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!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Weary Herakles

I love a fulfilling story, which is not quite the same as a happy ending, but similar, so I had to smile when I saw Weary Herakles hit the news again. His two halves can never be made one again, but at least they're together.

Traditionally, a Weary Herakles looks weary because he's leaning on his club. I think this particular example can cite his travels as a relevant contribution to his 'weary'.  You see, the bust went globetrotting, while the lower half waited patiently in Antalya. Missing it's head. For years.

It all began when...

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston acquired a half-interest in the sculpture from a German dealer in 1981, with an unverifiable provenance: The dealer's mother acquired it in 1950 from a private collection.

In 1990, the bust went on loan to The Metropolitan Museum in New York, where someone noted the possibility of a matching lower half in Antalya.

Casts were made in 1992 and the finding was confirmed. Turkey put in it's claim.

On September 25, 2011, the bust finally went home to Antalya.

It's not hard for me to imagine how this happened.

I was in Perge, where the statue was unearthed, in 1993? (I think that's when I was there.) I wandered around the ruins, peasant women in tow. They were trying to sell me hand crocheted lace, chamomile wreaths (bought one of those), anything a cottage industry could come up with....and I stepped in cow poop. Yeah. Lets just say the security was less than tight.

Monty Python moment:

Guard One: That cow looks unusually large.
Large wooden cow freezes in place. Drops a pile of poop for an unsuspecting tourist to discover.
Guard Two: Shrugs. There was a casting call for some new movie about Troy. You going?
Guard One: Nah. I heard someone loses his head.
Cow hobbles off into the night.

I'm very clever, aren't I? :D

Still, when purchasing antiquities, one should ask: Does the provenance feel right? Or did some author plant that phrase so readers can conveniently know what they need to know?

Sorry. How did this post get over to my manuscript?

Going to remove some "conveniences" from my ms now. See you on Wednesday.

Related Articles:
Weary Herakles Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Heracles finally returning to its homeland Hurriyet Daily News
Boston Museum Returns Bust to Turkey NY Times
White-Levy Weary Herakles Signed to Turkey Looting Matters


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