Toothpaste

I’ve found myself pondering certain questions during the last days of my life.

For example, the other day I asked myself why I had always insisted on buying the expensive brand of toothpaste, when Colgate would have been completely fine. In fact, if I had just used Colgate, my wallet would be less light, and I could have spent some of that money on the people I love, instead of wasting it on my teeth. And then maybe I would have been enjoying the company of my friends, with whom I’d have built strong and lasting relationships, instead of sitting alone on a balcony in Florida, with my strong and lasting teeth.

I also find myself reflecting on whether or not my rather unfortunate decision to sell my late mother’s house to an infamous porn producer could have been avoided had I just called my mother once every week, like I said I would. I’m not quite sure whether or not her suicide was a direct consequence of my neglection, but it’s not too unlikely that it played a part.

To be perfectly honest, I doubt that anything I’ve impacted during my thirty-two years on this planet has turned out positive. The company from which I’ve been steadily buying toothpaste since I turned sixteen went bankrupt just last week. A few days before that I got a call from one of the head business managers at my publishing company saying that five of our most promising writers had just signed deals with other publishing houses. In addition to that, all of the people I’ve befriended at one point or other during my life (admittedly not a sizeable number) have either fucked their life up to unbelievable degrees, or they’re just dead.

But even though everything I come in contact with seems to end in catastrophy, I’m still sitting on a penthouse balcony in Florida, with a bank account filled with money and a bathroom cabinet filled with expensive toothpaste. Somehow – and I have no idea why – I’ve managed to sustain good luck and bad luck simultaneously.

I don’t think my mother ever doubted that I would succeed in life. Throughout my teenage years I could be quite obnoxious, at times malicious, and I’ve never been too fond of people. The weekend visits to my father’s Oakland condo only helped enhance my apathetic attitude. But despite this my mother fastidiously believed in my potential, in stark contrast to my father, who settled for smoking weed and telling me how useless life, people, and especially I, was. He was a steadfast pessimist, while my mother remained an ardent optimist, placing me somewhere in the middle.

It was first at eighteen I realized the true extent of my apathy, when I walked in on my girlfriend indulging in a threesome. Surprisingly, it didn’t make me feel anything at all. I simply broke off our relation and carried on with my life. A few days after that I made two thousand dollars, so I think it might have been her loss.

Something my former best friend Adrian said after that affair occurred has stuck with me for a long time:

“Love isn’t real.”

The reason this statement stayed with me is because it sounded like something my father would say. And, for much of my life, I have agreed with Adrian’s comment. All my previous experiences with women and romance have always seemed so shallow and counterfeit. Like we were putting on a show. Nothing ever connected.

But last year I realized that love does exist, when I got my mother’s suicide note sent to my office. If I’m to be completely frank with you, I never thought I loved my mother. I was grateful to have her around at times, that was all. But then I read that letter. She mentioned my father, she talked of her sister, and she completely disregarded me.

I had previously been unaware that something could hurt that much. But there it was. This clenching, anxiety inducing ball of unhappiness lodged firmly in my throat – a feeling that up until then had been completely alien to me. So I took the rest of the day off, bought a new bike and rode around on it the rest of the day while I wished it was raining.

While riding around I saw this really beautiful woman who smiled at me. It was when I couldn’t bring myself to smile back that I realized I was going to commit suicide. Not right there and then. Not the day after that, not the next week. Not the next month, either. No, I was going to wait until a year later, when I had all my affairs wrapped up and there were no loose ends to leave behind.

So I biked home and started auctioning off shares from the different companies and industries I’ve involved myself in over the years. Then I called my old friends. Then I called the families of my dead friends. Then I called my family. All of this spanned the course of a year. Picking up the courage to call friends and family took a sizeable amount of time, but when I finally did a big weight was lifted off my chest. Now that everything was fixed and we loved each other again, they would be sad when I died.

Today it’s exactly a year later. The 1st of May. I strung up a noose in the living room this morning, so all I have to do is finish this note. I don’t know why, but I’m still thinking about the toothpaste. I really wish I’d just bought Colgate instead. I mean, dental hygiene is important. But there’s really no point when you have nobody to share it with.

