Tuesday, November 30, 2010


via Wikipedia
There are five Tuesdays this November? Hmmm.

Coherence may be difficult for me today because I'm suffering from some kind of crud my kids brought home. But I went and dug up (not literally) another interesting woman for the Notable Eastern Women series.

I had some great choices. Cleopatra was tempting because she and Antony visited Tarsus, which is not far from where I lived in Mersin. The only thing left there is the "Cleopatra Gate" and it's not very interesting.  Plus everyone already knows her story, venomous snakes and all. Hatshepsut is another Egyptian woman and pharaoh, but a fellow blogger is the expert on her...and I really liked the story of Nefertiti.

Nefertiti was erased from history. Her name was scratched out and where possible, her statues were credited to Kiya, King Tut's mother instead. That tells me two things: 1) She must have been interesting. 2) I should write a post about it!

So, if somebody tried hard to eliminate her from memory, what do we know about her? Enough to write an interesting piece of historical fiction. (Esther Freisner already has: Sphinx's Princess.)

  • She was co-regent with Akhenaten.
  • Her name means ""Beauty has come", so she must have been easy on the eyes. Iconic even.
  • She and Akhenaten supported a monotheistic religious revolution to the sun god, Aten.
  • She only had daughters, so she and Akhenaten were succeeded by the son of Kiya and Akhenaten, Thutankhaten - who eventually changed his name to Thutankhamun.
The mummy of Nefertiti has never been found. Recently, there was an excavation of a small tomb located in a larger, already excavated site. Two women found there were thought to be Nefertiti, but DNA and CT scans were inconclusive. One mummy is supposedly Kiya and the other Queen Tiye. What was interesting about the find, was that Kiya's body seemed to have been desecrated after mumification. The floating theory is that the mummy is indeed Nefertiti, but someone had gone to the trouble of making the body unidentifiable. And inaccesible to the afterlife.

Maybe the key to the story is King Tut.  The biggest clue was his name change from Thutankhaten, "Living Image of Aten", to Thutankhamun, "The Living Image of Amun". He abandoned not only the name, but his father's great city of Amarna, with it's temples honoring the sun god. Did he view Nefertiti as a heretic and order her "disappearance" from every monument and temple? Or was it the priests who finally regained power under an impressionable boy king? A boy king who preferred the memory of his mother to the queen his father adored...

Grey places...I love it!

Next month I'm posting a series called "Western Tales with Eastern Roots". You might be surprised by what I've found.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkish Tavla

via Tulumba.com
 Like everyone else, I'm sitting here waiting for hot deals on Amazon. But if you have someone on your list who doesn't need books or electronics, you're probably clicking around like a maniac trying to find something interesting. (Something not made in China or available at Target would be nice!)

How about a backgammon (tavla) set? Conjures images of old men in coffee shops, doesn't it?

Yup, I can just see them under the shade of an arbor smothered with bougainvillia or at the edge of the town square, people watching between moves...

This set is pretty cool, and not too expensive. Tulumba.com has it for under $50.00. I suppose if you're not into games, it would still look nice up on a bookshelf. Rummikub is pretty cool too. If you've never tried that, it's like Gin Rummy but with domino-like tiles. In Turkey, these games are pretty much de rigueur. I knew some ladies that had regular *ahem* gatherings to play Rummikub (called Okay in Turkey). I never went because I didn't want to lose my shirt, if you know what I mean.

How about a coffee set to go with those games? Tulumba has those too! OK, that one is probably more for the ladies group...but if you need an ashtray (Ashtray? What's that? Where do you even GET one of those anymore? You did know Camels were made with Turkish Tobacco.) Tulumba has neat looking ashtrays too...and over 100,000 other neat things that might work for your hard-to-impress giftees.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 26, 2010


via BloomingRoseMusings.blogspot.com

In the past ten years (since I've been buying pumpkins to carve for my boys), there's been a resurgence of heirloom varieties.  One I'm particularly fond of happens to be the kind they grow in Turkey as well.  The bluish grey skin of a Jarrahdale may not look like your typical jack-o-lantern, but the shape is gorgeous and the bright orange flesh inside is tasty.

I thought I'd share a very simple Turkish recipe for poached pumpkin my husband's aunt taught me. Because, in the tradition of all American immigrant families, we all bring little bit of our heritage to the Thanksgiving table.

