History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fun for Friday: A Trio of Photos

Posted By on September 13, 2019

It’s time for another three photos to inspire your writing! This week, we’ve got an interesting sci-fi scene in which scientists are working near a tube with what appears to be bodies inside, and more observers, or possibly bodies, are on the outskirts of the room. The second image is an ibex with impressive antlers, and the third image is a very small cluster of cacti that almost look fuzzy in a pot filled with small white rocks.

A Reminder about My Patreon

Posted By on September 12, 2019

Link to my PatreonHave you checked out my Patreon lately? It’s a way for my fans to throw a small amount of money my way to support my writing!

I’m getting close to my first goal, which involves a monthly video of me reading one of my stories or an excerpt from a longer piece! So if I get enough patrons, you’ll get to see my face reading my words. I’d love to have the chance to do more readings, and while I could do them anyway, I’d like them to be a special treat!

Since I’m now self-publishing the Brass and Glass series, a $3 a month pledge gets you ebook copies of that trilogy! (Though I’ve already sent out copies of the first two books to my current backers, if you back me before the third book comes out, I will get you copies of the first two as well!)

Review of The Great Faerie Strike by Spencer Ellsworth

Posted By on September 11, 2019

I’d been wanting to read Spencer Ellsworth’s The Great Faerie Strike since I found out about it early this year, and I’m pleased to say it was worth the wait! If you like steampunk and humor, you’ll love this book, which is filled with just the right balance between silly and serious.

You can read my whole review at Mad Scientist Journal, or you can check the book out here!

Brass and Glass 3 Pre-Orders!

Posted By on September 10, 2019

We’ve just re-released books 1 and 2 of my Brass and Glass series via DefCon One Publishing, and now I’m pleased to say that Brass and Glass 3: The Boiling Sea is available for pre-order!

Here’s the blurb for the final book in the trilogy:

In the turbulent skies of the Republic, it’s not always easy to outrace the storm …

With their destination determined, Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko and the crew of The Silent Monsoon are in pursuit of the Last Emperor’s Hoard and the fabled Gem of the Seas. Or they will be, once they rescue their pilot, make a deal with a notorious scoundrel, and outfit themselves for their plunge into the Boiling Sea. When they realize what the Gem of the Seas is capable of, they must struggle with their loyalties, morality, and unforeseen complications to choose the right path. With alliances tested and rivalries resurfacing, Svetlana must lead her crew and associates on their most dangerous mission yet!

I’ll be thrilled to have all three of these books available and with such awesome covers by the super talented J. Kathleen Cheney (P.S. You can hire her for your books here!)

A Question from the Audience: Starting Stories

Posted By on September 9, 2019

Question marks in different colored bubblesI recently had a question from one of my fellow author friends, which I was given with an eye toward blogging about the topic. So here we go. First ever question from the audience!

Do you always start writing in the same place? Scene? Character? Descriptions? Dialogue? Start-to-finish? End first and write backward? Write the punchline and then construct the elaborate justification for it?

My stories generally start with an idea seed. “Wouldn’t it be cool if …?” Sometimes that comes in the format of a scene or a snippet of dialogue, but more often, it’s not much more than just an idea. And sometimes, once I start prodding at the idea, it falls apart, like a rotten seed. So then I sweep up the bits and file them away, just in case they somehow grow back together in a different configuration.

Once I have more than just the seed, the next thing that I MUST have is character names. I can have the ideas for the characters, but until they have names, they don’t really become real enough to me to consider writing. Once I’ve got the names set for a story, it’s odd for me to change them, too. I think there’s something about naming the character to really lock them into my mind, and once they’ve got a name, changing it feels weird. (Also, there was the one time where I changed a character’s name from Lance to Athos, and I learned just how frequently I use the word “glanced”. Hello, “gAthosd”.)

Once I’ve got something larger than a seed and names, I generally put together a rough outline for the story, and then I write it start to finish. I have heard about people who write their stories backwards (whether that’s the final scene or just the final line), but that method doesn’t work for me. There are occasions when I finish a story and realize that it needs a different beginning, but that’s about the closest I would come to writing backwards. For me, there are more often occasions where I write a few scenes at the beginning that I then realize won’t be necessary, and so they get cut from the story later. But even if I have a solid outline that might permit me to jump around and write different scenes, I really prefer to write them start to finish.

