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A Few Debuts

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Now, see? That title actually rhymes, but you wouldn’t know it just looking at it. I’m constantly struck by how odd the English language is, and I have to tell myself over and over after looking at a single word for awhile as I ponder and wonder that it IS spelled right and that it WON’T look funny to most just looking at it.

There are also the undefined barriers of language and culture with Nina and I. For example, if I send her a sketch entitled “Pioneer Girl,” will she know what a pioneer even is? I wouldn’t if I were her! So when I sent this:

HT-053 Pioneer NGI also sent this:

HT-053 Pioneers




And this:HT-053 The Pioneers

…and a little history.



Nina nailed it!

A mothball scented, lumpy cupcake-bearing Pioneer Girl. She may just as well tape a note that said “Kick Me” permanently onto her back.





Here’s another:

To Hazel’s surprise, Ruth wasn’t screaming at them all to run out of the house to escape being burned alive. Instead, she sounded rather calm.



Nina’s sketch:



HT-055 Needle in a Haystack NGThe next!


“So what happened to you, Pinky? Where you kidnapped?” Dot asked, her eyes wide.

Pinky smiled, her face a little pale. “No, I wasn’t kidnapped. A barn cat was chasing after a mouse and he knocked me out of the loft. I fell into a pile of hay below and rolled down into a corner.”


Nina’s sketch:


HT-056 The Swipe NG

And lastly:

“A little goes a long way,” Ruth said.

Hazel nearly “Hmpf’d!” out loud. She had watched closely! She knew what she was doing! She’d made that fire, after all…

“Oh, no!” Hazel gasped.

Pinky raised her remaining eyebrow in alarm. “What’s wrong?”

Nina’s new sketch:


Bless Nina’s gifted hands! And bless mine too, gifted or no. Because I feel so much better today. I was “off my meds,” so to speak, and now I’m BACK, baby! And ready To GO.

Bless YOU most of all!

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A POSER I S’pose!

I s’pose! Another favorite Iowa saying of mine. You’ll be talking in a group of people, the conversation dwindles, and one person will say, “Well, I s’pose!” and just like that, the group breaks up and goes their separate ways.

Not that that has anything to do with today’s post, except we have two new color illustrations to premiere and one of them is nicknamed “The Poser” which is *kind* of close to “I’spose!”

Hey, it’s Monday! One does what one can…

First, “The Poser” (see?!) from Chapter 24 Scotcharoo’d. Marlene is trying to make an entrance after coming into the town gas station from the constant Iowa wind. My sketch:

HT-051 The Poser NG

Nina’s, in color!


The eating area was empty. There was no one else in the station except the two clerks. And Maxwell. Marlene’s cheeks flushed, and she imagined that she looked as pretty as a picture standing there. For a moment she paused. And posed.
Ooooh. She loved the sound of his voice. “Why, hello Maxwell!”

Ah, that Marlene. She is as lovely as ever.

And from Chapter 25 The Excursion, “Woolworth’s.” On their first drive through town after decades of being dormant, Dot and Betty are recalling how Reliance used to be with the twins who were their first little humans. My sketch:

HT-052 Woolworths NGAnd Nina’s:


“WOOLWORTH’S IS GONE!” Dot and Betty shouted in unison.
“What’s a wool’s worth?” Hazel asked.
“Woolworth’s,” Dot corrected. “It was the very best store ever. They had everything! We used to search for old bottles and then turn them in for money – which we usually spent at the soda fountain. We would buy malteds and egg creams…Well, we wouldn’t get our own, but Jane and Jenny would share with us…”

I love the shadows of the passersby in the foreground and all the details our Nina adds.

Have a lovely Monday! You’re my favorite, I s’pose!

A Face In The Crowd

Things are trickling in illustration-wise, but they’re coming, all the same! Which, given the circumstances…

Chapter 21 A Place For Everything. Here’s “Before The Fall.”

HT-047 Before The Fall NGJones remembered with heartbreaking clarity sitting there just yesterday, snickering at the still-on-his-feet Smith, fresh scrapes on the floor from the chair having been moved over the dividing line to HIS side of the basement. The only thing that would have made things better was if the chair would have swiveled. But since it did not, Jones angled it just so, so that he could watch Smith’s face as he SAT. And reclined, let us not forget that.

Then, because the Boss had been so thrilled with his work, a feature of the chair even better than swiveling had been revealed: A cup holder. The armrest miraculously flipped open, and tears of joy came to Smith’s eyes upon seeing it. The tears freely flowed when he was presented with a grape soda. It was warm and half gone, and a few crumbs littered the surface, but it was now his.

