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Shades of Everything BUT Gray…

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And actually, there’s probably some gray in there too, come to think of it. Ooh! Actually, mine are ALL shades of gray…what does this mean? Never mind!

As Nina basks in her after Christmas glow, I have four more of her past drawings to premiere here in color.

First! Here’s my sketch of Do Not Disturb, from Chapter 17 The Ending & The Beginning:

HT-039 Do Not Disturb NGNina’s, now in living color:HT_39

And now, “The Spider Queen”:

HT-040 The Spider Queen NG Nina’s wonderfully clever take:HT_40Poor Hazel doesn’t stand a chance!

This is from Chapter 18 The Message in the Back of the Book:

HT-041 We Read NGNina’s colorful take:HT_41-1And finally, the sketch I called “Face to Face”:

HT-042 Face to Face NGWizard Nina’s version:HT_42

As always, Nina does a wonderful, wonderful job. We are so grateful to have her and Genn, her husband and interpreter. They’re a great team!

Late last night via Genn I received Nina’s sketches for the rest of the drawings I’ve done so far. MY, how time flies! Looks like I’ll be scribbling again.

But, YOU! In the meantime, YOU have a great weekend! You’re my favorite! And you know it.

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Tonight at midnight! The first new chapter this year. Charming Marlene makes her return in Chapter 20 Bearing Gifts.

Such a thoughtful real estate agent! How could I ever have thought she was a “piece of work”?

And here, hot off the presses, is a sketch for Chapter 19 Cheerleader Tower from Nina we received yesterday, which also happens to be Ukraine’s Christmas Eve. Which would make today Christmas for Nina. First, my version:

HT-044 The Tower NG



Love it! Can’t wait to see it in color! After Christmas, of course…

Merry Christmas to our dear Nina & Genn!

And happy New Year to all of you, as we continue to be a tad chilly here today in Iowa. The best is Yet To Come. Keep spreading the word for Sewers and Shiners of Shoes!


When thinking on it, I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to use as my first last-blog-post-before-Christmas.

We had started working with Nina a few weeks before the holiday season, and were so pleasantly surprised when we received a delightful gift from her. It took me a little rummaging to hunt it down (this time of year I seem to do a LOT of rummaging. “Now, where is that other Santa?” and “Is there not an entire working string of lights here ANYWHERE?!”).

When I finally found it, I was surprised to see that it wasn’t from Christmas 2012, it was from Christmas 2011. Whoa! Two years! How time flies!

Without further ado, here it is:

Merry Christmas_2011I want you to imagine holding it in your own two hands, and opening it to read the inscription inside, which would say:

With warmest wishes

At this special time of year

Wishing you the happiest of cheer

Merry Christmas! You’re my favorite!

And below that there would be a scribble, and you would say, “What on earth is that?”

I would have to confess: it is my signature. Ironically, I am not a very neat writer. But, look! The “poem” itself kind of looks like a Christmas tree! And you ARE! You ARE my favorite!

As we all get a little busy here, I will be going on hiatus. Until we meet again, MERRY CHRISTMAS!


As the hours count down to tonight’s midnight premiere of Chapter 19 Cheerleader Tower (and I may have to re-think that title. It’s whatever strikes me at the time, and at the time, I liked it. Now all I can think is, “Hmm. ‘Cheerleader Tower.’ I’d be at the bottom of that, I bet,’ and let’s face it, nobody wants to feel badly about themselves, not even for a minute. But I digress), I’ve received two more new sketches from Nina, including one that is exceptionally BRILLIANT.

The first. This is from Chapter 17 The Ending & The Beginning. It’s Hazel’s first morning at the Hollyhock Hideaway, and she carefully climbs out of bed so as not to wake the dolls. A refresher of my sketch I call “Do Not Disturb”:

HT-039 Do Not Disturb NGAnd now, here’s Nina’s!

Sk_HT_39Excellent job, as always! Just a few tweaks needed.

Next, here’s the second sketch for the chapter, entitled “The Spider Queen.” When Ruth starts acting strangely, Hazel frets that perhaps Ruth has only pretended to be nice.

Maybe Ruth was The Queen of the Giant Spiders, which would explain why she always wore black, and she’d been feeding Hazel moldy food this whole time to fatten her up for Priscilla, and the transformation of the home had only been an illusion created to make it appear to be wonderfully magical and clean and to keep her here willingly, and instead Hazel was actually still living in filth, surrounded by ghosts masquerading as dolls.

My sketch:

HT-040 The Spider Queen NGNina’s:

Sk_HT_40I Love, love, LOVE this! Nina improved my thought INFINITY! I mean, that’s what I meant to draw the whole time!

I love the little details, like Dot being lowered with a spiderweb, and the expressions on Ruth and Hazel’s faces. Can’t wait to see them in color!

For some reason, now I’m craving pancakes…Of course, I wouldn’t want mine festooned with spiders.

Or, would I…..?

Happy Tuesday, all! Happy One-Week-From-Christmas-Eve day, no need to panic! Hope all is well!

It’s DEJA VU All Over Again…

1deja1…’Cept, probably a lot less dramatic this time. Perhaps even anti-climatic. But! Just in case: Secretly, for the past month or so, I’ve had what I have (probably pretty accurately) self-diagnosed as an incisional hernia. All fun and games and “Oh, look! There’s an ALIEN in my belly!” – until you get a cold, complete with a classic Agle cough. Then it’s…


This Alien! IT BURNS!






So today I have an appointment to see what’s what. Hopefully, I’ll get surgery to repair it. Hopefully, it’ll be quick. Most likely, the doctor will say it’s no big deal and can wait. But this dang cold. This dang COUGH, namely. We’ll see! Wish me luck and say a little prayer!

In the meantime, we’ve received another GLORIOUS color version of art from Nina. Behold, “The Portal” from Chapter 16 The Ending & The Beginning:

HT_38The description from the first book:

It was a cabinet of sorts.  More like a standing cupboard atop four long legs, making it nearly chest high. It wasn’t that large; in fact she could almost wrap her arms around it. The legs were curved and graceful, and the entire piece was an unusual shade of deep blue that nearly glowed. There was a painted design that looked random until you got closer. Only then did you notice the whimsical fairies and flowers and trees and dolls and drums.   

To Ruth it looked like a living thing, as if it could speak, as if it could move, and the blue of the cabinet seemed to be growing more and more vivid with each passing moment.

Nina captured my vision PERFECTLY.

Happy Friday and have a GREAT weekend!


The Adventure That Never Was…Yet

ColdBirdJulie and I agree: EVERY day is an adventure in Iowa! But alas, some of them never actually happen.

The day before yesterday I felt an ever-so-subtle chill in the air. This is Iowa! This is Winter! Such is to be expected, is it not? However, THIS chill was in my house. My heater! It stopped working! And wind chill temps that night were to be in the double-digit lows!

Even today, our high is 9 with a “feels like” of -5. Brrrrr!

I called the repair company and prepared to snuggle with my pets, as all good Cat Lady of Reliance‘s do. If my boiler was broken for good, I certainly didn’t have the necessary thousands of dollars to replace it. Yikes!

coldbird1In addition, I prepared to live like Bob Cratchit from my favorite Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol, and bundle up in blankets and warm my hands by candlelight. No way did I dare light a fire in my fireplace! Have you seen my roof? ‘Tis wood shingles, and crispy, old, well-seasoned ones at that!

Of course, if my house caught on fire, I would definitely be warm…for a little while…hmm…

Secretly, I enjoy these kinds of situations a tiny bit. I call them “Making a memory!” just like that, with an exclamation point. Oh sure, I could have stayed at Julie’s house, but where’s the adventure in that? I’d already done that when I had bats in my house. More than once, if I recall correctly.

The cold night might not be pleasant, but I’d never, ever forget it. A memory!

The repair guy made it to my house and I sat and anxiously watched, holding my poor cold dog for warmth. Tinker, tinker, tinker…WHOOSH!

coldbird2“You are so lucky,” I heard the repair fellow mutter under his breath. Oil! All it needed was a little oil on this fan thingy!

However, the adventure continues: “It’s just a matter of time,” the hero repair guy told me. “These boilers have a fatal flaw: their pipes are made of cast iron and they rust and soon the rust builds up and clogs and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s just a matter of time…”

Well, PHEW! The adventure continues!

Our artist Nina has a wee bit of catching up to do. So while we wait for Chapter 17’s art to be captured from my GLORIOUS sketches, we just got Chapter 15 The Meeting at The Mirror’s color versions and you’re seeing them here first!

Here’s the color version of the black and white sketch of “The First Quartet,” previously shown in my November 15 post, “I Don’t Know How She Does It”:


And the second illustration for the chapter, “My Little Human!”:


I LOVE all of Nina’s detail! I can certainly understand why she’s a couple of chapters behind. Meanwhile, you can enjoy my lovely sketches in Chapter 17 The Ending & The Beginning.

We are scrambling here to keep things moving along. My brain is warm again so I can forge ahead.

Happy Friday, all! We finally have glorious snow in the forecast! I know you’re all as excited as I…

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!

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.


ART! And We Need More COWBELL!

My heartfelt thanks for all of your prayers and good wishes during this hard time, whether “uttered or unexpressed.” It is very much appreciated.

And now here is the previously written Friday post from last week. We just got the color versions yesterday so I’ve added them in.

For the record, Dad, I love you.

The art for Chapter 14, Zombies and Ghosts was fun to do, and once again Nina not only read my mind, she improved upon it. Shocking but true!

The first illustration. I give all the sketches names because I’m not really a numbers person. But they all have numbers too, based on the order and which phase they’re in: first approval, second approval, color and the final hi-resolution image. But I digress.

This one is called, “Zombie Apocalypse”:

HT-32pitchAmer Goth pitch

Sk_HT_32B-1I didn’t realize I’d drawn a pitchfork in someone’s hand until I saw Nina’s sketch. Oh, people Not Of Rolfe, harken to me: We do not actually walk around with pitchforks, just so you know. I was about to protest to Nina for her stereotyping (until I saw that I’m the one that drew it first). I fortuitously decided I liked it for this setting.

But I always have to have something. I always have to have MORE.

“More cowbell! Er, ZOMBIES!” I cried. “And also, could you make Maxwell’s hair more flowing?”

Nina’s second sketch:


Ooh, la-la! EXCELLENT! Maxwell’s hair is flowing! And, look! More Zombies are behind that farmer now, just like I wanted! I love that slight zombie-ness Nina gave the good people of Reliance without going overboard.We’re actually quite a lovely, pitchfork-less people in person, of course. Now we’re just waiting for the color version.

Update: Ta-dah! Here ’tis!


The second illustration is called “Pretty Priscilla.” My sketch:

HT-033 Pretty Priscilla

Nina’s first take:


What a great idea! To have the spider BEHIND Hazel and Elizabeth, rather than in front! My only note for this one is that I didn’t want Elizabeth to appear scared, she’s every bit – and perhaps more – eager to follow those footprints in the dust than Hazel is.

The second sketch:


Approved! Now we’re waiting for color for that one too.

Voila! It has arrived!

HT_33I love the coloring and detail that Nina gives. She puts so much thought into everything. So much Cowbell.

Of course, all that detail and care takes time. Chapter 15 is nipping at Nina’s heels.

It’s all a process, this book of ours. There will be buggaboos along the way. But slow and steady will win this race in the end. You’ll see.

In the meantime! Happy Friday! And have a great weekend! You are much appreciated here!