Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Be Still...and Begin Your New Year Well

be still and begin your new year well
I sit alone in my office. Holiday's have blessed us with time off but it also means we must take our turns holding down the fort on our own, manning the ship so others can rest. My eldest is here, warming the foyer seats as he works on a school project. There's a new leak in the roof and a big chunk of ceiling tile has collapsed on the carpet {groan!}. This place is still drunk with the leftovers of the Christmas Eve service and I'm sure I should be trying to get it tidied up but I myself am still drunk on a full stomach and little sleep and the idea of putting away Christmas makes me sad.

I get a lot done when I'm the only one here. The silence nudges me to productivity and I find that I don't mind it that much - especially when it means I can have the rest of the week off.

It's almost a new year. I cleaned up my bulletin board because that seemed an appropriate activity to herald in a fresh beginning. Among the old post-its and drawings by my children I found a poem written on legal paper - some personal piece birthed from a exercise during one of our {less painful} staff meeting devotions.

Stillness is circular 
      and calm is a breath.
Have we not wings with which to fly
      and a voice with which to sing?


A mother may rock her baby in the cradle of a wishing well
      but her peace is not silence -
            Hearts beat loud around this world.


Rock me gently - 
       this belly is dark and
I'm wrapped up tight in this intestinal dungeon.
But that I might be spewed out upon a beach
      to bake beneath the SON of forgiveness.

I AM...

To rest in the bow
To sleep, perchance to dream...
To hold high some vision of clarity - 
For future and hope
      all spelled out in one word of strength.
One word upon which all worlds and lives and wars are built.
      One word.


I wish I remembered the inspiration behind this - the prompting that brought it out of me - but even without it, I think it's a beautiful creed to apply to the upcoming year:

Take time to breathe. Bask in stillness but don't forget the world. Keep on reaching and never stop loving.

And that's all we really need, isn't it?

May you find the moments you need, as we approach 2016, to reflect on what matters and set aside what doesn't - to dwell on goodness and celebrate victories, both big and small!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

What I Didn't Get For Christmas

What I didn't get for Christmas - by Alanna Rusnak
I see blue sky peeking through the sheer curtains when the children hitch up beside my bed and whisper, "It's 8:01, Mommy."

The sun is shining and summertime bugs buzz stupidly against the dining room window as I pour water into the coffeemaker and press start, marveling at the mild temperature and the green green grass that still graces our entire property.

"If it's not a white Christmas, my life is over!" Liam announced more than once as the day grew closer but he's all bouncy and smiley as the coffee starts to gurgle through its brewing and I'm quite sure he's forgotten his end-of-life threats as he tells me, "I've been snooping in my stocking! But I didn't touch it! You just said we weren't allowed to touch it!!"

I'd told them 8 am was acceptable. I'd told them they weren't allowed to wake me until then. I'd told them there was no Christmas before the sun came up and I'm thrilled they cared enough for my hours of sleep to respect that.

They go and wake their father who groggily joins us by the tree, fully dressed though the rest of us are happily in our pajamas and plan to be for hours...or at least until we have to pack up and go visit other family.

We drink our coffee and watch the children spread their stocking contents into every imaginable corner of the house, the younger ones accepting the magic of it all without question and yes, the reindeer really must have loved the sugar cubes we left them!

I make waffles and bacon and hash browns and I put a bowl of grapes in the center of the table so we can pretend there's something healthy about what we're doing.

We eat and clean up and prepare to open gifts.

I didn't have a Christmas list this year. I normally don't. I don't need anything.

But that didn't stop the children.

When I opened one of Noa's homemade gifts, I oohed and aahed and held out the half egg carton with a white disc glued in one of the spaces. "What is it?" I asked, after exclaiming over its beauty.

"It's an egg," she said. "I thought you'd like an egg."


But the thrill it gave her to glue it together, wrap it up, stick on a little 'love Noa' card, and stick it under the tree...? That's everything!

If I did make a list - an honestly selfish Christmas list - I would include the following:
  • one trip to Italy
  • one USB Typewriter
  • one VW bus {with matching curtains - like this 1978 option}
  • new windows for the west side of my house
  • a log cabin in the south field
  • a coffee maker that changes cheap coffee into heaven-in-a-cup
  • one publishing contract with a generous advance

But I made no such list and so I opened no such gift because maybe Christmas {thought the Grinch} doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more...

Now it's two days later and we've eaten our fill, laughed until we made new wrinkles, found homes for new trinkets and made plans for a huge bonfire to rid ourselves of all the wrappings and trappings. Our heads are buzzed, our bodies are weary, and our hearts are full with the realization that if you took it all away - all tinsel and the bustle and the money spent - we'd still have Christmas and it would still be good because somehow, an old egg carton holds a lot more heart than a shiny new Volkswagen.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

When You Feel Bi-Polar About Your Manuscript

when you feel bi-polar about your manuscript - Alanna Rusnak

Monday: la-di-da...skipping through the daisies...this story is so beautiful I want to pinch myself...

Tuesday: I-can't-even. Who wrote this crap?

Wednesday: Wow! Did I write this? This is really good. This is really, really, really good.

Thursday: Garbage.

Friday: Maybe it's worth it...oh, I don't know...but maybe...?

Is this normal? Because it really doesn't feel like it should be normal. It feels like I should be on medication or something...

Self-doubt has got to be the biggest joy-blocker of all and the crazy roller-coaster of 'I love it'/'I hate it' is so much worse than those childhood anxieties of 'he loves me'/'he loves me not' - because, let's be honest, we all pre-counted the petals and only played with the flowers that had an even number...

