N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a horror writer.

I remember when my wife had a death in the family and it was up to us (being the only ones in town) to take care of her effects.

I remember it being creepy sitting in the same room where someone may or may not have died. There was just this really heavy feeling of finality…of endings…of unfinished business there. Not that there were any spirits or anything, just a kind of…how do I put it? There was a feeling of threads undone that did not put me at ease.

Thus, I was on edge and my wife was on edge and we spent a lot of time being quiet…we could have turned on a radio to speed time along or even the TV but we didn’t…we just worked in relative silence unless my wife was talking to her family on the phone.

One plastic ghost is scared by another.

BOO!

I’ve got to tell a funny story on myself though…we were going through the bags and I startled a little.
Wife: What?
Me: I just freaked myself out there for a second.
Her: How so?
Me: I know I’m not going to find a severed head, or a random toe or anything…but I keep expecting it.
Her: Doesn’t pay to be a horror writer at times like this, does it?
Me: She wasn’t a mad dog killer was she? No serial murderer tendancies?
Her: *laughing* Um, no. Did you see the number of gifts she had stashed away for people? She didn’t have time to kill people.
Me: Good to know.

Then later…oh, this one is priceless.
Wife: Hey, Renee…what’s this? *holding up a luggage tag*
Me: It looks like a luggage tag.
Her: Funny place for a luggage tag.
Me: Where did you find it?
Her: Here by the door.
Me: Bring it here, let me look at it. From here it just looks like trash.
Her: Ok. *brings me the luggage tag, hands it to me. I take it and read the big black words on it*
Me: EEP! ICK! *I randomly throw it into the air and it goes toward my wife, who screams like a little girl and jumps away from it. It falls to the floor.*
Her: What? What?!
Me: It says, “Attach to toe.”
We both look at the toe tags lying on the floor.
Her: Nice of them to leave us the extras.
Me: Yeah, just in case.

When to give up?

“…there are lots of other writers…who don’t have a chance in hell of making their dreams come true…” — Sean Minogue

Yeah, it has been that kind of week.

I always thought I was the kind of person that grew from rejections. I didn’t let them get to me, and I would take VERY seriously any feedback they gave me. I would take the rejection in stride and move on, trying, struggling, fighting to make my work better.

Today though instead of Googling comma use (I hate you, vile comma!)…I am Googling, “When to stop trying to be a writer.”

I’m not throwing a pity party, although I’ve been known to throw some great ones. No, I’m wondering if they all know something I haven’t yet had the courage to face. Today, I am honestly and thoughtfully asking msyelf, “Should I stop trying to be a writer?”

And, for those of you wondering…I don’t know yet. What I do know, is that there are precious few useful articles out there on this subject, but I did find a few.

The first, from which the above abridged quote was taken, made me realize that I’ll never STOP being a writer. I like writing. Even with all the complaining and cat vacuuming, I do like it. And I will likely do it, even if I never publish anything. Blogging and journaling will continue, perhaps even reviews. It also reminded me, that a passion does not have to be a job…a passion does not need to be validated by anyone other than yourself (that goes out to Day, btw)…and to be careful of those to fallacies:
http://www.seanminogue.com/2009/10/03/when-should-you-stop-trying-to-be-a-writer/
I also found a quick and dirty 12 Signs it is Time to Leave Your Job article. It doesn’t COMPLETELY apply, but if you change some of the wording I think this might turn out to be a nice checklist as to your happiness with writing. Things like getting sick, and letting it impact your life to the point that others notice something is wrong should be a BIG indicator that writing should move to the back burner: http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/07/06/12-signs-it-is-really-time-to-leave-your-job.htm

This next one, is for those of you that are looking for a cheering section. Yes, I am aware that stopping is admitting defeat. BUT is it really defeat when you can re-direct your energy to things that you will get more personal development and enjoyment from? If you are looking for reasons to stay in the writing field then have at this one. Me, I’m trying to figure out if I should leave… http://markterrybooks.blogspot.com/2009/02/should-you-quit.html

This one is the same way, and it is written from someone who is obviously not suffering at the moment, which makes it even worse sorta. BUT there is one grain of help here, it starts with, “So when do you quit?” and goes to the end of the article. In particular I am looking at the idea that another dream might mean more to me than writing. Do I have that now? Is there something out there that, when faced with a life or death choice, I would rather have than writing? Interesting question, don’t you think? http://www.murderati.com/blog/2009/4/19/how-do-you-know-when-to-quit.html

So I am left with some questions to ask myself in all seriousness:

Am I doing this to make a living? Or is this a passion I can continue doing quietly without recognition?

Is this impacting my life in a negative way to the point I can no longer ignore it?

Is this fulfilling me? And are there rewards (attainable) that I have yet to reach?

Speaking of attainable…are my expectations reasonable?

Is this done in a fit of pique? Out of self-pity? If so, will every rejection elicit this reaction and can I live with that? Can my wife?

Finally, and most importantly, is writing keeping me from following another dream, more dear to me than it? If I was told I could never write again in favor of this other dream, could I accept that and move on?

I know I can’t answer these right now, I need time to think and process. I also know that my questions won’t necessarily work for you, but I’m hoping if you came to this place looking for help that I have provided it. If it does then I’ve accomplished something…

What day is it? Hell?

Two days to half way and I’m feeling the strain. I’m about 100 words off my game which is nothing to cry about, but it would be nice if I had some sort of a buffer to catch me when I’m feeling dragged out. Did I mention I’ve been feeling dragged out all week?

Monday started like this: woke up to the dog panting to be let out, rubbed eyes, took a step toward the bathroom (bursting bladder comes before desperate dog some days)…stepped in dog poop, screamed, hopped to living room with dog trying to knock me over, hopped into dog pee, screamed again, let dog out. THEN after getting my feet cleaned off, taking a shower, feeding the cats, getting breakfast, changing clothing, and transferring what I had worked on the night before to my flash drive I realized…wait, I let the old dog back in, where is she?

Oh yes, that’s right she’s in the cat room eating two cups of cat food so she can be sick all day and poop everywhere. Somedays…no, some weeks are not worth waking up for.

Since that very telling morning I’ve been fighting a bad mood, a headache that could kill small children and the elderly (likely brought on by…), neck/eye strain, and this overpowering desire to just sleep! But no, I’ve got 2000 words a day looming over me like the tsunami that ate my brain, and if I let it get too far ahead of me I’ll never catch up.

Enough griping, let me tell you a sad story…I was in the pool, I’d pushed myself to do 18 laps (I started with just 12 so this is really a good thing) after working on my legs with the weight machines. I was breathing hard and felt wrung out, and while finishing the last half of my last lap a guy (thin, surprisingly not in a speedo, goggles, very little hair) stands at the end of my lap. When I arrive he very sweetly asks me if he can share my lane (I heart this guy already, he’s not making me look at his package and he’s being polite!!!). I tell him he can have it, and as I strip off all my swimming equipment, and lately I’ve got a lot, we have the following conversation…

“I can share, I don’t mind.”
“Nah, I’ve done my 22 for the night. I’m finished.” (twinge of guilt for lying, but the man is so damn thin!!!! Be sure to pull a face of exhaustion, because 22 yeah that’ll exhaust anyone! You’re a badass Renee!)
“I hear it takes 88 to make a mile.”
“Really, I heard it was in the 60’s…oh well, I just don’t have it in me to do anymore tonight.”
“I know how you feel, some days I get in the pool and I’m feeling good I’ve eaten right I’ve gotten enough sleep and I hit about 45 and think…I just can’t do another lap.”
(starts to think perhaps I should have said 35…40…perhaps 100 wouldn’t be too much of a stretch…yeah, I do 100 laps a day, what of it? You think a fat girl can’t find time for 100 laps? Sizeist. *spits*) “Some days it just doesn’t work out. I’m feeling good that I’ve gotten up to 18, I started at 12.” (desperate vie for validation)
“Good for you! You know daily improvement is the goal.”
“Yeah. Daily improvement.” (smile brightly, too brightly, begin to look manic…time to giggle like a freak) *giggle* “Well, have a great workout. Goodnight.”
RUN! RUN FAR AWAY! DON’T EVEN STOP AT THE HOT TUB, JUST RUN FAT GIRL RUN!!!!!

The end.

Find your peace and live it, even if it is only 18 laps long!  You’re a badass!

-Renee

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.

Photo Sometime

I am unapologetic about falling off the photo wagon…ok, I lie.

I’m terribly guilty about falling off the photo wagon…so here are some shots from the 4th that I had meant to alert you to.

Down at the Mall for the 4th of July. Funnily enough the display lasted for only 15-20 minutes…not nearly as long as the crazy Falls Church people that try to set your hair on fire and concuss you into the ground. I think I want to go back to Falls Church next year.

Sparkle...what a pretty sky.

We forgot the tripod and rain gear!  Oye!  I wish my brain would work more often than it does.  Although, I shouldn’t complain too much about the rain…I was thankful for it coming down all evening (off and on)…I was able to stand the heat that way. And it made the crowd down at the Mall not so crazy packed, but only heavily attended.

Next year, if not Falls Church…then the WWII monument over in Rosslyn, VA…much better selection of monuments to highlight with the fireworks.

WARNING: Distractions Ahead!

Everyone needs a little distraction, especially writers, who spend too much time in their own heads. I’ve been upfront with you about my distractions, mostly World of Warcraft (aka WOW) and television, but there are other ones out there that are a lot more fun and interactive. Let me give you a little rundown…

1) Photo-sharing Websites: Things like Flickr, Photobucket, Snapfish, etc. In case you aren’t familiar with these names they are sites that allow you to upload photos for friends and family and strangers to view at their leisure on their own computer. Basically, you give out the username like candy and watch the comments on your snaps add up. There are groups on Flickr that you can join to catch more strangers’ photos of things you are interested in. My groups consist of Fire and Hawaii and Photo Contest groups, and I have a lot of fun checking them out and being inspired by the talent out there. This is also a great place to develop and train your photographer’s eye. Look at the groups and ask yourself why one picture you don’t really like is popular, while another that you love is not…try to figure out how you could recreate the same picture and even more how would you make it better. I must admit, quite a bit of my disposable time happily goes down the Flickr drain.

Under this I’ve got to include a shout out for my latest happy discovery…Adobe Photoshop Express (beta). This sweet little page will let you log into Flickr, PhotoBucket, Facebook, and Picasa EDIT your photos and re-upload them onto the sites they came from! This means no more waiting for Flickr’s editing software to load and no more pulling pictures back off the web to give them a good spit and polish! What a beautiful thing! What a beautiful, beautiful thing! I encourage everyone putting photos out there on the web to check this site out. Oh, and no worries about the TOS (if you’ve heard about the controversy) they’ve changed the wording and now it reads much better than it did…still not perfect but much better. With that being said, I would urge you to get a Flickr or similar account and only use the Adobe Photoshop Express page for editing.

2) Aggregators: Google Reader is my favorite, but I’m sure you could find others if you looked. These are RSS/News Aggregators that will pipe updates on the pages you have subscribed to into a page that will allow you to look at them all at once. Thus, I’ve got my personal friends and my local news and my favorite authors and my publisher blogs all in once place to be accessed when I log in. Woot! I adore my Reader and take a look at it most every day! Now I don’t have to worry about missing things or check day after day for an update…if it happens my Reader has it! The best part, there doesn’t have to be and RSS feed on the page for Google Reader to follow it, stick a webpage url in the “subscribe” box and there you go…anytime that page is updated you will be notified.

The page basically looks like email, with unread items bolded with the number of unread items for a particular page or section (you can create sections, that’s how I get my friends separate from my authors). Click on what you would like to look at, and if there are too many click on “mark all read” and it does just that. Fun stuff, I’ve got to tell you. Give it a try.

3) Social Networking Sites: Places like Facebook and MySpace have gotten a lot of coverage in the news over the last few years, and most of it has been bad (cyberbullying, inappropriate content, etc.) but underneath all that is a pretty fun place to visit. Social networking sites give you a place to develop your profile: with fun applications (think text-based games with cool graphics), photo albums (if someone tags your image in Facebook it is linked to your profile), and easy upkeep you can’t really beat it for getting your face and name out there for others to find. Take a minute to round out your profile by pimping your website, telling people what you are doing, and listing your interests. Then send some Facebook email and look up long lost (or maybe not so lost) friends to add to your account. Next thing you know you’re back in touch with the college friend you wish you’d never lost contact with (Hey Katie!) and keeping tabs on your family (*waves to my niece Alyce*).

4) Microblogging: For those of us with not much to say (or too much) there is always Twitter. It is blogging software that limits entries to 140 characters (including spaces). It’s a great way to let people know how the day is going, or if you get the right software, that you have updated your blog. It is simple and free to use, just like all the other stuff in this post. You simply need to sign up for an account and bang you are ready to tweet to the world. There is a very poor search engine you can use to find friends, but good luck getting it to work. I suggest culling the list of the friends you do find online or putting a shout out in your blog posts and see who picks you up (My username? NRBrown). Tweeting has taken the nation by storm, and unfortunately the infrastructure of the program is not advanced enough to cope with its raging popularity…still, we all use it and love it even if it does stick at times.

I think the best description of Twitter comes from Lore Sjöberg of Wired.com, who himself is a rabid Twitterholic. He says, “(Twitter) ends up being too short for interesting topics, while remaining way too long for boring ones.”

And that’s about it.

These are not only a great way to give you a few seconds of distraction from the raving inside your own mind, but it’s also a great way to: make more friends, find great blogs, mine ideas, celebrate creativity and generally be social on a virtual level.

I’m using most of these and having a great time doing it. I encourage you to get out there and dig through some of these way cool distractions to find some you might like.

Or if you are already using these and know of some other way cool gadgets, comment here and let me know! I’m always looking for the next cool web application!

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