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.

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 -•-•-•->

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.


Sex Anyone?

Written by Guest Blogger Lois Winston

Author Lois Winston and Mop Doll Today I welcome guest blogger, Lois Winston, author of the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries published by Midnight Ink. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the series, received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Death By Killer Mop Doll, the sequel, was released earlier this month. Anastasia is one of the most hilarious protagonists I’ve ever met. Join Lois for a discussion of a very hot topic.


Let’s talk sex. (That got your attention, didn’t it?) I began my writing career in the romance genre. For romance writers, unless you’re writing for one of the inspirational imprints or “sweet” romance lines, it’s pretty much expected that your book will contain a sex scene or two. Or three. Or four. Or five. Sex sells.

However, now I’m writing a mystery series. A humorous mystery series. You won’t find any hot and heavy heaving bosoms in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. I’ve come to learn that mystery readers don’t generally care for sex in their reads. They’re interested in solving the mystery. They don’t mind a relationship between the protagonist and whomever, just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the whodunit.

Fair ‘nuff.

However, lately I’m seeing a trend toward steamier mysteries. The windows are definitely fogging up in some series. In one, the protagonist has actually begun doing the dirty with not one, but two guys on a fairly consistent basis.

Imagine having to decide between Hunk #1 and Hunk #2! It would certainly take Anastasia’s mind off her financial woes. And her pain-in–posterior mother-in-law. But Anastasia is a bit too old school to bed two guys. Heck, she’s fighting off the urge to bed just one. Will she or won’t she?

In Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, Anastasia is recently widowed. So no matter how she begins to feel about tenant Zack Barnes and no matter how she now feels about her dead louse of a spouse, given that he gambled away their life savings and left her up the wazoo in debt before dropping dead at a casino in Las Vegas, propriety wins out over hormones.

Death By Killer Mop Doll, the second book in the series, opens three months later, and there’s a definite tug of war developing between propriety and those hormones.

Sexual tension drives romance novels. Once the hero and heroine have their happily-ever-after, though, they wander off hand-in-hand into the sunset. If there’s a sequel, it usually involves secondary characters who become the primary characters in the next book.

In an ongoing mystery series, the protagonist remains the protagonist throughout the series. Consummating a relationship often sinks a series. Although sexual tension doesn’t drive mysteries the way it does romances, it still plays a part in driving the characters’ internal goals, motivations, and conflicts. However, dragging the will-they/won’t they out too long can also spell disaster. Readers get bored with the same old/same old. Relationships need to grow in much the same way characters need to grow. If they don’t, each book becomes a clone of the one before, and no author wants that to happen.

Our characters’ relationships become a balancing act for us, one where we have to determine what’s too much and what’s not enough. Get it wrong, and readers will be quick to let us know.

Death by Killer Mop Doll by Lois WinstonSo how do you feel about sex in mysteries? Post a comment, and you could win one of 5 signed copies of Death By Killer Mop Doll I’m giving away as part of my blog tour this month.

The full tour schedule can be found at my website, http://www.loiswinston.com, and the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can read an excerpt at http://www.loiswinston.com/excerptap2.html. You can visit me at my website: http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. You can also follow me and Anastasia on Twitter @anasleuth

The S Word

Written by Guest Blogger Camille Minichino

Congratulations to contest winners Pauline Baird Jones and Brenda.

Today I welcome my first guest blogger, Camille Minichino. Camille is a retired physicist and the author of three series.  As Camille Minichino, she’s published eight novels in the periodic table mysteries. Her AKAs are Margaret Grace (The Miniature Mysteries) and Ada Madison (The Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries).  Check out her Web Site to read the first chapter of The Square Root of Murder, her newest release.

And the Beat Goes On

Congratulations to contest winner Kelly Morris (comment #14).


July is a month filled with fireworks and patriotic fervor. There is nothing like listening to a stirring rendition of The Stars and Stripes Forever to bring a tear to one’s eye. That song makes me tear up too, but only because it brings back long forgotten memories of high school band. Memories I would prefer stay buried forever.


Spring Cleaning and Buried Treasure

Book WormAND THE WINNER IS: Diana Orgain (Comment #22)

With rain deterring me from my normal sunny spring diversions, I decided to engage in an annual event my mother instituted when we were kids: spring cleaning. Spring in Illinois is almost as cold and dreary as the winter months, as opposed to California, where the sun normally lures you away from domestic duties.

This year I had no excuse. Plenty of rainy day opportunities to sift through boxes, scrutinize cabinets, and peer under beds looking for rambunctious dust bunnies (or in my case, dust elephants.) It’s amazing the treasures you can find hidden in your closet.

One such treasure was a wedge-shaped piece of bright yellow foam with an indentation for a head. How could I forget that I own one of the infamous cheese hats worn by Green Bay Packer fans whose brain cells have evidently been impaired from spending far too much time in subzero weather. Question One: Why would anyone send me a cheese hat? Question two: Why have I kept it for the past 12 years?

Then there’s the bird bath I found in a corner of the garage, a lovely piece featuring three yellow cats holding up the bath, their Cheshire cat grins mocking my incredibly bad taste. Since I bought this oddity myself, I have no excuse other than to blame it on too many margaritas. Surely alcohol must have been involved in that purchase.

I discovered never-worn clothes, their price tags screaming sizes I couldn’t possibly fit into again. Time to share the wealth with Goodwill and hope their new owners will enjoy them.

By the time my day was done, I had accumulated four car loads of goodies to donate. I had also walked down memory lane and discovered a few precious mementos: the mint julep glass from the 1972 Kentucky Derby, the Santa mug my aunt hand painted, the child size rocking chair my daughter rocked in during her toddler years, and the homemade heart crafted by my son in preschool inscribed to “Mom.”

Spring cleaning not only provided a treasure trove for others, but it provided me with the opportunity to savor some of the most cherished moments of my life.

So, what interesting items have you discovered in the back of your closet during spring cleaning? Any dead bodies? Ex-husbands? Dead exes?

Submit a comment by April 15 (that date has such a familiar ring), and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win your choice of a $25 Macy’s gift card (so you can buy more stuff to replace what you gave away), or a slightly-used Cheese Head hat!


Book WormAND THE WINNER IS: Cynthia Farrell (Comment #23)

10. I will never use the words “I should have or I could have” again. Yes, I should have bought Apple stock last year instead of apples. But I didn’t. So be it.

9. I will not spend $100 in order to save $50. No matter how great a shopping deal I can find, it is just not good arithmetic.

8. I will exercise every day. My exercise program will not consist of short jogs to and from my emergency stash of Kit Kat bars.

7. I will dance naked in the rain. (I’m just checking to see if you’re still with me.)

6. I will write every day. My grocery list will not be included in my word count.

5. I will clean out my garage. (Hmmm, I think that’s a repeat from my list in 2007, 2008 and 2009.)

4. I will not give my children unwelcome advice. (My kids are probably ROFL at this one.)

3. I will encourage my friends to take yoga classes. It’s wonderful for the body and the soul, AND I’ll actually start taking them myself.

2. I will remember to use the coupons accumulating in my junk drawer before their expiration date. (I might even clean the junk drawer!)

1. I will strive to be a better person, to appreciate the many joys in life, and to share them with my family and the wonderful friends who are such a significant part of my life.

Let me know what your # 1 resolution is for 2011. If you comment by midnight January 8th, you could win a little piece of paradise – a gift basket composed of Kona coffee, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, and whatever cool things I discover when I visit the big island in a few days. It’s the perfect place to hibernate and finally finish DYING FOR A DANCE!