There's no petal-counting when it comes to a manuscript - there's just seeing your heart bled out on a page so vulnerable that the idea of quitting holds more weight than accepting that by putting it out there you're opening yourself up to the possibility that it won't be loved with the same nurturing attention you've given part of your life for.

There is so much garbage out there - things I can't even believe made it through traditional publishing avenues and ended up on bookstore shelves - and the idea that anyone anywhere could categorize my work in the same place makes me feel sick. 

But here's the thing: it's all subjective.

I happen to LOVE books about zombies or vampires and I steer clear of anything in the romance section.

You might LOVE romance and want to burn a vampire book in a cleansing fire.

I think anything written by James Rollins is a brilliant journey into a world of science, possibility and mystery. You might find it dry with facts and figures.

Just because someone doesn't adore books by Anne Rice or Ted Dekker doesn't mean they're bad writers. It only means they write to a certain demographic.

A writer's job is to know their audience and write to them. Because they are the one's that will read it and {hopefully} love it - and not stick it on the garbage shelf.

But what if I want everyone to love it? ...SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP!


The stupid thing is that all my worry is unfounded. I have beta-readers returning positive thoughts and that should be propelling me forward - not spinning me backwards to reveal the 'not good enough' devil voice, spilling oil out over my hard-spun words.

I am my own worst enemy.

"Is it garbage?" I ask myself, nervously squinting at my pages.

Not today! 

I think...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

In Defense of Name-Calling

In defense of name-calling by Alanna Rusnak
So there's this woman who's got the kind of vitality that makes you feel like you've had glitter shaken all over you after just one full minute in her presence. She's vibrant and bouncy and takes every opportunity - even when she's much too busy - just to say, "Hello, Beautiful!"

If everyone in my life had her atta-girl approach I might be a whole lot closer to my dreams!

The thing is, when she says, "Hey, Sweetie!" or "Thanks, Dear!" or "See you later, Darling!" I like it! It makes me feel like I am being seen beyond a cursory glance - like I am important enough and precious enough to warrant a title of endearment.

The strange thing is she recently came and apologized to me for not being professional in the way she addressed me.


For goodness sake! 

I shook my head like she'd lost her mind, trying to whip some of that glitter back at her to smarten her up. "Never stop!" I said.

Because professionalism isn't relevant to people who have a relationship that involves knowing the names of each others children or the depths of varying aspirations.

Professionalism has its place - yes. 

But I want to be called Darling, darn-it!

And if we're friends, if I consider you more than a casual acquaintance, you can call me any sweet name you well please! {except Girlfriend, Pooh Bear, Princess, or Shnookums, of course.}

Some acceptable options {in case you're wondering} Babe, Beautiful, Cutie, Darling, Dear, Doll, Hon, Honey, Love, Momma, Pumpkin, Sweetheart, and Sweetie...to name a few. 

It makes my morning when the drive-thru girl hands me my coffee and says, "There you go, Love. Have a nice day."

And I will have a nice day. You know why? Because a stranger made me feel precious. A stranger!

The world is an ugly place. Let's not rid it of one more sliver of whatever rare niceness it has left. 

Now, for crying out loud, could someone please call me Sweet Momma and put the world back into its proper orbit?!

Excuse me. I need to go eat some chocolate.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thrift Blitz Episode Six

So...remember way back when I dreamed up this whole Thrift Blitz thing and I said it was going to be a monthly celebration of thrifty joy?


I'm a ball dropper.

Episode Five was in June. June!

How completely unacceptable. Not because I think anyone is sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for the next Blitz, but because I have such a love for thrifted treasures that it just seems strange I haven't been compelled to share.

Well friends, the wait is over!

Sadly, no one came out to play during my last episode and so I have no reader feature to share *sad face* --let this be a lesson: link up with your own treasures at the bottom of this post and you could see yourself shared right here during episode seven {which will not be five months away...I hope}.

1. Woodstock Remembered Me Shirt {Value Village, $3.99}

This just screams 'Concert In A Muddy Field' doesn't it? I haven't actually figured out how to wear it because the sleeves have these full cutouts in them that don't lend themselves well to layers. I may have to save this beauty for summertime.

The colour is vibrant and it just reeks of happiness, like by putting it on I'd be donning a blissful 'Give Peace A Chance' attitude.


2. Just One Shade Of Grey Cardi {Value Village, $1.99}

 With winter nearly upon us, layers are a necessity in my life. Because layers. Mmmmmm...warmth!

{And can we Canadian's just pause for a moment and thank the weatherman for this mild December?!?! Sure, Christmas isn't quite Christmas without a fresh blanket of snow but seriously, how amazing is it that today is December 10th and I haven't even turned on my furnace yet??!! All that being said, if we pay for this later on in bitter cold that lasts until June I'm running away and moving in with my Texan friend...}

3. Them College Patches Knit {Value Village, $2.99}

I don't even know how to express my LOVE for this sweater! It is cozy. It is winter-ready. It is kind of adorable. I want to wear it everyday. I won't...but I want to.

4. Summer Sweetly Blouse {Value Village, $2.99}

This was just too sweet to leave behind. I love the delicate flower pattern and its flowy fabric. 

The tag says 'hand wash or dry clean only' to which I said "Pshaw!!" 

Happily, it handled the washer just fine.

{One of my thrifting rules is to NEVER purchase something requiring dry cleaning. BUT for $3 I figured it was worth the risk of an experimental washing.}

5. All That Glitters Necklace {Value Village, $4.99}

This not-gold necklace is quite heavy and its pretty palette pairs really well with the Summer Sweetly blouse above. 

