Author Bling

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guest Post by Cindy McDonald


Over the course of twenty-six years I was very comfortable with my title: Miss Cindy—dance teacher/choreographer, and after a long and successful career, I decided to make a change. In 2011 I published my first book, I became an author, a writer, a storyteller. Problem was that I still thought of myself as a dancer/choreographer. Nothing had changed and I didn’t give it much thought until I attended a wedding—it was the day that everything changed…
I had just retired from my dance school in May to focus on writing my books, and on a very hot day in June my husband and I attended my dear friend’s daughter’s wedding. It was an outside wedding and we took our seats waiting for the ceremony to begin when another friend sat down next to me. She asked about my new release and how it was going, and we chatted casually until it was time for the bride to make her appearance. I didn’t give it another thought. After all I was still just Miss Cindy the dance teacher/choreographer, and then as I approached the cookie table a woman tapped me on the shoulder.
“I didn’t mean to listen in on your conversation,” she began, “but did I hear you say that you are an author?”
I probably looked at the woman like she had just grown another head. What? Am I a what? It was the first time anyone had called me that! It was the first time anyone had even uttered the word. Author…author… I must’ve stood there for well over fifteen seconds staring at her like an idiot because she cocked her head to the side and said to me, “I could have sworn that I heard someone ask you about a book that you’ve written. I love to read, and I’ve never met an author.” Skeptically, she repeated, “Are you an author?”
It wasn’t computing. Yes, I wrote a book, and I had said book published. But I’m a dance teacher, a choreographer, I couldn’t possibly be an …um… author. Finally, my husband spoke up, “Yes, Cindy wrote a book called, Deadly.Com. It’s a murder suspense book. Do you like murder suspense books?”
The woman’s face lit up. “I love murder suspense books! Where can I buy it?” 
Yet still I stood there like a total moron, still contemplating her very first question: are you an author? At last I managed to speak. I said, “Amazon… you can buy the book on amazon.”
Tickled pink that she had actually met a real-live honest-to-God moron… I mean, author, the woman gathered some cookies and returned to her table. My husband turned to me and said, “Well you totally blew that. If she’d have asked you about the dance school, you would’ve given her a business card, directed her to the website, and told her all about it. She asked you about your book and you were clueless. You’ve got to get better prepared, Cindy. She was a potential customer.”
He was right. After I came out of my funk, I went straight to the task of getting prepared. Nowadays with six published books under my belt, I actually admit to being an author. When someone asks me about my books, I whip out that business card, I direct them to my website, and yes I bore them to tears as I tell them all about my books. Yep! That’s what I am: an honest-to-goodness, real-live, in-the –flesh author. 
Hmmm, now I’ve just got to figure out something snappy to say when people ask, “Are you on the New York Times best seller list?”

About Cindy McDonald

For the past twenty years Cindy has helped her husband raise, train, and race Thoroughbreds at their forty-five acre farm known as Fly-By-Night Stables near Pittsburgh.
During those years Cindy has paid close attention to the characters that hang-out at the back-side of the track.  She found the situations and life style most intriguing. In 2005 she sat down at her computer and began a journey into writing about this life that few understand.

Cindy has recently retired from making her living as a professional choreographer. She owned and operated Cindy McDonald’s School of Dance since 1985.  She studied at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School and with the Pittsburgh Dance Alloy at Carnegie Mellon University to name a few.  She has choreographed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards.

To find out more about future books of the Unbridled Series, please visit Cindy’s website at:

How to contact Cindy McDonald:

Cindy McDonald's website:

Find Cindy on FB:

Cindy is a goodreads author:

Cindy is on twitter. Here’s her handle: @cindymcdonald7

Ms. McDonald's books are available on amazon:






Joseph Rinaldo - An Author Interview

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I live in Nashville, Tennessee with my wife and daughter. We like to go boating as a family, and I jog to stay fit. My daughter has Down syndrome and competes in Special Olympic powerlifting, bowling, and basketball. I'm an assistant basketball coach and helper "coach" for powerlifting. My arms are so tiny they make Barney Fife look strong. 

I understand people are hesitant to give independent authors a chance. Some of the indie stuff IS really bad. If any of the books I've mentioned interest you, please go to the free "Click to Look Inside" and sample the first chapter. If a book grabs you that quick, you'll probably be glad you got it. Also, if you are in a book club that reads one of my books I'd be honoured to join your discussion. Feel free to contact me through Facebook or my website, www.josephmrinaldo

Which writers inspire you?

