Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Second Sight by Cheryl B. Klein
The NY SCBWI conference was full of information, but time only allowed for three breakout sessions. So I snagged my roomate's notes from the brilliant 'revision' session, and ended up grabbing the speaker's book too:
Second Sight by Cheryl B. Klein.

Second Sight is an obvious pun, which I love, but the book does equip a writer with the laser vision required for a tough edit. Plus, Cheryl Klein is a superhero - I mean -  a Scholastic editor who worked on the Harry Potter series. Enough said, right?

Some of the included ideas:

1) Run a plot checklist to identify the dominant plot threads in your work -
This one is relatively easy, so try it.

2) Create a book map, scene by scene, for your entire manuscript. No skipping around.
For me, this is the holy grail. It helped me put my writing into perspective like nothing else I'd ever tried. It holds a writer accountable for the content of every scene, spots plot holes and redundancies, and you really should try it. Ms. Klein refers us to, where there are some really great tips, like highlighting aspects of your manuscript in different colors. I like to use the highlights for plot threads, but she uses them for other reasons too. You'll have to head over there because there really is too much to cover in a quick book review.

3) Make a minimap using one-line summaries for each chapter.
This is not as easy as you'd think, and it's best done after you've completed the bookmap.

4) There are some repeated ideas, since the book is a compilation of talks she gave at various conferences. Repetition is actually a good thing because sometimes you need to hear it more than once. I read it one talk at a time, over the course of a few weeks. I don't recommend reading it all in one sitting. Let your brain absorb the ideas, read the next section, and then take out your pretty, new highlighters.

This post will end up spilling all the beans. I need to stop. You need to get the book. I'm sure $16.99 isn't too much to pay for amazing advice that can take your writing to the next level.

Bottom line: I've read books on craft, and some on revision, but this is one of the best by far because it gives me the tools to help my writing shine. And I'm not just saying that because Ms. Klein signed my copy. ;)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Accidental Preservation - Hattuşa
Simple, sun-dried mud bricks are hard to maintain. Frost damage cracks them up. Rain drops wash them away. Wind whips layers off of them. An entire city, epic fortified walls and all, can disappear over the centuries and we would be none the wiser.

Hattuşa's few crumbling walls, "fired" by an invading army, show the size and composition of the original bricks, and the plaster that coated them. Otherwise, the remaining stone foundations provide no clues to what any of the vertical structures looked like.

But... military leaders like to play with figurines, and maps, and scale models, and Hattuşa's leaders were no different. Archaeologists unearthed a clay model of a fortification.

Between the two discoveries, a dream of reconstruction was hatched. Archaeologists used Hittite methods, as best as they could guess. They mixed clay and hay in large pits, and rotated the hand-formed bricks under the sun. Then brick by brick, the towers rose. Follow the link under the pic to see more details on the hand made Hittite structure and the methods used in the project.

As for me - I'm looking at the way the sun highlights the bricks beneath the plaster, the color of the clay, the scalloped crenelations -details I can use in my next story. You know what I do miss though - the smells. I'm thinking the interiors should have a damp clay odor, but I'm not sure. Anatolia is pretty dry. Supposedly, there's lime in the clay. What does that smell like? Different than the rusty red clay in my backyard? Bet it smells different depending on the season.

Guess I need to take a field trip! ;)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's In The Water

Turkish Cooking, Everyday
There's a loud well-drilling rig outside my window today, and I can't think. Grr.

Reminds me of my days at Denizhan 2 in Mersin. There was one of those annoying contraptions digging a well over there too. Made me want to send a nasty letter to the condo association:- Who decided to work on that project in the middle of the summer? When people were on vacation, in a vacation complex, and everyone had their windows open...

Enough of my griping.
(The headache brought it on, I swear.)


Thought I'd talk about water today.

We take it for granted here in the states - most places anyway. Up in Connecticut, I never worried because I had access to city water 24/7. Here in NC, city water or no, drought restrictions put me right in my place. Water is precious.

