Visiting the Past

It’s always wonderful to have someone approach and say, “Eleanor?”

Happened last night after finishing a band concert at The Royal Henley Retirement Home in St Catharines.

She had realized I looked familiar, but seeing me with my flute brought it all back. I taught her daughter in the early 80’s!!

And it turns out our Bass Clarinet player knows the family very well.

We happily posed after the concert, in front of the Christmas tree.

Moral of the story: always say hello and find out why someone is familiar. Another friend of a friend was there as well, so we caught up on news.

Here’s the pic: me,  my student’s Mom, and our Bass Clarinetist par excellence:

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Patience ( I need some….)

Pretty much tearing my hair out, but this morning a friendly clerk at the Thorold Post Office solved a mystery for me.

Here’s the story:  I decided to reroute my brother’s mail because the house will be sold, it is currently empty, and we need to pay utilities and other bills that come due, as well as banking and personal affairs.

We live in a high rise, with a similar building facing us. Much too often, we receive mail that should have gone to the other building, or to another unit here.

So for safety, knowing I will get everything without any worries, I forwarded the mail to a PO Box.

Then I mailed an envelope to my brother’s house the day after buying the forwarding service and the PO Box.

Stressed individuals don’t react well when such good planning backfires!! I saw red yesterday when I checked the PO Box. Another person’s mail was in it, and no sign of the ‘test letter’ I had sent.

It turns out the person who sold me the services on November 9, labeled the wrong box on the side they get loaded from!!  So at least I know the mail should be put in MY slot from now on. My number had been put on the box above mine from the ‘loading’ side of the wall.

Now here’s my question:  Why in the world are the numbers not already on the backs of the boxes?  On the front, there are proper permanent numbers.

Someone, please explain the logic that would make it necessary for the PO clerk to tape labels on at the back !!  That just escapes my over-worked brain.

Hmm, just realized that one should insist on seeing the back of the box just rented, to verify it’s done right!  A price reduction would help as well.

Canada Post: your inquiry system is not user-friendly! Menu after menu, finally an operator who has to type in all the information, and call it a ticket.  8:00 am phone call this morning to say everything is working at the house end and that’s all they found out!!  They didn’t even call the PO Box end.  Didn’t have a phone number for one of their own outlets. What??

Initiative: zero. The mark given by me: zero

I wonder if the next months will see them exonerate themselves.

 

Just Checking In….

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Oh (sigh) gone are the summery blue skies, replaced with snow-laden gray clouds, biting winds and slippery sidewalks!

Life throws us curves and there’s one in my life just now. My sister and I are having to see to the welfare of our older brother. He treasured his independence a little too much, for considerably too long a time.

It’s hospital stay, waiting for move to retirement home with full care package, all happening overnight. Or so it seems.

I beg you, put your affairs in order! Long before you think you should. Spare your family the load of dealing with everything at once – selling a house, having Power of Attorney approved by banks, being forced to make the choice of a future ‘home’ for someone suddenly in need of a lot of support and help.

Official assessment by the home of our choice is scheduled for two days from now. It’s very awkward to do everything all day long with my fingers crossed, but that’s all I can do while we await the word, and then a move-in date.

Uhoh, that brings a whole new to-do list. Enough clothing, linens. What to add to the room to make it more personal. What we have to get out of the house. Tonight is the night offers are being accepted on the property, fingers crossed for that, too.

Just wish us luck, and sooner or later I’ll report.  Sigh (again).

 

 

RUSTY BLACKWOOD INTERVIEW

 

Rusty Blackwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RUSTY BLACKWOOD

Photo: Miss Carson E. Doan (Carson E. Doan Photography)

Thanks for doing this, first of all! And congratulations on your success as a writer!

1. I see you as a very energetic person. Are you one of those lucky people with pep to spare? Or do you have to work to keep going and stay motivated?

Rusty: First of all I would like to thank you for having me on your Blog, Eleanor, and I hope my answers will be both entertaining and informative for your readers.

