German Phrases That Don't Matter

For fellow language nerds, some idioms to express that a choice doesn't matter, or that one is indifferent.

  • Zwischen Szylla und Charybdis
  • Between Scylla and Charybdis
  • Die Wahl zwischen Pest und Cholera haben
  • Having the choice between the plague and cholera
  • Das ist mir Jacke wie Hose.
  • It's to me jacket like trousers.
  • ETA: I think this corresponds best with "six of one, half a dozen of the other".
  • Gehupft wie gesprungen
  • Skipped like jumped
  • Note that usually that should be "gehüpft", but in this expression it isn't.
  • Das ist mir egal.
  • It's all the same to me.
  • Das ist mir latte.
  • It's all the same to me.
  • "Latte" (the noun) means "lath". How and why it got turned into an adjective for this expression, I don't know. Maybe because laths are supposed to be the same size all around, and even?
  • Alles Banane.
  • Everything banana.
  • There are choices, but they are pretend choices because the result is all the same?

Another random note: "Zwischen Hammer und Amboss" (between hammer and anvil) surprisingly is not the counterpart of "between a rock and a hard place", but means something like "coming under attack from both sides".

One more English expression for a choice with only bad options is "between the devil and the deep blue sea".

Can you share some idioms to the theme from another language, or that I did not think of?

Blog tags: Language

The Burning House Question asks the question "If your house was burning, what would you take with you?" and illustrates people's answers with photos.

When I first checked it out, my reaction was to wonder how many of those people would get trapped in their burning house while they collected their favourite clothes and memorabilia. In my defense, if there were a fire in the house I live in, and I were in my room when I noticed it, chances are the fire would be between me and the door, so I should better hurry.

What I would grab, assuming I don't panic:

  • My handbag (usually includes my driver's license and car papers, purse with money, bank account card, and cash, and my mobile phone)
  • External harddrive (backups of writing and documents, photos, scanned drawings/paintings, and websites.
  • Keys
  • Some or other jacket hanging on my door, depending on season.

Those are things that are usually out in the open and easily grab-able.

In a situation where I had a bit more time, I'd unplug my laptop and take that with me. (I would NOT want to take the time for unplugging it from the network, power and any periphery that might at the moment be connected if a fire might cut me off from leaving the house.)
The cardboard box with photos, or at least grab the "historical" stuff from up top (a few photos from when my mother was a kid or earlier; her grandfather's military passport from the First World War)
My camera?

If I had a bit more time to consider, and still could carry something (big ifs), I might get the original painting by Ursula Vernon with its frame, and/or the folder with my relatively big drawings/paintings.
Though I guess the file folders with the bank and insurance papers might be more sensible? I'm not sure. Those seem more replacable.

Blog tags: Thoughts

NaNoWriMo is nearly upon us

...and a lot of people are going to give writing a novel draft in November a shot.

Last year went pretty well for me, with a story I had sort-of plotted out; my ideas are rather more vague this year.

What I remember from last year was that a major stumbling stone were names. The story took place in a constructed world, and I didn't want to use too many real world names for characters... I think that never-touched-again manuscript is still full of people called [insert name here]. Which does bolster the word count a bit, but, well, it was a bit time lost for every character who showed up that made me think, "OK, so what do I call them?" before I gave up.

Therefore this year I'll make up a list of names that sound right for the location, so I can just pick one when a new supporting character shows up.

For names from the real world, I may turn random name generator at A quick test run chosing only German names makes it look like the generator honours the category choice for last names, too. I wouldn't rely on the site alone for actual real world settings, since there's no telling when a given name was actually used, but it's good enough for my science-fantasy. It should help getting some names that are not from English or German in there.

Other things that might be good to determine in advance:

  • What's a polite way to adress someone?
  • What ranks are there in the police/security force?

I'm sure I'll think of more, once November starts.

I'm Anke at the NaNo website, in case anybody would like to add me as a writing buddy.

What are your last minute preparations?

Blog tags: Resources Writing
tagged Music

Something to be said for contrast

Incongruous things catch my interest.

You know, things like taking the most badass character of a fandom to turn into a cute little chibi version.

Or Ursula Vernon's Happy Cthulhu.

Or the quick and rather upbeat rendition of The Minstrel Boy by Danny Quinn. (I'd been wanting to find out what tune went with it "officially". I first encountered the poem on a play-by-post RPG, sung by a character enthusiastically hacking foes apart at the time, and in my head it fell to the tune of "Pop Goes The Weasel". Seems topical, too.)

