June 2022 Calendar — wolf boys

Yellow background, with grey-toned images of boys wearing wolf-skin cloaks (and possibly turning into wolves) playing

Note: Want to support the arts? This calendar is made possible by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with alternative colourways, and other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art (patron levels start from US$1): 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.

Here is the June calendar! It’s the first of two calendar pages I’m working on with a lighthearted allusion to some of Angela Slatter’s characters. June is wolf boys, for her novel The Path of Thorns, which will be launched next month.  These are perhaps slightly gentler souls than the ones in her novels, but I’ll offset that with the other piece of art.

Photo of hand holding The Path of Thorns book with purple foil lettering
Cover design by Julia Lloyd

The Brisbane launch will be on 17 June — it is free to attend, but you will need to book online here: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/meet-angela-slatter-brisbane-square-library-tickets-342553305157

Angela Slatter's The Path of Thorns is beautiful and vicious. Although it is a ruthless, Gothic tale, bright and bitter as poison, cold as a crypt, its chinks are stopped against the bleakest wind with deft, jewel-toned tales, and at its bruised heart, it is as loving and warm as a wolf curled around her cubs.

Here’s a bit of the process behind this calendar art — first rough sketches and then tidier pencils on the iPad, inks with a dip pen and ink. I chose the yellow and grey colour scheme because of a nice 18thc-style pattern in these colours that I managed to find on a doona cover a few years ago. It’s faded now but I found it striking. (It had a design of birds in nests, not wolf boys).

Rough sketch, pencils, inks of the calendar art line work

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions — one pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself. If you like them and/or like supporting artists, 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 tip me a few dollars through Ko-Fi: ko-fi.com/tanaudel. Either is greatly appreciated!

Also, I’ve started a mailing list (not a newsletter), if you’d like to keep up with any major announcements: Mailing List Sign-Up

June 2022 calendar. ç
Line-art of June 2022 calendar, with images of boys wearing wolf-skin cloaks (and possibly turning into wolves) playing

May 2022 Calendar — small treasures

Note: Want to support the arts? This calendar is made possible by patrons, who get it a little bit early, along with alternative colourways, and other sneak-peeks and behind-the-scenes art (patron levels start from US$1): 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.

Here, for May, is a calendar of small fairy-tale treasures, variously defined.

Pattern of leaves and small treasures. Pink background.

Here’s a glimpse of the sketch I used as a base. It’s drawn on an iPad in Procreate, which is proving very useful for adjusting sketches, moving components, and checking that repeats will work.

Photo of sketch of curled cat on iPad screen

This is what it looked like when I was checking that it will join up as a pattern, in due course.

Rough sketch of repeating pattern with motifs roughly coloured

Then I printed the sketch and inked it, as usual, with a dip pen, while listening to the Disaster Girls podcast.

Photo of hand with dip pen inking branches

I do want to work it up as a repeating pattern, but I need to jostle a few leaves around and time has been slightly compressed by events. I’ll update this post when I get the repeating design up — in the meantime, there are many other calendar designs available as prints, scarves, cases etc on Redbubble: tanaudel.redbubble.com.

Snippet of calendar art with black and white images (toy horse, ring, key) on deep rose background
An alternative colourway, for patrons

And here (for personal use) are the printable versions — one pre-coloured and one to colour in yourself. If you like them and/or like supporting artists, 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 tip me a few dollars through Ko-Fi: ko-fi.com/tanaudel. Either is greatly appreciated!

Also, I’ve started a mailing list (not a newsletter), if you’d like to keep up with any major announcements: Mailing List Sign-Up

Printable calendar page. May 2022 calendar on left. Pattern of leaves and small treasures on right. Pink background.

Map: Western Massachusetts Bookstores

A map!

Photo of newspaper page showing illustrated bookstore map

The map of Western Massachusetts bookstores, which I started in 2019 (while sitting in Book Moon in Easthampton) and which was delayed by, well, 2020 and 2021, is now out and about!

Close-up of dip-pen nib drawing bats

It has been in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and you can also get a copy from Book Moon directly.

Close-up of illustrated bookstore map printed on newsprint

I pinched these photos from their social media.

Photo of newspaper information on Independent Bookstores Day 30 April 2022

If you are in their area on Independent Bookstore Day (30 April), a number of the shops in the area will have limited special edition offers and freebies, and Book Moon have already started their 50% off sale on used history, biography, art and travel books.

Close-up of drawing of bear and cubs in ink

An interview about Flight

Rick Kleffel of Narrative Species interviewed Angela Slatter and me about Flight!

Flight is out now from  PS Publishing.

Photo of book Flight, closed, on original illustrations

Here’s my first glimpse of it: Flight has arrived.

Album art — Foulweather Bluff: Love Songs for Jilted Mermaids

Hey, look! It’s my mermaid-of-ambiguous-intent on the cover of Foulweather Bluff’s moody, mythic, laconic Love Songs for Jilted Mermaids! The album is out now on streaming sites including YouTube and Spotify.

Album cover: mermaid drowning a sailor in a blue linocut illustration, with album title "Love Songs For Jilted Mermaids — Foulweather Bluff"

The mermaid image continues to be available on Redbubble, including as stickers and t-shirts.

The usefulness of template stories

In a lot of the writing exercises and art exercises on here, I recommend trying techniques out on someone else’s existing story, rather than only on your own ideas and works in progress. (Note, those writing and art links go to almost exactly the same posts, because most exercises work for both).

This is for a few reasons. For example:

  • Using an existing story saves time. I don’t have to construct a new one before I can try the exercise, and I know that this story already works as a story.
  • It lets me play in a style I know I enjoy (or, occasionally, one I detest).
  • Using someone else’s story can be freeing. If I use an idea I’m working on or wedded to, sometimes I’m worried about breaking the idea, or else the idea is so strong it doesn’t let me go wild with the exercise.
  • Transforming a classic story is a good way to create retellings, and new ideas in conversation with existing stories.
  • It makes use of the things I already know, that otherwise are just rattling around in the back of my brain.
  • If I need to come up with a new idea in a hurry, reskinning the basic structure of a story I know well is a shortcut (the whole three-moods project is related to this).
  • Changing something in an existing story makes it very clear what the ripple effects of that change are. It can reveal all sorts of things about structure and style and choices, whether about that story (if you’re interested in analysing it) or about narratives generally.
  • Consciously using a template story can sometimes reveal and shake up my default stories — habits I have and structures I lean on.

Here are some of the types of template stories I like to use (and it is nice to use a variety for variation and for different purposes):

  • Fairy tales. This is partly because I personally like working with them, and partly because of the mythic weight (see below). But a lot of fairy tales exist in versions that have been heavily condensed and pared back and boiled down to parts that can be used as archetypes or armatures for all sorts of purposes — shifted in time, dressed up in different costumes, etc, etc. Or you can pinch their ornaments and textures and put them onto something else. I like having a few in rotation; you’ve probably noticed I use Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood pretty heavily, at least in examples.
  • Stories with mythic weight. When I get people to choose these template/reference stories in workshops, this is what I tell people to look for. By “mythic” I mean personally mythic — stories that loom large in your life, that you know well, that you recommend to others, that you refer back to. It could be Jurassic Park or a historical event or a memorable sports story. The only real rule is that it has to be a story, not a theme. You can’t say “death” but you can say “Hades & Persephone”.
  • Classics. Either stories culturally well-known, or ones I personally know well. (If you’re doing an exercise to share in public, e.g. as an example or in a workshop, the former is useful.) I’ve read Pride & Prejudice a lot, usually out loud to my dad, and it’s also pretty well known, so it shows up a lot, along with Jane Eyre.
  • Works with cultural resonance. Some of these are classics, others are familiar in certain circles — even the idea of a movie I’ve seen too many previews for but have no wish to watch can be the base of an exercise.
  • Stories I actively want to mess with. Sometimes it’s less about the exercise than the template story — maybe I want to see how I could fix something that irritated me, or work out what made me like it so much by changing elements until I identify the key components. (For a lot of people, these are also source urges for fan fiction and fan art.)
  • “Testing ground” stories. I do have a couple stories of my own I use as test cases. They are old manuscripts based on ideas that never quite worked, from long ago, and have been so handled and worn out and outgrown that I don’t mind doing terrible things to the base material.
  • Images. Illustrators can use all the stories above exactly as for writing. But sometimes there’ll be a single image or classic illustration that you can use in the same way as a template story.

I’ve posted a lot of writing and art exercises on here. (Note: exercises are usually at the end of the relevant posts — follow either the writing exercise or art exercise link, as almost all exercises work for both.) But it’s also worth trying other exercises you encounter out on a template story. Or try making your own exercises.

Here are some uses for a template story, as a starting point:

  • Playing around:
    • Doing scales
    • Aesthetic tests
    • Fanfiction
    • Messing around and having fun.
    • Test driving concepts
    • Distraction and procrastination
    • Play-writing
  • Working though:
    • Examples and demonstrations of concepts (e.g. for workshops)
    • Watching what happens to a story when you make a dramatic shift
    • Feeling for the levers and gears of a story
    • Tweaking visuals
    • Understanding what an existing story is doing, and how (in order to better understand that story, or the technique)
    • Learning to read as a writer/look at stories as an illustrator
  • Mythic palette:
    • Borrowing powerful narrative structures and approaches
    • Leaning on metaphor
    • Guiding choices in an unrelated story/image (e.g., using the characters in a fairytale to suggest the character and placement of chimneys on a skyline, or using words from Rapunzel to describe vines)
    • Lifting aesthetics and imagery
    • Ransacking for material/inspirations
    • Retelling
    • Using to strengthen or provide a point of comparison to another story

If you’d like to support art and writing and posts like this about it, here are some options!

Flight has arrived!

Photo of book Flight, closed, on original illustrations

Flight, which we began work on in 2016, is now a real book in the world! My copies have now arrived from PS Publishing — and are shown here on top of the original pen and ink illustrations.

This picture of Emer at the beginning was one of the very first illustrations I did, to test the style.

Photo of first pages of Flight with picture of girl pulling feathers out her her palm, and some gloves

Entering a rose forest. At the time, this was one of the biggest projects I’d worked on — and might still be, in terms of the quantity of illustrations.

Book with illustration of girl entering rose forest

A hall full of shadows.

Illustration in book of long dim blue hallway

The jacketed hardback and the limited signed edition are available from PS Publishing here: Flight — Angela Slatter.

Art reveal: WILDERLORE maps

Fantasy map of woodlands

I’m very excited to be able to show you these maps for Amanda Foody’s first two Wilderlore novels: The Accidental Apprentice and The Weeping Tide (art directed by Karyn Lee).

I’ll put up a process post soon, and also map-related interviews with Amanda Foody, Karyn Lee, and Kate Prosswimmer (Amnda’s editor at Simon & Schuster)!

The maps aren’t in the first editions, as I came on board as the series expanded — I understand they will be in newer editions of The Accidental Apprentice (from 1 February) and second edition/hardcover reprints of The Weeping Tide (when they come out — the first edition is out now, though!).

Fantasy map of islands

The books are a splendid middle-grade romp, with a decentralised magical training system which I particularly enjoyed, and some really fabulous animals to draw (also just enough sheep).

Cover Image of The Accidental Apprentice
Cover art: Petur Antonsson

A boy who accidentally bonds with a magical Beast must set off on an adventure in the mysterious Woods in this “wholesome, delightful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and cheeky middle grade fantasy debut—perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

Cover image of The Weeping Tide
Cover art: Petur Antonsson

Barclay and his friends must save an island city from the Legendary Beast of the Sea in this exciting second book in the Wilderlore series, perfect for fans of Nevermoor and How to Train Your Dragon.

Story shapes — three-mood stories

Last biggish update: 19 February 2022 (after giving a workshop on the process!)

Edit: This post was meant to be a running list of three-mood (or three-note) short story shapes I’ve found interesting (for writing and art). But the list got very long. So I’ll gather the links here instead, for future reference and extension. And this post will continue to be updated and clarified as I go.


Many short stories (and other story-shaped pieces of writing) can be described as a pattern of three big moods (broadly defined). Vignettes and slices of life have one or two primary moods; novellas and novels have more complex structures. But a pattern of three main moods contains the shape and motion needed for a short story (initial run and take off; billowing glide; pulling it all back to ground in a story shape). They hold together in a story-shape, by something like surface tension.

Three-mood story shapes are a quick tool for reading and making notes on a story without needing to (consciously) do a deep analysis, “get” its meaning, assess its quality, or decide whether I like the story. It’s a handy way to pin down what the story is doing, and how, and can lead to more complex observations.

It’s also useful for writing. Taking an image or a concept and dropping it into a three-mood pattern helps to draw an idea out into a story shape (in something like capillary action). The idea flows to fill its container. It’s a way to hack intuition, to quickly get a feeling for the shape a story might take.

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.

A collection of story-shapes from the early notes

humorous sketchelements clash/conflagrationfall out
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
doorsomething throughpushed back
suspicionpeel backtruth & consequences
awkwardnessproliferation of optionsharmony
discoverygrowing up[vigorous/defiant?] acceptance
appearancepersistancedismissal (from unexpected quarter)
a nefarious planthe consequences of successan attempt to undo
a careless additionan eerie consequencea lingering discomfort
initial distressincreasing stress reveals worldbrief interaction sealing humanity
odd affectiondual-track distressstrange discomfort

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. I find they risk becoming clinical and mechanical (your mileage may vary). I like thinking about stories through stories, feeling my way through, and biting my way out of them from the inside. This three-mood approach is better suited to how I think. It’s helped me understand structures better, appreciate many more short stories, capture ideas, and write.

