History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fun for Friday: Random EVERYTHING Generators

Posted By on September 8, 2017

Random wordsYou know I love random things, and today, I’m sharing with you the motherlode!

Fantasy Name Generators may sound like a site with just a single purpose, but it’s SO much more than just a place for random fantasy names. It’s a HUGE collection of random generators, from the general to certain-realms-of-pop-culture specific. And in addition to having more random generators than you can shake a stick at, it also provides a little bit of explanation on how some of the names and other things are generated–some are user contributed, while others draw from different sources.

It’s seriously one of the things I often have open when I’m writing, just in case I need a random hand gesture. Or something.

Writing A Series

Posted By on September 7, 2017

Stack of booksI didn’t set out to write a series with Brass and Glass. But when the editors finished reading it, they asked, “Is there a sequel?” And by that point, I’d realized that I’d inadvertently written the first book of a trilogy.

I’ve just finished writing the first draft of book 2 of this series now, and I’ve learned a bit along the way. So here are some of my tips for writing a series.

  1. Start your character/world bible early. If you’re going to be writing a series, you’re going to need to know what color hair or eyes you gave a character, or what their personal background is, or a million other tiny details. People call this a character bible (and/or a world bible, depending on what details you include in it). If you start a character bible early on, you’ll have that information at your fingertips, and hopefully neatly arranged. For Brass and Glass, I have character pictures for some of the details, but I also have a document that talks about what the characters did before they all met, and how they know each other. Sometimes, I add new things to this–like when I finally give one of their parents a name, or realize an interesting twist to their backstory. (And, as a note, even though I have a good mental image of each of the characters, I still go back to look at their pictures more often than I’d like to admit. Particularly when trying to remember which eye Svetlana wears her monocular on.) Chuck Wendig talked about character bibles a long time ago, but the advice he gives is still useful!
  2. Plan on keeping the final version of the previous book(s) close at hand. For all of those things that you tell yourself that you’ll remember, but don’t add to your character or world bible, you’ll need the final version of any previous book(s) in the series. And then, if you’re smart, when you look up some minute detail in the previous book(s), you’ll add that to your character/world bible. I’m bad at the follow-through on this, so I’m constantly going back to check book 1 for details of what happened in what city, since a lot of cities get passing mention.
  3. Expect that you’re going to find plot holes. It’s pretty much inevitable that when you spend a lot of time looking back into things you’ve written previously, you’ll notice something that escaped your attention, and your editors’ attention, and (hopefully) your readers’ attention. Sometimes, you can fix that as the series continues. Sometimes, you just have to gloss over it and hope no one else notices. (No, I’m not telling you the plot hole in Brass and Glass. It’s really tiny. And I’ll fix it in book 2 or 3.)
  4. Listen to what your fans are asking and saying. You may have plans for where things are going to go, and that’s totally fine. But after Brass and Glass came out, I got the same question from SEVERAL friends and family members. “Is [minor character] going to be okay?” Said character was, in fact, going to be okay, but I hadn’t realized how much people were going to latch on to that specific character. It told me that perhaps they needed a bigger role in the next books. As a note, some authors prefer to not let their fans influence the direction of their series, and that’s a perfectly valid response as well. But for me, knowing what people like makes me want to give them more of what they like. And in the case of the character in question, I like them too, so I was more than happy to give them more screen time.

Book Recommendations?

Posted By on September 6, 2017

Circular book shelvesI’m reaching the end of my “to be read for reviews” pile, and I’m looking for more books to read and review. If you want to know about what I’m looking for, check out Mad Scientist Journal‘s book review policy. Since I also write reviews for Girl Cooties, I’m often more interested in books written by women authors, or anthologies featuring many or all women authors.

If you’ve got recommendations for me to check out, you can leave a comment here or “@” me on Twitter at @historyneverwas!

Coming Up: Volatile Figments

Posted By on September 5, 2017

Cover art for Volatile Figments

Cover art for Volatile Figments, due out in October 2017

I’ve been working on pulling together a lot of my old, previously published stories, along with some new stories, into mini collections. The one I’m working on currently is Volatile Figments, which will be a collection of six stories in the young adult/dark contemporary fantasy realm, a number of which feature teenage monsters.

