Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Apparently, I'm taking some time off blogging.  I didn't really plan on it -- just seem to need some down time ... But I'll be back before long.  Don't worry!

My very best wishes for a joyous and peaceful Holiday season! 

                                                 ¸.•´ ¸.•*¨)¸.•*¨)
                                                (¸.•´(¸.• (¸.•´¸¸.•¨¯`•.¸¸.♥

Love, Lexa

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG: Are You Bored?

Are you between projects?  Has the exciting new NaNo project you adored when you thought it up lost its new-idea shine?  Are you stuck and not sure what to do next?  Having a case of writer's block or just generally uninspired?

You can experiment with a new genre -- something you never tried before or something you've always wanted to do.  (Dianne Salerni decided to write in an unfamiliar genre and sold it to HarperCollins!) Try a different tense or a different POV.  Try writing for a different age group than you're used to.  Instead of tying yourself down to a novel, write a short story or a novella.

The same way your tastes and interests changed between childhood, teenage years and adulthood, you can't expect to write about the same things or in the same style forever.  You've experienced more.  You've learned.  You've grown. 

You're a new and improved you!

Don't be afraid to shake things up.  Put away what's safe and secure and challenge yourself!  Maybe you'll be the one to post awesome news about a huge success next!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group exists so the community of blogging writers can share and support each other.  I love the encouragement the members give, and I especially enjoy blog-hopping to cheerlead and commiserate.To find out more, visit: Insecure Writer's Support Group.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Egypt: Sand or Dust?

Contrary to popular belief, Egypt doesn't have "sand" dunes or any type of the granular sand we usually see on seashores.  Egypt's deserts are made of a very fine dirt, resembling dust.  Like the 1930s Dust Bowl in America when the dirt was so light it could be carried on the wind across hundreds of miles, Egypt's duststorms can reach across the Red Sea and into neighboring Middle Eastern nations.

Egyptian duststorm blowing east across the Red Sea into Saudi Arabia.

When there's an actual duststorm (which happens about once a year), the dust is so thick outside that you can barely breathe and visibility is cut to about thirty yards.  Everyone stays inside, but the dust sneaks under doors and coats the nearby floor within hours.

Cairo as a duststorm begins to move in.

Even when there isn't a duststorm, the constant wind blows the fine dust through every crack and crevice in an apartment.  It's a housekeeping nightmare. 
  • In one day, the dust isn't visible but if you run your finger on a floor or table, the beige dust will coat your fingertip.
  • After two days, you can see the dull coating on furniture and floors.
  • After five days, the dust is so thick you can write your name in it.
  • Within two weeks, the dust covers floors, counters, furniture, mirrors, everything so thickly it looks like an attic where no one's been, much less cleaned, in years. 
I'm not a great housekeeper to begin with, and the dust is a very determined foe, so it usually wins!  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Isis: The Popularity of Egyptian Gods

In contrast to most male-based religions, ancient Egyptians revered female gods as much as males.  From as early as 3000 years B.C., goddesses were equal to gods in power, and pharaonic queens, like Nefertiti and Cleopatra, ruled the nation.

Isis came to prominence about 2500 years B.C.  She represented all things feminine and was considered a completely benevolent being.  She championed women, mothers, children, the poor, and the weak.  She was described as Queen of Heaven, Mother of the Gods, Great Lady of Magic, Lady of Green Crops, Mistress of the House of Life, and even She Who Knows How To Make Right Use of the Heart.

The worship of Isis spread throughout Egypt into many cities and even over the seas to other Mediterranean countries and Europe.  In some Coptic Christian circles, she remains an important figure even today.

~ ~ ~

Why am I posting all this?  Because according to Blogger statistics, the search term that sends the highest number of people to my blog is “Isis.”  She’s listed on my page of Egyptian Gods.  Yes, I included the page because I know how popular Egyptian gods are, but I honestly never expected that page would be more popular than any of my posts, nor that Isis would be the one that everyone looks up.


Anyone have a theory as to why Isis is more popular than Horus, Anubis, or Ra?

