Monday, November 19, 2012

What to do After a Story Goes Bust

Expecting one of those 'Keep Calm' images?

Stay productive.

After being out of the loop for a good long while, I am researching short fiction markets, places where my completed stories can find a home. Before, this meant marking favorites on Duotrope. (You more seasoned authors are now looking upon me with incredulity.) This time, I'm keeping an Excel doc with all the relevant details and notes on my impressions of the publication plus which of my stories might fit in there.

Running a search on Duotrope can only tell you so much about a publication. To get a better feel, I, of course, must read the stories published there. Sometimes I’ll get through 2 and know it’s not right for me. Other times I’ll recline in my seat at my computer and realize I’ve just gone through 6 in one sitting—even if the magazine still isn’t right for my story. I did find some potential homes for my current manuscript, but I found many more great stories.

And that's the upside to this tedious task: I am reading more short fiction and rediscovering what I love so much about genre. So, before I go back to being productive, I'll leave you with three stories that appealed to me on different levels—psychological and emotional, enigmatic and probing, fun and adventurous.

Clarkesworld Magazine
(To See the Other) Whole Against the Sky by E. Catherine Tobler (I listened to the podcast version.)
Aquatica by Maggie Clark

Apex Magazine
Weaving Dreams by Mary Robinette Kowal

Thursday, November 15, 2012

RaNoWriFo Update

At just over 8500 words, it's a bust. I have no idea where the past two weeks went, but they certainly did not go into my writing. I never got into the story I wanted to write. It all felt very unnatural. Not necessarily the process, mind you. I wrote my last RaNoWriFo novelette in 6 days! But this time around, I loved the idea but wasn't feeling the characters or the plot, and one needs to care about those things to write about them successfully.

Next time, I'll choose more wisely. For now, I'm shelving this story to revisit it in future. Back to my regularly scheduled writerly things.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


It's the second biennial Random Novelette Writing Fortnight(!), in which I write a 20-25k novelette in two weeks.

Why a fortnight? Because it's half a month. Why a novelette? Because it's half a novel. Why biennial? Because I was too lazy to do one last year.

And now that I've announced it, there's no wussing out. See you in two weeks.

Update: For chuckles, here's proof an unedited excerpt from the novelette I wrote two years ago:

The king made good on his threat and called off the official search. Not one Eleamite soldier, guard, or knight was to look for Gwendolyn. This, he thought, would work to discourage Giovanni and his only help, Armand. But true to his word, Giovanni did not return. The three moons passed, then four and five. The heat of summer waned in September, and the cool of fall swept through in October. The leaves faded and shriveled, and the king seemed to do the same under the inquiring masses. His anxious subjects, and ally nations, wanted to know why there had been no wedding, why there was no word of a future heir, why the events of the prophesies had suddenly come to a halt. Had they misinterpreted the texts? Worse, had they been misled? The rumors spread, and the king, once such a visible force in the kingdom, retreated, for he had no answers. Scarcely did he leave the palace grounds. Scarcer did he leave his chambers until he was bed-ridden with stress, broken under the strain.

Image: Copyright 2012 Gina Fairchild

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Walking Distance

Question: How long will it take Julian to walk 15 miles?

To research, I ran a quick Google search for how fast the average human can walk and compared the various answers. An average of 2.5 miles per hour seemed to be the best answer. My own walking speed is about 2 miles per hour. So, 2 to 2.5 miles per hour.

I decided since young Julian was accustomed to riding horses or coaches everywhere, he was as much a slowpoke as me. So, how long would it take Julian to cross the island?

Answer: 15 miles divided by 2 (or 2.5 per hour) = 6 to 7.5 hours.

Almost half a day! Poor, spoiled, rich kid. Hee hee.

So, next time you need to know how long it will take your character to walk a distance, know that the average person can walk 2.5 miles per hour, decide whether your character is faster or slower than average, and then do the math. Of course, you'll also want to research what it's like to walk X miles, for Y hours, in Z conditions.

Image: Toward Los Angeles, California (LOC) by Dorothea Lange

Thursday, September 27, 2012

SIROTI: Cowbird logo

So, a long while ago, I browsed through It’s a good site for light reading on—you guessed it—science related topics. In their Books & Arts section, I found the article, A Wikipedia for Life’s Meaningful Moments. That Wikipeida is Cowbird, a new site the creator says is “a sanctuary for storytellers.”

