Janey! Vicious! Circle!

Disclaimer: Yes, I am a whinger. Yes, I tend to bitch first and apologise later. These statements are made by me and are, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely true!

If you had asked me two months ago just how hard it would be to get book sales, I would have said “Nah! It’ll be a piece of cake”.


Yeah. I’m clearly an idiot. I had no clue just how much work was involved. I whacked Salep And Ginger up on Amazon and sat back waiting on the money to roll in. It turns out I was wrong. Really, really wrong.

FYI getting sales is harder than being hit with a bucket of dried concrete.

Firstly, you need a great book. Now I think Salep And Ginger is freaking excellent, so that’s one tick in my favour.

Then you need customers to buy it. They’re a little harder to come by. It seems it all comes down to reviews… and lots of them… which is where I’ve come a little unstuck.

We all know that most people choose their books based on recommendations so leaving a review on Amazon is helping boost the book in Amazon’s magical algorithm. A book needs 25 reviews before it gets included in Amazon’s “Also Brought” and “You Might Like” lists and it takes approximately 70 reviews before the book really becomes visible to potential readers.

But leaving a review isn’t simple.

Amazon has this totally extreme requirement for adding a review. To do a review, you need to have spent a minimum of US$50 on the Amazon site.

Now I don’t want to sound like a Negative Nelly, but for those of us outside of the US, that’s kind of difficult to do. Yes, there is Amazon in the UK and Australia as well (where most of my sales originated); still, they too have the requirement of a minimum purchase (and Amazon really isn’t a thing, especially Down Under). Which sucks! So, despite the surprising number of sales over the past two months, it hasn’t equated to many reviews.

So for those of you who have purchased the book can you please try to leave a review. If you can’t can you please head over to my brand new Facebook page Jane Gundogan Author and leave a review there. Maybe pop by GoodReads as well. Loved it or hated it, every review helps.

And for those of you who have yet to purchase Salep And Ginger? Get cracking! Christmas is coming, and this book will make a great little stocking stuffer for those of you who love Istanbul and Turkey.

Oh, and to my Amazonian master. I serve no other God and am forever your humble servant. I swear!

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Cat Benatar

Last month one of our bahçe kedileri (garden cats) passed over the rainbow bridge. His name was Deli which meant crazy, and yes he was just a little bit that way. We think he was Stanley’s boy because he had the same markings. He was also as friendly as Stanley, which was somewhat detrimental to his health (again just like dear old dad, may he also rest in peace). I’ve tried to find a photo of Deli but sadly haven’t been able to.

Anyway, The Turk was pretty broken up about losing Deli and was down in the çay evi (local tea house) smoking his cigarettes and playing pishti (Turkish card game) with his mates when he started tearing up.

“Why are you sad?”

“My best friend died.”

“Oh, no! Who was it?”

“My cat. Deli.”

Dead silence in the çay evi.

Clearly, The Turk is a little deli as well, don’t you think? 

Fast forward to a few days later and yavru kediler (kittens) started arriving on our doorstep. Big or small, they were deposited in boxes, or just dropped in the garden, all in the misguided attempt to make The Turk smile. Some disappeared pretty much straight away, but one of them realised what a good thing she was on at ours. 

Introducing Cat of the House Benatar (get it? Cat Benatar = Pat Benatar. Phew!).

I’ll start again.

Introducing Cat of the House Benatar. First of her name, Queen of Meows, Watcher of television, Breaker of Wine Glasses and Mother of all hair elastics.

Cat Benatar does not consider herself stray for that is truly beneath her standing. She took immediate possession of the whole building. No house is off limits (including my SIL who doesn’t quite have the same affection for animals as we do). Cat Benatar is great friends with our Aussie cat Kedi and loves chasing My Hurley Dog’s tail (he does not like it so much). She and Evil are yet to bond (I think it’s a chick thing), but once the colder weather sets in there will be an uneasy pause in hostilities. 

The Turk is happy. Daughter is happy. And although I put on a front about all these bloody animals, I’m somewhat happy as well. Cat Benatar sits by me as I work on manuscript number two. She also has gainful employment as a part-time paper shredder (so is paying her own way) and helps me procrastinate long into the night. 

My house is becoming a zoo!

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Turkish Housewife For The Win!

We’ve had no electric for the last ten out of fourteen days. It’s practically medieval times here in the Village so with no electric and in an effort to save myself from going bat-shit crazy out of boredom, I’ve slapped on my şalvar, wrapped my hair (to hide the grey no less) and reverted to my less than enthusiastic Turkish Housewife mode. 

First job tackled was the salca.

All of you already know that one of my highlights since I moved to Mersin is to make the salca. It reminds me of my wonderful mother-in-law and how she welcomed this somewhat reluctant yabancı gelin into the family and started me on my Turkish life. She taught me that sometimes the old ways are better and if you’re expecting several consecutive days (try several consecutive months) of 38ºC (100ºF) Mediterranean sunshine, then your salca will be much more successful if sun-dried rather than making it in the oven/cooktop.

This year’s salca experience could have ended up being a disaster, but thanks to my sister-in-law, who is nothing if not enterprising, her quick thinking saved the day (and the salca).

My salca story started just fine. I had a shopping list: 

250 kilograms kırmızı biber (red capsicum)

100 kg domates (tomatoes)

100 kg acı biber (hot chilli)

That might seem like a lot of capsicum but it never really is.

Excited, I hit the pazar and negotiated in my best Turklish to get a reasonable price, and when that didn’t work The Turk stepped in and got me the best price. 

I got cracking-a-lacking on the domates and had them chopped up and blitzed early on Saturday morning so by the time my SIL got home that afternoon I had already carried buckets of mulched domates up to the roof and had poured them into my rather dodgy (but does the job) plastic sheeting/slab. SIL did bring reinforcements for the kırmızı biber (her mother and sister), and thank goodness because without them we could have been there all night. The 100kg of acı biber are a little dicier (no pun intended). We split them into two – 50kg cleaned for salca and 50kg cleaned and cut for drying.

By 8:00 PM everything was sliced, diced, blitzed and shattered (and that was just us).

And then, and to quote the great Annie Lennox, here comes the rain again.

First rain of the season. Yah! NOT!!!

FARK!

3:00 AM and SIL banged on my door sending My Hurley Dog and me into hysterics. Once I realised we weren’t under attack, I followed her up to the rooftop. There we were in our pyjamas (or in my case my undies and a singlet because it’s still stinking hot here in Mersin) running around in the bucketing rain, trying to save our kırmızı biber from washing away. We MacGyver’ed the shit out of my sun-lounger and some plastic to fashion a make-shift tent and even though the roof resembled a crime scene with the overflow of sauce mixed with rainwater on Sunday morning, our salca and sliced acı biber were saved and able to be returned to their rightful place in the sunshine.

It might have taken a little longer this year to dry out (thanks to said bucketing) but we now have enough tomato paste and capsicum paste to feed an army, or at least feed the family through until next September. I might sound like a typical Türk but I could never go back to store-brought salca now. I mean just look at that kırmızı biber salca (capsicum paste) beautiful dark red colour. Trust me when I say it tastes amazing!

And because I never want to find myself with a pickling emergency I also perfected my pickling this past week. After a few trips to the supermarket and buying out every single bottle of üzüm sirkesi (grape vinegar) they had in stock I pickled the hell out of any vegetable that was lying around including salatakık (cucumber), soğan (onion), havuç (carrot), lahana (cabbage) and yet another 5kg of acı biber. I’m pretty sure we’re sorted for hot chillies to keep us warm on cold winter nights.

And just because I’m Aussie I got a fabulous recipe from a local chef who makes the most amazing pickled beetroot so I was back to the Mezitli pazar last weekend to pick up pancar and yet more vinegar for testing out his recipe. Finally I can get some decent beetroot for my burgers.

Thankfully the electric is now back (and hopefully will stay again for at least a few days).

Finger’s crossed because seriously if I lose my electric again today, I can’t be held responsible for my actions. Seriously! Watch this space!

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Find Me A Seat

Some people come into your life for a reason, and my friend Nancy is one of them.

She and her husband moved to Mersin a few years ago, with no real plans other than to explore a part of Turkey that they had never visited before. She would often invite a few friends to explore with her, and it soon became a highlight when we would day-trip somewhere new. During her time in Mersin, we went far up and down the Mediterranean coast, as well as inland to Mut, Kahramanmaraş and Cappadocia. I would never have made the trek to these places by myself so always appreciated the invite.

Nancy is a very skilled photographer and would always arrive with her camera in hand, ready to photograph our adventures. She is completely fearless and while I would wait safely back on terra firma Nancy would more often than not be found climbing to the top of mountains or traversing cliff faces to get that perfect shot.

She recently had an exhibition of her photographs in Istanbul, which was a great success, and right now her photographs can be seen at another show in Bursa.

These two exhibitions came into being after Nancy undertook a photo essay with an Istanbul-based photography group did called “Disconnected”. Her idea was that long-abandoned sofas, found on mountaintops or by the beach were disconnected from their “natural” habitats, and yet are fulfilling their destiny by providing comfort in unexpected places.

We were all on the hunt for sofas for Nancy to photograph. I can’t tell you how many times I would pull over on the side of a road, and message her with a stealthy “red sofa on D400 near Kipa” or sent her a whatsapp location pin of a sofa on the side of the road.

I spotted these beauties near Susanoğlu. Nancy was in Istanbul at the time, but luckily they were still there a week later so she could take the shot.

I also spotted this one on the train line. Nancy had been looking for a sofa near train tracks that had that “trainspotting” feel. This guy was just outside Pozanti, and I think Nancy’s shot eludes to the dark, shabby-comedic movie, don’t you?

Following on from the success of her exhibitions, Nancy’s photos have now been made into a coffee table book. If you are interested in purchasing a book or want further information, send me your email address below, and I will pass it onto her. You can also peruse a great selection of her work here.

Us Mersin ladies are a very creative and successful bunch, aren’t we?

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What Happens Next?

It’s been a little over a week since I released my debut novel, Salep and Ginger. HAVE YOU READ IT YET? If so, I’d love to hear from you! If not, get at it!

Once the nausea subsided I was able to take in everything that was happening – it was all terribly exciting! Again I had to learn that it is a process, sales can take time, but of course I was rather impatient with all the waiting. Between you and me, I’ll admit that I kept refreshing my “reports” until IT happened.  I had actually sold a book. Someone had paid real money to purchase it. I was now officially a published author!

Now for the self-flagellation. Salep and Ginger is not as polished as it should’ve been. It needed to go back to my editor one final time but I had delayed and amended so many times that it kind of became “now or never”. If I didn’t hit that publish button, I probably never would. So I know there were a few indentation issues and strange blocks of bold font throughout (and I still can’t work out how to correct it). I also found a few typo’s post-publishing. I nearly cried (and threw up again) because that meant I had to go back into the editing program and let me tell you I did NOT want to do that. The process of “creating” the book made me more than a little certifiable. I’m certain that the good people at Kindle thought I had lost the plot a few times over those last few days before publication.

But then I woke up on Monday to find that Salep and Ginger was ranked #2 in “Hot New Releases” in Erotic Romance and it got to #14 in that same category on Amazon UK’s site. Now that is exciting (and all without any reviews!).

And then I got my first actual review from a paying customer – and they left 5 stars! Woo hoo! Leaving a review is so important to boost the book (and my self-confidence) so if you are one of those who have read Salep and Ginger please take a moment to leave an honest review (if you can).

So what does happen next? Right now I’m going to go back to my regular (or somewhat irregular) programmed viewing aka an occasional blog post and get cracking on my next novel, tentatively named “Kiz Kalesi”.

Again I want to give each and every one of you a big shout out, I couldn’t have done any of this without you guys believing in me.

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So This Just Happened

Janey In Mersin was created by me when I first moved to Turkey. It became my only friend in a sometimes dark, desolate world, my safe place to go where I could hide from all the bok and my private diary left carelessly open for the world to see.

It also helped me make friends, journal my experiences, and gave you guys a glimpse of just how ridiculous life could be here with The Turk and his crazy family. But more importantly, blogging allowed me to take that first step to fulfil my childhood ambition of becoming a published author. 

As a child, I had lofty ambitions indeed. I had just finished reading “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” and I decided that I would surely become the next Judy Blume. I mean when it all comes down to brass tacks has there ever been a better piece of prose than, “We must, we must, we must increase our bust”?

By the time I finished school I had quickly realised I didn’t need to repeat that particular mantra over and over as my boobs were already a double D, so I discarded my dream of becoming an author and got on with my real life.

And then one morning as I sat on my terrace overlooking the Village, I wrote a couple of paragraphs about a girl who had fallen in love. I knew something about that at least, well, I did at the time anyway. That girl became Ginger Knox. She and I became firm friends (and occasionally mortal enemies) over the next year or so while I drafted and revised, discarded and re-visited Ginger’s story, time and time again.

Finally! I had written something that wasn’t completely heinous, but where do I go from here?

Full of moxie I emailed off my synopsis and first draft to publishers and waited to be inundated with offers. Now I’d like to think that I was mature enough to handle rejection but, as it turned out, I’m not. Instead, I morphed into a whiny-assed child when Harlequin rejected my manuscript, and I threatened to burn the world down when Mills and Boon passed on my literary masterpiece. “To hell with them all!” It was a battle cry shrieked from my rooftop in the Village all the while smearing blue paint down my face and brandishing my bottle of wine like a sword! They were trying to destroy my dream!

I decided it must be rubbish so I shelved it for a while.

After a little soul-searching I asked for beta-readers to give me some honest feedback. And I got it in spades! From the positive: “I needed a ciggie after that” and “When I wasn’t laughing at Ginger’s inner monologue and snappy comebacks, I was in desperate need of a lie down after all the naughty bits”, to the negative: “I feel there is an overuse of profanity that could cast a negative light on the story”, and even the down-right strange: “I will pray for you.”

All that feedback helped me shape Ginger’s story (and between you and me that last comment made me realise that I might be on the right track!).

I began to look at other publishing options. Self-publishing seemed the most realistic way for me to move forward. I had seen other well-known authors who utilised self-publishing and went on to see their novel become a huge success.

And so let’s fast forward to today. I’m excited and terrified and more than a little bit nauseous, but I’ve finally done it. I’ve published my slightly funny, definitely not autobiographical (this question gets asked a lot!), sexy, swoony, heartfelt romance. Rated R for raunchy, Salep and Ginger is probably not suited to those who don’t like being spanked or for those under the age of 18 years (full disclosure: there is no spanking in this book). It’s mostly the story of a girl standing in front of a boy… wait, no, that’s not right… maybe you guys should just read it for yourselves. 

Anyway, tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell everyone you know (within reason, of course) to grab a copy of Salep and Ginger, available now from Amazon, either on Kindle or paperback from your usual Amazon e-store. Every sale will help support my wine habit and enable me to continue to live in the luxury (cough, cough) of which I have become accustomed. 

To those who do take the plunge teşekkür ederim (thank you)! If you loved it, please leave a review and hit up those stars on Amazon. I would appreciate it… and there’s a bottle of rakı on its way to you (there’s not really a bottle of rakı on its way to you. Sorry.).

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Gülek Kalesi, Take Two

You guys might remember this post from March when my friends and I took a road trip up to Gülek Kalesi. That road trip turned out to be a complete disaster, and we ended up drenched, discouraged and downright depressed, but at least we made it out alive. Just to recap it was a little touch and go at times on the single-laned, pot-hole ridden track disguised as a road with its thick fog, sharp turns and blind bends that in my mind would have been more befitting Bolivia’s “road of death” than this little mountain outside of Pozantı.

We recently made a second attempt at visiting the Kalesi, travelling the same road up into the Tarsus Mountains. Thankfully we didn’t get lost, but we also didn’t recognise much of anything either.

Case in point:

After some accommodating locals pointed us in the right direction (and practised their English on us), we finally found ourselves at the top of the mountain and at the historical site of Gulek Kalesi.

Yeah, I know, it doesn’t look like it was worth the effort … but it was!

As my friend Moe put it so succinctly, “this Byzantine, then Armenian, then Arab, then Ottoman and now tourist destination has sat on this mountaintop, casting a shadow on the village below for almost 2000 years. Yadda, yadda, we trip over that shit down here.”

I laughed so hard at this – but it’s all true.

We came for the photo, the famous ledge that hangs out over the mountain and looks straight down the otoban connecting Adana and Ankara. Sadly none our photos are as fabulous as those that are floating around on the internet, but the pride that we felt as we stood on that ledge was just as rewarding as if we had climbed Everest (and if felt like that at times as we traversed the craggy rocks to reach our destination). 

We did it!

For those of you based in or around Mersin it’s totally worth the trip (about 20 minutes outside of Tarsus) but do yourselves a favour and do it is summer or check your weather apps because shit gets real up in them there hills when the weather turns bad.

Oh and take water – lots of water!

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You Need To Calm Down

Daughter has made me vow to not use her for any of my future blog posts as it is an invasion of her privacy. Pfft! 

So here’s a story about a person that lives in my home which for the sake of this post is called “She Who Shall Not Be Named”. 

She Who Shall Not Be Named is now seventeen years old and living her best teenage life. You already know she is a well-established şımarık and brings along with her all the drama that a şımarık can bring. The never-ending phone calls and text messages that go ALL NIGHT LONG. Ding, ding, ding! The gossip. The chaos. *squeals*

Since we returned from Oz, she has been out socialising every single day – and night. Camping. Beach. Music Festivals. Nightclubbing. Vomiting in gutters. All the usual teenage stuff. It’s exhausting trying to keep track of her. Anyway, school goes back on Monday (thank feck), so I’ve said it’s time to rein back her activities, get home at a reasonable hour and prepare for the new school year. 

Sooooo last night SWSNBN (I had to shorten it otherwise I’d be typing all fecking night) came home early at 8.30. Yah!! With her boyfriend! Sure, okay. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with the boyfriend visiting. My long-term boyfriend used to spend most of his nights on my parent’s sofa. He was never allowed to stay the night, but we got to hang out, watch videos on the old VHS player (how old am I anyway?) and have a pash when we thought my parents weren’t looking. Everyone was pretty happy with that arrangement.  

Well, it all went to shit as my BIL, and SWSNBN’s umca Vito was dead-set having a melt-down when he spotted SWSNBN rock up at ours on the back of boyfriend’s motorbike and subsequently TOOK THE BOYFRIEND UPSTAIRS!!! He immediately reported it to the BossMan (the oldest BIL) who scurried over to our apartment. 

Knock, knock.

“There is a guy in your apartment.”

“Yep.”

“The Turk is not here.”

“Well he doesn’t live here so nope he’s not here.”

“Would you like me to stay?”

“Hell to the no!”

Have we gone through a time warp? Is it 1948 here in Mersin? Come on, folks! I’m sitting on the fecking sofa across from them while they watch Riverdale. Nothing hard-core happening here!

SWSNBN was mortified. The BF didn’t seem too fussed. I’m sure he’s seen this kind of behaviour before. 

As Taylor Swift would say “You Need to Calm Down.”

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Nemesis 3.0

It’s been a while since I have mentioned my nemesis. Just to remind you my nemesis has reincarnated a few times over the years but has always taken the form of a rather large and loud cock-a-fecking-doodle-doing rooster.

There was the large red cock that terrorised My Hurley Dog so much that he refused to go into the yard for a good month. That red cock ended up as a fricassee. Then there was the big black cock (what am I writing?) who made it his personal mission to ensure I never slept more than two hours a night. Now I don’t know what happened to him but when he disappeared there was nothing left of him but some feathers and a beak. I’m guessing an alien abduction was the most likely cause of his demise. Then there was a cute little brown cock. He was a sweet-looking little guy but despite his tiny stature, he had a hell of a set of pipes on him! I swear you could hear him in the city. My BIL mangaled his ass and I must say he was delicious.

The owner of all of these reincarnated nemeses in their various forms, previously referred to as Crazy Eyes, had been rather quiet of late. I hadn’t seen her, or her mother or those five unruly boys (no doubt the reason for her crazy eyes), but last weekend she reappeared in a big way and worse still she brought with her yet another big black cock. She has gotten much smarter though. She knew we entered under the cover of darkness and Seal team 6’d her roosters so she has re-housed her new black cock and his six bitches onto the roof of her house. The fecking roof! Now, this new black-feathered evil dinosaur is even closer to my window.

My nemesis started this morning at 3:36AM. Precisely. He hopped to the end of his coop (read that as Crazy Eye’s roof), stared into my opened window and screamed at the top of his lungs “HEY, JANEY? ARE YOU AWAKE? JANEY? HUH? JANEY? WAKE UP! WAKE THE FECK UP!”. I swear to you this is no lie.

As he is now mere feet from my window I immediately woke, moaned, cried a little, hugged My Hurley Dog and, when this ugly ass cock-a-doodle-dummy kept this shit up for a straight forty-five minutes I gave up on sleep and went and watched the news.

So I now have a mission (if I choose to accept it) and that mission is to find myself a big-ass rifle and, if I haven’t accidentally shot off my own head in the interim, I am going to sniper the shit out of that bastard cock-a-doodle-don’t!

I be hella grumpy when I don’t sleep.

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How My Weekend Was Ruined

As we all know, I usually purchase overly elaborate birthday presents for Daughter. These presents typically involve a band and usually involves us flying to some distant location to see the said band. From 5SOS in London and Tallinn to Mayday Parade in Cologne and even following the final Warped! Tour across the US, nothing is too much for our precious prenses.

This year Daughter will be seventeen, and I had amazingly scored tickets to see The 1975 in Istanbul. ISTANBUL! No passport was necessary!! No need to change money!! And no chance of breaking the bank!

Now I have to be honest I was a little surprised to see that The 1975 were coming to Istanbul. They are arguably one of the biggest bands in the world right now however a lot of their music is dark and filled with references to drugs, sex and, well, you know, rock and roll (duh!). You’ve only got to look at their past albums to see just how close to the edge their lead singer, Matty Healy, was. But he clawed his way back and it is reflected in the new stuff – it’s confrontational, emotional and, at times, heartbreaking. I feel like Matty Healy is a man that really benefit from a cup of tea and a hug. Either way, the band always puts on a hella show (I saw them in Sydney in 2016 and was blown away) and both Daughter and I were excited to escape to Istanbul for a few nights.

On Thursday (three days before the concert date and one day before we were due to fly to Istanbul) I got an SMS advising that the concert had been “postponed”. Well anyone who has ever purchased a ticket to a gig in Turkey knows that “postponed” inevitably means “cancelled”. Within an hour of the SMS, all reference to the band had been removed from Biletix’s website and all social media regarding the gig had been deleted. The band’s manager tweeted and then deleted this statement:

For fecks sake!

This is the last time I attempt to see a concert in Turkey. I’ve been let down too many times. I guess it’s back to flying off to some other destination and giving my money to that country instead.

I knew it was too good to be true!

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