Wednesday, March 28, 2012

UNICEF Tap Project

Half full, I say.
I've blogged about water in the past - sources of it, lack, or quality of it, etc. My antics as a maladjusted American bride abroad make for amusing, and hopefully enlightening posts. Since March is World Water Month, that means I get to blog about water again, with more serious information that serendipitously ties into my platform.
  • Istanbul Water Consensus Pact (IWC): Istanbul is a sprawling metropolis with complex water issues, as evidenced by the many cisterns and aquaducts crisscrossing the city. The World Water Forum's 5th annual conference concurred with a location there, and an important document in the name of the city was born. In a nutshell, leaders of cities from around the globe decide to meet or exceed certain goals in providing clean, safe water to their citizens. The IWC has 1070 signatories to date. (Note: I <3 Istanbul.)

What Is the UNICEF Tap Project?

In 2007, the UNICEF Tap Project was born in New York City based on a simple concept: restaurants would ask their patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free, and all funds raised would support UNICEF’s efforts to bring clean and accessible water to millions of children around the world. (source:

Cinna- I mean Lenny Kravitz is endorsing this.  He was offering his song "Faith of a Child" for free with a UNICEF Tap Project donation until 3/23, which was very generous of him. (Note: Timely YA super blockbuster mega-amazing movie/book tie-in :D)

Important Blog Management Note:  I am switching my "Turkish" posting days with my "Writer's Life" days, beginning next week.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Yarimburgaz Cave

Yarimburgaz Cave - TAY Project
As I was writing Burnt Amber, I had a cave in mind for a key location. Plenty of mythology pointed to the place. When I started writing the Istanbul section of the story, I was hard-pressed for a cave with the local lore I needed. Good thing I watch  Muhteşem Yüzyıl - or I should say, good thing the producers got in legal trouble for using an interesting cave in one of their episodes. Now I have the perfect setting for a scene I've been thinking up...

Details of the Yarimburgaz cave:

  • Located in the Küçükçekmece area, near Istanbul 
  • Formed by and underground river, the double mouthed cave is known for it's prehistoric significance. The earliest evidence of human settlement in Turkey was found there. 
  • Site of a Byzantine church or monastery, similar to many caves in Turkey. 
  • Much archaeological evidence had been destroyed before the official dig. This was due to amateur interest in the old caves, and the worst offender - a mushroom farming operation.
  • Iron bars on the cave are supposed to inhibit people from entering. 

Muhteşem Yüzyıl producers are accused of using the cave as a setting, and digging a "hot spring" inside.
My question is this: Who unlocked the gates? And how did no one notice a film crew setting up there? The cave has been used in previous films and TV shows, so maybe no one thought anything of it?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Publicity 101

public relations methodology
Remember I told you about an organization called the Women's National Book Association? (Disclosure: I'm the membership chair for Charlotte, NC.) Last week, we hosted an event-

From Book Idea to the Book Shelf: The Process & Business of Publishing

There were some amazing panelists:

Quinlan Lee from the Adams Agency; freelance editor Carin Siegfried, formerly of St. Martin's Press; author MaryBeth Whalen; Angela Harwood, VP of Sales & Marketing at John F. Blair Publishing; Amanda Phillips of Baker & Taylor distributors; Sally Brewster of Park Road Books;   marketing, sales and promotion consultant, Susan Walker; and Nancy Clare Morgan, former publicist at Random House Inc.

You can follow the link above to a summary of the event, but I want to concentrate on the publicist, Nancy Clare Morgan. She's the one with relevant tidbits on building buzz, maximizing IMPACT, and possibly getting our books shelved, face forward, at front of the store.

Here's a glimpse into the life of a book, through the eyes of a publicist.

1) The book is evaluated for a print schedule. Is it a good beach read? Then spring release dates make sense. Ms. Morgan's example: It's no mistake that a book about Tiger Woods is scheduled for release just before the Masters.

2) Bylines are developed. Get interesting, so your credits are more than "Joe-the-writer's debut". For non-fiction writers, this is easier, because there is usually some sort of credibility or a platform of expertise to draw from - Dr. such and such, cardiologist, etc. What is a fiction author to do? I'll think on that one. Maybe someone will be kind enough to comment with a brilliant idea.

3) Talking points are created. These are the ideas you will provide to journalists, bloggers, etc. It highlights what they need to sell your book to the public. In fact, I think this is something we've already done with the query, but they need it in a different form. These points might come from the jacket copy too.