In Turkey, I spent a couple (stinky) weeks on Buyukada waiting for a water barge so I could take a real shower. Then I spent a couple days in Kadikoy waiting for someone to find the part for a pump. (Don't go on vacation with me. I seem to be cursed. Also, don't ask about the time I bought some bottled water with stuff floating in it.) That was all Istanbul, though.

Back to the well drilling rig at Denizhan - (There's a story there, I promise!) - Water pressure was much better after the well started up. It was, however, still VERY salty.


My mother-in-law recruited my husband as a driver for the day. Supposedly, the errands were close, and they would be right back, and I wouldn't want to wait in the car, etc. So I stayed in the apartment watchingTurkish TV which I barely understood.

Ding dong. Or rather - cheep, cheeeeeep, cheep. - since the doorbell sounded like a birdie fainting.

The neighbor across the way decided she wanted to pay us a visit. "Us" being me, because no one else was around. All her kids were out for the day and she was more than willing to keep me company. (Turkish people love to socialize.)

As an American bride, I wasn't much accustomed to drinking hot tea on a scorching August day, but I did know how to boil water. I riffled through the tea tins, measured out the loose tea, and showed my expertise with the nifty double stacked kettle.

Biscuits? Check. Cubed sugar? Check. Special guest tea glass? Check. Pretty tray? Check.

We sit down to not talk, because I only know a handful of words. She takes a sip and smiles. I take a sip and gag.


The moral of my story? I'm thankful what comes out of the tap here is worth drinking, no matter how much it costs.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hattuşa Calling

image credit
"At night I took the city by force; I have sown weeds in its place. Should any king after me attempt to resettle Hattush, may the Weathergod of Heaven strike him down."

So says the Hittite King Anitta of Kussara.
I say - oooh - a good storyline. ;)

What you see here is the side view of a bas relief on the King's Gate of Hattusa. (It's a replica. The real one is in Ankara's Museum of Anatolian Civilizations .) He's looking like he wants to tell us something, don't you think?

Maybe it's me...

...but remember a while back I wrote a post about some sister sphinxes? Yeah. Well, they've been roaming around in my head, collecting other idea threads. This Warrior King is from the same town an now he's harping on me too.

I think it's time to start reseaching the Hittites, specifically their enormous capital city of Hattusa, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site near modern day Boğazkale.

I'll need to spend a few hours just absorbing the map because, at one point, 40,000- 50,000 people lived there. The city is sprawled out over the Anatolian plains, and that's not to mention the fields and forests supporting all those citizens. There are fortified walls, temples, palaces, a necropolis, an amazing rupestral sanctuary (more on this later), and a whole bunch of new gods to learn about.

In my head: How is it this entire, flourishing city withered away to a pile of stones?  I'm sure there are good, scholarly answers to be found, I just don't know them yet. (First clue: King Anitta)

There's also the world's oldest cuneiform peace treaty in my future:

UN website
It is concluded that Reamasesa-Mai-amana , the Great King, the king (of the land of Egypt) with Hattusili, the Great King, the king of the land of Hatti, his brother, for the land of Egypt and the land of Hatti, in order to establish a good peace and a good fraternity forever among them.

As you can see, there's a lot of material to cover, so hang on. I think I'll be posting about this stuff for a while, like, until June. I've got a character who wants me to hurry up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Made in Turkey

dick's sporting goods
As a mother of two boys, I've been lucky to escape the fashion must-haves some other women go through with their daughters. My boys just throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and off they go. This means I can usually browse the clearance racks and they are none the wiser. When they hit middle school, they opened their eyes to brands, and now I have to stray a little farther to buy what they want. Still, no big deal. I usually get stuff on sale. They get their swoosh, or three stripes.

And then one of the boys started basketball.

Three words: Nike Elite socks.

Cut to the scene -

I'm looking at track pants for my dear husband when my son tugs on my sleeve. He's telling me how the Nike basketball socks he's holding are extra squishy, and super nice, and really cool. And his friends have a pair in every color. Sometimes they even wear two pairs together. Then he pulls the trigger.

"They're made in Turkey, Mom."

