Monday, December 31, 2012

My 2012 Book List

My total reads for 2012
image credit
Looking back on 2012, I can say one thing: Thank goodness for Goodreads!

I'd never be able to keep track of what I read otherwise. I'd have to dig, dig, dig for some other interesting Monday post when all my friends are posting long lists of accomplished reading.

If your list is shorter than mine, maybe you should try Goodreads. I find a lot of great suggestions on there.

I'm definitely over the fifteen books average of most readers. (Pew Research Center statistics) I sneak in about a book a week.

This is because, as Stephen King recommends, I read whenever I can. Sipping a few sentences at the orthodontist, or inhaling an entire book on a long afternoon, reading in every spare moment is partly possible for me because of my assortment of electronic devices. (Just the other day I downloaded seven books, but I won't get to those until next year.) Hardcover books are still my overwhelming favorite, especially the ones with a shimmery cover. Paperbacks? Not so much. I only have a few of those on this list (not counting ARCs).

A Pair of Blue Eyes Thomas Hardy, ebook
Dune Frank Herbert, paperback
Brave New World Aldous Huxley, paperback
Fallen Angels Walter Dean Myers, paperback
The Witch of Blackbird Pond Elizabeth George Speare, ebook

I Married You for Happiness Lilly Tuck, ebook
It Happened on the Way to War Rye Barcott, hardcover
The Year of the Gadfly Jennifer Miller, hardcover
Butterfly's Child Angela Davis-Gardner, paperback
Water for Elephants Sara Gruen, paperback

Black Hole Sun David Macinnis Gill, hardcover
Silver Talia Vance, paperback
Skinny Donna Cooner, hardcover
The Patron Saint of Butterflies Cecelia Galante, ebook
Fracture Megan Miranda, hardcover
Enclave Ann Aguirre, ebook
Under the Never Sky Veronica Rossi, hardcover
So Close toYou Rachel Carter, hardcover
Feed MT Anderson, ebook
Gilt Katharine Longshore, hardcover
Insignia SJ Kincaid, hardcover
Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein, hardcover
The Girl with Borrowed Wings Rinsai Rossetti, ebook
Throne of Glass Sarah J Maas, hardcover
Bitterblue Kristen Cashore, hardcover
Revolver Marcus Sedgewick, hardcover
Finnikin of the Rock Melina Marchetta, hardcover
For Darkness Shows the Stars Diana Petefreund, ebook
The Raven Boys Maggie Stievfater, hardcover
Shadow and Bone Leigh Bardugo, hardcover
Seraphina Rachel Hartman, hardcover
The Knife of Never Letting Go Patrick Ness, ebook
The Drowned Cities Paolo Bacigalupi, hardcover
The Gathering Storm Robin Bridges, hardcover
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Ransom Riggs, ebook
The Scorpio Races Maggie Stiefvater, ebook

City of a Thousand Dolls Miriam Forster
Taken Erin Bowman
Crewel Gennifer Albin
Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You Joyce Carol Oates
Masque of the Red Death Bethany Griffin
After the Snow Sophie D Crockett
Crown of Embers Rae Carson

My favorite YA this year?
The two books which left me thinking: "I wish I could write like that!"

Code Name Verity. I'll give you one tip: Make sure you keep a (full) tissue box handy. Otherwise, I refuse to give you any spoilers here. You must read it yourself. MUST.

I also really liked The Raven Boys, but I don't think it's for everyone. Beaucoup character development and plenty of pages, TRB is the first in a four book series. I think Maggie Stiefvater is having a good time writing these boys. And I'm so jealous.

Summer of the Wolves Lisa Kline, hardcover
Saraswati's Way Monika Schroeder, hardcover
The Journal of Curious Letters James Dashner, ebook

The Encyclopedia of Me Karen Rivers

Beta Reads (complete manuscripts)
Mina Takes the Sky Katharine Owens
The Truth About Letting Go Leigh T Moore
Fire Carrier Martina Boone
21 Days Leigh T Moore

How to Write Fantasy and Science Fiction Orson Scott Card, paperback
Plot Ansen Dibell, ebook
The Elements of Fiction Writing Beginnings, Middles, and Ends Nancy Kress, ebook
Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue Gloria Kempton, ebook
Characters and Viewpoint Orson Scott Card, paperback
Second Sight Cheryl B. Klein, paperback

Some year, with some luck and a lot more hard work, maybe my books will be on somebody's list.

Here's hoping for a great 2013!

Monday, December 24, 2012

I'm still here...

Şirince, Turkey
 ...telling the tale of two villages and the apocalypse that never happened.

In Bugarach, France, Dec 21, 2012 hit hard. The mayor begged doomsday UFO seekers to leave his village in peace. Police then barricaded the roads, and camera crews were the only unusual sight at the top of that particular peak of the Pyrenees.

Further east, the Mayan calender was a publicity bust for the Ottoman village of Şirince, Turkey. Inns of the area booked to capacity, wait-listed people even. The 600 residents prepped all sorts of goodies, to no avail. Everyone banked on the new age claim that a sort of positive energy exists in the rocks there, creating a haven from the apocalpyse. (A ley line, perhaps?) Surely, if Noah escaped the flood, somebody can escape the (insert whatever you thought was coming)!

Not buying it?

There is one other possible reason to book a room in Şirince. Nearby, the house of the Virgin Mary might be the most direct route to heaven.

The Vatican doesn't confirm or deny that the Assumption happened there, but since Saint Anne Catherine Emmerich had a vision about it, pilgrims have sought out the small shrine. Many leave a written prayer on the wall outside.

I wonder what Mary would think about all this Mayan business?

Wishing Wall
The bad news: Village winemakers will have to drink their "Wine of the Apocalypse" another day.
The good news: Santa still knows where to find me. (You know he's from Turkey too, right?)

Happy Holidays!

