Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Review of "Sex in the Title" by Zack Love

Sex in the Title is a charming comedy that follows the lives of several men trying their luck with women in New York City. Similar in its style to Kissing in Manhattan, the novel portrays NYC as a city of highly educated professionals disenchanted with their careers, failed romantic relationships, eccentric individuals, and bizarre series of luck for everyone involved. Yet, in spite of all these unfortunate circumstances that seem to follow the men, there's a certain level of optimism felt in the story. Even when things for the men are ever so dire, readers get a feeling that there's that special turnaround waiting for them around the corner. Whether or not it will come? Read the novel to find out for yourself.

The writing is impeccable. Amongst plenty of poorly constructed story lines, Sex in the Title is brilliant in its build-up of men's misfortunes, mocking of big-city dissatisfied mentality, and fragile shoots of hope that one can pursue his or her dreams. 


Above all else, you should read it because this novel is different. In spite of the popularity of "scripted" novels found in abundance on best-seller lists, Zack Love chose to craft his own unique style, following the formula that he, well, loves. It feels real, frank, and raw--not in the rookie way, but in the way that makes you think and examine your own surroundings and take stock of your own life.

Why I loved it: the writing is witty, the characters are real, and I can never resist books set in NYC. Now that I'm done with Sex in the Title
, I'm actually quite intrigued about Mr. Love's latest project--his attempt at a real romance novel, albeit we've been forewarned that it's PG-rated. Bring on some real women, Mr. Love! Whether or not you'll make them go through serious genital traumas to get to their happy endings remains to be seen. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Interview with Roberta Pearce, contemporary romance novelist

Like quirky, intellectual characters with a side of steamy romance and emotional roller-coaster twists? Look no further than the books of Roberta Pearce, a native Canadian, a Contemporary Romance writer, a winner of 2013 NaNoWriMo and a wine connoisseur.

Her positive, infectious personality shows in each of her novels, be it no-nonsense, adventure-loving heroine Callie of A Bird Without Wings, or fun and sweet Fiona of For Those Who Wait.

Roberta's writing is full of contradictions: there are parts full of word economy and there are chapters where intellectual, soul-exploring dialogues flow in abundance. But it's her love of romance and happy endings that makes each of her works a page-turner that keeps you up all night long to find out how the characters will end up together.




Please tell us about your current work-in-progress. What makes it unique?
The Value of Vulnerability is formed loosely around the idea that love is a basic human requirement, but that to love means being vulnerable – surrendering something of yourself. To make this point, I created a hero who is essentially a sociopath [not a psychopath], who regards any kind of vulnerability a weakness.
It was important that he come to his own self-discovery – his own rescue, if you like – rather than merely for love of his heroine. Who will he be in his HEA? Still a sociopath? Is being a sociopath an inherently bad thing? It was fun writing him, but not easy.

Who is your favorite male character in your published novels and why?

Lucius Ransome of A Bird Without Wings. Yes, he is an arrogant Alpha, but that is balanced with his humour and generosity. He is a truly confident man, excited – rather than intimidated – by the fact that his heroine, Callie, is more intelligent than he. For me, self-confidence is the sexiest characteristic a person can have, and imbuing him with it in its purest form was a real treat.
I love your 'crisp' writing style. Who are some of the writers that influenced you and in what ways?
Oh, thank you! When I was a kid rifling through my aunt’s romance collection, I found some really ancient ones [her collection ranged from the ’fifties through to the ’nineties]. I read these older ones [once the juicier ones were exhausted] and fell in love with Mary Burchell’s writing style, which – though lacking lascivious scenes – is shot through with pithy lines and dry wit. I knew immediately that was my goal in my own style.
[An aside: For those who don’t know, Mary Burchell’s real name was Ida Cook. Leading up to WWII, she and her sister travelled Europe posing as opera groupies, and assisted many Jewish families in escaping the Nazis. Much of this effort was funded by the proceeds of Ida’s romance novels.]
Stephen King is another influence; he, too, has a pithy style, getting right to the meat of a scene without excess. With minimal description, he brings the reader the smell of corn, the dust of a road, the depth of an evil character, and sheer terror. FYI, The Stand is one of my favourite novels of all time. I’ve read it more times than I can count.

You created beautiful, memorable novel covers. What influenced you?
I love minimalism. One of my favourite artists is Rothko, for instance. In any visual medium, I love sharp contrasts that fit together. A Japanese-style garden is like that – curving edges and sharp, clean lines that meld together in quietude. And noir films – the best of them – are skewed with dark and light butting up against each other. I wanted all of these things in my covers – grey tones against black and white, with a sharp splash of colour. The colour chosen, of course, was that dark red: symbolic of love, the heart, pain, and so forth . . . and the exact colour of a favourite pair of pumps.

What do you like doing when you're not writing?
I read all the time, naturally. Much of my reading is nonfiction, just because I’m addicted to learning the names of things and how things work. I garden a little, but I’m not particularly proficient at that – just enough to create a pleasant space to read and write when the weather suits. And I’m convinced that I can teach myself Linux [no evidence of that yet]. I travel as often as possible, and am particularly fond of road trips – get in the car with a takeout coffee and a map [I’m my own GPS], and get lost for as many days as my garden can stand not being watered!

Tell us something we don't know about you. Any secret addictions?
Hmm . . . while I love books and have an extensive library, I prefer my Kobo for reading fiction – I donated almost all of my hardcopy fiction to charity over the last couple of years, and slowly am replacing the last of it with digital.
The real reason I write romance is that the concept of hitching one’s destiny to another individual is fascinating to me. I’ve not yet met that person in my own life, and can’t imagine the person . . . so I create possible candidates in my heroes!
I am the worst housekeeper on the planet, but once had a gig as a cleaning lady.
I’m a salt girl rather than a sugar girl, but can never resist Ritter Sport Dark when I see it.

If you weren't a writer, you'd be . . . ?
I’ve had a variety of jobs/careers in order to support travelling and software purchases, but nothing that I fell in love with. I always work to live, not the other thing. Life is short. Writing is a joy, not a job. So, if I weren’t a writer, I’d be: an educated bum.

Connect with Roberta!

[blog] http://bit.ly/PkL0vI
[Smashwords] http://bit.ly/KQ2XQB
[Goodreads] http://bit.ly/1e4jNaR
[twitter] @roberta_pearce



Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Letter to All The Fantastic Readers

I have a confession to make.

I'm not a novelist because I want to be a millionaire. Well, I wouldn't mind it in the least; it's just I know that the chance of me selling over two million 99-cent copies of Kindle books is relatively slim.

I'm not a novelist because I have an ego that stretches to the moon, demanding that I must have my face on a bestseller paperback novel in the "Just Released" section of Barnes & Noble.

Being a novelist doesn't even pay majority of my bill, much like it doesn't give me any free passes to prestigious shows or front-row seats to RITA awards.

No, my one and only reason for being a novelist is you, Readers. Ever since I picked up my pen (long before iPad became much more useful in typing my notes), the only things that's ever been on my mind when writing (apart from the intricacies of a plot, of course) is my readers' reaction to my work. I've slaved over every single page, paragraph and sentence to make it perfect and convey the message I wanted.

As a writer, I've always had two objectives: make my work entertaining for you, Readers, and make you think about topics that I consider important. I carefully crafted each and every one of my novels to make you stop and think about issues around us. I wanted to combine steamy romance with more serious matters.

In my novel, The Day I Became a $py, the main heroine assists FBI agent to solve a case of financial crime. Boring, you might say. Finance and Romance don't go together, at least not in the eyes of Romance Readers. I beg to differ. You might not have cared much about the Occupy Wall Street movement, but I guarantee you won't be totally indifferent after reading about the adventures of a young spiky wannabe trader who believes she can change the world.

As novelists, we celebrate you, Readers, and your opinions. Your reviews are gold, and your interest in our work is what makes us jump out of our bed in the morning, make a pot of coffee and turn on our computers. There's truly nothing more important than knowing that you love our novels, that you stayed up late because you couldn't put our books down. Go ahead, send us fan mail. Bombard us with your emails, comments, Facebook page likes, suggestions.

We love to hear from you. Contrary to the popular belief, we love nothing more than learning your suggestions for a sequel, ideas about our characters, even things that drove you crazy.

We love you.

Always.

KaterinaBaker
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20958530-the-day-i-became-a-py
KaterinaBaker.com

Like our Romantic Suspense Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/warsbooks

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Writing "All Roads Lead to Anatolia"

It hasn't been easy. Even dismissing the obvious challenges of writing a 300+ page novel, this Romantic Suspense novel had opponents even before I started writing its first page.

