When a Character Has a Real Tombstone…

When I was getting ready to write The Elderly Earl’s Estate, set in Ireland, my next-door neighbor put me in touch with the Irish Consul here in Austin. The gentleman in that office at the time suggested I put Lady Rosse into the book because she was such a fascinating individual of the time period.

I looked into her, and she was exactly the sort of woman that Jo would find intriguing. She was a photographer in the early days of the art. She was a blacksmith. And with that skill, she helped her husband build a telescope that was considered a technical marvel in its day and has recently been restored.

She also lived nowhere near where I was setting the book…but a visit to a friend took care of that bit of fudging. This was allowable in my estimation. Changing her personality or behavior–as far as I could discern it–was not.

I had such a good time having Jo and Mary meet that when I needed Fred and Kevin to consult a lawyer in 1875 New York I wanted it to be another strong female historical personage.

Unfortunately, the first woman lawyer in New York State did not pass the bar for another ten years or graduate law school until 1898.

However, Kate Stoneman had a background as a law copyist and executrix of her aunt’s estate. She read law books for fun and enlightenment. She was also involved in the early days of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and this gave me the perfect hook to have her in the city for them to consult.

Introducing a bit of real-life history into your story is both entertaining for the reader and enlightening for the author, as I learned about two amazing women this way. Hopefully, by adding them to the books, it will bring them to life a little and pique the reader’s interest enough to find out more.

The most important thing to remember when using a historical personage in a book is to be mindful of their reputation and respectful of their accomplishments. Treat them as you would hope others would treat you in the future.



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Let’s Go to the Marketing…

Today’s stop is on the Blogging Authors blog. I give most of my favorite marketing tips, but there are always a few other things to discuss. Marketing is a never-ending job. Take this book tour, for instance. It’s a way for me to get the book (and, by extension, the series) in front of a lot of eyes who might not hear about it otherwise. Pump Up Your Book is an award-winning marketing service that does a great job building a promotional tour for you. That’s definitely a great way to go if you have the resources.

If your budget is a little tighter, then check out the opportunities through 4imprint for interesting and clever promo items. For paper goods like business cards or postcards, I like VistaPrint. As I say in the guest post linked above, I don’t give out pens fast enough to make them a good marketing tool, but if you go to a lot of events, people really do tend to gravitate to them on the “freebie” table. When I did buy pens, I liked National Pen for those. For stickers or bumper stickers, a good place to go is 123Stickers.

Think outside the box when you look at your book. What is something special that you can highlight? For one of my books, the YA The Right Hand of Velachaz, I bought a lot of little insect-shaped erasers from Oriental Trading Company and put them in little plastic bubbles like you used to see in the bubblegum machines. Then I put them in a larger container. Kids got to pick an eraser out of the container, and if they got a dragonfly (which featured in the book) they won a prize. Otherwise, they got an eraser. Win-win.

For another set of stories, I got these little pins with flashing lights on them. I thought they were so cool–until someone cautioned me that they could be detrimental to epileptics. So…I stopped giving those out. You have to be careful of such things.

If you are looking for a bigger prize, like for a giveaway, CafePress or Zazzle can let you create something cool. For example, here is my CafePress shop for the Chronicles. One of the mugs would make a nice prize. And, of course, everyone loves an Amazon gift card. The cool thing about those is that you can send it virtually when you get home. ūüėČ

Promotion and marketing is all part of the author’s job too. Unless you can hire a full-time publicist…and that is a dream that most of us can’t afford.

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New Day, New Stop, New WordPress Editor…

New Day in Texas

Today’s blog tour stop is an interview at The Dark Phantom. They asked some great questions, so you might learn a bit more about my writing process…or lack thereof. I think you will find it says a lot about me…

Also, I am trying the new WordPress editor, since this is “the coming thing,” as Brisco County was wont to say…

So far…not as intuitive as the old editor, so I may opt to stay with it. Hey, I’m officially an old lady since the start of the pandemic, so I might as well act like one, right?

I find it fascinating to think how far websites have come since my first one (and BOY! it was hard to get access to that…) in 2001.

Then there was the MySpace page, which is apparently lost to the sands of time, for the most part.

I tried LiveJournal (where my old posts have apparently also been eaten…) Blogger (as part of Mocha Memoirs…I like the linked post a lot…), GoDaddy, and I don’t even remember all the others. For a time, I had my sites on a friend’s server, and that worked best, but when he shut that down, I came to WordPress as my new home.

So, I can’t complain too much about these changes. The interface is similar to MailChimp.com, which I use for newsletters, so I expect I’ll get used to it. I did like the ability to switch between Visual and html though. It came in handy quite often.

But maybe this will motivate me to do those updates I’ve been meaning to get done.

How about you? What has your web presence journey been like? Do you have other recommendations?

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Why I Am Getting a Late Start Blogging Today…

Today’s tour stop is at A Title Wave. I love that name! It looks like it will be a lot of fun to explore in the future.

Such a late start to the day…you ever have one of those days when nothing seems to go right? And with the chaos of Covid-19, it’s even worse!

I went to pay my sales taxes, which were already late due to the surgery in December, and then, by the time that I was feeling up to getting things done after that…we were on lockdown. So, I go to the office I have been going to for the last fifteen years to find a sign on the door that they were permanently closed at that location and their other office across town hadn’t opened yet due to an abundance of caution. At least I manage to get the online system to accept me again–I’d been locked out for years–and get them paid. (You better believe I wrote down every single field connected to it now!)

My next stop was to get the car registration updated, as I realized with horror yesterday that my 4-20 sticker was no longer cute, but passe. Since I don’t know where the official registration paperwork is, I went to the Comptroller’s office to get it taken care of. Well, I started to go there…and then I realized I would need a current inspection first, so I went to the dealer to get that done. As an electric car, it is both easier and cheaper to get it done at the dealer than any of the several stations I passed on the way across town…

That part went fine. They got me in and inspected very quickly. So, I went back to the Comptroller. Only to find their office was closed too. Luckily, they have someone standing outside to answer questions and she assured me I would be okay if I went home and filed for the sticker online. Apparently, there’s a non-enforcement order in place at the moment, so even a month out-of-date, I shouldn’t get a ticket before it gets here.

So, basically, most of what I did today I could have done online without leaving the house. But I did get barbeque for lunch. And it felt like the sort of day Jo would have…lol

My take-aways: Be better about deadlines, and keep track of important paperwork!

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How Do You Choose a Book’s Voice?

Guy flying on a fast rocket ship, hand to forehead looking far away for destination, has to choose a way as cloud arrows leads to three different directions.

Today’s book tour stop is a special one. They asked for the guest post to be written from a character’s Point-of-View. Of course, Jo volunteered. ūüėČ

The PoV that you choose for a particular piece can define how your reader engages with the book, and how much the narrator can be trusted. You basically have three choices: First, Second, or Third Person Point-of-View.

I knew from the beginning that the Conn-Mann series would be in First Person because that was the challenge I set myself–to do a long-form piece of fiction with this PoV. It’s tricky to pull off for a long term story. I had done a few short stories this way before, but novel-length had always eluded me.

The hardest part of First Person is that the reader should only get the thoughts and observations of the narrator. For example, Jo’s first impression of the newspaper editor at the beginning of The Marvelous Mechanical Man is that he is an “odious, little toad,” and she spends several books avoiding him. However, she revises that opinion later when she bothers to spend more time with him.

Is he really so despicable? No. He just reacts to her in the manner that his upbringing and time-period suggests.

Jo often finds things to be one way and has to adjust her thinking after gathering more data. This is both the positive–the reader learns with the narrator–and the negative–they don’t always get the correct facts of the situation–of First Person.

Second Person PoV is rare to find, and I think this is because it is very difficult to pull off well. I, myself, only managed it once–though I haven’t given up the idea of trying again someday. This was a piece for the Empty Rooms/Missing double anthology for Horrified Press. Here’s a sample:



The room is empty now. Why is it empty?

Where is the cradle that Grandfather made for your mother? Where is the layette with all the painstakingly embroidered dresses and onesies? Where is the rocker that Danny bought at the thrift store because it reminded him of his mother?

You circle the room. There is nothing here. Not even a scrap of paper or a diaper pin. Where has everything gone? Even the bright yellow walls have been repainted gray. Why did he do that?

