August, 2013

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Chapter 3: Nina vs. GOLIATH

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Just kidding! Clearly Nina’s Goliath in THIS scenario!

When picking what to use for illustrations, I like to go with the less obvious; the passing sentence here or there. I have always been fascinated with movies depicting orphanages in olde England. Scenes from “Oliver Twist” and my favorite book (made into umpteen movies) “Jane Eyre,” when she’s sent to live at Lowood school by her evil aunt. While I’m sure in real life it was no fun, to me it was romantic (not that I ever wanted to go there myself, Mom and Dad! Well, maybe just for a VISIT. But that’s IT).

So I had to slip some gruel into my book. I have no idea what “gruel” actually is, but whenever my mom would feed us oatmeal for breakfast, to me that was gruel, and I DID visit Lowood! A poor orphan eating lumpy mush! I love oatmeal to this day.

Here’s my sketch:


As you can see, when I drew this it was for Chapter 2 rather than 3. A Smith and Jones chapter was added in the meantime.

Here’s Nina’s:

H_T_07Excellent as always!

The next drawing:


And Nina’s:


Does she never tire of perfection? HMPF.

And finally, the last drawing for Chapter 3:


When I first saw Nina’s version, it took my breath away:


Her colors are so vibrant. Bet she likes oatmeal, too. I understand that the originals, which my brothers possess (from the first book version at least) are unbelievably amazing. I’ll say it again: Viva La Nina!

AND! Happy Friday!


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About Chapter 3

EPSON scanner imageIn Chapter 3 Freedom, Fear & Fireworks, Hazel’s experience on the train at night and how once friendly things can take on an ominous tone mirrors my own experience driving to Iowa for the final move. As usual, I had underestimated my packing skills and all that needed to be done, so by the time we were finally ready to begin the seven hour drive, it was nearly dark.

Everything looks different in the dark.

Adam was riding separately with his dad who was helping us by driving the moving truck, and I followed in my car a good distance behind after cleaning up a few odds and ends back in St. Louis.

By the time I finally crossed the border into Iowa, it was pitch black. There were none of the endless fields and quaint farmhouses that had so enchanted me before. They were there of course, I just couldn’t see them. When I encountered a detour, it was game over. I was hopelessly lost. It made me question my sanity a little. What the heck I was doing, leaving a secure life and destroying a family?


YUM. Am I right?

I desperately wanted to call my then husband and say, “I’ve changed my mind! We can make this work!” or “Put cheese sauce on the broccoli! Everything  tastes better with cheese sauce!”

But a tiny part of my brain told me that I was doing the right thing, and that’s the part I listened to. So my cell phone stayed on the seat beside me and I turned up the music of my favorite *cd, and I eventually found my way back to the right road.

It was definitely an altered state I was in at that time, going into the abyss of the unknown. Hazel’s doing the same thing, just in a different mode of transportation. And she doesn’t have the option of turning around.

*Ch3twwwI’ve loved this album since I was a little girl. Once, when I had the house to myself I mixed up a batch of flour and water to build up a nose and I attempted to do my make-up so I could look just like Barbra Streisand and I painted my nails red. When my family got home, I posed in profile with my nose in the air and waited for them to walk through the door to see my likeness. They looked at me kinda funny.

I was an odd child.

Anyway, growing up I had listened to this album over and over and was so excited when the movie “The Way We Were” came on TV. Finally! I could see the context for all those beautiful, heart-breaking songs!



“Boy, they sure are skimping on the music!” I said to myself when the movie was halfway over. “When’s it gonna start? Where’s ‘Summer Me, Winter Me’? Where’s ‘What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life’? When are they finally going to make an appearance, are they going to cram them all into the second half?!”

Turns out this isn’t actually the soundtrack to the movie of the same name. I know! They fooled me, too! I still love this album, but the movie, well, it disappointed.

I hadn’t listened to it for years but ran across it when I was packing my things. It was a warm and familiar friend on that long, dark, lost ride.

Guess What Day It Is?!


And also, Wednesday. It’s Wednesday too. So, there’s THAT.

Dallas Revisited

SEE? See what happens when you do a good, honest day’s work? You sleep like a LOG. Today’s post is a tad late!

lawnzeroYesterday I got back in the saddle again and today I’m a little saddle sore. And also, I’ve learned: When mowing a rough at a golf course, it’s better to do straight lines the cover every surface than to scribble with a large roaring beast and hope you get lucky. In my defense, those trees! Those trees confuse me!

This is the forested portion of the course and I had no clue how to do it so I just rode around willy-nilly, doing my best to come up with some sort of pattern. I’m a sewer after all! Which in this case means a person who SEWS. You’d THINK that straight, even lines would come naturally to me.

But things have come full circle. Yesterday’s task was the task I was all set to do before I made my unexpected trip to the hospital. Perhaps the month or so in between was all a dream! Actually, I’m glad it wasn’t; I wouldn’t have missed being kidnapped by elves for anything.

Lawnmower1And speaking of dreams, I had weird ones last night, involving stray cats, really nice wallpaper, and an unfortunate new car purchase. Thinking about it I can understand how each of these things made an appearance in my fairy slumber. You never know what little thing that happens the previous day will stick, do you?

Now I’m off to get back-BACK in the saddle. Today my quest is to right the STRAIGHT and NARROW. The head cowboy’s gonna teach me, so that should help. I hope!

Chapter 3 in less than 24 hours! Eeeee-HAH!!

Oh, That NINA!!

She is AMAZING. Of course, she had good inspiration. Heh. As we wait for Chapter 3, I thought you might like to see part of the process.

Nina Khalova is the very talented illustrator hired for Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway – once it was discovered that I actually couldn’t draw very well. My siblings at least let me do the initial design! And then Nina takes over from there. For example Chapter 1, Hazel in the backseat (see if you can guess whose is whose):


Or at the ticket counter. Mine (in case you couldn’t guess):

Hazel Tickets



She adds so many wonderful details.

For some reason I didn’t save Nina’s final illustration of Chapter 2’s Smith and Jones on my computer, but glass half full! Now you can see another part of the process. Here’s my sketch:

S and J 22

Smith and Jones’ “hats” are made from umbrellas that have been stripped and taken apart.

It was a tricky angle to capture. Smith and Jones’ corners are far apart, but we wanted BOTH of them to show up close. Here’s Nina’s initial sketch. It’s a VAST improvement (of course). Just a few changes needed to be made before it went to color. Can you guess? Answers below:


1. Smith is playing a metal garbage can, not two pipes.

2. Taller chain link fences surround, with stacks of boxes behind (okay, that one’s not too obvious, it’s just how I pictured it in my mind. Nina is very obliging. And PATIENT).

In the end, NOT TOO SHABBY. We’ve loved Nina from the start. She can take a simple scribble and embellish it and add life and things we never would have thought of. Viva la Nina!

Chapter 3, Freedom, Fear & Fireworks – Coming Soon!

And GOOD NEWS: The main techno Wizard has made it so the illustrations will load much faster – without compromising the quality! About a third of our respondents had slow load problems (including myself), so, yay!

About Chapter 2

Since there were three days left this week, and since the first three excerpts from the book have been released, I’ve decided to write an about each section for each day and explain a little bit if the background for that portion and the things that led to them. Today’s Chapter 2’s turn.

As I’ve said in a previous post, Smith and Jones have morphed quite a lot. Here’s one of the early versions (as much as I can post without giving anything away):



The creature took a sip of tepid water from his coffee-stained mug and did what he always did, day in and day out. He waited. Waited down here in this dungeon. 

Of course, he wasn’t really a creature, and this wasn’t actually a dungeon. But that’s what he felt like, and that’s what this felt like, here in the basement of this large office building, away from the din of the humans above. 

He was surrounded by cold cement floors and chain link fenced cubicles, most of which were occupied by stacks of boxes of paper. 

Not his cubicle. His was occupied by himself alone. Himself and a desk and chair and a lone water dispenser….

aliasaMy plan was just to have “the creature” make a brief, one-time appearance, but it left too many bewildered. Well, if he was going to hang around, he was going to need someone to talk to – besides himself. Enter Smith and Jones.

I may be aging myself here, but for you young whippersnappers I must tell you: Once there was a clever, well-written and acted television show in the early 70’s called Alias Smith and Jones. Anybody else remember that show? It was a Western and Smith and Jones were Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid-type outlaws, except they were trying to go straight.

I LOVED that show and I LOVED PETE DUEL, who played Smith. Along with my Donny Osmond posters, I had pictures of Pete taped to my wall. I was crushed when he died and the show was cancelled. My first broken heart! I put little black banners across his images and mourned for quite awhile, young as I was.


Look at that face. That face broke my heart.

So when it came time to name the two new characters in Hazel Twigg, there was no quibbling in my mind. I knew instantly the two names I wanted – although I would have changed them if it was thought they were too obvious. And Smith and Jones were born. These are not simply names pulled out of a hat. They have meaning to me.

And Smith and Jones started work at the manufacturing company the very same year that Pete Duel died: 1971. A bit of trivia for you there.

Have a great weekend, my darlings and thank you for your input, both here and on Facebook!


Link to the chapters…

About Chapter 1 and a SURVEY

Since there were three days left this week, and since the first three excerpts from the book have been released, I’ve decided to write a about each section for each day and explain a little bit if the background for that portion and the things that led to them. Today’s Chapter One’s turn.

c2lipsHazel’s mother usually has perfectly lipsticked lips. This is based on my own mother. Ever since I have known her (which is my entire life, so about 29 years), she has had this uncanny ability to take lipstick, even bright red lipstick, and put in on in three strokes anywhere, anytime, with NO MIRROR. Just up one side on her upper lip, up the other side, across her lower lip and *smack!*

Perfect lips, complete with a flawless Cupid’s bow. EVERY TIME.


Clearly, this is a boy, but you get the idea.

<-I’ve tried to master this myself. Impossible!

On the other front, I confess to being a tad overprotective when it comes to my son, Adam. It’s hard when you have all your egg (singular) in one wonderful basket! But I let him walk home from the bus stop at least!

Also, with his father and I living in different states, before he came of age to travel alone Adam had more than his fair share of stranger-accompanied travel. It’s somewhat terrifying to send your son off and trust that the airline will get him from one flight to another and keep him safe. That’s precious cargo right there!

So I understand completely how Hazel’s mother must have felt sending Hazel off on a train, especially seeing as how she’s even more protective than I.

She must have had a VERY good reason…


And now for the SURVEY: To those who have read any of the chapters so far: Are the illustrations loading quickly or are they too slow? If you’d like to give your opinion, please get out yer calculators (so you can do the math), and let us know via the comment section. Thank you ever so much! We want you to have a smooth ride!


A Bit About…

…the Prologue!

Since there are three days left this week, and since the first three excerpts from the book have been released, I’ve decided to write a about each section for each day and explain a little bit if the background for that portion and the things that led to them. Today’s the Prologue’s turn.

HT_color_01As previously mentioned, this final version of Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway has greatly morphed over the past near two years. I call this the 27th version, but there’s really no way to know for sure. My siblings have been helping me every step of the way with timely suggestions and thoughtful critiques.

Along about version 23, so pretty late in the process, I was asked where the Hideaway was. “In the middle of nowhere,” I answered.

My siblings were surprised. To a person, they imagined it in a town not unlike the town in which I lived. What?! It was my turn to be surprised, because in my mind it was more like a cozy island, where other people, other strangers, rarely show. After all, this was my first (okay, 23rd) stab at a book, and one thing I’ve learned is that the more characters there are, the trickier things get. I knew that having the Hideaway in a town would mean more characters and dialogue to juggle.

But alrighty, then! Challenge accepted!

I am not a native to my beloved Rolfe. Still, I knew there was a bit of history there and I’ve seen signs for “Old Rolfe” (after several attempts, I finally found it!). Enter the Rolfe, Iowa website, and especially the history page. Voila! In it’s history, Rolfe has moved! Because of the train tracks that originally passed it by! This could work. I decided to add a prologue to the book to set the stage, and rather than moving the Hideaway to the town, I would bring the town to the Hideaway.

I also knew that I wanted the town’s name to start with an “R,” and to reflect the no frills, warm and friendly yet keep-to-themselves, salt of the earth people that make up Iowa. And it had to be a name currently not in use for an Iowa town. Enter Reliance.

It’s also true that when the freeway was built, Rolfe almost decided to move once again. I borrowed (with permission) a line from the website, “Too many changes can kill a small town.”

And that my dear and cherished friends, is the History of the Prologue and how Reliance came to be. Otherwise, the Hideaway would have remained in the Middle of Nowhere.

Tomorrow: Chapter 1

Up, Up, and…HERE.

Through the toils of so many, the website is up and running and I’m pleased to announce that the first chapters of Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway will be released Wednesday, August 7th as promised – and about as early on that date as you can get. Which means Tuesday night at MIDNIGHT! Iowa time, of course.

These are the early stages of the and there is still a lot of work to do so pardon our dust as we continue to build, but the most important thing will be there for now, which is The Story.

When you go, and I hope you do, you will see the Map of Reliance, Iowa. Hover your mouse over the Hideaway (you’ll know which one it is) and click on the parchment that pops up. There will be a countdown clock that comes up letting you know when the next release will be and below that will be the chapters (!).

Here’s the clock when I looked at it:


Click the image to see where the countdown clock is now.

Of course, it’ll read differently when you look at it. ‘Tis a living thing, constantly moving!

Dear Readers, I hope you like this book.

AND IF YOU DO, I hope you’ll tell your friends. All of them! Post it on Facebook or anywhere else you can think of, because this is where you come in. We need you! My heartfelt thanks to all of you who have been so supportive and kind in your comments as well as those who have sent good thoughts unexpressed.

I am so excited that we’re on this journey together. Now let’s enjoy the ride!

Hazel Twigg, born on August 7, 2013 at midnight.

Re-TREAT! Re-PEAT, Over and Over!


The elves seemed to very much prefer Christmas cookies. Which makes sense when you think about it…

I am free! I am free! But you know what? Those elves, they’re not such bad little folks! In fact, the two head elves, the King and Queen, I guess you would call them…well. By the time I left, they felt like parents to me! And the rest of the elves felt like beloved family.

They are an odd people, and yet I fit right in!

But one cannot exist on sweet baked goods forever. Plus, the elves grew tired of feeding a full grown human who was getting her appetite back. Ahem. That said, the first thing I did upon arriving home was to make a salad.

And now I speak elvish! A little:

fbackThis may or may not have anything to do with the release. I secretly don’t know what it means. All I know is the King and Queen handed me this tiny card amidst much giggling and hand holding.

The other thing I for sure know is this: The elves have relented, and the prologue and first two chapters of Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway will be released sometime on Wednesday. THIS Wednesday, August 7th. Finally. Finally!


You KNOW you want them!

Now I’m going to try and figure out exactly what time. The little stinkers will only tell me in their native tongue, plus there’s this little blue card to figure out. I wonder if Rosetta Stone has a version for elvish? And does it cover the written word?

All this whilst single-handedly trying to set the next big trend I have learned to love: Curly-toed shoes. You heard it here first!