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.

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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.

 

PIECES COVER REVEAL

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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A Three Week Creative Schedule

The next three weeks have suddenly gotten very full for me. Actually, the next 6 weeks are getting pretty tight. Don’t take the complaining the wrong way, it’s all good work, but it’s a lot.

Rose in the Dark – typing the second draft, due March 31st @ bedtime. This requires editing and typing at least 1800 words per day for the rest of the month.

Romance Plot Generator – a freelance job that has me brainstorming romance plots. I need 25 more by March 23. That’s 3-4 per day for the next week.

Non-Fiction book on bullying – starting the outline today, have to have it finished by the end of July.

Ghostwriting – 5k story, starting the 24th, due before April 4th. The client should be sending a general plot.

Ghostwriting – 6k/story, 5 stories, starting April 5th, 10 days tops per episode. Due April 14th, April 23rd, May 2nd, May 11th, and May 20th.

Editing – a diet book, not sure of the length, starting April 1st, due April 15th.

Our Lady of Hope Parish 25th Anniversary History Book – starting April 1st, due April 15th. At least this is mostly typing, scanning, and layout.

Rose in the Dark – editing. Once it gets back from the readers on April 15th I have until April 30th to edit and polish the final draft.

Rose in the Dark should be released early in May. The history book has to be printed before May 5th for the event on May 9th. The diet book should be released in May. I’m hoping to do an author reading in May for Rose in the Dark.

Phew. So if I’m absent for a while forgive me. I’m trying not to drown in writing for the next two months.

Project Updates

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 Rough Draft 2 Beta Report

Phew, that was a long title. Sometimes I wish I had chosen a shorter title for this novel because typing it out everywhere is a pain. BUT it’s perfect for the book and it’s officially too late to change it now.

Let’s go back a few steps. I FINISHED DRAFT 2!! And ahead of schedule. I actually got it back from the beta a day before I was scheduled to give it to him. That made me feel pretty good because for a while there I thought I’d be a week behind schedule.

The edits included add 2 scenes to the very beginning of the novel to add a better baseline as to who this character was before everything happens to her. A further dozen scenes had to be rewritten, tweaked, rearranged, or extended. Then came the hardest part – 18 consecutive scenes that had to be written from scratch, including adding a first, unsuccessful attempt. After that an entire series of scenes had to be deleted and rewritten – only a few paragraphs per scene, if that, were salvageable given the new events that were added and the new feel of the characters. And then suddenly I was on the last ten pages and all that was left were a few little scenes to add and some new details thrown into the epilogue and BAM she was done.

Strange how the ending sneaks up on you.

Then I went into wait mode and tried not to message the beta reader every few hours. “Have you read it?” “How about now?” “How far are you?” … I hate waiting. But he got back to me fairly quick, considering that it is a YA novel and he’s an adult it would be an easy read for him, except for the subject matter.

Here’s some of what he said:

Well I have read Casia Schreyer’s – “Nothing Everything Nothing” now four times over. This rather wrenching story about social media, teenage depression and suicide manages to capture the true malaise of depression. Struggling with depression for most of my life from when I was a teen, I have read many novels concerning this topic. Usually finding myself annoyed at how little writers seem to know, what depressed people really say and think. Not so in this case, in this case I was annoyed at the fact that it was captured in enough detail and realism ( no hype for hypes sake ) that it scratched those feeling of despair and hopelessness very few truly understand.