You drift toward the door…and it is drifting…you feel as if your feet aren‚Äôt even touching the ground. How odd…

I think you can probably see why this PoV is usually reserved for Choose Your Own Adventure books…

Third Person PoV is so popular it’s twins! In this style of writing, the narrator can know everything that everyone knows–omniscient point-of-view–or only the perspective of one particular character–limited point-of-view. This is the PoV of most writing these days, with Limited being the favorite twin.

If you are a writer, and beginning a new piece, you should let the story tell you the PoV it needs. I’ve told this story elsewhere…but when I wrote my story “Broken Crystal” for Dark Divinations (an anthology I desperately wanted to be a part of) I wrote the first draft in Third Person PoV. I liked it, but it didn’t feel like it was the best it could be. I sent it to a friend for review, and she suggested I try rewriting it in First Person PoV, and it made a world of difference.

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All Aboard! The Tour Resumes…

Today’s stop is the delightful land of unicorns at¬†Sybrina’s Book Blog. Check it out, and while you are there, look at all her lovely unicorns!

Jo hasn’t run into any unicorns yet but in The Elderly Earl’s Estate, she must get to the bottom of a mysterious banshee haunting her grandfather’s estate, and the mermaid sightings off the coast of Ireland.

I have been a lover of folklore since childhood.¬† I even took a class in it in college simply because I loved it so much. Therefore, it was very satisfying to put a little of that love into the series. It wasn’t the first time I’ve mentioned the strange creatures of fairyland, and it won’t be the last!

What is your favorite mystical creature? I must admit a fondness for elves and fairies…(which you can see on display in the non-Conn-Mann book, Mutiny on the Moonbeam.)

As Jo and Alistair continue their adventures, I am sure they are likely to run into more interesting creatures. After all, the Continent is full of them!

unicorn breaks through the paper, close-up


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How Do You Get Engagement?

This is a question for all the bigger bloggers out there. I am starting to look forward to the daily posts, but it’s hard to tell if they are reaching anyone, or if I am mostly talking to myself.

I know this is something that everyone struggles with in the beginning, so I am looking for any and all advice on how to get people engaged. I’ve tried the asking questions…but so far that’s not drawing out answers. I’ve tried using images because I’ve heard that helps get people’s attention. I link my posts on Twitter and Facebook.

From yesterday’s contest, I found that needed better prizes. Though both of the entrants have been contacted and will win a gift box of items. Congratulations to Kristen Barkschat and Wyndie Deaver.

In our current situation of lost opportunities for face-to-face sales, how do you grow your engaged audience? Inquiring minds want to know! ūüôā

Woman pointing at question marks, good idea

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Starting to See the Appeal of this Blogging Thing…So Here’s a Contest

It’s the weekend, and the tour is paused until Monday…but I am having fun with the daily blogging, so I thought I would do something short and sweet today.

I have been blogging on my other site about the new Dark Divinations anthology that I have a story in, and my very first post of the series mentioned Leonora and her learning to read tea leaves. So, let’s have a little contest.

To enter, just send me a comment through the contact form (so everyone doesn’t see the answer) and tell me three ingredients in “Leonora’s Illuminating Libation” from Tea Punk Teas. This can be found with a minimum of sleuthing from this post–but you do have to work a LITTLE.

I will sort through entries tomorrow and randomly choose a winner if there is more than one correct answer. Winner will get a deck of very limited edition playing cards:


(The picture doesn’t quite do them justice…) And who knows? Perhaps I will throw in some other goodies. ūüėČ

Remember, to enter, send me a comment through the contact form with your answer by midnight May 16, 2020. I will select from the correct entries tomorrow. No cost associated with the contest on your end, though I will need an address to mail your prize.

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

There’s no tour stop today, so I thought I would do something else. Couldn’t leave you completely hanging, could I?

Here’s a sneak peek at the new book–it will still be in edits for a while–and remember, it is a spin-off, not a sequel–but I am fond of it.

This is the first chapter of Bond & Reilly Investigations: The Case of the Counterfeit Confederate. Now, before I have too many people upset by the use of Confederate…remember, this is set in 1875 when the world was a rather different place.