About 4 cups pumpkin, seeded, peeled and cubed (any size, but I like larger 2x3 chunks)
2 1/2 cups sugar
½ cup walnuts or pecans
whipped cream

Place the cubed pumpkin in a large pot and spread the sugar evenly on the surface. Let it stand for 3-4 hours, until the sugar dissolves and the pumpkin has released quite a bit of liquid. Then cook over low-medium heat for 30-45 minutes (depends on the size of the cubes), or until the pumpkin is soft. There should be some syrup at the bottom of the pot. Cool and serve with whipped cream and chopped walnuts or pecans.

If you like, you can add cloves and/or the juice of one lemon to the liquid while cooking and a dusting of cinnamon might be nice. English folks might try it with clotted cream. Enjoy!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Character MapImage via WikipediaFirst, I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow American bloggers and readers. :)

Second, I have a confession to make:

I've been calling it Turkey, partly because that's what most people call it and partly because I'm lazy and I hate to open the character map every time I need a weird letter. (Many words in my posts are probably incorrect due to reason number two.) But on Turkey day I feel the need to clarify.

The official name of the country is Türkiye, not Turkey.

Enjoy your bird!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Pier.Bover via Flickr
 I was out celebrating the Beaujolais Nouveau release and started up a discussion with a friend of mine about auras. (Couple glasses of wine will bring out interesting conversation, you know...)

Over the years, I've noticed many of my closest friends love orange. They have orange rooms, orange candles, orange furniture.  Me? I love blue. All shades, but especially peacock. Do I give off a matching vibe? I don't know, but I do think favorite colors are indicative of personality. I also know I'm not the first one to come up with the idea.  

Auras are important to the concept of the third eye, Kundalini, chakras and Zoroastrianism. Halos behind saints, prophets and kings in Abrahamic religions are an example of the aura in the mainstream.

Guess what? My djinn have auras too. Remember my post on amber orbs?

As I was telling my friend, grey areas are the best place for my writerly mind to dwell.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Helen of Troy

Bust of Helen of Troy by Antonio Canova at Vic...Image via WikipediaMy series of Notable Eastern Women is taking some geographic liberties today, because Helen of Troy was really born Helen of Sparta. But history had other plans for the woman with "the face that launched a thousand ships".

If you aren't familiar with Homer (or Marlowe), I'll give you the skinny.

Helen was the daughter of Leda and Zeus. She grew up to be a demi-goddess of astounding beauty. Then like a pawn, she was married off to Menelaus, the local strong arm who won the games held in her honor. She was a true prize, with powers of seduction and connections to the gods (probably via opiats).

Meanwhile in Troy, handsome Paris (the man, not the city or the hotel heiress) was between a rock and a hard place. Three goddesses, Hera, Aphrodite and Athena, asked him to choose who was the most beautiful among them.  He awarded the golden apple (Calista) to Aphrodite, because she promised him the love of the most beautiful woman.

Fast forward to Paris visiting the court of Menelaus. Aphrodite arranged to have Menelaus leave for pressing business and Helen was left to "entertain" Paris. The rest is history - or mythology, depending how you look at it.

The ancient site of Troy is in modern day Turkey, near Çanakkale, at the narrowest point of the Dardanelles. There isn't much left to look at.  After all, Menelaus supposedly destroyed the wealthy trading port with his famous Trojan horse, even though Achilles ran into some bad luck with his heel.

So what was the real story? Did Helen love Paris?  She probably had to go with him willingly. (Many a woman has dropped everything for a hot guy with cold cash.) Was Menelaus really jealous enough to convince the owners of 1,000 ships (because most of the ships weren't his) and the sons of may men to join him in his quest for revenge? The sad part is, it was probably more a question of who had the biggest piggy bank. A busy port city at the mouth of the Dardanelles was a jewel in anyone's crown, but the romantic idea of fighting for the woman you love is more interesting and we're still captivated by the story even in our century.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 22, 2010

What's in a Name?

Hagia Sophia, an Eastern Orthodox church conve...Image via Wikipedia
Somebody named Will once said that "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  That's true, but how about I call you Bob for the rest of the week? Bet Bob doesn't mind that, but the rest of you might get a little annoyed.

New York hasn't been New Amsterdam since 1667. Thailand hasn't been Siam since 1939. Istanbul is not Constantinople. Since 1453.

