Today Jo Steps Up to the Plate

fountain pen on paper with ink text

The tour stop today is an interview with Jo at Pimp That Character! It’s always so much fun when she gets a chance to speak up. It isn’t the first time she’s been interviewed, but the other interviews have sadly gone the ephemeral way of the internet. I know, because I just spent several hours trying to find them…and fixing old broken links, which resulted in a ton of messages on Facebook and Twitter today. That’s what I get for trying to update…lots of spam…lol. Still, I am glad I got the updates done.

When I started to look for an image for today, I was looking for a quill and notebook. And then I had a thought. When was the fountain pen invented and by whom?

Turns out, it is quite possible that Jo, as an early adopter of the typewriter, would write with a fountain pen. If you are a beginner with fountain pens, as I am, here’s a Beginner’s Guide. And if you want to see some reviews about pens to help make your choices, my friend Rhonda Eudaly often talks about pens on her blog.  (And not just fountain pens.)

As far as a notebook goes, here are some thoughts I offered about choosing one of these in a long-ago column about writing:

I would like to discuss one of the most important tools in any writer’s repertoire—a personal notebook.

I have mentioned this tool before in passing, but I want to devote a little more space to it this month. A writer’s notebook is like a piece of his or her soul. It is more than a mere journal, though it can serve that function in part. It is also not essential that it be black, though many of mine are—they show less wear. I find that a 5″x7″ spiral is my favorite. This size fit into the pocket of my smock when I was working on a production floor, so the choice of size was made for practicality, but choosing the proper notebook is almost as important as filling it. I also prefer to have unlined pages, because occasionally I sketch a prop or costume beside the piece I am writing, but this is also a matter of personal choice. (Perhaps the best alternative is one of those wonderful books that are lined on one side of the page and unlined on the other. Then you get the best of both worlds.)

The process of choosing a notebook should be looked at as an opportunity to express yourself to yourself. Take your time and enjoy the search. Don’t just grab the first notebook you see unless it grabs you first. I usually browse the journal section in any bookstore, stationary, or paper store I enter. You never know when you will find the perfect writing companion. I already have my next book waiting for me to finish my current one.

What do you write in your book once you find it? Anything and everything. Here is a sample of the things in my current book: email addresses from friends or possible research links that I don’t want to forget; homework assignments from my writing classes; scraps of scenes I am working on at any given time; outlines of action to work out plot details; a transcript of a chat session that might make an interesting story someday; story ideas; maps of my lands; job-related notes (when it was the only paper handy); poems; personal exercises (my last volume had swatches of fabric taped into it and then descriptions of the characters who might wear them); and yes, journal entries—personal frustrations, triumphs, fears, feelings, all the things that you would tell a diary.

The important word that kept popping up in that last paragraph was “personal.” Yes, you can share your book with friends or relatives if you want, but if you never want to show any of it to another soul, YOU DON’T HAVE TO. And you can expand the idea of a personal writing notebook to more than one level. For example, I have my “writer’s notebook” which I carry everywhere…though I don’t always have time to use it…but I also have another notebook specifically for writing down dreams, some of which have later become plot outlines. I have a third notebook for writing out “dark” thoughts (that one has black paper pages, and I write on it with a gold gel pen.) One further extension is my “inspiration” board, which is a bulletin board covered with postcards, photographs, magazine pages, sketches, and notes that stir the imagination and represent characters or possible settings in my writings. It also serves to remind me of things I might want to explore further and provides a welcome distraction when that pesky writers’ block rears its ugly head.

What this rather rambling column is getting at this month is that no one should be without a notebook. Not only does it help you organize current projects, but it also makes sure that you don’t lose that precious scrap of an idea that might one day become a best seller. Most importantly, it keeps you writing, and by daily communication with your silent partner, you keep your creative juices stirring and the wheels of your imagination turning away. Choose the size and shape that best suits you, but always carry something. You never know when inspiration will strike.


It’s actually been a long time since I carried a notebook every day. I think I should go back to doing that. Notebooks can save your life as you write–making the difference between losing a great thought and that next big thing!




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Today We Discuss the Menagerie…

action cold dark dawn

Photo by Pixabay on

Today’s Book Tour stop is an interview at As the Page Turns.

We’ve been discussing jobs that the men and women of The Conn-Mann Chronicles. There are other characters in the books that have the important job of providing comfort to the people and impetus to the plots. These are the cats and canines scattered through the series.

First and foremost, of course, is Jo’s feline companion and confidante, Miss Priss.


You may have seen this picture before since it is my favorite photo of Elf, my real-life inspiration for Miss Priss. She’s my baby as much as Priss is Jo’s. From the moment I saw her, I’ve been in love, just like Jo.


She is often my most vocal critic…


…but she is always there to remind me to stop and smell the roses.


She’s been with me for about fourteen years now. She works hard, being the queen of the house, and sometimes it wears her out.


Beginning in Book Two, we have the introduction of Priss’s kittens:

Most of these are bit players who go to other characters and only get occasional mentions, but Jo decides to keep the ginger beauty on the end, Butterscotch, (played by my baby Marvin), and he joins the team at the boarding house.

