De Nederlandse fantasy uitdaging

Afgelopen weekend was de uitslag van Fantastels: een schrijfwedstrijd voor fantasy-, science fiction- en horrorverhalen. Ik deed mee en haalde de 77ste plek, waar ik best tevreden mee ben voor een eerste poging. Een paar maanden eerder was de Paul Harland Dag, waar de uitslag van de Paul Harland Prijs – eenzelfde soort schrijfwedstrijd – bekend werd gemaakt. Daar had ik niet aan meegedaan, maar ik vond het wel interessant om mee te maken.

Rondom beide evenementen las ik op Facebook fragmenten uit een grotere discussie die volgens mij al lang speelt. Net als een gesprek waarvan ik ongeveer 90% gemist heb, durf ik me niet zomaar erin te gaan mengen. Maar een van de vragen die bij me opkwam was: Tom, waarom lees jij eigenlijk geen Nederlandse fantasy (of andere genreliteratuur, maar ik lees nou eenmaal vooral fantasy).

Ik lees over het algemeen graag in het Engels, maar op zich ben ik voor “literatuur” in het Nederlands vaak wel te porren. Zijn de Engelstalige schrijvers van fantasy beter? Misschien wel. Ik vind schrijvers als Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, en Brandon Sanderson geweldig goed. Maar eerlijk gezegd weet ik niet of er Nederlandse schrijvers binnen het genre zijn die daaraan kunnen tippen. Want ik heb ze nauwelijks gelezen. Het laatste fantasyboek van een Nederlandstalige schrijver dat ik gelezen heb was De Achtste Rune van Adrian Stone (ja, dat is dus een Nederlander), en dat was grotendeels omdat zijn uitgever een schrijfwedstrijd had lopen, en ik benieuwd was naar wat ze zoals uitgaven. Het was best ok, maar ik was er lang niet zo van onder de indruk als mijn favoriete Engelstalige fantasy. Maar een steekproef van een is niet echt een steekproef natuurlijk.

Dus bij deze tijd voor een experiment. Ik ga de rest van dit jaar serieus mijn best doen om Nederlandse genreliteratuur te lezen. Van alles wat ik lees schrijf ik een recensie, en dan zullen we aan het eind van het jaar eens zien wat ik er nou echt van vind. Daarnaast ga ik ook bijhouden hoeveel moeite ik heb moeten doen om een boek te vinden. Haalde ik het uit de schappen bij de Bruna, of moest ik me eerst in laten met dubieuze mannen in donkere steegjes?

Ik ben zelf wel benieuwd wat er uit gaat komen. Ik zie mezelf niet als iemand die Nederlandse dingen per se slecht vindt. Aan de andere kant ben ik ook wel realistisch genoeg om in te zien dat er veel meer Engelstaligen zijn, en er dus een grotere poel van zowel schrijvers, lezers, als uitgevers met geld is. Maar ik ben klaar om me te laten verrassen.

Eerste boek op de agenda: Hex van Thomas Olde Heuvelt, die ik al een tijdje heb liggen, maar nog niet gelezen heb. Maar eerst Words of Radiance uitlezen.

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Eefje de Visser – Hartslag

I’m not generally a fan of songs sung in Dutch, but this is pretty cool.

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Developing in 2013

Besides writing, I spent a good part of 2013 developing. Largely in a professional context, but outside of work as well. It all culminated in releasing my first app to the iOS App Store, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Work

The biggest thing about my year was moving to a new job. So far it’s great, and I love it there. I wrote about it in another post. I’ve been there for five months now, and have spent a lot more time developing than I have for a while. At my previous job I wrote a lot of code at the beginning, but then also branched into project management and operations roles. I think having that as extra baggage helps me as a developer. But it’s great to be back in the trenches.

I write a lot of JavaScript nowadays, mostly using Ember. It’s my first time working extensively with a JavaScript framework, and I’m enjoying it. The rest of my time I’m working with Ruby and Rails, not entirely new for me, but a lot of fun.

Appuccino

My biggest personal achievement was developing and releasing Appuccino. A small app that helps you find espressobars nearby. I started working on it last year, but finished most of it this year. I was about ready to release it when iOS7 came out, which made me do a redesign and release it soon after. It has not been a hit, but I’m very proud of building the whole thing and releasing it. I am slowly but steadily building up a user base, and that will be the focus of 2014.

Writing Objective-C has been an interesting exercise. I have spent most of my time writing Python, Ruby, and JavaScript, and Objective-C is a different beast. Sure there are similarities, but it is much more verbose. There is also programming with the Apple API’s, which is interesting, and different than anything I have done before. I wrote animations and drawing code (which I later took out again), which is probably more complicated than anything I have done before. It was fun, and I will definitely do more of it.