Well, hey, that’s us writers! As such, I sympathize with the spirit behind the site, but after some time perusing the place, I came away feeling it’s more akin to blogging than Wikipedia(ing?), except the environment is curated and symbiotic.

It’s a little difficult to navigate, difficult to know where you are and where you just came from. It’s all non-fiction anecdotes from real people’s lives, most of which, as you might expect from everday non-fiction, isn’t brimming with exciting tales of wonder and adventure and new discoveries. Indeed, from what I read, it can lean towards navel gazing. However, if you do happen upon one of the more competent writers there, you can get some bits and pieces of what might make an interesting story, bits and pieces of relatable moments, and sometimes, raw truths that make you think.

Cowbird is not a site for storytellers of fiction, but it is a bit like wandering a library of souls. You’ll skim over lots of stuff you don’t care for, but once in a while you’ll find something to lose yourself in.

Library of souls…hmm. *squirrels it away in Ideas folder to germinate*

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Loose Threads

Where did she go?
We'd pulled into the dollar store, shopped, and pulled out again.
Did she have family? Did they know where she was?
This was downtown, in the middle of stores and traffic. I imagined she had a few dollars and change in hand. Perhaps, she was getting something to eat—or maybe something to relieve her pain.
She wore a marshmallow type coat, brown. Nothing covered her silver hair. It was getting late. It was getting chilly.
I had seen her slowly crossing a gravel lot, far in the distance. Then she was gone. Her thread crossed mine, pulled it taut for a fleeting moment, and then it slipped away.
Image: Copyright 2012 Gina Fairchild 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Critique vs. Review

A few days ago, I wrote a review for a novelette I read. I generally don’t do that, but since I won the ebook for free, I felt it was proper. It took two drafts and between the two, my awareness of the difference between how I critique and how I review, and sometimes how I cross the two, increased. Mainly, with a review I’m addressing another reader, and not a fellow author. Here are some other things I learned.

An inordinate amount of technical jargon means I’ve written a critique. POV, formulaic, characters, passive vs. active, showing vs. telling, protagonists, plot, cliché, etc, etc—an author can recognize these shorthand terms and know what to do with them. That’s not necessarily true for readers. Too much of that means I’m analyzing the story as a writer instead of as a reader. It’s a sign I’m more hung up on style versus substance, which, if the style isn’t an utterly distracting disaster, shouldn’t be the main focus.

A lack of ‘story’ means I’ve written a critique. A critique assumes the reader (who is usually the author) knows the story. A review doesn’t. There should be a sense of progression, if possible, in explaining to the reader what the book is about and how I experienced it from beginning to end. All with a minimal amount of spoilers.

Too much objectivity means I’ve written a critique. Objectivity is good for critiques. A review is inherently subjective. I’m writing about my unique reading experience, so the piece should convey my personal impressions and not generalized observations. It’s okay to use ‘I’ and ‘me’ because that’s who I’m speaking for. It helps punctuate the elements in the story that affected me most.

A lack of proportionality means I’ve written a critique. My first draft focused only on the things I didn’t like, because those were freshest in my mind. With a critique partner, I can do that and the author will know I still like the overall story and writing. Not so with a reader browsing through reviews. The balance between positive and negative in my review should be a fair representation of my reading experience. By the second draft, I recalled several highlights I had overlooked—not things I had to hunt for, but things that buoyed above and made the read enjoyable for the moment. It wasn’t fifty-fifty, but there was a lot more to appreciate than I had originally stated.

In the end, I wrote the kind of review I wanted to read, the kind that could help me decide whether to take a chance on a book. For me, that review is comprehensive but concise, and, yes, in the age of e-publishing, it lets me know how the writing and editing stacks up. So, I felt it was okay to include a brief paragraph about technical issues—not a detailed list, but a general take on whether it was clean or problematic.

Also? Don’t publish your first draft cold. Let it simmer or write another. It just might be the difference between an unhelpful critique and a fair, honest review.

Photo: Copyright 2012 Gina Fairchild

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's Gonna Be Good

“It’s gonna be good.”

I've heard some version of that on these skilled reality competitions, the cooking and designing ones where the contestant’s skill level accounts for most of their survival. The designer sketches something out, gets all excited about the vision, gathers the material, and makes it work. Someone comes along and picks apart everything, doubts the overall vision, questions the designer’s taste or his ability to pull it off.

Often, this is followed by a brief moment of panic. She might drop several crucial elements. He might go with a safer, backup choice in fabric, instead. The whole thing might be reimagined.

