As autumn approaches, what do you most look forward to? The beauty of the fall colors? Cooler nights with a fire roaring in your fireplace, a book in one hand and a cup of tea in the other? A mad scrimmage on the ten yard line?

For our family, nothing says fall like a tangy bite of a caramel apple, the sweet taste of a cinnamon-apple donut or the scent of fresh-baked apple pie. AbelXsXcaramelXapplesAutumn means visits to the farms located in the area known as Apple Hill, where we can view miles of scenic vistas and miles of savory pastries.


What makes you drool over a book? Is it the title?  If so, how could you resist a book called Dying for a Donut? A lip smacking mystery. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

Or is it the cover that first catches your eye?

COVER 1DONUTXoneXhandXwithXhills

We’ve all heard that phrase, “a picture is worth a 1,000 words,” supposedly coined by Fred R. Barnard in 1921 when he promoted images in advertisements first appearing on the sides of streetcars. Others believe it’s an old Chinese proverb. Or a Japanese proverb. Who knows? What I do know is that I truly want my book covers to hint at the magic that occurs on the pages of my books.


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.