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Meet Diane Weiner


This is the second in a new newsletter series. I’ll be introducing you to my author friends. Want to win one of Diane’s books? Be sure to comment. On 8/22 (next Tuesday), I’ll use the random number generator to choose one lucky commenter to win one of Diane’s books. 

Diane Weiner writes the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries in which a retired teacher turns amateur sleuth. You can learn more about Diane by going to her website DianeWeinerAuthor.com.

  1. How did you come up with the idea for your series? At the school where I worked, one of the teachers, an aspiring administrator, was always trying to brown nose the principal by bringing her home baked goods. One day I wondered “what if he poisoned that cupcake he’s bringing her so he can take over her job?”
  2. Which character is most like you? In my series, Susan Wiles is the character I want to be: a retired teacher, and a grandmother! She’s much more gutsy and outspoken than I am. I am pretty shy and cautious as a person. Our similarities are that we are both educators, and we both have close families. Our husbands and children are the center of our worlds.
  3. What’s the hardest part of writing? The hardest part of writing is having limited time during the school year, as I am still working full time. I often write in the mornings before school and have to stop right in the middle of what I’m doing to get in the shower and get to work on time!
  4. What inspires you to keep writing? I am inspired to keep writing because my characters and the town of Westbrook are alive to me and I want to be in that world. I also value the joy reading brings to me and there’s nothing more satisfying than reading a review or hearing from a reader that they enjoyed my book and can’t wait to read the next one. It’s like I’m passing on the joy reading brings.
  5. What advice would you give to an aspiring author? To a would-be writer, I’d say to just write. Brainstorm ideas—don’t get caught up in trying to make things perfect from the get go. If you love to write, write. Go to writing conferences if you can, read about writing, and try a critique group. Reading your work to others can give you the confidence to keep going.

Diane’s latest book, Murder is Homework, is now available, and we’ll be giving away a digital copy. It is book 9 in the series. She is currently working on the second book in her Sugarbury Falls series. A Deadly Course, set in Vermont with a married couple as the amateur sleuths, is available on Amazon.

Now tell me the name of a favorite teacher–and I’ll choose one of you to win a copy of Murder is Homework, next Tuesday, Aug. 22.

 

 

I’m not finished with my coloring page…and that’s OK


Today is Monday, August 14, the day we’re supposed to share our coloring pages. Only I’m not finished. That’s important. Let me tell you why…

Yesterday at noon, I realized I hadn’t finished my coloring page. I panicked. I was in the middle of working on my dollhouse. I was enjoying every minute. Then I thought, “Gosh, I need to quit this and go hurry and finish up my coloring page.”

Nerves kicked in. My heart raced. My back ached with tension. I felt light-headed.

And it came to me how silly I was being.

You see, I’ve totally enjoyed working on this coloring page. A couple of times when life hasn’t gone my way, I’ve taken out the page and lost myself working on it. I’ve delighted in mixing colors and in blending the shades. I’ve kept the page tacked up on the side of my file cabinet where I can look at it often.

Yet here I was on Sunday, trying to turn a fun project into an obligation, a relaxation effort into a stressor, and playtime into work.

I decided I was not going to do that to myself. In fact, I hope I’ll also give each of YOU permission to not finish your work.

We live in a culture where importance is defined by how busy we are. We race around to prove we’re important. We stress ourselves out.

But coloring is a way to de-stress. Let’s not turn it into a chore. Are you with me on this?

By the way, I also need to change how I’ll send out coloring books. I don’t want to judge any of you or your work. I’d rather have a totally random process. I’ve set up a contest page. Enter (starting tomorrow) and I’ll choose a winner monthly to send a coloring book.

If you win once, you can’t win again for a year. Here’s the link: http://gvwy.io/neeu0s3

I hope you’ll agree with me that none of us need more stress in our lives.

Kiki Lowenstein and the Watermelon Festival, Part II


Part I Recap: In an attempt to repair their friendship, Kiki and Mert decide to take a road trip. But hurt feelings don’t mend easily, and the two women get off to a rocky road start. Here’s the link to Part I   http://joannacampbellslan.com/kiki-lowenstein-and-the-watermelon-festival/

Mert insisted on taking her truck. This made absolutely no sense at all, because I could have easily borrowed Sheila’s white Mercedes sedan, which is a dream of a car for highway driving. Since Sheila’s still in Texas for rehab, her car has been sitting in her garage, coming to life only when Detweiler goes there to turn over the engine. Also, Mert’s truck doesn’t have a back seat, which meant that I could only take a small overnight bag, and it shared the space with my feet. I’m short, but I still needed room for my legs. I thought about complaining, but it seemed pointless. As far as I could tell, Mert had no luggage at all. I couldn’t figure out what she planned to do for clothes, but I climbed in and waved to my family, doing my best to keep a cheerful look on my face.

We drove two miles in total silence. I considered saying, “So this is how it’s going to be? A long weekend and hard feelings?” Instead, I told myself to be nice. I asked, “How’s life, Mert?”

“Fair to middling.”

“Remind me who we’ll be visiting and how this person is related to you?” I focused on the pretty flowers on porches, window boxes, hanging baskets, and lining sidewalks. St. Louis loves to spruce up with the changing seasons, and Webster Groves is (to my mind at least) the prettiest town in the metro area. I particularly like how joyous the geraniums are this time of year. They have a very patriotic look to them as they burst with color right as we come up on the Fourth of July. Even now, four weeks later, the heads were still full of color.

“We gonna see Corva. She ain’t a relative.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure how to follow up on that. Ask open-ended questions, I reminded myself. “How do you know her?”

“We was pen-pals as kids. Stayed in touch all these years. When we could, we’d visit each other. Whoever had the money or the time would do the traveling.”

“Wow. Pen-pals. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of people staying in touch as long as you two have.”

“Yup.”

The sun glinted off the chrome of Mert’s candy-apple red truck. That gave me the perfect excuse to put on my sunglasses. The dark lenses allowed me to study my friend without her knowing it. Mert had aged in the past six months. The crinkles at the edges of her eyes fanned out like spiderwebs. The grooves on either side of her mouth had deepened. She owns a tanning bed and uses it year round because she claims it makes her look younger. I’ve argued it also ages your skin. She disagrees, but the proof was on her face with its leathery surface. I moved my gaze down to her hands. She wears Playtex gloves when she cleans, but for the first time, I noticed how knotted her knuckles were.

Mert was getting old. A lump formed in my throat. I remembered how she had reached out to me when we first met. How she had stood by me when George died. She had been loyal as the day was long until she thought I’d disrespected her brother, Johnny. Sadness crept up on me the way a cat hunts down a sparrow, and when it pounced, I couldn’t breathe.

“Asthma getting to you?” She stared straight ahead. We sat at a stoplight, getting ready to pull onto Highway 40, which is really 64-40 but no one calls it that. The road is the east-west artery that pumps the lifeblood of traffic in and out of St. Louis, only pausing for heart attacks like major wrecks once or twice a month.

“I guess.”

“That time of year, ain’t it?”

“I’ve been thinking about getting allergy shots.”

“Probably should.”

“Where are we staying?”

“Holiday Inn. It’s on the outskirts of town. Probably the nicest place. Got a pool. Did you bring a suit?”

“No.”

“We can stop at a Walmart on the way, and you can pick one up.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

Okay, it wasn’t exactly a heart-to-heart conversation, but we were making progress. The temperature had changed from chilly to lukewarm. I figured I’d take another stab at learning about Corva. I waited until Mert had smoothly merged into traffic heading east. But before I could speak, my friend glanced up at her rearview mirror. “Look at that, will you? Behind us.”

I twisted in my seat, turning as far as I could despite the tightening of my seatbelt. Out of the left corner of the back window the Arch gleamed like a silver band embracing the cornflower blue sky.

“It’s so, so beautiful!” My heart squeezed tightly in my chest.

“I know. Ain’t it? I guess it’s purely corny, but I always get teary-eyed when I see it. You’d think it would get old—”

“But it never does.”

“Nope.”

There it stood, majestic and proud, a symbol that only our city could claim. An iconic shape, the arch is an example of a weighted catenary, the idealized curve made when you hold a weighted chain or cable upside down, supporting it at each end. The outside consists of 900 tons of stainless steel that the designer, Eero Saarinen intended to catch and reflect the ambient light. Indeed it does, in such a way that the arch also reflects the changing world around it.

“Did you know you can see that there monument for 30 miles?” Mert asked. “But I think this is the best view of all.”

“I do, too,” I said.

And oddly enough, our shared love of the Arch went a long way—30 miles maybe—toward repairing our friendship.

~To be continued~

In Part III, we’ll visit Vincennes, Indiana, vicariously. A heat wave is the least of the problems that the two women face. Somehow they get involved in a crime. (Or did you guess that might happen?)

 

Contest Winners


THE WINNER of the colored pencil set is…”Diane said…”
So if that’s you, Diane, please email me at jcslan@joannaslan.com

I used a random number generator to pull Diane’s name. (Just so you know!)

THE WINNER of the stuffed polar bear is…
I still haven’t heard from Cheryl Nichols., who won the stuffed polar bear. Cheryl Nichols, please email me!

THE COLORING CLUB DETAILS… 

I found a smarter way for us to share. I’ve started a Coloring Club on Facebook. Check it out–
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1913215222271455/?source=create_flow

Or use this shortened link:

http://bit.ly/JCS-ColoringClub  

We’re all coloring an adorable page full of cats! I’m having a blast.

That’s it for now–

 

Joanna

Six Tips to Improve Your Coloring


By Joanna Campbell Slan

Although it seems like a fad, coloring was first prescribed by Carl Jung as part of his therapeutic regime for adults. For years now, therapists have suggested using coloring books as a way for adults to self-sooth. One theory is that the smell of the crayons reminds us of happier times and our childhood. It’s also likely that the repetitive motion of our hands as we fill in spaces is soothing. Or maybe it’s simply that creativity is a basic human need. (I like that theory; it makes sense to me.)

Whatever.

Today coloring books for grown-ups are hot, hot, hot.

I love to color; I always have loved coloring, even since I was a kid. My preference is using color pencils.

Here are six of my best tips for improving your color pencil skills.

  1. Choose the right surface. I like glass under my paper. Self-healing craft mats tend to be too lumpy. The smoother the surface, the better your final product.
  2. Buy the best crayons or pencils that you can afford. Cheaper pencils have less pigment, making it harder to “lay down” the colors.
  3. Use a craft knife or a sharpener and an emery board to sharpen the point of your pencil. Sharpen your pencils as soon as the point goes dull. If you get in this habit, your pencil will always be ready for you and you’ll waste less of the pencil when you sharpen it.
  4. Erase your mistakes with kneaded rubber erasers. Yes, they really are different from ordinary erasers, and worth the price.
  5. Blending colors is an art. You can blend them by overlapping or changing the strokes, by using a white pencil over your strokes, by using a tortillion (a paper stub) or a blending pencil, and/or by using nail polish remover. To do the latter, dip a cotton swab into the remover and lightly touch it to the pencil marks. The results are amazing!
  6. Take the time to learn a little about colored pencil techniques. A little education will help you get the best final product.

Do you like to color? Which do you prefer: crayons or pencils? Comment here or at Killer Hobbies and I’ll choose one lucky commenter who’ll win a set of colored pencils. It’s a lovely set that I bought from Staples. (I got one for myself, too.) I’ll announce the winner this coming Friday.

Love, Die, Neighbor: The Prequel to the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series


A Prequel to the Mystery Series that has won the hearts of fans all over the world!

As the mother of an active toddler and the wife of an often absent husband, Kiki Lowenstein already has both hands full. But when the Lowensteins move into their new house on the same day the construction crew leaves, Kiki must learn to juggle boxes, baby, and big expectations. Her determination to be a good neighbor hits a serious roadblock when she angers the Nordstroms, the couple who live next door. Then Sven Nordstrom dies under mysterious circumstances, and Kiki is forced into the one role she never planned on playing: amateur sleuth.

Get your free copy here: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/y0oa2v50lf

Meet Julie Seedorf…


Joanna’s note: This is the first of a new feature. Each month I hope to introduce my readers to my author friends.

Name: Julie Seedorf

Website: julieseedorf.com

Facebook info: http://www.facebook.com/julie.seedorf.author

Name of your series: The Fuchsia Minnesota Series and The Brilliant Minnesota Series

One line that describes your series: Mystery and mayhem in a wildly unusual community whose crimestopper is old and wrinkly and leaves no stone overturned to get her man or…woman.

Name of most recent book: Granny Pins A Pilferer or not in a cozy genre, Two Little Girls.

Buy link: the series: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01K7Q4A20

1. What gave you the idea for this series?

I have strange ideas and this one happened accidentally. I started a silly story on my blog and it turned into a tale about a fictional community in Minnesota with an over-the-top Granny. The ideas kept coming as I was writing. Each book gives the characters more depth. I never planned on five and soon six. They just happen to fall into place.

2. Which character is most like you?

I would like to say Granny, Hermiony Vidalia Criony Fiddlestadt, but not because I am like her but because I would love to become her. She has grit, determination, believes old age doesn’t exist, has a deep love for her kids but is cunning and funny.

3. What’s the hardest part of writing?

Finding a time when I do not get interrupted. It happens often and the world intrudes. It is hard to balance column writing time too, along with my freelance newspaper gigs so it slows me down. I get impatient when I can’t work on my book because I can’t wait to see how it ends.

4. What inspires you to keep writing?

My readers and my imagination inspire me. I see a story everywhere but not the same story everyone sees. I see goofy and how things could be different. I feel constricted by rules and regulations. Not the rules we need to be able to have a civilized society but by the ones imposed upon that are a little ridiculous. I remember when there were no rules on what you can have in your yard or what color you could paint your house. So when I see something so restricted I want to throw silly into it.

5. What would you say to other would-be writers who have yet to get published?

I would tell them to believe in themselves. I had a point after I was accepted by a publishing company and had a contract, where I questioned my writing style and the way I write when I am planning a book. I can’t do an outline because they restrict me and I felt as if the way I was writing was wrong because it was different from all my author friends. And then I couldn’t write. An artist friend told me while critiquing one of my paintings, that we had to be true to our talent and not try and change to another’s standards. We can learn and hone our craft but we are each unique in the way we do things. Because of that someone will like my paintings even though they are not as polished as hers. The same can be said for writing. We don’t all read the same type of books. There is room for everyone. So keep going and know who you are. If you can’t find a publisher, find a good editor and publish yourself but beware of vanity presses. Once you are out there a publisher may find you.

Kiki and the Watermelon Festival


Detweiler smiled at me as I handed him a tall glass of iced tea. “I think you should go.”

I turned from him to our kitchen window.  Summer in St. Louis can be oppressive, and today was no exception. Each morning, moisture condensed on our windows, thanks to the A/C inside and the moist heat outside.  Old washcloths worked well to sop up the liquid and clear the glass so that we could see outside.  The lawn rolled on and on, a thick green carpet, perfect for welcoming bare feet. The happy shrieks of our two older children brought a smile to my face. They loved running through the sprinkler, an activity totally new to our adopted son, but one that my teenaged daughter enjoyed every summer.

“It’s a long drive.” I felt my face scrunch into a frown. “Three and a half hours.”

“Good. That’ll give you two plenty of time to catch up.” Detweiler came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Kiki, you two were friends for a dozen years. I know you miss your relationship with Mert. She’s offering you an olive branch. Take it.”

“Take it and drive all the way to Vincennes, Indiana?” I turned so I could look into my husband’s amazing green eyes. “That’s a long, long branch, isn’t it? Okay, she wants to be friends again. Or does she? Is it possible she needs a co-pilot, and I’m the only person available? Maybe she doesn’t really even want me to go along with her.”

Detweiler leaned in close and kissed me lightly on the lips. “If she didn’t want you to come along, she wouldn’t have invited you. Mert asked you to go with her to Indiana because she wants to spend time with you. Quit being such a cranky pants. Now tell me–what did she say you two would be doing?”

For a second, I opened my mouth to protest. He’d already decided I should go. I still had my doubts. Sure, Mert and I’d been best friends since that fateful day we’d met in the cleaning products aisle in Home Depot. But all that had changed when she blamed me for her brother’s involvement in a shoot-out. Unfortunately, the target for the bullets had been little old me. As much as Mert had loved me, she loved her brother more.

“What are your plans?” Detweiler prompted me. As usual, he smelled of Safeguard soap and light cologne. He wasn’t a guy to soak himself, but he always smelled good.

Resistance was futile. I released the tension in my body and enjoyed the comfort of my husband’s arms. “A watermelon festival. That’s what our plans are. Mert assured me that it’s a major big deal in Vincennes. In fact, the town used to be called The Watermelon Capital of the World.”

Detweiler threw his head back and laughed heartily. “Who knew?”

I agreed. “There you have it. If I decide to accompany my friend, we’ll be driving three and a half hours to gore ourselves on all the watermelon we can eat. Woop-de-do.”

Again Detweiler laughed, but this time the sound was richer. “Lighten up, babe. It’s summertime, and the melons are easy picking. I predict that you and Mert will have a blast.”

“Right.” I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. In my heart of hearts, I knew he was right. This was my chance to mend fences with Mert. I needed to grab it.

But a three and a half hour drive in a truck for the purpose of eating watermelon? That did not seem very compelling. No, not at all.

~To be continued~

In Part II, we’ll visit Vincennes, Indiana, vicariously. A heat wave is the least of the problems that the two women face. Somehow they get involved in a crime. (Or did you guess that might happen?)

Kiki Lowenstein and the Watermelon Festival, Part I


By Joanna Campbell Slan

Detweiler smiled at me as I handed him a tall glass of iced tea. “I think you should go.”

I turned from him to our kitchen window.  Summer in St. Louis can be oppressive, and today was no exception. Each morning, moisture condensed on our windows, thanks to the A/C inside and the moist heat outside.  Old washcloths worked well to sop up the liquid and clear the glass so that we could see outside.  The lawn rolled on and on, a thick green carpet, perfect for welcoming bare feet. The happy shrieks of our two older children brought a smile to my face. They loved running through the sprinkler, an activity totally new to our adopted son, but one that my teenaged daughter enjoyed every summer.

“It’s a long drive.” I felt my face scrunch into a frown. “Three and a half hours.”

“Good. That’ll give you two plenty of time to catch up.” Detweiler came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “Kiki, you two were friends for a dozen years. I know you miss your relationship with Mert. She’s offering you an olive branch. Take it.”

“Take it and drive all the way to Vincennes, Indiana?” I turned so I could look into my husband’s amazing green eyes. “That’s a long, long branch, isn’t it? Okay, she wants to be friends again. Or does she? Is it possible she needs a co-pilot, and I’m the only person available? Maybe she doesn’t really even want me to go along with her.”

Detweiler leaned in close and kissed me lightly on the lips. “If she didn’t want you to come along, she wouldn’t have invited you. Mert asked you to go with her to Indiana because she wants to spend time with you. Quit being such a cranky pants. Now tell me–what did she say you two would be doing?”

For a second, I opened my mouth to protest. He’d already decided I should go. I still had my doubts. Sure, Mert and I’d been best friends since that fateful day we’d met in the cleaning products aisle in Home Depot. But all that had changed when she blamed me for her brother’s involvement in a shoot-out. Unfortunately, the target for the bullets had been little old me. As much as Mert had loved me, she loved her brother more.

“What are your plans?” Detweiler prompted me. As usual, he smelled of Safeguard soap and light cologne. He wasn’t a guy to soak himself, but he always smelled good.

Resistance was futile. I released the tension in my body and enjoyed the comfort of my husband’s arms. “A watermelon festival. That’s what our plans are. Mert assured me that it’s a major big deal in Vincennes. In fact, the town used to be called The Watermelon Capital of the World.”

Detweiler threw his head back and laughed heartily. “Who knew?”

I agreed. “There you have it. If I decide to accompany my friend, we’ll be driving three and a half hours to gore ourselves on all the watermelon we can eat. Woop-de-do.”

Again Detweiler laughed, but this time the sound was richer. “Lighten up, babe. It’s summertime, and the melons are easy picking. I predict that you and Mert will have a blast.”

“Right.” I tried to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. In my heart of hearts, I knew he was right. This was my chance to mend fences with Mert. I needed to grab it.

But a three and a half hour drive in a truck for the purpose of eating watermelon? That did not seem very compelling. No, not at all.

~To be continued~

In Part II, we’ll visit Vincennes, Indiana, vicariously. A heat wave is the least of the problems that the two women face. Somehow they get involved in a crime. (Or did you guess that might happen?)

Boxed Set: Happy Homicides 3 & 4


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