Saturday, March 31, 2012

Clairvoyance and Crystal Balls

Haunting Refrain

Excerpt from Haunting Refrain.
The older woman brightened. “I suppose I could talk to Ramses. Perhaps he can help.”
Kate was never sure whether Venice was serious about the spirit who inhabited her crystal ball. She swore that he was there and spoke to her, but Kate had caught an irreverent twinkle in her eyes more than once. “Ramses? I thought he only communed with the—”
“The dead. He does, although he isn't limited to those on the other side. However, in this case it might be most helpful. Don't you agree?” Venice lifted the turban off, twisting it in her hands. “Don't you love the way the gold catches the light?”
“Lovely,” Kate muttered. “Well, while you and Ramses commune, I think I'll start investigating on my own.”
Clairvoyance and other forms of psychic ability have always interested me. There's a streak of it in my family through the Welsh line, the Joneses.
I don't have it, but several members of my family do. When I wrote Haunting Refrain, I only knew about my grandmother's ability—I'd witnessed it many times and knew it to be real. But when the book came out and I mentioned Grandmother's gift, cousins began asking me about it. Each of them thought he or she was the only one, but when we compared notes, we found there's a strong thread that touches several of us.
An aunt from several generations back put her husband through medical school by posing as a gypsy and telling fortunes, but usually it comes out by knowing when something's wrong with a close family member, to the point of an uncle's waking everyone at 2 in the morning to find Virginia. ("Something's wrong with her," he said.) Virginia was injured in an automobile accident. The ability shows up in other ways, but that's the most common way.
So yes, I'm a believer in psychic phenomena, although I know there are many con artists and charlatans trying to sell fake talents.
What do you think? Do you believe it exists? Why? Or why not?
Haunting Refrain is available on Amazon Kindle.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Letting the story come to you

At Amazon
My guest is Shelly Frome, author of Twilight of the Drifter.
There was an instructor at a prestigious college program in the Midwest who always gave this advice. Never try to write a novel. Rather, try not to write. And if the time ever comes when you can’t help yourself, when you wake up in the middle of night because the prospect of some journey keeps calling you, at that point you’ve got to get on with it and see it through.
In a way, that’s the sort of thing that happens to me. As a case in point, I never set out to write a southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey. I never even knew such a thing existed. It all started when a friend of ours invited us down to the hill country of Mississippi. As it happens, he’d inherited a backwoods cabin and was in the process of fixing it up. At one point, he suggested that he and I take an exploratory  walk. Following a narrow overgrown path, soon we became entangled in briars, edged past some barbed wire as the terrain sloped down and eventually came across some waterlogged broken limbs sticking out like menacing pitchforks. Fearing that perhaps we’d gotten lost, I turned to him and said, “Bob, do you have any idea where we are?”
He gave me a half-wary half-mischievous look and said, “Shelly, I believe this here is Wolf Creek.”
Then and there something began to percolate. Nothing tangible. Perhaps just a feeling that there were buried secrets here that would never see the light of day.
When we did manage to make it back, something about the cabin in the deep woods evoked a vague image of a Confederate outpost, and then a retreat during the civil rights movement, and then an equally vague notion of a caretaker for whom time was telescoped. That is, for him almost simultaneously it was the days of skirmishes with Yankee troops, Federal marshals at Ole Miss, and an abiding anxiety about Washington inflicting more and more liberal mandates.  
But again, these were just hazy notions as my wife and I were taking in the backwoods, the cozy confines of Oxford and Ole Miss, the edges of the Delta and, later on, the blues Mecca of Beale Street in Memphis. But every time I happened to mention the Civil War, I was told it was “The war of Yankee aggression.”
Seemingly unconnected at the time, my wife wanted to give some money to a homeless shelter back home. But after we were taken on a tour, I began to notice an abandoned boxcar and railroad line diagonally across the street. I was told down-and-out drifters would hole up there until the weather got really bad. They didn’t mind getting vouchers from the shelter, but they’d be damned if they were going to have to comply with any rules, let alone bed down within the confines of the building.
Later still, other factors came into play, like the downturn in the economy and memories of the long-lost pull of the open road.
There was also an unresolved personal element. When I was just a kid, we moved from a tiny town in Massachusetts to Miami where I found most of my teachers and many of my fellow students had southern accents and a deep allegiance to the South. Which side was I on? Choose or keep riding the fence.
To make the proverbial long story short, it was doubtless the unresolved issue with the South and the imagined unfinished buried secrets back in Wolf Creek that did the trick. What finally emerged after more vital characters came into the picture and I allowed the dynamic to play itself out turned out to be my latest. The title that came to me with very little effort was Twilight of the Drifter.
I suppose I should mention one last thing. I am an incurable daydreamer and storyteller.
About the Book
Twilightof the Drifter is a crime story with southern gothic overtones. It centers on thirty-something Josh Devlin, a failed journalist who, after a year of wandering, winds up in a Kentucky homeless shelter on a wintry December.  
Soon after the opening setup, the crosscurrents go into motion as Josh comes upon a runaway named Alice holed up in an abandoned boxcar. Taken with her plight and dejected over his own squandered life, he spirits her back to Memphis and his uncle’s Blues Hall CafĂ©.  From there he tries to get back on his feet while seeking a solution to Alice’s troubles. As the story unfolds, a Delta bluesman’s checkered past comes into play and, inevitably, Josh finds himself on a collision course with a backwoods tracker fixated on the Civil War and, by extension, the machinations of the governor-elect of Mississippi.
In a sense, this tale hinges on the vagaries of chance and human nature. At the same time, some underlying force seems to be seeking closure and long overdue redemption.

