Category Archives: Books I write

Every New Book is the First One

I used to think that if not writing itself then at least the rest of the process of bringing a book into the world will become more and more routine with each new book.

But it doesn’t look like that at all. I am working on my books nine, ten and eleven these days and I must say the work on them differs very much from those before and between each other.

One of the books I work on this year, and which is being edited by a professional editor right now, took me four months to write and one whole year to revise it.

It is not my first non-fiction book and not my first work where I made research, contemplations, and developed concepts. However, every step in creating this book, both writing, and editing felt like it was the very first one. Every bit of the process requested me to think out of the box, made me feel creatively uncomfortable, and made me exclaim, “It was never that way before!”

The paradox of wishing some calm of known, of a routine and at the same time longing for new and exciting accompanies me every time I work on my books.

I do feel challenged and feel an urge to complain. But when I slow down and look honestly at what is happening, I don’t want the whole process to occur in any other way.

I want each book to be new and exciting. In truth, I want it to be unknown, however scary this process might be.

And as long as I want it this way, I guesstimate that it will be like that.

What about you and your writing projects? Does each of them surprise you in any way? If yes, then how? If no, did you look close enough? Or non-judgmentally enough?

Picture: My children never stop surprising me. Here is my sweet little girl at the past New Year’s Eve party, claiming that the hat she was wearing was a bike helmet.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Thrilled to Report on Amazing Feedback for the Series “A Life Upside Down”: A Review on Amazon and a Commentary from a Contest

The second and the third books I published since I started my self-publishing career make a part of a series “A Life Upside Down”. These books are a novella and a short story. The former is “A Spy’s Daughter” and is the Book 1 in the series and the second is “Seven Broken Pieces”, which is the Prequel (or Book 0) to the series.

Within the past three weeks, these two books have received a very encouraging feedback.

First, I was let know by a fellow writer on the following 5 star review on Amazon.com for the “Seven Broken Pieces”:

“I liked this writers story, different & original. It is a prelude to a series which should be very interesting. Her life changed because of a misunderstanding of expectations, kind of sad but she does not let it ruin her and her journey as far as this short story goes is gripping. Read it one sitting – held my interest completely. Looking forward to the next book.”

front cover - seven broken pieces

And then just a few days ago I got another message.

A little back story for this before I share the feedback I received.

On March 15th of this year, I have submitted “A Spy’s Daughter” to Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Contest. I had a wish to submit one of my books there a year before that, when I was preparing my very first book “The Truth About Family” for publication. Back then my book wasn’t published yet, but by the time the contest was announced this year, I had three books published: a novel, a novella and a short story. So when I saw the announcement in the beginning of this year I decided to give it a try.

I will post the whole text of the e-mail below including the evaluation, because the ranks make the picture of this evaluation more complete, and also show where the book excelled and where it would have profited from some improvement. The brilliant contribution of all who helped me with this book is visible through these high grades as well.

The judge’s commentary from the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Contest is simply perfect. And not quite because of the praise or at least not only because of it, but because it showed me what was strong in this book and what in my writing could be improved. It also surprised me by the idea that the book would make a great screenplay. I used to think that I never liked reading screenplays. And now I happened to have written a book which could have made an “excellent” (as the reviewer wrote) one.

I am very much grateful to both reviewers, because their feedback contributes in my continuously growing motivation to further follow the way I have chosen for myself.

So here is the text of the e-mail that kept me awake with excitement in the night after I received it.

Entry: Title A Spy’s Daughter

Author: Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Judge Number: 69

Entry Category: Mainstream/Literary Fiction

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking. Our system only recognizes numerals during this portion of logging evaluations. As a result, a “0” is used in place of “N/A” when the particular portion of the evaluation simply does not apply to the particular entry, based on the entry genre. For example, a book of poetry or a how to manual, would not necessarily have a “Plot and Story Appeal and may therefore receive a “0”.

