Meet Debut Novelist Cindy Sample

Cindy Sample’s debut novel, Dying for a Date, a romantic mystery, was released by L&L Dreamspell last month. She crafts her romantic mysteries at her home in El Dorado Hills, California, which she shares with Zoey from the Bronx, her big gal pal cat.

Writing is Cindy’s second career, one in which she uses her experience as a mortgage banker to add realism to her story about the fictitious Hangtown Bank. Before retiring in 2001, she spent over twenty-five years in the financial world working for El Dorado Savings Bank and Western Sunrise Mortgage, moving up to President and CEO of the latter, overseeing 600 employees and taking the company through four mergers and the establishment of thirteen branches.

Cindy is involved in a number of volunteer activities, including the Sacramento Opera Board and the board of Capitol Crimes, the Sacramento chapter of Sisters in Crime, an organization for mystery writers and mystery fans. She is the co-chair of Left Coast Crime, a large mystery convention which will be held in Sacramento March 29-April 1, 2012. She’s also on the committee for the National Kidney Foundation Annual Author’s Luncheon, an event held in the fall of each year.

When Cindy isn’t writing or volunteering, she loves to dance. Her current passion is ballroom dancing. She’s competed in two newcomer competitions and took first place in two events—waltz and tango. She still takes lessons occasionally and enjoys going to social dances. Other interests include reading, exploring small towns and antique shops, attending the opera and Broadway productions, and listening to country music. She plays the piano but says these days her hands are on her computer keyboard far more frequently than her ivories.

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•I asked Cindy what she heads for when she has a snack attack, and I smiled when I read her yummy answer . . .

I love dark chocolate in any form and chocolate chip cookies are my favorite, the more chips the better. There is a cute chocolate chip cookie scene in my book that involves my protagonist, Laurel McKay, and her ex-husband, hence the cookie on the cover of the book. I’m offering cyber cookies to my visitors. It will be my best batch ever.

My hubby and I met over a plate of his homemade chocolate chip cookies, so I think this is a very romantic treat. Help yourself to a big ol’ handful of cyber, calorie-free cookies, grab a comfy chair, and prepare to enjoy yourself as you learn more about Cindy and her journey to publication.

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Cindy’s Journey Begins

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When did you decide you wanted to write? Did you start right away, or did the dream remain on hold a while?

My first attempt was around 1979. I did some extensive historical research about the gold rush period. My goal was to write a book that began with a prologue about an event that took place in the nineteenth century. The contemporary story would become entwined with the murder that took place over a hundred years earlier.

Between my full time job as VP at El Dorado Savings and all day morning sickness I put the book away. I didn’t feel that I had experienced enough to write a compelling novel. As my family grew and my position also expanded, I rarely had a free moment. In fact my reading was confined to light engaging airport reads whenever I flew home from a business trip. What I couldn’t find was a mystery (my favorite type of story) that dealt with a single mom, her daily trials and tribulations.

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How did you make the leap from being a banker to writing stories full-time? Did the transition take time, or did you jump in with both feet?

When I wrote the first draft of Dying for a Date I assumed that since I’m an intelligent woman who has read at least 2,000 books in my life (I’m a speed reader) that I would be a natural writer. Not so. My first draft was very “adequate.”

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What were some of your next steps, and what did you learn from them?

Fortunately I discovered Sisters in Crime. I joined the local chapter (capitolcrimes.org) and met some women who invited me to join their critique group. I attended wonderful workshops and conferences such as the mystery conference put on by Book Passage in Corte Madera. It’s a 4 day intensive writing workshop where you get to hang out with such mentors as Elizabeth George and Lee Child. I also attended some California Writer’s conferences, multiple Left Coast Crime Conventions, and some romance writer workshops. I purchased 3 shelves of books on writing fiction, mysteries in particular, and read them word for word. I also took some great on-line writing classes by Margie Lawson and Mary Buckham.

When I take on a project I keep working at it until I get it right. It’s tough having a perfectionist personality as a writer because you are always second guessing yourself.

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Cindy’s Milestones

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•Getting a book contract was your main goal, but you’ve seen your name in print in other ways. Where were you first published?

I’ve been a columnist for the Gold River Community Newspaper since March 2009. I write a monthly humor column called Hot Flash. I also published a short story entitled Tea Time in the 2008 Capital Crimes Anthology. Romance, mystery and humor in 10 brief pages.

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•In 2008, you received The Agent Call. How did that come about? What was your response? Stunned silence? Tears? Incoherent babbling? Or did you startle the neighbors with your shouting?

