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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Do Everything You Can For Everyone You Can

As most of you know, I just returned from a long roadtrip. I’m still trying to catch up on my sleep, in fact.

The best part about a road trip is meeting new people and reconnecting with “old fans.” If you’ve ever met me, you know that I’ll do just about anything for my fans.

I changed the spelling of a character’s name to coincide with the name of a young woman, a fan, who was clearly having problems in her life, perhaps even developmental delays.

I pose for photos, which is fun. However, on days when I’ve been traveling non-stop and I don’t look great, I must admit I cringe a bit when folks snap the shutter. But that’s my vanity, which isn’t important here.

I sign anything and everything. If someone is at all interested in my signature, I’m willing to share it.

I send supplies to charity auctions at my fans’ requests. (I might have to start limiting this because the postage is expensive, but for the time being, I do what I can. Occasionally, I’ll take a miss because I’m too busy to check out the charity, but whenever possible, I’ll participate.)

I answer questions, although I won’t give away what happens next in my series. (Okay, I lie. I have assured a couple of fans that Gracie will be the longest living Great Dane on record.)

I consider their ideas, and boy, do they have a lot of good ones! My friends at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers Book Club in Fenton, MO, suggested I add a new character. They want to see someone who is “scrubby Dutch” in my books. “Dutch” in this case is a mispronunciation of “Deutsch,” a mistake that’s been perpetuated in the St. Louis area. “Scrubby Dutch” references German immigrants who were incredibly house proud and tidy. I had hesitated to use the term, because I feared it was a pejorative. However, my readers assured me they’re proud of this, and they urged me to include it. I will!

I give out bookmarks. If you have a book club, and you send me an address, I’ll get you as many bookmarks as you have members.

And I’ll try to visit you or your group. (That's a photo of me with Melissa. She's been a pal for quite a while. I was thrilled to come to an event her mother put together with help from Megan at the Mooresville Public Library in Mooresville, Indiana.) I’ll even scrapbook with you.

Recently, I read a comment by Bill Hodges that sums up my philosophy:

Years ago I hit on the idea that there was something I could do for everyone I met, and it was my responsibility to find out what that was and do it. To that end I taught my children a simple rule: “Do everything you can, for everyone you can, and do it before you need them.” Over the years I have tried hard to help my friends and colleagues in any way possible and I have found their generosity flowing back to me has been humbling.

Isn’t that a lovely sentiment?

You can add Bill to your “friends” at Facebook by looking him up under the name: William N. Hodges.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Future of rhe Publishing Industry

Last night I did a signing at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Reston. I spoke to a lovely and enthusiastic crowd. We were seated near the children's book section. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a young lady, at most maybe eleven years old, watching me and listening in. Eventually she slipped into a seat in the second row, as her papa watched from his spot by the YA (Young Adult) books stack.

She seemed thoughtful, quiet, and the expression on her face told me she was obviously absorbing the entire scene as I held up pictures of the debutante ball that makes up part of the mystery in Photo, Snap, Shot.

This young lady wore a knee-length rust colored dress, with a ruffle on both sides of the buttons down the front of the bodice, and a sewn-on sash tied around the waist. Her hair was long, dark walnut brown, and it formed waves as it ran down her back. It had been pulled back very neatly with a rubber band.

In so many ways, she reminded me of myself at that age.

At the end of my presentation, she waited until most of the adults had their books signed. Then she brought up a book, and I asked if she would like it signed. (I never assume anyone wants my signature. That's a choice that's theirs to make. I would never be so presumptious.) When she nodded and spelled out her name, I signed the book with deliberation, taking the time to ask her if she liked to read and what she read. She said, "All sorts of things." I asked if she liked mysteries, and she nodded. I asked if she liked Nancy Drew.

No. She'd just read one of those, and no more, because "it creeped me out."

Her language was so vibrant, her words were so emotional and heartful, and her thought was so unexpected that I laughed out loud.

After I finished signing stock for the bookstore, my young fan came back again. Her face full of solemn expression. "What's your name?" she asked me.

I told her. She nodded and walked away. Heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe. Hands clasped behind her back.

I hope that she likes my book. I hope that she'll find something inside to encourage her to be a lifelong reader. I hope that if she wants to write, she'll remember that she once met an author...and that this particular author was kind and interested in her.

Because I was. Of all the people there last night, I cared most about that little girl.

She's the future of this industry.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Visiting University of Pittsburgh's Book Center

It is a sad fact of modern life that we are often too busy to wander around and explore. But last week when I was in Pittsburgh, I had time in the morning before meeting with the wonderful Lori Vonada (see post on previous day)and her friends, so I decided to get out and stretch my legs.