Fun for Friday: What 3 Words

Posted By on September 6, 2019

WordsI’ve seen the what3words website pop up a few times, but one of my author friends posted about using the three words associated with a given location as a writing prompt for microfiction, and I think it’s a fantastic idea! The premise behind what3words is that they’ve assigned three words to every 3 meter square across the entire world. You can enter an address and it will show you three of those words, and then, if the location is a larger space, you can click around on other nearby 3 meter squares to find a different set of three words.

Maybe you’ll look at the place you grew up or the place you live now. I can look up the park where I got married, and almost pinpoint the exact spot where I said my vows, and find the words associated with that spot to base a story on! Whatever spot you pick, you’ll have three words to work with! Use them all, or just some, but have fun!

August 2019 Recap

Posted By on September 5, 2019

The newest skeletal members of our menagerie, Juliet Senior and Mr. Sparkle Pony

By the numbers:
Stories out at the beginning of the month: 150
Acceptances received: 3
Rejections received: 109
Stories withdrawn: 7 (+1)
Resubmissions: 106
New Submissions: 10
Stories out at the end of the month: 146

The numbers are all over the place this month. First up: the acceptances! I’ve signed all three of those contracts, so I can announce that “Comeback Tour” will appear in The Worlds of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror in January 2020; “The Gift” will appear in The Bronzeville Bee in December 2019; and my poem, “Definitely Not Haunted,” will appear in The Macabre Museum in October 2019! I also signed a contract for one of my July acceptances, which is that two of my haiku will appear in Frozen Wavelets.

The withdrawals this month are worth noting. Four of them were because I sold “Definitely Not Haunted,” which had been simultaneously submitted to other markets (which poetry markets encourage). One of the other withdrawals, though, was also for “Definitely Not Haunted,” which I had submitted to what I believed was a paying market. They accepted my poem, but for no pay, so I said “no thank you.” And then there were two markets that are likely no longer, and another market that never responded (the +1).

My ten new submissions were nine poems and one short story (toad). Two of those poems were ones I wrote as a part of the August Write Like You’re Alive challenge, which also produced another 24 poems. But those are still waiting to see which will be selected for the Write Like You’re Alive anthology, so they haven’t started going out to markets yet. (And I want to revise some of them.)

Otherwise, things have been flowing in and out as per the usual, ending about where I started, more or less.

I’ve been super busy in August with republishing my Brass and Glass novels, while also getting book 3 ready to go. In addition to my finished poetry, short story, and the challenge poetry, I wrote a flash piece for the other contest and outlined and mostly wrote pockets, but neither of those are quite done yet. I’ve also been working on briar, reviewing books, and writing guest blog posts.

This month, I need to:

  • Finish revising Brass and Glass 3
  • Resume revising briar
  • Revise three flash pieces from the contest
  • Revise some of the challenge poetry
  • Finish pockets and start on revisions
  • Write a new story (day of the dead)
  • Start another new story (no magic)
  • Write 3 flash pieces
  • Review a couple books

That’s a lot!


An Interview with Djibril al-Ayad of The Future Fire

Posted By on September 4, 2019

I’ve been fortunate enough to have two of my stories published by the fine folks at The Future Fire. “Salt in Our Veins” appeared in their Fae Visions of the Mediterranean anthology, and “I Believe” appeared recently in the magazine itself. They’ve recently published their 50th issue, which they celebrated by accepting longer stories and long poems! I’m happy today to host an interview with General Editor Djibril al-Ayad!

Where does the name The Future Fire come from?

This is going back a long way—I think we registered the domain futurefire.net in 2003—so I honestly don’t remember exactly what we were thinking. But if I may reconstruct a feasible story, and pretend it’s perfectly true, it was probably a combination of a couple of things. Firstly we thought of ourselves as a cyberpunk venue, so our inspirations included titles like Burning Chrome, so the imagery of flames with “future” for the SF theme was already there. At the same time, we were thinking about environmental and ecological fiction already, so the idea of a future where “the world is on fire,” either as a metaphor for global heating or a reference to political turmoil and conflagration, was also one we hoped to evoke. And in general words like fire, flame, holocaust, apocalypsis, and inferno, all ring loud in the imagery of horror, of fear, of religious imagery and passion. So while we never really sat down and decided that the name meant any one thing, it was an expression that sounded true to us—and most importantly, wasn’t already the title of a sci-fi magazine or novel.

