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

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.

 

50.000 and running

Aaaand there I crossed the finish line!

28 days of stress and despair and severe self criticism and now I’ve finally reached the golden fifty thousand words. And still I’m not finished. far from it.

I still have to drag my characters through an enormous amount of additional trouble before I can allow myself even to think about post editing. I don’t know how many words I have yet to write before I have it all down on proverbial paper, and I don’t know how long it will take.

But even so, I’m terribly proud of myself for finishing this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I never thought that I would, and circumstances far outside the influence of my secluded desktop island have really done their best to prevent me from succeeding. And yet, here I am.

I have no idea what I will name my novel once it’s done, and I already know that I have a ton of editing to do before I’ll even dare to show it to anyone that’s not close family. But I have the plot ready in my mind, and I know several things that I will add in the editing phase.

I’d like especially to thank prclarke88, Carrie Zylka, tabletopthane and my sister Johanna for spurring me on. Without your motivation, chances are I would not even have made it halfway through the month. 

With two more days to go, we’ll see how much further I’ll get into the plot before December comes knocking on the door. I hope that the writings of all of you guys are going great as well. Let’s make these last two days count!

Over and out! 🙂

All The Things I Hate About My Novel

Okay, so let’s talk about the inconsistency of inspiration.

I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year. I failed at it in 2007, but this is my revenge. We’re halfway into November right now, and I’m halfway towards the coveted 50k words that will mark my victory against the little voice in my head that keeps chanting “You can’t do this so why even bother”. I have a story that has been growing inside my cluttered head for years, and it is now happy as a puppy to be finally let out of there. The problem is that I am beginning to hate it.

I don’t hate the concept or the plot, mind you. I’m really happy with and proud of those. No, my problem is that writing it is beginning to feel forced. I find myself constantly checking my word count just to have an excuse not to write for the next half a minute or so. I find myself rushing through scenes just because I can’t stand to be in them anymore. And I find myself thinking that even thought I will probably reach the finish line well in time for 11/30, the end result will be a text so uninteresting and worthless that not even my  mom will want to read it. I would not want to read it, for heaven’s sake.

Here’s a inexhaustive list of things I hate about my novel:

  1. The characters are flat and shallow and totally uninteresting
  2. However cool the setting is, I am unable to do it justice through my descriptions
  3. I can’t seem to approach the meta plot in a way that’ll make anyone want to read it
  4. The relationships between characters are cheesy
  5. My writing is cheesy
  6. I’m cheesy
  7. I forgot to put yesterday’s leftovers into the freezer and had to throw them away this morning.
  8. I’m out of bread.
  9. My apartment is a mess and I blame it on Writober and WriMo.
  10. Cheese

Yesterday was a completely different story, however. I was sitting at a brass clad table in a coffee house in Sthlm, feeling like a romantic Nora Roberts character as I wrote the winged words of a future bestseller. I knew exactly what I was doing and my ego was untouchable.

I really hope that this feeling of worthlessness and creative fatigue will have packed its bags and left by the time I awake tomorrow morning, because I don’t have room for it in my apartment or in my life. I have so many things going right now that I can’t afford to be humanly insecure about my writing for more than a day. Not only do I have the golden 1666 words to write every day, but I also have deadlines and essays and work to do.

I also hope that it’s not just me growing tired of November from a WriMo point of view. I hope that this is a natural state in the writing process. I hope that my novel is not as boring and flat as I think it is, and I hope that you can forgive me for having such relatively shallow problems in a world where terrible things happen every day to ordinary people with dreams and hopes just like you and me.

Do you have any tips on how to tackle the feeling of being a worthless writer working in vain on a worthless text? Or do you just agree and want to whine together with me? Feel free to drop a comment or a tweet!


And finally: I’d like to give a shoutout for this beautiful blog post by James Radcliffe. It is about the beauty in broken things and it really made my day. I recommend reading it.

Now I’ll be off back to the Self-esteem Lowlands. Have a nice evening!
Over and out!

It’s past midnight, making it the last of Writober!

Oh. My. God. I’m on the final day of my Writober-challenge. Wowzers.

I won’t be going in for the kill (i.e. the final Writober text) until I have slept and eaten some breakfast, but I already know what it is going to be. If you have been following my writings this month, you might have noticed that my “On Blood And Dreams”-triplet hasn’t been concluded yet. The last day of my October Writing Challenge will see the final installment of that story as well. Hopefully.

Anyways, this has been a challenging and inspiring month. Sure, I have uploaded some older stories as well, but for the most part I have written a new text every day. I have used writing prompts from Reddit, dug up old ideas and let myself be inspired by music, life and not least other writers. I’d like to namedrop some of them here:

http://theaeolianharp.com/ is full of well written stories with interesting and inspiring concepts. The very name of the blog is magical, for heaven’s sake. You should pay it a visit.

http://wwocz.net/ is where I was first inspired to write about space, through one of several awesome stories found there. The blog’s author is also into archery and metal (my own drugs of choice), and has managed to talk me into giving NaNoWriMo another try this year.

https://songofion.wordpress.com/ is the blog of one of my IRL-friends who writes in Swedish and does so very well. If you know the language you should totally check it out. Its author has provided me with tons of encouragement and inspirational feedback throughout this month, and the short stories on the page are atmospheric, well written and engaging – especially if you’re into the Gothic and the dark paranormal.

During this month I have learned to be more effective and economic with words, to get to the point of a story without wasting the time of my readers and also to find ideas for stories in my everyday life. Another thing I have had to develop is a sense for planning ahead and using my time well – otherwise I would never have managed to combine working two jobs and doing two separate college courses with this creative writing challenge.

Thanks for all the feedback and support during this month, you have all been awesome!

But, as we say here in Sweden: “Don’t yell ‘hi!’ until you’re over the creek”. I still have one text left to write before I’m done with Writober. And then remains NaNoWriMo. Am I mad?

Anyways, stay tuned for On Blood And Dreams III!