Monday, February 28, 2011

The Not-So-Raw Rakı Deal

via wikipedia

UK based Diageo (Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, José Cuervo, Guinness, etc.) is acquiring Mey İçki in a deal valued at 2.1 billion USD. In Turkey. Yes. Yes, I said billion. For a Turkish company producing anise flavored alcohol.

Are you scratching your head? (Come on, even I was surprised at the figure!) The insanely popular Yeni Rakı (rock-uh) is only part of the reason.

Diageo apparently plans on investing in growth markets to add value for shareholders. The company cites the young, urban, rapidly growing middle class in Turkey as a main factor for choosing Mey. A second reason is that rakı is traditionally consumed with meze, the Turkish equivalent of appetizers or tapas. Can't do that with Johnnie Walker, so it's really an opportunity to pitch other Diageo owned alcoholic beverages to the Turkish market using already established channels. (Huh! A Trojan horse. Except they're using our horse. Hmmm... sneaky.)

Rakı drinkers have also gradually begun try the local vodka (Istanblue is a Mey brand) because people who drink one are likely to imbibe in the other, which is part three of the plan. Diageo wants to cross-sell rakı into Russia. Why not? Good rakı can burn the hair out of your nose just as fast as vodka can. (I can say this because I'm part Polish AND married to a Turk. ;))

Plus, have you seen the tourists in Turkey? Summer clubbing in a resort town is one of the best things in life for a young European. Diageo might like a bigger piece of that!

PS. Turks call rakı aslan sütü (lion's milk) because when mixed with water it turns a milky white and of course it has a bite. If you're writing a book about modern Turkey, you might want to have a scene with some rakı in it.
An aside: I'm not writing posts about alcohol for any particular reason. (*ahem* querying here.) These things keep coming up and I'm very happy Turkey is getting noticed. I just want to share the news. :)

Thought I'd post a couple commercials for you.

Here's a funny one, even if it's overtly made for a male audience.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Harput Castle


Katharine Owens, aka KO: The Insect Collector, selected Harput Castle in Elâzığ, Turkey as her entry for the contest last Friday, so that's my topic today. Harput is way out in eastern Anatolia and it's someplace I've never visited, so I get to learn about it along with you.

Some things I do know about the location, etc.:
  • It's cold there! The mountainous region is known for making a special wine, Buzbağ, which is made by letting the grapes freeze on the vine before pressing them. Something tells me this method was stumbled upon.
  • Nearby Mount Ararat is the highest peak in Turkey and supposedly the place where Noah's Ark landed. You might have heard of the pictures from space...Proof has never been found and Ararat is closed to mountaineers, so you'll just have to imagine it up there, if you must.
  • There is a tale that the resourceful workers who built Harput made mortar with milk instead of water because of a drought. People still refer to Harput as Milk Castle. (I'm one of them.)
  • In  the late1800s, Russian, Armenian, and Ottoman influences clashed in Harput. The castle town was the scene of a massacre, which is to this day noted in the highly contested issue of Armenian genocide.
What I didn't know:
  • Assyrians called the region Urartu when original fortifications were built in the iron age - so long ago that folks that used cuneiform writing. You know who would be comfortable there? Bartimaeus - that snarky djinn Jonathan Stroud keeps writing about. :)
  • Wikipedia says the castle there now was built by the first Armenian kings. Over the years, Harput was conquered by Romans, Byzantines and Arabians. It was a busy place.
  • Harput translates to "rocky fortress" in Armenian. It's located on top of a craggy outcrop with a poor source of water and difficult access.
  • The castle town was eventually abandoned because of a drought, and the inhabitants resettled in Elâzığ at the base of the mountain.

PS. I need to tell you what the lie was in Wednesday's Crusader Challenge post. It's the toothpaste tube. I never roll it, but I knew someone who did. :)

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Quantum Crazed & Crusader Challenged

Projection of a Calabi-Yau manifold, one of th...Image via Wikipedia
It's not just me who thinks we live in a warped universe. ;)
In honor of Rachael Harrie's First Crusader Challenge , I'm including the following about myself in today's post:

· one lie
· one interesting quirk
· one annoying habit
· one of my best character traits
· one of my favourite things in the whole world.

It's her fault for the bloviating/ fuliguline business, btw. :)

So, in 300 words or less, allow me to bloviate with my reasoning behind our hop into the rabbit hole of quantum physics:

I've been doing a bunch of reading lately about the multiverse, the many-worlds interpretation, M theory, and even dream analysis...because I'm linking it all to the fortunetelling aspect of my gipsy/djinn characters. However, reading the experts only gives me a headache, trying to unravel what they're explaining. I decided on reading some fiction instead.

