Monthly Archives: February 2016

“Nothing is As it Seems” Chapter 13

Elizabeth took a deep breath and typed, “What happened?…And how?”

At first Claire didn’t type anything.

Elizabeth turned to look at her mother. Maybe she was so exhausted that she fell asleep.

But no, Claire looked in front of her. Deep breaths reflected the heaviness of all what happened. She paused some more before her hands started moving again across the keyboard. “You were five and Patrick was nine when this happened. You were already so good at reading that we were able to communicate on our own. I wrote with a pen on a notebook. You used to rip the note away and sit near me on the bed and read the notes out loud. Then I would write again, and you would read again.”

Elizabeth was mesmerized by a vision. She held a piece of paper in her hands, her mother behind her leaning on what looked like tens of pillows to hold her up in her bed. She wasn’t sure whether this was a memory or a wish to have experienced such tender times.

Her mother continued to type. “On the day you fell both Patrick and you were in my room. Your father had to leave that Sunday because of an incident at work and a baby-sitter he managed to get for the rest of the day did not come yet. You were playing being a doctor and treating me. You prepared healing mixtures of candy and juice. But I couldn’t possibly eat it. Patrick teased you of not being able to understand my condition.”

“He said I was stupid,” said Elizabeth out loud.

“…Do you recall now?”

Elizabeth shook her head and typed, feeling a deepening frown make her eyes hurt. “No. He said it downstairs in the kitchen today. That he pushed me off the roof because I was stupid.”

“Please, please don’t say…or write this anymore. He didn’t push you. He just suffers of all what happened as much as I do and…as much as you father did.”

Elizabeth used some force to push her brows apart and sighed. “OK. I’m sorry. Please continue, if it is OK with you.”

“Yes, yes! I want this out and not stand between us anymore. This is what happened. You asked how you could help and I wrote you a note. It was the last note I have written with a pen. I couldn’t touch a pen after you fell.”

“What was on that note?”

“Please come and turn my keyboard.”

Elizabeth stood, put her keyboard full of smiley-stickers — not able to make her smile anymore — onto the chair she was sitting on. She went to Claire and after glancing shortly into her mother’s eyes, which had an expression so warm but so difficult to describe, she took the keyboard from Claire’s lap and found a note attached to the back with adhesive tape at two of its edges. She took it carefully off and put the keyboard back onto Claire’s lap.

Elizabeth noticed Claire fingers typing again. She turned to the wall to read what that was.

“Alice attached it there for me. I hoped all the time you would come and we would talk about this. My wish is coming true, but I had never imagined it to be so hard…If you like you can take the note with you and read it later.”

Elizabeth shook her head. She was unable to speak. She came back to her chair, lifted the keyboard, set and put the keyboard onto her lap. Then she opened the note and read it. Five words written in big and clumsy letters stared back at her. “Only stars can help me.”

This was the moment when she remembered. She remembered everything what happened that evening until the moment she hit something hard as she flew off the roof.


Elizabeth took this note everywhere with her that day. She put it into one of pockets of her red jeans, which she loved wearing then. When it was time to put her night cloths on, she took the note out and put it under her pillow.

Her father must have not noticed the note because he didn’t ask her about it. He read to her Snow White, one of her favourites, what must have been a hundredth time, and tucked the duvet under her chin as she lay there on her pillow with her mother’s note beneath it.

“Papa, can one get everything he wishes?”

Her father, with dark rings around his eyes, pressed a smile. “If one tries hard enough.”

“Even stars?”

He looked at his watch and said without looking at her. “I suppose.”

Elizabeth remembered now how she smiled then under her breath and made a decision to get a star for Mama.

She closed her eyes, waited until her father went out of her room and closed the door. She waited some more then tip-toed to the door opening it quietly.

Patrick had another half an hour before he had to go to bed too. And it sounded like he was in his room, which was at the other side of her mother’s.

