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.

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Review: Asylum

Asylum is a fantasy horror novel by Chantelle J.Z. Storm. I would recommend this book for teen audiences, and anyone who loves a scary fantasy.

The main character is a moody teenage girl named Kairyna. She has been living with her Aunt Helen for three years, ever since the death of her parents. Helen has taken a job as a housekeeper for Madame Sporra and moved Kairyna to Madame’s spooky mansion.

Kairyna is a book worm but the book she finds in the mansion will whisk her away to another world, answering her prayer for adventure. But of course the answer to our prayers isn’t always what we hope it to be and the adventure that Kairyna finds herself on is dangerous.

The majority of the story takes place in this other world with a small cast of varied characters, all of whom were, at one time, like Kairyna, looking for adventures beyond their boring existence. A few times you get pieces of what’s happening with Aunt Helen while Kairyna is off on her adventure.

I really enjoyed this book. The pacing was good and the story was spooky. The dialogue was really good, for the most part. There were a few places were things got a little too corny, but otherwise it was good. The tension in this book is not so much about who the bad guy will turn out to be but how Kairyna and her odd bunch of friends will twist their situation to their advantage while an unseen force relentlessly tries to kill them.

Most of the characters were enjoyable but I found 1 or 2 to be a little cliched. Kairyna herself is moody without being annoying and steps up to the challenges that appear before her. The story is told in 3rd person so there’s real tension as to whether Kairyna will survive to the end.

I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.

Review: The Portal Prophesies A Halloween Curse

A Halloween Curse is the second book in the Portal Prophecy series by C.A. King. This is a fantasy series for YA/NA readers.

This is an action packed story with decent pacing and interesting characters. The story is quite twisty and the characters are complex, even the bad guys.

There is a large cast of characters of varying magical abilities from a variety of worlds or dimensions. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of who they are and what they can do because you often go several chapters without hearing from someone.

The descriptions are good, and the imagery and detail is fantastic. The author has put a lot of thought into the double meanings and vague possibilities of all her prophesies, curses, and warnings.

I worry that some of her characters are becoming over-powered and that it may cause plot-failings later in the series but for now the team continues to grow in strength and numbers while the problems facing them grow in complexity. Also, there is tension between the members of the group and quite often the girls are frustrated by people not taking them seriously.

Over all I’m impressed with the series and the scope of this fictional world.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – Dragonfly

Dragonfly is a young adult paranormal romance by Alyssa Thiessen. You can find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Dragonfly-Alyssa-Thiessen/dp/0994021003/ (Please note this is not an affiliate link).

Dragonfly is a quick, easy read, but perfect for grades 8 and up. It’s clean, so no sex, no graphic violence, no major swearing. What really sets this book apart are the wings. No dragon, bat, or angel wings here. Not even hawks like the Maximum Overdrive stories by Patterson. No, this time we have dragonfly wings.

I read this book with my book club so the first week we read chapters 1-9. In our first discussion we were listing all the possibilities for how the main character, 18 year old Joshua Miller, had ended up with dragonfly wings. Born that way? Mutant? Science experiment? Alien? What? Halfway through the book and you still have no idea.

The plot of the book is people centered. It’s about Joshua, a boy who has always hidden from the world for as long as he can remember, a boy with no family, no friends, no connections. Until he meets Lexi. His connection with Lexi triggers a whole series of mishaps that lead him to the only piece of his past he remembers. And from there we find out everything that Joshua doesn’t know about himself.

The book follows that winning YA romance structure: bored rich girl, roguish bad boy, becoming friends when they shouldn’t. Lots of him holding back because he’s no good for her and her stubbornly holding on because she’s never met anyone like him. But it was still a fun book to read. Really, Joshua and Eric and Nik aren’t so bad, Lexi was my only complaint with the book.

I gave this book 4 stars and would recommend it to young readers and anyone who likes YA fiction. I’m looking forward to her second book, which is not tied in to Dragonfly in any way, titled Infusion.

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.