“The Wonderful Stag” in Tor.com’s Some of the Best

Tor.com have announced the table of contents for their 2021 “Some of the Best” anthology, including my quite short story “The Wonderful Stag, or The Courtship of Red Elsie”.

The ebook will be available in late January 2022 (but you can also read the stories on Tor.com now).

Observation Journal — Why has she not done the thing?

I don’t like being introspective — one of the advantages of the observation journal is that I worked that out quickly and was able to sidestep it thereafter. However, the journal is sometimes useful for unpicking specific problems.

For example: My intense avoidance of packaging and posting things. I can make myself slightly feverish, now, just by starting to think about preparing art to send to a show.

I always have to look up tabebuia online — the pink ones blossom like crepe-paper pomanders in winter

The important approach on this page was to:

  • follow each high-level answer down through several levels (what types of stress, and which physical parts, and what’s causing that…)
  • highlight key elements as I went (otherwise these pages are unintelligible when I revisit them.

The most useful question to ask for this type of page turned out to be: has [the problem] ever worked out okay, and why/how. In this case, the tricks for getting me to package and post things effectively/at all have been:

  • Clearing space
  • Dedicating time
  • Recruiting a second pair of hands (or passing it over to someone else entirely — there are people out there who apparently LOVE and are GOOD AT putting rectangles into other rectangles, and I need you all to know you are important and valued)
  • Having a tested technique AND checking if there are better approaches out there
  • Information/checklists

Two days later I started to investigate something else I was avoiding, but when I put down the key questions I thought they were (a) self-answering and (b) funnier left unanswered.

The moral of the story is: stress can be repurposed for entertainment. And sometimes laughing at myself is what is needed to get a project moving.

“could she in fact be doing the thing right now instead of writing this?”

TV Sketching — Murder, She Wrote

More TV sketching! As ever, the rule is I can’t pause the show while drawing.

These are for “The Murder of Sherlock Holmes”, the first two episodes of Murder, She Wrote, which is FINALLY available to watch online. The first season at least. (9Now, if you’re in Australia.)

It has a lot more fast closeups on faces — particularly Jessica Fletcher’s — than some of the other shows I’ve sketched, and I don’t have a shorthand for her yet. This is no speed at which to try likenesses!

Fancy-dress parties are THE BEST to sketch, in life or TV. Costumes are a brilliant stand-in for character likenesses or other physical accuracy (as for any sketches of Sebastian from Shakespeare & Hathaway).

Tricky perspective angles, e.g. looking at a walkway from below, are also a challenge at speed. It’s easy to rely on what I “know” (mostly eye-level) vs what I’m actually seeing.

So many trenchcoats. Also, every time I concentrate on strong lighting in a scene, I’m pleased with the result — torchlight here at lower right, or from previous Midsomer Murders the blue light from a phone and light through a chapel door.

Story shapes — three-mood stories

This post is a running list of three-mood (or three-note) short story shapes I’ve found interesting (for writing and art). I’m gathering the list here for future reference and extension.

I will update & refine this from time to time. There are further explanations at the bottom of the post, along with links to related and previous posts. Let me know if you have any questions.

ordinaryinklingconfirmation
reluctanceengagementdeepening
humorous sketchelements clash/conflagrationfall out
inklingbuildreveal-behind-the-story
worlddeeperdissolve into it
unsettlementdeepening horrorthe cusp of annihilation
ominouscompoundedtwist (of plot or knife)
formation of goalquiet progression towards goalachievement of goal
inklingred herringsolution
foreshadow doomproceed towards doom[evade] doom
meet cutecomplicationhappily ever after/for now
fragmentsfacetswhole
situationfailuressuccesses
doorsomething throughpushed back
metaphormetaphormetaphor
suspicionpeel backtruth & consequences
awkwardnessproliferation of optionsharmony
placerescuereverse-rescue
exposurematuringacknowledgement
discoverygrowing up[vigorous/defiant?] acceptance
horrordeteriorationexpectation
awarenessdecadenceacceptance/resignation
problemattemptssolution
petitionsolutionsresolution
consequencescausesremedy

More information and ways to use this

Background/caveats: I find “beginning — middle — end”, three-act structures, etc, more useful as a diagnostic tool than as a starting point for storytelling. Your mileage may vary — I’m used to thinking about stories through stories, and biting my way out of them from the inside. This three-mood approach to understanding stories is better suited to how I think and it’s helped me understand structures better. But it might not be for you!

Couldn’t this be distilled down to One True Story Shape? Sure? I enjoy looking for the Key to All Mythologies as much as anyone, but I don’t personally find it particularly helpful for making new stories. You do you. (Also problem — attempts — solution is commonly cited as a standard story-shape, but I’ve turned it up very rarely in this exercise).