Sometimes, the unperturbed designer responds, “It’s gonna be good.”
And, sometimes, that’s the best way to go.

I’m not a meticulous plotter. In the thick of it, my first draft can look pretty bleak, doubtful. I lose track of the plot and lose touch with the characters. Back when I started, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to get this really awesome idea out of my head and onto the page. Then I get to a point, usually around the final act, where I start contemplating whether to drop several elements and go back to switch things up.

This time, I’ve decided to skip the panic session. This draft is nearly complete. I’m going to put my head down and keep working, doing what I know how to do as best as I can.

It’s gonna be good.

Photo: Copyright 2012 Gina Fairchild

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sleep On It

When the flow of my writing slows to a trickle, I often retreat to the piano. So, when I got stuck on a scene in my WIP, The Strangekinds, I listened to Fur Elise to get some inspiration for a song I’m working on. Later, I turned in for the night. Mid-sleep, I woke up to the tune of Fur Elise flowing through my head, that delightful, brighter section (which Google says is part B.) And I thought what a nice tune to have playing during the concert scene in The Strangekinds. Perhaps, Alice will play it.

Then I remembered that Fur Elise is the exact song that featured in the old, original, non-YA, version of The Strangekinds, which is now sort of the prequel that I never finished and had forgotten all about. And I thought, well, then that’s definitely the song Alice will be playing on stage, so that the man who is sitting beside Tamara in the audience can remark upon the significance of song and the woman it reminds him of, whose name happens to be Elise. He won’t stop talking about it, until Tam realizes this dude is Bad News.

And whilst I’m washing my hands in the bathroom, which is where I shuffled off to with these thoughts in my head, I see myself laugh in the mirror. It just struck me how I could go through the whole day with Fur Elise and that concert scene in The Strangekinds disparately cycling through my head, and I never made the connection until mid-sleep.

It’s funny, the things that come together when you sleep on it and let your subconscious go to work.

Photo credit: "Sleeping Lion" by wwarby  available under CC BY 2.0

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Close Parenthesis


That's not a colon. It's a smiley face. Only it's missing something, so now it's just a sad smiley face.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been reading an article and encountered incomplete parenthetical punctuation. I see the opening parenthesis, my mind automatically ‘nests’ the information that follows (bookmarks where the road forks,) and next thing I know I’m back in the main subject, only I don’t know it’s the main subject, so I’ve lost the thread of the whole thing. How did I get here? Where did the aside end?  How do I get back?

You can’t just leave the gate open for side comments to run off like wild tangents. You’re not a lazy writer, content with using ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ and ‘i’ instead of ‘I’. You were discerning enough to know you needed the brackets, so use them. Both of them. Close your parentheses.

Do it for the smiley faces.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

SIROTI: The Week in Review

A lot of my reading on stuff about writing stems from conversations on Did I mention is a great place to chat with a variety of writers, as well as give and receive feedback on WIPs?
So, this week on writing, it started with Perfection, at Kristine Rusch’s website. While I thought the article was overly-long and meandering at times, there is, apparently, something for everyone to take away.  My take away? “Give yourself some credit, cut yourself some slack, and write on to the next adventure.”
Her main focus gets a little lost in the text, IMO, but it is about critics and reviewers and how one shouldn’t keep revising to appease every concern raised in pursuit of a ‘perfect’ novel. There’s no such thing. This, I find, can be applied to the inner editor, as well. Hence, my takeaway.

Speaking of the pursuit of the perfect novel, e-books can and do collect more data on how e-reader owners read books. This is useful to publishers. I can only imagine it is useful because it might help them make more money, in as much as it helps their authors know what readers’ sweet-spots are and what buttons to push.
Is it useful to writers at-large? For the ones not backed by big houses, I doubt it. Trying to write towards a trend is like trying to hit a moving target. It’s almost impossible considering how long it takes to write a novel and how fast trends come and go nowadays.

As for me, well, I think there’s a good story in there somewhere.

Oh, and I’ve been interviewed! :)

Photo credit: "catch 22 nately" by schammond available under CC BY 2.0

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Author Interview: Susan A. Royal

I'm excited to welcome to the blog new author and my writer pal Susan A. Royal. Her novel, Not Long Ago, is a time-travel romance due out this month. It's a wonderful tale of romance, friendship, strength, and honor. Let's get to know a little more about Susan and her novel.

