Jan 29, 2016

DIY: Jewelry From Dollhouse Furniture

There's plenty of DIY potential in dollhouse furniture if you like kitsch and know what to look for. All you need are earring hooks, adjustable ring bases, and a few pairs of jewelry-making pliers. And superglue. You should always have superglue in the house.

These were a cinch to make: I just attached the hooks to the loops on the tray.

Here are a few rings I got at a design market a few years ago. These would be easy to DIY, too. I think they're just glued on. These are a bit Lolita-y, but I like that. 

 I saw these frames at a craft store and just had to make them into earrings. I'd love to swap the pictures for something more sci-fi, but the darn things don't open. Well, that guy looks a bit like Lovecraft, right?

Jan 27, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Curious Clothing

I thought we'd explore some clothing terms this week.

Crinoline comes from French crinoline "hair cloth." Corset is from Old French corset, a diminutive of corps, "body."

Skirt is from Old Norse skyrta, which interestingly enough meant shirt or kirtle. Dress used to mean any kind clothing, and the women's garment thing is only from the 1630s.

Cravat is from French cravate "Croatian." Cravats came into fashion in 1650 in imitation of the linen scarves Croatian mercenaries wore in the French army in the Thirty Years War. Tie, on the other hand, is from Proto-Germanic taugo, from PIE root deuk- "to pull, to lead."

Frock coat, from Old French froc "a monk's habit." Another theory traces it to Latin floccus "flock of wool." Coat is from Old French cote "wooden mantle."

Tuxedo is a fun word, but the origins are boring: it comes from Tuxedo park in New York. Apparently there was a country club in the park, and that's where the tuxedo was first worn.

The "zoot" in zoot suit is apparently just a nonsense reduplication of "suit." Bah. No fun.

Pantaloons comes from Pantaloun, a silly old character in Italian comedy who wore tight trousers over his skinny legs. The name is of Greek origin and means "all-compassionate."Pants is a shortened form of this.

Bonus: Pret a porter, from French prêt à porter from Latin praestus "ready" + porter "to carry."


Jan 26, 2016

What You Think Winter in Finland Looks Like . . .


                                                                       . . . and the reality.


                                                        I want to move to California.

Jan 25, 2016

Dolls' Houses Through the Ages

The Aboa Vetus/Ars Nova museum in Turku has borrowed a collection of dolls' houses from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The exhibition is open until April 10th, and features dolls' houses dating from 1712 to 2001.

I liked the Victorian ones the best. The detail is amazing, and provides a fascinating glimpse into life in the 1800s.


                                     Creepy little boy at the window. *shudders*


The dolls' houses were mostly decorative, and the kids never got to play with them. A lot of the furniture is really fragile, so I kind of get why that is. But it's kind of a bummer if you think about it, a kid having something that cool in the house and not being allowed to touch it.


A fun exhibition, if you want to check it out. Admission to Aboa Vetus is included, and the cafe does an amazing brunch on the weekends.

Jan 22, 2016

The Need for Mead


Big plans this weekend: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. I've only played a few hours, but I'm loving it so far. The world is beautifully done, and it feels like the books. The first quest I did I got the bad guy hanged for a relatively minor offence, but that's how the Nilfgaardians roll: there's no being a goody-good guy here. Oh, and the snark, I love the snark. The controls are a bit fiddly, but that's life.

But witchering is thirsty work. After some googling I found the perfect drink:  mead!


These are proper mead, like the stuff the vikings used to drink. I got two kinds because I couldn't decide. The Inkeeper's Daughter is a sweeter one with less alcohol, and the Wandering Minstrel is stronger. Here's a few close-ups:



The Innkeeper's Daughter one tastes fresh and sweet, like honey wine, and the minstrel one is more like slightly sweet beer. I preferred the first one, but I don't like beer, so...

Okay, here we go. Hey, this is fun. After two glasses, I start missing a few counters, but that's no problem. Suck it, swamp demons!