I feel a little like I was tricked into buying it - only because I went into Value Village on a 50% off day and I didn't realize until I was going through the cash that jewellery wasn't actually included in the sale. Grrr. But I liked it and I figured I was saving so much on my other purchases that I deserved something pretty.

6. Put A Little Wood On It Bracelet {Value Village, $1.99}

I just liked it. That is all.

7. I Hope Colin Firth Is In This Book Book {Value Village, $3.99}

Confession: I haven't read any of the Bridget Jones books but I adore the movies {is there anything with Colin Firth that isn't worth watching?} and when I saw this I thought, why not? The only problem is that I will now have to search for the others in the series. Because nothing is worse than a shelf holding an incompletely series. {Actually, a lot of things are worse...but, you know...appropriate emphasis and all that...}

Runaway Collection Suitcases {The Church Basement & My Mother's House, $0}

Free things make my heart sing! 

There was a recent mass clean out at our church and A LOT of stuff went into the trash. I was able to salvage two older suitcases which serve brilliantly as extra storage in my living room AND that beauty of a cardboard one on top? That belonged to my Nana and my mother passed it along as they were packing up during a recent move.

Now it's your turn. What great finds have you made recently?  Share them in the comments, link up your post using the inlinkz tool below, or tweet it with the hashtag #ThriftBlitz {be sure to add @alannarusnak to your tweet to make sure I see it, or just use the button below}.

Happy thrifting!

May your finds be gorgeous and your wallet eternally grateful!

Monday, December 7, 2015

DIY Mason Jar Christmas Decor

how to make a mason jar christmas tree

Let's start off with a little honesty, shall we?

I've shared this before. Two years ago actually. BUT, it's such an easy, Christmasy craft that lends itself to years of Christmasy bliss, I just had to share it again!

As much as I wish this was my original idea, it's not. The great beast that is Pinterest planted this beauty in my head and all I've done is taken the brilliance of someone else and tweaked it to my own liking.

With that being said, here is my recipe for Christmas cuteness in a jar!

how to make a mason jar Christmas tree

  •  salt
  • glitter
  • glue gun
  • mini trees
  • mason jars
  • sparkly pretties

 1. Gather & prep your supplies. I visited the local dollar store for mini trees, glitter, and sparkly things. {The trees are usually available leading up to Christmas wherever they shelve the bits for building your own little Christmas village.} I have a rather large supply of mason jars so I just pulled some from the cold-room shelves and gave them a good wash and dry.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree
2. Attach the trees. Use a generous bead of hot glue on the underside of your lid and secure the trees there.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree
3. Add your pretties. Shake in some glitter and sparkly bits to the bottom of your jar. By adding this first it won't end up totally covered by your 'snow' in the next step. {I used silver sequins, beads, and snowflakes that were part of a Dollorama Christmas card-making kit.}

how to make a mason jar christmas treehow to make a mason jar christmas tree

4. Let it snow. I'm sure there are many options for snow but because I wasn't planning to add water and turn these into snow globes I chose to use good old kitchen salt and simply poured it into the jars on top of the glitter.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree5. Put on your lid & flip it over. My trees were a little wider than the mouth of my jar so I had to coax them gently through the opening. When you turn the jar, the 'snow' will settle around the base of the tree and hide that ugly plastic.

how to make a mason jar christmas tree6. Decorate. This is the point, right? I put these beauties in special little spaces around the house and I love their wintry look!

how to make a mason jar christmas tree

how to make a mason jar christmas tree
 ...and two years later they're still standing up well! The salt has hardened into place now but it hasn't lessened the Christmas appeal.

Happy Christmas crafting!

p.s. I'm finally working on another Thrift Blitz episode that will hopefully be ready to go live by the end of the week. Get your posts ready to link up - I want to see what thrifty treasures you've found!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Eulogy For A Blog Title {A Farewell To SelfBinding Retrospect}

a farewell to selfbinding retrospect - a eulogy for a blog title - Alanna RusnakI hate the sound goodbye's make.

I don't know where I first heard that saying. I found it in one of my old notebooks, hastily scribbled in the margins in red pen because, for whatever reason, in the moment I heard it, it felt profound.

Goodbye's are ugly.

Sure, they're beautiful too - they force you to pause and appreciate all you had and all you will miss in the leaving. But yeah...they're ugly. Like the time I realized my sister would be in Paraguay for a whole year and the world wasn't quite small enough for me to wrap my arms around it {resulting in a public mess of snot and tears}.

To everything there is a season. A time to be born and a time to die and it was with this sentiment that SelfBinding Retrospect, the sweet companion who has held my secrets for FIVE YEARS, has been put to rest.

She went gently - drifting away into some tender, euthanasic dream cycle with minimal protest - with little more than the whisper of a sigh.

This was not a mercy killing. No. It was more of a forced evolution - like a Plasticine flower being suddenly shaped into a seashell.

"I'm disappointed that you're done with SelfBinding," my husband said as he crawled into bed the other night.

"Really?" I was surprised - not that he cared...but that it mattered. "Why?"

"I liked it. I thought it was clever."

I remember the day she was born. We still lived in the little house on Queen Street and I was sitting on the covered porch {goodness, I miss that porch!} steaming coffee poised beside my laptop on our tiny bistro table, staring at the screen that demanded I name the blog I was about to start.

One of the songs I'd written as a polyester-wearing-hippie-wanna-be-teenager had the word 'self-binding' in it. 

stranded paperback poetry
self-binding and everywhere in between

That term - that self-binding - it meant a million different things but of all of them, the truest was that to each of us, we are our own world; it spins for our pleasure; we are bound to every choice, every dream, every moment that holds us captive. We are all self-bound because we are all - at the core - consumed by self. And what else is a blog but an archive of our own self-awareness - our own retrospect of our self-binding awareness?

And as I boldly typed her name with that blinking cursor, she was birthed into the internet world of a billion other internet voices and for five good years she has carried my stories and cradled my words.

But I want more.

And I want it with less work.

A little over a year ago I bought my own domain name and set up a website devoted solely to my writing pursuits. Through attending various seminars and workshops, I recognized that I needed an online space to showcase my 'talents' and give a clear picture of what I could offer should my dream of actual physical publication come true.

I loved my website. It was pretty and professional and received steady traffic which made me proud and even more determined to keep on pursuing this craziness.


Managing two completely separate online spaces was becoming an increasingly heavy load to bear. There are things I liked about it - I actually enjoy digging into the coding and manipulating things to look the way I want - I love the design element of it, crafting buttons and images to support my personal branding BUT doing this in two spaces {that are not paying me for my time} became exhausting and, when I really looked at it, utterly ridiculous.

Why was I doing this to myself?

So the decision was made: take two sites and make them one. 

And, because my ultimate goal is to market myself as an author, Alanna Rusnak had to pull more weight than SelfBinding Retrospect.

Still...I feel a small nudge of grief when I think SBR will no longer carry my story forward but really, what's more me than Alanna Rusnak?

And so we move forward. We say goodbye to past titles and move on to a promising future, believing that change is positive and from it, great possibilities will be birthed.

Fair thee well, SelfBinding Retrospect - may the heaven of deceased blog titles cradle you like the sweet treasure you are.

Monday, November 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo Week Four FINALE

Who's got two thumbs and showed NaNoWriMo who's boss?


On Tuesday evening I emerged from my writing cave and stood in front of my family and declared, "Fifty thousand and nine words!"

I did it! I won!

And they picked themselves up and we played a game of 'Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?' {and I am...just in case you were wondering...or at least I was that time...}

It feels SO GOOD to have successfully reached the end of the challenge. I'm proud of what I accomplished and know I've created enough good in the chaos to make something worthwhile out of it all.

And now I can rest.

And now I can dive back into The Church In The Wildwood with my whole head and heart - fixing the things my beta reader's have found and molding the story into the best version of itself before I spend any more brain energy on Black Bird.

nanowrimo winner!

p.s. You may have noticed some differences to my website. I'm working through a HUGE overhaul - combining my blog with my author website in an effort to {eventually} lessen the necessary upkeep - please bear with me through the changes.

Monday, November 23, 2015

All I Want To Do Is Work On TCITW

I was an absolute fool to think tackling NaNoWriMo this year was a good plan.  

It's a brilliant idea - don't get me wrong - it does incredible things by way of forcing words and helping me 'find the story' BUT my heart is so deep in The Church In The Wildwood, I haven't been giving Black Bird a fair shake.

Yes, I'm killing my word count - I am making it happen - but it's not with the same passion I dove into the Wildwood story last November and this makes me rather sad and resentful.

My manuscript has already been returned by two beta readers and there are a million crazy-helpful notes that I am desperate to turn my attention to BUT that beast we call NaNoWriMo is stealing all my creative time and because I refuse to fail the challenge I can't return to Wildwood work until November is behind me.


Someone needs to needlepoint me a pillow that says 'One Project At A Time, Dummy!'

And, as if all this isn't enough, I had a light bulb Black Bird epiphany moment in which I realized I have to write a companion novella for Wildwood that will marry both books in a beautifully seamless, organic (and bloody brilliant) manner.


NaNoWriMo Week Three Wrap Up

The dreaded Week Three: in which you feel drained and broken and exhausted and a little less than human and little bit like you're getting sick...

nanowrimo week three wrap up, update

My NaNo week in numbers:

Sunday, November 15 - 1,758 words
Monday, November 16 - 1,703 words
Tuesday, November 17 - 2,092 words
Wednesday, November 18 - 1,119 words
Thursday, November 19 - 994 words
Friday, November 20 - 1,035 words
Saturday, November 21 - 791 words

Total words - 9,492
Average daily words - 1,356
Time it took each day - 1-2 hours

Coffee Shop Write-Ins - 1
Secret Ninja Writing Sessions* - 2
Times I hated my story - 3
Days I wrote something other than Black Bird - 5
Days I wished I was working on something other than Black Bird - 7
New songs written - 1
Lost hours of sleep - SO MANY!!

My NaNo week in relationships:

We really don't get that much time together. He's away at work every other week. We are full-time married but part-time roommates. I'm not looking for anyone to feel sorry for us - we're used to the rhythm of our lives and it actually works quite well for us {absence makes the heart grow stronger and all that jazz} HOWEVER, when either one of us has anything extra going on it eats into what precious time we do have together and that's HARD.

Week three was a work week for him which meant I got in my writing time without the guilt of leaving him sitting alone in the living room.

"It's too much," he said on Thursday night - the one evening he was able to sleep at home during the week - as I tucked myself against him and held on for a long moment, thinking it had been five days since I'd hugged anyone who actually hugged me back**. "Two months is too much."

He was talking about the October blog challenge I did that ran right into this month's NaNo.

"Evenings are the hardest. It's good that you're writing. I love that you're writing. It's just hard sometimes."

And isn't that a punch to the gut!!?!

"But I've always got basketball to watch!"

He is crazy supportive and I'm so lucky but I'm wondering...at what cost?

