• “One of top 25 US speakers”

    — Sharing Ideas Magazine

  • “One of mystery’s rising stars.”

    — RT Reviews

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul Contributor

  • Endorsed by Toastmasters International

  • Silver Anvil Award Winner

  • 2009 Agatha Award Finalist

    Paper, Scissors, Death

  • 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award Winner

    Death of a Schoolgirl: Jane Eyre Chronicles

Coming Soon

Fatal, Family, Album

-Read More-

A Lesson in Living Mindfully: Right here. Right now.


November 22, 2018

By Joanna Campbell Slan

The Friday after Thanksgiving kicks off the selling season for all sorts of merchants. Pianos are no exception. My husband couldn’t leave his music store to travel with me to Florida, where my mother and two sisters lived. To be honest, I couldn’t take time off. Not really. I was working for a newspaper, and since the news is published every day, holidays didn’t really exist. When you work for a daily newspaper, you live for tomorrow, the next day when the paper will come out. You are trained not to live in the here and now. As an advertising rep, I was always thinking ahead and never stopping to evaluate the present. My income came from thinking ahead, and not looking behind.

The Alternative to Family Time

I told myself that eating at a nice restaurant would be fine. The appetizers were plentiful, the wine flowing, and a glass of champagne was in order. The turkey was moist, the gravy rich, and the pecan pie was syrupy good. But with every morsel, I wished myself somewhere else. I pictured my mother tossing celery and onions in a bread stuffing that scented the air with sage. I watched my sister making a yucky face as she cut up giblets and dropped the pieces in chicken broth to make the gravy. I could hear my other sister clanking the silverware as she set the table. Nothing that fancy restaurant could cook would taste as good as the food served by my family. Nothing.

Everything Changes

I didn’t pout through our Thanksgiving feast, but after the meal when we were home, I escaped into the shower and cried quietly, feeling very sorry for myself. The hunger inside was the realization that life was changing. The days of being a nuclear family–me, my mom, and my sisters–was over. We’d pulled together after my father left us. We’d gone on welfare. We’d struggled. We knew how far we’d come, and no one else would ever share that particular memory or the grit that came along with it.

Reality versus My Fantasies

That evening after the phone rates went down, I called my sister Meg and reported that I’d had a nice Thanksgiving. With trepidation in my voice, I asked, “How about you? Tell me all about it.” I steeled myself for hearing about the traditional green bean casserole, the special pumpkin cake, and that giblet-based gravy. I waited and tried not to feel sad.

“We decided not to make dinner today. It was too much work. We ate at Cracker Barrel,” she said.

“What?” I was sure that I’d misunderstood her. “Cracker Barrel?”

“Yeah. It was fine, actually. I got some of my Christmas shopping done early.”

The Lesson I Learned

Then it hit me that I’d wasted a perfectly good Thanksgiving by wishing it away. I’d mourned for something that hadn’t happened, and in doing so, I’d missed the chance to be grateful for what I had.

Every Thanksgiving since that, I hear the words, “We ate at Cracker Barrel” in my head. No matter where I am, no matter who I’m with, I’ve learned to give thanks for what I have. Right here. Right now.

**

And today’s a perfect day to read a short story about Thanksgiving: “Cara Mia Delgatto and the Thanks giving Gift” https://www.amazon.com/Cara-Delgatto-Thanksgiving-Short-Story-ebook/dp/B00PSJ6QTC/

• Posted in Blog • |  4 Comments

Update on my life late August 2018


August 27, 2018

Hi, My Sweeties—

I’m feeling swamped. Sigh. As always. But here goes…

1. I’m working on The Best of British Scrapbooking and Cardmaking to get it ready to re-publish. It’s not up yet on Amazon, because we still have some formatting issues, but when it’s up, I’d appreciate you posting a review.