Three glasses in, I'm feeling fine. The map is confusing, though. Where's that damn griffin? I need another glass. 

Found the griffin. 

*gets ass handed to self by griffin*

Okay, maybe I need some more experience? That well devil quest looks easy enough.

*slays devil in the well, but gets ripped apart by wolves on the way back to town*

Minor setback. You know what will fix that? More mead!

Hey, how about a monster nest? Cause those are easy.

*Gets nibbled to death by ghouls*

No fair!


*walks into a campfire*

*hubby gently suggests that maybe don't walk into campfires*

Heh, heh, heh. I'm on fire!

*whistles for Roach*

Hey, I'm riding and I'm on fire!!!!

*hubby rotfl*

Maybe it's time to quit for today? 

Waiter, There's a Robot in My Tea!


Who says making tea has to be boring? These robot tea infusers will make you smile every time you use them. (They do let a few leaves through, but so do most infusers.)


Jan 20, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Where do Emotions Come From?

Research suggests that emotions have been with us since the stone age. But what about emotions as concepts? Who invented anger? Let's explore some words for emotion.

Anger comes from Old Norse angr "distress, grief, sorrow, affliction."Sense of "rage, wrath" is from the 14th century. Such a sharp, aggressive-sounding word, isn't it? Old Norse also had words like angr-gapi "rash/foolish person" and angr-lyndi "sadness, low spirits." Wrath is from Old English wræððu "anger," from wrað "angry." Pique has its origins in the French piquer "to prick, to sting," so to exite to anger. Choler comes from Late Latin cholera "bile." 

Anxiety has its roots in Latin anxius "uneasy, troubled," from angere, anguere "choke, squeeze." Anguish is from the same root. Worry comes from the Old English wyrgan "to strangle."

The origins of sadness are quite interesting: the Old English sæd actually meant "sated, having had one's fill of food and drink." The meaning changed to "heavy, ponderous" ("full" in a mental sense), and then to "weary." The meaning "sad" is only from the 1300s. Before that you'd have used the Old English unrot, the opposite of rot "cheerful, glad."Sorrow comes from Old English sorg "grief, regret, trouble, pain, anxiety,"from Proto-Germanic sorg, perhaps from PIE swergh- "to worry, be sick."

Happiness, from happy, from hap "chance, fortune," so it meant that things turned out well. Apparently a lot of European words for happy originally meant lucky, excepth for the Welsh, where the word meant "wise." Figures, right? Old English had eadig "wealthy" and bliðe, which survives as blithe. Joy is from Old French joie, from Latin gaudia, from gaudere "rejoice."

Trust comes from the Old Norse traust "help, confidence," from Proto-Germanic treuwaz, from which we also get the word true.  

So, that's all for this week. See you next time!


Jan 18, 2016

Writing Tool: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotion

Image from Wikimedia commons

The image above is Robert Plutchick's Wheel of Emotion. And what does it have to do with writing? Well, I have trouble writing character emotion, and I want to work on that. One of my fellow Critters suggested I make an emotion diagram for a character. I did some googling, and this is what came up. 

The idea of Plutchik's wheel is to provide a visual representation of emotion. The outer petals are the weaker degrees of emotion, and the strongest versions go in the centre. Opposite emotions are facing each other, and the theory is that you can't feel these at the same time. Then you have more complex concepts like "awe" between the emotions you need to get to that state.  I'm a visual person, so this is very helpful to me. 

I can see using this model to track character emotion, and especially the degree of emotion, and to check that the character is going through these stages, like boredom-> disgust-> loathing.What if you want the character to end up in the opposite of this? Acceptance-> trust-> admiration. What about from fear to anger? I could see that being interesting as a character arc. 

And what if you want to show contempt? Do you need to show disgust and anger to get there? 

You can see the primary dyads (mixtures or two base emotions) here, but Plutchik also came up wit secondary dyads (joy+fear->guilt, for example), and tertiary dyads (joy+surprise->delight). Here's a handy poster with a collection of all of these, and polar opposites, too. It includes a chart of how emotion guides us in facing certain events, and you can see how emotion was probably an evolutionary advantage. 

Not your thing? Maybe you'll find these helpful: The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. They have also written a positive and negative trait thesaurus, which are good for ideas. These are, as the title says, thesauruses. You have an emotion, a definition, physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of acute or long term emotion, cues of suppressed emotion, and a writer's tip at the end. The positive and negative trait thesauruses have a trait and exploration of how the character came to have it, and also traits that conflict with it, so you can think about having another character that doesn't get along with the first one. So if you need help with building flawed characters, these might help. 

I'm also exploring deep point of view, but more on that later. 

Happy writing!

Jan 16, 2016

Saturday Night Fever

This week totally sucks. I caught the flu (consumption, plague, what have you) that's going around. Four days of a high fever later, I'm pretty fed up with Netflix and subsisting on rocky road ice-cream and cups of tea.  My head feels too foggy for writing and gaming, and even reading tires me out in a few hours. (Pro tip: don't try to read Ulysses with a 39,5 degree fever. It goes from incomprehensible to bad LSD trip.)

I've already watched all my feel-good movies (you know, Die Hard, Bladerunner, Labyrinth etc.), and I need a new distraction. Got any recs? Books are good, too.

Here's hoping I'll feel better by Monday...

Jan 15, 2016

The Iliad: The First War Book Ever?

Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades’ dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done. 
-The Iliad by Homer

Hooked yet? This is from the 1997 translation by Stanley Lombardo I just bought. I went back and forth between this and the Fitzgerald one. I also like the Pope translation, flowery as it is... It's hard to pick just one, isn't it?

Jan 13, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Gods of War

This week I thought we'd take a look at some gods of war. Let's start with the most familiar one:

Mars, from Latin Mars, from root mawort, origin unknown. The planet was also named by the Romans, probably because of its red colour. The Greeks called it Pyroeis, the fiery. The moons of Mars are also very fitting for a war god, Phobos and Deimos, fear and terror.

Mars' Greek counterpart was Ares, meaning injurer, destroyer. From are "bane, ruin." 

Kratos, of God of War fame, means "state."

In Norse mythology we have Thor, son of Odin. from Old Norse Þorr, "thunder." Any Avengers fans out there? You probably remember his legendary hammer Mjölnir "crusher."

Continuing with Norse mythology, we also have the valkyries, from Old Norse valkyrja, "chooser of the slain," from valr "those slain in battle" + kyrja "chooser." Valhalla has the same root, valr (or val) +höll "hall," from Proto-Indo European root kel- "to conceal."

The Celts had the goddess Andraste, which is thought to mean "invincible," and Morrigan, from Irish Mór Ríoghain "great queen."

The Hindu and Chinese gods/goddesses are fascinating as well, but there are too many of them to explore in one post. You can find a link to the list here if you want to explore further. 


Jan 11, 2016

Terribleminds Challenge: Random Flickr Photo Challenge

Yay, the Terribleminds flash fiction challenge is back! This week we took inspiration from a random photo on Flicr. This is the one I picked. Here we go...

Winter’s Child

The day was so cold that breathing felt like inhaling tiny needles, snot froze in your handkerchief, and smiling hurt your teeth. Any sensible person would have given up on running that day, but not me. No, I had decided to run 5k, and 5k I would run, even though I couldn’t feel my legs by the second lap around the park.  My iPod died after ten minutes, which didn’t improve my temper any, but if I had been blaring my music, I’d never have heard the child.
I didn’t recognize the noise at first. A high giggle sparkled over the snow like champagne, as if some snow-sprite had stepped out of a fairy story and decided to spy on me from the barren branches of the old oak trees. I stopped, trying to place the sound. There it was again.  I followed it to the soccer field, not yet frozen for ice-skating, and looked around. A large, green dumpster stood on my right, rust flaking off it in long strips. I spotted something red on the ground behind it. The snow creaked under my sneakers as my footsteps marred its pristine perfection.
Cautiously, I approached, creeped out against my better judgment. The park was deserted, the blue twilight fast fading to darkness. I suppressed a shudder and told myself to stop being silly. Someone might be in trouble, and who knew if anyone else would come this way before morning?  Time to act like an adult, for once.  I set my jaw and strode on with a confidence I didn’t feel. As I came closer, I saw a red blanket. On the blanket sat a child, its skin as white as the winter’s snow. It looked like a two-year-old, maybe younger, and it wore only a woolen scarf for a diaper. It giggled again.
“Hello? Anybody here?” I called and looked around, but there was no answer.
How could it have survived the cold? The outdoor thermometer had shown twenty-eight degrees below zero when I left, and my fingers were numb even with two pairs of gloves on. I’d need to get the child inside, maybe to a hospital. How long had it been there? Who would leave a child in the snow like this? Of all the irresponsible… I looked around, but no mother appeared.  I bit my lip, debating whether I should call the police or an ambulance, but decided it would take too long. My house was only five minutes away, and my first priority was getting the child somewhere warm.
“Hi there,” I said, dropping to my haunches. “Where’s your mommy, then?”
The toddler only smiled, its eyes glinting black under the streetlights. I wrapped it in the blanket and lifted it up. The child felt surprisingly heavy, and its skin was cold as marble.
“Upsy-daisy! You’re coming home with auntie Ada, and then we’ll call the nice ladies at social services, okay?”
The child looked at me, its dark eyes full of mischief, and grabbed at my collar. At least it wasn’t crying. I started jogging home.
After I had bundled the kid in an old sweater, way too large, of course, I called the emergency number. All the lines were busy. I scratched at a stain on the tabletop and jiggled my leg furiously up and down, trying to stay still. Damn it, damn it, damn it. I kept one eye on the child as I tried again. The kid pulled itself up against the sofa and toddled over to the coffee table. It burbled as it grabbed an orange from the bowl with wobbling hands. Relief dispersed the frantic, panicked energy gathering in my limbs. The kid was playing and not crying, so maybe it wouldn’t drop dead on me in the next few minutes. Redial. Still busy. Suddenly the child took on a fierce look of concentration like only little children can. Frost spread from its fingers, and, slowly, the orange froze. It grew too heavy for the child to hold and fell to the floor with a thump, ice crystals scattering all over. I dropped the phone.
“What . . . ”
The child took a few steps, wobbled, and fell. I caught its arms by reflex. It clambered up, using my knee as a support. My legs began to freeze, and I couldn’t move. The child climbed into my lap and stood up, placing both hands on my shoulders. Frostbite crawled over my chest and froze the air in my lungs. I couldn’t feel my hands anymore.  The child pressed its cold nose to mine and giggled, revealing teeth sharp as icicles. My heart gave a last, sluggish beat as my eyes froze through. The world turned into cool shades of ice and frost.
I stood, my limbs strong and smooth and cold, and held the child close. It felt warm against my skin.

Together we walked into the fierce midwinter’s night. 

As The World Falls Down

The Goblin King is dead.

I didn't know legends could die.

David Bowie passed today, but his work lives on and continues to inspire a new generation of artists, writers, and musicians. Rest in peace, Sir, and thank you for making the world a more magical place.

