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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Scrapper's Block...and the Page for Malice

I read in one of the scrapbooking magazines that the one color that scrapbookers found to be the one they shun is...PURPLE.

This intrigued me. I love purple. In fact, I love all colors. Why would this one be so readily avoided? I wondered. Then I saw my new book cover--purple and pink. Hmmm. Kevin Brown, the genius who does my covers, seemed to be able to work with purple.

Fast forward several months. I agreed to again contribute a custom-made scrapbook page for the auction that Malice holds every year to benefit charities. Last year my page brought in $140, making it one of the pricier items.

Purple. The page had to be purple to match my book cover.

I went to buy purple paper and discovered there weren't many choices. Lots of pink. Not a lot of purple. I let the paper sit for a while. I started on the rubber stamped portions. But gee...the page itself seemed hard.

I don't know whether it was my mood, the fact I felt I needed to "top" last year, or what, but I had a full-blown case of scrapper's block. So I did what I always do in such circumstances, I found a magazine with a layout I liked and I scraplifted.

The page took me most of the day, between coloring and adding glitter to the teacup, punching and assembling flowers, and so on.

How do you like it? The book opens and has a small album inside so the buyer can add lots of photos. I figure there's room for a big photo in the upper left quadrant, too. Oh, and thanks to my friends at Spotted Canary and EK Success for the flower embellishments.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Large Print News and Is He Dead Yet?

Yesterday I learned that large print rights to Cut, Crop & Die were purchased by Library Publishing/BBC (UK). So, Kiki and Company will be available in the UK in large print. The ISBN is 978-1-408-4572-8. It's hardcover. There's also a softcover edition, ISBN 978-1-408-45753-5.

I bet the crowds are lining up at Waterstones right now!

Tonight's an MWA (Mystery Writers of America) meeting with a private investigator as our speaker. Stay tuned for more!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

All That Other Stuff

Pam DeVoe did a nice interview with me for the St. Louis Sisters in Crime blog. Check it out here.

One of the questions she asked, one I get asked a lot, is, "What's a typical day like for you?"

Today was anything but typical. I worked all day on promotions. I love that, but it's really time-consuming. I worked contacting the media in St. Louis because I'll be there in May. I enjoyed hearing back from my friend Jane Henderson, the book editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, right away. I hope she can get Photo, Snap, Shot reviewed because I think her readers will love it. But I also know book pages are getting fewer and fewer inches to work with.

I worked setting up another signing while I'm there. I'd been trying to connect with Timmy and Nancy from For Keeps Sake, and finally did. I'll go to a crop at their store after doing my signing at Pudd'nhead Books, Friday, May 21. See, scrapbookers stay up all hours of the night, so I knew this would work! It will be nice to see my sister scrappers at For Keeps Sake. I always enjoy Nikki at Pudd'nhead Books. Few people are as knowledgable about this business as she is.

I ordered some cool aprons for the Killer Hobbies Blog Sisters to wear at various events. I looked into some postcards so we could advertise our progressive story, which is really long enough to be a novella. We'll start posting the story on May 2, so if you aren't a follower at Killer Hobbies, you'll want to be!

I followed up calling a local craft store about a signing. I emailed another bookstore about a signing. I set up spreadsheets so I could track blogs that I'll be giving review copies of Photo, Snap, Shot. I emailed handouts to Peter Green with the St. Louis Writers Guild. I responded to fan mail and sent out new bookmarks. (Want some? Mail a self-addressed stamped envelope to me at Joanna Slan, c/o Steinway Piano Gallery, Tysons Corner Center, 1961 Chain Bridge Road, McLean VA 22102.)

Also, I worked with a graphic designer to get an ad ready for Crimespree Magazine. Fortunately, I was organized enough that I had my release form for my new photos at hand. This is one of them. I hope you like it!

I beat myself up a little because I can't find the name of the adorable young lady who runs some of the forums on Splitcoaststampers. See, I use Outlook, but sometimes things slip past me! Sheesh.

Then, from six to nine, I wrote. I'm working on a short story for a competition. I don't know if I'll get that done, but...

My husband will be home in a bit. He had a long day, too. We'll sit in front of the television. While we watch, I'll tie ribbons on bookmarks.

Tomorrow, I start all over again!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Love Crafts and Mysteries? Malice is for YOU!

If you love mysteries and crafts, you won’t want to miss Malice Domestic, Saturday, May 1, 2010 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, VA. Mystery authors from all over the world will gather to meet their fans and talk about their books. Plus, there’s a live auction with cool stuff. Here’s a sampling--

* A collection of Peel & Stick stamps, a certificate for a free personalized stamp, and 7 colorful ink cartridges---a $400 retail value!

* A customized, one-of-a-kind scrapbook page by Joanna Campbell Slan, author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series. (Priceless. One like it sold last year for $140.)

* A basket from the Killer Hobbies blog sisters. There are 16 great books in this basket, and all sorts of crafting supplies. You’ll have tons of fun keeping busy with the KH Blog Sisters’ loot! Valued at $200.

(I'll post a photo of the customized page and the KH Blog Sisters' loot soon!)

A day pass is only $125. The Saturday pass includes the chance to bid in the live auction and the Agatha Banquet (only a few seats are left). The Sunday pass includes the Agatha Tea. Go to to sign up.

Authors attending will include Dorothy Cannell, Katherine Hall Page, JoAnna Carl, Elaine Viets, Rhys Bowen, and Mary Higgins Clark. For a full list of the authors go to

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Time for a Change...or Two

Nothing stays the same, does it? I keep casting my thoughts back to one calendar year ago. The amount of change in my life is positively dizzying. (Is that a word?)

I'm not just talking about a change in locale.


This morning I heard from my editor that Book #4 is a bit long. I'm not surprised. I had noticed that my original goal was 80-85,000 words. The more recent contract we're negotiating shows a final word count of 70,000 words. That's a big change. Especially since I've been working very hard to develop subplots that take my books to the next level.


Today, most publishers schedule books to come out yearly. When you think about that, it's a bit odd. I mean, I watch my favorite shows every week, and they've got me hooked. So why is it different with books? I would love to share my Kiki short stories between the book launches. We'll have to see if I can.


For some odd reason, most of the curl in my hair has just...disappeared. I have no idea now. Maybe it symbolizes that I'm not nearly so tightly wound. Or maybe it's the result of living near Washington, D. C., where everyone seems to be very, um, personally conservative and straight-laced. Curly doesn't seem to fit my new life.


Stay tuned. Working on this.


A old friend sent me a ranting political piece she'd written that was totally inflammatory--and then she asked me to critique it. This came totally out of the blue. I thought to myself, "I didn't sign up for this." See, when you work at home by yourself all day, and you get something that's so...ugly, it's hard to shake the mood. As a wise business coach once said, "The most important thing any entrepreneur can do is protect their confidence." Translated for writers that becomes, "The most important thing any writer can do is protect her mental state." I should have told my old friend, "Please don't send me anything like this again."


Used to be, I was the new kid on the block. My dear pal Emilie Richards came over for breakfast the other day, and we had a lovely talk about how to write a synopsis, how to keep track of a story in progress, and where we hoped to go with our next books. I reflected at the time that this isn't a conversation we could have had years ago. I didn't know enough to ask Emilie the questions I'm asking today. I guess I'm not such a newbie anymore! This lovely blog post by Pam DeVoe confirms it.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Where Ideas Come From--Mole Removal 101

While I'm writing I pop up now and again to do household chores. This morning I was moving clothes from the washer to the dryer. First I had to pick off all the pieces of tissue that had partially dissolved in the wash and where stuck all over the pants and shirts.

Sigh. No matter how carefully I search every pocket, I still miss a tissue or two.

Ideas are like that. They pop up in the most unexpected places. They get all clingy and refuse to go away. After they go through the wash, they don't look much like they did originally, but you can still tell what they were. Sort of.

Over on Cozy First Mysteries, a yahoo group, the members are doing a "buddy read" of Cut, Crop & Die. I've been following the comments of Julesy (their leader), Angie, Shannon, Shala, Mare, Vicki, Katie, Shauna, Mary C, and Melissa (did I miss anyone?) with much interest. (Oh, and the yahoo group owner is Beverly.)

Here's how it works: Julesy and Angie(as co-leaders) would post a short synopsis of chunks of the book as they read it. Then the leaders would solicit opinions from the others. It's almost like someone is doing a transcript of a real-time book group. And I love it. Seeing how readers react about my choices is incredibly enlightening. I'm improving my craft by taking note of their responses. And did I mention it's good for the ego? Oh, yeah. On days when I can't get anything written, seeing these nice ladies' responses makes me want to work doubly hard to create books worthy of them.

Of course, sometimes they don't like what I've written. That's okay, too. It's a great learning experience, and usually they have good suggestions. (In fact, one was so good, I wished I'd had it BEFORE the books were printed, but...)

Recently, they read the portion of Cut, Crop & Die where Kiki goes to the spa. Julesy said she was laughing so hard she could barely type her synopsis. My heart soared with joy. Someday, if I'm a really good kid, maybe I'll get nominated for an award for humorous writing. I'd love that because I totally ascribe to Minnie Pearl's comment that laughter is God's hand on the shoulder of a weary world.

The group also wondered where I got the idea for chasing moles away with vibrators. Here's what I wrote:

My husband was doing a “Sheila” about the moles in our yard. As I am wont to do, I started chatting with the pest specialist we hired. (I like to ask people questions about their work. He was initially very quiet, but once he discovered I was really curious, he opened up. I thanked him in the book. His name was Scott.) Then I went online. To my shock, I discovered some online place selling vibrators to get rid of moles. I wondered, “Do the vibrators just make the moles so crazy-happy they stay in their beds all day? What’s the deal here?” A short time afterwards, we were coming home from the airport in St. Louis and drove past all the adult sex toy shops on Lindbergh Ave. I guess every big town has such places. Usually they’re close to where lonely travelers might be.

I put two and two together. I mean, really, does a mole care what the shape of the vibrator is?

Remind me to post the photo of my freeze dried mole someday. I used to travel around the country giving humorous speeches, and that mole was a real highlight. I can't count the number of times I've had my picture taken with him. And no, as far as I know, he's never had a close encounter with a vibrator.

But then you never know, do you?