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

How to Make Your New Dad Love You

A special Father’s Day post by Jax, the Havanese puppy.

Being adorable is hard work. Time for a nap!

Even if that male human wasn’t entirely sold on getting a new dog–and a puppy at that–you can change his mind. Here’s how:

1. When you first meet, leap into your new human Dad’s arms and lick his face. Over and over.
2. Nibble on his ears while you wiggle with joy.
3. When you are in the car on that long ride home, refuse to sit on your new Mama’s lap. Crawl into Daddy’s lap instead.
4. Then fall asleep.
5. Wag your tail and look at Dad with adoring eyes when he speaks.
6. Go potty whenever he takes you outside.
7. Snuggle up to him at every opportunity.
8. When Mama puts you on the floor to play, run and find Daddy.

It’s just that simple! In no time at all, you’ll own his heart.

Okay, any tips from you for making your human parents crazy-in-love with you?

Writing a Book In A Week–Can It Be Done?

Twice a year, my friends at RWA put together an experience that they call “BIAW.” That’s short for Book In A Week.

Last time I participated, I wrote more than 22,000 words that week. My friend Beverly Bateman was the word-wrangler, and bless her heart, she kept cheering me on. After the first day, she emailed me to say, “Can you keep up this pace?”

I sure did.

We’re all different. Our goals vary. We’re motivated by different needs. I love competition. I like challenges. So for me, BIAW is a wonderful synergy of all my motivators.

Are you up to the challenge of writing a book in a week?

Here are some tips:

1. Start by doing your rough outline. I had a good summary going in. That meant that each day I knew what I intended to write. Very helpful.

2. Check out your physical environment and get it ready. As you might imagine, writing that many words is tough on your backside. I bought a special seat cushion for my office chair. No lie, at $20 it was a GREAT investment!

3. Work out your kinks offline. At the end of each day, I’d jot down notes about what was upcoming. All through the evening, I’d revisit those notes and make adjustments. The next morning before I sat down to work, I’d also do a bit of rearranging. That meant that my keyboard time was optimal.

4. Turn off the phone and Internet. It’s too easy to be distracted! A five-minute phone call can destroy twenty minutes of available writing time.

5. Set goals for yourself. I wanted to write 10,000 a day. Yup. Ambitious, right? But I’d read an article by a woman who’d done that, so I thought, “Hey, I can, too.” I didn’t hit that number, but having it in mind was helpful.

6. Track your progress. Seeing the numbers grow is an incredibly motivating experience.

7. Be accountable. I told Bev that I’d dedicate the book I was writing to her. And I will. Knowing that I had to report to her added a bit more oomph to my enthusiasm.

BIAW starts on September 22. I’ll report my word count to you each day. Let’s see how I do!

What are your best tips for writing faster?

Tools for Overcoming Writer's Block

Last night I posted 15 essays on writing at www.youpublish.com/joannaslan

These were originally monthly columns for an online magazine called “Graceful Bee,” but I’m now making them available for a short time for anyone who needs a gentle boost to get writing.

Although written for scrapbookers, the ideas and concepts could inspire any writer. Often, when I’m working on a book, I dig through my personal bag of experiences to find raw materials. I then take a situation that I observed or participated in and RESHAPE that situation as a scene in my books.

For example, in Cut, Crop & Die, Kiki Lowenstein has a nearly disasterous visit to a spa. She’s covered with a mud paste, wrapped in plastic, and left for the goo to do its work. As she lies there on a table, newly cut grass from an open window drifts in and sets off an allergic reaction. But, because she’s wrapped tighter than an Egyptian mummy, Kiki can’t move. She can’t get up and close the window. In fact, the more she wriggles, the more she slides on the table. Eventually she’s headed for scooting off the table and out the open window.

It happened to me.

I kid you not.

I was at the Heartland Spa in Illinois. I’d been “exfoliated” by a woman who must have had a second career polishing furniture. I was slathered in a mud skin product. The woman left me there to complete the skin treatment, and outside a man started mowing the lawn. I cried for help but no one came. I started a slow slide–the table was slanted with my feet lower than my head–and I was aiming for that open window.

I won’t tell you how the situation resolved itself, but I will reiterate my point: recycle your life experiences. If you don’t have enough of them, well, maybe you are too busy playing it safe to have a cool life!