Excerpt from Shotgun, Wedding, Bells (Kiki Lowenstein #11)

Excerpt from
SHOTGUN, WEDDING, BELLS
(Book #11 in the Kiki Lowenstein
Mystery Series)
By Joanna Campbell Slan
Chapter
1
Detective
Chandler Louis Detweiler took my hand and helped me up the last step of the
gazebo. Standing side-by-side, we faced the minister, our friend Lorraine. I
loved feeling of his shoulder against mine, strong and solid, a reminder of the
way we intended to live our lives.
          “Not
too bad for a wedding thrown together in forty-eight hours,” he whispered
in my ear.
He was
right. I hadn’t had much time to plan our wedding, although I had been planning
to marry Chad Detweiler ever since I met him nearly three years ago. I kept
telling myself that the ceremony was only a formality, but deep down, I wanted
to wear a wedding band again. And even if the marriage didn’t matter to us

Excerpt from Handmade, Holiday, Homicide

Book #10 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series

 
by Joanna Campbell Slan
 
 
 

 
People think that being pregnant is
all about your growing belly, but the truth is, it also messes with your head.
It’s like for every inch my waistband expands, I lose ten points of my IQ.
Maybe it’s because I don’t get much sleep anymore. My skin itches, the baby
pokes me with his feet, and the indigestion causes a burning in my throat.
Don’t even get me started on the hormones. Whatever the scientific reason for
my brain fog, I’m just not as sharp as usual.

My fianc

Kiki Lowenstein and the Penny Pincher (Part 3)

By Joanna Campbell Slan


Editor’s Note: In Parts 1 and 2, Kiki Lowenstein, owner of Time in a Bottle, has been teaching a two-session class called “The Double-Dip.” This week, her customers brought in one of their favorite dessert recipes, a photo of the dessert, and the recipe to use in an 8- by 8-inch cookbook album. There’s a bit of friction in the group because Iona Lippman and Lisa Ferguson both claim to make an outstanding red velvet cake

Kiki Lowenstein and the Bad Day (Final Installment)

Note: I asked my Facebook peeps to suggest starting sentences for a Kiki Lowenstein short story. There were so many terrific ideas that I have decided to try to incorporate more than one –and write a progressive short story. You’ll be reading this as I create it! Wish me luck!

Note: This short story comes before Ready, Scrap, Shoot—and Kiki is six weeks pregnant.

Summary: In last four weeks’ installments—Kiki walked into Time in the Bottle only to discover papers scattered everywhere. Detective Chad Detweiler arrived to pronounce the store”safe,” but Kiki’s still wondering what’s up. Her co-worker Margit has shown up and reminded Kiki that she needs a great idea for May to boost their sales. As she’s pondering what to do, Teresa Alvarez stops in to drop off a gift for Kiki. Teresa is planning to become a US citizen on May 5, but her joy is diminished because her cousin Juanita cannot afford the increased fees for citizenship applications. Seeking to change the subject, Kiki opens her present,which includes white chocolate tamales and several cascarones, the brightly colored eggs used to celebrate the arrival of Spring. When Juanita leaves, Kiki is still stuck with her original problem. She needs to create a special event and use up all the shredded paper found in the backroom. Plus, now she’s pondering how to raise money to help Teresa’s sister Juanita, who wants to apply for citizenship.

By the way, you can read Installments #1, 2, 3 and 4 by going to older posts on this blog.

Detweiler came by as I was leaving work. His dad had asked him to drive over to the farm because he needed help with his new computer, and of course, he was willing to go with my blessing. I stood there, hugging him, just looking into his eyes and wondering what he sees.*

My daughter Anya called to ask if she could spend the night at her grandmother’s house because she wanted to watch The Game of Thrones on Sheila’s big screen TV.

“That leaves you and me, girlfriend,” I told Gracie, my Great Dane.

Since he’s moved in, Detweiler has done most of the cooking, so I shouldn’t have been surprised to find that all we had in the refrigerator were six uncooked eggs, a potato, a few broccoli florets, and an onion.He’s such a fresh-freak that he buys whatever he’s cooking on his way to the house. I’m a last minute, if-it-slows-down-I’ll-eat-it, sort of girl.

