maandag 7 april 2014

The way we were before

Last fall, I entered the Fantastels writing contest with two stories, Alchemia and The way we were before. Yesterday was the award ceremony, which was a lot of fun! I went there with my boyfriend (I'd never taken him with me to an event like this before), and we had a great time. I saw a few familiar faces and a whole lot of new ones. My, I wish I wasn't so shy and could just walk up to people and get to know them, because there sure are a lot of really interesting people in the Dutch fantasy/SF scene!
Anyway. The award ceremony was fun! Anaïd Haen hosted the show (and the contest) and did a great job. We counted down from place 145, so it took two hours all in all. I loved how several judges popped in to say something about certain stories, proving that even though a story ended low on the list, it doesn't mean it's bad or without potential.
My first story, Alchemia, came in at position 83 (although it's apparently 82 now because of a late disqualification). I'll write a lot more on this story in a later blog post, but for now let's say I agree with both judges and looking back on the story, I know what went wrong and how I can fix it. It has so much potential, but it's just not suited for a short story. Lesson learned, and the comments from the judges are really helpful.
I was sure my two stories would be close to each other, so I was thinking The way we were before would come it at about place 60 or so. It didn't. My boyfriend and I went sort of crazy when it still hadn't turned up at position 10 and we went nuts when it ended up in 3rd place!! I really couldn't believe it at all. This is my 4th contest ever and the first time I participated in Fantastels, so I was totally stunned that I had actually won third place!

The way we were before, or 'Hoe we vroeger waren' (for once I came up with the English title first, I had a hard time finding a proper translation) in Dutch, is the story of Willem Deutz, an old man put into an elderly home by his children. He's upset by this and doesn't want to live there and feels like his life is over, until one night he encounters a floating lantern on his evening walk which leads him to Sophie, the evening witch.
Oddly enough this story started out in my head with Sophie. I wanted to write about an evening witch, someone who represented the end of a day, the final hours in which there's only a little light left. I imagined her going around, showing people their lives, blinding them by the light of their daytime now that they lived in the shadow of the evening.
Willem himself only showed up later, a grumpy old man who was angry at the world, even though he had lived a good life. He's so different from any of my other main characters; elderly, annoyed, sarcastic and lonely. He walked into my head and stubbornly stayed there until I wrote down his story, and I'm grateful that he did.
Oddly enough some of the judges compared it to A Christmas carol by Charles Dickens. I can see the similarities but I hadn't thought of that story even once while writing. Willem is not selfish or greedy, he's lonely and sad and doesn't want anyone's pity. He's one of my stronger lead characters and he really ended up telling his own story, I ended up following his words instead of making him go my way.

I guess this was the story of something I think we will all have one day: that moment where you look back on your life and wonder if you've made the right choices along the way, and if you'd do it differently if you could.

Usually I'd end this post with a link to the download page of this story, but I hope to have this story published somewhere, after some editing. Thanks to the wonderful judge comments I now know how to make this story even better and hopefully you can all read it someday soon.

So I'll end this with a big thank you to all the wonderful people from Fantastels, my proofreaders, my supportive boyfriend and all you people who kept my spirits up when I was outright exhausted from writing so much!

zondag 6 april 2014

Eternal Tartessos

In December I did a course on writing fantasy with famous Dutch fantasy/SF author and artist Tais Teng. It was a lot of fun and we had a really great time doing the course. As a final assignment, we created a fantasy world together in which we all ended up writing stories, including our teacher. The plan was to publish an e-book with our combined stories, but things sort of evolved and now it's becoming an actual book and an e-book!

Eternal Tartessos, or Eeuwig Tartessos in Dutch (both the book and the e-book are Dutch only, sorry) is the story of a city that travels through time to collect information on humanity. Once they have gathered all information, or so the story goes, they will be able to travel far into the future where they can rebuild humanity, as it is apparently wiped out sometime after 2500. The city is divided into four area's, all dealing with a certain period of human history.

The book contains 19 stories written by my co-authors Simone and Tais Teng and me. I'm so excited about this project! Not only are my stories published (!) next to those of a famous author (!), I'm actually really proud of all the work we've done. The cover looks amazing, the stories are diverse and the world is such a great setting.