Learning

I think the most important part of being a developer is learning new skills. This year I can count Ember, Node.js, Objective-C, and Meteor as some of the things I have spent significant time studying. I have not built a complete app with all of these yet, but I like keeping my mind fresh. I want to keep this up, but maybe with a bit more focus. Something I want to try next year is write some tutorials. I expect that to help me learn as well.

2014

Next year I will obviously keep up programming, if only because it is my job. I want to spend time expanding Appuccino, and maybe think up some small new projects. I also have some ideas for full-blown iOS apps. The one I am currently most excited about is an iPad app for writers. But we will have to see how it goes. But yeah, there is going to be new stuff for sure.

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Writing in 2013

I’ve been writing more and more over the last couple of years. But the effort I have put in in 2013 was more than any year so far. I set myself a couple of goals and worked towards them, and so far it has been a great success.

Amount written: 150.000 words

While the final tally is not in yet (there’s more than a week still to go), I think before the year is over I will have written more than 150.000 words. Nothing amazing, but still more than I have ever written before. I don’t think I ever did more than 100.000 in a year. And now I’ve surpassed that by 50%. Not bad.

So what did I do with all these words? I wrote a novel for one. It’s an urban fantasy novel, inspired largely by The Dresden Files. It was really fun to write, and I am currently editing it, so I can hopefully turn it into something decent. The book is around 90.000 words.

I also won NaNoWriMo, adding another 50.000 words to the tally. Again it was urban fantasy, but it is different enough. It is also utter crap, thanks to the NaNo speed of writing, but it was fun to do.

Other than that I have submitted a short story to an anthology (did not get published, but that’s ok) and submitted two more short stories to Dutch writing contests. Results of those are coming next year. We’ll see how that goes.

Write every day

While the amount of words is not monumental, I’m proud I made it so far. My goal for this year was to write a minimum of 250 words a day, and strive for 10.000 words a month on my novel. That turned out to be pretty doable, especially when I had a long commute in the first half of the year. Of course NaNo added significantly to my word count, but that was also on the back of consistent daily writing goals.

I did not actually write 250 words a day, now that I have started editing my manuscript. But some amount of time spent on writing-related activities keeps me going. And I have averaged a good amount over 250 a day. I am also keeping track of my writing streak, and I’ve gotten so far I really don’t want to drop the ball.

2014

I want to try and keep up my productivity for next year. At the same time, I am going to be spending the first months working on editing my novel written last year. I also don’t think I will do another NaNoWriMo. I’m happy I did it, but it was rather intense, and I’m not sure I want another month like that this soon.

With that said, I have a really fun idea for my next novel, and am busy laying some groundwork in really short stories about the world it is set in. I plan to start writing it in March and want to be done not too long after the summer. I also think it will be a bit longer, around 120.000 words.

Another thing I want to do is breathe some life back into my blog about mobile development. Of all of the sites I made that are slumbering now, it is the one that pulls in the most visitors. I hope that by adding a bunch of new posts, it will thrive even more. And maybe I can turn it into something nice for more writing opportunities.

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Review: King of Thorns

Late last year I managed to get Prince of Thorns in my grubby paws after hearing a lot of good things about it. It was an amazing read, and I really wanted to dig into its sequel, but I didn’t get around to it until now. So as a fan of Prince, I have to say, King of Thorns is even better than Prince of Thorns.

The world that Mark Lawrence has created is stunning. The fantasy setting embedded in a post-apocalyptic world, with magic mixed in for good measure, it all works really well. I love the interplay of knowing things that characters do not, as we know more about technology. But still they looks at the world with a kind of innocence (a word that has little room in the novel) that makes it fascinating.

The plot is structured in a nice way with two story lines that intertwine. In the present time Jorg’s castle is besieged, but most of the time is spent in flashbacks. The events of the past set things up for the present timeline. There is a lot of references back and forth between the two timelines, which makes the story cohesive, despite jumping around. I think this structure works really well for the novel. Just having a siege shows us little of the world, and now we get to see Jorg in two places at ones, giving us double the fun.

Jorg is still what you expect. If you did not read the first novel, the “protagonist” of this series is a real asshole. There is no other word for it. Even if he has a few moments of redemption, he is mostly plain evil. Yet despite all the nasty things he does, there is room for laughter. It may not balance out the nastiness that he does or causes, but it does make the novel work. If you can appreciate Mark Lawrence’s sense of humor you get drawn in. Not everybody may be able to see past the gruesome things, but it is worth it. Jorg can be an enjoyable character to read if you let him.

Grim and dark though it may be, King of Thorns is above all fun and beautiful. Sure there is a lot of darkness and pain, but Jorg’s witty perspective makes it amazing. Coupled with the interesting structure and the epic world that we get to seem even more of, King of Thorns is everything that its prequel promised and more. I can’t wait to get my hands on Emperor of Thorns to see how Jorg’s story ends.

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