Şirince village readies for ‘Doomsday’ events
Şirince misses crowds on Dec 21 ‘doomsday’

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Basketball Legend of Turkish Airlines

FIBA 2010
More basketball?

Well... My brain is inundated with it - practices, scrimages, games, NBA2K13, personal training, and even a non-fiction book or two.  Here though, everything should have something to do with Turkey. Yes?

So. Kobe Bryant. Big NBA star. Plays for the LA Lakers.

What could he possibly get out of an association with Turkey?
(Answer: A very nice deal $$$.)

The connection probably never crossed Bryant's mind either, but I suspect the 2010 FIBA World Championships had something to do with him taking a closer look at the opportunity. The tournament was held in Turkey, with Turkish Airlines as an official sponsor.

Afterwards, the top Turkish team, Beşiktaş wanted Bryant- and reportedly had a 50% chance of getting him during an NBA lockout. That didn't work out in the end, but it wasn't THE END of his connections to Turkey either. Bryant inked a two year contract to endorse Turkish Airlines. On TV, in print, digital.

Here's his first clever commercial:

(Also starring soccer star Lionel Messi, who is worth a whole 'nother post.)

The FIBA-flagged THY plane:

Update: TIME Sports picked up the story on 12/21.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What Lies Within

An M or an upside down W?
Once upon a time, I fell in love with my villain...

I wrote pages and pages from his perspective, and my whole story landed on it's head. Or not.

Had he become the protagonist? Per an uber agent's suggestion, he became a she. (Just to mix it up a little more!)

She wasn't the protagonist, and yet something about the way I wrote her made her likeable, even with her flaws. She was the hero of her own story (like every good villain). I wanted my readers to understand how she ticks- to see what lies within her hard shell.

I realized then that she was no longer a simple villain.

Something I uncovered when interviewing the bad girl: the authority figure is only a representation of the popular will to deny a particular truth. She was only acting within the accepted framework of her society.

Was she a sympathetic villain? Was she the anti-hero because she searched for something too?

Her quest was tied to my protagonist, but for her, the end justified the means. And in the end, she too came away with something (which leans her toward anti-hero, I think). What that is, you'll just have to wait and see.

Here's an excellent clip on the anti-hero from TED ed.


Monday, December 3, 2012

UNESCO Celebrates Itri

Ney via Wikipedia
UNESCO's Celebration of Anniversaries 2012 highlights special people, events and places in many member countries.

France marks 150 years of Claude Debussy
Jordan marks 200 years since the rediscovery of Petra
Spain marks 1,000 years since the founding of Granada
Here in the US, we celebrate 150 years of Edith Wharton

My favorite this year is from Georgia:

300 years of the epic poem: The Knight in the Panther’s Skin (1712) - the printed edition. (The unprinted version has been around since the twelfth century, in case you're curious.)

Sometimes multiple celebrations are in order.

This year Turkey remembers three prominent citizens: Yusuf Nabi, poet and philosopher (1641-1712), Kemal Ahmet Aru, architect and urban planner (1912-2005), and Buhurizade Mustafa Itri, musician (1640-1712).

"Buhurizade Itri (c. 1640-1712) musician, composer, calligrapher and poet, whose real name was Mustafa was a major exponent of Turkish classical music. He was a very prolific composer with more than a thousand works. However, only about 40 of these survived to this day. He lived through the times of five Ottoman Sultans. He became well known during the time of Mehmed IV. As with most composers of his day, Buhurizade Itri was also a famous poet and a calligrapher. He used poetic forms based on the classical Ottoman school of poetry (Dīvān), as well as those based on syllabic meters identified with folk music and poetry. Unfortunately most of his poetry has not survived to this day." via UNESCO

Itri's Neva Kâr is perhaps the most well known. The main instruments are the reed flute, called a ney, and the Saz string instument. The piece is about eleven minutes long, and evokes whirling dervishes because Itri was a Sufi and a poet.


Monday, November 26, 2012

European Big - Fenerbahçe Style

Fenerbahçe Spor
Coach said: "He's European Big. He should play 3,4,5." Or something to that effect anyway.

I squinted at him and agreed. Coach knows what he's talking about. I'll just let him do his thing.

So here I am, researching what this all means. (Die-hard basketball fans can move ahead to the last paragraph.)

My son is not going to be seven feet tall.
So, if he wants to achieve his dream of playing for his school team, he needs a strategy.
A scaled down European Big strategy, to be precise.

To inspire him, I looked up some Turkish teams for a role model. There were plenty, but I picked Fenerbahçe's Forward, Number 7, Ömer Onan. (I may be biased because he was born in Mersin, our Turkish home town.) He's in the middle of the front row in the team pic, and at 6'4", you can see he isn't even big for Euro Big.

The most important point: He's on a great team and he's got game.

How great is this team? Check this out:

NBA Europe Live: Fenerbahce Ulker beats Celtics in debut against NBA 

Ömer Onan gets mentioned a few times, and he's quoted in the end.

Now my son was trained to be a 5 - Center, right next to the basket, in the paint. He's taller than most  kids around here, but if he tops out at 6'4" or 6'5" as the doctor predicts, he will be too short. Even Euro Big starts at 6'10" for a Center.

Coach now has him playing 4, Power Forward. A similar role, but Euro Big PF starts at 6'8".

So hopefully he'll work up to a 3, Small Forward. Euro Big SF starts at 6'4". Just right. (Feel a bit like Goldilocks here? I do.)

Says wikipedia:

The small forward position is considered to be perhaps the most versatile of the main five basketball positions, due to the nature of its role, which is sometimes similar to that of a power forward, and other times more resembles the role of a shooting guard. The small forward and shooting guard positions are often interchangeable.

Versatile? That is music to my ears.

He'll have to work harder on his shots, and I see years of training ahead, but it's his dream. I want him to fulfill it, no matter how many nights I'll spend on a cold, hard bleacher.

