Sunday, April 28, 2013

Gardening--More Than A Hobby

I like to garden for relaxation.  Urging plants to grow from seed and taking care of them throughout the process fills a basic need for me to get away from everything technological for just a little while each day.  Nurturing plants is a lot like nurturing kids and pets!

I'm planting more heirloom tomato seeds this week.  My geraniums and impatiens are growing stronger.  The petunias are popping out of the soil.  It's time for our major growing vegetable.  We usually plant around twenty-five tomato plants in our garden to produce fresh tomatoes as well as to freeze for winter.  But I grow about 100 plants so we can give plants to friends, family, neighbors.  I never know how many will thrive and once they start growing, I nurture them.

This year's geraniums and impatiens

2013 tomato seedlings

The first year I grew tomatoes, I started with a basic beefsteak variety and paste tomatoes.  I watch cooking shows and was intrigued by the chefs using "heirloom" tomatoes which were supposed to have a richer, more vibrant flavor.  In our area there wasn't a market where I could find heirloom tomatoes.

What are heirloom tomatoes?  To me the term means tomatoes with a history and possibly a story behind them.  They are open pollinated and are true tomatoes without genetic engineering.  When I decided to grow them, I understood that they might be more prone to disease and cracking.  But that hasn't been my experience.  To my surprise, almost all of them grew and the result was close to a hundred healthy plants last year.  Maybe this was the result of the varieties I chose.  Or maybe my crop was the result of where I bought my seeds.  I found an organic farm online (Tomato Fest) that is California-based. (  This year I purchased seeds from another venue, too--Totally Tomato  ( )

I'll give you an example of the history of an heirloom tomato.  My favorite variety is Marianna's Peace.  This tomato is an indeterminate that produces a 1 to 2 pound beautiful fruit.  (It's officially a pink tomato!)  It has a bountiful, not too acid taste, wonderful for eating and also good for sauce.  The seeds date back to the early 1900's when they were smuggled out of Czechoslovakia by a seventeen-year-old named Marianna.

Another favorite of mine is Anna Russian which has a heart-shaped red fruit.  The seeds came from a Russian immigrant.  Here's a photo of last year's fruit.

This year I'm trying some new varieties along with Marianna and Anna Russian.  A few are Ponderosa Pink, Ponderosa Gold, Big Italian Beefsteak, Bull's Heart and Watermelon Beefsteak.  As the garden progresses, I'll blog and post photos, comparing this year's crop to last year's.

Do you grow tomatoes?  What are your best varieties?  What does the process of gardening give you?

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Boxed Set 1 on Amazon

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Family Relationships and Writing From The Heart

                                                Family Relationships and Writing From The Heart

When I wrote HER SISTER, I knew it was a departure from the type of book I usually write.  It's women's fiction with romance and mystery.  But is it really so different? One element that has always characterized my books is family relationships.  Whether I'm writing the ultimate romance or adding a mystery or suspense plot, family trumps all.

There are many reasons for that.  Although I was an only child, my extended family was large.  My parents and I lived with my grandfather and aunt until I was five and then my parents built a house next door.  I ran between the houses as if they were both "home."  On summer mornings I can remember my aunt singing while she made breakfast.  When I was home sick from school, I stayed with my aunt and my grandfather until my parents returned home.

My paternal grandfather's house was located on a corner lot.  My neighborhood friends and I had the run of both properties to skate around, to ride bikes around, to pretend and imagine and create scenarios that we brought to life, whether it was a western script or simply a family one.  Sundays were usually spent with relatives at my grandfather's house next door.  Decades-old elms cascaded over park benches where my aunts and uncles would sit and talk.  My dad had nine brothers and sisters, so someone was always coming and going, bringing food, cooking food, laughing and enjoying a glass of wine.  My favorite cousin became a confidante as we grew older into teenage crushes, discussed favorite music and even wrote a script together.

On my mom's side of the family, I had seven aunts and uncles.  They were scattered a bit more so I didn't see them as often.  But every Friday evening my parents and I would drive to my maternal grandparents' house to pick up fresh food my grandmother had purchased for my mom at the farmers' market.  They lived in a row house across the alley from the market.  My grandfather's barber shop was on the first floor.  The living room was on the second floor but we hardly ever used it because around the huge dining room table was where all the conversation swirled.  On those Sundays we weren't visiting with family next door, we drove to my maternal grandparents' house for supper.  This was life.  Everyone was connected.

I've lost my parents and all of my aunts and uncles.  With those losses, memories become even more precious.  In HER SISTER, I drew on memories of my uncle's farm where my dad and another uncle worked, too, raising tobacco.  I remember going out into the tobacco field with them on a flatbed trailer being pulled by a tractor.  I helped push the tobacco leaves onto lathes before they were hung in the barn.  I can still remember the sun on my face, the smells of harvesting, the enjoyment of feeling free on that farm.  In HER SISTER, this was Amanda's background.  One summer she shared it with Max when they fell in love.

