History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Show Recommendation: Altered Carbon

Posted By on February 21, 2018

Cyberpunk cityIf you love cyberpunk and noir, the new Netflix series Altered Carbon will definitely scratch that itch! We had heard a few of our friends saying good things about it, so we sat down to watch the first episode and were hooked. We haven’t binge watched the whole series yet, preferring to savor it a little more.

I will say that the show is not for kids. There’s a lot of nudity and violence, and some of the violence can be quite brutal. But it’s a fascinating concept (based on a novel by Richard K. Morgan, which I definitely want to check out now!) with amazing cinematography.

Are you watching Altered Carbon? I’d love to hear what you think of it. No spoilers, though, please! With our normal rate of watching TV shows, we might not be done until April!

Volatile Figments: The Less Spooky

Posted By on February 20, 2018

Lady JusticeWhile most of the stories that appear in Volatile Figments are pretty spooky, the least spooky of the bunch is probably “Justice is Blind.” There’s a girl with psychic powers and a doctor doing unethical experimentation, but there aren’t really any creepy critters lurking in the shadows. It’s much more about human beings. That doesn’t keep it from being creepy, though, as the things happening in the story have their roots in plausibility, even if the details are probably strictly in the realm of fantasy.

If that’s the sort of almost-horror that you enjoy, you should check out “Justice is Blind.” It was published as a stand-alone story by Bards and Sages’ Society of Misfit Stories, and is no longer available in that format. But it also appears in my collection, Volatile Figments, along with five other stories!

Robotic Former Presidents

Posted By on February 19, 2018

Cover art for Sparx & ArrowsIt’s President’s Day today, and what better way to celebrate than to read some stories featuring robotic former presidents? Granted, they’re not the protagonists in this stories, but they make great antagonists for the Huntsman (in two eras) and Kara Sparx to protect Cobalt City from!

You can check out “Daddy’s Little Girl” and “Blast from the Past,” along with three other stories, in my Sparx & Arrows collection!

Fun for Friday: Unusual Tree Photo Prompt

Posted By on February 16, 2018

Trees growing through a hole in a wall
For this week’s Fun for Friday, here’s a photo prompt. I love the carefully made hole through which this tree is growing. But what is the wall for? Is it keeping something out? Or is it keeping something in?

Unfixed Timelines: Salt in Our Veins

Posted By on February 15, 2018

Cover art for Unfixed TimelinesMy story “Salt in Our Veins,” which was recently reprinted in Goddesses of the Sea, was a story that I wrote originally for the Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology from The Future Fire. They were looking for stories set in the historical Mediterranean region, and I fell down a research rabbit hole.

I knew I wanted to do something with pirates, so I did some digging to learn what sorts of pirates had been active in the Mediterranean in various points in time, and ultimately decided to focus on Maltese pirates raiding Greek islands. But in the meantime, I learned a lot about all sorts of Mediterranean piracy, especially pirates who were sponsored by different religious groups, who focused their raids on those who did not share their beliefs.

The essay that I wrote to accompany “Salt in Our Veins” in Unfixed Timelines talks about this interesting period of history and more!

Review of Legacy by Jesikah Sundin

Posted By on February 14, 2018

Cover art for LegacyMy latest book review is up at Mad Scientist Journal, this one for a young adult ecopunk novel that combines cyberpunk, quasi-medieval recreation in the form of live-action roleplaying (LARPing), and not-quite apocalyptic fiction. You can read more about it here!

Mad Scientist Journal’s Current Kickstarter!

Posted By on February 13, 2018

Partial cover art for Battling in All Her FineryHave you checked out the Kickstarter for Battling in All Her Finery yet? We had an amazing launch last week, nearly hitting 15 percent of our goal JUST in the first 4 hours! We’re around the 3/4 point in funding, and still going strong!

We’re absolutely thrilled with how wonderfully this Kickstarter is going, but we want to spread the news of it far and wide! This is going to be an anthology you don’t want to miss out on!

Be sure to check it out before it ends on February 28th!

Learning to Write Combat

Posted By on February 12, 2018

SwordfightingAt Foolscap earlier this month, I got to take part in a workshop called “Them’s Fightin’ Words,” which was a workshop about writing combat. This is one of my known weaknesses as a writer–I don’t enjoy reading combat scenes, which means I’m awful at writing them. And while I can get away with just writing stories that don’t need a physical confrontation, my novels, which involve airship pirates, sometimes require a bit of fighting. So do my superhero stories.

Though the workshop was only two hours, I learned a lot. The teacher was Mark Teppo, who I mention frequently when it comes to outlining. He also knows a considerable amount about fighting and choreographing fight scenes for fiction.

While we learned a lot about different weapons and their uses, the parts of the workshop that helped me the most were the ones where we talked about how to translate the knowledge into narrative that conveyed the information and was readable. Here are a few of my notes, in no particular order:

  1. Knowing enough about the weapon to name it in a specific fashion gives the readers insight into the culture and the character. There’s a difference between drawing a sword (generic) and drawing a rapier (specific), or drawing a gun vs. a 9 mm.
  2. Knowing what the combatants want out of the fight is key. This could be the death of their opponent, or it could be just slowing them down enough to get away. Or a myriad of other things.
  3. Following from that, you can use fight scenes to communicate things about a character to the reader. For example, if someone just wants to get away, but are then presented with an opportunity for a killing blow, do they take it, or not? This can also help determine how much detail to include, based on what is important to the character(s) involved.
  4. Combat is usually way shorter than you would think (especially based on long, drawn-out fight scenes in movies). In general, if a combat goes beyond a couple of passes, either someone has screwed up royally or someone is dead.
  5. Combat happens so quickly that there isn’t a lot of time for introspection while it’s happening. There should be less thinking and more reacting in the midst of combat.
  6. Finally, can you tell the story without the fight scene? Does it say more about the character to have the fight scene off-camera and show reactions to the fight by others who were there or heard about it? (And also, how accurate is what they heard?)

The last one was particularly useful to me, because there are times when I could absolutely have the fighting happen off-camera. Hearing that that was an option was fantastic for me!

Aside from these little writing tips, I also learned a bit about fighting with different weapons and in different styles. And apparently, YouTube is full of videos of just about any weapon type or style you can think of. So that’s a valuable resource for writers who want to write about combat, but don’t have the time or inclination to learn how to fight! (And I learned enough to know that the photo I chose to accompany this post is full of awkward reaching and leaving themselves wide open to being hit. And now you know that too, if you didn’t already!)


Fun for Friday: More Interesting Etymologies

Posted By on February 9, 2018

WordsI’m always interested in linguistics and etymologies. Here’s an article from a few years back where the Oxford Royale Academy has named 14 words with the most fascinating word origins in the English language.

Story Releases!

Posted By on February 8, 2018

Cover art for Goddesses of the SeaMy story, “Salt in Our Veins,” which originally appeared in Fae Visions of the Mediterranean, has been reprinted in the Goddesses of the Sea anthology from Fantasia Divinity Magazine & Publishing. I’m utterly in love with this cover, and I can’t wait to read the other stories, being a huge fan of things in the water that might want to murder you!

Additionally, my story, “To Make Haste,” has been podcast at The Overcast. You can listen to it here. This is the first time this story has been published, and I’m excited for it to be out in the world. Its a story of magic and libraries, with characters I had so much fun writing!