2016 in hindsight

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The year 2016 has come to an end and what a year it has been!

And when I say that I mean that in a positive as well as a negative way. There have been a lot of ups and downs, as is expected in life I guess. I saw one of my friends do this on Facebook and I decided to follow her example.

For a big part of the year I’ve been feeling really negative about myself and my abilities and I know for a fact that it is backlash from last year – 2015. Which on a personal level was a really difficult year for me. But with everything that was going on in 2015 I knew I couldn’t afford to break down.The problem was that I knew that not allowing myself to break down right then and there it would actually come back to catch me once I settled down. And it did, during this year when I was feeling happy and content with life the insecurities came back to haunt me and they did quite a number on me. Sometimes I wonder if I might be caught in the middle of a depression. And that is why it is important to remember the good things that happened;

  • All of the crap from my old job got solved both financially as well as legally and I was able to move on rather quickly at the beginning of the year.
  • I got a new job!
  • The same job at a different company.
  • And I joined the residents’ association at my apartment building.
  • I switched to an advanced power yoga class! Yes, I’m doing pretty well at yoga and it feels awesome!
  • I was able to surprise my mother with Pinkpop tickets for the Sunday so we could see Paul McCartney.
  • I am the proud owner of an Xbox One and I have had a blast this past year playing The Division, Halo and Destiny with total strangers. It truly is a fun experience!
  • My parents celebrated their fortieth Marriage anniversary. Forthy years, not something a lot of people these days manage.
  • They decided not to have a big party but instead we all – my parents, my sister and brother-in-law an I went to Portugal for a long weekend. Lisboa is a beautiful city and it felt wonderful to get away for a couple of days.
  • I visited Amsterdam and the Body Worlds exposition. It was really interesting and I learned a lot about the human body.
  • I participated in Nanowrimo – I might have lost, since I didn’t make it to 50 000 words – but it got me back to writing again. Which was something which I really needed to do as I hadn’t been writing for months.
  • During the year we’ve had multiple meetings with The Epic Blue Unicorn group aka my writers group! A great group of friends who I love!
  • My computer was due for an upgrade and I recently became the proud owner of a laptop. Yes, I still only had my desktop computer and whenever I wanted to write somewhere else during a write-in I used my tablet and a bluetooth keyboard. Which works fine but let’s be honest this is easier. Now I can go wherever I want and I always have all of my files with me and I can use Scrivener for all of my writing.
  • I worked a lot of extra hours this year and therefore I was able to do things I usually wouldn’t spend money on.
  • My weight has always been a problem but this past year (partly due to stress) I managed to adjust my eating patterns and I lost a lot of weight. I don’t know exactly how much but it’s more than a full clothing size.
  • I got this awesome Mandala colouring book for Christmas from my mom, she saw it and immediately thought of me and how it would make the perfect gift. I love it, the designs are so pretty and diverse.

If I look back on this list I see a lot of positive things that happened in the past year and it makes me wonder why I’ve spent so much time feeling so negative about my life, about me as a person and my place in the world. Maybe I should make a list like this every month. I need to be more aware of all the positive stuff in my life.

I hope that other’s will follow this example and create their own list of things which made them happy during this past year. There is so much more that I could add. I started this list yesterday and today I doubled the entries and I’m sure that I could add even more if I took some more time to think about it. But I’m going to leave it at this.

All there is left for me to say is that I hope that you all have a wonderfull end of the year and have lots of fun things to look forward to in 2017! Happy New Year!

Book 8-9-10- The Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner

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This is another book trilogy which is targeted at teenagers and young adults, for the most part – I definitively don’t fall into that category but for some reason I love this stuff. And like most other popular book trilogies, this too has been turned into a couple of movies – two so far have been in the theaters the long wait is for the last part in the trilogy (or maybe the last book will be turned into two movies which will be shown in theaters a year apart, since that is what they have been doing these last couple of years with all of the stories which consist of multiple parts).

