Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sneak Peek--APRIL'S PROMISE by Karen Rose Smith

I'm taking part in a Sneak Peek blog hop by my writer's group.  APRIL'S PROMISE is my new release, the first book in my FOREVER LOVE series. April made a promise to her dying sister that now haunts her.  She has returned to her home town because...

Gabe needs you.

April Remmington could hear her mother's voice as clearly as if Winnifred Remmington were standing beside her.

Waiting at her brother-in-law's door in the dimming light, April rang the bell a second time.  As the October breeze tossed russet leaves around the pillars on the porch, she tried to lock the secret she carried in a tight box in her heart.

If Gabe ever found out what she knew--

After a few more minutes, she turned the knob and pushed the door open.  The sound of happy-go-lucky, children's music blared from the kitchen into the foyer.  There were toys strewn in the living room from one end to the other.

The half-eaten sandwich on the coffee table and the tilted-over tumbler lying on its side told April even more explicitly than her mother's words that, since Stephie's nanny had left to help her daughter, Gabe was having problems juggling being a CEO and a single parent.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

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

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Spotlight On Narrator Gary Dikeos--From Thrillers To Romance

Gary Dikeos has a fascinating background.  It was a pleasure working with him.  His audio quality is superb.  He easily became Noah, my hero in FALLING FOR HER BOSS, with a depth of feeling that increased with each chapter.  I hope you enjoy getting to know him a little better.

Where did you grow up?

I moved around a lot as a kid and lived all over the world!  Our family moved every two to four years back and forth from Washington DC to somewhere overseas.  I'm from a lot of places!

What was your schooling?

I attended American University for a couple of years, then George Mason University for a couple of years, and I finally graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in political science.

How did you train to become a narrator?

First, I studied to be an actor when I moved to Los Angeles in 2001.  I took several classes in voice over and then I took a two-year Meisner acting program.  I was cast in several plays and student films in Los Angeles.  Then I took an audiobook class from Pat Fraley in Los Angeles in 2010.  One of the guest teachers in Pat's class was from Random House Los Angeles and he ended up casting me in my first book--POWERLESS by Matthew Cody--a young adult title.

What's been your experience with narrating so far?

After my first title with Random House, I went to the Audiobook Publishers Association Conference in New York and was able to meet other audiobook publishers.  I started working with Blackstone Audio, Oasis Audio, Brilliance Audio, Harper Audio and Audible, Inc.

Do you listen to audiobooks?

I listen to snippets of audiobooks of narrators I like.  I really don't have time to listen much at all.

Did you read a lot as a kid?  As an adult?

I did read a lot as a kid and now I love to read mostly thrillers and mysteries and action/adventure novels.  I also love history books.

Why did you begin narrating audiobooks?

I'd wanted to narrate for a long time but was working in an unrelated industry for many years doing meeting and event planning which requires a time-consuming and demanding schedule.

How do you know what voice to use for each character?

I let the emotion of the action dictate the voice and also the character and physical description helps!

How do you keep them straight?

I punch record using Pro Tools when I narrate in my home studio and I prepare a separate character track beneath my main recording track.  I name and copy a sentence or two of each character and I can call them up if I forget what the character sounded like. 

Do you feel you "become" the characters as you narrate?

I don't feel I become the character, but I can get deeply involved in the feeling and the situation the character is going through, depending on the level of the writing.

Do you read the book before you start or do you narrate scene by scene?

I pre-read the titles as much as possible.  I don't want to be caught finding out at the end of the book that the main character has a New York accent!

What is the toughest part of narrating?

The toughest part of narrating for me is maintaining the energy of the story throughout the many hours of recording over several days.  The key is trying to keep the same tone and energy from day to day and maintain it throughout.

How do you protect your voice?

I try not to go too long during the day, especially if I have a lot of characters who have deep, raspy voices with a lot of dialog.  They can irritate my voice after a while.  If I have a lot of deep raspy-voiced characters, I tend to drink more tea throughout the day!

