Meet Diane Weiner


August 15, 2017

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.

 

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


August 14, 2017

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.

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Kiki Lowenstein and the Watermelon Festival, Part II


August 10, 2017

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

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?)

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Contest Winners


August 4, 2017

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–

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

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Six Tips to Improve Your Coloring


July 30, 2017

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 colored 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.

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