Thursday, December 29, 2011

Teen Book Review - The Death Cure

Let’s get this over with.

James Dashner’s characters said that about 500 times in The Death Cure.
I read the first two books of the series, The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials, very quickly, but The Death Cure took me much longer. I had to stop and think if things were really possible pretty often. It was also sad and emotional, which made made me put the book down.
The Death Cure was good because there was a lot of continuous action, not like some books where there is one action scene every few chapters and the rest is talking. It was disturbing and gory though. Battle scenes didn’t leave very much to imagination because they were described so clearly. The story continuously got worse and left me wondering how things could possibly get worse, and then they got worse, and worse. Creepy cranks (people infected with the flare virus) chase and trap characters to give the reader a clear view of the crank infested world and what is at stake.
The hero has to make very difficult choices about people close to him. The people in WICKED (World In Catastrophe Kill Zone Experiment Department), which was created to cure the flare, acted like they were giving the kids a choice. In reality, they forced characters to do things they didn’t want to do. Finally, on the last page, we learn about the source of the flare and the reason for it, and the reason is shocking.

I was reminded of Lord of the Flies when I read this book because of the isolation from the adults and the sacrifices that were made. Books like this remind people of emotional consequences of war, unlike the virtual battle fields of video games.

Thanks for reading!
This review was written by my son, Adam. He is a freshman in high school.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Chocolate Covered Chestnuts

Lezzetin Izinde
Tis the season to roast some chestnuts on an open fire. Have you ever done it though? I had to go clear across the world to try some. It might have something to do with the fact that American chestnut trees were devastated by chestnut blight, or maybe chestnuts are just a European thing. The ones I usually find at the grocery store are from Italy.

Perhaps you've tried marron glacé? I adore them, whenever I can find some. It's probably a good thing they're hard to come by, though. The calorie count for chestnuts soaked in sugar syrup is insane. Some shops make them in Turkey, but as you can tell from the name, it's the French who really get credit for the idea - sorry Italy.

As far as Istanbul is concerned, there are other interesting ways to prepare a chestnut or kestane. Example: Chocolate coated chestnuts. From what I understand, the chestnuts are:

1) roasted to remove the shells
2) boiled in milk, vanilla and sugar
3) coated in (dark?) chocolate, and
4) dusted with pistachios

According to Hurriyet newspaper's 100 Tastes of Istanbul - Istanbul'un 100 Lezzeti#49 is the chocolate covered chestnut from Bahar Pastanesi in Teşvikiye.

Best4 Pastry Shops in Istanbul
Bursa retaining sweet chestnut taste, tradition

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Dose of Dickens

It's the holidays and Dickens is on my mind, especially since I went to see a comedy/musical version of A Christmas Carol a couple of weeks ago.
It was OK. The writer threw in some political jokes, modern social commentary, broadway bits, and a few guys walked on impersonating the "Occupy" movement for good measure.

Then I read USA Weekend's  Scrooge vs Aliens: A Christmas Carol Mashup

 Let's just say I prefer the old version.

I was in ninth grade when my teacher passed out a photocopy of Great Expactations. (Imagine! I still don't own a bound copy of this. What is WRONG with me?) I muddled through the first half, and then the teacher told us we didn't need to read further. (What was wrong with HER? The story was just getting good, at that point.) I didn't stop, and I remember Great Expectations as even more interesting than alllll the Austen I was reading at the time.

I loved Miss Havisham. The whole wedding feast gone wrong, the details, the decay. Then I picked up paperback version of A Tale of Two Cities, and then ohh, I was into Dickens, big time then.

I guess reading his work has shaped my writing style, if I think about it. Lots of details, some of them messy, a little bit raw. I would love to use some more dry wit and social commentary like his, but apparently that's a no-no in my genre. So I was thinking, I really want to read some Dickens this winter.

How about you?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hande Yener

Thought I'd share some music today. (Read: Quick post because I still have shopping, wrapping, decorating to do.)

This is Hande Yener, one of Turkey's top female pop artists. Like Madonna and Lady Gaga, she likes to change up her look often and shares a similar energy on stage. Jet black, blonde, raucous red, pink, orange...I don't think there's a hair color she hasn't tried. She's back to natural brown at the moment.

These are a few that were huge hits for her. I had a hard time choosing my favs, but these show her versatility the best.

Romeo: This song has solid, staying power. I shuffle back to it every once in a while.

Bana Anlat, 2011: This is her latest single, and most days it's playing in my car.