I usually encourage my CPs to come up with original mythos instead of borrowing from old ones. But would you rather read a novel based on famous Egyptian gods or focusing on more imaginative but lesser-known Egyptian superstitions?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Counting Blessings

Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group

With the advent of Sandy and the terrible aftermath, any worries about rejections, missed NaNo goals, and other writerly insecurities pale in comparison.  I count my blessings.  I used to live in NYC, but moved to Egypt before 9/11 and Sandy. I feel lucky I did.

My heartfelt sympathies to the victims, those still struggling without power or water, and those whose homes were lost. May this be the last time NYC (and the East coast) face such challenges.  May each day be brighter than the last.  May you gain more in the future than you have lost.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I know I'm a little early with my Halloween wishes, but I love holidays so much (especially Halloween!) that I always wish they lasted more than just one day.  I mean, if people spend so much time anticipating something, isn't it too bad that after 24-hours it's over?  

What about birthdays?  Getting birthday wishes is so delightful -- it makes you smile, makes you feel special -- so don't you wish it went on a bit longer than one day? How about a birthweek?  That would give your friends, family, and co-workers a whole week to find time to give you cards, send texts and e-cards, buy gifts and celebrate with you!

Can you imagine a Christmas week?  Okay, we kinda get a week vacay between Christmas and New Year, but what about the day itself?  You know how excited you were as a kid to wake up Christmas morning and see loads of presents under the tree?  But after a few hours (or minutes!) all that's left are torn wrappings and empty boxes.  And you keep looking under the tree or feeling inside the stocking, wishing for the thrill of another few gifts to open.  Well, I think that should be spread out over a few days at least.

Plus, work vacations.  Shouldn't we get 4-5 days for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, etc.?  These would be paid vacations of course!

I think we need more time to celebrate holidays and birthdays.  Who's with me? 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Blog Hostage

Apparently, my blog went dark on Oct 10-11, and web-surfers were treated to a "This blog has been removed" message when they tried to access it.  When I opened Google, I received a message that due to "unusual activity" my acct had been suspended.  If I wanted my acct unlocked, I had to provide them with my phone number -- "or the blog gets it!"  Mwahahahaaaa!

In the past, I've provided them with a non-gmail acct to send any acct recovery info to -- but that was no longer enough for them.  I didn't see any reason for them to have my phone number, but Google-beast refused to let me have my blog or my gmail acct back until I gave them my phone number and waited for an SMS to confirm it.  So I that's what I did.  Now my blog and gmail are back.

I found nothing out of the ordinary in either of them when I checked.  No odd sent mails, no weird comments, no spammers, no trace of hackers.  So what was that all about?

The blog hostage thing really worked for them. What will they want next?  My SS#?  My credit card info?  My first born? 

Has this happened to anyone else?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hurghada Marina

About thirty years ago, the city of Hurghada on the Red Sea was just a fishing village with a small airstrip used by the air force,  a few military barracks, and roaming goat herds.  Then someone figured out that the tourists who flocked to the pyramids and the Valley of the Kings could be lured to the Red Sea if only there were some hotels and diving centers there.  Hurghada now boasts a population of 150,000 with hundreds of hotels, resorts, dive centers, shops, and restaurants.  One of the newest additions is the Marina. 

Along a quarter-mile street, a row of buildings with apartments above and shops, bars and restaurants below have gone up opposite a newly built marina with docking facilities for a hundred or so sailboats and powerboats.  

There are some nice yachts, too.  Considering that Egypt's rather poor, I often wonder where the yachts come from.  The smaller ones have port cities listed on their sterns from everywhere from Johannesburg to Florida.  Further out on a man-made dock are even bigger ones with 4-5 levels.  I wonder where they come from.  Saudi Arabia?  Kuwait?  They sure are beautiful, and the marina is a nice (if expensive) place to visit and spend the evening.

It's the first Wednesday in the month.  Time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group post!

Hmm... What am I insecure about this month?  Could it be because rejections are glaring at me from my Inbox?  Or that I can't decide on a new project?  Or that I worry that if I eat any more chocolate-comfort food I may explode? 

