Edvin Palmer’s Review of my story “The Hotel”

Edvin Palmer has written a review of my short story “The Hotel

Make sure to also check out his site at edvinpalmer.wordpress.com 😊

edvinpalmer

  1. Introduction 

In this review, I am going to inform you about The Hotel, which is a short story Chris Smedbakken published in 2011. I will tell you what my opinion is of this short story, and whether it is worth a read.  

  1. A Summary 

First, I wish to give you the following summary of this short story: 

Liam is driving through the desert, and wondering what happened to his best friend Patrick who has disappeared. Since Liam was getting tired, he stopped at a hotel, checked in, and was shown to his room. Liam soon noticed something strange and mysterious was going on at the hotel. In the hotel room, he found a letter from Patrick. In it, Patrick had written that he had felt uneasy about staying at the hotel. He had suspected that someone was on to the investigation he had been…

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The Way of Snowballs: A Five Point List

Wow, have I been inactive here for a while? (The answer is: Yup. Yes. Yeah. Definitely.)

I’ll make up for that, I promise.

As some of you might already know, I decided to do NaNoWriMo this November, on a crazy whim. Some of the chapters produced during those 30 stressful (but of course also tremendously fun and fulfilling) days can be found on this site. Just go to the menu and expand the “Stories” section, and then look under the “Magic, Games and Shadow Names” sub.

Anyways, writing devoured most of my time in November, and when the month was over (and I did finish NaNo on time, by the way) I was totally spent. After that I’ve been rather busy with working (my new job’s still awesome), preparing for Christmas and going to some tedious medical examinations. So I hope I’ll be forgiven for not updating here as often as I would have liked.

There are some updates to be done, however. And that’s what this post is about, if you hadn’t guessed already. Some pretty exciting stuff is happening in my life right now, and I’d like to share those things with you. I’m a sucker for list lately, so I think I’ll just make it one of those. Here goes:

  1. I’ve been appointed as a columnist for the brand new Swedish gaming site Mind Your Own Gamin (MyoG) that opens up in January. I’ll be writing opinion pieces about video games, RPG, board games and other things pertaining to the hobby. I’m super excited for this, especially since the idea for the site is to take up the cudgels for equality in the gaming industry. Thus all the site’s writers and content creators are either female or non binary. Totally awesome.
  2. I will probably be participating as an event dungeon master during next year’s GothCon-convention in Gothenburg, Sweden. There is a gaming society called Leia that is trying to get more women and non-binary people into the gaming hobby, and they are organizing inspirational and informative activities during the convention to that goal. I’ve been included in their preliminary schedule, and if nothing changes I will probably be GM:ing introductory RPG-sessions for girls, women and non-binary players during the weekend. The convention will be held between March 30 and April 1 next year. So drop in if you want to be a player in one of my groups!
  3. I should have definitely pitched for this earlier, but here goes. Earlier this year I was contacted by writer Dale Rominger with an invitation to upload texts to his wonderful site The Back Road Café. By now I have some short stories and chapters hosted there, in a really nice section that has been built just for me amongst the pages of a number of great writers. I’m super thrilled, thankful and happy to have been picked for this opportunity. I really recommend you visit the site, as well as check out Dale Rominger’s Facebook page and his books, for example The Girl in the Silver Mask.
  4. have mentioned the Tabletop Thane Etsy shop, right? If not, I’ll gladly mention it again. My partner Alex is a really skilled artisan who designs and creates everything from brass steampunk lamps to cool leather armor. And between those two categories, there is also his beautiful (but eerie) Lovecraft inspired clay figures. He makes Cthulhu-idols, “ritual” clay tablets and many other things, and I have the privilege to have been involved in the creation of the related concept/gift/adventure-packages found in his Etsy shop. These packages come with a clay figure or tablet, together with thematic letters, texts or stories written by me. I’ve always been highly inspired by H.P Lovecraft, and in these texts I get to really indulge in those signature archaic adjectives, poetic (but looong) sentences and gothic, eldritch horrors of his. I’ve gotten some really nice feedback on the adventure-package texts and many people seem to think that they enrich the experience of the gifts. So if you’ve not yet finished all your Christmas shopping (and if you have a friend or relative who is into Lovecraft, horror, RPG or the eerie and eldritch in general), I would love for you to drop by the shop and have a look. I’m indescribably happy that my writing can be part of someone’s gift experience.
  5. And finally: my dark urban fantasy novel is almost done. It’s the one called “Magic, Games and Shadow Names”, the first chapters of which can be found in the left menu on this site. I finished most of it during November’s NaNoWriMo, and now I only have to finish up the story and go through the editing. After that I’m not sure what will happen, but hopefully I’ll be able to find a publisher who wants to work with it. I’ve never done that part before, so I’m kind of excited to see how things will pan out. If you have any tips or suggestions on how to move forward once the manuscript is done, I would really appreciate to hear them. 🙂