1. How long have you been writing? 
I’ve been making up stories since I was a little girl.  In fact, I still have my first “book”, complete with illustrations, written in pencil on lined notebook paper, folded and bound with a red ribbon.  I believe I was six years old.

2. What is your favorite genre to read and/or write?   
I love urban fantasy, time travel, science fiction, paranormal and that’s pretty much what I write.  Remember Spielberg’s series “Amazing Stories”?  Twisty, quirky little plots.  Someone ordinary, like you or me, and how they deal with something that goes beyond. 

3. What sparked the idea for Not Long Ago and what made you see it through to publishing? 
I had the first scene written for at least a year before I went any further.  It could have gone in a thousand different directions, but the romantic in me knew I had to explore the connection between the man and the woman who saw each other by accident through the coffee shop window.   I was lucky enough to submit my work to an editor and an agent who took the time to encourage me.  They told me my strong points and what I needed to develop further.  After I got over feeling rejected, I took what they said to heart and learned.  I entered and won short story contests.  I kept reading, writing, learning, editing and I never gave up.

4. Who’s your favorite character in the story and why? 
I get attached to my supporting characters, sometimes more so than my main characters.  In Not Long Ago, Arvo, the tailor’s gangly, red-headed son is a charmer with an eye for the ladies, who loves to listen to gossip.  He keeps Erin, a young woman who time travels from modern times to a medieval society, informed of castle goings-on.  He knows she’s masquerading as a boy but keeps her secret.  He even helps her sneak into the Masked Ball so she could dance with the handsome knight, Sir Griffin.  In the end, Arvo turns out to be a fast friend Erin can never forget.

5. Favorite comfort food, music, or distraction when writing? 
Food:  something I can snack on that isn’t greasy or sticky (makes it difficult to type-LOL)  a cup of coffee or Earl Grey in the winter, Pepsi or iced tea with lime in the summer  Music:  Something that sets the mood I’m writing.  I like to listen to acoustic guitar (my son’s recordings) Enya, movie soundtracks like Cold Mountain, The Village, Outlander, Braveheart.  I like Moby, Coldplay, Loreena McKinnett, Crowded House and the list goes on…  

6. Who’s been your biggest supporter on your writerly journey? 
My family.  They listen to my ideas, help me past my blocks, listen to me whine, or listen to me period!! (I do get carried away sometimes)  And I can’t forget my writer friends like you who brainstorm with me when I’m stuck.

7. What’s the most important thing you learned in the process from first draft to published? 
Never give up.  Someone once told me “There is nothing about your story that can’t be fixed.  You are the author, after all.  You can fill the plot holes, flesh it out, expand, or condense, learn to say things better and improve. 

8. Least favorite thing about the process? 
The waiting.  I’m an impatient person

9. Are you a plotter, pantser, or a combination? 
A little of both, I think.  I have a general idea of where I want to story to go.  It comes to me in scenes.  It works better for me to write, write, write, and get my ideas down, then go back and whip them into shape.

10. What are your current writing goals?
I’ve just finished a fantasy romance, In My Own Shadow and I’ve submitted it.  I’ve begun writing the sequel to Not Long Ago.  (My daughter insisted the story wasn’t done so I had to continue)

Not Long Ago

Erin has met the man of her dreams, but as usual there are complications. It’s one of those long distance relationships, and Griffin is a little behind the times-- somewhere around 600 years.

Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Something’s not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. But Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.

Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as handsome Sir Griffin’s squire. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Yet, she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. But, Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.    

Not Long Ago will be available in June, 2012 through MuseItUp and Amazon 

I saw him the other day. It happened when I cut across Market Street and passed in front of the fancy new coffee shop. On the other side of spotless glass, waitresses in crisp black uniforms served expensive coffee in fancy cups and saucers. One man sat alone at a table by the window. No one I knew, just a nice looking stranger who looked up as I passed. We exchanged glances and I froze in the middle of a busy sidewalk crowded with impatient people. Annoyed, they parted, sweeping past me like water rushing downstream.

What I saw left me reeling, as though someone had knocked the wind out of me. My glimpse deep inside the man’s essence unnerved me, but I couldn’t look away. Who was he? The waitress stopped at his table. He turned, lowering his cup into its saucer and shook his head, his mouth curving into a familiar smile that made my heart lurch.  

After she left, his eyes returned to mine. A moment before, I thought they’d held a spark of recognition. Now, I saw nothing. I felt cold, as though he’d slammed a door in my face and left me standing outside in the rain.

