N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

A delayed feast!

So, you will notice that there is no Umami this week.
WELL, that is for a VERY GOOD reason!
Next week, I shall be in New Orleans…home of deep fried fantastic food, Bourbon Street, and American voodoo!
New Orleans! Next week, I shall be ensconced in the loving arms and wrought iron balconies of the French Quarter. And next week, I shall be posting the next step in our story…along with photos from the Big Death itself!
It will be worth it, loves…I promise it shall.
I shall be writing with the fervor of Poppy Z. Brite herself! And channeling the talent of early Anne Rice!


Be on the lookout for it, and if you are in the area give me a hollar…let’s sit and drink in the lovely lady NOLA together!

Location, location, location!

Much like real estate, location in a novel can be as important as character or plot. Location not only gives us a framework in which to ground ourselves, it allows us to think outside the words written and fills in the gaps the author does not have pagespace to dedicate to.

Telling you my latest novel is set in the bayous of southern Louisiana is going to give you a very concrete vision of where we are. You can almost see the Cypress trees, with their knees poking up through the muddy water…the Herons looking impassively on as you pole by in a flat bottomed boat…the thick skinned Gators splashing past with a powerful thrust of their tail…and the rich southern Creole accent. Ok, perhaps not in that detail but we all know what the swamp is supposed to look like, we know it has water and greenery and animals. We know that getting in the water might not be the best idea and we know that it’s going to be hot and muggy.

We’ve got a starting point to work from and a place we can build on. Having told you this I can now tell you some other things, this is set in the future after a devastating disease has killed off a large portion of the population. I can tell you this swamp is mostly deserted and those that are left have moved from the stilted houses in current use to tree houses connected via long swinging bridges. I can tell you that the swamp, while mostly unchanged the fear of it and the people that live in it has grown over the years, leaving it and everything in it mostly untouched.

Now what do you think we are going to find in there? Something terrible or wonderful? You don’t know, but you’d like to now wouldn’t you?

All of this and all I’ve done is describe the location and how it has changed (or stayed the same) in response to my plot.

Location can also be a dangerous place to tread. Before going to Louisiana I’d written a scene where my heroine visits the Gray City, which just happens to be the ruins of New Orleans. I’d never been to that city before, but thought it would be much like any other city but with the addition of the French Quarter.


There is a unique flavor to that city…history runs through its heart like the great muddy Mississippi, pride hangs as thick as the moss from the bayou trees and the love of fun is as mixed and overwhelming as the taste of gumbo. Without seeing it, without experiencing it I would never have captured the regal ruin that it could become. Without my experiences I would have been left watching the city from the outside, doomed to recreate the one-dimensional façade captured on every Hurricane Katrina and Mardi Gras documentary.

My favorite story about location comes not from a book, but from the popular TV show “Bones”. In the very first episode Bones gets off an international flight at Dulles Airport (it even says it is Dulles at the bottom of the screen). They show her talking with someone in front of a huge window and famed in that window is the Washington Monument.

Now if you’ve ever flown into Dulles (on purpose or accident) you know that if you saw the Washington Monument from there you’re either a) looking at an advertisement, b) hallucinating or, c) are Superman using crazy long distance see through anything eyes. Dulles is nowhere near the Mall or that monument; as a matter of fact it’s 40 minutes away (without traffic). I know that many people here in the area groaned at this, it would not have been hard to use one line of dialogue to explain that she was catching a connecting flight from somewhere to D.C. to put her in at Reagan (right downtown), but they didn’t. Instead they screwed with the landscape of an area that many people know…it wasn’t a great idea although I’m sure many people didn’t catch it, but for those who did it stretched the suspension of disbelief. Suddenly we are snapped back into a world where we know that there is no “Jeffersonian” or super cute Forensic Anthropologist that is allowed to carry a gun and accompany an FBI agent on interrogations (although I know a few super cute Forensic Anthropologists -bones are cool- none of them have their own personal FBI agent!).

Moral of this story, take us there and drown us in the details but let us paint the background for you, we’ll be a lot happier that way. Also don’t move the major landmarks too much or you might lose us. Ok, now that we’re cool…

Find your peace and live it, even if it’s in a land far, far away…once upon a time…or just next door.


Would you believe “Photo Wednesday”?

I wish I could claim illness for not keeping up…but it’s more likely that I’ve just been busy doing other things.  Hawaii part 2 is coming up next week.  For those of you interested, Day and I won a trip to Hawaii and gave it to my parents.  They didn’t want to go without us, so they offered to pay our way…and you just don’t say no to a “free” trip to Hawaii.  So now my parents and I are going to Hawaii, and well, being the kind sister that I am I invited my siblings as well.  My sister and her hubby are the only ones available to go, but actually that works out as I believe having an island full of my family might be a bit too much.

