August, 2013

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NEW TEASE and Chapter 5 Art…

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My brother Dennis is a Wizard. I’ll just confess that right here. Look at the NEW teaser for Chapter 2, Smith & Jones in The Discovery:

And now, the art. First off, here’s a bird’s eye view of the basement (I hope it’s what you had in mind from my description as well) that I sketched out so that Nina would know what I meant:


And The Chair. I had sketched it at an angle, but then decided to put in the part about the lever, and Smith & Jones wondering if there was one and if it was on the other side. Therefore the chair needed to sit half and half, but here ’tis:


Nina’s glorious take:


And the t-shirts! I’d been seeing these t-shirts on Pinterest, and loved the idea. A monster head is printed upside down and on the inside of the shirt. Clever! So…














After thinking about it, we decided that we’d rather not see Smith & Jones’ bare chests. Ahem. Enter Nina:


And there you have the artwork for Chapter 5! And the excellent teaser for Chapter 2! Now all you have to do is have a GREAT weekend!


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About…Chapter 5 The Race

ChairAh, Chapter Five! I’ll never forget an estate sale I went to at a 1970’s-style house, full of knick-knacks and furniture, all somewhat nice, but all overpriced.

In the center of the living room there sat a Chair, proudly and in a place of glory, with a price tag like everything else. Not a “Free” sign. It wasn’t out by the curb for garbage day.

Because on that chair, there were stains. STAINS, on the head and arm rests! As if it were no big deal! As if no one would notice or care! What tales could that chair have told? Clearly, it had been someone’s favorite.

Chair1So when it came time to pick the ultimate prize for Smith and Jones, something large and wonderful, I thought of that proud Chair.

Smith and Jones wouldn’t feel revulsion at its appearance, no. Quite the opposite. Infinity. Chapter five was so much fun to write, and it was one of those chapters that if you happened to be walking by my house when I wrote it, you would have heard me gleefully cackling.

Lastly, in my original text, whenever I wrote The Chair I had it in French Script font, thusly:


I liked the way it conveyed how Smith and Jones felt about that chair. Unfortunately, it messed up the spacing of the sentences, so with an ever-so-slightly-broken heart, we went with italics instead.

And that is the tale of The Chair. And The Race to get it.


Premiere Day: Chapter 5 The Race

Smith and Jones are back in Chapter 5’s The Race. And this time they’re taking no prisoners. ‘Cept maybe each other…


This is my 101st post! Ta-dah! Also, I initially spelled “Premiere” wrong. I’m like the Amish, always needing just one flaw in my quilt of a blog, to show that I’m not perfect…

You Can’t Pick Your Illustrator’s Nose

…but you can pick your illustrator!

People often ask me how we found Nina Khalova. The method seems so normal to me now – such is the wondrous nature of my brothers, that I’ve almost gotten used to their pulling innovative ideas out of a hat – but at the time, it was mystifying to me.

Apparently, there are places on the net where you can submit a proposal and put it out for “bids,” in this case, the hunt for an artist, the “bids” would be in the form of a drawing. My brothers asked me to do a drawing that prospective artists would do their take on, so I did. Here ’tis:

Init IllAA simple sketch of two little girls looking out an attic window, sitting on a suitcase with a lamp and a vase on either side and two cobwebs. Now, do you see the problem? What was I thinking?! There are no faces in this sketch! Dang.

Ah, well. The submissions soon started pouring in. A lot of them looked like they had done a slightly better version of my drawing. Most were very literal. We were looking for “a little something extra.” I’ve mixed Nina’s submission in with the rest, see if you can guess which one was hers (answer below):

1. Ale 2

2. Ale 1

3. Ale 3

4. Ale 10

5. Ale 4

6. Ale 5

7. Ale 6

8. Ale 8

9.Ale 7


If you chose Lucky Number 7, you’re right! Most of the artists just drew a lamp and a vase. And two cobwebs. Nina had drying herbs, a trunk, a gramophone, shelves stuffed full of things, even a sleeping cat, fer cryin’ out loud! Number 4 was a good possibility. He was even local to my brothers! But I believe he was too busy. So Nina of the Ukraine was the one We Picked.