There's such a sad love
Deep in your eyes, a kind of pale jewel
Open and closed within your eyes
I'll place the sky within your eyes

There's such a fooled heart
Beating so fast in search of new dreams
A love that will last within your heart
I'll place the moon within your heart

As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense for you
Every thrill has gone
Wasn't too much fun at all
But I'll be there for you
As the world falls down

(As the world)
Falling down
Falling in love

I'll paint you mornings of gold
I'll spin you Valentine evenings
Though we're strangers till now
We're choosing the path between the stars
I'll leave my love between the stars

As the pain sweeps through
Makes no sense for you
Every thrill has gone
Wasn't too much fun at all
But I'll be there for you
As the world falls down

(As the world)
Falling down

As the world falls down
Falling, falling, falling
Falling in love
As the world falls down

Falling, falling, falling
Falling in love
As the world falls down

Falling, falling, falling

Makes no sense at all
Makes no sense to fall
As the world falls down

Falling, falling
Falling in love
As the world falls down

Falling, falling
Falling in love
Falling in love

Falling in love
Falling in love
Falling in love

-- David Bowie/ The Labyrinth Soundtrack

Science Fiction Classics: The Forever War Vs. The Starship Troopers

                       Starship Troopers (novel).jpgTheForeverWar(1stEd).jpg
                                                  Images from Wikipedia.com.

Joe Haldeman's The Forever War and Heinlein's The Starship Troopers are both classics of military science fiction, but very different from each other, almost opposites. It's a good pair to compare and contrast.

I enjoyed both books. I've read so many novels I had to force myself to finish recently that I had almost forgotten what it's like to get really caught up in a book. Both of these have a captivating plot, interesting characters, and plenty of action, and I read them in one go. Especially The Forever War has the kind of immersion you long for, the kind that lets the world fall away and lets you jump into someone else's skin.

(Spoilers from here on, if you haven't read the books.)

I finished The Forever War first, and it might have affected the way I read Starship Troopers. The Forever War draws on the author's own experiences of the Vietnam war, and it explores the horrors of war, the need for warfare, and the problems of a soldier returning to civilian life. But there's also the science fiction themes of how the distances and the time dilation effect affect the main character as the world around him changes. The war in the book spans hundreds of years, and in the end the whole thing proves futile, so I felt the book had an anti-war message. There's also some not-so-subtle digs at army procedure, like the proper way to respond when someone says "attention." (Fuck you, sir!)

The main character, William Mandella, is a reluctant conscript, the son of hippie parents, and even his last name is a misspelling of "mandala." We follow his journey from recruit to soldier to a brief stint as a civilian. This book doesn't pull any punches; war is hell and people die. You feel every loss.

Haldeman's world-building is inspired. I especially enjoyed the soldiers'  training on Charon. I don't know if the science was accurate (probably, because Haldeman has a degree in astronomy and physics), but it felt real and I believed it, and that's all you need. The Taurans were well realized, too. Properly alien.

So I had just finished this amazing anti-war book, and then picked up The Starship Troopers. Oh boy, does Heinlein open with action. The first scene is like an action movie sequence with a lot of blowing things up. The hero, Juan Rico, volunteers, and any volunteer can quit the armed forces any time he/she wants. In Heinlein's world, you can only become a full-fledged citizen by serving in the military. Then you get the right to vote when you finish.

 Much like in The Forever War, we follow the main character's way from recruit to soldier to officer, but here the message is patriotism, struggling to overcome obstacles, and the responsibility that comes with power. There are long scenes exploring military science and theory and the necessity of having a strong military. Evolution is a theme, as in survival of the fittest, eat or be eaten. So even if mankind could outgrow war, some outer threat (like the inhuman Bugs in the book) would destroy us if we couldn't defend ourselves. As a Finn, I do get where Heinlein is coming from. (Just look up The Winter War.)

I did like the writing and the world-building here also. This is a very exciting book, almost unputdownable, but some bits were a bit hard to read, like the scene at school advocating corporal punishment for children to keep them from becoming juvenile delinquents. I'd also have liked to see more women. (Okay, there were a few, but mostly they were portrayed as the reason the soldiers fight. Why not show Carmen kicking ass, too?) The book was published in 1959, so I'll cut it some slack.

