History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fun for Friday: The Etymology of February

Posted By on February 2, 2018

Calendar page for FebruaryDid you know that originally, February didn’t even exist as a month? And that the Roman god Februus is named after a Roman festival from which the month takes its name, not the other way around?

If you’re interested in word origins, check out this article about the origins of the name of the second month of the year. You can also learn about what the month was called before it was called February–trust me, as much as I hate spelling February, the other options were worse!

Battling in All Her Finery Kickstarter

Posted By on February 1, 2018

Partial cover art for Battling in All Her FineryToday is the big day! Our Kickstarter for Battling in All Her Finery is now live! Be sure to check it out early, as we have special deals for the first people who pledge for a digital or print copy of the book. And if you want to support us more, there are options for crocheted roses (handmade by me) so that you can also battle in finery, as well as limited edition hardcover books!

So check out the options, and check back here throughout the month to learn more about this anthology!

January 2018 Recap

Posted By on January 31, 2018

The porgs have the phone boxBy the numbers:

Stories out at the beginning of the month: 25
Acceptances received: 1
Rejections received: 16 (+2)
Stories withdrawn: 0
Resubmissions: 14
New Submissions: 2
Stories out at the end of the month: 23

How is it already the end of January? It seems like the month just started!

Anyway, here we are. It’s a bit of a quiet month in terms of rejections, as I imagine a lot of publishers are still recovering from the holidays and the lost work time in December. I received one acceptance, which is for a new story, “Parcel Post,” which will appear in Frostfire Worlds in August. I had two new stories that started into circulation, one of which was for an anthology call, and the other of which is another superhero story. These were both stories that were nearly done at the end of 2017, but I finished them up this year. The +2 rejections are from markets that closed and sent back all of their pending stories. And of course, I had a few stories that I’ve pulled out of circulation (in part for a new collection I’m working on, and in part when they’ve run out of good markets) and some that have gone back in. It’s an ever churning pile of stories out there in the big scary world.

In addition to the two stories I finished, I’ve gotten Scenes from a Quiet Apocalypse ready for publication, outlined the novel I’m working on now and started writing it, worked on revisions for Brass and Glass 2, finished the first draft on another story, worked on another story, and wrote a book review.

For February, my plan is to continue working on the new novel, continue revising Brass and Glass 2, revise “Night Witches,” finish the first drafts of “house” and “shipping,” start revising “house,” and start writing “damsel.” Plus I’ve got two books to review this month, so I guess I better get to reading!


Historical Fiction

Posted By on January 30, 2018

Cover art for Unfixed TimelinesAt Rustycon, I was on a couple of panels about historical fiction or using history for writing and gaming ideas. We talked about interesting historical fiction we’d read and written, as well as ways of using history to come up with neat story or gaming ideas.

If it wasn’t already apparent from the name of my website, I’m a big fan of historical fiction. I love coming up with events and occurrences that may already have a historical explanation, but that can be twisted just a little bit, mixed with some speculative ideas, and come out with something new. I don’t write much of the “what if” version of alternate history, in which you start with an event that would change what happened over the following years and follow it out to its conclusion, but I enjoy reading those types of stories and books. Arguably some steampunk could fall in to the latter category, but the steampunk I tend to write is normally not set in our world.

The stories that I included in Unfixed Timelines all share the theme of having just a little tweak applied to reality. An archaeological dig that winds up uncovering alien artifacts. Zombies in the aftermath of the Battle of Vicksburg. An annual beauty pageant ruled over by an otherworldly entity. Magic and Greek gods intervening in an Old West dispute. A Nereid rescuing her daughter from pirates. Nothing huge in any case, though the impact on the stories and the history is profound.

When it comes to using history in gaming, the most often method is to take a real event and file off the serial numbers, particularly if you’re operating in a non-real world setting. You might not want to have Civil War generals showing up in your game, but if you tweak their names and have the conflict similar, you could use the details of a Civil War battle in your game, whether it be fantasy or sci-fi based. If your game is a historical game set in the real world, you don’t even have to file off the serial numbers. In my old Victorian Era Buffy the Vampire Slayer game, wherein the characters were the Slayer of that time’s assistants, Jack the Ripper was a demon who ultimately dragged the Slayer off to a hell realm, leaving her helpers to try to retrieve her. So there are plenty of options for playing with history in a gaming setting as well!

