May 30, 2016

Science Fiction Classics: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke

Rama copy.jpg
Image from

I was quite excited to read Rendezvous with Rama, because it's one of those larger-than-life classics of science fiction, a book that pops up on every SF reading list  and a few of the regular ones. Rama is a first-contact novel; a mysterious cylindrical alien ship enters Earth's solar system, and a group of scientists investigate. The book was published in 1973 and it's hard science fiction, so I knew what I was getting into. (To be honest, this isn't my favourite kind of science fiction. I think "hard" is an apt name for the sub-genre.)

Hard science fiction isn't exactly known for its character development, and Rama proved no exception. It feels like the characters are only there so Clarke can show us how Rama works and sneak in fun science facts, like how a waterfall would work on this kind of world. Having said that, I found the book surprisingly engaging. I actually read it in a few days, not switching over to another book once. (I have this system, where I'm always reading one science fiction/fantasy classic, one literary classic, and one or two just-for-fun books at the same time. Then, if I feel one of the classics is heavy going, I can alternate between the books. I love it when a classic turns into a "fun" book.)

Rama doesn't really have that much of a plot; the focus is mainly on the world-building, showing us this amazing thing Clarke thought up. The sense of wonder, that "Wow" feeling, is my favourite thing about science fiction, and this book delivers. The part where they're entering Rama and going down the stairs in the dark? Goosebumps. There's also a feeling of mystery that stays with the reader until the end. Why was Rama built? Where are the Ramans? Who were they? Those questions kept me reading until the final sentence, which is really cool, by the way. 

I actually liked that we didn't get straight answers: that would have spoiled the mystery. On the flip side, I don't think Rama has that much re-reading potential for me. The books I read again and again tend to be about characters I love going through hell and surviving. Re-reading book is like wanting to spend time with an old friend. Mostly, the friend is a character you identify with, but the world is important, too. Sometimes you just want to visit Middle-Earth. I wonder, why do people re-read hard science fiction novels? Do they just really love the technical stuff, or is it the sense of wonder? 

Rama won the Hugo and Nebula awards when it came out, and I can see why. Clarke makes science fun, and you can almost feel his excitement for exploring his cylindrical world in the prose. It captures the imagination. There are three sequels, but I've heard they're pretty bad. Some people even say they ruin the first one, so I think I'll quit while I'm ahead. 

All in all, an interesting read. There are quite a few of Clarke's novels on my reading list, and I'm looking forwards to the next one. 

Science fiction classics read: 39/193.

May 27, 2016

DIY: Flamingo Croquet Mallet


Remember the flamingo croquet mallet from Alice in Wonderland? Want one of your own? Okay, here we go. You need a mallet, of course. I got this pretty pastel set online, because I thought the pink one would be easy to modify. 


Then you need pink, white, and black paint, the kind that sticks to wooden surfaces; some silver wire; pink silk ribbon; and pink feathers. 


Put the mallet together as instructed on the package. Then comes the fun part: painting! Here's what I ended up with, but you can do many variations, maybe a smiley-faced one, for example. If you're doing the whole set with different colours, it might be fun to vary the expressions a bit. This brand of paint (Hobby Line, acryl paint) worked really well: that's just one coat! (If you live in Turku, I got it from Presento.)


I tied the ribbon around the grip while the paint was still wet to help it stick to the mallet. There's four strands of ribbon, but you could use more if you want. I stuck the silver wire through the ribbon and then used it to attach the feathers. (I just placed the feather on top of the ribbon, so the wire is as close to the feathery bits as possible, wound the wire around the quill part and twisted the ends around each other.)


                     This was the best way I could think of to get it to dry without smudging the paint. 


And here's the finished product. I didn't paint the ball to look like a hedgehog, but that might be fun, too.

May 26, 2016

An Online Course on Character Arcs

K. M. Weiland of the Helping Writers Become Authors blog is doing an online course about mastering character arcs. Her posts on the subject and her book have helped me so much, and this looks amazing.

