Monday, October 11, 2010

Turkish Monsters & A Blogfest

There are real monsters in joke!  See the sign on the right? That's to warn us of places where they've been spotted regularly.  But the infamous "Trafik Canavarı" (trafeek janavareh) can show up on any street, at random times of day.

Turkish men don't usually pay attention to stop signs. The only thing slowing them down is a puddle or a pot hole...wouldn't want to ruin the suspension, you know.  Sometimes a pretty girl can muck up the lanes too.

Drivers in Europe usually use a stick shift...which I can do, with limited results. The UAE, where I learned to drive standard, is a nice flat desert, except for the one hill next to Spinney's which I always carefully avoided.

Col de Braus - France via wikipedia 

I'd probably roll back down over someone on the steep hills of Istanbul and likely cause several sightings a day of the Trafik Canavarı. Accidents are easy on the narrow, old streets, so the ones that make it to the news are really bad. And hairpin turns look good in the movies, but I find it better if I keep my eyes closed.

I guess the Turks want to keep up with the Italians...and the Spanish.... (Click here for a Creepy Query Girl's amusing true story about driving in France.)

And since we're talking about monsters, here's a furry blue one I thought you'd appreciate...

Now for Justin Parente's Hook Line and Sinker Blogfest, here are the first pages of BURNT AMBER.

Chapter One

The price of life I gladly, freely pay,
So I may know my soul's inheritance.
- Edwin Liebfreed

The apartment was suffocating. Modern maybe, but euro-sized, which was especially harsh for a dorm. I rooted through the crammed hall closet for a sweatshirt and winced when one touched the sore spot on my hand. The hoodie fell to the floor.

I didn’t know why, but residual pain from my nightmares was lingering longer than usual, ever since I started the semester in Istanbul. My dad wasn’t able to figure out the dreams either and he was a psychiatrist. He said deciphering the reason behind them might help me understand who I was. I only hoped. At least my first class mental case gave him some interesting research material. I shoved my sneakers on and slammed the door on the way out.

The halls were quiet still, but Seyhan was waiting for the elevator. I would have taken the stairs if he hadn’t noticed me. Well-built with clear olive skin and beautiful brown eyes, he was attractive and he knew it. Even his designer track suit coordinated with the Casanova attitude. It looked like he was going out for a run too.

“Gunaydin , Sybil. Would you care to join me?” He grinned.

“Good morning to you too, Seyhan.” I couldn’t say no, although I was kind of happy for the escort. By myself I’d have to stay on campus because I promised my parents not to go off into the city alone. Plus I didn’t really appreciate the extra attention I got when I did. If I went with him I might manage a longer run.

“Do you think we can make it down to Starbucks and back by eight?”

“Starbucks? I was just going to run around the track a couple of times,” he said.

“Sorry, I can’t stand the Nescafé anymore.” I frowned.

The track was on the north campus too. Nothing there would divert him from his special mission, Project Find Time Alone with Sybil. All the female exchange students had at least one Turkish guy latch on at the beginning of the semester. Unfortunately, Seyhan had chosen me and never let go. Thank God I didn’t have much time left in Turkey.

“The cafeteria will be open by the time we get back. My treat.” He stepped aside as the elevator opened.

I sighed.

“What? It’s not every morning you get to spend such quality time with me.” He winked.

I escaped into the dense fog which had settled between the hills overnight, obscuring even a glimmer of the Bosphorus Strait below. Dawn prompted the call to prayer and the sound resonated off the buildings, intensifying as other minarets began their broadcast in an eerie chorus. A faint acrid odor of coal-fired heaters still tainted the late April air. I wrinkled my nose in response. Seyhan sensed my dark mood so we took off for the Boğaziçi University athletic complex around the corner without saying a word.

I put my water down on the bleachers and hesitated for a small second before picking up my earbuds. I preferred the alone time, especially if my other option was talking to Seyhan.

“Do you mind? You’re probably much faster than me anyway. I’ll slow you down.” Flattery usually worked with him. Running was one of the few things where I could honestly say I outclassed most people.

He looked a bit let down but immediately recovered. “We’re still having breakfast, right?”

“Right,” I forced a smile as I finished my stretch. Seyhan shrugged his shoulders and ran off.