Does NaNoWriMo make me a bad wife?

Does writing?

Ultimately the answer is NO! And I know he would say the same thing. 

Nothing has been more important to my personal growth than accepting my own passions and chasing after them with my whole being. I am better for it. I am happier. This makes me a better human and, in turn, a better wife. You know the age-old adage: happy wife, happy life. TRUTH!

Understanding my passions helps me accept his and support him in them.

Daily writing feeds a powerful need within me. The only question now is, what can I change to stop stealing time from our relationship?

Perhaps I need to reconsider morning writing? {groan}

Perhaps I can write during my lunch break at work?

I'm sure there's a solution if I'm willing to dig for it.

NaNoWriMo doesn't make me a bad wife. And NaNoWriMo makes him a great husband. Being supported is one of the greatest loves and that's a beautiful, beautiful thing. 

My NaNoWriMo week four projections:

I'm writing this post on Monday. There is exactly one week left to reach the 50,000 word goal. As of this very moment I have less than 4,000 words to write. LESS THAN 4,000!!! If I'm really focused I should be able to shave a good chunk of that off at tonight's Writer's Jam and hopefully cross the finish line before the weekend {or Wednesday night if I really get my butt in gear} after which I will take a well-deserved break, eat some Chinese food to celebrate, set up my Christmas tree, keep on fantasizing about quitting my job, and pretend to enjoy the snow that has so graciously dumped itself into my world.

*those times in which I took advantage of 'down time' at work to scribble some words {like while I was waiting for a video to render...}

**there were a lot of kid hugs but they were more about me grabbing them and squeezing while they struggled...sometimes you just need a man's arms around you, you know?!?!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Brewing Inspiration

 I spent Monday morning staring at my computer screen, willing words to come and they

It wasn't writer's block - it was more like writer's exhaustion.

As great as a novel writing challenge is, it can also beat you into the ground and make you want to crawl back into bed while precious little writer elves come and do it all for you.


~that never happens, by the way~

After driving my husband to work, I took the round-about way home and slipped into a cool little coffee shop in a town I rarely stop in because there's really nothing darling about it...except this cafe...which is in a newly renovated old fire hall...which isn't darling, per say, but it is kind of funky and welcoming and it smells positively delicious!.

There's something about pulling out of your normal spaces and plopping yourself right in the middle of the unfamiliar that plucks creative strings, brews inspiration and coaxes out your muse

I ordered a latte and tipped the barista. I sat at a small metal table with my back to a rowdy group having a work-lunch and the moment I opened my computer the words just poured out of me

brewing inspiration - alanna rusnak quote

As I worked, a small disabled man shuffled in from the street and stopped at my table. "Can I sit with you?" he asked.

"I won't be very good company," I told him. "I'm working."

"I like you," he said. "You're nice." And he shuffled over to the counter to order something for himself.

He came back as he waited for his order, pulled out a chair that squealed against the cement floor, and sat down across from me. "I like coffee," he said.

I smiled and offered him a "me too" but I kept working. 

The owner ventured out. Knelt down in front of him. Called him by name. He was obviously a regular visitor to the establishment. He spoke softly, not wanting to disturb me and not wanting to embarrass the man. Things like "she's working" and "she's a stranger" and "there's a spot right there by the fire for you".

"I'm sorry," the man said to me, scraping his chair back as he stood and shuffled to my side.

"You don't have to be sorry," I said.

"I like you," he said. "You're real nice."

And then he was gone, finding his spot by the fire while I finished up my last few sentences.

I met my word-count goal before I even finished the last swallow of my drink {which was so strong it made my head zing}! 

I packed up my bag, stuffing in my computer and my notebooks before I pulled on my coat. I took my empty latte glass to the counter and headed for the door.

"Bye!" he called from that chair beside the fire. "I like you!"

I smiled and waved and left the shop, climbing into my car and getting home just in time to welcome the children off the bus.

Had I just stayed home I may still have found my words...I mean, they were in me all along...BUT it would not have been the same, it would not have felt like quite the accomplishment AND, to be perfectly honest, it's rather lovely to have a strange little man tell you how nice you are {all I get at home on a Monday is a selfish cat and a laundry pile that glares at me}.

So, here's to chasing the muse...wherever she may lead...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Dear Joni Mitchell ~ 3 {Black Bird Excerpt}

Dear Joni Mitchell,

Like a lame bulb, they’ll dig me into the ground and I won’t ever bloom.
If you wrote me a song it would be my legacy.
I dream of you holding me and singing Winter Lady while I break into a million pieces for you to string like pearls and wear around your neck.

Your Magdelene Laundress,
    Peri Mitena

Sunday, November 15, 2015

NaNoWriMo Week Two Wrap Up

Today marks the halfway point of the NaNoWriMo challenge and I find myself well ahead of the curve, sitting more than 10,000 words above par. This makes me very hopeful that I will see the end of the month with a good bit more than the required 50,000 words, meaning I will be well on my way to having another completed manuscript.

It wasn't until yesterday as I wrote a particularly intense and heavily emotional scene that I really began to feel connected to this story. It's been a bit of a grind so it was really nice to finally realize I'm creating characters who are capable of moving me.


