Blog - Joanna Campbell Slan

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Paperbag Tangling

Possibly my favorite surface for tangling is … a brown paper bag. I don’t know why I love it so much. Maybe because the size challenges me. Or the contrast of colors. But I always enjoy tangling on a paper bag. I used a thin Sharpie for this, plus a Gellyroll white ink pen. Which design is your favorite? Click on the image to enlarge it.

Excerpt from Law, Fully, Dead

Here’s an excerpt from Law, Fully, Dead: Book #15 in the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series Clancy’s husband has been in a bad auto accident, and he’s in the hospital in a coma:
“I see. How long has it been since your divorce?” Dr. Patel was incredibly gentle. I appreciated his soft way of asking questions without intimidating Clancy. She’d already had one bad blow, and another would unleash a new rainstorm of tears. Patel needed this information and he was smart enough to recognize that coaxing her along was the best way to get what he wanted.
“We separated two and a half, no, three years ago. We didn’t make the divorced final until two weeks ago.”
I fought to control my expression. Two weeks? I’d thought she’d signed the papers at least a year ago. What had taken her so long? A mental dope slap provided the answer: she’d hoped for a reconciliation. After all, Lawrence had come back to her and he’d indicated to her that he wasn’t happy with Bambi. We called him her ex-husband, but really, he hadn’t been. Until two weeks ago, he’d been her lawfully wedded spouse. What a shocker!
“And you were married for…” he let his voice trail off.
“Twenty-five years.”
Patel nodded. “A long time. You raised two children together, right?”
“Yes.” Clancy’s face was a blank. “But he also has another child. One with Bambi.”
“Excuse me?” Patel’s face scrunched up. He thought he’d misunderstood Clancy. “Bambi?” he repeated.
“Ain’t it a shame?” I said sarcastically. “Her name is Bambi. Hard to believe, isn’t it?”
For a heartbeat, I thought Patel would bust up laughing. He pulled his lips in, like an old codger who’s forgot his dentures. His expression went through a variety of permutations until finally he was back in control. “Bambi,” he said. “Like the deer?”
“That’s right. Are you a Disney fan?” I asked.
“Not in the least,” he said. “But my nieces and nephews love those movies so I keep a supply of them at my house. For their visits.”
Slapping the surface of the conference table with his open palm, Patel came to a conclusion. “All right. I’ll get the papers together so you can sign for him to have the MRI, Mrs. Whitehead. Wait right here.”
And we would have, but the door to the family conference room flew open and in walked Dumb-Doe.
“I demand to see my husband,” said Bambi, focusing on Dr. Patel as he had gotten to his feet. Her false eyelashes fluttered like enormous moths stuck to her eyelids. “You the doc? I’m the wife. I don’t want anything extra-terrestrial done to Lawrence.”
To Be Continued…pre-order your copy today!

Jo Knows How to Tangle: Lesson #2

Today we’re going to learn a new pattern, one that’s a favorite of mine–PokeLeaf. Typically Zentangle patterns are not representative, that means they aren’t an attempt to copy something that you might find in RL (Real Life). PokeLeaf is a bit of an exception because it’s obviously…wait for it…a leaf!

Introducing PokeLeaf–

You begin by drawing a skinny stick or finger:

Continue reading “Jo Knows How to Tangle: Lesson #2”

Jo Knows How to Tangle: Zentangle Lesson #1

By Joanna Campbell Slan

FYI–I participate in an Amazon affiliates program. The links in this article put small change in my pocket.  I only recomment items I use and like. By clicking on the links and making a purchase, you’re helping to buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Just sayin’!


Now we’re going to actually start tangling! We’ll start with setting up your tile to do Zentangle. Essentially, you will use your pencil to lightly make a frame on the inside of your tile. You will probably draw over this pencil line, but…that doesn’t matter. It’s just there to give you a sense of where your drawing should go.

So start like this…

Step #1–Using your pencil, draw a dot in each of the four corners in the tile. They don’t have to be big or perfect. They’re just placeholders.

Step #2–Using your pencil, connect the dots to make a frame. This does not have to be perfect–or even–or square. It’s just to help you center your work.

Step #3–Using your pencil, draw an X inside the frame. This X is called a “string.” In Zentangle, a string is like your skeleton. It supports the drawing. Rick Roberts came up with the idea of a “string” because his grandmother used to make rock candy. Have you seen that? You dip a string into sugar water and allow the sugar to crystalize on the string. In that same way, the string is a scaffold for your drawing. It divides the larger space into many smaller ones.

It also ruins your tile.

Gulp. Say what?