The novel follows the travels of two twenty-something Americans in Turkey, who get to know the culture and the contradictions of this modern muslim country. Damien Cooper is half Turkish, yet he's never been to this country until his mother dies and leaves him a will asking him to travel to her homeland and follow the requests written in the cryptic letters that she leaves for him. He gets off the plane and everything is foreign for him: the food, the language, these glasses of tea that everyone keeps offering him, kisses on both cheeks at meeting strangers, everyone's assumption that he'll fall in love with this country just because his mother was born here.

An American myself, the novel portrays my own experience being in Turkey. Most of them great, others . . . not so much.

The novel was meant to be a fun, entertaining read. And for a non-Turkish reader, it likely will be. If you're Turkish, feel free to join the critics club. The reference to the Prime Minister's frown? Outrageous! The joke about the main heroine, Alex, being afraid to take down Ataturk's painting from her bedroom in her employers' house? So not true! (Ahem, case in point: after my novel was finished, my in-laws have brought a similar painting for my own bedroom. Thank you very much!) When Alex needs to run away from the man pursuing her, she hops onto a bus. Seeing the man being close to making it in, she shouts a little lie that the man is Greek, causing the driver to promptly shut doors of the bus, not allowing him to come in. Funny? Not so much. This one caused a major drift between me and my Turkish husband.

Writing about somebody else's culture is always personal. "Who is this girl and why does she think she can write about Turkey?" Never mind that most readers' feedback has been that the novel makes them want to travel to the country rather than avoid it, anything that can be interpreted negatively by a Turk is a false advertisement.

"All Roads Lead to Anatolia" is a novel about love--for your homeland, your heritage, your family, no matter how great their flaws are. We can't choose our country or our family, and spend our entire lives discovering what makes both so great despite their many shortcomings. My novel is a celebration of our  uniqueness rather than criticism of it.

Add "Add Roads Lead to Anatolia" to your Goodreads "To Read" list to be notified when the novel is published.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20982895-all-roads-lead-to-anatolia?from_search=true

KaterinaBaker
Romance Novelist
KaterinaBaker.com

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why I Love Getting My Characters in Trouble

My first love affair as an author was with Mario Torres, the main character of my first completed novel. Tall and powerfully-built, he looks like he came out of a twenty-second century car-racing movie--sort of an ultra-modern Rambo forced into tailored, preppy clothes. All black . . . and dangerous.

Although he's a good guy (well, it does depend on your definition of it), he lives on messing with Kayla, the object of his affection, who just happens to be the woman he's suspecting is involved in criminal schemes involving the FED.

He's not a guy who negotiates, preferring to bark curt orders instead, something that Kayla doesn't appreciate in the least, he's got an ego that stretches a mile wide, and he's got a truck load of issues when it comes to relationships.

Isn't he the epitome of a perfect man?

Well, guess what? Perfect men don't always make for a perfect entertainment. Perfect characters don't get in as much trouble, they tend to work out their differences with women rather quickly, and they definitely don't find themselves in the A/C vent in the government building because they couldn't work it out with their partners.

When I'm writing something new, the first question I ask myself is, how much trouble can my characters get into? What personality traits do they need to get stuck in the most ridiculous, outrageous situations I can think of?

Then, it's the fun part--working out how they can get themselves out of their predicaments.

Let's share some love for the imperfect characters that we fall in love with.

Best,
Katerina Baker
Romance Novelist
KaterinaBaker.com

Monday, April 7, 2014

Do You Need an Outline for Your Novel?

As a writer who finished several novels, I'm oftentimes asked if it's really necessary to have an outline for a new novel before starting to write it. 

Well, to answer this question, I'd like you to imagine driving in an unknown place without a GPS. You don't have an appointment (so there isn't any real time pressure--much like there isn't real pressure to finish your new novel, other than your personal aspirations), and you're reasonably sure you know the general direction.  

Will you get to your destination? 

You probably will. But would you arrive faster and waste less time if you had a map with you? Most definitely. 

Perhaps, while driving for a while, you do decide to ask someone for directions. This is the equivalent of writing your outline sometime after starting your novel. Will it get you to the end faster? Undoubtedly. In fact, it's never a waste of your effort to write it, even if you're nearing the end of your work.

There're plenty of writers who claim they don't use outlines. But I guarantee you, if you're a new writer, you'd do so much better with it. 

It doesn't have to be a very detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline. Sometimes having a one-, or two-pager synopsis is enough, especially if you've spent plenty of time thinking about your novel. 

A good outline resembles a detailed synopsis, oftentimes a chapter by chapter description of what happens in each critical scene. When I'm writing mine, I start with the main characters, their conflict in the beginning, middle and then the end, and then I fill in the rest. I add detail, transitional scenes, secondary characters. Sometimes I include important dialogues, descriptions, feelings of my characters. Sometimes I even include the name of a song that put me in the mood for that particular part of the novel. 

The more detailed my outline is, the faster it is to write a novel. To ensure that my outline is not one big block of text, I break it down into chapters, but when I'm writing, I oftentimes place my chapter breaks in other places.

An outline is by no means a hard gospel that can't be broken. I changed many important scenes while writing if I got new ideas, but I always went back to my outline and corrected it with any changes. Reviewing my outline helped me see if there's any impact on the future chapters. 

Let me know if you use an outline and how! Does anyone else use little images in an outline to help get in the mood?

Katerina Baker
Romance Novelist
KaterinaBaker.com

Friday, April 4, 2014

Feeling Your Characters

It's a Friday morning, and I dress up in a slinky little black dress and slide on four-inch heels, spray perfume on my ankles and wrists, apply make-up, blow dry my hair to perfection. No, I'm not on my way to the latest Auction Gala, or even a birthday party starting early. Instead, I sit at my desk in my home office and power up my Apple.

Today I'm writing an important scene, and I need to get into my character. Too much is at stake--for my heroine, anyway--and it's critical that I get this right. I need to feel like her, breathe in her skin, think her thoughts.

This isn't the first time I'm dressing up or acting the role of my made-up creations. I've traveled places they did, experienced their joys, savored the food they love, frequented places they did. I'm not crazy. I'm fully aware I'm not them, and as soon as I type "The End" on the last page of my novel, I will transform myself back into being just the ordinary writer--or into the character of my next book.


As a writer, you need to feel every scene like you're really there. Not just as an observant--as an active participant. You need to feel every single bump on the road that your heroine is running on, stumble with her every time she falls, cry when her heart is broken. That's the only way to get your reader into that scene, to transform them into a different to them world.

There aren't bluer days for me when I'm writing sad scenes, when my heroine is betrayed or when things aren't going her way. Even though I know--I'm the boss of her actions, after all--that everything will turn out alright at the end, I experience her agony and live through her despair. 

There's no other way. A writer has to feel this depression to be able to portray it for the readers. Writing a novel is an emotional roller-coaster, and each up and down in the storyline is playing with the writer's sanity. 

In the end, love will prevail. Until then, there's a box of tissues and lots of wine. 

Katerina Baker
Romance Novelist
KaterinaBaker.com

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Are Writers Born or Are They Made?

Everyone is born a natural storyteller. Ghosts, space rangers, princesses, aliens--they're all part of a child's fantasy, who has no trouble seeing the world as one big imagination playground.

Then, reality comes along--well, parents--who are concerned about their children's education and divert their world from tales and pretend games to the serious subjects of math and science. Sure, reading is still encouraged--for enjoyment and learning purposes--but once a child masters reading on his own, parents direct his effort to other subject matters.

Sometime during those early years, children's games evolve from making up stories about their favorite characters to other, "more mature" ways to play.

Imagination ability is a very much learned and practiced skill. If we don't use it, it doesn't stay as sharp as it would've been otherwise. A child who isn't encouraged to write fictional stories wouldn't know the pleasure of creating something new through the intricate craft of writing, much like a person who hasn't picked up a paintbrush for a long time wouldn't challenge himself to become the next Picasso.

Did you know that a child of an author is much more likely to become an author himself?

There is a whole world out there--the world of imagination where anything is possible. The novelists are the gatekeepers of that world, and through their eyes--and their books--readers can encounter those unique places. That world is magical: it can make us think, dream, hope, laugh, and cry. We will not always like everything in that world, yet we're impacted by it--the good and the bad.

Each writer's story is unique, just like their novels.

Please post or link to your writer's story here.

Katerina Baker
Romantic Suspense Novelist
KaterinaBaker.com

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Luck Is In the Eye of a Beholder: Turkey

Below is the excerpt from my Turkey travel blog. 

Damla has been cooling herself with the antique arabesque fan that she bought at an open bazaar in Bursa, with limited success since this area of Turkey has been subjected to yet another blazing August heat wave. The apartment is modern; each of the windows offers a perfect, million-dollar view of the Uludağ mountains, a picturesque horizon that's home to some of the most majestic sunsets. A melodic call for prayer from a nearly mosque provides a temporary relief from her heavy thoughts. She turns to the direction of Mecca and mouths the sacred words.
This isnt how she usually prays. Five times a day, at the moments calculated by the religious authorities according to the distance to Mecca and the sunrise, she would normally go to her small perfectly positioned prayer room, equipped with the kneeling blanket, praying beads and a headscarf.
Kneeling is impossible in her current condition. Damla sighs as she looks at her heavily bandaged arm. She's been told that she's lucky to have gotten away with nothing more than a broken shoulder after falling down the stairs in her mountain house. Yet lucky is the last word she'd use to describe herself. Stationary life is a true torture for a sixty-year old woman who is used to running like a hamster on a spinning wheel from the brink of dawn until the late hours of the night.
She's now in Bursa, the fourth largest city in Turkey, the city that prides itself on being the industrial capital of Turkey, the one that hosts countless state-of-the-art auto and textile factories and attracts the world's biggest executives. In her comfortable three-bedroom apartment in a modern high-rise building complex, she should welcome a four-week mandatory rest after tending to a twenty-five-acre garden in her mountain property. It's next to impossible to stay idle for a woman who's been busy her entire life.
The doorbell rings.
A peculiar, colorfully dressed congregation of women takes their shoes off and flocks in. Damla's cousin, her two nieces, and a twelve-year old daughter of a neighbor flurry into the apartment, dozens of shopping bags in hands. Each woman is as unique as Turkey itself, and together they create a unity that represents distinct flavors of this rich country. Damla's cousin, Fadime, carries a fake Kate Spade bag that deserves an award for the care with which it was tailored and an iPhone 5 in a fancy jeweled case. Her yellow shirt advertises Heineken, and she's sporting a beautiful bright red shortly trimmed crew haircut.
The nieces rush in hand in hand, babbling and yelping remorseful oohs and aahs at Damla's injured condition. One of them, Leyla, is clothed in a handmade silk Turquoise headscarf that accentuates her glittering makeup and a long gray summer coat that covers her until her ankles. A set of blue slippers that she took off has a design that matches her headscarf. The other one, Emine, is wearing an impeccable skin-tight little black dress that fits her immaculate figure like a glove. Her Hermes purse is an original, and she's bought it in a landmark boutique in Paris on her business trip. Her diamond earrings are fashionably mismatched in the two ears--on purpose: one of the earrings cascades in an array of little clear jewels and the other is shaped as a 'E', her initial.
  The girls' eyes are the color and shape of perfectly ripe oval plums, lips full and red, and brows arch with the perfect symmetry. Their faces seem to be the reflection of one another, and if you look beyond their choice of clothing, you'll realize that they are identical twins.
Last, the youngest girl in the group timidly enters and smiles at Damla shyly. Her demeanor is soft and feminine, and dress modest.
A series of tight hugs and kisses on both cheeks follow. The neighbor girl kneels and kisses the back of Damla's hand, but Damla pulls her up and gathers her into an embrace with her healthy arm.  Fadime's eyes turn teary at the sight of the bandage on Damla's arm.
Then its time to take the kitchen by storm, and the women start unpacking the goodies they brought. Mounts of fruits and vegetables, golden bread loaves, heavenly-smelling herbs, and a bag containing pain remedies from the local bazaar are unloaded onto the floor, counter tops, and table. Soon every available surface in the kitchen is covered with pink tomatoes, crisp onions, green beans, red cherries, yellow plums, all bursting with rich color and emitting delicious farm-fresh smell.
Someone turns on the radio, and a soft Anatolian melody fills the sunny kitchen. Leyla swings her hips to Tarkan's beat, a popular young singer who's been dubbed a Ricky Martin of Turkey. Everyone is talking at once, loudly and affectionately, and it's hard to make out who is talking to whom. It all seems to be part of one big conversation, with the participants switching back and forth between different matters and their speaking partners. The topics quickly flow from the upcoming engagement party of Fadimes daughter to a new baby boy of the neighbor next door, the new law that increased retirement age to the protests in Istanbul. Easy-going nonsensical teasing is followed by infectious arguments, and suddenly you find yourself having an opinion on the topic you couldn't care less about only five minutes ago.
Everyone's fingers seem to be dancing--cutting vegetables, peeling potatoes, cleaning watermelon, or waving in the air to accentuate a point of view. Damla is supposed to be supervising, but she quickly starts to prepare Turkish coffee for the crew, evoking a loud cry of protest from her cousin who insists that she should be doing nothing but sitting down. Damla nods in agreement and promptly proceeds with her enterprise.
Hours pass but it seems to be only minutes since the undertaking started. It doesn't feel like work. The faces of the women are happy, content. Once the aroma of Turkish coffee fills the room, the women sit down and find tiny allotments of space on the counter for each of their miniature coffee cups, which seem to be more suitable for a doll's porcelain tea collection than for the steamy foaming brown liquid. Damla is known for her fortune-reading abilities, and Leyla wouldn't miss an opportunity to discover the twists of fate concealed on the bottoms of her coffee cup. The secrets revealed by the majestic coffee beans are sometimes ambiguous, at times confusing, but nearly always optimistic. It is the magic in the hands of an interpreter, and all women around the table partake in the elaborate duty of interpreting the objects that Damla finds drawn on the flamboyant brown canvas. What may appear to be a splattering of a ground gob to an untrained eye is a baby that is likely to be conceived in near future. Look closer and you could see a bow, which signifies that the baby will be a girl. See a crown? A wedding is surely in the works.
Emine frowns and steps back. She doesn't believe in the arabesque centuries-old game. An executive at a film production company, she knows that women can make their own luck in Turkey. At the age of 30, she's achieved an impressive goal of managing a multi-million dollar production of the series of documentaries about foreign investment in Turkey, juggling frequent business trips abroad and raising a four-year old child. Her days start at the brink of dawn, cooking breakfast for her son while reading morning news from Asia, and go well into the late hours of the night. Yet, on the day like today, shes dropped everything and came here, to her aunts apartment to help.
Leyla, meanwhile, eagerly places a plate on top of her cup, makes a wish, and quickly turns the cup upside down towards her. Once the porcelain has cooled down, Damla sits across Leyla and turns the cup over again, letting the thick coffee bean mixture spill onto the plate. The excitement is in the air, as it always is when the future is unveiled in the Turquoise hand painted cups.
The coffee wisdom doesn't disappoint. Leyla is about to get lucky--shes about to meet a man of her dreams. The conversation--no, the argument--about the qualities of a perfect man follows, laden with girly giggles and theatrical puffing from the elder women. At the description of taut muscles on a perfect man's chest and his pointy buttocks, twelve-year-old's face flushes and she buries herself deeper into her task of slicing onions. Leyla notices and playful teasing ensues, despite the grunts of displeasure from Damla and Fadime.
Once the food is prepared--delicious okra in olive oil, stuffed green peppers, and crispy string beans - Fadime takes Damla on a few errands. They stop by a butcher on the other end of town, because he is the one the family's been going to for decades. Loyalty runs high, and it would take much more than an extra thirty-minutes drive to shop from anyone else. Then it's the stop at İşbank, which is Damla's bank because they love Atatürk, the creator of modern Turkey. The banks been founded by Atatürk, and its buildings still proudly display his portraits on its modern interior.
Next to the bank, they enter a large supermarket and pass through metal detectors, not unlike those at the airport. Installed as safety precaution years ago after terrorist attacks became a regular occurrence, now nobody thinks much when they are asked to scan their bags in the malls or at the supermarkets. Once in the dairy isle of the supermarket, they pick tender goat cheese and pickled olives for tomorrows breakfast, and consult with a supermarket manager on a few domestic matters, because there are things that nobody knows better than he. With the address that was handed by the manager, they exit and follow the directions he's given them.
They drive onto an old street with a single lane, whose width is so narrow that it would likely be illegal to be drive on in the States. A traffic sign shows it as a one-lane road, but as soon as they enter, a cab's tires screech to an abrupt stop right in front of them, coming from the direction opposite of the traffic's flow. The cab honks impatiently and even though the taxi is driving against the rules, Fadime sighs and backs out all the way to the perpendicular street to allow the cab to pass first. The taxi zips past them just as a careless teenager is about to cross the street in front of it. Taxi driver hits on the brakes inches away and locks the eyes with the young offender. There is a warning in driver's eyes: do not mess with the moving vehicles, you are at a disadvantage here.