Why narrate a romance?  What other genres are you narrating?

I wanted to narrate a romance because there are fewer men narrating romance titles and I think my vocal tone lends to the genre.  I mostly narrate thrillers, mysteries and sci-fi.  I also narrate non-fiction, history, young adult and Spanish titles.

What do you look for in an author's history to sway you toward narrating their book?

Amazon ranking and body of work are two things I look at when deciding to audition for a title.  I also read book reviews and ask friends and family what their thoughts are about the author/title.

What do you like to do most when you're not narrating?

I like spending time with my family, watching sports and traveling.

What are you planning next?

I'm currently working on a series of politically-driven international spy thrillers for Audible, Inc.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Karen Rose Smith's romance website 
Karen Rose Smith's mystery website
Karen's Facebook Author Page

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Heroine With A Secret--#dyslexia, CASSIDY'S COWBOY by Karen Rose Smith

     I wrote about a heroine in CASSIDY'S COWBOY who has dyslexia, a developmental reading disorder. I've researched the subject but I'm not an expert. This blog isn't about the condition itself, but rather about the effects of it. The inability to decipher the written word is a subject we don't discuss much.  But reading is such an essential part of life, I decided to explore the issue in this novel. As an author and a former teacher, it's important to me.

     I had experience with dyslexia when I taught second grade. This disability concerns the part of the brain that decodes symbols. I believe teachers are more aware these days than even a dozen years ago and reading problems are caught sooner. Early intervention is paramount. But children have slipped through the cracks for many years. In my case as a teacher, the learning difficulty manifested in my students with behavioral problems. When a child feels he or she can't keep up with peers, when a child feels he or she is on the outside looking in, if this child feels unable to learn, behavior changes. Acting out is common. So is sullenness or withdrawal. A teacher working with parents tries to find the root of the problem. Now testing can aid in this cause.

     My heroine had a reading disability that was never diagnosed. Her history in foster care helped her slip through the cracks until teachers and caregivers just considered her a difficult child. Fortunately she found a mentor who took her under her wing. But instead of addressing the problem, she helped Cassidy learn to live with it. Was she an enabler or a loved one helping Cassidy cope? Because she finally had people around her who cared, Cassidy learned tricks to hide her reading disability from those outside her circle. She had a  great memory.  In the same way a child memorizes a favorite book, Cassidy used her memory to retain information and absorb it. She learned to duck situations that could reveal what she felt was a flaw. Imagine the vigilance necessary to remember everything--signs, instructions, the meaning of symbols.  Anxiety can become a huge by product in fearing the secret of being unable to read will be identified. However,  in the end, Cassidy has to reveal her secret to the person she cares about most.

     Unconditional love teamed with a dose of reality wins the day in Cassidy's story. I wish all of our children could be so fortunate.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

HER SISTER In Print Through #CreateSpace, The Process and cost

I ventured into CreateSpace.  Believe it or not, I have readers--many on my snail-mail mailing list--who don't have e-readers.  But they want my e-books.  So Print On Demand seemed a good way to go.  I can buy books to sell at book signings, but my readers can also buy directly from CreateSpace, Amazon, and through extended distribution at Barnes and Noble.

I listened to other authors' comments on my professional links and loops and most were pleased with the quality of the CreateSpace books.  The process of formatting the book myself, however, would be time-consuming.  Fortunately my husband has formatted all of my e-books for Smashwords, Kindle and Nook.  But my writing schedule is tight right now, and he also helps to enter editing corrections from hard copy onto the computer. (If you haven't guessed, he's my virtual assistant since he retired!)  My deadline work always takes precedence over my indie novels and promotion.  So I asked for a recommendation for a formatter from my cover artist who put out the word for me.  I also explored a few others on my own.  I settled on Go Published which another of her clients suggested, as well as another formatter who was reasonable. (Since I don't have that finished product yet, I won't comment until I do.)

