September, 2013

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In the Nick

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mod noisepollution460Chapter 8 WILL be on its way and ready to go! Nina got the last two illustrations done just in time – although there will be THREE illustrations for this longer-than-usual chapter. One of them is from the previous version and based on a true incident of what happened when I first entered this house with a real estate agent. YIKES.

And my long-suffering brother puts up with the near constant changes I make to the text. Luckily for me, I don’t quite know everything that goes into creating the flip book. La-la-la-la-lah!

modified batsAlso, can you feel the change in the air? Here I sit with my trusty ol’ scarf wound round my neck again, hearing more and more episodes of others experiencing bats via my hub-of-the-neighborhood-postal-working-sister Julie. Secretly, it gladdens my heart (knock on wood), not because I’m happy for others misfortunes, but because I thought maybe the late spring had led to a dearth (which means scarcity. I looked it up) of bats this year. Maybe not! Maybe they are present as ever and the Batman’s second coming did the trick!


Ooh! Maybe a quarter AND a rubber band! No, no…it must be something better still…

Lastly, with advice from my most excellent friend Jennifer Trenary, I am trying to come up with a prize to give away in a drawing for Facebook “Likes” for the Hazel Twigg page. A rubber band? No…a quarter? No…something BETTER. What could be better than a quarter, you may ask? Trust me! I will find it! Details coming soon. No worries if you’ve already “Liked” Hazel. There will be TWO prizes, one for the new “Liker” and one for the Founder of Said “Liker”! That Jennifer is SO SMART.

Happy Monday! Knock on wood…

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Nina Nails It, Chapter 7

Regarding the difference between my sketches and Nina’s final illustration for Chapter 7, there really is no comparison.

For a person who knows next to nothing about cars, I seem to have a lot of them in these early chapters of the book. I guess that’s what comes from having a Hideaway in a town in the Middle of Nowhere! Now that everyone’s just about arrived at their destination, the magic can begin. But first! Chapter 7 illustrations!

The first illustration was a hard angle to capture, but I was sure that Nina could figure out something that would work. Here’s my initial take:


Because I had a hard time getting the angle right, I sketched out a quick drawing of what I meant so that Nina could understand and take it from there:

blogLine of Cars

She did! Nina’s angle was leaps and bounds better! We’d already had a car interior in the first chapter with Hazel, so this was a MUCH better choice:

HT_18Below is the “Can I help you, officer?” sketch from me. Note, I didn’t draw Maxwell’s face. I didn’t feel comfortable drawing what he would look like, wanting to see what Nina would do:


In yesterday’s post, I had for some reason imagined actor Richard Masur as Maxwell. My brothers absolutely hated that. My younger brother Ken proposed THIS guy:

clark gable

Recognize him? I hope so! This is Clark Gable, of “Gone With the Wind” fame.

Ooh, I see! They wanted a better-looking villain. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

Here were MY picks:

Maxwell Colin Firth

Colin Firth. OF COURSE.




Machine Gun Preacher - UK Premiere - Inside Arrivals

Girard Butler, who secretly looks better with half a mask on.

Nina did her own thing:

HT_19Secretly, I love it. Is it wrong to have a crush on a fictional character, even though he’s not a nice guy? My sore little heart! I would see this image from a then upcoming chapter, and I would find myself thinking, “Yay! Maxwell is on his way!” forgetting that he is NOT on Ruth’s side. Plus, also, he is not actually a real person.

So there’s THAT.

Ah, well! There you have it, my friends. Nina does it again. We hoped to be able to release chapters more quickly than once a week by now, but Nina is scrambling. Apparently, brilliance takes time. Even now she is rushing to complete the illustrations for Chapter 8. Will she make it in time? And what will Marlene make of the handsome Maxwell? We shall see. Oh yes, we shall…

Have a happy weekend!