Hipnoz: She tried her hand at electropop with this album. She didn't do it again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hollywood Djinn
Uncharted 3 started me thinking about Hollywood and the way djinn are portrayed in film. I've seen them ghostly, fiery, and without a specific corporeal shape most often. Must be tough to act when your character is a cloud though. Only Robin Williams does well with the blue puffy look.

Then Clash of the Titans, v2010, came up with some story of djinn who gave up their bodies for what looks like charcoal briquettes. Glowing blues eyes complete the cheesy effect. But this is Clash of the Titans - so cheesy is what it's all about. ;)

Actually, as characters, they are pretty decent. They help Perseus out and are instrumental in defeating Medusa. Most other movies give the djinn a nasty reputation for death and destruction. Maybe spelling it "djinn" versus "genie" has something to do with the creepy coefficient?

Then there's Wishmaster,1997. This guy just looks like Satan in a red cloak. What's up with the horns and claws? I suppose being evil entitles a djinn to whatever he wants, but... I'm not buying the look, even if it makes me wonder if my djinn need an image consulation. If I was an evil mastermind, I'd want to look pretty darn ordinary and let people think I was just like them, until I trapped them between a rock and a hard place. What do you think? What other djinn have you seen in the movies?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

I was soooo happy when I got Uncharted 3 for $30 on Black Friday. I saved myself $30 on a new game which had just come out, you see. Plus, this game promised me an adventure in the Arabian desert to boot.

We headed to a medieval castle in France, which pointed to a Crusader castle in Syria reminiscent of one of my bucket list destinations -  Krak des Chevaliers, the stronghold of the Knights Hospitaller. A couple of ordinary puzzles later and we're off to the Rub' Al Khali - literally the 'empty quarter' of the Saudi Arabian peninsula. (NOT on my bucket list. I saw the edge of that desert when I lived in the UAE. Close enough for me, thank you very much.)

Sand, sand, more shifting sand, and, oh yeah, the forgotten city of Ubar/Iram of the Pillars/Lawrence of Arabia's Atlantis of the Sands. (Lots of names for this place, apparently.) Since interesting mythologies and creature creations usually come with every Uncharted, I was excited to see what they would do with the djinn.

The big reveal?

It was a brass jar, supposedly with a djinn in it, sealed away centuries before by King Solomon himself. A brass jar? Aren't we going to OPEN it? Nope. Not this time. No curse of somebody or other to mutate the Spaniards (Uncharted One), or blue dudes that inhaled too much resin (Uncharted Two).

This time, Drake merely hallucinates an attack by a few enemies who have been turned into fiery guys - and then Sully wakes him up. I was especially disappointed because, as you know, anything to do with djinn is of interest to me.

So I'm off to play the new Assassin's Creed. It's set in Istanbul, remember? I hope it's not as disappointing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Anatolian Ground Squirrel

Link to ARKive photo
My little tale:

The bird feeder in my backyard is full of safflower seeds this winter.

The squirrels do not approve.

Sunflower seeds, on the other hand, bring them out in droves. You probably already know this, and no doubt have a squirrel-proof plan of your own. It's not that I don't like squirrels. (My husband believes I am a descendant of Scrat. *ahem*) I just want the birds to get some food too.

Out on the Anatolian plain, the highway (highway being a two lane road at the time) between Ankara and Mersin is covered in sunflowers. Squirrel heaven. Except there are no trees.

So where are the squirrels? Hiding out underground. You don't even know they're there. Unless you're the farmer, twisting your ankle in a burrow hole, swearing at them for eating your precious crops. Farmers took to poisoning the poor critters. The Anatolian Ground Squirrel population dropped somewhere around 25% before they were declared "near threatened" and offered some protection.

My first sight of them was at the side of the road, as I was going xxx kilometers per hour. The farmers had just cut down the sunflower crop and flushed the squirrels out. They were up on their hind legs, all in a row (the squirrels, not the farmers). I imagine they were a group of boy squirrels, daring each other to cross the road. (Why else were they there?)

Anyhow, they were very cute, so I hope they listened to their mommies and did not cross the road. (There's a TUNNEL, silly!) After that, I wondered if the underground cities were the brainchild of some ingenious, squirrel-minded individuals. As for myself, I was looking for a way to use these critters in my writing for a couple years now. I finally found a good spot in my WIP - Mist of Kavala. (Check out my brand-spanking-new query.)

You know what - it's a good thing I was sharing this with you today, because according to my research, ground squirrels don't drink standing water. So my squirrel at the watering hole - needs to find some other reason to be there. (Oops!) I guess it can nibble on some tasty seed plants growing there instead.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hürrem's Ring

Who is Hürrem?

We in the west know her as Roxelana. Remember my post a while back about her? She's the Sultan's wife with an amazing story - a real life Scheherezade.

Kidnapped by the Tatars and sold into the Ottoman harem, Aleksandra Lisowska fell in love with the Sultan, changed her religion, and changed her name to Hürrem.  (Roxelana means 'the Ruthenian/Russian'.) Suleiman the Magnificent legally married her, deposing his first son in favor of Hürrem's child. The scenario caused quite a stir.

With the rise of Otto-mania and the TV series Muhteşem Yüzyıl (Magnificent Century), Hürrem has found a new following. The storyline about the reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent is the equivalent of the The Tudors for Turkey.

Even if some think portraying Ottoman court rivalry is unbecoming, there's great stuff coming out of this show, especially the jewelry. Example: Hürrem's ring. Lots and lots of girls are wishing for that one. (I'm one of them.) Don't like green? They have a purple one too. You can probably find one in every color, if you try hard. Wow rings are in this year. ;)

The series story behind the ring is interesting, even if I'm not sure how much of it is historically accurate. Hürrem's ring is symbolic of her status.

Suleiman was in the process of making the ring himself before he was decreed as the Sultan. His first Haseki Sultan ('commonlaw wife') assumed he was making it for her. Then Suleiman is called to Topkapi Palace to fulfill his birthright. Aleksandra is brought to the harem, and she hatches a plan to become the favorite. (Not hard, since she was beautiful and smart.) The first wife, Mahidevran, arrives with the Sultan's first born son. She thinks she's the favorite, but it's already clear Aleksandra is taking the lead. Guess who gets the ring.

Mahidevran is furious and manipulates some girls into stealing the ring from Aleksandra - now officially named "Hürrem" (my joy) by the Sultan. In the power struggle, Hürrem gets tossed in a dungeon and beaten to a pulp, but Mahidevran is banished in the end.

 Meryem Uzerli plays Hürrem. Uzerli is half Turkish, half German. Her hair is not naturally red, but it looks good on her, don't you think?

She co-stars with Halit Ergenç, a popular star from the other TV series Binbir Gece. I should write something about him one of these days. He really deserves his own post.

Here's a trailer clip for you.:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dr. Öz

image via
Everybody knows Dr. Oz is Turkish, right?

Mehmet Cengiz Öz, who we all like to call Dr. Oz,
is actually Turkish-American. He was born and raised in the US, and he retains his Turkish passport. Culturally, he retains every bit of his Turkishness, which I find extremely cool. You need to look to see it though.

He walks that TCK walk with such confidence, I'll bet my yogurt soup that most Americans don't even know he speaks another language. (Turkish - not the medical jiberish he sometimes throws at us.) 

Whether you've followed his skyrocketing career or not, you have to be impressed with his achievements:

  • Harvard - undergrad; University of Pennsylvania, TheWharton School - MD/MBA; Columbia University Professor; Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program, Director at New York Presbyterian Hospital
  • Discovery Health Host; Oprah "Allstar"; Tuner Private Networks Host; The Doctor Oz Show, etc., etc., etc.
  • Time magazine ranked Oz 44th on its list of the 100 Most Influential People in 2008 and Esquire magazine placed him on its list of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century. He was called a Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum[and one of “The Harvard 100 Most Influential Alumni” by 02138 magazine. He won the Gross Surgical Research Scholarship. He was listed in “Doctors of the Year” by Hippocrates magazine and in “Healers of the Millennium” by Healthy Living magazine. Oz is annually listed in the Castle Connolly Guide of the top United States doctors, as well as other ranking groups. - heck, just go to his wikipedia page if you need to know them all.
Writers and other frequent bookstore visitors might also recognize the New York Times bestselling series of  books Dr. Oz co-authored with Dr. Michael F. Roizen. You know, YOU: The Owner's Manual, etc.

Dr. Oz has taken personal health to a new high-profile, high priority level. My gosh! The other day he even had PAULA DEEN on his show. Yes. The Queen of Butter visited The King of Better. It was kind of a showdown.

The real controversy come in where his spirituality is concerned. He practices transcendental meditation, which wouldn't be a problem except he also believes in the healing powers of positive thinking. Not a bad thing really, just an unusual position for an MD to embrace. In public.

Overall, I think he does so much more good, encouraging people to take a more active role in their own health; telling people there's arsenic in apple juice. Well, so what if that's another one of his controversies. I want to know if there's arsenic in my apple juice. Don't you?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kelebek Vadisi - Butterfly Valley

I'm attempting to be a WriMo still, but I thought you could use an escape, even if I'm tied to a chair.