Novels? Short stories. (I mean, go for it — so far I’ve only used this in reading, writing and drawing small stories, and trying to understand how they function as discrete objects.)

What does “mood” mean? Anything I want it to. Mood/note/vibe/point/aesthetic. But broadly, I mean the feeling of that section of the story, which carries the story along and changes into the next mood. Decadence flowing inevitably into resignation, or an appreciation of a world leading someone to dig deeper (perhaps too deep). That implied movement from one mood to the next is vitally important, but also fairly self-evident.

Here are a few ways to use this approach for writing and illustrating (and possibly other shortish forms of storytelling):

  • Analyse a story: After reading a short story, try to distil it into three big moods. These will be subjective, and you could quite easily do more than one version. It’s a useful way to compress both the story and your personal reaction to it into something you can examine.
    • Sometimes this is easier a little while after you’ve read the story, when the details have softened with distance.
  • Make your own list: Keep repeating the step above. This way, you’ll also have a deeper understanding of what you mean by the moods (and why), and why you like particular story-shapes.
  • Develop an idea: Take an idea (or image/object/aesthetic). Pick a story-progression you like.
    • Drop the idea into one of the three slots. See what ideas that suggests for the other two slots.
      • E.g. say you choose “fragments — facets — whole” and your idea is a bicycle courier on a penny-farthing bicycle.
        • Does that idea feel like a fragment? In that case, what else is going on in the world — other anachronisms? And then why — what’s the whole story? Time travel? These are the last bicycles built to last? This is likely to be a world-building story, widening out from a glimpse of an individual.
        • Or is the anachronistic (but jaunty) bicycle courier a larger facet of the story? What are the original glimpses which are made sense of by this magnificent personage? And how does their world fit them? This is less character-focussed, and personally it’s the idea that attracts me least.
        • Or if the solution and reward of the story is the realisation of the reality of this tweed-clad courier, then the first two sections might be about building up the puzzle, the oddities and idiosyncrasies of this person (an ever so slightly jarring day-in-the-life), before letting the reader know what they’re actually riding. This is more of a twist ending.
        • (This approach work equally for an illustration — either a three-panel story or a way to choose a scene to illustrate).
    • Once you have images to match those three moods, you’ll probably need to consider the links and impetus, how each connects and moves on to the next. This is fun and fairly self-explanatory.
  • Strengthen a story: Think of a story you are working on. Look for a story-shape that appeals to you and/or resonates with the draft. See where you could strengthen the story by enhancing (or being more deliberate about) some of those moods.
    • Note: Some of these story shapes are more common in certain genres. You can pick a shape that obviously suits the type of story you’re working with. “Door – something through it — pushed back (with lingering knowledge)” is a very common old-school ghost story structure (it fits most of my favourite M.R. James stories).
    • But you don’t need to find an ‘appropriate’ shape — it’s fun to work against the grain. You could, for example, tell/illustrate a fairy-tale romance with a mood of gathering horror.
  • Reinterpret/riff on a story: Pick an existing story (or one you’re illustrating) and choose the WRONG mood progression, and retell/illustrate it according to that.
  • Remix: Randomly select three moods and find a story-shape you want to play with (resolution — horror — meet cute?). Or randomly select three images to drop into a particular story-shape, and try to make them work as a story.

Which short stories are these based on? I haven’t included the reference-stories in this post because some of these progressions are spoilers and a few are very vague memories, and some of them are extremely subjective interpretations — my personal reactions to a story I knew was intended to create a different effect, but had an unintended but intriguing impact on me. Further, many shapes are distilled from or common to a genre or style. I’m trying to keep a better list — if you’re interested in seeing more of a specific breakdown, let me know.

Some related posts:

Note: If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, I have a Patreon account (patreon.com/tanaudel) and patrons there get behind-the-scenes process and sneak-peeks, starting from US$1, or you could buy me a (virtual) coffee at ko-fi.com/tanaudel (and I get through quite a bit of coffee).And/or check out prints and products available at Redbubble and Spoonflower.

Observation Journal — ways of walking

This observation journal page is about how characters walk.

Earlier in the year I heard David Suchet talking about the importance of voice and walk when creating/conveying a character (see Act Like It). On this page, I wanted to play around with that in writing and drawing, vs acting. (Incidentally, I’ve been listening to a lot of Make It Then Tell Everybody, on which cartoonists and graphic novelists frequently discuss working on the on-page acting of their characters.)

Left page: Laundry in need of being done but remaining undone

I started with some stick figures, mocking up a few silly walks. Then I elaborated them into a character. (Putting a specific costume onto an idea is generally a quick way to create the feeling of a personality.)

Then I jotted down a written description of each hypothetical walker — led by the hips, flouncing and sauntering, setting each foot down smartly as if stamping a particular bug, trailing sullenly away, etc.

Finally, I wrote a sentence describing how each would move in a hurry: borne on a tide of consequence, leaping off the second-last step and landing with both shoes together, and so on.

It was an interesting little exercise, and a good way to think through and condense/amplify aspects of physicality. (Related: observing hands in cafes.) It’s also good for exercising related vocabulary.

Writing/illustration exercise

  • Jot down some stick figures with exaggerated walking styles OR pick a few letters of the alphabet and imagine how they would walk.
  • For the artists: Sketch that letter/stick figure as a character. I like to do this by picking a favourite era/style of clothing, putting it on the person, and going from there.
  • Try describing the style of walk — dot points of good adjectives and verbs are fine. (Z with a slashing sashay, D leaning slightly back to support their magnificent weight, etc).
  • Pick one of the following (or another mood). Consider the walking style you’ve just described. How would that person move in this situation:
    • haste
    • showing off
    • swooningly romantic
    • sneaking
    • trying to outpace someone else to a goal
    • with extreme distaste and reluctance
  • For the artists: Now sketch that scene.

Note: If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, I have a Patreon account (patreon.com/tanaudel) and patrons there get behind-the-scenes process and sneak-peeks, starting from US$1, or you could buy me a (virtual) coffee at ko-fi.com/tanaudel (and I get through quite a bit of coffee).And/or check out prints and products available at Redbubble and Spoonflower.

All the 2021 calendar pages

Every month (with the support of patrons) I make a printable (and colour-able) calendar page.

And here are all the pages of monthly 2021 calendar art in one place! I’m always a little startled to get to the end of a year and remind myself how much I drew during the year just making these, let alone… everything else. (Here’s the 2020 collection.) I’ve put the individual pages larger at the bottom of this post.

My favourite calendar page keeps shifting. I do very much like the July houses because of the different approach, and the frogs from May because they look velvety. But then the April fairy-tale motifs ended up inspiring the cover design for WQ Magazine. And the fish and waves from February got into two separate projects (illustrations for a secret book and a map for a book that is yet to be announced). But March’s rondels and April’s motifs have proved useful demonstrations for writing workshops.

Then the houses were a useful sampler of styles, but also research for something I’m illustrating and another piece I’m writing (and my mother wanted the line drawing for quilt backing). And all of them were places to try out approaches to surface patterns, or altered techniques, or new tools. And the chairs have been a long time coming, and the chicken-legged houses amuse me…

Note: Want to support the arts? This calendar is made possible by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art (patron levels start at very low amounts!): patreon.com/tanaudel. It is also supported by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: ko-fi.com/tanaudel. And many of these designs are available as prints, clothes, cases, etc on Redbubble, as fabrics and wallpaper on Spoonflower, and as prints in InPrnt

And below are all the designs, larger:

Continue reading

November 2021 — round up of posts

Mother Thorn process posts

Here is quick master list of the November blog posts (not including Patreon posts). This was an exciting month, in which my computer AND brakes died, but I still managed to finish the second draft of a book(?!).

Mother Thorn sketches

The starred posts have art and writing exercises (tags: writing exerciseart exercise), but most of the observation journal posts can generally be adapted for those purposes too.

o no

Posts over on Patreon, at various tiers, included: seaside photographs for desktop backgrounds, printable chicken stationery, early access to the interview with Juliet above, more observation journal pages, updates on a graphic novel project (in its very early days), a tiny tigerish story, a nocturnal Dalek, a larger hi-res colouring version of the December calendar art, and stationery motifs drawn from that art, as well as early access to the calendar.

Colour and texture layers from the December calendar

Note: If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like these about it, patrons at (patreon.com/tanaudel) get behind-the-scenes process and sneak-peeks, starting from US$1, or you could buy me a (virtual) coffee or two at ko-fi.com/tanaudel (and I get through quite a bit of coffee).

A snippet. I’m gradually stockpiling Daleks again — they’ll escape containment eventually.

December 2021 Calendar — the mail

Note: Want to support the arts? This calendar is made possible by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art (patron levels start at very low amounts!): patreon.com/tanaudel. It is also supported by those very kind people who throw a few dollars towards it via the tip jar: ko-fi.com/tanaudel.  

For this December’s calendar, it’s all about getting the mail through. And while the art is not Christmas-themed, there are 25 animals, so you could use the colouring version as an Advent calendar.

25 is a lot of animals, and I was tired. After I’d committed to the idea, I realised I could only think of about 5 plausibly fairy-tale adjacent creatures (it was late!). So now my notebook contains a list of animals made as I remembered their existence (eventually more than 25).