What has been your most challenging moment editing TFF?

There are several different ways to answer this question, but I’m going to choose the one that has a positive outcome—the challenging time that led to our taking an eighteen-month hiatus from publishing the magazine. In mid-2010, a range of different factors had led all of my then co-editors into either retiring from or at least taking a back seat on TFF, and I wasn’t sure if I could—or wanted to—carry on doing this alone. As I’ve explained elsewhere, editing and working in SF is for me a very social activity, and without that social interaction there would be no joy in it. This could have been the end … although obviously it wasn’t (29 more issues have come out since then)! Ultimately, this hiatus gave us time not only to recharge the batteries and bring some new collaborators onto the editorial team, but also to come up with new strategies for the future. We put out a call for guest editors, which led to the publication of the Outlaw Bodies and We See a Different Frontier anthologies, and was how we met our long-time friends and collaborators Lori and Fabio. We invited 26 different authors, editors, and critics to join us in writing a “speculative alphabet,” with blog posts on themes such as Alternative History, Borgesian, and Cyberpunk, which also helped potential authors to understand better what we meant by “social-political and progressive” in our tagline. Once we relaunched with issue 22 in February 2012, with a rejuvenated and enlarged editorial team, we were bigger, better, more diverse, and more successful than ever before. What started as a serious challenge turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us.

If you could collaborate on a zine or book with any editor, alive or dead, who would it be?

I have a hundred different thoughts about this, but at the moment I’m obsessed with the idea that I once mentioned to Vonda N. McIntyre on Twitter, but didn’t have the courage to actually follow up on, of an anthology of SF stories “edited by” her character J.D. Sauvage from the Starfarers series. I’m thinking in particular of one scene from the end of the first Starfarers book, where the ship receives a signal from an alien source, and several characters try to guess what message it will contain: the mathematician thinks it will encode prime numbers, the biologist DNA sequences, etc. “It won’t be any of those things,” J.D. said. “I don’t know what it will be, but it will be something different.” Something Different could almost be the title of this anthology, signaling that any aliens in the science fiction therein would be truly different and unexpected, not only in intellect and biology, but in social and political organization as well. I think Vonda would also have been an amazing person to work with, so dynamic, so generous, so brilliant. I’m afraid this anthology is never going to happen, though, because I couldn’t do it without her (or at least her blessing), and sadly, she died earlier this year.

What is the first SFF novel that you remember reading and enjoying?

When I was way too young to really understand her writing, I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s City of Illusions and for years remembered only that it was deeply sinister and intense. (Probably fair!) More recently I reread it in the context of Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile, and was blown away by how elegantly it tied up those stories, and surprised by how little of it I remembered from the earlier reading (probably 30 years earlier). Although I don’t find the novel as overwhelming as child-me did, I still find the representation of the Shing colonists to be a deeply sinister element, and the struggle with their mind-lies to be intense to the point of existential panic, which is a wonderful piece of writing.

How is reading for a themed issue or anthology, such as the novelette-length Jubilee issue, different from regular slushreading?

In the case of TFF #50, for which we selected novelette-length stories (above 7,500 words) and long poems, the process wasn’t especially different from our usual slushreading process. We had put out word that we were looking for longer pieces than usual, which led to an increase in 10,000+ word stories (which has barely abated, by the way), but other than that, we read all stories as they came in and in the usual way: pieces the first reader loved were looked at by a couple more for second opinions, etc. Then we divided stories in our accepted pile by length, and the longer ones went into the jubilee issue. (Some readers have detected an editorial hand in crafting the issue by theme or content, but truth is that was either serendipity, or just the theme of the kind of stories we love …)

For the anthologies, however, we read very differently: stories submitted for a pro- or even semipro-paying anthology cannot just be dropped into an issue of the (token-paying) magazine if we love them but they don’t quite fit the theme or other requirements. Plus for an anthology, the readers will be different, and we tend to make a short-list of the stories that both/all totally adored, and then select from those for both fit and coverage, diversity or variety. It can lead to a more satisfactory final table of contents, and of course needs to be coherent and carefully planned for publication and marketing as well.