First things first, what I really wanted to mention is the fact that the main character is a boy, sixteen year old Thomas or at least that might be his age he’s not sure since he doesn’t have his memories after all. Lately most popular books were written from a girls perspective, one of my favorites being of course the very flawed Katniss Everdeen and there was Triss in Divergent. And who can forget Bella from Twilight? Reading a story from a boy’s perspective was different. Of course we had Harry Potter but that was quite a few years ago, and since then a lot of books had strong female characters. In this book it takes a loooonnggg time before the first female character actually enters the story – literally a long time.

Take note, I’m reviewing three books so naturally there will be spoilers how else am I supposed to review three books in a row?

The Maze Runner

Thomas wakes up, in an unfamiliar place – a sort of box which brings him to the surface – the Glade. A walled in environment in the center of a maze, where a group of boys live and survival is what they do each and every day. Thomas has no idea who he is or how he got here, he’s lost his memories as have all the other boys. Some of them have been at the Glade for as long as two years. But all he can do is adjust to life in the Glade and find his place in the group of boys. However Thomas doesn’t stay the new kid for very long, soon after he arrives the box comes up again but instead of a boy there is a girl inside. The first girl, Teresa. And she claims she knows Thomas, she has a message which doesn’t make much sense ‘Wicked is good’.

Thomas is intrigued with the maze but the only way to enter it is if he becomes a runner. With the help of Minho Thomas becomes one of the maze runners and together they go out each day to explore and hopefully eventually find the exit of the maze. Afterall finding the exit of the maze would mean the end of their life in the Glade and freedom.

The Scorch Trails

Eventually they escape the Glade and the maze, but this is only just the start and they have no idea what’s ahead of them but it certainly isn’t freedom. Wicked – the organisation which put them in the Glade – won’t let them go, escaping the maze is merely the end of phase one and phase two is about to start. They are told that they have two weeks to make it across the Scorch, a vast and dead landscape but they are not alone. When they wake up in the dormitory where they ended up after their escape they find that Teresa has disappeared and instead there is a boy named Aris. He tells them a similar story of how he ended up in a group of girls and they too escaped their maze. A man who works for Wicked tells them that the earth has been ravaged by solar flares and that people have caught a very contagious disease which turns them into zombi-like creatures called cranks. And that they might have the disease as well but if they make it across the Scorch in two weeks time the cure awaits for them at the safe haven. With no other choice Thomas, Aris and the surviving Gladers leave the dormitory and try to find their way across the Scorch to find the safe haven.

The Death Cure

Okay, for those who are wondering how the hell I suddenly managed to read a book in two days. I didn’t. It’s the truth I didn’t read it myself. I actually listened to the audiobook. I was painting the walls and ceiling of my bathroom and I decided that it would be a good time to listen to an audiobook and it worked out quite well. I finished almost half of the book by the time I was finished with the painting. And I listened to part of it while I was driving home to my parents and that is how you work through a story in a matter of hours instead of in my case months of weeks. So let’s get on with the review.

Once again making it across the Scorch and even more important surviving wasn’t the end of their troubles. The groups are ‘saved’ by Wicked and brought to Wicked HQ. Once there Thomas is kept in a room for almost four weeks before he’s allowed to return to his friends. He’s told that he’s immune to the Flare (as the disease is called) but that some of his friends are not. In order for Wicked to show the teenagers that they really are who they say they are they want to give them their memories back. However Thomas and some of the others refuse to get them back because they don’t trust Wicked. Thomas and a small group of his friends escape and flee to Denver, one of the few remaining cities in search for answers which eventually bring them back to Wicked and a frantic race against the clock.

In conclusion

What did I think of this story, these books?

Honestly, I certainly enjoyed myself while reading the story of Thomas and his friends trying to get away from Wicked. But to me Thomas wasn’t as interesting a character as Katniss is, which in turn means that I was less invested in the story. I can’t really explain it but when I was reading The Hunger Games the story pulled me in so many different directions emotionally speaking that it changed the whole experience and with Thomas that simply wasn’t the case.

Even while there is a lot of comparison between the two stories. In both stories kids are being used / abused by the government / a company in one case for pure entertainment and punishment and in the other case to find a cure for a disease that was man-made. So in that regard there is a lot these series have in common. But there is little character development in this story which means that you don’t care so much for the characters. Another similarity between The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games is the friendship between Thomas and Chuck and Katniss and Rue. And while both end tragically I literally cried when Rue was killed but with Chuck all I could think was okay that happened and I continued reading the next chapter.

