I have finally set up a Goodreads account! Really should have done this years ago. It’s so much easier than keeping my TBR on a whiteboard 🙂 Don’t worry, you’ll still get your full reviews here 😉 Check the link in my header if you’re interested!
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
Hi, everyone! I’ve been out for a while, so I just want to give a quick life update. Work is out for the summer and I just got back from a trip to Italy!
We spent about a week with lovely friends in Belluno and took day trips to the Dolomites (part of the Alps) and Verona! Highlight for me was, of course, Juliet’s house. Even though it was crazy crowded. I even tried a coffee. It was ok with enough sugar but I think I’ll stick with tea. Their hot chocolate, however, is amazing!
Now that I’m back, I’ve got to really crunch down on the writerly things. I’ll be giving my first pitch for To Slay a Curse at Realm Makers conference in about a month, and there’s tons of stuff to get ready by then. I’m freaking out a little, but really excited.
Now, on to what you’re really here for: books! I did get through two great indie reads during travel time and just want to give a mini review here.
If Wishes Were Curses by Janeen Ippolito
Janeen’s new series has all you could want in an Urban Fantasy: shifters, snark, mystery, and mayhem! What’s more, the sequel Wish You Weren’t Here just dropped!
Blurb: So, I accidentally killed a shifter. On purpose. With genie powers I shouldn’t be able to use, thanks to my curse-mark. In my defense, the damn grizzly was threatening civilians and might have been a vampire as well. Pittsburgh is safer without him. Only the Fae court doesn’t believe my story, and the shifters are out for blood. Now I’ve lost my job as a romantic investigator, and I’m on death row. My only hope is an oddly outgoing vegetarian vampire lawyer who seems strangely familiar. Too familiar. Almost like we’ve met before, and this whole thing was a set-up to take us both down. Wishing won’t get us out of this mess. But my forbidden wish magic just might.
The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder
If you like The Greatest Showman and Sherlock Holmes you will love this steampunk adventure! Can’t wait for the sequel slated to come out later this summer!
Blurb: The Electrical Menagerie, one-of-a-kind robotic roadshow, is bankrupt. Sylvester Carthage, illusionist and engineer, has the eccentric imagination the Menagerie needs to succeed creatively–but none of the people skills. Fast-talking Arbrook Huxley, meanwhile, has all the savvy the Menagerie needs to succeed commercially–but none of the scruples. To save their show, Carthage & Huxley risk everything in a royal talent competition, vying for the once-in-a-lifetime chance to perform for the Future Celestial Queen. In this stardust-and-spark-powered empire of floating islands and flying trains, The Electrical Menagerie’s bid at fame and fortune means weathering the glamorous and cutthroat world of critics, high society, and rival magicians–but with real conspiracy lurking beneath tabloid controversy, there’s more at stake in this contest than the prize. Behind the glittery haze of flash paper and mirrors, every competitor has something to hide…and it’s the lies Carthage & Huxley tell each other that may cost them everything.
Overall, both were thrilling fast-paced reads great for on the plane, at the beach, or just whenever!
Thought I’d post about my own work for once! I finally figured out how to make these collages and have been working on some aesthetics for To Slay a Curse. Here’s one for Giselle, the MC.
Meet Giselle. Quiet and often overshadowed by her energetic best friend, she thinks herself weak and worthless. Yet she hides an inner strength few could boast of, along with a dark secret. A parasitic monster lives within her mind controlling her every move. Will this worthless girl find her strength in time for one last chance to be free?
*Pictures abducted from Pinterest. Holding hostage for a ransom of cookies.*
I don’t consider myself much of a feminist, at least not in the way the term has come to be used today. So, when I heard that Mary Weber was coming out with a new book about girls taking part in an all men’s competition, I admit to a bit of wariness mixed in with my excitement. But I really love Mary’s work and had heard so many good things about the book that I gave it a go anyway. And I’m not sorry I did!
Synopsis: The task is simple. Don a disguise. Survive the labyrinth. Best the boys. In the providence of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands-through the annual all male scholarship competition. With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.
- Girl Power: There are so many examples of strong women in this book! And I especially appreciate that they come from all walks of life. Rhen wants to be a scientist, a trade reserved for men, and she has the tenacity to pull it off. And I really like Rhen, but I identify with Seleni more. She just want’s to be a good wife and mother some day. She isn’t entering the competition to prove a point; she goes in to help the people she cares about and keep them safe. And I love that her choices are portrayed as having just as much value as Rhen’s.
- The Guys: Just as there are many different types of women in this book, there are just as many diverse men. Mary doesn’t pull punches, but she doesn’t bash men either, and in today’s society I find that very refreshing.
- Complexity: This book was so much more complex than I was expecting. And I was expecting a lot to begin with! I can’t go in to too much detail without giving spoilers, but just know that this book is about so much more than a girl trying to win a place in college.
- Free Recipe: Who doesn’t love a free recipe? I tried out the recipe for Labyrinth Cakes and they are delicious! White chocolate, orange, and caramel together? Yes, please!
- Pacing: All together, the pacing wasn’t bad. However, I did feel that it took a bit too long to actually get into the labyrinth. However, with the complexity of the book, I understand that the longer set-up was necessary.
- The Twists: Once again, not all of these were bad. Some were actually really good and I didn’t see them coming at all. However, there was one or two I figured out early on and got a bit annoyed that the characters were so dense 😛 I also felt like a few at the end came out of nowhere and didn’t have much backing to give the appropriate emotional weight.
My Rating: 5/5
Though I feel a few aspects could have been strengthened, I fully enjoyed this book. A great commentary on society with plenty of fun and wit thrown in! And did I mention the yummy cakes? Definitely one I will re-read!