Category: News

Life after National November Writing Month

NaNoWinEach year I participate in National Novel Writing Month, also known to the participants as NaNo. In 30 days we write 50,000 words which is the standard for a short novella. For the past four years I’ve been the Municipal Liaison for the Massachusetts Metrowest Region and like past NaNo’s, it was a tough process. This year, despite work, social obligations and general cluelessness I managed to finish. This year I decided to write the sequel to a prequel that involves time travel and people visiting the past and it was as confusing writing it as it is explaining the premise. I’ve spent the last two weeks in a fog trying to sort out what to do with myself again.

I feel as if I took time off to let my creativity have an outlet and now I’m feeling that it’s time to get back to work. I’ve dragged out the I.Am.Maine manuscript and started editing again. I can see the stories becoming more cohesive and painting a much clearer picture of my life as a Mainer. I’m also thrilled to be looking at the photography (from a delightful photographer) that will help show the visuals that create the landscape. It’s time-consuming as I edit and get lost in reliving my childhood before editing some more. It’s getting there.

I’ve also decided it would be a good chance to explore the possibility of a new creative outlet. I’ve begun talks with the lovely Amanda Kahl to create a one-shot graphic novel that will tie Suburban Zombie High to its sequel. There’s a story to be told that I was unsure of how to explain and didn’t warrant its own book, but it has potential as a comic. I also think Suburban Zombies could use some visuals. Oh it shall be funny.

Speaking of zombies (cause it’s rare that I’m not!) the second book of Suburban Zombie High is nearing completion. I just had a student read the book to provide feedback. He was extremely helpful in identifying the pacing issues and was hilarious in how he thought zombies should be killed. Be prepared, there will be more developments on this front soon.

I’ll be back to posting some regular stuff now. I owe a couple of people stories and I’m feeling it’s time to tackle some smaller projects before I take on the universe. Very soon!

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Epilogue – Suburban Zombie High

Epilogue

Radio Guy 1: Boxford’s Graduation was cancelled due to lack of attendance. The handful of students who signed up to walk have been contacted and they’ll have their diploma mailed to them.

Radio Guy 2: That is a crazy story you have going there.

Radio Guy 1: I know right!

Radio Guy 2: Parents come home from their conveniently scheduled vacations to find their children have all gone missing, sounds like those moms will need some extra time at the day spa.

Radio Guy 1: And then the whole school burns down!

Radio Guy 2: I guess that’s a terrific way to celebrate graduation. But, I’m curious, what happened to the teachers?

Radio Guy 1: Nobody ever asks about the teachers.

 

“The tabloids started coming out later that week,” she said. “They were all over the place. One said we killed everybody,” she paused for a moment. “Technically we didn’t, they were already dead. The next tabloid said alien abduction. The parents believe a cult came and recruited them. They’re all a little bit crazy.”

“And what do you believe happened Olivia?”

“I don’t believe anything,” she replied sharply. “I was there, I saw what happened.”

“Are you sure?”

Olivia sat up from the couch and leaned in to stare at the person sitting across from her in an oversized chair. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

His white eyebrow raised. “What?”

“What do I ‘believe’ happened? You’re trying to make it out like I’m crazy. Is this some sort of cover up? Cadence said they might try that, do you work for the government?”

The man set his pad of paper down and adjusted his glasses. “Olivia, you need to calm down, I’m only here to try and help.”

“That’s all fine and dandy.” She stood up and straightened out her blouse. “But I’m only here for the happy drugs.”

She stormed to the large door on the far side of the office and then stopped short. She quickly hustled back to the couch and grabbed her purse. “Can’t forget the purse. Might need the gun.”

Without another pause, she walked back to the door and flung it open. Dione sitting in a plush leather couch waiting. Dione stood up and gave her a puzzled look. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah, he’s obviously part of the cover-up conspiracy.”

“So Cadi was right.” Dione shrugged and grabbed her jacket and they continued out the door.

“Are you sure this is the right place? I mean, how can you tell? It’s not like there’s a sign or anything.”

Cadence smiled at Xander. “Xander has a friend who knows somebody that once had a roommate that worked here.”

Victor stopped Cadence. “Are you serious?”

“No you moron,” she rolled her eyes. “I looked it up online.”

Victor looked at Xander who held up his hands in a defeated manner. “Don’t look at me man, this is her idea. I wanted to go watch zombie movies.”

“You’re a sick man, you do realize that right?”

Xander kissed Cadence’s forehead. “You know you love me for it.”

“Guys, I don’t think I can do this.”

Xander punched Victor in the arm. “You? What about me?”