I took it upon myself to design the e-book and the book (the inside of the book, that is. All credit for the cover goes to Tais Teng), which is something I really love to do and which is something I have some experience with thanks to my job at the DBNL. It was quite a challenge to get everything just right and I'm still working on the e-book. It's so rewarding to see it all come together as a real book, though! I'm expecting the paperbacks in about 2 weeks, and I really can't wait to see and hold them.

I'm also quite nervous about people's opinions! We've been working on it for so long and while we've spent a lot of time on editing, I have no idea if people will actually like it or not. With Royal Destiny, I was so busy writing it for myself that other people liking it was just a plus, and with writing contests, well, I am always looking forward to the comments because I want to learn from them. This book, however, was not just written for me and not for a contest. It just exists on its own, and I really hope you will enjoy reading it. I'm looking forward to hearing your opinion! If you've read the book, either as an e-book or as a paperback, do let me know!

Eeuwig Tartessos will be available as a print book and as an e-book at the end of April. Pre-orders for the print book are open!

donderdag 13 februari 2014

Highway's End

Last year, I entered the Paul Harland Prijs, the largest/ most famous Dutch fantasy/SF/horror writing competition. To be honest I hadn't planned on entering at all; I felt like I didn't have a good enough story and I wasn't even sure if I was good enough as a writer to stand a chance. It was sort of unfortunate that an idea popped into my head 1,5 week before the deadline that just wouldn't leave me alone, so with one week to go I decided to go ahead and write it down.
What followed was a crazy week that existed of writing, editing, writing, more editing, bothering people to proofread and more editing. Needless to say I was exhausted after a week and I had gained new respect for my boyfriend's patience and understanding as I probably wasn't the most fun person to be around (granted, I don't think my being stuck to the computer can be considered 'around'). But in a week I had my story and I sent it in. I had -no-idea what to expect. As I only had a week I had no time to take some distance from the story or to take the time to digest the feedback from my proofreaders. It had also turned out to be completely different from anything I'd written before; a male protagonist and a horror story.

The Paul Harland Day was this weekend (roughly 6 months later). It was an amazing day with a magical realism workshop, great speeches and a really interesting panel with publishers (which was even more interesting for me as my academical background and my hobby really came together there). I had a great time, much more so than I had expected as I'm generally not a big fan of big events with loads of people I don't know. Thankfully I went with a friend, which helped a lot, and I met some really nice people! My big goal for next year is to talk to more people (gulp). 
The result of the competition was announced at the end of the day. Of course I didn't win or even make it to the finals, but that didn't surprise me. I have learned a lot about writing the past couple months thanks to a writing course with Tais Teng and I knew my story didn't have the proper editing, as I simply didn't have enough time. I was very surprised to learn that my story had made it to the top 25%, though! I was 45th out of 206 stories! That place made me really happy and it was a lot more than I had expected, so I was really excited. It also gave me a lot of confidence that I might be able to make it to the finals, one day, especially with all the things I've learned.
I recieved the feedback from the jury yesterday. It was all positive:

'Goed verhaal. Je stijl is prettig. Je hoofdpersoon heb je een eigen stem gegeven en je wisselt op een vlotte manier af tussen dialogen, gedachten, beschrijvingen en verhalende tekst. Dit geeft het geheel vaart. Het is gemakkelijk om met de hoofdpersoon mee te leven en op te gaan in de spanning van het verhaal.
Het eind is verrassend. Je hebt er echt naar toe gewerkt; de spanningsboog staat strak en komt tot een origineel hoogtepunt. Heel goed gedaan.'


'I liked the opening of this story. You presented the reader with an interesting scenario—a tree at the end of a highway which makes the reader want to know why. I also found the voice to be quite engaging '

I'm really happy with their comments, especially because they touched upon some parts which I wasn't sure about. Unfortunately they didn't give me any points on which I could still improve the story, which I would have liked, but I'm going to focus on the things they said were good about the story and try to use those to further improve my next stories.

For those of you who are curious about the story, you can download it here. The story is in .epub file and you should be able to read it on most e-readers, tablets or just your pc (install adobe digital editions for free if you don't have the proper program). Yes, the story is in Dutch. I might translate it to English one day, who knows.

As for further projects... I'm still waiting for the results of another contest and I will most definately join the PHP this year again, together with the Fantasy Strijd Brugge! I'm also still working hard on the ebook I'm going to publish with Tais Teng and Simone Ooms, which should be available in March. I'm also currently editing The resurrection of the Guardians, so expect the ebook version of that somewhere this spring. Loads of exciting projects!