List and first ideas

I decided to stick with flowers instead of stars, since I’d drawn starry animals last December (A Crowded Sky).

Then I shifted to Procreate for the rough sketch (to keep in practice with the program, and it does remove one scanning session). You can just see, below, that I put rough scribbles down (and numbered them!) before drawing the animals. I wanted to keep a plausibly-deniable fairy-tale quality to the animals, so I sketched most of them loosely from memory, then consulted a bit of reference to correct the more obvious errors and angles.

At this stage I was still considering big flowers — not as big as around September’s chairs, but still quite large and cheerful.

But I’d been doing a lot of standard five-petal flowers lately, and wanted to mix that up a bit — and possibly add some shading again. You can see me playing with both ideas here.

I printed out the digital sketch and used it as a guide for inking the animals.

The chewed-biscuit looking edge at the bottom is the ledge of my drawing board which I’ve had for a couple decades now.

Once they were done, I started at the top left corner and began to fill in the flowers. I drew these freehand, although I did occasionally refer to the sketch.

To keep a reasonable mixture of flowers, I alternated 2 flame-shaped trios (and long sprigs of leaves) with one five-petal flower (with stray leaves). This helped distribute shapes and colours (although I wouldn’t have minded having added another yellow flower between the snake and the cat).

I was eyeballing the distance between elements, and occasionally the spacing drifted — for example, I was working looser at the top left of the full page, where I started. In the image below, near the sheep’s front foot, that sprig of leaves brushes one of the flowers near it. On some projects I would later bump those elements around individually on the computer, but I don’t mind the rustic crowding here — it does look more hand-drawn.

And I really like this dense, all-over pattern — especially after the very open chickens of November.

I scanned those lines, cleaned them up in Photoshop and Inkscape, then added colours and texture in Photoshop. Anyway, here are the underlays, without the lines.

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions — two pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself. If you like them and/or like supporting the arts, you can contribute to the calendar (and get it and other behind-the-scenes things early) at patreon.com/tanaudel (starts at US$1/month!) or by buying me a coffee or two through Ko-Fihttps://ko-fi.com/tanaudel. Both are greatly appreciated!

Books read, things seen — September 2021

Something I love about murder mysteries is the specific, thoughtfully-considered glimpses they give of how and why people live and think and do things — beyond the incidental. And reading old mysteries adds such a wonderful glimpse into kitchens and living rooms, cocktail parties and political conversations of the past.

Read

  • How to Survive a Scandal — Samara Parish
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank — Barbara Mertz
  • Be Shot for Sixpence — Michael Gilbert (1964): This is the second Michael Gilbert I’ve read (the first was The Family Tomb in April). It was a completely different novel — Cold War espionage — and a delight. Fascinating, compelling, with an at first unlikeable character who began to make sense, and just… competent fish-out-of-water set-ups and cold-burned affectless confrontation with horror, and authorial inserts, and bureaucracies, and…
  • Dark Breakers — CSE Cooney: I read an advance review copy and this is what I wrote:

    Dark Breakers is a magnificent parure of novellas and matched stories, a suite of jewelled and velvet tales, delicately linked and ferociously glittering. It forms a magnificent companion piece to Desdemona and the Deep, and also the jewels set around it.
    A baroquely intense confection with a core of typewriters and coal fortunes, 
    Dark Breakers is compounded of voluptuous invention and ferocious structural loves — for new romances and old friends, for the works of hands, for mortality and its gifts, and all the possibilities of worlds bleeding, weeping, wandering into each other’s arms.
  • A Stitch in Time — Emma Lathen (1968): The first Emma Lathen I’ve read — deaths and insurance and medical misdeeds, and a banker investigating through the mazes of the US health system in the 1960s. Fascinating as a study of systems and a time, and of course also as a mystery.
  • Slowly the Poison — June Drummond (1976): Murder… or is it? Lawyers entrusted with stories-through-time, twinned Gothic-murder-family setups in London and South Africa. I didn’t love it, but it was fascinating.
  • (And a couple issues of Slightly Foxed including #67): This I do love.

Seen

Celebrating Mother Thorn — online on 1 December 2021

On Wednesday 1 December 2021, there will be an in-conversation between Karen McDermott (publisher at Serenity Press), Juliet Marillier and me! It will be on Facebook live and should also be on YouTube — I will update with that link when I have it. Edit: Now available to rewatch on Facebook.

It is at 12pm AWST (Perth), 2pm AEST (Brisbane = no daylight savings) and 3pm AEDT (Sydney = daylight savings). For everyone else, you’ll have to calculate it from 4am GMT/UTC! (Timezones!)

And in the meantime, you can read more about the (Ditmar Award-winning!) Mother Thorn here:

The book is available from Serenity Press: