September, 2013

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Don’t Count Yer Pumpkins…

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Ooh! I want THAT one!

You may not know it to look at me, but I am not always quick on the uptake! Or, DETAILS.

Yesterday, at my behest, I and my area family members planned our Sunday around attending Spencer’s Grand “Pumpkin Palooza” at 3 o’clock at the nearby Trenary farm. My own dear friend Jennifer Trenary’s grown-like-a-weed enterprising son’s enterprise!

Chores and errands in the morning, a little dusting, a little nap taking, and behold! We were READY.

My sister Julie and Scott and Scott’s daughter and her husband, along with their VERY excited six-year-old piled into a car to meet me there (I was going on foot).

What fun we were going to have! What memories were Rolfe’s newest inhabitants going to create at their very first fall event since moving here to Rolfe. Rolfe Rodeo was going to be serving hot soup and there was going to be crafts and other goodies. And, of course…PUMPKINS! Ooh, hope they could find a parking space. At least THAT wasn’t something I’d have to worry about!

Julie and her gang got there first, and…


Ignore the two people in the background. There was NOBODY.


Now, see? THIS is why I should never be in charge. The glorious and much-anticipated “Pumpkin Palooza” is actually on October 13th! And it’s not even at 3:00, it’s from 11:00 to 3:00. Somehow I got my vines crossed…

A good laugh was had by most*. And we created a Pumpkin Memory. THAT is the important thing. Two weeks to go…

*Julie would like for me to point out that SHE was NOT the grumpy one.

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Nina, A Rare Miss(ish) and a THEME!

The site was down for awhile this morning, hence the Late Start. I feel like a kid again! Get it? LATE START?! KID?!! Comedy GOLD!

Ah, the art for Chapter 9! Much controversy behind the scenes, but it was too late to do anything. First off, the first, A Strange Drive Through Town:


Look! Do you see it? The word “STOIC” in all capital letters on my notes!

Nina’s much better take:


FIN SIDEA little note about Ruth’s car: in the text, the car is a four door. It wasn’t until later that I realized that Nina had made the car a two door based on the toy I’d sent, which only makes sense on her part. Whoops!

I’d have to change a lot of text to make the car into a two door in writing, for example Ruth reaches in from the front door to unlock the back. I’m hoping maybe it won’t get noticed. DON’T TELL ANYONE!

And now, the CONTROVERSY! My sketch for “The Transformation”:

1blogaNina’s *nearly* divine take:


There are two things wrong with this picture. First off, HMPF! Has someone been telling Nina tales that I might be a teensy bit jealous of her skill?! Because she’s making me look old and perhaps ever-so-slightly addicted to Botox! Plus, Ruth is getting a bit fatter, not that that’s here nor there, but look:

The sketch:

RuthsketchaaafaceNot bad! But then came the color version:








It occurs to me as I look at this that perhaps I’ve been spoiled. So, never mind! Especially when you look at a close-up of what I drew:

1blog Lastly, and more importantly (this is the problem that there wasn’t time to fix, so there it stays), is Hazel’s changing height.

When I was thinking about how to approach that for today’s blog, I thought to myself, “Hey! That’s kind of like Dorothy Gale’s changing hair in the Wizard of Oz movie!” And guess what? That kind of CONTINUES the theme from yesterday! KISMET!

If you look at Nina’s above illustration, Hazel is now the size of “a lovely 12-year-old” as one brother put it. But only a day or two have passed! This won’t do! But it’s too late to fix! THEREFORE! Hazel will become a petite nearly-eight-year-old again in future illustrations. She shall shrink before our very eyes.


For those of you who aren’t familiar with one of the many quirks of the movie “The Wizard of Oz” (like the fact it had five directors and lots of controversy behind the scenes), on of them is that the length of Judy Garland’s hair kept changing. Witness:

dorothy hair1dorothy hair2









So! Hazel’s height will be our Dorothy hair! AND! OUR LITTLE SECRET…


Have a great weekend!