A friend of mine was blogging about her trip to Butterfly Valley recently, and I was inspired to use in in my WIP as a setting for some challenging climbs and general boyish, adrenaline fueled adventures. (I'm writing an MG boy book.)

Daytrippers arrive by boat from Fethiye to trek the narrow valley, visit the waterfalls, and hopefully see some Euplagia quadripunctaria - leopard butterflies. Many types of butterflies flock there to enjoy the abundance of wildflowers, and naturalists stalk the winged creatures at all hours.
Brave paragliders inspired by all those wings float down to the beach pretty regularly. You can hop off the top of these cliffs too, for a reasonable fee, and with a qualified guide. You won't catch me doing it, I'm afraid. The only flying I do is in an airplane.

I do take inspiration from the waterfalls and the trails, though. There's no escape from the valley (insert sinister laugh) except up a verrrry steep path to a small village. Funny how I can take such a beautiful place and twist it around to suit my needs.
image via
Turkey issued a postage stamp for it's favorite flying friend. It's a collectible now, if you have one.

Here's a decent video clip for you:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey - The Bird

image via wikipedia
You may be wondering why I posted a peacock photo.


A) Someone spiked my Thanksgiving punch with Wild Turkey bourbon. I live in the south now, you know.


B) There's a moral to this story.

(You know it's B, or maybe it's C - all of the above.) *ahem*

In Turkey (the country), turkey (the bird) is called"hindi" and I always wondered why. Hindi refers to India, meaning the Turks believe the turkey is from India. The turkey is a native north American bird.

Long story short, since I'm doing NaNoWriMo:

Europeans trading in India picked up the Tamil word "thukki" for the peacock. (I wonder where the name peacock comes from...but this is the short story.)

Then, Christopher Columbus thought he found the route to the East Indies when he landed here. Some believe he found birds which he thought were a type of thukki. (A fact he he may have used to confirm his landing in India.)

When the turkey finally came to Turkey, Turks recognized it/mistook it for a cousin of the guinea fowl and peacock, which they already called hindi.

....and Europeans were just generally confused some more by Turks selling guinea fowl.

Turkey... thukki... What's the difference? 

Look fast:

If I was drinking Wild Turkey straight, I guess I might confuse the two....

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Related Links

How the Turkey Got Its Name What's in a Name - TURKEY

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Kangal Dog

Taner (my mc in Mist of Kavala) needed a dog. He needed a loyal, patient, protective dog. He needed a big dog with expressive eyes. A dog he was really, really, really sad to leave behind.

I can't have a dog (allergies), but I've always admired the Kangal.

This Turkish breed hails from Kangal, near Sivas, way out in Anatolia. It's a type of mastiff,  a working class shephard dog, sometimes known as the çoban köpek. (There are other breeds that fall under this name too).

A pair of Kangals stays with a flock of sheep and almost blends in, except for the curled up tails. Wolves, wildcats and bears are no match for it. Owners outfit the dog with a formidable spiked collar and at 30 miles per hour, it's been trained in some countries to guard against cheetahs.

Puppies are so cute with their dark muzzles and ears, but at a height of 30 inches high (at the shoulder) and about 130 lb, this is a dog that requires an enormous backyard. If I had a farm, I'd want one, otherwise it would be cruel punishment for the dog to stay cooped up on my minuscule acreage.

Kangal dogs are the national breed of Turkey.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Kına - Henna

image via
I've never had the chance to use kına in my writing, but an opportunity just arose. I have a girl being sent off to the palace. :)
In the middle east, women adorn themselves with henna for holidays and special occasions, or even just to feel pretty. In Turkey, the custom is usually reserved for weddings now.

This is a more elaborate design than I've seen there. It might just be a case of where I lived though, since I snagged this off a Turkish website. The version I saw was basically a finger dipped up to the knuckle, or a blob placed inside the palm. Very basic.

Since I like the concept of the designs left behind, I'm thinking to use henna in a more modernistic way, but the details haven't worked themselves out yet. Stay tuned for the rough draft!

I used to use henna when I lived in Abu Dhabi. I still have some in my makeup case. There it was no big deal. Here: You should see the look on people's faces when I open my hand. Hehe. I guess I'm not as conservative as I pretend to be.

Henna lasts about two weeks on the hands. I don't like to get it on my fingernails because it takes forever to grow out. On the foot, designs can last for months.

Henna in the hair is another post.... I have a cute story for that one.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Yurt Kidding Me!
I've got a yurt in chapter 10. It's nothing like this one from Neiman Marcus, but then they're channeling Barbara Eden.