About Shelly Frome
Shelly Frome is a member of Mystery Writers of America, a professor of dramatic arts emeritus at the University of Connecticut, a former professional actor, a writer of mysteries, books on theater and film, and articles on the performing arts appearing in a number of periodicals in the U.S. and the U.K.. His fiction includes Tinseltown Riff, Lilac Moon, Sun Dance for Andy Horn and the trans-Atlantic cozy The Twinning Murders.  Among his works of non-fiction are the acclaimed The Actors Studio and texts on the art and craft of screenwriting and writing for the stage. His latest novel is that selfsame  southern gothic crime-and-blues odyssey Twilight of the Drifter.  He lives in Litchfield, Connecticut

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dialogue or Lecture?

Sometimes when a writer wants to give the reader a great deal of information, he/she dumps it all into one long paragraph. Just the sight of the long, solid paragraph is discouraging to readers. Break it up. Use actions on the part of the speaker. Let the other person interrupt with comments or questions. White space is good; it gives the reader the sensation of moving forward at a fast pace.
Meals or a task make good settings for these expository lectures. The dictionary defines exposition as “a statement or rhetorical discourse intended to give information about or an explanation of difficult material.” The reader may need to know it, but he doesn’t need to know it all in one speech.
The following excerpt from Haunting Refrain is an example. The doctor could have given all the information about the patient at once, but breaking it up adds to the reader’s picture and is more interesting.

Kate, breathless, ran in just as the doctor came out to explain Venice's injury and talk with them.
 “She's resting comfortably. She has a concussion, and she’s lost a lot of blood, but the injury isn’t as bad as we first thought. She had her hair pinned up under the wig, and that, with the wig, protected her skull somewhat. It cushioned the blow.” The doctor tapped the back of his head, indicating the location of the injury. “It didn't do nearly as much damage as it might have.”
 “Does that mean she’ll be all right?” Relief brought tears to Kate’s eyes.
 “If we can keep her from getting pneumonia, I think she’ll be back on her feet in a few days. She's conscious, but groggy. She doesn't remember what happened, and I don't want her upset. You can see her, one at a time, for a few minutes, but no questions.”

If I were writing this today, I'd probably break it up more. What do you think? How do you feel about getting information in long paragraphs? Would you prefer to get it over with in a lump or draw it out with a little action or dialogue? Any examples you'd like to share? You can copy them into the comments. 