In spring of 2008 I had decided that perhaps my time and energy could be directed in another area. I had not queried any agents since my initial efforts but a friend of mine suggested that I contact an agent who had indicated she was interested in chick lit work. I sent out an email and within a week she asked for the full manuscript.  About a month later I received THE CALL.  I rarely engage in stunned silence so it’s a high probability someone heard me screaming.

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•You had two major goals in life and managed to make both, coming in under deadline by a teensy bit. Please tell us about these.

As far as milestones my goal was to have my first child before I turned 30 (29 and ¾) and to have my first book published before I turned 60 (59 ¾). I’ve been blessed with the most wonderful friends and family who have been supportive of me through both of my careers.

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•Your Call Story is way cool. Two contract offers to consider. Please tell us about this, including which one you chose and why. Be sure to include the all-important part: your reaction, complete with the sensory details we writers love.

I had two publishers interested in purchasing Dying for a Date. The first publisher had the manuscript for 3 months before she made an offer. The second publisher which is L&L Dreamspell responded to the email query within an hour and asked for the full manuscript. Eight days later the fiction editor emailed a contract. The fact that they could make a decision so quickly impressed me and I signed with them. Needless to say I was floating for days afterwards.

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•Do you plan to hold a launch party?

I held a launch party in San Francisco during a mortgage conference two weeks ago. I also had a local party in El Dorado Hills for family, friends and neighbors. I’ll be hosting a Sacramento launch party at Book Lovers Books 8/21 from one to three featuring “dead body cookies.” That is if I can talk my wonderful neighbor, Jana into baking some more. She’s already whipped up about 160 of them. I’ll also be participating in Girl’s Night out in Placerville on 8/28 at the Metal Dragonfly store and David Girard Winery on 9/12.

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Reactions and Reviews

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What was it like to see your book for the first time? To hold it in your hands, feel the smooth cover, and inhale that new book ink on paper scent we writers love?

I received my first copy of the book three weeks ago, and it was a thrill to see the baby that took far more time to deliver than either of my children.

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Cindy’s Perseverance

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•Eight years passed between the time you began writing with the goal of publication and your First Sale. What kept you going despite bouts of doubts?

Any writing class you take or conference you attend they stress the concept of the 3 P’s which are perseverance, ditto, ditto. Fortunately I have plenty of that.

I re-wrote and re-wrote and re-wrote (probably at least 80 versions of the initial manuscript). Each version was far superior to the previous one so I just kept working at it. I really hate to give up.

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Cindy’s Promotion

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•Name recognition is important, and you’ve been working on building yours. What steps have you taken? Which have worked best for you, and why?

Since I retired I’ve become involved in numerous activities and made many new friends. I realized early on that I would need a fan base to market the book so I was networking while I was writing.

My friends have been so supportive. Once the book was released they’ve been posting great comments on Facebook. It’s very rewarding to see the reviews that complete strangers have written. Several reviewers have called me the next Janet Evanovich.

One of my dear friends is active with the Sacramento Children’s Home and I’ll be the keynote speaker at luncheons on Sept 16 and Sept 17. Other author friends have asked me to guest blog on their sites. It’s all about spreading the word and fortunately everyone seems to be excited about spreading the word that Dying for a Date is hilarious.

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Partners on Cindy’s Journey

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•Every writer I’ve talked with is eager to tell me that although she may be alone much of her day, she has a cast of real life characters who support her in many ways. Who are the people on your team, and how do they uphold you?

My mother has been my strongest supporter from the age of four when she taught me to read during a lengthy illness. She herself has made tremendous accomplishments, one of which was recently passing the Illinois Real Estate broker’s exam at the age of 82. With a mother like that how could I fail? My children are wonderful and supportive of everything I do. And I honestly can’t thank the friends who read one, two or three versions of Dying for a Date enough. Talk about true friendship.

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Cindy’s Debut Novel

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Please tell us about Dying for a Date.

Not sure if she is looking for Mr. Right, or Mr. Every Other Saturday Night, recently divorced Laurel McKay reluctantly joins The Love Club, a matchmaking agency advertised as the safe alternative to on-line dating.

After Bachelor one decides he wants her for dessert, Laurel dispatches him with her cell phone. The next day she discovers her drop dead gorgeous date has literally dropped dead. When Bachelor two disappears during dinner, Laurel’s only alibi is a friendly bottle of Dom Perignon. The investigating detective has to decide if the sassy soccer mom is a killer, or the next target.

Her boss at Hangtown Bank threatens to fire her when he learns the latest victim was an important client. Fortunately he needs her expertise to investigate some questionable loans. Laurel and her mother, who insists her daughter is innocent because she is too disorganized to plan a murder, set out to save her reputation, her job, and her life.