And that’s that, I suppose. At least for the time being. Phew.

Now I really have to stop, because I have some washing to do and some columns to write. Thank you for reading, I really appreciate it.

And if you don’t hear from me again during what remains of this year, I want to wish you a really merry Christmas and a happy new year!

All the best,
Chris Smedbakken

The Consequences of Jumping

It feels like it’s high time for an update here. So many things have happened this past year that I’m not entirely sure I’ve had time to appropriately reflect upon them. This post will be my sincere attempt at covering the most important of them. 

I think I should start off with some backstory.

At the end of 2015 I hit the proverbial wall after a fall term that definitely got the better of me – this following a period of less than four years of working as a teacher full time. Preceding this I had spent 5+ years studying to become an upper secondary school teacher in English (as a second language) and religious studies.

The collapse was the result of me being given way too many tasks to perform in a way too narrow frame of time. One of the reasons I became a teacher in the first place is that I care about people. Thus the realization that I did not have the time to be there for all my 100+ young students (and not for lack of trying my darnedest, mind you) was one of the things that broke me (coupled of course with the immense stress, sleepless nights, daily threats and insults that are also given parts of the teaching job). So I quit.

Spring term 2016 I worked part time at another school, but only in order to pay my bills. I knew that the situation was unsustainable, and that I would have to do something drastic in order to keep my head above the waves of anxiety that threatened to overwhelm me at every turn.

One of my greatest passions in life is and has always been writing and storytelling. When I was a kid I always told myself and the world that I was “going to be a writer” when I grew up. Growing older and hopefully more mature, I realized that one does not simply walk into Mordor, so to speak, and that I would have to get a “real job”. Thus the teacher thing. I had been freelancing as a pop culture reporter for the local newspaper since 2007, but the thought that I could actually honor my childhood dream by becoming real journalist had never seriously struck my mind.

But then and there, at the beginning of 2016, when my mind was falling apart and the smallest and simplest things threatened to send me crying and falling into pieces, one of my closest friends reacted. She told me something that I will always remember:

“This is not you. This is what you do: Pick two of your most important dreams, and then spend this coming year fighting with everything you have to make those dreams come true.”

And so I did. I jumped.

I gave up teaching. I sold off all the things I did not need and rented out my apartment. I enrolled to a one-year journalism education (a follow-up to an Internet based class I had taken previously) and moved to Stockholm.

I spent the second half of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 studying journalism, and slowly realized that this is what I was always meant to be doing. I learned much and made important friends and contacts. I learned things about myself that I would never have learned if I had not risked everything and jumped.

I also managed to get an internship at Aftonbladet, Sweden’s biggest evening newspaper, where I was also later employed. There I met many new friends and grew even more as a journalist. It would be an understatement to say that I had, if not the, then at least one of, the greatest times of my life.

When my contract was about to end I was offered to stay on board as a researcher for their TV-station, and initially I happily accepted. But then things happened.

A close family member fell ill and passed away while I was living in Stockholm. I managed to get back to my home town Gävle just in time to see her one last time, but the loss broke me once more. I realized the hard way what I had known all along: that friends and family is incredibly important to me, and that while I had landed my dream job 200 kilometers away in Stockholm, being so far from my close ones was driving me to a very dark and lonely place on the inside.