Into which animal would you like to be able to morph?

I’ve long had a soft spot for being a gecko, especially when it comes to escaping, to passing unnoticed when you need to learn something, or even to just hanging around. But I would much prefer to have the ability to morph a part at a time, at choice, so I could get just the tongue, or just the tail, or—best of all, of course—just the super adhesive finger pads so I could climb sheer glass. And ideally, I’d keep my own eyelids always, because I’ve never fancied licking my eyeballs clean.

Thanks for stopping by, Djibril!

Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering and The Long-Cursed Map Re-Release!

Posted By on September 3, 2019

If you’re an observant follower of this blog, you might have noticed that the cover art on my main page for the Brass and Glass books changed recently. The reasoning behind this is that my previous publishers, Razorgirl Press, are closing up shop and released the rights to my books to me. Since book 3 wasn’t quite ready, and since they wouldn’t be able to finish out the series with me, I made the decision to commission new covers that would all go together, republish the first two books under DefCon One Publishing, and then release the third book through that press as well!

The first two books, Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering and Brass and Glass 2: The Long-Cursed Map can now be re-purchased on Amazon in ebook format, with print format to follow soon. Book 3 will (fingers crossed) release within the next month or two!

Poetry Forms: The Crown Cinquain

Posted By on September 2, 2019

Since I’ve been writing so much poetry lately, I’ve decided to start talking about some of the different forms of poetry I’ve attempted, and how I’ve approached them. One thing I know is that I don’t always approach poetry in the same way that someone who considers themselves a poet might. I consider myself an author first, and a poet second. And sometimes, I throw logic at poetry to see what happens. So you can explore some of these poetry forms along with me and see if maybe my techniques give you some ideas of your own.

The first formed poem I wrote was a double crown Crapsey cinquain with two reversed Crapsey cinquain stanzas.

What the hell was I thinking?

Let’s break this down.

  1. A cinquain (sometimes called a quintain or quintet) is a five line poem or stanza that usually follows a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab, or abccb. There’s often meter here, too, but that is not prescribed by the form.
  2. A Crapsey cinquain is a meter format developed by Adelaide Crapsey (sometimes also called an American cinquain, but there’s a difference between the two), in which the first line of the stanza has 2 syllables, the second has 4 syllables, then 6, 8, and 2 syllables to round out the cinquain. The reverse Crapsey cinquain, then, uses a 2-8-6-4-2 structure. Crapsey cinquains also don’t usually follow a rhyme structure.
  3. A crown cinquain is five cinquains put together as a poem.
  4. And a double crown Crapsey cinquain with two reverse Crapsey cinquain stanzas is a fifty-line poem, in ten stanzas of five lines each, using the 2-4-6-8-2 meter of the Crapsey cinquain for the first four stanzas, then a reverse Crapsey cinquain stanza, four more regular Crapsey cinquain stanzas, and a final reverse Crapsey cinquain stanza. Whew!

So yes, there was a lot going on with that form. Technically speaking, I’m not sure that doubling a crown cinquain is a thing normal people do. But for the purposes of what I wanted to write, I needed a longer poem. My poem didn’t rhyme, because I’m not fond of rhyming poetry. I have no real sense of why I decided to use the reverse Crapsey cinquain stanzas. The poem would have worked the same either way, as those stanzas still have the same number of syllables, and it wasn’t like any of the words would have needed to be broken across lines to make it work. So this was probably me saying “I will break this style and make it mine.” I called the overall structure “two stilted crowns” for a while, but I can’t find any evidence that this is a real thing.

What did I learn from writing a double crown Crapsey cinquain with two reversed Crapsey cinquain stanzas? Probably only that I don’t want to attempt something of that length again. Maybe a normal crown cinquain or a normal Crapsey cinquain would be better options for me. There are also other Crapsey cinquain variations I’m interested in playing with, some of which use the standard and reverse stanzas to better effect than whatever I thought I was doing. At any rate, it was a weird place to start, and I’m a little surprised it didn’t put me off form poetry entirely!