It simply didn’t have the same effect because I didn’t feel for these characters what I should have felt for them at that point in the story.

So are the books entertaining – yes. Does the story have promise – certainly. Would you recommend them? That depends, if the other person has read The Hunger Games I wouldn’t recommend this story. If they never read The Hunger Games I would tell them to read this first followed by The Hunger Games. That might work, but only if I know for certain that the other person loves reading. If I’m not sure however The Hunger Games will always be my first choice.

These three books conclude my year of reading. And as you might have gathered I certainly didn’t reach my goal for this years reading challenge. Better next year, I guess. Hope to see you then.

Book 7 – I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

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This book came highly recommended by my uncle and he is one critical reader especially  when it comes to stories and movies in regards to realism. Even more so when it comes to Police procedures and those type of things since he’s a former Police officer and he knows a thing or two about the subject.

He knows that I like these kind of stories – crime novels – so this book came highly recommended by him. And once I started reading it was difficult to put the book down, it is one of those stories that literally sucks you in. Partly because of the realism and known facts about Nine Eleven and the fight against terrorism which has been going on for years now.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed myself by reading this book writing this review was a lot harder than I first expected it to be. The thing is you don’t want to give away too many details yet at the same time I want to make sure that people get what a good read this story was. The thing is when you take a look at the Goodreads page for this book you’ll notice that you apparently either love or hate this book, there seems to be nothing in between. Most people who hate it stopped reading long before they reached the end and therefore in my opinion can’t really form a real opinion about the story. And the other group of readers are the readers like me who couldn’t put the book away. I read this book in Dutch, this time because I basically didn’t have a say in the matter since I borrowed the book from my uncle. My mother and I were reading the e-book at the exact same time, sometimes I was a little bit ahead of my mother and other days she would surpass me.  Which really made it a fun experience because we would always discus what happened and therefore I know for a fact that my mother enjoyed reading this story as well.

So what is this story about you ask? It’s a story about a breakneck race against time to safe the world from a deadly biological attack with modified small pox virus which is immune to all known medication and treatment. The story takes place in the world we know today, a world which has changed drastically since Nine Eleven and the fight against terrorism is in full swing. Since the American government doesn’t want to create mass-hysteria and panic they want to keep hide the details as long as they possibly can and that means that they have to involve as few people as they possibly can. So they literally choose to send one man after the terrorist.

There was something really thrilling about this story, the way it was written gave you great insight into the different characters and their reasons behind the way they act in the story. You see the story and the reasoning behind certain choices in the past and the present from different points of view. As the main storyline progresses you get glimpses into the past showing you bit by bit why the main characters in the story are who they’ve become. To me that is what makes this story interesting, it gives you complicated characters who are three dimensional. And it even gives a man who becomes a terrorist a true identity without just making him out to be the bad guy which would have probably be much easier but it also would have made the story less interesting.

The book came out back in 2014 but for some reason I’ve only recently been hearing about it, I have no idea why that is. But it was as if something was triggered, suddenly I saw this story everywhere. It probably has to do with the fact that there is a movie going to be made or maybe they are even currently working on it. I’m not sure, there is a page on IMDb but it doesn’t give a whole lot of information at this point in time. Honestly I think that it would make for a good movie but I think that they would have to leave a lot of information and twists and turns out of the movie. So if they do this I really hope that they make a mini-series out of it. It would be a perfect way to tell the whole story, simply because there is more time to set up the plot and let it take it’s course instead of trying to fit it all in an hour and a half or two at the most.

I really need to see if this author has written more books because if this is the start the sky is the limit. I loved it and I will recommend it to anyone. This is definitively my favorite read of the year.

The end is near

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Wow, that sounds really depressing! And that was certainly not what I wanted to say or what I was going for.  I was actually referring to the end of the month, the end of November and as we all know that also means the end of this years Nanowrimo.

