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When is your Story Ready?

‘When is it ready?’ is the ultimate question for anyone trying to create something, be it a song, a painting, a sculpture made entirely of bread-sticks, or even a story.

The answer to this is: never. That’s right. Nothing is every finished, but it can be ‘good enough’. Everything you’ve ever absorbed through whatever media has been pushed out because it’s ‘good enough’, not because it’s done in the eyes of the creator.

That sounds really cynical – but let me explain. There are countless writers out there writing and rewriting stories that will never see the light of day. Editing is vital, obviously, but I have to wonder whether in these cases the writer simply doesn’t want to let go of their creation. It’s like being an over protective parent – you have to let your baby grow up and go out into the world. That child has to make mistakes in order to become better –  a story has to be exposed to the eyes of strangers in order for the author to learn from it.

Why am I talking about this? Because Death Echo: Vol.1 was an exercise in getting something out there. It was also an exercise in editing, which was helped by the relatively low word count of each story. I couldn’t have gotten through it without all the people who came forward to test-read my work.

Vol.2 is a different beast. Having listened to feedback I wanted to make the stories longer – not massively so, just a little meatier. This has slowed the process down, and getting beta-readers will be vital in order to create the story collection I envision.

The worst thing I could do is release a volume with shoddy stories. I mustn’t let my eagerness result in a bad product, but I also don’t want to sit on my hands and delay!

Essentially when we create something we have three options –

  • Keep working on it endlessly and never show another living soul (it’s important knowing when to let go!)
  • Release it too soon and risk a bad response (All confidence and no restraint is generally a bad move – patience is key.)
  • Work on it to the best of your ability and then have the courage to share it (This one. Do this one.)

It’s a balancing act between all three even at the best of times. I can honestly say that sharing my work has helped a huge amount. To share something is to show courage. To improve upon something is wise. To love the (sometimes painful) process is liberating.

Your story may never be ready – but you can be.

– Sebastyan

 

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Where did Death Echo come from?

My grandfather died Christmas 2016. Death had seemed a long way away – suddenly it was at the door. The bubble had popped and everything felt suddenly very small and very delicate.

Mortality had arrived.

One of my short stories had been published but I felt as though I was standing still. On January the 1st I swore to put something out there. Time was short and I had to DO something.

Telling people I was a writer felt like a lie. I needed a product.

Reading through the short stories I’d written over the years something struck me – they were all about death. Not always directly, but they were all touched by the idea of endings, of passing.

This gave my theme: death.

March 2017 saw the release of Death Echo: Vol. 1, a collection of short stories by myself, illustrated by Jade Andrews.

Death Echo is a personal project. I never intended to make money from it (I still don’t) but I knew I wanted full control, something self-publishing facilitates. Three months of nonstop writing and editing, and some beautiful art and I had a product.

It went on sale at the end of March, though it nearly ended up in April due to my own struggles with Amazon’s upload system. The reaction was far better than I expected – I don’t have much of footprint when it comes to social media. Despite that I had over a hundred units moved in a week and a half (downloads and physical copies). I’ve not looked since, this isn’t a number game at the moment.

It was encouraging. Now I had something to talk about, something to sell. It was something I’d written and shaped and sent out there. I had friends, family and strangers all reading a reviewing my work. For the first time since declaring myself a writer I actually FELT like a writer.

It came from a place of desperation and fear but became something rather different. It may be about death but I hope in execution it’s something more uplifting.

– Sebastyan

Blade Runner 2049: Film Review (light spoilers)

Blade Runner 2049 is a 2017 American neo-noir science fiction film directed by Denis Villeneuve and written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. A sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner.

I wasn’t a fan of the original. That’s not to say it was a bad film, I just went in with the wrong expectations. Teenage Seb went into it expecting a sci-fi romp. Blade Runner is not a franchise that can ever be associated with the word ‘romp’. Despite this I appreciated the first film on an artistic level. I appreciate that it exists, just as I appreciate this one for not selling out.


 

The film is stark, unforgiving, beautiful, awful, engrossing, captivating, oppressive and above all else – faithful.

 

 

It would have been so easy to create an action film, all the assets are there – guns, flying cars, synthetic people, dystopia, Harrison Ford. But instead the result is something very much embedded in the original story.

It doesn’t retread the same story, despite having similar roles. There is a Blade Runner. There is a corporation. There is a plot. Yet everything feels fresh.

One of the big debates around the first film was whether Deckard was a replicant or not, with the original director saying that he was while everyone else claiming that this was stupid. This film (thankfully) doesn’t clarify this and we’re still left wondering. It also doesn’t focus on Ford, instead following Ryan Gosling who absolutely nails the role of K who IS a replicant – this isn’t a spoiler, it’s one of the first things we’re told.

 

 

This is what I mean when I say the film feels fresh. It recognizes that here in 2017 the old human/robot story-line has been played out. As a fan of Science Fiction I’ve seen it done a hundred times in a hundred ways. Blade Runner 2049 feels nuanced and carefully laid out. It’s layered and smart, without being too obscure. It doesn’t shy away from flipping your expectations and it certainly doesn’t doubt its own style or imagery. I joked before going in that the film with be 80% establishing shots and I wasn’t far off. That might sound awful but coupled with the downright aggressive soundtrack it locks you into the kind of cinematic experience that I can’t remember ever having had before.

 

 

No-one left for the bathroom in my viewing, despite the long running time. Everyone was pinned to their seats. It was a spectacle, an experience, a high budget art-house film with a good morality narrative the likes of which I’ve not seen for a long time.

 

 

Enjoyed isn’t the word. It wasn’t fun. It was dour and stunning and depressing and captivating all at the same time. I don’t want to call it clever cinema, because that makes me sound like an asshole. Nor would I mind if people walked out of it – it’s a bit like marmite. I can see why some would be bored out of their minds.There’s something about being in a cinema for something like this where you have little option but to sit and soak it all in.

 

 

The world of Blade Runner is so vast, yet the stories are so small and human – even if there are no humans involved.

The movie is unashamed of what it is. It doesn’t seek to pander or entertain – it seeks to tell its story, whether you’re on-board with it or now. As a writer I can’t help but respect that.

So in closing:

Should you watch it? If you’re a fan of the original, or a fan of sci-fi then yes – give it a go.

Will you enjoy it? Perhaps, but don’t feel like you missed something if you didn’t.

 

I give it 8 Harrisons out of Ford.

 

–      Sebastyan

Radio Silence = Busy Writer

I’m a firm believer that the quieter a writer is the more they’re writing. This has certainly been the case with me. These last few months I’ve buried myself in my work in order to reach a pretty extreme deadline. The thought of missing it fills me with dread, but I mustn’t let my desire for progress get in the way of the quality of the final product. All told I have around a month to get things in order.

I’ll make more announcements closer to the deadline, as I’ll have a better idea of what’s happening. In the meantime rest assured that every free moment I have is spent agonizing over the hobby that I so dearly wish to make a career.

– Sebastyan

Emotional Support and Writing

Everyone needs emotional support from time to time. We’re human, no-one is an island. And even if you ARE an island you’d probably still enjoy company.

It’s something I’ve taken for granted for quite a while: having someone close who supports your creative pursuits makes such a massive difference. My partner has always been supportive, whether its reading my stories for me, making me tea whilst I write, or just having blind faith that it’ll all lead somewhere.

I can’t stress enough how much blind faith is needed when it comes to creative things.

I guess what I’m saying is – if you have someone who supports you then make sure they know you appreciate them.

And if you don’t have someone like that don’t despair! If you have that creativity within you then it’ll find its way out. It better to be alone but believe in yourself than it is to be with someone who puts you down/gets between you and your dream.

– Sebastyan

The Martian: Book Review (No Spoilers!)

The Martian is a 2011 science fiction novel written by Andy Weir. A film adaptation directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon, was released in October 2015. I haven’t seen the film yet, so my review will be about the book only.

I started with a great deal of misgivings. I love Science Fiction, but my passion is more with the distant future. Perhaps a childhood of watching Star Wards means my concept of fantasy and science fiction are forever jumbled, but the read-up for this seemed awfully dry by comparison. This is believable science fiction, set in the near future – booooo.

Even so I dived in. One thing the Weir does perfectly is making the main character likable. If he had failed there the whole story would have ground to a halt. Mark Watney, a botanist and engineer, is stranded on Mars for reasons that I won’t go into.

He’s on his own. Everyone thinks he’s dead, there’s no-one coming, and there’s no way the base on Mars will last long enough for the next group to visit Mars. Food is running low and it’s a hopeless situation. Except it’s not, because Mark doesn’t lose hope. If there’s a theme running through The Martian it’s hope, that and human ingenuity.

If The Martian taught me anything it’s that I am most certainly not astronaut material. Things go wrong nearly as much as they go right but Mark doesn’t give up. It avoids the danger of Macgyver levels of contrivances: he doesn’t get out of things using blu-tack and paperclips. The problems that arise are combated with believable science and good old human grit. It’s real edge-of-the-seat stuff and I’ll admit I got the ‘Oh thank god!’ tingles more than once.

I struggled with some of the details. Credit where credit is due Weir has learnt his stuff. All the tech which is talked about is thoroughly researched, utterly believable, and wonderfully fragile, as realistic space travel should be. All the same there’s a lot to get through.

Don’t feel guilty about glazing over when it comes to some of the explanations. Mark is a trained professional, after all, and though his science talk might seem a lot to wade through his human side keeps things ticking along. It avoids the loneliness of a one person narrative by jumping back to NASA, away from Mark’s one man journal entries, and manages to keep things intense right up to the end.

I also appreciated that this isn’t a ‘One American Male against the World’ story. Nationalities from all over are part of the narrative- both men and women.

Does Mark make it off Mars? I won’t tell you. Is it a good book? It is! I thoroughly recommend it.

So, yes. The Martian gets the thumbs up from me and if I learnt only one thing it’s this:

Always take potatoes into space.

– Sebastyan

Celebrate Prime Day with Me!

Death Echo: Vol.1 eBook download free – 10th-12th of July

What is Prime Day? No-one really knows. Our most learned scholars say it has something to do with Televisions. Whatever the case may be I’d like to invite you to enjoy Death Echo for free! I’ll be making Death Echo: Vol.1 free from Monday, July 10th until Wednesday, July 12th. That means you can download the full book, illustrations n’all for no charge on your Kindle/whatever!

Volume 2 is well underway and there will be little trails between the books for the dedicated readers so keep your peepers pealed.

Buh bye now.

–      Sebastyan