Friday, December 8, 2017

A Writer's Christmas Wish List

It's the most wonderful time of year. At least that's what Andy Williams says. Last night I drove home through a blizzard. I wasn't thinking it was the most wonderful time of year, I was thinking, 'all I want for Christmas is to be home, warm and safe by my crackling fire.' But...then I got home and I was safe, so I thought, 'yeah...there are a few other things I would like.'


Being an independent author comes with its share of burdens. Rewards? Yes! (Like this and this.) But definite burdens. Without the networking power of a flashy publishing house, all the weight of promotion falls to me, and promotion is not what I want to spend my days doing. What I want is to spend my days writing more stories for you!

At work this week I sat at my desk reflecting on how lucky I am to have the job I do have. I have grown tremendously as a person through the ups and downs of office politics. I've learned to advocate for myself and others. I've been pushed to push myself. I've learned important, transferable skills like graphic arts and web design - all this within a number of hours that buys groceries for my family but still allows room for other pursuits. What a blessing!

But in my reflecting, I also camped out on this beautiful idea of someday, instead of saying, "I'm going to work," I'll be saying, "I'm going to write."

And yes, writing is work, but it's not 'work'. Do you see?

Every journey comes with trials and obstacles. Remember when Tom Cruise was red in the face, veins popping on his forehead, yelling "Show me the money" into the phone, while on the other end, Cuba Gooding Jr. bounced around in his kitchen? Cuba is my heart and Tom is my head and they're both fully me and someday, I will stand at the door of my writing room, in my fuzzy socks, with my endless coffee, and with every ounce of romance I can muster, I will say, "You complete me."

So, it's about money. Like most things, unfortunately. But happily, my Christmas wish list is not. What it is, is a list of ways you can help me get closer to my goal of being a full time author/editor/publisher. It's really a list of actions. Think of them as challenges. I dare you.

MAKE AN AUTHOR'S YULE TIME BRIGHT


Buy my book. Yeah, so I lied. Some of these cost a little money. But only a little. And I've been told the story's pretty good, so it's not like you're buying something that won't give you something back. Purchasing an author's book is the single greatest compliment you can give them - especially an indie author like myself. No royalties get pocketed by a top-skimming scrooge publisher or agent. All royalties go to the doer of the deed, giving me a few bucks to add to the coffers that will someday allow me to be fully who I want to be.

(click the banner below to see my christmas sale)

http://churchinthewildwood.alannarusnak.com/p/christmas-sale.html


Have you already bought my book? Thank you! I love you! You are the peach in my pie and the sugar in my coffee. Consider buying one for a friend, or as a gift for your child's school teacher or bus driver. How about for the staff at the town hall? (Seriously, you guys, I'm doing whatever I can to get this book in as many places as I can!)

Don't have time for a novel? Believe me, I know about being busy. I get it! Why not try out my little short story, Eve Undone, sharing creation from the perspective of Eve. OR, consider grabbing a subscription to my indie lit magazine.

Write a review. A review is the second greatest compliment you can give an author. Unless it's a mean review, then maybe keep your opinions to yourself...Just kidding! Even a negative review is helpful. Because good or bad, the main thing is, it's got people talking. That said, don't be mean for the sake of being mean. Be constructive and honest. I would be so grateful (if you have read one of my books) if you'd take just a few minutes to share your thoughts on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Nobel, Chapters/Indigo, even your personal social media pages or blogs.

Nominate The Church in the Wildwood for a CBC Book of 2017. All it takes is a comment, tweet, post, or email, and you'll add my book to this list! You've got until December 15 to make recommendations!



Request a copy at your library. Not everyone has a book budget, and that's no reason why they shouldn't get a chance to try my book. Recommendations are free and helps me widen my exposure. It's a beautiful gift!

Encourage your book club to tackle The Church in the Wildwood. The discussions that have been spawned out of this story have amazed me. There are deep questions of ethics, family, choices, and relationships. If you're looking for a book that isn't long, but draws on some powerful themes and will take you on a little emotional journey - this is the one! Book club questions are available from the Wildwood website, plus if you're interested, I'd love to come to your meeting and be part of the conversation!

Keep pestering me about that sequel. You are never being annoying when you ask me when the next book is coming out. Every time I hear that, it further affirms my desire to keep plowing ahead. (I wish the same could be said for the plows around here. Not one out on the road as I crawled my way home last night!) I have a lot of projects in the works and am slowly, slowly, slowly, learning how to better manage my time in order to produce another finished product.

🎁 🎁 🎁


This all felt very self-indulgent. I'm sorry.

When I was a child, I would write superfluous letters to Santa Claus, asking about the elves and the reindeer and the weather and what kind of cookies Mrs. Claus was baking, and whether he was afraid of heights, and how in the world was he brave enough to ride in that sleigh...and then, at the end I'd throw in an 'oh, I almost forgot...I guess you'd like to know what I want for Christmas'. As if Santa didn't know exactly what I was doing; as if I cared more about the reindeer than what would be in my stocking come Christmas morning.

I didn't want to do that here. I've grown up a bit since then. You get results when you face something head on rather than beat around the bush.

So yes, this was all very self-indulgent. And I'm not sorry. This is who I am now. I have to ask for help. I have to plug my wares. Maybe I'm no better than the snake oil salesman, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Thank you for reading this to the end. You had me at hello. You're a good friend. Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Book Club, Take Two

I tried to explain a book club to a friend. He didn't get it. Because why get together to discuss books? What's the point?

But I'll ask this: why discuss anything? What about all those talks we have—sometimes with perfect strangers—about our favourite Netflix show? Or what about the way we dissect music, discern lyrics, argue meanings, and go to concerts hoping for a chance to get the bass player to sign our album?

There's a beautiful value in community. That's why it's thrilling to sit in a stadium and feel the rhythm and excitement of a crowd vying for victory. Books do that for readers. And all an author really wants is to invoke some kind of emotion—something that stirs someone enough that they want to, need to, talk about it. Okay, maybe we're not keeping our fingers crossed for someone to paint our cover art on their naked chest and scream from the bleachers while they slop beer on the person in front of them, (though actually, that might help sales a little bit) but we do want to make something happen.