Not since an extremely weakened (by the the 4th Crusade) Eastern Roman Empire was taken over by the Ottomans.

You'll notice 1453 is before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492 and before cartographer Amerigo Vespucci took the prize of naming my fine homeland.
This is my first opinion piece ever on this blog. I can't apologize to people who don't agree, but I believe certain historic sites belong to all of us and it's our duty to preserve them the best way we know how. Endangering the status quo of neutralized places is in no way beneficial. Neutral is good for a historic building.


The iconic model for mosques around the world, Hagia Sophia, is also the best example of Byzantine architecture. It is now a museum.  A move designed by the secular Turkish government to protect and preserve it for future generations unscathed. Work is constantly being done to uncover breathtaking mosaics in the building, which was once a church and then a mosque. Religious services, by anyone, are prohibited. Seems the best middle ground any logical person could come up with.

There are lots of amazing places in Turkey which fall into this grey area. Once one thing, then another, sometimes even repurposed again. It's part of a long and complex history. So while Turkish people are proud of the heritage and architecture left behind by the many different societies that once called Thrace home, Istanbul is distinctly their city.  It is not Constantinople.

Heck, there's even a song about it!

They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople) from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 19, 2010


MagpieImage via WikipediaA fellow blogger of mine, OJ Gonzalez-Cazeres, is always writing Magpie tales. They reminded me of the real ones we had in Turkey.  I'm going to tell you a true story now, but don't be upset. It's not my fault.

First, you should know that my husband, like any good Turk, drives either too fast or too slow. Second, magpies aren't necessarily as smart as you thought.

My parents came over to visit us and to celebrate our wedding in April. They came a couple of weeks early, so they could get some sight-seeing into the trip as well. My beloved, of course, was happy to oblige and dutifully drove us all over Anatolia, where my mother remarked that the flocks of sheep were actually walking carpets-in-the-making. So, concentrating on the open fields the sheep live on, I should also tell you magpies like to take advantage of the road kill on the single ribbon of asphalt which winds across the landscape.

They always waited until we were ridiculously close, in a game of chicken, probably because the tractors that usually came by were slow and they finished up whatever was on the menu before it got there. (We took lots of backroads... the "shortcut" story is for another post.)

"Don't worry," said my beloved. "They always get out of the way."

OK. We sped across the narrow two lane "highway" and, as we saw the whites of his eyes, the magpie decided we were NOT a tractor.  He lifted his heavy hiney off the road and started flying away from us, in the same direction that we were traveling. Needless to say, he tail-planted himself on our windshield and was on the menu himself later that evening.

And you would think my beloved would learn from the experience, like maybe honk the horn the next time it was about to happen. How could there be TWO stupid magpies anyway? But no...

Moral of the story...let the stupid magpie get out of the way!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Where I Want to Retire

via travelephesus.net
 Bodrum is my ultimate destination. It has everything I want. Expat residents being the most important criteria, because I like to eat all kinds of ethnic foods and supermarkets are more likely to have more than just the standard 57 varieties of feta cheese if they're catering to foreigners.

But it's more than that...Turkish nationals also flock to Bodrum for the

  • Historic sites (Castle of St. Peter built by the Knights Hospitaller)
  • Marinas
  • Awesome beaches
  • Nearby airport
  • Insane night clubs (for those who are so inclined)
And views like the one from this townhouse condo (Already on my vision board, but you can be my neighbor, if you wish!)

via Century21Halikarnas.com
  Now if that picture doesn't put a fire under you to finish your book, I don't know what will!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Devil's Snare

via OfficialCypherFansite.com
You may wonder where I come up with this stuff, but it's all around us, you know. I needed a protective symbol, so djinn wouldn't be able to track down my heroine. So off I went into cyberspace to find an appropriate, and interesting talisman.

Clickity click....I remember something cool from The Alchemyst. Clickity click....some neat, but ordinary sounding Celtic stuff... save it for later. Clickity click...that looks interesting - devil's snare; originated in Assyria...I like the Middle Eastern connection. Evil spirits get trapped in the coil...hmm...maybe if I use a verse to make the swirl it would be even more interesting. Clickity click...oh, you're SUPPOSED to use verses...Clickity click...latin verses...bingo! CATALYST IN TRAINING.

