I’m FINALLY happy to announce that I had the treat of illustrating the brand new paperback editions of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching adventures. This job was truly an honour, and it’s the first time a female artist has illustrated a book by Terry Pratchett! Hurrah! The first book ‘The Wee Free Men’ will be released April 27th.
The grim photograph above depicts the lynching of Laura
Nelson and her 15-year-old son, L.D. Nelson. Disturbingly, this photograph was
once used as a proud postcard for Okemah, Oklahoma. On the 2nd of
May, 1911, Deputy Sheriff George Loney formed a posse and made his way to the
Nelson farm. A cow had been stolen from another nearby farm and they had penned
L.D. as the thief of said cow. When they arrived at the house, L.D.’s father,
Austin, confessed that he had stolen the cow purely because he had no money to
feed his hungry family.
What happened next has been obscured by time; several reports
offered different versions of events. What is known for fact is that a scuffle
broke out and L.D. shot and killed Sheriff Loney. It was said that Laura had attempted to hide the gun so that violence could not unfold.
Both L.D. and Laura were charged with
the murder and sent to county jail, where they awaited their arraignment. However, that arraignment would never come.
On 24 May, a group of a dozen to 40 men arrived unannounced
at the jail at approximately midnight. The men bound, gagged and
blindfolded the jailer, rendering him unable to later identify them. Once he was
immobilised, the group kidnapped Laura and L.D. from their cells. Several
reports claim that Laura was raped my several of the kidnappers in her jail cell. From the jail,
the lynchers took them to a bridge over the North Canadian River and hanged the mother
Nobody was ever charged with the brutal murder but it was
alleged that one of the perpetrators was Charley Guthrie, the father of the
singer, Woody Guthrie.
I’m not sure
exactly what wakes me, whether it’s the smell of something burning or the
string of curses muffled by my bedroom door.
Whichever it is, it has me out of bed in record time and racing toward
the smell, my mind supplying all the worst possible explanations. The
flat’s on fire and Simon’s trapped, we won’t be able to get out because
something’s blocking the door…
I stumble to a halt when I reach the
kitchen, expecting sky-high flames, orange and red and black smoke and…
Simon is in front of the stove, coughing
and swearing and pacing around, wearing a polka-dotted apron and the biggest
oven mitts I’ve ever seen.
When he sees me, he stops pacing and
his face falls.
“Morning, Penny,” he mumbles,
staring at the floor.
I make my cautious way toward
him. To my relief there doesn’t seem to
be anything on fire, but the kitchen is a total disaster. There’s about five oranges scattered across
the counter, and there seems to be less juice in the pitcher than… everywhere
else. Flour dusts every surface, leaving
white handprints on half the cupboards, and there are at least three empty
eggshells in the sink. Why he put them
in the sink rather than the bin escapes me.
When I reach him I find what appears to have once been an egg in a
skillet on the stove, accompanied by a blackened piece of bread in another pan.
I open my mouth but nothing comes
“Don’t look in the oven,” Simon
mutters with a sigh.
“Simon,” I manage, “what is all
He meets my eye with a wince. “Happy Valentine’s Day?”
I shake my head. Nothing around me makes sense.
“I was going to surprise you,
alright?” Simon confesses. “I know I
have Baz and you have Micah, but there’s something to be said for friendships,
too, and I thought it might be nice for you to wake up and have breakfast in
bed and biscuits and tea and -”
As if on cue, the teakettle starts
whistling. Simon rushes to take it off
the heat and pour some water into my favourite mug, which he’s prepared with my
favourite tea. At least he got that part
“You did all this for me?” I gape,
taking the mug from him.
He opens his mouth to answer and the
oven starts beeping. Leaning down with a
grimace, Simon cracks the oven door and a wave of smoke hits him in the face,
setting him off coughing. I put down my
tea and race to turn off the oven, extinguishing the heat on the stovetop as an
afterthought. Simon manages to stop
coughing and leans his forehead on the fridge in shame.
“I’m sorry, Pen,” he groans, “I’ll
clean this all up, I swear.”
I don’t bother to say anything. I just slip between him and the fridge and throw
my arms around his neck, not caring how much flour I’m probably getting on my pajamas.
“This is so sweet, Simon,” I mumble
into his shirt. “Thank you so much.” He hugs me hard and warm, like he’s thanking me
for something, too.
It’s then that there’s a knock at
the door, followed by the soft creak of someone letting themselves in. Simon lets go of me just as Baz appears with
a box from the bakery down the street.
He stares at us. We stare at him. His eyes are as wide as dinner plates.
Right on cue, the smoke alarm goes
It’s like the air has been let out
of a balloon and we all start to smile at the same time, and then our smiles
become giggles, and then our giggles become fits of laughter.
Baz wipes a tear from his eye. “Do I want to know?”