Most of us get intimidated by blank sheets of paper. We worry too much about making mistakes. By drawing a sloppy X in pencil on your tile, you have ruined it. (Of course, you have NOT ruined it, but it’s no longer pristine, is it?) And that frees you to be creative. What is creativity except the license to make mistakes?

Now we have “prepped” our tile for Zentangle. Next we will fill each of those four quadrants made by the X with a tangle (a pattern). This is what our final effort should look like — Your results may vary!–

About Zentangle patterns: These are incorrectly called “tangles” but I do a lot of stuff incorrectly, so that’s that. Tangles are to Zentangle tiles like words are to a sentence. The more words you know, the better you can express yourself. Don’t fret about memorizing them. You’ll later use your tiles as references. Don’t worry about making each motion perfect.

Instead…sink into the process. My son used to have this book about a pig that sank into the soft squishy mud. Your goal is to let yourself sink into this process. Don’t hurry. Don’t fret. Just BE in the moment. Take your time. Enjoy the process.

So what we’ll do next is teach you four “vocabulary” words. We’re going to start with “Printemps.” All Zentangle designs have a name. Some of the names are inconsistent. (More about that later.) “Printemps” is French for “spring,” and you’ll see why as I teach you to make this tangle. Essentially you are going to draw a coil shaped like a snail’s shell.

Go here to see the lesson:

Here’s the practice set of Printemps I did on a scrap piece of paper:

Okay, the Zentangle folks don’t really suggest practicing, but I do. I like working on a tangle, going over and over it, often in pencil until I feel like I’ve mastered it. So this week, I urge you to draw Printemps on…EVERYTHING. And I’ll see you here next week.

Jo Knows How to Tangle: An Online Zentangle Course


By Joanna Campbell Slan

FYI–I participate in an Amazon affiliates program. The links in this article put small change in my pocket.  I only recomment items I use and like. By clicking on the links and making a purchase, you’re helping to buy me a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Just sayin’!


What is Zentangle? I define it as an art form and a type of meditation. The tangles (patterns) are able to be repeated, and thus, it is not aimless. Instead, the zen comes from the focus on your pen strokes. It’s the brainchild of Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. (And the term is copyrighted, but I can’t get my blog to cooperate and make a “c” in circle.)

Who can Zentangle? If you can write your name, you can do Zentangle.

What special equipment is necessary? At the most basic level, you need something to draw/mark with and something to draw/mark on.

What do I need for this class?

  • Pencil
  • Pen
  • Paper (If possible, mark off a 3.5-by-3.5-inch square with your pen. Better yet, cut that square out.)

Really? Yup. However, if you want to get technical, here’s the deluxe version of the supplies:

  • #2 pencil (soft lead)
  • Sakura Ink Pen–I like the Micron 01 but I love the Micron .05 — Since you are just starting, I recommend this pack because it has a variety of sizes in it. You’re sure to find a size you like:
  • A tile — a piece of high-quality paper approximately 3.5″ by 3.5″ — I suggest these: These are NOT Zentangle quality tiles. However, they are the right size, and you get a lot of them for the money. Plus, you can use both sides of them. Regulation Zentangle tiles ( are more expensive, a higher quality of paper (so there’s less “bleed” with the ink), used on one side only, and have the official Zentangle info on the back.

At this point, you’re probably thinking…why? Why a square of paper? There are at least three reasons: 1.) You should be able to finish a tile in 30 minutes to an hour. The size keeps the project manageable. 2.) You can rotate that square as you tangle, and that’s very helpful. Most of us “draw” better when we are drawing on paper in the same position as when we were taught to write. By rotating the paper, you get a more consistent stroke. 3.) Tiles are easy to carry around so you can tangle anywhere and anytime.

And you’re also wondering…what about an eraser? Well, part of the Zentangle philosophy is that there are no mistakes, just creative opportunities. It’s like life. You can’t go back and erase the past. (Personally, I use an eraser. I cheat. As far as I’m concerned when I’m crafting I need all the help I can get.)

You might also wonder…what about colors? It’s a bit like Coke Classic and Diet Coke. Classic Zentangle is done in black or sepia ink on white or cream tiles. But I think a little color is fun! So if the spirit moves you, color!

And what do I do with these, um, tiles when I’m done? You could wallpaper your bathroom or…anything you want! I like to save my tiles two ways: 1.) in a ring binder with plastic sheets that have pockets in them and 2.) bound together by a ring or ribbon or string. (I’ll show you both of these options later on.)

But right now, I’m assuming you don’t have any tiles. So let’s get started.

Okay…Ready to go?



Seeing Things Through…A Key to Creative Success

A reader recently asked to join my blog.

I’m not sure that I have one. I used to blog all the time at several sites, but I’ve never really dedicated myself to an ongoing blog here on my own website. And perhaps I should.

My first impulse is to say I have nothing to blog about. But that’s not true. So I’ll dispense with that falsehood right away. No matter what is happening in the world around me (i.e., Coronavirus), I always maintain an active creative life. Otherwise I’d go nuts. Bonkers. Completely whack-a-doodle. So here’s what that means right now–and I’ll start with something simple:

The Great Banana Bread Fiasco Continue reading “Seeing Things Through…A Key to Creative Success”

A New Leaf — A She Shed to Combat the Winter Blues

Every year, challenges those of us who think “small” to take one of their kits and make it our own. This year’s kit was the “Serenity Shed.” Since I hate winter and being cold, I decided to make a place that I could mentally crawl into. A comfy spot full of plants, books, and lovely things. You can check out what I did by going to my Pinterest account


Boo to You, Too — A Halloween Scene in Miniature

For weeks now, I’ve been working on this Halloween scene. Let me walk you through it:

  1. The body of the bat is an empty plastic jug that contained protein powder.
  2. The head is two plastic cups, tin foil, card, and paper clay. The teeth are wire, covered with paper clay. The eyes are plastic, painted with nail polish.
  3. The wings are poster board, jointed with brads, highlighted with glitter glue.
  4. The image of the moon is painted plastic. A small bat is flying past. There are lights that light up the moon and the bat’s eyes.
  5. The platform was built up from layers of styrofoam and gatorboard. The flooring is a copied image. Under the base are pieces of egg carton that have been painted to look like stones.
  6. See?
  7. The window is layers of card, covered with wood filler.
  8. The witch was sculpted from paper clay (head) and polymer clay (hands and boots that don’t show). I made her, of course. Her broom is grass from the nearby landscapes and a twig. Her hat is posterboard.  Her hair is wool.
  9. The ghost was sculpted from polymer clay. The pot he’s in is quilled paper.
  10. My daughter-in-law Chelsea made the lamp. Isn’t it cute?
  11. The bookshelf was leftover from another project.
  12. See?
  13. The hanging cage has a polymer clay raven, and it’s attached to a plastic bone arm. The cage is made from crochet thread.
  14. I made the chair from a fat quarter of fabric. The rug is crocheted yarn wound in circles. The ottoman is cardstock and a button. The mushrooms are clay (they are green and purple).
  15. The planter was a cap, but I wound it around and around with colored string.

I hope you’ll consider voting for my project. You can vote as often as you want from now until Oct. 31, 2019.

Here’s the link for voting…


How to Turn a Box into a Dollhouse–Step by Step

A Quick Tutorial by Joanna Campbell Slan

Remember all those Christmases past when your kid had as much fun (or more) playing with the empty boxes after opening gifts? I felt like that this weekend.

My son and his wife sent me a lovely bouquet of flowers from a company called Farmgirl Flowers. Not only was the bouquet lovely, but it also included peonies, which are my favorite flowers ever. The stems were carefully packaged, wrapped in burlap, tied with a ribbon, and stuck inside a plastic baggie with a wet piece of foam. Around the whole gift was waxed paper with a pink cord. Inside was a cute tag with the logo “Coast to Coast” on it. Also, several cards with information about keeping the flowers fresh. Most intriguing for me was an invitation to re-use the burlap. Turns out, it’s biodegradable.


I could do better than that.


I decided the box was perfectly sized for a two-story dollhouse.


I began by measuring up 9″ from the bottom and making a second floor.

Using my gun glue, I added a piece of cardstock for stability. Then I cut a hole in a piece of foam core poster board, and dug out a channel with my craft knife.


I threaded a cheap set of LED coin-battery lights through a hole in the back wall. (You can buy these in packages from Amazon for less than a buck each.) I hot-glued the battery pack to the back of my box. From there I nestled the cord with the lights in the channel in the foam poster board and pulled them down and out through the hole. I just let them dangle, free. Then I hot-glued the poster board channel side up (toward the cardstock) to the cardstock that I’d glued 9” from the bottom floor. That way the string of lights was concealed, but they came out through the hole in the white “ceiling.”   I did the same at the top of the box. Now I had one LED light strand on the top floor (18” from the bottom) and another in the ceiling of the first floor (9” from the bottom).


Next I chose wallpaper and flooring. Scrapbook paper worked nicely. I mounted it on posterboard pieces and hot-glued those inside, againt the corrugated cardboard walls, because putting a thin paper straight on the corrugated cardboard would have made ridges in the walls. Then came flooring. The top floor was a piece of gray scrapbook paper marked in squares. The bottom floor was a color copy of a piece of white marble. As you can see, unfortunately, there’s a crease in the bottom floor, but I’ll work that out later.


I was ready to decorate! I’d already made a bed from a box. Yup. All furniture is essentially a box or one sort or another. You might have seen the bed before in another project. The headboard is that rounded tab that’s perforated in a box of tissues. (You remove it to get at the tissues.) I’d added trim (a piece of string) around the upper edge and painted the whole thing white. The rolled pillow is a tampon. (Unused, of course!) The pink chair was made with bits of wood and card.

The black vase of flowers at the far left started as a plastic cap. I added ribbon trim and fake plants. WALL ART/FIBRE ART

I tied strands of the pink cord and the burlap on a stick (grabbed from my yard) and wove it together before gluing on seashells.


The lampshade in the bedroom is a clear plastic cup covered with washi tape and trimmed in eyelet. First I cut a hole in the center bottom of the cup. Then I pulled those dangling LED lights through the hole. I wrapped the strand of lights into a bundle and glued them back into the cup with hot glue. That’s how I did the lights in the living room, too. That overhead light is another clear plastic cup. This one has more washi tape (A Dollar Store purchase) around it and added a ribbon trim. The see-through plastic cups make good fixtures when hot-glued to the ceilings.


The mirror is the plastic lid to a cup, a small round mirror, trimmed with plastic twine, and painted black. Then I added a flower punched from cardstock and painted pinks and white.


The first floor fireplace took the most time. I used a Dollar Store picture frame cut down and glued to a small piece of wood. I added a piece of wood to the top to make a mantel. I trimmed the mantel and the bottom of each side of the fireplace surround with plastic twine. Then I painted the whole thing with gesso. While it was drying, I cut pressed paper egg carton pieces into “bricks.” I glued these on a piece of matt board. I painted them brick-like colors.


When the fireplace was dry, I painted it a yellowish-brownish- gray. I used a Sharpie marker around the trim to give it a bit of black definition. I glued the back piece (with fake egg carton bricks) to the fireplace and added a small twig from another trip to my yard.


On top of the mantel is part of the Flowergirl packaging, cut from the tag. It says, “We deliver Coast to Coast.” I cut out the words, rounded the corners, and backed it with an old coaster (pressed paper) from a restaurant visit.


The sofa is made from a gray cotton napkin, one of a four-pack set I bought from Olde Time Pottery. Basically I wrapped and glued the fabric around two pieces of heavy cardstock topped with padding. A piece of cardstock shaped in an open box is the bottom piece around which gray material is glued for a “skirt.” The flat back side of the sofa is a piece of cereal box cut to size and covered. The padding on the cushions is the gray padding that kept the stems of my bouquet wet.


On the floor is a piece of burlap.


I’d still like to add more art and maybe a bookcase to the first floor, but for just working on this one weekend, I think it’s pretty cute. What do you think?

When a Man Comes to the Door with Pizza …Excerpt from Second Chance at Faith

In Second Chance at Faith: Book #4 in the Second Chance Series, Cara’s friends all tell her that she needs to “get out there” to find a guy. Honora even goes so far as to say, “A man isn’t going to come to the door, Cara.”

But maybe Honora is wrong…


When the driver got closer, I could see he was tall and lean. His long legs made short work of the trip from the driveway to my door. He wore a jacket with a gray hoodie pulled up over his head, keeping his face a mystery. His jeans were clean, with a worn spot over one knee, and his tee fit him well—really well – stretching over nicely developed pectoral muscles. I opened my door just as he shook off the hood and revealed a pair of soft gray eyes. The driver gave me a friendly, lopsided smile. Gosh, was he ever cute!

“Delivery for Delgatto.”

His voice was warm and rich, like a glass of Malbec. I reached for the pizza as a crack of thunder rocked my world. Gerard howled in distress. Jack slipped past my legs and took off like a ball shot out of a cannon.

“Jack! Get back here!” I practically tossed the pizza box onto my kitchen counter. “Jack!” I yelled, focusing on a flicker of white, which I presumed to be Jack’s tail. It bounced toward the bushes that bordered my garage. Pushing past the delivery guy, I sprinted into the night.

“Jack!” I screamed while thunder boomed in the distance.

Normally that’s enough to bring him running.

Not tonight.

He was spooked by the weather. As a rescue who’d been tossed from a moving pickup truck, Jack has little reason to trust people. When I first got him, Pete had explained that the little dog’s default behavior would always be to flee when scared. I mentally kicked myself for letting Jack get out. I should have closed him up in my bedroom before opening the front door.

“Jack? Jack?” I stumbled around in the dark, moving steadily in the direction where Jack had disappeared. The gravel driveway was wet and slick under my feet.

The delivery guy appeared out of nowhere. He waved a utility flashlight with a honking huge lightbulb. “This might help.”

What irony! The day I arrived in South Central Florida, Skye had come to my rescue with a similar flashlight. That fateful event marked the beginning of our friendship.

The pizza guy noticed my reaction. “I’ve been told that flashlights are to Floridians like snow shovels are to Minnesotans. A staple of every household.”

“Could you shine it toward the bushes? I think Jack’s in there.”

He trained the cone of light on the thick foliage. “By the way, I’m Dan,” said the driver with a nod. “I take it your dog’s a rescue?”

“I’m Cara. Yes. I saw him getting thrown out of a truck.”

“Poor little guy. Probably looking for shelter. Who knows what rotten stuff happened to him in his short little life?”

I agreed.

Dan did a slow sweep of the bushes with the flashlight. “Nothing there. Wait! I think I see a flash of white in those crotons.”

“Jack hates thunder. He’s probably huddled under the branches.”

“Do you have anything to lure him out?” Dan and I stood elbow to elbow, our eyes trained on that triangle of soft light. “A treat maybe? A favorite toy?”

“Maybe.” I breathed in slowly, trying to calm myself. Jupiter Island is a very dangerous place for a dog who weighs less than three pounds. There are raccoons, possums, coyotes, Bufo toads, and Florida panthers. There are also hawks and eagles. Given his small size, Jack would make a tasty hors d’oeuvre.

“This isn’t good. He’s so small.”

“We’ll find him.” Dan sounded confident. He smelled of a nice cologne; a hint of green, a dash of patchouli, and an undertone of musk. “You need the right bait. Something irresistible.”

“Jack has a Lamb Chop stuffed toy that he absolutely loves. Do you know Lamb Chop? Like Shari Lewis had on her TV show?”

“Your pup is a man after my own taste. I had a huge crush on Miss Shari. Told my mom I was going to marry her one day. Why don’t you run back inside and grab his toy? Along with a treat? I’ll keep an eye on him in case he darts out.” Rain dribbled down Dan’s face as he talked.

My shoes squished as I ducked inside the house and grabbed Lamb Chop. On my way out the door, I grabbed that dried up American cheese from my refrigerator. Jack loves it cheese better than any other treat.

The rain was coming down heavily. The worst was yet to come. I wondered how many other people had ordered pizzas. They must be wondering where their food was.

“Look, my dog’s not your responsibility,” I told Dan as I displayed the stuffed toy and the yellow cheese.

“Yeah, he kind of is. At least that’s the way I see it. I’m going to turn my car around so my headlamps shine into those crotons. You’ll need to keep an eye on your driveway. I don’t want to run over your dog.”

We walked to his Volvo to check for Jack. As I got next to the red car, I saw three quilted, heat-retaining bags. “You’ve got more deliveries to make!

“Yes.” He climbed into the driver’s seat.

“You’d better go.”

“Your dog is my priority. Here. Take the flashlight.”

Rather than argue, I kept a lookout for Jack while Dan executed a three-point turn. His lights hit the low thick undergrowth. When he flipped them to high beam, I saw a shivering shape huddled in the hollow of a fallen palm tree.

“Jack?” I approached him slowly, keeping the beam of the flashlight on him while the water ran into my eyes. “Cheesie treats. Look, I’ve got Lamb Chop. See? Come on.”

Dan wisely stayed far behind me so he wouldn’t scare my dog.

Jack’s eyes glittered with fear—until he smelled the cheese and came running. I dropped to my knees and scooped him up, dropping the flashlight as I did. Dan crept over cautiously and picked up the flashlight.

“Let’s get you two into the house.” Dan aimed the light so I could see where I was going. Jack gnawed at his stinky treat. We were both shaking. I’d been scared witless that I’d lose that little squirt. Once again, I was struck by the irony of my situation. I’m not really a small dog person. Nevertheless, Jack has become dear to me. Isn’t that the way of life? To love, we must invest our time and energy.

“You’ve got him?” Dan was a respectful ten feet behind me.

“Yes. Thank you so much. Turning your car around was such a smart idea.”

“You’re very welcome.”

A stiff wind threw a sheet of rain into our faces.

“Got to run. Have a good night,” said Dan, as he sprinted toward his car.

As he pulled away, I realized I hadn’t paid for my food.


Second Chance at Faith is LIVE and FREE with #KindleUnlimited! The rest of the series is in KU too, so get clicking!!

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