Fireworks: Celebrating your personal journey

I’m terribly excited because <drum roll> the third book in my middle-grade fantasy adventure series, Hero’s Sword, is coming out by the end of July. Due to many issues out of my control, this one has been a long time coming.

Here’s the blurb:

Lyla has long believed that Roger and Lady Starla belong together even though Roger insists that Starla is above his station. When handsome and noble Perry Goodhaven shows up and wins the lady’s affection, it seems at quick glance a more fitting match.

Soon after Perry’s arrival, Roger and other servants close to Lady Starla notice a change. She sleeps a lot more than usual, is lethargic when she is awake, and defers important decision-making to Perry.

With Roger incarcerated over false accusations of treason, it is up to Jaycee, aka Lyla Stormbringer, to clear Roger’s name and uncover the truth about the man positioning himself to rule Mallory with an iron fist.

The Hero’s Sword series is a story of personal growth, namely the growth of the main character, Jaycee Hiller, from eighth grade nobody to, well, somebody. Who she’ll be is still kind of up in the air, although I’ve got ideas. The main vehicle of this growth is her adventures in her video game world. And not just by playing the game, but by being in the game, transported there by a magic controller. What Jaycee learns while in the game has real-world effects, as she learns to trust herself and her judgment (with a little help from her virtual mentor, Roger).

In this third book, Jaycee has to take a big step. She’s had Roger by her side in the first two adventures. But with Roger arrested, she’s on her own. Her success, or failure, might mean his life. She learns to put her insecurities aside and step out on her own – something she needs to do in real life to claim her identity and “space” at school.

Needless to say, there are setbacks. This can’t be too easy. And it can’t be too fast. No kid goes from nobody to somebody in the space of a week. But there are small victories. Each book ends with a lesson learned and something to celebrate.

I liken these “little victories” to the joy of playing with sparklers. They are pretty and happy, but the show of a sparkler only lasts for a few minutes. The light is often not bright enough for anyone except you to see. But they make you happy. And from that one sparkler, you can light another. Maybe you can even light the fuse for a bigger firework (warning: do not try this at home – use a match if backyard fireworks are your thing; I’m speaking metaphorically here).

Jaycee’s still in the sparkler stage of her journey. She’s having fun, but sometimes a few sparks stray and burn her hands. She’s still learning how to handle her victories and use those lessons. It’s going to mean changes, and some of the people around her won’t be happy. But she’ll get there. I have faith in her.

And when she does, oh boy, it’s going to be one heck of a fireworks display.


Planning a Book Launch is like Planning a Fireworks Display

I have no experience putting together a fireworks display, but I’d be willing to bet it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, I found this blog post from about hosting a backyard fireworks show, and was struck by the amount of planning that goes into it. Here’s an excerpt:

 To insure a safe and successful consumer fireworks display, there are some topics which merit consideration in the planning process:

  • What are the laws governing such a display in my particular state, county, or city? Is there a requirement to have insurance for such a show?
  • What is the site like where the display is to be presented? What sorts of fireworks devices will be appropriate and safe at that site?
  • What is the budget for the show? Who will be paying for the fireworks, and when?
  • Will the display be shot with accompanying music or not?
  • Will the display be fired by hand, electrically, or with a combination of the two?
  • Who will be helping with the display?
  • What will be the length of the show?
  • What devices will be employed in the show, and how will they be laid out at the site?
  • What safety precautions are necessary?
  • Will there be any reloading of devices during the show?
  • How can we prepare for inclement weather?


All of this might sound like a bit of “overkill” to some of you. Having been involved in the planning and production of many small “backyard” displays and large commercial ones, I have learned the value of planning and getting as much of the work done prior to the day of the show as possible. (full article here.)

The article goes on for much longer, showing sketches, supplies, breaking out into considerations like safety precautions and what to do in case of inclement weather. It’s a rather detailed resource, and you can tell that Ned, the author of the article, knows about which he speaks, and probably holds a pretty rad fireworks display when the time comes.

So…what does this have to do with mysteries, you might ask?

It’s simple. If we want our own version of fireworks on our book’s release date, then we can’t wait until the last minute. We have to plan ahead. If we want the zing and the pow and the explosions in multiple colors, the ooohs and aaaahs over our accomplishment, and the attention of people who maybe haven’t heard about the book yet, we have to do some work ahead of time.

Our marketing plans are like plans for a fireworks display and our publication date is the show.

I’ve been working on the marketing plan for SUEDE TO REST, the first in the Material Witness Mystery Series. The book comes out in November, so I’ve created a month-by-month action plan so it doesn’t sneak up on me.

How about you? What have you done to create fireworks on book launch day?

 P.S. 111 days until SUEDE TO REST!



Mystery Writers Rule!

By Kristi Belcamino

When I sat down to write my book I’m not sure what I THOUGHT I was writing but what ultimately came out was a crime fiction book.

Every day I thank my lucky stars that my chosen genre is mystery/crime fiction because the mystery writing world is incredibly small and amazingly supportive.

I remember a few months back I got a call from the editor of a mystery magazine I read saying he wanted to brainstorm ways to promote my novel. I thanked him profusely and said I was astounded that he was even on the phone with me, nonetheless that he wanted to help me out. His response? “Well, we already consider you part of the family?”

Say what?

That’s the kind of mystery world I’m talking about.

I’ve had famous mystery writers call me up and take me under their wing, giving me advice about navigating the world as a debut author. Who takes the time to do this?
Well, apparently successful crime fiction writers.

And the support from readers? Unbelievable. So, so lucky to be writing crime fiction because the readers of this genre are hands down the BEST!

For the first time – in well, forever – I feel like I have a giant community of likeminded people who have my back, who encourage me, and who support me.

And that includes this awesome group of Mysterista writers.

So, this post is all about being grateful and a big thank you to all of you who make up the mystery writing world!

Fireworks: Sparkly, Pretty, and Happy Dance-worthy

When I think of fireworks, I think of the pretty, high-in-the-sky, sparkly kind (and not the loud argument kind). I love them all: the big, gold, willow tree ones, the multicolored crackly ones, the tiny little ones that make popping sounds and produce quick flashes of light. To me, there’s no disappointing kind of display (although I will admit, I adore the purple ones). Fireworks are just cheerful and fun.

It’s been kind of a, well, hellish month in my neck of the woods. I’ve packed my office at work to prepare for rumored layoffs (they haven’t materialized, thankfully), my car died (for good this time, which is important as it’s “died” about 412 times before this), a number of other small yet unpleasant things happened, and I found myself in a general funk. Usually, I’m pretty good about taking a deep breath and shaking off the negative thinking, but lately I wasn’t really able to do it. On July 4, which happened to be fireworks day here, it rained. Buckets. *sigh*

But, then, as so often happens, the sun came out, which always makes me happy. Our family attended a beautiful fireworks show on July 5th. And on July 6th, I finally saw the email that had been in my email since the previous day (but was hiding amidst the volumes of junk email), the one that caused a whole internal fireworks show for me: “Congratulations! We are delighted to accept your story, “Waves of Deception” for publication. . .” Yay! YAY!

It is amazing how uplifting even the smallest bit of good news can be. In this case, being published is a BIG piece of news for this fledgling writer. The first time you receive an acceptance letter is definitely cause for celebration. I shared with everyone, and then when the book came out, I carried a copy around with me for months (just in case anyone wanted to see it, of course). But, when I got a rejection for the next piece I submitted, I experienced some major self-doubt. What if I just got lucky the first time? What if I was the only one that wrote a story on the right topic/of the right length/with the right title, and it wasn’t actually all that good? Oy! So, having a second story accepted for publication, especially a very, very different kind of story, makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I am good at this.  And that feeling causes a whole different kind of internal fireworks for me.

(Oh, and we finally bought a new car–maybe not fireworks-worthy, but there was a happy dance or two, for sure!)



Interview: Karen Rose Smith

Please welcome Karen Rose Smith, author of DEADLY DECOR, as well as other mysteries, romance novels, and women’s fiction.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Deadly Decor Front Cover mysteristasOn a perfect day, I would be free of a to-do list. The sun would be shining, the flowers in the garden would be blooming. I could sit in the garden, relax, write, or go on a picnic with my husband under a blue sky.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
I have several kitty accessories–purse, jacket, scarf. My favorite colors are sixties colors of turquoise, fuchsia and yellow. My wardrobe and jewelry reflect that.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Audrey Hepburn, the Beatles, my high school English teacher.

Do you listen to music when you write?
I listen to music to spark creativity–from Josh Groban to Brad Paisley to Charice.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
It would be Ghirardelli chocolate. I love to cook with it and eat it. Those dark chocolate raspberry squares are the best.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
DEADLY DECOR is about family and my sleuth’s determination to help when they are in trouble.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Relationships are at the basis of all my storylines, whether romance or mystery. I play on bonds that are passionate, revealing, and irrevocable. Friendship and family are important to my characters.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Caprice De Luca loves her large Italian family and has a soft heart for stray animals who she rescues and finds homes for. She comes from a long line of cooks. She learned how to create recipes at her Nana’s and mom’s elbows at the stove. Her two sisters are her best friends.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Audrey Hepburn, Jane Asher, Sandra Bulloch.

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Katherine Stone, Kathleen Woodiweis, Danielle Steel, Emilie Loring, Glenna Finley, Lisa Scottoline

What’s next for you?
My 3rd Caprice De Luca mystery with a Valentine’s Day theme, GILT BY ASSOCIATION, will be released in February 2015. The 2nd book in my Mommy Club series for Harlequin Special Edition A MATCH MADE BY BABY will be for sale in September.


Award-winning and best-selling author Karen Rose Smith will see her 85th novel published in 2014. Although she has written romance novels for over twenty years, she has now branched into mysteries as well as women’s fiction. Writing for Kensington Books, Harlequin and indie publishing her Search For Love series, she still saves time for her 3 rescue cats, gardening, cooking and photography. She has also developed many of her books into audiobooks! She looks forward to contact from her readers through her websites and loves to chat on Facebook and Twitter @karenrosesmith. DEADLY DÉCOR, book two of her Caprice De Luca home-staging mystery series, is available now. Book three, GILT BY ASSOCIATION, will be released in February 2015.



Fireworks: A Poem

Something a little different. Today I’m offering a poem I wrote way back in 1996 about watching fireworks on a 4th of July night after leaving a long-term relationship. I hope you enjoy it.

Another 4th of July

I am sitting again
in the dark of your yard,
waiting for the fireworks
on this hot 4th of July night.
I can hear the crowds down on Ruxton
answering the firemen as they shout from their trucks,
“Are you ready?”
holding out boots and helmets for donations.

I move to a better view and brush the planter.
The smell of a bruised tomato leaf follows me.
I never thought last year
I would watch these fireworks alone,
but only the dark and the smells and the stars
press against me tonight.

The first boom,
a spray of white light,
the waterfall.
A gasp
and then a cheer
rise from down the hill in answer.
And then we’re off.
Booms that shake the windows,
vibrate my chest like the bass from certain passing cars.
Bursts of yellow, red, violet
Screaming rockets leave tails of light
Long arcs fall
then bust into showers
of light.

And I begin to forget that I am alone
As I watch those colors explode against the dark sky,
The secret chambers of the heart
climb the heavens and explode.
Distance is closed.
We breath together,
the crowd lining the streets three blocks down
and me.
We ooh as one,
clap our hands and gasp as
another explosion shakes the night awake.
We have become united.
Our desires run down the dome of the sky.
We lie beneath the Sky God, awed
as his seeds of light explode and swim
in search of connection,
the fertilization that moves the wheel of life.

Manitou Springs
August, 1996

Fireworks: From an Outsider’s Point of View

I grew up overseas as a government brat, and all these years later, I still get teary-eyed over fireworks and the good ole’ stars and stripes. Fireworks go together with our flag, like peanut butter goes with jelly. What’s more American than that?

And patriotic fireworks have exactly what to do with writing? Well, bear with me…

Today, my family is international. My British granddaughter was born last year on July 5th, and with a little fudging of the time difference and the vastness of our borders, we like to think of her as an Independence baby. Y’know, fireworks. Fortunately, our British in-laws retain their wonderful sense of humor and patience with us. We can’t help ourselves. We are American, and we will never fully understand things British.

But we’re also writers, and we have to get inside the head of our viewpoint character. What if we want to write a story that’s set in another culture? Research is essential, but it’s so easy to miss the tiny details that we may not even realize we’re getting anything wrong.

For instance, I was surprised to learn that in Germany it’s considered bad taste to use the number 88! (Because the 8th letter of the alphabet is the letter H, suggesting the salute to some infamous name.)

It’s a problem, not even knowing what I may be getting wrong! I like to get around this problem by using the outsider: a character who doesn’t belong to the setting I’m writing about. Here are some reasons why I think this is important:

1. Attitudes and perspective—the customs and beliefs we’ve been raised with help to form the way we think and the way we look at the world. This goes all the way back to nursery songs and childhood games.
2. Fashions and mannerisms—every place has its own trends, its own idea of what’s cool and what’s not.
3. Gestures and body language—sometimes these look the same or similar, but they vary in meaning from place to place, ranging from the obscene to a compliment.

Outsiders are useful characters to use because:

1. Outsiders notice details of their surroundings that insiders are so accustomed to that they don’t notice.
2. Outsiders are useful for explaining things a non-native reader needs to understand. Like a sidekick.
3. Outsiders are vulnerable to danger. Yikes! Conflict!

What kinds of characters can you use for the outsider in your story?

1. An expat—the obvious choice. Do you really want to go with the obvious? And why did this character give up his/her country?
2. A student abroad—how old? An older character might work abroad.
3. A family connection—by marriage? Investigating a family secret?

Outsiders show up over and over in my writing, regardless of which pen name I write under. Probably I use them because of my past, neither belonging to my native country nor to my host country. Do you like stories that use outsiders, too?