Little Liza took her woollen jumper and pulled it over her head. There was almost no evening, even in summers that Elizabeth didn’t have a warm jacket or a jumper on. Evenings always had a freezing effect on her. She almost smiled now as this memory appeared. But then more rushed after it.

She went to the small roof window at the end of the hallway, where she loved to sit and gaze and imagine she was Rapunzel. That is why she refused her hair being trimmed or cut in any way.

She opened the window and set on the sill, which reached both sides from the window. She put her feet on the outer half of the sill and pulled herself on her feet.

“Liza, what are you doing?” Patrick’s head appeared at the bottom of the window.

“I am getting a star for Mama. She said they can help her.”

Patrick smirked. “You’re so stupid! You can’t get a star. Nobody can.”

“Papa said I can, if I try hard enough. And he’s cleverer than you!” She turned and wanted to stomp her right foot to make her point clear. But then she missed the sill and fell.

Before she hit something hard with her head and all went dark, she heard Patrick’s outcry, “Liza, no!”


Now, so many years later, Elizabeth blinked tears away and looked at her mother. She whispered, “It was an accident. Just an accident.” She shook her head. All her life she thought that something big and significant happened before she forgot everything. But nothing really happened. Just a naïve little girl trying to please her mother, normal bickering between a sister and a brother, and parents tired of the circumstances they were in. That was all. Or maybe not? “Did I break anything, or was I paralyzed?” She said this out loud. She could not type anymore.

He mother took a deep breath and typed. Elizabeth turned to the wall to read. “Miraculously nothing happened except a large haematoma on your head from hitting the edge of the roof as you fell down. You must have fallen on the bushes outside and rolled off them onto the ground .”

Elizabeth waited. She didn’t want to turn to look at her mother anymore. She couldn’t shake off the anger of all the weight this story had put on her. Almost as if she was her mother sitting in her wheel-chair now and not her mother’s daughter.

More words appeared on the wall. “You had been brought to the hospital. One evening your father came and said that you had amnesia and couldn’t remember anything. He said that it couldn’t go any further that way. That he was going to put me into a nursery home, take you and Patrick and leave. He didn’t want that you or Patrick be hurt any further.”

Elizabeth sat now straighter on her chair. So her father didn’t say these words in her presence. She frowned. Or maybe he did. At her bed when she was unconscious in the hospital. Elizabeth shook her head. There was not point now in trying to figure it all out. She was only five then. Even without amnesia, there was not big guarantee that she would remember much from then. The only person who could tell her whether this was true or not was her father. And he was gone. So she shook her head again and waited for more.

“Unfortunately Patrick heard this conversation and started shouting at Kirill that he hated him and that it was him who hurt you, because he told you could get stars…Patrick then ran out of the house and to our neighbour’s Christine home. She came short time later, after your father left the room, with trembling Patrick along with her.” Claire paused, then continued typing. “She was the sweetest and the strongest person I knew. Alice reminds me of her. Christine went to your father and said that Patrick was not going anywhere because he didn’t want to and it wouldn’t benefit anyone if courts were involved.”

“So Papa took me and left. Just like that?”

“You were at the hospital when he left. And you never came back home after that. He packed his and your things and left. We never found out where to.”

“Germany,” Elizabeth said and then threw this mental thread away. This was not important now. She needed to know something else. “But…but what about you?”

“Christine and her two sons, both older than Patrick, moved with us and she rented her house to a befriended family. Through the rent from her house and her job and later thanks to her sons earning some additional money at various cafes and restaurants, and them all putting all the money into the family jar as we called our common bank account, we made it through. Until Jack and Tim left for college, and until Christine’s death several years later. She died from cancer here in the house. She refused to stay at the hospital for her final days. This is when she, Patrick and I had the idea to shelter people like her. She talked to her sons and with their agreement she left Patrick and me all she owned, so that we could finance our idea. Jack and Tim became lawyers and started a Christine & Claire fund, where they get — also today — as many means as possible for our idea.” There was a pause. Claire must have waited for Elizabeth to say something.