This question is not: Who does your writing style mirror? But people often read the answer and hear, "He likes Dan Brown, so that's what his books are like." I read a book by Bob Woodward about the CIA during the Reagan years. Shortly after that I wrote A Spy At Home. Garrison, a CIA operative in A Spy At Home, sees his professional life as a wasted career. The idea germinated while reading Mr. Woodward's book, however, none of the factual account from his work made it into my novel.

When did you decide to become a writer?

The actual impetus for me to begin writing came while I was reading Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks. When I got to the part where he received a million-dollar advance, I thought, “Holy cow! He’s a good writer, but I know I can do this, too.” I’ve been writing since that day in 2004.

What does your family think of your writing?

My family is very supportive; I'm so lucky. Vivian, my wife, believes the books I write have potential, and she helps me edit, create plot twists, and market the books. We're a team, and I'm fortunate to be her partner. 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I really just sit down and write. In fact, people that have rituals or only write in certain places leave me confused. Do they really enjoy writing or are they more interested in doing the rituals and saying they're a writer?

Where do the your ideas come from?

The ideas for books strike me from out of nowhere. Sometimes while I'm reading a book or watching the news an idea for a story comes to me. Other times, I have an idea based on a book I read several years ago and an event that happened several months ago. Those two might not have seemed connected at the time, but after rolling around in my head, they become a story. I never know where inspiration will come from.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?

I usually start with a very brief outline: abusive childhood - works as a head teller - boyfriend 16 years younger. I type in Word with the outline a few blank lines down from the line I am currently writing in the book. As I finish a scene in the outline, I delete it. Of course, from time-to-time I forget to consult the outline and throw in a plot twist that requires either the outline be revised or the plot twist discarded. I rarely know how a book will end [is that normal?], so my outlines often only cover the next chapter or two. Sometimes I finish all the scenes on the outline and finish the rest of the book without one. I always start with some kind of written agenda, but not with a whole lot. I want the characters to go where they go without being handcuffed to the original idea.

Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?

David Pudlewitts edits my books. To be honest, I chose him for the first book because he quoted a price about $2,000 less than his closest competitor. Glad I chose him! He gives tremendous insight. Even when I don't take his suggestions, I almost always rewrite the part he thought could be improved. He's on Facebook and has a website. Your book will get better if you use David.

Would you or do you use a PR agency?

I have used a Public Relations firm and beg you NOT to make this mistake. We hired them and paid a monthly fee because we believed the agent had contacts in media outlets. While I do believe she had media contacts and did try, I never got an interview. PR firms sound like a good way to jump to the head of the line and get newspaper, television, and radio interviews, but the people at those places want nothing to do with unknown authors [which makes sense from their perspective]. Save your money; don't hire a PR firm.  

What do you think of “trailers” for books?

Please check out the trailer for Valerie's Retreat

How much trailers actually benefit sales is not clear. Rinaldo Write has made three trailers, and I still can't decide if they are worth doing or not. The Valerie's Retreat trailer is our best one, and we're hoping it is well received. Please let me know what you think with a comment.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Reviews, whether good or bad, mean the most when the reviewer has taken the time to give their observation. A review: Great read! might make you feel good, but does leave you wandering if the reviewer actually read the book. I honestly consider well thought out reviews. If they’re good, I try to remember what I did right for my next book, and conversely, eliminate what I did wrong.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

I especially hate, after I've typed it, going back and doing that first edit. That seems to take forever because that's when I find the most mistakes. Specific to Valerie's Retreat, the ending was difficult. David Pudlewitts, my editor, didn't care for the ending, so he pointed me in the right direction. For that I am very grateful. I think, in large part due to David, you'll find the ending surprising and appropriate.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

I get asked this question a lot. I really have to guess about three or four months. When I start a book I don't start the time counter so I really don't know. Of course, the first draft isn't what we publish. Writing may only take a few months, but getting the edited copy from our editor, David Puddlewitts, takes some time. The honest answer is start to release, I really am not sure.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

Writer’s block is talked about a lot, but I never suffer from it. Now, I might write something and go back and delete it, but I can always write something. If you suffer from writer's block regularly, find another hobby.

Do you have any suggestions to become a better writer? If so, what are they?