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A Strange Act of Patriotism

I have made a decision.

It’s a decision I never thought I would make. Something I’ve barely considered.

I – a person who for a longer period of time has been renouncing his Norwegian heritage and has basically been the opposite of a patriot – have decided that I want to write in Norwegian.

A bit of backstory on that: Ever since I started this blog I’ve always been planning to get published in English. I am not at all fond of my own country and getting published in Norwegian was only something I considered up until the point where I got fluent in English – ever since then, I have never wanted to write in Norwegian.

So why am I doing that now?

Because while being at a convention I joined a writing course featuring Norwegian fantasy/sci-fi writers, and it inspired me. Not because I learned something new – to be honest I already knew most of the stuff they were talking about – but because the writers who were there were genuinely awesome people, and because right now, there’s a surge in Norwegian fantasy. Norwegian fantasy has not really been a thing until now recently; fantasy has of course been popular here, but the fantasy novels in question have been novels written originally in English. But now, Norwegian writers are writing fantasy. And that’s fucking awesome. You see, I strongly dislike Norway – but I care about Norwegian literature. It’s the only thing Norwegian that’s actually important to me. And the fact that my all-time favourite genre is now getting big among Norwegian authors… that’s fantastic. And it’s something I want to get in on. I want to write Norwegian fantasy and I want to get it published, because even though I couldn’t give a shit about my country, I do give a shit about my country having its own fantastical literature.

This doesn’t mean I won’t try getting things published in English as well, but at the moment, I’m engaging in my own weird-ass patriotism.

So I guess it’s time to brush up on Norwegian.

The Four-Draft Plan

Editing – a writer’s worst nightmare.

Sitting down and reading through the first draft of your manuscript and coming to realise that what you have written, what you previously thought to be a literary masterpiece, is absolute dogshit. Immediately, you want to throw it away and never see it again. Who wrote this? Who are they and what did they do to your precious jewel of a novel? The truth of the matter is that you wrote this.

You wrote this piece of absolute cranberry sauce. And you’ll have to live with that. Because, remember, the words and sentences and complete bollocks on the surface is not what’s important right now. What’s important is the core idea, what got you started – the idea that in the first place made you so excited to write this novel and made you punch that keyboard with your fingers until you’d written this atrocity of a first draft. So now what do you do?

You start editing, of course!

To be honest, I don’t have any advice for you, because everyone edits in different ways, but I will share with you my process of writing a novel – I call it the Four-Draft Plan.

DRAFT ONE

I have a vague idea of the plot – I know how I want it to end. I know what the main character’s name and gender is. I know one or two supporting characters. And then I sit down at the keyboard and I write. For the first draft, there’s no planning or outline involved. I just write – my fingers pour ideas into the draft and knock out the story. I write the whole book – usually around 50,000 words – and then I put the manuscript away in a drawer and wait a few weeks, until I dig it back up again and read through this strange mutation that’s doing a bad job of cosplaying as a novel.

DRAFT TWO

I look at the first draft, find the good bits, see what works and what doesn’t work, and then I make an outline that basically improves on everything. I don’t include foreshadowing or character development etc. in this outline. I’m not going to need that until draft three. Then I write the whole novel again, except this time with an actual plan. I then put that away for a few weeks.

DRAFT THREE

The second draft is never as bad as the first draft – in fact, it usually borders on decent. I read through it and I find that this is a lot closer to my original vision. This represents my skill as a writer a whole lot more than the first draft does. It’s still rough, though – there’s not a lot of character development or motivation, plot holes are to be found everywhere and there’s no foreshadowing etc. The third draft is where I rectify all lack of character development and motivation, fleshing everything and everyone out. I also scrap chapters that don’t work and add new bits to further improve the plot.

DRAFT FOUR

The fourth draft is the nitpicking stage. This is where I polish everything, sort out plot holes, add foreshadowing, go over the syntax and make sure there are no spelling mistakes. Once I’ve finished that, I’ll once again put the manuscript away, for a month this time, and start working on other projects. Once that month has passed, I’ll return to it, maybe tweak a tiny bit more before sending it to a few beta readers for their input and criticisms – I’ll take that to heart and edit a bit more accordingly. After that I’ll send it to a publisher, hopefully; still haven’t tried that bit.

