Managing Bad Reviews


Cindy McDonald

Sometimes you hit
the nail right on the head, and sometimes you hit your thumb! Well, my thumb is
pretty red and swollen, and every time I find a new review posted on Amazon for
my book, Hot Coco, it begins to throb and ache until I find the courage
to read the review.

The fact is that HotCoco is what I call my love/hate book. Some readers love the book, and some
readers hate it, and when they hate it—they really really
hate it! Gulp!

Okay, so would
anyone despise this masterpiece of humor? *Sarcasm*

In my humble
defense: not one reviewer has complained that the book is poorly written. Thank
God! However, I do get complaints that it is degrading to women, that the
characters are just plain stupid, that (and this is a spoiler folks) Mike and
Coco never get together, hook-up, or become a couple. I even had one
reviewer complain that I talked about the horses too much—the entire series takes
place on a Thoroughbred farm…just sayin’. 
Another reviewer couldn’t figure out what genre I was writing in. Is Hot
chic-lit? Rom-com? Or just a hot mess tossed into the fiction
department? Ouch!

Deep breath…

Would you enjoy
this book? I have no idea. That said I will tell you that over the two years
that poor Coco has been available she has been downloaded (free and paid)
over 20,000 times. Yep, you read that correctly—twenty thousand! Hmmm.

True confession: I
have considered un-publishing the book because of the nasty reviews, but I have
decided that I must take the good with the bad—especially recently. In January
a rather big-time reviewer discovered my Unbridled Series. She read the first
book, Deadly.Com, and requested copies of the rest of the books. Yikes!

I was beside
myself! I didn’t want to send her Hot Coco because I thought for sure
that this, the second book in the series, would turn her off and I’d pay a very
high price. So I packed up the other three books and mailed them off to her.
Well, it didn’t work. She discovered Coco on her own, downloaded it, read it,
and absolutely loved it to the point of dedicating an entire week in April on
her blog to my Unbridled books. Additionally, she remarked that Coco was
her favorite and she laughed out loud through the entire book! What? Someone liked
Coco? Seriously?

 Very cool!

Out of the six
books that I have published Hot Coco is also my most reviewed book. The
other five books that I’ve published stand solid as 4.5 and 4.9 star-rated
books. Coco? Well…she is sitting pretty at a 3.4 star rating on amazon and…wait
for it…2.86 on Goodreads. Oh well.

Was it something
that I wrote? I sure hope so. The truth is I am glad and proud that I published
Hot Coco—and she isn’t going away anytime soon. She is a fine second
book for the Unbridled Series and the epitome of the well-used statement: you
simply can’t please everyone.

Things Are Heating Up at Westwood Farms … And Someone Is
Going to Get Burned
 Coco Beardmore 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 who thinks he’s in love with
HOT COCO is the second book from the Unbridled Series by
Cindy McDonald veering from the murder/suspense genre into an action packed
romantic comedy. A fun read!
All of Cindy’s books are available in ebook and print on
Amazon, Barnes and Noble. To read excerpts from future books, view book
trailers, and keep up with everything that is Unbridled, please visit Cindy’s
website at:

About Cindy McDonald

Cindy McDonald
For twenty-six years Cindy’s life whirled around a song and a dance: she was a professional dancer/choreographer for most of her adult life and never gave much thought to a writing career until 2005. She often notes: Don’t ask me what happened, but suddenly I felt drawn to my computer to write about things I have experienced (greatly exaggerated upon of course—I’ve never been murdered!) with my husband’s Thoroughbreds and happenings at the racetrack. Viola! Cindy’s first book series, Unbridled, was born—there are four books to that series so far.
Cindy is a huge fan of romantic suspense series, and although she isn’t one to make New Year’s resolutions, on New Year’s Day 2013 she made a commitment to write one, Into the Crossfire is the first book for her new series, First Force.

People are always asking Cindy: do you miss dance? With a bitter sweet smile on her lips she tells them: Sometimes I do. I miss my students. I miss choreographing musicals, but I love my books, and I love sharing them with you.