Is the moral of the story to be a big fish in a small pond? Maybe. My guess is you go where they feed the fish. And this applies to writers too - big press, small press, vanity press:

Follow your dream.

Monday, November 19, 2012

NaNoWriMo for Kids

If you think writing a 50,000 word novel in a month is hard, try NaNoWriMo as a 6th grader. For homework!

Granted, the goal for the kids is only 50 pages, but I have plot nightmares just thinking about it. (Even if it does make me secretly wish I could go back to middle school.)

Imagine a library full of kids chattering, bouncing ideas, patching plot holes with dragons. Their fingers fly as they click away on their netbooks, focusing on the assigned foreshadow or flashback.

Five hundred kids. Writing.

I had the chance to witness this because (via WNBA Charlotte) I helped Monika Schroeder arrange an author visit as part of the NaNoWriMo event at Marvin Ridge Middle School. (All made possible by a grant from North Carolina School Library Media Association, and Brita Mann, our awesome Media Coordinator. Union County Weekly ran a half page article with more details.)

Over the course of the six week program, other authors are Skyping in too, giving the kids plenty of inspiration. John Claude Bemis was there last week, which was when I visited.

John gave a presentation and ate lunch with some of the kids. (How cool is that?)
He took fan questions about his books, and questions every aspiring writer/author asks, like:

What happens if I'm coming to an end, and I still don't have enough words?
Answer: Be mean to your character. Create more problems.


Did people think you wouldn't be successful as a writer?
Answer (paraphrased): It was more me telling myself I couldn't do it.

Ouch! That hit close to home.

In between sessions, I spoke with John about good reads, and good writing workshops. He was very encouraging. (Former teachers can be like that.)

Anyhoo. The moral of the story:

The whole experience kicked me out of the "Woe, is me." tailspin so fast, I sat down to my writing again the very next day. Also, I have a feeling my list of acknowledgements will be very long, someday. In the meantime: BICHOK, people!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Sultanahmet Jail Hotel

The Ottoman calligraphy across the lintel reads:
"Capital City Murder Jail",
but I'd pay 370 Euros to stay for a night,
if I had any spare Euros to spend, that is...

A lot of other people think it's worth the money too, because this is not only the old Sultanahmet Jail, it is now a 65 room, five star hotel: the Four Seasons- Istanbul at Sultanahmet.

The elegant neoclassical style of the building belies the original purpose- on purpose. Perhaps the proximity to nearby Ottoman palaces and public buildings, and the caliber of the actual prisoners (writers and educated political dissidents) warranted a more gentle architecture.

While all that was fine in 1918-19 when the jail was built, by 1968 the prison was shuttered. It's historic, old city location was of no consequence to the growing needs of the new Istanbul. The jail was put to use for a brief stint during a coup d'etat in the 80s, but quickly abandoned again for more than a decade.

Then in 1996, the prison's wide windows and high-arched hallways welcomed a transformation. The building was repurposed, clad in marble and mosaics, and the courtyard was outfitted with a garden, terrace and gourmet restaurant. In 2012, the resulting boutique style hotel was rated #1 on the Top Small City Hotels list by Travel + Leisure

But take a closer look. A sort of gothic gloom lingers, intentionally, as a reminder of the building's history. Brass rings keep their firm hold on some of the old cell walls. An inmate's inscription still marks up a marble pillar - and wish I knew what it says! Somebody please take a picture and send it to me. Some of the inmates were poets, so maybe the wording is poignant.

Alas, no images of the inscription exist, at least not anywhere I've searched.
Instead, here's a poem by the Sultanahmet Jail's famous inmate and International Peace Prize winner, Nâzım Hikmet.
(Remember my post about Hiroshima Girl?)

Lion in an Iron Cage

Look at the lion in the iron cage,
look deep into his eyes:
like two naked steel daggers
they sparkle with anger.
But he never loses his dignity
although his anger
comes and goes
goes and comes.

You couldn't find a place for a collar
round his thick, furry mane.
Although the scars of a whip
still burn on his yellow back
his long legs
stretch and end
in the shape of two copper claws.
The hairs on his mane rise one by one
around his proud head.
His hatred
comes and goes
goes and comes ...

The shadow of my brother on the wall of the dungeon
up and down
up and down.  


Monday, November 5, 2012

The Metaphor of Minestrone

Recently, I spent a week in manuscript therapy at Your Best Book, surrounded by the brilliance of:

  • Lorin Oberweger and Brenda Windberg from Free Expressions Literary.
  • Emma Dryden from Drydenbks.
  • Josh Adams and Tracey Adams from Adams Literary.
  • Authors/YA Muses: Veronica Rossi, Talia Vance, Donna Cooper, and Brett Ballou.
  • Nancy Conescu from Dial Books.
  • And fifteen amazing, aspiring authors.

I got to spend all day with these people! From breakfast at 8:00 am, to the craft chat that wrapped up at 9:00 pm, there was no stopping the flow of amazing.

Some days I got overwhelmed by the information. Some days I couldn't contain my euphoria.

First, daily classes on craft and the publishing business blew my mind. Deep POV? Deep Scene? I'm still looking back on my notes and finding gems. My favorite takeaway was from Brenda Windberg on world building: React to details, don't just note them.

Then there was a visit to the book doctor.

Lorin and Brenda evaluated my first pages and synopsis for plot holes, or flaws in point of view -like an x-ray. I needed this is on a couple of fronts, but I was glad to learn some good things are already in my bag of tricks.

I wasn't prepared for the book therapist.

Lorin and Brenda took my outline and analyzed the meaning, looking for the emotional path to a better manuscript - like a brain scan. Scary things live in my head, I tell you.

When combined with daily intense critique sessions, the Book Doctor and Book Therapist visits resulted in an epiphany brought on by:

Josh Adams, who saw my antagonist pages and helped me see my story in an enticing new way.


Nancy Conescu, who told me I needed to write realistic fiction.