And that’s my Four-Draft Plan! I hope you found it interesting. If anyone wants to share their novel writing process, please do in the comments – I’d love to know.

The Little Boy On Top of The World

Sunshine blinded the little boy. He sat silently on top of the world and watched the grownups and teenagers and elderly people with wrinkles walk about on the earth. In his hands, he held a clock. It was small, made of silver, and around the edges there were strange markings only the boy could interpret.

He fiddled with a dial on the clock and smiled, wistfully. The boy felt old, sitting there on top of the world, but he shook it off. Putting the clock in his pocket, he got up and leapt, passing from the realm of day into the realm of night.

The little boy skipped from star to star, frolicking in the night sky and bathing in the cold glow of the moon as starry-eyed lovers lay on the grass beneath the heavens and drunken men and women walked home on stumbling legs while other, less adventurous souls slept peacefully in their beds.

The little boy saw it all and delighted in the radiant lives of these people. He might have been slightly jealous had he not been too busy being in love with it all – new souls were constantly being created and destroyed, entire star systems were being sucked into wormholes and spit out on the other side, hearts were being broken and hearts were being mended and hearts were soaring high above the sky in pure, unadulterated happiness just because of a simple kiss. Everything was stuck in a loop of constant change and people were dying and souls were leaving bodies and it was all so completely overwhelming that the little boy had to lie down on the moon.

He closed his eyes, and as it all went dark he saw the endless possibilities; fireworks were going off, colourful sparks leading the way to something wonderful and terrifying and so infinitely beautiful, and the boy started crying tears of joy – tiny rivers of saltwater streaked the child’s face. The tears died on his lips as he grinned, and the small drops that had gathered in his eyelashes were suddenly thrown out into the night as the boy opened his eyes and jumped. Arms stretched wide as if ready for an embrace, he plummeted through the sea of stars and watched the clocks of the world as they measured the turn of time. The boy landed on the edge between day and night and let half his body be awash with sunshine and the other half awash with moonlight as he got out his clock and checked the strange markings around the edges to see if they’d changed at all. But they hadn’t.

He saw two people holding hands – they looked so happy with their hands woven together; a promise of love. Looking at his own hands, he found that the boundless happiness was long gone.

The little boy on top of the world sat down, hugged himself, and cried because he was lonely.

Secrets

This is Daevone Molyneux at his very best. Might be a bit biased considering it’s inspired by my poem, but seriously, I love this story. Read it!

Daevone Molyneux

The following story is inspired by this poem byMarkus Røe:

Life is a funny device, the way a simple action can complicate everything.

There was a clown living in my closet. A clown, a real clown. It walked and talked, hell, it even breathed.

I always slept with my back to the closet, but ignoring the clown only served to make things worse.

The skeleton under my bed groaned and rattled its shattered bones, screaming and begging for mercy like the day I took its life.

Weeks prior, I sat in a dark room, tears staining my shirt. The light bill wasn’t paid and I had to carry a candle everywhere. I drowned in debt, and the danger of eviction hung over my head. The landlord pounded on the door like a one man SWAT team. I didn’t have the money, and asked him to give this starving…

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A Rant (SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON)

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What the actual fuck?

“Joss Whedon took twelve steps back with Natasha’s character development. Basically undermined everything she was built to be before Age of Ultron.”

WHAT are you talking about? These assholes must have watched a completely different movie than me, because… TWELVE STEPS BACK? REALLY? FUCKING REALLY? Holy shit, this pisses me off so much. Natasha got ACTUAL, REAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! HE GAVE HER A BACKSTORY! HE TURNED HER INTO A REAL FUCKING PERSON!

“Thanks for reducing what could have been a strong female to boob jokes and the idea that women who can’t bear children are monsters.”

THAT.
IS NOT.
WHAT HE WAS SAYING!!!

NATASHA WAS TALKING ABOUT HER BEING TRAINED TO BECOME A COLD-HEARTED KILLING MACHINE! NOT ABOUT HER STERILISATION! THE ONLY REASON SHE BROUGHT THAT UP WAS TO MAKE BRUCE FEEL BETTER ABOUT HIS NOT BEING ABLE TO HAVE KIDS! They’re saying he reduced her to a damsel in distress, but what the fuck are they even talking about? She hardly ever had to get rescued!

It was the MAIN. FUCKING. HEROES.

Let me quote another tweet I found while scouring Twitter:

“He turned Natasha into nothing but a love interest who needed saving. How’s that internalised misogyny?”

Joss turned BRUCE into the love interest that needed saving. Natasha was never the team member that “needed saving”. IT’S HULK THAT PLAYS THAT PART! THIS FILM HAS A PROFOUND, INSIGHTFUL PORTRAYAL OF BLACK WIDOW. WHAT THE FUCK IS YOUR PROBLEM?!

Also, one more thing.

“FUCK YOU JOSS. YOU CAN’T JUST COME INTO THE AVENGERS FRANCHISE AND START KILLING OFF MAJOR CHARACTERS. THIS ISN’T GAME OF THRONES.”

Oh, okay.

Quicksilver’s death was a good thing. Well, not a GOOD thing. But necessary. Someone had to die. Someone they DON’T BRING BACK. The whole MCU up until now has had so many moments where characters die and come back or you think they die but they go “Oh, haha! We tricked you!” The sense of danger has simply dissipated – I’ve stopped fearing for the characters’ safety, because I can’t trust that they’re not bringing them back. Sound familiar? Yeah, I’m looking at you, Moffat.

I’m not saying it had to be Quicksilver, but an important character had to go. And to be honest, I was SO sure it would be Hawkeye, so Pietro’s death came right out of left-field for me. I agree that he had a lot of potential that won’t be explored now that he’s dead, but his death is a good thing. They’ve brought back the sense of danger. And his death becomes all the more powerful knowing that only moments before, Hawkeye was literally thinking about killing him. I’m only paraphrasing right now, but:

“Oh, the fast kid? Last time I saw him Ultron was sitting on him… nobody would know.”

And yet, Pietro sacrificed himself to save him.

I am just so unbelievably furious at people’s behaviour towards Joss. This whole thing is coming from a community of people apparently strongly against bullying, and still they managed to BULLY JOSS WHEDON AWAY FROM TWITTER. DEATH THREATS, PEOPLE. DEATH THREATS!

Seriously. Fuck you, internet.

In Absence of Light

Your shadow is what keeps you safe.

It’s what fights the monsters.

You know, the big, blood-curdling monstrosities following you around. Whispering these horrible, horrible things. Things that make your fists clench and your breath ragged – things that petrify you with dread and make your knees weak. Sickening falsehoods spun so elaborately you can’t help but believe them to be true. The shapeless, faceless beasts who hide under your bed, cackling in glee and directing your dreams into the realms of nightmare.

Yes, those.

Your shadow protects you from those. It fights them off, best as it can – biting, scratching, howling at them. But some of the beasts get past. They taunt, pulling forth your deepest insecurities and uncertainties and flaunting them, waving them in your face like patriots proudly waving the flag of their country. But then your shadow grabs hold of them and hurls them away from you; you’re safe. For the time being, you are safe. Unscathed? No, not even close. The taunts are still replaying in your head, over and over, but at least, for the time being, there aren’t any more.

Your shadow is at it right now; guarding you, protecting you. Making sure you’re okay.

My shadow, however…

My shadow used to do that. My shadow was extremely good at it. Hardly any monsters were let through. And those who got through were thrown back almost instantaneously. Then, one day, without warning, my shadow was defeated. Overwhelmed. Instead of protecting me from these monsters, it now contains them.

And me?

I’m scared of the dark. I’m especially scared of what’s in it. There are bad thoughts in the dark. Loads of demons – they’re great at lurking. Light keeps the dark away, but there’s always darkness in the corners. There’s always darkness in my shadow. Whatever I do, wherever I go… I can’t get rid of my shadow.

© Markus Røe, 2015