The Power of People

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Writing is a solitary endeavour. Writers are required to sit down in front of their writing implement of choice for extended periods of time and write. We need at least moderate isolation so we have the focus we need to string letters into words and words into sentences and sentences into stories. Fiction or non-fiction, any genre, it’s really the same story.

Sure, there’s the getting out and getting inspiration part of writing. Reporters need things to report on. Novelists must experience or at least listen to human conversation so they can translate those interactions into their stories in some way. We need to hear and see and taste and touch things. But the actual writing? Mostly solitary.

Organizations like National Novel Writing Month do seek to make the writing more communal with an online group and with local write-ins and gatherings. But even when we sit in a huge room full of people all writing, we are all isolated in our own worlds doing our own writing.

Our stories are intensely private. For writers of fiction we are creating people, worlds, cultures, you name it, out of thin air, out of thought and will. We are magic. We are powerful.

And we are stuck, alone, in a world no one else knows anything about. Because no one else has seen it yet. We’re still writing it, still creating it.

But creation cannot happen in isolation. I’m discovering that more with each passing project.

My biggest project to date – the Zoedavian Chronicles – is teaching me this. I’ve been working on this project for years. At first I was working with a dear friend, but she stopped writing fiction and moved on with her life and left me full control of this world we’d been crafting. To be honest, she was the flash-point of creation, the one who put forth the ideas and the creatures and the snippets of plot and person. I was the chronicler, the sorter. I was the one who asked the questions that allowed us to meld these shards and scraps into a quilt. Together we were building raw inspiration into a coherent world.

But I don’t have her to work with anymore. She has moved on and I rarely see her. This story was too good to be abandoned. And so I worked through the raw material, picking and choosing, changing and reordering, adding and subtracting, until I had something strong and unique and cohesive. It wasn’t right yet, it wasn’t done, but it was a strong start.

A few months ago I printed off the first 100,000 words and gave them to friends of mine. They read it over and we started working through the draft, pulling apart the story again, rebuilding it in a way that left it even stronger. I was hoping it would make it leaner too, but that was not to be. Instead the story has grown again and again and maybe once more.

I just spent 10 hours at my friends’ apartment pouring over drafts and outlines and time lines and maps. We hammered out several huge holes in the plot and timeline. We sorted out 8 cultures, magic systems, and religions. And we have about 8 more hours of work to do on the balance of power between one of the churches and the king. This is work I never would have been able to do alone. This is work that needed more than one set of eyes, more than one sparking point to create, more than one set of ears listening for discrepancies, and more than one sense of humour.

I’m glad I found my people, the ones that will sit with me for an entire day and sort out the implications of allowing a 13th century style culture educate their women, what happens to global climate when you change the land-to-water ratio, what happens when you forget that North isn’t actually the top of this map, and what happens when you have 3 moons. I’m glad because I get stuck in a rut. This is the way it is. I forget to ask “yeah, but what if” and they are glad to ask it. And because they ask it the story has grown some very unique and new features that I look forward to exploring.

Of course I have to finish the Rose Garden books before I can progress with the Zoedavian Chronicles (a working title only). And I will. I worked out what was giving me writer’s block on Rose from the Ash the other day too. With a little help from my friends.

PIECES COVER REVEAL

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Long story about this cover. This is a novel, in part, about the pieces that make up community. The first idea for a cover was images of community, friends hanging out, a family at Christmas, etc, and each image was a puzzle piece. Cute, right? A jigsaw mosaic?

My graphic designer (who is also my talented and exceedingly patient sister) vetoed that. Too busy. Too difficult. The images will be too small.

Fine.

Second idea. A school photo of the main character with a jigsaw overlay and the pieces near the bottom falling apart. We tried it a few times. We couldn’t find the right image. Her expression was wrong. Everyone in my support team vetoed that idea.

Okay. Deep breath.

My sister came up with the idea of taking the first idea and omitting the jigsaw overlay. She made it look like Instagram instead. Or Pinterest. Only we still couldn’t get the right images. And it was too busy. And my husband thought it looked unprofessional, like a cover for a family memoir or a photo album.