Studying the eggs, I thought about the cascarones. After washing a craft knife, I opened one end of the shells and dumped the yolks and whites into a bowl. Next I rinsed the eggshells out and set them aside to dry in the Styrofoam egg carton.

Then I made myself a frittata and went to bed.

I ate the leftovers the next day for breakfast. I just knew that this day was going to be different; I could feel it in my heart! ** I still hadn’t conjured up a great idea for our store, but I was in a pretty good mood when Gracie and I arrived at Time in a Bottle. All that changed in the blink of an eye when I discovered yet another pile of shredded paper.

“Woof!” Gracie shot across the backroom floor, jerking her leash out of my hands.

“What on earth?” I ran after her, noting as I did that the entire floor was covered with torn papers.

“Woof! Woof!” She danced and pranced on her hind legs, pawing at the metal shelf units. From the top shelf, a gray head with bright brown eyes peered at us. A squirrel! And he was not happy we’d invaded his territory.

I went over to the desk in Dodie’s office and called Critter Control. Once I explained the problem,they promised to send a man over right away. “Do not engage the rodent, ma’am.Leave him to us.”

“You aren’t going to kill it, are you?” I rubbed my baby bump as tears prickled behind my eyes.Gosh, but hormones make me weepy.

The dispatcher assured me that they had a catch and release program.

After convincing Gracie that a dog yummy was a far, far better treat than raw squirrel on the run, I walked her to the front of the store and turned on my computer. Drat. Now I had more shredded paper to contend with, a bill coming for squirrel removal, and no idea how to entertain my scrapbookers.

So I piddled around on the Internet, deciding to look up the history of cascarones. There I learned that the idea is thought to have been brought from Asia by Marco Polo. The trinkets were filled with perfume and to have one broken over your head is supposed to be “good luck.” Typically these activities are enjoyed at Easter.

But every custom can be revised to fit the times, can’t it? I wondered to myself. By the time I let Barney, the Critter Control guy, into our backroom, I had the inkling of a plan.

#

“Wow! A Cinco de Mayo party! What a brilliant crop idea!” said Bonnie Gossage, my dear pal and sometimes legal counselor.

“Actually, this is the pre-party,” I admitted. “We’re going to fill the empty eggshells with homemade confetti.”

I’d enlisted the help of five of my best customers for this job. They sat next to me at my work table awaiting instructions. Over the past few weeks, I’d begged everyone to empty their eggs gently, rinse out the shells, and drop them off at the store in their egg cartons. Eventually I collected twenty-five dozen eggshells. Detweiler and I colored them at home and let them dry. I gathered a variety of punches and a stack of papers, the same papers that had once been damaged by the squirrel. (For cleanliness sake, I’d simply cut off the yucky parts,sprayed them with Lysol, and ta-da! Clean, fresh paper. Or so I hoped!)

Bonnie, Julie Essler, Angie Folger, Jennifer Moore, and Lisa Brunswick had agreed to help me punch the papers into bits of confetti. Once we had a nice pile of bits, we spooned the confetti into our eggs and passed them along to a card table where Anya and Nicci Moore, Jennifer’s daughter, smoothed and glued bits of tissue paper over the open ends.

Into ten of the eggs, I carefully inserted a lottery ticket. Into another ten, there were coupons for discounts and five received gift certificates.

All in all, the assembly took about three hours, probably because we were having so much fun.

“See you all tomorrow!”I said as I escorted my friends to the front door.

#

What a grand time we had the next night! Twenty-four customers paid $25 a person to come to our special crop. In exchange for their money, they received supplies for a “make and take” scrapbook project, and five cascarones each. They could purchase additional cascarones for a dollar each. I’d priced out the “make and take” projectsso that they wouldn’t cost a lot, but there are always expenses and overhead that must be considered, so I thought that giving a portion to Teresa was still fair.

Of course, the $25 fee also included a great meal! I made chocolate tamales for all our guests, Teresa brought two pots of her special Mexican rice, and Clancy made the fixings for tacos. For drinks, I bought margarita flavored Crystal Lite and iced tea. I ate until I thought my tummy would burst.

At the start of the crop, I had announced that half our proceeds would go to pay for Juanita’s citizenship application. An hour into the evening, we’d sold all the cascarones! We had more than enough for Juanita’s application, so I was able to announce that Time in a Bottle was also donating an additional $100 to Juanita to help with her expenses.

“But remember, everyone.You have to promise not to smash your egg until midnight,” I told them. Every hour that went by, the anticipation grew. My customers were eager to see if they’d won a gift certificate or a lottery ticket. I’ll admit it was almost as much fun as Christmas because each woman had a white bowl heaped high with the brightly colored eggshells.

I’d set six alarm clocks to go off at the stroke of midnight. Clang-clang-clang! What a clatter they made.

My customers began to giggle as they slapped their eggshells onto their own foreheads and later onto the heads of their neighbors.

Of course, Clancy and I got into the act, too. I slapped a blue egg against the crown of her head. Brightly colored confetti and a lottery ticket floated down.

“Woohooo!” she yelled. “My turn!”

And with great glee she smashed an egg against my head. To my shock, a cold gooey trickle slid down my forehead and dripped off my face.

“What?” I jumped up from my chair. “Clancy! How could you!”

She stuck her tongue out at me. “Got you back for that April Fool’s joke!”

Two dozen cameras clicked at once. My customers had been in on the prank!

Argh. But I had to laugh. This crop had started with a very, very bad day—and it was ending with a fun night. Egg-sactly what I’d hoped for!

–The End–

Thanks to: *Dru Ann Love and **Pamela Hargraves

Kiki Lowenstein and the Bad Day (Part IV)

Note:I asked my Facebook peeps to suggest starting sentences for a Kiki Lowenstein short story. There were so many terrific ideas that I have decided to try to incorporate more than one –andwrite a progressive short story. You’ll be reading this as I create it! Wish me luck!

Note:This short story comes before Ready, Scrap,Shoot—and Kiki is six weeks pregnant.

In last three weeks’ installments—Kiki walked into Time in theBottle only to discover papers scattered everywhere. Detective Chad Detweiler arrived to pronounce the store “safe,” but Kiki’s still wondering what’s up.Her co-worker Margit has shown up and reminded Kiki that she needs a great idea for May to boost their sales. As she’s pondering what to do, Teresa Alvarez stops in to drop off a gift for Kiki. Teresa is planning to become a US citizen on May 5, but her joyis diminished because her cousin Juanita cannot afford the increased fees for citizenship applications. Seeking to change the subject, Kiki opens her present.

By the way, you can read Installments #1, 2, and 3 by going to older posts on this blog.

I was stumped. I’d never heard of cascarones, and as I turned the delicate tissue paper coveredegg around and around in my hand, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Obviously, this gift required a bit of explanation. Pulling up a stool, I sat down. Teresa took another stool to sit beside me.

She gently took my toy away from me. “Each spring in my little town in Mexico, we start to save egg shells. As we cook, we only open one end, rather than crush them.”

With a finger,she traced the larger portion of the oval. Now that I was looking more carefully, I could see that it was covered with tissue paper and not solid. It was as if someone had done a repair job to the egg!

“I see,” I said, taking it from her and marveling at the patch job. “This certainly is pretty.If you put them in a glass bowl on a table, they would make a wonderful centerpiece.”

Si, and we do that. But we have another use for them.” Once again, she took the egg from me.

With a lightning strike, she smashed the egg into my forehead! I was so taken aback that I nearly fell off my stool. More shocking was the glitter and confetti that rained down over my nose! Of course, I’d anticipated a shower of gooey egg yolks and whites. This was dry. Ticklish. And startling.

“Oh!” I gasped.

She giggled. “Forgive me, but it’s the best way to explain. They are much fun. Especially so if you are not familiar with them. The children, they love them so much. But the grownups think they are fun, too.”

As the confetti drifted down over my hands and lap, I started laughing. “Well! Thank you for teaching me something new.”

After Teresa left, I went back to my work. When I took a bathroom break, I stuck my head into check on Margit. She didn’t hear me approach; she was muttering darkly as she stared at our sales figures. “Kiki, I do not know what we will do. We need a special event for May. And that paper! It is ruined, I think. With it goes our profits.”

As I lingered in the doorway, Clancy came in through the backdoor. She tilted her head to stareat me. “You’re covered in glitter.”

I explained about the cascarones.

“I wish I could have seen the expression on your face when Teresa smashed one on your head,”said Clancy.

I bit back a laugh. Clancy was irked with me. For April Fool’s Day, I had tricked her into believing someone had poured ink all over our cash register. She’d thrown a hissy fit in front of two customers—and once she learned it was a gag, she’d been even more angry. Usually, she’s a great sport, but she takes herself a bit too seriously sometimes, and this (IMHO) was one of them.

Margit shook her head. “Ja, that would have been funny.”

But she didn’t sound amused.

“What’s wrong?” Clancy asked.

That gave Margit permission to complain about the shredded paper, the need for more sales, and the state of the ozone. About halfway through, I walked away. In general, my philosophy is (as Mert says) that one can never have too many friends. * But when your friends are nothing but grumps, well, they can go soak their heads. I started for the refrigerator and then remembered that I could no longer turn to my most necessary scrapbook supply, a six-pack of Diet Dr Pepper. ** Now that I was pregnant, I’d sworn off any artificial sweeteners. I reminded myself that my friends were one of life’s greatest blessings. Why, just last week, it was cold, dark and pouring rain when I suddenly heard a “Pow!”as my worn rear tire exploded. Since the highway was deserted, I’d phoned Clancy and she’d come to my rescue.*** And the week before, I’d had a terrifying dream that the doctor told me I was having twins! **** When I told Margit how scary that was, she’d put an arm around me and given me a hug.

Soon I would be feeling my baby kick inside my swollen belly. ***** And this child would be born into a wonderful circle of friends.

But why did they all have to be so grumpy? How come it was always MY responsibility to come up with a way to make money for our store? But then I shook off my bad mood. After all, I had nothing to complain about, especially compared to Teresa’s sister, Juanita. Now being deported, THAT was a problem.

I sighed and sat down at my work table. There had to be a way I could fix everything. Okay, ALMOST everything. All I needed was to think…

TO BE CONTINUED…

Special thanks to– *Christy Egan, **Elizabeth B. Jensen, ***Lynn Tondro Bisset, ****Ginny Kiernan Dahlberg and *****Ellen McCaffrey

Kiki Lowenstein and the Bad Day (Part III)

Note: I asked my Facebookpeeps to suggest starting sentences for a Kiki Lowenstein short story. There were so many terrific ideas that I have decided to try to incorporate more than one –and write a progressive short story. You’ll be reading this as I create it! Wish me luck!

Note: This short story comes before Ready, Scrap,Shoot—and Kiki is six weeks pregnant.

In last two weeks’ installments—Kiki walked into Time in the Bottle only to discover papers scattered everywhere. Detective Chad Detweiler arrived to pronounce the store “safe,” but Kiki’s still wondering what’s up. Her co-worker Margit has shown up and reminded Kiki that she needs a great idea for a crop in May. As she’s pondering what to do, Teresa Alvarez stops in to drop off a gift for Kiki. Teresa is planning to become a US citizen on May 5.

“Yes, do open the gift,” said Teresa, but her smile faltered just a little. Her lovely brown eyes swam with tears. As always, she dressed simply in inexpensive jeans and a colorful knit blouse. But large gold hoops swayed in her ears and a silk flower caught her hair so thatit was pinned up over one ear. Her distinctive fragrance was vanilla, so warm and wholesome that I couldn’t help but breath deeply and enjoy it.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“It is nothing.”She brushed away my question with a tiny gesture of her hand.

As tempting as itwas to open the bag and dive right into the gift, I hesitated. “Come on,Teresa. What’s up? Come on over and sit down. Would you like a Coke?”

“A Diet Dr Pepper?”

I laughed, “You know that we stock those, although I’m envious because I’m drinking water these days. Have a seat at my work table.”

After we’d had asip of our drinks, I tried to steer us back to the topic at hand. “So what’s bothering you, Teresa? I know it’s been a long road to citizenship. You’re almost there, and we’re all very happy for you.”

Si, but my sister Juanita planned toapply with me, and she can’t. The cost of the application has gone up. So much!It is now $680! And if it is denied, she cannot get it back. Instead, she thinks she will only renew her green card. That will cost her $450 and those are almost never turned down. She says she cannot afford to gamble so much. Isay, but you could be sent back to Mexico! Yes, she says but if she goes, at least she will go take a little money with her to her family. Her husband has diabetes and has not worked in two years.”

I had no idea it cost even to apply for citizenship, so I sat there feeling stunned and sad. My own sister Amanda had recently re-entered my life. I counted her a great blessing. She and I had both grown up in the years we’d been semi-estranged. We realized that we’d harbored mistaken impressions of each other’s life. Of course, my mother had been particularly unhelpful in reuniting us.

I blinked and my mind flashed on a vision of my cute cop-of-a-boyfriend, Chad Detweiler.* I remembered something he’d said just two mornings ago, “I only have five socks here.** But knowing you, you’ll take that odd one and make something wonderful with it. That’s what I love about you, Kiki. You always make lemons into lemonade.”

“That’s me. Trouble follows me everywhere, so I’ve gotten a lot of practice at turning frowns into smile,” I’d said as I stood on tiptoe to kiss him. *** As I looked into his eyes, I could feel that he was just as in love with me as I was with him. ****

“Good old Mom. Even if it was a dark and stormy night, she’d find a way to be happy about it.***** These days, she’s a regular Suzy Sunshine,” my daughter Anya had chimed in and we all laughed.

“Yes, I do think I’m all that!” I’d yelled as I slammed the door and started my shower. ****** I could hear Chad and Anya giggling on the other side, and it pleased me to no end.

But a soft hiccup from Teresa brought me back to the here and now as she shed a few more tears. I patted her hand, a totally useless gesture, but what else could I do?

“And my sister? She is expecting. It makes me so sad because my children will not grow up with hers if she is sent back.”

Call me hormonal, because I am, but I burst into tears at that.

“You better open the bag,” she said as she wiped her face. “Because you need to cheer up. I did not mean to upset you, Kiki. Your little baby will suffer if you worry too much, my friend.”

“Okay.” I never needed much coaxing to tear open a present. This time I lifted one crumpled sheet of tissue paper after another out and set them carefully on my worktable. They formed a happy rainbow at my elbow. Near the bottom of the bag, I found a small tinfoil packet that I unwrapped carefully. Inside were a dozen white chocolate tamales. I squealed with delight. “Love these!”

“I know you do! There is more.” She clapped her hands together in shared delight.

I lifted out more crumpled pieces until I found a Styrofoam egg carton taped shut.

“Open it!” Teresa laughed.

I did. Inside where a dozen brightly colored eggs.

“Hard-boiled?” I asked.

“No! Cascarones!”

MORE TO COME and thanks to my co-authors–*ElizabethB. Jensen, **BetteJaker Barr, ***StephanieCraig, ****SuePayne, *****MarySchlumpf and ******VeraLynn

Kiki Lowenstein and the Bad Day (Part II)

Note: I asked my Facebook peeps to suggest starting sentences for a Kiki Lowenstein short story. There were so many terrific ideas that I have decided to try to incorporate more than one — and write a progressive short story. You’ll be reading this as I create it! Wish me luck!

Note: This short story comes before Ready, Scrap, Shoot—and Kiki is six weeks pregnant.

In last week’s installment—Kiki walked into Time in the Bottle only to discover papers scattered everywhere. Detective Chad Detweiler arrived to pronounce the store “safe,” but Kiki’s still wondering what’s up. Now her friend Margit has shown up for work.

Margit Eichen, my co-worker, blinked at me from behind her sparklingcats’ eye glasses and solemnly looked around at the strewn papers. “What a mess!”

“You’ve got that right,” I said as I ushered Gracie into her doggy play pen. “How about if you open and I’ll clean this up. I have a feeling some of these are ruined. If so, I need to know how badly.”

Margit nodded. “Maybe you can do something with the ruined pieces, ja?”

“Right,” I said, trying to maintain a positive attitude. Between saying prayers for my unborn child and listening to my snoring oversized dog, I haven’t been sleeping well lately. Even with a full eight hours of shut-eye, this situation would be perplexing. As tired as I felt, I really wasn’t prepared to take on this unexpected challenge. *

A few of the papers looked fine, but many had suspiciously shredded edges, almost as if they’d been ripped as they sat in their thin plastic bindings. I sorted the papers into two groups. Because our culprit had chosen to destroy rainbow packs, I stared down at a damaged and an undamaged pile of bright yellow, bright blue, bright red, bright orange and bright green papers.

Hmmm. I knew from experience that if I let my subconscious work on the problem, it would come up with a solution, so I turned my attention to a project that Margit had accepted for me: a customized baby album. Since the child’s gender was unknown, the parents had requested that I create the album in shades of yellow and white. Starting it would be easy. The hardest part about doing a baby’s scrapbook is where does one stop? With the birth? The baptism or naming ceremony? You had to draw a line somewhere!**

There was also another new custom project set aside for me to tackle. These photos screamed to be put on a layout. But what paper? What design? I’m usually creative, but this one stumped me. ***Riffling through the pictures, I saw one image after another of a wedding ceremony held deep in a forest. I thought to myself, “What a perfect setting for a wedding!”****  

But most of the wedding-themed papers we sell are white or cream and very formal–and that would overwhelm these pictures. This bride wore a simple tunic-like dress and a sheer veil pinned to her auburn hair with a wreath of flowers. Her groom’s shirt, jacket and slacks were white linen, while his tie repeated the greens and browns of the scenery. It got me thinking about my own wedding. Would Detweiler ever officially propose? I mean, we’d talked about getting married. But in my romantic heart, I was hoping for him to go down on bended knee and ask.

My face must have given away my longings, because when Margit walked past me on her way to the restroom, she said, “Too many thoughts, ja?”

“Ja,” I agreed and I started pacing. I looked over at Gracie in her playpen. Those expressive brown eyes begged for a dog biscuit, so I fed her one and shared with her my “to do” list.  “First things first. I need an idea for an upcoming crop.”

When she didn’t respond, I rubbed Gracie’s big head. “You know, girlfriend, for the first time in a very long time, everything is finally going right in my life, except that I worry about how Time in a Bottle will run while I’m on maternity leave.” *****

Of course that was many months away, so again, I forced myself to tackle things one at a time. We needed a crop idea for the first week in May. Something new. Everyone does May baskets and May Day celebrations. I want us to go boldly where no scrapbook store has gone before!

Right then the door minder rang, so I trotted out front to greet our customer. Teresa Alvarez gave me a huge one-armed hug as I approached her because in her other hand, she carried a big bright pink shopping bag. “I have a special gift for you,” she said shyly. Teresa’s family came here illegally, and we’ve been cheering her on as she navigates the tricky waters to citizenship. “This is to celebrate. On May 5, I become US citizen!”

“Hurrah!” I cheered. “But what’s in the bag? Is it for me? Really? Can I open it now?”

 MORE TO COME…

Thanks to: *Karen M. Rushton, **Barbara Tobey, ***De-Anne Trasker, ****Stella Carsten and *****Mary Patricia Kennedy

PS Stay informed and get involved. Join us on my Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/JoannaCampbellSlan

Why Kiki Lowenstein LOVES Diet Dr Pepper

Years ago I attended a lecture by a bestselling author. I hadn’t published a book yet, so I took copious notes and committed his every word to memory. One of his pearls of wisdom was this scintillating thought:

“Never align your character with a product you don’t like.”

He went on to explain that he’d created a protagonist who loved a certain brand of beer. “Not my favorite brand,” said the novelist. “I just randomly chose a brand. Pulled a name out of the hat.”

Lo and behold, everywhere this author traveled, fans brought him…beer. That non-favorite brand. Then they’d expect him to either 1.) drink it or 2.) be thrilled. Which got pretty old. Fast.

So when I was trying to flesh out my character of Kiki Lowenstein, I thought, “What do I love?”

Right at the top of the list was Diet Dr Pepper.

This can is ice cold. Yum.

So Kiki became a Diet Dr Pepper fanatic. (By the way, the word “fan” is actually short for “fanatic.”)

And guess what? Very, very often when I visit a city and do a signing, some kind soul will bring me…

A can of DIET DR PEPPER!!!!!

Yep.

And guess what? Very, very often I  happily drink it or squeal with joy. (Unless it’s warm. Then I take it home with me and put it in the ‘frig.)

Now you know why Kiki Lowenstein LOVES Diet Dr Pepper.

Because I do, too!