The Tallow-Wife arrives!

Cardboard box with bubble-wrapped parce.

Look what’s arrived from Tartarus!

Spread of three copies of The Tallow-Wife, on top of bubble wrap. The first is open to the story "Embers and Ash", with a drawing of a ship half-sunk in a cliff. The second has its dust jacket on. The third shows the foil-and-purple cover design on the boards under the cover.

It’s Angela Slatter‘s extremely beautiful The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, which is now available to buy in a limited edition.

The spines of The Tallow-Wife, with hand-lettered title printed in foil on a purple ground.
(Photo from Tartarus Press)

It is illustrated throughout with vignettes and spot illustrations in the same style as The Bitterwood Bible.

Hand holding two pens and several folded sections of drawing paper, on the top page of which is written "The Tallow-Wife & Other Tales by Angela Slatter", with drawn ornaments of candles, branches, and moths.
A Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.05, and a Faber Castell Pitt Artist Pen Warm Grey 272, on Canson Illustration paper.

It’s a loose, conversational, first-impressions style that I love working in. It’s so first-impressions that the label for my sketchbook notes for the project became not only the title page, but the spine lettering and the basis for some of the cover ornaments.

Title page of the book with sketches of candles, floral flourishes, and moths.

First impressions isn’t the same as easy. Here, more than any other style, is where I can feel all the work of observing (the world, how I work, how other people solve problems) and sketching pay off.

I particularly enjoy working this way because it catches that first response of an early reader, the images that intrigue and charm me, the conversation I wanted to have with the stories when I was first exposed to them. And also because, while there’s a lightness to the style, there’s also a lovely weight of quantity — spooling out wavering lines in response to the stories as they unfold, questioning and reacting and correcting.

More commonly, illustrating a book involves reading through, responding, making thumbnail sketches, having those approved, refining pencils, having those approved, and then working on the finals (subject to approval). For The Tallow-Wife, the selection process was simply the appeal of the text (and the limits of my abilities!), and the taste of the author and publisher as they select and place the final collection of drawings.

Page of black and white line sketches of wine, a boy bowing, ghostly dogs at a cathedral, etc.

The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales is a companion book to Sourdough and Other Stories and the World Fantasy Award-winning Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. The limited edition is now available to buy from Tartarus (while the print-run lasts).

If you need reasons to buy this, apart from the obvious (Slatter, Tartarus, enchantments), I have posted An Incomplete List of Reasons I Have Bought Illustrated Books, in case any of those excuses resonate with you.

The Tallow-Wife: pre-orders open

The cover of The Tallow-Wife, cream with a small purple rectangle with an illustration of a pale crowned woman

The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, the third mosaic collection in Angela Slatter‘s Sourdough world, is now available for preorder from Tartarus Press, in a limited edition hardback.

As with most Tartarus hardbacks, it pays to look under the dust jacket…

Close up of a head crowned with branches, a candle, and moths, printed on purple boards in gold and bronze foil

And look at the lettering on the spine! I now wish to have all my handwriting printed in foil.

Book spines in purple with the title in gold and bronze foil.

(I wasn’t expecting that part.)

Previous Tallow-Wife art posts:

A hand holding a fan of folded pages, with a pen drawing of candles and moths and the title of the book.

Flight — to be published by PS Publishing

Illustration in pen and ink with digital colour of a girl in a pink gown walking into a thicket of improbable roses, watched by a fox. A castle is in the background.

Some exciting news about a project that’s been a rumour for a while now. Angela Slatter‘s story Flight, with illustrations by me, is being published by PS Publishing UK, and is currently in layout and design mode.

More on that as it becomes available! In the meantime, PS Publishing have published Angela’s The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and other stories, with cover art by Danielle Serra and an introduction by Kim Newman.

Assorted stationery orders

It’s always exciting to send off something I’ve drawn (or, indeed, written) and have it come back as a made and shining object. Books are great, of course, but for quick gratification it is quite fun to be ordering stationery again. (Various other examples are under the stationery tag.)

