Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lateral Thinking

I spent this past weekend with some amazing authors and industry professionals at the SCBWI Carolinas conference. Except it was only when John Claude Bemis gave the closing speech that I felt I was truly swimming in my element.

His talk was about lateral thinking, which apparently expats and multilinguals do very well.

I was like: Hey! That's me! Until he gave us the warm up exercise and I couldn't come up with any evidence that I deserved the points.

In my defense, it was a low-caf Sunday morning and I'd just been bombarded with three days of information. Anyway - my contribution is a red fez - to anyone else who was there.

So Sunday night I go home to mull over everything I've learned. I pick up the short stories on the nightstand, figuring if I could get a few of those in, it would quiet the buzz in my head.

Picture this:

I'm reading in bed, engrossed in the story of an asphalt layer (John Grisham's contribution to Don't Quit Your Day Job) when my dear, dear, dearest husband mutters:

Cordless Super Jerky Blaster?

Now, usually, I ignore everyone and keep reading, but the odd combination of words just pulled me right out of the book.

Me: Did you just say Cordless Super Jerky Blaster?

You should know, my husband speaks English as a fifth language (very well, I might add) so he can be... mislead by some phrases. But he was reading the Nothern Tool catalog.

He offers me the catalog with a gesture that says "Please, help me understand!"

And here's where I:

1) Start laughing until my sides split


2) Come up with some great lateral thinking

All I could picture was:

Codename: Kids Next Door

via wikipedia
Have you seen this bunch of ten year olds take down an adult lately? Well, the Cordless Super Jerky Blaster looks EXACTLY like something they would use. AND the next pages in the tool catalog feature go carts to mount them on! Plus a plethora of other interesting items, but I'll let you explore them on your own.

The point of all this is: You don't need to be an ex-expat, or multilingual, or a transplant to find ideas for your lateral thinking. Lateral thinking is just ordinary stuff that you use in an extraordinary way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Cilician Gates

image via wikipedia
I remember taking down pages and pages (and pages) of notes about Alexander The Great in Mrs. Wilcox's class. That must have been 9th grade, I think. Maybe we called it World History too. Anyhoo, I recall something about the strategic importance of the Cilician Gates from back then.

ATG, as Mrs. Wilcox preferred to call him, was in good company. Hittites, Crusaders, Saint Paul... they all travelled the steep, 68 mile gauntlet through forest and sometimes flood waters of the (now Gökoluk) river gorge. It took five days to cross from the Cilician plains to Cappadocia, if thieves didn't have their way with you first.

The pesky gates spoiled the plans of Pompey (also The Great), who wanted to ride back to Rome victorious on a contraption pulled by four elephants. The pass was too narrow and he was forced to use horses.

I say! Get off your high - elephant - you haughty Roman, you. And you kinighits - those are not horses. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you need to brush up on your Monty Python.)

Even now, the way is only wide enough for a slim highway to slither through, and that's after extensive blasting. The late Ottomans built some tunnels and viaducts for a narrow gauge train track that's just visible every now and then on the other side of the river.

One time we went up the old, still-twisted road instead. (I don't recommend it, unless you have nerves of steel.) The switchbacks were treacherous and someone had lost a load of cotton bales down a hillside.

It was very quiet in the car.

When we got through to the Anatolian plain, my father remarked that he had no idea Turkey had such mountains. I can only say whatever ideas I had, Turkey shattered them. I was always discovering something new. Or old. It was only new to me.

When I see this, I know home is on the other side, but I hold my breath until I get there. Behold the Taurus Mountains at the Cilician Gates:

And for the record: Mt. Ararat is the tallest mountain in Turkey at 16,854 ft. Yes, that Ararat. The one with the Ark.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gazi Antep or Gaziantep? That is my question...

image via
Being a creature who loves the world of words, I generally pay attention to roots/stems, possible origins of a word, etc. A few things about the town names in Turkey which I've observed:

Gaziantep might have been Gazi Antep, and I sort of figured this out in a weird way. Ask someone from that town where they're from and they might tell you they are "Antepli", or from Antep. So what's the Gazi part about? Lucky for me (and you) I travel with my handy-dandy reference guide - erm - husband. Gazi can also be spelled ghazi and means warrior. Warriors are from Antep, I guess?

How about Kahramanmaraş?  Kahramanmaraş or Kahraman Maraş. I like the ice cream from there - or at least the guy in Mersin who's from there makes good ice cream, maybe it has something to do with that? Nope. For Maraş, we honor the hero.

Then there's Şanliurfa, or Şanli Urfa, aka famous, but for what? I found all kinds of foods like kebab and cheese, etc, but you know Gazi Antep has plenty of yummy stuff too.

There are probably other examples and I've noticed the trend doesn't apply to just cities. Example: Fatih Sultan Mehmet. The guy's name was Mehmet! Fatih=Victor Now we have Fatihs and Sultans and Mehmets...but that's another story.

Imagine if we had names like that. Instead of New York, it could have been Opulent York or maybeVogue York, although I suppose at the time it was named, NY was neither of those things.

Founder President George?

Perhaps I need to work on the embellishment technique.


Who is the hero of Maraş? Who is the Warrior of Antep? Why is Urfa famous? Well, that seems to be my homework for the week. That and the gypsy girl from Gaziantep.

Gaziantep "Antep the Victorious Warrior"

Monday, September 19, 2011


via, image credit: Nevit Dilmen
Zeugma can be three things:

1) Literary terminology (from the Greek: ζεῦγμα, zeûgma, meaning "yoke") A figure of speech describing the joining of two or more parts of a sentence with a single common verb or noun. A zeugma employs both ellipsis, the omission of words which are easily understood, and parallelism, the balance of several words or phrases. The result is a series of similar phrases joined or yoked together by a common and implied noun or verb. Source: wikipedia
There are distinctions for specific versions: prozeugma, mesozeugma, hypozeugma, diazeugma, etc.

2) An ancient Roman city
3) A Mosaic Museum in Gaziantep, Turkey.

Three guesses on which one I'm interested in. And you're right either way. It's all interesting to me.

But those eyes want to tell me a story and I'm almost in spinning mode, so I'll write down a few notes, then plunk them into my snowflake when I'm ready. I have a character who might make good use of them.

In the meantime, if you're heading to Gaziantep, I suggest you stop in and visit her. And her friends. Apparently, Zeugma is now the largest mosaic museum in the world.

Yay Turkey!

Zeugma draws record visitor numbers on first day Hurriyet Daily News

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Other

image via
Let me just start out by saying: I'm sure I'm not suffering from multiple personalites. I worked for a psychiatrist who will vouch for me.

I picked up a book at Borders the other day called Don't Quit Your Day Job. Not that I have a day job. I'm technically self-unemployed.

Anyway, the book is a bunch of southern authors explaining how the round about way of becoming a writer is part rite of passage, part pain in the (choose physical location).

My takeaway from Howard Bahr's piece was The Other: That sentient being who seems to observe the situation from afar, who notices little details that, if one were alone, one would miss in the fleeting moment. Apparently, Mr. Bahr has one. Do you have one? I know I have one.

I know The Other is always with me, because I notice ridiculous things all the time, but I can count on one hand the amount of times The Other has made a strong presence known. The sun slants a certain way. The geese flying overhead sing a special song. The scent of earth, or sea, or perhaps chrysanthemums pervades the air. And laughter. There is always laughter, but to The Other, it seems far away. Only the details of place snap into focus.

Last time I was in an emergency room, The Other took notes on the color of the cords.

How the indistinguishable, putty tangle plugged into seemingly random receptacles.
How the floor tiles cracked where there was a surely buckle in the concrete beneath.
How someone really needed to clean the baseboards with good, strong bleach.
How bleach would have been a preferable scent to the plastic and antiseptic floating around.

There were pages of notes. They were the observations of The Other, because I was worrying about the sleeping boy on the bed.

When we were discharged, The Other watched some EMTs wheel a grey-faced man into an ambulance. Watched the doors close. Felt the whole room breathe again.Watched the wife crumble as reality crashed down.

The Other is there when I just can't be. And I'm glad for it. Who can bear such joy and such pain?

Monday, September 12, 2011


image via
I read lots of stuff about Turkey. Lots. Of. Stuff. Sometimes I come across things I don't understand. Maybe someone out there does. I usually ask my husband.

Mandabatmaz? WTF is a manda and why doesn't it sink? Clearly there's an idiom in this word.

His response: Shrug. IDK.

Google translate: Buoyant Buffalo.

Picture: Buffalo in a coffee cup? Still not making any sense. Feel free to chime in now, if you have any ideas...
Whatever the word means, the Mandabatmaz coffee shop is the epitome of a "hole in the wall". So if you're in Istanbul, find Beyoglu, Istiklal Caddesi and look for an alleyway with unusual amounts of foot traffic, and follow the incredible coffee aroma.

Custom roasted coffee beans, a copper cezve, combined with a careful twist of the wrist and you have what is known to be the best Turkish coffee in the city. The shop is featured in all sorts of guides and it's a must-do. Coffee readings not included.

The first scene of Burnt Amber is in a place kind of like Mandabatmaz, but I took plenty of creative liberties with the decor. My coffee shop was purely my imagination. It's nice to see the vision isn't so far from reality.

Related Articles:

$100 Weekend in Istanbul Frugal Traveler, The New York Times
Mandabatmaz: Grounds for Celebration

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Image via
être et durer. to be and to last.

Parkour isn't the only thing the motto fits. My goal is to "be" a writer and to have my publications "last" on the shelf.  You?

But back to parkour - aka PK - my inspiration for battle technique study this week. If you watch the clip below, you'll see a lot of graceful moves which mere mortals such as myself can only dream of doing. However, it's what Ryan Doyle says that caught my attention.

"I have to replay the situation over and over in my head until I get familiar with it," says he.

I says: Hmm. That's kind of what I need to do when I finally write a scene down. Visualization is a requirement in my art too. How many times do you replay a scene before it's right? Do you move around in the space? Experiment with perspective? That's something I learned to do as a gardener, but conveniently applies to writing.

Ryan also mentions that, with efficient thinking, he can do parkour for the rest of his life. I believe he means in his head. Which is good, because it's the only place where I can do it. :)

Anyone know why a pigeon would do a backflip? The pigeons in this clip are doing the backflip. My guess is they were drinking some of Ryan's Red Bull, but he seems to think they do it all the time. ?

Ryan Doyle in Mardin:

Other places I've seen and admired PK:
Apparently, Taylor Lautner is going to try some Matt Damon-style PK in his new movie Abuduction, out in theaters this month.

Here's the trailer, with a few seconds of PK featured at the end. I'm hoping the movie has more.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day
It's Labor Day here in the US, so no official post today, but I thought I'd point you in the direction of some interesting reads about Turkey.

First, check out what the Telegraph has to say about Istanbul:  Istanbul, Turkey: Old city, new spirit

Then, scroll through very some nice pics of the Aya Sofya here: Exploring Istanbul — The Ayasofya RambleCrunch

Pedal power is sweeping the streets of the Old City: Ready to tour historic peninsula with bicycles? Hurriyet Daily News

And finally, if you're into indie films, click this one:
Turkish film sweeps awards at NY festival Hurriyet Daily News

Enjoy the long weekend!


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