Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Symbolic Design

Last week we visited the subject of Turkish Iznik tiles so this week I thought we could learn about some of the designs.


  • Symbol of the Ottoman Empire
  • Meanings include submission, modesty, or love
In Burnt Amber the tulip arabesque visits those meanings in Sybil's wardrobe and in one other strategic place (sorry, no spoilers here).

Tree of Life:

  • Known in many cultures as the world tree, for example the Norse Yggdrasil or Hindu Ashvastha
  • Symbolic of the cycle of life and death, but also represents the interconnectedness of everything.
The design appears in Burnt Amber with the phoenix. I've also seen versions of the actual tree recently in Avatar and The Alchemist.

  • Three pearls, topped by two double clouds thought to represent dragons
  • Used on items for the sultan, especially his robes.
  • Meanings include power, strength, protection
My kids reminded my about it recently when I was looking for blue amber. The çintemani stone is important in their video game, Uncharted 2. Never know where your next inspiration is going to come from you know...I'm using the çintemani in the next book, if I ever get to it.

Of course there are many other patterns in tilework and textiles, but these are the ones you'll find in my work.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Turkish Hammam

One of the gilded taps with marble in the bath...Image via Wikipedia The Turkish Bath, known as a Hammam, is not as important as it once was. Modern plumbing negates the need. Today its a social spa experience is reserved for special occassions such as weddings, or in Sybil's case, an end-of-the-semester treat.

Visit the Çemberlitaş or Cağaloğlu hammams in Istanbul to admire the architecture at least. Cağaloğlu is on the list of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, btw. Usually made of white marble, the hammam is a good place to find Turkish Tiles too. Vaulted ceilings and steamy rooms feature a giant central gobektaşi heated slab of stone for the scrub down and massage treatment. It's not for the faint of heart or the modest, even with the Peştemel towel  wrap they give you.

You can always buy the Turkish loofah Kese for $3.99 and achieve a similar effect at home, but you won't get the amazing massage.  Or you can try a hotel for more privacy. The Ritz Carlton Laveda Spa has some services that make relaxing an understatement.

Finish off with fluffy Turkish Towels and have tea at the hammam's cafe in your robe. Its a wonderful way to spend an afternoon after all the sightseeing (and shopping) you've done in Istanbul!

Related articles by Zemanta

Bathing with strangers: what to expect at a Turkish hammam
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, August 27, 2010


Fellow blogger K.M. Weiland posted 15 things which inspired her current work in progress. I like to think that's what my blog is all about: Specific things from the real world that are important to my work even though I write fantasy. When I'm writing, ideas seem to come at me from all sides too. I'm an avid gardener and I get all sorts of catalogs for plants and supplies. One of my standards is McClure and Zimmerman .

One evening I was glancing through their fall catalog when I noticed the word Cilicium attached to something. Bells started going off in my head, but it wasn't until I needed it a couple weeks later that I knew what to do with the find. I do that a lot...file something away for future use. The inside of my head must look alot like my desk, disorganized yet I know where everything is, sort of. I digress.

Why flowers and Turkey? Turkey is home to lots of flowering bulbs besides the tulip. Many are more uncommon and most are named for the places where they were originally found. Cilicia is home to Colchicum Cilicium, a fall flowering crocus-like blossom also known as meadow rue. (Acı Çiğdem for my Turkish friends)

The highly toxic colchicine present in the plant is useful medication for gout in appropriate doses. However, improper use results in syptoms resembling aresenic poisoning which can be fatal (and useful to villains). Mythical madwoman Medea came up with it's more devious purpose and there is no antidote.

Dangerous beauty runs through Burnt Amber if you know where to look. Remember my post on Goldenchain? (Another one of those things kicking around in my head for years....its a good thing I didn't throw that one out.)

On a lighter note, last week I mentioned the precious saffron crocuses which grow in Cennet near KizKalesi. Saffron is known to be the most expensive spice by weight. Its use in cooking and textiles has been important since ancient times. I never make couscous or paella without it.