But she couldn’t. This happy ending for Claire and Patrick and the house was not her story. She was an outsider. And the person who torn her away from her mother and her brother was the person she idolized all her conscious life. Her conscious lie after the fall, as she realized now. Without looking at Claire — she simply couldn’t do it now — Elizabeth typed. “I have to go now. I am sorry.” She stood, put the keyboard back on the chair, then the note on it and left the room.

As she stepped out and closed the door she noticed Patrick sitting on the floor in front of the window, from which she fell off that night. He raised his head from his knees and looked at her with red, tired eyes.

Elizabeth paused. The memory she gained and all she heard today didn’t quite imply their closeness when they were children. And even if it was obvious that he suffered all those years, it was not her job to comfort him now. She needed comfort herself and this house was definitely not the place where she could find it. She looked once again into Patrick’s eyes then turned away and hurried down the stairs and out of this strange house.



Picture: Photographing the frozen and melted parts of the lawn in our garden. It’ amazing to see the touch of the sun so clearly.

P.S. Chapter 14 will be written and posted latest in two weeks time.

P.P.S. You can find the complete story written so far at “Free Online Books”.

P.P.P.S. If you think your friends might enjoy this story, then let them know about it and forward it to them.

Everything except one paragraph (1st paragraph in Chapter 1) of “Nothing is As it Seems” is under copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Optimist Wirter’s Business News: February 2016


Dear friends and colleagues,
(we are all colleagues, whatever we do, since we often face similar situations in our working lives)

In terms of business activities, February month was full of re-thinking, re-evaluation, as well as continuation of work on the Optimist Writer’s own projects. I will summarize this in a list:

  • The has been under restructuring and modifications. For example its homepage now reflects the three major topics I blog and write about and also it reflects the dynamic of weekly posts on each topic. Earlier the static view of the homepage didn’t reveal how much was happening inside “Blog” and “Resources”.
  • I am working right now on two e-books which will be offered for free download on my site. One of them (fiction) is 99% ready for compilation, and another (non-fiction, a guide) is under revision. Both should be ready for download in March. If you are already subscribed to this site then I will send you the link from where you will be able to download both e-books.
  • I am adjusting services I am offering. S1000D services have been comprised in two: “Conveying S1000D Knowledge” and “Assistance in developing step-by-step S1000D implementation strategy”.
  • Further, I have developed a special coaching course program for writers, which is directed on training business skills as well as learning how to persevere and stay consistent and focused in the business of writing.
  • Language coaching for non-native speakers has been added to the service assortment. I have experience of facing and learning foreign languages since my childhood and I even learned my mother tongue as one would a foreign language. I can help to face the challenges with a new language, because I experienced similar situations and because I think languages and language learning can be fun.
  • My blog has now three categories instead of two. Additionally to Writing and Business, there is now the third major category devoted to S1000D® (International specification for technical publications using a common source data base). This is such a specific topic that it deserves to be considered on its own.
  • The project developed right now in frames of S1000D blog category is the S1000D Business Rules Step-by-Step Guide. I update it once a week, and it is well on the way in respect to the set of the Business Rules Decisions Points (BRDPs) related to coding of various S1000D information objects. I have defined a number of additional BRDPs to cover implied decisions points, which are not yet explicitly defined in S1000D. My guess is that there will be a number of other BRDPs to add.
  • Externally I am currently either in planning phase or carrying out projects and working with customers directly (or as a sub-contractor) in respect to S1000D, language teaching, and coaching for writers.

I am excited to see what the coming month will bring. I wish you all success and fun in all your endeavours.

February 2016 News on writing by Optimist Writer

Dear friends,

The longer than usual but shortest in the year month is coming slowly to its end. Although it is short, my life is busy and filled in with projects, so that I caught myself recently wondering whether I am mistaken, that what happened since the last newsletter in January didn’t happen in one but in two or more months. I can’t quite believe that only two months have passed this year. It is wonderful to be productively busy.