P.S. Yesterday I was taking my usual walk with my trusty sidekick Teddy around the golf course and cemetery on the outskirts of Rolfe. Just when I got the the single red flashing light, what should pass me, but…a PIG TRUCK. It was empty, so…no matter! Moments later, Wall of Smell! It made me smile.

About That Chapter 7…

Pig Truck

A PIG TRUCK. From the side you can see the holes better. I had a hard time finding the right kind of truck for an image to send to Nina.

“HARK! What is THAT I hear? Why, ’tis a truck!” I would exclaim in my low musical voice. “Welcome, traveler! Welcome to our town! Farewell! Farewell!” I would think to myself as the large trucks rambled through Rolfe, passing my house as they go.

I live on a thoroughfare, and while it’s not very busy (I often walk down the middle of the street), we do get our fair share of 18 wheelers. I thought one was much the same as the other, practicing my new-found Iowa wave as they drove on by. But then came this one truck. Wave! And wait for it….


It was a pig truck! Who knew? Pigs! They don’t smell so good! I’ll still never be off bacon of course, but wow! And it always amazes me, the delay in the scent. Now that I’m seasoned, I’ll see one coming and moments after it passes I’ll hold my breath. I had to get a pig truck into Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway, having never seen one before moving here. So I did.

Also, now that Smith & Jones were fleshed out characters and more a main part of the whole story, they needed to have boots on the ground – or in this case, fine Italian loafers. Since Smith & Jones never leave their basement I needed to create someone to take care of their final task. Enter Maxwell Brown.

Maxwell Richard Massur

Actor Richard Masur. I had to look his name up. I don’t know why he popped into my head for Maxwell, but he did.


Seems legit. This is the largest photo I could find.

Have you ever seen the TV movie “IT” by Stephen King? I’m a huge Stephen King fan and for some reason when I was writing Maxwell, I had in my mind the one character that doesn’t make it back to the hometown to fight the scary monster clown. Well, he does show up – but as a severed head in a refrigerator. What – ?! I have no idea why I chose him, but I did. My brothers nixed him in unison, so we picked someone else as a model for the character. More on that tomorrow. Smorgasbord! Heh.

Channel 3: a small town has its own television station! I love it! There aren’t any shows, just scrolling announcements, things like the Weekly Specials at the grocery store and gas station, or Lost and Found, or Card Shower thank yous. It’s a charming, charming thing.

Lastly, house movings. It seems to happen here a lot. More than once I’ve heard of houses that are free – you just need to move them. What better way to delay Maxwell?

And that is the story behind the components of Chapter 7. Tomorrow. Hmpf! Sniff. NINA.

We Remember



I don’t wish to get all heavy, this being a lighthearted blog and all, but this is September 11, the anniversary of an attack on our soil. An attack on our way of life. For several days and even weeks afterwards we were united in a way that we hadn’t been in decades. I wish we all could be that way again.



A Bit O’…

Trivia! As I rush to get back to my own personal sweat shop.

HH_5AI’ve gotten pretty rusty with the sewing as I work on a dress for an 1860’s china head doll. This is my SECOND dress for her! The first didn’t work out! She has a rather crude body as many of these girls did, with an ample chest, an impossibly tiny waist, and wide hips. In other words, her body’s just like mine! ‘Cept the tiny waist part. Ahem. Photos of her coming soon.

Anyway, I’ve been known to edit and edit and edit some more. In fact, even though I’ve sent my brother my final, final, final versions of chapters 1 thru 10, he’s taken to asking me to just send them anew one by one as we go. Because he’ll spend all kinds of time patiently laying things out for the flip book, and I will somehow see 20 other things I want to change! Little things, but things nonetheless.

Same with poor Nina and her illustrations! She’ll do a sketch, I’ll ask her to tweak this or that, she does and then presents it in color, and I’ll see something else that “needs” tweaking…bless her heart.


Another bit o’ trivia: In the first book illustrations, such as this one, the attic windows weren’t quite exact. They only had that center fan. Seeing as how’s the windows play such a big part of the book, for the second version we got it right. Like in the illustration below. Note first version Marlene again, before she got her makeover too.

