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:



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.

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.

Dancing with the Baby Boomers (or What an Author Will Do to Sell Books)

Congratulations to contest winner Marcy Cox.

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

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.

How to (Really) Woo a Woman

Some years a woman will approach Valentine’s Day with a smile and anticipation. Other years she averts her eyes from the overwhelming displays of red and pink heart-shaped items that abound. Some years she may choose to TOTALLY avoid any retail establishment during the month of February.

Not me–I’m in it for the chocolate! When I walk by those garish displays, my heart always beats faster and I begin to salivate. Seriously! Pavlov would have a field day with me. And I know I’m not alone.

Did you know that more chocolate is sold on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year? As far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough for a holiday. My friends refer to me as a chocoholic, and it’s a status I wear proudly. Between the anti-oxidants and endorphin lift, I see no reason why chocolate isn’t its own required food group. In fact, it’s practically medicinal. Why else would my HDL be 120?

I’m also a chocolate purist. That means don’t mess with my chocolate. No nuts, no fruit. If you must smother something with chocolate I can tolerate a raisin or two, but as far as I’m concerned, this bean was meant to be savored in its true form. (As for those new bacon-flavored chocolate bars, I won’t even lower myself to discuss them. Pork and beans should meet in a pot, not in a candy.)

Men frequently wonder what to give the special woman in their lives for Valentine’s Day. Flowers are lovely, but their beauty and fragrance are short-lived. Diamonds are forever, but they are also expensive. Lacy lingerie? Honestly, who’s that gift really for?

So what’s the best way to woo me? I may as well admit it–I’m easy. Thrust a box of gooey chocolates in my direction, and I’m yours. Every day, as I savor a piece of joy from the box you personally chose for me, I’ll also savor your love.

On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t refuse a chocolate-covered diamond.

So gals and guys, I would love to have you share your best or worst Valentine’s gift or experience. (And if the best one wasn’t from or with your spouse or the worst one was, I promise not to tell.)

Since February is heart awareness month, I will donate $1.00 to the American Heart Association for every commenter on this blog. Comment by February 15th, and you’ll also be entered to win a $25 Godiva gift card.

Remember, dark chocolate is a heart-happy food.