And it's my turn to return the love. (I hope I'm doing this right)  I'm giving an award to my best blog buddy, LTM.  Thanks for following and commenting and generally being a great friend!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fabulous Ottoman Palaces

The Gate of Salutation (Bâb-üs Selâm), entranc...Image via Wikipedia
Topkapi Palace Entrance

Istanbul has palaces of many styles, so you will probably find one to suit your taste, but maybe not your budget. There are two important ones to visit, the others are optional if you have the time.
Topkapi Palace "Cannon Gate Palace", is the original Istanbul home of the Ottoman Sultans. Like many of Europe's great palaces, it was built in stages, beginning in 1459 and added to by successive sultans. Its located on the site of the former acropolis of Byzantium, at the highest point on the shoreline. The area is known as Sarayburnu or Seraglio Point.

Topkapi was built with a Harem in the old-school castle/fortress style. The late Ottomans decided they wanted a more modern place to entertain. So in 1843 Sultan Abdulmecid began the construction of Dolmabahçe Palace. Topkapi became a museum in 1924.

Topkapi Palace Interior

East often meets west in Istanbul architecture. While Topkapi is covered with tiles and traditional Ottoman motifs, the Dolmabahçe Palace embraces a completely different design idea, European Orientalism. Crystal and gold-leaf are everywhere. The palace is home to the world's largest Bohemian crystal chandelier and the grand staircase features Baccarat banisters. Traditional Ottoman designs are created using opulent materials. Floors are laid in intricate geometric patterns, for example. There's still a Harem, but the whole effect evokes more French Versailles than Ottoman Istanbul.

Dolmabahçe Palace

Smaller Palaces exist all over the city and are worth visiting if you have the chance. Beylerbeyi is my favorite. Its done in a more intimate scale, for a Rockefeller budget perhaps.
Nothing here really inspired my writing for Sybil. Except maybe the harem, but that isn't a completely Ottoman idea. 12th century Byzantines liked to separate the men from the women too and they certainly kept mistresses. It wasn't so fun being a princess back then.
However, if you want to pretend it is fun and live like one for a while, try staying at the Ciragan Palace Hotel.
Related articles by Zemanta

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


So we had Djinn Posession, now this week we have Djinn Obsession.
What, you ask, does obsession have to do with a djinn? It has everything to do with a djinn. They are by nature obsessive creatures. Sybil describes herself as borderline OCD. It's an exaggeration of course, but she likes to keep things a certain way. Her attempt to impose order is an adaptation to a world where she knows she doesn't fit.
Burnt Amber is really all about balance of control, in relationships and life, especially for a young woman. I read Twilight and shook my head over Bella's dependence and then I read Graceling and shook my head over Katsa's independence. Balance is harder than either of those options. It means you have to admit weakness sometimes and find strength in others. Even as a human, Sybil's naturally obsessive djinn energy makes finding equilibrium difficult.
Obsession is why djinn hang on to places or people, or follow someone into another world. You might think it's a sinister trait. It can be. It can also be a good thing, if for example it leads to loyalty and love. Or it could make them stubborn and unable to see reason. A djinn's obsession can vary but if the obsession is vengeance, well then that is a bad thing. They live for a long time and they have a long memory.
For a djinn to focus on something else, it either needs to achieve the object of obsession or it must be defeated, locked up or bound . Luckily, they are more likely to be obsessed by the color green, or giraffes (There's even a song about them on this link!), than bothering humans. Unless we bother them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Turkish Tiles

Blue Turkish Tiles in FrameImage via Wikipedia Tiles are a big part of decor all around the mediterranean and Turkey is no different.
Decorative blue and white tiles from Iznik and Kutahya can be found in palaces and mosques around the country. Sultanahmet Mosque in Istanbul is famously known as the Blue Mosque because of the tiles.

Most people have a piece or two in their home, perhaps a trivet or something more decorative like the panel on the right. Gorgeous isn't it? It's the tree of life in a frame. I could definitely find a spot for it in my foyer but any more and I might get dizzy looking at the patterns. The pottery produced by Kutahya Porselen is what I like! (Sybil bought a vase in one Burnt Amber cut)That will have to be another post...

More utilitarian tiles used in homes are usually from Çanakkale where there is a factory under the same name. Çanakkale, btw, is near the ancient city of Troy. Lowe's and Home Depot often carry tiles from Turkey. They are indistinguishable from their Italian counterparts. You have to check the stamp on the back to find out where it's made.