After a ten minute squabble with my husband we finally talked a little about the book itself and he comes up with this idea of a shattered picture frame. A photo of the sisters’ hands, them holding hands, and the photo being in a broken frame on the floor.

Shit.

So simple. So exactly what I needed. And here’s why.

Rachel grabbed the framed photo from her bedside table and waved it at her mother. “She was my sister! My only sister.”

“That’s enough!” her mother screamed, lashing out with one hand.

The picture went flying and hit the only clear spot on the floor. The glass cracked. The frame split at the corner.

“Rachel, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

“Get out of my room!”

She hesitated, ready to say something more, but she turned away instead. As the door clicked shut Rachel dropped to the floor in tears. Carefully she picked up the broken frame. There was no saving the glass but the frame didn’t look too bad. Maybe some glue would fix it. I have to be able to fix it. As she pulled the photo out a piece of paper fell in her lap. With trembling fingers she picked it up and unfolded it.

So I talk to my friend and marketing guru about a photo of two girls holding hands, just elbows down, outdoors, summer-y. He says he has something and will dig through his old stock photos to find it for me. I get back to the computer that evening to a cover. Not a photo. A cover.

And damn if it isn’t the right cover.

I will take a moment to side-step the topic at hand and make a note about graphic designers. They only do what you ask them to do. When it came to making what I asked for, my sister did it exactly right. I just wasn’t asking for the right thing and I didn’t know what I wanted. I was the worst kind of client. So, cover artists out there, be assured, I paid her for the half dozen mock-ups she made for me because she spent a lot of time and effort trying to translate a cloudy vision into a clear reality.

Okay. So, this isn’t the first time I’ve paired up with this graphic artist, marketing guru, illustrator (and he cleans my computer too!). His name is Andreas Ganz and he illustrated my children’s book.

garbage can

Everyone who has picked up Nelly-Bean and the Kid Eating Garbage Can Monster at sales these last few months, even just to look, has commented on the quality of the illustrations. “Eye-catching.” “Cute.” “My grandson would love this.”

He’s currently illustrating a book for my editor, Angil Grafton and then he will be illustrating the sequel to Nelly-Bean and the Kid Eating Garbage Can Monster (titled Nelly-Bean and the Missing Bear).

And now the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Drum roll please. An instant success. A cover for a best seller if I ever saw one. Here it is. Pieces, by Casia Schreyer. Cover by Andreas Ganz.

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Happy New Year

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So, 2015 has finally rolled around to my corner of the world. 2014 was a good year, and 2015 looks to be, well, busier, at least. Better will have to wait until the end of 2015 to be decided on.

2014 marked one year in my own house, we had my niece’s first birthday, my sister-in-law got married and announced her pregnancy, my son started kindergarten, I went back to work (and quit), I published a book, my cousin attempted suicide but is 5 months clean from cutting, my husband passed his first set of courses with his apprenticeship … yes, it was a good year.

2015 will mark my fifth wedding anniversary, my second year in my own home, the birth of my second niece or my first nephew, the publishing of two more novels (I hope) plus a collection of stories and poems and some workbooks on bullying … and who knows what surprises are waiting for me.

My list of writing resolutions, with a publishing timeline can be found here: https://casiaschreyer.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/writing-resolutions-2015/

Personal Resolutions:

* yell at my kids less
* get back in shape
* rediscover my silly side

So, whatever you have planned for 2015, I wish you the best of years. May the year be full of silver linings, rays of hope, helping hands, laughter and love, and the beginnings of peace between us all.

Project Updates

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Hey! If you’re looking for the submission guidelines for the Anthology on Race that I’m HOPING to release in April go here: https://casiaschreyer.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/anthology-on-race/

Okay, so obviously I’m hoping to release an anthology on race, specifically on what would happen to a country, or the world, if one or more minority group or cultural group, disappeared for some reason. Deadline is in February, publication at the end of April.

That’s only one of a few projects on the go right now!

REIMAGINED is a collection of short stories and poems. They are taken from two collections (A Spark of Words and Words in the Mist) which are no longer available. Yes, they’re all by me. I’m in the process of giving them a thorough edit and a new format. This book will be available in February.

PIECES is a YA coming of age novel. Each chapter focuses on a single event or tightly related series of events (like the first day of school, Thanksgiving long weekend, or a Halloween party). The book is about Megan as she makes the transition from naive, sheltered, child to self-aware young woman. Of course that is a journey that takes years, this book is really about the catalyst that sets her on that road, and her first steps towards independence, and maturity. This book will be available over the summer.

JOANNE & BARB; THE GIRLS; LANCE – these three short stories are companions to Nothing Everything Nothing, the novel I released at the end of October. I’m letting them rest while I edit the other short stories because they are sounding forced and weak. I’ll get back to them in the new year. They will be available for free.

And not all of my projects have me in front of a computer, typing.

SEMINARS – in October I had the chance to attend a seminar in Otterburne MB. I sat on the panel with other published authors to answer questions. Since then it has been suggested that I work with one of the other speakers to host further seminars.

READINGS – in February there will be an Author’s Fair at the Jake Epp Library in Steinbach. I will have a table there and will be doing a reading from Nothing Everything Nothing and from Reimagined. Early in March (March 3rd) I will be doing a reading at the Jake Epp Library featuring selections from Nothing Everything Nothing, Reimagined, and Pieces.

TALKS – I will be speaking at two different schools in the new year, one about writing, the other about bullying. I also have a possible talk sort of lined up with a local ladies’ group to discuss bullying and how to help youth.

My last project is a little research, a little editing, and a little design. I’m doing the parish history for the Our Lady of Hope, Anola, 25th anniversary dinner.

And all of that is on top of Christmas, finding a new job, raising two kids, keeping my house clean, and whatever else life throws at me.

Again, if you’re interested in the anthology, details are here: https://casiaschreyer.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/anthology-on-race/

Nothing Everything Nothing Book Launch First Update

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Nothing Everything Nothing is a young adult novel that deals with cyber bullying, depression, suicide, and recovery. And I am happy to announce that it will be released in November.

Nothing Everything Nothing will be available in print and as an e-book from Amazon, Createspace, Smashwords, Kobo, and Lulu. The pricing may vary slightly depending on the site and the country you are buying from but here is the basic pricing information.

Print (Amazon.com, Createspace, Lulu) – Paperback – 6×9 – 217 pages
Price – 8.99 +tax +shipping

E-book (Amazon.com/ca/uk/au, Kobo, Smashwords, Lulu) – page count and size dependent on device and settings
Price – 3.50 +tax (shipping is free to your device with a free user account at the site of your choosing)
E-book price subject to change.

The book launch will be held near the end of November. I am in the process of selecting a venue and a date. Paperback copies will be available at the launch for 10$ per book. And yes, I will be on hand to sign them. If you are from Winnipeg or southern Manitoba and are interested in attending the launch, the pre-launch sneak sale (held at the Jake Epp Library in Steinbach on November 18th at the Rae of Hope book launch), or a subsequent signing event and would like to reserve a copy at $10 (or if you live nearby and would like to meet up to get a copy) you can pre-order by commenting on this blog, e-mailing me, or calling me. (If you don’t already have my private contact information I won’t be handing it out, but I am directing family to this page for pricing information).

More details on the time and date of the event, and what you can expect from the event, will be posting in the next week or so.

If you are more of an e-book person you are still welcome to come to the launch. There will be giveaways. If you’re too far out of town to make it do not fear! There will be an e-launch earlier in November with e-book giveaways, fun trivia, and more.

Please help me raise awareness, not only about my book, but about the serious issues of cyber bullying, depression, and suicide. Please share the link to this blog everywhere, please reblog. These are serious issues and they are a cause dear to my heart.

And remember there will be a donation made to Kids Help Phone in honour of my cousin, to whom this book is dedicated. Help spread the word so we can support a great cause.