New Stories

Posted By on January 29, 2018

A blank pageBecause I was nearly done with a couple of stories at the end of the year, which I finished early into 2018, I’m currently in a position where I’m starting lots of new stories rather than revising completed stories. It means that my brain is in overdrive working out all of the details, figuring out the plots of the stories, and doing all the research that I need to keep me writing.

Even for short stories, I like to have at least a rough outline before I get started. It’s not like a novel outline, but it’s at least the rough course of the story. And I’m far more likely to diverge on a short story than on a novel, which is why I sometimes wind up with an almost 6,000 word story that ultimately has to get carved down to no more than 5,000 words. But, then again, it also sometimes means that I sit down to write and realize that I can do the whole thing in under 1,000 words.

When I can, I prefer to have a mix of working on old and new things, because it lets my brain do different things. That way, if I get stuck on drafting, I can turn to editing, or vice versa. When I don’t have that option, I just have to keep on trucking.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to get back to a mix of revising and drafting. And then, soon after that, I’ll start having completed stories going out to markets. But for right now, I’m dealing with a lot of blank pages and just charging in when I’m able to!

Fun for Friday: February Writing Prompts

Posted By on January 26, 2018

February Writing PromptsAs January winds to a close, it’s time to start looking at writing prompts for February.

There are a lot of love-related things for this month, but you don’t have to make them part of a romantic story or poem. In fact, it could be interesting to flip some of them to their darker sides. I’ve also got things related to February holidays, zodiac signs, and words that can be made from “February,” some of which fit in with the other themes!

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!

Text version of the prompts:

  1. Pearl
  2. Shadow
  3. Melting
  4. Sports
  5. Violet
  6. Bare
  7. Ruby
  8. Heart
  9. Purification
  10. Berry
  11. Beau
  12. Hugs
  13. Kisses
  14. Valentine
  15. Ashes
  16. Dog
  17. Amethyst
  18. Cherry
  19. Water
  20. Fish
  21. Adoration
  22. Chocolate
  23. Yearning
  24. Love
  25. Date
  26. Red
  27. Flowers
  28. Twenty-Eight

When the Heroine Isn’t 18, Blonde, and a Size 3

Posted By on January 25, 2018

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jones from the Alien franchiseOne of the panels I was on at Rustycon was called “When the Heroine Isn’t 18, Blonde, and a Size 3.” The topics we talked about were wide ranging, from books to TV to movies, but the primary idea was about writing non-Hollywood style women protagonists.

This is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially as I’ve gotten older. I know how long it’s taken me to get to where I am in my career and life, and while there are certainly some 18 year olds who might have their lives together, it’s pretty rare. So to me, when you’re writing a competent or even skilled protagonist, it makes a whole lot more sense to have them as a woman who is a bit older than fresh out of high school.

Other things that we talked about were the dearth of moms as protagonists. We had a couple of mothers in the audience, and both wanted to see more moms saving the world. We also talked about having even older women–maybe grandmothers, or those of an age to be a grandmother–saving the day.

We also talked about a lot of the actors we’d like to see playing some of these protagonists who don’t fit the Hollywood mold, and of course Sigourney Weaver was high on our list. Even though her days as Ripley in the Alien franchise are far behind her, she was phenomenal in The Defenders.

If you’re interested in reading books with unconventional women protagonists, you can find them in Captain Svetlana Tereshchenko in Brass and Glass: The Cask of Cranglimmering, Evie and Carlotta in Cross & Circle, and in many of my short stories!

Review of Serpent’s Rise by Trish Heinrich

Posted By on January 24, 2018

Cover art for Serpent's RiseMy newest book review is up on Mad Scientist Journal, and it’s the sequel to a book I reviewed earlier!

Serpent’s Rise is the sequel to Serpent’s Sacrifice. In this book, Alice/the Serpent has a few more years beneath her belt, but she’s dealing with the fallout of the previous book, on multiple levels. While this one is felt a little less action-y to me, the action there is still great, and it sets up perfectly for another book, which I’m looking forward to.

You can read my full review here!

Battling in All Her Finery: Countdown to the Kickstarter Launch!

Posted By on January 23, 2018

Partial cover art for Battling in All Her FineryToday on Facebook, we’re launching an event to count down to the launch of our next Mad Scientist Journal anthology on Kickstarter. Which is a long way of saying: we’ve got another Kickstarter on the horizon!

Battling in All Her Finery will be an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about woman leaders: presidents, queens, high priestesses, admirals, matriarchs, CEOs, and more. Each story will be written from the perspective of someone who has either been or been around these leaders. We use an inclusive definition of “woman” and “female,” and we welcome stories about anyone who identifies as a woman on some level.

The Kickstarter launches on February 1st, and I’ll be posting about it quite a bit here. But if you’re interested in learning more about the anthology before the Kickstarter launches, you can RSVP to the Facebook event here. Each day, we’ll be posting a little about the anthology and/or matters related to women leaders!

And, of course, we’ll have a call for submissions in March, assuming that we are successful in reaching our funding goal! So start brainstorming your story ideas now!

Self-Publishing 101: The Types of Editing

Posted By on January 22, 2018

Red pen and edited manuscriptWhile at Rustycon recently, Jeremy and I were on a panel about self-publishing. We also met with an author who is considering self-publishing his book. One of the topics that came up in both instances was the types of editing, the order they happen in, and the importance of each.

The first step, prior to any editing at all, is to have the book done. While there can be some self-editing done during the writing process, I find that it’s often better to get a first draft done before you start editing. Then, let the draft sit for a little while before you go through and find your mistakes, smooth out some of the wording, and so on.

But you’re not done yet, not even close.

Beta Readers:

The next step for most authors is beta readers. You’ll want to find some beta readers who are just people who love to read, but it’s also valuable to find some beta readers who are also authors, as they can offer you insights on potential flaws in your story’s plot. What you don’t need beta readers to do is to work on your grammar, spelling, or other nit-picky things. Beta readers are just there to tell you what they loved and didn’t love about your story as a whole, your characters, and other large scale matters.

One important thing to remember about beta readers: they may have suggestions for how you can make things better. Neil Gaiman has said that if someone points out a flaw in your story, they’re probably right. If they provide you with a solution, they may be wrong. It’s up to you to sift through the feedback from your beta readers and figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.

Does every book need beta readers? Maybe not plural, but it’s always a good idea to get outside eyes on your book. Writing is such a solitary exercise that you can get really wrapped up in the story, and not realize that what you wrote doesn’t match what you thought you wrote. Many times, I’ve handed something off to a beta reader, looked at something that confused them, and realized that what I thought about a scene didn’t actually make it onto the page!

Developmental Editing:

Once you’ve gotten feedback from beta readers and either applied or discarded it, as appropriate, then you want to consider a developmental editor. A developmental editor does many of the same things that a beta reader might be able to do, but they come at your book from a different perspective. They are looking to help you make it well plotted and internally consistent. For example, do your protagonist’s eyes stay the same color for the whole book? (You’d be surprised how easy it is to foul up little details like that, especially as you go through rounds of edits.)

Another big difference between a beta reader and a developmental editor is that most beta readers will read your stuff and provide feedback for free. A developmental editor is a paid assistant. Rates for developmental editing can vary widely, and it can be difficult to find someone available for developmental editing. So poke around, see what other work they’ve done, and ask about their willingness to do a sample chapter or two so you can get a feel for their style. Many developmental editors will offer a special rate for this sort of service, which can then often be applied to their fee for a full developmental edit, as they also want to get to know your writing and style.

Does every book need a developmental editor? Maybe not. But when you’re starting out, it’s a good idea to get as much feedback as you can. And unless you’ve got a really kick-ass beta reader who doubles as a developmental editor for no cost, it’s worth the money to pay someone to go through your book and work with you closely to improve it.

Copy Editing:

Finally, the last stage in the editing process is a copy editor. This is my personal wheelhouse, as I’ve been copy editing in various capacities for the past 20 years (gulp!). I’ve got all sorts of good tips and tricks to help make a finished manuscript into the best possible polished manuscript possible. Again, like developmental editors, copy editor rates can vary, and it’s a good idea to get a sample copy edit too, if possible.

Does every book need a copy editor? My editor brain says yes. My writer brain says that with enough writing and editing experience, you can sometimes use some self-editing tricks to get around it. But again, I’m talking 20 years of experience under my belt. So I generally feel okay with self publishing a book that I wrote and copy edited. But most people can really use the outside eyes and fine-toothed comb of a copy editor.


While this seems like a lot of work and a lot of money, potentially, don’t despair. Remember that the whole point of editing is to make your book the best it can be, which will hopefully translate into better sales. Self-publishing is a lot of work; there’s no denying it. But self-publishing also gained a reputation for putting out books that were not necessarily handled as carefully as they should have been. Hopefully, with this advice on the types of editing, you can help to turn around the stigmas associated with self-published work!