In answer to your first question, there was a time when energy was never limited, but I’m afraid those days are gone, or greatly diminished at least. Fortunately writing is a job that does not require physical input as such, but instead mental, and definitely creative instinct with regard to what you are hoping to achieve. I find some days more productive than others, and I truly feel the weather can affect the mind in ways one might never think. Sunny days are great for creating an upbeat poem or story; then again a rainy or stormy day can produce something with fully as much impact, at least for me, as I find my mindset is a great contributing factor in what I write, and how I write it. I have to feel what I write; by this I mean through expression, and emotion. If I don’t feel it, I can’t write it; at least in the way I hope my readers will experience it.

2. Has writer’s block ever been a problem? If so, how do you deal with it?

Rusty: I think every writer suffers this unfortunate bugaboo, at least at some point, and I am no different. Thankfully it has never lasted any extended amount of time when it has occurred, but while it’s happening it truly is discouraging. I usually just walk away from my keyboard, go for a walk, especially by the water, and let my thoughts just carry me wherever they wish to go. Usually I find that after awhile new ideas are beginning to blossom.

3. Would you want to pursue movies of your books’ stories? Is that something that’s been discussed or could be in the future for you? I’m sure the plots would be great for movies.

Rusty: Well thank you for your confidence, Eleanor! I believe any writer’s dream is to see their work up on the silver screen, or at least television’s movie of the week, but so far I have never been approached about that, however I have had readers tell me that ‘Passions in Paris: Revelations of a Lost Diary’ would make an excellent film, and without sounding full of myself, I would have to agree. Passions is a sweeping love story set in a most desirable place at a very festive time of the year; the location itself would be wonderful to experience. I could say the same about the soon-to-be-released ‘Willow’s Walk’, which is set in our lovely capital city of Ottawa, and tells a revealing and tumultuous story about what can actually happen when you least expect it. But in the world of writing you never know, but the offer to have one of my stories on the screen would certainly be nice.

4. You mention (on your website) a negative experience with traditional publishing. Can you give some advice to new authors agonizing over what path to follow?

Rusty: I must say that the publishing avenue I was referring to was not traditional, but rather self-publishing, and the problem was not in the route I used but rather the company. With the exception of submitting the odd poem for traditional publication, I had decided at the beginning of my venture into serious publishing that I wanted to take the independent route. When one publishes traditionally one must be prepared to accept rejection, and it was not that which I had a problem with, but rather the signing away of my Rights in order to obtain a contract, which I was not prepared to do. I very much savor the ability to hold my own Rights, as well as the direction of my work, which is why I continue to self-publish. However, having said that, I would advise whoever chooses the independent route to be extremely careful and selective of the company they choose. I chose Xlibris Publishing, which unfortunately turned out to be a bad choice, especially first time out, and resulted in major issues with regard to my work and the quality of it. At the time I was very green, having just begun and no one to help direct my path, which I believe had a lot to do with the reason why I experienced the problems which I did. I had no recourse but to terminate my contract, pull my work, and republish all of it through CreateSpace Publishing, which I have remained with, and would highly recommend. Nowadays there are endless companies vying for the new author, and promising the moon in return to get them. So be sure to research thoroughly, understand the contracts, and if at all possible, use a professional’s input and guidance

5.Can you tell us how you come up with the plots for your books?

Rusty: The first rule of thumb in writing is to write what you know. Experience truly is the best teacher, and one that provides an endless array of ideas in which to pull from. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, believing that everyone has a certain someone, though it is not always easy to find them; sometimes they’re never found, and the ideas that can be pulled from what has been, or could be, is an endless wealth of ideas for me. I usually write about topics I have experienced in one way or the other, and when I combine that with the vivid imagination I’m fortunate to have, it often results in written pieces.

6. Who’s your favourite author to read? What genre do you enjoy most, for your own reading?

Rusty: I greatly enjoy a stirring romance, but I don’t really have an actual favourite genre. I enjoy an eclectic array, just as I enjoy an eclectic array of authors, and it greatly depends on my mood. I love descriptive writing; I write that way myself and so enjoy it when I read another’s work. However I greatly enjoy the work of Stephen King, whose mind I admire because he has the rare ability to actually get into someone’s head and manipulate it through the scenes he describes, and the often mind-teasing endings he uses. It takes a special talent to do that, and he certainly has it.

7. Why do you think people like romance novels?

Rusty: That’s a very good question, and one which there may be no plausible answer. But in my opinion, it could possibly be a person’s way of fulfilling emptiness in their life or relationship; possibly something they wish could happen to them, or possibly provide an escape from their own problems, or their life in general. I enjoy romance novels because they give me a chance to escape my own life for awhile, so maybe my answer isn’t too far off the mark.

8. How did the decision come about to take up writing full time?

Rusty: I have always loved to write but never chose to do it professionally, therefore was never trained professionally. When I was in high school the choices offered for women were limited, and writing was not one of them. I always did well in English, both literature and composition – the latter being my favourite – but I had never considered trying my hand at it in a serious way until the winter of 2001. I had written poetry for some time, as well as short stories, but in 2003 I decided to try my hand writing a full-length novel, and so the planning of Passions began, and also because of the growing amount of pieces I had already written, I decided to see where it could possibly take me.

9. There is such a huge popularity with fantasy these days! What makes that genre so sought after? It is so all-pervading, for example video games, some of which are so violent.

Rusty: There again I feel it’s possibly because of missing wants in a person’s life, though I really can’t see why violence would be something so sought after. I find today’s world unsettling enough without the need for it within the pages a person is reading. Fantasy can be delightful by way of imagination fulfillment, and possibly searching for the unknown, or celebration of what has never been proven. I think fantasy can be a wonderful genre to free your mind within. When I write, I try to write realistically, and sometimes, depending on the story line and characters involved, anger can exist and even vengeance, but I try to keep it at a minimum if and when it does occur. On the other hand, I can’t say I like sugar coated words, I would rather realistic, but I don’t appreciate being made feel inept or made to feel a fool by the author.

10. How much do reviews count toward sales as an Indie Author?

Rusty: Like anything that is for sale, word of mouth counts greatly with regard to how well it does. Then again a review is but one person’s opinion – of which they’ve the right to feel and express –but I feel the onus put on reviews can be overstated, however they are necessary, especially for an Indie author’s work. I prefer a reader’s review as opposed to an editorial one, because to me the reader is the recipient of the story, and their views as to whether they enjoy it or not is most important in selling it to other readers. An editorial review is usually based on element and technical aspect, how well the story is constructed, related, edited, etc. A reader knows what they like or do not like, which is why I put by far more value on what they have to say.

11. It’s tough to be noticed and start getting sales for Indie authors. How did you get past that?

Rusty: I don’t know if I have as yet, but I am much further along than I once was. As I stated above, when I first began publishing in 2009 it was like the blind leading the blind. I did what I thought best, which brought me some return but nothing worth writing home about. Then in 2011, I found out about, and went on the US top-rated North Carolina Internet Radio/TV show, The Author Show, as a guest author promoting the book I had out at the time. This brought me into contact with co-host Don McCauley, a marketing representative and publicist with thirty years experience in the field. I began working with him in August of that year, and that was the best move I could have made. Since that time he has managed to make my plume de nom one of the top romantic fiction author’s names in the field, doing so through great coverage platforms, Press Releases, and a solid online presence. But that is only my Internet presence; getting known in my own area has been a much harder time consuming task, but with determination, and the never ending drive to make my name known, I have managed to continue to gain ground. I greatly owe a lot of this to Jordan Fry, and Grey Borders Publishing’s’ annual Niagara Literary Arts Festival that happens throughout the entire month of June in numerous venues around the Niagara area. Securing public events and awareness of my work is a never ending job, but I am committed to it, and will continue to do so.

12. How much of your time is spent at book signings or other events?

Rusty: That greatly depends on what is available, and whether I can work them into my writing schedule, also whether they are worth the time. I don’t mean that last remark in a derogatory way, but experience in that area soon teaches you what best works, however having said that, I do try to take most events offered, as well as seek out signings, readings, etc. and I try to do at least one every month if at all possible. I find the best exposure is through literary events themselves, as opposed to other venues, but each and every one provides exposure for your work, as well as you as the author, and in that respect every venue is worthwhile.

13. Do personal sales make up a worthwhile percentage for you?

Rusty: I usually find I sell more direct than online. I think when people can personally meet and speak with you it tends to be more successful, and this might be contributed to the fact that they can actually hold the book, browse it, and put a face to the title as opposed to purchasing online where it might feel rather impersonal, as if you are purchasing something from an unknown source, meaning the author of course. Not everyone has the notoriety, or celebrity of authors whose names have become a household word, simply because they’ve been fortunate enough to have had that kind of push by Standard Houses, but it is nice to know that self-published authors are finally gaining ground in areas where they never used to be given a chance.

14. Do the local libraries have copies of your books, or is the Indie Author on the periphery of that possibility, only able to look and not participate?

Rusty: Presently they don’t, but I am hoping that will change one of these days. I do readings in libraries, and different personnel on staff there are becoming aware of my name and work, so I do hope to be approached, or at least considered if and when that time presents itself. Presently I feel they tend to look too much at traditionally published work with the idea it is the only work worthy of gracing their shelves, but like brick & mortar book stores, they are beginning to realize the quality and talent that self-published authors and their work are offering the reading public.

I would very much like to extend my sincere thanks, Eleanor, for the opportunity to speak with you in a public forum, answer your questions, and for the interview itself. It is through this kind of coverage and exposure that readers can become aware of the self-published titles available to them, as well as the extremely talented Indie authors who write them.

Thank you, again,

Rusty Blackwood.

Willow’s Walk is a 482-page trade paperback and will be priced in the $28.50 to $30.00 range. People in the Niagara Region may pre-order directly from Rusty by contacting her through her  Official Website: http://www.rusty-blackwood.com

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Rusty will also respond to emails at writerrusty@hotmail.ca

FACEBOOK: http://l.facebook.com/l/PAQGOagvFAQEWRyfX_tnd-Sx4k3x3ghjIiPpCeSWae0ZvHQ/www.rusty-blackwood.com

The novel will be carried on all the usual online outlets and it’s nice that we finally have an Amazon store as close as Toronto!          Amazon: http:// http://www.amazon.com/Rusty-Blackwood/e/B0092XLBRM

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMING SOON!

Rusty Blackwood

RUSTY BLACKWOOD INTERVIEW!

Rusty Blackwood is the author of PASSIONS in PARIS: Revelations of a Lost Diary, and very soon-to-be released WILLOW’S WALK.

Join us as Rusty shares her thoughts about writing, and publishing, and much more, in her own words.

See you SOON!!

SIGNS OF WINTER and THOUGHTS OF DEER

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Well, this morning when we looked out for the first time what greeted us was snow fencing!

Every year the city puts up a line parallel to the street that runs by the end of our building. The field in front of us is quite large, enough that another high-rise was planned for the space a few years ago. In the way of modern building, units had to be sold before beginning construction. After a few months the signs were taken away and we kept our field, much to my relief and that of many others.

At both sides of this property there are ravines with creeks among the trees. And these areas shelter roving families of deer. Our street has Deer Crossing signs on it! We all look forward to every sighting. One marvels to think that it appears to be out of concern for the deer that an opening is always left in the snow fence.

I can tell you myself, in my nightly wanderings to the window, I watched when that gate was used by fauns being led across the snow in the moonlight.  But when the adults are on their own, they sail over gracefully and take your breath away with the beauty of it.

