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 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 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 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 know, all that meaty stuff that makes up a character's motivation and informs the eventual redemption {or'll have to wait and see!} but I do expect it to turn around to the positive soon {or'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
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