As expected I didn’t make it and that is not really a surprise. However what is kind of surprising to me is the fact that I don’t mind that I didn’t make it. I expected that it would be harder on me, I mean I’ve been doing this since 2009 and this is the first time that I am not going to make it.  I expected it to be harder on me especially since I’ve been beating myself up for all types of things which have been going on often things I don’t have any control over – but this is not one of them. I am fine. And it feels good, I choose to focus on what’s important to me at this moment. And this month that was writing and getting some of these things that have been bothering me off my chest. And that in the end  it only accumulated to 10 000 words during Nanowrimo that’s fine.

I know that I did what I could and I finally am back to writing something even if it isn’t a story per say. After all most of the things I’ve written this month have been current and future blog posts (posts which still need some work or which I can’t upload just yet). But I’m happy and that’s all that matters right now.

A couple of our writer’s group members had already validated their word count last week and we decided that we would have a small party during our last write-in of the month which was this past Friday. One member baked a cake with rainbow colored frosting and another member made chocolate cupcakes. We had a blast at the library and the treats were delicious. We really have gathered a great group of writers in our Nanowrimo group and I am happy to be a part of that group.

The month is almost over and I have almost reached the goal of 10 000 words which I have set for myself. So even though I can’t validate I am a winner in my own eyes and with a competition like Nanowrimo that is all that counts.

This years Nanowrimo will be concluded in one more post which I will write once I visited the thank God it’s over party next Saturday.

Book 6 – How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson

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A must read for everyone who wants to write a book – or has a story they would like to tell to the world – not because it’s the best book ever and it gives you solid advice and exactly the ten steps to write that bestseller. No, simply because it gives you a different view on how you could write a story. We all know that there are probably as many ways to write a story as there are writers. And that’s okay, however most of them can be a added into a couple of groups. Plotters, who plot every single thing out and have a very extended outline, character charts and more before they ever start writing a single word of the actual story. They know where they start, what the middle holds and what the ending will be like and most likely every detail in between. The other mayor group are the panters, writers who have a very flimsy idea of what they want to write and they sit down and start writing.

I always thought that I belonged to the pantsers but for me there is a huge problem with that. I have an idea, a beginning, characters in mind but I have no real idea of where the story goes. So I keep adding details and in the end there literally is no end. Most of my stories are WIP’s (works in progress) because of that reason they remain that way because I never figure out how to give the stories a proper ending. Because I have been adding so many story lines to my initial idea along the way that I can’t see the ending – or that is what it feels like to me. So I guess that I am neither a plotter nor a pantser. So what am I? That has been something I’ve been looking for ever since I started writing, I never really felt like I was following the right course.

I knew that I was in need of something new, a different approach, something that would take me away from the path that I had tried to follow since it obviously wasn’t working for me. Years ago I tried looking into the Snowflake method, I knew some fan fiction writers who used it and it sounded promising. I looked into the website but it sounded extremely boring,  however for some reason at that point in time it simply felt wrong. And if it doesn’t feel good, I know that there is no reason to try it because it’s not going to work no matter how hard you try.

With my creativity level so low and me being so blocked from doing anything creative I thought that it was best to try something different, so I started reading this book which had been on my tablet for the longest time. And I really enjoyed reading it, it’s set up like a ‘fairytale’ kind of like story. Which really made me smile – it’s all about a couple of bears, a wolf and Goldilocks who wants to write a book. It’s a fun story to read and to top it off you take away some information and advice that might help you with future projects. While I might never use all the information I read in this book I will always take away some information which I read and use it for my own stories.

So far I haven’t really put the strategy to the test because all I’ve been working on this Nanowrimo so far is these book reviews and a blog posts. And I’ve also been having some ideas for a short story – an idea which was given to me by one of my fellow writing buddies – however that story is probably going to be too short to put the Snowflake method to the test. The story might be somewhere around 2000 words maybe a little bit more but never more than 5000 words. Anyway, I haven’t written the actual story yet but I have been thinking about it, so that’s progress and I’ve worked out some of the details I want to put in the story. Which is progress in my book. But this post shouldn’t be a Nanowrimo update it should be about the book I’ve read. Let’s get back to the book.

