November, 2013

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Till We Meet Again and The Rescuer

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1thanksaAs Thanksgiving 2013 rapidly approaches, I’d like to take a moment to send out a blanket of thanks. A warm, fuzzy blanket of thanks to all the wonderful people in the world, and in my case, especially in Rolfe. We picked the right place to ride out this storm of life!

Tomorrow the “Iowa Agles” will be heading out to Utah for our father’s memorial. It will be good to see our family again and to finally be able to hug each other after the news of our patriarch’s passing. It will also be our chance to say a collective farewell – until we meet again.

Since I’ll be on the road and since Nina needs a little time to catch up, this here blog will be going on hiatus until next Monday. The chapter release will pause for a week as well.

1thanksb1In the meantime, a little anecdote of yesterday’s adventures. I find I must specify them as yesterday’s because every day is an adventure in Iowa!

But I digress: As usually happens in time of harvest, a little critter entered my house. A mouse! A mouse! It entered my house!

I’ve been doing fall cleaning in preparation of the holidays and the royal visit of my son, Adam. In doing this cleaning, I found some dried Lima beans at the back of my silverware drawer the other day. YIKES!!!!!!

As a seasoned Iowan, I knew what that meant. A MOUSE HAD DONE IT because that’s what mice do: they take food from one place and move it to another.

After boiling the drawer and boiling it again. I put it out of my mind and went about my business.



The time had finally come to clean the cupboard beneath that drawer. The cupboard that held the bags of dried Lima beans in the first place. The Source. EEK. With Julie on the phone to figuratively hold my hand, I got my dollar store grabber, and prepared. What would I see? Would a horde of the critters now fully grown and fattened come running out at me to gnaw at my ankles and demand their Lima beans back? With Julie’s encouragement, I picked up the first bag of beans.

And immediately dropped it.

In that split second, I had seen my second worst fear: The tiny gray corpse of a dead mouse. In my cupboard. With my popcorn bowls. And remaining dried beans, apparently. Turns out, Julie is as afraid of mice as I am, so she sent Scott over. He bravely went to work as I cowered ten or 12 feet away, lifted the bag of beans and looked beneath it, and….

It was a potato! A shriveled dried potato!

“Of course! Of course!” I cried. “I would never have a dead mouse in my cabinet, Martha Stewart type that I am!”

Although I bet she doesn’t have shriveled potatoes in her cabinets, either.

So let that be a warning to you: Beware of dead potatoes masquerading as dead mice.

And on that note, Happy Thanksgiving to my wonderful friends until we meet again!! May your potatoes be mashed and creamy and not…..I’ll stop right there.

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Chapter 16 In Living Black & White

Whoa! Looks like Nina has a lot of coloring to do! If I had more time, perhaps I’d print out her sketches so far, and color ’em myself! I’m sure the results would be…horrendous. Better not.

Chapter 16 The Class With No Name. Here’s my sketch for the first illustration, entitled (of course) “Three Wise Monkeys.”


And here’s Nina’s:


Excellent! It’s as if she’s been to my house! And, LOOK! Why, that’s exactly how I look from behind! Heh. I’ll say it again: I wish Nina could illustrate my life.

Here’s my second sketch, “The Portal.” My Portal looks a little cranky, for some reason. I think it’s the cupboard pulls:

HT-038 The Portal

And Nina’s:


So close to the actual Portal, which is in the same place in my house as it is in the Hideaway, to the right of the fireplace. I have yet to paint it (but I will!):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s my third sketch for the chapter, “Mr. Horace,” with his mean threat of MINT IN THE BOX. *shudder*

HT-037 Mr. Horace

Nina’s take:


Also excellent! I only requested one small change for the final. I wanted a slightly more outrageous and defined mustache. After all, as it says in the chapter, “He was older with grizzled silver hair and an enormous handle-bar mustache, the curled ends of which framed his ears if you could view him at just the right angle.”

I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted to show Nina what I meant (not that she needs showing, but I always seem to feel the need to show), so I sent the next closet thing:

HT-037 MustacheJust asking for the “top layer of mustache” of course.