Which is not to say I haven't seen anything like it...

I lived in Abu Dhabi, and when you said party - and there was an important looking guest list - you got a big deal tent draped in gorgeous material just like this. With air conditioning, and red carpets, and biryani like you've never tasted. Even the invitations came embossed with gold calligraphy on velvet, practically screaming: Pull out your princess slippers!

However, that wasn't  a yurt. That was a big deal. And lavender wasn't usually in the color scheme.

My nomadic yurt is draped in woven kilims, filled with floor pillows, lined with tassels tied up in bright skeins of wool. The outside is plain felt. In my head it's rough, black goat felt, but it could be white sheep's felt. Either way, the whole thing can be packed up and loaded onto a pair of horses in a couple of hours.

I think you'd need white glove service for the $75,000 lavender fantasy up there. No, I'm not kidding you. $75.000.

via wikipedia

What Recession? Neiman Marcus Christmas Catalog Offers $75,000 Yurt

Friday, November 11, 2011

String Bridge

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrackMelody Hill: On the Other Sidewritten and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:


She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!
To purchase the paperback:
To purchase the eBook:
To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you are not familiar with String Bridge, check out the book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal
“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world begins to unravel … String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic.” ~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.” ~ Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Please TWEET and/or FACEBOOK this post using #StringBridge!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rumi Inspiration

I only have time for a quick post because I'm NaNoWriMoing. The italicized lines are all Rumi, taken from Goodreads this time.

When I write, I remember:

Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.

When I have to revise my revolting rough draft, I remember:

How do the birds make great sky circles...
They fall and falling they are given wings.

When I get a critique and I need to make sooo many changes, I remember:

If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?

When I get a good rejection letter, I remember:

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

When I sigh and think I'll never find an agent, I remember:

What you seek is seeking you.


Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own myth.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Yogurt Soup - Yayla Çorbası

image via
It's officially NaNoWriMo for me, so I'm cheating on my blog and posting recipes.

An easy one that I like to make is Yayla Çorbası, which means peasant soup, or technically mountain village soup - aka yogurt soup.

For this you'll need:

One 32 oz package (4 c) of PLAIN yogurt.
Not Greek yogurt. Not vanilla yogurt. Plain. Preferably low fat, as opposed to nonfat. I use Dannon. A full cream organic like Stoneyfield Farms would be a waste of calories, IMHO. I'm picky about my yogurt.

1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup of dried mint
1/2 of medium grain rice, rinsed
Two 32 oz cartons (8 c) chicken stock

To prepare:

Empty the yogurt into at least a 4 quart pot. Whisk in flour, egg, and dried mint. Add stock and rice. Stir frequently over medium-high heat, until the mixture almost comes to a boil. Bubbles look like they want to come through at the edges. Don't let it boil! The soup separates if it boils. Reduce heat to a simmer for about 15 more minutes, so the rice can cook through.

Serve with red pepper flakes.

I've eaten this cold. I've eaten it without red pepper flakes. I've eaten it with a splash of tabasco. Sometimes the yogurt isn't sour enough and I'll squeeze in a little lemon. Actually, this is a perfect dish to use up that container of yogurt you forgot about in the back of your fridge.

Or, if you're rushed and NaNoWriMoing like me, you can buy the mix.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Bartle Quotient

image via
You know I'm a gamer. But what kind of gamer? Betcha didn't know there's DNA involved, as in gamerdna of the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology.

That's me on the right: The Queen of Spades.
Called “Pallas” on the French deck, possibly after the Greek goddess Athena. She faces left, and is seen in profile. On the English deck, she is the only queen with a scepter. She faces forward, a little to the right.

I can identify with that.

Queen of Hearts, I am not. Nope. Not enough pink ink in my manuscripts. Everything I encounter is analyzed and shelved for future reference. Very Athena goddess of wisdom,/strategy/justice-like. Yup. Spades is definitely the right camp for me.

Must be why I love characters like Rowena Ravenclaw (Hogwarts) and Annabeth (Percy Jackson series. Loved the library in the cabin and the whole grey/white color scheme. I digress.)

So this all relates to the MMORPG: Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game - which I technically do not have any time for this NaNoWriMonth.

According to the Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology (at, there are four categories a player trends into, with tendencies leaning in all directions in various percentages. These are my stats.

I'm going to translate this into blogging, just for fun. Hope my blogger buddies don't mind me nominating them for head of their camp.

Socializers: aka Hearts - (LeighTMoore) Spreads the love and enjoys interaction just for the experience. Involved in activities for the good of the group, such as a guild. Yes, LTM is definitely the Queen of Hearts.