For those who haven’t seen it, here is the cover by the fabulous Brad Fraunfelter. This will be a frame like the one on the main series, with the image of the cab and horse replaced with the relevant picture for the book.



Chapter 1

Aunt Emily’s Dilemma


“Hold still, you little varmint!¬†Almost…got…” Winifred Bond stopped breathing as she twisted the screw another half turn. “Now, let’s¬†find out if¬†you work now. ..

Crossing her fingers beneath the desk, she set the prototype mechanism down on its surface with a little laugh of triumph. “Well, I’ll be hornswoggled! I was sure you could combine the steam car and a carriage…”

Winding¬†a tiny key on the back of the vehicle, she let¬†the little creation go–to¬†surge forward at a decent clip…right off the edge of the table to clatter in an ignoble heap upon the floor.

Well…not an¬†optimal outcome.”

Winifred Bond–Fred to her friends–was still adjusting to life in New York City after being born and raised in the sleepy little town of Rosebush Junction in Ohio.¬†At the urging of her best friend Josephine Mann–who almost immediately married her absent-minded professor, Alistair Conn and traipsed off to Ireland and beyond–she had moved to the city. The move was eye-opening in many respects…and very lonely.

With a sigh, she picked up the little mechanism¬†right¬†as the front door opened. Starting, she raked the little vehicle in the nearest drawer. The Conns’ basement apartment at Ma Stark’s boarding house was standing empty while Alistair and Jo were on their honeymoon. He’d given Fred permission to work there–as long as she took care of the cats–but she still was a bit uneasy about¬†the situation. Besides, her work wasn’t ready to share with anyone yet.¬†S he barely had a working model…

“Fred, luv, Mrs. Estes from over the way has come t’ ask your advice on somethin’. I’ve set her in the parlor, but she appears most distraught. Poor woman. Everyone’s run off to the back of beyond and she’s all alone in¬†her¬†big house…”

Fred hid a smile behind a cough. Emily Estes was perfectly capable of looking after herself, but she wasn’t alone as long as the ever-faithful Vanessa was¬†in place¬†to watch over her. Maid, housekeeper, companion…Fred wasn’t quite sure what Vanessa’s official designation actually was, but she would make sure her mistress was taken care of. Mrs. Estes might be a bit lonely with her sister Leonora also abroad at the moment, but she could easily step across the street for a visit.

Rising to her feet, Fred scanned Jo’s little office¬†one last time–everything was back in order. She had promised Alistair to watch things while they were away, and she intended to do exactly that. Twitching her skirts into place, she strode toward the door. “Let’s go¬†find out what¬†she needs then. I haven’t quite finished my work for the day.”

Ma tsked. “You girls work yourselves far too hard. In my day–”

“Now, Ma…in your day you were keeping house for a husband and three children. Not a moment’s rest, if¬†your routine¬†was anything like my mother’s day.”

“I suppose yer right,” Ma said with a chuckle. “The children were quite a handful at times.”

Fred wondered, as she often did, why none of Ma’s children ever came to visit her. She didn’t dare ask in case¬†the reason¬†was something Ma would rather keep private. Perhaps Vanessa would¬†know something….

“The kettle will be boiled away if we don’t hurry back to the main house,” Ma scolded. “Come along now.”

“Yes, ma’am.” She followed the older woman up the stairs and across to the boarding house proper.

Ah, Winifred, dear,” exclaimed Mrs. Estes as they stepped into the parlor. “I was afraid you might be off having an adventure of your own, but I couldn’t think where else to turn.”

Fred crossed the room to seat herself beside the other woman, taking her hands. “No, ma’am. I’m not much of an adventurer myself. Unlike certain others…”

“Don’t underestimate yourself, dear.¬†You’ll have¬†plenty of time for adventuring. In fact…” She bit her lip. “Something of the sort is rather what I’ve come to¬†talk to¬†you about. I¬†would¬†speak to Alistair, but I don’t want to disturb the newlyweds on their Progress. Especially since they appear to have quite enough on their hands already.”

“What can I do for you, ma’am? I’m willing to help if I can…though if you would rather have Herbert…?”

Herbert? I think not,” Mrs. Estes said with a sniff. “He’s scarcely able to tie his own shoes without Alistair’s help.”

