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.

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?








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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!

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.



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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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?

Where Do Ideas Come From?



Congratulations to contest winner Marilyn Meredith.

Written by Guest Blogger Kaye George


Kaye George by Ron WhitfieldToday I welcome guest blogger Kaye George. Kaye has been a janitor, a mental health center secretary, a short order cook, a violinist, an online mystery reviewer, and is now an award-winning short story writer, two-time Agatha nominee, and the author of the hilarious Imogene Duckworthy mysteries, Smoke, Choke, and soon to be released Broke. Kaye is also the President of the Guppies, an on-line chapter of Sisters in Crime devoted to helping unpublished and newly published mystery writers. Join Kaye for her post about the dreaded question fans just love to ask.

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.
 
 

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.


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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

Cease Texting

Written by Guest Blogger Ann Parker

Congratulations to contest winner Jacqueline Seewald.

Today, I welcome Ann Parker, the author of one of my favorite series. Ann is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. The latest installment in her award-winning Silver Rush series, Mercury’s Rise, will be released November 1.

 

If you thought on-line dating was difficult, find out what single women had to put up with a mere 150 years ago.

 

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Ladies and Gentlemen: A Pause, If You Please, in Your Texting