Explorers: aka Spades -  Analytical. Likes to discover glitches, uncover things like the hidden easter egg. Should be an archeologist, or some kind of "ologist". I think Sarah Fine probably fits best here. Hey, what do you know? She's a psychologist.

Achievers: aka Diamonds - Eyes on the rare prize, such as the 8 million point christmas cracker. I'm thinking Matt MacNish has a high score here. Example: He wants to get 1,000 followers before he queries. He's probably got a high score in the socializer category too because of his quest to aid queriers everywhere. I thought he'd prefer the King of Diamonds, since knowledge is the rare prize we seek when we visit him.

Killers: aka Clubs. Try to affect their environment, control markets. Usually have minions. Who is this? I'm stumped. I don't have any one blogger in mind here, but I know we all have this to some degree. It's our competitive streak. Probably an attorney would be a good fit here, but I don't know anyone who writes legal thrillers. Slytherin, anyone? Maybe someone like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. What they do is important and good, but can easily go the wrong way. A good trickster, IMHO.

How many books have I read that tap into this theory? A bunch.  Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Divergence, to name a few that are top of mind.

Which camp/suit/category do you fall under? 

And hey! The new Uncharted came out yesterday. Did you get your copy yet?

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Pekinel Sisters

image via
I write lots about Turkish pop music, but next to nothing about classical music. (Shame on me. I was a violinist, once upon a time.) To remedy that, I give you the Pekinel Sisters.

They are identical twins (obviously).
They are Turks (not obviously).
They are internationally acclaimed concert pianists.

Güher and Süher Pekinel made their public debut at only six years old, and have swept people of all continents away with their piano duets.

Piano Magazine has an interesting article, The Pekinels in Harmony, where the sisters explain how independent they are of each other. They discuss the "twinness" they fought against and how it helped define their unique style. Rather than being identical, the music of one compliments the other, almost as if they are finishing each other's thoughts. But not quite. Apparently, understanding your twin doesn't mean you are the same as your twin.

The Pekinels speak five languages: German, English, French, Turkish, and I don't know what the fifth language is, but I think music should count as a sixth. Their distinguished education includes credits and/or degrees from:

Conservatoire de Paris
Musikhochschule of Frankfurt
Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia
The Juilliard School - Masters
Bogaziçi University - Honorary PhD

All that international study qualifies them for TCK status, in my book.

The Pekinel Sisters are also Honorary State Artists of Turkey, and they are enthusiastic supporters of music education in Turkey and abroad. They established three projects for children:
  • G&S Pekinel Music Department at TEVITOL, a private boading school for gifted students in Turkey
  • "Young Musicians on World Stage", 13 scholarships for Turkish students to study internationally
  • "Orff Schulwerk Project" to encourage creativity in pre-school and primary school students. In Turkey, Austria, and Germany
Have a listen:

Related articles:

Pekinel sisters on stage with 13 young talents

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cinnabar and Colloidal Silver

image via
Mad Hatter Day was on 10/6, which was October 6th or June 10th, depending upon which side of the Atlantic you call home. Since I'm confused, I scheduled this post for 10/26. (Actually, I just wasn't quick enough.)

You see, I was researching metals as poison and their unusual side effects. You know, to derange my villain a bit more, or perhaps to knock him off. I discovered some fun stuff I thought you'd appreciate.

  • Cinnabar can make a person "mad as a hatter". Especially if you're a hat maker that uses the mercury solution derived from cinnabar to soak animal pelts and make felt.
  • Colloidal Silver can make one blue as a smurf. You may have seen that blue guy on Oprah. This is what he's got: Argyria:  ISV from Greek: ἄργυρος argyros silver + -ia) is a condition caused by improper exposure to chemical forms of the element silver, silver dust, or silver compounds.The most dramatic symptom of argyria is that the skin becomes blue or bluish-grey colored. via wikipedia.
  • In it's Elizabethan heyday, white lead makeup likely killed off many young ladies who were regular users. The look probably came down from the Greeks, Romans and/or Egyptians, but you probably already knew that.

To be honest, I don't know how to use this material. Maybe I'll try one or both on my villain, but I'm not feeling it. Maybe you need it? Someone does, or I wouldn't feel the urge to write about it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Red-footed Falcon

Okan Kocagyit
Some people will know exactly why a slate grey falcon with red boots/feet is important to Sybil. Today though, I thought I'd simply highlight the species and give it some extra press time.