Couldn’t this be distilled down to One True Story Shape, though? Doesn’t it mean essentially “beginning — middle — end”? It could be boiled down, of course, and of course it tracks to those structures. But I find that degree of reduction leads to cold analysis and lifeless stories when I do it (not that I don’t enjoy looking for the Key to All Mythologies as much as anyone). Also “beginning — middle — end”, or “problem — attempts — solution”, and so forth, don’t always describe how those parts of a given story feel. In fact, those patterns only occasionally show up as a three-mood structure (although they do appear from time to time). As for writing using the three moods, the elements that are necessary to a “beginning” tend to self-populate, once an idea is dropped into a story shape. And then those traditional structures are very useful for editing.

What about novels? Short stories can be held together by surface tension, and three moods is just enough to give one shape. Novels are definitely affected by moods, but they need more complex structures to hold them up. And then, of course, there are vignettes, slice-of-life fiction, and so forth, which are beautiful and worthy modes but tend to have only one or two main moods. Mostly I’m looking at short stories, but it’s been interesting to see the ways in which vignettes and story shapes can be stacked into longer pieces.

How are you defining a “short story”? These definitions always get a bit circular. I break short stories down into three moods / short stories are things that can be broken down into three moods… Basically, I’m reading things that have been published as short stories, and mostly they break down neatly, while things published as other things (vignettes, novellas, etc) tend to have something else going on (fewer distinct moods; many vignette/story-shaped components connected).

What about short stories with complicated structures? So far, this has worked on stories built of mini-chapters, multiple viewpoints, lists, instructions, stories told backwards, variable chronologies, poetry, found-correspondence stories, etc. It’s pretty structure-agnostic, as far as reading goes. I think it would be easy to default to a linear telling when using three moods to guide writing, but as long as you’re aware of this, it shouldn’t be a trap. I’m beginning to understand how it works to tighten stories with fragmentary structures.

What does “mood” mean? I’m using it very broadly! It can mean mood/note/vibe/point/aesthetic/gesture. Basically, I mean the big feelings which carry the story along before passing the baton to 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.

How do you find the moods? After I read the story, I consider my reactions. Are there three big obvious moods? Often there are. But there are others ways to look for them — and sometimes I’m looking for a particular variant (how the story accomplished something with its character or world or language). But here are a few things I sometimes consider:

  • Overall vibe
  • Tone
  • My personal response/reaction (what I felt, or suspect the writer wanted me to feel)
  • Aesthetic
  • Emotions/experience of main character/s
  • Preoccupations/aims of characters
  • What the story is doing with X (e.g. with the material it’s retelling, or a particular viewpoint)
  • Pace
  • Thirds (what happens in each third of the story — moods don’t always change at that point, but checking this transition point in a trickier story often clarifies things)

I don’t tend to look for the moods as I read. I just read the story, and then think back on it.

Are there only three moods in a story? No. You could granulate it even further and I often do, when I really want to get to grips with a particular story, or want to borrow the bones of a classic tale for a retelling (see: breaking down stories — variations). But three is an easy number to hold in the mind, and tends to make room for most of the short stories I’ve tried it on, and implies enough transition of some sort (of action, emotion, experience, etc.) to create movement through a short story.

Do certain types of stories use certain shapes? I have noticed some classic patterns — ghost stories, romances, mysteries, stories about sorrow, science fiction romps… Sometimes similar patterns occur, at varying strengths. They seem to be strongest in stories very deliberately operating in particular pulp modes, or pastiches. Those established patterns are useful for quickly creating an effect (using “door — thing through it — lingering dread” to expand a Gothic idea, for example). But just as frequently stories will use other patterns, and it’s not uncommon for an expected progression to be subverted. The final note is sometimes the clearest genre key: you could use a “meet cute — complications — happily united” pattern to tell a horror story, but the final sentence would probably have a slightly different tone than in a romance.

What do you mean by the final note? The final note of a story isn’t the same thing as a mood, although it can definitely harmonise with it (or be deliberately discordant). It’s that lingering sense of unease, or horror, or peace, or sentiment, or satisfaction you’re left with after the story lands and turns itself off. This can occasionally be fairly specific to a genre. Literary stories seem to end more on a note of “so it is” while horror tends to “God forbid it should be so” and science fiction and fantasy to various degrees of “what if it didn’t need to be that way? or what if it were this way?” And you might not want to end a capital-R romance with a sense of “happily ever after… but what’s that scratching at the window?” (or maybe you do!). But there’s a lot of overlap and experimentation and drift. I don’t need to know a story’s final note to use the three-mood structure. But occasionally being deliberate about the final note helps me focus. But thinking about final notes in novels and short stories kicked off this whole process of thinking about moods.

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.
  • Shortcuts: This has been useful for getting people who aren’t used to thinking in terms of narrative structure to quickly develop 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 keeping better lists now!

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.

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:

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