As in, not made in China, or Bangladesh, or Indonesia, or some other esia. He knows I would gladly pay more as long as the label says: Made in USA, or Made in Turkey. And therefore we should pay $14. (Seems he's been paying attention to my purchasing trends.)

I remember wanting stuff as a kid, so I can't blame the boy for wanting these socks. They are really cushy. They do look kind of cool. He's only requesting an orange pair to go with his uniform. (Seems even he knows you can get six pairs of regular ones for $14.)

Alas, the boy is holding a blue pair. Off we go to find the sales clerk. Surely, there are more orange socks in the back.

Sigh. Some of you might remember my facebook post plea for help about the elusive orange Nike Elite socks? They've gone extinct, that's what! I challenge you to find a pair for your kid.

We settle on the blue pair. It matches his uniform well enough.

On the way out the door, my sons says, "Maybe we can find some online? My birthday is coming up." Wink, wink.

I guess. They are made in Turkey.

PS: He can still use a black pair. ;)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bearded Reedling
Sometimes the usual is unsual.

Take the little guy on the right here, from Lake Mogan in Ankara. All over Europe, folks take him for granted. I, on the other hand, haven't seen one before.

He's a bearded reedling (panurus biarmicus), and part of the reason I've never seen one is his habitat of choice. I spent a lot of time on the Mediterranean coast. This songbird lives in lakeside wetlands, and it's not related to any other species.

I love his markings. Bearded? I don't think. Maybe moustached, or masked, but whatever you call it, it's striking.

Here he is having lunch:


Here's how to make a nest for the bearded reedling. I think this clip is really interesting. If I were a little bird, I would appreciate a cozy home like this one. Best of all, the gentleman tells us all the best things about the nest, including what might scare a little bird off. Great information if you're writing about these birds, say in a children's book, or an authentic bit in a longer story.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Sometimes You Need to Hear It More Than Once

I loved to just sit and write, and let the ideas flow, and come up with lovely descriptions, and think up clever dialogue. Except, the other half of me being a somewhat organized person, I wanted a method to my madness. I noticed an idea kept popping up.

First, Query Tracker & Elana Johnson pointed me to Dan Wells on Story Structure. I have no idea when this happened, but I clung to the information as I learned to write my queries. I thought I was doing OK, story-wise. Hehehe.

Lets just say R stands for rejection, re-evaluation, revision, *redacted*...

April 2011: I picked up Emotional Structure: Creating the Story Beneath the Plot: A Guide for Screenwriters, by Peter Dunne. Still shy of note cards, I began to write the plot points on one side of my outlines, and each scene's emotional impact on the other. *light bulb overhead*

October 2011: A critique partner introduced me to (There's also a book: Story Engineering.) I got hooked on writing from a beat sheet. I learned to outline the right way, with specific turning points - like Scene 12 as the First Plot Point. I guess I went a little overboard with the setup on the first time around. *blushes*

November 2011: I developed an addiction to Scrivener storyboarding during NaNoWriMo. I finished the manuscript without a single tangent. *crosses heart* :)

January 2012: I signed up for the April SCBWI Master Class on Plot with Scholastic editor, Cheryl Klein. She sent me homework - Bookmap my entire manuscript, scene by scene. I'm working on it. *kisses Scrivener storyboard*

January 2012: I went to the SCBWI National Conference. Delacorte editor, Wendy Loggia, picks up the gorgeous ARC for Starters - and mentions that the original manuscript was pretty flawless, because the author is a screenwriter. My roommate went to see Cheryl Klein and got a great list of things to do on a revision. *buys Ms. Klein's book: Second Sight*

Think someone is trying to pound this idea into my head? I think I'd better listen.

February2012: My son came home with an essay assignment on Heroes in Hollywood. We find a website about the Monomyth, specifically for screenwriters. There's a youtube clip called Story, Screenplay Law. Law? Yes. Law. *doesn't want to break any laws*

Outlining is the new black, in my house anyway. Just thought I'd share.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Yenikapı 12
As a writer, it's good practice to experience the things I write about, whenever possible. Research only takes a mind so far.

I never sailed in a wooden ship, but there is one scene in Burnt Amber where Sybil takes a very neo-byzantine ship up a river.

I did lots of research on the ship style, and left a lot up to the imagination of the reader. There weren't any Byzantine replicas at my disposal, but recently, I heard about Yenikapi 12.

A bit of history for you:

Istanbul is busting at the seams, population-wise. Ferries, buses, and trams crisscross the city to get pedestrians around, and two suspension bridges barely cope with the car traffic. The metro system needs an upgrade. New tunnels are being dug, left and right.

Tangent: If you travel by rail to Istanbul, you must get out, cross the strait by car or boat, and go to another train station on the other side. (Sirkeci, or HaydarPasa, depending on which way you're going.) The Marmaray tunnel project crosses underneath the Bosphoros Strait, connecting rail traffic from both sides of the city for the first time ever.

While workers were digging the metro station at Yenikapi, they ran into an unexpected archaeological boon: the world's largest shipwreck find.

Scholars are going to replicate one of the numerous wrecks found there, the Yenikapi 12. The plan is to learn about ship construction and materials of the Middle Ages. Hopefully, the ship will be seaworthy. Project leaders plan to test the Yenikapi 12 in the strait sometime in 2013, after which the ship will be put on display as a museum piece.

*Jumps up and down*
I want a ride! I want a ride!

Or at least I want to go see the ship, where ever it finds a home. I want to touch it, smell it, take it all in...get some new descriptors for my writing.

Who's coming with?

Replica of Byzantine ship to sail next year in Turkey

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reflections on the SCBWI National Conference

via wikipedia
I want to sing like the birds sing,
not worrying about who hears or what they think.
― Rumi

I just got back from the SCBWI National Conference in New York City.


There was so much information to absorb. I flew home last night, exhausted. All I've been able to do today is organize my thoughts, and I'm not very far along in that task. Enter: the blog post. You, my dear bloggy friends, are my unsuspecting therapists for this session. ;)

Attending a writers conference does two things for me:

1) It gives me plenty of revision homework.


2) It injects me with creative energy. Good thing I'm not taking Rumi literally - my words are really all that sing well around this house.

If you recall, last week I posted about my two manuscripts, and which I would present to the editors for a critique. Old Kitty got her wish. (Yay!)

I read the first 500 of my MG work, Mist of Kavala, to Scholastic editor, Jenne Abramowitz. Her list includes lots of humorous middle grade fiction. While my MS is not humorous fiction, she really encouraged me by totally buying into the sci-fi premise of my story. Maybe it was the adrenaline, but I thought she was nodding her head and smiling at me like: "Go for it." The boost to my fragile writer's morale was priceless. Now, I do have to work on formatting a few things, and the rest of the story needs a thorough edit still, but I think maybe I'm on to something.

In the afternoon, I met with Kari Sutherland from HarperCollins. I read the first 500 of  my YA Fantasy, Burnt Amber. Can I just say that I've been working my butt off on this MS? I've revised, and revised, and revised again. I totally get the word RE-VISION. Apparently, the work paid off. She said BA has an authentic teen voice. I translated that to: "the voice works".  She might as well have told me I won the lottery.

So what does all this mean? Were they just being nice to me because I was sitting at the same table? Will the self-doubt never end?

Other conference highlights:
  • I met people I've only seen in thumbnails on the sidebar of a website. Puts things into perspective like nothing else, I tell you. I really want to query some of them now, and some others I don't think would be a good fit at all.
  • I attended amazing breakout sessions given by editors from important publishing houses. For example, Wendy Loggia from Delacorte gave pointers on the sensory elements she looks for in manuscripts. I love the way she thinks, especially since I dream in deckle-edge.
  • I met lots of authors. Cassandra Clare, Katherine Erskine, Chris Crutcher....there's a long list of awesome for this conference.
  • I made some new friends from the Carolinas and beyond.
Most importantly, I learned that I shouldn't give up on this dream of mine. Ever.


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