Have you ever wondered how some couples maintain marital bliss for decades? What special secrets do they possess to keep their passion alive year after year?

You probably think I’m going to share those secrets with you. Nope. I’m hoping you’ll do it for me.

I’m in the middle of writing Dying for a Dude, book four in my humorous romantic mystery series, and I am stumped. I can’t decide how far to ramp up the romance between my feisty single soccer mom protagonist, Laurel McKay, and her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Detective Hunter AKA Detective Hunk.


Cindy and Mom at ChristmasHolidays are made of memories – some good. Some challenging!  

When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to travel “over the hills and through the woods” to my Grandmother’s house.  Unfortunately, our journey was over slushy freeways in wind chills below zero, to Grandma’s brick bungalow in Chicago. 

I’d enter her house hoping for the scent of fresh-baked gingerbread cookies. But my grandmother’s kitchen was more likely to smell of blood sausage and sauerkraut than my sugar-coated fantasies! As for my other grandmother who hailed from Sweden – her specialties were pickled herring and fruitcake.

Killer Cocktail Contest

I love holidays – the bigger the spectacle the better. With Sacramento temps hovering at 110 degrees or more this summer, there’s nothing like a cool, refreshing libation to kickstart the party spirit.

Killer Cocktail Contest

Speaking of cool cocktails and hot celebrations, did you know that July 19th is National Daiquiri Day? I discovered this amazing tidbit during Christmas vacation with my kids. Surprisingly enough (or not), my thirty-year-old son informed me that he’d thrown National Daiquiri parties for the past four years.

How odd my invitation failed to arrive – four years in a row!

For a brief moment in time, I thought of releasing Dying for a Daiquiri on National Daiquiri Day. Then my inner editor kicked in and told me to get real. But there is absolutely no reason why all of you shouldn’t start celebrating in advance of the official October 1st launch.

Dying for a Daiquiri – Uncovered

Congratulations to contest winner Jaci Muzamel.

Who knew choosing the cover for a book titled Dying for a Daiquiri would be more controversial than the debate over the location of the Kings’ basketball team? After reading the blog and Facebook comments regarding my four diverse cover selections, I have far more sympathy for Congress. And that’s as political as this blog will get.

Dying for a Daiquiri by Cindy Sample – Option #4
I am extremely grateful that over 350 people took the time, not only to select their favorite cover, but also to analyze all of them. I loved the diversity of the comments. Oddly enough (or not), the only consistent trend was that 48 out of 50 men voted for option four – the cover my designer and I titled “Legs.”  Go figure.

A number of authors commented that the use of chalk body outlines or crime scene tape was somewhat cliché. Yet readers in this informal survey frequently suggested I add one or the other to covers one and three, so they would know the book was a mystery.

Dying for a Daiquiri by Cindy Sample – Option #1  Dying for a Daiquiri by Cindy Sample – Option #3

One thing is certain. Whether it’s in paper or e-book form, people do care about cover art. The cover is not just the lure that draws them to research a book further, but it needs to represent the author’s work.

All of these comments helped me recognize what I offer to my readers, which is what one reviewer referred to as “feel-good humor.” After someone reads one of the books in this series, my hope is that she or he will be smiling for the rest of the day. I’m even happy with comments such as this: “It’s Cindy Sample’s fault I feel like crap because I couldn’t stop reading Dying for a Dance until I finished at 3 AM!”

It is now time for the big reveal. Although cover # 1 was not my initial favorite, it was the winner, and I realized it best demonstrates what I wish to convey to readers. Thanks to specific suggestions from Linda Townsin, Ingrid Lundquist, Jan Hudson, Vinnie Hansen, Sue Trowbridge, Robin Burcell and Caitlin Alexander, cover artist Karen Phillips has tilted, torqued and tweaked this cover to death. We can now reveal the latest Laurel McKay mystery, Dying  for a Daiquiri.

Dying for a Daiquiri – Final Cover

Thanks to the hundreds of people, too numerous to mention, who suggested we change the glass featured in cover one. My lengthy research (big loopy smile here) determined that daiquiris are served in every type of glass you can name. But the deadliest daiquiri should definitely be the most delicious looking. Wouldn’t you agree?

The Deadly Daiquiri Cover Up

Congratulations to contest winner
      Priscilla Caporaletti-Bean.

How many of you have taken a Hawaiian vacation, only to discover paradise can be perilous?

Sure, those beautiful islands offer balmy breezes, turquoise water, waving palm fronds, and sandy beaches.

But what about deadly sharks? Poisonous sea urchins? And the most lethal of them all?

Dying for a Daiquiri by Cindy Sample – Option #1

Those fruity drinks tucked into a coconut shell, adorned with an orchid, a slice of pineapple, and a tiny pastel umbrella look so innocent. How could they possibly be dangerous?

<-•-•-•- Cover Option #1

Trust me. At 750 calories apiece, they are almost as deadly as Paula Deen’s cooking.

Dying for a Daiquiri by Cindy Sample – Option #2

When an author sets a book in an exotic setting, a visit to said locale is required.

With a title such as Dying for a Daiquiri, I had no choice but to embark on a journey that included extensive research.

Cover Option #2 -•-•-•->

Fortunately, in Hawaii, there are numerous ways to work off those excess calories: Surfing, kayaking, hiking up and down cliffs and under waterfalls, and hula dancing.

Dying for a Daiquiri by Cindy Sample – Option #3

The big island proved to be a mystery writer’s nirvana. Seven of the world’s nine climate zones are located there.

I had the option of boiling my victims in lava or freezing them on top of Mauna Kea. In her hunt for a killer, Laurel could fall off a cliff, out of a boat, into the volcano, or…

<-•-•-•- Cover Option #3

I guess you’ll just have to wait until the book is released in September to find out.

Dying for a Daiquiri by Cindy Sample – Option #4

In the meantime, Laurel has requested that I finally make a decision about the cover art. My designer has come up with four fabulous covers.

Cover Option #4 -•-•-•->

My Dream Date – Fiction vs. Reality

Every year as Valentine’s Day approaches, my thoughts turn to romance. Well, to be honest, they turn to chocolate then to romance.

As a single woman, and card-carrying member of the AARP, what are my expectations for the love interest in my life? I used to go for the tall, dark, silent type but lately that hasn’t worked out so well.

My Dream Date – Fiction vs. RealityHawaii botannical garden Tiki God
Am I still searching for a fellow who possesses a muscled physique, broad shoulders, slim waist, and a wicked grin? Or will I be satisfied if those perfect specimens of male hunkiness exist only between the pages of my favorite novels?

Women from eleven to eighty have devoured the books in the Twilight series; panting with desire over the youthful, brooding Edward Cullen or the delicious Jacob Black. Teenagers, moms and grandmothers flocked to the theater to view these romantic icons who are not only decades younger, but of the vampire or werewolf persuasion. So what do women really want?

I asked a male friend of mine to read an early version of DYING FOR A DATE, the first book in my romantic mystery series. He questioned why the detective investigating the murders had to be tall, dark and handsome? I pondered his comment and decided to change this character, a potential love interest, to a regular guy.  I re-wrote him as a plain Joe, smart and funny, but not the sort of character that would make me rummage through my dresser in search of my black silk nightie.

When I shared the revised version with my critique group, their unanimous comment was, “what happened to Detective Hunk? The guy with the Dairy Queen hot fudge sundae brown eyes. We want him back!”

When it comes to our own love interest – do we care if he’s chubby, bald, and snores like a chain saw on steroids? No! We love him and he’s the guy we want to wake up with every morning. But we want to lust after the men we meet between the pages of our paperbacks!

In my own search for a perfect match, my top five items on my wish list have nothing to do with looks. I want someone who is witty, intelligent, kind, caring and energetic. A full head of hair is a plus, but these days it’s totally optional. A few extra pounds on his frame?  I can help him work them off.  Need a four-way bypass before our coffee date? Not a problem. Call me after they staple you back together.

But just because I’m practical in life, doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the hot and cold of a romantic flirtation. It’s amazing how titillating a love scene an author can craft, using a washing machine and her imagination!

I’d love to know your thoughts. Who are you looking for in fiction and real life? Leave a comment by midnight on Valentine’s Day, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a box of See’s Truffles or a gift certificate worth $20 to the candy store of your choice.

The Popsicle Syndrome

Written by Guest Blogger Terry Ambrose

Author Terry AmbroseToday I welcome Terry Ambrose, author of two very funny mystery series.

Terry and his protagonists seem to have something in common.

Find out if you do as well.


You Don’t Know Jersey

Written by Guest Blogger Lois Winston

Author Lois WinstonIt’s my pleasure to introduce my Guest blogger today, award-winning romance and mystery author, Lois Winston.

If you’ve watched Jersey Shore or read about New Jersey in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, you may think you know all about it.

But according to Lois:



Death By Spanx

Congratulations to contest winner Karen Lange.

For those readers who consumed the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, please note this blog post is not about a physical relationship which incorporates any form of bondage or discipline.

Or is it?

I recently had an encounter that left me tormented and imprisoned. I’ve never felt such anguish before and hopefully will not suffer any permanent scars from this experience.

I’m talking about my visit to a local department store in search of a dress for a holiday party. The life of an author is fraught with peril.  You are forced to remain sedentary for hours on end, hoping to achieve your desired word count by the end of the day. Unfortunately on most days, my carb count exceeds my word count.

At the store, I found dresses galore in every shape and color. Unfortunately none of them came in my shape. That’s when the saleswoman leaned in and whispered, “Why don’t you try Spanx?”

At first I thought she said Spankys, and I couldn’t figure out how eating pizza would help my current situation. Then I realized she was referring to the line of firmware that had made the female founder a bazillionaire.

When I hesitated, she confided that Katy Perry wore Spanx and was proud of it. If the singer of “Teenage Dream” could wear firmware, so could a card-carrying member of the AARP! I told her to bring on the Spanx.

Seconds later she produced a beige garment about the size of a toddler’s mitten.  My expression must have appeared doubtful because she smiled and reassured me it would do the trick. My curves would miraculously realign.

I’m not the most scientific of souls, but I did ponder where exactly those curves would realign themselves.  Hopefully at top mast!

After shimmying left and right, up and down, and sweating more profusely than a hot flash moment, I was firmly encased in an item that must have been designed by someone who also built torture chambers on the side.

I decided I would rather pull my upper lip over my forehead than wear this item for another second.

That’s when I discovered that the torture of getting into the Spanx item was nothing compared to getting out of it. After a ten-minute struggle, I was ready to have the store call for the Jaws of Life. With a final tug, I sent the miniature girdle down to my knees.

At last I was free. Unfortunately, I could not straighten up and celebrate because I’d pulled every single muscle in my back.

The bad news was I didn’t end up purchasing a new dress. The good news was that I no longer needed one, since it’s quite difficult to foxtrot when you’re bent over at a ninety-degree angle.

Anyone else suffer a “fashionable” moment? I’d love to hear your tale.

Leave a comment by midnight January 6th, and you’ll be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift card of your choice. Here’s to a safe and Spanx-free New Year.

Trick or Treating Is Not for Sissies

Congratulations to contest winner Cathy Ann Adkins.

Written by Guest Blogger Heather Haven

Cindy Sample - Clowning Around!

I love Halloween.

1. You get to dress up in crazy costumes, even when you’re giving speeches at the office! Anyone notice a similarity to the clown costume Laurel wore in DYING FOR A DATE? What detective wouldn’t want to smooch with a gal who looked like that?