All posts by ilanaatwinebooks

I-Lanaa Twine is a nurse, self-published author, and mother of one living in upstate New York. Her two great loves are reading and writing! She also enjoys watching movies and listening to music. She is a nurse by day and a writer by the wee hours of the night. She often fantasizes about sleeping until twelve and travelling the world. Her goal in life is to laugh every single day, and so far, she has been very successful.  Her YA/Fantasy debut, “On The Run (The Moriya Chronicles: Book 1)" is scheduled for release Sunday, August 31, 2014. Her second novel, a YA/Paranormal vampire romance, is due out at the beginning of 2015.

The Chronicles of an Olympic Juggler

I’ve been blogging for a few weeks now and I realized that I haven’t taken a moment to truly introduce myself. So let’s start over, shall we.

My name is I-Lanaa Twine. I am a 27 year old nurse, student, mother and writer, but the truth is I often feel like an Olympic juggler. (I don’t actually think that’s a category in the Olympic Games, but if I put on ice skates while juggling I think I could qualify for South Korea in 2018!)

I live my life in a constant state of chaos and I am always doing a multitude of things at once. I work at a Pediatric Gastroenterology office close to an hour away from my house and while I enjoy my job, the commute is often tiresome. I am a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and I have been going to school for my Registered Nursing license (RN) for about six years part time. I’m due to finish this Spring 2015. (Hallelujah!) I have a beautiful nine going on nineteen year old daughter who is determined to send me to an early grave swathed in gray hair. And at the end of August 2014, I self-published my first novel, On The Run (The Moriya Chronicles: Book 1).

Now to most people I know I seem very together. I’m always getting compliments on how hardworking, motivated and driven I am, especially after having my daughter at the tender age of 17. However, on most days I feel like I am a certified hot mess. My house is a disaster. I have to fight to get to work on time. Five hours of sleep is a treat. The last time I sat down to watch a television show that wasn’t animated George W. Bush was still President. My “writing career” consists of unintelligible scribbles made on the back of crumbled up paper towels while I attempt to throw together dinner. And at this point I am so over school there are many days where I want to throw my hands up in the air and scream, “Screw it!”

Sometimes it can be downright exhausting! But you know what? That’s life. I have goals that I want to accomplish and that means I have to put in the hard work now so that I can enjoy the benefits later. While my life can be admittedly stressful, the truth is I am extremely lucky. I’ve been blessed with a beautiful, intelligent and healthy child who is filled with laughter and joy. I have a great job that provides me with the opportunity to continue furthering my education. And I’m blessed to be in the position to express myself freely, and write about things I truly enjoy. Although I sometimes feel frustrated and overwhelmed, I try to remind myself every day of all the beautiful things that I have to be thankful for and that there are hundreds of others out there experiencing the very same stress that I am.

So when life gives you lemons serve up some lemon meringue pie. Appreciate both the good times and the bad, because life is a beautiful gift that should never be wasted.
Thanks for getting to know a little bit about me. I would love to get to know you. Feel free to comment and share. Happy Writing and Reading…and Everything in Between 🙂
I-Lanaa Twine

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UNBLOCK THE WRITER’S BLOCK

Once upon a time. In a faraway land…….(*Stares at screen blankly for several minutes*)

Dammit! Writer’s block sucks, right? You’re sitting there trying to create a masterpiece and all you’ve got is Chapter 1. Well, I have a confession to make. (*Closes eyes and waits for virtual mudslinging!*) I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this…but I’ve never had writer’s block before!

What? A writer who’s never had writer’s block? That’s blasphemy!

Okay, okay, allow me to explain. Most of the time when I get a story idea it flies at me in a nauseating frenzy. Like some deranged prisoner, desperately struggling to escape the bars of my mind with every fiber of its being. I could be driving/cooking/washing my hair and then WHAM…it hits me! And my mind just starts racing. Down the track at high speed, Danica Patrick style.

Character traits. Possible settings. Themes. And I am usually able to come up with a beginning, middle and end right then and there.

That’s not to say that once I begin the actual writing process things don’t change. In fact, a lot changes! In my debut novel, On The Run (The Moriya Chronicles: Book 1) for example, there is a very unexpected love story that develops between two characters toward the end of the book. And it happened completely unbeknownst to me! It may sound crazy to someone who has never had the honor of breathing life into a character, but once you do…beware! Those little people scurrying around in your head will literally develop minds of their own and start doing things that even their creator wasn’t expecting. In fact, on some days I feel as if I am nothing more than a vessel at the beck and call of my demanding subjects.