And bless mine, because I’m trying to be less persnickety about things and trying to learn the difference between changing things just to change them or changing them for good reason.

However! One thing I kept my mouth shut on is the gift that keeps on giving because it’s in so many of the illustrations: the window frames of my house.

I’d had such success with painting my door red and had gotten so many nice comments about it that I decided to paint my window frames red too. Mistake! Mistake! A SPLASH of red is a good thing. Not splashes. I hastily painted them white again. They were red for less than a month!


The attic windows perfected. (See above illustration)

Unfortunately, the brief period when they were red was when we were initially sending Nina photos of my home for reference.

When her first sketches that included the house arrived I was busy being persnickety about other things. Like the planters near the porch stairs weren’t quite right, or the attic windows needed tweaking, so I didn’t say anything about the frames. Just those other things. Over and over. Like, the little white crosses on the pillars were missing. Stuff like that. Trying, I’m sure, Nina’s patience. Not to mention the time it was adding to production.

By the time I mentioned the red frames on the main illustration for my house, Dennis said quietly under his breath (although it was in written email form, but you could hear the quiet anyway), “We’ve already made so many changes, and now the illustration is in color. I think we need to stop.” And by “we,” I’m pretty sure he meant ME. In my defense, it’s hard to tell what color something is when it’s a black and white drawing!

So now, in every illustration, my window frames are red.

Secretly, some still are on my house as well. Painting frames is a pain! Plus, removing screens from the windows in the attic, leaving the window wide open so that ANYTHING can fly in? Even if it’s only for a minute? NO!

I’ve decided to embrace this little tidbit as a needed splash of color. Perfect! That’s what I was wanting the whole time!

So I won’t say another word about it. And now you know too.

Coming tonight at midnight, Chapter 7: The Badge and the Fury.

Wee 3 Tease…

Happy Monday, all!

Secretly, I worry that I am the cause of the recent heat wave here in Iowa. Because every time I have to go into the closet to record, it’s HOT out. Then again, it’s my brother Dennis doing the requesting, so…it’s HIS fault!


Into the closet with ye!

But don’t think of me sweating away in a closet, flashlight, recorder and pillow (to further cloak any outside sound) in hand, reading a small script that’s been clipped to a hanger. No. Think of Hazel’s plight: to get that note from her mother at the train station before it disappears forever. You can practically hear the bustling crowd:

Thank you, and tell your friends!

Chapter 6: Nina Tramples AGAIN

You might wonder when you see the following why I continue to post my sketches. Well, they’re to show what the concept for the illustration was before Nina swoops in and gets all artsy about it.

Drawing is hard. The angles, perspective, shadows…for ME, that is:


Can you spot Marlene peeking out the trailer window?

Apparently, NOT for Nina (but we knew that already, didn’t we?):


Nina has Marlene in the window too. It’s like she’s copying me! Only better.

I’ve been waiting for this chapter to come for awhile. ENTER MARLENE!


Marlene is  a character that has been with me for a long time. For this final version, she was fleshed out a lot more. In more ways then one. Witness a now defunct illustration from the first full book version:


Now that we were fleshing out Marlene, I wanted her even MORE “Marleeney” in the illustrations as well. For inspiration, I sent this:


I seem to have a fixation with Phyllis Diller. This is the second time I’ve used her in my blog! Who, you ask? HMPF, I say!


Carol Burnett as Nora Desmond, a spoof of the character from Sunset Boulevard. SO FUNNY.

I could also have sent this:









Either way, Nina COMPLETELY nailed it. Here’s her take on my “Marlene and Hazel meet sketch:

HT_16Just look at Marlene’s face! Doesn’t she look like someone you might know? My brother’s comment when he saw Nina’s take on this one? “SCARY.” You GO, Nina!

And my house! As I wrote yesterday, my heart skittered a little when first I saw it. There was something about it. Good or bad, I wasn’t quite sure to begin with.


