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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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It’s…All About RUTH


1950 movie “All About Eve” starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. GORGEOUS costumes by the legendary Edith Head.


Curses! Foiled AGAIN. Or…am I?

There’s not much you can do from half a world away, ‘specially since I’M now in charge of communication with our Nina!

“Hmm,” my brother Dennis said yesterday. “We have to move forward with publishing chapters, even if we don’t have the artwork from Nina.”

“B-but…how?” I asked, trying to keep the excitement out of my voice.

“Well, I…guess we could use your sketches while we wait.”

Oh, Yes We Could. It’s what I was planning the whole time!



All about eve



That Nina. Sensing my closing in (or probably she’s just an excellent worker), she got the sketches to us last night. So we’ll use those instead. Yes, they’ll most likely be in black and white, and they’re not even the final approved sketches (there are still a few tweaks to be made), but apparently they are still better than mine!


Of course, there’s always next week…

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!

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.

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.

You Can’t Pick Your Illustrator’s Nose

…but you can pick your illustrator!

People often ask me how we found Nina Khalova. The method seems so normal to me now – such is the wondrous nature of my brothers, that I’ve almost gotten used to their pulling innovative ideas out of a hat – but at the time, it was mystifying to me.

Apparently, there are places on the net where you can submit a proposal and put it out for “bids,” in this case, the hunt for an artist, the “bids” would be in the form of a drawing. My brothers asked me to do a drawing that prospective artists would do their take on, so I did. Here ’tis:

Init IllAA simple sketch of two little girls looking out an attic window, sitting on a suitcase with a lamp and a vase on either side and two cobwebs. Now, do you see the problem? What was I thinking?! There are no faces in this sketch! Dang.

Ah, well. The submissions soon started pouring in. A lot of them looked like they had done a slightly better version of my drawing. Most were very literal. We were looking for “a little something extra.” I’ve mixed Nina’s submission in with the rest, see if you can guess which one was hers (answer below):

1. Ale 2

2. Ale 1

3. Ale 3

4. Ale 10

5. Ale 4

6. Ale 5

7. Ale 6

8. Ale 8

9.Ale 7


If you chose Lucky Number 7, you’re right! Most of the artists just drew a lamp and a vase. And two cobwebs. Nina had drying herbs, a trunk, a gramophone, shelves stuffed full of things, even a sleeping cat, fer cryin’ out loud! Number 4 was a good possibility. He was even local to my brothers! But I believe he was too busy. So Nina of the Ukraine was the one We Picked.

And now! Today! As you drive by my steaming house (we’re in the middle of a heat wave, don’t you know), there’s a good chance I’ll be in my closet, recording away. I found my flashlight! So there’ll be no fires today.

The response to the teaser for Chapter 1 was EXCELLENT (thankyouverymuch), and I’m even more excited for Chapter 2! Once again, my brother’s done a bang up job. How did I get so lucky?

ALSO! Don’t forget! Chapter 5 coming tonight at midnight! It’s entitled, The Race.

Hope you enjoy.


Chapter 4: Nina vs…never mind…

Chapter 4 was a tricky one for illustrations. It’s not that long!

I’ve never had a little girl, so when I first drew out Hazel’s proportions vs. the dolls for Nina, I apparently had her really, really tiny according to my brothers, who have SEVERAL daughters between them. See?

Hazel and Dolls 001

Well, it would take awhile to spot it, but it says 41″ at the top of Hazel’s head, which was the height I thought she’d be. Apparently, that’s practically FAIRY size, even for a nearly eight-year-old girl who’s small in stature.

So when I did this sketch (we were still going back and forth over Hazel’s height. What’s not to like about fairies?), Hazel was grabbing Ruth’s skirt.


In my defense, I do several sketches in a sitting, and after awhile I’m just scribbling to get them done. The smudges are my left-handedness and carbon pencils colliding.

Nina kindly obliged, but when we got the sketch, the skirt-tugging looked kinda silly. So we asked her to have Hazel tug Ruth’s sweater instead:

DangThingThat Nina! ISN’T SHE AMAZING? Look at that COLOR.

Trying to figure out what to do for a second illustration for Chapter 4 was a little tricky. I did a sketch of the car’s packed interior, which was…ho hum. But then I sketched the image I REALLY wanted:

HT-011It’s a little bit macabre when you think about it, but I have a somewhat dark sense of humor. It’s kind of a play on a mother saying, “If you get in a car accident and you don’t have clean underwear on, don’t bother calling me!” kind of thing.

We decided to go the more unusual route illustration-wise. Behold:

HT_11Nina just keeps getting better and better. We recently got a drawing for an upcoming chapter of a character that you haven’t met yet but that I’ve mentioned occasionally. One that was in the original book. The difference between the two versions is astonishing. I can hardly wait for you to see!

And that is the art for Chapter 4. Happy Friday to you!

