All posts by Ilsa

Lift-Off

Some of you know me pretty well.  Some of you don’t, so if you’re bopping by for the first time, here’s the skinny.

I’ve had a really rough couple of years. No need for the gory details, but let’s just say that I moved to a place where I don’t feel at home yet and been kind of spinning my wheels. I must’ve started, what, six books? No…wait…seven, yeah.

In moments of clarity, I knew what was wrong. I had a bad case of soldier’s heart, which is what they used to call PTSD way back in the Civil War. They also called it nostalgia, because soldiers had intrusive memories of what they’d left behind and just couldn’t stop looking over their shoulders.

Well, I’ve been doing that, looking over my shoulder at what I’ve left behind—until this past January when first Jordan Dane and then Elle James popped into my inbox with an offer which forced me to look ahead and I’d be batshit crazy to refuse.

Today, you and I get a chance to see what’s come of all that with the launch of BROTHERHOOD PROTECTORS Kindle World

and my entry, SOLDIER’S HEART: PART ONE.

Let me tell you, I had fun writing this and even more, with the possibilities I see opening up.  Not only will there be a Parts Two (Sept., 2017) and Three (Jan., 2018), but I can foresee three separate series fanning out, too.

More importantly, I’ve met some wonderful people and a terrifically supportive community.

So that’s all awesome–but this has also been quite the education in the world of self-pub: not just keeping to my deadline, which I can do because I’m accountable only to me, but finding folks who are good at what they do–designing covers, copy-editing–and can stick to a schedule.  It’s been an education in terms of outlay and resources.  It’s been a challenge all the way around.

Yet I’m glad to have this opportunity to try something I’ve never done.

So, guys, this is a big step for me and here’s how you can help, if you’ve a mind.

One of the biggest hurdles for any author, traditionally published or otherwise, is gaining eyeballs. A writer needs visibility. A rating or review on Amazon is invaluable, and very much appreciated. Honest reviews and ratings boost a book’s placement in searches which, in turn, increases the number of those all-important eyeballs.

So, please help out. Rate or review this book, and be honest. Really. This is why God invented cocktails.

And if you do take a chance and try SOLDIER’S HEART, thank you, truly, for giving me some of your time. We all have only just so many hours in the day. I hope you find my work worth a couple of yours.

 

Showing Up

I came across this article on writers and settling down to write, and how this particular writer gets himself in the mood or zone to write . . . and I’m thinking, well, I guess everyone’s different.  Every writer has his or her own process, but to be very honest, most of the successful writers I know set up schedules, whether these are writing schedules (setting aside time to actually write) or publication schedules.  Doing anything less is a set-up for failure, IMHO.  Yeah, it’s true that there will be lost days; I’ve had a few this week because of family obligations.  I also knew they were coming and so made sure to get myself to a place in my current WIP where I felt comfortable leaving it alone (essentially, the end of a section, where all the action has to shift anyway).  But I only got there by being disciplined about it: making my word count, keeping to my schedule.

So–honestly–I don’t agree with this writer when he talks about “getting into the zone,” for example:

“Hence all the mad little rituals we hear about, having to use a 4H pencil, a Moleskine notebook, having to be in a particular spot, in a certain room, at exactly this time of day, drinking this kind of tea, smoking this brand of cigarette. All desperate attempts to propitiate inspiration, to have ordinariness and originality somehow intersect.”

I’m reading this and going . . . wuh?  Sure, all writers have things they like–a spot, the coffee, that eraser Stephen King used to put on top of the pages he’d printed out that day–but Stephen King always writes every day without fail as does Garrison Keillor, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and a whole slew of writers with production schedules to keep and the drive to understand that even if they’re not “in the zone” . . . well, you have to get there.  Sometimes, it takes all bloody day to get the words done; sometimes you reach your goal within four or five hours (or less).  Sometimes you fall short.  But you don’t wait around for inspiration or to get into the zone.  You sometimes just grind it out because that’s what pros, of any stripe, do.

And the whole thing of getting distracted?  What BS.  All that is, is whether or not you’ve got any discipline.  Either you do, or you don’t.  But it is very easy not to get distracted by email or Facebook; you set up a SCHEDULE of when you are ALLOWED to look at mail or FB or whatever; or you simply work on a dedicated writing computer without internet access (something I know a fair number of writers do).  This whole thing of not giving into temptation. . . I’m sorry, but this comes from a mindset that because it dings, beeps, and whistles, you just must answer the phone or that email or whatever.

You are not a slave to tech, and if you are, then your priorities are messed up.  No wonder you’re not getting anything done.

Which is, in the end, what this guy finally comes around to: that he is a guy doing a job, and if you don’t show up for work, you don’t get paid.  What he does is . . . well, it works for him.  Me, it would be a step backward, but that’s what is helpful about reading how other writers write.  Some you agree with; others, you don’t.  I used to write longhand, too, and thought I would NEVER be able to compose on a computer.  Now composing on a computer is all I pretty much do because anything else is a waste of time.  (Do I plan out what I’m to do that day first even if I’ve got an outline in hand?  Absolutely, because things always change–as they have for this current book–and so, sometimes, that’s in longhand; sometimes it’s in Notepad. )

But, for heaven’s sake, why redo what I did yesterday?

Now, I know writers who re-read what they did the day before to get back into the flow–I will certainly re-read a portion of the day before just to get the rhythm again, but I also make sure to make notes at the END of the writing day so I know where this needs to go next–and which is what I think this guy is getting at.  But I couldn’t imagine rewriting something on a computer that I’d written out by hand the day before.  For one thing…I’d probably change it because the prose would’ve had the chance to marinate and stew.  So I’d really be recomposing what I’d already done–sort of a draft and then another draft because, of course, when the book is done, you’re going to go back and kill words and add others or revamp entire ideas or sections.  It’s what I’m doing now, in fact.  By the time I finished this book in February, I knew what I would have to change going back.  Now going through it again, not only have I done that, but I added an entirely new element I’d not considered before but which I think punches the book up and moves things along much better.

But I still have a deadline.  I still have a schedule.  I have to bring this book to a close by a certain date, and then move on.

Would I get there wth this person’s method?  Hard to say, but I’m not really keen on writing and then typing in what I wrote like a machine and then coming up with something new.  Writing by hand is altogether different than writing via computer; for one thing, I tend to lose patience writing by hand because the ideas are coming too quickly for me to get them down.  (Although I frequently talk out loud as I write; don’t ask me why.  Works for me.)

At the end of the day, he is right about this: you gotta write and writing is a job.

Speaking of which…I think I hear my boss coming down the hall.

 

Booyah!

Life maintenance today.  Got the first installment of SOLDIER’S HEART for the upcoming June 8 launch of Elle James’s BROTHERHOOD PROTECTORS outlined in five days; done in seven; three to edit.  Turned out longer than I expected, and I never did make it all the way through the outline.  So I figured, okay, Books II and III will appear in September 2017 and January 2018, respectively.  Along the way, though, I got two FABULOUS ideas for spin-off series that I’ll likely develop, presuming that this goes well.

Doing this is an experiment for me.  Having self-pubbed only a couple of stories, I’ll be interested to see what happens.  At the worst, it’s a learning experience that doesn’t pay off.  At the best, though, I’ve found a new venue for a different kind of work/genre.

So took care of the website today; changed up its look.  I like it but really wish I could figure out how to tinker with the size of the font a touch.  It’s just too tiny in the headers and sidebars.  Be nice to figure this out, but this will do for the short term.  Much cleaner than my old site, for sure, but still tons of work remain.

Off to do more work.  Starting Sunday or Monday, I’ll be returning to the draft of the YA I did in February.  Try to get that out of here by mid-May.

Booyah!

