An Invitation to Meet Me in St. Louis!

On Thursday, September 25, 2014, from 6 to 9 p.m., I’ll be hosting a special celebration in St. Louis–and you’re invited!

Who: Joanna and her friends

What: A book signing party with book swag and refreshments

When: From 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014

Where: The Jane Allen Recital Hall in the Steinway Piano Gallery, 12033 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights, MO 63043

How: Main Street Books of St. Charles will be on hand to sell books. 

Here’s a list of my author friends who’ll be attending:

Eileen Dreyer

Claudia Shelton

Lynn Cahoon

Michelle Sharp

Sharon Hopkins

Judge Bill Hopkins

Ellen Parker

Gena Ellis

Kelly Cochran

Candace Carrabus

Remember–signed books make great holiday gifts. You can mail them at the discounted media rate.

I hope to see you there!

Monday's the Last Day to Get INK, RED, DEAD Absolutely Free!

An excerpt from Ink, Red, Dead, newly revised and expanded, by Joanna Campbell Slan. (Grab it before the price goes up to $9.99! Go to )

need a Diet Dr Pepper?” asked Dodie as she set one at my elbow.

          “You read my mind,” I said.

          “Whatever it is that’s bothering you,
Sunshine, you’ll feel better about it when you’ve gotten more rest. Things
always look their worst when you’re tired.” Her large hand patted my shoulder
as she scooted a cold aluminum can my way. I took the cold Diet Dr Pepper and
then realized, this behavior was totally out of character for Dodie.

          “Sheila called you.”

          “Yes, she did.” My boss didn’t even
have the good grace to look embarrassed.

          “That’s not fair!”

          “She was worried about you.”

          “I bet.”

          “You ran over her neighbor’s mailbox,”
said Dodie. “And you kept on going.”

          “I wondered what that
bumpity-bump-bump-bump noise was.”

          “Now you know. That was the sound of a
once sturdy four-by-four being dragged along a city street. In Ladue.”

          “Argh,” I groaned and rested my
forehead on my arms again. “That’ll be an expensive fix.”

          “Not really. Robbie and the neighbor
discussed the damage. Seems that the neighbor has wanted to put up a brick
mailbox stand for years. Robbie offered to help. You’re in the clear,

          “Argh,” I groaned again, but the Diet
Dr Pepper was definitely lifting my spirits. “Dodie, do you think there’s only
one person in the world for each of us? A soul mate? Just one?”

          She fiddled with her Coke can. “That’s
what I tell Horace. That he’s my one and only.”

          “So you do believe it.”

          “No, but I’m a good liar. Especially
when it counts. There’s no reason for Horace to think he’s replaceable. He’s
not. And I’m not about to go looking. But do I really believe there’s only one
person for each of us? No. There are millions upon millions of people in this
world. I think you could love and live with at least a handful.”

          I wiped my eyes and took a big drink
of my Dr Pepper. “A handful.”

          “At least. Now get to work. I’m not
paying you to sit around and wax philosophical.”

          She’d almost made it back to the stock
room when I called out, “Dodie? Thank you.”

          “It’s okay, Sunshine. My therapist’s
license never came through. The advice I gave you is worth exactly what you
paid for it.”


Jack the Ripper in St Louis — and a Contest!

Note: “Fedora Amis” is a long-time friend of mine. I read Jack the Ripper in St. Louis a while back and loved it! You will, too. Here we learn about Fedora and her love for all things old and cool! — Joanna

 By Fedora Amis

Ads from the past…

Call me strange, but I like to read newspaper
advertisements–from 1897.  For a mere three cents, I can paper shop to my
heart’s content.  A fine pair of Storm Queen winter boots cost
$1.37.  I could buy a living room sofa for $7.75 or have my hernia
repaired for under $20.
With no Truth in Advertising laws,  companies offered
miracle products. One boasted it would cure a cold in a single day.  Dr.
Dromgule’s Female Bitters promised to cure any and every female complaint.
These nostrums didn’t really cure anything, but the consumer would feel better
after taking a big swig. Most contained equal amounts of molasses, water and

Fedora Amis loves reading and writing about the past.

Recipes for cosmetics…

Before Revlon and Maybelline, ladies had to make their own
cosmetics. Here are two recipes–which I beg you never to use.

     For women’s hair: Was no oftener
than every three weeks using egg yolk and cold water.

     For men’s baldness: Rub scalp with
parafin. Stay away from fire.

     For the lady’s  face: Wash face seldom, and then with milk or salad
oil.  Sleep with cloth soaked
in strong lead lotion laid across the nose.   

     Thank heavens we now know that
lead collects in the body.  Lead poisoning leads to pain, confusion,
headache, seizures, coma and death. Suffering for beauty may be one thing–but
this is definitely going too far.

Dangers lurked…

With no pure food or drug laws, candy makers used arsenic
to color their confections green Morphine was the key ingredient used to calm
tots in Winslow’s Baby Syrup and Kopp’s Baby Friend. I’ll bet it worked wonders
on fussy babies–and opened many to lives of addiction. Drugstores sold
paregoric and other opiates over the counter–as they did a variety of poisons.

The late Victorian era was a time when the earliest child
labor laws reduced the working day for children under twelve years of age to a
mere 10 hours a day. Smoke from coal-fired factories so blackened the air
that buildings near the riverfront had to use artificial light at high noon
even on a sunny day.  Local streets were flowing or rutted mud for
three-fourths of every year. Shopgirls made 6 cents an hour. Trousers
were called “unwhisperables.” Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Battle Creek,
Michigan, invented cornflakes in 1896 because he believed that a bland diet
would reduce unhealthy sexual desire. 
I revel in the delicious irony of those times. Atlanta
druggist John Pemberton cooked up a blend of cocaine and Kola nut in 1886. He
called it the great National Temperance Drink. Substitute addiction to cocaine
for addiction to liquor–what a concept! That’s why I love to read old

I like nothing better than to discover odd bits of pop
culture from the 19th century and to use them in writing my humorous Victorian


Amis,” author of Jack the Ripper in St. Louis, is the winner of the Mayhaven
Award for fiction, now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine

Fedora’s website at and follow her on Facebook at

Also online is a new interview


Fedora has kindly agreed to give away one copy of Jack the Ripper in St. Louis to a lucky commenter. Add your comment and we’ll choose a winner! 


You have until Sunday, September 8 at midnight to make a comment. We’ll choose one lucky commenter at random. The winner will be announced on Monday, September 9.

How to Talk Like They Do in the Lou

Last week I took my niece Lexie, my sister Jane, and Lexie’s son Skyler to lunch down in Florida. Since Skyler is only two, the nice greeter at Chili’s gave him the kid’s menu and a couple of crayons. I helped a little with the coloring, and then Skyler turned over the menu and there it was…the St. Louis Arch.

That’s a photo I took of the Arch this summer looking straight up at it. It’s an amazing piece of sculpture. In one way, it’s like the pyramids in Egypt. You have no idea how big they are until you get right up next to them. The Arch is huge, the stainless steel panels are huge, and the way it soars up in the sky is breath-taking.

Of all the emblems of Mound City (a nickname for St. Louis), that’s probably the most iconic.

I miss St. Louis now and again. I miss my neighbor Kathy and her husband, John, and their dog Bogey. I miss the colors of fall there. I miss knowing where everything was, and oh, a dozen small conveniences like Dierbergs and Annie Gunn’s and having a Target right around the corner. For the most part, Northern Virginia feels like home now. It’s funny that it only took me a year to be able to travel ANYWHERE confidently without the GPS. Today I dropped David off at the Amtrak Station in downtown DC and realized, “Hey, I know where I am!”

So if you get the chance to visit St. Louis, by all means go. Here’s an article I wrote for AOL that will help you talk like a native.

Be sure to take the time to visit the Arch. It’s just magnificent. You’ll want to go underneath where the museum is and see the film on how the Arch was made. A friend who was living in St. Louis at the time told me that the two sides were not going to meet, but somehow they obviously worked that out.

There’s a lesson there, I think. Even when stuff doesn’t look like it’s going to work out, don’t give up too easily. I know that my husband is the most tenacious person I’ve ever met. A lot of times, I’ll think, “This is the end of the road.” But David will just keep on keeping on. And you know, he usually gets what he wants.

I hope I can emulate that quality more and more as life goes on.

This photo gives you an idea of the scale of the Arch. At night, the ambient light bounces off it, making a watery swirl of colors, a sort of metallic reflection of the water in the Mississippi River. And of course, the Arch is on the banks of the Mississippi, so that’s very fitting.

Bits and Pieces for Friday

Here’s a round-up of information, ideas, quotes and trends you’ll want to explore:

1. Trade Paperbacks Surge in Popularity

A mass market paperback is one of those smaller paperbacks like you buy in a drugstore. A trade paperback is larger, maybe 5 x 7 inches or 6 x 8, inches and it’s almost a cross between a paperback book and a hardcover. Hardcovers are very pricey, except that many discount big box stores like Kmart and Target discount them heavily. Booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble and Borders and Books-a-Million also discount them. To me, the biggest problem is weight. Yeah, with the cost of additional luggage constantly rising, a hardback book–although that’s my preference for the joy of the experience and for the longevity of the product itself–is too darn heavy to cart around.

2. E. Desmond Lee, St. Louis Philanthropist, Dies

I can’t begin to list all the ways that Des Lee influenced St. Louis with his generosity. His name appears all over town on buildings and in hallways. I remember when my husband David first met him. Des Lee wanted to know all about my husband, which I think was probably a clue as to why Des was such a treasure: Despite his own illustrious career and his business success, he genuinely cared about others.

3. This from a New York Times article, a quotation about whether there’s any merit to being private (as opposited to using to Twitter to record one’s every waking moment) attributed to the poet C.K. Williams–

More and more lately, as, not even minding the slippages yet, the aches and sad softenings, I settle into my other years, I notice how many of what I once thought were evidences of repression, sexual or otherwise, now seem, in other people anyway, to be varieties of dignity, withholding, tact.

In other words…maybe conducting your person business over a cell phone in a crowded public place is NOT the height of cool, folks.

Gooey Butter Cake

Dawn Blankenship shares her Grandmother Ormsby’s recipe for Gooey Butter Cake, a St. Louis specialty:

Set oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13×9 inch pan.

Combine: 1 stick melted butter or oleo
1 egg
1 box yellow cake mix

Press this mixture in the pan until it covers the bottom and sides well.

Combine: 1 lb. powdered sugar
1 8 oz cream cheese (no light)
2 eggs

Beat this mixture well then pour on the first mixture in the pan.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. It should be light brown. It may be served while warm or cold. It may be baked and stored in the freezer for use later.