And now! Today! As you drive by my steaming house (we’re in the middle of a heat wave, don’t you know), there’s a good chance I’ll be in my closet, recording away. I found my flashlight! So there’ll be no fires today.

The response to the teaser for Chapter 1 was EXCELLENT (thankyouverymuch), and I’m even more excited for Chapter 2! Once again, my brother’s done a bang up job. How did I get so lucky?

ALSO! Don’t forget! Chapter 5 coming tonight at midnight! It’s entitled, The Race.

Hope you enjoy.


Out of The Closet…


But first! Where were YOU last Thursday morning? Were you in a closet surrounded by clothes and shoes and cottony things, lifting a candle and trying to read whilst not setting your hair on fire?

Closet2I have quite the niftiest brothers possible. We’d just had our first meeting on publicity for Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway – with a bonafide publicity guy, mind you – and SWOOSH! The following morning my brother had put together an EXCELLENT 30 second YouTube video.

Dennis had done it with his own voice, so now it was my turn to record the few lines. He asked me, “Do you have any quiet, small room that you could go into?”

Hmm. I knew instantly. My closet. Gulp. That’s where the first bat was discovered. 

It’s right beneath the attic stairs! Perhaps the bat didn’t just fly in, perhaps there’s a pencil-hole-sized gap between the closet and the attic! I keep the door closed and have even blocked the gap beneath it nice and tight. I sleep better that way.

Even though it was just a few lines, and I’m the one that wrote them, fer’ cryin’ out loud, I had to have them on a piece of paper in front of me. Which means I needed to see. The light in there is broken, so it’s as dark as a tomb. Of course I couldn’t find my flashlight, I never can when I need it. But we’d recently had a power outage, so I knew where the candles were!

So there I was last Thursday morning in my closet, surrounded by fabric, holding a candle and a piece of paper. I informed my sister Julie beforehand in case my burnt body was discovered in there and the detectives were wondering why.

I was grateful to get out of the closet alive.

The video won’t be released elsewhere until tomorrow. But YOU get to see it today! And now, without further ado, here is the teaser of the teaser:

What do you think? Should we do more? Because I will! ‘Cept maybe next time I’ll take my fire extinguisher…or find my flashlight…


Chapter 4: Nina vs…never mind…

Chapter 4 was a tricky one for illustrations. It’s not that long!

I’ve never had a little girl, so when I first drew out Hazel’s proportions vs. the dolls for Nina, I apparently had her really, really tiny according to my brothers, who have SEVERAL daughters between them. See?

Hazel and Dolls 001

Well, it would take awhile to spot it, but it says 41″ at the top of Hazel’s head, which was the height I thought she’d be. Apparently, that’s practically FAIRY size, even for a nearly eight-year-old girl who’s small in stature.

So when I did this sketch (we were still going back and forth over Hazel’s height. What’s not to like about fairies?), Hazel was grabbing Ruth’s skirt.


In my defense, I do several sketches in a sitting, and after awhile I’m just scribbling to get them done. The smudges are my left-handedness and carbon pencils colliding.

Nina kindly obliged, but when we got the sketch, the skirt-tugging looked kinda silly. So we asked her to have Hazel tug Ruth’s sweater instead:

DangThingThat Nina! ISN’T SHE AMAZING? Look at that COLOR.

Trying to figure out what to do for a second illustration for Chapter 4 was a little tricky. I did a sketch of the car’s packed interior, which was…ho hum. But then I sketched the image I REALLY wanted:

HT-011It’s a little bit macabre when you think about it, but I have a somewhat dark sense of humor. It’s kind of a play on a mother saying, “If you get in a car accident and you don’t have clean underwear on, don’t bother calling me!” kind of thing.

We decided to go the more unusual route illustration-wise. Behold:

HT_11Nina just keeps getting better and better. We recently got a drawing for an upcoming chapter of a character that you haven’t met yet but that I’ve mentioned occasionally. One that was in the original book. The difference between the two versions is astonishing. I can hardly wait for you to see!

And that is the art for Chapter 4. Happy Friday to you!

About Chapter 4…


I LOVED my Explorer. Unfortunately, it died soon after arriving in Iowa.