I've never met a bookstore I didn't like. (That's a lie. I know of two I don't much care for.) So when I saw the sign urging students to turn in their used books at the Book Center I stopped in.

Wow. It's nothing like the bookstores of my college days. It was bright, inviting, beautifully merchandised, and a feast for the eyes. I wanted to meet the man in charge, who turned out to be Russell Kierzkowski, the Publicity and Special Events Director. Check out his "Mad Hatter Tea Party" idea on their site. Doesn't that sound like oodles of fun?

We talked for a long time. Russ is obviously an avid bibliophile. When we parted, I offered to make a scrapbook page for him. That's it above.

I hope he'll like it! I hope I'll get invited to his next "Mad Hatter Tea Party." (Hint, hint, hint.)

By the way, the store has my books in stock. I'm glad. I think college students need a bit of recreation along with their studies.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

One Remarkable Day

Written by: Lori Vonada, Venus, PA

I have the honor of being friends with a magnificent group of five scrapbookers! Even though there is 20 years between us, scrapbooking is not the only thing we love to do together. We love traveling and shopping together and enjoy endless hours talking and visiting with one another. Even though these women live two hours from me, they are my very best friends.

Last summer one of the women in our group, Kim Englert, came across Joanna’s first novel, Paper, Scissors, Death: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery, while she was working at the circulation desk in the Northland Public Library. Kim bought the novel, read it, and placed it in a bag along with the supplies to create a scrapbook layout and passed the bag along to a friend in our group, Lori Smith. Lori read Joanna’s first novel, purchased and read her second novel, Cut, Crop & Die: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery, put together the supplies to create a scrapbook layout, and passed the bag along to me. I read both books and passed them along with more layout supplies to the next friend in our group, Jan Dineff.

Before I passed the books and layout supplies along, I noticed in the back of one of Joanna’s books that you could write to request bookmarks. I wrote Joanna a letter but honestly never expected to hear back from her. Not only did I receive the bookmarks from her, but I also received autographed book plates for all of us and a wonderful letter personally written and signed by Joanna. In the letter she provided information about a festival she would be attending in Pittsburgh the following May. I read the letter to our group at a crop at our local scrapbook store, Scrapbook Super Station. (Wasn’t that the most appropriate spot?) While we were there that evening, we ran into another friend, Raelene Ellenberger. We told her about the letter. As luck would have it, she had met and talked to Joanna at length just the week before at Scrapfest in the Mall of America. What was the chance of that?!?! We decided we had to meet Joanna!

I wrote Joanna another letter and told her all about our group. This time she e-mailed me. In the weeks to come, Joanna and I e-mailed back and forth multiple times to set up a luncheon meeting while she was in Pittsburgh for the Festival of Mystery. Five of us met Joanna on Tuesday, May 4, in Oakland, PA, and went to the Union Grill for lunch. Joanna is such a remarkable person! (I’m not just saying that either…She truly is terrific!) She brought us each a goody bag filled with scrapbook supplies and our favorite item, the “I {heart} Kiki” pin! She brought along copies of her latest novel, Photo, Snap, Shot: A Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-N-Craft Mystery, and took the time to autograph them for us. Although Joanna would not tell us if Kiki is going to end up with Detweiler in the end of her series, we learned so much from her about the writing and publishing business. I was fascinated with what she had to say. She took the time to pose for numerous photographs as we walked through the University of Pittsburgh campus on our way back to her hotel after lunch. (Check out all the great photographs below!)

That's the Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh's campus.

Here I am with Joanna.

And here's a photo of our group.

We are already looking forward to reading Joanna’s fourth novel which will not be released for another year! (The wait will be horrendous!) Joanna – thank you for spending the day with us! It was a day that will be cherished for years to come. The time you spent with us was truly enjoyable and memorable! (Check out the scrapbook layout I made honoring our day with Joanna below!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Luckiest Mom on Earth

That's what I'm feeling like after my son sent me flowers for Mother's Day. Aren't they lovely?

Here I am hugging him when I visited him in Coral Gables, a few months ago. (I think he looks a little like he's saying, "Gee, Mom. That's enough.") He's become quite the expert on restaurants, so we went to a Mexican place he recommended. The tortilla soup was superb.

And here I am the day before Mother's Day at a special Mother's Day Tea at Scrapbooks Plus! in Chantilly, VA. Debbie Chabot made this beautiful display of my books for the event.