He’s all grown up by Book Five:


but still such a beautiful boy!

It seemed only fair, when writing Fred’s book, to give her a companion of her own.

Enter Trouble.


This is Gandalf, and he lives up to Fred’s name for him. She’s going to have her hands full with this one.


When Jo goes to Ireland, she can’t take Priss with her. So she decides to take the little automaton, Bastet, first introduced in The Fiercely Formidable Fugitive, with her instead.


Designed by Jo’s cousin, Seamus–who you can meet in The Incredibly Irritating Irishmanshe does a lot more that it looks like from her photo. 😉

Being more of a cat person, there aren’t many dogs compared to the cats, but we do have three representatives in the universe.

First, is the mechanical body that Alistair gives to his mother’s resident ghost, Abigail, in “Restless Spirit” (which you can find in Mocha Memoirs’ anthology Ghosts, Gears, and Grimoires.) I picture this little critter looking a lot like K9 from Doctor Who:


Its shape is basically the same, and it has the same problems with mobility. No climbing stairs!

In Ireland, Jo meets another cousin who presents her with a large, wire-furred mastiff named Cerebus for protection in The Elderly Earl’s Estate. (Jo hasn’t the heart to tell him that Cerebus should have three heads…)

He is rather the size and shape of a Himalayan Mastiff, but his fur is literally copper wire.


And, finally, in Fred’s book…which I am seriously considering re-naming, though it won’t be easy to pull off…she and Kevin have trouble with a large black dog who appears to be more than he seems, but has not had all his secrets revealed, so that’s all you get. I think she may wind up calling him Stalker. This breed, the Cane Corso, seems like a good fit for him.



This, of course, doesn’t mention various other creatures that pop in and out of the series, but these are definitely the main animal characters in the books. Go read them! 😉



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Getting a Late Start Today…

black train on rail and showing smokePhoto by Pixabay on

…sorry about that.

Today’s stop is at Jazzy Book Reviews and is the first chapter again if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

Yesterday I talked a bit about the jobs that my ladies hold, and what some of their duties were.

Today, let’s discuss what the men do. Alistair’s position at the university might have been marked by some of the same odd quirks as that of William Hudson, Trinity University’s “Eccentric” Professor. He’s a man who sees the world through his own lenses and does things his own way.

Kevin Reilly, as a detective inspector, when they were only just beginning to be a part of police work, would probably have followed a similar trajectory to that of a modern detective. But, the way things are looking, he may soon find himself to be a private investigator. Did you know that the private detective in fiction was not invented by Arthur Conan Doyle, but instead by Edgar Allan Poe?

Roderick is a man-of-all-work for the Estes household. Between them, he and Vanessa keep everything working smoothly, and he still has time to be the coachman.

We see more of these three than any other man in the series but Phaeton, and I don’t think he has a set list of duties. 😉

Meet them all in The Marvelous Mechanical Man!


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Back Aboard the Tour Train!

train with smoke

Photo by Gabriela Palai on


As you may (or may not) have noticed, I took the weekend off and did no blogging while the train wasn’t running. It was a lovely break, but I am eager to get back to it.

Today’s tour stop is on the Dear Reader, Love Author blog, and it talks about how much fun it is to write my independent ladies.

From Jo finding the job of her dreams to Augusta running the archives of the newspaper, the ladies of the Chronicles are take-charge kinds of women.

Even Vanessa is not your average housekeeper. After all, she has time to do all she does for the gang as well as a full day keeping the household running with no help. Ma would have much the same schedule.

Leonora and Emily, as ladies with a lot of leisure time on their hands, would have a bit more flexible day.

Of course, there would be variations in all these positions. Tomorrow we may look at what the men would be doing. 😉

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No Stop Today…

…so I thought I would share some of the pictures from last summer’s trip to Dublin. In Book Five of the Chronicles, Jo and Alistair travel to Ireland to settle her grandfather’s affairs.

They start the trip in Dublin. Now, the Dublin of today is not that of 1875, but there are so many buildings that are still in use today they might have seen then. (I did not date all the buildings, but these looked like they are the correct timeframe to me…) I think I took over a thousand photos in two weeks, between Dublin and London, and could have taken ten times that many… Having visual references adds a chance of verisimilitude to a story. 😉



After Dublin, they go down the coast to Cork. We didn’t have a chance to do that on this trip, but I hope to rectify that someday. 🙂

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Today’s Stop Is an Interview with Interesting Questions

a vintage typewriter

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on


Today’s Book Tour stop is an interview over at Confessions of an Eccentric Bookaholic.

I had a good time with it. Reading back through it, I really liked it. I hope you will too.

One of the cool things I found about the website is that the interview pops out in another window. This is a feature of Blogspot I’d never seen before. I don’t know if it is a new feature or if I just hadn’t discovered it yet, but I rather liked it. I don’t use the site often, because most of the blogs I am associated with there are either dormant or have multiple owners, and it feels weird even looking at them.

So I have been concentrating on my WordPress blogs lately. There have been changes recently to the site, and I am still working on figuring them all out.

