Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cin Ali

Cin Ali
In Turkish, the letter C is pronounced like a J, so the title above is really "Jin Ali".

Cin Ali was the star of a well-loved series of early readers for many Turks. I guess you could even say Cin Ali was the equivalent of Dick and Jane. And like Dick and Jane, Cin Ali has gone the way of the dodo, as far as teaching literacy is concerned.

Judging by the attention he's getting lately though (Newsday, Christian Science Monitor, his own Facebook page, art gallery exhibits, a museum in the works, etc.), I think I can say - like the case of Dick and Jane - nostalgia will help him stick around in Turkish pop culture. (Pun intended.)

Cin Ali doesn't look like much - so when someone says "you can't even draw Cin Ali", it's not a compliment. Yet, his basic form evokes the simplicity of times past. No magic bottle, carpet, no local lore, etc. (That's because "cin" translates to clever, in this case.)

I think he looks like a first draft of one of my characters. Really. He does. (My crit partner is laughing.) *headdesk*

Maybe it was prophetic when Eniste laughed and dubbed me "Cin gibi!" Afterall, I ended up writing a novel about the Jinn, and another about the boy shepherd, Jin Ali.

CIN ALI Author: Rasim Kaygusuz

Monday, May 28, 2012

En Route to The Mountain

I'm guessing most of us have heard Neil Gaiman's brilliant - BRILLIANT - speech at The Univerity of the Arts. (If you haven't, see below.) Accordingly, we should all be busy now on our quest to "Make good art."

A couple of his points couldn't have come at a better time for me, and these are the ideas that resonated with me the most.

1) Mr. Gaiman refers to my goal, my elusive art, as "the mountain".

I am to keep walking toward the mountain. At all times. I am not to be distracted by things like: a job offer that doesn't take me closer to the mountain because, although it was on the way three years ago, that same job is going backwards from where I am now. (Has he been reading my emails???)

2) Pretend I'm someone who can do this.

Somehow, the very act of believing it can be done makes it possible. It does.
I think I have this one. I pretend I'm someone who can do things all the time! Hopefully, you do too, or else how will our heroines save the world?

3) Look out for the "Fraud Police".

I have no idea what he means here, because I'd have to be succesful in order to experience the feeling. Here's my closest idea though: Phillip Phillips. He stood there, scanning the crowd in that giant theater, and not believing a single second of it, I think. Then when his name was announced as the winner of American Idol, he couldn't hold back the tears. I think he was in shock.

I'm taking this phenomenon as part of the Dunning-Kruger Effect (If you're any good, you think others are much better. If you really should to keep your day job, you think you can bring down the house) which is very confusing and leads me back to rule number 2:

Pretend I'm someone who can do this.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yunus Emre

Yunus Emre - Büyükçekmece, Istanbul
Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

-Yusuf Emre
from The Drop that Became the Sea
Good quote for a writer, don't you think?

While Rumi is technically my favorite Sufi poet, I find Yunus Emre interesting too. Some of his verses about love and destiny are just breathtaking. Others? Very didactic.

The poem above, for example, is really refering to peaceful coexistence. Here's the entire section:

A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words.
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy for work.

War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there's a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.

Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.

Know when to speak a word

and when not to speak at all.A single word turns a universe of hell
into eight paradises.

Follow the Way. Don't be fooled

by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul.

Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words—
Only the word "I"
divides me from God.

See? I was reading happily along, and then he refers to himself in third person?

There might be a reason for that though. No one is sure of who this guy really was, if he was one person, or a group of people. (Hey! In the 13th century, all kinds of village people might have written this stuff.) The ambiguity makes him even more interesting, legendary, which is not a bad thing at all, IMHO.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Uncorrected Proofs - and their secrets...

The Crown of Embers
I got a healthy stack of YA galleys from my local indie, Park Road Books, and Rae Carson's new one was in the pile. *hops up and down* It comes out in September. :)

I read it yesterday, in one sitting. I<3 fantasy!

I'm not going to review it. I'm going to pass my gently used copy along to the person who can tell me the name of the guy I think Elisa should marry. If you read Girl of Fire and Thorns, you'll know. If you don't remember, here's a big hint:

In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

Leave me a comment with your email address.

If you haven't read Rae Carson yet, just know she's like a Kristin Cashore/Tamora Pierce/Robin McKinley, ie: awesome fantasy writer!

So, the secret of an uncorrected proof:

On the back of each galley there's a bulleted list about the National Marketing Campaign.

Everyone talks about a "National Marketing Campaign" like we aspiring writers should know exactly what it means. Did you nod your head? I used to nod my head. I sort of understood the concept: What is the publishing house going to do for my book?

All the while, I really thought publishing houses didn't support author marketing anymore, and the 'marketing plan' was a compilation of my efforts and their prêt-à-porter house platform. I was right, however...You know how they tell us to be specific? Well, that's the secret I learned.

"Online consumer advertising campaign" is not "Featured title on (insert site here)".

I'm guessing the more specific "featured title" is the one where the publisher is definitely laying out some money. The vague "online campaign" seems more like "if we get good feedback from your galley release, then we might think about spending some money." And what exactly does "extensive" mean?

Maybe you knew all this already, but it's what I learned today. :)

Now. If I could just get someone to offer me one of those "nice deals".

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Nazim Hikmet

Nâzım Hikmet Ran
I'm in revisions right now, so my research-type blogging is on hold (until June 10), BUT I thought I'd feature some brilliant Turkish writers who inspire me.

The poet on the right is Nobel Peace Price winner, Nâzım Hikmet. His life story is very long, very international, and very interesting. He's one of those Third Culture Kid (TCK) people I so admire.  I won't go into details here, but I do suggest you go read his biography.

His work has a haunting quality that people connect with, so much that his work has been translated into many languages.

So, in honor of the Olympic Games, the British Arts Council will be featuring "World Poems on the Underground", (metro system walls) and the project has chosen to display Hikmet's poem:

Baku at Night

Reaching down to the starless heavy sea in the pitch-black night,

Baku is a sunny wheatfield.

High above on a hill, grains of light hit my face by the handfulls,

And the music in the air flows like Bosphorus. High above on a hill, my heart goes out like a raft into the endless absence,

Beyond memory down to the starless heavy sea in the pitch dark.

You might have heard some of Hikmet's poetry in other places, for example:

"I Come and Stand at Every Door" from Mortal Coil.

This same song was a release by The Byrds too. That was before my time, but some messages are immortal. Ha! An immortal message sung by Mortal Coil.

Monday, May 14, 2012

He Said, She Said

No Girls Allowed?
The SCBWI Carolinas conference in September already looms large, and I have to make a decision about an ms.


Summer months are not my most productive. If I'm to get the ms up to snuff in time to submit the first ten pages for an agent critique, I need to get moving.

Here's the dilemma:

I've known for a while that I only have half the story on my sci-fi. I decided to go YA because the tone fits better, and the other half of the tale has been simmering since then. But which perspective provides the best delivery?

Thirteen year old Taner's arc is already written, so I need to flesh out the opposing forces of his world from another character's point of view from:

A) The sixteen year old soldier with a hidden past
B) The thirteen year old virgin priestess creating a triangle

Here's what my teen boys say:

"What?! #$#%*$%" Translate. No girls allowed.
See pic above. Note: I am mom.

Critique group vote (from a guy):

"You can expand your audience with the sixteen year old's POV."

My thoughts:

Yes, but a girl's POV works too, as long as I keep her from being girly, which she isn't.

(I'd just read SCORPIO RACES, which switches between a boy and girl, and does it exceptionally well. You should go read it too, if you haven't already.)

My girl's character has an important arc, but is her arc as important as the older boy's?
(Secret thought: Can I even pull his POV off?) Hmmm.

Then I went to lunch with a friend who doesn't have a (water) horse in this race. She voted for the boy too.

I wonder. Did I explain the boy's story better (every time) because I already knew it was the right choice? Was I scared to write a YA "boy" book? Methinks the answer to both of those questions is yes. But if I explained it well, then I must be able to write it well. (I hope.)

So here's me, writing what I want to write, again.

And hoping there's a market for it...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sounds of Summer

Bodrum at Night
I'm stressed. I sent out four queries last week, submitted an R&R, and somehow got myself into a writing contest. All of which require waiting for a response.

So I cleaned the house.

The blinds. The windows. The floors.
The leaves on the ficus tree in the living room.


I. Am. Stressed.

To decompress, I thought I'd look up some music for today's post. Lol.
Guess what? That makes me sad because I want to be in Turkey listening to this music.

Summer releases are high-energy pop songs designed to keep Istanbulites and Euro tourists out clubbing all night. Sigh. Who am I kidding? I haven't been to a club in...

Forgive the Eeyore moment.

Erdem Kinay, who is something like a Turkish David Guetta, has a bunch of songs racing up the charts this year that will likely be on all the club playlists.

Here's a new one from Emina Jahovic feat Eredem Kinay - BROKEN, and it's in English. (She's actually Serbian, married to Turkish musician, Mustafa Sandal. She also looks something like Penelope Cruz.)

Hey! She's wearing my new summer nail color. (Now You Sea Me, L'Oreal ;))
Anyway, the top song in Turkey right now is also from Erdem Kinay. It features Demet Akalin, who is a star in her own right. ROTA is full of repetitive lyrics that even a non-Turkish-speaking girl can repeat, if heard often enough - as in, all night long.


Monday, May 7, 2012


I've been working my way through some craft books, the latest being Write Great Fiction - Dialogue by Gloria Kempton. There are lots of great tips and tricks in the series. One in particular stood out to me: The Enneagram.

Basically, Ms. Kempton argues that people fall into categories, and based on that, a writer can immediately spot dialogue which is out of character. The idea intrigued me, especially since there's a nifty test to type yourself and your characters. (I'm an investigator-achiever.)

Per the Ennegram Institute:

Type One is principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic.

Type Two is generous, demonstrative, people-pleasing, and possessive.

Type Three is adaptable, excelling, driven, and image-conscious.

Type Four is expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental.

Type Five is perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated.

Type Six is engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious.

Type Seven is spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive, and scattered.

Type Eight is self-confident, decisive, willful, and confrontational.

Type Nine is receptive, reassuring, complacent, and resigned.

The types are also grouped into centers according to strengths and weaknesses:

So if I'm a 5-3, my thinking center motivates me, then my feeling center kicks in. Anxiety is a driver for me, followed up by shame. So I'm an introvert who wants to "perfom well and overcome".


This is getting a little personal, so I think I'll stick to evaluating my characters instead.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Writer's Voice Entry

The Writer's Voice
I'm trying something new for me. I've entered a writing contest. For details, click the link under the picture.

Here's my entry (#157) for BURNT AMBER:

With two weeks left in her Istanbul exchange program, Sybil discovers that the tiny verse her biological parents tattooed on her hip is a link to some cryptic, djinn-channeling gypsies. Then she bumps into Haydon, who triggers her fiery energy with his touch - the same djinn energy the gypsies warned to keep secret.

Sybil delves into djinn lore until a fanatical priest tosses her and Haydon into the chauvinistic clutches of the djinn world. She strives to find her place in the djinn scheme, while determining if Haydon’s real motivation is her crown. In the process, she’s pulled into a power struggle with her father’s rival, Konstantin, and faced with a choice: marry Konstantin’s son for a slim chance at regaining her humanity, or face a future cut off from both worlds forever.

BURNT AMBER is a 66,000 word novel inspired by the tale of 12th century Crusader castle, Kızkalesi, and the life of Zabel, the queen of Armenian Cilicia. The story should appeal to fans of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE.

The human shape is a ghost,
Made of distraction and pain.
A familiar, nasty feeling coiled up like a ball of hot barbed wire in my stomach. I took a deep breath, held it for three counts, and released. The sensation inched back down to almost bearable.
Anna glanced over at me, concerned. “Something wrong, Sybil? You look a little pale.”
“I’m fine.” I lifted my chin and forced a smile to prove it. “Twisted my ankle on the uneven sidewalk.”
Uneven was a generous word for the narrow streets of old Istanbul. The pavement in front of each building was a different level than the neighbor’s, and in the dark it made a plausible excuse for me to steal a minute and rest. I balanced myself against a defunct streetlamp, bending down to adjust the strap on my glittery bronze sandal. “We’re not really dressed for this adventure.”
The light flickered on above us, setting Anna’s platinum hair aglow like a beacon for street urchins. She fussed with the hem of her shirtdress in a futile attempt to cover her long Scandinavian legs. “I agree. But it’s not everyday someone offers me a session with a genuine, Romani fortuneteller. We’re lucky Seyhan has the connections for it.”
“Hmm.”  I detected the “genuine”, but my secret intuition insisted that visiting a gypsy psychic was the very last thing I should do, especially when the best of those was located in the depressed, back alley underworld of the Sulukule area.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yedidunya ~ Loquat

Once upon a time, my husband's cousin went hunting through an orchard for some ripe "yedidunya". It was her faaaavorite fruit, and the season is short, so we made a detour.

The name yedidunya means "seven worlds" and I've always believed it alluded to the idea of the seven heavens, ie: amazing fruit such as this can only come from the seventh heaven.  I might be wrong, but I think I must be right. My husband's cousin agrees with me.

1) Why am I writing about this today? And
2) Where have I been for the past month? And
3) Where can we get some yedidunya???

*Sighs* I spent most of last month revising, but there was a short stint where I disappeared for a weekend Master Class. Then I unplugged and went to the beach. Something I highly recommend, btw, even when your inner editor balks at the idea because you have so much work (and you have pages and pages of notes on things to fix from class). In fact, especially when your inner editor balks. Put it in it's place because there's nothing more urgent than a creative recharge.

The answer to question number three is a bit trickier, as the only place I know to find yedidunya is on Hilton Head Island. This part requires the slowing down and unplugging to occur.

Grab a bicycle and hit the trails near Harbor Town in Sea Pines, and there's a row of trees in fruit right along the edge of the marina. Everyone else just rides past because they don't know what the tree is, and they're oohing and ahhing at the giant live oak front and center. And you need to be riding at a snail's pace while you wait for the rest of your party to catch up, or you won't see the fruit either.

Then go home and look up "yedidunya" for the first time ever and learn that it's actually a loquat, Eriobotrya japonica, aka Japanese Medlar, Japanese plum, or Chinese plum. Learn that the flavor is accurately described as a mix of peach, citrus and mango, and that the fruit makes great jam. Also realize at this point that the slightly poisonous seeds you've saved are not useful without a greenhouse because you can't fit a ten foot tree in your house.

I'm guessing people in points south have loquats growing someplace near them. Probably California is a good place to look for some too. Otherwise, I've never seen loquats in a store. Have you?


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