Cadence grabbed Victor’s hand and started walking forward.

The parking lot was dimly lit. The only real light was coming from the door and the rose tinted windows too high to see into. The sound of loud music came bursting through the doors. Cadence pulled Victor along and Xander brought up the rear, his eyes looking to every shadow and occasionally he would turn around to make sure they weren’t being followed.

They reached the door and Victor’s face was flush white.

Cadence pointed at Xander with a stern face. “Stop thinking that every shadow is going to kill us.” She turned to Victor, “Stop being a pansy or I’ll kick your ass.”

Victor’s back straightened and the threat. The barking voice brought back fond memories of his deceased drill Sergeant. “Fine, let’s go.”

Cadence swung the door open and Victor walked in, his puffed up chest leading the way. Xander walked in after them, his eyes lowered, staring happily at the floorboards.

Victor knew what he was getting himself into, but he hadn’t been ready for this. The sight nearly threw him to the ground. There were dozens, no maybe a hundred men, dressed in military fatigues. Some of them wore desert camo and some in arctic. Some of the men only wore pants, exposing their chests. Victor fought hard not to stare at the bare-chested men.

Cadence smiled as she saw the stage with two men wearing forest colored thongs and military issue boots. “Isn’t this great! Let’s get to the bar.”

Victor looked at Xander. “Why did you let this happen?”

Xander raised an eyebrow at the man. “I’m at military night at a gay bar with my girlfriend and my gay best friend, you think I was given an option?”

They reached the bar after pushing through the masses and Cadence had already ordered beer. Victor turned around, and as quickly as he brought the bottle down from his lips a man was standing in front of him. “You the real thing huh?”

Victor looked to Cadence to see she was already off dancing with two near naked men. “Uh, how do you mean?”

“You walk like military, you’re the real deal.”

Victor played clueless. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

The guy punched Victor in the arm hard enough to leave a bruise. “Don’t play with me. I just got back from overseas, been stationed here for a couple of weeks.”

Victor couldn’t help but smile realizing this was a fellow Marine. “Semper Fi.”

The man clinked his bottle with Victor’s. “Semper Fi,” he took a swig, “My name’s Rick.”

Min took a deep breath and exhaled and opened her eyes slowly. Before her stood several small children wearing matching gis. They each repeated her movements except for one little girl.

Min kneeled down in front of the short red head. “Why aren’t you following through?”

“I don’t know how.”

Min wanted to roll her eyes and yell at the small child. She found a warm happy place in her head. “Let’s try it one more time.”

She stood next to the girl and nodded at her as they started. The girl’s movements, while a bit sloppy, were fairly accurate. Min smiled at her. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

She stood in front of each of them and took another bow and they followed suit. “Your parents are waiting for you,” she stated, “and remember to practice before next week!”

Each of the little kids ran from the mats to the lobby where happy mothers picked them up and smiled. She waved to the rug rats and worked her way to the back of the dojo. She saw her father sitting at the computer. “I told you, I would help you teach until your foot got better, not do it for you.”

“You do it so well!”

“What have you been doing in here father? What would other dad say?”

She walked around the desk and saw the all too familiar Youtube screen. “I cannot believe you’re watching this drivel.”

“Daytime soaps are good,” he looked at the screen and cooed. “So many gorgeous men.”

Min rolled her eyes and unsnapped the clasp on her collar when she heard a familiar voice in the room. “Nurse Harts?”

She checked the front of the dojo but didn’t see anybody. “Father did you hear that woman’s voice?”

“You’re acting crazy Min. It’s just the computer TV.”

Min leaned over his shoulder and looked at the small box. In the middle of the screen, on her father’s favorite daytime soap was a woman that looked far too familiar.

“You’re going to put me in a coma?”

“Is there anything wrong with that?”

Nurse Harts flung her arms around. “Generally, when a person goes into a coma, you throw a blanket over their head and fire the actress.”

The studio executive tried to appear stunned. “We would never do that.”

“Then what’s my next plot line?”

The man sat back in his executive office chair and stared at the beautiful woman standing at the front of his desk. “The truth is Mrs. Harts, some of the other actors are a bit scared of you. Ever since we did the zombie plot, you’ve been a bit odd.”

She scoffed at him. “That’s because you know nothing about zombies.”

“And you do?”

“Did you read my resume? There’s an entire section about being a professional nurse and freelance zombie slayer. God, you’re all morons.”

“Mrs. Harts,” the executive stood up. “I think you need to reexamine why you joined this profession in the first place.”