So, yeah, contrast is interesting. Just a thought, brought to you by my watching music videos, including some involving the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in white tie, the Scorpions mostly in open shirts, and a conductor in what looks to me like a black leather tailcoat.

(Rock You Like A Hurricane /Hurricane 2000 is maybe even more impressive, if you like your rock less gentle.)

Blog tags: Thoughts

Flash fiction - continuity or not?

Seeing Aldersprig write flash fiction with recurring characters/in firm settings (and seeing Ysabetwordsmith do something similar with poems) made me wonder about that.

As a reader, I like getting more stories about characters I like.

As a writer, I find working on one story in a series is a lot more difficult than writing a flash around one idea, because it only has to make sense within itself, rather than as part of a continuity.

In addition I wonder about the definition of flash fiction. As I understand it, a piece of flash is supposed to stand on its own. When does the label not fit anymore, and instead you have one chapter of a longer story that makes no sense on its own? Getting a short bit of fiction that is self-contained is the point of it, and using pre-existing characters and settings, I worry about not putting enough detail into the story for the "unfamiliar" reader, since with the things I know already about them, it makes sense with less.

Most of my flash fiction is absolutely one-off, built around an idea, with throwaway characters. That doesn't mean those stories don't require any context: Most of them draw on stereotypes or archetypes, genre conventions, and other things I assume people who read fantasy or science fiction to be familiar with. Then there's the fact that it's fanfiction in which drabbles (that is, flash fiction with exactly 100 words) first became popular, and while I'm not really a fanfiction writer, I imagine when you can put a fully developed character already known to your audience into your story just by naming them, the dynamic of writing is a bit different.

What do you think? What do you like to read, or write?

Blog tags: Thoughts

Free Small Art

Want me to draw one of your characters, or anything else?

You can request it here, and I'll draw a postcard-sized sketch. This project is crowdfunded, so I accept tips via paypal, and if you tip, or even if you don't but other people's tips crack a certain threshold, you may get an inked or coloured image instead.

More samples: postcard-sized art, ACEOs

What I will draw
I'm best with humanoids and portraits, but I also draw furries and animals (or plants, abstracts, whatever). Full figures may be semi-chibified, like so.
Topics/requests for a character doing something are welcome in general, as long as it's not too complicated.
One character or subject per request - props or a small pet are OK, but no couples this time.

I'm not comfortable drawing sexual themes or gore, and may default to a vanilla portrait if you ask for another theme I find I'm not comfortable with.

I'll default to drawing on A6 cards (the size is close enough to 4x6 inches that in my experience it works in bought mats for 4x6 photos). If you'd like a smaller size (e.g. 4x4 square or ACEO), please say so.
For colouring I use markers, possibly combined with coloured pencils. "Coloured" may mean greyscale if the character is all grey (or if you tell me you'd prefer that).

I'll upload scans 450 pixels on the longer side, "delivery" will be via reply to the comment in which you made your request. I'll also make a post with all images when they are finished (aiming to do them all within a month)
You may post that version on your blog or the like, if you credit me and link back to
You may also crop and shrink the image to use as an icon. In places like LJ or Dreamwith that provide a space to do so, please credit me as the artist.

One request per person. One character/subject per request - a small pet, prop or similar is OK. I'll accept at least 30 people.
If you'd like to request something, leave the following information in a comment:

Whom or what would you like me to draw? (Please note that with characters, it's really helpful if you don't only give an image reference and/or physical description, but also mention something about the personality, to avaid getting an image of a stern/serious character grinning like a loon, or the like.)

Any style or format preferences?

If you tipped, or are planning to tip, what bonus would you like? (dimensions of additional file, different request for second image)

If you found this through somebody else spreading the link, who was it?

Tip- and Link incentives

Progress (updated by hand, so it will lag)

If you tip, please 1) Leave a note on the payment page that lets me identify your request and 2) do not tip less than $1 - Paypal keeps too much of those small payments.

If you spread the link and someone mentions they found this page through you, I'll count that as a $2 tip from you, but not towards the total.


  • Anybody who tipped at all will get their image inked, and can request one additional file of a different size (eg original 300 dpi scan, or a cropped and shrunk icon)
  • Anybody who tipped at least $12 or €8 will get their image coloured, and I'll send the original in the mail.
  • Everybody else will get a pencil sketch.