South East Manitoba Writers’ Seminar

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Tomorrow I’m attending my first writing seminar! It is being hosted by Marianne Curtis and Alan Bayne.

Everyone has a story that needs to be told. This seminar is for writers in Manitoba who are unfamiliar with the world of book publishing. This is an inaugural publishing event by Manitoba authors, for local authors.

Co- Host: Allan P. Bayne (author) of print book – “Bugs, Sweat, and Fears”, Turnstone Press, (1999); e-book – “Wilderness Wanderings”, Snippet, (2014)

Co-Host: Marianne Curtis (print & e-book) owner of Emerald Publications; author of “Finding Gloria” (2012); Moondust and Madness: A collection of Poetry (2012); Behind Whispering Pines (2012); Brian’s Last Ride (2012) “Discreet Betrayal” (2014); and “Ray of Hope” (2014)

Other locally published authors who will participate in the Q & A times

there will be a a ‘books for sale’ table; includes publisher’s free ‘how to publish’ kits; door prizes, samples of other locally authored books

I’m really looking forward to meeting other local authors and I have a lot of questions about navigating the tax set-up on Amazon. As a perk I’ve been asked to talk about my blogging experience and how it’s helped advertise my writing. They’re interested in setting up a conference for local writers (or a convention? now I don’t know what’s going on, ah well) so the public can meet local writers, attend readings, buy books, get books signed, etc.

I’m hyped to be jumping on board from the start. This is a creative community that I’m looking forward to being a part of. I’ve printed business cards and advertisements for my digital releases. And we’ll have wi-fi so there will be much networking and swapping of contact info and such I’m sure.

Full update upon my return!

Fabulous Five Blog Hop

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I was tagged for this blog hop by Victoria, the editor over at Witty Bard Publishing. You can check out her blog post in this series here: http://www.wittybardpublishing.com/#!FABULOUS-FIVE-BLOG-HOP/c1q8z/92AAE453-2540-4EE1-8777-F59F5253ABA1
I got involved with Victoria and Witty Bard when I submitted a story to their science-fiction competition and won!
So here are the questions and answers and, of course, the next five people in the blog hop.
What am I working on?
My current project is a contemporary young adult novel titled Nothing Everything Nothing. Come November I’m hoping to switch gears to a sweet fantasy romance.
How does my work differ from others in the genre?
Nothing Everything Nothing is pretty dark and deals with suicide. The fantasy romance takes place in a parallel Ireland which exists out of synch with our world but connected to it.
Why do I write what I do?
I’ve drawn my inspiration from the cases of Amanda Todd and Megan Meier. Cyper bullying is debated and discussed by educators and politicians and often I feel like no one believes it’s a real thing. I wanted to confront it head on and show what a few cruel posts can do to a person.
The fantasy romance is just something I enjoy working on.
How does my writing process work?
I do a gradual outline. I start with a very loose series of events, sometimes as few as four, and then start writing. As I go more scenes along the timeline will come to me and I’ll add them to the outline. I’ll also add in scenes to tie the key scenes or inspired scenes together (these I call transitional scenes). I often work on more than one project at a time so I always have something to do even if my muse for a specific piece flits away.
Who’s next on the blog hop?
Christopher Ticehurst is  science-fiction fantasy writer from Australia whom I have know for 10 years now. – http://www.christicehurst.me/
Ashlyn Forge is a science-fiction writer who focuses on M/M themes. I beta read for her a few years ago and fell in love with her (and her work) – http://www.ashlynforge.com
Helen J Bradley is a romance writer and a recent addition to my Friends list. I’ve just downloaded her first book in her series. –
Deb Daniels Lerew is a fellow NaNoWriMo writer and a frequent visitor of the Nano Facebook page, which is where we met. http://www.letaphawk.wordpress.com
Rachel James is another NaNoWriMo writer and Facebook friend of mine. http://www.moussemoose.wordpress.com
Please check out these lovely writers on September 29th!

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