In an early attempt at what eventually became Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway there’s a whole history of this house, and about all the people that had come with a real estate agent to see it only to walk away without entering or barely setting a foot inside.

I myself have had a lot of people come up to me since moving here telling me they looked at this house, “But it was too much.”

“Aw,” I would reply modestly. “It’s not really that big…”

Only to be met with an incredulous gaze, “No! Too much WORK!”

Oh. I see. Ahem.

Later when my brothers wanted me to write a nemesis into the story, I decided to use that hapless and formerly nameless and faceless real estate agent that had fruitlessly tried to make a sale.

I guess this house was waiting for the right person! I guess this house was waiting for me. Yay! (But it DOES need a lot of work…). Nina’s final take:

HT_17A MUCH better angle. But I’m a better Agle! Har.



About Chapter 6…

Ch6AboutChapter 6! First off, did you know that “realtor” is a trademarked word? I was wondering why during editing my brother Dennis would switch everything from “realtor”(tm – there, I did it, trademark police!) to “real estate agent.” I would send him a chapter to edit, he would change those words, I’d grimace and change them back, then he’d change them back again…finally, he told me.


I have No Idea why this agent is holding Doritos. Maybe you get a free bag if you buy a house. SOLD!!

ARGH!! Those pesky real estate agents! Just for that, I made Marlene a wee bit nastier. That’ll show ’em!

I’ve dealt with a lot of real estate agents over the years. In fact, my son Adam had lived in eight houses by the time he was nine! The vast majority of agents are warm, genuine people. But there’s that tiny minority. I’ve run across a few nasty agents in my day. You can’t really blame them in a tough market. And I do go a little overboard with Marlene (wait and see!), but that’s what makes her so…colorful.

Ch6About2AMarlene is based on a real person I’ve met right here in Rolfe. But she doesn’t live here, so don’t worry! It’s not YOU. Unless I’m kidding right now…Anyway, the person Marlene is based on is one of the kindest, nicest people I’ve ever met, which makes her quite interesting as a nemesis.

And this person kept herself up! Quite nicely! With a trowel! I used to look into her glittering, kind eyes and wonder; if I took her make up off, how small her head would really be? These are things that spring into your mind unbidden sometimes that you would never say out loud. Like I bet people find themselves wondering if I ever brush my hair? Or how come I’m not thin since I walk so much? Ah, well! As long as we keep these thoughts to ourselves…or write them down in a book. Heh.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd the Hideaway is of course based on my house. This very house I’m in right now, warts and all (the house, not me! I don’t have warts! – although my hair is quite messy). It stood empty for quite some time with no takers. The roof in the illustration is pretty much what my roof looks like; no insurer will insure it, even. Whenever there’s a wind storm I find shingles in the yard. Whee! But I love this place. It spoke to me. Warts and all. “The Mother Lode” as I called it in my email to Julie when I found the listing online.

When I first saw it in person, it frightened me a little. Julie and Scott had already moved here and I came for a visit trying to find my escape. It was an easy walk; less than a mile. So one early morning, I hunted this house down. Because of the trees surrounding it, it was bathed in shadow. And there were what looked like crosses on the pillars of the porch. Gothic! And the windows in the attic were weird; they looked like spiderwebs. I knew the house was empty, so heart pounding, I went onto the porch and looked inside. And fell in love. I had done it! I had found my own personal Hideaway. So I took the next logical step.

I found a real estate agent. And the rest is herstory.

Tomorrow! Nina’s art! See the before and AFTER.

YOU Can’t Fire Me…


Have you ever wanted to utter those words? Well, I actually have!

This is not really “About” Chapter 6, that’ll come tomorrow. It’s pretty much just about a single line in chapter 6 that talks about the motel Ruth and Hazel stayed in: the room was strictly decorated in turquoise and red. Quite a long time ago too, apparently.

Housekeeping Cart Outside Motel Rooms

I wheeled a cart not unlike this one up and down the sidewalk, day in, day out.