For more information, book trailers, and excerpts for all of Cindy’s books please visit her website:

The following excerpt is taken from Chapter 5. Coco has invited Mike to her home for dinner after she had accidentally wrecked her Escalade into his horse trailer that afternoon…

While waiting on the steps of Coco’s brown stone townhouse, Mike hoped his evening would be worth the trashed trailer and rather acute case of heartburn that he was anticipating. He cocked his head when he heard what sounded like a large dog growling and barking from behind the lavishly, beveled front door. He looked around at the meticulously landscaped townhouses with sporty Mercedes, Porsches, and BMW’s parked in the driveways before glancing over his shoulder at his pickup parked next to Coco’s wrecked SUV. When the door finally opened the Cocker Spaniel sprung out to circle his legs while sniffing, barking, and snarling at him.

“Booger, behave.” Coco looked like forgiveness wrapped in a little black peel-me-off when she appeared in the doorway. “Don’t worry, he doesn’t bite. Come in, Mike.” She said like a spider coaxing a fly.

She guided him through the foyer into a living room decked-to- the-hilt with stylish, French provincial furnishings. Booger sniffed and nipped at Mike’s legs while following close behind.

Beautiful paintings hung on the walls in ornate frames. Mike knew exactly one thing about artists or artwork: Jackshit. But it was obvious, even to him, that these pieces had come from a gallery, rather than a retail store. The vibrant colors splashed across the canvas were thick, and sweeping, and perhaps a little angry, that much he could appreciate—kinda.

A large, gilded mirror hung on the wall behind the sofa. Crystal framed photographs of Coco and her father filled the coffee tables. Classy.

“Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.” She slipped through the doorway into the kitchen.

Mike buried his hands into the pockets of his Levis and studied an abstract work of art on the wall. What the hell is that supposed to be?

Booger’s growl thinned to a low grouse. His curly ears perked, and he stomped his paws against the white carpet.

“What’s the matter, boy?” Purring cautiously at the spunky spaniel, he patted Booger on the head, and then turned his attention to a photo of Stanley Beardmore, with his arms wrapped around Coco. Booger sprung at him, clamped his little body around Mike’s leg. Wagging his tiny tail, he humped and panted erotically.

Holy shit. Mike’s eyes widened. Shaking his leg frantically, he danced around the room while trying to free himself from the dog’s nirvanas grip. He braced against a table while kicking his leg, but Booger, enjoying the ride, hung on tight.

“Booger, that’s not nice.” Holding two full wine glasses, Coco trotted toward them. After hurriedly setting one of the glasses on the table, she slapped Booger on the top of his head, during which the wine in the glass splashed down Mike’s white shirt. Booger shrunk away from his leg with a yelp and scampered out of the room with his tail-tucked between his legs.

“Oh Mike, I’m sorry!”

Hoping that he wouldn’t only have to envision this butterfingered beauty naked tonight, he took a deep breath. He truly hoped that it would be an evening of pleasure worth the abyss of calamities that seemed to suck her in.

“Quick, take that shirt off, and I’ll soak it in seltzer water.” She fumbled with the buttons until she opened the shirt to reveal his muscled pecks and tight abs. Her fingers fluttered over his shoulders and down his strong arms when she slipped the shirt from his torso. Blushing, she averted her gaze to the red stain on his shirt. She wet her pink, full lips and looked into his eyes. Good God, he’s setting me on fire. Can I make it through dinner?

Smiling, she brushed a wisp of his dark hair away from his brow. “I’ll be right back.”

Listening to her trot up the stairs, he found his thoughts going to Ava’s cat. He hated that cat. She was an evil little thing. He wasn’t exactly in love with Coco’s Cocker Spaniel. Go figure.

When he spied the glass on the table, he drank down the remaining wine to wet his dry mouth.

He heard her footsteps on the stairs, and she reappeared with a shirt draped over her arm. She held up the over-sized nightshirt, which she helped him slip into. Although it was over-sized for her, it was a quite taut for him.

Stepping back to take a look, she giggled.

He looked down and groaned. The shirt was brown with pink lettering that read: “Chocolate and men, the richer, the better.”

“Well, it’s better than nothing.” She felt how the shirt clung to his firm torso and outlined every detail of his pecs and abs. “Although, nothing would be fine, too.” Her hands traced his shoulders, down his arms, through his fingertips, and then lightly across the crotch of his jeans. “Come sit at the table,” she whispered. “Dinner’s almost ready.”

Mike was feeling the heat, but he managed to ask, “What are we having?”

“It’s a surprise.”

“I can hardly wait.”

She led him into a spacious, gourmet kitchen. The stainless steel appliances gleamed in the bright lights. The white cabinetry swooped around dark, granite counters.

Mike took a seat at the table, which was dressed in white, satin linens and delicate, fine china. The light from the crystal chandelier glinted off the silverware. Booger scooted under the table to mope.

The kitchen was most impressive, but when he sat at the table with a fresh glass of wine, it wasn’t the cabinetry that he was admiring. Christ, she looks so damned tasty in that tight little rip-it-off-me-now dress. He took a big gulp of wine and swallowed hard while trying to keep other hard things under wraps.

Coco carefully placed several pieces of meat into a skillet. It spit and sizzled in the hot oil. She cradled her wine glass in her fingers. “Your shirt should be ready for the dryer after dinner.”

“That’s fine.” He felt the squeeze of the dog latching around his shin again. Sonofabitch. He kicked. The dog yelped. He grinned.

Coco was attracted to this handsome man sitting at her table. She was more aroused by the fact that he didn’t cancel their dinner date after she had smashed his horse trailer. He’s definitely a gentleman cowboy. How sexy is that? Her lips curled at the thought. With a sultry gleam, in her sapphire eyes, she strode toward him.

More than the meat was sizzling.

Mike knew what that look meant. Oh, yeah, no imagination needed. The ballerina is about to do her little dance.

She leaned over him.

While she paused to take in his hazel eyes, he could feel her breath on his face.

“I wanted to cook something fancy,” she whispered, “because it makes me feel fancy,” Her lips crashed against his. Her tongue searched his mouth.

He ran his fingers through her hair. Cupping her face in his hands, he kissed her back with passion.

The meat crackled in the skillet.

She ran her hands over his chest and down to his hips. Her fingers found the outline of his erection pressing against his jeans. She groped at his belt.

Kissing her neck, he slipped a sleeve of the dress off her shoulder and nipped at her shoulder. Tasting her skin, he made his way hungrily down her chest.

Crunch! The force of a body wrapped around his leg broke through the lust. Booger humped and pushed, which made it impossible to ignore.

Damn it. Mike’s eyes popped open. He attempted to kick the dog, but he was fastened on tight and going at it strong.

Abruptly, he became aware that Booger’s love connection to his leg wasn’t the biggest problem at hand. Smoke billowed from the skillet. Flames leapt from the stove. Greasy fireballs ignited dish towels. The curtains were already ablaze.

Shoving Coco onto the table, Mike sprung to his feet.

Her face lit up with intense desire. “Oh Mike, you are naughty,” she gasped.

“Coco, where’s your fire extinguisher?”

“You wanna be a fireman?” Coco was giddy.

Booger was rapt.

Mike was exasperated. “No, your fire extinguisher, where is it?”

Flames shot across the counter top. The smoking skillet spit sparks and fire like a cannon.

He snatched the tablecloth from under Coco and ripped it off the table. China, glassware, silver, crashed and broke against the wall and on the floor. He beat the flames while dragging the horny, Cocker Spaniel, still humping his leg, across the room with him.

“Call the fire department.”

“Wha—” Coco stammered while trying to get a grasp on the situation.

“9-1-1,” Mike shrieked while thrashing the flames, kicking his leg, and cursing her calamity.


A Day in the life of…
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,
 DEADLY.COM. 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?
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

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 five 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?”

First Force Series

A notorious killer leaves Jack Haliday’s
world in shambles.

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, an adorable 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!

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.

See more of Cindy’s posts on

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Censored Books—You Betcha!

Cindy McDonald

Ahhh, the infamous “I told you so!” How we spouses love to hear those words spew from our better half’s mouth. Most recently I was on the receiving end of such a scolding when my husband and I attended a luncheon at the nursing home where my mother resides. Let me back-up…

A short time ago I wrote a blog entitled, Crossing the Line. The blog discussed how much sexual content should we authors place in our books. Essentially, how much is too much? I also mentioned in the blog that I am a former dance teacher who now writes books with quite a bit of suggestive material. My very conservative husband is uncomfortable with said content because he feels that my previous position in the community holds me to certain standards that I should be very conscious of.

So, there we were at the luncheon taking our seats along with the other families, when I spotted two of my former students and their parents seated at a table nearby. The two girls were thrilled to see their former dance teacher, and with ear-to-ear smiles, they waved. For the sake of this blog we’ll call the older girl, Susan, who is twelve. The younger sister is ten. Anyway, the luncheon was lovely and when we decided to leave I made my way to their table to say hello. And that’s when it happened. While giving me a hug Susan (12) said to me, “Oh Miss Cindy, I miss you so much. I want you to know that I’ve read all of your books.”


I was very taken aback. I turned to her mother with wide eyes and if I hadn’t quickly slammed it shut, I swear my jaw would’ve bounced off the floor. I said, “Y–You let her read my books?” Smiling, the woman waved a carefree hand at me and replied, “Oh, don’t worry, she’s an advanced reader.”


Has the woman not reviewed my books before her twelve year old daughter reads them? I couldn’t believe it! Susan then added, “Oh yes, and I understand everything in them, Miss Cindy.”


At this point I simply gave the girl another hug, wished them well, and caught up with my family. That’s when my husband said, “See I told you! I told you that those young girls from your dance school would be reading your books. That’s why you should keep those suggestive scenes in check!”


I don’t think so. I truly feel it is their parent’s responsibility to read the book first before passing it on to their pre-teen daughters. I believe that parents need to censor what their young children read just as much as they need to pay attention to what they are looking at on the internet. Having a school district pronounce your child as an “advanced reader” simply means they can read “big words”—big deal! That does not necessarily mean they are mature enough for certain content. Call me old fashioned. Call me naïve. Call me an idiot, if you like, but young people need guidance and mature reading material simply is not appropriate for a twelve year old girl. For that matter my daughter does not permit my grandson (14) to read my books, and the last one, Dangerous Deception, was dedicated to him! I’m not upset—I totally agree with my daughter, and I wish all parents would exercise a little more common sense when it comes to mature reads and the internet, and cell phones for that matter.

Hey, I don’t feel responsible at all for what happened. The titles of the books alone should have been a red flag for the parent: DEADLY.COM, HOT COCO, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, and AGAINST THE ROPES. Lord have mercy, the name of the series is UNBRIDLED! I do not write books with titles like: PATTY’S PRETTY PIROUETTE, or A NEW TUTU FOR TANYA.

Yes, I write suggestive scenes. I like writing suggestive scenes, and I have taken those scenes up several notches in my new series FIRST FORCE that will release in November—Shhh! Don’t tell my husband.

It is up to Susan’s mother and parents just like her to censor their children’s reading material. I’m no longer “Miss Cindy” the small town dance teacher. I am now Cindy McDonald, an author—reader beware.

See more of Cindy’s posts on WWBB: 
When writing romantic scenes where does one stop. 
When reviews count for nothing.
Never judge a book by its cover.
Memories of Presque Isle

Against the Ropes
The Unbridled Series

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.

No good deed shall go unpunished!
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.
Cindy McDonald

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.

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
Click for an exciting excerpt from AGAINST THE ROPES

A snippet from 
Against the Ropes

Gravel spit from the tires of Punch McMinn’s red Dodge Ram pickup truck, as it rambled along the desolate dusty road. A dirty haze levitated on the horizon in the intense August heat and the leaves on the maple trees turned upward to the heavens begging for a drink. The sky was crystal clear not showing any prayer for storm clouds to rumble through. It had been a damned dry summer.