Since I’m the only one who has been there before it is up to me to plan the trip and get ducks and put them in rows.  We have Pearl Harbor planned, the Polynesian Cultural Center, a day on the North Shore, the Bishop Museum, the Iolani Palace, and volcanoes.  I’m hoping to make everyone happy at least one day (My day?  The North Shore of course!).  I’m also responsible for the hotel and car rental…and get this the limo and lei greeting for mom and dad.  That last bit was my idea.  This is Mom’s dream vacation, I want it to be everything she’s ever wanted it to be.

Ok, enough gushing about Hawaii.  I’ve been struggling with Photo Sunday lately. (as if you didn’t notice)  It’s this hard line between art and memory I keep treading…I look at other photographers and wish I could figure out if I am a point and shooter with a high powered camera or just an undeveloped eye trying to make her way in the world of Halloween costumes and Sunday best.  It continues to be my bane that I cannot bring what I see to life…that I forget the basics of taking photos…that I am lazy and just want art to be easy.  Ok, enough.  Here goes nothing:

Photo Sunday #29:

Picking peaches at Homestead Farm was a real highlight this year.  I went out more than once, not only for the faboo fruit but also for a chance to take some pictures.  Below is a nectarine just itching to be plucked!  Of course I did the minute after this photo was snapped and it later graced my lunch bag. 

Blackberries have such great color at all stages of their growth cycle.  I was lucky enough to find this clump of ripening (and a few ripe!) berries waiting for their closeup.  Yes, I picked the ripe ones once I was done.  They ended up in a pie.

Photo Sunday #30:

My morning glories are blooming as well as my moonflower.  I really didn’t think this picture was going to work.  I had put my camera on the ground to fold back the top of the flower in order to get a face on shot and when I went to pick it up I decided to snap a picture.  I actually kinda like it…

I find abandonded/unused playground equipment kind creepy.  The only thing this old b-ball hoop needed was a frayed net to really make the whole feel complete.  I tried this exact same photo without the flash, but it made the colors too warm.  Overexposing, aka using the flash on, this photo really made the creepy vibe come to the fore.  I was pleased, but again lamented the lack of fraying.

Photo Sunday #31:

I wanted to revisit some dog photos, especially with Kitty so frail lately.  This is outside a friends house.  She rarely wags her tail anymore, I don’t know if it hurts or if she is just old and grumpy…but here she is wagging away.  My heart is going to break when she goes…just shatter into a million grains of sand.  I love that dog.

In my sniffling over the old dog, I decided to try to get a shot of the young idiot.  She wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to really get anything out of her until she thought she heard Day at the door when we were outside.  She froze and I had just enough time to turn the camera on her.  Day says that little girl does not love her, but I’ve got photographic proof right here.  That dog was ready to bolt for her owner and leave me in the middle of a sniff filled forest, if that isn’t love I don’t know what is.


Photo Sunday #32:

Tropical Storm Hannah blew through the area as Day and I were recovering from this heinous cold we’ve both got.  It gave us a GREAT excuse to stay in bed and take Nyquil and not lament the loss of a day.  When we finally felt well enough to go out, we were rewarded with a great shot of the last of the storm front passing through.  It was moving pretty quickly, but I got at least one shot off before I lost it over the buildings completely.

Ok, that should catch you up…so no whining.  Just kidding, whine all you want it proves that people actually keep up with this.  See ya later this week.

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.

Goal Oriented.

I am quickly realizing that the only thing that keeps me working on “In Harm’s Way” are the weekly goals I give to my writing group (CVS).   It seems a shame that a month ago I was consumed by writing and now…well, not so much.  Ugh, I know I keep writing about this or variations on this theme but it just keeps PLAGUING me.

I want to finish this so I can set it aside for a while and work on some shorter projects.  I’ve got a great idea for a railroad story and another one about a guy who plays Russian roulette with the one thing he knows will kill him and a third about a girl who goes off looking for her talisman but finds herself instead…but I can’t bring myself to work on them.  Not with Day and a deadline and weekly goals breathing down my neck.

Do you feel my pain?  Do you?

Hey, did I mention Hawaii?  Well, then let me take this moment to say that I have two weeks off this coming December and Day and I are discussing an out of country experience for that particular holiday.  I’m aiming for Venice again (seeing as we keep making plans but never actually go)…but perhaps we should go somewhere else…somewhere warmer, but without killer insects and snakes.  Any ideas?



Day got the tickets today, we leave Friday April 11th (12:45pm) and come back Thursday April 17 (9pm).
I can’t believe this.
I just can’t believe it.