Introducing Rae’s Writing

I’m going to start a new thing where I post some of my shorter works every now and then. I really wanted to set this up on it’s own page, but I suck with computers and couldn’t figure out how to have two separate blogs on the same site. So for now, they will go up here and you can find them all together under the category ‘Rae’s Writing’ on the sidebar. Hope you enjoy!

Here’s my first entry. It’s a travel piece I did in college about when I lived in Istanbul.

Finding a Place Among 15 Million

A wail pierced the night and soon became a chant. I was ripped from the thin veil of sleep I had just managed to pull over my eyes. Within seconds, the chant was taken up in all directions. With the wailing came the howling of the stray dog packs that took possession of the vacant lot next door. “Ughh! How will I ever sleep here?” Mosques weren’t exactly a new thing for me, but I had never been near ones fully equipped with very capable loudspeakers. At least three within hearing range, and none of them quite in sync.

            By the time I moved, nearly five years later, I had gotten used to it. There came a point when I would sit near the window through the whole call to prayer and not realize I had heard it until it was over. Nevertheless, those first few nights were rough. Battling jet lag at the same time wasn’t much of an advantage either. It was better during the day. Not that the call was any less earsplitting or disruptive, but it was tempered with the noise of the busy city. I had to listen for it over the rumble of buses and cars as I made my way to church on Sunday mornings with my family.

            Boarding the bus, I would scan my akbil to pay for the ride and try to find a seat. There often wasn’t one. I soon mastered the art of staying upright on a crowded bus that was constantly lurching forward and stopping abruptly. I distracted myself in these less than ideal situations by watching out the window. As I passed the crowds of people and cramped buildings, I realized how lucky we were to have found such a great place to live.

            In Istanbul, a city housing 15 million and spanning two continents, there is not much room for any one person. However, we were blessed with a standalone apartment building containing a small, nicely tended, garden. There was a scrap yard across the street, but at least no windows looking in on us. And though the empty lot next door provided the dogs with a congregating spot (and the stench from the animals housed there at Ramadan was certainly not pleasant) we were far better off than many others.

            As the bus crested one of the many hills it traversed every day, I was given a glimpse of the wonder of this city. The buildings, that up close looked dirty with dust and chipping paint, here became a vibrant mosaic: white, yellow, orange, and pink, and brown, all with red tile roofs running down to meet the glistening curve of the Bosphorus. Which I would then cross by boat.

            Another scan of the akbil, a helping hand to board, and a short swaying walk past the enclosed seating of the first level, where one could buy snacks and tea, and up to the top for a clear view and delicious breeze. That is one of the things I miss most about Turkey. The boat ride, but also the food. Toast (more like an English toastie or a grilled cheese than the American breakfast food); pide and lahmacun (the conquerors of all pizza); iskender, döner, and köfte (savory meat dishes); kebaps; and for special occasions, baklava and sütlaç! But I digress.

            Once docked, the ripe smell of the fish market met my nose. From there it was just a short walk to the metro and then onto Istiklal Caddesi (or Independence Avenue). “Now, I heard there was supposed to be another demonstration today,” my mother would say, “so we have to be careful.” Right, because Istiklal wouldn’t be Istiklal without some form of protest. But the protests were generally peaceful, not much more than a small group holding signs and some riot police standing by just in case. More importantly, they generally took place at the opposite end of the street from us. Although, Istiklal has won itself international fame for the demonstrations that became rather violent a couple years back.

            Despite this, I always liked Istiklal. A long, cobbled street, displaying some gorgeous architecture. With quaint red and white trams running through its middle, it is home to some superb restaurants and splendid shops. Most tourists like to visit the grand Hagia Sophia and the fragrant Spice Bazzar. I thoroughly enjoyed my bit of this typical experience; however, I found a shop I much preferred to visit. I only went in a few times and was never able to buy anything, but it was more astounding to me than any amount of refurbished paintings or tasteful cooking supplies. Somewhere in the press of buildings on Istiklal Caddesi is a small second-hand shop most wouldn’t see unless they knew it was there. Inside is a treasure house. A labyrinth of cultural artifacts, lightly coated with dust under dim lighting, and exuding a musty sent. Faded fezzes, rusting swords, tapestries woven in rugs, furs, pipes, and elaborate dresses fit for a sultana. Many of the objects came from the sets of old films, or so I was told.

            Emerging from the magical closet, my path led back to the teeming dock, over the rippling river, onto the bus stocked with a myriad of people, and into the apartment with a yard and empty lot. There to have dinner and listen to the symphony on the loudspeakers once again. And so I adapted to much more than a call from a mosque. I imbibed the sights, smells, tastes, and feelings of this vibrant culture and found my home, my place among 15 million.     

Realm Makers 2019

I just spent an amazing weekend at the Realm Makers Conference! For the uninitiated, Realm Makers is a community for spec-fic writers of faith. The Realm Makers Conference has more the feeling of a con or family reunion of epic proportions than your typical professional conference. And I basically live for it!

A Few Highlights

The Awards Banquet: The banquet is always awesome and a perfect excuse for geeking out with costumes! Pretty much every fandom in existence can be found at some point in the night. I went as Katara from Avatar and happened to meet a Toph 😀

The Swag: I stocked up on all the things! Came home with some great new reads, specialty tea, and a handcrafted mug. I always spend way too much money at these things! But the books are all signed, so it’s worth it 😉

The Pitch: I pitched To Slay a Curse! It wasn’t nearly as scary as I was expecting. In fact it went really well, and a full manuscript was requested! I know it’s a long process and still might not work out, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed. More info forthcoming 🙂

Top Books Featuring Cons

It’s con season! I’m headed to Realm Makers, an amazing writer’s conference, in a little over a week and I can’t wait to be back with my tribe! I’ve been way too busy preparing to get out one of my usual book reviews. So instead, I want to highlight a couple fun books about conventions for your summer reading.

Don’t Cosplay With My Heart

Telling the story of Edan Kupferman, a girl who uses cosplay as an escape from her messy life, this book explores the reasons humans are drawn to storytelling. Filled with the fun of fandoms while not being afraid to deal with the harder things in life, this is a great look into the comic-con scene.

The Pros of Cons

When bags are mixed up at a busy convention center, three girls from very different walks of life are thrown together. A truly hilarious story of unlikely friendship, competition, and the chaos of cons.

Geekerella

I honestly haven’t read this one yet but have heard great things! This unique Cinderella re-telling features food trucks, cosplay contests, and teen heartthrobs.