By the way, a little BSP: Haunting Refrain will be a free Kindle download March 30 and 31 and April 1.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Unpredictable Muse of William S. Shepard

Buy at Amazon
My guest is William S. Shepard, author of the Robbie Cutler diplomatic mysteries.
To prove just how unpredictable my muse is, I would like to talk with you about my two latest E-Book releases. The first is a work of fiction, a collection of short stories that take placed in a diplomatic setting, in far away Singapore. The second, however, is a work of nonfiction, surveying little remembered American wars from the seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, and what they have to teach us today.
“Southeast Asian Quartet: Robbie Cutler Stories”
     Four young diplomats assigned to the island state of Singapore are having dinner. They are more interested in the exotic atmosphere of Southeast Asia than they are by their official duties, which at the junior level tend to be routine. They are American, British, French and Russian, and at the suggestion of the American, Robbie Cutler, each tells a story.
     That is the premise of “Southeast Asian Quartet: Robbie Cutler Stories.” Readers know Robbie Cutler as the American diplomat who solves crimes – murder and blackmail in “Vintage Murder,” and murder in “Murder On The Danube.” These two diplomatic mysteries take place in Bordeaux, and then in Budapest. But before those two diplomatic assignments, Cutler was assigned to the American Embassy in Singapore. This collection of short stories gives the reader something of the atmosphere of Southeast Asia.
     The four friends realize that they represent the great short story telling traditions of their countries – with O. Henry (for the United States), Somerset Maugham (for Great Britain), Guy de Maupassant (for France), and Anton Chekhov (for Russia). Their challenge will be to tell stories that reflect that wonderful storytelling tradition.
     Robbie Cutler goes first. In “Under the Durian Trees,” the setting is the residence of the American Ambassador. A murder took place there, and the ghosts that follow that event haunt those who can still see them. His British colleague follows at their next meeting with “Disappearance from Moonlight Cottage,” the story of an actual event – the disappearance of Jim Thompson, the “Thai Silk King,” from Moonlight Cottage in the Cameron Highlands of central Malaya in 1967. Thompson, a former OSS and CIA agent, was perhaps the most famous American in Thailand, and his disappearance remains unsolved to this day. Four solutions are put forth – you choose which is the most likely.
At Amazon
     In “Man Of The Forest,” the Russian diplomat takes us to the island of Borneo, and the highest mountain of Southeast Asia, near Kota Kinabalu, on the South China Sea. The climb is described step by step, as the climber ascends from the tropics to a more temperate climate, and a total change, from rain forest to vegetation that would be normal for Switzerland. And this is the home for the Orang Utan, whose survival remains uncertain. The final story, “Isabelle,” takes us to French Indochina and the era of the desperate struggle at the French fortress of Dien Bien Phu. Is it really possible that this the true story of a previously unknown survivor?
America’s Unknown Wars”
     I also find the history of our own nation to be fascinating. In “Maryland In The Civil War,” I traced the heroic story of a little known Maryland Governor who kept Maryland in the Union. It is a story of great and rather rare political courage, a parallel to the courage that others showed on the battlefield, on both sides.
     My latest Kindle E-Book, “America’s Unknown Wars,” traces five wars which are not well known in our own country. The first, King Philip’s War, is a seventeenth century conflict between settlers in Massachusetts and the Wampanoag Indians, who nearly wiped them out. It is said to have furnished the greatest percentage of casualties of any conflict on our history. Settlement simply ended in the Connecticut Valley, as the Wampanoags captured settlement after settlement, coming close to Boston itself.
     The second conflict is the French and Indian War, whose highpoint may have been the struggle for Quebec, in which both opposing generals, Wolfe and Montcalm, died during the battle for the Plains of Abraham. However, the war itself began with armed skirmishes begun by a very young provincial militia lieutenant colonel, George Washington, whose military career nearly ended as it was beginning!
     The War of 1812 furnished the United States with a number of proud moments in retrospect, including the National Anthem, and the victory of Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans, famously after the peace treaty had been signed. But the same event caused the dissolution of the Federalist Party, and marked the last time when the United States nearly was unable to meet its national debt.
     The Mexican War deserves to be better known, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that this conflict came after the Texas Revolution, and the annexation battle to join the United States, which became the major issue in a presidential election! The heroism of the Alamo is justly famous, but that came a full ten years before the Mexican War. And why did General Ulysses S. Grant, who with other famous offices on both sides of the Civil War won his spurs in Mexico, believe that war to have been unjust? 
     We conclude with Teddy Roosevelt and the Spanish-American War. But was his charge really up San Juan Hill? And how did that conflict result in the United States becoming a great power, after a presidential election that concentrated on the issue of imperialism?
     Each of these wars contains lessons that are absolutely topical today. How do we pay for a war? Do we really understand the underlying causes? How do we treat the local people? It is important that we understand what happened them, I think, to better understand how we arrived at our present position in the world, and gain some insight into what our own past has to teach us.
     And so the reach of nonfiction can be very long indeed. History should have been this interesting at school!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting Rid of Memories and Backstory

Cold Comfort went through many revisions. At one time I wanted to show something of Claire's relationship with her mother. This scene was in the first chapter and I finally took it out. I liked the little memory, but it was backstory and slowed the opening. It didn't really add anything important at that time. 
This is an example of one of the traps we fall into--loving a little scene that really has no value in the story. I argued with myself for a long time, but I knew it didn't belong.