For HER SISTER, I chose a custom look ($100 with Go Published).  Custom for me meant a dropped letter at the beginning of each chapter, pretty scrolls between scenes, picking from more than one template for diversity in chapter headings.  I chose 12 point Garamond on the recommendation of a friend.  When choosing a font, keep in mind the size of book you will need to make your spine large enough for your name and title to be read easily.  I'll be asking for 14 point Garamond in my next project because it is a shorter book.  We took our time with this first book.  The formatter sent me templates to choose from as well as a list of fonts, designs for scene breaks, etc. 

Time span?  This took a month from the start to receiving the PDF to upload to CreateSpace.  I approved a sample two weeks after submitting my Word file to my formatter, asked for adjustments, then received and approved the PDF two weeks later.  HER SISTER was available on CreateSpace immediately and went for sale on Amazon four days later.

Something else you need for a CreateSpace book is an ISBN.  I purchased 10 from Bowker to use on several projects.  I'll be charging $9.99 for the book which I hope will keep it affordable. 

So what is the cost for putting a book on CreateSpace?   I will be paying $80-$100 per book for the formatter.  Since I'm using my usual cover artist, she gives me a reduced fee on the new cover which includes spine width and back cover copy.  If  I already have an ISBN on my ebook, I need a different one for my print book. The cost all depends on the service providers you use.

My books arrived today and I am excited.  The covers are gorgeous.  The print is indeed readable.  I'll be attending a conference for the New Jersey Romance Writers and I'll be able to take the books along for their literacy signing.  If any of you attend, please stop by and say Hi!  I'll blog after I have a few more books available through Print On Demand for a while to share my experience.  Knowledge in this changing publishing field can make or break success.

But no matter how much time I put into the process, including marketing and promotion, I know my focus must remain on my day to day writing--the quality and quantity of it.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Karen Rose Smith's romance website 
Karen Rose Smith's mystery website
Karen's Facebook Author Page

Rescuing A #Kitty, Zoie Joy a year later

 June 19 is my parents' anniversary. A year ago today, we found Zoie Joy in a dwarf redbud bush in our back yard, dehydrated, hungry, lost and needing a home. She was a pound and a half.  Now she weighs ten pounds!  That day and since, I felt my parents gave me this wonderful gift.  She's a sweetie and every day tells us in some way that she appreciates being in our home and being loved.

Her friendship process with our other two twelve year old cats, Ebbie and London, has been a gradual one.  London has changed from a grumpy older cat to a buddy of Zoie's who is now more active and more sociable.  Ebbie, who was struggling with arthritis in her back and a very still and inactive life, is more alert, more active and seems much happier, even though Zoie pesters her and she likes to escape her little sister now and then. All are thriving and now have their regular routines, patterns, and habits.  I named Zoie after a character in one of my books who ran away to find her bliss.  We added "Joy" as a middle name because that's what she's brought us from the first day we found her.  Each day I'm grateful we found this little bundle in our back yard.

Here are some photos from the past year that show how much she's grown!

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Monday, June 17, 2013

SPOTLIGHT on Lara Asmundson, #narrator of CASSIDY'S COWBOY--From Physical Therapist to Narrating a Cowgirl

CASSIDY'S COWBOY is a special book to me.  It's an emotional story about a heroine who has dyslexia and keeps it a secret from everyone but her foreman and her housekeeper. The hero's wife left him and their daughter, and his daughter has withdrawn.  They've come to Cassidy's Twin Pines Ranch to heal.

I knew I needed someone special to narrate this book--to BE Cassidy.  When I heard Lara Asmundson's voice, I realized she was Cassidy.  She had just the right timbre, just the right intonation, just the right inflection for my cowgirl.  And the emotion she injected into the story was perfect.  After our interview, I realized why.  Lara could convey compassion so well because she began as a physical therapist and research scientist.  She spent many years working with and studying stroke patients and their recovery.  When her colleagues remarked on her very warm, calm and friendly voice, the seeds of being a narrator were sown.

What came next?
Lara says, "As any voice actor will tell you, it's not about the voice, it's about the acting.  So,when I decided to pursue voice acting, I was lucky enough to find one of the the best voice acting schools around, Voicetrax, SF.  It's run by an amazing woman with years of experience in the biz, Samantha Paris.  I made my commercial demo in the Fall of 2011 and signed with an agent in San Francisco in January 2012.  I have a body of work in the commercial and industrial narration world that includes a promo for Nike professional NFL uniforms, tv and radio ads for a political proposition in California's last election, a tv PSA for Spare The Air and a tv spot for a new breast cancer gene detection test.

What type of formal training have you undertaken?
"Formal training.  I have taken classes at Voicetrax SF for almost 7 years now.  The classes have included everything from basic acting to improv to creating characters for animation and video games to narration for everything from educational tv to industrial tutorials to audiobooks."

How do you train to be a narrator?
"Training to be a narrator is training to be an actor.  You have to make the story come alive with your voice.  So it is a bit different than being trained to be a film or stage actor.  You have to convey the emotions and the scene of the story with your voice only.  Not always easy!  But acting is acting, so that is where you begin.  Narrating audiobooks is the marathon of narration.  And the challenges are many.  But for me, once I get involved in the story and get to know the characters, it becomes very engrossing.  I get caught up in the story and it develops its own flow."

What is your favorite genre to narrate?
"I am definitely a fiction narrator.  And as for genre, I find myself drawn to romance, fantasy and sci-fi.  But as a reader I am a sucker for a good love story and a strong female lead character.  So if a book has those, as a narrator I know I will be able to give it my best as I will be engaged in the story, too."

How do you create each character's voice?
"When I get the manuscript from the author, I sit down and skim through the whole book, writing down each character, their gender, age and relationship to the other characters.  Basically any detail about that character I can find.  With that information, I can start to figure what they would sound like.  If they are young, they will have a lighter voice as well as if they are female.  But their personality plays a role, too.  Are they kind, impulsive, stubborn, evil, insecure?  Those personality traits help me figure out what they should sound like too.  Once I have decided on a voice for a character, it's pretty easy to keep them straight throughout the story cause now I know who they are.  Though when a character only makes 1 or 2 appearances in a book, I do find that I need to go back and listen to what I did to make sure I'm consistent."

Where did you grow up?

"I'm a California girl born and raised, with a brief interlude on the East Coast (Maine and Massachusetts) for college and post college work."

When you're not working, what do you like to do?
"When I'm not working as a commercial voice actor and audiobook narrator, I spend time with my family.  I have a husband and 2 children ages 7 and 11 and we love spending time outdoors.  We are currently on a mission to visit as many National Parks as we can!  We love camping and hiking.  To relax on my own, I garden, knit and practice yoga."

CONTACT Lara Asmundson
Website: Lara's website

Cassidy's Cowboy Audiobook on Amazon

Cassidy's Cowboy Audiobook on Audible

Cassidy's Cowboy Audiobook on ITunes

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Gifts My Dad Is Still Giving Me

 My dad's paintings

Memories and Father's Day go together.  This year I resurrected quite a few.  We're doing a cosmetic make-over of our kitchen and painting some walls yellow.  When my mom and dad built their house, they chose yellow ceramic tile for the kitchen.  The yellow wasn't a conscious motivation for me until I decided to use a few of my dad's paintings for wall art and memories of my childhood home resurfaced.

When my dad retired, he decided to teach himself how to use acrylic and watercolor paints.  He was already self taught in woodworking, playing the piano, organ, as well as the guitar, and carving.  He had to leave school after eighth grade to work but was always interested in learning something new.  He had a workshop in the basement for as long as I can remember.  After he retired, he set up an easel and again began something new--pursuing a love of painting for about fifteen years.  Besides the paintings themselves which were mostly reproductions of other artist's work, he created the frames for many of them, too.

After my parents passed on, I moved all of his paintings to our house.  I chose Southwest themed paintings to hang in my office, a snow and cabin scene for the kitchen, and a few watercolors for a hallway.  Looking at each one brings back a different time period in our lives.  Now with the kitchen redo, I wanted to reach into our back closet, pull all the paintings out and choose something different for our kitchen.

It was serendipity that I chose to do this a week before Father's Day.  I hadn't been in that cubbyhole closet for a few years.  What a memory trove of paintings!  Most of them are dated and each brings back a rush of pictures from times I wish I could capture again.

I chose two watercolors for our kitchen, a painting of yellow tabby kitties I'd totally forgotten about, as well as two unframed retro scenes that will go beautifully in a bedroom.  My husband is having them framed for me for our summer anniversary.

Father's Day won't begin and end on Father's Day.  With my dad's artwork around me, it can last throughout the year.

Happy Father's Day, Daddy.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Release by Karen Rose Smith, APRIL'S PROMISE, Forever Love series

Some stories sit in my heart until I feel the time is right to bring them into the light.  APRIL'S PROMISE is one of those books.  It stretches the bounds of category romance.  But at its heart, it's a reunion romance, which are my favorite romances to write.  My plotlines usually spin around the integrity of my hero and heroine.  An honorable man, Gabe never imagined his wife, April's sister, wouldn't be honorable.  An honorable woman, April made a promise to her sister when she was dying because it was the right thing to do.  In the end, Gabe and April realize only true honesty can be the foundation for a lasting commitment.

After writing and seeing published over eighty novels,  I don't think I'll ever tire of weaving romances and giving my characters happily-ever-afters.  APRIL'S PROMISE is the first book in my FOREVER LOVE series.  And, yes, the next book is plotted.  The hero will be Nicholas, Gabe's best friend.  I like writing a series because, like my readers, I look forward to returning to the same town and characters who I've gotten to know in a previous book.  Cedar Corners is a small town near Richmond, Virginia, and a perfect setting for this series.

Already I have plans in the works and a narrator lined up to produce APRIL'S PROMISE into an audiobook.  I'm also hoping that by the end of July, it will be available in print.

When I'm not writing romances, I'm writing mysteries, or blogging, or Skyping with another writer.  To take a break from that side of my life, I enjoy digging into my mother's and grandmother's recipe boxes to create food to enjoy with family and friends.  I also garden, and watching plants grow is a similar process to watching a plot develop!

I look forward to many more plots developing for the FOREVER LOVE series.

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The #Roses In My #Garden

My middle name is Rose.  I was given that name because my godmother's name was Rose.  Maybe that's why I've always loved roses so much.  My mom's favorite was the Peace rose.  After I met my husband, I realized how much my mother-in-law loved roses.  Her rose gardens lined the perimeters of their house.  The night I was engaged, my fiance-to-be left me a yellow rose decorated by a diamond engagement ring.  As a romance writer, it just seemed natural to take the rose as one of my symbols and logos.

What I like most about roses are their beauty, their delicacy, their scent.  For the past few years, I've dried rose petals to make sachets for family and friends at Christmas.  It was a way to make roses last through the winter months.  Each year we add a new rose to our garden.  When I find one I like, my husband says--"And where are we going to put it?"  We always find a spot.

This time of year at first blooming, the roses are the most abundant and beautiful.  During the past week, instead of using a tape recorder to write, I took my legal pad to the patio and enjoyed the roses all around me, emanating their different scents.  So I thought I'd share them with you!  Here are some of the varieties gracing our gardens this year.

Love And Peace
California Dreamin'

Barbra Streisand
Blue Girl

Chrysler Imperial bud
Music Box (baby bush)
McCartney Rose

Peace (climber)

©2013 Karen Rose Smith

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