The idea of someone curled up quietly with my book, sipping their tea or glass of wine, ceratinly creates a beautiful image for me. But I want more. Because a personal quest is lovely, but a journey taken with friends is divine. It would be like Cheryl Strayed going on her Pacific Crest Trail hike and then not telling anyone about it. Stories are not meant to be hoarded (like my secret stash of candy), they are meant to be shared. All we are is story. Why keep your cards so close to your chest?

So...book clubs are a thing, and they should be celebrated. And if I wasn't so busy I would definitely be part of one myself. BUT happily, one great (unexpected) joy of getting a title out in the world is that BOOK CLUBS ARE READING IT and some of them even invite me to hang out with them!

Last Sunday found me in the Jeep... [PAUSE!]

So my husband hit a deer with our minivan and it did enough damage to the front end (he's fine, by the way) that we're waiting on the insurance company to decide between a repair or a write-off. In the meantime, we've been given a brand new Jeep Wrangler to drive, and I have never been more in love with a vehicle in my life. It is strong and sexy and so fun to drive, and the idea of ever going back to a minivan hurts my feelings (though the idea of paying for a Jeep hurts my stomach...)

[END PAUSE]

...going to the booming metropolis of Barrie where I was scheduled to visit a book club who had just read The Church in the Wildwood.

I was nervous, but the host had assured me that they were "literally seven of the chillest laid back ladies you’ll meet". She was right! Everyone was warm and welcoming. It's wildly weird to be the centre of attention, but so affirming to hear how people connected to the story.

After a time of introduction and settling in, I read a chapter to them. I chose the church bell scene towards the end of the book because it was one of my favourite scenes to write. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Buy my book! It's on sale right now!!)

When I finished, one of the ladies said, "You guys...the author of our book club book just read to us." And I felt embarrassed. But also a little like Margaret Atwood.



They asked great questions, both about the story and about my process. There was interesting discussion about what happened to characters after the book ended, and I loved hearing all the theories. Just the fact that they cared enough to even wonder was a tremendous compliment.

At one point, I was talking about Iris Carver and one of the ladies stopped me and said, "You made her up, but you speak of her like she's a real person you actually know."

And friends, that right there kind of says it all, doesn't it?!

"She is like a real person to me! I love her."

I'm such a nerd.

They asked me who my favourite author is. (Anne Rice) And asked me what my favourite book is. (Book of Mercy by Leonard Cohen) And then what I thought about the Twilight series. (I love them, for the record, and anyone who doesn't has let their inner teenage girl disappear into the dark abyss of grownupedness and should immediately take a week off work, buy a carton of wine gums, and dive into the delicious chaos that is Bella Swan's life... #TeamEdward... Also: see aforementioned 'nerd' statement.)

And before I completely let this post get away from me, it must be mentioned that Kim, the hostess of this make-me-blush gathering, had the book soundtrack playing in the background the whole time AND she had special ordered out-of-season irises in honour of the character Iris Carver. I mean...how amazing is that??!!

This club keeps a memory box into which they put a memento of every book they read together. For The Church in the Wildwood, they had me sign one of the cover pages, which they tore out to include, and a rusty nail. Why a nail? BUY MY BOOK AND FIND OUT!!

They sent me off with a thoughtfully curated gift that I will cherish...(well, not the chocolate...that I will savour...) and a happy little bubble of joy in my belly knowing that my pretty little book has made a pretty little dent in the lives of seven lovely women.

*** 



Do you want me to come to your book club too??! I'd love to—just pay for my gas if I have to travel any distance. I also accept plane tickets 😜 (I'm especially interested in a European book tour!) 

Send an email to alanna@alannarusnak.com and we'll make it happen! (I can offer a 15% discount on bulk orders if you need copies for your group members. Just contact me and we can work it out!)



http://churchinthewildwood.alannarusnak.com/p/christmas-sale.html



Monday, November 27, 2017

Road Trip Romance, Surviving Chicago

I'm busy to a level of stupidity. It's self-inflicted. Don't feel sorry for me. But it does drag me down, leaves me no time to write my life story for you fine, dedicated blog readers, and has me falling asleep when my husband and I try to watch a show together at the end of the day. I drink coffee at 9 p.m. I don't know that I'm doing the best things for my body.

But...

selfies in ChicagoI'm doing great things for that huge piece of myself that needs to be working away at the little dent I'm trying to leave on the world. That matters. And I'm hugely thankful to be surrounded by people that cheer me on...even if I can't make it through an episode of Sherlock. (Seriously BBC, hour-and-a-half episodes ARE NOT viewer friendly!)

In all the busyness, in the hustle and bustle and the delicate balance of deadlines and chasing dreams, there HAS to be room for adventure. Because without adventure life is just one long, strained workday...

As our nineteenth anniversary approached, my husband and I tried to remember when we'd last been away without the children, without an added obligation that meant it wasn't about us, it was about The Thing We Had To Do. We couldn't really remember.

There was this one time when Noa was pretty little that we went to Niagara Falls...

Noa was little a gazillion years ago.

Or there was that time we went to Vegas...but that was so he could play pool...

So it was time we went away. Just to be together. Just to take a break from being mom and dad; to remind ourselves that we like each other for the people we are, not the laundry we (I) fold.

It's not like we have a bunch of rainy day money squirreled away so we could hop a plane to Europe on a whim. (Go buy my book and I'll be 0.007% closer to that goal!😜 ) We had to choose somewhere we could drive to — but far enough to feel like we really got away.

For reasons that now escape me, it came down to a choice between Chicago and Montreal. And what a choice! Get murdered in Chicago, or see strippers in Montreal. I'd had my fill of nearly naked ladies in Vegas, so really, the choice was easy.

"Why Chicago?" It's what everyone asked. "Do you want to die?"

"Music. Architecture. Food."

the Chicago Theatre
I'm not interested in getting stabbed, but I am good at planning trips and educating myself on what neighborhoods to stay away from. #ChicagoWins

It took us nearly ten hours to get there. Ten hours one way in a little car is a good test on how much you like each other. I didn't really think about that until we got back and a co-worker asked how much we fought.

"Fought? Why would we fight?"

I guess we're abnormal...?

We filled the time by singing along with the radio, discussing the merits of Hell and Brimstone billboards standing right beside Biggest Adult Store In The Country billboards, lamenting the sad hunters back home (your empty scopes are a direct result of the deer massacre that is Highway 69!), and judging that lady in Indiana who ordered a seven-by-seven ahead of me — that's seven creams and seven sugars! When I ordered my coffee with milk the poor counter girl looked at me like I was an alien, then she gave me a complimentary carton of milk because "we don't do that."

I had a list of sights I wanted to see and I booked our hotel within walking distance of almost all of them. We had three nights and two days to do the city. It would have been wonderful to have had more time, but we made the best of it, hitting blues clubs, iconic landmarks, pizza (of course!), and a piano bar. We even took a little jaunt outside the city to see the impressive, and sadly abandoned, Joliet Prison (site of the first season of Prison Break and such films as Blues Brothers and Natural Born Killers).

old Joliet Prison


I don't know how to choose a favourite place or moment. It was all a blur of exploration and sore-footed excitement. I loved how many comments we got about our plaid coats. "Did you guys plan that?" and "You match! That's cute!"

Nineteen years of marriage and we're still adorable!

Our hotel was the cheapest one I could find. That's the kind of princess I am. And then I finagled us a $25 discount AND an upgrade to a suite. I had very low expectations for our room, but it was perfect! The hotel was old and charming, with original wooden trim and old paned windows that let in the cold air, and a king-sized bed I wish we could have fit inside our little Sonic to bring home with us. The doors were solid core panels and the pipes were exposed. It reminded me of sleeping over in my grandmother's farm house. It was made for me.

The Bean, Chicago
We ate a lot. Walked a lot. Laughed a lot. We drank bad coffee and tipped the piano player at The Zebra Lounge. We tried okra and catfish for the first time. We stood on the streets where Ernest Hemingway stood and we got scared under an overpass where homeless people slept. We went to Wrigley Field and The House of Blues. We explored all nine floors of the most amazing library I've ever been in. We tasted the pizza and agree that it's worth it. We paid $130US in parking and don't feel bad about it. We bought zero souvenirs and don't feel bad about that either.

enjoying lunch at Aurelio's Pizza in Chicago

It was a brilliant trip with the perfect companion. That old cliché is true: every day is an adventure when I spend it with you.

But once in a while, it's great to leave normal life at home, and hit the road for something brand new.

Surviving Chicago wasn't hard. Sure, it was a little unsettling that every building had a No Guns sign, and then there was that time we saw a body being pulled from the water...oh, and the loud BANGS outside our hotel that were probably just dumpster lids being slammed...

But still...we were safe, the city is beautiful, and the people were wonderfully friendly. Chicago gets a gold star and an A+ in my book.



[You can view my full Chicago album on Facebook]

 
http://churchinthewildwood.alannarusnak.com/p/christmas-sale.html

Friday, September 15, 2017

My Debut Book Club Appearance

The Church in the Wildwood is my first real publication. I have other things out there—Kindle books and short stories and articles in magazines—but Wildwood is the first full length novel I've seen through to completion and put out in the world for people to experience. That means every step of the way is another first: holding the first printed copy of my first novel; seeing my book on the shelf of a bookstore; autographing copies; having readers send me pictures of my book from all over the world (British Columbia, Indonesia, Idaho, Italy); visiting a book club...



It never really occurred to me that people might actually want to talk to me about the book. I don't know why. There have been countless times while reading that I wished I could ask the author why they made a certain choice, or how they came up with the idea to do that thing that blew my mind...So why I thought it was so strange when someone approached me and asked if I'd be open to visiting their book club is beyond me.

Because I'm rather quiet and consider myself quite shy, I suppose I make the mistake of thinking I'm not very interesting. There's nothing glamorous about writing. It's dirty hair and late nights and closed doors and too much coffee. But in the end, there's a story.

And people want to talk about stories...


[Read the rest of this post by visiting the Wildwood website]

Saturday, September 9, 2017

How to be a Dork with a Book Table

Last weekend I set aside a big part of my truth (I'm SHY!) and ran a book table at my local agricultural fall fair—for the sole purpose of self-promotion.

Gulp!


Because the fair is quite small, the rental fee on the booth was minimal, so I thought, for a first time shot, this was a good way to test the waters, test myself, and maybe—just maybe—sell a book or two.

The amazing thing was, I really didn't have to do anything. I found that my booth spoke for itself. There was this comical dance of people wandering by being very intentional about avoiding eye contact with me—perhaps fearful that I would try to sell them something that they didn't want. BUT, those people who were interested in literature, who were readers or cared about the art community, they would approach me, ask questions, flip through the pages of a book or magazine. I had to do nothing except smile and answer any questions they might have.

And take their money. (Ha!)

I only had to sell a few books to cover the cost of the table and I'm happy to say, I surpassed that goal! Between Friday and Saturday, I spent nine hours with my pretty table, and in that time I sold six books, a few magazines, and made connections with people who will hopefully submit some future content to Blank Spaces. You guys, I shook hands with an artist who's work would make you cry! I also shook the hands of two actors from that Wingin' It show my kids used to watch (one of whom is featured in the September issue). Listen, our little Durham town is full of talented gems...I'm just beginning to tap the surface.

(My favourite book sale was to a woman who bought one because 'she thinks my mom is nice'. Ha! I loved that!)

book table set up


So I didn't make a fortune, but I didn't waste my time. If nothing else, there's value in being visible in your own community. It's a slow grind to get noticed—to convince people you're worth taking a chance on—to create enough buzz that you can more than break even. But I feel like I'm on my way. More than one person picked up my book and told me they'd already heard about it somewhere. When I went into the bank to exchange cash for coin so I could make change at the fair, two of the tellers told me they couldn't wait to read my book! The bookstore in Hanover keeps needing me to replenish their stock. I've been invited to visit two book clubs, with a potential third in the works.

Slowly, slowly, slowly things are opening up. I'm overwhelmed and grateful. Grateful that people are taking a chance on me. And grateful that it has been a little slow. I'm easing in and that's okay.

It's hard to be shy and out in the public. I'm learning every day, slowly breaking out of my shell, even though it goes against everything I know about myself.

So, if you've got something you want/need to share with the world, allow me to impart a little bit of my two step trial-by-error book table wisdom as you make plans to promote yourself in your own community:

My Two Step Book Table Wisdom


1. Make it attractive 


Never judge a book by its cover? Ha! Everyone judges by first impressions. We can't help it. We're wired to seek out pleasing things. Be thoughtful as you plan out your booth. Don't just slap down your books and think that's good enough. Unless you're wildly charismatic or stupidly famous, no one will give you a second look if you haven't invested some thought into your set up.
  • Consider accessories that compliment your theme. I was promoting writing and creativity so I included an old Underwood typewriter and a couple vintage cameras. These alone brought people to my table. I had a lot of conversations with seniors who learned to type on typewriters. They shared stories about typing class and how many words per minute they could do by the end of the course and the sound it made when a whole classroom was busy writing. It allowed natural conversation and was an easy way to draw people in.
  • Create interest by playing with different heights. By using an old suitcase, a wooden crate, little boxes, and a magazine stand I was able to set up a dynamic table with many places for the eye to go. People appreciate when care is given to display, and it's nice when you're given a compliment...even if they don't buy anything!
  • Display in sections. I divided my table in half. One side for Wildwood and one side for Blank Spaces. While many people explored the whole table, it allowed for those that had no interest in a magazine to just focus on the book—or visa-versa.
  • Have a take-away. I had brochures with Blank Spaces Submission Guidelines on them, pamphlets with Book Club questions, business cards, and candy. Always have candy!
  • Include 'proof' of your awesomeness. Sometimes people need to be convinced they should believe in you. I printed off and framed some reviews Wildwood has received through various online portals. For the magazine, I had a map of Canada, marking off all the provinces and territories where contributors hail from. It was a great conversation starter and dispelled the misconception some people had that Blank Spaces was a local magazine featuring only local talent.

2. Make yourself attractive


This should go without saying right? Dress nicely, smile widely (not weirdly!), and be friendly and open to questions. Don't be pushy. Be polite. Be gracious. Be humble. And when someone says, "Wow, good for you!" but doesn't buy the book, say "thank you and have a nice day".

book table set up


So, what's next for me? 

I'm publishing an anthology of work by 34 Canadian authors. It comes out at the end of the month. You can pre-order a copy here if you like. All proceeds will go towards the continuing work of Blank Spaces magazine.

I'm working on a sequel(ish) to The Church in the Wildwood - The Ghost of Iris Carver. I wish I had a publication date to tell you for that one...stay tuned!

Next weekend I'll be attending a writing workshop in Waterloo. Fun!

On September 24 I'll be at Toronto's Word on the Street with my Blank Spaces girls. If you've got nothing going on that day and you're a book/magazine lover, come on down to the Toronto harbour front. The festival is free, open to all ages, and it's a great way to get a jump start on your Christmas shopping for any readers on your list!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Talking Writing with an Opera Singer

I chose a picnic table where the sun would shine directly on my back. It was too cold for August. I could see my breath at 8:30 a.m. Talk about depressing! But by 10, when I set myself up on that table behind the park pavilion, I could almost be convinced it was warm (though I wasn't about to take off my jacket).



Fall is nibbling the edges of summer and I am loathe to think I've allowed the months to pass without much personal project gain to show. I have excuses though. Maybe they're even good ones...?

  • my writer's group didn't meet regularly and I was a little lost without their motivating presence
  • baseball 
  • work
  • a week of playing music at a campground
  • exhaustion
  • my first novel is finally published AND I JUST NEEDED A BREAK

Really, it's all just noise. There's no excuse that matters. When you care about something, you make it happen.

Have I stopped caring?

*GASP*

I don't think so. Iris Carver* has her claws in my brain. I'm just trying to figure out how to unhook those talons and get them on paper.

More and more I find myself daydreaming of a full-time writing/publishing career. I really believe I could make a real go of it if I didn't have the distraction (and financial necessity) of a day job...

Yes, you're right. More excuses.

So I sat at that picnic table with my red pen and the printed proof copy of an anthology** to be released in September (hopefully!), working through final edits, feeling a little bit angry that I was focusing this precious block of time on other peoples words...then feeling guilty that I felt angry...then just thinking about putting my head down on the table and having a nap...

"What are you working on?" A man sat on the table opposite.

As I explained the anthology project, I felt a warm swell of pride. I am doing something. It does matter.

Our conversation carried into my novel, the work of self-promoting, the goal of a sequel, the struggle of time. He told me of the book he's writing and how hard it is to be consistent. As an opera singer (yes, that's right!) his schedule is scattered and inconsistent. "If I'm away from it for a week or a month I can't just jump back in. I have to reread and settle in again." I hear you, my opera singing friend. It's hard!

Dedication and consistency is everything!


Like this blog. Once upon a time I was good about posting. Now, my focus is pulled to other places. That's not bad, but in the switch I've lost something I actually really enjoy.

So what does that mean?

It means I need to set myself goals. I need a priority list and I need a calendar where I set deadlines for myself. I need to stop waiting for time to find me and reclaim the attitude that allows me to shut the door on everything else and just write.

You don't FIND TIME, you MAKE TIME.


I think I'll do that up in a fancy font and hang it on my writing room wall.

How can you help me?
  • Buy and read The Church in the Wildwood. Leave a review and beg me for a sequel***!
  • Ask me what I'm working on. Saying it out loud makes it matter more.
  • Donate a whole bunch of money so I can leave my day job behind and write more books! 
  • Subscribe to my literary magazine!
  • Invite me to your book club.
  • In every bookstore and library you enter, ask them if they carry my book. It will put my name on their radar, and perhaps lead to more distribution.
  • Share photos of my books or magazines across social media—there's nothing like seeing your work celebrated publicly. You may not think it's a big deal, but next to leaving a review on Amazon.ca or Goodreads, it's the next best way to help an author feel appreciated, in turn, motivating her to continue producing share-worthy stories!