While Claire leaned against the kitchen doorframe and waiting, the police officer moved from window to window, checking her locks. His voice filled with sympathy. “Nice lady, your mother. I was sorry to hear she died. Must be hard on you, being all alone.”
“Thank you. I miss her.” Memories came back in a rush. Claire's gaze wandered to the cookie jar, and she remembered when she’d finally taken over the Christmas baking. She’d been about fifteen, come running in from a friend’s house.
“Mom! What’s burning?” Experience sent her straight to the oven. She shoved her and into a potholder mitt and opened the door, releasing a cloud of smoke. “It’s the cookies. Again.”
Blanche looked up from the papers strewn across the kitchen table and blinked. “Oh! I was grading papers—A Christmas Carol.” A sheepish smile spread across her face. “I forgot.” She pushed her hair back and stood as Claire dumped a tray of blackened lumps into the sink. “Are any of them salvageable?”
“Afraid not.” Claire hugged her mother with a mittened hand. “Go back to work. I’ll make some more.”
Blanche had cooked and burned regularly. Claire took over in self-defense.
Now the kitchen was empty—no smoke, no essays, no Mother. Tears welled in Claire’s eyes. 

Do you have problems like this? Little scenes or vignettes you love but have doubts about? Anytime I tell myself I can use it to show the person's character, I know I'm in trouble. It should pertain to the story and what's going on with the plot. 

Claire makes cookies, but I'm not a cookie maker, so I borrowed a recipe from a great cookbook I have. 

yield: about 3 dozen

3/4 cup blanched almonds, very finely ground
3/4 cup sugar
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil; set aside. In a large bowl, combine almonds and sugar; stir to mix well. In another bowl, whisk together egg whites and almond extract until soft peaks form. Add egg whites to the almond mixture. Stir to form a soft batter. With a teaspoon, spoon batter onto baking sheets, spacing cookies apart, about 12 per sheet.
Bake in the center of the oven about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and transfer parchment paper to cooling racks until cookies begin to firm up, about 3 to 4 minutes. With a sharp knife, lift cookies from parchment and transfer to racks to cool completely.
—-Five Brothers, A Year of Tuscan Cooking

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nancy Lauzon interviews Darcy MacDonald