The two ideas didn't sound at all related, but they were the seasoned experts. I needed to stop and listen.

Apparently, I was trying to cram three stories into my current ms.
(Wonder if that was why I felt the need for three POV characters?)

At the end of the week, I came home exhausted, grumpy with a capital G, and convinced I needed to throw out the entire manuscript.

And then I made the worst minestrone of my entire life. (Chopping veggies was therapeutic, you know?)

"Is this what's going on in your head?" My husband asked as he ladled the concoction into a bowl.

Sigh. How right he was. Garbanzos, and lentils, and green beans, and kidney beans, and stars, and diced tomato, and... I spilled the red pepper flakes which made it almost inedible. There wasn't near enough broth to go with all the stuff swimming in that soup.

Metaphor? Definitely.

So here's the recovery plan: Sleep. Then separate the stories.

Instead of tossing everything, I'm outlining the third story, stripping the current manuscript of idea threads from the other two, and keeping a "cuts" file for everything. The first story will have to simmer while I keep an eye on it.

PS. This reaction to an intense workshop is not uncommon. A week into November, I've found my direction again, hopeful for a finished, brilliant revision by January.

Did I mention that I'd recommend this experience to any writer I meet? Epiphany seems such a small word for all the enlightenment.

Friday, November 2, 2012

ROUGE Cover Reveal!

ROUGE via Leigh T. Moore
Just look at that gorgeous cover!

My critique partner, Leigh T. Moore, is doing it again. Her YA contemp, THE TRUTH ABOUT FAKING (TTAF), is a success. Now she's getting a little bit gritty with an edgy release, ROUGE:

Trapped in the underground theater world of 1890s New Orleans, Hale Ferrer has only one goal: escape. But not without Teeny, the orphan-girl she rescued from the streets and has since raised as her own.

Freddie Lovel, Hale's wealthy Parisian suitor, seems to be the easy solution. If only his touch could arouse her interest like Beau's, the penniless stagehand who captures her heart.

Denying her fears, Hale is poised to choose love until an evil lurking in their cabaret-home launches a chain of events that could cost Hale everything.

What can I say about ROUGE? (I'm partial, you know.)

As with TTAF, Leigh's instinct for story is spot on. She demonstrates flexibility with the cross-genre release of this Historical Theater Romance: Not too heavy on the historical, lots of luscious theater, and steamy romance equals a perfect balance.

The dark secrets in ROUGE are for a more mature audience than TTAF, but don't let that hold you back! Available November 13th. Check Leigh's website for details.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Henna Designs

A couple weeks ago, I chaperoned a 7th grade field trip to the Renaissance Festival. Falconry and fun, fun, fun.

The boys grabbed a bite to eat and sat down to watch the acrobats. The stage happened to be right next to a henna booth, so I... kept one eye on the kids and ran off to get a design on my arm. It takes all of two minutes to get a small one done.

Now, when I lived in Abu Dhabi, I used to have henna on my hands and feet. Roses and scrolls, and all lovely sorts of flowers. That took a long time to dry. I keep things a little more discrete here in NC- just in case.

I picked a small dragon and the artist applied the design where long sleeves would hide the whole thing. Henna only lasts two weeks anyway. (This design is a couple of inches, enlarged here for detail.)

My sleeve rolled up, I went back to the boys.

Darling son rolls his eyes at me.

His friend says "Ooo. How much was that? I want one."

Chaperone Me cringes. : "What if your parents don't like it?" Maybe I shouldn't have said that. I think I sealed the deal.

Two of them run off to get designs done. One gets the same design as mine. The other selects a scary six-inch dragon. Claws and all - it looked ginormous on that small boy. I had a flash to the future where he is covered in ink. And I hope the parents don't hate me for it, but really - if that's what he wants, someday he's going to get it done. Right? (Help me here. I feel a little bit guilty.)

As they sat waiting for the precious design to dry, boy number one asked me - "How is henna part of the Renaissance?" This kid is thinking tattoos are a new thing - I can see it in his eyes.

Hmm. "Well - Remember the Crusaders from the middle ages? They went east and lots of ideas came back with them. During the Renaissance, there was trade with the east. And henna is a very old art. Older than the Renaissance."


From my previous posts you know, in the east, henna is mostly used for celebrations like weddings or feast days now. It originated in the fields, where women dyed their hands as a protection from the harsh work of the harvest.

This is my first ever ejderha - dragon design. In Turkey, and in many other eastern cultures, the use of animal designs is frowned upon or even forbidden. This stems from a firm stance against idolatry. 

Some beduoins tattoo themselves with black tribal markings, but I like henna (aka kına or mehndi) because it's temporary. Next time I can get something else that suits my fancy. Ink is too permanent for me.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Playing Favorites

Elizabeth George Speare
I'm in the Your Best Book writing workshop this week, where Tracey Adams of Adams Literary is discussing character. One of the prep questions for the workshop: Who is your favorite children's book character? Be prepared to share why.

The options seemed endless, so I broke it down in categories:

Picture Books-

HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON? Maybe. Yes. I like him, but is he my favorite? I think I like the crayon.

Stellaluna? I like her, but I didn't read her story when I was little. She's cute, but not my favorite.

Conclusion: I'm not really a picture book writer.

Middle Grade-

Lots of maybes in this category: Laura Ingalls, Mary Lennox, Lucy Pevensie, Nancy Drew, Anne Shirley...  Meg Murray? I reread A WRINKLE IN TIME because I remembered loving it years ago. But, it's not Meg. (Hey! Even Nathan Bransford has issues with this story these days.)

Conclusion: I like middle grade, but I don't love it.

Young Adult:

Karana from ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS - I really like this book, but Karana isn't the reason.

Kit Tyler? Kit Tyler.

Woah! Flashback!

I was in sixth grade the day I first read THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. 