The postcards I put together for Angela Slatter have been printed, and signed by her, and sent off to accompany limited editions of The Tallow-Wife when it is published (which I will be sure to tell you all about!).

I put together address labels for her at the same time (not shown), and also in another order of Flyaway-related things had some stickers printed, with the US cover art and the roughly circular test-image I cut out when I was designing it.

I also updated my post about the Castle Charming enamel pins with a picture of the stickers Tansy had made based on the same design.

And I have these rather nice little foil prints of the Flyaway cover silhouette (Moo.com now has foil options). They are so extremely shiny.

Tallow-Wife stationery in progress

As previously mentioned, I’ve been working on (and have finished!) the illustrations for Angela Slatter‘s collection The Tallow-Wife and other tales, the third book in the Sourdough/Bitterwood Bible (World-Fantasy-Award-winning!) sequence. The book is scheduled to come out from Tartarus Press later this year, and in the meantime Angela and I have been putting together some promotional postcards for when the book comes out.

Previous Tallow-Wife posts are under this tag: The Tallow-Wife.

(These are photos from Angela’s Instagram off her screen — there’ll be clearer shots when it’s all printed!)

When the book comes out (and don’t worry, I’ll let you know!) she’ll be signing these to go out with some copies.

You can see the other images and quotes on her Instagram post.

Read (not seen) — May 2020

A pen and watercolour sketch, on gridded paper, of a woman reading in an alcove

Read

  • Sisters of the Vast Black — Lina Rather. Nuns! In! Space! and much more earnest and focussed and charming than that sounds. But also: nuns in space!
  • Lord Ashwood Missed Out Tessa Dare. The high glee of Tessa Dare’s romances is very welcome in difficult times.
  • A Lady by Midnight Tessa Dare. See above. I started a list of “unlikely abrupt intense proximities” in lighter-hearted romances at about this point.
  • Delicious — Sherry Thomas. Something about Sherry Thomas’ books always makes me feel like I’ve run into someone who agrees with me about certain decidedly unromantic historical novels. It also prompted me to work out my thoughts about food magic (this will probably show up at some point in the observation journal posts).
  • The Monster of Elendhaven — Jennifer Giesbrecht. Nasssty oily murderous far north industrial gothic fantasy, my precious. Lovely writing.
  • The Tallow-WifeAngela Slatter. Not published yet! But I’ve been illustrating it…
  • You Let Me In — Camilla Bruce. I quite liked the origin of the fae in this one.
  • Chalk — Paul Cornell. Argh! Also it was interesting reading it beside You Let Me In, working out the boundaries of folk horror and my own tastes. Also loved opposing magics (earth vs ad-hoc pop magic).
  • Thus Was Adonis Murdered — Sarah Caudwell. (Reread). The straight-faced flipping of steretypes. The wine. The legal humour. The first line. “Scholarship asks, thank God, no recompense but Truth.” The beautiful Ragwort…
  • Black Sheep — Georgette Heyer. (Reread). There’s a trick played at the end of this book that I always kind of forget is coming.

Unseen

For obvious reasons, I didn’t get to a cinema in May, and I hadn’t been in the habit of recording other things I watched.

Four pen and watercolour sketches on a gridded journal page: A woman with a book and ominous shadows; A person with a candle looking at an opening chalk-drawn door; A woman in a cloak with a fan; A woman reading in a window embrasure.
Thinking about this month’s reading, and doors, and shadows, and things that ought not to be let in

More Tallow-Wife glimpses

I’ve been having a wonderful time working through Angela Slatter’s The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales (previously mentioned here: Beginning Sketches) to be published by Tartarus (we hope later this year).

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It’s the third volume of stories in the world of Sourdough and The Bitterwood Bible, and my job is to sketch through it, drawing and reacting — as a reader and fan, as much as an artist.

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I love our approach for these books. It’s a style I have to constantly work towards recreating when I work in a production process that involves thumbnail sketches and pencils and approvals.

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These are pure glimpses of gesture and scene, a little lighthearted, frequently grim. Many pages of them.

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You can seek more sketches (and an extract from the afterword) over on Angela’s blog: The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales.

Sketches and notes: their purpose

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I was going back through photos and found this unused sketch from Kij Johnson’s The River Bank.

This stage of a project is very charming — the snapshots of moments, the hint of movement (or, as here, stillness) and expression. They are usually just notes for myself, but a lot of the work involved in finishing a more formal final illustration is about trying to capture that lightness. (Although when I’m making sketches that will be the final illustrations, there’s a lot of unseen work involved in trying to teach my hand the shapes of what I’ll be drawing).

 

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Sketches in progress for Angela Slatter’s The Tallow-Wife

 

Something I’m gradually learning with writing is to treat the early stages in a similar way: quick notes on an aesthetic, lists of “lush language” (per Kim Wilkins), just sketching the best bits (including sketching with words) so that the heart and movement is there.

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And if you are looking for a pleasant, gentle, sunlit story, with nothing more nefarious than foxes and stoats, written with a deft touch and a loving eye, I highly recommend The River Bank.

Beginning sketches: The Tallow-Wife

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Since Angela Slatter has started posting teasers (instagram.com/angelaslatter), I can let you know about one of my current projects! I am currently sketching my way through her manuscript for The Tallow-Wife and Other Tales, the third volume in the Sourdough and Bitterwood Bible sequence. I also illustrated The Bitterwood Bible (The Bitterwood Bible Cover Art and Illustrations), and if the The Tallow-Wife sounds familiar, it might be because I previously illustrated the title story for a limited-edition chapbook: The Tallow-Wife.

As usual, I started by making a big pile of these little sketch-folds — cutting sheets of nice A3 paper into long strips and folding them with a bone-folder.

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I like these mini-sketchbooks for several reasons:

  • I can make them of my preferred papers.
  • A handful of them will fit in a small pencil case, for working when I’m out-and-about.
  • They’re so short there’s no pressure to either fill or not ruin them.
  • They make a pleasingly fat little stack as I work through.
  • At the end, I can bundle them all up into a single book, and it’s a nicely shaped object that’s impressively long when unfolded.

Here’s a page testing pens, to see which matched best which previous illustrations.

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It’s such a pleasure to just draw through these stories as I read them — they are very beautiful, and a chance to revisit a favourite world.

And finally, a long and angry fox.

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For more, for now, I recommend following Angela on Instagram or Twitter.

 

“The Heart of Owl Abbas” – now on Tor.com

My very odd short story “The Heart of Owl Abbas” is now up on Tor.com!

The story kind-of-sort-of-maybe exists in the same world (or continuum of worlds) as “Kindling” (in Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear and Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2012) and “Skull and Hyssop” (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet #31 and Prime’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015).

Huge thanks to Ellen Datlow, editor for Tor.com, and Angela Slatter, story doctor extraordinaire, for all they contributed, and to publisher and art director Irene Gallo who let me have Audrey Benjaminsen’s beautiful art. I think it’s the first time a story of mine has been illustrated by someone else and I think it is remarkable. I keep staring at all the little details. Thanks also to Noa Wheeler, copyeditor, who gamely catalogued all the careless inventions and copy-edited with an ear for the weird structures, and to Jodi Cleghorn who kickstarted me into writing this particular project when I was focussed on drawing.

Also, a word to the wise: baroque stylings exponentially increase editing difficulty. Thanks here to C.S.E. Cooney who is the sort of person you want on your side to find replacement words that slot into a particular matrix of sense, feeling, alliteration and anachronism. And also to Amber Gwynne, who diagnosed me with semantic exhaustion.

 

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