All in all, a lot of food for thought, and The Forever War is going on my "favourite books of all time" list. I actually forgot to read as a writer, because I was busy enjoying myself. Hmm... Maybe on the next read-through?

I'll certainly be reading more from Haldeman and Heinlein in the future.

Jan 8, 2016

My Very Own Dragon!


If you've been following the blog for a while, you know I have a weakness for dragons. It might have started with Anne McCaffrey's Pern books. Do you remember Menolly from Dragonsong, and her fire lizards? Ever since I read that as a kid I've dreamed of having one of my own. When I saw this dragon draper necklace from Art by Aelia I ordered it immediately.


And look how cute! The whole thing's hand-painted. (Mine's a version of the galaxy dragon on the site if you want one of your own, and Aelia does custom orders, so you can ask for anything you want. A steampunk dragon would be super cool, for example.)


The necklace is surprisingly sturdy and feels like it'll stay on even if you move about.

I haven't come up with a name yet.  Any suggestions?

Jan 6, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: What's Gender Got to Do With It?

After reading The Left Hand of Darkness, I got to thinking about words and gender in the different languages I know.

In Finnish we don't have a gender-based grammatical system for nouns. Swedish nouns have gender, but it's not sex-based (en/ett), while English assigns gender on semantic grounds only (a/an). In French, nouns have gender and the division is sex-based (une/la is the feminine article, un/le the male). Then we have German, which not only has a gender-based system for nouns, but also divides them into three sexes (die is feminine, der masculine, and das neuter).

If we look more closely at the languages that have gendered and sex-based grammatical systems, what does it tell us, if anything?

Most words that refer to gender are of that gender, like "mother" in French is la mère and in German die Mutter, the same with masculine equivalents of le père/der Vater.  But even this isn't foolproof: the German das Mädchen meaning girl is of the neuter gender (this is probably because of the diminutive suffix -chen at the end). Some words can have to do with mythology, like der Mond the moon, die Sonne the sun. The goddess Sunna/Sól is the personification of the sun, while Máni is the moon god (derives from Norse mythology, you can read more here).

Then we have the words that feel a bit judgemental. Le cerveau, "the brain," is masculine, as is le livre, "book." But then we have la chemise, meaning a men's shirt. La bête, "beast," is feminine. The fact that many French words for occupations only have a masculine is a bit grating: le médecine, "doctor," for example. Does it affect how women choose their careers? It certainly contributes to stereotypes. I'm curious, any French readers here? When you hear the word "doctor," do you automatically picture a man, or are word genders invisible to you? Is this something only a person studying a foreign language notices?

 Personal pronouns are another thing that gender affects in some languages. In Finnish, we only have one pronoun for he/she, hän. English differentiates the third person singular as he/she, as does German (er/sie)  and Swedish (han/hon), but they (sie/de) is common for both, while in French we have il/elle and the third person plural ils/elles. In French, the masculine always triumphs: if you have ninety-nine women and one man, you would still call them by the masculine plural Ils.

In Finnish, the lack of gendered pronouns can sometimes lead to strange situations. You might assume the gender of the narrator in a book wrong, for example. I tend to assume my own gender if I'm not sure. I don't know if this has anything to do with my native language. It feels jarring to realise you're wrong. Perhaps this speaks about the importance of gender in society and social interaction. I can't imagine how hard it is for transgender people to get called by the wrong pronouns. It's also pretty awkward for the other person to decide which pronoun to pick. (Yeah, you should probably just ask which pronoun they prefer, but it feels like a very personal question, especially if you've just met someone.) It's like the language forces you to think about gender all the time. There have been attempts to find a third pronoun for the English language that wouldn't assume gender, like "xie," but I haven't seen it used that much. Hey, you can borrow the Finnish hän if you like. You'd get a new letter in the deal, too. If your browser doesn't show the letter ä, hän looks like han with an umlaut (two dots) over the a.

Fascinating stuff. If you want to know more, this article looked interesting.  


Jan 4, 2016

Science Fiction Classics: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin

Image from wikipedia

I've been catching up on science fiction and fantasy classics I somehow missed along the years and recently finished Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. I was looking forward to the book, because I've read a lot of Le Guin's fantasy novels and loved them (the Earthsea series is one of my all-time favourites), but for some reason I had a hard time with this one.

(Oh, and there will be spoilers, so read on at your own risk.)

Don't get me wrong: this is a great novel. The world-building is inspired, the characters well crafted, and the prose beautiful.  I think the problem for me was the very slow pace at the start. The book explores the efforts of Genly Ai, a Terran man and emissary, to convince the people of Gethen to join the Ekumen, a kind of coalition of planets. The other POV character, Estraven, is a Gethenian who gets exiled for helping Genly. The first half of the novel felt like being a tourist on Gethen (Winter), and I kept reading for the world-building, but the book didn't really grab me until the part where Genly gets captured and locked up in a labor camp, Estraven saves him, and they cross the glacier to safety. The political stuff and the folk-tale type interludes just didn't interest me enough, I guess.

Reading as a writer, this was worth it for the world-building alone. I loved details like how the people on Gethen have little ice picks at the dinner table to break the ice that forms on the water glasses between drinks, and how the houses are built with snow in mind with doors up high. I also have to mention the ansible, the device Genly uses to communicate instantaneous with the other planets in the Ekumen. This is of course a familiar technology in many science fiction books, but Le Guin invented it. The untranslatable concept of shiftgrethor (it has to do with saving face and giving advice and Gethenian social interaction) was interesting, too. The neologisms were quite plentiful, and they made the book heavy going at times, but I've read enough fantasy that it they didn't bother me that much.

 If you know anything about the book, you probably know that it explores sexuality and its effect on society. The people of winter are in a neuter phase most of the time, and only become male or female while in kemmer, when some of them are triggered to become male and some female (and the same individual can become male at one time and female at another), but mostly sexual differences don't play a role in society or affect decision-making. I found the concept interesting, and the speculation on how something like this would affect the society was fascinating. For example, Gethen hadn't had any major wars. Coincidence?

Le Guin is also very good at getting into her characters' heads. As this is something I struggle with at times, especially in third person POV, the book was a good way to study how a pro does it.

The prose is also worth studying. It's effortless, with unique metaphors and a great flow to it. Never overwhelming the narrative, it's the kind of writing that makes you forget you're reading a story and leaves you free to live it.

Absolutely a novel worth reading.

So, what do you think?  In my opinion, the best books make the reader think, but let her to enjoy the story, too. That's a tough balancing act. Have you read The Left Hand of Darkness? Did you find it entertaining, or more of an intellectual exercise?

Jan 1, 2016

Writing Resolutions for the New Year


It's that time of year again when people swear to drink less, quit smoking, lose weight, exercise regularly, and to become all-around better people. Most resolutions get tossed to the wayside well before the end of February, so why even bother?

Maybe the trick is picking the right resolutions. Do you have a dream, something you've been putting off? How about making practical, realistic resolutions that get you closer to realising it? At least you won't have to regret not trying.

Here's my list for 2016. We'll see how long I can keep it up.

1. Write every day, even if it's only for thirty minutes.

2. Make a schedule to manage Critters/Finnish critique group critiques, French class, and blogging and stick to it.

3. Read at least two new writing books this year.

4. Read at least two new books per month.

5. Submit at least one story to the Nova and Portti writing competitions.

6. Finish revising the stories I wrote in 2015 and send them out.

7. Write at least five new short stories in English and five in Finnish.

8. Read all the books in my Kindle before buying new ones.

9. Write at least 20k words of my unfinished sci-fi novel.

10. Read at least five non-fiction books for inspiration.

Bonus one: take the muse out for an inspiration date at least once a month.

Okay. I think that's plenty. What about you? Any writing resolutions?