There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes. A little re-writing, some fleshing out. I’ve discovered that I’m never satisfied. I always want to do MORE. Even after the “final, final, final” version I send to my brother for the website. MORE. It’ll will actually be a relief when the words are finally set in print.

Of course, there’s always the second edition…

Happy Weekend Before Thanksgiving, All!

A Fate Worse Than MINT.

163b1For as long as I can remember, my mother has had a wonderful little collection of the Three Wise Monkeys. You know the ones: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil & See No Evil. So I was delighted when I saw an opportunity to work that into Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway.

Edited excerpt from Chapter 16 The Class With No Name:

 “Elizabeth, are you okay?”

For a moment Hazel thought that she had outgrown her childhood, when she’d only just discovered how wonderful it could be. Elizabeth had gone completely still and didn’t appear to be breathing. Hazel was so relieved when Elizabeth eye’s widened and she loudly gasped, causing the room to go quiet. She appeared to be trying to speak and everyone looked at her, waiting. When she finally managed, it was a very faint whisper. “Did you say, Portal?”

163cHazel was not prepared for Dot and Betty’s reaction. In unison they blurted, “The Class!” and then all three dolls, Dot, Betty and Elizabeth, immediately clapped their hands over their mouths like the three wise monkeys who only knew one thing not to do.

Now, if you want a doll to keep a secret, what would you threaten her with? Why, the worst fate of all, of course!

Another edited excerpt:

“If any of you reveals what I am about to tell you, you will never, ever have the chance to become ‘Favorite Companion’.” Mr. Horace emphasized his point. “You could be surrounded by hundreds of the dearest, most pure-hearted children in the world, and you would have no more life than the saddest level of all,” here he paused, and each of the dolls felt he was looking directly at them, “Mint in the Box.”

163a1The dolls all shuddered, not wanting to even imagine: Never seeing the light of day, never being removed from your box to be played with for even a moment was bad enough. Suffering that fate while out in the open, surrounded by children…

Some of the dolls started quietly weeping.

Writing that last line made me laugh a little bit, because of course there are worse things in the world. However! Not for a doll, there isn’t!

‘Mint in the Box’ dolls are the most sought after and of course fetch the best prices amongst collectors. But how sad! It’s not just for lack of money that I don’t own a single mint doll, it’s because I don’t want own a sad doll. That would make me sad, which is the opposite reason I surround myself with these girls, odd person that I am.

Of course, the threat worked. Over all of the decades none of the dolls ever spoke a word. Right up until this very moment in the book.

Tomorrow! The Art of 16. We artists, Nina and I, have a LOT of catching up to do…Until then!

Squirrel Envy

As we wait for those of you who are reading the next chapter, No. 16 The Class With No Name, I shall regale you with something that possibly some of you can’t relate to: Squirrel Envy. Most don’t like those pesky thievers of sweet bird’s food.

But I confess, I always feel just the slightest bit of envy when I look elsewhere to the neighboring trees of my neighbors, which I can easily see especially now that trees are leafless, and I see THIS:

squirrel-nestsAnd then I look to my trees, when I make my own suet, fer cryin’ out loud and hand squeeze it into little lumps amongst the branches! And faithfully put out birdseed every day, and I see THIS:


So it was very gratifying the other day when I lifted mine eyes to the heavens, otherwise known as mine own trees, and I saw (cue Heavenly Chorus) THIS:Squirrela1FINALLY! FINALLY! Mine, all MINE!! Thank you, oh squirrels, I feel honored and blessed! And seven years later, well. It’s about TIME.

Tomorrow! About Chapter 16. Secretly, I woke up in a panic when I realized that not only have we not gotten sketches from Nina for Chapter 17, I haven’t even sketched them myself yet! ACK. So much to do! So little Time! And those little leather shoes and romper that are the finishing touches for the doll I’m working on now aren’t going to make themselves!

Perhaps I can train those squirrels…

The Art of Holding On

1card1I confess, yesterday was a hard day for me. Apparently, losing one’s father is not something you get over in a week. Most likely, not in a lifetime. Not when he’s been with you for your particular forever!