Here is February news in respect to writing. The other will follow in frame of business newsletter.

I shared this news already, but still: “Seven Broken Pieces”, prequel to series “A Life Upside Down” came out on January 30. I will present it along with my other two books at my author’s talk on March 2nd at the South Gate Society (SGS) School of Creative Writing  here in Aalborg. So, if you are close to Aalborg on that day, come and join me. It will be wonderful! But if you don’t manage to come, then I will let you know what happened in the next month’s newsletter.

I started two giveaways (the first in my life and my writing career): one for “The Truth About Family” on Facebook (I will announce the winner today) and the other on Goodreads for “A Spy’s Daughter” (continues until March 13). More will follow, but these first baby steps in marketing and sharing one’s books are pretty exciting.

Most of the busy times I referred to in respect to writing have to do with the progress of the books I write. “Nothing is As it Seems” is close to its resolution and my guess is that in March we will read “THE END” there. “Cheerleading for Writers” got several articles including one on Characters.

I’ve revised and had edited twice my first short story posted initially back in 2013. This story is called today “Between Grace and Abyss” and it will be available soon for free download here on my site. If you are already subscribed to this site and to the writing blog and news, then I will send it to your per e-mail as soon as it is up and running.The book cover for this e-book is done as well. My wonderful cover designer Alice Jago did again an amazing job. I decided to reveal the cover in this post below.

Oh, I almost forgot, I have given an interview to Samuel Mork Bednarz, a student at the SGS and responsible for SGS podcasts. You can watch one of the episodes here. The interview with me will be soon available on YouTube. This interview was quite an exciting experience. And I am curious to see the result soon.

Have a wonderful month of March. It is quite special in Moldova. And I will of course write about this.

Between Grace & Abyss - cover V4

Picture: E-book cover for “Between Grace and Abyss”, created by amazing Alice Jago.

Cheerleading for Writers: C – Characters

There are wonderful resources on how to create great characters. There are books and articles. There are unforgettable characters in literature to tap and learn from.

All this enchants me. But also scares. Or even terrifies at times.

I should learn more, I should learn more. The thought use to whirl in my head like a tornado.

Ever since I heard “It’s all about characters.” and “If the reader can’t sympathize with your character then your book is doomed.” I’ve been scared that the characters I create are not good enough. And since I saw my reflection in them, then I wasn’t good enough either.

Things that happen when writers dive into the world of their characters. Yes, as I was going through checklists of what makes a great character, I started scrutinizing and criticizing my characters. But there were also gaps in time when I forgot my worries and forgot those warnings. I just wrote and was inside my characters’ world. I worried about them, I argued with them. Hmm, actually not quite. Some of them started arguing with me in my head. All by themselves. I had to put some of them to task before they started showing their nature to me. Some became my friends.

And some of them brought people to life who are long gone.

To write about my father was one of the biggest gifts I gave myself. To write about time in his life that I would never have a chance witnessing was unexpectedly rewarding.

An amazing thing happened when I started writing “The Truth About Family” — based on a true story of my father — from the first person. That was strange to do and at first I was writing his story in the third person. Changing to point of view to the first person brought him to life and his younger self started talking to me. Sometimes it felt like he was dictating the words to me. My father became my friend, just as I always wanted and thought was not possible since I was ten, when he died.

But also purely fictional characters in my books — reflecting those I love, meet and cherish, as well as myself — became friends, and their destiny became important to me.

As I started observing myself in the process of writing and especially in the process of self-editing, a few curious things happened.

Characters are real. I was reading how my protagonist Hannah in “A Spy’s Daughter” was telling something about her past to another character, and I caught myself thinking, “Oh, this happened to me too!” Then I had to laugh. Of course it did! I wrote this.

Some time later, as I was preparing “A Spy’s Daughter” for publication, my friend Corky, Corinne Rockweiler, whom I met at a conference in Budapest in 2008 and hold dear ever since, sent me a memoir written by her father, where he talks fondly about his wife, who before their marriage used to work at the CIA.