Total tips over 40 euros

  • Anybody who tipped at all will get their image coloured.
  • Anybody who tipped at least $9 or €6 will additionally get the original mailed.

Total tips over 80 euros

  • Anybody who tipped at all can request two additional files of different sizes (eg both original 300 dpi scan and a cropped and shrunk icon)
  • Anybody who tipped at least $6 or €4 will get the original mailed.
  • Everybody else will get their image inked.

Total tips over 120 euros

  • Anybody who tipped at least $12 or €8 will get a second sketch. (Level of finish is up to me. I may go experimental with the style.)
  • Anybody who tipped at least $3 or €2 will get the original mailed.
  • All images will be coloured.

Tips received will go towards stocking up on marker refill ink and other art supplies.

tagged Dragon Hunters

Schedule change

I'd been planning to move Dragon Hunters updates to Tuesday, anyway, since it would mean ficiton does not show up back-to-back, assuming I manage getting up to 4 posts a week again.

I'll go for an art update this week, between the serial and the flash fiction.

tagged Contemporary Fantasy Music

Sonant by A. Sparrow

Sonant is a modern fantasy novel self-published by A. Sparrow, available for free at Smashwords. I needed a bit to get into it, but after a while it became a pageturner I couldn't put down (despite editing flaws). The general atmosphere reminded me a bit of Stephen King books, but a bit less dark.

The official blurb:

Something strange lurks in a bell jar in the music room of wealthy eccentric, Aaron Levine, feeding on the sounds his mercenaries create. Bassist Aerie Walker, lured back into performance after a failed odyssey in professional jazz, finds herself involved with this band of musical alchemists as a Deliverance Ministry attempts to exorcize the demons perceived to dwell in Aaron's abode.

The viewpoint characters are Aerie, above-mentioned bassist, who is struggling with depression and finding a paying job; John, stay-at-home stepdad and neighbour of that bands usual "stage", who has some trouble understanding why his wife considers bad music "devil's work"; and Donnie, the priest that ends up, at John's wife's insistence, trying to get rid of the demons that must be behind that unholy noise from the house across the street.

The book keeps the question which side is right - has Aerie been drawn into Bad Things, or is the religious faction hysteric? - open for a long time, and in my opinion even at the resolution doesn't reduce either to cardboard-cutouts. Things that I found really fun to read were the pragmatic attitudes of most of the "exorcists" to their holy-magical job, and the interaction between Aerie and her bandmates; generally there's a neat cast of secondary characters with personality in this book.

I had the feeling it let up a bit towards the end; mostly a romantic subplot I'm not sure was supposed to be absurd and funny, or taken seriously. Anyway, romance doesn't take up much of the book.

Suspense and mystery, mundane problems, and the occasional scene of comic relief made for a very nice mix.

On the not-so-good front: The book should have had someone else proofreading. I noticed missing quotation marks, comma mistakes, dropped words, or the kind of mistakes you get when you have two possible versions of a sentence in your mind and write down a combination of both. However, this wasn't so common and bad that the "I want to know what happens next!" factor didn't pull me through.
Formatting was neat for the most part; one page or so towards the end had a slightly bigger fontsize, and there was an empty page before each chapter heading.

Being not a music buff myself I have no idea if the parts of the book talking about music and instruments sound well done to someone who is familiar with the subject. Apart from the very start, I did not find them distracting or in the way of the story despite my unfamiliarity.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to re-read this, and would pick up a sequel if it happened.

Available for free at Smashwords

Blog tags: Ebooks Reviews Novels

About 6 months of reading ebooks

Early this year I bought a dedicated ebook reader, and I thought I'd write down some of my impressions and experience.

My main reason for wanting an ereader was that I had almost stopped buying new books. I tend to keep ones I like to re-read, and even the ones I don't like so terribly much are not that easy to pass on when you're mostly reading English novels while living in Germany, so my bookshelves are close to full.

A bit of research showed that the first thing to decide was "Kindle or anything else", because Amazon uses their own file format for books, but not epub. All other brands supported epub, but not the format Amazon used, so if I bought a Kindle, I would never we able to switch to a different brand of reader. (I think if you buy books from B&N, there's a similar problem due to a variant in DRM, but I'm not sure. They don't sell to people outside the US at all.)
Between that, the $2 surcharge for buying ebooks from outside the US or UK that was still in effect for Germany at the time, and preferring a device with touchscreen to one with a built-in keyboard, I went for a Sony PRS-650.