Have someone who will read your book and tell you if it stinks. That's harder than it sounds, because most people won't want to hurt your feelings. Also, this person needs to be an avid reader. Find out if your manuscript is mentioned in the same sentence with big-name writers. If not, you need to get some honest critique before going forward with its promotion.

So, what have you written?

Valerie’s Retreat puts Valerie's crisis management skills on display. You'll get to know her pretty average life. Her job as the head teller at a bank, her one bedroom apartment, and her exceptionally lazy cat give the impression that she could be anyone you meet in your daily life. However, when things start to get rough, her first reaction is to run. An abusive childhood you learn about as the story proceeds left her with shaky decision-making skills. Franco, her boyfriend, doesn't know what the right answer is either. Between them they commit a little felony and leave the country.

A Spy Home is a memoir of a former spy who near the end of his career comes to the realization that his life's work of promoting rebellion in third-world counties for American interests was a waste. Out of bitterness, he steals over nine million dollars on his last mission. The money was meant for a pro-American rebel group in an impoverished country. His retirement is spent learning what he missed at home with his family and wondering if the CIA will figure out he has their money.

Hazardous Choices describes the difficulty a young man has trying to fit in during his first year of college. In Chicago he served as a gangbanger for the vicious Neptune Knights, and in a small Kentucky town where he received a scholarship to play division two football, he tries to fit in with the other students. His understanding of the world doesn't make much sense in this environment.

A Mormon Massacre tells about a young man in his early twenties who had been raised hating the Mormon Church. To fight what he believes is a cult, Jeremiah goes undercover as a convert to rescue women from abusive plural marriages.

What genre are your books?

Valerie's Retreat falls into the genre Romantic Thriller, but I hope it's more dynamic than is described by those two words. Hopefully the reader will finish a scene where something goes wrong for Valerie and think about how they might handle the same situation. At one point Valerie and Franco, her boyfriend, feel like they just don't have any good options. That leads them to make extreme choices. What would have to happen in your life for you to commit a felony? How bad would things have to be? That breaking point is the driving focus of Valerie's Retreat. 

My other books fall into a variety of genres. Hazardous Choice and A Spy At Home draw the reader in with Suspense. A Mormon Massacre keeps things moving as an Action/Adventure novel. 

What draws you to this genre?

I write the stories that come to me without regard for the genre. When you read my books you'll discover that they're hard to place in a genre because they're so dynamic. 

Do you like to create books for adults?

I write for adults because I've never been around children. When I married, my wife had a twenty-four year-old daughter from a previous marriage, so I missed all the childhood years. We've all heard "write what you know" [dumbest thing ever said? Try writing down a fact you don't know], and I don't know anything about kids. That leaves adults as my only possible audience.

What do you think makes a good story?

We know a good story when we read it, right? What's the magic ingredient? Wish I knew. Here's an example about how elusive it can be. I thought Stephen King's book Delores Claiborne was so-so, border on boring. I loved the movie! Why the drastic difference? I just ask you to give my book a chance. Try reading the beginning chapter at Amazon's “Look-In” to test them out. When they grab you, you'll be glad you bought the book. 

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Valerie's Retreat puts Valerie's crisis management skills on display. You'll get to know her pretty average life. Her job as the head teller at a bank, her one bedroom apartment, and her exceptionally lazy cat give the impression that she could be anyone you meet in your daily life. However, when things start to get rough, her first reaction is to run. An abusive childhood you learn about as the story proceeds left her with shaky decision-making skills. 
Valerie's special because she works so hard to keep her abusive childhood locked away in a corner of her mind. We all have baggage from events in our lives and she handles her troubled history the best way she can. Hopefully, you'll see she's a lot like you or someone you know and her decisions as times get hard will surprise you.

What are you working on at the minute?

Life After Life; right now I love that title but it might change. This is about a man who thinks he's crazy because he knows he's reincarnated. In his previous life he served as the man-servant to Alexander the First, the Tsar of Russia. The Tsar's death is surrounded by mystery and suspicion. This man knows the truth. Note to anyone who may be thinking about stealing this idea and writing it themselves [yes, I mean you Stephen King and James Patterson]: I've already received confirmation of the copyright from the U.S. Library of Congress. 

Where can we buy or see your work?

Valerie's Retreat

A Spy Home

A Mormon Massacre

Hazardous Choices

Thank you for your taking the time to answer some questions, Joseph.
Where can readers connect with you?



Facebook page

Twitter profile

Goodreads page