N. Renee Brown

Part-time Author, Full-time Book Junkie

A whole new addiction…

OMG! I’m broken, my brain is broken…good broken, but broken.
I came home today to find my computer displaying all these crazy webpages. No, it wasn’t a virus…they were all from the same site and Day admitted to pulling them up. I will never have to want for story ideas again, because I have discovered CRACKED.COM!

I’m sure I’m late on the bandwagon, I’m one of those girls that finds some things very early (Facebook/Word Press/URLesque) but other HUGE things very late (Harry Potter/Twitter/sinus infections), but how this site had eluded me just blows my damn mind!

It is written to entice a teen male, and mostly written by them I am sure, but DAMN if it isn’t as entertaining as hell.

So, for my first trick pulled from Cracked.com, “The 8 Most Ridiculously Badass Protesters Ever Photographed”

Take a look, enjoy the writing…and I’ll be sure to follow up with some storyideas on Twitter for you.

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:
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…

DL Thurston Month!

You know it’s good when someone names a month after you…yeah?

Well, one of my intrepid co-writers at the Cat Vacuuming Society has found himself the inspiration for this month’s writing.

See, D.L. is a novice like me. And while we’ve both struggled in the past, I have begun to notice an uptick in the level of his writing lately. It is a slow, steady improvement that has astounded both my partner (Day) and I in it’s duration and scope. He has gone from having issues with plot AND character AND setting…to only minor plot holes OR minor character development OR minor setting adjustments. And where do we see this improvement the most? In the shorts he creates and posts on his blog (http://www.dlthurston.com/blog/).

These little flash pieces come up once every 2 weeks and are called Fortnightcaps. (Seriously, if you get a change scoot over there and look at some of them.) And while they aren’t long or involved, they are most assuredly having an impact on the way he writes!

Thus, this month is DL Thurston month! I’ve decided to write 3 stories in 30 days, and I’ve kept up with it so far…I’ve got one done (working title: Crazy Train) and I’m halfway through the next (working title: Hawaii Bug). They are a little longer than his shortest ones, but I feel good about this outpouring of work.

Why? Because the only way you are going to get published is to have things TO publish!

So, find someone to inspire you…and get to it!

P.S. Check D.L. out over on Unleaded: Fuel for Writers too!


Well, we knew it was coming.
Hopeless wins out.

I wish I could say I’m taking it in stride, but I’m not. In all honesty, I don’t think anyone takes rejection well. No one. It doesn’t feel good.

I don’t feel good.

BUT I’m not letting this stop me. I’m only acknowledging that it exists, because I want other strugglers out there to know that it is NOT unacceptable to feel this way…to say a private little f you to the entity that rejected you.

Tell yourself they don’t know what they turned down…tell yourself they are going to be crying in their beer when you are famous…and then go out there and submit that story again. And if they reject it, just keep going.

This isn’t a race the hare can win…you’ve got to be a turtle, slow and steady and don’t let anything get you down!!!

Chin up, hopeless optimistic (just like me)…we can do this!

Peace and pee on them they don’t know what they passed up,

Submitted, so there! (Snack Between Meals)

Well, I did it. I submitted “The Nothing Land” to the Dark Crime Anthology hosted by Comet Press (http://cometpress.us/).

I’m not ever sure what I should say when I do stuff like this…should I be all braggy and “I’m sure I’ll make it!” Or should I be all defeatist, “They’ll never take it!” I’m just never sure…a guess a mix of hope and fear is acceptable to my own personal sensibilities. How about hopelessly optimistic?


Find your peace, and be hopelessly optimistic about it!


The feet have it. (Blog Bite)

This is going to be a strange story, but I promise I’ll try to make it amusing…but it’s about feet and how amusing can you really make feet anyway?

For the last few years…at least the last 8…I’ve fought with my feet. Seriously, with weapons fought with them. I’d walk around for a while, like say at the zoo…but there would come a time when my heart and mind were still willing but my feet started putting up a fuss.

They would fuss so badly that I would sit down every chance I got, and when I stood back up it would be agony.

I couldn’t keep up with anyone, because I was always on the lookout for the next seat I could slip into. I spent more time watching those silly videos in museums than you would care to count, not because I wanted to see them but because I was desperate to make my dogs stop howlin’.

Well, in a moment of utter defeat and demoralization Day finally convinced me to get some gel inserts (Dr. Scholl’s even!)…I didn’t think they would work. I think I may have even turned up my lip (or tried to but was in so much pain neither of us are sure where it came from). I slipped them into my shoes and haven’t looked back.