Challenged

In all senses of the word.

I usually don’t talk about things like this in terms of lookit me, lookit me! I don’t post on Facebook about how many words I got done that day.  Now I used to do so here, but the exercise just began to feel self-defeating because my same problems were evident: a supreme lack of confidence coupled with an inability to push through obstacles.  So I eventually stopped with the “writing out loud” stuff.  Just wasn’t working for me and all it did was make me feel worse about myself.

Anyway…I’ve made no secret of the fact that the last coupla years haven’t been great, especially writing-wise. So, after six unfinished books, I finally got disgusted and set myself a challenge: two weeks to outline a new book and then a finished first draft in a month. (I knew it would have to be a first draft because I decided I wouldn’t circle around to revise or edit.) All I cared about was getting the damn thing done.

And, you know, I did it.  I actually posted on FB about it, too; in fact, I lifted the majority of this from that.  But I did it.  I gave myself two weeks to write an outline and then a month to write the book.  Then I screwed my butt to the chair or chained myself to a counter; I had a word count I had to meet every day and I wrote EVERY SINGLE DAY until I made that day’s count.  Frequently, I went over, but mostly I stayed to the count.  I was tempted so many times to go back and “fix” problems; circle back around and re-draft and all that.  But I didn’t.  I forced myself to simply keep going and write down what needed to change at the end of every day.  That list I’ll type up so it’s ready for when I sit down to work on the next draft.  I also made sure that before I began work that day, I knew what chapters needed to be done, the bullet points of each chapter, etc.

I finished exactly a month to the day: 165K, 500 pages (and a lot of blood on the floor from dead words, and that’s before I’ve even gone back to edit).

Is it a FABULOUS book?  No.  There are all sorts of problems that I’ve seen as I’ve gone along, but I forced myself to simply keep going.  It’s flabby. It’s doughy. I would like to work on it more, but I have another project on deadline that I must start and this needs a rest, a rise, and then a lot of punching and trimming and another element to be braided into place before I send it.

Would I do this again?  Sure.  It’s been a good reminder that not only am I my worst enemy, but work expands to fill the time allotted.  So I’m setting myself goals and deadlines for the next project and the one after that.  I am, in fact, committed to three projects this year with deadlines.  If that doesn’t help me get back in the game, nothing will.

The important things are that I did it, and this draft is done–and the husband didn’t eat a single cat.

Gearing Up

Maybe.

Quickly–because I gotta a lot to do still today–I’ve been making some life changes as well as page changes here.  With a little nudge from a Facebook friend, I’m slowly building a dedicated author page…which also means that I have to find things to put on there, right?

Which means writing more, right?

Now, I have been writing SCADS.  My problem lately has been…lots of books started, none finished except a novella and short story and those were to deadline.

Which sucks.

So, I am COMMITTED to seeing this current book through, going back to my tried and true use of an outline with a DEADLINE when this must be finished (this coming Monday); with a DEADLINE of when the book must be finished (end of February, the latest).

Because…

Also with a little nudge from a friend, I’ve committed to writing several novellas in a couple Kindle Worlds series.  More on those later when I have time to look up, but those deadlines are set throughout the coming year as well.

Which means that I must finish.  There are people waiting for my stuff.

Time to put it into gear.

Oh…and I had a short story, CHIMERA, come out in a new anthology recently.  Gotta put that up on the website page, too, but here’s the link: PANGAEA: THE RISE OF DOMINJARON 

A Little Help From My Friends

So, it’s been awhile.  Have I been working?  Yes.  Have I been doing it quietly?  Yup–writing out loud, reporting my progress (or lack thereof) on a daily basis got kind of wearing.  I can understand how that might work for some people.  It finally ended up not working for me.  Writing is hard enough, and I loaded on a whole other level of expectation that I didn’t need.  I also felt kind of stupid, what with making progress, then taking giant steps back and tiny ones forward.  While that is what it’s like to write a book (or any story, really), there were some days when I pushed back and wondered if I ever once knew what I was doing.