Why teenage monsters? Because of a game called Monsterhearts by Avery Alder. Monsterhearts is a game about being teenage monsters, and it’s a BRILLIANT game. It deals with all of the icky messiness of being a teenager within the metaphor of also being a monster. And that idea inspired a couple of the stories that will be in Volatile Figments, specifically “After School Special” and “Spirit Week,” which are the two stories in this collection that haven’t been published previously.

“After School Special” is my story about what happens when you find out that your BFF has become something not entirely human, while “Spirit Week” is a story of a cabal of teenage witches. Both of these are a little far afield of what Monsterhearts usually ends up dealing with, but both are also stories that the game could potentially tell.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, check back soon! Volatile Monstrosities will be available to buy as an ebook in early October!

A Brief Vacation!

Posted By on September 4, 2017

I’m off from my day job today, and it was going to be a writing day. Then I got a last minute invitation to PAX West/Prime, so I’m off to do that instead. I’ll return tomorrow with your regularly schedule programming!


Fun for Friday: Pseudonym Generator

Posted By on September 1, 2017

If you suddenly found yourself writing in a genre very far from what you normally write, would you publish it under your normal publishing name, or would you go for a pseudonym?

This is a question I’ve asked myself, and I’ve decided that if I ever get that book that accidentally turned into a romance novel with a love triangle (or maybe quadrangle, depending on how I spin one relationship in revisions), I’m using a pseudonym.

I’ve already got one in mind. But in case you’re in need of a pseudonym for non-nefarious purposes, check out this pseudonym generator. It does come up with some odd names, but odd can be good. That makes them memorable!

(And no, I’m not telling what my romance writer pseudonym would be. At least not yet. 🙂 )

August 2017 recap

Posted By on August 31, 2017

By the numbers:

Stories out at the beginning of the month: 27
Acceptances received: 1
Rejections received: 20
Stories withdrawn: 1
Resubmissions: 16
New Submissions: 1
Stories out at the end of the month: 22

Things have slowed down on the rejections front, I suspect because it’s summertime in the northern hemisphere, and many people are off to conventions and vacations. I can certainly see on Duotrope that several of my stories are out for longer than the average response time, but on looking at the markets in question, they’re behind on responses too. I had one acceptance (still waiting for official word to announce that), I withdrew one story from a market that didn’t seem to be responding in a timely fashion (and it’s one I want to self-publish), had another story that didn’t have any good markets to send it to, and another story that came back and I’m holding it for self-publishing.I also got a late in the month rejection that I’m holding for a market that opens up tomorrow. I finished clones, which wound up being a poem, so we’ll see how that goes!

I’ve been chugging through Write Like You’re Alive, which I finished yesterday, a day early. I closed out the month with almost 22,000 words on just that project, in a mix of prose chapters and poetry “interludes.” It’s going to need some rewriting and expanding, but I suspect it’ll clock in firmly in the novella category. I’ve got a few places I might send it to see if they’re interested in a weird magical realism novella, but I’ll likely self-publish it early next year instead.

I’m VERY close to the end of B&G2. Like a chapter and change to write. My plan was to finish it this month, and then to finish it on Labor Day. Now I’m going to PAX, so I’ll finish it by the end of next week. It’s taken about 7 1/2 months, start to finish. I’m hoping to write book 3 a lot faster. But I haven’t started outlining it yet.

I finished clones, monsters, and mall tour, and I’ve submitted the first and started editing the second. I haven’t quite gotten started on the fourth story I was going to work on in August, twins, but I should get a chance to work on that tonight.

For September, my plan is to:

  • Finish B&G2, outline B&G3, and start writing B&G3.
  • Revise monsters and mall tour and get both submitted.
  • Write twins.
  • Start arcology (or really continue, since I’ve got a bit of it written).
  • Review another book.
  • Work on Austenworld.

Another ambitious month, but I can do it!


Review of Six-Gun Snow White

Posted By on August 30, 2017

Cover art for Six-Gun Snow WhiteMy latest review is up at Mad Scientist Journal. This week, it’s for Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente.

You might have noticed that I really like books by Cat Valente. This one was no exception!

Check it out here!

Writing with A Kernel of What You Know

Posted By on August 29, 2017

books on a shelfThere’s a lot of advice for writers that says “write what you know.” For speculative fiction authors, that can be difficult–few of us have ever fought a dragon, piloted a spaceship, or escaped from certain doom at the hands of a horrific monster. (Your mileage may vary. I never have.)

I think that perhaps the better way of putting this is “write with a kernel of what you know.” You don’t need to have encyclopedic knowledge of the topic at hand, but if you can base even a portion of your story in something you do know about, it can be all the richer for it.

In my latest novella, Cross and Circle, I wrote about a comparative religions professor who is a pregnant Hispanic lesbian. None of that comes from my own experiences. But she’s also a researcher, and that’s something I do know a bit about, since I’m trained as a historian. So when Evie and Taylor are digging through old records to try to learn more about the mysterious cult that has an interest in Evie’s unborn child, that’s when I’m in my element. I’ve been there, digging through books or newspapers looking for the tiniest scrap of a clue that will get me to the next step in learning about some topic.

For the parts that you don’t know, that you might not be able to experience, that’s where research comes in. Not the kind of research that I’m talking about in the previous paragraph, but the kind of research where I found a description of what contractions feel like, for example.

So if there’s something you’ve got a lot of knowledge about, put that into a story that you want to write. Having those solid details will help lend realism to your story, even if it is about piloting a spaceship into a horrific dragon. Or something.


Posted By on August 28, 2017

A couple of weeks ago at Spocon, I was on a panel on self-editing with Kat Richardson, Alex Fedyr, Grivante, and Elizabeth R. Alix. Here’s a distillation of some of the wisdom we dispensed.

  1. First, finish what you’re writing, whether that is a novel or a story. There’s a lot of temptation to tweak as you go, but there’s also a good possibility that some of what you’re tweaking will be wasted effort, if you’ve spent a lot of time perfecting a scene that gets cut. So write first, edit second.
  2. Make sure to get some distance from what you’ve written. If it’s something short, just sleeping on it can help. If it’s a longer piece, the more time you can give yourself (without completely losing your momentum on it), the better.
  3. Reading aloud helps you catch the things your eyes normally glaze over. I find that reading with another human is the best, but you can also use a text-to-speech function to have the computer read to you. Don’t have a text-to-speech function on your software? TTS Reader is online and free, and you can even give it a PDF to read. Also, you can have it read to you in a British voice, which is my personal favorite.
  4. Some software has editing assistance built into it. Not all of it is created equal. Don’t just follow blindly what your software wants you to do, but use it more as guidelines. Microsoft Word, for example, is designed to follow the rules of business English. But creative writing doesn’t need to follow those rules. You can turn off spell or grammar checkers while you’re writing if that helps.
  5. If you don’t have built in editing assistance in your writing program of choice, you can also find a lot of good programs online. Grammarly and ProWritingAid were both recommended. And of course, many authors love Scrivener. (I’m not one who has jumped on that train yet!)
  6. Some also choose to use non-technological aids for their writing and self-editing. Other authors recommended The Emotion Thesaurus and other titles by the same authors. There’s also value in knowing what words you tend to overuse and searching for those to check yourself.
  7. It may take several passes through your work to get it to the best it can be. In general, taking separate passes for different elements is advisable, and also pacing yourself so you’re not trying to push through the whole thing at once. But, at the same time, it’s important to recognize that you can spend AGES on editing, trying to make everything perfect, but if you keep at that, you’ll never finish. Sometimes, it’s better to reach a point where it is extremely good and done, rather than perfect and forever being tweaked.

And of course, it goes without saying that professional editors are always a great help. But by self-editing your work before it goes to a professional editor, you give them a cleaner product to work with, which means that they can focus their attention on the smaller details you’ve missed rather than big picture stuff that you could catch through self-editing.