What if you could pick out your own car? The “rusty old white car” that Ruth is driving is a blend of two cars from my past: My trusty white ’93 Ford Explorer steed that I’d owned since before Adam was born and that brought me to Iowa, and The Bomb.

Back in the 1970’s when we were living in Cedar City, Utah shortly after having moved there from Hawaii (THAT was a tricky transition, let me tell you!), my big sister Carol entered a contest given by the local car dealership: Put your name in for a raffle, and if it was drawn, for $25 (which basically covered registration) you would win a car. My sister won!

Not being a car expert, all I remembered was that “The Bomb” (which is what we affectionately called it, before calling something “da bomb” was cool) had rounded corners and tail fins. And THAT was the car I wanted Ruth to have, except white in honor of my Explorer. So I sent Nina these pictures(‘cept I asked her to make it white):






Turns out (I talked to Carol last night) it was a ’56 Chevy Bel Air!

Well, close:

Ch4bel1AOf course, that’s the car when it was new. It was a LOT more faded by the time my sister got her hands on it, but she loved that car. So did I.

And more than once, my poor son or I or my sister Julie have had to retrieve cans after they fell out of my car and rolled onto the ground upon opening my car door, because I am a lover of Diet Coke. And I am a thirsty driver. Better than littering, right? Of COURSE right, I’d never litter! Even WITHOUT the nickel deposit!

I’ve decided to find that clanging sound in the middle of a crowded parking lot of an empty can rolling away humorous. Look at the can lady!

Why has no one snatched me up yet?

Tomorrow: Nina vs. Ruth round 4. Maybe THIS time I’ll win! Maybe not…

The Death Defying Country Squire

Ah, the days of my youth! I was a THRILL-SEEKER, and didn’t even know it!


Ours was green like this one, but I don’t think it had the fancy faux wood siding.

I may be aging myself here (and I seem to be doing that quite a lot), but when I was growing up, there WERE no seatbelts! Or at least, if there were, I don’t think we used them. But being the cautious soul that I am, I used to occasionally think what I would do in case of a car accident. With my super human speed, I would simply straighten out my arms, and…brace. Much like Hazel Twigg in Chapter 4.


Nope! Not seeing any seat belts!

In today’s world, of course seat belts are important! So far in the book, there seem to be a lot of vehicle references and illustrations, and I’ve made sure that seat belts are very much present, even asking Nina to add them to the first illustration in Chapter 1, when they weren’t readily apparent.

My son Adam bore the brunt of our cautiousness: We followed the guidelines, and he sat in a booster seat – a booster seat, mind you, not a car seat! We weren’t that cruel – long after his peers had forsaken theirs, until he was the recommended height to ride unadorned. Two cautious parents and a cautious child. Safe as cotton.

But back then! Back THEN. What do you do when you have a passel of seven kids and vans hadn’t been invented for familial use? Why, you get a Country Squire station wagon, of course! Look at this old ad: Ch4CarRear

WHAT?! “The rear of the wagon is a play area”?!! Certain death! But it was fun, that car. Those little jump seats. I remember them well:


The long road trips with no little portable DVD players or video games. Just chips and cookies and my mom with her ukelele and folk songs that we knew all the words to. And plenty of Volkswagon Beetles to spy. And fights aplenty as well, but that’s how we rolled. Wild. Free. Thrill-seeking. Without even knowing it.

A Special Thank You…

To Carmella Schultes, she of Studio C in Pocahontas, Iowa!

This Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway project is all still in the very beginning stages so there will be many more people to thank, but for now…CARMELLA! She came to my house when I was a few days out of the hospital and patiently took my portrait photo to use for publicity purposes as I moaned and kvetched. And it turned out GREAT!


Like many, I am wary of having my picture taken. “What?!” I will screech in my melodious voice. “That doesn’t look like me! I’m a much younger, thinner person, surely!” But Carmella (who may be a wizard or fairy of some sort) definitely worked her magic. I don’t look half bad. PHEW.

We’re so lucky to have such a gifted and professional photographer living just on the outskirts of Reliance, Iowa. If you haven’t already, please “Like” Studio C on Facebook!

THANK YOU, CARMELLA! From the bottom of my heart.

Coming tonight at midnight! Chapter 4: Stuffed.