Anyway, last time I checked in, I was tearing up and retooling.  I did that, finally settled on one storyline, and that’s what I’m working on.  Some days go better than others, but that’s the life.

Something very good happened to me, though, and just this weekend: out of the blue, two writer-friends got in touch.  Lord knows why they did; it had been quite awhile with one and almost a year with another.  Anyway, reconnecting was terrific, and one friend, who’s had a rough couple of years herself, has paid it forward in a big way that I can’t talk about just yet but which I think will ultimately all be to the good for me.

What’s more: I liked talking to other writers.  These ladies, I trust and respect.  For me, that is rare.  Like every profession, this is a competitive one.  We’re all vying for readers and writers can also be jealous and envious of success (just like a lot of artists).  Anyway, the fact that these ladies were so generous just floored me, and I’ve needed a lift.  I let myself get very involved and then anxious about the election; in fact, I’ve imposed a news blackout on myself because there’s really nothing good I can see coming from this president-elect and quite a lot that will be bad.  (I am also uninterested in anyone trying to convince me otherwise or explain why they might have voted for The Hair.  Sorry, but for me, there is nothing that justifies supporting a platform built on racism, bigotry, hatred, and willful ignorance.)

Anyway, I’m back.  I’m writing.  This book will get done, and if what I hope happens does…there will be more to come.

So…all good.

FALL 2016 YA SCAVENGER HUNT

ya_scavengerhunt_webbannerhalloweenWELCOME TO THE 13TH YA SCAVENGER HUNT!

Hey, there, I’m Ilsa Bick, and your hostess for this leg of the hunt—and yes, I might kill you if you try to take my cheese.

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You are currently hunting on TEAM ORANGE.

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Looking for my exclusive bonus content? HAH!  Dream on; not here.  You’ll have to keep searching, but before you go looking, a couple rules:

SCAVENGER HUNT RULES 

  • On this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each participating YA author, you also get a secret number.
  • That means that, somewhere on this page, you’ll find my favorite number.
  • Find the favorite numbers of all the authors on TEAM ORANGE. You do that by following the link at the bottom of each post to the next author on that team.
  • Along the way, you’ll get access to EXCLUSIVE CONTENT from each participating YA author—which is cool in and of itself. Sometimes that might be a deleted scene or a snippet from an upcoming novel or a long-winded essay on cultural appropriation by yours truly or, maybe, a picture of a cat. Just depends.
  • Once you’ve collected all the numbers supplied by the authors of TEAM ORANGE, add them up.
  • Then, head on over to here to fill out the official entry form for the hunt’s GRAND PRIZE. Only entries with the correct number will qualify, so check your math. Twice.
  • Although this is open internationally, anyone under 18 must have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. I know, bummer, but it’s a legal thing. And don’t lie: that way leads to madness.
  • To be eligible for the GRAND PRIZE, you must submit the completed entry form NLT 12:00 p.m. PST on October 9. Entries sent without the correct number or relevant contact information will be automatically disqualified.

Now, the payoff for all that addition is that one lucky guy or gal will receive at least one book from each author on TEAM ORANGE.

AS IF THAT WEREN’T ENOUGH, a whopping SIX contests will be going simultaneously, and you—you lucky devil, you—can enter one or two or all six. As I said, I’m on TEAM ORANGE, but you have the option of also checking out Teams PURPLE, BLUE, RED, GREEN, and GOLD.

Want more information? Bop on over to here to see links to all the participating authors and—more importantly—the full list of prizes up for grabs.

And now, without further ado, let me introduce the author I’m hosting on this hunt.

<cue drum roll>

Everybody—and yes, that means you—let me introduce . . .

ALEXANDRA MONIR!!