Wow okay … so I have read this over a few times and I am struck at first, at the lack of typos … only one repeated line might have meant to do that so I highlighted it But spelling and grammar aside … hear is my take. 1. Do not forget me when you hit the big time. 2 It is kind of unusual that I hear depressed folks in books actual sound depressed. Molly captured that and the slow detailed build up will be familiar to anyone suffering this condition. The pace is actually a little depressing, you know its coming and you just want it over with. Exactly like how one feels as they begin to slide into the abyss. It was painful to watch her friends turn against her and the deliberateness of it all made it uncomfortable to read. Pretty soon you kind feel like those things said to her are really directed at you… in other words you made me feel not like I was reading about Molly.. you made me empathize with her, not an easy task. Sympathy is easy to draw forth from a reader. But here you either become Molly and if not Molly herself you find yourself wanting to save her.
I would like to note that it feels near the end that Molly still has a long long struggle ahead … even though it’s better there is that feeling like she will have to fight for her stability … not sure if that was intention or I’m projecting
I really wish you were a worse writer .. I usually have a list of NO’s and that’s all wrong – BTW some folks from the East just PM’d asking me where they can get a copy

Everything I tried to do with this book, my beta picked up on. I’ve never been depressed but I read a lot of blogs and articles trying to get a feel for the truth behind all the stereotypes. I wanted people who have gone through this to be able to relate. I want people who have never gone through this to understand it. But I didn’t want to push people into it by glorifying it. A hard line to walk.

I’m happy with the review so far so I’ve sent it to the proofreader for grammar and spelling. That will take longer because of the reader. Any further edits required will take only moments and then I’ll be sending it off to some agents.

Actually, my beta knows a guy in the business who might like the book, so he’s sending it along on my behalf. It may already be in an agents reading pile, I don’t know.

Sigh…. did I mention that I hate waiting?

Still, I wanted to try to do this the traditional way because I am impatient. I want to wait. I want to force myself through this long process. I’m all prepared (except for the confusing tax stuff) to publish on my own so I’m going to canvas agents first. Maybe I’ll snag a long-term working relationship, maybe I’ll still end up going the indie route. I don’t know yet.

Nothing, Everything, Nothing – Update

I finished my novella at just under 40k and sent it off to a close friend for a good read through. I was so pleased with the response that I have to share it here:

Dearest Casia, I have read this now 3 times and am having a terrible time editing it … to be honest having suffered from depression for a great deal of my life I didn’t feel that the severity of the angst of a teen confronting this illness was adequately relayed. I had to put it down and really lay aside my own experiences and reread it coming form the prospective of a teenage girl living in the time of Facebook. I am always astonished by your writing, the characters are really engaging, the conversations so real sometimes I forget we are in a book going somewhere. I find myself wanting to get to know more about who mom, or Marlee are as individuals, sometimes even more than I am about where the story itself is going. If that says anything at all it is that you need to be writing novels. you need a much broader canvas. In the end however it feels like an outline, like there is a deeper darker story here, as a reader I felt denied. As a friend I can tell you this is the hardest topic to write about, I have not succeeded. I think that takes a courage and vulnerability I am not graced with. After reading your story I found myself incredibly upset over Rehtaeh Parsons and Megan Meier (again) and outraged at the number of similar stories. This is why its important to write about. Spell and gram check says its okay… you seriously don’t want me checking that

As you can see, not exactly a glowing “Go publish that puppy” sort of review, but it may be the most helpful set of comments I’ve ever received. Taking the first comment to heart, I was worried that the experiences, and there for the depth of the suffering, of the main character were rushed. That ties in to the next critical comment – that it felt like an outline and that it should be longer.
Well, there’s something I can do about that and I’ve spent days contemplating and outlining and I think I have a better grasp of the story now. I’m not yet ready to edit it, there is more I want to consider and work through before I tackle the story itself, mainly the bulimic best-friend sub-plot, but I feel confident that the story is now headed in the right direction.

As for the comment that there is “a deeper darker story here”, I think there is too, but I was afraid to write it. I was afraid of scaring off the reader. But if pussy-footing around the hard truth of this character’s experiences is going to leave the reader feeling denied, then I’m going to have to face the darkness and write what needs to be written.

There is a quote for writers, something about “killing your darlings”, which means not being afraid to cut out your favourite scenes, lines, or even characters, if they serve no purpose in the story. There will be some of that when I edit, I’m sure. But I think most of what I have is salvageable for the rewrite.

