The First Page






I'm about to start the third mystery novel in my Caprice De Luca home-stager series.  I've written over 80 novels.  So why is it that first page of a story is still daunting?

With each of my books, I have a road map (or these days a GPS) which is my synopsis.  I know the beginning, middle and end because I detail each scene before I start.  But the strength, power and emotion of a novel depends on the execution.  An idea is only as good as the words a writer uses to make it come to life.  So back to the first page.

Who's point of view will give the opening the most power?

What words will hook the reader?

Should I begin with dialogue or narration?

And in the back of my mind is the advice I learned long ago--always start "in medias res."  Start in the middle of the action.

What action?  Personal issue action?  Or shoot'em up action?

This is why the first page is always daunting.  Until--  I remind myself that words on a page or on the e-tablet are not set in stone.  I can change whatever I write.  I have the freedom to edit or delete and rewrite as often as I want.

Except, I try to be an efficient writer.  So...I think about the opening scene while I'm petting the cat.  I mull it over while I take a walk.  I think about the two mysteries that came before this one and how I started those.  Then I take a deep breath and I follow my gut.  Creative instincts are a gift and we all have them if we can tune into them.  I listen to the theme of a book, then I hear my characters speak and I see exactly what they are doing.

This is the joy of being a writer.  This is the excitement and challenge of beginning the first page of a new book.

I know my first line and the mystery will unravel from there.



©2013 Karen Rose Smith


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Lancelot--The #Stray #Cat Who Adopted Us--In Memoriam






Once upon a time...  There was a stray cat we named Lancelot.  When he first started coming to our outside feeder, he was with a kitten and being protective of it.  He would prowl the area to make sure other cats didn't bother the little one.  We could see that Lance had been in battle--another reason for his name.  He had open sores on his cheek and shoulder and his eyes were pretty well pasted shut.

One night he came alone.  We didn't see the kitten again and we're hoping it was rescued.  But Lance needed care.  To capture or not to capture.  We began putting out wet food hoping some good food would help him heal.  After a month, the sores did heal and he was appearing regularly morning and night for food.  Now if we were on the patio, he wouldn't run.  He would sit at a distance or in our garden.  I spend a lot of time on the patio working in the summer, and he began to keep me company.  I had started our communication by talking to him through a window, then quietly from a distance.


To capture or not to capture.  He wasn't neutered and that was a concern along with his pasted eyes and meowing when he ate.  Something hurt inside his mouth and seemed to be getting worse.  The one side of his face was swollen so we knew it could have been a tooth or an injury to his cheek.

One morning instead of eating at the feeder, he came right up to my husband who had been taking the morning shift.  (We have three inside rescue cats to care for.  Ebbie and London are 12 and Zoie is a year old.)  Then in the afternoon, Lance would come around about the same time every day for our "date."  But it was like after that morning, he decided we were okay to hang with and he started staying around more.

I was thinking about fall and winter coming and we put a shelter outside.  But my real aim was to get him comfortable with coming into a sunroom off of our basement so he'd have real shelter in winter.  As he started staying around more, he would follow me inside.  It was like he made that decision overnight, too.  He was staying.  Doors opened on either end of the sunroom so he didn't feel trapped when he went inside.  But he wasn't fond of eating in there.  He preferred the patio.  He seemed fatigued a lot of the time but if another male cat came to try the feeder, Lance would chase him off the property.  (There was another cat who we think was a female.  He let her share his food at that point.) 

Then one day he wouldn't eat.  We could tell it hurt to take a bite.  Tuna lured him into a capture cage and we drove to an emergency vet hospital because it was a weekend.  That day we learned Lance had FIV, similar to HIV in humans.  The vet stitched his lip, neutered him and we brought him to the sunporch to confine him for 24 hours.  We put in two litter boxes, one ground and one litter and he used both.  All we had to do was lead Lance and he learned and followed.

After he recuperated and was out and about again, he spent all his time here and mostly slept on the patio when we were outside or on a chair in the small protected area between the sunroom and the basement door.  He was "ours."  And I found being with him actually relaxed me.  For that time period, I stopped thinking about work and book promotion and everything else on my to-do list.  Lance time because a special time for me, too.

But then a urinary tract infection began.  That week if I was sitting on the patio, he would crawl into my lap.  He wanted our affection.  We were able to take him to our local vet who had to do surgery for a blocked bladder.  She also extracted his tooth.  He was there for three days and the vet told us he was probably 5-7 years old.  When we brought him home, he recuperated on the patio and in the sunroom.  He had several different meds to take each day--a muscle relaxant, an antibiotic, an anti-inflammatory, pain medication and eye ointment.  Since he liked to eat, we managed to put most of them in his food.  He tolerated the eye ointment but didn't like it.  However, after a few days of using it, his eyes were actually open and he often studied my face when he was on my lap.  He became a lap cat, often napping there while I taped or worked on my iPAD.   Work seemed easier when I was keeping him company.


We settled into a routine.  My husband and I spent 5-6 hours a day with him on the patio, in the garden, urging him to eat to take meds, holding him and learning more about him.  We found new togetherness by spending time with him.  He took walks with my husband around the patio and garden.  He was a sweetie and we started of thinking about winter and letting him stay in the basement.  We began cleaning it out.




We took Lance for a vet check-up and the vet decided to switch his antibiotic because the urinary infection wasn't cleared.  However, when we did that, he had a reaction to the medicine.  By the end of the weekend, the urinary problems were back and we were afraid he was blocked again.  We took him to the emergency vet.  But this time...  His stomach was distended, there was fluid, and he had developed a heart murmur.  The vet suggested a sonagram and a withdrawal and testing of the fluid.  The sonogram showed he had lesions in his stomach and she diagnosed him with peritonitis.  I'm not going to go into all that but we felt the best thing we could do for him was to give him relief...and peace.



Lance left a huge hole in our hearts that won't soon be filled.  He was a fighter and a lover and the name we gave him fit.  Thank you, Lance, for the time you gave us and the gifts we'll never forget.


©2013 Karen Rose Smith

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Six Reasons to #Read to Your #Children




Most of my novels include children.  I'm a mom and many moons ago, I taught second and sixth grades, as well as high school English.  Kids and books have always been a big part of my life.  (The collection of kids' books in the photo above are books I've selected to give as presents to children in my life.)

One scene I usually include in the plot line of my novels is a parent or possible parent reading the child a story.  I believe strongly that there are many reasons to read to kids.  Here are a few benefits for your child if you encourage this past time.

LEARNING TO LISTEN

First of all, if a parent creates an atmosphere for story-time, a child learns that listening is important.  Listening is an art we all have to cultivate to be successful socially and professionally.  Story-time defines a quiet time when audio comprehension is important.  Repeated story-times advance and help a child practice listening for content and meaning.

MATCHING PICTURES WITH WORDS

Description is essential in daily life.  We have to describe places, situations and people when we have a conversation.  Listening to a story and watching the pictures aids comprehension and creates visual images to accompany the words.

FOLLOWING A STORYLINE

Children's attention spans are short.  By starting early with reading short fables, nursery rhymes or fairy tales, a child learns how to follow a storyline.  He learns about beginnings and ends, how characters change and grow.  With each year, his attention span can grow longer.  This will help him learn in school.

APPRECIATING BOOKS AND THE WRITTEN WORD

From a child's first book, she or he can learn to appreciate the written word.  Books can make a two- year-old laugh, a five-year-old appreciate someplace he or she has never been, an eight-year-old feel emotion.  A child can escape into a different world, learn information for later in life, learn about a life different from his or hers.  Words can become valuable tools that stretch not only their vocabulary but their lives.

TEACHING EMPATHY

Children are usually self-centered.  Teaching empathy can be difficult.  But listening to a character in a story be kind, or selfless, or brave can be an example of future behavior to model.  If a child becomes involved with a character's plight, he might be able to understand his brother's or sister's a little better!

THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON TO READ TO YOUR CHILD

Reading a child a story creates a bonding time for just the two of you to share.  It's a special time to look forward to.  It's one-on-one time in which only you and your child and the story matters.  Sharing reading adventures create a unique history between the two of you separate from everyday life.

Reading to a child is a priceless experience.

 
Because reading is important to me, I chose to give my heroine in CASSIDY'S COWBOY the learning disability of dyslexia.  It kept her from learning to read until she had an important enough reason to learn. 
 
©2013 Karen Rose Smith





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Safari Heat Blog Hop, Sept. 11-16, Giveaways and Prizes


   

Win!!

The Grand Prize is a Kindle Fire HD 7".  The Second Prize is a $100 Gift Card to Amazon or B & N. Plus books to go on the winner's new Kindle.

Winners need to be in the US or Canada.

All the rules and how the hop will work is listed on the Safari Heat site.  Follow the link below.

Safari Heat Blog Hop

There are four ways you can earn extra entries into the grand prize giveaway:  You will get an entry for completing each of these things--leaving a comment, following my blog, following me on Facebook or Twitter.  When you leave a comment, you need to leave the following info.  Here is an example:

Name: Karen Rose Smith
E-mail: Karen@karenrosesmith.com
Comment: Great post
Twitter: Followed
Blog: Followed
Are you a reader or author: Author
Country you link in: United States



You are NOT required to do any of these, but if you do them all, you will get four entries.

What is "heat" in a book?  Does it mean explicit love scenes?  Or does it mean the tension and level of emotional intensity that heat up the novel and your emotion as a reader?

ALWAYS DEVOTED has many levels of heat.  There is sexual chemistry that invades each of Emma's and Linc's encounters.  Emma doesn't feel Linc is in her league because he's CEO of a mega media company.  He had power.  She has none.  Then there is the emotional tension between Emma and anyone searching for her sister Tina.  Her longing to find Tina invades all of her interchanges with other characters, as well as her own thoughts that rev up encounters between her and Linc.  All of the tension cyclones into a night of intense lovemaking between Emma and Linc right before the mystery of her missing sister is solved.

In addition to the prizes listed above, I will be giving away a print copy of ALWAYS HER COWBOY.  I will draw the winner from the comments on my blog.
Also, there weill be daily giveaways.  See teh schedule below.

TO KEEP HOPPING, FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW.


Hop Giveaway Schedule:
Sept. 11
Signed Swag Pack: Dianne Duvall
Signed Book" Crush Alan Jacobson
Singed Book: The Look of Love by Bella Andre
Signed Book: Coming Clean by Sue Margolis
Signed Book: Nurder Most Four by JoAnne Myer
Pre-Made Book Cover: Carey Abbott
Signed Book: Release me by J. Kenner

Sept. 12
Signed Rack Card: Bobby Romans
Signed Book: Sleep With The Light On by Maggie Shayne
Signed Book: Blood Destiny by Tessa Dawn
Signed Book: The Rancher She Loved by Ann Roth
Signed Book: Billion-Dollar Cowboy by Carolyn Brown
Signed Book: Against the Mark by Kat Martin

Sept. 13
Five-Dollar GIft Card to a reader: Dynese Bridger
Signed Book: Perfect Mate by Mina Carter
Signed Book: Ruthless by Debra Webb
Signed Book: Coming Clean by Sue Margolis
Five-Dollar Gift Card: Carey Abbot/Tabitha Blake
Signed Book: Coming Clean by Sue Margolis

Sept. 14
Swag Pack: T.G. Ayer
Signed Book: Darker After Midnight by Lara Adrian
Signed Book: Darkeness Rises by Dianne Duvall
Signed Book: Skin Deep by T.G. Ayer
Three Bookmarks: Lara Adrian
Pre-Made Book Cover: Carey Abbott
Signed Book: Poems by JoAnne Myers

Sept. 15
Three Book Marks: Lara Adreain
Signed Book: Sleep With the Lights On by Maggie Shayne
Signed ARC Copoy: BOrn in Blook by ALexandra Ivy
DIgned Book: Like Humans DO by Daryn Crosss
Pre-Made Book Cove: Carey Abbottt
Signed Book: Coming Clean by Sue Margolis

Sept. 16
Kindle Giveaway Plus E-Books
$100 Gift Card
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How To Weave A #Novel Like Using Settings on an App


When I'm speaking of settings this time, I'm not speaking about location.  Though, of course, location is important when you're writing.  It can become a character that influences plot.  However, today I'm talking about the intricacies of interior structure.  Sort of like those Facebook settings you don't know about.  Or the Twitter settings you can't find.  They are important to manage but you have to have some experience with the app, or in this case structuring the book to realize how to manipulate them in the right way.

Manipulation when writing a novel?  Really?

Yes.  Although my books are filled with emotion and that often propels the plot, it's not enough on it's own.

So what are those settings?

First you have the TARGET AUDIENCE SETTING.  What age bracket is your target audience? 12-17, 18-25, 25-40, 40-60, 12-100?  Female or Male?

CHARACTER SETTING.  What's your heroine's background?  How does it play into the present day?  Is there enough hurt to make her vulnerable when risking her heart?  Does her occupation play an important role in who she is?  Does her occupation interfere in her relationships?  You must ask these same questions and fine tune the SETTING for your other characters.

Then we have the PLOT SETTING.  I this book a humorous romp?  An emotional relationship novel that involves family issues?  A deeply touching romance?  A mystery to solve?  A wrong to be righted?  I think you get my drift.  But keep in mind this structure has to be woven with character settings and matched up in such a way that they compel the reader to turn the page.

The FAMILY SETTING is essential in any novel.  How involved in your main characters life is her family?  How many are there?  Do they play into the drama?  Are they integral or on the periphery of the story?

The SEX SETTING.  How hot will this novel be?  G, PG, Adult?  How does this fit in with character and plot?  Fine tune structure as necessary.

The LOCATION SETTING.  How does the place where you choose to set your book play into character development, plot and especially mood?  If you set a book in a big city, it will have a very different feel from a seaside resort.

The RESEARCH SETTING.  How important is research to your book?  What facts do you need for characters' occupations?  For mystery elements?  For plot machinations?

LENGTH SETTING.  How long do you intent this work to be?  A short story?  A novella?  A 50,000 word novel?  An 80,000 word novel?  Longer?

I believe you need to have these SETTINGS adjusted before you begin writing.  Some of them can be readjusted as you write and a new idea changes your courses or your character's course.  But just like an app that you want to perform in a particular way, you need to figure out each setting and how they fit together to have the most satisfying book to sell.
©2013 Karen Rose Smith





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