About Chapter 4…


I LOVED my Explorer. Unfortunately, it died soon after arriving in Iowa.

What if you could pick out your own car? The “rusty old white car” that Ruth is driving is a blend of two cars from my past: My trusty white ’93 Ford Explorer steed that I’d owned since before Adam was born and that brought me to Iowa, and The Bomb.

Back in the 1970’s when we were living in Cedar City, Utah shortly after having moved there from Hawaii (THAT was a tricky transition, let me tell you!), my big sister Carol entered a contest given by the local car dealership: Put your name in for a raffle, and if it was drawn, for $25 (which basically covered registration) you would win a car. My sister won!

Not being a car expert, all I remembered was that “The Bomb” (which is what we affectionately called it, before calling something “da bomb” was cool) had rounded corners and tail fins. And THAT was the car I wanted Ruth to have, except white in honor of my Explorer. So I sent Nina these pictures(‘cept I asked her to make it white):






Turns out (I talked to Carol last night) it was a ’56 Chevy Bel Air!

Well, close:

Ch4bel1AOf course, that’s the car when it was new. It was a LOT more faded by the time my sister got her hands on it, but she loved that car. So did I.

And more than once, my poor son or I or my sister Julie have had to retrieve cans after they fell out of my car and rolled onto the ground upon opening my car door, because I am a lover of Diet Coke. And I am a thirsty driver. Better than littering, right? Of COURSE right, I’d never litter! Even WITHOUT the nickel deposit!

I’ve decided to find that clanging sound in the middle of a crowded parking lot of an empty can rolling away humorous. Look at the can lady!

Why has no one snatched me up yet?

Tomorrow: Nina vs. Ruth round 4. Maybe THIS time I’ll win! Maybe not…

Chapter 3: Nina vs. GOLIATH

Just kidding! Clearly Nina’s Goliath in THIS scenario!

When picking what to use for illustrations, I like to go with the less obvious; the passing sentence here or there. I have always been fascinated with movies depicting orphanages in olde England. Scenes from “Oliver Twist” and my favorite book (made into umpteen movies) “Jane Eyre,” when she’s sent to live at Lowood school by her evil aunt. While I’m sure in real life it was no fun, to me it was romantic (not that I ever wanted to go there myself, Mom and Dad! Well, maybe just for a VISIT. But that’s IT).

So I had to slip some gruel into my book. I have no idea what “gruel” actually is, but whenever my mom would feed us oatmeal for breakfast, to me that was gruel, and I DID visit Lowood! A poor orphan eating lumpy mush! I love oatmeal to this day.

Here’s my sketch:


As you can see, when I drew this it was for Chapter 2 rather than 3. A Smith and Jones chapter was added in the meantime.

Here’s Nina’s:

H_T_07Excellent as always!

The next drawing:


And Nina’s:


Does she never tire of perfection? HMPF.

And finally, the last drawing for Chapter 3:


When I first saw Nina’s version, it took my breath away:


Her colors are so vibrant. Bet she likes oatmeal, too. I understand that the originals, which my brothers possess (from the first book version at least) are unbelievably amazing. I’ll say it again: Viva La Nina!

AND! Happy Friday!


Not-So-Ready Sadie

Like all modest girls of her day, Sadie is not quite ready for a full introduction. But I cannot put her off any longer, she at least wants to casually meet you. So here she is:


Her wig isn’t attached, not until her outfit is fully finished. I’m happy with her coat, just not with how it lays.


The lining of the coat and hat is a fun surprise. I iron the heck out of these things. The iron – although you wouldn’t guess it looking at me in the day to day – is my FRIEND. It “vintages” things! I’ve just temporarily lost my Iron Mojo. But it will be back and Sadie will be Satisfied!

I have toiled and toiled over her, and there’s still so much to do! Alas, last Friday I was felled by a mysterious ailment. I suspect Nargles!

I wasn’t able to do anything but groan until Sunday, at which time I worked some more on the art for “Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway.”

No, no! You flatter me! Not the drawings themselves! Apparently, my drawing skills are getting worse!

You be the judge.

Here’s another version of a drawing for the current book by me (it won’t give anything away):

Car door Ruth

Look at that fluidity! Those artful, almost devil-may-care lines! IT’S LIKE A PICASSO!!!

Car door Nina

Yet THIS is what they prefer!

And here’s Nina’s, pre-color:

But! They let me help with the back and forth, where I can say, “No, that’s not quite what I had in mind. How can I make it clearer? Did you not see my sketch?”

Well. One does what one can. In the meantime, back to work. I have an appearance – a public appearance mind you! Not the usual kind where it’s just me appearing for myself in my house (to great applause, I might add) – come Wednesday! My public awaits! In the Rolfe public library! Which seems just the place!

I’m working on my rider. You don’t know what a rider is? Well, you’ll find out.

Oh, how you’ll find out…