So if you haven't already guessed, a version of the devil's snare is important in my book. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


No known portraits of her exist. This painting...Image via WikipediaAs part of the Notable Eastern Women series this month, we've done a mythical woman, Scheherazade and we've done a modern woman, Tansu Çiller. Today we'll move along to a historical figure Hürrem Sultan, more commonly known as Roxelana. Cool name, don't you think?

Her story is a complex tale of tragedy and triumph. Neé Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska, she was the Ukranian wife of  Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent and an influential woman. There are no known official portraits of her, but there is plenty of documentation of her beauty and power.

Born into an educated family, the daughter of an orthodox priest, her early life was disrupted when the Tatars captured her in one of their raids and sold her off as a slave. Her beauty eventually landed her in the sultan's harem in Istanbul, which was a mixed blessing, especially when the jealous favorite wife had her beaten when the sultan started visiting too often.

But the sultan was angered and sent the favorite wife away with her son, the heir apparent. Roxelana took top position in the Harem. Amazingly, she managed to have the Sultan free her and then even married him, legitimizing her own son as the next heir in the process. Their love story has inspired artists and composers all over Europe.

via un.org

I would be remiss if I didn't at least mention Queen Noor of Jordan here. She's a modern equavalent of Roxelana in my eyes, a brilliant foreigner in the king's bedroom and an influential women who actively promotes world understanding of the Middle East and many other worthy causes

Here's some more classical music for you, since many enjoyed the clip last week. Haydn's Symphony No. 63 "La Roxelane" presented by Philharmonia Hungarica

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Turkish Bachelorette Party

via GlobetrottingBride.blogspot.com
Last week we examined the Turkish wedding tradition of Red Ribbons and I promised we'd come back to the bachelorette party. It's not really called a bachelorette party in Turkey, but they do know how to have a good time.

Usually it's a get-the-bride-ready-for-her-wedding occasion.  Some henna painting on the hands (not unlike Indian Mehndi, but usually a simpler design), a visit to hammam or a day spa, then dinner with all of your girlfriends. Sometimes it'll all be wrapped up into one location at a hotel for an evening. (You definitely want an invite to those!)

Some of you may be wondering what the deal is with the shoes and some of you may have even seen it at a wedding stateside. Well, The Knot isn't where the idea came from. It's an old Turkish tradition to write the names of eligible young women at the bachelorette party on the soles of the bride's shoes. The ones that wear off are the girls who will be married next. 

Beats getting hit in the face by a bouquet (or tackled by the forever-bridesmaid).

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 12, 2010

Q&A Gems from Tracy Marchini

via LittonsDirectToYou.com
Happy Dance! I have 100 followers (See the little box on the left sidebar? That's you folks!) and (starting from when I became a real blogger in July) today is my 100th post! Schools always celebrate the 100th day, right? So everybody grab a some chai or a latte and lets have some virtual red velvet cake!

A bit of info about our wonderful guest, Tracy Marchini:

Her resume includes Curtis Brown, Taconic Press, BookPage... She's mentored at Rutgers One-on-One Plus Children's Literature Conference. She's critiqued query letters and/or manuscripts for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) Poughkeepsie Conference since 2007.  The list goes on! Tracy is currently a freelance writer and professional manuscript critiquer. For more about her, because she says it better, click the link above for her "about me" page.

Everybody, this is Tracy...
Please do not stalk her on the subway for insight. Send her an email!
(Little tip folks: she often has a query critique contest on Mondays.)

First, I would like to thank Tracy for always taking the time to answer all of my (sometimes) overly analytical questions. The Dunning-Kruger syndrome targets writers especially hard, as we all know :)

ME: Connecting to characters kids already know is tempting, except references to popular culture can be expensive and sometimes date a book. However, does (very limited) name dropping distract too much from the story?

TRACY: I think the biggest problem with contemporary references is that, like you said, it is very easy to date your book before it's even been published. There are some references that will always be classic -- generations of teens have loved the Beatles, for example. But if you were to mention Bieber's newest album (My World 2.0 - and yes, I had to look it up!) as if the character had just bought it on iTunes, the album could be three years old by the time your book hits shelves, and the next 16-year-old teen artist will probably be on the rise. It will pull readers out of your contemporary story, because they will remember immediately that they acutally did buy that album three years ago.

That's not to say that pop culture references are always detrimental. They can be very useful in giving the reader a sense of character. If you tell us that someone has every film that Alfred Hitchcock has ever made, it gives us quite a different sense than someone who has watched Beauty and the Beast over 100 times.