The Magic of Chapter 9


Some of you sharp-eyed math whizzes will notice that there are more than 15 books here. After his death, other writers took over the series. I believe there are 40 Oz books in all.

For all the fact that I’ve always loved to write, you never really know your style for writing a book – until you actually start writing it. Some authors’ books take place over days and weeks. For myself, I find it hard not to account for every minute of every day. Especially with Hazel’s birthday shortly on the horizon, and the reappearance of her mother, leading to the necessary “my-work-here-is-done” disappearance of Ruth!

So how, then, to get the Hideaway in ship shape, especially when it was in such terrible shape to begin with? Days and days of scrubbing and dusting and scraping and painting? No! With MAGIC, of course!

And not only for time’s sake. I love magic and have always firmly believed in it. I’m sure I’d be hard pressed to find any of you who haven’t seen the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” and perhaps more than a few of you who have read the book.

For some reason, I secretly think I’m the only one who knows of the other stories, although I’m sure that’s not the case! But under that illusion, guess what?! L. Frank Baum, the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” wrote 14 more in the series! So, 15 altogether! You heard it here first, folks! The “Oz” books were the Harry Potter of their day.

I loved those stories.

9ozma2Dorothy goes back to Oz and has many more wonderful adventures, and becomes good friends with Ozma of Oz. It’s hard for Dorothy to leave! But she must! She can’t abandon Aunt Em and Uncle Henry and have them wonder where she is forever and ever! So Glinda the good witch promises to look in her magical book at Dorothy in Kansas at a certain time every day, and if Dorothy wants to come back to Oz, she will make a sign and Glinda will transport her.



I cannot tell you how many times my 10-year-old self stood in my room and made that sign, HOPING. Not because there was anything I wanted to escape, I had a wonderful childhood! But because I wanted to see Oz so badly.

So, Magic. Always.

The Portal is based on a piece of furniture I fell in love with at a store nearby. I couldn’t afford it, so I reluctantly left it behind, and when I went back, it was gone! I was so sad, kicking myself that I hadn’t done SOMETHING to get it. But the next time I went back, it was there again! Like MAGIC. Like it was meant to be! I put that piece on layaway and months later, there it was in my living room with the wonderful old dollhouse given to me by the delightful Doris (also a work in progress that will be featured in a future book) resting on top. The Portal is in the very same place that it resides in the book: right next to the fireplace. Some day I’ll paint it to match the text in the book.


An illustration from the first book.


Thank you for the dollhouse Delightful Doris Nielson! I can hardly wait to show it to you when it’s done! If you look closely, you can see the mini Portal in the living room.








There you have it. Except for one last thing: When I changed the story from Ruth’s point of view to match more of a nearly eight-year-old Hazel, I had to lose some words I dearly loved because they wouldn’t come out of an eight-year-old’s mind. Like STOIC. There, I said it! STOIC! It’s what Iowans are when they wave! Stoic and wonderful.

Like magic!

Tomorrow. Nina’s art for nine, or “Sometimes You Have to Let It Go.”

Concentrate(D)! And a P.S…

boots1To those Iowans – and indeed, any inhabitant of a very small town (especially in the Midwest) – let me explain. The first few pages of Chapter 9’s A Wave and a Whisper are an exaggerated and “concentrated” version of my first days here, and were written with love. Except for the Marlene part. She’s a real piece of work.

boots3Next week! Little did I know when I wrote 36 chapters how clever I was being! 36! A wondrous number! It can be divided by three, AND it can be divided by four! SO! Nine chapters have been released so far, and for those of you who are reading these chapters spread a week apart each, I know how confusing it can be. Because there are several stories and characters that are s-l-0-w-l-y being woven together. What happened in the previous chapter again?

boots2But my clever brother Dennis will put the first section of nine chapters (plus the Prologue) aaaallll together, so that everything can be read at once. Aaaaa-HAH! Because nine goes into 36 four times, there’ll be four sections altogether. This will be the FIRST.