I'm going to view September as a fresh start. I've got some exciting things lined up that are sure to come with motivation and encouragement: I've booked a table at my local fall fair to promote myself as a local publisher; I'm visiting with a book club to answer questions and talk Wildwood; I'll be attending a one day writer's workshop with a friend; the Blank Spaces crew and I will be representing our brand at Toronto's Word on the Street Festival.

It's going to be a good month. Even if it does mean that winter is coming.

Digital issues of Blank Spaces are only $5!



*Iris Carver: tragic star of The Church in the Wildwood, the focus of my current W.I.P., The Ghost of Iris Carver.

** It occurs to me, that in my long absence from this blog, you may not know about the anthology. It's a collection of all the fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that appeared in the first year of my magazine Blank Spaces. An attempt to get those words in front of people who maybe don't want to spend money on a quarterly magazine but would enjoy those same stories in a trade paperback form. It's a little bit experiment and an 'easy' way to add titles to the publishing company I'm trying to gain some traction on.

***The Ghost of Iris Carver is not a sequel in the traditional sense. As a novella, it will be shorter than a full-length novel, and though it will include characters from Wildwood, its purpose is to create a bridge to Black Bird—a story that takes place in the same small town, dealing with more heavy family dynamics.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Standing Room Only: Ode to a Beautiful Book Launch

The saxophone player ran scales as I set up the book table with the help of a few of my girls. (These things can't happen without a team behind you!) Nerves had settled in the pit of my belly, but listening to those notes fill the space as we decided whether to stack books on the table or line them up on the shelf calmed me and allowed a little thrill to tickle down my spine.

It's really happening. The day is finally here.

Nearly three years of my life have been dedicated to the creation of The Church in the Wildwood and every day (since I typed those first words on November 1, 2014) has been leading me to this important moment.

It's launch day.

Everything was ready—or as ready as it could be. I had 37 books for sale (that's what was left of the 70 I ordered) and deep down, my wish was to run out; I wanted to have to take orders because there were none left. This felt like a silly goal, like I was setting myself up to be disappointed, but I refused to let it go.

I had a clear plan for the evening: intro, reading, signing, cake, band. Easy.



I didn't anticipate that by 7:05 I'd be sitting behind the table signing books, having already sold more than half!

The café beginning to fill up before the official 'program' began
People kept coming, keeping me stuck behind the table and unable to greet attendees (I'm not complaining!) until finally, the café owners dimmed the lights to signal 'It's Starting' and Pam (M.C. extraordinaire) took the stage to introduce me.
 
When she arrived during the set up earlier in the evening, she asked how I'd like to be introduced. "Nothing formal," I'd said. "Just be yourself." She'd taken a clipboard and blank paper and begun to write what she would say.

And oh, such nice things she said! I have no idea what any of them were—that was approximately the point I left my body in order to survive the public speaking that would follow her introduction—but I know she was generous with her compliments and I was overwhelmed with the desire to put my hand over my heart to make sure it didn't burst from my body.

The crowd applauded as I stepped onto the platform. (Whoa!) The stage lights were so bright I couldn't see any faces (blessing!) but I could tell the place was full—every chair taken, and nearly every square inch of floor claimed by a body. Standing room only! (What in the world?) I said some things—again, I don't remember what—but they laughed at one point so maybe I'm out-of-body-witty and I didn't even know it. (Ha!)

Then, after a band member lowered the microphone for me (I'm just that short and adorable), I dived into a reading of Chapter Fourteen. It's a heavy section, but it's powerful and rich and I chose it because it shows the vulnerability of my favourite character without giving anything away regarding the main plot.


I clearly remember writing that chapter—the research it took and the depths I had to mine to find the right way to speak for the character—but there's just something fresh and empowering about reading your own words aloud to a room full of people who came specifically to hear you do that very thing. It breathes new life into those words, taking it from a black and white narrative to a full colour experience.

"I can't believe you chose that chapter," my husband said later. "I was tearing up as you read it...I was so caught up in the story."

After I left the stage, the cake was served and I took my place behind the table once again as the band filled the background with their bluesy groove.


It's a strange thing, to sign your own name over and over again, but I balanced that by sending my personal copy of the book around the room, asking guests to sign it for me as a memento of the evening—such a precious thing to have now that the night is over.


It wasn't until the next day that I sat down and read through all the beautiful messages. I cried when I read the one from my daughter, and then I couldn't hold the tears back as I went through the rest. I found signatures from people I hadn't even known were there and people I wouldn't have ever expected to come and even complete strangers who were there because they loved literature. I mean, wow!

I feel so loved, so supported and encouraged. I'm overwhelmed by the response. I'm thrilled that I only have two copies left. And I'm humbled and amazed by the messages that are coming in every day from people who have already read (and loved) the book.

I want to thank everyone who showed up—your presence meant the world to me! I want to thank my husband for his ceaseless support and my children for being on their best behaviour (and being so darn good looking!). I want to thank the band, The Usual Suspects, who donated their time and their talents to creating a wonderful atmosphere. I want to thank my girls—you know who you are—for showing up early to decorate and being there to handle book sales so I didn't have to worry about it. And finally, I want to thank Kevin and Michele, the owners of The Garafraxa Café, for being tremendous hosts and so willing to champion community artists.

That's enough. It's my curtain call. I'm off to work on the next Wildwood installment. Stay tuned for The Ghost of Iris Carver. Writing is to be a big part of my July 2017 plans!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

There's No Time To Blog

*cricket noises*

They say the key to a successful blog is to post OFTEN. I argue that 'they' don't have a job, a family, and a million other projects in the works. I wish I had time for an eloquent soliloquy, divulging the extraordinary ho-hum-idry (yup—made that up!) of my day-to-day life, but alas...I've dug myself a deep hole of (super fun) work and I DON'T HAVE TIME!



Because:

1. I am mere days away from the official book launch party for The Church In The Wildwood.

2. I am mere weeks away from the full launch of my official publishing (support, service & consultation) company - yes, it's true!

3. I am mere months away from the release of the first trade paperback anthology by above mentioned publishing company, and have already sent out official publishing contracts to 34 Canadian voices that will be featured in said anthology.

