The Birth of a Story

My story started with an 18×24 inch, three panel, yellow folder.

Each student was given one of these folders in the second grade. On the front it said “Writing Portfolio” and under that, in the impossibly neat printing of an elementary school teacher, it had my name. When you opened it up and set it on your desk or on the floor you were in a private little cubby, like the study desks at the library. Perhaps that’s why I preferred the study desks in the hallway at St Paul’s over the library tables. Perhaps I was remembering this folder.

When open it had three pockets. The left pocket was for ideas, brainstorming, and rough drafts. The middle pocket had our dictionary and our editing materials. And this wasn’t a professionally published dictionary – it was 26 pages, half-sheet size, stapled together and we had to write in the words we had trouble with as we went along. On the right was space for our nearly finished work. Then we would neatly print the story and draw a picture for it and post it on the bulletin board.

This is one of my most vivid memories of elementary school.

When I was young my mother kept one of those school memories journals for me, and one for my sister, and at the end of each school year she’d ask us who our friends were, what our favourite subject was, and what we wanted to be when we grew up.

Kindergarten: Doctor, Artist, Teacher

Grade 1: Storyteller, Writer

Grade 2: Gymnast, Teacher, Writer

Grade 3: Hairdresser, Olympic athlete in soccer or gymnastics

Grade 4: Writer

Grade 5: Author

Grade 6: Author, Piano teacher

In junior high I had an extra binder just for my stories. They were fan-fiction, though I didn’t know what fan-fiction was back then. I knew plagiarism was wrong though so I’d change things and try to make the story my own, but it wasn’t.

In high school my writing became more original but it would be years yet before I became a published author.

Now I’m 30. I’m married with 2 kids. I work from home as a full-time author with nine original books. Seventeen years ago I started writing in earnest, trying to learn this amazing craft. It’s been one heck of a journey so far, and it’s far from over.


Casia Schreyer Does Panels

And apparently I’m pretty good at it too.

Sometimes being full of yourself is a necessity. Well, maybe not to that extreme, but my mantra at When Words Collide was: Speak up, be bold, do not be afraid to take up space. And it paid off.

I did three panels this year and would like to take a moment to talk about each of them.

CROSSING GENRES: We spoke on the thrill and difficulties of writing in multiple genres, either in different projects, or in projects that blur the lines between established genres.

Pros: I write fantasy, contemporary lit, and science fiction, and I find the biggest pro is that when people are looking at my books I have a greater chance of having something for them. As someone who reads widely I don’t have a real preference for genre. I don’t write mystery, can’t get the hang of it, but anything else is fair game for me. If there’s a story I want to write, I’ll write it, and I’ll figure out how it fits into genres and my own collection later. This seemed to be the consensus on the panel – we were all happy to write what we enjoyed and figure out what the genre was, who to sell it to, and how to market it, after it was written.

Cons: My fantasy fans are always hounding me for the next book while I’m working on the sci-fi series. For traditionally published authors they may have to find a different publisher if they stray from their established genre. And if you are established in one genre it can be hard to bring fans with you when you write something new.

Nom de Plume: There are pros and cons for using a pen name. It takes time and effort to cultivate a following for each name. On the other hand, fans know what they’re getting when they see the name on the cover. Casia writes fantasy while KC writes contemporary lit (I don’t use a pen name). Some traditional publishers require it because of marketing and branding. We all agreed that if you were writing YA or MG and you also wrote smut that you should use a pen name for the smut.

Genre and marketing: Publishers, book stores, and online publishing platforms are the ones pigeon holing books into genres so they can market them and recommend them to people, and sort them on lists and shelves. Many authors write fantasy that could also be horror, or could also be sci-fi. Or they write literary fiction with a paranormal bent, which is basically fantasy with pretty language and a good moral. Is it a mystery with paranormal elements, or a fantasy with a mysterious plot? Authors don’t always have control over how their book is marketed by the publisher.

This was my first panel ever and I was very nervous but I was the only indie on the panel so I had some unique insights to bring to the conversation. The other panelists were friendly and knowledgeable and no one person dominated the session. As an introduction to this type of speaking it was perfect for me and I hope those who attended enjoyed themselves.

YOUNG ADULT TO NEW ADULT:I could write a whole post on this subject!

There’s been a shift in YA literature. It used to be for teens, 14+, now it’s for kids as young as 10. Which isn’t a problem, except that over half the buying and reading market for YA lit are adults. Which means the YA category gets broken into young or lower YA (for 10-15 year olds – what used to be MG) YA (14-18) and upper YA (17+). NA looks to fill that crossover market, writing books that sound and feel like YA but feature protagonists who are in college or out of school completely as compared to being in junior high or high school.

The age of the protagonist and the maturity level of the content (violence, swearing, sex, politics, etc) are mainly what mark the difference between NA and YA but there is a large grey area between them and a lot of crossover depending on the interest and maturity of the reader.

PEN TO PAPER: When writing doesn’t look like putting words on the page.

We discussed outlining, doodling, world building, daydreaming, and brainstorming. We talked about where our inspiration came from and the types of activities we filled our time with while we were pondering or working through writers’ block.

Repetitive, mindless, physical activity, be it yoga, chopping wood, mowing the lawn, taking a walk, doing dishes, etc, was brought up time and again as a way to keep the body busy and distracted while the mind is free to wander.

We talked about visiting the settings of our stories, or if we wrote fantasy at least visiting museums and such places to get a feel for the time period we were basing our fantasy world in.

We discussed music as inspiration and as motivator (and we were split down the middle with two of us preferring silence and two of us using music to fuel our writing).

We weren’t very talented with art but map making was one of the doodling things we did for inspiration. That, and timelines and calendars for working through writers’ block.

And that was my experience doing panels. I admit, I was nervous, but I had a great time and I learned a lot. I hope other people learned something from me.

The Power of People

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.

Upcoming Author Appearances

There aren’t enough days in the summer, not here in Winterpeg. So I find that my time from the beginning of May until the end of September books up quickly. This year is no different.

At the next rainy day I’ll be going next door (I work at the daycare attached to my son’s school) on my coffee break to read Nelly Bean and the Kid Eating Garbage Can Monster to my son’s class. The rest of my author appearances are more formal.

May 1st – Kids Help Phone Walk so Kids can Talk – Duckworth Center Gym, Winnipeg. This will be my second year at this event. If you are interested visit the Kid Help Phone website to sign up for the walk. Everyone is welcome and both the route and the Duckworth Gym are full accessible. I saw strollers and wheelchairs last year. I will be at one of the sponsor tables with my books and $2 from the sale of every paperback at the event will be donated to Kids Help Phone. As an added bonus, for every e-book sold online that day I will donate $1 to KHP. (The only exception is the cookbook, Recipes and Memories, which is actually by my mother and is always sold in support of St Boniface Hospital’s Palliative Care Ward).

May 7th – Winnipeg Public Library’s Author Fair – Millennium Library, downtown Winnipeg. This is my first year at this event, and I am extremely excited for this.

Event agenda:
11 am: Informal talks with selected local authors
1-2 pm: Set up for Fair (Set up your table)
2–4:30 pm: Book Fair (Carol Shields Auditorium, open to public)

I am really looking forward to attending the talks and to meeting as many people as I can at the fair in the afternoon. All of my titles will be available on this day.

May 13th – Springfield Ladies’ Group – Springfield Public Library (or new location, they are possibly moving). A wonderful lady at my church invited me to speak to her group about bullying and about my books. I have done fairs and street markets and flea markets before. I have done readings before. This will be my first time as a guest speaker. I’ll admit I’m a little nervous but if you have to do something like this for the first time, getting up in front of some really nice older ladies is probably the best way to ease into it!

June 17-19 – Summer in the City – Steinbach, Main St. Steinbach’s annual street fair looks to be a grand event again this year. Authors of Manitoba will be attending so along with my books you’ll be able to find books by a dozen authors from all over Manitoba. We’re expecting to have over 40 different titles for children, teens, and adults in seven or eight genres. New this year will be our first graphic novel and our first cookbook, plus an awesome guide to local useful plants.

Saturdays – I’m hoping to attend the Steinbach Flea Market in front of the Co-Op gas station Saturdays from 10-2 (ish), weather permitting, most weeks, from the end of May until they close down for the summer. Still looking to get some details on this one though. I’ll let you know.

If you would like me to speak at an event, or if you have crafters’ tables for rent at an event in Manitoba, please contact me. I’m always looking to get out and meet people. I also do school and library readings for kids of any age.



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.


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.


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.



Author Interview with CJ Bolyne

Please welcome CJ Bolyne, author of the Trinity Trilogy the most recent release being ‘Guardians – Victory or Defeat’, the third and final book of the series. The first one is called ‘Trinity’, the second is ‘Anords – Tyranny’. She comes from rural Manitoba, just outside of Steinbach.

Question 1: What genres and authors do you enjoy reading?
I like to read fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal and historical. I love fiction!

Question 2: What genres do you write in? What age groups are your books for?
I write fantasy, sci-fi, and ancient history. The age group range from mid teens-adult.