We had round tables in class, which I appreciated because the teacher couldn't just look down the rows and reprimand me for reading. Somehow I got a seat tucked way into the corner. The pockmarked plexiglass window behind me threw a dappled shadow over the table. The perfect place to hide a paperback? The inside of my science book, SERENDIPITY.

The story sucked me in, and then.... tears! I didn't care about the room full of kids around me, or the teacher who finally figured out the science wasn't making me sniffle. I even got myself a pen pal in the Barbados afterwards.

Remembering Kit's story, certain scenes are vivid still for me. Just in case she's not my favorite, and to research the WHY:

I reread WOBP over the weekend. I didn't cry, but it was a wake up call for me - as if I saw my younger self through a mirror portal, and I was comfortable with her.

Kit and I are sisters of the soul, and here's the why: Kit was one independent girl striving for a way to find her place in two worlds. Not an apple, or an orange, she was a pomegranate, like me. Did I know that way back in 6th grade? It was the year I went from Catholic school to public, so maybe I had an idea.

Now I look at BURNT AMBER and I see Kit Tyler walking through those pages, nodding her head. She knows me. Even in MIST OF KAVALA, I see her mark.


Kit Tyler is my favorite.

Now, is it because I'm a YA writer at heart? Who is your favorite? Is it a classic? Is it something more recent?

AND lastly, I have to point out that Sarah Fine launched her book last week:

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos's best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn't just anyone – she's determined to save her best friend's soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she's captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city's endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn't – the dark city isn't the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Turkish Publishing Industry

Frankfurt Book Fair, 2008
What to blog? It's Friday afternoon (as I'm writing this) and I have NO IDEA!

Duh! Read the news.
Syria. Syria. Syria.
Not getting into that quagmire.

Oh, look! A pretty picture of BOOKS.

Ah! An article about the Frankfurt Book Fair, specifically, an article about the Turkish companies attending:

A total of 21 Turkish publishing houses will attend the book fair, including eight publishing houses geared toward children’s and youth literature. Seven copyright agencies from Turkey will also be present at the fair. Source:Hurriyet Daily News

Wow. 21 publishing houses. Maybe I should see what this is about. Curious minds want to know!

Clickity, click.

Fifty eight companies representing Turkey? 58. Huh!

Click. Click.
Hmm. This stupid site won't give me more than a list of names.
Open new tab.
Google. typey, typey.
Whirr. Click.

Akcali Copyright

Page opens up to a George RR Martin cover. OK. This house must represent front list translations.

Scroll. Click.

YA & Children's page:
Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, Christopher Paolini and Roald Dahl.

Does this mean they like fantasy/sci-fi, or is that what's on the front list right now? Hmm.

Click back to the Frankfurt Book Fair page. Skip down the list.

Can you see me doing this? Or maybe I've spent too much time with picture book authors lately? Shall I put in an art note here? ;) 

Next company:

AnatoliaLit. Agency representing Turkish authors internationally, also offering translation services for people looking to get into the Turkish market. American agent's name on the list, Bryn Mawr grad.

Eyebrows go up. Literary agent in Istanbul. That's a job to strive for in my next life.

Next company:

APRIL Best sellers of a different sort : Jodi Picoult, Mary Higgins Clark, Dr. Phil. I think they're interested in how I feel about things. ;)

Ayrinti Serious, serious stuff here. Analytical, Historical, Theological. No kids stuff=Not for me.

Publishers, printers, literary agencies...These are just the As. There's a whole list (with lots of countries) on the Frankfurt Book Fair site, if you're interested. And I'm sure any agent dealing with foreign rights already knows all of this. I just thought you might like my picture-bookish Friday adventure in making this blog relevant to my writerly world, with a Turkish angle, of course.

PS. In 2008, Turkey was the focus of interest at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the photo above was part of the pavilion designed for the event. The theme was Faszinierend farbig (Fascinatingly colourful).

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Writer's Roller Coaster

Coney Island Cyclone
I'm fresh off the roller coaster that was the SCBWI Carolinas conference. I have a few things to say.

1) Go to a conference near you and make some good friends.

2) Participate, even when it hurts.

3) Listen to what the experts are really saying.

4) Don't drink the coffee.

So, here's the correlating WHY:

1) A writer needs friends in this process. Online friends are good. Real live, huggable, hand-holding ones are better. I can't imagine how I did without the support before. And each time I attend a conference, the bonds get stronger.
  • After you get a critique - good or bad - you need to share. Immediately.
  • When you have one great AND one not so great review, then you need help to focus on the good again. Immediately.
  • Friends are great for reminding (gently, and much later) that you should not forget the bad either, because that is how you get better. You know what I mean?
2) Participation is hard. It's easier to just sit and absorb. If you want to get the most out of the conference, even at the risk of melting away in your seat under the laser beam eyes of the expert, do it.
  •  After you recover from the meltdown, you end up asking yourself the hard questions.
  •  Hard questions make your writing more focused - as in, the very next day epiphany focused. (This was a plot workshop. My plot was fine, but leaning toward average at the end. Now it will be awesome.)
  • Friends are very helpful with the meltdown situation. (ref: point 1, above)
3) If you are lucky enough to have your work reviewed (in front of hundreds of people), your ears will ring. Between thudding heart beats, you will try to listen very carefully, but you will only hear half of what the experts say.

It's good to have friends listening to the criticism at the same time. You can always review the feedback with them later. (ref: point 1, above)

A couple of my friends got picked. One of them focused on the negative comments. Weeding out the harsh to find the seed of goodness is hard. I haven't spoken much to the other yet, but she's stronger than me, so I'm not worried.

Then mine was read.

Gasp! The last few pieces scored editor comments like: "Annoying." or  "Irritating." or "Too many like this." My sample was from the second round of revisions from my NaNoWriMo project. There was no way to magically remove my submission.

"There's nothing wrong with the writing," says one editor. "Want something more special to start."
I'm thinking: That's a Meh! response, but I'll take it after the comments the last few people got. It is, after all, only an early attempt at the beginning for this manuscript.

"I'm intrigued. Want more details on the setting," says the second.
I'm thinking: Another Meh!, but I'll take it. This guy is HARD to impress. Besides, I cut so much to keep inside the 200 word limit, and you all know my setting details can be too detailed sometimes.

"Swearing is a cheat. Find another way to show emotions," says the third. "Also, damn sounds out of context with the world."
I'm thinking: 1) No swearing is a good rule to remember. 2) Maybe I should make a list of world specific words for each character - one more problem a sci-fi/fantasy writer needs to deal with!

4) The coffee is mediocre at best. Also, when your heart feels like it might burst out of your chest, caffeine is probably a bad idea.

And finally, as SCBWI President, Stephen Mooser reminded: A writer's career is like a roller coaster. You can't keep your eyes closed the whole time. You have to put your hands up and scream if you want to enjoy the ride.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Muhteşem Mythical Birds

The new Muhteşem Yüzyıl season is up and running, and Hurrem Sultan... Well, I can't wait to see how she gets out of this mess: There's a new girl in the harem, and Sultan Suleiman has fallen head over heals over her.

Firuze is more than just a girl though. She's got something magical going on. Suleiman was in her dreams- before she met him. She heals Hatice Sultan with a sweep of the hand and a Persian poem. And she has a mysterious tattoo on the back of her neck. This girl is my style!  (I'm still rooting for Hurrem to win, of course.)

Last week's episode had me googling all over the place. I'm still looking for the correct mythical bird of Firuze's hairpin. It's not the Simurgh (above), or the Shahrukh (which is the root of the word roc, btw). It's a lovesick bird with a tragic end.

A la Arabian Nights, she tells Suleiman this tale:

The diman (?) falls in love with the sea - a sea as blue as Suleiman's eyes.
It protects the sea, so it can't bear to leave the shore for fear that something would happen.
It never drinks a drop of the water.
When the bird dies of thirst, waves wrap around the body and pull it down to the deepest, deepest heart of the sea.

Is she planning to kill Suleiman? The Ottomans are about to march on Tabriz. She might be in the harem on a mission. I guess we'll find out. At the moment, it seems she's obsessed with Suleiman as her destiny.

Meanwhile, I'm obsessed with the bird. The story feels familiar, but I might be confusing it with the Greek myth of Narcissus.

Has anyone else heard of this mythical bird?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Assassin's Creed III

Sometimes things take a turn you don't expect.

I did not expect AC III's cover to look anything like this.

The storyline for the AC series is framed Desmond, who is linked to all the MCs of the individual releases. Desmond relives the stories of his ancestors through a device that taps into a latent memory stored in his DNA. Very cool idea. So, to recap:

The first game is in the perspective of Altaïr, set in Third Crusade Masyaf, Acre, Jerusalem and Damascus. Lots of Old buildings and castles to climb.

The second and two following games were through the eyes of Ezio Auditore. Game two, and game two and a half, were set in Italy. We all loved it. Game two and three quarters was in Istanbul, but really just felt like Italy with a few costume changes. Again, lots of castles and neat old buildings.

The "third" game is in the perpective of a new character, set in the American Revolution? That's a big change - as in change continents, and fast forward. The main character, Connor, is part Native American, part British. It looks like he takes the eagle theme even futher into shape changing. No chance for castles here, folks. I'll definitely be buying it, but -

What about the world that we enjoyed in the past versions of this game? There's a reason the whole AC II ++ was in a similar setting. Are we ready to move on? Maybe.

This is a question I ask myself about the books I read and the manuscripts I write. If book one does a good job immersing us in a specific world, why change it? Most readers aren't ready to move on yet either, which must be why there's a whole trilogy trend. But-

When we get past book three, aren't we ready to move on?

For me, I find that three books in a series is adequate. Lots of times I won't even read whatever follows. I don't have time. It's like travel. How many times should I visit Italy, when there are so many other destinations in the world I still have to see?

What do you think?

Monday, September 17, 2012


You might ask: Why is there a post about Greek yogurt on this site?

Answer: Because it's really Turkish.

Lots of Turkish stuff in this country is labelled as Greek. In this case, people were already familiar with Greek yogurt, even though it's the same stuff the Turks make.

Tomato, tomahhhto. Whatever!

So what makes this Turkish/Greek stuff different from regular yogurt?

It's strained.

When I lived in Turkey, I was like: What is it with this thick stuff?
I was yearning for Yoplait, you see, but all while the Turkish stuff was better for me.
Less fat, more protein. No artificial anything.

Me being a word-a-holic, the purpose here is to let you in on the roots of the name Chobani.

Choban is the Turkish word for a shepherd. When you add an i, the word is modified to mean "shepherd's style". Technically, I think the i is an Arabic addition. You know the Ottomans were all over the Middle East, so they must have picked up some word habits while they were there.

The Chobani story:

While tidying up his desk back in 2005, our Founder and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, stumbled upon a classified ad for a yogurt plant recently closed down by Kraft. After initially throwing the ad away, Hamdi listened to his gut, fished it out of the trash and went to see it that day. He decided to buy the plant on the spot, and went to work on perfecting the recipe for Chobani based on his belief that everyone, regardless of income or location, deserved access to delicious, high-quality yogurt. The first cup of CHO finally hit shelves 18 months later and has since grown to become America’s #1 yogurt.

To me, Hamdi sounds like an Egyptian first name. Ulukaya is definitely Turkish . Maybe that's how the name Chobani happened. Hybrid people make up hybrid words - I know I do it all the time.

Per the (very cute) video below, Hamdi Ulukaya grew up in eastern Turkey.

So I'm off to have some black cherry Chobani.

What's your favorite flavor?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Author Leigh T Moore ~ CP Extraordinaire

Lots of bloggers know Leigh T Moore , but I'm sure many don't. She's a great asset to the writer's blogging community. Her comments sparkle like spots of supportive sunshine, AND she's an excellent professional editor. (Shoot her an email, leightmoore (at) gmail (dot) com.) 

I consider myself very lucky because Leigh was my first ever CP, and she's the best kind - the kind who cheers you along when you get an R from that dream agent who requested your manuscript. Yep. She's got my back.

So Leigh is great. And I want to *throw confetti* around to celebrate her latest endeavors, her new YA contemporary:


Jason just wants a date with Harley.
Harley just wants a date with Trent.
Trent's still getting over Stephanie.

When Harley and Jason decide to fake date, they uncover a school of deceptions. Trent's got a secret, but so does Jason. And the more time Harley spends secretly kissing her fake boyfriend, the further she gets from her dreams with Trent.

Worst of all, Harley's mom is getting cozy with her hot massage therapy student, and even Harley's Reverend Dad can't fake not being bothered by it. But when the masks finally come off, can everyone handle the real truth?

Also, later this fall, Leigh has an adult novel coming out through publisher Pocket Star:


Trapped in the underground theater world of 1890s New Orleans, Hale Ferrer has only one goal: escape. But not without Teeny, the orphan-girl she rescued from the streets and has since raised as her own.

Freddie Lovel, Hale's wealthy Parisian suitor, seems to be the easy solution. If only his touch could arouse her interest like Beau's, the penniless stagehand who captures her heart.

Denying her fears, Hale is poised to choose love until an evil lurking in their cabaret-home launches a chain of events that could cost Hale everything.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Turkey's Salt Lake ~ Tuz Gölü

Tuz Gölü
Between the Cilician Gates at Pozanti and the capital city of Ankara, a single highway snakes across the endless fields of Anatolia.

Well, seemingly endless.

Sunflower fields are lovely, but after so many hours, they're just sunflowers.

Then the fields give way to the shimmering salt flats of Tuz Gölü. (Literally: "Salt Lake")

The lake draws the eye like a magnet, even though the bright whiteness makes me squint as I get closer. It's a huge lake,Turkey's second largest.

My father-in-law mentions that there are salt mines, and he keeps driving. (Salt mines there produce 63% of the salt consumed in Turkey.)It takes a while to drive past.

Over the years, I passed the lake several times, never stopping. I should have.

The lake is like a natural spa. The cosmetics industry uses the water, salt, mud, and extracts from the 22 types of minerals found there for various skin softening treatments. Honestly though, the cosmetics angle doesn't interest me all that much.

But - Tuz Gölü is home to the largest Mediterranean flock of the greater flamingo, Phoenicopterus roseus. THAT interests me.

In 2011, the major breeding colony  there hatched over 18,000 chicks. That's a lot of pink!

Speaking of: You probably know the flamingo's food source is the reason their feathers turn pink. At Tuz Gölü, the brine shrimp artemia salina is their favorite snack. Artemia salina likes to feed off the red algae, dunaliella salina.
Sometimes the red algae gets out of hand. Ever heard of a crimson tide? A blood red algae bloom rolls in along the shores, and against the white salt flats, it's particularly shocking. (link to pic) Never thought I'd see a crimson tide on a lake shore. You?
A little bit of housekeeping:
A) Summer isn't officially over until September 21st, right? I'm keeping to one post per week until then. ;)
B) I've rearranged the blogroll on the left sidebar. See how there's a whole widget for Blogs on Turkey? These are all interesting, mostly written by expats, but all about some aspect of Turkish life. Check them out!
Also, I'll be evaluating the author/writer/reviewer widget soon.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Route 27

Route 27
This is my route back to a regular writing schedule, because the 27th is the first day of school for the boys. (Cheesy, I know, but I liked the graphic.)

That means:

Freedom!!! I love my kids, but it's really time for them to go get an education.

It also means I will have hours and hours to revise, rework, and reinvent the worlds I'm spinning on both my manuscripts. Who knows what all this unfettered quiet time will lead to?

Here's what I'll be working on in MoK:

Deeper secondary characters - They are the "salt in the stew" - according to my crit group member, Brad Davidson.

World building expansions of summarized scenes- My first beta reader suggested a longer chase scene for chapter three, among other things.

A tighter, more comprehensive ending, so the ms can truly stand alone- WriteOnCon agents suggested they are tired of trilogies. I was only planning one "companion" book anyhow.

A more interesting hook for the beginning- Always the LAST thing to get done, isn't it?

For BA:

Reworking Haydon- Back to what I really want him to be - a cute/slightly nerdy biotech geek.

Toning down the fantasy- I got a revise and resubmit request in April, the dreaded "slow no". She  passed because the fantasy wasn't slow enough. Yet, I had a full request on the previous version and that agent passed because it was too slow. I need to find the middle ground.

Scheduled completion for all of this?

Your guess is as good as mine!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Istanbul in the Movies: This Fall

I love when Istanbul gets spotlighted in a film, and this fall, the city is the star in several movies. The streets have been busy, bustling with film crews and top actors. There are some specific locations that film directors seem to love - like the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar.

(That scene is getting old for me. Remember when Clive Owen did it in The International? )

I digress. Here are the trailers:

Taken 2, with Liam Neeson.

In the movie, his daughter runs across the rooftops of the grand bazaar. (Does she always have to be barely dressed?) Of course, I would have preferred if there were some good guys from the city too, but this film seems to get off the roofs and into the streets of today's Istanbul. I give lots of points for that.

Then there's the latest James Bond, Skyfall, where Daniel Craig falls off a bridge in Adana, and yet somehow ends up riding a motorbike on top of the grand bazaar. (Well, I love the bridge scene anyway.)

And lastly, Argo with Ben Affleck, which has scenes set in Iran that were actually filmed in Turkey. I'll actually have to watch this one to see if I recognize anything but the mosque in the trailer.

Here's hoping there are no scenes on the Grand Bazaar rooftops.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm over in the forums at WriteOnCon today.

The schedule this year is chock full of YA information. Ninja Agents are lurking in the forums already. If you haven't ever participated, try sitting in for a session or two. You might find something you like. ;)

I've posted both of my queries in the forums, for better or for worse:

If anyone is participating, I'd appreciate suggestions and/or pageviews so I can keep getting more feedback from others. I'd be happy to reciprocate.


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Houses of Harran

Last year, I picked up a paperback of DUNE for my son. It was on the 9th grade reading list, see. Plus I remembered something about giant sandworms, which I thought he might like. Yeah.
Last week, I finally dusted off my dear son's paperback shelf, and I read the book myself.

(For the record, sandworms are really cool. Movie bonus: Sting! (aka: that singer I'm obsesssed with) I added the extended edition to my Netflix queue, and it can't get here fast enough.)

The surprise of DUNE, for me, was the middle eastern inspired desert culture of the Fremen, and the mysticism throughout. The expansive ecology and elaborate system of water capture of the planet Arrakis made me sit up and pay attention. Yep. DUNE is epic. But you knew that.

I'm not trying to be epic, but I do want to incorporate realistic culture/ecology into my own work, so this thread goes back to my musings on Hattusa. And Harran.

Harran is not very close to Hattusa, but the lack of trees is bringing the two locations together in my head. My story is set in a semi-arid wilderness. Resources are precious.

Like my previous post on cow pies, I'm following the scarcity of wood, and the houses of Harran inspire for that reason alone. Their bricks are made with mud and hay. Not a single stick is used in the structure.The distinctive beehive rooftop design dates back something like 3000 years. 3000 years! The shape helps heat rise and keeps the people cool in the long, hot summer.

The houses are no longer in use -tourists excepted.

The people moved out to a more modern, flat-roofed village nearby, but they still maintain the same reverent use of resources. They twist hay into ropes and use it to make bales. Then they pile the bales in a (beehive-like) pyramid on top of each house, providing insulation and convenient fodder storage for the winter.

I'm just not sure how they tie everything down so the wolf doesn't blow it away.

Monday, July 30, 2012


So. Playlists. Have you got one for your manuscript? I always make one up for mine.

I've been looking for a good song for my main character in MIST OF KAVALA. I found good ones for the two secondary characters, but for some reason I couldn't pin one down for Taner, for the longest time. Was it because I didn't understand him yet? I'm not sure, but worry no more: I found it! The perfect song, and it's a Turkish one too. Double points!!!
So to explain what Emir has to do with all this perfection:

1) An "emir" is the old name for a prince, or similar head of state, in Turkish and in Arabic speaking countries. (Still in use. Example: the United Arab Emirates, where I used to live.) Emir geldi - is Turkish for "an order came down" from our superiors. And the order is that we need to pay attention to this new Turkish artist, Emir.

2) I've posted about Tarkan in the past. Modeled a character on him in BURNT AMBER even. (Lot's of people want to be like Tarkan, so that wasn't a stretch.) He is a very influential artist. I would even venture to say he is a king maker on the Turkish music scene. My evidence? He's turned his efforts from singing and writing, to writing and producing. Emir is one of Tarkan's sucesses. (Ha! Emir even plays on the word king. :D)

Tarkan is a co-producer on Emir's album, and lending lyrics to the new star, he cameos in the video clip for Ben Sen Olamam. His influence is so strong, many Tarkan officianados even question if Emir is Tarkan's protege or clone?

Funny they should mention clones... I'm working with a thread about them right now. Just read Aldous Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD too. Hmm.

And so I claim Tarkan/Emir's song, Ben Sen Olamam - I Can't Be You, as my inspiration for Taner. Fit's him like a glove, it does.

Here are the lyrics and my own (mediocre) translation:

Öyle diyorlar,                                           Like this, they say
Böyle diyorlar                                          Like that, they say

Şekile mekile takılıp üzüyorlar                Appearances, they stick on them, they sadden me
İnsana dünyayı dar ediyorlar                  They constrict a person's world

Yaftayı takıp sınıflandırıyorlar                They label and they classify
Eğriyi doğruyu bilen ya onlar                 Right or wrong, they are the ones who know
İnsanı kaderine küstürüyorlar                 They disturb a person's destiny

Kaçtım, kaçtım durdum                             I ran away, I kept running away
Kendime değil, hep kendimden                 Not to myself, always from myself
Ne zaman ki bana geri döndüm                When I came back to myself
Ümitle donandım yeniden                         With hope I returned again
Ben benden oldum yaşayınca                   I made myself, even as I lived
Onun bunun kitabına göre                       According to this or that rule
Ben yine beni bende buldum                    I found myself in me regardless
Sığınınca kalbime yeniden                       I embraced my heart again

Ben bundan böyle:                                   Me, after this:

Ne yasak tanırım ne kural tanırım            I acknowledge neither forbidden nor allowed
Ruhum bedenime dar, bunalırım              My soul is too tight in my body, I suffocate
Üstüme gelme. Bak. Kafa tutarım             Don't push me. Look. I will defy
Acımam, tozu dumana katarım                 I have no mercy, I throw dust on the flames
Ben sen olamam, olursam eğer                I can't be who you are, if I am

Kendimi kızgın ateşlere atarım                I will throw myself in angry flames
Uymam, sürüye uymaktansa                    I won't conform, if I follow the herd
Kendimi kurd'a yem yaparım                    I make myself food for a wolf

Ya sev seveceksen olduğum gibi             Love me, if you will love me the way I am
Ya da çıkar at kalbinden beni                 Or remove me, throw me out of your heart
Ne değiştirmeye çalış ne yargıla             Neither try to change me, nor judge me

Hangimiz kusursuz mükemmeliz ki         Which one of us is without flaws, perfect?
Bana tepeden bakıp da                            You look down from your hill upon me and
Kendini daha özel ayrıcalıklı sanma       Don't think yourself special, superior



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