Right after discovering this I wrote to Corky in an e-mail (which I titled Coincidences and other wonderful matters), “Wow, your mother worked with the CIA! I exclaim because of two reasons. Well, not everyday someone works at the CIA. And the second reason is that the mother of the protagonist in my second book (which will be first in a series and which will be published hopefully until the end of this year) was also with the CIA. :)”

After hitting Send, I realized that my protagonist was a fictional character and facts about her were not really facts. So I wrote to Corky, “It’s funny how I talk about my characters as if about real people. ;)”

Corky’s response was so motivating and uplifting. “I often get attached to characters in a book! No reason you shouldn’t see them as real people since you ‘gave birth’ to them :)”

This was a true light bulb to me. My characters are real because I am real!

Why a writer frowns during self-edit. One day during self-edit, I found myself frowning. I love referring to this discovery often. It was amazing and revealing for me. As I considered my frown, I realized that I wasn’t frowning because I was squinting from the loud voice in my head judging my writing as it happens ever so often. I realized that I was frowning because Hannah, my character, frowned too. Because she was in a tough situation at that point of her story and I truly felt for her. I noticed myself adding a few touches to the scene intensifying and making the scene sharper and more vivid.

Observe yourself without judging. You already heard me suggesting this many times, and you will hear me say it again and again.

Observe yourself when you read your writing. And do this without judging yourself.

Then you might discover that although you didn’t explicitly describe some of the character traits of your protagonist or antagonist, you still see and feel them clearly. And in the next moment you understand that they will be as visible for your readers. In their own colours, shades and with their preferred or least liked eye colour and other features, but still very vivid.

Your characters are real because you are real.


Picture: my daughter Emma rearranging creams and widgets in my bathroom drawer. Her sweet traits will definitely find their way into my characters’ personalities.

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

How I wrote “A Spy’s Daughter”

Here is an excerpt from a note to the reader at the end of “A Spy’s Daughter”:

“For many different reasons, writing this book was very special for me. It was like playing with several sets of LEGO® at the same time. Here is what I mean by this.

Imagine you buy several sets of LEGO, let’s say a car, a castle, and a ship. You build each of them as shown in the instructions. You love playing with them and enjoy each part of them. Then you disassemble them and build out of all, or most of, the pieces something new: a spaceship, with wheels, that resembles a castle.

This is exactly what I did with this book and am doing with the whole series. It is pure fiction, but many of the scenes did happen, either to me or to others I know of have heard of. The characters are also patched together from myself and the people I know and cherish, including our stories. You can see it in the first pages of the book, with the names of the two sisters, Victoria and Svetlana. These are the names of myself and my sister. The other given names I attributed to these characters also reflect how I feel about them. My sister is pure joy to be around and to interact with. So the character’s name is Svetlana Joy. And my sister is smaller than me, so she’s younger in the book. The age gap between the characters is almost the same as between my sister and me, although in reality my sister is the elder of us.

My husband played the wish-cake joke on me (although he didn’t name it the wish-cake. He baked the cake, put the candles on it and said, “Make a wish and blow out the candles”). And he is from the former GDR (Eastern Germany). Two different characters in the book had each of these details attributed to them.

It was an immense pleasure to play with the real “building set” available to me from the details of my life and people I know, as well as the imaginary one I discovered every time I sat down to write this book.”

“A Spy’s Daughter”, Copyright © 2015 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels


Picture: These magnets are featured in “A Spy’s Daughter” and play a small but a special role there.

P.S. The prices for e-books “The Truth About Family” and “A Spy’s Daughter” on are back to normal. But they are still at the very affordable $2.99. 🙂 “Seven Broken Pieces” remains at $0.99. The pictures below link to the books on If you would like to find the books on or, or CreateSpace, then please see here.


front cover - seven broken pieces