Here's the display:

And here's Marc Chabot busily cutting up the wonderful French pastries they served for attendees. I can't tell you how good the lemon meringue pie was! I teased Marc that if any murders were committed with a cake knife, I had proof he was involved.

Here's one of the lovely teacup sets Debbie Chabot gave each of us. I plan to "take my tea" in my set from now on. These are so pretty, I know they'll brighten up any day!

One of the women asked me, "How do you get your scrapbooking mojo back when you haven't scrapped in a while?"

I suggest opening a scrapbook magazine and copying a layout. When you're feeling stressed or uncertain, copying a layout is a bit like having someone take you by the hand. It leads you gently back to the fun.

Another great idea is taking a class. There's an altered book class being held at Debbie's store on May 15, and I'm signing up. I need a treat--and I need a chance to learn more about altering books. The project she had on display was so fabulous, I'm itching to get started. It's called "Turtle Dreams" and the money goes to helping endangered sea turtles. That's my kind of fun--good works and good times all in one!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why I Go To Conferences and Other Events

While I was at Malice, a friend who is a New York Times bestselling author told me that her agent said, "At this point in your career, you no longer need to do personal appearances."


I don't know what to think about that. I mean, I understand. At a certain point, your name is well-known and the bookstores are delighted to stock your books. So, I guess you don't have to do so much to promote yourself.

But...I get a lot out of conferences. Oh, sure, I'm still tired and I'm terribly behind. But, I had learned about a new sort of book on tape at the Howard County Library, I met some authors who I hope will become friends, I re-kindled my friendship with other authors, a group of us discussed promotional methods that work, I had the chance to brainstorm a plot with Casey Daniels as we drove to Festival of Mystery, I chatted with another NYT bestseller about when to switch agents and why you should ignore some advice from your author friends, I visited a college bookstore that will now carry my books, I moved a lot of books (the bookstores at Malice sold out of my books and Mystery Lovers sold a lot of copies as well), and I spent time with my fans. Whew.

So faced with the pile up on my desk, I wondered: Did I spend my time wisely?

Then I sent an email to Charlaine Harris asking for a favor. She emailed me that she'd get back to me after she returned home from her tour.

Her tour?

Gee. If Charlaine Harris thinks it's still important to "circulate," shouldn't I be out there pressing the flesh, too? I mean, you can't get any more popular than Charlaine!

Here I am with my Midnight Ink brothers and sisters at Malice before the big dinner.

That's me begging forgiveness from Meredith Cole. I left her out of the list of people who were at the Mysterious Women panel at Howard County Library. And she was sitting right next to me. How ditzy is that? Meredith wrote Posed for Murder, which is about a photographer in New York who becomes embroiled in real life murders when her fantasy pictures are recreated by a killer.

Deb Sharp is one of my favorite people. She writes the "Mama" series. The upcoming one is Mama Gets Hitched. Deb explains, "Mama likes getting married so much that she's doing it again for the fifth time!" As a former journalist, she's committed to doing her research. For one book, she rode a horse across central Florida.

Jan, one of my Pittsburgh fans, made the Stovetop Cookies from my website. Need I confess I gobbled them down on the ride back to D.C.?

I love photos of doors. This one of a church in Pittsburgh was particularly appealing.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Check Out the 5 Star Reviews Photo, Snap, Shot is Getting at Amazon!

Here's what two reviewers have to say about Photo, Snap, Shot--

Love,love, love this third book in the series of Murder Mysteries about Hard working single mom Kiki Lowenstein. Even if you don't find yourself to be a crafter you will really enjoy this book.


This book may be classified as a cozy mystery, but it really is a cut above the standard of that genre. Slan has her characters tackle some very complex problems in this new addition to the series.

While all the 3 books are great reads, it is with Photo, Snap, Shot that we really see growth, both in terms of subject matter and writing. The characters are becoming more rounded and the "community" of the book is getting fleshed out. Both characters from the previous books as well as new character introduced here are realistic and worth investing in.

I suspect that the series will only continue to grow as further books come out, so why not jump on board now, while there are only 3 books to catch up on. These are quick reads and while scrapbookers will find useful tips in each book, non-crafters will all appreciate the story of a single Mom struggling to raise her daughter.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Twenty Types of Misdirection

There are a variety of ways to obscure facts, to cover over clues, and to intrigue our readers. Here are some of our favorites!

1. Red herring—The name is taken from the practice of dragging a dead fish over a trail to confuse hunting dogs. Here, a false clue is planted, usually by the author.

