Category Archives: Art and Music

A Song For My Brother – New News About An Old Release!

Hey, guys! I recently realised that due to life and stuff happening, I never made any sort of ‘official’ release post for A Song for My Brother. I mean, I briefly and emotionally blogged about it when we got our hands on the first printing, but I didn’t really announce anything since. So I figured that now’s as good a time as any, especially since we just got our first independent review this week.

Drum roll…

Dearest audience, Maria Stanislav and Emmi Bat are proud to present their first full-length collaboration:

song_cover

A Song for My Brother is a 40-page fantasy graphic novelette, and, as the title suggests, it centers around two siblings, L’iume (featured on the cover) and her brother N’iel. It is a story of loss, hope, but, above all, love.

Needless to say, this book, being the first project of this scale that Emmi and I pulled off together, is very dear to us. So you can imagine how excited we were to find it was included in an episode of Pixels and Pages, alongside such titles as HIT 1957, Jem & The Holograms, Past Aways, and the classic graphic novel Maus. Pixels and Pages is a video blog run by Lucy Myatt, owner of Level UP!, an independent comic book store in Liverpool – and you’ll be missing out if you don’t check it out:
(Song appears about nine minutes in.)

Thank you very much, Lucy, for your wonderful review!
As for you, dear readers, you can grab a copy of A Song for My Brother at Level UP! in Liverpool, and if you’re located elsewhere, you can get it on Etsy with FREE SHIPPING. Alternatively, if you just can’t wait to read the story, it’s also available digitally, as a DRM-free PDF, yours to keep forever and ever and enjoy on any device of your choice – for just two pounds! Yes, you read it correctly – you can have 40 pages of quality story for less than the price of a decent cup of coffee. If that’s not a bargain, well, just go ahead and revoke my Business Administration degree.

And, just in case you’re still hesitating, here’s a free sampler of the first chapter of Song, for your enjoyment (click on each page to make it bigger):

Wait, what river? What happened? Find out!

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Life, Death, and Stories: a Blog of Survivor’s Guilt

This week’s post almost didn’t get written. After reading the title, you might think that, for whatever reasons, I was in too much danger this week to sit down and write a thousand-ish words about art, writing, the latest concert I went to, or another aspect of a freelance writer’s life. That is not the case. In fact, I’m safe and sound, sitting in one of the more comfortable corners of Europe, while back in my home country, 30 people died in one day and three times that number were wounded, when a peaceful city came under rocket fire. (Je Suis Mairupol, anyone? Je Suis Volnovakha? Or, for a closer-to-home situation, Je Suis MH17? Anyway. You’re free to je-suis whatever it is that upsets you, or nothing at all. I won’t tell you off. This is not a political blog.)

This week’s post was going to be about things we own, owning too much things, precious possessions, and the like. I couldn’t write it. I couldn’t write a post listing various people’s answers to the question “Which possessions would you take out of a burning house?” on the day when dozens of people didn’t get a chance to take THEMSELVES out of burning houses.

The truth is, I couldn’t write anything at all. I had no motivation to create, because my world (which consists of parts of The World that I’m aware of and care about) became a darker place than before (for the Nth time recently), and it was disheartening to think that the best I could contribute to the world (either of the two) was a silly little blog post about how we first-world humans like material possessions too much for our own good. Because writing that silly blog post, as if nothing happened, would mean pretending that everything was fine, that I was fine… Writing that post this week would mean lying. And there’s no room for lies in art. Except the ones we use to tell the truth.

v_truth

Then I was stuck. Writing about things that were bothering me would turn 100% of my art into a tantrum worthy of a five-year-old demanding to “make this not be happening”. Writing about anything else would mean lying, pretending that there, in fact, wasn’t a corner of my head forever occupied by a crying five-year-old demanding that bad things go away, pretending that there wasn’t a number of things wrong with my world that I could do nothing or next-to-nothing about.

Or would it?

Perhaps, in absence of this post, it would. Going on as usual, keeping the real world entirely separate from my art, putting up a cheerful front of an optimistic writer who lives in a bubble… God, would I love to be that person. But I’m not.