Before her mind even began to venture down memory lane she put a stop to it. She slammed her hand down on the desk. Leaning into the man she reached out and grabbed the front of his shirt. “Either you hire a new writer or I will come find you,” she waited for the fear to set in his eyes. “You have pissed off the wrong soap star.”

She patted the front of his shirt back down and stood up, straightening her blouse. She gave her hair a quick fluff and headed out the door back to her dressing room. The executive tried to inhale, tried to stop his racing pulse, but the terror he just witnessed wouldn’t go away.

Mrs. V quietly flipped through her database. She sneared at the numerous missing books. “I will hunt you down if those don’t make it back,” she hissed at the screen.

From across the room she heard a loud sigh and the sound of a student sipping their Grande Ice Latte through a straw. With a deadly precision she hissed, “Shhh,” and every person in the library froze. The volume dropped to a distant whisper. She felt the rush of power flow through her veins. She loved that an effortless sound did more than the loaded Beretta mounted underneath the desk.

Looking back down to the computer screen she heard the familiar ding of an open front door. Without raising her eyes she knew something was off in the universe. The hair on the back of her neck started to rise. She instinctively reached for her loaded companion.

“Mrs. V,” said a gruff voice. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

A red dot hovered over her heart. “Who are you?”

She pulled her hand away and looked up to the man wearing a custom suit and his female associate. His handlebar moustache showed his years. “Mrs. V,” he said quietly. “we’re here to take care of you.”

Her hand slid away from the desk up her leg to the revolver she kept on her inner leg holster. “I could drop you both before we had time to blink.”

“I know you could,” he put his hands on the desk and leaned in. “After all, you are a librarian.”

Her eyebrow rose. She was intrigued by the handsome man in front of her. “Then we’re at a draw sir.”

He reached into his jacket slowly, and tossed a small square onto the desk. “I’ve heard you’ve had certain experiences in your life,” she waited to hear the gunfire. “I want to recruit you.”

She looked up from the photograph of her former high school and gave him a confused look. “For what?”

“We need your help,” his lip curled into a smile. “Don’t you know, there is always a sequel.”

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION OVER AT FACEBOOK

Writing Prompts

There are times when writing that I just fight the urge to work on one of my novels. Right now my characters are not cooperating and I think we need a little time apart so we can reignite our flame. In the meantime I thought it would be fun to write some shorter pieces. When the goal is typically to write an entire novel, a short story is a bit more intimidating than I would have imagined. But let’s see what I can do.

One More Page
NOUN
: Moon  VERB: Promise  GENRE: Western

The sheriff slammed the door shut to the holding cell in the large room. He ignored the drunk reaching through the bars, trying to grab at the sherriff’s vest. The gun in his hostler and the key ring hitched on his belt jingled as he walked towards his desk. He hoisted up his pants by the crotch, adjusting himself and sat down. He kicked his feet up on the wooden behemoth he called a desk. He pulled his hat down, covering his eyes as he folded his arms to settle in for a spell.

Just as sleep began to work its way into his eyes, he heard a commotion outside the building. He waited for the overtly dramatic entrance that seemed to accompany anybody who set foot into the Sheriff’s Department. The door swung open, banging against the wall. The man in the chair didn’t flinch.  He was used to the urgency of the towns’ people as they barged in to declare another tragic accident had occurred.

He lifted his head just enough to catch a glance of the General Store manager flailing his arms. He didn’t need to listen to the man’s incoherent mumbles. There was only one reason anybody disturbed him. There was trouble.

He pushed his hat back on his head, revealing his three-day stubble and scar across his right eyebrow. He moved slowly, stretching as he clamored to his feet. He touched the revolver on his hip and sauntered towards the door, ignoring the man’s ramblings. He looked to the old clerk who was pointing down the road towards the edge of town. The sheriff pushed his hat firmly down on his head as he walked towards the edge of town. Was it bandits? A robbery? Perhaps a damsel in distress?

He paused as he saw a shadowy figure at the end of the road. He recognized the signature dust jacket flapping in the wind. It wasn’t merely a bandit; it was the bandit; the notorious Timothy Hale. The sheriff looked down to his shirt to make sure his badge suitably displayed his position. He gave the shiny piece of copper a brush of his sleeve as his other hand found comfort in the wooden handle of his gun. Before he could draw his…

The man looked up from the paperback he was reading. The small lamp in the hospital room dimly lit his pages. The full moon shining through floor to ceiling windows illuminated the small figures’ face in the hospital bed. The man leaned forward and brushed the hair off the young boy’s face revealing the all-to-familiar scar crossing over his right eyebrow. The man’s sigh was drowned out by the beeping of machines and oxygen being pumped into the kid’s nose. He leaned back and closed the book.

A weak voice spoke up. “What happens next?”

The man choked as he responded. “We’ll finish it tomorrow Tim.”

“But dad,” the voice wheezed,  “you promised…”

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Writing Tips: Branding

My background is in graphic design. I have spent countless hours assisting businesses in branding and creating unique identities. This has involved creating a unique sigil, creating new business names, to developing a color palette that suits the individual. There is a lot that goes into creating a brand and then fostering its growth.

Unfortunately, as a writer, I tossed all this knowledge aside and decided to jump in feet first without consideration for my brand. Originally it was about making things available and getting it out to the public. Now as I start to consider other projects, I’m realizing I may have caused more problems than I originally thought. Here are some branding suggestions I would make that will save a significant amount time down the road.

1) Your Name & It’s Importance
I know it sounds funny, but this would be the first thing I suggest people spend time considering. I go by many nicknames: JJ, Jage, Jer, Remy. My career knows me by Jeremy. My recent friends by Jer and older friends by JJ. My online persona is simply Remy. Because of this my first book I published under Jeremy Flagg. However, this has created some issues with my occupation and is resulting in me in moving my brand strictly to Remy Flagg. Now I have to make sure that all my social media knows me by this, my first book is published under Jeremy Flagg and needs to be changed. It has created a cascading effect that is muddling a brand I hope to be long-term. It gets even more frustrating and confusing when legal documents and bank accounts come into play.

Suggestion: Think about your life. Do you have a day job you want separate from your writing? Are the names on social media available? Do you write very different genres you might want to separate from one another? All of these are things to consider in choosing your name. Once you pick it, going back is a difficult and tiring (and sometimes avoidable) pain in the neck.

2) Consistency
I always have to speak to businesses about brand consistency. A company wants to be called one thing, but on their promotional items they want another name. On their website they want this color scheme and on print fliers they want something unrelated. I find it is often that developing brands tend to have difficulty roping in their brand and keeping a consistent message. For writers this can be equally taxing (especially for a writer doing all their own promotions.)

Suggestion: You have to assume that your fan base is a bit crazy. Keep things consistent such as names. I find trying to maintain identical handles on social media helps keep things a bit more straightforward for me. I also keep identical profile photos (and usually cover photos as well) to help make it obvious that you’ve crossed from one of my social media sites to another. I maintain similar, if not identical, biographies for the sake of simplicity. Keep track of all the sites you have a presence (or in the promotional venues you use) and make sure to maintain a consistent visual and verbal message in your work. This doesn’t mean each location has to be identical, I frequently change the content of each venue I promote myself. However, it does mean that a viewer should be able to see it and understand, “Oh, they’re also the person I follow on…”

 

As I go through this little folly and struggle I’ve created for myself, I’ll continue to post my findings and suggestions. Hopefully they’ll help people avoid mistakes I created for myself at the beginning of this venture.

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Creative Collaborations

Olivia CasualI have always found that in the creative field, it is always worth your time to collaborate. This could be collaborating with others in your own medium, but I found there is something especially enchanting about exchanging ideas with somebody in a medium vastly different from your own.

I have my writing group, which I can not explain my appreciation enough to do them justice. Having an environment to sit down, delve into characters and share thoughts about writing techniques, or even swapping combat stories is invaluable. Not sure I’d say I’ve reached a new level because of them, but they’d support me if I wanted to make the jump.

Recently, I’ve been collaborating with an artist, a former student from my school. I thought, it’d be fun to talk about my characters, what inspired them and even more juicy, who inspired them. For me, it’s helpful just having a reference and at times, helps inspire me.

Cordelia Jones took my quick character write-ups and began literally giving my words shape. I have fifteen characters in my first book, far more than I had originally thought. Some survive the apocalypse, others find themselves falling just short. She took these brief descriptions and with just a rough concept of the book put her pencil to paper.

She’s mean and sends me teasers. But at the same time, each email I get a bit excited to see what might be happening on her end of the project. The sketches have been awesome, and the best part of them, they are absolutely nothing like what I thought they would be. She got the commission because she’s a talented artist with her own ability to think, analyze and interpret. I wiped my hands and said, “No directions, this is yours.” Her thought process is making me excited to get back into the writing and start reading with a fresh set of eyes. It’s provided much-needed motivation.

If given the chance, find other creatives to be around. Celebrate creativity in its many forms. You’ll find that it helps refuel your mind and when you find other people excited about expressing themselves, you go back to your work with a new charge. For me, I’m excited again and now I have work to accomplish…

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