Author Nancy Lauzon is my guest this week.
Nancy Lauzon's Blog Tour Stop #7: Character Interview - Darcy MacDonald
My latest mystery novel, A Few Dead Men, was inspired by my youngest daughter's disastrous dating history. The 'dead men' in the novel are composites of every boyfriend and/or bad date my daughter ever had. Believe me, I had lots of material to choose from. In fact, I didn't have room for all the 'dead men', since I didn't want to go over my word count.
This book raises several questions: Who exactly are dead men, metaphorically speaking? How did they become dead? Are there more dead men than live men? If not, where do you find live men?
But the book is also about a young woman compelled to solve the mysteries around her, like her favourite amateur sleuth, Nancy Drew. She doesn't go about it in exactly the same way.
Previous stops on the Blog Tour: Where Do You Find Live Men? at  and Nancy Drew with a Twist of Lemon at
N: A Few Dead Men is filled with some pretty cool characters, so today I'd like to welcome the heroine of A Few Dead Men, Darcy MacDonald, to the guest blog. Thanks for being here, Darcy.
D: No problem. It's not like I had a choice. I do whatever you tell me to do, right? You're the writer, I'm just one of your characters. Hey, I'm totally kidding. It's nice to be here.
N: Let me start by saying I'm sorry I put you through all that ... stuff ... that happened in the book. But that's the way it is in mystery fiction. Readers love to read about people with problems.
D: Then your readers will LOVE me.
N: Yes, they will. Why don't you start by telling them a little bit about yourself?
D: I'm 29 years old, and I live in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on the east coast. I'm an administrative assistant at Bloodhound Investigations, a private investigation firm. I'm also a part-time mystery writer, and I recently earned a certificate from The Canadian Spy Institute, as part of my research.
N: Which of your character traits is most important to you, and why?
D: I guess my tenacity. I don't give up easily. And my sense of humour. That helped keep me sane when everything around me fell apart.
N: What's your biggest fault?
D: Where do I start? I think too much, and worry too much. I wish you'd made me a little less anxious. What was with those panic attacks?
N: They're part of who you are. They allowed me to show the reader that you're vulnerable, and human.
D: Uh huh. But I wish I didn't come off as so naive.
N: Not naive. Trusting. You have a big heart, and it gets you into trouble sometimes.
D: Sometimes? I was up to my eyebrows in trouble.
N: Moving on ... describe your perfect day.
D: Let's see - spending the whole day working on my novel. Then dinner and drinks with Giovanna, my best friend. Then I'd wrap it up by watching a late movie starring Colin Firth.
N: Last question, Darce. What was your favourite part in the book?
D: Walking the beach with--
N: Stop right there. We don't want to give too much away. Thanks, Darcy!
A Few Dead Men - A Chick Dick Mystery
Life has dealt part-time mystery novelist Darcy MacDonald a lousy hand. The men she knows are either missing, dead, drunk or demented.
Lying next to the corpse of her boyfriend, the head of Bloodhound Investigations, definitely qualifies as lousy since he’s the man who also issues her paychecks.
The doctor says her boss had a massive heart attack during an orgasm, and it wasn’t Darcy’s fault. But she can’t help feeling guilty, since his orgasms were her responsibility. Or so she believed, until his grieving widow shows up, along with a mysterious, punk rocker chick who weeps inconsolably at the funeral and claims he was murdered.
Next stops on my Blog Tour:
Thursday, March 15th - The Stiletto Gang
I'm visiting a fun group of women writers on a mission to bring mystery, humor, romance, and high heels to the world. I'll be conducting my 2nd Character Interview, featuring Giovanna Pescateli, the heroine's best friend.
Wednesday, March 21 - Whimsy and Writing
I'll be guest blogging on Angela Scott's site. Angela writes contemporary YA fiction. She has a brand new Zombie Western coming out this month called Wanted: Dead or Undead. (I'll be hosting her Book Shower next week.) I'll be conducting my 3rd Character Interview, featuring Eunice MacDonald, the heroine's mother. 
A Few Dead Men - a Chick Dick Mystery is available at the following online retailers:

Author Bio
Nancy Lauzon worked nine years on a hospital ward as a cardiac nurse before the night shifts turned her into a zombie. She got a day job in health promotion and began to write health-related articles for magazines and newsletters.

Life threw out a few curve balls, and to relieve the stress, she began to write fiction part-time. Five years later she sold two different manuscripts to two separate small-press publishers, using a pseudonym. She left nursing in 2003 and began to write full-time.

Nancy lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Join the Chick Dick Mystery Group on Facebook
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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Capturing Atmosphere and Details

Hub Stacey's

Since I'm sitting on the deck looking out at a tidal slew in Florida, the mood and atmosphere are quite different from the one I'm used to. Here things are more relaxed, dress is more casual, and the air holds a hint of saltwater. Even the light is different. This is Central time, so TV programs start earlier; it's light at 6 a.m. and warm enough to have coffee outside then.  Sometimes the Blue Angels fly over.
A great blue heron has a nest next door and flies along the water, sometimes splashing down to fish. Pelicans skim the water, occasionally diving, or they come to rest on the pilings. They gather at the water's edge in small groups.
These things make a difference in a story. Research matters. We went to lunch at Hub Stacy's, a rustic wood structure on the water. Spanish moss, a tree I think is a type of magnolia, and of course the live oaks shelter the deck where we had wonderful Reuben sandwiches. The people who showed up brought their dogs, wore flip flops and shorts, and knew the waitress, so I assume they're locals. Weathered men with a white German shepherd unloaded fishing gear and stowed it in their boat. The dog was clearly familiar with the process and leapt into the boat as they backed it into the water.
If it isn't possible to visit a place you're writing about, try to find someone who lives there or who's been recently to answer questions for you.
Setting can be a strong influence on the characters and the way a plot unfolds. Weather often plays a part. When I wrote Cold Comfort, I visited Williamsburg, McClellanville, and Washington, but there were many things I didn't know. I found someone in an online group who lived outside Washington and helped me with traffic patterns and some of the areas I wanted to include. She told me what locals call features such as the Key bridge.
Now of course I want to set something in this area, the Florida panhandle. It's beautiful and quite different from upstate South Carolina, which has its own kind of beauty. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lost Confederate Gold