I walked around the zoo the other weekend for about 4 hours without stopping…I kept up with TWO 19 year old girls…THEY were the ones that said, “Ok, my feet are getting tired.”

Well, thinking about this foot thing got me thinking about the writing thing…I’d been looking so hard for that magic bullet, that THING that would make writing make sense and come easy that I had neglected to hear the very practical advice coming from many different quarters.

Do it until it makes sense.

Sometimes we have to get demoralized and give up before we will open up enough to realize there is no special pill that is going to make us a great writer. It’s all about work, and work includes working through things that make no sense. Work means banging away at it until you want to scream and hoping for the best. Work means not having fun but looking back on the completed project with pride. Work means get your butt in the chair and write. Write. Write. Write.

And do it till it makes sense.

Find your peace, and live it.


Balticon and a roar of a start…

Balticon is always a wake-up call for me. It is a weekend spent with people that are succeeding at something I aspire to. Be it podcasting or writing these people are DOING what I feel like I only give lip service to. Now I know that is not true, I know what I am doing behind this screen and I know it to be valuable and worthwhile. STILL, it does not stop those feeling of inferiority from creeping up on me like the murderer in a mystery story during the rest of the year.

Yet when I come to Balticon, instead of feeling bad I’m broken out of my funk and into the bright light of, “I CAN DO THIS!” Every year Day and I drive back on Monday (Memorial Day), talking about the plans for Unleaded and our various stories…from here came the idea for Unleaded in the first place and the first novel I wrote, from just those 2 hours-ish driving back after a weekend of being submerged in writer/podcaster nirvana.

This year though…this year was different.

Honestly, I was disappointed…not only in myself but in Balticon. I felt like a fan. A fan is not what I EVER wanted to be. It’s not that fans are bad…I just don’t want to be one. I want to be a writer. I want to be a podcaster. I want to be ON the panels not IN them. I want Balticon to allow me to rub elbows with my peers…and I want those peers not to be clambering for autographs and dressed up in hall costumes, but instead talking about the process of writing and their love of it (or hell, even just bitching about it over a beer).

Being a fan at Balticon is not nearly as fun as being an aspiring something…

And yet, I was still aspiring enough to become hideously disappointed when the panelists (SPECIFICALLY MODERATORS) had A) no clue what the panel was about, B) made it clear they had no clue what it was about, C) made no attempt to prepare for the panel, and D) plainly didn’t care. This happened more than once and it was such a terrible blow that I found myself attending things I would never have sat in on just because the person moderating it had an interest in the topic.

Argh, sorry…but that really burned my butt this weekend.

Anyway, to get back to the point…I found myself at a loss this year.  I had no novel to show off, I had little interest in the people that had little interest in the panels, and I was stuck being the timid fan girl.  I hated Balticon right then, for showing me what I was failing…namely myself.  I never wanted to feel this way, but there it was and I had to do something about it.

What did I do?  I made a plan.  “In Harm’s Way” will be edited and submitted to my group this year…AND I’m going to work on the joint project with Day all summer and make it my NANO novel.  I’m also starting Unleaded again, it is about 10 minutes of my time once a day…there is no reason I can’t give it that attention.

So…the corner had been turned, the terrible bleakness that descended upon me during Balticon has given way to a new obsession, and let us hope next year I will be pandering my novel to anyone who shows the least bit of interest.

Do you hear me? Because I’m talking about YOU…I see you hiding back there, the Balticon attendee who doesn’t really know who I am, but you see I KNOW who you are and you cannot escape my new determination to become a published novelist!


Find your leaf and turn it,


Facing forward, writing back.

(This is blog bite lite today.  Why?  Because I think I’ve said it.  I think this blog entry gets what I’m trying to say without being melodramatic or maudlin.  So, you’ll just have to eat light today…sorry, but you can have an apple later.)

So it’s taken a little bit, but I think I’m coming back around to writing…and I’ll tell you what did it. The fear of not doing it.

Yup, the only thing that kept swimming around in my head was the idea that my stories would never be told if I didn’t tell them. They would stay forever half developed, choppy half-hinged chapters if I didn’t sit down and make it right/write.

I don’t want Truth and Harmony and Honey to die on the vine. I don’t want the worlds I’ve created…where gods fear nothing and children have the power and gender is as fluid as wine…to disappear, stillborn into the void.

I’ve got things to say and I’ve got my own unique way of saying it! I want people to hear and see and experience. I want them to draw a deep breath after reading a chapter only to dive right back in for the next morsel I’ve served up.

Yes, I do want to write. No matter how hard or thankless. No matter how much I doubt what I am doing or hate what I am producing…

I want my words to be heard, if only by you…or the editors rejecting them…but still, heard by someone other than myself in the lonely hours in front of my computer.

So yeah, I’m back on the wagon. I’m putting pen to paper/fingers to keys. I’m looking up and forward and hoping to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Wish me luck?

Find your peace, accept your burden, and live it.


I hate writing, it sucks, and I never want to do it again.

I don’t know if it’s the time of year…woot Spring! It’s time for outdoors, flowers, and dreaming of vacations. Or ugh Spring! It’s nearing finals time and all the students are coming to the library in a panic…and projects are due and classes are still going.

Or if I’ve just been under a lot of stress lately: car problems, job got upgraded (which means more work), dog died, friend died, health worries, faith issues, and a general what am I doing with my life feeling, etc.

But I can’t even keep up with my blog (which I love). Seriously, writing is the last thing in the world I want to talk about, much less do.

To make matters worse when I DO think about writing the only thing I can think is… “I’m a hack. I’ll never be more than a b-list author. I am not a talent or a genius. I’ll never change the face of the world like Stoker or Heinlein or Shakespeare. No one will remember me.” I can’t break out of this self-defeating mode…I tell myself rationally that I won’t know unless I try but then my irrational self says, “HA, you already know what’s going to happen! YOU are bored by what you write…how is anyone else going to want to read it?”

Le sigh.

And don’t worry, I’m still going to my weekly writing group but it’s becoming a chore. Not because of the group itself but because spending 2 hours talking about writing only serves to make me more depressed. I leave there not energized to write like I have in the past, but instead moping about what an utter failure I am…beating myself up for being lazy…and wondering again how I could have tricked myself into thinking I could pull this whole, “I’m a writer” façade.

ARGH! I hate writing…I hate how insecure it makes me feel…I hate doing it…I hate not doing it…I hate wishing I could do anything but think/wish/worry about writing.

Are you there for me?

Find your…oh forget it.


Book Research is FUN!

So a friend of mine, from the writing group, is working on a novel with a blacksmith as a main character.  She’d been doing book research and decided it was time to “invade” the Blacksmithing Guild of the Potomac. 

So we did.

I accompanied her and another member of the group to the meeting announcing itself as “Beginners Night”.  We arrived at a nature center and found men talking in the parking lot…they were members and told us where we needed to go…down an unlit path to a building illuminated by one lone light shining on its far end.  EEP?  No not really, it was a neat place (what little we could see of it) and with the moon half full it was more than light enough for J. and I .  S (the other friend) even had a flashlight with her, so if we needed it we could have called upon her.

We braved the “wilderness” and made it to a wonderful little wooden building…no windows, great big double doors, and metal hanging from every wall.   At one end the forge held court, men (already at work) paying it homage, their sweat scarce in the frigid winter night but the intensity of their eyes offering enough.  In the center, a potbellied stove tried to heat the far end of the room, men just coming in clustered around it trying to warm their hands and cheeks…but more importantly reconnecting with friends that gathered there as well.  Scrap of all shapes and sizes piled into the corners and spilled out to tug at your pant legs as if begging to be used once more, and turned into something beautiful and useful.  Reclaimed scrap, examples of how to makes leaves and twists, nails and hooks, and one impressive dragon head blowing smoke filled my eyes and fired my imagination with possibilities.  And over it all the smell of smoke that wasn’t really wood but had a sort of oily metal tang. 

It was a magical place, one that instantly fired my writers brain…too bad I wasn’t writing something including a blacksmith (must remedy that, ASAP!!!)…but even better were the men there.  Now, this is not the first “all male” enclave I have infiltrated, it’s not even the second, but on the whole my experiences with trespassing on the old grunt and spit club have not been very successful or fun.  (Astronomers are the worst!)  Yet, the blacksmiths…the blacksmiths were cool.  No better than cool, they were funny and welcoming and I had a terrific time. 

Normally, when you are new someone “adopts” you and shows you around, and introduces you to people…well, C was our adopter.  C started off our night with an off-color joke and the rest was one guffaw after the next.  S described him as puppy-like, but with a dirty streak a mile wide, and that sums it up.  He was sweet and funny and introduced us to everyone we knew.  The best thing though…he wasn’t the only one to adopt us.  A LOT of the men talked to us and gave us pointers and looked out for us, they were the most welcoming grunt and spit club I’ve ever encountered.  They sat with us and talked about blacksmithing and about the love of anvil and hammer…and by doing that infused all 3 of us with a desire to return again to laugh with them.

See, not all book research is dry reading and internet searches.  Sometimes it’s magical and creative and you walk away with a leaf that is a little bit deformed but all yours.


Find your peace and live it…even if it gives you a sore arm and hand,