Nina’s sketch:

Sk_HT_47The only thing we wanted added was a flipping lid to the glorious cup holder. Here’s the premiere of the color version!

HT_47Excellent job as always, Nina!

Next, here’s my sketch for Chapter 23 Leap of Faith, entitled “The Leap”:

HT-050 The Leap NGRuth then closed her eyes, and threw her head back, and fervently with all of her heart made that unusual sound. Half yodel, half siren.

Then she took a step forward, addressing the heavens. “That’s for you, grand – !”

The gathered crowd screamed, and there were people rushing in from all directions, only to be frantically held back by the pastor and the deacon so that no one else would suffer Ruth’s fate. For Ruth’s part, she pretended to have fainted slumped down there in that large, rectangular hole, telling herself over and over that she was just playing an extreme version of hide and go seek. And truly, she was a little hurt. The brass stands that held the velvet rope had fallen on top of her and narrowly missed her head. Thankfully it had  not struck her yet that she would not be seeing what remained of her family for the foreseeable future, when now more than ever she needed them the most.

By the time a rescuer joined her in the ground to help her back up to the earth’s surface, there was no sign of Olivia and Hazel.

Here’s Nina’s initial sketch:

Sk_HT_50We asked for more people in the crowd. Nina obliged, because she is awesome:

Sk_HT_50B-1And here’s the finished drawing in color!

HT_50What I love is that as always, Nina gives us what we want and then goes a step further. I love that you don’t spot Hazel and her mother right away. Nina also put A Face in the Crowd that has some significance to Ruth’s future. Without being asked! She just does! Thank you, Nina.

And thank YOU, friend! Have a great weekend, because YOU DESERVE IT.

Crack of DAWN….ish…

Yes, I confess! I overslept! Not that it’s here or there, but it rarely happens that I sleep past six. Maybe once or twice a year. Better buy a lottery ticket…

Things were going better in the Ukraine but now there are some hiccups. To misquote Shakespeare, “The path of true freedom never did run smooth.” Nina is understandably distracted, but I still have a little art to debut.

First! Chapter 25 The Excursion. Hazel, Ruth and the dolls are driving through town. It’s the first time Dot and Betty have seen downtown Reliance since going dormant decades before. Naturally, there are differences!

“WOOLWORTH’S IS GONE!” Dot and Betty shouted in unison.

“What’s a wool’s worth?” Hazel asked.

“Woolworth’s,” Dot corrected. “It was the very best store ever. They had everything! We used to search for old bottles and then turn them in for money – which we usually spent at the soda fountain. We would buy malteds and egg creams…Well, we wouldn’t get our own, but Jane and Jenny would share with us…” HT-052 Woolworths NG

Nina’s charming take:

Sk_HT_52Can’t wait to see it in color!

Next, I just have some of my sketches to debut. Chapter 26 Split Pea:

Hazel does NOT want to go to school, especially wearing old clothes from the attic! Especially since her first day would also be her birthday, and Ruth is threatening to bake cupcakes for Hazel to take. Ruth does NOT seem like the kind of person to measure ingredients, something Hazel’s mother has stressed time and time again is important when baking. She plans to fake being sick.

Then they open the trunk in the attic where the clothes are kept, and Hazel smells something awful.

…she wouldn’t have to fake barfing. She could just take a whiff of these clothes.

She could see if now: A mothball-scented, lumpy cupcake-bearing, Pioneer girl. She may just as well tape a note that says “Kick Me” permanently to her back.

Here’s “Pioneer Girl”:

HT-053 Pioneer NGNext, Chapter 27 The Once-Loved Doll. Pinky has just arrived at the Hideaway. As Ruth picks up and comforts the little doll, she calls different instructions out to Hazel, Dot, Betty & Elizabeth to help make the new arrival comfortable.

Hazel’s task is to start a fire. Gulp. Her mother had taught her to fear fire most of all! And cars. And water…

Everyone else is going about their business without a care in the world! Hazel decided that she would too.

Hazel tried to whistle out of nervousness. She lifted the lid of the box to the side of the fireplace and removed the long match, noting the well-scratched metal area. She closed her eyes, and ran the match along the strip. To her surprise, it lit the very first time! Success! She promptly dropped the small flame. Seeing it there on the hearth tile, still burning, she quickly panicked. Why hadn’t she gotten a bucket of water before she even attempted to light that match? Here this house had stood for over a hundred years and she, Hazel, the girl who was careful above all else, had just destroyed it.

“Do you need some help?”

To Hazel’s surprise, Ruth wasn’t screaming at them all to run out of the house to escape being burned alive. Instead, she sounded rather calm.

Here is “FIRE!”:

HT-054 FIRE NGHee! I had fun drawing this one and can’t wait to see what Nina comes up with. I hope she keeps the accusatory finger that Elizabeth is pointing at Hazel.

That’s it! Better late than nevah!

Have a great weekend! Happy Friday! YOU’RE MY FAVORITE!!


Well! Turns out, even with all that’s going on in the Ukraine, sweet Nina has been working hard! Some of us (namely ME) simply missed seeing them.

I blame Brownies. Excerpt from version 3 before Hazel Twigg was created:

brownies1a…not all magic was as delightful as that. Roguish brownies would get Ruth in trouble when her busy mother would send her off in search of one thing or another. The brownies would hide the sought after object in plain sight, so that even if she were looking right at it she wouldn’t see it, only revealing it to her with a crisp “snap!” when she was about to give up her search in frustration. 

She would hear their gleeful laughter as they ran away, but that didn’t make her task of facing her mother any easier after having taken so long!

I SWEAR, there was NO ART in my in box last week! When Genn inquired if I’d received certain illustrations, I went back – and was shocked to see them there! Curse you, Brownies! Foiled again!

Ah, well. We now have some new color versions to premiere, as well as a DELIGHTFUL new sketch from our Nina.

First, from Chapter 20 Bearing Gifts. My sketch:

HT-045 The Gift NG

Nina’s, in living color:


“Can I come in? This is getting a little heavy.” Without waiting for a response, Marlene swept into the house carrying an enormous basket of fruit wrapped in bright yellow cellophane. “Oh, my,” Marlene paused and looked Ruth and Hazel up and down, “you have been in the attic, haven’t you? My, my, my…”

This next one is especially beautiful. Nina has captured the moment perfectly. From Chapter 22 Remembrances & Regrets. First, her sketch:

Sk_HT_49And now, in color:


“What’d you say, Liv?” Ruth called out. She stayed still, not wanting to pull either the tube or the toboggan because the swishing of them would make it hard to hear Olivia’s response. But Olivia didn’t respond. Not verbally. Instead, she sank to her knees.

That is now one of my absolute favorites from Nina. Of course, I have a lot of favorites from her…

Last but not least, good ol’ Marlene is at it again in Chapter 24 Scotcharoo’d. My sketch:

HT-051 The Poser NG

And Nina’s!


The eating area was empty. There was no one else in the station except the two clerks. And Maxwell. Marlene’s cheeks flushed, and she imagined that she looked as pretty as a picture standing there. For a moment she paused. And posed.
Ooooh. She loved the sound of his voice. “Why, hello Maxwell!”

That Marlene is quite the dresser. Can’t WAIT to see this in color! Of course, I have to actually LOOK. Happy Monday, all!

*Bonus points for you if you can guess which song from which movie the title for this post came from. Any ideas..?

The Good Fight

Usually on Fridays I’ve posted the art for the newly premiered chapter of the week. A sort of David vs. Goliath theme (although in this case, Goliath (Nina) always wins. She is a kind, gentle and well-deserving Giant of Art).

Lately, however, the art has slowed to a trickle. For a very good reason. Here’s an excerpt from my brother Dennis’ blog post, “Today, I am Ukrainian”:

NINAFor the past couple of years, we’ve been working with a wonderful artist and her husband, who are creating the illustrations for my sister’s book. They live in the Ukraine, which is at a pivotal point in its history.

Nina and Genn, and their lovely daughter, Lidia, are a sweet, young family with, I suppose, the same worries that all young families do, like bringing enough in to support their family, keeping safe, raising a child in these times. But now they have new worry hanging over them. And it’s a big one.

Read the rest of the post HERE.


Shame on me! I think I gave Nina what I had. That was one mighty powerful bug, with the chills and the fever and the coughing and sneezing. And it made it halfway ’round the world to the Ukraine, found our artist, and nabbed her too!

However, she’s getting better thank goodness, and now we have some newly colorific art.

First, here’s my sketch “The Mimic” from Chapter 20’s Bearing Gifts:HT-046 The Mimic NG

Nina’s! A tad better, even when she’s under the weather (and by “tad,” I mean a LOT):HT_46Next, here’s my sketch “Teeter Totter” from Chapter 21’s A Place For Everything:HT-048 Teeter Totter NG

Nina’s!HT_48NO, those are NOT my legs in the foreground, why do you ask? I know, I know! It’s like looking in a MIRROR. Where the heck is my razor? Ah, well. It’s winter time, and mighty cold out…

Regarding the “Gallery” image, whenever I look at my sketch, I see a face in that fruit basket…

Happy Monday, all!

Friday Flights of Fancy

My Mom is here! My glorious Mother! So this, fair maidens and knights, shall be a quick post. New art from Nina!

Please forgive me if I’ve posted some of these before. I am currently rather heavily drugged and practically incoherent. My keyboard is slobbery with drool, I drag one of my legs when I walk. I run into walls…You get the picture. No worries, ’tis only temporary. As a reward for your patience, I’ve posted a BONUS sketch that I KNOW you haven’t seen below.

First of all, remember my post about scents and how fruit and perfume Do Not Mix? Here’s my sketch to belabor that fact, featuring poor ol’ Marlene:

HT-045 The Gift NG

And here’s Nina’s:


Same chapter, here’s “The Mimic” (remember that Marlene has no magic, and cannot see the dolls):

HT-046 The Mimic NGNina’s:

Sk_HT_46Next, Smith and Jones from Chapter 21 A Place For Everything:

HT-047 Before The Fall NGNina’s!

Sk_HT_47Same chapter, Smith & Jones take their punishment (and I don’t care WHO you are, high heels all the live long day is PUNISHMENT.

HT-048 Teeter Totter NGFinally, Nina’s!

Sk_HT_48BONUS! Here’s a sketch for this next week’s chapter that didn’t make the cut. Sometimes when I can’t decide what to pick to illustrate, I’ll put two choices out there out there for my siblings to help me decide. This one is “the road not taken.” Marlene and Maxwell are together again! I called this “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle” and secretly almost wanted to pick it for that name alone, although nobody ever really sees what I call my drawings anyway (‘cept YOU, of course!):

HT-051 Jingle Jangle Jingle NGHow could Maxwell resist a face like that? Such charm! Such…something indescribable!

Have a GREAT Friday! Go BRONCOS!!

One Fall. SWOOP!

This most recent installment, Chapter 23 Leap of Faith and the previous Chapter 22 Remembrances & Regrets that I wrote about yesterday, were two of the last chapters written. They came out of nowhere but are now two of my favorites.  They made even the fair Mayor of Rolfe mist up a little bit when she read them!

In Leap of Faith, Ruth leaps into a grave to create a distraction. Now, I myself have never done that of course, but I love the dark humor of it. And I needed to lighten things up a little…

While I was indisposed at the hospital, Nina sent a whole lotta art. To help us catch up with the illustrations, we’re going to go to one illustration per chapter, saving the second illustration for the book in print. That tangible, glorious book will be a Must Have!

And now for some of those new sketch installments. I have previous ones, but since these most recent posts have been about Chapter’s 22 and 23, I’ll premiere those here today.

Here’s my sketch for Remembrances & Regrets. I call it “The Slide”:

HT-049 The Slide NGBecause of my less than stellar skills, I drew Olivia’s silhouette on the porch stairs rather than in the snow. I mentioned it in my notes, but it was missed. However, Nina did such a wonderful, poignant job that I’m going to change the text a little in the book. I love her drawing just the way it is. See if you agree:

Sk_HT_49She captured the emotion of the moment PERFECTLY. Here’s my initial sketch for “Leap of Faith”:

HT-050 The Leap NGNina Strikes Again:Sk_HT_50Tomorrow, more art! AND! We are working out the kinks for rescuing Once Loved Dolls. We had GREAT response to our ad and final coordinating is being completed. This is going to be no fly-by-night operation! It’s going to be rather official, with clipboards and white boards and everything! Whilst still retaining it’s love and charm, of course. ‘Til then!

Meet NINA & Genn! And Sweet Little Lidia…

Oh. Oh, I SEE! It’s not enough to be an extremely talented artist, you have to be GORGEOUS too! Well, I guess that’s fine – if you like that sort of thing (which I do).

As you may recall, we have never actually met Nina or her husband Genn who makes all things possible (he speaks English). They live in the Ukraine. I wrote a little about how we found them in my rather ungracefully named post, “You Can’t Pick Your Artist’s Nose.”

Imagine my absolute pleasure when Genn sent us photos of his beautiful family along with the latest batch of sketches! FINALLY, faces to the names we’ve been working with for over two years!

This is Nina, Genn and their darling daughter Lidia from their recent Christmas ski vacation (Genn tells me Nina even did some sketches while she was there, the hard-working girl!)



The wonderful and talented NINA!


Genn is also a very talented artist, and so kind.

Here they each are with their pretty daughter Lidia:


Nina & Lidia


Genn & Lidia


Relaxing after a fun day skiing.

Someday we hope to meet them in person. For now, photos will have to do. We are so grateful to have found them and very much appreciate their hard work and patience. Viva la Nina, Genn & Lidia!