I see him every time I look at my hands. I have his knuckles! Or when I look at my hair in the morning. I have these little baby hairs at my temples that wisp forward just like his did on those sleepy school mornings and every morning in between.

So as I wept off and on I went about my day feeling lost and missing my dad. I was performing the semi-annual cleaning of the top of my fridge (yes, I should do it more often I know!). Like most, I have things stuck to the outside of my fridge with cute little magnets shaped like apples or vintage Halloween and Christmas post cards.

The things that are stuck there are useful things: the Rolfe library hours, or weights and measurements for cooking, things like that. Things that become invisible unless you need them. There isn’t a ton of stuff there, not like when Adam was young, but what little there was had become Invisible to me.

It wasn’t until I knocked one of those things to the ground as I stood on my stepladder and cleaned that I saw it. Not until it suddenly appeared before my eyes on the floor. Maybe because it was the same color as my refrigerator. But now, there it was! I opened it and saw:1card

I swear, I don’t still have a bunch of Christmas cards, clinging to my fridge. Just the one, and it was for some reason on the side where I never look at all. That dear handwriting with words of love from my Dad. The boost I needed, when I needed it most.

I understand how anticlamactic things can be with a book that trickles out week by week and a blog that isn’t always perfectly written and that life goes on and the holidays are coming, and in truth, sometimes I feel that way myself.

But yesterday, I decided to also tackle a question that my birthday brother Kenny had raised about next week’s chapter. A major thing that required some thought.

In my research for my response I did some reading of future chapters all the way to the end of the book and beyond to the other books in the series. And I received the second much-needed boost of the day. This is a good story. I can hold on.

So, you! Go about your business! Hazel Twigg will be waiting for you when you return.

Tonight at midnight! Chapter 16 The Class With No Name.

Happy Monday! PLUS…


I mean, look at that face! He is adorable! And if it weren’t for him, Hazel Twigg wouldn’t have even been a twinkle in my eye, most likely.

Yes, indeedy! Happy Monday!

There, I said it. And I meant it. Now I must go back to work – as must we all!

PLUS! Happy birthday to my brother Ken, who is a really good guy. Also, he likes water.

Love you, bro!


I Don’t Know How She Does It…

Ah, the art of Chapter 15 The Meeting at the Mirror! It bridges the gap between my last sketch that was drawn possibly a year or so ago, and current sketches drawn a week or two ago. This time I would do better! After all, now I knew there would be this blog, and now I knew that my little sketches would be seen by more than my inner circle. Surely I could to better knowing all of that!

The last sketch of the old. I called this drawing “First Quartet.” What a lovely name! So graceful! So elevated!:

HT-034I wouldn’t need to elevate my next drawings with fancy names, no! Because this time I was going to draw good! And now, pencils sharpened, erasers found, I now present to you…THE NEW!HT-035Hmm….They look the same in quality as the first batch! Maybe a little less wrinkly paper-wise. Ah, well!

Nina’s first sketch of the first:Sk_HT_34-1Much better than mine, of course. We had a few notes for this one. Namely, 1.) Dot and Betty should look more friendly rather than scared, 2.) Hazel needs to be half a head or so smaller, and 3.) Hazel needs to wear her necklace.

Here are the real Dot and Betty:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADot (in the red)  has the special feature of “flirty eyes,” which means they not only sleep, they have special weights in them to move side to side. I therefore have requested that in all her images, she should be looking to the side in some degree.

Nina’s fix:


I don’t know how she does it:


And the second sketch, “My Little Human”:

Sk_HT_35BExcellent, once again!

Mom&Dad4wkspriorMy sister January took this photo of my parents about four weeks before my Father’s passing. I love it, even as it makes me cry. Best Parents Ever.

My thoughts are with my mother at this time as my father’s service will be held tomorrow. I’m having a hard time with this, and I was already living long distance! My mother was Right There, side by side for sixty years!

Mom, I love you, Dad I miss you, it’s not forever…because it IS for forever. We shall meet again.


I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and thank you.