What I really liked about this book is that the ten step process was wrapped up in a nice story and not a step by step thing you usually see when you read a course book or something similar. Which made it even easier to read and to work through. I guess that years ago when I first came upon this Snowflake method it was through a website and the information was very to the point and straight forward which made it sound extremely boring and I quickly turned away and went about writing stories the way I always had been doing. Which was basically on the fly with a very limited idea of what I wanted and coming up with the rest of the information as I worked on the story which made it almost impossible for me to finish stories because I always kept coming up with new ideas.

The fact that this book was such an easy read made it a lot of fun to work through it and learn the ten steps. What I also liked was that the ten steps are explained through the story but also by giving solid examples. And at the end of the book you can even find way the author used the ten steps to create this book. So it’s a complete learning process.

Like I said before, even if I might never follow all ten steps I surely will take away the information I need from these steps. For now I’m signing off with a recommendation for this book is a must read for everyone who wants to finally get that story written.

 

Another Nanowrimo update

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Yes, the second Nanowrimo update in two days time. How good is that! Pretty damn good, I reckon.

Like I said in yesterdays post we are currently sitting in the Ikea with what I would like to call the core group of our Nanowrimo writers group also known as The Epic Blue Unicorn. Don’t ask it’s a long story and hardly anyone can remember where it came from anyway. It’s just a fun name we gave ourselves.

Anyway we’re sitting in the Restaurant area of our local Ikea and we have been here since one in the afternoon and we’re planning on staying for a little while longer. Probably until they kick us out of the restaurant because it’s closing time. But before that happens we still have some time left to keep typing and adding words to our stories or at least to our accumulated word count, as it is in my case.

And it’s going well! I had no idea what to write and one of my writing buddies gave me a really simple prompt right before November started and at first – I liked it, but it’s pretty far out of my comfort zone – I didn’t know what to do with it.  But it did spark an idea for a short story in me and I’ve been thinking about it for the past week. Some ideas were there immediately but I wasn’t sure in which format I wanted to place the story.  However during the last half of this past week the story started to gain momentum in my mind and I actually started writing it on Friday and I continued writing it today and at this point the story is about a thousand words long. I’ll probably finish it long before I even reach five-thousand words but at least it’s a story and it’s an original one and no fan fiction which is great. It’s honestly awesome. I just hope that the story will be as funny as I imagine it. When I visualize it in my mind it something similar to a Pixar movie, something along the lines of  ‘Finding Nemo’ or ‘A Bug’s Life’. So I hope I can translate that into a short story. If you know me, or my writing – the fan fiction stories I’ve done in the past or the ideas I’ve had for Nano novels – you know that I have never before written anything that could remotely look like a Pixar movie. I don’t know how to explain this but that’s okay. I’m writing!

I might eventually post it here since I wouldn’t really know what else to do with a short story. It’s not like they are easily publishable unless you have a whole collection of them – then you could maybe publish them as a collection of short stories. But this story is something so far out of my comfort zone, that I don’t think that I will write more stories in the same type of genre. We’ll see though, who knows what the future will bring, maybe I’ve finally found what I’m good at when it comes to writing. Or does that sound really arrogant?
So the writing is going really well at the moment and reason for that is that I’m not home alone. I love not being at home while I’m writing. The sounds around me calm me and while I spend time looking around, just randomly watching people as they interact it’ll also makes me write more words in short bursts. It works kind of similar like a word war only I’m not timing myself or pushing a certain amount of words. Anyway not being at home alone makes me a lot more productive when it comes to writing. I often go somewhere else during the weekends when I want to write it even works really well for me when I want to read something, especially when the weather is as crappy as it has been today. It’s grey, foggy and raining all day long and no one has seen a spark of sunlight or blue skies for that matter. I really dislike this weather and when I’m at home most of what I see when I’m sitting behind my computer is the sky and the rooftops of the houses across the street and the occasional tree which has already lost all of the previously gorgeous red colored leafs. Not really a motivational sight for someone who’s not really a fan of the fall anyway.