4. I am planning to sleep in 2073—or, in the words of the great Jon Bon Jovi: when I'm dead.

Need more?

1 Part II. I ordered the cake today. $50.99. For a cake! Holy moly! But it's going to have the book cover on it—so that's cool and fun. It was a step of faith. I could have chosen the smaller one and saved a bit. I'm having this nightmare where I'm sitting along in the venue with enough cake for fifty people...and I sit there and I sit there and no one comes and I have a huge cake and a box full of books and...

...people will come right? Will people come??? WILL I BE ALL ALONE WITH A GREAT BIG CAKE??

So...if I'm being honest, I'm pretty nervous about the party. Not that anyone would be able to tell or anything...

2 Part II. It's really just the website I'm waiting on. Things are already in full swing elsewhere. I keep getting mail addressed to Alanna Rusnak Publishing and it's AWESOME! I feel proud and accomplished and like this is something that might actually help me buy groceries.


3 Part II. I'm not telling you any more. You'll have to wait for the official announcement just like the rest of the world!

4 Part II. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

While I'm napping you can watch this video of me reading the prologue from my book...


...you could also let me know if you're coming to my launch party by clicking here

...you could also buy my book!

*more cricket noises*

Friday, June 2, 2017

The 5 REAL 'L' Words of a Writer's Retreat

There are moments when everything moves inwards and I feel like I'm doing nothing but treading water. Because to focus on the backstroke means the breaststroke gets neglected. Or so it feels. And so I sit in this puddle of overstimulated TO-DO with no clear direction on which to fix my gaze.

Things get done, but it doesn't feel efficient; and honestly, there are times I sit in my pretty little writing room and scroll through social media, sipping a tea or coffee without actually tasting it, not doing what I sat down to do in the first place.

Ugh.

A refocus is necessary. Whether it's once a year, once a month, or once a week. It's part of maintaining good mental health. And it's important to recognize the sludge in your lungs, climb out of the farm pond, spit in the bucket, and dive into a deliciously clear mountain spring.

For me, that spring was a weekend writer's retreat. And I call it a writer's retreat, but really it was an opportunity to clear my head and get-er-done—to face the projects I'd been dragging my heels on, to refocus on my goals, to set the cross-hairs on my target and take the shots I've been too nervous to take.

And to make a real go of it, I needed these five things:


  1. Inspiring LOCATION
  2. LIKE-MINDED companions
  3. Unapologetic LISTS
  4. Permission to LAZE
  5. Lots of LUNCH (aka food at my fingertips)


Inspiring LOCATION

Because I am basically the luckiest girl in the world, one member of my Writer's Jam group has a family cottage, perched neatly along the shoreline of Lake Huron. With three bedrooms, one bathroom, a full kitchen, a wood stove, gorgeous views of the water, and WiFi, it was designed for a weekend like this.

Upon arrival, after going down to look at the water (Rule #1 of the cottage, I was told), I set myself up at a table in front of a picture window that looked down on the lake. And later, when I needed a break from the screen, I could wander the shoreline, or stumble* along a walking path I discovered, or sit out on the rocks to watch the loons dive or the sun set. (Rule #2 of the cottage: stop everything and go outside to watch the sunset.)

Being so close to so much beauty was exactly the kind of brain-break I needed in the middle of my chaos-break (aka Writer's Retreat)





*I may have landed ankle deep in a little stream that crossed the path because the stepping stones weren't secure. I say 'may have'. I'm not actually admitting anything really happened.

LIKE-MINDED Friends


I strongly believe one of the best thing I've ever done for my own creativity was to open my table to a writer's group. For a long time I'd looked at my trajectory as a purely individual pursuit. Part of this was my introverted nature. Couple my natural shyness with that pesky 'I'm just a mom' attitude and you're left with flighty dreams that don't really stand a chance at seeing the light of day. When I started chipping away at that SHYWALL and actually invited others into my creative story, the things that opened up for me...the hope and the support...it was truly beautiful. 

So, to pair a working writing weekend with two of those table-sharing-lovelies? Yes, please!

We are wonderfully different, each at different stages of our journeys, each with different projects on the go, and different goals we're currently reaching for BUT to share a space with people who crave creative living with the same fervour I do...that's just a breath of fresh air.

Had I tackled this weekend with others less inclined to creative projects, it would have fallen flat. We had shared vision. We were not there to have fun, or giggle into the night, or get fat on junk food and steak (though all those things happened!) —we were there because we all had things we wanted to accomplish and we trusted one another enough to know we would be allowed to chase after those things.

Unapologetic LISTS


My first task of the weekend was to create a list of all I hoped to accomplish. The girls and I joked about putting things on our lists just so we could check them off quickly and feel accomplished. Like 'Make List' or 'Boil Kettle'. Lists ground me. They help me focus and give me direction. And darn it, I love checking things off—a big HECK-YES! I'M DOING IT!

My initial list had sixteen major things I aimed to get through. (Of course, those sixteen received about a million sub-points each.) And in the end, I managed to scribble a pretty check beside twelve of those sixteen.

I feel good about that number.

And the amazing thing about lists is: you can bring them home with you! Ah yes...the work never ends...

Permission to LAZE


Focused dedication is HARD WORK and hard work deserves a break now and then. With no set agenda (save dinner plans and the 'stop everything and watch the sunset' rule) and because we were each working on our own projects, there was no expectation to go to bed or to get up or to wear pants. We each followed our own clock and comfort. Pyjamas all day? Why not?! 

With a cottage complete with two tables, two couches, and an easy chair, we found ourselves on an organic rotation—changing positions as bums went numb at the table, or legs fell asleep on the couch. And there was always the open invitation to take a walk, alone or with a partner—no pressure either way. There was only one time when we all actually sat and worked together in the same location, and that was on the first evening, after an incredible steak dinner (thanks Pam!), and after WE MISSED THE SUNSET (can you believe it?!) we all ended up at the table together, digging in until midnight.

Lots of LUNCH


You might have thought we were preparing for the apocalypse with all the food we brought with us. But let me be very clear: productivity depends on calories! Don't argue, I won't have it. We had a wealthy supply of snacks and treats and make-your-own breakfast and lunch spoils. No one went hungry or thirsty. There was a moment when we thought the only tea we had was Earl Grey (gag!) but thankfully—THANKFULLY—that problem was quickly rectified.

Dinners were more intentional. There was the aforementioned steak (which will forever live in our memories as the thing that made us go OOOOOOOOOOOOOO and I'll have what she's having and It will not defeat me!). And there was the trip into the nearby beach town for fish and chips that turned into a Celebrate The Church in the Wildwood Dinner. (You can read more about that here along with some more dorky book-nerd photos.)

celebrating The Church in the Wildwood by Alanna Rusnak


Food is the ultimate key to writing retreat success. You can take that to the bank!


It was a wonderful weekend of PRODUCTIVE GLORY and I'm already trying to figure out how I can make it happen regularly. I'm pretty sure a writer's retreat is my love language.




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Such Tales I Have To Tell You

Just a second. Let me catch my breath...

For a moment there I considered letting that stand as my post. That one line. Because WOW. Life.

I am continually amazed by the way it creeps in and stirs my pot. Remember the three witches in Macbeth? Double double, toil and trouble. Yeah...they've been busy.

I have SO MUCH to be thankful for; SO MANY reasons to be happy; ONE MILLION excuses to sing. But I also have a loooooong list of things that have been hard, ways I have been stretched, things I was unprepared for, things I've done wrong—at work, as a parent, in publishing.

But maybe the wrong doesn't matter so much if what you end up with is the right.

This whole writing journey has been (and continues to be) a learning process. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert. I'm just a bumbling fool who's too stubborn to give up.

And I believe one of my greatest strengths is that I'm not too scared to ask for help.

Like when I blabbed in a blog post about how I wished someone would gift me a spot by the lake where I could quietly work on my KAJILLION projects.

Guess where I am right now?

At this very moment I'm sitting on an old plaid couch beside a roaring fire, sipping my third cup of tea, while beyond the window to my left, the waters of Lake Huron lap against the shore. It's like someone wrapped up perfection and then dropped me in the middle of it. I am deliriously happy and all those things—those roadblocks that jettied up in my path over the last few weeks—they're inconsequential.

Because here is just here. And that's a gift for which I don't even know how to articulate my gratitude. I will share more later in a very important PSA: The Right Way to do a Writer's Retreat (stay tuned!). 

For now I shall deliver the point-form update on ALL THE THINGS.

1. My books were held hostage in the US so I missed my soft launch. I blame Donald Trump. He didn't even say sorry.

2. When they finally arrived, opening that box was like a thousand angels singing; but also like that moment in the movie when you're not yet sure if it'll be a happy ending.

3. I whine-tweeted about how boring it is to fill out paperwork for the Library and Archives Canada (though, how cool is it that I'm doing that?!?!) and they replied to me, saying how fun it should be— Ha! (Also, my books are now part of Canada's official BIG TIME Library—that's amazing!)



4. There was a Canada Post "incident" that had me returning home with all my book mailing, repackaging, and going back to the Post Office to try again.

5. The women who work at the Durham Post Office are amazing and kind and super helpful. The "incident" was that I am an idiot.



6. The fourth issue of Blank Spaces is coming out in June. If you want a copy, order before the pre-order sale ends on Monday night.



7. My launch party is booked for June 23. Details will be coming to you soon BECAUSE YOU'RE ALL INVITED! 

8. The Church in the Wildwood now has its own website. Because, you know, I need more things to manage. Truth is, I think it will actually make things a little simpler for me, keeping all Wildwood things together instead of trying to fit them in here—things are feeling a little crowded at alannarusnak.com 

9. If you haven't yet bought a copy of my book, would you consider it? I'd love to put one in your hands. 

10. And now it's eleven p.m. and I need to go add some updates to the Wildwood site so you'll have some interesting things to see and read when you click this link

I'll leave you with this: a photo of the sky, taken tonight from the shores of Lake Huron, just steps from the back door of this cozy little cottage I'm staying in.  



You're welcome.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Counting Down to Release Day with a CITW Giveaway

On April 1, I officially opened up pre-sales for The Church in the Wildwood, and I'm excited to say, I've actually sold some! What a thrill to think that by the time the soft launch rolls around, people—strangers!—will be holding my words, soaking in the story that I obsessed and moaned and dreamed and cried over.

It doesn't quite feel real.

pre sales for The Church in the Wildwood


If you'd like to place an order for your very own shiny, signed copy, just follow the BUY NOW link below and PayPal* will take care of the rest. (Please be sure to select the proper shipping method.)



How would you like to receive your paperback copy?


If you'd like to enter for your chance to win one of three copies, enter the Goodreads giveaway - and good luck!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Church in the Wildwood by Alanna Rusnak

The Church in the Wildwood

by Alanna Rusnak

Giveaway ends May 03, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway


If you'd like to do both and give a copy away to a friend if you win...thank you, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

I'm not going to lie to you friends, I'm exhausted. Between prepping for this launch, keeping the magazine going, and showing up to work every day, I've also been dealing with a crashed computer. Do you understand the devastation and emotional turmoil that rises to the surface when the main tool of all my creative pursuits kicks the bucket? It's just...it's like...

...I can't even talk about it.

I'm frustrated and scared.


  • Because 1: I need a computer to get above said launch off the ground.
  • Because 2: I can only get by on the gracious generosity of friends who loan me their machines for so long.
  • Because 3: The June issue of Blank Spaces is not going to build itself.


So, how can you help?

BUY MY BOOK!!!

If I can sell 700 books, that could just about buy me a new computer. I'm all about making dreams happen. What do you say? Will you help me get to 700?

Seven hundred is a pretty big goal for a self-published book, but a goal's not really worth a lot if it's too easy to achieve, right?!

I don't mean to be pushy. I'm not advocating obligatory purchases. In fact, that's the last thing I want to do. What I really want is for people to buy my book because they actually want to, because they'll really read it, because something about the story speaks to them.

If one (or all of those reasons) sounds like you, consider supporting this road I'm on. I don't expect it will ever be paved in gold, but that's okay. I'm more of a bare feet in the grass kind of girl anyway.