*If you wish to reference this review on your website, we ask that you cite it as such: “Judge, 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.” You may cite portions of your review, if you wish, but please make sure that the passage you select is appropriate, and reflective of the review as a whole.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 2

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 3

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot and Story Appeal: 3

Character Appeal and Development: 4

Voice and Writing Style: 3

Judge’s Commentary*:

I’m a big fan of spy fiction, and, until recently, it has been rare to see a strong female protagonist; John le Carré’s Charlie in THE LITTLE DRUMMER GIRL is one of the earliest to come to mind.  The thing I like most about Victoria Ichizli-Bartels’s A SPY’S DAUGHTER is that an interesting woman is at the center of the story.  It’s European setting and post-Soviet mood are also incredibly appealing.  Ichizli-Bartels does a good job of scene setting and character development.  My main issue with the book seems to be with its pacing.  The novel moves a little bit too swiftly for my taste, and it seems as though just when we’re getting into a chapter and settling in, the scene is cut off.  Perhaps I’m a bit too used to the kind of spy fiction that le Carré writes, which is slowly and deliberately paced.  The pacing here often feels perhaps a bit more suited to the screen than to the page—this would make an excellent screenplay.  But since this is also book one in a series, perhaps this issue would seem less noticeable when all of the books are read together.  Having said that, the book’s plot is fascinating, and the protagonist extremely well-drawn, which isn’t always the case with spy fiction.”

VIB-ASpysDaughter-EbookCover

Starting a New Online Fiction Project – Continuing the Series “A Life Upside Down”

Recently, I have finished writing and sharing with you, here on my blog, the “Cheerleading for Writers” project.

So now the blogging-a-creative-book space is free and I decided to offer it to fiction.

There are several books projects I started some time ago and left to pick up later.

I realized that the most challenging for me at this point of time would be to write “A President’s Sister”, the second book in the series “A Life Upside Down”.

There might many reasons, why it is most challenging. I guess the most prominent of those reasons is that I discuss this project quite a lot in my head, especially whether it is worth to write it now, when I have so many other projects to do. “But you are going to continue blogging on writing, so you might as well do it there,” my creative brain drops in.

Yes, I might as well do this and I will do.

I actually think now that it might be the best solution for this series. I remember how, when I was writing the first book “A Spy’s Daughter” and the prequel “Seven Broken Pieces”, there was a certain urgency to get the story out there, and at the same time realization that I needed to take time to elaborate each scene, so that the reader is captivated instead of being rushed through.

So blogging a book (or in other words writing and posting it bit by bit) in this series, might be a solution and I think it is worth to try.

In the next posts I will start posting chapters and/or scenes of this book. But I will also share the writing process with you and my experience during research and re-reading the books I have already written in this series.

I am actually gathering the experiences on the latter right now. I’ve read the prequel recently and read the book 1 these days, a chapter or so a day, and I must say the experience is very interesting. It is as though I am getting to know the person I was when I wrote those books. She is definitely a different person than the person I feel right now to be. Not better, not worse, just quite different. My brain does try to compare. But it is quite impossible, because the life moved and moved me with it. And now it is time to write a new book. 🙂

As soon as this second book in the series will be published, I will remove this first draft from my site, because it is only meant to share its creation process with you. Maybe I will keep the articles on the writing experience. But the story itself will be deleted as soon as its polished and improved version will be out there on Amazon and other retailers.

I had a great experience of undertaking a similar endeavour with “Nothing Is As It Seems” and enjoyed it very much. So I am doing this again and welcome you into this adventure with me! 🙂

Click on the title of this new project at the end of this sentence to read the short description of “A President’s Sister”. I will update this regularly to add all the links in relation to this project.

Picture: me and my sister Svetlana when were children. If you have read “A Spy’s Daughter” and happen to know both of us, then you might have recognized some of our traits (not all 😉 ) in both characters. My beautiful sister is on the right. A small anecdote about my love of being photographed as a child: I’ve been told to have thrown the toy you see in my hands into the photographer. 😉

16

 

Copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: Z – Zeal

This is the last article in “Cheerleading for Writers”. I hope you enjoyed the blog collection (which will become a book soon). It was a joy for me to write it. Writing it boosted my energy to work on my other projects.