Here's a bit about the course from her blog:

This comprehensive course will teach you:
  • How to determine which arc—positive, negative, or flat—is right for your character
  • Why you should NEVER pit plot against character. Instead, learn how to blend story structure and character development
  • How to harmonize the relationship between character and theme—so you can stop churning out disjointed stories
  • How to recognize and avoid the worst pitfalls of writing novels with no character arcs
  • How to hack the secret to using overarching character arcs to create amazing trilogies and series
  • BONUS: How to find easy ways to start marketing your books
  • And much more!

For more info, check out her post here.

May 25, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Nonsense Words From Lewis Carroll

One day I was bored and amused myself by feeding Lewis Carroll's nonsense words from "Jabberwocky" into Etymology Online. Imagine my surprise when I actually got search results!

Jabberwocky, from 1872, the beast in the poem. Perhaps based on the word "jabber."

Frumious, adj., a blend of fuming and furious.

Galumph "to prance about in a self-satisfied manner," a blend of gallop and triumph.

Carroll (or Dodgson, whichever you prefer) also invented the term portmanteau word for his creations, meaning a word packed with two meanings.

Go on, read the poem. Can't you almost grasp the meanings of the words, even though they are nonsense? Just beautiful. I hope I can come up with something as great as these sometime. I did have a ball making up space pirate slang for a recent short story. Hmm . . . should I add a few nonsense words, just for laughs?


May 24, 2016

Loot Crate: Power

                                                                   Loot Crate time again!

                       Here's my favourite item this month: the infinity gauntlet oven mitt!


                     You can use it to make these. (Recipe from the Loot Crate magazine.)
                       This is from Dragonball Z. Not a franchise I follow. Kind of meh.


                                           The T-shirt is WOW-flavoured. Kind of cool.
                                                                   Cute robot pin.

                                                                Hulk smash!

May 23, 2016

A Steampunky Bachelorette Party


My friend is getting married in July, and I'm one of the bridesmaids, so of course my co-bridesmaid and I started planning the bachelorette party immediately. After some consideration, we decided to go with a steampunk theme. 


The program featured running away to the circus, brunch and a guided tour of the botanical gardens,  a steampunk photoshoot, a croquet tournament, and dinner and the sauna at my parents' summer house. 

For party favours we made "the language of flowers" cards (picture above) and another set with "Fan Flirtations" on the other side. 


                                    I got all the supplies for these at Presento. 


For croquet, we split up into two teams. Here are the prizes for the winners. The lollipops and moustache paper clips are from Tiger. 


The favour bags and paper plates etc. are from the juhlahumua webshop, which had awesome stuff. 

                                          Here are some props we used for the photoshoot:

For the food we did some themed snacks and drinks before the sauna, then some barbecue for dinner, and themed desserts. 

Here's some pictures of the food:



                                    Kraken rum + Curiosity Cola = The Curious Kraken. 




The inspiration for the gear cookies and chocolate cakes came from the Steampunk Tea Party cookbook.

                                         This is how I made the decorations for the cakes: 


The putty is for making silicone moulds. You mix the two colours, then press any object you want a mould of into the stuff , wait twenty minutes, remove the object, and then let the mould dry overnight. If you want to try making your own moulds, make sure the putty you're using is food safe. 



 I also got a chance to try my gear cookie cutter. For filled cookies, you can make the base without pressing on the round part of the cutter, and the top part with the cutout.  I ordered it from here



                                      I also made this mini top hat for the bride-to-be.


Here are some of the books we read from for the evening's entertainment. They're all from Salakirjat. From the top left, we have The Book of Kissing, Advice for Making Yourself Beautiful, Woman, and How to Conquer Her: The Memoirs of A Gentleman, and How to Become a Bride in Fourteen Days.

I had a great time, and I hope everybody else did, too.  


May 22, 2016

Attention, Finnish Writers of Gothic Fiction!

Stk just sent out an email that Vaskikirjat is looking for Gothic fiction for their upcoming anthology. As Gothic horror is right up my (dark and vampire-infested) alley, I'll definitely write something for this one.