Fred pictured the beautiful airship, the¬†Pearl,¬†the woman’s nephew Herbert Lattimer had built–not once, but twice now–and¬†bit back a reply. Herbert might be a bit rough, but he did have his redeeming qualities. Still,¬†she had no¬†place to say so.

“This odd telegram came today.” Mrs. Estes pulled a telegraph flimsy from her bag. “I’m at a loss for what I should do?”

Doubly curious now, Fred took the flimsy and scanned its contents.


I must meet with you on the 22nd regarding several business ventures I entered into with your late husband.

Colonel Beauregard Kincaid

“While my husband–quite rightly–kept his business affairs separate from his dealings with me, I am confident he would never have fraternized with the enemy. I¬†do remember¬†he was quite passionate about Lincoln’s vision for the country.¬†Do you think¬†I can construe this man’s name as anything but the moniker of a Southern officer?”

You may well be right, but¬†we don’t have any proof that¬†is the case. Did your husband deal with a lawyer?”

“My late husband was a lawyer. He handled all our affairs himself.”

“Did he have a partner?¬†Perhaps¬†a clerk?”

“I don’t recall one, dear. I sometimes wrote out his notes for him–he had the most terrible penmanship–but otherwise, he liked to do everything himself. He had an office downtown, of course, but¬†we¬†packed¬†his things¬†up when he died. He had a study at the house, as well, but other than a few boxes of papers,¬†nothing is left of¬†the study either. I-I¬†simply¬†couldn’t bear leaving¬†the room¬†as if he would be stepping back inside at any moment.”

Fred nodded. “Understandable.¬†Possibly something in those papers might be useful. Do you still have them?”

“Roderick carried them out to the carriage house and stacked them in a corner, I believe. You are welcome to go through them if you¬†wish.”

Better than twiddling my thumbs waiting for Jo’s next letter.”

“I’ll have him bring them over to you.” Mrs. Estes rose to her feet. “You’ve¬†definitely¬†set my mind at ease, dear.”

“Don’t you fret.” Fred stood in turn. “I’ll speak to Kevin as well. May I keep this?” She held up the telegram.

“If you think the flimsy will be useful to you.”

“Can’t hurt. We’ll¬†figure the matter out for you. Don’t you worry,” she promised recklessly. Her heart was pounding at the thought of something more productive to do than sorting Alistair’s bits and bobs or playing at building an automaton of her own. The truth was, she was bored stiff here in the city without Josephine. She wasn’t used to the bustle of life in New York. Without someone to help her learn her way around, she had begun to¬†understand how¬†an animal caught in a trap might gnaw its own foot off.

Kevin was a dear boy, but he was working practically around the clock at the station lately. She hardly got a moment alone with him. This might be the exact excuse she needed to drop by.

She looked down at the telegram again. “I’ve thought of something…do you¬†have an idea¬†where the telegram was posted from?”

“I’m not sure, dear. I believe somewhere in town, but I don’t think I have any valid reason to believe so. I’ll¬†check and find out¬†if Vanessa still has the envelope.”

The envelope¬†could be a major clue.”

It could mean nothing, dear. Do those things have the origin location as a postmark does. I’ve never thought about¬†the matter¬†before.”

Fred slipped the telegram into her pocket and took the older woman’s arm. “Neither have I. I’ll come along with you now and¬†find out¬†and then I’ll go down to the police station.”

Mrs. Estes patted her hand. “You’re a sweet girl, Winifred. Thank you for indulging an old woman.”

“My pleasure entirely, Mrs. Estes.”

“Please, you must call me Aunt Emily too. With everyone one off to the continent, I miss hearing¬†someone say the name.”

Fred smiled. “I’d be happy to…Aunt Emily.”

They strolled across the street in companionable silence, Fred mulling over the best way to convince Kevin to become involved.¬†The case¬†might do to appeal to his sense of duty–there might be a crime involved, after all…then again, encroaching upon his work might¬†merely¬†anger him.¬†Working out the origin of the telegram¬†would be a way they could spend a bit more time together, which might please him… Of course,¬†the time¬†wouldn’t be spent under the best of circumstances.

She sighed under her breath. She’d have to wait and¬†find out¬†what she came up with. Josephine had taught her the benefits of spontaneity.

Aunt Emily pointed down the street. “I wonder if the poor man is lost,” she said thoughtfully.

Fred looked to where she pointed. The fellow appeared to be looking for something. He was rather short and slim to the point of gaunt, and his clothing was a bit shabby for the neighborhood’s general inhabitants.¬†A¬†slight feeling of deja vu shivered down her spine at the sight of him. He reminded her of the first glimpse she’d had of Seamus O’Leary–which had led to nothing but trouble for all concerned.

“Have you seen that man before?”

“No, dear. He doesn’t look¬†like¬†he…belongs here, does he?”

“I wouldn’t worry too much. I’m sure he’s¬†merely¬†passing through as he¬†searches¬†for wherever he is going. This is a fairly central thoroughfare.” Privately, Fred vowed to discuss the matter with Kevin at the earliest opportunity.¬†What was the point of knowing a policeman if you couldn’t discuss such things with them?

When they reached Aunt Emily’s stately house, they entered by the kitchen door, which Fred found a bit odd. However, as Vanessa was making dinner, she supposed the maneuver was practical if they wished to talk to her without interrupting her work.

“Vanessa,” Aunt Emily began, “do you still have the envelope from the telegram which arrived this morning?”

The maid jerked her head toward the counter as she continued to knead her bread. “I left¬†the envelope¬†over¬†by the breadbox¬†just in case, Mrs. Emily. Does Miss Fred agree with you?”

The telegram¬†is somewhat suspicious, Vanessa. I’m going to take¬†the flimsy and envelope¬†to Inspector Reilly to ascertain if¬†we have¬†something to pursue here.”

“Good idea. He strikes me as a man who can tell what’s what.” Her tone expressed deep admiration for Kevin. Fred couldn’t fault her because she agreed wholeheartedly.

“Indeed,” She hid a half-smile.

“Could you have Roderick carry those boxes of law filings he took out to the carriage house across to Mrs. Stark’s for Miss Fred after dinner, Vanessa?”

“I’m sure he’d be happy to, Missus.¬†Let me put this bread in the oven and I’ll tell him straight away.”

The way Mrs. Estes ran her well-oiled household fascinated Fred. The older woman treated the servants more like family. Never having had servants growing up, Fred had always considered them rather mysterious beings who faded in and out of the woodwork at will. Now she knew differently.¬†Things¬†seemed much better Aunt Emily’s way…

“I’ll head down to the precinct house now,” she said, scooping up the envelope. “I’ll come by in the morning and update you on what Kevin says.”

“Thank you, Win–Fred.” Aunt Emily smiled. “I’m sure I’ve put the matter in the right hands.”

Fred appreciated the compliment. She hoped the words were deserved.



(You might notice some odd bolding here and there–this just shows you where I’ve made changes in Autocrit, a program I highly recommend. I left them to share a bit of my process. Hope you enjoyed the sample. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. Who knows…maybe you will get a surprise. ūüėČ )

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Another Nice Review Today…and a Guilty Confession ;)

This time at Sefina Hawke’s Books. So far, everyone seems as fond of Jo as I am.

Have you ever had a character that you identify with so strongly he or she almost feels like family? I know a writer shouldn’t have a favorite child any more than a mother, but Jo has definitely taken over that spot.

She not only has one doll adapted to her image…she has TWO!

Mini Jo                  1173760_207179342776811_18192859_n

Something I kind of hate to admit…because it sounds a bit silly…but she isn’t even the first character I’ve had a doll of!

Stefan from The Luckless Prince (who used to be my favorite character evah) was the first to have a figure. I adapted one of the original Ted action figures for that one.

Ted Doll

With very little adaptation, actually, he was repainted and looked awesome. (To me, at least.) Keanu at this age was my inspiration for the character. Unfortunately, I don’t know where he is right now, so I can’t share…

I also have two versions of my Flannery from the book that never seems to be finished.


(This one is handmade, and looking a little worse for wear after twenty + years…)

I even commissioned a doll of my Daisy Brambleburr hobbit character from the lovely and talented Melanie Fletcher. She also makes beautiful jewelry



So, like I say, Jo isn’t the first character I’ve created a visual representation of…but she is the first one to have friends…


and furniture!


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