N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

Engaged!

I’m sure many of you have heard this, but for those that have not…It’s official I am engaged! Mom and Dad have been warned and the planning has begun. The date is not set in stone, but start thinking cruise! 🙂

The Return of Photo Sunday!

It’s all Hawaii all the time, two weeks of wonderful photos.

We spent some time at the Byodo-In Temple.  What a peaceful place! We had rented a car and driven through the Valley of the Temples.  Coming out from among the other cemeteries we saw this.

We stopped and rang the bell, filling the valley with its full tones, before moving toward the temple.  FYI, it temple contains no nails.  As the rest of my family meandered ahead, my sister and I explored a little out of the way gazebo before we joined the rest of the group again.  It was a mystical place the encouraged one to linger over every detail.  We saw an “autograph tree” were people had etched their names into the leaves…supposedly the leaves can last for years before falling off.  We also saw bamboo as big around as those triple wick candles (huge!).  And the cutest frog water fountain.  We spent an hour there, at least, and I wanted more.  I could have laid out a blanket and dozed the day away there.    

The ponds surrounding the temple were filled with koi of all different sizes.  Day and I stopped inside the gift shop and bought some fishfood.  The woman told us to feed the koi on the other side of the temple as they never got fed and the ones on her side of the temple were chubby.  On our way over we snapped some photos of the chubby koi and some plumeria that had floated down from the tree above.

On Monday we took a trip to the Big Island to check out the volcanoes.  We stopped at Rainbow Falls, the Jagger Museum, the Thurston Lava Tube, the lava fields, Big Island Candies, and a veritable poke buffet at a Sack and Save of all places!!!

At Rainbow Falls I saw a blooming banana tree.  The colors were so intense I couldn’t not take a picture of it and I’m glad I did.

Later we stopped along Banyan Tree Drive, it was a street lined by Banyan Trees that had been planted by famous people like:  Trader Vic, Richard Nixon (back before he was President), and Amelia Earhart.  I looked up and saw an amazing bird nest thing…not really sure what it is but it’s cool.

 

Dreamsick

A writer I keep up with has a wonderful word she uses for bad mornings… “dreamsick”. I love it. It captures, for me, that horrible waking up and knowing something was/is/continues to be wrong in the world (or perhaps just in your head). It is a word that slips off the tongue with that greasy feel that lets you know it’s bad. Yeah, it’s a good word for…well, let me explain.
I’ve been having some “dreamsickness” myself lately…sleep, usually my best friend, has skittered off in favor of bad television and fluffy books. I’ve done everything I can to make myself sleep, and I even succeed in getting to sleep. It’s the staying there that is the problem.
I can’t really write during this time, it either engages me too much forcing me to keep my eyes open when I should be letting them drift shut or I wake the next day to find the things I have written have a lot of extra letters and make little to no sense. It is frustrating because I feel I should be getting something done during this time…I should be editing or at least working on the Zombie story I wanted to have done for tomorrow. I should be finishing Persephone, who has gotten shoved aside for other tasks. I should be…well, honestly, I should be sleeping but I’m not doing that so I should buck up and get something done, right? Wrong.
Really, I work better when I am bright and alert…just look at this post for an example of not quite awake me…I like having a full night’s rest under my belt and I enjoy not falling asleep at work. I am the kind of person that gets up early (not crazy early but usually in the single digits of morning) and gets to work before the rest of the world has to wake up and get in my way. I especially like getting up too early for the dogs…that is a treat for me. Being totally alone to do what I like.
When I don’t sleep that does not happen. Funny that, eh?
Add onto the loss of alone time, which impacts how I treat people for the rest of the day, the dreamsickness (waking up feeling bad and unrested) and you’ve got me in a mood. It might not be bad, it might just be sad or quiet or worried, but it is not the typical me. And not typical me has a harder time devoting herself to the typical tasks she need to be doing.
Instead of escaping the pressures through my writing, I find myself escaping into online games or television or movies. Books and writing don’t work when I’m like this…unless the book is REALLY good. And those escapes are not helping me…they are draining away my time and not giving anything back.
UGH! I feel like it is a no-win situation. Really, seriously.
Time for a nap.

Re-Launch Party for Unleaded!

I really need to master this whole USB thing.
I’ve got a report on Balticon, but it is currently stuck in the computer at work. Yes, I know I have a USB for a reason, and yes I really do know how to use it. Still, sometimes multiple media doing multiple things in multiple places gets the better of me until here I sit with my USB but without the two page report on Balticon. It is done, I rave about it, it should be worth reading. Unfortunately tuning in next week is mandatory to hear that particular report, thanks to my continuing battle with technology.
In the meantime, let me tell you a little about the Re-launch party for Unleaded!
Day and I have decided, as I mentioned before, to invest in Unleaded again (for those just tuning in Unleaded is our writing podcast full of inspiration and perspiration), to start up the recording again and put the site back into action. Thus to help us get the energy up to start again and to mine our friends for guest hosts we hosted a Re-Launch Unleaded Writing Party.
We invited everyone from our writing group to come join us on a Saturday…when it was too hot to even think about going outside…for a little food, a little writing, a little podcasting, and a whole lot of fun.
We had prizes for the person who was the most productive (- A bag of books.), the person who contributed the most episodes to Unleaded (- A bag of books with a Malice Domestic bag), and the person who made our life the easiest (winner: Kate who babysits the old dog when we want to escape – BadA** Fairies 2 “Just Plain Bad”).
We plot noodled and wrote and talked when we should have been writing…we shared and called out strange questions like, “I need a coffee drink name!” and “Vampires have to use breath to speak, yeah?” We ate salmon dip and chips and salsa and abused Jen2’s bf (who is a saint and we love him!). It was a great CVS experience!
Ok, until next week when I put up the grand Balticon report…

Find your peace and live it, especially if it has writing involved!!!!!
-Renee

Photo Sunday 13-14

I am catching up on all the photos I have taken but have not posted.  Part of the dragging of feet on my part was justified, but I have let it go on too long.  Now it is time to pay the piper and share all the photos I’ve been hoarding.

Week 13 and 14 were both Hawaii Weeks, thus you get 4 Hawaii pictures today.

First up, Duke’s statue…Hawaii’s greatest surfer.

 

Next, a real wipeout!  This was taken on the Banzai Pipeline.

Third, an amazing landscape.  The red dirt really makes this shot.

Last, a spinner dolphin. Just think, I was in the water with those. You could hear them clicking and squeaking at one another. It was one of the best experiences of my life! Look how clear that water is, you can see bubbles if you blow it up.

For the rest of the Hawaii pictures just click on any of the pictures above they will shoot you right over to flickr. I hope you enjoy and if you do, please leave a comment.

Find your peace and live it…especially if it has a paradise.
 

Now that it is done. It is done.

I don’t normally post about personal things on this site, but this week was so overwhelming I wanted to share and take a moment to explain my absence.

First, I was sick earlier this week.  This meant I took a couple of days off work and watched the lovely weather from my couch.  I had to get my car inspected…so I went to my favorite mechanic and curled up in his waiting area and dozed while I watched CNN.

Yes, lent is over…and I promise to blog about that experiment later.

Wednesday, while preparing to go out with friends for dinner, Day’s uncle called. It seems her aunt (the one that lived here in town) had died suddenly. He asked us if we could pick up her effects and clear out the hotel room she’d been staying in recently. We said we would, of course.

We got to the hotel, found her purse and phone but the charger or her address book. We searched through her things till 1:15am when finally they appeared!  We packed up the car and called it a night.  It took us 45 minutes to drive home and by the time we fed the dogs and all that goodness it was 2:30 in the morning.

I got up at 7:30am on Thursday, came into work and began my day. I was calling family members right and left to figure out what was going on with regards to the funeral and where to send clothing when one of the librarians came in to ask me a question.

Him: “What airline are you taking to Hawaii?  Is it ATA?”

Me: “Yes. Why?” (suspicious)

Him: “Oh no. They filed for bankruptcy this morning, and have suspended all flights effective immediately.”

Me: *grabbed the phone and began to dial frantically*

I finally got hold of Day, who got hold of her travel office. As of this posting, they are still working on getting airfare for us…so cross your fingers that we can still go.

Then when I got off work Day and I headed back down to finish the job we started in the hotel the night before. We honestly didn’t think we had that much left to do, but at 12:45 we were still going through her things. It was 1:00am by the time we packed up the car and left.  We got home at 1:45ish…and I couldn’t sleep. Why?

Odyssey. Did I mention that I am applying for Odyssey? You know, the 6-week intensive writing program here on the east coast?  Yeah, that one.  So, I was up going over my submission last night, worried they will say no…worried they will say yes.  Just worried.  It’s what I do.  So at 2:27 I forced myself to put down the computer and try to close my eyes.  Let me just say that 7:00am, comes early.  Especially if I was supposed to be up at 6:30am.

I have a few half finished blog posts for all of you…all 2 of you. 🙂 I’ll work on them in my spare time this weekend (after I have slept a good long while) and give you a veritable flood of writing reflections, as well as last weeks and this weeks Photo Sunday.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Find your peace, and live it.  Even if it has less sleep than you’d like.

-Renee

Zombies, oh my!

Day and I went to see Max Brooks, author of “The Zombie Survival Guide” and “World War Z” Monday night at the Jewish Community Center of D.C. It was such a wonderful event, in a really intimate venue with a lot of really crazy folks and Max making it worthwhile!

He is so effortlessly funny and engaging, that it didn’t seem like a lecture so much as a stand up routine (which is what it was SUPPOSED to resemble, I am sure). The lecture was presented in the form of an actual “informational lecture” on defeating the zombies. When someone asked him where he got the “idea” for his book he looked at them, as serious as could be and said, “This is from actual documented historical fact!” After that the crowed got into it asking questions like, “In the recent movie ‘I Am Legend’ there was a contention that zombies might be able to be cured and returned to a human state.” To which he responded, “You’re with the ACLU, aren’t you?” – his basic ‘serious’ answer was no, btw, because when you are dead there is no cure.

Some of the best lines of the night included a discussion of “zombieploitation films” that he has issue with, such as the new “Dawn of the Dead” who’s only redeeming scene was the one where they stood on top of the building with a sign that said, “PLEASE HELP” and the helicopter just flew by… “Because THAT’S never happened before.” *lol* There was also a live demonstration of the single most effective move you can use to defeat a zombie. He invited someone up to “pretend” to be a zombie, limbered up a bit, took off his jacket, got in fighting stance and when the “zombie” took a step toward him he walked away.

Still the best thing was all the writerly food for thought he gave me! Let me share…

First, he used the word “micro-horror” and my little writer brain began to turn. He described horror (world encompassing, disaster horror) as being very micro in scope. One guy, one group, one select area being followed and explored. He said he had always wondered what was going on in the rest of the world as he read/watched these things. He even went so far as to say: “During Independence Day I didn’t care what Jeff Goldblum was doing, I wondered how the Chinese were handling the aliens.” Thus he wrote World War Z as an oral history…basically in answer to all the questions he’d had that had never been addressed.

For me, as a lover of disasters and a writer of horror, this was a mind-blowing statement.

Would I have come up with this concept? Well…no, because I didn’t. Instead in my world disaster book I would have had my characters do the same things all the other characters do in all the other books/movies. Suddenly there would be a communication from the outside, the radio crackles to life or someone has a working television or passing groups exchange gossip on the road…very typical and expected but that is what happens to genre it gets very typical and expected (why? Likely because it has other things to keep it fresh, I mean hey, monsters are often strange enough to carry an entire book with little other support…but that is another blog).

So now my personal challenge, my goal, is to try to write a macro-horror like Max did. Find a way to broaden my horror/disaster scope and show the world in the throes of its chaos…and not just in the typical ways either. I’m not sure how, exactly, to accomplish this yet…but let me think on it.

The other thing I realized after listening to Max speak was that the man basically wrote an entire novel of short stories and sold it without having a name to hook it on. That’s amazing. Short story collections are nearly impossible to sell (or at least that’s what I’ve heard) unless you’ve got a name that is recognizable to a majority of your target audience…and I don’t think “The Zombie Survival Guide” shot him into that level of notoriety. Not just that, but the stories he wrote all in the same world, revolving around the same events, but with different characters and he still managed to pull it off.

Wow.

It shows how truly talented this man is, that he can write a two page story that to this day gives me shivers when I think about it (the one I have in mind is about the “feral child” talking about her mother trying to kill her before the zombies arrive). He is such an effective writer, so crisp and yet powerful. He has distilled his writing down to such a concentrated form that digesting them seems easy until they lump in your stomach and you find yourself planning your escape with loved ones. Or worse yet, you look over your shoulder at night…not for muggers or rapists, but for zombies. I’m so impressed with him, so very, very impressed and not just with his writing either. He was personable and sweet…and damn that man had a smile that could light up a room. He was great, and if you get the chance go see him!

While there we picked up our own copy of World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide and had him sign them both. Squeee!

I know I talked about the book before, but let me use this time and place to once again plug “World War Z”…where one is encouraged to “don’t run, walk fast.”

-Find your peace, and live it…even if it has zombies!

Renee

Site FYI

It is possible one of my widgets is causing the theme self-destruct on a daily basis, thus I am deactivating my widgets one by one to see which one is the problem child.

If you don’t see something, don’t panic.  I’ll bring it back when either A) my site reverts to the default theme or B) I figure out what about that particular widget is causing my site to slip back to the default theme (or I find another widget to take its place).

Never fear, I’m still here.

Peace to all,

Renee

Photo Sunday #4

This weekend offered a lot of opportunities to take photographs, thank goodness. After talking last week about how hard it was to get anywhere worth photographing, running into this trove was a relief.

Part of the reason I was able to use my camera so much, was because I actually had it with me. This week I decided to empty my purse (what would fit from my purse) into my camera bag. This way I would be forced to carry it with me everywhere I went…every meeting, every lunch, every car ride, every grocery store dash I would have my camera with me. Thus, if a picture presented itself, I would be in the position to take it. This goes a long way to get me back into the “photographers mindset”, one that I have been out of for too long.

Saturday I had to take a trip down to Thomas Circle to attend a meeting of the American Council of the Blind. While I was down there I skipped outside to take some photos, some were good, some were not. The play of shadow and light was interesting, but not sharp enough to really make it worth sharing…although it gave me an idea for this coming week. We got turned around trying to get to the Metro (ok, ok, we were talking and walked past our stop), and happened to walk past a beautiful church. I snapped some pictures there, but the sun sinking behind the buildings made it hard to capture what I was looking for. Oh well, there is always Sunday…

Sunday we took a trip down to Chinatown. It was the Chinese New Year! The wind gusts of 50 mph and the temperature dropping from a bearable 50 into the 30’s made this trip interesting to say the least. We missed the parade, but we got to see the dragon and lion dances and then the 5 story string of firecrackers. It was a riot of color and sound and people and smells…and yet it wasn’t so crowded that we couldn’t move around even with the dog in tow. That’s where I finally got my pictures.

Lucky Dragon:

I just happened to be in the right place at the right time for this one. They had left the stage and were making their way back to the fireworks area and passed right by me. I could not have been in a better position. I just held down the button and let her fly, this one was the keeper. A very lucky dragon, indeed.

A Chinese Dragon approaches!

Smirk:

This stairwell caught my attention, simply because of the diversity represented here. I first took the picture for the kids near the bottom of the stairs, but when the man in the center turned and smirked at me I quickly shifted my focus. He dominates this frame, and really brings it all together for me…I’m not sure this is the second best of the pictures I took that day, but it is a picture that reached out to me and I wanted to share it with you.

A rainbow of people watch the Chinese New Year.

No television, are you MAD?

My house is giving up television for Lent…yup, even the dogs and cats (who ADORE Animal Planet) are giving up television for 40 days.

Day actually came up with the idea, she felt TV was distracting her too much from things she needed to accomplish. I agree with her. Television can be a time and energy drain, and it takes very little of it to drain quite a lot. I liken TV to a bowl of my favorite candy. I eat one and the taste is great, so intense and lovely and I remember why it is my favorite. When I am done with that piece, I realize it has gone too soon and I need another, so I eat a second one. This one is almost as good as the first, but the newness of the experience has already paled. Still, it is so good that I pick up a third one, this one is specifically so I can slow down and enjoy the flavor. Do I? Not really. The flavor is expected this time, it is good, but it is not that burst of flavor the first one had. Next thing you know the bowl of candy…or your entire evening is gone and the only thing you have to show for it is, well, nothing. You’ve just spent an entire evening living vicariously though someone else, instead of actually living.

Don’t let me lie to you, I’m just as bad as the next guy. To be totally honest, when Day started discussing this I had such a violent “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” reaction to her proclamation that I shocked myself. I had to take a step or two back and think about my reaction, and examine its root. What had become so important about television that I HAD to have it for the next 40 days? What on television was so necessary to life that I couldn’t give it up for the sake of someone I loved very much, and for my own sake? I’m not sure when it happened, but I guess I’ve hung a little bit of my comfort and a lot of my entertainment space on this little square box…I’m not proud of it, especially since Day and I had weaned ourselves away from it successfully when I first moved up here (honestly, there was just too much to do to watch TV, and my commute to EVERYTHING was so long I needed that extra time to get there), but it happened. Now it is up to me to make it un-happen. The first step is to turn off the TV for the next 40 days. No, I won’t be recording it to watch later…I’m giving it up. I’m not saving it for later, I’m forgoing it for my betterment. I won’t be watching on Sundays either, because honestly it is too tempting. I could easily see myself ‘living for Sunday’ where I can lose myself in the television and I don’t want that to happen. I’ve still got the computer…blogging…games…knitting/crocheting…scrapbooking…a metro system that leads to our nation’s capital…I think I’m good. I hope I’m good. I’ve also set a “mini-goal” for myself during this time. I want most of my entertainment to come from books for the next 40 days. I want to read until I am sick of reading, and as I am doing that I want to teach myself that it is ok to not finish a book if I do not enjoy it. Oh, and I want to read one book on how to improve my writing. 

So…Day 1 without television:

I’m hoping to finish up “Perfume: A story of a murderer” today. It is a German novel…and very German in its German-ness. There is always a strange undercurrent of decay and torment, under the obvious decay and torment. I am not enjoying it, although parts of it are enthralling…but I need to know how this ends. It’s one of those, “where is this going?” books that demands to be finished. Tonight is Panera…and writing. We will see what tomorrow brings.