To start, I picked up Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith and Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card. Both books were enough to keep me puzzled for a couple of days, pondering time paradoxes and parallel universes. Equally engrossing plotlines kept things rolling through though, with bite sized bits of how the theories work laced into the chapters.

Here’s my sci-fi/fantasy secret: I find these books enjoyable because they help me think outside the box, instead of following the norm in fuliguline fashion. One of my favorite things in the world is a book with a premise that makes me think. I have a habit of analyzing things for days after I put them down. I examine the individual blade of grass, and how it fits into the grand scheme, instead of just looking at the big picture. Ask my kids – it’s annoying – and yet they’re right there with me, watching Stargate for the millionth time, postulating how other myths might work in the series. Perhaps I’ve stumbled onto my best character trait, infectious curiosity… Now if I could pass on the quirk of rolling a toothpast tube properly, I'd be a happy woman indeed. :)

Unrelated celebrating:

The Science Channel has purchased the rights to Firefly! Read what Nathan Fillion says about that here.

And the winner of a signed copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis is...

...with Harput castle! So Friday's post will be about her castle.


Related Articles:

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Turkish Wine

Kavaklıdere winesImage via Wikipedia If you didn't get the chance to enter yet, there was a giveaway for a signed copy of Across the Universe in Friday's post. Go back and toss your name in the hat! I'm closing the entries tonight at midnight (blogger time stamp) and I'll announce the winner on Wednesday.

So since I just crossed the 200 follower threshold, I thought I'd celebrate today with a little bit about Turkish wine.... I'm not a connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy the occasional glass, especially from a boutique vineyard.

(Vineyards are lovely setting for any sort of Just wait till you see the ones in Cappadocia! Early Chirstians were making wine in the underground cities there centuries ago.)

A little more history:

With the rise of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, winemaking in Turkey experienced a significant decline. Then in 1925, Ataturk (the first Turkish President) opened a state run vineyard and over the years, it's become a more viable business for entrepreneurs. Some successful Turkish wineries include Sarafin from the region of Thrace and  Kavaklidere from Cappadocia. Stateside, Total Wine stocks Kavaklidere for between $12-14 a bottle online.

Unique red varietals include:

Öküzgözü (ox eye): This unique ageable dry red wine – Öküzgözü ages well up to 10 years – has a bright red color, reveals intense fruity flavors of raspberry and cherry, and is rich with a well-balanced body with light tannins. The alcohol ratio of wine is between 12 - 13%. Öküzgözü is best served at 16-18 degrees C (61–64 degrees F) and is a perfect match with different dishes served with a cheese sauce, casseroles, red meat, grills, cheese and poultry. (wikipedia)

Boğazkere: The characteristics of this wine is strong body, very enjoyable long finishing, dark red color with dark blue hue, very rich and strong aromas of dried red fruits, spices. Good for aging up to 10 years. Recommended with red meat kebabs, turkey, salmon and cheese. Especially eastern Anatolian cheddar or Gruyere cheese. (again, wikipedia)

Winemakers grow standards as well, blending Anatolian varieties with European varieties like Shiraz, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet. A popular white is Narince, which is Chardonnay-like, supposedly with notes of fruit and white flowers. It's often mixed with Semillon grapes.

Here's a CNN report about the Revival in Turkish Wine:

I'll toast to that! Şerefe! (Sheh-re-fe)

Friday, February 18, 2011


A political map of the en:Near East in 1135 CE...Image via WikipediaFYI: There's a contest near the bottom of this post! Enter to win a signed copy of Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

Some of you may have noticed there's a new badge on my sidebar. I'm part of The Rachael Harrie Writers' Platform Building Crusade. Yup! I'm a crusader! Kind of fitting for me, don't you think? With me writing about crusader states and all?
Don't know what a crusader state is? Ooo..lovely idea for a post just popped in! (I'm not as talented as the Monty Python crew, but I'll give it a go.)

Crusader States:
An unofficial guide to your pilgrimage

Your travels will take you along the Mediterranean coast, through many crusader states to the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Crusader states are supported by the Pope and his peeps for your safety. You will pass dangerously close to the Assassins (between Antioch and Tripoli), so please stick to the designated road and try not to get sick along the way. Crusader castles are not made for fairy princesses. They are drafty, stone fortresses designed to keep out the locals enemies. And the knights are pretty busy with that, so even though they're called the Hospitallers, odds aren't in your favor.
Let's visit one, shall we?

Here we have Yilankale, in the lovely Principality of Armenia.

Why's it ni named for a snake?
Oh, there's some local tale about a ni pagan serpent queen...Shahmeran or something... Don't worry, we've got it ni under control. Anyway, they killed her in ni Tarsus a while back. What ni did you say? You heard that her daughters are ni pissed? might want to stay away from the ni vipers in your complementary ni  fruit basket. Ni.

Sorry, couldn't resist a kinigit opportunity. :)

AND for those of you who suffered through my insanity today...I have a nice surprise! Beth Revis was at my WNBA (Women's National Book Association) meeting this week and I have a signed copy of Across the Universe to GIVE AWAY!


1. You must be a follower.
2. In a comment below, name another interesting castle in Turkey - doesn't have to be from the crusades - can be in ruins. Try not to use one someone else used. I've written about several and there are a few clues right on this page.

I'll announce the winner next Wednesday! Good luck!

And for those who want to appreciate Ni again:

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Djinn Wishes & A Blogfest

With regard to your three wishes: get an attorney to word them- poorly articulated wishes can lead to undesirable results. And ixnay on the wishing for more wishes. :)

You might get a djinn to help you out with something if they think it's a good idea too. I wouldn't bank on that though, hence the binding. Djinn must do what you ask if you control the talisman they're bound why the three wishes? Well, the long and short of the story is that the djinn don't grant wishes, except in tales that are teaching us a lesson.

First, lets look at the number three.

We need to rub the lamp/bottle/ring three times. We get three wishes. Both examples suggest the wishes can give us power over any of these three things:

The three worlds - human, djinn, heaven
Spirit, Mind, Body
Past, Present, Future
Creation, Destruction, Sustainance

In these stories, wishes are an enticement for us to release unsavory desires we've bottled up. A way to get us to cross over to the dark side, where the djinn/demon dwells. To have mastery over things that, free will aside, only God is supposed to control. This thinking is why the character who does the wishing ends up in a sorry state (dead/trapped/disfigured/insert horrible circumstance here).

Following that train of's probably better to stay away from djinn wishes and stick to the dandelion. :)

Now, if I won the lottery...

On to Nicole Duclerior's  Bernard Pivot Blogfest. Ten questions. Here goes:

1.What is your favorite word?

Zephyr (Been my favorite since High School - Dare I ask if anyone remembers the poem I wrote for English?- way before I actually discovered Mersin (my home in Turkey) was Zephyrium in the ancient world. Cool, huh? Is this supposed to be a one word answer? Sorry!)

2.What is your least favorite word?


3.What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Ruins (Sorry, I'm odd that way. History speaks to me...)

4.What turns you off?

Loud noises.
 5.What is your favorite curse word?

My new one is frexing. Thanks, Beth Revis!

6.What sound or noise do you love?


7.What sound or noise do you hate?

The sound my dog used to make when she was sleeping, licking her chops. Incessantly.

8.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Is this a trick question? I'm attempting to be a writer.

9.What profession would you not like to do?

Anything Mike Rowe does. Except maybe the Ford commercials. Those are OK.

10.If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?


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Monday, February 14, 2011

Something Fishy

via gamze sonmez @Flickr

The best way to learn a language is by immersion. In my case, I was stuck in a small fishing boat off the coast of Mersin with three people who laughed at my childish efforts. Well, that was only part of my training. The point is you have to be forced into it, without recourse to speak your native language. Be a fish out of water, so to speak. :) 

Fishing is a big deal in Turkey, as with any coastal place. My Eniste (husband's uncle-in-law), Teyze (husband's mother's aunt) and dearest husband conspired to spend the weekend evenings of my first Turkish summer cramped into a tekne (rowboat). I couldn't understand anything on TV anyways, so... off I went.

I'm not so bad at fishing...with a rod. But when they gave me a small rectangle of wood wound in some fishing line and studded with multiple hooks at the end, things suddenly got hilarious.

 Eniste baited the hooks with some shrimp and tossed my line overboard. And it came up empty. Again and again and again. Everyone else was catching fish, so I started to get desperate, tugging at the line in little jerks. When I pulled it up, there were fish hooked on alright. Some small fry Eniste called mercan (coral) aka sea bream, all about the size of a half-dollar coin. Hooked on by the gill, tail, fin, everywhere but the mouth! The little buggers kept nibbling my bait all night. (OK, so it was more than just the ONE night. I can't live this down! And here I'm telling you about it...)

I did much better at the seafood restaurant in Narlikuyu, a beautiful cove which managed to included in my MS. Yup! Seafood is important to Mediterranean life, but, if you ask the women there to cook some up, they point to the nearest restaurant. Fish dishes are relegated to the summer, when you can open the windows to air everything out thoroughly. If you cook it at all. (Sinks up the house and that's bad for visitors, apparently.)

BTW, Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Layers of History

credit: walter52 via
I remember standing in a riverbed, admiring an ancient aqueduct, and marvelling at the layers of civilization visible in the cliff next to me. I wanted to write about the experience in my MS, but it was one of those it had to go.

Today, when I watch archeologists digging in the Virginia lowlands, looking for possible artifacts that resemble any other stone I'd find in the yard, I sigh. Here we are digging for something, ANYTHING, yet in Turkey so much history is left to weather, or worse yet, flooded for the nearest dam. SIGH.

That's what happens when there's more history around you than you can shake a stick at. Imagine - my KizKalesi, my beautiful, magical, tragic, amazing KizKalesi is a B-grade landmark! Nevermind the other places like Olba up in the foothills, get the idea. Peasants plant their crops up to the very walls, and know what?

I like that.

Because I'm selfish. I can touch every carved block if I want to...I can find a secret alcove and connect to history...with my fingers, not just my eyes. Nothing is roped off with red cording...although some of it should be. Beware the cisterns and caverns and other odd places where you might fall to your death. No one will hear you scream. Well, hopefully a peasant will pass by with her goats...

Anyhoo, thought I'd tell you about the Metro in Istanbul. Workers are continually unearthing artifacts on the route they're digging, and for a change, it is slowing the pace of development. It's the right thing to do. I have to stop being selfish and hope someone important recognizes the value of these landmarks one day.

So how about you? Has a connection to place influenced your writing?

Related Articles:

Yenikapi dig to postpone opening of Istanbul Marmaray
Istanbul trembles at pace of change (

One more thing! Jules is passing on a Valentine to all her followers and I got I'm passing it on to you. No strings attached!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Stuffed in The Bottle

A colorful bottleImage via WikipediaGenies are stuffed into bottles all the time...but I wonder why? Did Pandora use the last box? I guess the phrase "bottled up" is as close to the truth as I'm going to get.

What would a person stuff into a bottle and lock away? Not something with a great power they can use, that's for sure. It's something fearful. Things like forbidden desires and dark magic. Stuff you KNOW is wrong and yet you're tempted with anyway. (No wonder they stuffed Christina in there! She looks like jailbait in this video.)

So you put your former ally/scapegoat in a bottle and put a cork in it. It's not the genie's fault you can't control yourself, is it? I would be pretty pissed if I had to be stuck in a bottle. Hence, the bottled djinn vintage is usually....unhappy. How many stories are there about angry djinn and their masters? A bazillion? Hint: NO masters in my MS. 

Actually, djinn can be bound to any object. Like the Horcrux idea, the object is a vessel for the spirit, and the object can be a person, as Harry demonstrates. You might say Harry is! (As opposed to majnoon which means crazy and translates to "with the djinn".) 

So why would a djinn even get into such a bad situation? Curiosity. Our world is interesting to them and they get tangled up in it if they get too close to someone, or someplace. I have to stop here...or I'll get too far into my story. ;)

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It was a dark and stormy blogfest...

I don't post on Tuesdays anymore, but Brenda Drake is holding a first line contest, so I thought I'd toss my name in the hat. :)  Here goes...

Name: Carolyn Snow Abiad
Title: Burnt Amber
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy

Seyhan led us up the serpentine streets of Bebek to an unimpressive building Alexis and I would never have found on our own.

Here's the first paragraph, because I saw some others post theirs...

Seyhan led us up the serpentine streets of Bebek to an unimpressive building Alexis and I would never have found on our own. From the outside, it looked like any ordinary backstreet coffeehouse.  The faded lime green stucco façade was punctuated by worn, wooden window frames and over the door hung a crooked hand-scribbled sign with the name of the shop.  Few people went in or out, but all of them were well-heeled customers.  An odd smell of freshly roasted coffee, mixed with dusty wool and candle smoke wafted out into the street. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Romaiika - Byzantine Greek in Trabzon Today

via wikipedia

I knew about exctinct languages - nobody speaks Latin anymore - and endangered languages? Any small ethnic population deals with that problem - but endangered extinct languages are a new thing to me. I was blogging around the blogs, looking for interesting Byzantine stuff and I came across Romaiika. It's classical, Byzantine-style Greek....and you find it on the coast on the Black sea near Trabzon, Turkey. (Empire of Trebizond on the map at right. Do you see New Armenia? That's the Cilicia of my MS.)

Originally a Byzantine successor state, Trebizond was eventually cut off from the rest of the Greek speaking world. Somehow a small muslim population in the mountains, exempted from Turkish/Greek population exchanges, has preserved the centuries old dialect of Romaiika. So Byzantine Greek is extinct, but it's's endangered. This video explains the unique situation of Romaiika best:

Isn't that amazing? Did any of you think that Turkey could be so green? Did you know that Trabzon was probably part of the story of Jason and the Argonauts?

And hey! I'm joining a blog platform building Crusade over at Rach Writes. (You know I love Crusades, right?) There are tons of great bloggers out there, and some you have my back, but thought I'd add a few more to my little circle of commiserators, ya know...maybe learn a little more about my craft and the publishing world, etc.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Pre-Raphaelites & Sultans

Flaming June.Image via WikipediaArt likes to imitate culture. So when I write, I like to research the art of the time and place I'm working with...unfortunately, I don't ALWAYS find what I need.

Example: Byzantines and Turks. Byzantine artwork is two-dimentional and interesting, but not the muse I need. Turks...well, in Islam sculptures of animals and pictures of people (besides loved ones) are frowned upon.

It has to do with idolatry. If you don't own sculptures, you can't worship them, see? Same thing goes for the pictures, which is why mosques only use floral patterns and calligraphy as decorative motifs.

Plus...creepy idea...angels won't come into your house if you have sculptures. Something about demons chasing them away. Remember Interview with a Vampire ? The part where all the statues in the garden had eyes at night...yeah...creepy like that!

I had to look elsewhere for inspiration. Lucky for me, I had one piece of art in my head for years and it falls into the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Pre-Raphaelites love the Greeks and Byzantines kind of fall into the same vein, no? But I didn't KNOW which painting was my muse until I wrote a scene description remarkably like Flaming June (above) by Sir Frederick Leighton. (Do you see it, Leigh?) When I read the draft, I recognized the image and pulled it up on the internet. Then more details jumped out at me.

I love the toxic Oleander  in the led me to another scene description. And the serpentine, yin/yang position of the model led me in another direction still...Then the fluidity of the fabric, the sensuality and vulnerability of the scene that my MC would only show if she was sleeping... So much inspiration in this one work of art and yet it was auctioned off in the 60's for $140! Someone should be kicking himself now! :)

The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse floated around with me for years too, and it's still one of my favorites. It reminds me of my Arthurian stage and studying Hamlet in high school. It's Ophelia's fault that I'm stuck on the symbolism of flowers, btw. Rue, rosemary, ahh!

But what does this have to do with Sultans?  Maybe some of you have read stories of Sultans paying any price for a beautiful redhead? Sultans are part of the reason my MC has red hair, but the Pre-Raphaelites are my primary cause. Yes, Sybil has Pre-Raphaelite hair... :) Modernized a bit because it's straight, but the root of my inspiration none the less! There isn't a single sultan in my story. (And doesn't a fiery djinn need red hair?)

Has art inspired you to write? Does it sneak in without you looking, or do you consciously make an effort to include art in your work?

PS... Untamed Pre-Raphaelite hair hits Chanel's Front Row in this related article:

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who's In Your Head?

 I was planning on a post about M Theory today, because I just read The Marbury Lens. But last week was kind of serious so this week I though I'd take a break and be more...entertaining!

Barbara Eden here is an example of what a djinn does not look like (anymore). And they don't live in bottles either, but that and what it represents is another post. A real djinn is someone who blends in with the rest of us, which is a scary thought, but...

What I want to say is, when I sat down to write my MS, I had physical features in mind for each character. But somewhere between there and here, specific other people crept into my head. Because I watch TV, go to the movies, surf the know what I mean. I found real LIVE people who could speak the words I've had floating around in my head. I thought I'd share who they look like to me now.

Main character, Sybil:Molly Quinn
(I watch CASTLE. All the time. It's Nathan's fault.)

Extroverted BFF known as Alexis: Teenaged Reese Witherspoon
(Yes, they have the same hairstyle. I did that on purpose. BFFs do crazy things...actually, the muse arranged a photo shoot.)


Romantic Interest, Haydon:Tom Wellings
(OK, I need someone who looks like him, because Tom Wellings is almost my age and we're not YA, but that's my visual.)


My favorite bad djinn, Gregor:Kivanç Tatlituğ
This photo is Tart-worthy, ne? Have to tell her about it...


Trickster, Bertrand:Jeremy Irons
(He's Jeremy Irons. I don't need an explanation!)

I guess you could say these actors are some of my muses, or maybe my it's my muse who has connections, because she sent me to them!

So....who's in your head? And isn't blogger annoying? I had to upload each of these pics separately!

See you Friday!


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