Cue some frustration trying to find a shop that would actually sell English novels to me. While epub was (and is) the standard format in German ebook shops, their selection of English novels was tiny to nonexistent. B&N, Borders, Diesel, Waterstones, etc pp would not sell to me, because I was not in the US or UK - in some cases only telling me that when I tried to check out.

But eventually I found Kobobooks, where, since I am one of the weird people who actually has a credit card, I could actually buy books.

Only some publishers either have really weird contracts, or mess up when giving information to ebook vendors: I was interested in three fantasy series, and in two cases I was only allowed to buy the first and third, but not the second installment. (I double-checked, and the same was true on Amazon, so the problem wasn't with Kobo.)

But, well, I bought one book, and read it on the eink reader... and loved it.

A paper book I have to hold open, or it will flap shut. The pages will be bent, and I'll have to look at pages at an angle, which distorts the letters. On the reader, by contrast, I can always look straight-on at the "page". I really had not anticipated how much more comfortable that is. It probably helped that the reader I got is pretty quick; flipping a page doesn't take longer than in a paper book.

The eink display is not a backlighted screen like on a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and while the background is slightly darker than actual paper, I found it quite pleasant to read on.

I think I've tried out more new-to-me authors this year than in the five years before. Quite a few of those had self-published at Smashwords. That site is rather awkward to surf, and some of the books really should not have been published without at least another proofreading pass, but I like giving indie authors a try, the usually low prices are nice, and I have found some nice reads there. I've also drawn a few books from the Baen Free Library, though have not found an author there (apart from Lois McMaster Bujold, whose work I'd known before) that I like - military seems to be not my cup of tea. Kobobooks is my usual source for books that came through big publishers.

So, in summary:

  • Geographic restrictions are a pain in the butt.
  • Ebooks are more fun for me than paper books, because it's easier to get a lot of them that interest me.

All things considered, I'd be very happy... If only the last firmware upgrade had not caused the Sony reader to act up. I should really contact Sony about how to fix that.

Blog tags: Ebooks Thoughts
tagged Science fiction

Midnight Fireflies by Scott Niven

Under the (in hindsight apparently mistaken) impression that Scott Niven was a big name in Science Fiction who had started self-publishing older stories, I picked up this collection of "3 Tales of Speculative Fiction" from Smashwords.

Official Blurb:

Inside an intergalactic watering hole, a bizarre bet is made with high - yet unknown - stakes. In a nursing home, an elderly woman creates her own virtual reality. And in a medieval land, a boy in search of adventure stumbles upon a mysterious relic that will change his life forever. Midnight Fireflies collects these three tales of speculative fiction into one short story collection that will have you wondering "What If?" all night long.

A Mare Imbrium Wink

The backdrop of this story is a universe with various alien species, which may be watching humanity, which is still stuck on earth - so apparently "present day", more or less. The protagonist and viewpoint character belongs to an alien species that at one time in their life can merge with a (dead) member of another species, taking on their shape and parts of their personality. This specimen merged with a human scientist. Some characteristics he has taken on in that process - a longing for companionship and a certain cockiness - lead him into trouble.

This story mostly consists of aliens thinking or talking about characteristics of humanity at large. The ending breaks my suspension of disbelief and seems ridiculously harsh.

Fondest Desire

A nursing home provides immersive VR to its inhabitants. The protagonist of this story uses it to sit in a near-perfect copy of the actual nursing home, minus other occupants, to think about the past in peace - apart from a boy who sometimes shows up uninvited.

Nothing interesting happens. I get the impression this is meant as an essay about comparing VR and memories, encoded in fiction.

The Carrion Sphere

A young man kitted out with armour and sword goes into the woods for a rite of passage taking the shape of a solitary hunt. He finds a strange artifact that starts to talk... Sorry, I'm going to spoil the story here: He learns that the world has gone through cycles of humanity destroying itself through too much and/or the wrong technical advancement, and the artifact is supposed to tell people when to stop this time around.

The story ends with him deciding to take the artifact home.

In Summary each of the three stories gives me vibes of being constructed to convey a moral or message about humanity. Since I don't like that much, it all feels rather heavy-handed and lifeless to me. The fact that at least the first two stories have what I'd consider downer endings doesn't help. Not my cup of tea.

The formatting is tidy, including both a linked table of contents in the text, and one available through the reader, and copyediting seemed fine to me, too.

Total wordcount cracks 10,000; available for 99 cents on Smashwords

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