 Want to join the fun? Here's the info:

Vaskikirjat hakee kirjoittajia uusien goottilaisten novellien antologiaan. Goottifiktio on erityisen hyvin edustettuna angloamerikkalaisessa kirjallisuudessa, mutta epäilemättä myös suomalaiset spefikirjoittajat hallitsevat synkän romantiikan fantasian, kauhun tai maagisen realismin sävyillä.
Antologiaan halutaan siis novelleja, jotka kunnioittavat gotiikan kirjallisia perinteitä. Tyypillisesti goottinovellien ympäristönä on synkkä linna, kartano tai muu eristäytynyt, syrjäinen paikka. Goottifiktiossa on lukuisia ikonisia hahmoja, kuten Dracula, Dorian Gray, Heathcliff, Frankensteinin hirviö, Jane Eyre, Oopperan kummitus, Tri Jekyll sivupersoonineen jne. Perinteisiin ei kuitenkaan tarvitse kahliutua, ja kirjoittajilta toivotaan monipuolisesti näkökulmia goottiteemaan. Ihanan lurjuksen, dekadentin byronilaisen sankarin ei tarvitse olla mies, ja tapahtumapaikkana voi yhtä hyvin olla Kainuun tai Pohjois-Karjalan korvet kuin Englannin nummet tai Yhdysvaltojen syvä etelä. Novelli voi sijoittua myös nykyaikaan ja vaikkapa synkkään urbaaniin miljööseen.
Novelleja voi lähettää Vaskikirjoille sähköpostitse osoitteeseen 31.10.2016 mennessä. Samasta osoitteesta voi myös tiedustella lisätietoja. Novellien pituudeksi toivotaan 10–20 liuskaa, mutta tässä voidaan joustaa. Novellien valinnan jälkeen niitä työstetään eteenpäin, ja kirja julkaistaan 2017 syksyllä. Julkaistavista novelleista maksetaan 50 euron palkkio. Kirjan toimittaa Katri Alatalo yhteistyössä Vaskikirjojen kanssa. 
Tätä kutsua saa mielellään jakaa eteenpäin. 

May 20, 2016

DIY: Chocolate Bouquet


My friend hosted her legendary Eurovision Song Contest party last weekend. I wanted to bring something a little different, something fun, so I decided to make a chocolate bouquet. The theme was "Red" so that's what I went with. 

First I lined a small cardboard box with silver wrapping paper, took a sheet of red silk paper and pushed the bottle inside so the paper crumpled up artistically. Champagne or sparkling wine works nicely with the chocolates.  


For the flowers, I cut squares out of cellophane, put the chocolate inside, and wrapped the whole thing around the blunt end of a bamboo skewer. You need a lot of scotch tape to make this work. Many tutorials online would have you shove the sharp end of the skewer into the chocolate, but I didn't want to to that. This approach is a bit more fiddly, but it preserves the integrity of the chocolate, if they don't get eaten right away.  


Then I cut petals out of the silk paper, and leaves. (this tutorial is pretty good.)  I used a mix of pink and red to add some contrast. There's three "layers" of flowers, and a layer of silk paper between each one. This helps the bouquet stay intact. The sharp ends of the skewers catch on the paper, so that was an unanticipated bonus to not sticking them in the chocolates. 


                                                        And here we go: chocolate bouquet!

May 18, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Mentor

I only had time for a short one this week, sorry.

I started reading The Odyssey a few days ago, and who do I come across in the first few pages? Mentor, Odysseus' trusted adviser, who is in charge of his household while he's off adventuring.

This has to be where the word "mentor" comes from.

One quick etymology online search later:

Mentor, "wise adviser," from The Odyssey. The word comes from Greek mentos, meaning "spirit, intent, purpose, passion," from root men- "to think."

Pretty cool.


May 16, 2016

Writerly Progress Report


So, anything new on the writing front? Not much. Finally finished that troublesome short story after I decided to just write an hour a day until it was done. The problem was that I knew the beginning and the ending, but the middle? No idea. Now I've got something, don't know if it's any good or not. Hopefully I'll get some feedback soon from my Critter pals.

I've got two new stories in English that I'm submitting, but no takers so far. The other one's too much of a romance to work as a sci-fi adventure, and not explicit enough to submit to romance anthologies. Romance is probably better as a side plot, not the main one, for the speculative fiction markets. I also submitted four Finnish pieces to the Nova competition, and I'm waiting to hear about one English story.

May is a super busy month for me this year: I've got plans for every weekend, and a deadline coming up for the Finnish hard science fiction story I'm trying to write. It's a double deadline, for my critique group and a day-long writing course I signed up for. The deadline for the anthology is in November, so I'll have plenty of time to work on the piece, but the critiques are vital in terms of making the story work. I don't usually write hard science fiction, so that makes critiques even more important. June 3rd is the deadline for Specklit, but I'm afraid I'll have to skip this quarter, unless somebody has a time machine I can borrow. (I'll try, though.)

My editing pile is also growing. There's one story that I wrote for a circus-themed anthology, but guess what, the deadline for that is also May 31st. So that one might not make it, unless I just submit it as is, which I don't want to do. Another two stories have been through Critters, but both need major rewrites, so I haven't gotten around to them yet.

Adding to that the critiques for Critters and my Finnish critique group, I've got my hands full.  The book projects are on the back burner for now. I'm actually wondering if I should stick to short stories until I feel my writing is up to snuff, and then get on with the books, because I don't want to waste my time on a longer project if I'm not ready. But on the other hand, a book is a very different animal from a short story or even a novella, so I'll probably need to do a few practice ones anyway before I can write something worth reading (if ever).

On top of that, the day job is demanding its share of attention, so much that I rarely have energy for writing in the evenings. Thank the gods summer vacation is coming up soon.

With all this going on, I might need to skip a few blog posts to make this work.

See you on the other side.

May 15, 2016

Nebula Award Winners Announced!

Check them out here.

Look, Uprooted won, and "Hungry daughters of Starving Mothers"! Loved both.

And Updraft won the Andre Norton award. That's been on my to-be-read list far too long. Maybe over the summer holidays?

Congrats to the winners!

May 14, 2016

Kickass Characters Are Only a Click Away!

This week's Terribleminds challenge is hilarious. You go to, get two characters, and write a scene of them interacting. I'm swamped this month, but those of you who aren't, go have fun!

I know I can't participate (deadlines, deadlines, deadlines), but I couldn't resist picking characters. I got:




Aww! I need to write this!

May 13, 2016

How To Make Your Macbook 100 % Cooler in Under Five Minutes?


                   Step one: go online and find a decal you like and order it. Etsy has multiple options.
                                         Step 2: apply on surface as directed.


                                                Step 3: kick back and admire your handiwork.


                  I love how the decal utilises the Apple logo so that the palm gauntlet lights up!

                                           Iron Man decal from

May 11, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: The Internet Edition

New words get invented all the time. Now everybody knows what "blog" and "twitter" refer to, but who came up with those words?

Let's start with blog. As most of you know, it's short for weblog. The word weblog is from 1998, invented by Jorn Barger, and it was shortened to blog by Peter Merholz.

The word twitter, as referring to birds, is from the late 14th century, but the microblogging service is only from 2006. Twitter was created by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass, and the original name was twttr, inspired by Flickr, but they changed it to Twitter. (A wise move, because how annoying is twttr?)

Zuckerberg's Facebook was originally Facemash, a website that placed two pictures side by side and allowed users to choose the hotter person (wtf?). Yeah, kind of glad I'm not on Facebook.

Internet, from 1984, is a shortened version of inter-network, like linked computer networks. The word inter-network was used in the seventies, even before they could actually link the computers together.


May 9, 2016

Happy Blogaversary!


Wow, I can't believe it's been a whole year already! Let's celebrate with these "The Colour Out of  Space" cupcakes. For Halloween I topped them with those lollipops that look like planets, but as I don't have any left, here's a cute robot instead.

