Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Honey, You'll Never Guess What Rolled Up in the Surf

By Joanna Campbell Slan, www.JoannaSlan.com


“Florida is a giant bug light for crazy people.” ~ Phyllis Smallman, Sleuthfest 2014

It’s no surprise to any author living in Florida that some of the craziest stories we can write are actually inspired by true events in our sunshine state. Join us in exploring a different side of Florida than the travel bureau promotes with our first Blog Hop sponsored by Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. Read on, click the links below to read another member’s view of crazy Florida, comment, share your favorite stories, and enter the contest to win a Kindle Paperwhite.

When people learn that I write mysteries, they ask, "Where do you get your ideas?"

You never know what will wash up in the surf.

My answer is, "They roll up in the surf."

When I first moved to Florida, I walked the beach for seashells. Some days I found a lot. Some days, not so much. But quickly the shells became secondary to the other wonderful, weird, and wacky items that have made their way to the shore.

I have found:

1. Toothbrushes -- By the handful. In fact, I'm convinced that dentists must hold conventions weekly where they toss toothbrushes over the sides of boats. How else can you explain the plethora of toothbrushes. I mean, these are a daily find!

2. A hard hat -- In bright orange. I wondered if the wearer fell overboard, or if he simply got tired of wearing a plastic helmet in the sun. (I only found one of these, but I did admire it for weeks.)

3. Syringes -- With needles. (This convinced me not to go barefoot in the sand. I'm especially careful of piles of Sargasso, the seaweed that gives the beach its distinctive odor. You never know what's inside those weeds.)

4. Vials of drugs -- This particular tube held insulin, but other beachcombers have found cocaine. Or so the police have told me.

5. Shoes -- But never a pair. And never Jimmy Choos. Or Christian Louboutins. Sigh. Still, a girl can dream.

6. Fishnets -- Not stockings, but the stuff that gets wrapped around the necks of turtles and seabirds. These I collect and take home to put in the garbage. I also pick up plastic bags. Turtles swallow these, thinking they are eating jellyfish. The bags fill their stomachs, causing the sea turtles to starve to death.

7. A boat full of marijuana -- One-point-seven million dollars worth to be exact. The smugglers set sail at eleven p.m. from Bermuda. They didn't account for how choppy the sea was, so they overturned on the beach right off my backyard. I woke up to a swarm of helicopters and DEA agents. Then came the media trucks and reporters.

I have not found a raft, but my neighbor did. Imagine the desperation that might drive someone to hop on a bunch of branches roped together and set sail for a distant shore. Nor have I found gold, but another neighbor discovered a cannon full of gold coins.

There's so much to love about Florida. And if you are a mystery writer, you don't need to go looking for ideas. They'll wash up in the surf.

Be sure to enter our giveaway for a Kindle Paperwhite. a Rafflecopter giveaway

No purchase is necessary. You must be at least 18 years old to enter. By submitting your entry, you agree to be entered into the participating authors' email newsletter list. Your information will not be shared with anyone else, and you may unsubscribe at any time. Winner will be notified by email. Authors are not responsible for transmission failures, computer glitches or lost, late, damaged or returned email. Winner agrees for their name to be used in conjunction with the contest on FMWA and authors' social media sites. U.S. Residents only due to postage constraints.

 Check out the posts by these other Florida writers--and enter to win the Kindle Paperwhite:

Victoria Allman, Gator Bites, http://www.victoriaallman.com/blog

Miriam Auerbach, Bonkers in Boca, http://www.miriamauerbach.com/bonkers-in-boca

Gregg E. Brickman, Crazy South Florida—How it got to be home, http://www.GreggEBrickman.com/blog.html

Diane Capri, Fishnado!, http://www.dianecapri.com/blog

Nancy J. Cohen, Characters Too Weird to Be True, http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com

Joan Lipinsky Cochran, The Million Dollar Squatter: Crazy in the Land of Coconuts and Bagels, http://www.joanlipinskycochran.com/blog.htm?post=952677

jd daniels He Did What? http://www.live-from-jd.com

Joy Wallace Dickinson, “In Florida, It's Great to Be a Cracker”, http://www.FindingJoyinFlorida.com

Linda Gordon Hengerer Crazy Treasure on the Treasure Coast, http://footballfoodandfiction.blogspot.com/

Vicki Landis, Eavesdropping 101, http://www.victorialandis.com

Sandy Parks, Keep your eyes to the Florida skies, http://www.sandyparks.wordpress.com

Neil Plakcy, Moscow on the Intracoastal http://www.mahubooks.blogspot.com/

Johnny Ray Utilizing Google Plus Air to Facilitate Author Interviews, http://www.sirjohn.us

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Be a Dick: The Secret of Social Media Success

Marc Ensign spoke to our Florida Chapter of MWA today, explaining how he became a success in social media. Shortly after the Ensign family (Marc, his wife Amy, their two kids Bella and Zak, and their Bichon mix pup Gracie) moved to Florida, Marc had a life-changing encounter with a new neighbor, a man named Dick.

Dick's genuine concern and interest in the young family made the Ensigns feel instantly at home in their new surroundings. Consequently, Marc realized that if he could emulate Dick--if he could adapt Dick's generosity of spirit to his online world--that he could be just as much of an asset to his blog followers.

Here are the precepts that Marc learned from Dick: 

Be engaged
Be valuable
Be first
Be welcoming
Be humble
Be authentic
Be generous
Be transparent
Be perceptive

Be awesome 

These are great concepts. My pledge to each of you is that I'll do my best to follow Dick and Marc's examples. I'll do everything I can to reach out to each and every one of you in my social media family.(That's what you are, my extended family.)  I'll try to offer you valuable information and insights. I'll try to be the first to share interesting information with you. I promise to honor your opinions even if they differ from mine. I'll try to stay humble, and never get a big head. I'll be honest with you, and let you know the real me. As much as possible, I'll be generous, with my time, talents, and expertise. When there's a conflict or when I have a motive, I'll be upfront with you. And all the while, I'll try to be perceptive, putting myself in your place, trying to suss out what you need that I can provide. If I do all that, I have no doubt that we'll have an awesome relationship.

So tell me, how can I provide value to you?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Giveaway--A Miniature Easter Egg

Yes, this adorable Easter Egg is OOAK (One of a Kind), and I made it myself so it's totally imperfect! The outside is a luscious spring green, trimmed with gold lace. Inside as you can see, there's a vintage scene of Mr. and Mrs. Easter Bunny.

I'll tell you how I made it in another post! Can you say, "tutorial"? Suffice it to say, I tried several methods and most of them were abject failures.

Starting tomorrow (3/19/2014) you can enter to win. The contest will run for one week. To enter, visit my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/joannacampbellslan  Under the large picture of me with a Diet Dr Pepper, you'll see a blue box labeled GIVEAWAY. Click on that box and follow the instructions.

Or you can try this link:  http://tinyurl.com/kfvuqdt

Monday, March 17, 2014

How to Make Miniature Mosiacs--Or How to Have Your Egg and Eat It, Too

There are tons of ways to make miniature tiles, usually involving Fimo or paper coated with a thick glossy agent, but I think I've stumbled on a method that's easier and more fun...as long as you're okay with tiles in random shapes. Best of all, it's a way to recycle and upcycle common items.

Behold! (Ha, ha.) A protein snack that recycles into a table with mosaic inlays or a birdbath.

A hard-boiled egg. (an old one is best, if it float when it's raw, that's wonderful because that means the inner shell membrane has pulled away from the shell)
In the upper right, you can see some of the various eggshell pieces that I colored. Don't despair if you miss a piece or two! A white "tile" here and there will look cool. In the lower left is a finished mosaic table top. By putting big pieces of shell on the glue and then breaking the big pieces and moving them around, you save yourself a lot of aggravation trying to glue down smaller pieces.
Waxed paper.
Acrylic paints(and brush) or markers.

1. Roll your hard-boiled egg on a surface and gently peel away the shell. Set on the waxed paper.
2. Let the shell dry. Check that the membrane is dry.
3. Color the shell with the marker or paints. A variety of shades will work best.
4. Let dry.

Supplies for the birdbath. You can also see the weird little plastic stand that's supposed to be some sort of a kid's party favor. (Beats me!) Oh, and you can save the lid. Use the foil side as a mirror somewhere else.)
Blogger won't let me edit the caption above, but you'll use the same base as shown there for the mosaic table.

1. Small plastic base. (I used some sort of weird kid's party favor that came in a bag of six or so from the Dollar Store. I have NO idea what a kid is supposed to do with one of these! If you can't find these, you could stack beads or use a wooden turning or a spool from thread or even make something out of Fimo.)
2. Emery board.
3. Round disk. (You can use chipboard, foam, or wood.)
4. Tacky glue.
5. Acrylic paint. (White)
6. Glue spreader. (I like coffee stirrers from Starbucks.)
7. Gold nail polish.
8. Clear nail polish.
9. X-acto Knife
10. Gold trim if desired.


1. Chip off that weird half circle loop on the side of your plastic stand. (Save it. It makes a great handle when painted. I used cuticle clippers to cut mine off.)
2. Sand the stand smooth.
3. Paint the one flat surface of the round disk white.
4. Paint the stand, the other flat surface of your disk and the edge of the disk with gold nail polish. (You will probably need to put on two coats, especially on the plastic. Thin coats work best.) You can add gold trim to the outside edge/rim, if desired. (For example, a thin gold braid or cord.)
5. When all parts are dry, smear thin layer of tacky glue on a quarter of the white side of the disk.
6. With tweezers, pick up some of the eggshells. Push them color side up into the glue.
7. With your X-acto knife, press down. This will break apart the shells. Move the pieces far enough apart that you can add pieces of a different color.
8. Repeat with a different color until surface is covered.
9. Let dry.
10. Paint with a thin layer of clear nail polish. Be careful! If you use too much, the colors might run. You are aiming to put down a coating so this won't happen.
11. Add a thicker layer.
12. Glue the mosaic top to the plastic stand.
13. Admire.


ADDITIONAL SUPPLY: Metal jelly or honey tub. (Mine came from a lunch at Cracker Barrel.)

1. Prepare the mosaic tiles as per above.
2. Paint the tub and the stand as per above.
3. Add eggshells as per above, but with this difference--when you get to a curve or an edge, you can put glue on the flat side and glue on the edge, then add a piece of eggshell that OVERLAPS the flat side and smoosh into the edge or curve.
4. Assemble.
5. Admire greatly.


1. Prepare the mosiacs (colored eggshells) as above.
2. Glue them to chipboard letters or glue them around a mat on a photo.
3. Or glue them to a long strip of paper and use as a decorative border.

This is my FIRST miniatures tutorial. I know it's a little skimpy on the photos, but otherwise, how did I do?