Choices are endless and I almost lost my mind trying to pick out tiles for our apartment when I lived in Mersin. And if you thought that was hard, wait until the tile man comes to install them and asks what pattern you prefer! Some of the most talented tilers are Turks because they are still actively practicing the art.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 23, 2010

Istanbul Clubs

Courtesy DU99 via Skyscrapercity
I kind of fell off the cart with this post, wrapped up in my post vacation-hangover so it's short.

Speaking of hangovers (of another sort) college and clubs go together. Istanbul is full of popular bar-resturant-dance clubs, which is a very good idea. Some people eat, some people dance, some people hang out at the bar... The concept really makes sense because they get you in the door and you stay all night.

The city has lots of great choices, but in the summer, the superclubs break out along the shoreline. There's a floating club called Suada..."water island" It's anchored in the Bosphorus Strait and features an olympic sized pool. Guess you need to have a boat to get there, or take a sea taxi. Then you have Reina. That place is so famous Dr. Oz brought Oprah Winfrey. (Saturdays are for the younger crowd btw).

Of course, the rest of Turkey has plenty to offer too. Bodrum and Antalya have their fair share of fun. Any good resort town will have someplace to hit the dancefloor and admire the view.

Check out this link for some other Istanbul clubs you might like.
Enhanced by Zemanta
And I'm having fun with Photosynth.  This is a 3D look at Reina, but I've added some others to previous links like An Ottoman Fortress and Secret Cisterns.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Angora Cats

An odd-eyed Turkish AngoraImage via Wikipedia
I'm a cat lady, so Sybil is too. Buyuk Ada is overrun with cats, and the Nokta in Burnt Amber is a real kitty I knew when I was there.  Growing up I had a gorgeous white cat with gold eyes so he was my inspiration for another one in the story.

Angora is a degeneration of the word Ankara, the capitol of Turkey. The Angora breed originated there and therefore, is not so hard to find in Cicilia.
Technically, Angoras just need to have the long coat, any color.  For me and other purists though, they should really be white and odd-eyed is even better...one blue and one amber.  Be careful when adopting one.  Blue eyed white cats can be deaf, and odd-eyed ones can be too, often on the side with the blue eye. Even so, two different colored eyes makes the animal desirable, striking, even mystical or djinnlike...

Odd-eyedness (not a word), known as heterochromia, is not only found in cats.  Horses are piebald, dogs can have it, even people might.  Sybil and Haydon have "central heterochromia " which creates a corona effect in the pupil. Kristin Cashore wrote a whole book about an odd-eyed Graceling.  I read it after I'd written Burnt Amber, btw.  Great minds think alike?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Cave of Heaven

Cennet Çökügü (Heaven)Image by Sheriff of Nothing via Flickr
Cennet translates to Heaven.  So I find it odd any cave would be named Cennet and that you need to descend over 400 steps to the bottom of a limestone pit to get there.  But that is exactly what we have with the Corycian Cave of Cennet in KizKalesi, Turkey.  Not to be confused with the Corycian Cave in Greece, btw.

Once you research a bit more, you'll find it's a very intriguing place. It's thought to be Arima , where Zeus imprisoned Typhon (Big bad guy from Percy Jackson Series, remember? Yeah and Homer mentioned something about him in the Iliad too).  This led to the locals from the Temple of Zeus at Olba to make human sacrifices at the nearby cave of Kanlidivane "to quiet the demons Typhon released".  Modern science chalks up the grumbling sounds coming from the cave as volcanic activity.  But of course, the legend is when the Byzantines put a chapel down there, they exorcised the demons.  Oh well, I guess they were wrong about the human sacrifice part.

There's a spring at the bottom of the cave, which made living there possible and perhaps lovely.  Maybe the name Heaven isn't so far from the truth, when it's hot as hell outside and you have a nice, cool cave filled with crystal clear water in your backyard.  The spring also made cultivation of saffron crocuses a viable commerical endeavor for years.  For Burnt Amber though, the spring is an important place for djinn.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Binding a Djinn

Smoky diamondImage via Wikipedia
This post comes with a strong "Do Not Try This At Home" warning.  Not saying I believe this stuff, only that it's out there and, well, it's better not to be fooling around with it.

There's a method to binding a djinn. You need a talisman. The best is a precious stone, though there are other things you can use, bottles, lamps, rings, etc... But first you need to summon the djinn.  To do that, you need a piece of the djinn, like some hair (which he conveniently left for you the last time he stopped by for tea) and you need to know its name (because you're on a first name basis, ya know). I'm thinking the rarity of these two things is why most stories start with the djinn already bound.

If you're a djinn, binding is definitely not a good thing and most of them are not going to be happy about it. Read: pissed off like you wouldn't believe and therefore dangerous.  They make most vampires and wizards look tame. Which is why you need the Ceremonial Circle...it's supposed to protect the summoner, but I wouldn't be caught in one if I were you. Lots of stories about botched summoning, very icky results. So go play Final Fantasy or YuGiOh instead and summon a djinn over there :)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Silk Road

Silk Threads
Marco Polo set out for the east from Venice via the ancient city of Ayas.  Ayas, btw is near Adana, at the mouth of the Seyhan River in modern day Turkey.  The region became an important stop for the silk trade and the Byzantines went over the top as a result. 

Plain silk was an anomaly, in Byzantium everything had pattern or texture and was embroidered with silk or gold threads.  Not exactly Sybil's style, but since Burnt Amber was inspired by a 12th century princess, she had to wear some of it.  Through her lady-in-waiting, we learn a little about the significance of what she wears, each time reflecting Sybil's mood by the color and the details she notices. (Can't spend time on useless details!  Every description has to work double time to be there.) 

Though Turkey is no longer as important to the silk trade, silk fabric is a big part of Turkish style. Top designers today like Vakko still rely on luxurious fabrics and find inspiration in antique Ottoman and Byzantine motifs.

Related articles by Zemanta

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 16, 2010


Gulet, a two-masted cruise ship; Bodrum, TurkeyImage via Wikipedia

With the Mediterranean on one side and the Aegean and Black Sea on the others, sailing is not only important to Turkish life, it's a way of relaxing as well. I'm in the mood for a vacation... September is coming up, which is the best time. Less tourists and the water is still warm. But I'm sad to say, for yet another year the Turkish Blue Cruise remains on my bucket list.

I've done smaller day tips, but I was young and virtually penniless last time I was there alone with the DH. So I live vicariously (do you see a theme here?) through Sybil and she meets a guy who actually owns a sailboat...gush! Once you've been on the winding Turkish roads barely wide enough to pass the oncoming bus, you'll appreciate the calm and ease of travel in a gulet.

Antalya Airport is fast becoming the busiest in Turkey. The most easily accessible sailing trips start from Antalya, or Bodrum and follow the coast, visiting villages and stopping in beautiful coves along the way. You don't need to dress for dinner and there's no twisty slide at the pool for the kids. But you do get to see amazing sites like the sunken Lycian city of Kekova or the natural gas fires venting from Mount Chimaera (remember Oysseus?) Or if you're not into ruins, just soak up the gorgeous mediterranean sun and anchor in a secluded spot for the day.

Split the cost of chartering with some people you know, or book a trip on a shared cruise. Day trips are also an option if you don't have the budget but still want the experience. Take a dramamine if you have to, but whatever you do, just don't skip it!!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, August 13, 2010


A large plate of Mezes (Metzes) in Petra, Jordan.Image via Wikipedia
Meze is to Turkey what Tapas is to Spain. It's a mediterranean thing to sit around and socialize while spending hours on the appetizers. And I highly recommend this yummy activity.  The pic on the right is actually more arabic with its offerings of dips and such, but it's the same idea.  Little plates of tasty stuff you share (no double dipping).  Notice each person has a dish in front of them to take what they like.

Sybil gets to try a few and I describe them in Burnt Amber with relation to the story.  Here in the states, we can get hold of some at Costco ...stuffed grape leaves from there are decent if you add a lot of fresh lemon juice btw... Even hummus (chickpea dip) and baba ganouj (eggplant dip) are names people recognize nowadays with the advent of Trader Joe's and a more diverse deli section at the supermarket.  Really, all you need is a bit of creativity and a tray and you can replicate the experience at home. Invite some friends and have drinks (prefereably Raki, if you can stomach it). Or not...and just indulge.