2. False clue—Different from a red herring, because this clue is planted by a character.

3. Overlooked clue—A classic method relying on our inability to triage information. Often the overlooked clue is “sandwiched” between other pieces of information.

4. Misinterpreted clue—When analyzing the clue, the sleuth comes to an erroneous conclusion. For example, a suspect has cat hair on him, but it came from his own pet not the victim’s.

5. Clues of omission—Something should have been present, something should have happened, or something should have been mentioned, but wasn’t. For example, a dog should have barked at an intruder. If the pooch didn’t, why not?

6. Classic misdirection—The sleuth was paying attention to the wrong situation so that a clue or the importance of the clue was overlooked.

7. Discounted clues—A clue is not given appropriate weight because it’s very commonplace or it’s too obscure to seem meaningful. (Example, a robbery didn’t occur on a cloudy day because a sundial was not functioning. Who would guess a cloudy day would matter?)

8. Dismissed clue—A clue is considered, and then decided to be irrelevant, but actually has import.

9. Cipher clue—A clue that can only be interpreted once a code is cracked or when additional pieces of the clue become available.

10. Point of view (POV) misdirection—Because of one character’s POV, the clue seems meaningless. This can happen because the POV character’s world view is askew, as when prejudiced. Or because the narrator is unreliable.

11. Botched clue—Information is mishandled or misinterpreted. For example, a fingerprint is smudged by the investigator. This could also be the result of an inadequate chain of custody.

12. “Pre-emptive strike” clue—The sleuth is provided information to purposely color interpretation of a clue or a person’s reputation. For example, the sleuth is told the informant is a drug addict when he/she is not, and therefore, the sleuth doesn’t trust the informant’s reliability.

13. Inaccurate witness—This is a case where the witness truly and honestly is mistaken, as when a person’s eyesight or hearing is faulty.

14. “Can’t chase two rabbits a1`nd catch one”—The sleuth, when presented with many leads, follows up on the wrong one, thus losing the opportunity to find/use/safeguard inform.

15. “I’m protecting someone” clue—A clue is falsely provided or a confession is made to protect a secret or another person.

16. Character flaw—A flaw in the sleuth’s character or world view—rather than in a witness’s character or world view —leads him/her to an erroneous conclusion or to overlook key information. For example, if the sleuth can’t believe a woman would kill viciously, he might overlook clues that prove the murderer is female.

17. Specialized knowledge clue—This is a clue that only has meaning to a person with specialized knowledge. For example, only someone who knows about opera might know that Puccini’s Sister Angelica concerns the death of a child.

18. “Warned off” clue—The sleuth is warned to stop an investigation or to overlook certain information. This in itself becomes a clue.

19. “Lost” clue—The clue is temporarily misplaced (such as put in a coat pocket) or forgotten.

20. Personal crisis—Not really a clue, but still a misdirection. This is when a problem in the sleuth’s personal life keeps him/her from properly following up on information or a suspect.


Copyright 2007: Judy Moresi (aka J. Hassler Moresi) , Donna Ross (aka Fedora Amis), and Joanna Campbell Slan. For reprint information, please contact Joanna at

** NOTE: This handout was shared at Malice Domestic 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

With Deep Appreciation

Once in a while, someone does something so kind and so unexpected that I just want to dissolve in a puddle of tears. That happened to me last Thursday at the Howard County Library.

I was invited to by Jacquelynn Morris to be a part of their "Mysterious Women" Panel discussion. My friend Elaine Viets had suggested me. Being on a panel with Elaine was a career highpoint. She's been a wonderfully supportive friend and mentor. Back when I lived in St. Louis, I idolized her. It wasn't until she moved to Florida that we met. I reached out to her in an email, asking for advice about becoming a mystery author. In that way, I consider her one of my "fairy godmothers."

So you can see why being on a panel with her was a thrill. That's a photo above of us taking a tour. It's a fabulous library, a real resource for the community. The place was buzzing, and I itched to sit down and pore over some of the resources.

The other authors were Kris Neri, Beth Groundwater, L. C. Hayden, and Debbi Mack.

Right before the panel started, I spotted Kristopher, a young man I met some years back at Malice. That's a photo of us together below. He came over, we exchanged hugs, and then...he gave me a gift.

"You're always giving us stuff, so I thought I'd do the same for you," he said.

And my eyes filled with tears.

I don't expect anything from any of my fans. The fact that you all honor me by reading my work is more than enough. So I was completely caught off-guard.

Have I told you lately how much I appreciate all of you?

If not...consider yourself told!

Here's a look at the project he did: