Life has been a bit rough lately. Not just for me. It is getting better. Slowly, surely, life moves on. Still working on BattleTech: Ghost Hour. The words are returning. In the meantime, here's a Bubble & Squeek for you.
• Podcast: The Dire Multiverse. I am voice talent on this urban fantasy podcast, mostly playing the character Dana Lessington…who you will find out is more than she seems. I occasionally play other NPC character parts, too.
• Podcast: ShadowBytes 06: Miyazaki – From DocWagon 19. The team rescues someone they know. Trivia: Miyazaki stars in the serialized Shadowrun story in GTM magazine, “Between a Corp and a Hard Place.”
• Podcast: ShadowBytes 07: Literal Milk Run – This is my play on a heist supposedly being so easy it’s like running out for milk. This is the penultimate episode of ShadowBytes.
• Publication: “Written in Red” by Jennifer Brozek and John Helfers. This is my first collaboration with John and it turned out be a good one. Tie-in story for Emberwind, the RPG.
• Recommendation: The Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes. My blurb: “This book is messed up in all the right ways. It’s as if Pixar’s Inside Out mugged Toy Story in a surrealist Raymond Chandler novel. Weird, fun, scary, and a great mystery to boot. Hayes sticks the landing.”
• Support: As always… if you appreciate my work and would like to support me, I love coffee. I am made of caffeine. This is the quickest way to brighten my day.
After my father’s illness and death and my stalling on my novel-in-progress, I decided I needed a personal writing retreat—both for the writing and the retreating from normal life. A reset point. I do my best recharging by the ocean. It fills me and lets me rest. I kept a journal while I was there.
Day 1: Thursday
This is the first time in my life I’ve taken a vacation by myself for myself. I’ve traveled alone before, but my destination always included meeting up with someone. Whether it was for a convention or a writing retreat, I was never actually alone. I feel a little weird about this. but not bad.
Now that I’ve given myself permission to grieve, to cry, I have no tears and I don’t know why not.
Wandering through a hotel in the middle of the week as the hotel transitions into the off-season reminds me of the Alhambra hotel from THE TALISMAN, the novel by King and Straub. There’s no one around, long empty corridors, and services are limited.
Day 2: Friday
I’ve learned that I need more than a view of the ocean. My dream oceanside home will be close to the shore or on the shore and up high (on a bluff/above the 6th floor of a condo building). I like the hotel I’m in but it’s not close enough to the shoreline for me.
I made the tactical error of not bringing a sweater. Always bring a sweater with you to the ocean. There is always a breeze and it’s usually cold.
Faced my fear and went out to have a meal at one of my favorite restaurants by myself. I was going to get it to go then decided it was silly to not eat there, enjoying the place. Facing one’s fear is hard.
Day 3: Saturday
The words are returning—slowly, haltingly, like learning to walk again. So are the random story ideas. Of course, this random story idea involves a haunted hotel, but not exactly in the normal way.
Another tactical error on my part was forgetting the binoculars. I’m too far away from the shoreline to really get a good look at the kites, flying go carts, and boats on the water. Must remember for next time.
Definitely the off-season now. Limited menus and no lunch service. Good thing I packed food for all breakfasts and lunches.
Day 4: Sunday
I’ve figured out that I can write or not-write just as well at home, but it’s the solitude I’ve needed. I’m not done crying, but I think the worst of it is over. I’ve now written more in the past 2 days than in the past 3 weeks.
I miss my Husband and kitties. I miss the Husband’s cooking. I miss my bed. I’m ready to be home.
Day 5: Monday
I’ve decided to go home a day early. I can write or not-write just as well at home, and I am writing again. So, mission accomplished.
6 days is too long. 5 is long enough. Controlled solitude is healing. I think this has been a good learning vacation. Maybe I’ll do one again next year. Just closer to the ocean shore.
Dawn Vogel is one of those authors and editors working in the publishing trenches that most people don’t know about but should. Here, she tells me how she incorporates real world history that is stranger than fiction into her writing.
The stories I included in my collection, Denizens of Distant Realms, are all secondary world fantasy stories. They didn't all start out that way, however. The first version I wrote of "Dry Spell" was a historical fantasy story, set in Colonial Virginia. In doing some research related to Roanoke (one of my favorite unsolved mysteries of history), I found an article that talked about extreme drought in the Virginia Tidewater in the late 1500s and the early 1600s. The earlier drought, which lasted three years, might have been a reason behind the disappearance of the Roanoke colonists. (article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/04/980428075409.htm)
I also researched the presence of Romani slaves in the American colonies, and found that though their numbers were few, the Romani had been enslaved and brought to the Americas as early as 1492, and then again later by the Spaniards. With these elements in place, I pulled together a historically accurate story that included a little bit of magic on the side for the fantasy portion of the historical fantasy story.
The problem with writing historical fantasy that revolves around little-known facts is that it sometimes winds up unbelievable, because oftentimes, history is a whole lot weirder than people think it is. There are all sorts of strange facts and incidents you can find if you dig into the history books, but if you put them in a story, they wind up throwing the reader out of the narrative because they seem so implausible. So, even though my Romani slave helping to free other enslaved people during an extended drought in Colonial Virginia was historically plausible, it didn't work as a believable story.
Instead, what I had to do was turn it into a secondary world fantasy story, changing the names of locations, the ethnicity of the main character, and the language she and her friend had to struggle to translate. At that point, the story suddenly became plausible fantasy, because readers were no longer in need of knowledge about droughts in Colonial Virginia and the colonial slave trade including Romani slaves. But those elements of my research helped me pull together the plot, and the details could be swapped out like a scarf on an outfit, changing the entire feel of it.
If you like writing historical fantasy, I've found it's often easier to stick to the bits of history that people know a little bit better, rather than the obscure portions. You may still have to get rid of some of the really outlandish (though historically accurate) bits, but you can still use the general time period. Failing that, you can always take the weird parts of history and reskin them into something more solidly within the realm of fantasy, like I wound up doing with "Dry Spell."
Dawn Vogel's academic background is in history, so it’s not surprising that much of her fiction is set in earlier times. By day, she edits reports for historians and archaeologists. In her alleged spare time, she runs a craft business, co-edits Mad Scientist Journal, and tries to find time for writing. She is a member of Broad Universe, SFWA, and Codex Writers. She lives in Seattle with her awesome husband (and fellow author), Jeremy Zimmerman, and their herd of cats.
North Carolina was hot and humid and generally awful to Seattlite me. Good things and bad happened; more good than bad, all things considered.
Dad’s memorial was 90% good and 10% awful. I enjoyed and appreciated everything that John (BIL), Shannon (sister), and Pastor Stan (former pastor) said and did. I think those parts of the service were a memorial worthy of Dad.
Unfortunately, the “new” pastor—he’s been there 3 years and I still can’t remember his name—took a religiously myopic view of the service, turning the memorial into a sermon without any regard for the friends and family of differing faiths that my father had.
I mentioned this to Mom a couple days later. I’m glad she likes him, he is her pastor after all, but I think he really needs to rethink his process for future funerals/memorials.
Basically, he preached that Dad was baptized at 50, thus saved…and any of you heathens out there, that aren’t saved in the proper manner, won’t see him again unless you convert to the one true way. Of course, the words were prettied up, and backed by an odd reading about the centurion who wanted his servant healed…and how he was a military man who understood he wasn’t worthy. I think the pastor chose this reading because he really didn’t know Dad. He was a man who had left the military over 30 years ago and often didn’t want to talk or think about that time in his life.
It was almost as if the pastor didn’t actually know what a funeral was for or that people of different faiths might attend…like the Muslim woman who was one of Dad’s longest friends from when he first came to North Carolina. Much less the different Christian and non-Christian faiths that were represented. Mostly, I wish it had been a funeral rather than a sermon. Instead of being soothed, I walked away irritated, feeling unwelcome, and not charitable towards that church. It’s an unfortunate memory to carry with me from my Dad’s memorial.
Mom was brave throughout the memorial and only cried through Taps. She says she isn’t a strong woman. I guess she’s got enough stubbornness, persistence, and willpower to fake it. I think my relationship with Mom has leveled up in some undefinable way. We talked and laughed and remembered together. For the first time, I really worried about leaving her to go home and understood the stereotypical meme of wanting Mom to move in.
I think my relationship with my sister also leveled up. The day after the memorial was done, Shannon gave herself permission to fall apart. At one point, she started crying and said, “I need my sister.” I hugged her and pet her hair. We’ve talked more in the last few months than in the last few years. I think we’ll keep it up.
The Husband was a rock through this whole thing. He was ready to help out, move things, and run-go-fetch at a moment’s notice. He also was happy to sit there in companionable silence. I appreciated that so much. So did Mom.
Grief has not been kind to my writing career. I’m months late on the next BattleTech novel. My editor knows and understands. I’m going to spend some time at the ocean by myself in a private writing retreat where I can work and cry and re-center myself in the new normal that my world has become. Life goes on for those of us who are still living. I know my grieving isn’t over but I hope after my retreat, it will mostly be at peace.