History That Never Was

Home of Dawn Vogel: Writer, Historian, Geek

Fun for Friday: Magnetic Poetry Online

Posted By on January 3, 2020

If you recall magnetic poetry as being a fun thing to do, but you’ve got a non-magnetic fridge or your magnets have all gone missing, you can still make magnetic poetry online! There are a few different sets on this website, so you’ll have some options for what sort of poems you’d like to write!

Setting Goals for 2020

Posted By on January 2, 2020

Now that it’s 2020, it’s time to start looking at my writing goals for this coming year!

Top of my list for this year is looking for an agent. I’ve got a young adult book that is pretty close to being ready to query agents with, so that’s going to be at the top of my list! This will be the third book that I’ve queried, and I’ve learned a lot from those other searches (particularly in relation to book lengths and topics and such). I’ve got a good feeling about this one!

I’ve also got a Lady Huntsman mystery novella that’s nearly done, which needs to go through revisions, then go to some beta readers, and then some more revisions. This will probably be one for self-publishing, since it’s tied in with the Cobalt City universe.

I’ve also got plans to write three new books and start on a fourth, plus revise two of those books. The theoretical books are (in order): a middle grade mystery, a sci-fi comedy, and the first two books in a young adult series (because apparently I can’t leave series alone).

On the short story front, I’ve slowed my schedule down a bit, and I’m hoping to write 14 new short stories this year, or just a bit more than one a month. I’m also planning on doing a couple of flash fiction contests that will get me 8 pieces of flash. I’ll probably write sporadic poetry, and I definitely plan to do Drawlloween again. I may also do Write Like You’re Alive, if it happens in 2020. Those things are less quantifiable, though they’re theoretically 31 pieces for each of the two months.

Even though Mad Scientist Journal is closing their doors in late March, I’ll be continuing to review books. Those reviews will start being posted here in April. There will be about 18 books I review this year, possibly more!

I’ve also got plans to publish two themed short story collections of my own stuff. One will be Cobalt City related, and the other will be the second volume of Unfixed Timelines. I’m waiting for rights to revert and working on other related things for both of those collections very soon!

Review of Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo

Posted By on January 1, 2020

My latest review for Mad Scientist Journal is up now, this week for Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo. This is a novelette, so it was a really quick read that I read in about an hour. But the title was awesome, and the plot sucked me right in, with a very realistic tale of dealing with the death of a loved one, along with the surreal parts about real magic (as opposed to stage magic, which is also involved).

You can check out my review here or the book here!

December 2019 and Overall 2019 Recaps!

Posted By on December 31, 2019

By the numbers:
Stories out at the beginning of the month: 177
Acceptances received: 3
Rejections received: 71
Stories withdrawn: 0 (+2)
Resubmissions: 72
New Submissions: 2
Stories out at the end of the month: 169

December was theoretically back to normal, though I was still juggling a lot of crochet and craft fairs. But also, a lot of markets get very quiet in December, so my number of rejections is pretty low this month. The +2 under withdrawn was from two markets that closed in December and returned the stories they had in their slush piles. But I got three acceptances as well! I’ve signed two of the contracts for those acceptances, so I can announce that my poem, “Motes and Morsels,” will appear in the January issue of Apparition Lit, and my flash fiction piece, “Senchado in Microgravity,” will appear in the April issue of Utopia Science Fiction.

I only finished two new pieces this month, a flash piece and a poem. I worked on ghost a little, realized the deadline for that was farther out than originally calculated, and decided to work on a different sub call instead. So that’s chugging along, slowly but surely. But I got my outline for the middle grade book done, and I’ve started working on revisions to briar–there are a few big picture things that need to be filled out, and otherwise it’s mostly minor tweaks.

For my January 2020 planning, here’s what’s on tap:

  • Finish the revisions to briar and start prepping my agent submission things (query letter and synopsis)
  • Start writing beagle (most of it will be written in January)
  • Three flash pieces for a contest
  • Finish writing “space moms”
  • Finish writing “wolf”
  • Start planning “hostile AI”
  • One or two book reviews

Whee, busy month!

~

And now, here’s my 2019 recap:

My numbers for 2019:
Stories out at the end of 2018: 51
New Stories Written: 106 (26 short and flash pieces, 1 novella, 79 poems)
Old Stories Making the Rounds: 74
Total Submissions: 998
Total Rejections: 771 (+39)
Total Acceptances: 32 (+5) (-2)
Stories out at the end of 2019: 169

My submissions in 2019 skyrocketed. This is largely thanks to me writing a LOT of poetry (most of what I wrote in 2019 was poetry), and the simultaneous and multiple submission nature of poetry markets. But I’ve also had 180 pieces total going out on submission this year, which means a lot more opportunities for submissions.

Unsurprisingly, as my submissions skyrocket, so too do my rejections (the parenthetical number after rejections is for returned and withdrawn pieces, as well as for the markets that closed). But my acceptances are way up as well! Five stories that I submitted in 2018, but didn’t receive responses until 2019 were acceptances, and thirty-two other pieces were accepted as well! Unfortunately, two of the markets that accepted pieces from me subsequently folded, so those two stories came back to me without being published … but that just means they can go back out to markets as new stories, not reprints!

Of the thirty-two acceptances, that was fourteen poems and eighteen short/flash stories. Three of the stories and four of the poems sold at professional rates (6 cents a word at the beginning of the year, up to 8 cents a word after September).

I also reprinted the first two books of my Brass and Glass series under the DefCon One Publishing mantle after Razorgirl Press closed. I also published the final Brass and Glass book this year, completing the trilogy. And I published a collection of my short stories, Denizens of Distant Realms.

Reviewing my 2019 goals:

  • 43 completed stories/poems and 34 others at least started

Success! And then some!

  • 3 new novels

I finished writing briar and the Lady Huntsman novel. I didn’t write the second Marsh Sisters novel, but that’s on tap for 2020.

  • edit 2 novels

I’ve edited Wasteland, which is now a novella, and is currently circulating to novella markets. I’ve started working on the briar edits, but that won’t be done for about another month.

  • 17 book reviews

Success, plus one extra (thanks to some novellas in the mix).

  • editing for MSJ and our anthology

Yep, the usual. This one comes off of the list for the future, though, because we’re closing MSJ and not doing a 2020 anthology.

 

Writing to a Theme

Posted By on December 30, 2019

I write a lot of stories that are prompted by themed calls for submissions. These are often for anthologies, but they are sometimes for a themed issue of a magazine or for a magazine with a very specific genre/aesthetic. I’ve had fairly good luck with placing my stories in themed anthologies, so today, I’m talking a little bit about how I write to a specific themed call, along with some advice on how to not entirely pigeonhole your story.

The first thing I do when finding a themed call is to think about potential stories that would fit that call. Oftentimes, there are one or two ideas that come to mind immediately on reading the open call. Those are the ideas that I generally put on the back-burner–having them in mind is helpful, but whatever I’ve thought of first is likely to be the same thing that other authors have thought of first. So those are the ideas I don’t really want to write, if I want my story to fit the call but also stand out.

Once I’ve got those initial ideas on the back-burner, it frees up my ability to start spinning different ideas in unusual directions. I have to give myself some time to let the ideas percolate and branch out. Sometimes, one of those initial ideas will come back to the forefront, but with an interesting twist that would take it from something that many authors might come up with to something that is a much more “me” story.

One thing that sometimes helps me find the twist or unique approach I want to take is doing a little bit of research. For example, if the call is related to “monsters,” I might go to Wikipedia and look at a few pages on types of monsters, following the rabbit hole of clicking on links to related articles, until I find a specific monster that appeals to me. Then, once I’ve got that sorted out, I can dig deeper on that specific monster (or whatever the topic of research is) to find the details I need to get the idea moving.

After I’ve got my idea mostly sorted out, I have to figure out an outline (yes, even for short stories, and sometimes even for flash fiction!). My outlines for non-novel length fiction are often just a quick summary of what scenes need to be written and what should happen in each of these to get to the end point I want. I also have to figure out character names fairly early on–I find that I can’t really get the characters doing things until they have names, even if those names end up as placeholders. (Though I can’t name them all Steve. I still haven’t sold that story …)

Then of course comes the writing, and the revising, and the submitting. And then I’ve got a themed story to submit to the call that started the process.

One of the fears in writing to a themed call is that if your story doesn’t make the cut, then what? If the call is super specific, you may be stuck with a story that’s hard to sell elsewhere, because everyone who had their stories rejected from this call will be shopping around their stories as well, or the story is so niche that there’s no one else looking for something like what you wrote.

One of the solutions I’ve found for this is to try, when writing the story, to find the ways in which the “serial numbers” can be filed off. For example, I wrote a story for a themed call that was related to a band. But as I wrote the story, I realized that if the story didn’t make the cut, I could change the names of the characters, and it would become generic enough that it might not be traceable to its original inspiration.

Another solution is to have your story speak to the theme without being complete beholden to it. This can prove a little trickier, because you want the editors of the themed call to be able to see how your story fits in with their vision. If you stray too far from that vision, it makes it a more difficult sell to the market you’ve written it for. But I have had some success with writing a story to one theme and then, if it’s rejected, making some small revisions to either make it fit another theme, or to make it slightly more generic.

 

Fun for Friday: January 2020 Writing Prompts!

Posted By on December 27, 2019

2019 is coming to a close, so it’s time for the January 2020 writing prompts! Most of the words for this month are themed to the season, but there are also a good handful of really random things, so that you can have some non-seasonal prompts!

You could also integrate the photo I’ve included with this post as a part of your prompt. This month, it’s a variety of fireworks in red, gold, and blue, exploding over a fountain and body of water lit in gold.

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 New Waiting Celebration
2 Cold Fortune Migration
3 Ancient Waddle Resolution
4 Jarring Color Feather
5 Bleak Parade Hero
6 Slick Equality Freezing
7 Story Tradition Justice
8 Frigid Swim Leader
9 Lost Liberty Fish
10 Speech Snow fort Torch
11 Icicle Two-faced Update
12 Sharp Command Colorful
13 Unit Tire Element
14 Investigate Postmark Wobble
15 Comparison Hot chocolate Polar bear
16 Speaking Quickly Wedding
17 Ceremony Emotions Preparation
18 Secret Rebellion Ship
19 Orange Belief Self-control
20 Thermometer Elephant Shampoo
21 Ticket Spy Chair
22 Pigeons Crab Wig
23 Laser Chart Curl
24 Generator Envelope Algae
25 Dragon Plane Socks
26 Tea bag Carnival Sand
27 Fringe Scorpion Cactus
28 Duster Savanna Revival
29 Shutter Stop Whale
30 Interfere Season Noisy
31 Chemist Rome Breath

“Dry Spell” in Denizens of Distant Realms

Posted By on December 26, 2019

One of the stories in my fantasy collection, Denizens of Distant Realms, began life as a fantastical history story. “Dry Spell” was originally about an enslaved Romani woman living in colonial Virginia during an extensive drought. Based on the research I had done, this scenario was plausible–there were Romani slaves in the American colonies, and there was historical evidence for the drought at the period of time I set my story.

The problem was, both of these things were just obscure enough that it made the story unbelievable as fantastical history. So I scrubbed the serial numbers off of the story and turned it into a secondary world fantasy story, which made it fit perfectly with the other stories in Denizens of Distant Realms.

I talked more about this on Jennifer Brozek’s “Tell Me” feature back in September, where you can read more about the original story and the changes!

Article Recommendation: Pre-Code Hollywood

Posted By on December 25, 2019

I recently came across this article, which talks about how very different Hollywood and American film-making was in the days prior to the Hays Code, also known as the Motion Pictures Production Code. This morality code changed the film-making industry dramatically, particularly for women in the industry, who found that their previously powerful and liberal roles were now constrained by these rules.

This is of particular interest to me because I’ve written the first draft of a novel set in a slightly alternate Hollywood that would fall into the Hays Code era. Both the article and the Wikipedia article on the Code are fascinating reads, particularly in light of how they would have impacted the secondary characters in my novel, who are in the film-making industry of the 1950s, even if it is slightly fictionalized.

 

“Nochnaya Serenada” and “The Gift” Out Now!

Posted By on December 24, 2019

I’ve got a reprinted story, “Nochnaya Serenada,” out in the latest issue of Curiosities. This issue is a collection of World War II-era stories, so my Night Witches stories fit right in. You can read more about what I had to say about this story here.

I’ve also got a Christmas-themed story out at The Bronzeville Bee, called “The Gift.” This one spun off of a prompt about a goblin market, which is a concept that fascinates me. I really love how this story turned out, and I hope other people will enjoy it too!

Poetry Forms: Paradelle

Posted By on December 23, 2019

The paradelle is one of my favorite forms of really ridiculous poetry. United States Poet Laureate Billy Collins made it up as a JOKE. But I latched onto it as an interesting and somewhat challenging form that I could logic my way through. And folks, I do love a challenge I can solve with logic!

The rules, as stated at Writer’s Digest, are:

  • The paradelle is a 4-stanza poem.
  • Each stanza consists of 6 lines.
  • For the first 3 stanzas, the 1st and 2nd lines should be the same; the 3rd and 4th lines should also be the same; and the 5th and 6th lines should be composed of all the words from the 1st and 3rd lines and only the words from the 1st and 3rd lines.
  • The final stanza should be composed of all the words in the 5th and 6th lines of the first three stanzas and only the words from the 5th and 6th lines of the first three stanzas.

And here’s the logic part of this. The fifth and sixth lines of each of the first three stanzas contain all the words in each of those stanzas. The final stanza contains only the words from the fifth and sixth lines of the first three stanzas. Therefore, the final stanza will include all of the words that can be used in the entire poem. Which, in my world, means write the final stanza first, then split up those words roughly evenly, and write the other stanzas from there.

In this way, it’s a lot like magnetic poetry with a very limited word set, like the small poem I wrote for the image in this post. My tiny poem reads: “I could ship away but my skin is the storm.” If I were writing a very tiny condensed paradelle, with just those words, then I’d rearrange them for each of the other stanzas, winding up with things like: “My skin is away, I could ship the storm” or “The storm is away, I could ship my skin.” (There may be a limit of how few words you can easily use in this form without having to get very convoluted or repetitive in your other stanzas.)

My poem “Radiance and Obscurity,” which appeared at Liquid Imagination recently, is an example of a full length paradelle, if you want to see a real one in action. I did a lot with punctuation to change up the repetitiveness of the form, which also served to change the meaning of some lines!