The trick is to pick your references so that they are timeless, and to do it only when it will truly enhance the reader's understanding of your character. Otherwise, feel free to make up band names and cheesey sounding romance movie titles, and whatever else you need that can help flesh out your main character's world!

ME: Adjectives are an expensive accessory. The cost is pacing and word count. On the other hand, stripping a manuscript down can leave a generic mess behind. How do you decide where to put the descriptors?

TRACY: If you're reading the mansucript outloud and you can feel that you're stumbling over words, then it's time to look at how you can clean up your prose. Since every manuscript is different, it's hard to give a set of rules about when and where to use description, but I can give some general don'ts.

- Don't use adjectives or adverbs with every dialogue tag (i.e. "she said, sadly," "he said, laughing," "she said, weeping," etc.).

- Don't open each chapter with a paragraph of description. If the setting is important, we certainly need details, but I find that many newer authors open each chapter with a large block of description about the setting or whichever character we're about to meet. What this tends to do is slow down the pacing of the book, and also can make the reader feel like they're reading multiple first chapters.

- Don't stop your action in the middle of the scene to tell us extraneous setting or description. If your main character is falling down a cliff, we're not really concerned about the minute details of the flora and fauna she's falling past!

ME: What about the use of big words? We’re all tempted to go purple with the prose… maybe if we add just a few interesting words…like say… intarsia or zephyr? (Such pretty words. Sigh.) Good? Bad? Do you think they hurt pacing even if we put enough context?

TRACY: Again it's hard to say, but the read-aloud rule is an excellent litmus test for this as well. I think that writers sometimes assume that you can't use larger words in children's literature because the child/teen won't know what it means. I think this can be a large underestimation of the audience and also can sanitize your writing. However, if you find that you're defining words in your prose, or you're using two big words when one smaller one would work better, then you might want to reconsider your word choice.

ME: Male protagonists seem to be on the rise in YA. Are there a few cardinal rules you can give us (ladies) about crafting a believable male voice?

TRACY: The first thing I would say is to search out books with YA male protagonists and read, read, read! I would also remember the following:

- Males and females have different speech patterns in general. Men use fewer qualifiers and tend to make statements, while women will try to ask questions to try and keep the conversation flowing. (I talk more about this in a post on my blog - Differences in Male and Female Speech )

- Boys don't talk about girls the way girls talk about boys. Though they use fewer words, they are much more graphic when they talk to their friends. They also tend to be more visual. So if a boy decides to talk about a girl with his friends, he's going to describe what she looks like first, and he probably will keep his deeper emotions to himself. A girl, however, will tell her friends everything and use much more flowery language.

- Men tend to be more action-oriented. They want to fix things, and they like to find the logic in things. Think about the protagonists of John Green's novels (and I'll try to do this without too many spoilers, because everybody should go out and read these books!) In Looking for Alaska, Miles wants to know what happened to Alaska. His mission is based on both his affection for Alaska, his guilt over his part in helping her leave campus, and also a desire for logic. He needs to understand why she did what she did. In An Abundance of Katherines, Colin is looking for a mathematical formula to predict the path of a relationship after being dumped by his 19th Katherine. (How's that for seeking logic?)

But, not all men are the same, so these are perhaps more like baselines than cardinal rules.

ME: Frontloading with backstory is bad, but we need solid facts in the first paragraph on the first page to indicate where the story is going. Any magical hints on how to balance that?

TRACY: As far as a character's personal history on the first page, only give us the information we need to know to understand what is happening in that first scene and at that moment. Pull us in with the action, and then let the backstory come out naturally as it's needed. You might find that you know your character's whole life story, down to their first word -- but unless it's relevent, leave it out.

In order to tell us the direction of the manuscript in the first couple paragraphs, it might be helpful for you to finish the manuscript first, and then go back and read your first chapter. Many times, your manuscript has taken a life of its own, and perhaps your first chapter no longer accomplishes everything it should. If you find this is so, rewrite. It'll be easier to put all the essentials into the first paragraph and chapter once you know exactly where your character is going to land by the end of the book.

ME: Happy endings just don’t seem to fit with a lot of edgy YA stories. Nevertheless, many authors feel the need to tie it all up with a nice bow. (I’m thinking Mockingjay: stone me later). Do you think they’re capitulating to a market trend?

TRACY: I'm going to say that I hope not! No matter how edgy your YA story is, the character does have to show an emotional growth by the end, but they don't have to have all their ducks in a row, so to speak. Marketing trends are interesting, because sometimes two or three houses will come out with very similiar sounding books and it'll feel like there's been a group decision to make something the next 'it' thing. But in reality, the books were bought at least a year and a half to two years before, the publishing houses are not trading notes about what are on their upcoming lists, and each house is independently buying books to try to vary what they offer with each list and to perhaps fill the gaps in what they're missing. (However, imprints within a house talk, of course, and Random House and Knopf are unlikely to both buy different picture books about the same subject.)

ME: Mythology is big right now. (Actually, I can’t remember when it wasn’t.) Yet allusion is a bad query word. I thought the whole point of allusion is that some people get it, while others don’t... like finding the cheat codes for Assassin’s Creed. (Can’t wait for the new one!) My question: Is too much subtle allusion a silent manuscript killer?

TRACY: I don't know that I'd agree to allusion is a bad query word, I think it's probably the words that follow! But I would say that allusion is really only truly effective when your audience does know a bit about what you're alluding to. For example, most teenagers have either had to read or are familiar with Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, so if your main character describes herself and her crush as two "star-crossed lovers" the audience is going to immediately picture the terrible end of Romeo and Juliet and (hopefully) assume that the relationship between your protagonist and her crush is also going to end pretty poorly.

If you find that you're explaining too much of the mythology or other material that you're alluding to, it might be time to re-evaluate why you want to use that myth or allusion in particular. I would also keep in mind that a lot of readers will gloss over allusions they don't understand instead of going to look them up, so in that case they've become words without meaning/value.

ME: Since I’m itching to know, what was the most useful thing you learned from the La Muse workshop?

TRACY: La Muse was a retreat, so we didn't meet for workshops. I think one of the best things about the retreat was being in a maison with five other people that were serious about their writing, but who were also looking forward to exploring the French countryside. I'm still in touch with some of my fellow Musers, and I was able to write a first draft while I was there. It was an amazingly beautiful village, and there were definitely days I felt like I was living in a postcard. I did learn that I liked duck though, so that might be useful the next time I'm in a restaurant!

ME: What’s your favorite book of all time?

TRACY: This changes depending on the last book I read, and what mood I'm in! Recently I've been feeling an itch to re-read all of Beverly Cleary's Ramona books, but it could be that it's because there's been a push and repackaging for the movie. (Darn you marketing!!)

ME: Bittersweet or milk chocolate?

TRACY: Milk chocolate and/or dark chocolate, but I will pretty much eat any chocolate that doesn't have anything crunchy in it. (Also, I love peanut butter and I love chocolate, but I don't enjoy them together. It's kind of weird.)

ME: Finally, does a degree in Rhetoric make you a more tactful editor? Or are you simply nice?

TRACY: Maybe I'm nice because I'm eating all that chocolate! :) I do think my degree definitely trained me to think critically about a piece of work, and I always strive to be honest and fair in my critiques and to do it in a constructive way. My main goal is always to help somebody make the piece the best it can be, and to do in an atmosphere where they feel like they can ask me questions if they don't quite understand something in my editorial letter. I can't guarantee that everything that I critique will get published, but I do want to make sure that everybody that gets a critique comes away with knowledge that they can use to become a stronger writer.

Thank you for all your fabulous answers, Tracy! 

PS from ME: A manuscript critique from Tracy feels like a detailed revise and resubmit request, except you haven't wasted any query goodwill of the agents on your list. She's probably saved me a great deal of heartache. (Although, I fully expect to do plenty of writhing when I query soon.)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Bosphorus Ferry.Image via WikipediaThe Bosphorus strait divides Istanbul into two parts, so as you can imagine, the Vapur ferry boat (and eventually bridges) played a huge role in the development of the city.

Generally, tourists stick to the older, eastern side of the city, since most historic sites are there. Many do opt for a ferry ride up the strait though, and they aren't disappointed.