My very first “official” job was as a motel maid and I started in high school. I spent the second half of my childhood in the wonderful Cedar City, Utah, home of the marvelous Utah Shakespearean Festival which gave me my love of Shakespeare to this very day.

I’m sure this was me just being dramatic, but when I was a maid the owner’s daughters were maids too. There were two halves to this motel, the old and the new. The daughters got the new, of course. The rest of us got the old. I’m sure they’ve changed by now, but back then the old rooms were dingy things. Flocked red bed covers and turquoise shag carpeting that would never come clean.

Still. To this day I make my bed like a motel maid working alone: first one half all the way done, then the other.

I was standing right in this lobby when I got my first paycheck. 'Twas GLORIOUS.

I was standing right in this lobby when I got my first paycheck. ‘Twas GLORIOUS.

As for the quitting, I worked there faithfully all through high school. But then came college. What fun! What freedom! I was not as good an employee as I should have been. Ahem. One day I got the only migraine I have ever had in my life, thank goodness. I couldn’t even move my eyes without flinching in pain. So when the owner called me and demanded that I come in “or else,” I uttered the words that some only dream of.

“You can’t fire me, I QUIT!”

Shame on me. I deserved to be fired by that point but I confess, it felt a little bit good uttering those words.

Ch 6 shkes1Afterwards I got a job at the pre-show of the Shakespearean festival, walking around in Elizabethan costume, singing songs hawking lemon and raisin tarts (we got to take home the leftovers at the end of the night. They were WONDERFUL!) or horehound candy or oranges.

Ch 6 elemAll’s Well That Ends Well. I learned the value of hard work. And how to sing out in public walking amongst strangers.

Yep. All that, for one little line.

Labor of Love – BAT!


Previous work.



I’m running a little late today as I immerse myself into my new mode of living: fixing up and sewing for dolls. It truly is a labor of love! I’ll be featuring them here soon as I work in addition to the Art and the About and so on and so forth. Working on these old girls is a time consuming but lovely way to eke out a living.

Speaking of eek (see what I did there?), last night I had an encounter with a BAT. You might think – if you know me at all or have been reading for any length of time – that a bat encounter in a house, no less – would be the FIRST thing I would talk about, and with the caps lock ON, too. But, nope!

Because it wasn’t my house.

I was worried a little because this year I haven’t had any bats (knock on wood). Had Batman’s visit really done the trick, or are we just low on bats because of an unusually late spring? So imagine my surprise when I discovered that my neighbor had had a bat the night before! My second reaction, after horror, was JOY. Perhaps I am finally, finally BAT PROOF.

“But, wait!” those of you who were paying attention exclaim. “I thought you said YOU had a bat encounter! Not just talk of one! I feel ever-so-slightly cheated!”

Well, feel cheated no more. This neighbor, we shall call him The Boy Next Door, told me that bats weren’t scary, and that the way to get rid of them was just to prop a door or window open. They would feel the breeze and fly right out. That’s what he had done. And now the bat was gone!

Alastor1BLater, he invited me inside to see his fireplace. ZOOM!! My eyes went right to it. It’s as if my eyes are constantly darting around, looking for bats!

“A BAT!” I called out in my musical voice. Either that or I let out a sort of scream. As much as a middle-aged woman with a low voice CAN scream.

Alastor_Moody12galBecause sure enough, there was a bat, just hanging out near the ceiling, trying to pretend he was part of the wood, waiting to pounce when my back was turned. I did not turn my back.

My joy over the thought that maybe this was a normal year for bats and that perhaps my house is now just finally bat proof was mixed with the dread that its finally getting colder and downright chilly, and maybe now’s when I have to exercise CONSTANT VIGILANCE!  So you can bet I will.

In the meantime! Chapter 6 By Any Other Name premieres tonight! I know it’s kind of frustrating, just reading one chapter a week. It’s hard to keep a flow! You know what would help that? Holding the ENTIRE BOOK in your hand! Pre-order today!