My NaNo week in numbers:

Sunday, November 8 - 2,060 words
Monday, November 9 - 3,311 words
Tuesday, November 10 - 2,032 words
Wednesday, November 11 - 1,781 words
Thursday, November 12 - 2,265 words
Friday, November 13 - 1,331 words
Saturday, November 14 - 1,747 words

Average daily words - 2,075
Weekly words written - 14,527
Closing total word count as of yesterday - 34,610
Words left to 'win' NaNoWriMo as of yesterday - 15,390

Cups of coffee - 9
Cups of tea - uncountable
Pies made - 1
Slices consumed - 4
Chocolate indulgences - I don't want to talk about it
Pounds gained - I don't want to talk about it

Days I wanted to quit - 2
Days I wrote other things on top of my NaNo words - 5
Days I thought maybe I'm just a little bit crazy - ALL OF THEM! 

The discipline of NaNoWriMo is really good for me. I love the pressure of it and the things it bring out of me...{unless we're talking about today - and though I do appreciate what it brought out of me, I just don't think I could handle it if my mom ever read it!}...BUT don't let my 'above the curve' numbers fool you - it's REALLY HARD and there is not enough chocolate or pie in the world to make it easier BUT the beautiful thing is that in the hardness you find greatness and at the end of it all, as you pick yourself up out of the dirty ditch you've passed out in you can look back on that mess of words with pride and say, "Now I can actually do something with this!"

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The First Response From My Beta's Gave Me Warm Fuzzies!

It's been almost two weeks since the project has been in the hands of the first round beta readers.  It's a tough position for me because all I want to do is call them up Every Single Day and ask 'what part are you at?', 'what do you think?', 'do you love it or hate it?'

GAH! It's weird, to say the least.

On Wednesday night, I walked into the cafe for my regular #WednesdayNightWriteNight and sitting right there all sneaky and pretty sat one of my readers.

"I'm scribbling all over your book," she said. "Not bad things...good things...and things like 'if you don't make X happen I'm going to be so mad...'"

(Here's hoping I did make X happen...she didn't actually say what she meant specifically - YIKES! But that's what beta's are for, right?!)

The very next day I received this text:

Yup! *sigh*

So it's not all garbage.

Because, you know...I worry...

P.S. If you've indicated you'd like to beta read for this project, fear not, I've not forgotten you! I'm anticipating at least two more rounds of readers before I'm ready to shop this out and it's very likely I'm saving you for one of those rounds! Feel free to send me a reminder using the contact sheet on the beta page or, if you haven't signed up but think you'd like to (or want to know more about what a beta does), pop on over there and send me a note too!

Friday, November 13, 2015

What's Love Like? {Black Bird Excerpt}

black bird by alanna rusnak promo photo
~ unedited Black Bird excerpt from today's toils ~

“What’s love like, Momma?” Peri asked. They were sitting on the sofa beneath an 8x10 of her father who was wearing the same uniform he died in. Rain fell on the deck outside, healthy drops of spring that set a comforting soundtrack to their lazy afternoon.

“Why are you asking, love?”

Peri shrugged and dug herself deeper into a corner of the couch while her mother took another sip from her wine glass. “I just wonder.”

“It’s a little like the rain, darling," her mother said, sighing. "You have it for a while and it's kind of pretty even when it’s cold but then it dribbles down the window and disappears into a crack and you’re left just a little bit emptier than when you started.”

Peri chewed her lip and frowned. “What does it feel like?” she asked.

“Like the worst thing about you isn’t as ugly as you’re worried it might be.”

Peri nodded and smiled softly. “Like the world spins slower and faster all at once?”


“Like anything is worth just one minute of it?”

“Are you in love, Peri?”

“I’m just wondering, Momma, that’s all.”

“Being in love is a rather grownup thing to do. Make sure your heart is pure, darling. It’s much too easy to confuse love with lust and you’re much too precious to even flirt with the idea of such things. Protect your light, Peri. Always."

“Was your first kiss with Daddy?” Peri asked, glancing up at her father on the wall.

Her mother smiled sadly and gripped her locket in the hand opposite her glass. “The first one that mattered.”

“Did it make you weak?”

She laughed gently. “It destroyed me.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

That Day I Cried A Whole Lot...

I cried on the way to work yesterday listening to the story of the real Winnie the Pooh. I got chocked up during staff meeting when I shared that my youngest children had roles in their school Remembrance Day ceremony and I was sadly stuck in a stupid staff meeting. I got all teary again when I drove past the cenotaph on my way to the coffee shop that evening because a group of uniformed cadets were standing at attention and had been taking shifts there all day.

Needless-to-say, I was an emotional wreck, and as I sat in the cafe and stared at my screen I felt creatively bankrupt and all I wanted to do was go kiss the face of my sticky little niece who kept grinning at me from across the aisle (from a table having much more fun than I was).

I ground out my words. I met my daily word count goal. They're garbage, I'm sure BUT I got them out. I wanted to break 30,000 words but it just wasn't in me.

After I got back home and put the children I bed, I climbed into my own and watched a Melissa McCarthy comedy. And yup - I cried! By eleven o'clock I was dead asleep.

This has been the toughest NaNo day for me thus far. Here's hoping it's just a little blip in the bigger picture.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Writer's Jam Epiphany

I've been feeling okay about this Black Bird project. I'm not over the moon or anything but sitting at the Writer's Jam table last night I got a hot rush of inspiration and things are looking up!

Yesterday, being my day off (!) I set myself a goal of 2,000 words but I easily surpassed that, leaving me feeling quite accomplished. BUT, the thing is...so far the story has come relatively easy because I've known it. Soon I will enter a new territory - I will have written all I know and I'll switch from being a 'planner' to a 'pantser' in which I'm sure the words won't come as easy.

HOWEVER, as I sat at the Writer's Jam table during a particularly quiet meeting, I had this shocking idea:

Because seriously...what if???

What could that mean for my story?