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Cindy’s Journey Continues

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Dying for a Date is in your readers’ hands. What can they look forward to next?

I love ballroom dancing, and if I had more time, money, and a younger body I would compete again. In the meantime, the experience has given me plenty of material for my sequel, Dying for a Dance. The third book in the series will take place in Hawaii and is titled Dying for a Daiquiri.

And if I can find the time to sit still, how about Dying for a Dive, a skydiving adventure.

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Five Accomplishments That Have Meant the Most to Cindy

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~ My two wonderful adult children. My daughter, Dawn, recently accepted a position as the Director of Religious Education at the St. Labre Indian School in eastern Montana serving the Crow and Cheyenne children. My son, Jeff, was just hired as manager of interactive trafficking at a large advertising firm in San Francisco. As a traveling CEO single Mom who was the primary parent in my children’s lives, it wasn’t easy. I have regrets that I missed too many soccer games and school events. But my daughter remembers how I cancelled some trips in order to catch a tap competition or talent show. Hopefully I’ve taught my children some valuable leadership skills as well as strong values. I couldn’t possibly be prouder of either of them.

~ Leading a company like Western Sunrise that fostered a work atmosphere of camaraderie and trust. People who worked together over 25 years ago still get together for Western Sunrise reunions. It’s wonderful that we can continue to maintain that sense of community.

~ Winning the Boss of the Year Award when I was with Western Sunrise. That speaks for itself.

~ Writing Dying for a Date and getting it published. I don’t think single moms give themselves enough credit for all that they go through trying to balance work, family, and dating. Even though there are a few murders thrown into the plot, most women will identify with the protagonist, Laurel McKay, as she tries to deal with all of her recent post-divorce issues.

~ My wonderful community of friends. When I sent the email regarding the release of Dying for a Date out to my friends, even I was surprised that 627 folks were on the list. And I love them all.

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Cindy’s Question for You

I’d love to know if anyone has any comments or stories regarding their struggles as a single Mom. Or perhaps you know a single Mom who has inspired you in some way?

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Cindy’s Drawing

Cindy has generously offered to give away a copy of Dying for a Date and a $20 gift card to See’s Candy to one lucky commenter.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment for Cindy by midnight July 23 (Pacific time) and enter your email address when prompted during the comment process. (You don’t have to leave it in the body of your comment this way.)

On July 24, I will hold the drawing and post the winner’s name here as well and will contact her/him via email to get a mailing address. (I don’t share your information with anyone, other than sending your mailing address to my guest, and I don’t add your name to any mailing lists.)

Congrats to the winner of Cindy’s book and the See’s gift card, Brenda Whiteside.

Note: Offer void where prohibited.
Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.

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Learn More About Cindy

Visit her website ~ www.cindysamplebooks.com

Visit her personal blog ~ www.cindysamplebooks.com/my-blog

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Cindy Sample

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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24 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Cindy Sample

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Cindy! It’s great to have you here at Romance Writers on the Journey. I enjoy welcoming other members of our Sacramento Valley Rose RWA® chapter.

    I think it’s so cool that you set your story in Placerville, my beloved hometown. I’m putting your visit to The Metal Dragonfly on my calendar, so I can drop by when you’re in town.

    My sister raised two kids as a single mom, and I admire her for the job she did. It’s not an easy one. Kudos to you on your two wonderful young adults. You obviously did a great job with them.

    • Cindy Sample says:

      Thanks for the opportunity for a terrific interview, Keli. I’ve even made some new friends through your blog so thank you for that opportunity. It was great fun.

  2. Can’t wait to read the book Cindy. I’ll try to get to Book Lovers on the 21st or the the Dragonfly in Placerville, since I live up there too.

    Nice interview Kelli. See you in Orlando.

  3. Cindy, your marketing savvy has already taken you far. If more people could take a page from your book. . .

    While not a single mother and never Dying For a Date (who has time???)I still enjoyed watching your protag deal with it all. Can’t wait to see her with her dancing shoes on!

    • Cindy Sample says:

      Thanks Sunny. I’m back at Book Passage hanging out with the mystery masters. Got to sit next to Robert Crais and touch toes with him.

      Okay, I accidentally stepped on him but still…

  4. Deborah Grace says:

    My copy arrived from Amazon and I’m fighting to squeeze in time to keep reading. Your humor , personality and experience are everywhere! Very proud and happy for you Cindy.
    Deborah Grace
    (former) Mortgage Banker

    • Cindy Sample says:

      Hi Deborah. Thanks for the comments. Can’t wait to see what you think of the finale. Good luck with everything. It’s tough out there in the mortgage jungle.