The panoramic views are amazing...I still get the chills thinking of the first time I saw it.  Minarets and skyscrapers, lovely Yali mansions and palace gates... all of them change moods with the angle of the sun...see what I mean:

via wikipedia
Don't miss the ferry trip!
PS!!!! Just want to say THANK YOU to all of my followers! Serendipity hit 100 on Tuesday and Friday will be the 100th post. So as a special treat that day, I have author/freelance editor Tracy Marchini coming by for a Q&A on Writing. Amazing stuff on her resume: Curtis Brown and Taconic Press...and the "Wonderbar" Nathan Bransford has her on his Book Blogs sidebar. She's currently represented by Caren Johnson Estensen.  Worth checking out, I promise!

Now back to our show: If you have the time (about 10 minutes) this guy has a pretty HiDef video of his tour up the European side and a little of the Asian side down to Beylerberi Palace.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday Knights

one Lucky guy via Flickr
Dan Brown brought the Knights Templar front and center with his DaVinci Code, but there were other orders along with the Templars as well.  The Knights Hospitaller for instance. Haven't heard of them?  Me neither, but I bet you've heard of the Knights of Malta...Surprise, it's the same bunch of guys.  (Sometimes they're called the Knights of St John, or Knights of Rhodes, btw).

All up and down the Turkish coast, you'll find crusader castles the Hospitallers controlled. The knights were a brotherhood created to care for the pilgrims (in hospitals) and protect the pilgrimage route (with castles). Their most important castle is the Krak des Chevaliers in Syria.

So if you're planning to create a neo-Byzantine djinn society (please don't, I already have) you're going to need some 12th century knights (pronounced Ki-ni-gits by Monty Python fans, like myself.)

Now the Maltese cross is a topic for another discussion...
Enhanced by Zemanta
PS!!!! Just want to say THANK YOU to all of my followers! Serendipity hit 100 yesterday and Friday will be the 100th post. So as a special treat, I have author/freelance editor Tracy Marchini coming by for a Q&A on Writing. Amazing stuff on her resume: Curtis Brown and Taconic Press...and the "Wonderbar" Nathan Bransford has her on his Book Blogs sidebar. She's currently represented by Caren Johnson Estensen.  Worth checking out, I promise!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Red Ribbons

via Travelthruhistory.com
In my previous post on the Turkish Rules of Engagement, we saw the couple exchange promise rings bound by a red ribbon.

In the Turkish wedding tradition, a bride wears red cording or ribbon around her waist symbolizing her chastity and a promise to the bridegroom. (As in, he's the only one who gets to untie THAT knot!)

The cake is always huge because every cousin, neighbor and co-worker is invited. Each person pins a gold coin onto the bride's dress as a gift, but sometimes the ribbon is used instead. (I think that's what happened in this photo. Beats getting stabbed by a plethora of tipsy wedding guests!)

When the first child is born, often the woman will receive visitors with a piece of the same red ribbon tied up in her hair.

Next week I'll discuss the bachelorette party and the perfect wedding shoes.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, November 5, 2010


via MerhabaTurkey.com
...undulating fields of them stretching their necks toward the sky.

The plains of Anatolia are blanketed with sunflowers in the summer. Turkey exports lots of sunflower oil and Turkish people love to snack on roasted, salted sunflower seeds.

I find solidarity with the humble sunflower:

One writer in a field of many, all of us yearning for the same thing.  Our sun is the agent and when one shines down on us, however briefly (partial request), we soak it up. When agents turn away from us (rejectons), our heads droop. But when the next agent comes by, we're just as ready to let them shine on us too.


And least we forget..

Jessica at The Alliterative Allimorph is reminding us to Celebrate the Little Things.  She's hosting a giveaway with awesome prizes (Amazon gift certificates!) to celebrate her blog reaching an amazing 450 followers. Check it out!
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Where I Come From

Bird eye view of Mersin with Mediterranean SeaImage via Wikipedia
Well, it's not exactly where I come from, but I thought I'd share a few pictures of my husband's home town, Mersin. I lived there for a while and there's always a piece of it with me.

The town has known many names. Içel is the formal government name for the city and the surrounding region. In ancient times, it was known as Zephyrium. (Lucky for me, since zephyr has always been one of my favorite words. Ask my high school English teacher.) Mersin is the name we answer to now.

Fun little fact....the word Mersin means blueberry. Apparently, wild blueberries grow in the nearby foothills of the Toros mountains. (And yet...I couldn't find a single one to eat while I was there? Just think of all the yummy jams I could have made.)

via travellinkturkey.com

Mersin is located on the Mediterranean coast just above Cyprus and is an important port city. In fact, the city is now home to the largest Free Port in Turkey. The expanded port injected the local economy with capital and many new neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it also caused urban sprawl all the way to our small village outside the city.

The market center of the old city is only open for foot traffic now (thankfully) and the Flamigo Yol avenue along the water is lined with lovely gardens for strolling and restaurants where the city's inhabitants love to play.

There are lots of ancient sites around Mersin, like Olba , Kizkalesi  and The Cave of Cennet, which appear in my writing or inspire it in some way. You'll see more of them in future posts, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ley Gates

via JiroOlcott.com
In 1921, amateur archeologist Alfred Watkins suggested the existence of ley lines. These networks of ancient paths had several things in common.  
  • They were created with astronomical guides.
  • They were always straight lines.
  • They were marked by significant objects.
He never suggested  ley lines had any supernatural powers.

Fast forward a bit and today ley lines are known as paths of energy that crisscross the world.  Ley gates are found at the intersections of those lines. The most famous ley gate is probably Stonehenge.

Something else like ley lines lies sleeping on the Eurasian continent as well.  Like a dragon, Naga  follows the fold mountains where the tectonic plates of the earth meet. It's eye is located in the foothills of the Jura mountains at Alaise, France and paths radiate from Alaise, much like ley lines. The secret is in the area salt mines.

Druidic lore and ritual sites there gave me ideas...lots of ideas actually, but those will be for another post.

via JiroOlcott.com
Authors use ley gates in many ways. Diana Gabaldon used them for time travel, other writers (like me) use them to travel around the world. Sometimes they are sources of powerful strange magic. But whatever we write about ley lines, the one thing our stories share is an interesting link to the ancients.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Scheherazade and a Quest

Illustration from "One Thousand and One N...Image via WikipediaI couldn't keep to my M-W-F posting plan because I came up with another idea (and I can't shut up when that happens).

So Tuesdays this month will be a series. Notable Eastern Women. Each week I'm going to post a few facts about a woman (real or immortalized) who inspires my writing. Since I can't possibly include every fact, I'm asking followers to please add what they know in the comments. (The more obscure, the better!)

Today I'm working on Scheherazade.  She's in lots of places. Yet when I referred to her in my query, some people looked at me like I had three heads.

Scheherazade is the narrator of the 1001 Arabian Nights. We begin with the sultan of the story, who takes a different wife each night and kills her in the morning.  However, when Scheherazade is chosen, things change. She tells him a different story each night, cleverly falling asleep and failing to finish it, leaving him with a cliffhanger. Of course, the sultan can't kill her because he must know the ending.

Some quick facts for you:

  • Aladdin is one of Scheherazade's most famous stories.
  • Scheherazade is a ballet and symphonic suite, written in 1888 by Rimsky-Korsakov. (Love this!)
  • Binbir Gece, also with a Shehrazat, is a 2006 Turkish soap opera.  A modern 1001 Arabian Nights á la Indecent Proposal, it's currently running rampant all over eastern Europe and the Middle East.
Here's the quest:  I want you to Guess The Author of the following quote. (It's not me, despite the parentheses.)

The night having arrived, the lady Scheherazade not only put the finishing stroke to the black cat and the rat (the rat was blue)but before she well knew what she was about, found herself deep in the intricacies of narration, having reference (if I am not altogether mistaken) to a pink horse (with green wings) that went, in a violent manner, by clockwork, and was wound up with an indigo key.

Your clue is: Tellmenow Isitsoörnot

This is Rimsky-Korsakov's haunting(and famous) piece, performed by the Moscow Symphony.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Write My Name on Your Heart

via binscorner.com

Unut beni...AH!  Tarkan begs me to forget him everytime I listen. (He knows it's a lost cause.) But he seems to have had a change of strategy with his latest album Adimi Kalbine Yaz (Write My Name on Your Heart).

Beta readers are probably looking at this picture going "I know that face!" Yeah, he's the inspiration for my Turkish Casanova.

Tarkan may not be a household name here in the States, but he is THE biggest Turkish star.  He's known all over Europe too, thanks to Turkey's amazing nightclubs and their European patrons.

I'd love to share his videos, but they are really hard to come by, copyrights and all, so I encourage you to click the link to his official website (above) for some authentic Turkish entertainment.

And now, back to my revision!


Related Posts with Thumbnails