2. I had to stop everything and re-edit Tear Down and Die because someone complained to Amazon about the “quality.” What exactly did that mean? It means that I had two words missing and one phrase repeated. Yeah. That’s it. I laughed like crazy because I’ve read traditionally published books with bigger errors. In fact, I just finished reading The Ghost War by Alex Berenson where he says that Aldrich Ames didn’t have any children. He did. A son. That’s a pretty big and pretty easily checked mistake. So I went back, re-edited the entire Cara Mia book because I couldn’t help myself. Now I have to have a formatting specialist look at it because I cannot get the page numbers to show up. That’s kind of okay because I have all new covers for the Cara Mia books. They are gorgeous.

3. Today I’ll tackle corrections/edits on How to Write a Letter.

4. After that, I’ll work on Bad Memory Album, which will be a special gift for people on my newsletter.

5. Then back to the new Kiki book, which I’m behind on writing.

What have I learned this week? I hate formatting, and I want to pay a formatter to do more. It’s just a huge pain in the butt.

Also, I’ve been dogsitting for my dear friend and neighbor, Lori. Chief is an older dog, so he has special needs. We had a huge thunderstorm that caused the poor boy to shiver with fright. I decided we (Chief, Jax, and I) should camp out in the laundry room until it passed. Fortunately, Chief is Jax’s best friend. Jax even “herds” Chief. If I say, “Go get Chief,” Jax runs to his pal and directs him toward me.

Jax and Chief

On a really sad note, my son and daughter-in-law have learned that their dog, Juice, has terminal bladder cancer. I really love that big sweet lunk. Every time I think about him dying, I get all weepy…that’s making me sad and grumpy.

 

Juice, the world’s sweetest pit bull.

This week I started going to Orange Theory Fitness. My husband, David, had a heart attack scare a year and a half ago. After that, he became Mr. Uber Fit. I finally bit the proverbial bullet and decided I am not going to get fit on my own. Hence, Orange Theory Fitness where I’m literally working my butt off. Oy!  I have to say that the staff is really, really nice. They aren’t like the usual gym bunnies I’ve known.

When I take breaks from editing or writing, I work on my new dollhouse project. Translation: I cut or paint myself. Yes, I’ve taken to sawing my fingers and slicing a craft knife blade into my thumb. I dripped blood all over the project. I now have blood on the applicator tip of the Super Glue container. What a mess! But as long as I can type, we’re good, right?


That’s it from here,

Love you,
j

• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , , , , , , |  2 Comments

The Revenge of AOL/Lessons I learned about my computer


August 10, 2018

By Joanna Campbell Slan

As with most crises, this one began simply enough. My AOL inbox showed 20,000+ messages. The number had built up over time. In a surge of energy, I decided to clean out the inbox. Four hours later, I’d winnowed the mess down to 3,000+ emails. Some of you might have even gotten an email from me, because if I had any questions about whether an email had been responded to, I sent a new email to double-check.

That night, I went to bed feeling incredibly organized. Yes, I was taming my email habit at last. My friend Marla had shown me how to use the rules function. Aaron, my computer guru, told me how to block offending domains. The number in my inbox had shrunken considerably. The leftovers could be dealt with the next morning. All was well in my soul.

Alas.

The next day, I opened my computer to find…40,000+ emails. I called Aaron. He did a remote session (oh, the computer gods have ways of controlling our machines from afar!), and reset the AOL account. He deduced that AOL wanted to save all my emails for 30 days. When I tried to destroy them, AOL thoughtfully replaced all of them. We thought we had the problem fixed, although Aaron’s last pronouncement proved prescient, “I hate AOL.”

“You told me that.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll say it again. I hate AOL. You get what you pay for.”

“Right, but I still use that account. Mainly for sites that force me to sign up or for when I make purchases.”

“Yeah, but I’m just sayin’…I hate AOL.”

“Got it.”

Later that day, a warning popped up in the lower right hand corner of my screen. It told me that I was running out of disk space. I hit the Crap Cleaner button. I did the Malware cleaning. Usually that’s all I need to do. Of course, cleaning the disk space is a hassle because as you do, you clean out all the “cookies,” which are really bread crumbs that lead you back to places you’ve been. When the cookies are gone, you have to manually re-enter passwords. A pain in the backside. However, I was being a good little scout. I did it. And I kept writing on my newest Kiki book and a short story.

The next day…Armageddon. AOL decided I could NOT do without the emails I’d deleted and repopulated them AGAIN. I now had 220,000+ emails in my inbox. I also had 50,000+ emails in my trash folder. I couldn’t send or receive any emails. A big yellow caution sign covered my enterprise server, the joannaslan.com site.

So I decided to take out the trash (in the computer). I needed to hurry because I was catching a plane up to DC. From there I was flying to Seattle, Washington, for a family wedding. I hit the right buttons. Hit them again. Nothing happened.

In a panic I called Aaron.

As it happened, between the emails in my inbox and the emails in my trash, I’d used up ALL the available space on my computer. In fact, between the manuscripts on my laptop, the photos, the covers, and everything else, I’d used up 60% of my disk space. My emails ate the rest, the remaining 30%.

Fortunately, there was a fix. I could physically drop off my computer with Aaron, and he could install a bigger hard drive. A much, much bigger hard drive. So I did.

Now my computer is slicker than owl snot. (As if I’d know how slick owl snot is!) And faster than a speeding bullet. (Ditto.) Aaron kindly worked overtime to get the machine back to me. Between his efforts and the wedding and traveling, I took a semi-forced vacation from my laptop. Yesterday I actually floated around in my son’s pool for an hour. It was heaven, watching the clouds float overhead in a blue, blue sky. Here in Winter Park, Florida, the temperature soared into the 90s, and the water was perfect! I actually fell asleep while drifting in the plastic doughnut.

And you know what? Despite the hassle, and the cost, and the exasperation…I’m kinda/sorta glad this happened. I now have more storage space. I feel refreshed. I really needed to take a break from technology. My mind feels much clearer, and I’m ready to get back to work.

What did I learn from all this?

  • I’m recommitted to cleaning my email inbox more frequently–and immediately dumping the “trash.”
  • I’m going to be more pro-active about using external back-up drives. I’ll keep one up in DC at our business and one in Florida.
  • I’ll be putting more of my finished manuscripts in the cloud from now on as a way to keep things organized and to better manage storage.
  • I’ll always get the largest hard drive I can afford. When we bought this new laptop, it never occurred to us to see if we could get a bigger hard drive. This one is four times the size I had.
  • I’m so glad I keep a little notebook with all my passwords written down. Another computer guru, not Aaron, told me that he spends a lot of his time working with people who put all their passwords on their computer only to have a computer problem and lose all access.
  • I need to take a break from my computer once in a while. It’s positively addicting. I need to clear my thinking and detach.
  • I really appreciate Aaron. He’s a girl’s best friend when it comes to my computer. Everyone needs a computer whiz as a pal.

Oh… and Aaron still hates AOL.

• Posted in Blog • Tags: , , |  6 Comments

Why I’ve Changed My Thoughts about Recycling Glass


May 26, 2018

A friend who is in the waste management business gave me some tips about recycling. I was astonished to hear that glass is of very little value and might not even get recycled at all, even if you put it in the bin. That got me thinking about new ways I can use glass bottles. Maybe you’ll want to do the same?

Here’s a list of cool ideas: IDEAS

I’m constantly finding glass bottles on the beach. Here’s an example of how I reused a bottle I found.

 

Upcycled Glass Bottle

All it took was a bit of twine, a flat rock, a seashell and my trusty glue gun.

I’d like to encourage more of you to find interesting ways to reuse glass bottles. Toward that end, I’m giving away a bottle cutter.

Enter to win here http://gvwy.io/neeu0s3

Here’s the link to enter to win it: CUTTER   The contest ends May 31, 2018.

 

• Posted in Blog • |  1 Comment

Kiki Lowenstein and the Cheery, Cherry Blossoms — Comment to win your own cheery, cherry blossoms


March 21, 2018

Note from Joanna: On Friday, March 23, at midnight, I’ll choose one lucky commenter from this blog to win a cherry blossom set (mouse pad, drawer scent, pencil and postcard).

Anya sat slumped to the right as her fingers pranced over the keyboard. Her headphones looked weird, tilted as they were. I didn’t want to disturb her or scare her, so I called her name. She didn’t respond. I tried again, and then my eyes flickered to the screen. She was playing Forge of the Ages, and her character was negotiating for a necklace.

I glanced at my cell phone. The bus would be leaving in an hour and a half. Her suitcase was sitting empty on her bed. She needed to finish her packing.

“Anya?” I prompted her again, but this time I went to tap her shoulder. That’s when I noticed the lumps running down the side of her throat. At first, I thought I was dreaming. The knots that covered her typically smooth neck were as big as large jawbreakers. How could that be real?

“Honey? Anya? Let me see you, sweetie.” This time I did touch her shoulder, gently, interrupting her concentration. She startled. Her hands flew up.

“Mom! You scared me.” She yanked down the headphones in a motion suitable for pulling off earmuffs.

“Come here.” I took her by the shoulder and guided her to the window. Maybe those lumps had been a trick of the light. No, there they were. Knots positioned the length of her throat from under her jaw to her collarbone. If her blouse hadn’t been buttoned, I would have probably seen more on their way to her chest. I pressed the back of my hand to her forehead. She whined, “Mooo-ooom.”

I turned her so that she was facing away from me. Kissing the skin on the back of her neck, I realized she was burning up. “Stay right there. I’m getting the thermometer.”

Detweiler sat across from six-year-old Erik at the dining room table. Between them sat a series of dominoes and the empty tin case with the logo “Mexican Train.” My husband looked up. “I’ll be ready to take Anya to school in twenty minutes.”

One foot on the lowest step and my hand on the rail, I hesitated. “That might not be happening. She’s running a fever. There are lumps on her neck.”

“Sounds like mono.” He shook his head sadly. “Mononucleosis is extremely transmittable. Even if she gets on antibiotics today, she wouldn’t be clear in time for the school trip to DC.”

“I know it. Let me take her temperature and then we’ll figure out what to do next.”

#

“Totally unfair and crappy.” Anya rested her forehead against the door window while she sat in the passenger’s side of the car. “This was supposed to be the best cherry blossom display in years. We had reservations to take tea at the Willard. I can’t believe it! Are you sure we can’t tell the teacher that I’ve been on meds for two days? I feel fine, Mom. Really I do.”

Reaching over with my free hand, I rubbed her shoulder gently. “Wouldn’t that be nice? We could just lie to Mr. Harmann, eh? No one would need to know about your fever. When all your classmates get sick, you could just pretend that’s surprise. You could go on and visit DC. Oh, maybe you could avoid little old ladies and old men and babies and anyone with a compromised immune system. If you wore a mask, carrying Lysol, wore white gloves, and went to bed earlier than everyone else, who would notice? It wouldn’t hurt anyone, would it? I mean, if someone climbed into your bus seat after you, well, gosh that’s the problem with public transportation, isn’t it?”

With an angry harrumph of her shoulders, Anya refused to face me. I could guess what she was thinking, and it wasn’t very pleasant. I turned up the radio.

Five minutes later, she pointed at a pair of golden arches. “Could we at least stop at McDonald’s? One of those shamrock milk shakes would taste great.”

“Of course we can.” I dreaded walking into the house and admitting to everyone that Anya was staying home. She had saved and saved her money for a seat on the bus going to DC. Taking photos of the monuments and the cherry blossoms was a high priority on her bucket list. Not that it mattered. All her plans would have to wait. Fortunately, we had a bottle of aspirin, antibiotics, and a coloring book that we’d picked up at CVS to keep her occupied. Unfortunately, those items were no substitute for a trip to our nation’s capital.

Anya was pretty good that evening. She hadn’t been looking forward to the long ride, because the school had decided to let two drivers alternate shifts and keep driving all night long. I could imagine how tired the sophomores would be as they drove through Virginia. But the long ride would practically guarantee the civics students that they would arrive as the sun rose on the proud marble markers. The photos should be glorious, which was why the civics and arts class decided to take the trip together. They’d been watching weather reports nonstop since the last week of January.

For Anya, the trip would be a non-starter. She slept all night and didn’t wake up until 10 the next morning. When she remembered that she would have been spending this morning in DC, she groaned and pulled her pillow over her face.

“Tell us about DC and flowers,” I suggested as a way to help her focus on things that were cool. “Come on, sweetie. I want to know.” I plucked the pillow off her face.

She rolled her eyes “Today is the peak day, which means that 70% of them will be in bloom. It varies every year, according to the weather. The majority of the trees line the Tidal Basin, near the monuments to FDR, Martin Luther King, and the Jefferson Monument. It’s illegal to pick a blossom.”

“How did they get there?”

“Teddy Roosevelt decided the nation’s capital needed sprucing up, but nothing was done until Helen Taft, President Taft’s wife, saw the monochromatic nature of the city as an opportunity to get involved in diplomacy. We’d had an ongoing trade and immigration imbalance with Japan, but a few wealthy Japanese businessmen actively sought a way to thank our country. Cherry blossoms are highly prized in Japan, but the first shipment of trees was teeming with bugs and had to be destroyed.”

I shook my head. “Wow. Talk about a rocky start.”

“The mayor of Tokyo was very embarrassed. The next shipment was bug-free. Because the trees only live to be about 30 years old, the ones blooming today are offspring. The blossoms are white and pink. Thanks to the efforts of the National Park Service, today there are 3,750-some trees that flower each spring, but I won’t be able to see them!” With that, she dissolved into tears.

#

“Why is Anya so sad?” Erik asked. “Because she feels bad?”

I explained about the cherry blossoms. “They’re only in bloom a few days. She’ll miss them.”

Erik pulled out his iPad and scrolled through several pages. “Look, Mama-Kiki. We can make cherry blossoms. See? Here are the directions, CHERRY BLOSSOMS. s

I glanced at them. “One problem, buddy. We don’t have tissue paper.”

“You always say, ‘Be creative.’ We have to be creative, right?” His chocolate brown eyes challenged me to live up to my own motto.

“That’s right. Tell you what. I think we have coffee filters in the pantry. Let’s go see.”

I was right. We found a package of the white circles. I sent Erik to get his watercolors. We spent a happy hour or so, coloring flowers and leaves. Because we didn’t have filaments to use for stamens, we dipped yellow embroidery floss into Elmer’s glue and frayed one end. The colorful mix dried on a dish rack set upside down. An hour later, we cut out the blossoms and assembled the branches. We also found an app that would put cherry blossoms on Anya’s DESKTOP.  Then I discovered a 99 cent app that would create STICKERS.

While Erik finished arranging the branches, I made Anya a cherry milkshake. I put a handful of frozen cherries in the blender, added chocolate syrup, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and 8 ounces of milk. After blending it, I served it in a tall glass with a squirt of whipped cream on top.

Anya sat in her bed, sipping her milkshake and admiring the spray of cherry blossoms that Erik made for her. “Do you know what the cherry blossoms mean?” she asked her little brother.

“They mean spring is coming.”

“Yes, but they’re also a reminder to enjoy every day.” She put a dab of whipped cream on the tip of his nose. “Especially those days when I get to be with my brother.”

#

Have you ever seen the cherry blossoms? What does spring mean to you?

• Posted in Blog, Uncategorized • Tags: , , |  109 Comments
Site Designed & Maintained by Laideebug Digital
Laideebug Digital