IAs 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.


Have you ever wondered how authors write their books? Heather Haven, a hysterically funny mystery author, asked me to participate in a blog hop devoted to how writers go through their process of writing. New writers frequently ask me for the secret to how they should write. The secret is that there is no secret. All writers eventually develop their own style and a process that works for them.  Even though I’m almost finished with the fourth book in my Laurel McKay mysteries, my own writing process has continued to evolve. I’m far more efficient now than when I started. However, one thing remains constant for every author I know – we can find 101 ways to procrastinate. The other constant is that tenacity is our middle name.


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?

<-•-•-•- 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.

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:



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.