Now that we live on the other side of the field on a lower floor, the nocturnal spying on these lovely animals is no longer possible. Even if we did still have a good view, I’m blinded by a parking lot light that is as bright as a train engine’s headlamp, aimed directly at our windows.

But the deer will still come, and I’ll be happy to see their tracks in the morning sun. And I’ll know that in the woods those gentle, peaceful creatures are living quietly beside us, right here in the middle of the city.

Here’s a Recipe for FUN!

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This lovely painting is by Cyndi Svob. She painted it after reading my poem:

WINTER NIGHTS

Dreary, weary, threatening clouds hover.

Gone is the blue sky, golden sun.

Snow swirls, spreading its cottony cover.

Summer’s distant warmth and bloom undone,

the darkness permeates my very being.

Birds flock together, moving as one.

A solitary doe moves warily, feeding

on shoots of grass beneath the snow.

Her two fawns gambol about, running and leaping

and bring a warming feel of life, though

its only for a fleeting moment; instead

the doe is swiftly gone, her children follow.

Morning dawns, a golden sky tinged with red.

Clouds roll in with yet more snow to offer;

I turn and crawl back in my still-warm bed.

I was thrilled when Cyndi showed her painting the night we all presented our results! And the whole room vibrated with emotion: appreciation and pure joy filled the air as the new paintings and poems were displayed, explained and applauded, one by one.

I’m a member of WRITERS FORUM, a group of people who meet at Thorold Public Library.  Two years ago 8 of us participated in the POET/PAINTER EXCHANGE presented by the St Catharines Art Association. The example above was one of the partnerships.

That year we were paired up by random draw, and each set of two people traded a poem or story for a painting. Cyndi gave me a twin photographic rendering close-up of a knife and fork. I had fun with that! And the humour in my story was exactly what Cyndi had wished for. Here it is:

OUT FOR DINNER

“Lady Dyna, it is indeed lovely to see you again!” his silvery voice cut the air in the empty room. Table settings were completed and everything laid ready.

“Sir Raulfe!” she answered, a slight sharpness in her tone. “You old flirt!” She glanced quickly around, and continued, “It’s always wonderful to get out of that stuffy old box! Where are we tonight?”

“Some athletic club or other, I expect,” he replied, “judging from the banners on the walls and all those trophies gleaming in a row over there.”

“Oh, how tiresome! Not tonight! I’m not in the mood for being manhandled by a tipsy jock. I had so hoped for a quiet literary function of some sort.”

“My dear, whatever could I possibly do to help?” Sir Raulfe was truly upset. To rescue the sleek Lady Dyna from the clutches of a rival male would have been greatly to his liking. “But, you know, it always happens when an uncultured boor starts waving his fork around, he invariably has his knife tightly clutched in his other hand!!”

The evening dragged on and they bore the rowdiness with admirable stoicism. Hours later, a team of waiters came around to clear the long tables. Their chatter filled the room with a low drone as they worked.

Lady Dyna nearly fainted when she heard a voice near her say, “Well, Rupe, it’s the last public dinner for these old relics. Pack them all in together tonight. They’re being shipped off to a junk dealer.”

“Sir Raulfe, Sir Raulfe, did you hear that?” she shrieked, her tines bristling.

“At last! I dreamed of this happening! Now we can be together, my dear! Some kind person will buy the box and take us all home to a normal family, where we will be treasured and given the respect we deserve.” The words faded as he sailed through the air and landed with a metallic rattle in the cardboard box.

“Oh, Sir Raulfe, I hope so, I do very much hope so!” and she arrived with a tinny clunk beside him.

You see? Total surprise, wasn’t it?

Well this year, Writers Forum invited the St Catharines Art Association to do another exchange. The difference we are trying on for size is doing two separate drawings of names. So I will receive a painting from one person, and give a piece of writing to another one. All the more room for discovery, surprises, creations that delight and amaze.

Stay tuned for the results!! Or try it yourself with your writing or painting groups!! And good luck, but mostly have a lot of fun!