What does that mean for this blog, then? Is it going to become my vehicle for venting political frustration, or my personal chronicle of the war in my home country, or simply a place to grieve?

No. The Coffee Clef, and its Cried But Did The Thing Anyway series will continue as before. I will keep talking about art, writing, different aspects of a freelancer’s life, and, hell, maybe even the latest concert I went to. LIFE. That’s what I’m going to keep talking about. LIFE. Not in denial of the horrors of the world, but in a persistent refusal to believe that the horrors are all there is to it.

Living. Despite death. In the face of death. If you don't live, life means nothing. (by Tenny Boo)

Living. Despite death. In the face of death. If you don’t live, life means nothing.(by Tenny Boo)

If there’s one more thing I’d like to say this week, it’s this. As someone who had spent a large portion of her life pressured and self-pressured to be “successful”, I found a lot of inner peace in the saying that usually gets mis-attributed to the Dalai Lama, but was originally written by David W. Orr in his book Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World. Usually, only the first two sentences get quoted, but the full paragraph reads:

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”
(To be fair, I think the Dalai Lama would be entirely on board with these ideas, too.)

david-orr_the-plain-fact-is-that-the-planet-does-not-need-more-successful-people

What makes me happy about this saying is that storytellers are included among the groups of people who have the potential to make our planet better. Maybe V got it right about using lies to tell the truth.

Thus, this blog will continue. Every week, or more often if I manage, I’ll be popping up in your news feed/dashboard/inbox, telling my stories, or chatting about different ways to tell stories, or, every now and again, sharing my thoughts on what each of us can do to try and be the best story we can be. I’ll be seeing you guys…

doctor_who_we_are_all_stories_in_the_end

 

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2014, So Long. 2015, Bring It On.

2015_coffee_header
This is the obligatory end-of-year-happy-holidays-yearly-summary-new-year-resolutions-congratulations-to-us-all-for-surviving-another-trip-around-the-sun post. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

But wait! – you gasp. The right time for such posts is somewhere between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day at the latest! What is she doing, making this kind of post almost a whole week into the new year?

Well, let me tell you, turkeys, that in the neck of Eastern European woods I hail from, Christmas Day is the 7th of January, so, for me personally, winter holidays aren’t over yet, and regardless of whether I celebrate Christmas these days, I know an opportunity for a cultural excuse when I see one. Plus, I’m sure you had better things to do over the holidays than to read this humble blog, just as much as I had better things to do than write it. (Wait, what did you say? Yes, you in the green sweater. What do you mean, you did NOT have anything better to do? Goodness me. Drop me a message a.s.a.p., because you’re coming over to mine for the next year’s winter holidays. It’s a never-ending party over at the Stanislav house. We have a twelve-inch Christmas tree, not four, but FIVE strings of tinsel, and – le gasp! – board games.)

Now, to ring in 2015, have a monthly breakdown of my 2014. This is funny, because the words ‘monthly breakdown’ can almost be used as the most succinct summary of my 2014. Woot woot, bring on the continuously crumbling mental stability with a side of rapidly increasing introversion!

Seriously, though, it was quite a year, but I like to think of it as a predominantly upward curve. It felt really steep at times (and a sheer wall once or twice), but hey, climbing a steep slope means you’ll get up sooner than if you walked along a gentle one. So, before we scramble the fuck onwards, let us look back at 2014. Warning: looking back and down makes you dizzy, so hold on to your harness.

January – NaNo Flashbacks Continue reading

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A Song of Four Months and Four Years

In my last post, I talked about a song. In this one, I talk about a song again. But this one’s been sung onto paper.

song_for_my_brother

A Song for My Brother. A long-form comic book or maybe a graphic novelette.

A story about sounds that shape things, and change things, and even heal things. Sounds that are life, because to lose them is to waste away.

A story about siblings who threw away old homes and new lives for the sake of saving each other. Because to lose each other was to lose it all.

A story, sung onto paper by two sisters who wouldn’t have each other now, had it not been for music.