EXCERPTS FROM SOME EARLY REVIEWS:


"A beautifully woven tale exploring the complexity of relationships, family, and love...Real characters with imperfections, depth and honest voices."

"A deeply evocative story. The Church in the Wildwood presents humanity at both its best and worst. The depth and authenticity of each character is a triumph...A poignant beauty, that can exist in the ugliest corners of the world, is presented artfully by the author...Although harsh, the story is depicted through a fresh lens of redemption and hope, reminiscent of the innocence conveyed in the book Room by Emma Donoghue."






*Don't like PayPal? I can also accept an email money transfer, a credit card payment (through Point of Sale), or cold hard cash. Contact me and we'll work out the dirty details.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Knee-Deep Prayers (Welcome to Church)

The local licensed café is narrow and dim, deliciously warm, splashed (in the evenings) with a red light that calls you in off the street like a crackling fire. It's not pretentious or intimidating, and though I know it best as a place to sit during daylight hours, tapping away at my laptop, making friendly small talk with the owners who always seem happy to see me, it's just as kind a place after nightfall.

A friend and member of my regular Monday night Writer's Jam invited me out to the café to see her workshop a performance art piece she'd been piecing together with a small crew of other creatives. I didn't know what to expect and I'm certainly not prone to venturing far outside my comfort zone (though I'm getting better at it) but I wanted to support her.

And I was curious. With her in the mix it was guaranteed to be wonderfully weird. (I say that with true affection!)

And it was a night out.

Win win.

I arrived a few minutes early (with another Writer's Jam friend in tow!) to be wrapped up in a crushing hug by the aforementioned performing friend who's face, when she saw us walk in, told the kind of humble story that began with: I can't believe you actually came! 

"Is there going to be audience participation?" I asked as she hugged me.

"No," she promised. "Someone might just come up and whisper in your ear."

Her revelation meant I could sit wherever I wanted instead of the inaccessible back corner. I'm a wallflower by nature. Don't ever think of pulling me up on the stage as a "volunteer".

People filtered in, filling the space to capacity, chatting in the heightened tones of those hoping to be enlightened. Wine was poured and ginger tea steeped. I love that about this place. It's not like the times when I approach a bar and ask for an orange pekoe—when they look at me like I'm a totally lame, boring prude—here, no one lifts an eyebrow. Coffee, vodka, tea, wine...we're all the same.

The lights dimmed and the crowd hushed and so began the wonderful weirdness...

During one of my high school English classes I had to do a presentation on a theme from whatever piece of literature we were studying at the time. I don't remember if it was Shakespeare or Richard Adams, but I do remember I chose to present FEAR. And (because I obviously didn't yet know myself) I did a performance art presentation in the mini amphitheater of the basement drama room. It included the first eight notes of Beethoven's 5th Symphony played upon a single octave toy piano at intentionally sporadic intervals throughout the presentation; a flashlight held beneath my chin; a long strip of newsprint upon which we would all leave our fears behind in varying strokes of fat crayola markers; angsty original poetry; and a moody recitation of whatever passage was most drenched in FEAR.

It was brilliant.

And it was a disaster.

It was a brilliant disaster.

But only because I was preaching to a room of non-believers. Those kids...they didn't speak my language. They rolled their eyes and drew orange stick-men on my canvas of catharsis.

So, instead of feeling affirmed and powerful, I felt embarrassed and sad and even less sure of who I was and where I fit into the world.

Last Thursday night, I sat at a café table and watched all that bravery spill out from the stage, washing over a crowd that nodded along and mmmhmmmm'ed when they really liked a statement, that clapped like they meant it; a crowd who recognized that despite technical glitches and long awkward pauses there was a magic happening there. A magic that's made of freedom and the willingness to be vulnerable—the strength to refuse invisibility and I thought, 'Oh, this is strange.'

But I also thought, 'THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!'

Those brave souls up there, they were preaching to the choir. We all got it. Even if we didn't 'get it'. Somehow they spoke the language out loud that I've always been speaking inside.

I once stood along the wall at a Niagara Falls dance club while Vanilla Ice served drinks behind the bar. I hated every ugly second of it. The sticky floor, the violent strobe lights, the music that vibrated in my chest. I feel anxiety even in the remembering of it. The best moment of that night was the moment we were back out on the street. I didn't care that my husband's friend knew a guy who took us through the V.I.P. entrance so we didn't have to pay the $50 cover charge. I didn't care that Ice Ice Baby was close enough to see the pores on his nose, or that this club was tagged as that night's 'place to be'. I only cared that I was dreadfully unhappy and that the whole experience made me feel wildly inadequate and dull.

But this...this was warm and intimate and spiritual.

A friend recently returned to church after staying away for a while. He later told me how happy he was to have been welcomed back so warmly. My response was: Of course! That's what church is! It's relationship. It's connection. It's working together towards a shared purpose.

And that's what I found in that little café. Church.

Genuine relationship. Honest connection. A passionately shared purpose.

"Midnight stroll through knee-deep prayers." 

They mentioned that more than once...knee-deep prayers. And as I listened to the words of the poetry they spoke I recognized the psalms within them and immediately knew that every poem/prose/song/art is a prayer and prayer is the only language that everyone speaks, no matter their religious affiliation.

Midway through the presentation, the performers left the stage carrying tubes, the ends fitted with some kind of headphone. They moved through the audience, pausing by various people, placing the headphone against an ear while they spoke through the other end. I, having sat in the aisle, provided one such ear. "This is the most intimate our relationship will ever be," he said. "You don't have to tell anyone what I say to you here tonight. I love you, sister." And then he moved on to the next person.

First of all...very intimate! And second of all...awwwwww! Because that's all anyone wants isn't it? And it's ultimately why we try our hand at creating anything. To spread our heart—for good or for bad.

My last swallow of coffee was cold but my spirit was warmed having discovered this community. They left a little of their weird glitter on me so that when I went home later that night I did not feel dull, nor did I feel embarrassed or inadequate. I felt affirmed and empowered. I felt accepted.

I felt exactly like one should feel having found their church. I felt like I'd come home.
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