So I declined the job offer at Aftonbladet and moved home. I got my old apartment back, and retrieved my beloved cat-companion Sushi (image above) from my sister’s place where she had been living for this past year. Luckily, I managed to get a job at a newspaper staff in Falun, a neighboring town to Gävle. A full time, permanent employment as a digital/social media editor and reporter. Those of you who have insight into the journalistic job market in Sweden know how incredibly rare it is for Swedish journalists to have permanent employments. Thus I feel extremely lucky, and the fact that both my colleagues and my job assignments are great only adds to this.

So now I am back where I started, but with so many exceptions I can hardly count them.  I have a job that I love, a salary that allows me to live and not just survive, a bunch of new realizations about myself and a second education to lean back on.

Apart from all this I have also fulfilled one of the two dreams that my wonderful friend inspired me to chase. The first one, namely, was becoming a journalist.

Getting back up again after this summer’s loss and grief has not been easy, and I am not sure I am entirely back on my feet yet even now. But I am glad that I made it back home in time to see her. I know that she is proud of me, wherever she is. She told me many times while she was alive how happy she was for me, that things were going my way in Stockholm and in life.

I have not been able to write much since the day it happened, and I quit my micro fiction writing on Twitter almost entirely that day. But even as I’m writing this I can feel inspiration and creativity slowly returning to me. Maybe I’m starting to heal, or maybe it’s just the season. I have a history since childhood of what I suspect is what they call seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and autumn is always the easiest time for me.

Anyway, things are looking up, and I’m feeling quite good today. So good, in fact, that I think I will open up Word and try to get some writing done.

This would be a really good thing, because you know what? The second dream I chose to fight for back then, when my friend intervened in my destructive spiral, was “Getting a book published”.

And I think it is high time to start fighting for that dream now.

Thank you for reading, it really means a lot to me.
All the best,
cof
Chris Smedbakken

 

On That Malicious Thing Called Writer’s Block

You know that wretched feeling. You’ve had it too, just admit it. Or at least I hope so, because otherwise I’ll have to feel doubly bad about having it myself. I’m talking about the terrible, despicable, malevolent malady that cuts your wings while at the same time it mocks you unendingly for your pathetic inability to fly. I’m talking about that voice that coaxes you to create, while simultaneously locking your hands behind your back and whispering discouraging degradations in your ear. I’m talking, of course, about writer’s block.

I know I’ve suffered from it before, and many times at that. It’s just that every time it passes I tend to forget it was ever there. It’s like my mind’s trying to block out the memory of that terrible state, in naïve hope that it won’t come back if I hide from it (and even the memory of it) well enough. And maybe this is actually a good way to tackle it, but in that case I’ve never managed to find a sufficiently good hiding spot. Because it always comes back.

The downside to this memory repressing approach is that every time writer’s block returns to once again grip me with its poisonous claws, I tend to panic. Why can’t I write? Why do I suddenly want to throw up at the mere thought of GM:ing? Where the fuck is my inspiration? I can’t remember just how bad it was last time, or the time before that, and thus I have no frame of reference to help me understand that this time around won’t be the end of the world either. That it will pass and that my inspiration (together with my incurable creative hubris) will return once again. Of course I know this, theoretically, but I can’t see it.

The current blockage has been a long one. I’m always at my most creative during autumn and early winter. That’s when magic happens. But this year not much writing happened even then. Well, of course writing happened — I’m a journalist after all. But now I’m talking about creative writing; that kind of writing that flows from your soul and builds worlds — not just documents them. I’ve managed to force some pages from my mind, but that’s all. I haven’t been able to fly for almost a year now, and it bothers me to the brink of madness.

I blame two culprits for this. The first one’s name is burnout, and the other one is called performance anxiety. I hit the proverbial wall in late 2015 and haven’t quite recovered yet (but that’s another story). My mind seems to have coped with this by locking off certain areas and gearing down. Together with a tendency of mine never to settle for anything less than perfect, this is a flawless recipe for creative shortage.

Now the mere thought of sitting down to write makes my mental safeguard put its hand on the emergency brake. Because I tell myself, deep down, that I can’t produce. That I won’t be able to live up to the stuff I’ve written in the past. That I might as well stare into a wall as try to create something, because it will amount to about the same result in the end. Writing has become so charged for me that I’m almost afraid of trying — because failing would kind of be the last drop. So I don’t write, I stare into walls instead.

Now I’m also well aware that this, too, will pass. Everything passes. But maybe it’s high time for me to work out some kind of strategy for coping with the malady of writer’s block, so that I’ll be able to handle it better next time it happens — whatever the reason it does. I’ll need to de-dramatize writing in my own mind as well, of course. I have to learn to settle for less-than-perfect, since that is perhaps one of my greatest problems. But that, too, is another story.

I think my next step will be to make a list of things that I can do to find an outlet for my creative urges, that don’t require me to write fabulous epics or game-mastering intricate RPG:s. Yeah, that’s what I will do. I guess I’ll post the list as a blog post once it’s done, so that you’ll be able to see what I came up with.

And finally, writing this post was in itself a part of my coping strategy. Without thinking about it I have actually been able to write more than 700 words without those stupid claws poking at me. Yay! And also: now I have clear as day documentation about this round of writer’s block actually having happened. Now I won’t be able to pretend that it has never befallen me before the next time around. Score.

Now that you have bravely trudged yourself through this my helplessly self centered wall of text, what do you think? Have you ever felt those restricting claws poking at you, and how did you tackle it? If you have any great, good or perfectly average coping techniques for dealing with writer’s block — please let me know. They’d make a wonderful contribution to my upcoming list. 🙂

And until next time: write safely.
Dreams is a dangerous place, after all.

 

The Complicated Art of Knowing What You Want

The title of this post says more about what I want to articulate here than the post itself probably will. Sorry for that. Also, sorry for the sorry state of my dusty keyboard in the featured image. Cleaning is yet another of those things I should probably engage in more often and dedicatedly (<-is that even a word?).

Anyhow, I feel like I have too many thoughts and contemplations swimming around inside my head not to find a vent for them somewhere. I guess this post will have to serve as said vent, for now.

I am in the middle of so many things. From the outside it might not show, but on the inside I am almost bursting. I think I can best convey my feelings through a gaming analogy, being the hopeless gamer that I am.

Many games are linear. You walk from left to right as in good old SMB or, as is often the case in this new 3D-era, at least you have a quest marker to follow.

In the games I like the most, however, you repeatedly face choices that will impact the continuation – and often even the ending – of the game. That’s a thrilling touch to the gameplay, don’t you think? Well, I would agree that it is. But for me, it is also excruciating mental torture. Because I absolutely can’t stand leaving any rocks unturned. Most often, those fictional crossroads result in me creating a multitude of save files in order to explore every single possibility in the game before settling for the “best” one. (Watching spoilers on Youtube really never was my thing). I have to try all the roads, or else I will probably be unable to let go of the thought that I have missed something. And trust me, that thought can destroy an entire game for me.

Thing is, however, that it’s not just in games that I have this mindset. It’s ever present in my IRL-gameplay as well. I literally feel that I have to finish life with 100% completion, or else I will have failed. Suffice to say, this mindset is doing nothing in favor of my nerves or my well being.

As I have written here previously, my goals are to succeed within the journalistic field, and to get at least one book published. The problem is, I also want to succeed within music and acting. I want to join the police force and the military. I want to travel the whole world, I want to move to a big city. I want to sell everything I own and go on a street musician road trip with my violin. I want to become a professional drummer and a famous guitarist. I want to hang my photographs in a gallery and I want to work with politics. I want to be a computer ace and hack NASA, I want to rob a bank. I want to become rich and drive a fancy car. I want to save the world. And I am probably the worst kind of narcissist, but somehow I actually feel that all these roads are possible options, in one way or another.

But I also want to be completely content with what I already have, and this is probably the one field that I genuinely feel that I cannot succeed in.