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Alexandra Monir is the author of the popular time-travel YA novel TIMELESS, as well as its sequel, TIMEKEEPER, and a romantic thriller, SUSPICION. She is also a professional recording artist and composer. Alexandra and her husband live in Los Angeles, where she is at work on her next novel, a space thriller that’s already been optioned by Sony Pictures.

The book Alexandra’s showcasing: THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE

girl-in-the-picture-cover

ABOUT THIS BOOK:

Nicole Morgan has been labeled many things—the geeky music girl, the shy sidekick of Miss Popularity, and the girl with the scar. Now only one name haunts her through the halls of Oyster Bay Prep. “The girl in the picture.”

After heartthrob Chace Porter is found dead in the woods near the school, the police search for the girl snuggled up beside him in a picture discovered among his personal effects. A girl no one knew was even close to him—and whose best friend, Lana Rivera, was his girlfriend.

Nicole is that girl, and now she’s the primary suspect in his murder.

What happened that night? Were Nicole and Chace dating behind Lana’s back? Were he and Lana over? Could either of the girls have killed him?

In alternating points of view—that of suspect Nicole Morgan and that of Lana Rivera—The Girl in the Picture helps readers piece together the truth behind a friend’s betrayal, a boy’s murder, and way too many secrets.

* * *

And now a word from Alexandra herself: “In honor of YASH, I’m excited to share with you a favorite scene from my upcoming novel, THE GIRL IN THE PICTURE. This is one of the moments where the relationship between our two narrators, Lana and Nicole, starts to change.”

From Chapter 10

I’m used to hearing Nicole practice what she calls “scales” in our dorm room, playing the same annoying sequence of notes over and over until I want to hit her with my pillow. I’m not used to…this. I’m not used to music that pierces my insides, that covers my skin with goosebumps, that makes me want to cry for no reason.

I glance at Chace. He’s watching in open-mouthed amazement, as if she’s the only thing that exists in this moment. But he’s not the only one. Looking around the room, I see all of my mom’s jaded colleagues and friends rapt, their forks frozen in midair, forgetting to eat. An older man dabs his eyes with a handkerchief.

That’s my friend up there, I remind myself. I’m proud of her, I am. But I also feel a red-hot, searing envy. What have I ever done in comparison? I’ve never been able to bring a room to an awed hush. My parents have never looked on proudly as my talents moved people to tears. I might be a star in my little world at Oyster Bay Prep, but Nicole is an actual star. And the way my boyfriend is looking and listening to her right now, it makes me feel…insignificant. Something I never imagined I could be.

Nicole finishes the song with one final, breathtaking note. And then, after a moment of silence, the foyer fills with applause. The applause grows to a standing ovation, and of course I leap to my feet with Chace and Samantha.

“How’s that for proving Oyster Bay is teaching our students well?” my mom exclaims as she rejoins Nicole, giddy from her idea proving such a success. She hugs my friend and iPhone flashes go off, her guests capturing the moment. And I’m happy for her, I am, I am. I’m not jealous.

I’m not jealous.

* * *

Oh, riiiight.  

Okay: color me interested.

Which is good, people, because Alexandra’s running a BONUS GIVEAWAY: “If you’d like to win an advance copy of The Girl in the Picture annotated by the author, simply follow me on Twitter @TimelessAlex and tweet Enter me to win #TheGirlInThePicture

Man, I’d tweet that, like, 88 times if it’d help me win.

If you’re like me, though, you never win anything, am I right?  So, just in case, here’s where you can find Alexandra’s book.

To find out more about Alexandra, check her out on Twitter here and Facebook here.

Don’t forget to enter the contest for your chance to win a ton of books, signed by me and the other authors on my team.  I mean, guys, just look at what you could win:

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Okay, last time I’ll nudge: but don’t forget that you need to find and write down not only my favorite number, but all the other numbers on TEAM ORANGE.  Add them up, and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize.

Thanks so much for stopping by, guys.  Ready to move on to the next link in the hunt?  Well, click here for Emil Sher.