So to write this book, I analyzed what happened when a family fell apart because their three-year-old was abducted.  Then I imagined what could happen as they found their way back to each other in the midst of another crisis.

After writing for twenty years, last year I sold a mystery series.  I found the genre fit perfectly and I love the challenge of devising puzzle pieces that fit together to weave a story.  So in HER SISTER, I decided to combine everything I like best about writing--an emotional plot with romance and mystery.

I hope you enjoy it, too.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

View a book trailer of HER SISTER

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Setting for HER SISTER and Kindle Give*way--Sunday through Thursday

 Setting for HER SISTER, My home town--York, Pennsylvania

Settings set the stage for a story.  Location is important for a multitude of reasons.  In a way, a town is a big neighborhood.

When I was growing up, York, Pennsylvania seemed like a small town even though it wasn't.  There were smaller towns within an hour or so of it--Gettysburg, Hanover, Lancaster. Whether parents thought it was big or small, as kids we felt it was just right.  We had our neighborhood.  I went to Catholic school and the rest of my neighborhood friends went to public school.  We were together after school, playing at each others' house or all around the block with bikes.  Especially in the summer, our garages were barns, ladders made horses' stalls, azalea flowers were food for pretend families. There were six of us who stuck together, three guys and three girls, and we were in and out of each others homes all summer long.

As I grew up, I realized our neighbors were true friends.  My mother baked food and shared it as did other neighbors. When I was in high school my neighbor drove her granddaughter and me to school every morning and my dad picked us up.  Everyone helped when there was a loss in the family or a crisis.

When I reached the age of ten, my mom let me ride the city bus alone.  We rode it together every day to school or to go downtown where major stores were located.  In the downtown area, my interests were simple--Beatles singles as they were released, clothes and the latest Nancy Drew books.  I would take the bus, meet friends or my cousin, shop and eat lunch at the Bon Ton tea room.  Or there was the Woolworth soda counter as an alternative.

When I was a teenager, a mall opened at our end of town.  That became a new meeting place once we all began to drive.  My first job was a sales position at Montgomery Ward's in that mall when I was on summer break from college.

York was the first capital of the United States.  Also known as Yorktown in the mid 18th to early 19th century, it was founded in 1741 by settlers from the Philadelphia region.  Downtown is historic and has many well-preserved historic buildings like The Golden Plough Tavern, the York Meeting House and the York Central Market.  I remember going to Central Market which was a farmers' market with my mom or aunt, choosing fresh produce, baked goods and flowers.

The first book I had published by Meteor was set in York, as well as my first book for Silhouette.  I felt grounded there, knew where everything was located and could describe it in detail.  I found myself returning to York for HER SISTER for all those same reasons.  I wanted to concentrate on what happened in the storyline, the emotions driving the Thaddeus family, and the background and feelings that came from the place they lived.  My memories of my childhood played into Amanda's background and became alive again as I wrote.

Below you'll find some photos of York, Pennsylvania, the setting for HER SISTER.  Another setting in the book, Pine Hill, a rural community near York, is fictional but based on communities surrounding York such as Loganville, East Prospect, Dallastown amd Red Lion.

York Hospital before a parking garage under construction in this photo blocked the stately view.

The building in downtown York which housed the Bon Ton Department Store.

Entering the square in downtown York.  The pillars of the historic courthouse can be seen in the distance.

There are multiple settings in HER SISTER, including Texas and New Mexico. How does Albuquerque play to the setting mix?  More about that in a future blog.

I'd love to hear about your hometowns and what they mean to you.  Please feel free to share.

I'll be giving away HER SISTER, Book 7 in my SEARCH FOR LOVE series, on Amazon Kindle from April 14 - 18, Sunday through Thursday.  If you enjoy it, spread the word to friends and family.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

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Saturday, April 13, 2013


ALWAYS HER COWBOY, an original indie novel, is a contemporary ranch romance that's a mixture of sweet and sexy, old fashioned and up-to-date. Although it takes place on a Wyoming ranch, my hero Zack escaped a background as a doctor in L.A. that caused him pain. My heroine, Lucy, is exactly what he needs with her vulnerable faith in her family and her world. Zack, of course, fights his physical attraction for her and constantly backs away from her emotional pull. But this winter night, when Lucy has been reunited with her twin sister, his turmoil is greater than it's ever been.When I chose the narrator to tell this story, Australian Ben Maclaine auditioned and this was part of his audition piece. He was Zack and perfect for this book. I looked no farther.