I'm delighted to have D.J. Humphrey as my guest this week.
Hello everyone. My name is D.J. Humphrey. I am the author/illustrator of the middle grade action/adventure series Jackson's Raiders.
I am, as is our host Mrs. Vidler, a resident of South Carolina. Compared to the rest of our world the United States has a young history. After all our nation is only 236 years of age compared to several thousand years of recorded history. However, our history is one of defining moments. Our world structure is a direct result from our 236 years of existence. One of those defining moments in history was our "Civil War".
One of the great mysteries of the war took place at the very end. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, fled South, with the war chest or Confederate treasury to continue the war from southern climes. During his flight, the gold disappeared. To this day no one has ever found the gold. I used this historical fact as the basis for my book (the first in the series) Jackson's Raiders And The Lost Confederate Gold.
The setting for the book takes place in one of the few places that the gold was witnessed to have been during Davis's flight. Abbeville, SC is considered by many to be the birth place and deathbed of the Confederacy. There are also actual tunnels under the town square that some say predate the town itself. This intersection of history and geography compelled me to act.
I had been wanting to write a book for a while. I had mentally created a few requirements. The first was the genre. I wanted to write a book that would be universally enjoyed from 3rd or 4th grade to adult. I wanted it to be historical fiction, funny, action/adventure, have brand appeal as a series, with multiple characters. The motivational vehicle for the book was difficult to decide upon. Economic downturns are not relegated to the South. Small towns all across our nation have suffered immensely from various forms of industry closings. In my research, I had not seen it applied to the children of the families that so often suffer from these all to common economic occurrences. Middle grade friendships are born of an innocence that most of us can remember.
Curiosity, a sense of adventure, a lack of knowledge about the downside of events were all characteristics that compelled me to ask, "What does happen to a tight knit group of friends when there world is pulled apart at the seams?" and "To what lengths will they go to fix things if given the chance?" In the end, I hope that I accomplished what I set out to do and that is to write an historical fiction book rich in innocence, friendship, adventure, danger, loyalty, history, and humor that anyone would enjoy.
Many thanks to Mrs. Vidler for allowing me be on the blog
Jackson's Raiders and the Lost Confederate Gold
Young Jackson Stone has a problem. The company that employs all of the parents of his friends is closing. They will all be moving away in a few short months.
Little Tommy Tyner has a problem. He is searching for his mother. The ten-year old kissed his mother on the cheek one morning and went to play. That was 146 years ago. Tommy is a ghost.
Hang on for a roller-coaster ride of action and adventure as Jackson’s Raiders and little Tommy Tyner solve a Civil War mystery while learning about true friendship, courage, truth, and hope . . . as in the hope of getting out alive. 
You can read more about Donald Humphrey and see some of his art at
Follow him on Twitter at  or Facebook at

Saturday, March 3, 2012

First the Cover

Tea in the Afternoon

How important is a cover in your decision to pick up or click on a book if you don't know the author's work? What else do you have to go on?
For me, the cover is number one for an unknown author. If I see an interesting or attractive cover, I'm likely to go the next step and read the blurb or description. If the cover is boring or illegible, I'll probably pass. Sometimes though, a particularly intriguing title will draw me in spite of the cover.
I want the title to be clear and the genre and tone of the book to be apparent. I often see thumbnail sizes first, and I want to see something other than a blob. An amorphous rectangle doesn't inspire me to click on it.
Here are three very different styles. See what you think. 
I've just redone my cover for Tea in the Afternoon because the first one was muddy. I like the color and what the new one suggests about the stories. What does it say to you?
My friend Polly Iyer designs her own covers. InSight may be my favorite. One glance tells me a lot about the kind of story it is. Even the thumbnail is clear. 
Fortune's Fool
I've included a recent award-winning cover, Fortune'sFool by Jane Sevier. April Martinez is the designer. To me, this one perfectly depicts the story.
What do these covers tell you? What do you look for in a cover?