Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cindy McDonald - An Author Interview in the HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Cindy McDonald. She is the author of the UNBRIDLED and First Force Series.

Author Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Website: Cindy McDonald
Author's Blog: George The Pony
Twitter: @CindyMcDonald
Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads
Google+: Check Out Google+
Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Author Description:
Cindy McDonald was born and raised in the Pittsburgh, Pa area. For 26 years she was a professional choreographer. She taught ballet, jazz, and tap. During that time she choregraphed many musicals and an opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards. Most recently, she has retired to write her novels. She resides with her husband on their Thoroughbred farm know as Fly By Night Stables near Pittsburgh.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

Congratulations on your book: To The Breaking Pointe. Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Yes! I always have another book in the works—I’m basically handcuffed to my computer *giggle*. I am working on book #3 of The First Force Series, Into the Dark. This book is projected to release in September of 2015. Let me wet your appetite with a short synopsis:

Dr. Rayne Lee lost her husband and her four­year­old daughter, Sierra, to a group of hostile guerrillas in the Amazonian Valley of Peru, four years ago. It had taken every bit of her constitution to rebuild her life and to join her uncle’s security firm, First Force, as the team’s head medic. She still desperately missed her husband and her daughter, but all­in­all everything was back on track—until the phone calls started.

A young girl was calling claiming to be Sierra. The tiny trembling voice claimed that the guerrillas were holding her captive, and there was only way for them to be reunited: Rayne must travel to Peru and give them something that she has. Moreover, the guerrillas have another stipulation: Rayne must come alone.

Suddenly the ghosts from Rayne’s past are chasing her down a dark road.

What could they possibly want from her?

Was it really Sierra calling?

Rayne knew that she had to take the risk—she had to find out!

You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche? How much has it changed your book launch process?

Social media is and must be a part of an author’s platform—without it, your book will basically sit on amazon or other sales sites and rot. People can not purchase a book that they do not know about! It’s just that simple. When I joined Twitter I thought, what the heck is this mess? I shied away for almost a year, and then I just jumped in—I started following and they followed back—I started retweeting, and they retweeted. It takes time and effort to build a following and to come up with those clever blurbs for your book, but if you keep at it, it will all fall into place. Without twitter or Facebook my books would be rotting as we speak.

Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?

I started keeping a list only about six months ago. I have a newsletter list that consists of readers and reviewers which is growing. That said, I don’t merely ask people to sign up for my newsletter—I give them something in return. If you sign up for my newsletter on the home page of my website,
, you will automatically receive the first chapter of my newest or upcoming release directly to your inbox. This gives people an incentive to sign up.

Now, if I’m at an author event (bookfests, personal appearances etc) I always have a giveaway going for those who sign up for the newsletter at the event, such as a book or an amazon gift card—they still get the first chapter of the new release as a thank you because not everyone wins the prize of course. My newsletters are sent out strictly when I have something to say like I have a new book coming out, and then another when it is available—I never abuse the newsletter subscribers by sharing addresses or spamming.

Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

I’m very busy when it comes to author engagements. I do many presentations on marketing, getting published, writing etc. at libraries and book clubs. I attend as many book fest events as possible and I’m always available for book signing events, too. My next appearance will be on November 29 three hour drive from Pittsburgh for me, but I love it! I love meeting and networking with authors and of course I love meeting established and new readers. I always announce my whereabouts on my FB page, Google+, and of course Twitter.

You have great covers. They carry a theme and your brand with them. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Thank you! I love my covers! I’m very hands on in the process. Believe it or not, I found the models for both the First Force covers on FB! It’s true. Rugby star, Stuart Reardon, from the UK graces the cover of Into the Crossfire, book #1. Stuart Tomlinson, an ex-footballer from the Uk turned WWF wrestler, is on the cover of the newest First Force installment, To the Breaking Pointe. I purchase the photos of these beautiful men from photographers on FB and turn them into my cover designer, Todd Aune—he does the rest. I love his work.

You have several great book trailers. (See links below.) They look very professional. Do you know how much impact they have had on your book’s success? Do you use the trailer in your character development? Are the pictures and background the way you see your characters and scenes?

Again thanks for the lovely compliment. My daughter, Lauren, creates my book trailers and she chooses the fabulous music that accompanies them. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that they have much impact on the sales or the interest in my books. They get few views on UTube. I have talked with many authors who pay big bucks for the trailers and feel the same way—I’m happy that mine are created for free.

What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?

I don’t give my books away very often. That said, I have participated in giveaways through KDP and goodreads. Like many authors, including bestselling authors, I have done giveaways to generate sales. Sometimes it works, while other times not so much. I find that people will get the books on amazon for free and either never read them or not bother to post a review. My giveaways on goodreads have been much the same—the book is posted on their TBR list and stays there indefinitely.

How do you start your book launch process for a new book? Give a brief outline of the steps you go through to get your book to market. What methods were the most successful?

When the book is approximately three or four months out from releasing, I start posting “Coming soon” blurbs featuring the cover on my social media outlets. I also tweet the “Coming soon” page directly from my website so that potential readers may visit the page to see the trailer, cover, synopsis, and possibly sign up for the newsletter to get the first chapter of said book. Of course I also send out an announcement through the newsletter about one month before the book releases, and then another the day of the release.

In May you started publishing children books (George the Pony Series). Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which genre did you enjoy writing the most? Does moving from one to the other give you some breathing room? George the Boss

I am so enjoying my new adventure with children’s books. So many people have asked me if I would be writing them since I worked with kids for twenty­six years as a dance educator. I wasn’t interested for a long time because I was so immersed in my novels—then I noticed at book events how children’s books flew out the door. Lightbulb! Hey, I can write one of those—I have plenty of fodder! The next day I had written George the Boss—about a stubborn pony on our farm who bosses our Thoroughbreds around mercilessly. The book has been a huge hit at book events—I have to have a separate table from my novels for the George book!

At this time, I write three genres: Murder/suspense—The Unbridled Series which presently has five books. Romantic suspense—The First Force Series which has two books as of now, and George the Boss which will have a second book in spring 2015. I feel that writing different genres keeps my writing fresh.

What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?

Getting reviews is tough. There are sooo many authors seeking out reviewers. Many authors have “street teams.” I haven’t employed that option as of yet, although it looks very inviting. I have collected reviewers who have enjoyed my books on my newsletter list. They will respond with a request for the book, usually within three days. I also sign up for virtual book tours and request more reviews than guest posts. Beyond that, yes, I rely on my readers to help me out.

Author's Book List
To The Breaking Pointe - First Force Book 2
Five years ago, First Force operative Grant Ketchum let the ballerina of his dreams dance right out of his life.

After her American adoptive parents had been killed in an automobile accident, Silja Ramsay returned to her birthplace, Russia, to take the position of the principal dancer for the Novikov Ballet Company. She was living her dreams, and although they had very little contact, Grant was proud of her.

The owner and director of the ballet company, Natalia Novikov, has a dark secret: her beloved ballet company is almost broke. Natalia has become so desperate for funds to keep the company afloat that she’s forced her dancers to prostitute themselves to financial contributors at exclusive after-show parties.

As the prima ballerina of the troupe, Silja has been exempt and kept in the dark about the parties, until a big-time American financier, who is obsessed with Silja, offers to bail the failing ballet company out and provide Natalia with everything she will ever need. His prerequisite: Silja must become his personal companion, live in his home, and fulfill his every desire.

Against her will, Silja is taken to the American’s mansion, but before she goes she manages to send a text to the only man who can save her, Grant:


Now Grant Ketchum is on a mission to find his lost ballerina and rescue her from this powerful man’s subjugation. He will do anything to get her out alive.

If they survive, will he let her chasse out of his life again?

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Into the Crossfire - First Force Book 1
Jack Haliday has a score to settle.

It has been four years since ex-Navy SEAL Jack Haliday, had an explosive run-in with a biker gang, wounding their leader, Gunner. During those years, Jack had acquired everything he ever wanted: a beautiful wife, daughter, and a lovely home in the suburbs--everything was just about as perfect as it could get, until Gunner returned to twist Jack's world inside-out with a vengeance that he could never have prepared for.

Now Jack has a score to settle and he's got some friends to help him do it.

Book Trailer: Into the Crossfire

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Shady Deals - The Unbridled Series Book 5
Hot Romance Shaded in Lies and Murder!

Kate West and Dr. Holden Reese have put their troubled past behind them and are ready to set a wedding date. There;s only one thing in Holden's way: a powerful drug Lord at Keystone Downs Thoroughbred Race Track has Holden under his thumb, and he's not letting go!

Kate's family is determined to get to the bottom the of horse drugging ring, and when the West's get too close to the truth the Drug Lord sends them a brutal message that can't be misinterpreted. Now Holden is on the run, and he's dragging Kate with him.

Can he escape his indiscretions?
How long can he keep Kate in the dark?
And how damning will the truth be when it's finally revealed?

Book Trailer: Shady Deals

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Against the Ropes - The Unbridled Series Book 4

When the West’s good-hearted farm manager, Punch McMinn, stumbles upon Eugene Strom, a down-on-his-luck fighter threatening to jump from an old bridge, Punch takes him under his wing and convinces the patriarch of Westwood Thoroughbred Farm, Eric West, to give him a job.

But when the gun-toting mob shows up at Westwood, it’s quite obvious that good ol’ Eugene is hiding a secret—a big one. Punch finds himself questioning his good intentions when the ex-fighter puts the people he loves against the ropes—and at the edge of disaster.

Book Trailer: Against the Ropes

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Dangerous Deception - The Unbridled Series Book 3
Old Age Ain’t for Sissies!

Vic Deveaux’s glory days as a winning jockey have ended, but he refuses to accept that pile of horse hockey!

When the West family asks Vic to take an easier position at their horse farm Westwood, he becomes enraged and teams up with two greedy stable hands in a scheme to kidnap the West’s younger son Shane.

When Vic discovers that his new-found friends have murder on their minds, things turn ugly.

Suddenly, Vic finds himself between the rock and the hard place. . He has betrayed his good friend, Eric West, but will he participate in his son’s murder as well?

Not content to sit and wait for her men to bring her brother home, Kate West convinces homicide detective Carl Lugowski to check out a hunch at an old abandoned mansion. Soon, they’re trapped in a hornet’s nest of a notorious biker gang.

Oh yeah, Vic’s deception has placed the West family in more danger than they know what to do with!

Book Trailer: Dangerous Deception

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Hot Coco - The Unbridled Series Book 2
HOT: Coco Beardmore.
NOT: Coco’s calamities.

HOT: Mike’s fantasies.
NOT: Mike’s reality.

Let’s face it, everyone knows a beautiful woman who can’t walk through a room without tripping over the coffee table, or turning every situation into a total debacle. Trainers at Keystone Downs have been dumping Coco Beardmore and she’s landed in Mike West’s lap. The problem is that Coco is a complete klutz! Her driving skills are a real bang—into Mike’s horse trailer. Her sultry seduction will set the room on fire—the kitchen that is.

What’s more are her Thoroughbreds: one flips while being saddled, one sits down like a dog in the starting gate, and then there’s the one that’s an escape artist. It’s enough to drive a normally calm and collected Mike West to the very edge.

Mike’s not the only one having problems with women. His father Eric has taken on more than he can chew, and he’s about to get spit out by two women: One that he’s in love with and one that thinks he’s in love with her.

Oh yeah, things are hot around Westwood Thoroughbred Farm … and someone’s about to get burned!

Book Trailer: Hot Coco

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - The Unbridled Series Book 1
Make a note: never agitate a madman. Successful Thoroughbred trainer Mike West just made that mistake-and he’s gonna pay-more than he ever realized. But it’s all in the family; his sister, Kate, has been the object of the madman’s desire on the social network “My Town”. Her constant rejections have infuriated him! People who seem to be in the way start turning up dead, and he’s got Mike and Kate next on his list! In the first book of The Unbridled Series, Cindy McDonald introduces you to the world of Thoroughbred racing, while taking her cast of characters on a wild ride through a maniacs mind.

Book Trailer:

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
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HBS Author's Spotlight
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Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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