Here is your sneak peek.

Hesitating a moment, finally Lucy crossed to him.  "What's wrong?"  Zack was quick to answer, "Nothing's wrong. I needed fresh air."

"This is frigid air and the only reason you might want to still be out here is to numb something that might be thawing."

"I don't need a psychologist," he snapped.

"What you need is a friend. I can be that if you let me."

She was so damn stubborn sometimes. "A friend won't help. Nothing will help. I lost my wife and I lost my child and nothing will every bring them back." He couldn't believe the vehement bitterness in just saying it.  Coming closer, Lucy looked up at him. "No, nothing will ever bring them back."

It was as if someone else saying the words finally made their deaths much too real. Zack felt his throat constricting and his eyes stinging and he turned away from her to stare into the dark night.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith


Listen to a sample or buy ALWAYS HER COWBOY audiobook at:

Karen Rose Smith's romance website 
Karen Rose Smith's mystery website

Check out more Sneak Peeks from these authors: Sneak Peek Sunday excerpts

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Writing about kids and parents seems to come naturally to me. Maybe because I taught both elementary and high school, or just maybe because I have a son and can still remember the days when I often didn't know what would happen next. Kids bring surprises and can cook up plots that seem totally feasible to them.

WHEN MOM MEETS DAD was originally published as MOM MEETS DAD in its first edition. It was easy to update and revise this one because the story is one of my favorite kid plots. Two little nine year old girls who are best friends decide their parents would be perfect for each other. Both of them need two parents and they want to be real sisters. What could be easier than bringing their parents together so they can fall in love?

So...  Kristi has let her math grade fall during the last quarter of the school year so her best friend's mom who is a teacher can tutor her.  And when Amanda's mower won't start, the girls see this as a perfect opportunity for ... When Mom meets Dad.

As she took oatmeal cookies from a canister and arranged them on a plate, Amanda glanced out the window.  Good heavens!  Alex Woodsides had removed his shirt.  All she could do was stare as he pulled on the starter rope.  Muscular arms.  Broad back shoulders.  Slim waist.  And when he turned...

She quickly moved to the table with the plate of cookies. but not before she'd glimpsed thick wavy dark hair arrowing down his chest.  She'd no sooner carried the glasses to the table when her back screen door opened.  Suddenly the man from her dreams was standing in her kitchen--hot, sweated and exceptionally male.

At first she couldn't find her voice.  Finally she managed, "Did you find the problem?"

"Sure did.  A gummed up spark plug."  He set it on the counter.  "Just take that to the hardware store for a replacement."

She gave a sigh of relief.  "I thought the mower was on it's last leg.  Thanks."

They stared at each other for a few moments, neither of them moving.  Amanda was too aware of Alex's scent, both male and cologne, and the heat that seemed to rise up between them.  She had to break the spell and distance herself.  Now!

WHEN MOM MEETS DAD will soon be in audiobook.  Johnny Peppers who narrated TOYS AND BABY WISHES will be narrating this one, too. Again he tells my story expertly, with humor and feeling. Thank you, Johnny. Hopefully the audiobook will be available in May. Check with me anytime for more information. You can contact me here on my blog or through my websites.

WHEN MOM MEETS DAD on Smashwords


WHEN MOM MEETS DAD on Barnes and Noble

Copyright 2013 Karen Rose Smith

Check out more Sneak Peeks from these authors: Sneak Peek Sunday excerpts

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A MAN WORTH LOVING -- A Classic is Updated and Revised

My first published book -- Now revised and updated with a new cover

I sold my first book in 1991.  Back then, I was aiming for a sexier line to release it so there are more love scenes and "romantic" content than the books I write now.  I call it sweet erotica.  Still, at its core, it's a love story.  When I first developed it into an ebook two years ago, I published it as it was originally written.  Recently, since I'm developing my novels into audiobooks, I decided to revise and update it.

Updating involves more than adding cell phones, though the lack of them was a huge part of some plots back then.  Updating includes editing out old cliches and dated references to what were then current pop figures.  For me a huge element was whether or not I should reduce the romantic content and the length of the love scenes.  At the end of the day, I cut some of it but I didn't want to tamper with the innate nature of the book.

When I developed a cover for the original ebook, I chose a symbolic one.  With the edited version, I wanted the nature of the novel to be clear to readers.  This is a sexy book, but the baby and the family elements give it a sweet flavor.

My revised and updated version kept the essence of a plot that deals with the hero aiding the heroine in giving birth.  That miracle forms a bond between them.  Their romance revolves around that bond, as well as the conflicts that could tear them apart.

I consider A MAN WORTH LOVING a classic romance and I hope you do, too. 

©2013 Karen Rose Smith


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