When I put it like this, it all sounds so… neat. Convenient, even. Siblings, music, healing, saving, yeah, I see what you did there, very clever… You don’t have to believe me when I say none of this was contrived, devised, or orchestrated. People say, write what you know. For me, it’s not an instruction, it’s a fact of life. I always write what I know, even if I don’t know it at the time, even if I don’t know that I know it.

Fiction is a much streamlined version of real life, where connections and symbolism are brought into the foreground in a way that makes the story make sense. But even in real life, certain narrative forces come into play now and again. Perhaps they are the reason this book exists. Perhaps they are the reason that this story, and none other, is our comic convention debut. The reason that a shipment of these books, printed, arrived at my sister’s doorstep exactly four years after I’d arrived there myself, flying in to attend the most important concert of my life.

Today marks four years since the day I met the man with the brightest eyes in the world. October 25, 2010. The day I, in my characteristically pretentious manner, like to think of as the day I was born as an artist. By deciding to be one.

Making this book took us four months.

Making ourselves into people who could make this book took us four years. And counting. Because unlike any piece of our work, we can never be done, complete, perfected to a solid state. Such is the beautiful tragedy of being an artist, nay, a human being. You stop when you die, and die when you stop.

But even if you’ve got the words ‘keep running’ tattooed into your brain, you’re allowed to catch your breath after a four years’ sprint… and take a look at the road so far. Speaking for myself, I’d say it’s all been worth it.

P.S. We’re going to see the bright-eyed man less than two weeks from now, and bringing the book with us to give him a copy. I hope he likes it.

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‘Brother’ by Gerard Way, or Hour of the Wolf and Wet Asphalt in Streetlight

Hesitant_AlienI’m supposed to write another Cried But Did The Thing Anyway blog. In fact, I was supposed to write it last night, but I was having a tough evening, so I told myself I’ve got another twenty-four hours. Now, it’s less than an hour before this is no longer a Monday post, and I’m still drawing a blank as to what to write about. I know what next week’s post is going to be about, but this week’s?

So instead, I’m going to talk about a song from Gerard Way’s new record Hesitant Alien. It’s the fourth track on the album, and the first one I got properly stuck in. I’m going to talk about this song, titled Brother, and about three in the morning.

Because that’s what it sounds like. Brother is a song that sounds like streetlights reflecting off wet asphalt at three in the morning.

Listen while you read, why don’t you…


Three in the morning. The Hour of the Wolf.

This is the time when it’s bad luck to be awake – and I speak from experience, not superstition. This is the time when the top of your head opens, and the universe pours in, smashing through too many doors that you normally keep closed, and leaving you to deal with the resulting mess. I night-owl frequently, and I’ve come to think that one of the reasons humans are largely diurnal is to protect them from the hour between three and four am. Our tiny minds weren’t meant for that time of… night? morning? Neither. Too far into the night to be late. Not far enough into the morning to be early.

This is not what Brother sounds like.

Not the heavy, cramped three in the morning of a room lit brightly in an attempt to shut the night out, but only serving to emphasize how dark it really is outside of it. Not the nowhere-hour of paralysis spent holding on to whatever it is that gets you through the night (and at this point, hell knows what it is, because all the usual things are failing you, breaking in your hands, or turning against you).

Like I said, it sounds like streetlights reflecting off wet asphalt. Outside. Where the night feels less dark, between the yellow glow of streetlights overhead, and a thin film of gold underfoot. It’s still three in the morning, but out here, it’s the kind that will eventually turn into four, and then five, and then dawn. It’s a morning that you chase from the other side of night, and when you catch up with it, your eyes are tired, but your mind has that weird dizzy clarity of an all-nighter that ends with a walk outside.

The universe withdraws from your brain, leaving it shaken but intact. Maybe, a few hours later, you’ll look back on the hour where every door in your mind was flapping loose, and see something that suddenly makes sense. Or maybe you’ll shake your head, and shrug the shreds of hour-of-the-wolf thoughts off your shoulders. But that’ll come later. For now, you’ll walk on wet asphalt, under slowly fading streetlights, towards four, and then five, and then dawn.

And this, to me, is what Brother sounds like. The heaviest piece of night that glows from the inside with the golden promise of a morning.
wet_asphalt

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