Category Archives: Books I write

Results for This Year’s Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

Some of you might know that this year, for the second time, I have submitted one of my books with the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. As in last year, I haven’t won anything.

But once again the grades and the feedback from the judges was amazing!

Here are the results:

Entry Title: 5 Minute Perseverance Game: Play Daily for a Month and Become the Ultimate Procrastination Breaker

Author: Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Judge Number: 39

Entry Category: Inspirational

A few quick notes~

  • Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.
  • The 1-5 scale is strictly to provide a point of reference; the scores are meant only to be a gauge, and are not a cumulative score, nor are they tallied or used in ranking.
  • A “0” is not a negative score. Our online review system only recognizes numerals during this portion of logging evaluations.As a result, we’ve substituted a “0” 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, a cookbook, or a travel guide would not necessarily have a “Plot and Story Appeal, and may therefore receive a “0” – indicating that the rating was not applicable.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 5

Plot and Story Appeal: 0

Character Appeal and Development: 0

Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary (Judge, 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards):

5 MINUTE PERSEVERANCE GAME by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels is an inspiring book that, if followed, will help people with the tendency to put projects off to accomplish their goals in five-minute increments. The style of writing is friendly and non-judgmental and will uplift those who read it with its encouragement alone. I like how the author feels like a buddy as well as a teacher. This book is suitable for all ages, so whether you’re an adult finally admitting you procrastinate, or if you are a parent with a child you need to encourage to get things done (such as cleaning their space!) then this book can be useful. The cover design is colorful and creative. The slimness of the volume will encourage people who need the book. After all, it takes more than reading to tackle a problem! The call to action on the back will get readers moving. I like the author bio and picture. Her background is intriguing and we feel we can trust her to help us! For some reason, this book seems to scream for illustrations. We read 18 pages before getting to the actual game, though I do appreciate the encouraging talk. The game itself isn’t really a game, but simply the suggestion of working in five-minute increments to accomplish a task. But the buildup will help motivate readers, and that’s a good thing!”


You can imagine my excitement and motivation when I saw that my book got graded as outstanding in all relevant categories in its genre. The commentary it got gave me more insight what the judge found valuable.

I am immensely grateful to all who helped this book come true. Some of these supporters got a separate e-mail from me with the news some time ago. But I would like again to shout out to the brilliant editor and amazing cover designer for this book, Alice Jago, who is also an exceptional illustrator. I am excited that we will continue working on many future projects together. If you are a self-publishing writer and look for a cover designer or illustrator for your book, I strongly recommend Alice’s services.

A small spoiler-alert: the next book on gamification will have illustrations also inside the book. With this, I am following the judge’s advice above. I can’t wait to see how this will evolve. The content development is well on the way. Check out the following categories on the Self-Gamification blog to find out more:

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 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.”


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. 😉



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 ( 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.


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