4) A "big mouth" list is compiled. Who needs to read the galley? Have you met any authors who might give you a few lines of praise for your back cover? Is Oprah your long lost sister? You get the idea. This is where all the years of networking come into play. Get out there. Get to your local conferences and book associations. Don't just sit home and write. Ms. Morgan's general tips: Respond to everything, and be nice to everyone.

When the Advanced Reader Copy (aka ARC, or galley) goes out, this "big mouth" list is top of mind. Reviewers can get 400 copies per month, so you need yours to stand out. A personal connection is the best way. More and more e-galleys are being used instead, but these can get lost in the even larger digital pile. Slush all over again. Also, keep in mind that e-galleys don't get book store owners excited. (Per Sally Brewster, the book store owner on the panel.)

5) Six months ahead of the release date, the glossy magazines are contacted.

6) You might plan a blog tour sometime around your release date, since the traditional book tour is apparently "dead". Ms. Morgan's words, not mine, by the way.  Sally Brewster suggests visiting stores for another reason. Her tip: Talk to the clerks, owners, etc. "Signed books are sold books", she says. She also won't take a book off the shelf, if she knows the author, and has a reason to hand-sell it. So love your independent book store owners.

7) In general, Ms. Morgan also recommends looking for opportunities in the press that are related to your topic. If you see something on CNN about mutant gadflies, and mutant gadflies are your thing, find a way to contact someone there. When you are the expert, they will listen.

8) If you and your publicist have done all that is humanly possible, and your most excellent book still gets pulped, don't blame the publicist. As Ms. Morgan says, "There's no accounting for taste".

Here's an excellent example of networking and publicity done well: I met author Monika Schroeder at the SCBWI Carolinas Fall Conference, and as a direct result, she is the WNBA Charlotte guest speaker in April.

An Evening of Multi-cultural Books and Reading
Monday, April 9
6:30 – 8:30 PM
International House
322 Hawthorne Lane, Charlotte, NC 28204

Our guest speaker is children’s book author, Monika Schroeder. She will be presenting her book Saraswati’s Way and concentrating on the issues of child labor and education, in India and the world. She is an SCBWI Crystal Kite Award winner.

International House promotes international understanding by serving as a center for diversity, advocating for people of diverse national backgrounds, and facilitating professional and cultural exchange programs. International House is affiliated with the US Department of State via the National Council of International Visitors.

Park Road Books will have a book table at the event so people can purchase Monika’s books, as well as a group of selected titles including WNBA National Reading Group Month selection Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away by Christie Watson.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ramped Up

It's spring and the weeds are rejoicing all over - especially in my lawn and herb garden.

Dandelion salad, anyone?

You might laugh, but in the villages of the world, nothing is wasted.

I remember one of my husband's aunt's reminiscing on purslane. She was a city dweller through and through then, but she was old enough to remember when country life was a way of life for her parents. She collected a whole basket full from the weed-choked vegetable garden behind the summer house. Then she picked off the leaves and cooked them up with some onions and olive oil. Salt to taste. I thought it was odd, so I never tried it.

Then my father-in-law came home with a generous bunch of peppery arugula. As it came from an actual market stall, I was less wary, but my initial response was: "Is this cow food?" Everybody laughed at me. (Yeah - having an American bride in the house was a source of great entertainment.) I do eat baby arugula today, but the big leaves still don't make it to my plate.

Even more interesting, a stray relative who stopped in for a visit upped the game to stinging nettle. She cooked that down like spinach and ate it. Supposedly, the stuff has lots of good vitamans. Not for me. I stopped at the 'stinging' part of stinging nettle.

I've expanded my taste over the years to include all sorts of plants in my herb garden. Sorrel and arugula are a standard now, and even my kids like to roast wild onions on the fire when we run out of marshmallows. It's these onions that I'm working into an ms at the moment. I think onions are the easiest to identify, and the least likely candidate for reader objection.

Here in the south, wild spring leeks called ramps are a delicacy. I even read an article in Town and Country about them recently. If that's any indication of the gourmet appeal of wild foods, then pretty soon the village folk won't have any left for their tables.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Broken Semaphore
I'm guessing we all have a particular song for our manuscripts, something we feel fits with the atmosphere or characters.

The playlist for MIST OF KAVALA started with a broken semaphore. --->

Semaphore is Greek for "signbearer", and there are entire systems that flag bearers use on the maritime and railway routes of the world.

Also, a sempahore is "in computer science, a mechanism for supporting mutual exclusion in concurrent programs" (wikipedia)

Both kinds of semaphore are useful to my main character's journey. So, enter my song for Taner:

Snow Patrol : "Called Out in The Dark"

It's like we just can't help ourselves
'Cause we don't know how to back down
We were called out to the streets
We were called in to the towns

And how the heavens, they opened up
Like arms of dazzling gold
With our rain washed histories
Well they do not need to be told
Show me now, show me the arms aloft
Every eye trained on a different star
This magic
This drunken semaphore
And I
We are listening
And we're not blind
This is your life
This is your time
We are listening
And we're not blind
This is your life
This is your time
I was called out in the dark
By a choir of beautiful cheats
And as the kids took back the parks
You and I were left with the streets
Show me now, show me the arms aloft
Every eye trained on a different star
This magic
This drunken semaphore
And I

We are listening
And we're not blind
This is your life
This is your time

In the video - I especially love that he's wearing a green t-shirt which screws with the green screen.

What's your song?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Death to Winter - Hittite Purulli

"Let the land grow and thrive, let the land be secure!- and when it grows and thrives, then perform the festival of Purulli." ("The Anatolian Myth of Illuyanka". Beckman, Gary)

The Hittite festival of Purulli celebrates the destruction of the serpent dragon, Illuyanka, by the sky god,Tarhun. Each spring, the festival is held in honor of the mother goddess, Hannahannah, who is tempermental like Demeter and disappears for the winter.

She gets a new a new king.  Illuyanka just gets it.

The stone depiction of Tarhun slaying Illuyanka above is from a temple at Hattusa.Take a closer look at Tarhun and you'll notice he's got a lightning bolt and a hammer, because he's the Hittite version of Zeus, altough I don't know why he's got Thor's hammer.

So the story goes like this:

Illuyanka and Tarhun get in a fight. Tarhun loses his heart and eyes to Illuyanka. (Enter Winter, I think.) Illuyanka retreats to his world under the sea/earth (depends on the version), but then Tarhun's son (by a mortal) marries Illuyanka's daughter. The son of Tarhun demands the heart and eyes of his father from the bride's family (in the underworld). Whole once more, Tarhun goes after Illuyanka and slays the serpent. (Welcome Spring!)

There are similarities to other myths like Shahmeran, Typhon, Chimaera...I can keep's the battle of good and evil. But also remember, the snake is a symbol of rebirth, because it sheds it's skin, so this is probably why this myth is associated with spring.

And don't forget:

"The Illuyankas is an enemy in Final Fantasy VI. Like most enemies in Umaro's cave, it frequently inflicts the Imp status using its special attack, Friendmaker. It only has a hundred MP and dies when it runs out, so a single cast of Rasp against it will quickly kill it. It may drop a White Cape, a useful Relic for the cave as it makes the wearer immune to Imp. (

Can't wait for Illuyankas to show up in one of my stories. ;)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eyes Like a Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard Trust
I was resistant to describing eyes in the beginning. Then my betas set me straight. Some readers these days insist on knowing the color of a character's eyes.

Fine. BUT I want to get more out of the description than "blue like the depths of the ocean - that you could get lost in, yada, yada...", if you know what I mean. So I started thinking in terms of animals, which somehow people automatically characterize.


For green, if I say: "sharp as a snow leopard's", you get a picture of stealth and strength. Yes? I hope you do.

Anyway, my internal editor had to think on that detail for a moment.

"Big cats have yellow eyes - don't they?
No. The leopard has green eyes. I'm sure.
Why am I so sure?
Better Google it. -
Yes. Unlike most big cats, Snow Leopards do have green eyes."

This descriptor may sound off to you in a contemporary fiction, but I write fantasy, and it works for me. Snow leopard eyes also bring in another detail of my setting. My main character lives in the mountains, where people respect the animal, and may occassionally see one. The snow leopard is also known as a "ghost cat" because of it's coloring and it's reclusive nature - another detail that I apply directly to my character. He isn't with the "in" crowd, but he is independent and capable.
Here are some interesting myths from the Snow Leopard Conservancy:
In the northerly societies of Nepal many indigenous beliefs and shamanistic practices, reflecting local pre-Buddhist traditions, were incorporated and subsequently reworked into the Buddhist pantheon and ritual system. One such ritual in Manang connected to the snow leopard and its depredation forbids alpine herders to roast meat, for otherwise the mountain god will send its “dog”, (i.e. snow leopard) and one has to suffer livestock losses.
In Dolpo there are stories of great lamas frequently making trips to Tibet in the form of snow leopards, in search of rare medicinal herbs. Other folklore describes the snow leopard as a “fence” for the crops, meaning that in the absence of snow leopards livestock would be free ranging and thus would invade crop fields.

Local inhabitants still believe that snow leopards (and domestic cats) are considered to have taken birth particularly to remove the sins of their past lives, and killing these animals means having their sins transferred to your own life.

In Mustang, killing a snow leopard is considered to be more sinful than its prey species (for instance blue sheep), because all sins it has committed during its lifetime by killing its prey will then be transferred to you.

A ha! This info is appropriate for my main character too, because he IS atoning for something.

Even if I never mention the myths to my readers, all these implied attributes solidify Taner's character in my head.

I went through this process with Haydon in BURNT AMBER too, but he was a Red-Footed Falcon.

Now, if you write contemporary, or historical, or any sort of fiction other than fantasy, I think this fun exercise can also work for you. The trick might be to get as specific (and indigenous) as possible, because the additional facts make a difference. And find something other than a Red-Footed Falcon, or Snow Leopard, because someone's already done that. ;)

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Quantum Theory of The Evil Eye
According to the Skeptic's Dictionary, "A quantum hologram is a theoretical (i.e., imaginary) information-containing entity emitted by all physical objects (above the molecular level) and which contains the entire history of the object."

Well, if things are radiating 'energy' - can senient beings direct the specific kind of energy?

Serendipitously, I was Googling Ptolemy (for my son's homework assignment) the other day, when I came across an interesting statement:

The ancients believed that the world around them was a projection from their eyes, and the sentiment is still evident in the evil eye.

Severe paraphrasing here, because I can't find the page again anywhere. (Don't you hate when that happens?) I had to find a new source for you, and it turns out this is even better.

"In ancient Greece, early in the fifth century BC, members of the Pythagorean School proposed an early version of extramission theory, suggesting that a visual current was projected outwards from the eye. Also, the philosopher Empedocles(c. 492–432 BC) proposed that the eyes sent out their own rays; they were like lanterns with their own internal light. Sight proceeded from the eyes to the object seen. (Zajonc, 1993)"

"The Sense of Being Stared At Part 2: Its Implications for Theories of Vision". Sheldrake, Rupert)

The sense of being stared at? Whatever do you mean? *looks over shoulder*

Then there's the intromission theory camp - where things gives off rays called simulacra, which your eyes capture. Simulacra are something like auras, because the rays are made up of actual particles.

Sheldrake's paper goes on and on, but here's another pertinent section:

"In his study of children’s intellectual development, Piaget (1973) found that children under the age of 10 or 11 thought vision involved an outward-moving influence from the eyes. Gerald Winer and his colleagues have confirmed Piaget’s finding in a recent series of surveys in Ohio. Eighty per cent of the children in Grade 3 (aged 8–9) agreed that vision involved both the inward and outward movement of ‘rays, energy or something else’ (Cottrell and Winer, 1994).In the same age group, 75% said they could feel the stares of other people and 38% said they could feel an animal stare. There was a significant correlation between people’s belief in the ability to feel stares and their belief that something goes out of the eyes when people are looking. (Cottrell et al)

Winer and his colleagues were ‘surprised — indeed shocked’ by these findings(Winer and Cottrell, 1996, p. 138). They were especially surprised to find that belief in the ability to feel the looks of unseen others increased with age, with 92% of older children and adults answering ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do you ever feel that someone is staring at you without actually seeing them look at you?’(Cottrell et al,1996). They commented, ‘the belief in the ability to feel stares, which occurs at a high level among children as well as adults, seems, if anything, to increase with age, as if irrationality were increasing rather than declining between childhood and adulthood!’ (Winer and Cottrell, 1996, p. 139)."

It's an interesting thought - projecting versus receiving - and one I'm exploring in my sci-fi manuscript. It never occured to me that the ancients were so deep into the idea though, and it kind of validates my use of archeaological sites as fodder too, don't you think?

Ancient sci-fi. Who knew?


Related Posts with Thumbnails