other genres, including horror, science fiction, crime, and western. For more information, visit him at his neglected website www.garyjonasbooks.com. He might update it one of these days.
From Atlantis to the Third Reich and beyond, these thirteen original tales of cerebral science fiction and horror explore the evils that abound when humanity wields extraordinary minds as weapons, whether to wage war or prevent it. Steeped in psychic savagery, telekinetic combat, and extrasensory espionage, PSI-WARS imagines corrupt governments and daring operatives, gods and soldiers and hackers and spies. The authors don’t flinch when they peer around the darkest, most violent corners of the human psyche. Will you?

Fun for Friday: Writing Prompts on Different Themes

Posted By on May 22, 2020

Writing with a fountain penHere’s a cool site with writing prompts along different themes: 105 Creative Writing Prompts. So if you’re in the mood for writing something funny, or if you’re looking for something for kids to write about, they’ve got options!


Short Superhero Stories in Sparx and Arrows

Posted By on May 21, 2020

Cover art for Sparx & ArrowsDo you like superhero stories? Do you like stories with female superheroes who keep their city or people safe? You might enjoy the stories of Kara Sparx, Eleanor Castile, and Sarah Castile (with a brief appearance by Marcus Castile). Sparx and Arrows contains five stories featuring these heroes!

Cobalt City is home to super heroes and villains. And trouble follows the heroes even when they aren’t at home. Kara Sparx and three different incarnations of the Huntsman battle killer Ferris wheels, mecha, clockwork ex-presidents, and Russian communists in five different stories of daring and adventure!

Review of The Kiminee Dream by Laura McHale Holland

Posted By on May 20, 2020

The Kiminee Dream by Laura McHale Holland (WORDforest, 2020) is a surreal and beautiful slipstream novel about the inhabitants of a very unusual small town in Illinois.

The novel primarily follows the story of Carly Mae from her birth (a momentous occasion for the town) through her early teen years. Along the way, she exhibits talents in a variety of fields, but encounters numerous setbacks that rob her of these talents. Throughout it all, though, she’s got friends and family helping her out, sometimes in unusual ways.

This might seem like a normal sort of coming-of-age novel, but the town of Kiminee is anything but normal. The town itself is almost another character in the story, with a peculiar sort of personality. It, and its inhabitants, also hide many secrets, which come out over the course of the book.

If you like a sort of slice-of-life story with surreal elements and beautiful prose, you may enjoy The Kiminee Dream!

Content notes: sexual and physical assault are elements of the plot. While the former is not described with any detail, the latter is on occasions.

The author provided me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for review consideration.