So now I sit here with a thousand plans and dreams, totally stressed out and with no faith whatsoever in any of these things ever coming to pass. I know some of them probably will – at least the first two (possibly the only ones that really matter). But I don’t know how to get there. Life has no save files or reset-buttons, I cannot press reload every time I’m not entirely content with how things turned out.

And there certainly are no spoilers on Youtube to help me get where I want, or to check out all those options that I never explored.

I often find myself wishing that life was more like a Super Mario Bros game, where there is only one path to take – and if you still happen upon an alternative route, it’s probably just a shortcut to the same goal. Or at least that life had a mini map and a quest marker.

Well, I guess I just have to wait and see how this open world sandbox game will progress. Perhaps the quest marker option will come in a future DLC.

Over and out.

 

At Sea

I can’t seem to be able to remain in one place for very long. Recently home from Florida, where the nooks and crannies of both Miami and Key West were pleasantly roamed, I kind of grew sick of sitting still. So now I’m on the road again. Or, more accurately, on the water. I’m going to Åland to visit with a friend and have been driving (what feels like) the whole day. After working my  last job pass before the Swedish Easter Holidays, that is. I’m kind of tired, to be honest. Caffeine and sugar keeps me going right now, and luckily those are the main ingredients in the coffee drink on the table in front of me. Life’s good.

I’m using these two odd hours onboard the M/S Rosella to get some writing done. Not my average random stories, but a couple of music album reviews that are due this Wednesday. Genres: metal and jazz. Totally in line with my current craving for variation, I’d say.

Hmm, what’s more… Apart from working with myself, on myself, I’m still working on my many projects. The novel is growing, but not in volume – I’m in the editing phase now, and trying my best to cut away at it so as to make it publishable. I’ve decided to give it a meta-voice in between chapters to make it more interesting. I hope the attempt will be successful. I’m a bit behind in the journalism course I’m doing (blame… life I guess), but I’m hoping to catch up before long.

And I’m playing Dota2 like a maniac. Seriously. I started playing it as part of my research for an article, and then I got stuck. So far I’m a total disaster at playing any hero other than Lich and Dazzle, but, well, I’m getting there. I think.

That’s my life right now, broadly speaking. I hope that all of you reading this are safely traveling as well, irrespective of whether the journey is a physical one or if it’s taking place in your mind. Those mental journeys are often the greatest ones.

Until next time: take care and drive safely!

/Chris

Two Years Later

Two years later and I’m here again. Same place, same streets, same sun.

Nothing much has changed here, and yet everything about me has.

My fears then, my worries, my desperate feeling of not knowing how to survive without destroying a life upon my return, all those things have joined the other bottled memories on the shelves in my mind’s library.

But yes, I feared and I worried. I survived and I destroyed.

I never meant to. I wanted fairytale sunset ending as much as anybody. I’m not sure if I failed or if I was in the wrong kind of fairytale altogether. Maybe the one where the scarred warrior princess gets saved by a masked black knight and rides off into happily ever after, never to look back, was not for me. However much I wanted that ending. If you’re ever reading this, you might as well know that a not at all insignificant part of me still does. And that’s what pains me today, two years later. That I could not live it, and that I lost so much. That I lost you.

Writing this might be inconsiderate, of course. Not the most pedagogic thing to do. But then again, I’m not writing this for anybody else but me. This time it’s for me. Because I write, that’s what I do and what I’ve always done to get those itchy voices out of my head. And right now they’re loud.  So I write.

This sun sees so many people come and go, and everyone has their own itchy voices. I’d be surprised if it remembers them all. The footsteps I made in the sand the last time around sure as hell aren’t there anymore. And still when I look up at that sun, when I walk on that beach, I remember. I have changed so much and so much has changed me, but I’m still that same person with the same worries and fears and a feeling of not knowing how to survive without destroying lives in the process. The desperation is gone, now it’s memories that haunt me. I miss you, and I’m sorry I broke.

And being here again, two years later and with so many new bottles on my shelves, this new thought is taking form, growing roots: what kind of fairytale am I really supposed to be in? Will I ever know, and how many things must yet be destroyed in order for me to find out?

And maybe the sun knows, but it never tells.