At the moment, I’m still using the old editor because I finally learned to use that, and I really don’t like block editors. I’ve worked with them on MailChimp for newsletters, and I think it’s okay there, but that’s because it’s all I’ve ever used there, so there isn’t any change involved. And newsletters seem like a whole other ballgame.

Sometimes we get set in our ways. Jo sometimes has this problem. How about you?

I’ve never been very good about blogging consistently. For one thing, it takes some time and my time management is lousy. But lately, I have really been enjoying the blogging, even if I am not getting any other writing done…and I have a lot to do. So, this begs the question. Is it better to blog or not to blog? I am not sure how long I can do both blogs daily…so I need to decide if I keep to the daily routine or learn to schedule posts, or what. Seeing the new followers and likes is helping a lot. I will probably keep doing these blogs when the tour is over. If you want me to. 🙂


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First Chapter at I’m Shelf-ish

Mechanical Man Art

Today’s blog post is a first chapter reveal at I’m Shelf-ish. This chapter has been featured at several other stops, so I won’t revisit that here.

Instead, we will talk about first chapters in general.

Every time you start a new book, it is like stepping into a virgin frontier. The first chapter will set the stage for the rest of it.

Your first chapter is where the reader is first introduced to your characters. You want it to be strong and interesting. In The Marvelous Mechanical Man, this is where people first meet Jo. They see her independence, swift thinking, and a taste of her temper. They meet Alistair, and he’s a bit confused by the whole situation. This shows the direction their relationship will take until they get to know one another a bit better. They see her way of dealing with Mr. Greenstreet–and know she’s quick to make judgments.

If I had it to do over…I might have skipped the Dime Novel excerpt at the beginning. It seems like it just confuses a lot of readers. I’ve had several people tell me they just skip that part anyway. And, when I see the KENP reports where people just read a few pages and quit, I fear this is one reason why.

It really meant something to me as an author, but when you write a book, you are writing for the readers. It only took me four books to learn this lesson and ditch the gimmick.

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Some Things Are Essential!

The saga of the refrigerator is over…and apparently successful. After finding out that the cleaning I had done to get to the garage door wasn’t what the guys delivering it was expecting or pleased with. They had to take the door handles off the old one and the actual doors off the new one to get them switched. But, here we are. It doesn’t match the rest of the appliances, but who cares? We’ve started to fill it with the essentials…Diet Dr Pepper and ice packs. A refrigerator is essential, isn’t it?


Today’s stop on the Virtual Book Tour is also about essentials. It’s on Book Cover Junkie and is an interview focused on the importance of a great book cover among other things. The Marvelous Mechanical Man has probably the best cover I have ever had. It was created by the brilliant Brad Fraunfelter.

A great book cover can make the difference between a book selling and not. And you have to listen to people who know what they are doing. I designed a cover for another of my books, Mutiny on the Moonbeam from Mocha Memoirs, and I really liked it.

Mutiny on the Moonbeam finalcover -- print

As an author intimately familiar with the story, I thought it completely captured the book in one image. Unfortunately…though some people looked at it and admired the atmosphere, it didn’t sell books. The publisher has re-covered it, and it will hopefully sell better. Here’s the new cover:


It does have a more dynamic feel, but it is still to be seen if the change will bring in sales, or if it is too late.

Another reason to change covers is a new publisher. I’ve had several orphans that were picked up by someone else. Sometimes, there is a rewrite involved first:

Blood_sm--final cover

My first novel, The Blood that Binds became The Luckless Prince.


The second, The Lute and the Liar has had three publishers (and is now being rewritten…) Each version has had a different cover:





The Right Hand of Velachaz has also had two different covers for two different publishers.



The cover is the first thing a potential reader sees. You want it to be the best you can make it. This post is a bit off the Conn-Mann topic, but covers are important for every book. (Including the Chronicles.)

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Today’s Tour Stop

Today’s tour stop is a bit of behind-the-scenes at The Story Behind the Book. Just a little more on my thought processes. This will be short today as we are still waiting on the refrigerator which can be delivered at any moment, and the water is off because of trying to get everything ready for that. It was definitely a Josephine moment in the kitchen last night!

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Just think…

Our refrigerator died yesterday. No fixing it. We had to buy a new one. It won’t be delivered until Monday, which was nine days faster than the other place we found that had one. So, no ice for drinks. Everything in the fridge must go. Terrible tragedy…

Just think what life was like for Ma Stark and Vanessa trying to keep house and cook for a household with no refrigerators. As worldly women, it is possible they had iceboxes, (and certainly, Leonora would have,) but it still wouldn’t have been the magic box we take for granted–ice and water in the door; separate drawers for vegetables and meats; storage in the doors.

What about the cooking itself? No microwave magic. Food had to be cooked on the stovetop or in the oven. Kitchens were hot and steamy. TV dinners were a thing of the future. Everything was made from scratch.

And speaking of TV. There wasn’t one. In-home entertainment in 1875 was reading, playing games or music, or actually having a conversation. The identification of radio waves by Heinrich Hertz was still more than a decade in the future.

There were no automobiles to hop into and go to a non-existent movie. Those wouldn’t exist for decades.

No wonder Jo and her friends get into so much trouble! They’d be bored if they didn’t. 😉

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