Friday, August 9, 2013

ADD and Writing Craft Weird: Writing without My Pants On AKA Winging It Wrong

I learned something new today.  If you have ADD, you do not want to be a panster--that is, a writer who wings it without an outline, a writer who writes by the seat of her pants.

Or at least, this ADD writer can't pants a story.

Because to my ADD brain, pantsing is the equivalent of a bird migrating without an internal compass, or writing without any pants on.  Left to its own devices, my brain fails to keep plot and characterization well-focused, self-explanatory, and consistent.  My thoughts are just not organized enough for that. Worse, once I type up and edit up too much of a story, the story becomes set in concrete.  And there are few things I hate more than cracking it, grinding it down to powder, and pouring it into a new mold.

That means I need to learn to do it right the first time.  And I need to learn from my mistakes (like I am doing here, thank God).

That being said, however, there is one area in which I can still pants.  And that is the idea stage, when I'm trying to figure out what story to tell.  A few paragraphs, a snippet, a vignette--all of these can give me material to work with, a concept I can now whip into the proper shape with some hard planning.

And you know what?  It's still fun.  You just spread your fun out.  There is a lot of pleasure to be found in discovering what comes next, in being surprised by your characters or story or the world you are creating. Pantsers derive most of that pleasure as they write.  But as an outliner, the pleasure comes in big doses during the planning stage and small doses during the writing stage.  After all, even with the strictest outline, I still have had character or story or world surprise me in some small way.

So in a nutshell, my advice to writers with ADD and even to those without?  Know your strengths and weaknesses, and then make sure you work from a position of strength, not the easy way or the way peer pressure guides you.  Work your way, and you will make your own success the first time around.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Writing Craft Weird: A Mainstay for Writers (X-Posted from Shades of Writing)

Bread was considered the staff of life at one time; nowadays, it is considered bad for people.  So I began to wonder what is the equivalent staple for writers and writing--what is one thing a writer cannot do without--and if people's opinions about this staple had changed over time.  So I hopped on Google in hopes of finding some writing techniques to blog about or elements of writing.  I was ready to type in those keywords.

Instead I typed in "puzzles help your brain."

Why?  Because my brain got ahead me, skipping back to an ad I had seen last week and what had happened as a result of the ad. 

This ad involved using brain exercises as part of the treatment of ADD and other cognitive disorders.  When I saw it last week, I thought why not give it a try, the cheap way?  So I bought a variety puzzle book that week.

Back to today.  My search turned up an interesting article by Marcel Danesi, "Brain Workout."  It had this quote worth pulling out:

The psychologists Sternberg and Davidson argued, as far back as 1982 (Psychology Today, Volume 16, pp. 37-44), that solving puzzles entails the ability to compare hidden information in a puzzle with information already in memory, and, more importantly, the ability to combine the information to form novel information and ideas. The thinking involved in solving puzzles can thus be characterized as a blend of imaginative association and memory. It is this blend, I would claim, that leads us to literally see the pattern or twist that a puzzle conceals. It is a kind of "clairvoyance" that typically provokes an Aha! effect.
That sounds a lot like creativity benefits to me.  So even if I don't see ADD benefits from my variety puzzles, I might see some other benefits instead.

And that wraps me back around to the point of this post.  The writer's mainstay probably isn't a technique or an element of writing, something that changes over time as literature and culture changes.  Rather, it is in the brain.  It is in its creativity.  So it is important to treat the brain right, feed it right, and I'm going to try to do that through brain exercises.

(X-Posted from Shades of Writing)

Musing on Blogs

I go through phases where I like a lot of compartmentalization.  Then, I go through phases where compartmentalization just becomes an excuse to not look at whatever I blocked out.  To cut this musing to the quick, I'm considering collapsing my blog Shades of Writing into this one.  I wouldn't disappear that blog, but leave it up.  And eventually, I might return to it.  The thing is if I do this, that means the writing articles I will post on here will be different than the ones I would have posted on their.  That is, they would have to be more weird here.  Which is not a bad thing.

I think I'll go with it, and x-post my latest SoWr onto this blog.  Heck, if I don't like it, I can always go back, can't I?


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Nature Weird: A Gathering of Walnut Caterpillars

One of my shades of weird is butterflies and moths and caterpillars.  In fact, I am working on a fantasy novel that centers around them (mostly around the black swallowtail).  And guess what we found today?  Caterpillars.  Gregarious.  Very gregarious.  In our tree.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Happy Stone: Cover Artist Interview

 "Happy Stone," my latest short story, is now up on Smashwords and B&N.  Amazon and other vendors are coming soon.  Cheryl Casey Ramirez designed this great cover for me, and here is the interview we had.

1. You designed the cover for “Happy Stone,” turning a concept and a simple stone into a creepy, weird cover perfect for my story.  Can you give us a little information on the process?

I had looked at your website and noticed that your writing leans a little toward the diabolical, so I, even before you answered whether the stone needed a happy smile or a wicked smile, I was expecting wicked.
I browsed the internet for jack-o-lantern faces, because if you can make a pumpkin look wicked, you can make a rock look wicked.

I found a couple that I kept on my desktop for inspiration and then used the natural lines of the stone you sent to find the “eyebrows” and “eye sockets.” After that it was mostly a matter of using the painbrush tool on my software (I use GIMP rather than PhotoShop) with a sort of spackled setting to highlight and darken in all the right places.

Friday, April 12, 2013


I don't know what is more annoying--that I forgot to include cover copyright information when I uploaded LoDW to Smashwords and the 'Zon or that I didn't realize it until now.  Doh.  I'll work on a revised version tonight and hopefully it will trickle through by next week.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Squee: My First Blog Review! Lady of Deep Waters

I have to admit I'm a facebook n00b, so when I was looking at my Smashwords page for "Lady of Deep Waters," I saw that it had a couple likes.  I was trying to figure out who "liked" it so I could thank them, but I accidentally clicked it to "Like."  LOL.  Fortunately, I undid that.  After that I fled, trying to Google the information down.  Instead, I found a delightful surprise: my first blog review!

Here is the link:

I'm so happy.  I never expected such success from a little story that was going through a difficult "teenage" rebellion phase (in terms of writing time and stages).  I'm just glad I had such a great cover designer and critique group; they really helped me than I can tell.  So did Nicolette Andrews, who gave me my first review on Wattpad. That encouragement was a real boost, too.

Thanks everyone! 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lady of Deep Waters (Bonus: Cover Artist Interview) (Blog Version)

Bonus Material: Cover Artist Interview


In hopes of entertaining my readers and helping out my cover designers, I have decided to include an interview whenever possible with my Free ’Verse stories.

Question 1: This cover is great. When I saw it, I knew it was perfect for "Lady of Deep Waters." What inspired you to make this cover?

I actually found the image on DeviantArt and thought the image itself looked great but was missing a little something.

That's when I had the idea to add to "magic sparkles" so it looks like they're pouring out of the jug the girl's holding.

Question 2: What are some of your favorite covers to make? That is, what do you shoot for in a cover or what are your favorite subjects?
At the moment, since I'm still fairly new to all this, I love making all covers, to be honest. I do like to do composites but it's finding the right images to put together which can be hard.

Question 3: What inspired you to start making covers?

My writing muse has deserted me and I've lost a little of the passion for writing. At the same time, I've dabbled in trying to make covers for myself via Photoshop but found that although I could make covers, they never fit my stories. I also found that I was having more fun creating covers than writing.

Question 4: I understand you are also an author. What do you write?

I write mainly science-fiction and fantasy stories. I've tried to write straightforward stories, but a little alien or some magical creatures always find a way in when I'm writing.

Question 5: Where can we find out more about both of your creative endeavors?
You can find my covers at My website/blog is at, where you can also find links to my books.

Lady of Deep Waters (Bonus: About the Story) (Blog Version)

Lady of Deep Waters 
by Jodi Ralston
Bonus Material:  About the Story
"Lady of Deep Waters"  is my first Free 'Verse New World story. What does this mean?

Free ’Verse is my own twist on AU fic. In the fanfiction world, Alternative Universe or AU stories diverge from the canon of the episodes or the books of the series. Often this meant changing a story event or changing the entire setting of the series. A similar concept occurs in the realm of original fiction when a writer expands a short story into a longer work. That is what Free ’Verse is about: a shorter work that features in a different fashion in a longer work. In my case, the Free ’Verse story is free; the longer or expanded work is not.

As for the series, New World is a blend of fantasy, horror, and faux-Regency set in a secondary or made-up world. The stories are centered around a new continent that slid into existence besides Arcana Major, the “Known” or “Old World. ” It is actually a "twin" or mirror image of Arcana Major. As such, it seems like a land of opportunity, but when people look deeper, it turns out to be a world full of secret horrors, magic, and monsters.

One last thing of interest to readers is the origin of the “Lady of Deep Waters.” The first spark of inspiration came from a descriptive writing exercise. The other inspiration was the cover art itself. You can read more about that in the interview with the designer.

Lady of Deep Waters (Scene 4) (Blog Version)

by Jodi Ralston

Sunlight, bit by bit, shattered the hold of endless dark. When the last of the dream melted away, Mr. Ayers rolled his head toward the window, smiling. Then a smell penetrated. Watermelon. A lot of it.

And rancid at that.

He looked to the floor.

Lady of Deep Waters (Scene 3) (Blog Version)

by Jodi Ralston

Of course, upon surrender, the nightmare came. Nightmares were the yawning pits of despair from which none and nothing could escape. In his case, the pit was endless blackness, a void in which nothing existed, not touch, not smell, not sound, not sight. Nothing. Just the oppression of eternity.

In the beginning, he ran.

But nothing changed; he wasn’t sure he even moved.

Oh, his limbs tired and his body weakened, precious signs of effort expended, but not of progress, just utter defeat. Not in distance gained, but in futility. And when he could move no more, he collapsed onto a “bed” of nothingness.

Within a breath, he was no longer alone. The touch came to keep him company.

Lady of Deep Waters (Scene 2) (Blog Version)

by Jodi Ralston

The knocker recalled Mr. Ayers to a sense of self: a tangle of snakes with one head, formed into a scaly loop; new, red, and once shiny, now smudged with grime from dark places. He wrapped arms tight around himself as if he could hide the culprits beneath more filth. Sodden filth. The damp feel to his skin, reassuring moments ago, made him shiver.

But not with cold.

His body felt it but did not mind it any more than the earth itself did.

Not anymore.

Not since “yesterday.”

Lady of Deep Waters (Scene 1) (Blog Version)

by Jodi Ralston

Mr. Niccla Ayers did not find hope in the east and truant dawn, but in the north, where flecks of light, connected with sound, made his swollen tongue ache: Water. Sprinkling. It came from, yes, a lighter form that loomed apart from the surrounding dark: a statue, something whose angles looked man-made. That must have been too much for his legs, for though they ached, they carried him across the desiccated field to find out more.

And more he found. A man-made statue? Oh, how inadequate were these words. She was as beautiful as the dawn, perhaps a mythic, blasphemous goddess thereof. She was stooped, so her hair fell in ruby-red sheets down her sides like the welcoming arms of a lover. An ancient lover at that, garbed in a pale tunic that was as full of simple elegance as her smile. Her arms held an amphora, and from it she poured her life-giving water into the small, waiting mouth of earth at her bare feet. A pagan goddess of the dawn indeed.

Mr. Ayers was ready to be converted.

He straightened his limp cravat, smoothed the wrinkles in his breeches, and for once did not care that his bare hands succeeded in only smearing about more dark filth. His benefactress did not judge, he was sure, and so he thrust himself under the sweet-smelling shower and laughed. She seemed to laugh with him, or the water did, tickling down his arms. He tilted back his head, mouth open, and drank.

It tasted like watermelon wrung into his mouth.-

He drank more.

Then he began to hunger for something substantial. His goddess, she was a beauteous fountain, so that meant an owner. . . . He glanced about. Yes, there: A spark farther north, a light from a candle or lamp set in some window. Perfect.

He smiled a smile fit for his benefactress, and gladly he carried its weight with him toward the beckoning light.

Lady of Deep Waters (Front Matter) (Blog Version)

Lady of Deep Waters 

By Jodi Ralston 

Copyright 2013 Jodi Ralston 

Cover Design by CoverD. Original stock photography by Marcus Ranum. 

Summary: Lost, Mr. Ayers stumbles across a statue-fountain of a lady in the wilds of the New World. It points him in the direction of a mansion, whose sole, male inhabitant looks eerily like the statue, and he begins to wonder who or what truly saved him.

Series:  New World, a secondary world that blends fantasy, horror, and faux-Regency.

Information Link: 

Smashwords Link:

IndexScene 1, Scene 2, Scene 3, Scene 4, About the Story, Cover Artist Interview

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lady of Deep Waters (Early Draft)

I have a preliminary draft of "Lady of Deep Waters" up at Wattpad.  The final version of this Free 'Verse New World short story should arrive on this blog, Smashwords, and my site next week sometime.  In the meantime, enjoy an early look.

Friday, March 22, 2013

New World Story Coming Soon

Though I am running a little behind, my first Free 'Verse New World story should be available early next week.  You can read more about it on the "Lady of Deep Waters" page on my website.