N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

Photo Sunday #3

It’s that time again.

This week we went to the Aspen Hill Memorial park. It is the 2nd oldest pet cemetery in America, with an estimated 20thousand pets interred there as well as 40 humans that couldn’t bear to be separated from their pets in death (and that is as it should be). Petey, the dog from the Little Rascals is there. Rags, a World War I Army mascot is there. J. Edgar Hoover’s dogs are also there, 6 of them.

I went there to take pictures and I took nearly 70 of them. Still, I still need more work…a lot of the pictures, while interesting to me, were sadly lacking in composition. *sigh* I find it so frustrating to see something, and think I have captured it in my lens only to find I have leeched all life from it. I would like to revisit this place to try and get the shots I was really looking for, but I don’t want to wait too long. They seem to be taking down a lot of the trees in their efforts to reclaim the place from the past. As they are doing this, they are destroying some of the markers, and are deconstructing the peaceful feeling of the land. Personally, I’d love to see them put a brick wall all around it…and tame the trees not kill them. It is VERY obvious that a lot of these trees were planted in memory of a beloved pet and it makes me sad to know they are removing those testaments to love.

Saddest picture I took…a memorial that said, “For the only companions I ever had.” Heartbreaking. Saddest thing I saw…a memorial that said, “My heart is buried here.” *sniff*

#1 The Guardian (He who stands outside the final resting place of a couple and their beloved pet dog. This was actually a quite elaborate crypt, but desperate for come tender loving care. I may have to plant flowers and flowering bushes in my yard just to take up there to this place. The vases behind this little guy looked so lonely and empty.)
Standing guard outside the grave of a couple and their beloved dog.

#2 Bunny on Patrol. (Bunny, the bulldog, watches everyone wandering through her part of the cemetery. I want to go back to get better pictures of Bunny, this one did not capture what I loved best about her. She has such great texture, surely the best of the statues we saw that day. The moss on her gave her a reality the others didn’t have. This is one of those sculptures I could see coming to life. And on a purely technical note…how is it that I made her nose blurry but nothing else? HOW? Ugh!)

Bunny, the bulldog, watches over the cemetary.

And in a macabre twist of fate, we discovered a dead squirrel in the middle of the cemetery, I didn’t have the heart to take pictures of it but it was quite the sight. Vivid. *sigh*

Photo Sunday #2

Here are the photos for Photo Sunday #2.

The Many Tree is my actual “submission”.  It is a tree located at the back of our yard whose roots are slowly being exposed due to erosion.  We plan on fixing this eventually (it’s not bad enough to warrant us acting on it now), so these great pictures won’t be available to me forever.  Thus I really wanted to get some shots of it.  These were taken as the sun was going down, so I used the flash.  I like the contrast of the ultra-bright overexposed roots and the creeping darkness at the edges of the frame.  I think this might even be better in black and white, but at the same time the greens really bring something to it. 

Ms. Tootsie is my, “what the hell?” submission.  My co-worker’s aunt made this candy jar for her.  Supposedly, this is only the first in a long line of dolls with different hairstyles…this one being the “afro doll”.  Ms. Tootsie nearly scared the crap out of me when I first saw her, I thought it was some sick joke.  Still, the longer you look at her the nicer she seems to become.  The homespun of the doll against the sterile of the office doesn’t grab me.  I’d like to borrow Ms. Tootsie for a while and put her in some grass or in some antique store and take some photos…I think THAT would be a picture that would really stand out.  I may have to try and make one.

This Photo Sunday thing is actually proving harder than I expected.  I get home at night just before the sun sets, and I have a bad habit of waiting till the last minute to leave my house in the mornings.  That leaves the weekend, but if I want to spend time taking photos I’ve got to break out and think about it…and in the winter, in the cold…who wants to think?

The other aspect to this is my desire to locate something near us to snap.  I want to find the things around me beautiful or interesting enough to capture, but I’m having trouble with it.  I don’t care for this neighborhood as much as I did the condo…then again, the condo had people to landscape for them and the houses around here are busier raising their kids and adding onto their house.  Then there is the added taboo of taking pictures of things that don’t belong to you…the grounds at the condo were for everyone the grounds here belong to our neighbors.  Neighbors we don’t know very well.