I loaded up my favorite playlist then started out at a leisurely rate. My mind wandered through the plans for the day, but came back around to the dream. There weren’t any new details since the last time. Still, I picked apart every facet as I replayed it in my head.

Hot tears streamed down my face and I gasped for air between the sobs threatening to choke me. A massive black enamel ring with a white cross dug into my finger as a priest squeezed my tiny hand tight, wrenching my arm and pulling me away from a bed covered with lavishly embroidered linens.

The old man asleep in the bed couldn’t hear me calling out to him. His skin was extremely pale and I realized he must be dead, or dying. An intense flash of light blinded me and the priest finally succeeded in prying me off. Raw red skin where the linens slipped through my hand burned.

The dream was vivid and the concentrated sense of loss accompanying it left a throbbing ache inside. I sped up to focus my heart on another function.

The ring was connected to the Knights of Malta. CNN had randomly featured the Queen of England accepting a scroll from them and when the camera zoomed in on the handshake, I noticed the man was wearing the same ring. A brotherhood left over from the crusades was weird thing to dream about. Wikipedia didn’t lead to any specific conclusion, though I discovered Maltese Crosses were used by lots of organizations, which left part of me wanting to understand the dreams and part of me that didn’t. I wasn’t enthusiastic about a possible outlaw biker gang in my family tree.

My shirt was riding up. I yanked it down over my midriff, especially the left side, making sure it covered the faint blue tattoo on my hip.

The Latin verse hovered just beneath my skin, like it was applied from the inside, backwards. In vinculis e tiam audax...In chains yet free. Surrounded by a Celtic knot, the chain I guess, and coiled up in a counter-clockwise spiral so tight, the whole thing could fit on a pencil eraser. You had to use a mirror and a magnifying glass to figure out what it said.

So…Irish biker gang trying to snare the devil maybe? I had no clue. But I did know something was making the mark darker and the dreams were more frequent than ever.

Seyhan stopped me.

“Sybil!” he gasped, out of breath. “I’ve been trying to catch up with you this whole last lap! What are you running away from? Me?” He asked with a bemused smile.

I switched off the music, ignoring the last remark. “Sorry. I was thinking and got into a nice pace I guess.”

“More like you were off in your own world,” he said. “We should get back to the dorm if you want to be ready for class.”

The morning was not going well. Incomprehensible nightmares, no Starbucks, no longer run. And I still had to meet him for breakfast. At least I was getting all the bad karma out early in the day.


JE said...

I <3 anything Sesame Street. Elmo is the bomb. LoL. ;-)

You should check out the contest winners on my blog this morning!!!


C. N. Nevets said...

Your main character is very engrossing!

Francine Howarth said...


Good scene setting, and I'm absolutely breathless from all that running! ;)

I began assuming there is an attraction between the two MCs, but it was a little vague - nuances of affectionate glances missing. Then it appeared as though the dream sequence is the hook, and in all honesty it stands alone without need for previous interaction between the MC and Seyhan. Meaning she could have been totally alone out running, and no dstraction beyond that of the dream reverie, which is a great hook, good line of intrigue and a sinker in need for reader to want to read on. ;)

Hart Johnson said...

"Anythink is possible when you smell like a monster" teehee

Love the Turkish 'monster' signs... (is that really road rage warning?)

Haven't read the pages yet (my split attention from work tends not to do justice to fiction I want to be serious about reading)--just wanted you to know no feedback isn't saying anything bad... just that I know I can't give it the attention it deserves at the mo, so I haven't read that part...

Jules said...

We could use some of those monster signs here in KY. :) And I love blue furry creatures. :D

Sorry my mind is on cold medicine so I'm not doing your chapter the injustice of reading it now, I'll be back. :(
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Summer Ross said...

I felt very drawn in by this character because i can relate to the nightmares. I would really like to read more from her and the residue leftover from her dreams is very interesting. I like the setting which enables the character to think clearly which is also a part of her personality i enjoyed. Though I'm not a runner by any means. I do understand how exercise can really bring out thoughts. Well done..very intrigued with this one- I would turn the opage

stu said...

An intriguing start, and one that manages to hook the reader without giving away too much.

LTM said...

it's changed! But I like it--it's much improved, tighter, to the point faster... awesome, Carolyn! It's really coming along~ Yay! :o)

Stephanie Lorée said...