1515 kind of meze?? That's a LOT of creativity!!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sis Castle

courtesy of Dick Osseman
Truth is most definitely stranger than fiction. I was looking for a medieval princess trapped in a fortress in the middle of the sea and found one who lived at the top of a craggy peak instead. Her city is now Kozan, near Adana in the south of Turkey. The main ruin there, Sis castle, was the capitol of the Rubenid dynasty. It was destroyed in 1375, but not by djinn. Towers are terraced into the rock of two tall peaks and there are tunnels and storage rooms carved deep into the mountain, designed against a siege. Once formidable, now it's little more than a pile of rubble and not a huge tourist attraction. Again, reminds me of the poet Shelley:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Sybil's actual namesake, Queen Zabel of Cilicia was born there, lived there, had her children there. She died nearby in the monastery of Trazarg. Her kingdom, Cilicia, was an important ally of the Outremer Crusader states, supporting the pilgrimage and the crusades to Jerusalem. The Knights Hospitaller, similar to the Knights Templar made famous again by Dan Brown, were big players in the region at that time. I use them in Burnt Amber too, though not in the most traditional sense. I'm verging on spoilers here...so maybe I should stop now. Thought you might enjoy seeing my inspiration though, especially if you're a beta reader.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Not everything we know about djinn is thrown out in Burnt Amber. Lots of the Disney business is, ixnay with the three wishes and all, but I hold true to some of Scheherazade's basic principles. Who is she? She's the narrator of the 1001 Arabian Nights...the woman who the king is planning to kill when she finishes the story, so she stretches it out to last longer...kind of the original cliff hanger at the end of the chapter, if you will... (Tangent: If I could have a cat, I would name her Scheherazade. Just love to say the name!) Anyway, back to....
Important principle number one: Djinn live in a parallel universe and can possess animals in this one. They are also bound to the capabilities of whatever animal they choose. So say they choose a bird, that means they can fly, but they can't open doors or talk (unless it's a parrot).
Variation: They don't have to be black. Why? Because black is associated with evil and I already mentioned djinn can be either good or evil.
Variation number two: There are different levels of djinn (remember Marid and Ifrit) and each one has different abilities as to the creature it can possess. Some don't do it at all. Some don't need a host at all. The arabic word for crazy is majnoon (using the english alphabet here of course). Literally it means "with a djinn" or "having a djinn", i.e. there is a belief floating out there that some djinn can even possess people.

These actually aren't my own variations btw because Scheherazade isn't the only source for djinn lore out there. There are myths and legends all over the place in the Middle East which, as an American, I did not grow up knowing. But I'm having the best time explaining it to you now :)

If you've got the time, here's a short story about water djinn from the New Yorker.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Art Glass

via Tulumba.com
I send Sybil and Alexis hunting for gifts through the bazaars of Istanbul - a must for any visit to Turkey - and they stop to buy some perfume and bottles for it at the Mısır Çarşi.  The very name of this spice bazaar means egyptian market, so spun glass perfum bottles from Egypt aren't an unusual find there, or anywhere these days really. You can probably pick one up at Home Goods or Pier One.  So they went to Istanbul and bought Egyptian glass?? Right...well, see Istanbul was a trading point for a long time so the art glass market has influences from other places, of course.

On the other hand, çesm-i bȕlbȕl is very Turkish, I guess... The "nightingale's eye" design is formed by inserting blue and white glass rods and then hand blowing and twisting the glass at the same time.  Wait, isn't that a Venetian technique? Hey, Piazza San Marco looks like it could be in Istanbul so it's fair to say, with the trade routes between them, each city ripped off ideas from the other pretty successfully.

Today, the distinctly Turkish nightingale's eye design is manufactured by the Paşabahçe art glass line. You can get it online @Tulumba.com (the perfume bottle above is from them). I'm sure there are other sources, but I already have mine, so...

Not too much linkage today, couldn't find much of anything good in English, but here's something from the NY Times about it:


IMPORTANT NB!! I want to say thanks to LTM for great comments and WHAT? a Newbie Bestie Award for blogging??? I'm so thrillled :)))   I've posted it in the sidebar for future generations :)) Can't stop smiling, sorry!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Music is a Universal Language

The last couple of posts have had music in them, so maybe it's time for a full post about it. A popular writers trend right now is to write while listening to music, hence the playlist on the sidebar. I need quiet to write, but I can't deny that some tunes inspire. Chains, Fortresses, Cennet...you know, stuff already running through my head anyway gets channeled when I'm listening in the car or kitchen and - A-ha! I have a moment of clarity. I listen to stuff from everywhere...language is not a barrier for me. At the moment Primavera in Anticipo (Laura Pausini and James Blunt) is on the top of my list. Half of it is in Italian, but I get it anyway.

In Turkey, like everywhere, there are different types of music. Halk muzik (folk) , Sanat muzik (classical, lots of arabesques), and then of course modern Pop/Rock/etc... I don't usually listen to the first two, although I appreciate them of course. I really like when artists take something from halk or sanat music and blend it into pop/rock. That I can't resist. Since I'm a former violinist, Can Atilla easily takes a "most played" track status in my iTunes library. He's a composer and his instumentals are just as important as the words. He likes to invoke images of the Ottomans...one of his albums is even titled 1453 (When Istanbul became the capital of the Ottoman Empire).

I just watched his video of Cariyerler ve Geceler for the first time. Its animation, but a very nice use of arabesques in every sense plus a bit of a steampunk vibe. Some indian woman singing background too... don't ask me what she's saying. Love the high violin crying out. Pure angst! If angst isn't YA, then what is?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, August 6, 2010


Flowers of a Laburnum tree (L. × watereri or L...Image via Wikipedia
The Goldenchain tree - Laburnum anagyroides

We had one at the gate near our villa in Mersin.  It's weeping form was pretty most of the year but completely smothered in yellow, it was gorgeous. The bekci (gardener) warned me though, every part of it is poisonous. 

I include things like this tree to round out my setting and deliver a subtle message at the same time. Just the name goldenchain takes us half the way... Of course, I'm not the first to use laburnum in the literary sense. Daphne du Maurier used it in My Cousin Rachel....Oscar Wilde in the Picture of Dorian Gray. I already had chains of a sort running through Burnt Amber, so the goldenchain was irresistible.  Golden and chain? Doesn't get any better. 

On the subject of chains: Tarkan, quite possibly Turkey's most famous singer at the moment, has a song about chains - on my playlist btw.  Bu Gece (Tonight) also known as Kir Zincirlerini (Break Your Chains).  It's a bit more racy than most people think a Turkish video would be, but then...I'm writing this blog because there are so many things people don't realize about Turkey that are FANTASTIC! 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tarkan - Kir Zincirlerini by Aluxton
Uploaded by Aluxton69. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

An Ottoman Fortress

La forteresse Rumeli Hisari au bord du BosphoreImage via Wikipedia

Rumeli Hisari on the European shore of Istanbul was built by the Ottomans in preparation for the siege of Constantinople. Amazingly, it only took 4 months and 16 days to build because the Pashas (generals) competed to finish sections. Then in 1453, together with the Anadolu Hisari on the other side of the Bosphorus straight, the Ottomans succeded in cutting off the city and Constantinople became Istanbul.

After that, it was used as a customs checkpoint and later for housing prisoners of war. But after an earthquake, fire damage, and years of disrepair, it was abandoned in the 19th century and an entire neighborhood sprang up inside the walls. In the 1950s, the neighborhood was relocated and Rumeli Hisari was restored to its current use as a museum and sometime theater/concert venue. They just had a play about our friend Prometheus.

Per wikipedia: The fortress, designed by architect Müslihiddin, was initially called "Boğazkesen", literally meaning "The Strait Cutter", referring to the Bosporus Strait. The name carries a secondary and more macabre meaning; as boğaz not only means strait but also "throat" in Turkish. It was later renamed as Rumelihisarı, which means "Fortress on the Land of the Romans"

Love the double meaning of the original name...but then I use double meaning a lot in my writing so maybe it's just me.

Anyway, the gates of Sybil's school, Boğaziçi University, lie right near the fortress, so I would be remiss if I didn't mention it in Burnt Amber. In fact, the university buildings are made from the same dark limestone as the impressive towers. That one small corner of the city represents so much change, with the suspension bridge, ancient fortress and Ivy League-style university in such close proximity to each other (there's so much more, but those are the big sites). You can get them all in the same snapshot...see the one in the top corner of the sidebar?

I include Fortress Around Your Heart (Sting is my favorite) on my writing playlist. The lyrics really connect to the story and the setting. Sorry the video is so bad, can't believe we used to think it was cool??

NB. This related article has another favorite from poet Percy Byshe Shelley : Ozymandias. Shelley shows up in BA too and I even almost used Ozymandias. So Poetry and Historic Sites in one post - huzzah!

Related articles by Zemanta

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Dark Djinn

Person on rope on their way to the cave floor ...
I got the inspiration to use djinn in Burnt Amber from a couple different places. One was Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy and the other (took a couple times to figure out it was coming up for a reason) was a report my son had to do for Language Arts. On both occasions I was surprised by how little I actually knew about djinn and was forced to change my perspective. And when you start to look at stuff from a different angle than you're used to, all kinds of things happen, like 74,000 word manuscripts.

Last week I discussed the strongest djinn, the Marid. The next level down is the Ifrit. Like all djinn, Ifrit may be good or evil, but most of the time they're the bad guys. It was a convenient way to add dimension to my villain too. Strength and cunning are good traits for that. They like to live underground and frequent ruins...especially ruins that are underground...like cisterns... and for some reason, their skin is usually a shade of green. Could it be they're jealous of the Marid?

Ifrit are probably the most well know type of djinn. The Final Fantasy RPG uses Ifrit and associates them with - surprise! - the fire element. (oops.., think I forgot to tell you djinn are all made of smokeless fire). There are historic sites associated with them, such as the djinn blocks of Petra and the Majlis al-jinn (above pic), IFrIT software named after them? and even Jeannie's evil Ifrit sister on TV. In fact, the more I look, the more I keep seeing djinn everywhere... in literature and popular culture.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Put Flying Carpets to Rest

There are no flying carpets in Burnt Amber, sorry to disappoint. I know, Aladdin has one and its all geniefied and yeah its cool.  Remember last week I said djinn are not blue? Well this week I'm blasting flying carpets out of the water.  Djinn do not need them...at all.

But while carpets are not necessary to djinn, they are an important part of Turkish culture. And the carpet designs are not just pretty, there is meaning attached to each knot and color choice.  Visit Istanbul's famed Grand Bazaar , sit down for a cup of yummy elmali çay (apple tea) and a carpet dealer will happily spend your entire afternoon explaining.  There are a few designs in particular I love, the tree of life (a persian motif usually though) and the center medallion.  I almost included a tangent about the medallion for Sybil, maybe I'll still find a way, since I think it's interesting. The medallion represents the earth and the levels of heaven are represented by....I digress. 

Important point : Ottoman sultans relocated the finest weavers to Hereke so they could furnish their palaces. Weavers there still make intricate silk on silk carpets fine enough to hang on a wall as artwork.  Of course, the traditional wool Turkish carpet or flat weave Kilim is nice for that too.  Even with the modern decor so popular in Turkey today, most homes have at least one piece someplace.  Once you get hooked, you'll never buy a machined carpet again, I promise.  Even the ones at IKEA are better than nothing.

Courtesy of Teresathetraveler, we have a brief and informative visit with a carpet dealer in Goreme, which is where I got my Toros carpet (above) as a wedding gift, btw.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, August 2, 2010


after Arda scoresImage by dmboyer via Flickr
First of all, congratulations to Spain for taking the FIFA World Cup. And second....so happy I don't have to worry about time differences and adjusting my life to match schedules any more...as I'm sure you are, right? Well take it from me, lots of us are.

Now for the serious question - are you Galatasarayli or Fenerbahçeli?

It's a loaded question in Turkey. I'm Galatasarayli myself...I happen to be fond of Arda Turan. Me and all the rest of the Turkish girls :) I can't tell you how disappointed we all were when he came off the market!

Sybil gets good tickets to the Galatasaray Futbol match in their Istanbul stadium. It's an experience to say the least. The atmosphere is charged, with people wearing team colors and girls screaming for their favorites. You get the idea.

At home, most Turkish men are glued to the screen, watching every match. Which is where I will be, going forward.  Free tickets?...nah, I'm comfy right here. You'll understand after you see the video ;)

NB. The fans tend to get excited!

Enhanced by Zemanta


Related Posts with Thumbnails