For this last article I have chosen the word zeal.

Here is what Oxford Dictionaries (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/zeal) say on its definition online, “Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.”

And I think there is no better word to end this (future) book with.

Because this is what cheerleading is meant for: to motivate in finding, discovering, tanking this great energy and enthusiasm to pursue what we love to do.

I hope the articles in this series made you smile, helped you see how strong and amazingly creative you are. And especially, how unique! There is no one like you and no one can write your stories like you do. Only YOU can. Even somebody else’s stories, like fairy tales, if you tell them and put your perspective, your feelings, your thoughts into your retelling of them, the stories will be completely different. They will become your stories.

So, go on, soak up the life, its stories, its colours, take it all in, experience it, and share it with the world how you see and percept it. The light generated by your prism of seeing (and feeling) is one of a kind.

Happy, happy writing, dear writers friends!

 

Picture: Sweet poppy blooms in October. Plants are definitely some of the most zealous of creatures.

IMG_1506

“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: Y – Yearning and Yawning: The Alleged Yo-yo Effect of Curiosity

Here is one of the dialogs I had with myself about the powers that inspire us and bring us to places we had never expected visiting, before we dared to jump into the ocean of creativity.

“Passion, curiosity, searching and keeping an open mind for wonders, these all help us wake up in the morning and step into our days with enthusiasm.” The worrying me draws her brows together in spite of the positive statement she just made. She seems to need this facial movement to let her fully express what she is going to say next. “But what about those moments when we yawn, when we have had enough, and simply need a nap or another kind of break from our curiosity driven natures?”, she asks.

“What about them?”, the laid-back me raises her brows.

“Do they bring us back to the points where we where at the beginning, just like a Yo-yo does after reaching the top?”

“I don’t think so.”

“But it does feel like that all the time!” The worried me pulls her shoulders up. “We are often knocked off with exhaustion after reaching the top. All that elation lasts maybe a second, and then, Boom!, the head is empty again. Aren’t we supposed to move forward?”

“Hmm, it’s a good question.” The laid-back me leans back in her chair and puts her hand around the espresso cup standing on the table in front of her.

“I know!” The worried me leans forward and seems to want to crawl into my computer in an attempt to make the things go faster.

The laid-back me sips her coffee and says, “I have an idea. What if the creativity and the achievements connected with it are like a great cup of coffee? What if after drinking it up, you feel so wonderful that you are already looking forward to the next one. This is the next step you’ve been talking about.” The laid-back me takes another sip and continues. “At the same time you are aware that the coffee in a dirty cup with cold coffee stains won’t be as good as the one you just had. So you go and wash the cup. This is what the elation and euphoria about your achievement do. They wash and free your mind for the next portion of creative challenge. But before you, the cup, can have another coffee, you need to dry up and get warm again for the next portion of coffee.” The laid-back me finishes her espresso and stands up to wash her cup.

The worried me opens her eyes wide and notices herself leaning back in her chair.

Epilogue: Yawning is not an enemy of yearning to be creative. It is rather it’s partner, making sure that we get a break, get “washed”, warm and ready for the next creative leap forward.

P.S. Yawn became one of my favourite words after I read, at 24, a sweet tale in German, where a little baby yawned and caused the whole world to yawn, which according to the author was a good thing because on this day all went early to bed. This was the very first story I read in full in German language and it immediately became one of my favourite. Before this story, I thought of yawning as something unnecessary or even annoying, but after reading the story, which made me smile and feel unexpectedly and extremely happy, I now enjoy when people yawn around me.

Picture: Speaking so much of yawning — of course I had to search in stocks online for a picture of a someone yawning. I found this sweet puppy.

BarnImages: free high-resolution photography for your website, blog, app, and any other need. http://barnimages.com/

Credits: http://barnimages.com/

“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels