Category: News

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.

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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…”


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.


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…


Upcoming

I have the luxury of teaching some of the most amazing students. They’re small bundles of talent that never cease to amaze and astound me. One of those bundles, Cordelia Jones, is currently working on artist renderings of the characters of Suburban Zombie High. She created these awe-inspiring murals for my classroom and I had to commission her to create something for my writing. Miss Jones decided it would be fun to send me teasers to let me see her interpretations of my characters.

She’s mean.

But of course this happens at the perfect time as the upcoming chapter to be released tomorrow is the first true introduction of zombies in my book. I’m excited because of course that’s what it’s all about. There will be humor, there will be loss, and there will be a lot of sass.

On another front, I sat down last night and reread many posts in I.Am.Maine. I am always shocked by the mental gear switching that happens between my writings. I’m impressed with myself for changing tone and heart in a book. I’m only a few days away from starting to remaster and even release the chapters of I.Am.Maine. They were always intended to be rough drafts of my personal views. I’m excited to polish them, and submit them all over again. So keep looking for that!


My Advice to Writers

photoI often see the quote, “To be a better writer, read more.” It made me start wondering what advice I would give to an upcoming writer who needed some pearls of wisdom. It dawned on me last night. While I was avoiding cleaning my apartment I realized there had been one major thing that had influenced me over the past few years. About three years ago, I joined a writing group.

The group started as a continuation of National Novel Writing Month. When we met for our furious word frenzies, we talked about doing something that lasted longer and was a little less stressful. It was rough going at times. There were meetings that I was alone and just plugged away at doing what I was doing. There were other times when we had so many people that we struggled to find space in our coffee shop. It eventually grew to “the usual crowd” where we would have five or six at any meeting.

In the group we have a technical writer, an english teacher, a graphics teacher, a special ed teacher, a stay at home mom, and a woman making writing a full-time job. Between us we have a variety of writers who are at different places in the process. We have a veteran author who has been published multiple times, a couple newly published authors and some still going. We have traditionally published, online, self-published, ebooks and the diversity continues. None of us have taken the same path, and that has become the most valuable tool amongst the group.

I can not stress how useful this group has been. At last week’s meeting I had the ability to discuss platforms, social media, editing techniques and how to work with beta readers. I don’t want to emphasize the importance of any one role as everybody had input. I frequently ask the veteran logistic questions about the industry and how things could be done. I also turn to the novices (myself included) and we brainstorm ideas of how to reach target markets. We’re serious about what we’re doing and because of life all have varying degrees of investment in what we do when writing. However, the supportive atmosphere has made this one of the best writing tools I’ve experienced.

I’ve been part of writing groups before, but this one has been the best situation for me. We meet for two hours every other week, talk for a half hour or so (sometimes the whole time, sometimes not at all) and then we write. There will be pit stops to share a funny quip or ask a question, but the goal is the same, we’re here to get a step closer to finishing that novel. I’ve begun sharing my goals as an attempt to be held accountable and sometimes I fall far short of achieving them. Instead of feeling pressure, there’s support to keep going and sharing stories about why it happened or what went awry.

If there is one piece of advice I could give a fledgling writer or even an experienced writer, genius rarely happens in a vacuum. Join a local writing group (or start one as I did) and after some time, it has the potential to be the support network that a solitary crafter needs to help keep pushing them forward.


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