The Redfooted falcon (falco vespertinus) hunts at dusk on the plains of eastern Europe and western Asia in summer. I think the slanting, evening sun highlights insect prey perfectly, but perhaps if I were a djinn pretending to be a falcon, I might hover around at NOT twilight.(*ahem*)

The falcons roost in whatever sparce tree cover they find. Since a colony can range from half a dozen to a thousand, these birds need a lot of space.

Of course, man likes to build and farm grassy plains, so the species is now categorized as "near threatened" due to loss of habitat. It would be pretty difficult to house a thousand birds, once the people move in and take out all the trees, kill all the bugs, and pretty much destroy the neighborhood. Occasionally the birds are seen as far west as the UK, and recently some were even sighted on this side of the Atlantic in Martha's Vineyard. Are they looking for new habitat?

In Turkey, the Redfooted Falcon is known as Aladoğan. Each year it migrates through Cyprus on the path to it's winter home in Africa.

(Cyprus is another reason this falcon is important to Sybil. Sorry, Peregrine falcon, but I think your red-footed cousin is a better fit for my story.)

image via

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


image via
The other day I was reading about Executive Producer Grant Scharbo. He just finished filming an episode of MISSING for ABC in Istanbul and he had a couple of interesting points. In fact, I'm going to pull a few lines for you:

“[Istanbul] is a city you can’t fake anywhere else. You can’t shoot somewhere else and say it is Istanbul,”

“We were scouting on a rooftop near Süleymaniye very early in the morning. The call to prayer started and I had never heard that before in my life. For someone who has never heard it, it is a unique sound and beautiful.”

(For the full article: Hollywood production sets in Istanbul’s historic venues)

His remark got me to thinking.

I have a scene with the morning call to prayer in my book. Eerie and beautiful. I don't think there is any substitute. However, there are five times a day that the muezzin broadcasts his call to from those slender minarets. Each has a distinct feeling associated with it. Imagine hearing the call in the middle of the day, with traffic screeching, music blaring, trams braking, etc. The afternoon ezan adds to a vibrant, chaotic feel of a big city like Istanbul, but eerie is not the word I'd use for it.

Sort of cute story:

As newlyweds, dh and I lived in the Göçmen neighborhood, one short block away from the Yesil Cami Mosque in Mersin. On the fifth floor (no elevator). When we moved in that summer, it was so hot that we slept with all the windows open (no AC) and were eaten alive by the mosquitoes (no screens). The first night, I listened to the fan whir and hardly slept. In the early pre-dawn hours, a breeze finally came down from the mountains and we fell asleep.

Loudspeaker at the same height as my window: BLARES THE CALL TO PRAYER!!!! PRAYER IS BETTER THAN SLEEP!!!!

I practically fell out of the bed. My husband jumped almost to the ceiling, swearing that it was judgement day.

Yeah. It's OK to laugh about it. We still do. Funny thing though, no matter how loud that darn megaphone was, eventually we stopped waking up from it.

The moral of my story is that the ezan has different effects, depending upon a character's emotional state.

Something I didn't know:

There are different versions of ezan, and I'm not referring to pronunciation variations. (Turks say ekber as opposed to the Arabic akbar. Bugs me a bit, actually.)

1) The Shi'a have a verse recognizing Ali as a Viceregent. (Better send you to the link where I got that info, because I know somebody is going to squawk about it.)

2) With his ban of the Ottoman Arabic alphabet, Ataturk implemented a Turkish version of the ezan for eighteen years. Clerics rejected it, but had no recourse until Adnan Menderes declared Arabic the liturgical language in 1950 and repealed the ban for an Arabic ezan.

Tanrı uludur
Şüphesiz bilirim, bildiririm
Tanrı'dan başka yoktur tapacak.
Şüphesiz bilirim, bildiririm;
Tanrı'nın elçisidir Muhammed.
Haydin namaza, haydin felaha,
Namaz uykudan hayırlıdır.


Now, on a completely different topic: The winner of THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern is Laura Pauling.

 Thanks for playing!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ishak Pasa Palace

image via
The east is calling me.

First Gobeklitepe, then Zeugma, and now Ishak Pasa Palace. This place looks liked it dropped right out of a fantasy novel. No?

Ishak Pasa Palace (circa 1685) seems a pretty nice pied-à-terre for Sybil (my MC), especially since the palace is gorgeous and waaaaay out in Doğubeyazıt. Few tourists find there way out there these days, but once upon a time, the palace was strategically situated on an important trade route. What do you know? Djinn love that abandoned palace thing.

image via wikipedia
I know Sybil would enjoy exploring the compound - because that's what the palace really is - a bunch of buildings connected with halls. There's a mosque in the middle and a harem. Plenty of little nooks and carved out niches to discover or hide in...

Outside there are jagged mountains, bare plains, a town: all the stuff I need for an interesting setting.

BUT I still have work to do on the first ms and a second ms I'm planning for NaNoWriMo is set up in the forests of Trabzon. Guess I'll just have to let this idea roll around and gather some cobwebs in my head. Maybe the next time I think of the palace, I'll know exactly how to use it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay it Forward & The Night Circus Giveaway

Welcome! Hoş geldiniz! Bienvenue! Witamy! etc...

Just to give you an idea of what you're signing up to read: I usually blog about Turkey (the country): food, music, traditions, artifacts, flora and fauna, historic sites, whatever strikes my fancy. Often I'll throw in a post about djinn (since that's my mythical creature of choice), parallel worlds or some other sci-fi-ish thing, and sometimes I'll toss in a good writer's resource.

You're here for my recommendations. So. First, make sure you visit my bestest crit partner -  

Leigh T. Moore at That's Write.
Writer/Journalist/Freelance Editor. She's already on your linky list. LTM is repped by Kate McKean at the Howard Morhaim Agency

Three other blogs I read all the time, but aren't on the list today:

Sarah Fine at The Strangest Situation
Fabulous, informative blog by a practicing child psychologist/YA writer. She's represented by Kathleen Ortiz of Nancy Coffey Literary.

Katherine Owens at KO: The Insect Collector
College professor and former expat. Loves insects, steampunk, all sorts of interesting stuff. Be sure to congratulate her. She's now represented by Amanda Lewis of The Doe Coover Agency.

Holly Ruggiero at My POV
Holly just changed her blog url, but follow her wherever she goes. I love her series posts on gems and colors. She also writes cookbooks.

image via
Just for fun, I'm giving away a copy of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.


This book is being hyped up everywhere: the web, magazines, TV, you name it. The author already has a movie deal with Summit. It's not YA, but I think lots of teens are going to be reading this one. Per CNN: 'The Night Circus' looks to enchant fans of 'Twilight' and 'Harry Potter'. I'm not so sure. I thought it was more Inception meets the circus, in the late 1800s. Or maybe The Science of Sleep at the circus.

Easy peasy giveaway rules:

Leave a comment with an email address.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's Lolly's Fault

image via
Remember these guys?

Maybe this dates me, but I still have Lolly in my head all these years later. So. I say my use of adverbs is all Lolly's fault.

When I was under his spell, I even forced my kids to watch this once. They were like: What's the big deal, Mom?

Right. What's the big deal? I mean: What's the big deal? Are you kidding me?

Adverbs are a big deal.

Since adverbs were burned into my brain with this song, I've become a demented woman. I now have to walk around the house all day muttering my manuscript like a verbal minesweeper. Those darn adverbs are buried everywhere, and they can sneak up on a girl, you know.

Way back when, F. Scott Fitzgerald didn't have to worry, but now a days? They're even editing him into print. How can you make The Great Gatsby greater? Answer: Get rid of some adverbs.

So it seems even the greats are guilty, and I should just suck it up and sniff out every ly Lolly slipped into my word doc.

You haven't seen School House Rock? Well, here's Lolly for you then. But I warn you, once you watch this clip, it will haunt you forever.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ismail YK

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Nutella Rule

image via
The Nutella Rule is simple.

You never, ever throw out the jar until someone scrapes down the inside.

Someone always puts the jar in the pantry with about two licks left, but they won't recycle the container. No, no! Someone has to get the last bit of chocolate goodness out. It just wasn't destined to be the person who put it in the pantry last. (Sometimes that person is me)

It's hard work making sure every ounce, or gram, is extracted. You have to get in the spot just under the rim and down in the bottom grooves. You can get a whole nother sandwich out of just those two places. You have to be patient and get some chocolate on your knuckles. Somebody has to do it. (Sometimes that person is me)

Everyone in the house has an eyeball on the last Nutella sandwich. But I'm the Little Red Hen. Paws off my sandwich! (Sometimes I'll give you half)

My manuscript is kind of like the Nutella jar. I put it in the drawer over the summer so I could "see it more clearly". Read: I wanted someone else (agent/editor) to help polish it. Except it needs me to get in there and find that extra bit of goodness. Maybe then agents will want more. (Maybe I'll give them 15%)

(You know most of the world's hazelnuts come from Turkey, right? This year the harvest was horrible. Expect the prices to go up. Pretend you're a squirrel and GO HOARD SOME NUTELLA!)


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