I'm crazy excited by the possibilities:
  • recurring characters
  • businesses
  • the map of the town/surrounding areas

Gah! The possibilities have practically got me jumping!

Of course, this means a few little hints and glimpses of Black Bird need to be weaved into The Church In The Wildwood but that doesn't sound like work--that sounds like the mischievous fun of hiding easter eggs!

And, since I got totally excited about this idea and am already way above the necessary NaNoWriMo word count needed at this point, I started writing a companion novella to The Church In The Wildwood in which I envision both timelines colliding in a rather lovely and organic way.

the ghost of iris carver cover art - first inspiration
The Ghost of Iris Carver is going to bring poor, sweet Bird together with the darling, scattered Iris in a way that informs both stories quite tenderly.

At least that is my hope.

And of course I had to go ahead and create some cover art. It helps ground me into the story somehow.

Plus...isn't it pretty???!?

Black Bird is definitely still my main focus - I promise - but I also hope I can stay way ahead on my word count, maybe finish early and then take on the ghost of Iris while I let Bird roost for a while.

Because seriously, of all the character's in The Church In The Wildwood, Iris has grabbed onto my heart and is not letting go!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

NaNoWriMo Week One Wrap Up

nanowrimo week one wrap up - Alanna Rusnak

It's been seven days of crazy writing momentum for me. I am killing my word count and I feel like I'm flying through it.

To keep at par I needed to end day 7 with a total count of 11,666 - instead, I shut things down for the night with 20,083! I'm way ahead of the curve right now and that feels good!

This has been helped by a number of important factors:

1. My children are one year older than they were last year, hence requiring less of my undivided attention.

2. I spent the whole month of October writing about writing - this not only got me geared up to write {duh!}, it also served as amazing training for the marathon of NaNoWriMo.

3. I created a meal plan and stuck to it - no panicky stops at the grocery store, roaming the aisles, wasting time, looking for meal inspiration. No take out. Not even a frozen pizza. {Yes, it's only week one but whatever - this is a win!}

4. My husband was gone for six of those seven days. Because of the shifts he works he is often away from home for days at a time, it just so happened that on top of his normal work hours he was also whisked off for a pool tournament in Niagara Falls. Yes, that sucks BUT it also meant guilt-free writing time for me...not that he ever makes me feel guilty - he's hugely supportive - I just feel like we really don't see a lot of each other so I don't like to be locked away writing the whole time he's home...it makes me feel like a bad wife.

5. I knew what was happening in my story and so I knew what I was going to write every day I sat down at the keyboard. Last year I didn't have a clue except some abstract idea of hey, what if a guy built his own weird church out in the forest somewhere? This year I already knew my characters and their motivation - this has made week one a breeze.

6. Two other members of my Writer's Jam are also participating and everything is always better when you tackle it with friends!

7. I should have had worship band practice on Wednesday night but practice was cancelled and I got to do some coffee shop writing instead!

alanna rusnak nanowrimo day 1-7

I've been sharing daily blurbs, snapshots, and excepts from the NaNo project and I'll try to keep it up through the month just in case you're interested in what I'm up to. Things have been pretty heavy so far...you know, all that meaty stuff that makes up a character's motivation and informs the eventual redemption {or not...you'll have to wait and see!} but I do expect it to turn around to the positive soon {or not...you'll have to wait and see!} 

I'm semi-excited about this project. I think it has real potential to be a great story but I also think I'm still too close to the last project. The Church In The Wildwood is now in the hands of beta-readers and I'm feeling like a mother who's just dropped her first child off at kindergarten and went home to start building a replacement child out of Play-Doh. I'm not invested like I should be BUT if, at the end of November, I have the ugly skeleton of a novel ready, then it will be easy to pour in some guts when I'm finally emotionally ready to fully enter the world I'm creating.

So there you have it. Week one is in the bag. Only three more weeks to go. 

Will 50,000 words eat my dust? Only time will tell...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dear Joni Mitchell ~ 2 {Black Bird Excerpt}

Dear Joni Mitchell,

If you read my tea leaf prophesy you would see that I am nothing but an angel made of tin. I gave all my pretty years to the things of childhood and I am not even a straw-flower now. I watch the sun set but I never see it rise because morning frightens me. I am made of night and the black devours me and I forget that love is exactly like hate. I am only blonde because heaven thought it would be ironic. You are my only truth and I hold to it as my creed. Everyone hates. And they do it in the name of heaven. I hate love and love hate. And I do it in the name of you.

Your Lady of the Canyon,
    Peri Mitena

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Strong Shoes ~ Black Bird Excerpt

~unedited excerpt from among today's words~

Charles Wolfe stood beside the bed, gazing down at his wife and their newborn son, the warm weight of a million beautiful emotions swirling through him at the incredible wonder of having witnessed his son’s first precious moments.

“He’s a handsome wee thing, isn’t he, love?” he said, lifting his hand from Gertie’s shoulder and tousling the baby’s mane of unnaturally thick hair. “Hair like the night, he has.”

Sun streamed through the window, light catching in the damp tresses, revealing ripples of blue peeking out from the black. “Like a raven’s feathers, it is. Like a wee black bird.” He sighed at the marvel of it all.

“May I hold him, love?” he asked before plucking the little bundle from Gertie’s arms, holding him tight against his chest as he wandered over to the window through which the fresh salty air tickled their skin and ruffled that black, black hair with wind carried from the ocean beyond the breakers below. Charles dipped his head to breathe in the scent of his son's scalp.

“Give him a blessing, darling,” Gertie said to him from the bed. “Start him off right, love.”