Oh well, here are the pix.  I’ll save other ruminations on this subject for later…

The Many Tree

Ms. Tootsie


Editing Styles

When it comes to editing there are two different types of people.

1) The putter inners and 2) The taker outers.

Having never really edited anything of length, I was never really sure which camp I was stationed in. I always assumed I was a taker outer, since I have a bad habit of putting in too many words…and having too many run on sentences…and generally talking too much. It was just a guess on my part, and a pretty good one, as most people who write like I do (with the “on at the mouth” disease) are taker outers.

At the same time I worried, because my chapters always seemed so much smaller than my fellow authors. I was struggling to make 2500 words per chapter, when others would easily make 4-5 thousand. For me, getting to 3 thousand meant dragging out the action…watering down the tension…and throwing in bits and bobs that were not only unnecessary but downright silly.

Well, having just finished editing Chapter 1 of “In Harm’s Way” I’ve figured it out. I am none of the above. I am firmly in the camp of the “tightener upper, putter inner”.

What is that you say?

Well, I started with 2300ish words. I ended with 3400ish words. During this 1000+ addition, I took out a ton of things that I saw as frivolous and tightened down the story into something primarily focused on the action going on around my main character. (I even had Day go over it for me, she helped tremendously! And although it is hard to listen to her criticisms, it really made this submission one of my best.  Thank you, Day!)

So now that I know where I stand, and I’m not going to worry so much if I run out of steam getting to 100,000 words on this novel. I’ll aim for 90thousand, and know in my heart that my internal editor will take care of the rest.

BTW, the response to Chapter 1 was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone liked the idea for the story, everyone liked the main character, and everyone liked the action. Of course, they had ideas for tightening the whole thing. Still, it won’t be hard to take those ideas and incorporate them which is a plus. I’m very lucky to have CVS on my side.

Peace to you.


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?

Clawing my way back up the wordcount ladder…

It is always hard but inevitable when I fall off the wordcount ladder. When I go from 2000 or more words a day down to 100 or less, but as with weight loss I am not going to berate myself for falling off…only for failing to get back on. I can’t spend my time yelling at what a lazy slacker I am I’ve got work to do! Words to write! A novel to finish! By Memorial Day even!

 Oh but that initial push to get back from the zero wordcount that is my holiday routine is grueling. I find myself struggling to get even 300 words out of my parched brain, and the 800 words that Day has asked for is nearly impossible.

That is until I get into the groove again, until I begin to type with an idea in my head and characters that are willing to respond. Then it flows like water again, and I wonder why I ever fell off. I wonder what is so awful that I can’t just keep doing this day after day.

Then I get distracted or run out of pre-designed scenes to lay down like pavement…I come to the end of the sidewalk, the last dribbling bits of asphalt and I stand there wondering what the hell to do next. Yeah, then I remember. Then I know what stopped me. It was the blank wall looking back at me that scared me like a groundhog back into my den for another 6weeks of nothing to show for it. When I am in full 2000 word swing, it becomes less about what I know I’m going to write than what happens next in the world. What logical or illogical thing would occur next? Well that is what should be written. Instead of what am I going to write next, oh god, what am I going to write next.


Well, I’m writing this entry to lube up the synapses and then onto whatever. As long as I keep stringing words together…what the hell, why not?

Peace to you.


Photo Sunday #1

As part of my New Year’s Resolutions (and many thanks to Day for discovering someone else doing this and suggesting it) I have decided to institute Photo Sunday!

Every Sunday I will upload one or two photos I’ve taken in the past week.  Ideally, this will lead me to a greater understanding of what makes a good photo for me…and will hone my skills in constructing and taking those photos.

Here is week one.  Both pictures were taken during our recent snow storm (only the 2nd one this year).  I was lucky enough to get off work at 3:30pm, so the light was still strong by the time I got home.  I just stepped outside and started snapping anything that looked good to me.  It was raining as I took these shots and and the snow was falling from the trees like little wet snowbombs.  It was tough keeping the camera dry…