And here's the colour part:


I used a vanilla cupcake recipe, flavoured with a little rum (for maximum sanity point loss, use absinthe),  and the frosting's a lime-flavoured buttercream. Goes well with Earl Grey. (Hot.)

I've really enjoyed blogging. Finally there's a place for all my strange projects and writerly ramblings.  Thanks for reading. More weirdness to come...

May 7, 2016

Finnish Weird and the Locus Awards

Are you in the mood for something strange this weekend? Check out Finnish Weird 3, a collection of Finnish speculative fiction. Featured writers include Johanna Sinisalo, Magdalena Hai, and many others. Best of all, you can download the ebook for free at The two previous instalments are available on the site, too.

Want more quality stories? The 2016 Locus awards finalists have been announced. You can read many of the short stories and novellas/novellettes for free online. If you haven't read "Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers" by  Alyssa Wong yet, go check it out, it's amazing. I also loved Aliette de Bodard's "Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight."Here's a link to the site.

Go forth and read!

May 6, 2016

DIY: Victorian Butterflies


Project time! This is the butterfly kit I got at the craft fair a while ago, and I wanted something new to put in my glass display dome, so I decided to give it a go. 


Making the butterflies wasn't too hard, just a bit fiddly. You need small, sharp scissors and a lot of patience. The result is neater if you bend the sticker and peel the antennae off the craft paper and just cut along the wings. (This was in the instructions, so of course I ignored it at first. Cause I'm a REBEL! So, big surprise, the instructions actually are there for a reason.) The craft paper is some sort of thin, plasticky material, so you can actually do this without tearing the sticker.


                     They turned out just like on they look on the box. Very pretty.


 That's the final product, improvised with bits and bobs I had lying around the house. I might go out and find a knobbly bit of wood and some moss to make it even prettier, but this will do for now.

Oh, and I found a webshop that sells the kits, if anyone wants to give it a go. They're just 4.60 euros, so pretty affordable. I used less than a fourth of the kit for this project, so you get lots of butterflies from one package. Remember to get silver wire, too, if you want to use it. At least my kit didn't have it included. (The site doesn't say if they ship outside of Finland, but it doesn't hurt to ask.)

May 4, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: The Four Seasons

Okay, the seasons.  Where do they get their names?

Let's start with spring. The name comes from springing time, as in "plants begin to rise." Speaking of springing things, the Old English spring also meant "carbuncle, pustule."

Summer comes from Old English sumor, from PIE root sem, "summer."

The word fall is similar to spring, as in it comes from "fall of the leaf." Autumn, from Old French automne, from Latin autumnus, is of unknown origin. One possibility is an Etruscan word that means "drying-up season."

Winter, from Old English winter, is from Proto-Germanic wintruz, "winter," probably literally "the wet season," from PIE root wed- "water, wet."

What about countries that have different kinds of seasons? What are they called? Hmm, must research this at some point. This would be gold for world-building, because making up names of seasons would be more fun if they had this kind of a logic to them.


May 2, 2016

Reading the Classics: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Houghton Lowell 1238.5 (A) - Wuthering Heights, 1847.jpg
Wuthering Heights was originally published under Brontë's nom de plume Ellis Bell.
Image from wikimedia commons

Wuthering Heights. Romance on the moors, love, loss, a broody leading man. That’s what I was expecting. Yeah, those of you who have read the book are probably snickering right now. For anyone who hasn't, let's get one thing straight right now: Wuthering Heights is not a love story. It's a study of human nature at its worst, with bent and twisted characters who only live to torment each other. It's a horrible, nasty book. I almost wish I hadn't read it. (Spoilers ahead, if you haven't read the book.)

I hated this book.

Really hated it. 

I hated the nasty characters, from sadistic Heathcliff to spoiled brat Catherine to whiny, milquetoast Linton. I hated the prose style, most of the time. I hated the structure, and the ridiculously similar names that made it almost impossible to follow the story. Okay, the description was vivid at times, especially with the scenes of cruelty, but because of the structure, a lot of the book was telling rather that showing.

I actually looked up why this story is considered a classic, and many sources cited that one reason is the structure of the book, which was revolutionary at the time, and the way that Emily Brontë turned reader expectations upside down. Instead of a love story, we are presented with a tale of obsession, jealousy, and cruelty. I don't know how anyone could think that Heathcliff is a romantic hero. He's an abusive, savage psycho that strangles puppies. Yuck. Some people seem to feel that Heathcliff and Catherine's love somehow redeems them. I didn't get that from the book. Even when Heathcliff dies, I don't see him being redeemed. He never regrets a single thing. 

And about that revolutionary structure: what is the point of it? What's the point of giving us a third-hand account? Mr Lockwood gets the story from Nelly, a servant that witnessed the whole thing. Is Brontë going for an unreliable narrator? Why? I felt that this distanced me from the text, and many plot events seemed to come out of nowhere and didn't feel that meaningful because of the structure.  Like with Catherine's (Catherine n:o 1) death. So suddenly she's pregnant? Did I miss the whole thing, or is it just a convenient way of killing the character off? And why kill one of the main characters in the middle of the book? It felt very rushed to me. Is it just so Brontë could show the violence corrupting the next generation, too? Is that why there are two Catherines and two Heathcliffs in the story? A parallel between the two?

Okay, end of rant. Now I'll try to take a step back and look at the book as a learning experience, writing-wise. 

I had a bad reaction to the book, but maybe that's okay. Maybe hate is a better reaction than "meh"?  I also wonder how much of my reaction was based on my expectations of what I thought the book would be like? If I had known the nature of the story beforehand, I might have been less disappointed. It's like reading a science fiction novel that turns out to be sword and sorcery: that's not what it said on the package. 

The characters were horrible and warped, and they did things that were really hard to read. Why did Brontë write those? Just to make the reader feel sick? Probably not. At the time women had next to no rights, and undoubtedly there was a great deal of domestic violence. Most women would have been quite helpless to escape situations like those in the book, with no property or prospects, and due to the lack of birth control, they probably had several children to deal with as well. And there is the issue of violence begetting violence. Would the characters have been so horrible if they had been treated better as children? 

The characters seem to fall in two camps: the savages of Wuthering Heights and the civilised weaklings of Thrushcross Grange. Maybe that's a part of what Brontë was getting at, savage nature agains civilisation? Lockwood, the narrator, sees the savagery and decides to leave. Is civilised society better, in the end?  Hareton, Catherine no:1's nephew, is left to grow up without anyone teaching him about civilised life after his mother dies in childbirth and his father becomes a angry drunk. He doesn't go to school, doesn't study. He's adrift. But at the end of the book, Catherine n:o 2 aka Cathy, daughter of the first Catherine and Edgar Linton, the lord of Thrushcross Grange, befriends him, and he starts improving himself.  It's implied that they're falling in love and will marry. In a way, he illustrates that it is possible to overcome a difficult, abusive childhood and turn out okay as a person. 

Should the characters have repented? Maybe some kind of character growth would have helped make them more likeable? But not everyone becomes a better person, even with age. For writers,  maybe a lesson to learn here is not to be afraid of really going the distance with your literary monsters?

I mentioned that I didn't love the structure and didn't really see the point of it here, but one shouldn't be afraid of experimenting with structure, either. 

The similar character names were quite annoying. Another reminder not to do that in my own writing. I also found Joseph's dialect very hard to understand, to the point where I skipped his lines just to avoid the frustration. Lesson learned: better to find other ways of showing an accent or dialect instead of writing it out phonetically. Or maybe just use a little bit, enough for colour.

Okay, I guess that's about it. I'm going to delete this monster from my kindle now. I'm glad I don't have a physical copy of the book, because I couldn't stand to have it festering in my bookcase. I don't think I could destroy a book, but I'd probably abandon it somewhere, like the airport or a coffee shop.  

Read at your own peril.

Classics read: 27/100