Charles looked up to the sky, searching for the right words from all the Irish traditions he knew. He gazed down at the baby again, pulling back the blanket to bare his little feet, so white and weak—toes stretching towards the sea. “If ever God sends you down a stony path, our dear little Raven, may He give you strong shoes.”

Gertie laughed softly. “That is your blessing?” she teased, holding out her arms, already itching to be filled again by her son.

“It is,” Charles said, lowering the baby into her waiting hands.

Gertie’s smile was soft. “So be it,” she said and she lifted a little foot to her lips and gently kissed each toe. “Strong shoes, little Charlie ‘Raven’, strong shoes.”

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sin Of The Father {Black Bird Excerpt}

~unedited excerpt~

Peri loomed over the slumped figure of the little girl. She looked angelic laying there, having succumbed to the adult Benylin that had finally worked its way through her body—her hair hanging over her sleeping face; her fingers curled slightly against her cheek; her breath the soft sigh of peace juxtaposed against the dried tears that had left behind a soft pink stain in the shadows beneath her closed eyes.

Angelic? Ha! There were no angels. The devil had killed them all on that dark day when he had visited her.

Her body trembled as she lifted Bird onto the black leather table. She shook her hands aggressively, letting the action move along her arms and up her spine where it finally rattled in her brain—knocking against the screaming whore who never stopped telling her how badly she needed to medicate. She closed her eyes and willed the desire away, feeling her insides eating themselves looking for it. The hastily chugged cough syrup had done little to quell her need.

This was her lot.

She looked down on the sleeping child.

This was her penance—this girl. This curse.

This daughter.

She straightened the limp body out on the table—young, bare skin glowing beneath the work light, My Little Pony t-shirt removed and crumpled against the baseboard by the front desk.

Peri picked up the gun and peace descended in a welcome flood as she stepped on the switch and filled the tattoo shop with its comforting buzz. The cool steel calmed her and she felt her tremor dissipate the moment art became imminent. She looked on her canvas—blank and begging for her truth—and she knew only that art was her therapy and this art was priceless. She would mark this curse for the sin from which it came.

Her message followed the curve of the left shoulder blade as if she were putting a new scar on the old scar of a broken wing; and with each additional letter her body relaxed even more until she was near that perfect tipping point of bliss—finding her cloudy nirvana by putting a needle into someone other than herself.

Such a gift, to carve skin so flawless. She wiped small beads of blood as she worked, her hand steady as she dissolved into the euphoria she found in creating beauty out of the only truth she still clung to. ‘Sin of the Father’. It called out in perfect cursive from her daughter’s defenseless back.

She loved her art.

But the colour of the ink was the colour of everything hateful.

It would be exactly three minutes after she turned off the gun before she began to feel the steely cut of desperate remorse.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dear Joni Mitchell ~ 1 {Black Bird Excerpt}

Meet Peri.

Mother of Bird.

Lost. Broken.

Unable to fully love.

Prisoner to destructive addictions.

Convinced Joni Michell is the only person in the world who might actually understand and be able to save her...

Dear Joni Mitchell,

     I am writing to ask you if you would be my mother. My own mother has left me because I have been ruined by the devil.
    We are kindred souls, you and I but you frighten me because you know everything about me. You are a witch or a prophet and you tell the truth when I’m afraid to.
     Did you know the devil is Irish?
     The janitors of shadowland are real.
     Justice is not just ice.
     JUSTICE IS ONLY ICE because it is a lie.
     If you were my mother we would piss on his hearth and he would pay for each of my scars with new scars of his own.

     I am the mitena. I am the coming moon. I am a shadow of what my false mother dreamed for me.
     Would you dream me new dreams and write me the lyrics of a new world where I might remember to shine?

Thank you for your music. You are my mother and my priest and my soul mate.

Yours always,
    Peri Mitena

Saturday, October 31, 2015

When You Write The End

when you write the end #write31days

Writing a good ending is more important than any other part of your book. It informs the reader's final decision. Your beginning and middle could be pure gold but if your ending falls flat the rest of your story loses its luster.

That's a lot of pressure.

But it's also an exciting challenge.

I've never actually experienced that 'The End' euphoria. I've never written something through from start to finish chronologically. I don't know if this is normal - I only know this is how it comes out of me...in pieces I have to frankenstein together until they form a cohesive narrative.

Thank goodness I have a nerd's love for puzzles!

But the problem with this is that I don't experience the journey of my story until after it's written. When you already know the ending it feels somehow anticlimactic and the only thing I care about is that it isn't that way for my readers.

If my ending is weak, my whole book is weak and {in the spirit of Halloween} what is scarier than that??!?

Wish me luck, friends, as I navigate this next stage of the novel-writing game. I'm going to need all the support I can find!

{click the image above to see all the #write31days posts}

Thank you to everyone who has followed along with me on this Write 31 Day Challenge. It has certainly tested my will and forced me to look at how and why I write. It has stretched and bettered me. It has left me feeling exhausted. And yet...I feel somehow invigorated too. The practice of daily writing has geared me up for November's even bigger challenge of NaNoWriMo which begins promptly at midnight tonight. I feel completely unprepared - all my prep time was eaten up by this blogging challenge - but I'm excited to dive into another project and give myself a break from Joseph Carver and his Church in the Wildwood.

All that being said, things may get a little quiet and dusty around this blog during the month of November. I will be BUSY! And if you invite me to do something in the real world, I'll probably say no. Don't take it personally - I'm just taking this thing seriously.

~ you can follow along with my NaNo project by visiting me here ~
it's going to be a long month but it's going to be worth it

The End
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