So what happens when I run face first into a wall? Well…I simply skip it and move onto something else. The next scene. The next conflict. The next chapter. I know where the story is going so its easy for me to navigate around the gray areas and address them later. Now if I’m at a place in the story where I simply can’t move forward…then I stop moving forward.

I’ll do some research. What does Oregon really look like? How do you properly hold an axe? What are some Irish last names?

Anything that allows my mind to remain in the right place, but removes the focus from that crucial scene I just can’t seem to finish. Or I concentrate on defining the character’s traits. Is her hair the color of flax or straw? Are her brown eyes kind or playful? Will the story be told from the third person, or multiple points of view? All of this allows me to avoid focusing on the problem, and keep my mind on the end goal…crafting an unforgettable story.

If you don’t use outlines and you have the grand misfortune of suffering from that which cannot be named, (*Harry Potter reference*) here’s what you can do:

• STOP! I repeat, stop aimlessly gawking at your computer screen! Good. Now walk away. Slowly.
• Take a deep breath. Prolonged oxygen deprivation from holding your breath during a nail biting scene you just can’t seem to conclude can do some crazy things to a person’s mind.
• Go for a walk or a jog. Get that blood circulating and those creative juices flowing with a little activity and a nice change of scenery.
• Eat something. You know, like real food. Not the Redbull and Swedish Fish combo you’ve been gorging on to keep yourself conscious during the wee hours of the night.
• Relocate. Is there a place in your house where you feel the most imaginative? By the fireplace? In the recliner? Locked in the bathroom with the lights turned off so your children think you aren’t at home? Wherever that place is…go there. Promptly.
• Look around. Your favorite photograph. That dirty fish tank. Even the sweater that you bought on clearance at Macy’s that you still haven’t worn. Draw inspiration from anywhere you can.
• Pick up a good book. Is there an author that inspires you? Reread that passage from your favorite series that still makes your breath catch in your throat. Let the stimulating energy seep in and use it to help you propel yourself forward.
• Press play. If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, perhaps a few minutes of Julie Andrew’s voice will help you bulldoze through that mental block with 1960’s class. Let your playlist inspire you to make music of your own.
• Turn to the boob tube. Perhaps an episode of a television show or a clip of a film that’s on pace with your story will help get things going.
• Pick someone’s brain. My brother, who also enjoys writing, once had a bad case of writer’s block. He came to talk to me about it, and we somehow got into a conversation about a movie I really enjoyed starring Liam Neeson called, The Grey. And then…Wham! Just like that, writer’s block solved, and now his sci-fi novella has a cool group of undomesticated canines featured in it. Sometimes, its just that simple.
• And if all else fails…give your brain a rest. Call it quits for today, but come back tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Even if you only write a paragraph. The only way to complete the best story of your life is word by precious word.

So what’s your experience with word block? Or have you, like myself, never experienced it before? Sharing is caring and I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Writing and Reading…and Everything in Between 🙂

I-Lanaa Twine

Promoting Cultural Diversity in Literature

So this may come as a shock for some of you but just in case you haven’t noticed…I’m Black. “Surprise!” I also happen to be an avid reader and a writer of several genres including Young Adult fiction. My debut novel, On The Run (The Moriya Chronicles: Book 1) features a half African American, half Chinese protagonist. My second novel from a different series has a Caucasian female lead who also happens to be vampire. So…what’s the point? The point is that although I can be described as many things and boxed into several intricate categories, I am first and foremost, a human being. A human being who is in love with literature. When I decided I wanted to become a writer it was because I wanted to tell stories. Lots of different stories. About lots of different people. Which is why I have absolutely no problem creating a character who is white, black, purple, orange, tall, fat, or ugly. Because I enjoy telling stories about people.
That being said, it is sometimes overwhelming (and often quite discouraging) that as a reader I have had such a hard time finding books that feature people like me. People being the operative word. See I have no problem writing about all kinds of characters in my stories because I have come across all kinds of characters in my life. I am blessed to have friends from many different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, and was raised not to see color. However, often times when I am reading (YA novels in particular) it becomes hard not to. An overwhelming percentage of these books are about fair haired, fair skinned girls. In fact in most, you’d be lucky to find even a supporting character who is non-white.
Now I know that people typically write what they know, and you often identify with people who look like you. And I suppose it could be argued that Katniss from The Hunger Games wasn’t Native American because Suzanne Collins isn’t, but am I really to believe that as authors our creative minds are that one dimensional? How would you then explain someone being able to write from the perspective of an animal? Or a person of the opposite sex? Or someone of a different species? There are also those who feel that race has nothing to do with this argument and I would encourage those individuals to do an internet search about the uproar that some movie goers had at discovering that Rue from The Hunger Games- who is described as having dark skin and dark eyes in the book- was indeed Black. And more times than not when a character in a novel is of a particular minority group they behave in a way which is stereotypical, or the story is about the fact that they are of that minority. Why can’t we write stories about interracial relationships without making the story about the interracial relationship?
So enough griping, how do we solve the problem?
1) Well, let’s take baby steps. First we could perhaps decide as authors of all different races to write aboutwait for itall different races. Yes, we absolutely write what we know but we all know lots of different people, and have fan bases filled with beautiful faces from all across the globe. Perhaps we could all make more of an effort to reflect that in our literature.
2) Don’t make it about race. I am no less qualified to write about a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes than a girl with blonde hair and blue eyes is. And wouldn’t it be silly if every time I wrote about a girl who looked as such, her looks were the topic of the story? Case in point: we all bleed, cry, laugh and fall in love. So let’s have all different types of people do all different types of things in our stories, and remove the topic of race from the table.
3) Perspective is key. Some people just don’t get it, and perhaps they never will. To be honest, I picked up on the fact that Rue was Black as soon as she was introduced into the story, while others, clearly did not. But in all fairness, I am admittedly more cognizant of the presence (or lack thereof) of characters of color because of my color. I’ve had friends who didn’t recognize racial disparities simply because they weren’t exposed or had no knowledge of them or just look at the world differently. We’re all different, so perhaps if there are people among you who don’t see your perspective you could enlighten them. Don’t preach. Just share.
4) Since we’re on the topic of diversity how about we include all diversity. May it be race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or those suffering from an ailment or disorder. I have an autoimmune disease and a majority of the people I come into contact with on a daily basis have no knowledge of it. My disease does not define who I am and it doesn’t always have to define who your characters are either.
5) Lastly, I encourage people from diverse backgrounds who have a knack for writing to do so. We can’t complain about a lack of representation if we don’t first make an effort to represent ourselves. Of course that does not mean that the Brazilian author has to write books that only feature Brazilian characters. (When you hear it that way doesn’t it then seem silly for anyone to do this?) I don’t believe any author should feel obligated to write anything they do not truly want to write, but if diverse people began to write about diverse topics it would really broaden so many horizons.
6) Unfortunately, I must point out one last thing. At times during the publishing process there may be individuals who are disinterested in diversified characters or insist on pigeonholing authors who write about them into specific categories. Even Neil Gaiman, a highly successful fantasy author who wrote a book called, American Gods, which features a main character who is of mixed racial descent, found that when his book was initially being shopped around to movie studios there were those who wished to alter the race of his characters, claiming a lack of appeal. He chose to decline their offer and years later the movie has still not been made. There are countless others who have seen firsthand that the people in a position of power don’t always promote diversity. Case and point: when it comes to publishing literature, there is another answer. If you have a story you feel strongly about and everyone is telling you “No,” then publish it yourself! Don’t let another person’s negative attitude deter you from sharing your story with the world!
So remember, write what you love and love what you write. If you are blessed to develop relationships with different types of people, cherish those relationships. We are all beautiful, and we come in many colors, shapes and sizes. An author’s success is dependent on its wide variety of readers, so allow your writing to represent all of them.
I-Lanaa Twine

How to deal with criticism in a hypercritical world

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So putting yourself out there sucks, right? Its bad enough you have to face your own personal doubts, but facing the doubts of others can be downright terrifying. And if you haven’t noticed, people can be mean. Like really mean. And when you’re endeavoring to make a name for yourself in a field that’s all about criticism, it can be that much harder. Unfortunately, when it comes to being a writer reviews can make or break you. Until you’ve reached the level of success where you have a blindly loyal following that will pay top dollar to read your grocery list, reviews matter. A lot! So, how do you deal when you get a bad one?

  1. Use it as a learning experience. Okay so maybe they didn’t need to say that they’d rather have rusty nine inch nails power drilled through their eyelids for eight hours straight than read another page of your book, but is there something- anything- that you can take away from what they said? Perhaps you do need to work on character development a little more. Maybe you could have edited out a few thousand words. Sort through all of the moaning and name calling, and try to get to the heart of the issue. Often times the people who dislike your book the most are the ones who will give you the most valuable feedback because they are more passionate about their opinions, and will provide you with more details about your shortcomings. So wipe the fresh picked fruit off the screen, disregard the virtual booing, and get down to the meat and potatoes of the review so you can become the very best storyteller possible.
  2. But what if you can’t see it? Well then ask someone you trust if they can. Let someone look it over. A co-worker, a friend, a fellow author, one of your beta readers. Allow someone who you can count on to be honest and upfront to read the review over and see if it holds water. If everyone around you is saying the same thing than perhaps there is some wisdom to be gleaned from it.
  3. Understand that it just may not be their cup of tea. Recently there was a movie I was dying to see! Everyone (and I do mean everyone) told me how phenomenal and life changing it would be. I entered the theatre near to bursting with excitement, and left utterly disappointed. Case and point, we all see things differently. Based on our experiences, culture and lifestyle- we all have our own take on things. You may love it, she may hate it and he may not care either way. Learn to accept that not everyone will appreciate your efforts and that’s okay, because individuality is what makes the world go round.
  4. People are jerks. Yup, I said it. Some people are just plain mean. They laugh at other’s pain, unabashedly. That’s life. Now get over it.
  5. So don’t take it personal. Books incite passion. Sometimes more so than other art forms because the interpretation of the entire work is left in the hands of the reader. You envision these characters and then they become yours! It can be a highly personal experience and that’s why people become so attached. And hey, isn’t that the point? So the next time someone gets a little upset with you, remember it’s natural. (And hopefully) it means you’re doing something right!

So the next time you get that nasty one star review, the email that says that they want the six hours and thirty seven minutes of their life they spent reading your book back, or you are savagely brutalized by the harsh tongue of criticism, keep these tips in mind. Remember, like all things in life you’ll get better with time. So keep on writing.

 

My Journey to Self-Publishing Part 1: Discovering Self-Publishing

As many of you may know, I am a nurse, and have been for almost 7 years. I had my daughter at a young age, and wanted to pursue a career that offered a steady income, and opportunities for growth. I also happened to enjoy helping other people. Once I began nursing school, I realized that I loved it! But the truth is, my PASSION has always been the literary arts. English class always came naturally to me, and I received good grades without even trying. Despite all of the persistent nagging from my mother and teachers alike, writing was something I enjoyed, but not something I ever thought of making a career out of. What do parents and teachers know anyway? Right?

Needless to say, I had a daughter, fell head over heels in love with her, and the writing and reading of literature fell to the way side. I mean between school, a toddler, a full time job and showering, where is a girl to find the time to get lost in a good book? The answer is: you make the time. One of my good friends insisted that I read, The Hunger Games, and it was like reuniting with a long lost lover. Reading once again became my addiction. It wasn’t, however, until I read, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, that I realized that this was what I wanted to do. I was so amazed and captivated by the world Cassandra Clare had created that I knew life would not be worth living unless I too, did the same.
But getting a book published means years and years of endless querying, and dozens of rejections, right? Ever the realist, I decided I would finish school, get married, have kids, and maybe by 30, I would write my first novel with the hopes of being published by 40, and being able to sustain myself on a writing career alone by the age of 50! After all, expecting to be traditionally published any sooner was about as promising as my dream of suddenly waking up with silvery white hair and the ability to control the weather. (I was, and still am, a HUGE Xmen fan, and Storm will always hold a warm place in my heart.) After all, they rejected Harry Potter and The Philisopher’s Stone twelve times! That’s right, twelve. I didn’t stand a chance.

Cue, Switched: A Trylle novel, a book I happened to pick up at the local Walmart before I even owned a Kindle or an Amazon account. I happened to read the back cover where it said that the author, Amanda Hocking, had sold 1million copies of the novel by self-publishing it. Wait, what? Self-publishing? What’s that?

And so the saga began….

What is the origin story behind the pursuit of your goal? To find out more about my journey to self-publishing, look for part two, My Journey to Self-Publishing Part 2: Getting Started, which will follow shortly.

Hi guys!
Exciting news! I am pleased to announce that the On The Run e-book cover poll has officially been closed, and a winner has been chosen! It was a really tough decision, because I had two amazing covers, but I am really pleased with the outcome. I worked with an amazing group of cover artists who were prompt, pleasant, and patient, and brought my dreams to life! The cover is vibrant, intriguing, and mysterious, and I hope you all love it as much as I do! Thank you to everyone who voted! On The Run (The Moriya Chronicles: Book 1) is scheduled for release on Sunday, August 31, 2014!!! Thanks again to everyone who contributed to and/or supported this project. This is a dream come true!

I-Lanaa Twine

Cover art by: http://www.ebooklaunch.com