All of the above.  This publishing stuff is hard.  I need some support, guys.  Comment away!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Genre Favorites Blogfest

Today is Alex J. Cavanaugh's Genre Favorites Blogfest day.  Just list your favorite genre of Movie, Music, Books and add a "guilty pleasure."  That's so easy even I can do it.
Movie: Horror
Music: 80s pop
Books: Horror
Guilty pleasure: Serial killer and
"I Survived" type documentaries
(Yeah, I sound like one fun lovin' gal, don't I?)

* * *

Laura Barnes of Laura B. Writer gives blog critiques from a marketing perspective with the help of two graphic designers.  She has great insight and gives very helpful suggestions about how to make a blog more appealing to readers.  Soon, she'll be critiquing mine! :-)

For info on how to submit your blog for her critique, go here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Belly Dancers

Belly dancing is gorgeous, exciting and a lot harder than it looks.  The two main styles of belly dance were started in Egypt and Turkey.  Although they may look similar, both the music, rhythms and dance moves are different.  The Egyptians call it raqs sharqi, the Turks named it oriental dansi, while the French call it danse du ventre, which means dance of the stomach.  It's believed that belly dance was originally demonstrated by older women to teach younger ones about sex and to strengthen stomachs and hips for childbirth. Whereas folklore dancers wore tunics or robes with hip-scarves decorated with coins, the more glamourous style of costumes became popular in the 1940s when Egypt was ruled by a King and Western-style films that showed more of women's bodies became popular.

Belly dancers are a traditional entertainment for weddings and engagements, but they've become the most popular in night clubs that cater to foreigners.  Belly dancers work in every major hotel, cruise ship, and many restaurants in Egypt.  The dancers are usually backed by a 6-piece band  composed of a singer, keyboard player, accordion player, and 3 drummers, and it can also include a kaula (flute-like instrument) and an oud (cross between a guitar and a banjo).

Belly dancer performing with her band.
Belly dancers are both loved and reviled.  Egyptians love their own fast-paced music and the fun of a belly dance performance, but the dancers themselves are considered little better than strippers or prostitutes -- creatures no self-respecting man would marry (which isn't really all that different from the West).  It's a shame because it's a very beautiful art form, especially as performed by "Dina," one of the most famous Egyptian dancers in the video below.

I know a lot about belly dancers because I was one.  I danced for years in New York, New Jersey, Alexandria and Cairo.  I loved it!  :-D

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Insecure Writers

Image from
One of the saddest things for a writer to do is to "trunk" a novel.  After slaving over it and loving it to death, sometimes you just have to admit that you did your best and it's time to move on.

So don't think of it as "trunking" the novel.  Nope -- you're only cryogenically freezing it.  It's like a patient that's simply not curable with the technology available today.  But who knows?  In another few years there may be advancements.  You'll be a better writer with more ideas.  You'll have an agent willing to help fix what's wrong.  You'll have a publisher who loves you so much they want to publish anything you've ever written!  Yahoo!  (It could happen, right?)

So when it comes time to put one of your little darlings in a drawer, don't lose hope.  It's just going in suspended animation until the day when it can be resuscitated and saved.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group exists so the community of blogging writers can share and support each other.  I love the encouragement the members give, and I especially enjoy blog-hopping to cheerlead and commiserate.

To find out more, visit: Insecure Writer's Support Group

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Great Tomato Paste Debacle

I made pasta and tomato sauce for dinner today, and it reminded me of something that happened when I first got to Egypt...

I've never been the best cook, but in the US, I did okay.  I could even cook some French and Mexican things and had a wok to stir-fry Chinese food when I felt like it.  When I got married over here, I figured pasta was the quickest and easiest to whip out, so I went to a corner store to buy the makings.  There was plenty of macaroni -- but no tomato sauce.  They only had jars of tomato paste.  Lots and lots of 'em.  So ... um ... I bought the paste.  I could make sauce out of that, right? 

Not so much.  It was thick and awful and bitter -- even when I added sugar to it.  (Yeah, I was that desperate.)

I discovered that I was really spoiled.  My idea of tomato sauce was that it came in jars marked "mushroom flavored" or "with cheese."  I was actually surprised when my Egyptian husband suggested I make sauce the way his mom did -- with fresh tomatoes.  But how do you do that?  I've grown up in a culture where grocery shelves are stocked with so many ready-made, great tasting, quick-n-easy choices, you can think you're really a cook when you're not.

Image courtesy of Ambro /
Since you can only buy vegetables that are in season here, I now plan meals around what's available.  I don't buy jars of things with preservatives, chemicals, and additives in them.  Everything's fresh and natural.  Yeah, cooking from scratch is a little harder, but I'm sure I'm better off for it. 

And I've learned how to make a mean tomato sauce! :-)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Research vs Writer's Block

One of the most frustrating things for writers is a blank page and the lack of any "brilliant" ideas to fill it.  It's not that there aren't any glimmers of inspiration, but sometimes, the cup of "fresh, innovative and exciting ideas" does not runneth over.  There are so many YA books available it can feel like all the cool ideas have already been taken. 

There's good news and its name is Research!  There are weird and little known facts out there just begging to be made into novels.  Check out the Odd News reports on Yahoo.  Look at headlines and make up your own story to go with them.  You can even just Google things that interest you personally and all kinds of stuff comes up.  Let one link take you to another and another until you find something that sucks you in.  Just keep digging around until you find gold!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Goldilocks Syndrome

One of the hardest things for me to get used to in Egypt was the weather.  Yes, it's sunny 350 days a year.  Yes, there's an almost constant wind that makes it a dream-come-true for windsurfers.  Blah, blah, blah.  I want seasons, dang it!  I love the crisp air and new buds of spring and the colored leaves and nippy temperatures of fall.  Egypt only has two months of spring (April and May) and two of fall (October and November). 

This one's too hot!  There are four months of summer with temperatures ranging from 80-110 degrees.  Ouch!

This one's too cold!  From December to March, temperatures range from 30-60.  I'm sure that doesn't sound bad to people used to snow and ice -- but here's the difference.  There's no indoor heating in Egypt.  None.  Zip.  Nada.  You end up putting three blankets on the bed and wearing clothes to sleep.  Lots and lots of clothes.  Two pairs of socks, two sweat-pants, turtlenecks, and assorted sweaters.  I have an angora scarf I wrap around my head. 

The biggest problem is once the temperature dips in December, you never thaw out until March.  You spend days, nights, weeks, and months in jackets, sweaters and woolen footie-slippers.  I sometimes type in gloves.  My mouse hand frequently gets so cold I can't feel it.  Yikes!

Ah, well.  No place is perfect, right?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Be a Mule

Sometimes, it's not so easy to keep a positive attitude. Revisions wear you down, rejections disappoint, or real-life problems just drain your energy away. I have two ways of coping. 

1) Take a break. If your mind isn't really in the writing, don't write for a few days. Either relax and take in some TV, or do something that keeps your head in the game but isn't stressful, such as: blog, catch up on emails, post in forums and on blogs, or write critiques for people.

2) Be a mule. (This is the one I do most often.) Plow past the problems miring you, ignore the self-doubt, turn your nose up at the rejections and criticisms, and just be as stubborn and determined as a mule to reach your goals.

The Insecure Writer's Support Group exists so the community of blogging writers can share and support each other. I love the encouragement the members give, and I especially enjoy blog-hopping to cheerlead and commiserate.

To find out more, visit: Insecure Writer's Support Group

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Red Sea

Used with permission from Windgirls. com

I live on the Red Sea, one of the most beautiful places in the world. The water is a gorgeous turquoise and stays warm almost year-round. Unfortunately, I'm not a sun worshiper, and as far as water goes, I'm kind of a cat -- splashing around just isn't my thing. 

However, I have friends who go out on boats, swim, snorkel, scuba dive and even take trips in glass-walled submarines. They tell me tales of swimming with dolphins, seeing schools of clown fish, and seeing brilliant coral reefs.        

I may not be scuba diving anytime soon, but I sure like to look at pictures!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Salt Hog

"Lower Your Salt Intake" the health reports scream. It's bad for you. You'll retain water. You'll expand to Goodyear-blimp proportions! You'll die!

So over the years, I weaned myself off salt. Whew! Close one. 

Then I moved to Egypt. The first summer I sweat so much I got dizzy and fainted (like a lot of other tourists every year). People told me to take vitamins. I did, but soon passed out again. Doctors gave me potassium pills. As indescribable things were shooting out of both ends, I found out I was allergic to potassium. Then I got anemia. Finally doctors gave me little packets that they give to millions of nursing mothers here. You mix it with water and drink it. All that's in it is: glucose, tri-sodium citrate, and sodium chloride -- basically sugar and salt. In two days, I was fine.Yay salt!
Since then, I've become a total salt hog. I'd forgotten what I was missing until I could rain the little white crystals over everything. But I haven't fainted again or gotten anemia. Still, I'm ashamed to tell you how often my husband and I buy cartons of salt ... a lot ... I think I should get one of these big machines and just pour it into a spare bedroom.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Unwelcome Houseguest

A few days ago, I spotted a gecko (called a bors by Egyptians) in my apartment. This isn't an unusual occurrence, but the ones who normally slip through cracks under doors or loose screens are teeny-tiny. They're cute little guys who run up the walls, perch on the tops of my drapery rods and survey their new home. 

The lizards eat bugs and insects, like mosquitoes, so I've adopted a live-and-let-live policy -- or rather a If-you-kill-mosquitoes-you're-welcome-to-stay attitude.

But the new gecko is much bigger than the ones before. He's about eight inches long as opposed to the normal four-inch ones. To be honest, he's kinda creeping me out. 
It makes me wonder if those little tiny geckos can go from this:

To this:

Say it ain't so!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group

The Insecure Writer's Support Group exists so the community of blogging writers can share and support each other. I love the encouragement the members give, and I especially enjoy blog-hopping to cheerlead and commiserate.

To find out more, visit: Insecure Writer's Support Group

My secret to beating insecurity-- 
Love what you do. Love who you are. The rest will fall into place.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Montazah Palace, Alexandria Egypt

Much of my newest novel takes place in an abandoned Egyptian palace I've named High Lake Palace. The inspiration for the setting comes from a beautiful palace I saw when I lived in Alexandria, called Montazah Palace. It sits on the coast, surrounded by acres of gardens and with a view of the sea.

Alexandria is a place where Egyptians go to get away from the heat of Cairo in the summer. In my book, King Farouk (1920-1965) built High Lake Palace to have a more private vacation home in the desert with a lake filled by spring water. (There are lots of natural springs in Egypt.) Above is King Farouk having dinner at Montazah Palace.

If you ever visit Alexandria, go to the Montazah Gardens, which are open to the public, and enjoy the lovely view and scenery.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Swimming Fashion

 I'll never forget the first time I saw Egyptian women swimming at a public beach, covered with burkas to conform with a stricter version of Muslim dress. I was stunned. All that black fabric had to be hot under the sun, and I was worried about them drowning wearing all those clothes. Times have changed a little. The second picture is the new, younger Egyptian women's style of swimming while remaining modestly covered. (Burkas and modesty aren't mandated. Other Egyptian women wear what they please, including bikinis.)

Before you get too horrified at ridiculous convention that puts women in burkas while men can swim in trunks, let's take a little trip through historic women's fashion...

Everything Old is New Again

In China, small feet were considered beautiful, so women broke their foot-bones and bound them to half their size. They could barely walk. A certain singing diva seems to like the look of abnormal feet, and teens are jumping on board, wearing super-high platforms.

In France, stratospheric wigs were common for women in Marie Antoinette's time. The things smelled awful and were flea-infested. Now, it's hair extensions sewn to roots and half shaven heads and dye-jobs. And did you know that some chemical hair relaxers use levels of formaldehyde that put salon workers at a health risk?

Corsets were fashionable in many countries and many time periods. Now, there's a group of super-skinny celebrities and models who starve themselves to look "beautiful" instead of wearing corsets.

I'd like to blame all these dreadful things on men, but I'm starting to think it's really women who are doing it to themselves. Maybe it's time for women to stop being fashion slaves...
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