I’m glad I took the time to get a second opinion before releasing the novella (which may really turn out to be a full 60-80k novel) to the public. I don’t think I would have been happy with it, or its reception. Now I have the chance to make it what it can be, what it should be, and what I am capable of allowing it to be.

BIG Projects in the Works

I have two massive deadlines looming all of a sudden. Two windows of opportunity have opened and I’m going to try a double-jump and get through them both without crashing into the glass.

First, there is a script writing competition that closes on August 8th – OR – when they reach 200 entries. And last night they were almost at 100. So I have to MOVE.

Second, a good agent just opened up to submissions and I have a romance novel she might like – except it’s still a first draft. That means typing the second draft (the first draft is hand written), doing all the edits, and putting the submissions package together by August 31 because she closes her submission window on September 1.

Third, the script writing contest only requires 3-5 sample scenes (along with a summary and a screen treatment) so once the romance novel is done and sent I have to finish the script. The story is DONE already, I just have to transfer it from prose to script. And winners are notified around November 14th so I have to have it done ASAP in September, just in case.

If I get picked as one of the five winners I’ll be spending A LOT of time on rewrites and marketing stuff for that project over the next year. The only other thing I’ll be working on is that romance novel series IN CASE it gets picked up by the agent.

Of course it’s more likely that neither will get a bite and I’ll be back to the drawing board.

In any event, I’ll be absent for a few days as I complete the script package. But, here’s the logline for the script:

As global superpowers unleash hundreds of deadly viruses, a Chicago art teacher backs a revolution to prevent a dystopian future from becoming a dark reality.

Any comments or suggestions? I’m not 100% happy with it yet. But off I go to get it all done.

Camp Nano and Other Updates

It’s nearing the end of April and that means the end of National Novel Writing Month’s first Camp Nano of the year is coming to an end. With my birthday and Easter both landing in April this year, as well as coming into the month way behind on the house work, I opted out of the challenge this month. To all the crazy Nanoers out there who are attempting, best of luck on the home stretch!

In other news, I’ve been absent from my blog for two reasons: I don’t have home internet, I have to use my grandmother’s connection, but that should be fixed this spring. Second, I was hired by a publisher to put out a series of romance novels under the pen name Megan Faust and part of the contract was blogging five times each week on Megan’s blog. That kept me too busy to update my own blog (unfortunately).

I can’t promise how often I’ll be able to update but I’m hoping for once each week. I have plans for several blog entries, and series, on the craft of writing, the challenges of writing, and creating in general, when you have preschool aged children, and the minefield of freelance writing that I’ve been attempting to navigate this past year.

Checking in

Yeah, it’s been a while. I’m sorry.

Thanksgiving was great. November was Nano and yes I got 50k, but not a lot more than that. I spent December knitting – a very productive month. Plus Christmas (5 events in 1 week) and New Year’s (movie and video games until 3am) and I’m only just getting caught up on my sleep.

Megan Faust has published two romance novellas available on Amazon. Full Throttle: Race to Redemption and Full Throttle: Race to Recovery with Full Throttle: Race to Romance set for release at the end of February.

I have been working on a side project, a fantasy romance that I hope to sell to a bigger publisher but it’s been slow going. All my writing has been slow. I did so much in November that I’m feeling drained. I thought a month of family and knitting would reset my creative clock but it hasn’t. Doesn’t help that Race to Romance is dragging and the other book is in the mid-project slump.

On top of all those creative endeavours I’m potty training my two-year-old, trying to keep my two kids from killing each other during a two week cold snap, and trying to keep up with the housework. That’s harder than it sounds when the occasional creative streak and the more frequent case of winter blues keep me from the work that needs doing.

Still, it’s not a bad life I’ve settled into. I’m happy, for the most part, and I’m still creating, even if it’s not writing at the moment.

And I need to say happy birthday to my mom who would have been 51 on the 8th of January. Instead she is 49 forever. You don’t realize what a blessing it is to get old until you realize that some people never get the chance.

I have kids to feed.