The ART of the Original…

In Chapter 15 The Meeting at the Mirror, we finally get to meet the two figures in the attic. This concept has been with us from the very first version of the book, so here I’ve decided to introduce aaalllll the artwork that was done originally that is now unusable but that certainly deserves to see the light of day…

The two occupants of the attic seldom saw another living soul. For most of the twenty years they had lain dormant, only stirring when a car would pull up with the occasional home shopper, and then only when there were pure-hearted children in tow, the key to their coming back to life. The attic occupants’ eyes would fly open at the same instant and they would look at each other.

Together they’d leap up and peer out the front window of the attic, standing on their tip-toes and pressing their foreheads against the wavy glass. Time after time they were disappointed, falling back to sleep before they’d even gotten a chance to come fully awake, their hopes dashed once more.


So one summer morning when they heard a car pull up it was no different from the dozen or so other times this had happened in the past. They scrambled, and as quickly as they could they took their usual positions on top of an old trunk so that they could see out the attic window to the front yard below.

HH_6A“Does everything stay with the house?” Ruth asked.

Marlene studied Ruth’s face, desperately trying to figure out what the correct answer would be. She most definitely did not want to have to empty the place herself. She decided to take a gamble. “You betcha!”

Ruth turned without saying a word, continuing to make her way towards the window in the front, where she stopped and looked down towards her feet.

HH_7CAfter purchasing the house, Ruth returns with her small friend Elizabeth in tow. The house is out in the middle of nowhere. When they arrive, because Ruth believes, Dot and Betty come back to life as they always do when there is someone nearby who believes…

Looking at their reflections in the hazy mirror, Dot and Betty tried to quickly pat the dust out of their hair and smooth their rumpled dresses as best they could when they heard the attic door suddenly bang open.

They could only stand there, too stunned to move as they listened to the footsteps coming up the stairs. Was it a believer? Only a believer could see them move! Otherwise, they’d just be a couple of old dolls lying on the trunk by the window.

HH_9ARuth led Elizabeth up the attic stairs, then paused and quietly said, “Elizabeth, I know that you were worried that you’d be lonely. I also know that I’m not a little girl anymore.

Elizabeth looked down. Ruth put her finger under Elizabeth’s chin and looked into her eyes. “I’m not quite sure how this works, but there are two dolls in this attic. Maybe you three will be as close as sisters and have adventures of the sort that you and I used to have together when I was little.”

She wiped some tears from her eyes before continuing, “Oh, Elizabeth! That doesn’t mean that we won’t play! I’d die if we didn’t play again! But for those times that I’m busy, or for those adventures that only little girls can have… I love you too much to ever let you be lonely.” She gave Elizabeth a quick squeeze. “What do you say? Are we ready to meet them?”

HH_9BRuth turned and put her hand on Elizabeth’s back, lightly nudging her towards the other dolls as they slowly took a few steps forward, too. Now they were all standing just a few feet apart, and it was so quiet, the air so charged with anticipation, that you could hear the weights of their eyes move up and down as they blinked.

HH_10AThe three dolls joined hands, tall Elizabeth in the middle, and started picking their way towards the stairs with Ruth following. They looked like sisters! Ruth felt a tiny glimmer of hope take hold in her heart.HH_11BThere ’tis! A highly edited version of the first book. So much has changed! And yet, the bones are still there…

Tomorrow! This Captain was asleep at the wheel once again. Actually, she was at her sewing machine, sewing away. I didn’t get onto my computer all afternoon and into the evening! This morning I was happy to discover the first sketches from Nina in my in box. I haven’t even looked at them yet!

However! We are saved! We are saved. I will at least have sketches to show for tomorrow…YESS. Good heavens, maybe I’d better go back and try to make my sketches for Chapter 16 look better, just in case…NAH.


Safely(ish) Docked



Did it happen? Yes it did! Just when I’d decided that “punt” meant wait until next time…next week. But, nope! As my brothers are doing everything they can to help my mother with very real tasks, they took time out for their sister as well. I tell you, I feel like the luckiest girl alive to be a part of this family.

Chapter 15 The Meeting at the Mirror made it!

The reason for the “ish” is that something ELSE finally happened! MY drawings in the chapter, JUST LIKE I’VE BEEN DREAMING OF FOR WEEKS AND WEEKS!! And…Oh. Hmm. Not nearly as nifty as I thought they would look….