I guess that I’m one of those people who struggle with fall depression! I really dislike the fact that it’s dark when we wake up, dark when I arrive at work and again dark when I finally get ready to go home. No, fall is really not my favorite season – except for those few short weeks when the sun’s shining and the leafs turn all kinds of beautiful colors. Then again if Nanowrimo was held in another month the struggle to write the 50k words would have been a lot harder for me and I think a lot of other participants as well. In the spring and summer there is so much more to do and I personally love spending time outside whenever I can but with this weather that certainly isn’t a problem.

Anyway working at the Ikea Restaurant works perfectly for me. It’s quite funny to note that a lot of people aren’t here for furniture shopping. There are more people around us are sitting here working on their computers. Next to us a group of seventeen year old girls who seem to be playing a game of sorts, I honestly have no idea what they are doing.  It looks like they have formed two teams,  for some reason every time they walk away with a piece of paper on which Ikea furniture is portrayed and from what I’ve seen so far they apparently have to track the furniture down within a certain time limit to gain points or something along those lines.

Another thing which makes Ikea a great place for a Nanomeet – and a good tip for other Nano groups – is the food!  Spending the afternoon here means that you can eat lunch and dinner for ten Euros total and of course you can refill that caffeine booster whenever you need to especially if you have a family member card because then the coffee and tea is completely free. And we all know that most Nano participants are completely addicted and need at least a few caffeine short to get through their writing session.

Unfortunately we are now nearing closing time and soon we will be asked to leave which is a shame because I’m really in the flow of writing at this moment maybe I’ll write some more once I’m home.

For now this is me signing off after a very productive weekend, I’ve probably added 50% to my word count this weekend. Which still means that I’m far, far behind on schedule, but that’s okay.

This was one productive weekend and when I get home I’m gonna play some games, watch television or read a book.

Nanowrimo update

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Here it is, the first official Nanowrimo update since the month started and the challenge started.

It’s day eleven (I wrote this yesterday during our weekly Nanomeet, I just didn’t upload it yet) of the month and my total word count at the beginning of this post is right around 4000 words. Officially I should have been at 18333. I know that I’m way behind in my word count but it’s like I said in my last Nanowrimo post at the beginning of this month I didn’t have an idea of what I was going to write about. And at this point I still don’t have an idea in all honesty I’m literally just winging it at this point. Doing whatever I can to get some words written down.

The word count I’ve accumulated so far is mostly from these blog posts and a couple of book reviews which I’ve been writing these last couple of days. And that’s fine I’ll just call myself a rebel – truth be told I have been calling myself a rebel every year – this year and see what I can do this month during Nanowrimo. If it’ll be 50 000 words, I’m going to be ecstatic if not that’s fine. I don’t need to pit more pressure on myself at this point in time.

This might be the first year – since 2009 (my official Nanowrimo debut) –  that I won’t reach the word count of 50 000 words at the end of the month and that is fine. If it is possible and within reach I will of course try to make it but I’m not going to worry about, it’s not worth it. Not this year. I’m honestly okay with it, if that happens I know the reason behind it and doing anything creative is at this point a goal I’ve reached.

To me at this point it’s more important that I’m actually writing and for now that’s certainly happening which makes me feel a lot better than I have been feeling in a long time. Which is even more important to me. Especially since I’ve been feeling really down and blocked lately. Nothing in my life seems to ever be easy or going according to plan. This should have been a great year of new experiences and happiness and instead I’ve been feeling like I’m a failure. And I keep beating myself up about things and that is not what I want to feel like. I want to be happy and successful. However that is not what this update is about. This is about Nanowrimo and the progress I’ve made in writing. The book reviews are from books which I had read in these past couple of months, however like everything they had been backlogged since I wasn’t writing. Although I have to admit that it’s quite hard to write a review from a book which I read months ago. But I’ll get there, I’ve almost cleared all of the backlog there are just a couple of books left in my list.

Tomorrow – Sunday – we’ve set up our next Nanomeet. We’re going to the Ikea to have an extended meeting from I think noon till however late it gets or till the store closes, whichever comes first. They have a nice restaurant area where we can sit and they have some pretty decent not too expensive food. We did a Nanomeet at the Ikea last year and I think that we made it our longest meet ever. They almost literally kicked us out right before closing time.