DYING FOR A TITLE

I love making up book titles. Don’t you? But I have a feeling most authors don’t come up with a title first and then devise the plot!

DYING FOR A DATE was an easy choice for the first book in my Laurel McKay Mystery series. My single soccer mom was struggling to juggle her kids, a career and post-divorce dating. As a single working mom myself, I had plenty of stories to share. People frequently ask how much of DYING FOR A DATE is based on reality. My answer –– fifty percent memoir and fifty percent fiction. But I’m not sharing which is which.

THE CHRISTMAS TREE – FRIEND OR FOE?

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.

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!

CONTEST ALERT!
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.


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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:



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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.

CONTEST ALERT!
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.



Killer Recipes Even a Klutz Can Cook!


Congratulations to contest winner Linda Lovely.

Cindy Sample's Hot Cha Cha Cha Chipotle CakeThere’s a nasty rumor going around that I can’t cook.  I’m not sure where this rumor started, but I’m guessing it began somewhere in my kitchen. Maybe near that burner that ignited the last time I tried to sear a salmon.


Possibly it originated in the microwave. Have you ever seen a hot dog explode? It’s quite a sight.


I’m still peeling dried sweet potato fluff off my kitchen cabinets from last Christmas. They did add a nice orange luster to the oak, though.


The cooking gene seems to have skipped a generation in my family. Fortunately, my children determined at an early age that they preferred to eat food that did not come packaged in Styrofoam cartons, so they learned to cook to avoid starving to death. My daughter particularly excels in baking any recipe that involves chocolate, while I excel in eating any recipe that involves chocolate!


When All Romance e-books asked if I wanted to be included with the hottest romance authors in town, and all I had to do was contribute a recipe to their new Passionate Cooks, I immediately said yes. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like my inability to distinguish between a TSP. and a TBSP. stop me from swapping recipes with other romance authors.


These ladies have crafted sizzling recipes with even more sizzling titles. Who could resist Sensual Sticky Buns, Date Me – Baby, Passionate Pesto Pasta, Smokin’ Hot Bourbon Beef, and my particular favorite, Sexy Stromboli.


I have no idea what Sexy Stromboli is, but I definitely want one. I’m just not sure if I want it in the kitchen or my bedroom!


My own contribution is a recipe that was not handed down from generation to generation. It was handed up from my daughter. With a slight tweak from moi. In honor of my passion for ballroom dancing, I’ve named it Hot Cha Cha Cha Chipotle Cake.


Once you’ve eaten a slice, you’ll need to cha cha off those tasty calories.

Behind the Scenes at Left Coast Crime

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a mystery convention? Shaking your head no? That was my initial response in March, 2009, when Robin Burcell asked me to co-chair LCC 2012 in Sacramento. I don’t know whether it was a lack of caffeine or too many piña coladas but I said yes, and raced off to share the good news with my agent. She immediately responded with something unprintable which boiled down to “Are you nuts?”
 
Cindy & Robin Take One for the TeamChairing a convention provides unique insights and mass quantities of emails. For instance, it took at least 250 emails before we discovered that dessert choices for a banquet should not be democratically decided by committee. This, of course, forced Robin and me to submit to a dessert tasting. A tough job, we know, but those carbs kept us fueled for weeks, and just in time to begin the huge task of preparing the program which means moving panelists around a huge matrix in order to provide the best panels for them as well as the attendees. Our program chairs, Marlyn Beebe and Elaine Yamaguchi, worked night and day, and despite a deluge of 2:00 AM emails, maintained their sense of humor.
 
Determining the price of a convention is always a challenge.  Initial registrants lucked in with an early bird fee of $150 and the price gradually increased to the 2012 rate of $225. It might surprise people to know that the meals that were included (2 breakfasts, one reception and an awards banquet) ran $168 per person. Then there are the free book bags, books, cool LCC promo items and program books.
 
You don’t need to be a math whiz to see that the bottom line for a convention can easily turn into something resembling the national debt (minus a few zeros.) Fortunately sponsors such as the MWA, the Sacramento and NorCal chapters of Sisters in Crime, and HarperCollins stepped in to share some of the expenses. A number of publishers graciously donated a truckload of books to fill the book bags to overflowing and to ensure shoulder dislocations among the weak.
 
Cindy and a Rapt AudienceI could go on and on (we all know my babbling skills are excellent) but the bottom line is that running a convention is like strategizing a military campaign. And the real bottom line is represented by the incredible group of people who were willing to put in thousands of unpaid hours to make this a wonderful event. Shout outs go to Sue Trowbridge, our webmaster; Noemi Levine, Treasurer and Fan GOH; Toby Gottfried, official book snarer; Janet Rudolph, publicity chair and master tweeter; Verna Dreisbach, who brought in ad revenue; and Vallery Feldman, who skillfully displayed the ads in the program. A personal thanks to Volunteer chairs, Pat and Larry Morin who worked through the duration of LCC, and without whose assistance, I’d be locked up in a padded cell. Stan Ulrich and Lucinda Surber not only handled awards, signs, and room monitors, but also took care of everything I forgot.
 
The financial benefactor of our convention was the Sacramento Library Adult Literacy Program. Library Director Rivkah Sass provided a stirring tale of the people benefited by this wonderful program. Jean Utley’s auction committee wrapped and tied ribbons for 75 donated silent auction items. Between those items, the raffle for the beautiful quilt created by Pam Dehnke and Vallery Feldman, and excellent auctioneering by Donna Andrews and Harley Jane Kozak, almost $8,000 was raised for this program.
 
Running a convention means you’re exposed to the good, the bad and the annoying. What never ceased to amaze me was the number of volunteers who not only paid the registration fee but also worked tirelessly and cheerfully. Putting on a convention is a labor of love and these folks, and there are many, will hold a place in my heart forever.
 
Cindy and Robin Are All Smiles at the Awards BanquetI’ll always be grateful I had this opportunity to work with Robin, to make new friends, to create a congenial networking atmosphere for mystery authors and fans, and to leave everyone with wonderful memories.
 
Plus I lost 4 lbs. in 4 days running up and down those darn stairs. Heck of a fitness program!
 
Some folks say e-books will make conventions disappear but based on our 600 attendees, I disagree.
 
The bigger, burning question is whether you attend conventions and if so, what do you get out of them? And if by chance you’re interested in chairing one, please let me know. I have a bridge I’m looking to sell.
 
 

Some Women Cook Turkeys; Other Women Date Them

Congratulations to contest winner Alyx Morgan.

Guest Blog: 09-08-11

Don’t forget to take a peek at my recent GUEST BLOG over at Jenny Milchman’s Suspense Your Disbelief.