I had no other choice but to move on.

It wasn’t just recognition—I knew things about him too. Things I had no reason to know. An image flashed in my mind: the curl of hair at the nape of his neck; a scar snaking down his arm. I’d put it there, after all.

I knew the man before me was an excellent horseman, accomplished swordsman, and an honorable man. Beyond the shadow of a doubt. How could I be so certain?

There was something else. A chilling realization crept up my spine. He didn’t belong in my world. Not in the coffee shop, not in the city. Not anywhere. None of this should have happened. We should have been no more than casual observers sharing a moment before going our separate ways. But something went wrong.


Be sure to visit Susan A. Royal at her website or blog, where you can find more fascinating tidbits about Not Long Ago:

Thanks for stopping by, Susan! Congratulations on your success and best of luck on your writerly journey.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SIROTI: The Week in Review

I read a lot of stuff on the internet. It cuts into my writing time. That's my excuse for not updating this blog more often, and I'm sticking to it.

So, what Stuff have I Read On The Internet this past week?

Journey to Planet JoCo series. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon John Scalzi’s blog, Whatever, but there I discovered two things I had never heard of before: Jonathan Coulton and sci-fi songwriter. Each interview in the series is short and mostly humorous. You can read or listen to them. I read the interviews looking for any tidbits on how Coulton approaches storytelling in his medium, and I came away thinking simplicity and honesty is key. There’s not a lot of room in a song to be verbose and expositional, so the simplest tales told as candidly as possible make his songs relatable and enjoyable, and quite emotional, at times. Listening to his music (among which are the hit songs to the Portal games) are an added bonus.

Is SF Still The Genre of Big Ideas? Seven notable speculative fiction aficionados, including Daniel Abraham and Alistair Reynolds, answered the question, offering great insights into how they viewed the genre itself, where it’s been, and where it’s going. I left my thoughts in the comments section there, the gist of which is: the question is a tad presumptuous.

Shame by Pam Noles. If you ever wondered why race matters in a work of fiction, this moving essay might just give you some profound answers and a new perspective.

The Most Comma Mistakes. Because you can never read too many explanations of the rules for commas. The one that got me was the Identification Crisis comma.

The Art of Fiction, Dorothy Parker. Witty and frank.

What have you been reading lately?

Photo credit: "catch 22 nately" by schammond available under CC BY 2.0

Friday, May 11, 2012


I don't like to nano stories, that is, to write them really fast and without a lot of thought or care going into the words that make up the sentences that make up the paragraphs that make up the story. But I have a problem with not finishing very many good stories in a timely fashion...or at all. That's why I accepted a friend's challenge to nano a couple of short stories this month.

We actually started last month. He finished his story before I did, and it took me 25 days to complete a 12k word story. (I did say I had a problem, didn't I?) I hated the story as I wrote it, and I hated the story when I finished. So, what was the point?

Glad to be done with the thing, I quickly retreated to my proper WIPs and basked in the sanity and coherency of the prose. Ah, the smooth narrative and the delightful dialogue were like soothing balms. Then it struck me:

When you see how bad your own writing can really be, you appreciate how well you write when you’re trying. You appreciate the trying.

The challenge is not about trying--trying to write a great, good, or even likeable story, or trying to come up with clever plots and indelible characters.  I already know how to strive for precise words, better flow, coherent structure, strong voices, etc. I know how to endeavor to write well because I have, and after years of practice I know when I'm writing poorly.

The challenge is about doing. It is about setting aside inhibition. When I try my best, the final draft will be my best, to heck with how cringe-worthy it starts out. Right now, it's about writing now, and the more I do, the more I learn how best to approach it, how to work more efficiently and get better results. I second-guess a little less.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Trice Farrow is the primary antagonist in a fantasy WIP, named Phelia's Sound. I knew how she played into the events of the story, but not necessarily what drove this driven woman. How did she become so self-centered and mean? I figured it’d all come out in the wash, but then I wrote the bit of freewriting below for fun one day, and lo, Trice’s genesis.

I come upon his room as I came upon it the first time, alone. The little boy I found inside is now a man. The one who’d been too sick to leave his bed has just returned from another adventure overseas, his travels undoubtedly marked by a trail of broken hearts.

Twenty-two years ago, I left this hall, asking my mother, “Mama, can’t you help that boy?”

Roald had been so nice, letting me play with his toys. I could hardly believe he was too sick to join in or even leave his bed. There had to be something Mother could do for him.

No, she’d said, even though she was a healer.  “He has people for that. They can make Roald feel better, but he’s dying, Trice. No one can save him. It’s better to put him out of mind.”

Out of sight and out of mind, the Hamlins’ little boy was practically dead already. I hadn’t known him before I wandered away from the party downstairs and discovered his room. Trailing Mother’s voluminous evening gown as she ushered me away, I did not want to forget him. I didn’t want him to die.

 “But, I don’t want Roald to die.”

Mother sighed. “You never should have come up here.”

I stepped back when Mother leaned down to carry me. “You can’t let Roald die, Mama—you can’t.”

“It isn’t within my power. When you’re older you’ll understand.”

I frowned, because I did not understand, nor did I believe I ever would. “You’re lying. You just don’t like healing. You said some people don’t deserve help. That’s what you said before when you thought no one could hear, but I heard you.”

Mother straightened so that she towered above and stared down her nose at me. “Trice Farrow, you apologize for your rudeness, or you will be in serious trouble when your father hears of it

“I won’t. You’re selfish and mean.”

Her eyes flashed briefly. “So, you think healers must be unconditionally selfless and kind to all who are in need of their services? Very well. There is a way for you to save Roald, yourself. We will see how long your generosity lasts.”

Twenty-two years. Roald looks up at me, the poison creeping up his veins, mottling his golden skin with black splotches. Who knows how it happened? All I can think of are all the times he tempted fate because of the enchanted pendant dangling from the chain around his neck. I think of how many times his recklessness hurt me, and his brazen disregard sapped my strength.

A sharp pang rips through him and I feel it as though it were my own. He gasps. I gasp. Dizziness overcomes and I steady myself, a hand against his bed.

Roald grips my wrist and pleads, “Trice…help me?”

No one can. I reach for the pendant. Twenty-two years. No more.

This scene will not be in the story. At least, not in this form, but I now know Trice’s prime motive, underneath everything, was to prove her mother wrong. Yet, all her efforts seemed to be for naught—the boy she saved hardly appreciated it, to say the least. The more he enjoyed life, the less she did, until she became just as begrudging and compassionless as her mother predicted.

A few posts back, I talked about how journaling helps reveal things about my personal writing process—habits, strengths, weaknesses, etc. This is how freewriting can sprout new ideas and reveal new dimensions of a given story or character. It's pretty exciting. :)

Photo credit: "Sprouts" by MissMessie, available under CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stuff I Read On the Internet: Instagram

Yesterday, I saw a news item about this thing called Instagram. Had no idea what it did, but JOY TO THE WORLD! IT’S GOING TO BE ON ANDROID, SOON!!

What is it, again? Off to I go, to read Clive Thompson on the Instagram Effect.

Apparently it’s an app that applies filters to your photos and allows you to instantly share them on the go. Okay, so…what’s new about applying filters and sharing photos?

The article implied this little app is opening people’s eyes to the beauty around them, helping them look at things artistically through their multitude of photo filters. More still life masterpieces, less grainy camera mugging. Hence, the Instagram effect.

I found this to be the passage to ponder [emphasis mine]:

In old analog cameras, many such filter “effects” were a chemical byproduct of the film, so photographers became expert at understanding the unique powers of each. Fujifilm’s Velvia film, with its high saturation and strong contrast, attracts photographers looking to capture the vibrancy of nature, Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom notes.

But casual photographers rarely developed this type of eye, because they just wanted to point and shoot. What Instagram is doing—along with the myriad other photo apps that have recently emerged—is giving newbies a way to develop deeper visual literacy.

Is it, really? The author may be able to articulate what made the Velvia film special but do Instagramers know how their boring photo suddenly became artistic? I can see on Wikipedia the aptly named ‘1977’ filter for Instagram applies an old 70’s effect but why does it look that way? Was it the contrast? Brightness? Hue? Saturation? Are casual users of Instagram familiar with those terms and what they mean?

I wonder. Of course, anything meant for mass consumption must use terminology and a medium understood by the masses, not just a select group of professionals. That’s why software like Photoshop is a success with people who may not be visually artistic or technologically savvy.

But the further we travel on this road from real-world to digital photo manipulation, I think, the literacy Thompson speaks of gets lost in translation. Bits of knowledge fall by the wayside. “High saturation and strong contrast” = the colors pop.

Curiously, one of the comments on the article crystallized, in my mind, why Instagram exists. The commenter recommended an alternative photo app which allows the user to edit the filters—curves, channels, brightness, contrast, etc. It occurred to me: Does anyone care about curves? I tinker in Photoshop and generally don’t mess with anything more compilcated than sliders, checkboxes, and number inputs (and, yep, filters.) Who cares about channels? I just want to snap a photo, un-crapify it, and show it off to all my friends, family, and followers.

Instagram, like some of the more popular apps, is not for tinkerers. It is for consumers to consume. A lot. Rapidly. You can’t do that puttering around forever in settings or code. Am I lamenting the death of ‘real’ photography? Why, no. I’ve never had much interest in photography and only started taking lots of random shots when I first got a camera phone. (So, Thompson is right on that score, for people like me.)

What I am doing, as I often do when an article like this gets me pondering, is making note. I’m making note of trends like this, which make good fodder for science-fiction stories. *squirrels it away in Ideas folder to germinate*

Do read the whole article. It's well-written, not very long, and the author provides a distinct and interesting point of view on this trend.

What's your POV? Where do you think this trend in digital photography is going? Or is it going nowhere fast?

Photo credit: "Ricoh Hi-Color 35 (Original)" by Steve Keys, available under CC BY 2.0

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Update & Link Goodness

Oh, dear. I've only been at this for just over a month. I've only got to do one post a week, yet I have begun to lapse. I'm so sorry crickets. Yes, I heard you chirping irritably in lieu of new content, but I ignored. In my defense, I have been under the weather. Here's a picture to cheer you up:


Isn't that cheery? Yes, it is, especially because it is only a picture and can't spew its Evil Yellow Haze of World Domination at me, innocuously refered to as pollen. (If you ask me, M. Night Shyamalan was onto something.)

On to the link goodness:

First up, The Bookshelf Muse. It's famous for their Emotion Thesaurus. Yep, that's a thesaurus for how to describe different emotions--and settings, and character traits, and much more! But they also are just great for finding other writer resources, writer interviews, contests, and giveaways. It's an all around fun blog to read, and it was on that blog where I discovered link number two.

I like what I've seen of The Plot Whisperer, so far, because her posts are clear, concise, easy to understand, and easier to apply to my own travails. There's no rambling or muddling, no fuzzy concepts that take hundreds and hundreds of words to explain, yet still somehow don't make practical sense. She also has a Youtube channel for those of us who absorb even more information when looking at and listening to a real live person. She's got every aspect of plot and writing covered.

So, click through to these sites and enjoy. I'll be over here, going through my fiftieth box of tissues.

Photo credit: "LILIES" by whologwhy, available under CC BY 2.0

Friday, March 2, 2012

Do Your Thing

Sometimes you just need some theme music to keep on doing your thing. Janelle Monáe provides another solid tune with Estelle. :)

Estelle - Do My Thing Feat Janelle Monáe by Atlantic Records

Friday, February 24, 2012

Journaling the Journey

I keep track of my writing. By ‘keep track’ I mean I journal—offline—about anything and everything writerly, even if it’s just “This WIP is cursed!” or “I’ve just read the most awesomist sf story.” It is not the same as free-writing fiction. Journaling is about self-examination without concern for audience, craft, or pointlessness. It can be therapeutic and enlightening, even if it’s just to rant, rejoice, or sort out a mess of thoughts. 

In an entry from two years ago, I had decided to compare excerpts from a few successive drafts of one my first sci-fi stories, dubbed ORIGINAL, FIRST, and SECOND. With many months, if not years, between them, it presented a good sampling of my writing over time. The results were pleasantly surprising.

The first thing I notice is how the paragraphs got shorter and more deft. 

ORIGINAL reads like a list: I did this and then did that. There was this and then that other thing. 

FIRST is immediately more active. The mc comes to fore—he’s moving, and experiencing the world in real-ish time, not just relating some past event, but the deets are still painfully meticulous and that SLOOOOOOWS the pacing down to a crawl. 

SECOND is leaps and bounds better as regards word usage, structure, and style. It has cadence and mood. The mc not only comes to fore but his voice is so much clearer. Many of the same details remain but are described more matter of factly and succinctly rather than painstakingly or with many words that don’t paint a clear picture. Oh yeah, and he talks! Lol! Hooray for improved writing skills!

Journaling has helped me track and appreciate how much I’ve grown as a writer, which is not always evident deep within the trenches of writing and rewriting. Taking some time to read back those ramblings might show recurring problems. Fits and starts resolve into patterns for a writing regiment, solutions present themselves, ways to break bad habits and reinforce good ones. Causation clarified. Improvement illuminated.

Read the excerpts I’d taken, below the fold.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Finding Your Angle

Over at the Publication Coach website, Daphne Gray-Grant has some interesting advice for writers of all stripes. Like most Writing Advice, some of hers resonated and others didn’t. One such article that stuck: How to Find an Angle.

When I translated to fiction writing what she had to say about the difference between an angle and a topic, and why simply writing about a topic at face value will produce dull work, it all sounded so familiar. The vast majority of the stories that remain in my Never-To-See-The-Light-Of-Day trunk are all Idea Stories, stories about a topic with no angle, an idea with nothing to say. Pretty much all of my science-fiction stories had started with a Big Idea—or a What If—but the successful ones like Don’t Read the Books found an angle.

I can go through story after story of mine, and the same will be true for why each one rose above dross or remained just a good idea that went nowhere. Oftentimes, that defining angle will come from a character, and how the topic shapes their life and the world they live in. DRB went from being an idea about the extinction of physical books, to the story of a woman who lived through the change, what she lost, and what she gains.

While Gray-Grant’s process for finding an angle didn’t click as much as the idea of having one, the article helped to elucidate the importance of each story having something to say. I recommend How to Find an Angle. It’s short and sweet, and she gives good examples and clear explanations that just might be for you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Characters and Purpose

Whether it’s to move the plot forward or provide a unique perspective on an event or another protagonist, every character should have a purpose. Not just, but no two characters should have the exact same function in the story (aka cloning.)

It seems obvious enough, but while working on my space opera WIP, I ran afoul of this critical idea, and rectifying it was not a happy experience.  Over halfway through the novel, I wanted to inject some new blood into the story. Enter Tara, an ex-U.S. Special Forces operative but geek at heart. She was funny, animated, and a breath of fresh air.

Five and a half thousand words later, I realized she was a younger clone of another character, Mrs. E. But, but, but! Tara was an ancient astronaut geek, so she could provide insight for the crew! So could Mrs. E.  There were some great moments in those five thousand words! Too bad. Why can’t I keep her? Because when I got right down to it, she served no real purpose. I had to contrive ways to involve her in the rest of the plot, and that inevitably marginalized more integral characters.

I've no words of wisdom to impart, just the foibles from which I learn on my writerly journey. I learned Tara existed because I was tired of writing all the other characters, and I just wanted to write something new. Don’t do that, even if it feels good—and fun and exhilarating. Make sure each character compliments others instead of replacing them. Make sure they fit the plot instead of the other way around. Make sure each has a developmental trajectory over the course of the story, a lifespan longer than one scene.

Anything less warrants no more than a few paragraphs, let alone five thousand words. Failing that? Cut ‘em without mercy…and paste them into a new document for another story. ;)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Don't Read the Books

Don’t Read the Books is my very first published story, ever. I’m not getting paid, but I’m still proud of this milestone. I’m proud of the work I put into it and the work I got out of it. I’m proud of myself and the finished product. A big thanks goes to my critters over at

But what is Don’t Read the Books?

It’s a humorous science fiction short story about a little old lady named Edwina Hoffman. She's determined to break the golden rule at The Hoffman Printing Press Museum & Library. Hence, the title.

Beyond that, it’s about a world where all printed text, including books, have gone completely digital with the advent of e-paper. Hence, the printing press museum & library.

And underneath it all, it’s the result of my spending a lot of time contemplating the changing tides of the traditional versus e-book market.

Do read Don't Read the Books at Larks Fiction Magazine, and leave a comment if you enjoyed it!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hello Multiverse

So, you found me. Welcome to my blog. So glad you could drop by. Leave a friendly hello in the comments section, if you’re friendly and would like to say hello. 

Unless you weren’t looking for me. In that case, let me back up and say: Hello! I’m Gina Fairchild, writer. This is where other writers, readers, and curious persons can find and learn more about me. Feel free to peruse the links in the sidebar to that end.

Unless you’re not sure how you wound up here, are certainly not interested, and would very much like to know where the exit is, please. In that case, I can’t help you. How do you think I got stuck writing for this blog? (If you do find the exit, point me in its general direction. I have no idea what I’m doing!)

Anyways, welcome. Welcome one and all.