The two sketches bridge the gap between previous batch drawn months ago and the batch that I just drew last week. Proof. Not any better! Nina! NINA!!! I GIVE!!!

My brother has also put status notes by the chapters, indicating whether it’s my sketches, or Nina’s sketches, or full color, etc. When does this wizard sleep, I wonder?


The Unforeseeable Unexpected


I mean, of COURSE I know what a “punt” is, I LOVE football! I just don’t know what it means in the vernacular. Also, I don’t really know what “vernacular” means or if I used it right…oh, dear…

As we continue to deal with our father’s passing, sometimes shipping lanes cross in the night when one of the captains is asleep at the wheel.

For example, yesterday I sent my brother Dennis the final edited version of Chapter 15 The Meeting at the Mirror – without actually sending the chapter. I forgot to attach it! Then I crashed last night.

I woke up (at 2:15. That’s what you get for going to bed early!) to an email from my brother informing me as such and that for this week’s usual Tuesday night midnight premiere we might need to “punt.” I belatedly sent him the needed things and asked what “punt” meant in this instance, but no matter.

There may not be a premiere tonight, so in it’s place: Here is the 1st chapter from the first version of the book before Hazel was created when Ruth was the central character. Hah! A premiere nonetheless! My father would have been proud.

And yes, it’s hard for me to see his dear face up there in that little image…


The very first illustration which is now unusable but which I am sure will be worth a FORTUNE one day.

Of one thing we can be certain, and that is the precise time that a rather large event occurred that set the wheels of our story in motion: Two seventeen Central Time on a Thursday afternoon.

You would think that such a momentous occurrence would have made a difference in the cadence of the land. It did not. There was no bleak darkening of the sky or booming clap of thunder or sudden blast of wind. The reason being that the tipping point for this event had been reached so very gradually that before the Before and after the After, there was very little difference at all.

In her home on an unassuming street near the center of a medium-sized town, Ruth sat in a chair at her mirrored dresser. She certainly hadn’t noticed that anything untoward had occurred, even though it would affect her most of all. For in that Moment she was simply trying not to cry, with very little success.

It had been a difficult year for her in a life that had started out with so much promise and that had maintained that promise for a very long time. Not promises of wealth or fame, but of happiness, of purpose and, most importantly, of the most powerful magic in the world: imagination. And she had hoped that magic would last forever.

Mind you, hoping for something is a very good thing. But to have real magic in your life, hope is not quite enough.

You have to believe.

1ScarfToday marked the first anniversary of her husband’s passing.

She realized it was old-fashioned, but Ruth had taken to wearing black. For the past year she had kept to herself, only venturing out to buy necessities, passing by the thrift stores and antique shops that she and he used to love to frequent. Sometimes she would look in the windows, but she could never bring herself to enter the stores without him.

She took a deep breath and opened the top dresser drawer, reaching in towards the very back, her hand instantly knowing when she touched what she sought. The scarf. The last present her husband had given her for no reason at all, just because he liked it and thought she would too. It was knit and wildly colorful. He’d laughingly said that it would go with all of vivid clothing that she owned. She’d teased him back that he could borrow it any time he wanted to, but she had loved it. Today it would have to go with black because that was the best she could do.

Pulling the scarf out of the drawer, she looped it around her neck feeling its comforting warmth against her skin. Before she could change her mind, she resolutely stuffed the remaining contents of the drawer back in, then closed it, picked up her purse and walked out the front door.

Behind her the clock on the nightstand read 2:20. Not that she noticed or saw it at all.

I wanted the Ruth character to wear black because I wear black and I always have, even when I was thin. With the passing of her beloved husband, there’s the reason!

Still, Ruth needed a little color. Enter the scarf. I loved that scarf ever since I saw it at my favorite store, Target. It’s a common thing, one of those items of clothing that you occasionally spot someone else wearing. THAT common. Isn’t it unusual that doesn’t happen more often? But with this scarf, it did. TWICE. I’m probably the only person still wearing it now, it having been several years since it was available for purchase.