Question 3: Tell us a little about your most recent release. Where did you get your inspiration?
My most recent release is the third book in a trilogy called ‘Guardians: Victory or Defeat. Although I have a new book soon to be released called Ancient Origins – Discovery. My inspiration comes from my imagination and my curiousness for all things mythical.

Question 4: What are you working on now?
I am working on three different books right now. One is about witches and warlocks, one is a second book to Ancient Origins series and one on a subject I won’t discuss at this time………..

Question 5: Tell us about your creative process. Do you outline or just write wherever the story takes you? What does your work space look like? Do you have any habits or quirks when you are writing?
An idea pops into my mind and I wonder….what if? Most of the time I start a story and write a chapter or two before I begin to write notes on what I want to write next on the story just to keep things straight.
I have, however, written by the seat of my pants, so to speak. In fact, Ancient Origins, book 1 was just that.
I like to keep a fairly neat and organized work space. Anything too chaotic and I can’t concentrate very well. In fact, I need to make sure my house is presentable also. I like to have a clear mind when I write.

Question 6: What do you find to be the hardest part of writing a novel?
I find that if writer’s block sets in, I’m very frustrated. It does pass though, but if it comes I panic a bit.

Question 7: What about the easiest? What parts of the writing process just feel natural for you?
The easiest part of writing is coming up with a story. My imagination is vast and writing just feels natural itself. I am glad I didn’t put off writing any longer than I did.

Thank you to CJ for joining us today. You can find the Trinity Trilogy on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Lulu and most recently, Createspace. For more information, please visit her website at

Author Interview with Barbara Ann Derksen

I’d like to introduce you to Barbara Ann Derksen, a motorcycle riding, scuba diving grandmother of ten, mother of four, and married to HC, a singer/songwriter, for 46 years. While working for six years as a journalist in Iowa, Barbara became a published novelist in 2003 and will complete her nineteenth book this spring.

What genres and authors do you enjoy reading?

I have always enjoyed reading a great mystery. My favorite authors are Terri Blackstock, Brandilyn Collins, Colleen Coble, Robin Johns Grant, Nancy Rue, Joel Rosenberg, Sue Grafton, and James Patterson as well as many others.

What genres do you write in? What age groups are your books for?

I wrote and published my first mystery in 2003 and suspected that this was my niche but then I wrote a short series of children,s stories for six of my grandchildren as birthday gifts. I work all summer as a missionary to bikers so I wrote a series of devotionals for them but my favorite genre is still mystery/suspense and will complete my 8th this spring.

Tell us a little about your most recent release. Where did you get your inspiration?

My recent work is the third in the Finders/Keepers Mystery Series. This collection surrounds a young woman who, as a five year old, watched her parents be killed. Now as an adult, she returns to the city of her birth to act as an investigator searching for missing children and the killer, who’s never been identified. Her investigation brings her into the world of pedophiles and human trafficking as she works with a service dog, Chief. This third book brings her closer to discovering why her parents were killed and who was behind it and now wants her dead.

Tell us about your creative process. Do you outline or just write wherever the story takes you?

I write character lead fiction. I have, in my head, the beginning of the story, but my protagonists introduce me to new people and take me to new places. Writing, for me, is almost like reading a good mystery. I can’t wait to get to the end. As for the non-fiction, I plan those out a little more.

What does your work space look like? Do you have any habits or quirks when you are writing?

I share my life with a singer/songwriter who has taken over the office for his sound equipment, recording devices, etc. So I moved into the dining room where I commandeered a small corner space to call my own. Because my space is more visible, I need to keep it neater than his. We can always close the door and do so often. As far as quirk, I like quiet with soft music playing in the background but have learned to tune my music making husband out. When I close his door, he knows I am writing so respects my space.

What do you find to be the hardest part of writing a novel?

I find self editing tedious but necessary. I find it amazing how many extraneous words I use when I craft the first draft, and how often I use the same phrase or word in a particular scene. Self-editing is the hard work after the fun of revealing the story.

What about the easiest? What parts of the writing process just feel natural for you?

My characters live and breathe in my head so it is natural to bring them out and watch them move through a particular scene. They’re amateurs and stumble while they bring closure to grieving parents. My male protagonist is a Christian, as am I, so his viewpoint is different than my female, who sees no need of a Saviour, yet. They argue about this religious thing, as she calls it, but his faith gives my male protagonist extra patience with her and a sense of discernment she doesn’t have. I find the give and take between my characters easy to write and the story they take me through becomes just as easy as I follow their lead.