  5. Sharon BItz says:

    Cindy,
    Laurel McKay has won a special place in my heart! I can’t wait to see what antics she is up to in your next book. I feel like I’m waiting for the next “I Love Lucy” episode.

    While not a single mother, I have certainly worked with my fair share of them and have watched the trials and tribulations they go through trying to have balance in their lives while always putting their children first. Laurel McKay seems to struggle with the same balance, yet makes it humorous! We all need more humor in our lives so thank you!

  6. Peggy Dulle says:

    Cindy,

    You know I’m the “Audio Queen” since I commute so far each day but I actually sat down and read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Can’t wait for the next one!

  7. Shana says:

    Cindy –

    I can’t wait for this weekend, when I’ll finally have a chance to catch up with Laurel!

    I didn’t realize there are three more “Dying’s” in the making!

    Keep up the good work; can’t wait to read them too.

  8. Kay Lenhart says:

    Cindy,
    I Love reading about you, and filling in the gap from our own dancing days! After reading the first few pages, you have me! I am savoring your book, because I KNOW it is going to be hard to find another book to follow!

  9. Stanley Kirst says:

    Cindy,
    Well done interview showing us that the process is not a tab A/ slot B thing. The care and concern for the book as well as the path taken to arrive at a compelling read is wonderful. KEEP IT UP!
    Stories like this helps us all understand the feelings, thought processes and desires of women as well as the humor of everyday life. Great read.

  10. Nice interview, Keli. Thanks for being so frank, Cindy. I am not a single mom but my sister raised her son that way. He’s a great guy and she did a marvelous job but I wouldn’t have wanted to tackle motherhood that way. Looking forward to reading your book.

    • Cindy Sample says:

      Thanks Brenda for taking time to read the blog. I guess Moms just do what needs to be done. But I’m truly blessed with wonderful children. Hope you enjoy the book.

  11. Hello Cindy: I love the theme of your book. It is a page from so many of us single moms.

    I do not want to take up too much of Keli’s space, so I direct you to my blog, and in particular the two posts I have linked.

    What I love is funny. Please also read the posts with my author interviews. While not as accomplished as Keli, I am a WIP … sending out the dreaded query of my first romantic comedy.

    Please enjoy my bent, New York kind of gal, humor.

    I look forward to reading your work and enjoying as your series grows in popularity.
    The best always …

    Visit me:

    http://ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/

    http://ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/2010/07/01/gone-so-soon-%e2%80%a6/#comments

    http://ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/opposing-views-%e2%80%a6/#comments

  12. Waving Cindy. It was fun to learn more about you. You’ve had such a productive and interesting life to draw from for your stories.

    Love your cover!!! Bright red definitely catches your attention and who could ever pass up a chocolate chip cookies.

    Best of luck with a full career as a writer!

  13. Bev Moglich says:

    Cindy as you know I am your number one fan here in the Foothills. I can hardly wait to read the book that takes place in Hawaii. As you know I moved there when I was ten years of age, and now am 80. I have visited the islands so many times I have lost track of the number.
    Not a single mom, married 62 years, I often wonder how difficult it must be. I should bake chocolate cookies for one of our Author Showcase meetings.
    http://www.outskirtspress.com/memoirsofanavybrat
    Love you.
    Bev

  14. Susan King says:

    Dear Cindy – Dying for a Date was fun and very interesting. I can so relate to the chocolate chip cookies.
    Wishing you continued success!
    Love,
    Susan

  15. Keli Gwyn says:

    Thanks to everyone who stopped by to learn more about Cindy and her journey to publication.

    I held the drawing for the copy of Cindy’s debut novel, Dying for a Date, and the See’s Candy gift card, which she so generously offered as prizes, and the winner is Brenda Whiteside.

    Congrats, Brenda! I’ll be in touch.

  16. Cindy Sample says:

    Thanks everyone for your participation in my interview. It was fun to read everyone’s responses and I think I’ll be getting some new chocolate chip cookie recipes in my email.

    Congratulations Brenda. Your goody basket is on the way.

  17. Carolyn Barker says:

    Hi Cindy,

    What a great interview!!

    While not a single Mom, I watched you raise Dawn & Jeff. Larry, my Son was just about the same age as your two when I came to work for you at Western Sunrise.
    We did a great job as Mom’s!!

    Love you,
    Carolyn

  18. Bev Collard says:

    Hi Cindy
    Loved the book. Great interview.
    I chose your book (of course) for my “mysteries only” book club. They are all dying to meeting you at the Author’s Luncheon

Comments are closed.