I was very interested in the dream and the internal thoughts of the MC, but I have to admit, I was not intrigued in the relationship between the two characters or the running. I would just assumed had the MC running alone with her thoughts and the nightmares. The other character didn't seem to add much to the piece.

I think this is a great start, though, and I do want to know more. So you did accomplish the hook that you set out to do. I hope the critique helps and best of luck to you!!

Justin W. Parente said...

Hi Carolyn,

Thanks for sharing this piece. I just want to point something out from the start and you can take it or leave it. I would try to avoid starting passive in all instances. This sounds harsh, but "The apartment was suffocating," is just a boring sentence. You use that, and then do into why when it could all be one, gripping sentence from the start.

Here's my suggestion: "The euro-sized flat stole my breath, the day's heat all too suffocating. I should have been used to it by now."

I would start with the character's reaction to the suffocating feeling rather than being disconnected from sentence one.

The rest of this is really great though. Your character is interesting and you've given the conflict she suffers.

I would request to read more.

Thanks for sharing!

In My Write Mind

Jodi Henry said...


I am with Mesmerix on this one. The relationship between the two characters didn't really add anything to the piece. Their dialgue was very bland--for me at least.

I'd cut the other person out of the run, especially since the MC goes off alone anyway. You can always intro him another way, later like when he's important.

Thanks for the read.


Brenda Drake said...

I really like the premise of this. I'm intrigued and would read more. I agree with others' comments that the relationship with Sybil and Seyhorn needs just a bit of work. If it's an important relationship later on, hint at it here so that we welcome him in the pages. I would definitely turn the page to read more about Sybil. Great job! :D

N. R. Williams said...

I want to know more about those Turkish monsters. I think they might show up behind the wheel of a speeding car.

A great beginning to a good story. I do agree with others...tighten, etc. But I really don't want to discourage you.

N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Unknown said...

Nice opening scene you've got there, a definite hook!

Just one question... with euro-sized, you mean what exactly? European or Euro as in coin sized? That threw me a bit.


Dawn Embers said...

I like the opening, especially since it involves dreams and I want to know more about that part for sure. I did get a little confused on the sentence about the mental case because it makes it sound like an object instead of a description about a person. I've only heard it used as "the person is a mental case" even though it comes from the concept of a case for a mental professional. But that is one random sentence. The main character could be interesting even if I don't understand everything that she talks about in this first excerpt.

Anonymous said...

This was quite an entertaininng piece; good job!

However, I personally believe that we should have to wait to learn about the characters, at least a few pages in. Who they are should come in time, and hearing about the character's nightmares on the very first page just seemed so soon to me. Of course, that is just my opinion. I'm guessing a lot of people don't care. :)

And I must admit, your first sentence did not really "hook" me. It seemed too nondescript for a very first line. But I have to partly disagree with Justin. The reason is not because it's passive. Most description IS passive and that's how it should be for the most part. After all, it would get old having your character say, "This apartment suffocates me" and so on. The character should be allowed to step back from the setting in order for it to shine on its own. So I wouldn't worry about that. Instead, I would have your first sentence be entirely unrelated to where the MC lives, UNLESS there is a very unique aspect to it.

But anyway, I'm liking the concept and I would love to read more. :D said...

I hope she had a much better afternoon. I love Grover too what fun! :O)

j.leigh.bailey said...

I really enjoyed that story. I loved how you managed to subtly incorporate setting, culture, backstory, conflict into the brief intro. Very skillfully done. I'm completely drawn in and want to know more about her life, the tattoo, the dreams. Very nice entry. :)

Erin Kane Spock said...

There was no point where I wasn't engrossed in the story. The hint about the dream, the residual pain -- this was a great draw in. I like that you explained more of it right away (sometimes that sort of mystery dangles for too long). The imagery of the dorm room, the fog, the track, her feelins about her enviornment made it. The tat, the dreams... I almsot feel like she was a demon being exorcised. It was exciting and intriguing.
BTW, Your first line was part of hte first section that set the mood. It was not, in itself, a 'hook.' However I've anaylzed the hook sentence of every book I've read for years, and it seems that the ones with the KAPOW factor often seem contrived. They get my attention, but don't always further the story the way something more organic might have. Your opening was very honest and led into your story. I wouldn't change it.


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