Barbara Ann, thank you for visiting with us today. Her books can be found at, at, at Barnes and Nobles and at Smashwords in both EBOOK format and paperback. Her website, Adventures in Writing, is where she engages her readers with a devotional every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday hoping to inspire the lives of her followers and she introduces them to a variety of writers some Tuesday’s or Thursday’s.

Thank you for introducing me to your readers and followers. I would love to hear from you in the comment section of this blog. I would also love to hear how you enjoyed my work by writing a review about a book you’ve purchased at the site you purchased it from. Reviews are important and need to be your honest appraisal.

All comments and questions for Barbara will be passed along and her answers will be posted.

Prince in Exile Part 2 Review

Prince in Exile is a serial novel written by Helen J Bradley. Books 1-3 are available on Amazon. The book follows Prince Teuvo of a fictional European nation after he is chased from his home by a rebellion. The story is set in the 1970s.

Being a serial, each part is very short, only a few chapters long. But her rate of release is very quick, with the next one due in December (I believe). My biggest complaint is that they are too short. I want to read the whole thing in one sitting! But then I remember that it is a serial and that I only have to wait a few weeks for the next installment – not years!

I love the characters, I love the way Helen has transported me back to the 70s, I love the intrigue, I love the loving, I love the secrets, I love the tension and the insecurities, I love the quick pacing!

I highly recommend this serial, with the warning that it does contain M/M, M/F, and M/M/F scenes (not all of that in every installment, but you’ll get a little of everything as you work your way through the series). It’s not the most explicit book I’ve read but it’s steamy!

Still, every time I get a new book in this series it gets bumped straight to the top of my TBR pile.


Of Blog Hops, Agent Tweets, and Editing Updates

What a week to catch a cold. My head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton balls (cliched, I know, but so true). It’s been busy, and not nearly as productive on the writing front as I would like. But the chores are getting done … mostly. *SIGH* Okay, I’m behind on everything. But you’re not here to listen to me rant.

Editing updates first! The first 40 pages of Nothing Everything Nothing are edited and formatted. That’s four chapters and all the front matter (title, copyright, dedication, etc). The worst is yet to come because chapters 5 and 6 start the spiral towards her suicide. If my head would clear I could get caught up.

Blog hopping next! I will be tagged in a self-promotion blog hop next week. The idea is that one author wrote up a self-promotion post and tagged 5 other writers, including their names and blog links. Supposedly their readers will click those links and the next set of links and the next and so on. So on September 22nd I’m scheduled to post my own self-promo page (there are some interview questions to answer I believe) and I will be tagging 5 other talented writers to continue the hop. I have three so far!

An interesting tweet came across my desk this morning – an agent looking for serious YA fiction (among other genres). Well, Nothing, Everything, Nothing is certainly serious. So I tweeted back “A YA novel about suicide wouldn’t fit that bill, would it? Editing to be done by the end of October.” If I get a response from her that she wants to see it I’ll be delaying the release of Nothing Everything Nothing until she decides if she wants it or not.

Finally, I would like to leave you with a parody/poem I wrote last night. I am Canadian and the weather in my country has been topsy-turvy of late. This song parody was inspired by photos of snow in Calgary and flooding on Ontario. It’s been a strange summer.

Surfing on Facebook tonight,
all these weather pics ain’t quite right.
It’s so strange to see snow in one town,
to the east the rain is pouring down.

Snow to the left of me, rain storms to the right,
here I am, in Manitoba it’s true.

Yes I’m, in Manitoba it’s true.
And I’m wondering what it is I should do.
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face.
Seeing bad weather all over the place.

Snow to the left of me, rain storms to the right,
here I am, in Manitoba it’s true.

Well it started with tornadoes and those jumped right over us.
Now the snow is coming calling and we say “Keep it Albertans,
Please! Please!”

Trying to make some sense of it all
and I can see it makes no sense at all.
Is it cruel to laugh at all those poor blokes
and make them the butt of our jokes?

Snow to the left of me, rain storms to the right,
here I am, in Manitoba it’s true.

Well it started with tornadoes and those jumped right over us.
Now the snow is coming calling and we say “Keep it Albertans, Please! Please!”

Surfing on Facebook tonight,
all these weather pics ain’t quite right.
It’s so strange to see snow in one town,
to the east the rain is pouring down.

Snow to the left of me, rain storms to the right,
here I am, in Manitoba it’s true.
Yes I’m, in Manitoba it’s true. In Manitoba it’s true.

Casia Schreyer – Author; Facebook Page

Casia Schreyer – Author; Facebook Page

While most of my long updates wind up here on the blog, among the rants and articles on the craft of writing, I also keep a Facebook page where I offer smaller updates more often. I also link to interesting memes and articles, and pages and blogs of other writers.