So next week will probably be a good time to put together that contest, so if anyone new HAPPENS to wander over to, they can get up to date on the chapters released so far – if they’re so inclined (I hope! I hope!).

Ooh! And lucky me, it’s the 36 divided by three part: I only sketched up through chapter 12, so now it’s time for me to get sketching again. Now, where did I put those crayons? I can feel Nina quaking in her boots halfway across the planet! Maybe not…

Tomorrow: About Chapter 9

P.S. I forgot to say that Chapter 8 briefly mentions the fact that the mayor of Reliance also happens to be Marlene’s mechanic, hence giving her the power to get the house closing done quickly. It is based on our own beloved former mayor, who happens to be MY mechanic and one of the finest men I know. I rub elbows with royalty here!


Premiere Tonight! And More Clippings (Literally)

Tonight at midnight! Chapter 9 A Wave and a Whisper.

And another clip from a previous version of Hazel Twigg, when she’s already living in Reliance.

For those of you familiar with Rolfe, she’s at the top of the street, near my house looking south. Perhaps it’s only me, but the bank clock! With the time and temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius! Secretly, I don’t care about the Celsius, but when I want to know the temperature – or the time – it seems like I’m always at the worst spot of the rotation, and it takes forever to change to the information I need.

Still, I love that clock. Sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, it’s the only thing that’s moving downtown…

For a moment Hazel simply sat there, looking at the place where the fairies had been, and she blinked. Once. Twice. It took a moment for her to realize that the whole world had gone silent. Not only that, all movement had ceased.

BIRDShe slowly got to her feet and looked all around her, trying to make sense of what she was seeing and not hearing. She rubbed her ears and hurried as quickly as she could, emerging from the small forest, back around the front of the house and into the town. And all the while her eyes were darting in every direction, so she almost walked right into a bird with a freshly dug and unsquirming worm in its beak, not a feather rustling as he dangled at eight-year-old eye level. Her heart in her throat, she made her way around him and looked up and down the familiar street.

Birdmow1There was old farmer Ferguson on his strangely silent riding mower, grass clippings stilled in mid-air. A single immobile car was on the road with its windows down, the driver’s hand in the midst of a wave to a woman sitting on her front steps, arm poised to rise and wave back. Two people were twenty feet apart from each other on the side-walk leaning away, their faces frozen in laughter as they each pulled at their small dogs who were about to engage in a “who’s bigger” contest.

But nothing was moving. There was no sound at all.

So a single subtle flash of orange amongst the stillness easily garnered Hazel’s attention: the digital clock above the bank that for the past several moments had been displaying the temperature in Fahrenheit stubbornly continued its usual rotation to the current time with a decided click.


And suddenly all movement and all sound resumed as if nothing untoward had happened. Nothing at all. It felt like a deafening roar to Hazel. She was aware, as no one else was, that the world had changed.

And not for the better.

There you have it! See you tomorrow and have a great day!

From the Cutting Room Floor

As I’ve mentioned in the past, there have been dozens and dozens of versions of this book, before it became the current version. For months I had Hazel starting out LIVING in Reliance. Not as a native, but as a transplant who had been there for a few years. And she didn’t have a mother, she had a father. A handsome one at that…


The Rolfe Water Tower. You can just make out the name “Rolfe” in red script.

The town of Reliance, Iowa, population six hundred give or take, was the kind of place that upon seeing it – and if it wasn’t your home you wouldn’t unless you had become hopelessly lost – one might wonder who would ever choose to live there. That opinion sat just fine with the town’s inhabitants, who were quite proud to claim it as their own. They would still wave in a friendly enough manner at the rare passers-through, but the “Don’t let the door hit you,” sentiment remained.

Unfortunately for Hazel Twigg, she hadn’t had a say one way or the other when she landed there with her father. They had arrived just in time for the first day of first grade, so while Hazel drew some attention as a new face, nervously clasping her hands together as she was introduced to her classmates, there was so much new to the other children that Hazel herself was hardly noticed at all.

A1aWhen she and her father moved into the large cream and olive green and burnt pumpkin-colored Victorian, more than one heart had fluttered. Hazel’s father was a handsome man in a place where single men that didn’t have both feet dangling over the edge of a long-dug grave were rare. And right away it was noticed that there was no sign of a woman. Just a tall man in need of a woman’s touch and his poor, motherless child.

So for the first several weeks of the newcomer’s arrival, there was a constant stream of willing, well-meaning females that came knocking. Women of all ages, covered dishes in hand, their faces freshly scrubbed and wide smiles at the ready. When Hazel would curiously run to the front door warily followed by her protective father, the women would greet them with gay utterances of, “Welcome to our town!” directed at him and, “Look at that hair!” supposedly directed at Hazel because they ruffled her honey-colored hair as they spoke, although their eyes never actually looked in her direction after that first quick glance. One by one they would wander away moments later, not quite certain what had happened, only that the town’s newest bachelor had somehow politely but firmly resisted their wiles.

A1dEach subsequent female was certain that she would have more success, that the chatter at the post office, the grocery store, the Tuesday morning coffee at the library, had simply been put out by other predatory females. And even if the rumors were true, such would not be the case for them. Surely not! They left their platters of Maid-Rites, or Ham Balls, or chewy Scotcheroos behind with their names and phone numbers conveniently taped beneath, and they waited in vain for a call. A call that never, ever came.

Hence, the gossip.

“Poor little Hazel,” the townsfolk would say. It wasn’t her fault her father was probably some sort of criminal, living on the lam…

I tried every which way to get this scenario to work. A handsome man for Ruth, just ripe for the plucking! And a good one, too! Most likely. But I’ve learned: if you get stuck, it’s time to try something else (not that the handsome man angle was the main focus in this version. I swear).

Excellent website for all things Rolfe – Ahem! “Reliance”:

All photos are of Rolfe, Iowa. Quite possibly the grandest place on earth.


The Art of EIGHT

Chapter 8: Whirlwinds contains the only illustration that it was possible to reuse from the previous book. I’ve switched computers since then so I can’t find the sketch that I did. Then again, I’m not even sure if I did one for this drawing. *Shudder*:


When I did my earlier sketch of Marlene, I gave her green fingernails – if you recall:


In Nina’s subsequent drawing, she was wise enough to keep Marlene’s fingernail polish color relatively the same. See? Here’s the detail of the “bat” picture :

Ch84And the “Hazel Meets Marlene” noted from the previous Chapter 6:Ch85










But, a-HAH! I have FOUND A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE OLD AND NEW MARLENES! In the first book illustration (with the bat above) Marlene has a SINGLE SILVER BANGLE bracelet. NEW Marlene has MULTIPLE GOLD ONES. Plus, also, a RING. Clearly, this doesn’t mean anything. But, um…I noticed…

Still, DANG. That Nina is good.

I’ve always been enchanted by whirlwinds and I find them to be magical things. My sketch for, “Look! A whirlwind! Fairies!”


Nina did me one better. She actually added fairies. Can you spot them?

HT_20Interesting tidbit: Nina had missed the note that Hazel should be looking at the whirlwind. As usual, she thoughtfully changed it, but not soon enough for the online book. It WILL however, be in the printed book. Here’s the before and after:


Lastly, the pantry. Note the push button light switches, which I do still have in this house here and there. Clearly this drawing was done after a long break from sketching, when it was decided that another illustration was needed. Because LOOK! I went ALL OUT on color:

HT-021 POS

And of course, Nina did too:


And there you have it! NINA.

I forgot to mention yesterday about Ruth’s first noting of the Priscilla windows, a fact I discovered when looking at a reprint from an old Sears Catalog from whence this house came. Ruth seems to be exceptionally fascinated by this little tidbit and will point it out every chance she gets!


It doesn’t take much to fascinate Ruth. Ahem.

Happy Friday to one and all!

SOLVED and About Chapter 8

Chapter 8 Whirlwind, when Book Imitates Art, but first!

FenceI would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for yesterday. It’s so hard when you think there’s no way out of an impossible-to-live-with situation, but I think I’ve come up with a solution that will work (powered by your good wishes and prayers). I’ll detail it on my Ruth Agle Facebook page, because now I need your help in figuring out how to accomplish the deed. THANK YOU.

Chapter 8 is when the true story really begins. Whenever I’m entering a life-altering situation, that first step is always a big deal to me. Literally. I always use my right foot.


They looked a lot like this, but BOINGY-ER.

The first time was when I stepped into my first day of fifth grade in Cedar City, Utah, after having moved there from Laie, Hawaii. I was wearing shoes with soles made out of what felt like dried rubber cement, boingy and soft with a thick, slightly higher heel, and I felt so grown up – a big change from Hawaii, where we often went to school barefoot. I later discovered that one shoe was a half size larger than the other (someone had switched them in the box!) but I proudly wore them anyway, and I loved them. As I entered that school I looked down at my feet. Right foot first over that threshold. A New Beginning. I’ve used my right foot ever since.

Hazel is the first to take a step into the Hideaway and I’m certain she used her right foot too. And upon entering this house, she saw what I saw. She missed what I missed. At first.


Knowing what I know now, I’m certain that bat hadn’t been dead long. Anything that monstrously huge that can fit through a hole the size of a pencil eraser is not made of much so would shrivel quite quickly. Which is precisely the reason that most cats who are otherwise excellent hunters will not bother with bats. For all their size, there’s no feasty meat!



I don’t think our realtor would have mentioned that bat if Julie or I hadn’t spotted it first. She tried to shoo us into the living room pointing out this feature and that. But we noticed! She assured us that it was, “Probably a fluke,” a sentiment I clung to.

The dead bat was actually on the window seat, poor thing. I know the exact spot to this day, and that’s how it originally was in the book. But Nina had drawn the bat (in one of the few illustrations we were able to reuse from the first book) down on the floor so I changed the text. Much better! Because in addition to the bat, we get to see Marlene’s thin ankles, just as I had imagined them!

As Hazel, Ruth and Marlene move through the house, they’re moving into familiar territory that I know like the back of my hand. I think to make something real to you as a writer and therefore real to a reader, you need that. This recent situation that has caused me so much grief and tears, the kind where you can’t stop crying no matter how much you try that thankfully doesn’t happen often, reminds me of the last time I cried such tears: After commissioning me to write a book, my brothers came to Iowa.

They wanted to get photos of my house for the website (this was in the very early stages) and I proudly showed them around. Looking at it’s shabby self, and staying with my sister Julie in her much grander place, they insisted we used Julie’s house instead. I can see why! Julie’s house is GLORIOUS, and she has excellent taste! It’s bigger, with more rooms and you could get lost in it and it’s on a much larger piece of land. I would have wanted to use it too.


I couldn’t find a picture of the whole house (probably too big for the camera lens, even!), but here’s a corner, at Halloween.

If I had lived there. But I didn’t.

At first I balked. And them I crumbled. No. NO. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put myself (Hazel wasn’t even a twinkle in my eye at the time) there with any realism. I cried for days, so strongly did I feel, just as I had recently. My brothers graciously gave in and it was like a New Beginning. Right foot first.

Just like now. It feels so good to be myself again after so many days of not and I hope I can make this work. There truly are angels among us.

Tomorrow, Nina’s art! And some hidden treasures and differences that lie therein.

The Wisdom

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

If you could, please send a little wisdom and prayers my way and I’ll do the same for you.

Premiere Tonight!

At midnight, Chapter 8: Whirlwind makes its debut…

HT_17Into the breach! Or, in this case, the HIDEAWAY. Which for Hazel is pretty much the same thing…