Finally, Damla and Fadime reach the address given to them by a supermarket manager and stop in front of an old cracked two-story house at the end of the block. Fadime jumps out and disappears inside. When she emerges, five minutes later, she informs Damla that their mission has been accomplished: they've donated about 100 Turkish Liras (an equivalent to approximately 50 US Dollars) to a poor woman who recently lost her husband in a factory accident, the act of kindness recommended by Fadime since Damlas injuries couldve been much worse.
They would also like to stop by at their cousin's house but today there is no time. Damla is expecting an important visitor and they cant be late. This isn't a regular visitor. This woman has rare ability to take away negative energy, which might be to blame for Damla's latest misfortunes.
They make it home just in time to see the kitchen transformed into something worthy of a scene in a black magic movie. The bad-karma expert in a black coat and white embroidered headscarf has arrived a short while ago and has already started the elaborate preparations for her ceremony. The stove is on and there are three oval pieces of metal heating on the bottom of a large silver serving spoon placed atop one of the burners. Burning oil aroma charges the air. Everyone's eyes tear from the heat that suddenly pervades the kitchen.  The youngest girl passes small crystal teacups the shape of a rose bud, with the clear brown liquid inside. For a minute or two, the only thing you hear is the clinking of the petite cooper teaspoons against the glasses as everyone stirs tiny sugar cubes into their tea. Silence descends while the women sip their tea and wait patiently for the metal to melt. The elderly woman starts chanting a prayer in a loud voice that sounds like a narration of an old Arabic tale, eerie at first but then truly majestic once you take in the atmosphere of the charged air and the absolute focus of everyone in the room. The tension is as dense as the thick cooper metal that has melted and transformed into a silver shiny liquid on the bottom of the spoon.
Someone spreads a plain grey blanket onto the kitchen floor and Damla kneels on it. Another cloth is placed over her head, and after more chants the woman circles the spoon with the melted metal over Damla's covered head, two times clockwise. She then spills the liquid metal into cool water plate that contains several pieces of flower petals and other objects that will help the woman in reading Damla's fortune.
The women's faces are transfixed in the nazar ceremony. Nazar is a protection against the evil eye, the term that encompasses blue round eye stones that everyone in Turkey displays in their homes and offices to guard against bad karma, and various rituals intended to deter evil spirits.
The youngest girl gasps when she sees the shape into which the metal has transformed in the cool liquid. Damla stands up, and the gifted fortune-reader explains what she sees in the plate. The metal cooled down into a resemblance of something that may look like a mess to an untrained eye, but to a professional it is anything but. She tells that Damla is very caring and that she dedicates her life to others, sometimes at her own expense. Her nieces nod and exchange knowing glances. A discussion of Damla's volunteering work in addition to helping take care of newborn twins of her son and her work in the garden results. Everyone has plentiful suggestions how Damla can ease up her workload. Damla nods, but nobody in the room expects a single thing to change once her arm is healed: Damla wouldnt feel complete on a day that wasnt spent helping others.
The metal is once again placed into the spoon and set to melt. The ceremony will be performed two more times, after which the water into which the metal has been dumped will be splashed on Damla's face, neck, wrists and ankles to scare off evil spirits. Everyone seems satisfied when the act is finished, and the psychic leaves. The women clean up the kitchen and pass around another round of teas. Its getting dark and it's time to say goodbyes.
Tomorrow will be another day. For some, like Emine, it will mean another fulfilling day in a modern office on conference calls with foreign investors and meetings with creative staff. Luck will be made with hard work and sweat. For others, tomorrow will be full of fortune reading, tea drinking, food preparation, and sharing gossip; luck will be dreamed of, in the form of a beautiful ceremony. But for all, no matter how rich or poor, young or old, clothed in expensive silks or heavy summer coats, luck will always come in the form of a powerful bond between human beings, always there to help when needed. This is the country where nobody gets left behind and the compassion and social awareness run as high as the tales that await on the bottom of a coffee cup. As Damla once said, the world is a giant hairball, with everyone connected, and the society is only as strong as its weakest link.