Glancing at the rear view mirror, Punch could see the pallet of blocks in the bed of his truck. He had gone into Rosemount early this morning to pickup the blocks for the wall that was being re-built in the old brood mare shed on the far side of Westwood Thoroughbred Farm where he’d been the farm manager for many years. He promised Eric West that he would get the wall re-built before the leaves started to turn shades of gold and amber and the autumn chill would set forth a welcome relief. When you made a promise to the patriarch of the West family, you kept it. Disappointing that man was never an option. Eric had practically raised Punch. When his father left his mother with no warning and children to feed, it was Eric that took Punch under his wing. He gave him jobs at the farm to earn a paycheck, and he saw to it that Punch continued playing high school football with his eldest son, Mike. He grew up at Westwood with the West kids Mike, Kate, and Shane. They cleaned stalls side-by-side, lugged heavy water buckets, and groomed the Thoroughbreds to a laser sheen before they entered the paddock for a race. A game of hide-n-seek or a pickup football game always filled their spare time—what little of that they could scrounge. And Sunday or Monday night football with the Steelers on the TV in the West’s study was a favorite back then, and still remained a weekly ritual to this day. The Wests were his second family and his loyalty to Eric and the clan ran as deep as Reardon’s Run. They always had each others back—because that’s what families are made of.

Trying to beat the heat, he went to Miller Block and Brick early. The brickyard was located smack-dab in the middle of downtown Rosemount. The chain-link fence surrounding the huge yard was rather out of place, as where the piles and piles of cement blocks and bricks that lined the perimeter. Miller Block and Brick had set up business in the small dusty town of Rosemount in 1917 before it had become a bustling busy city with tall buildings, fast-food restaurants, theaters, and a four lane running through the center of downtown. The brickyard was a staple as was the Miller family.

Harris Miller was the fourth generation to operate the business and his daughter, Zoe, would take over the reins when Harris retired. Well into his seventies, Harris was not even beginning to entertain the thought of sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair. The very notion made him queasy, so he showed up to open the business every morning by six a.m.

Yep, Punch was trying to beat the heat, and if the truth were being told, he was also trying to avoid Zoe Miller with his early morning errand. He was unsuccessful at both tasks. The sun came up with a golden fury to scorch the morning as it had done the day before, and when he walked through the door of the brickyard sales office, there stood Zoe, waiting for him at the counter with a grin that stretched all the way through the blush of her cheeks to her bright sapphire eyes.

Suspicion ripped through him. If he didn’t know better, he would’ve sworn that one of his loyal “family” members called to alert her of his impending arrival. That’s another thing family does—meddle. He couldn’t decide which West would be that spry so early in the morning, Shane? Hmmm, it certainly fit his MO, but Punch seriously doubted it. Shane had trouble rolling out of bed in the morning. I won’t bust his balls…yet.

Maybe Kate was the culprit. He loved the slender blonde-haired blue-eyed woman of Westwood. She knew what was best for her West men—and Punch. Last week she sat him down on a bale of straw and had a little “talk” with him about the virtues of one, Miss Zoe Miller. Kate could be quite convincing and when necessary, quite conniving. Except he was having his doubts about the shrewd little matchmaker, for the past several months she’d been very preoccupied with Dr. Holden Reese. Kate had been dating the newest and very handsome veterinarian at Keystone Downs. Naw…not Kate, not this time, anyway.

But Mike…oh yeah, he was a morning person. Always bright and alert and ready to roll, he was good at playing the innocent one—steering clear of other people’s business. Yeah, he’s as innocent as a fox in a chicken coop. Punch was having no trouble picturing him dialing his cell phone with an ornery grin on his lips the minute he pulled out of the driveway. Payback’s gonna be a bitch, buddy.

Twinkling coaxing eyes greeted him, as Zoe looped her arm through his to escort him through the brickyard, where her father was starting up the forklift. She was an attractive woman, with full lips, pretty blue eyes, and dark blonde hair that drifted over her shoulders. She was a full-figured gal, an armful, and if he let her drag him into the relationship that she obviously desired, he was most certain that she would be a handful. Truth be told, Punch felt a tug of attraction to Zoe, but even though he was thirty-three, he wasn’t ready for that heavy relationship stuff…nosiree.

It took some finagling, and some smooth talking, but he managed to escape the brickyard without a lifetime commitment, or bruising Zoe’s feelings. Punch was a huge black man, broad shoulders, expansive chest, and arms that bulked out of the sleeves of his T-shirt. His sheer size was daunting, but he was nothing more than a tender-hearted, softy. And hurting Zoe’s feelings was not Punch McMinn’s style. It just wasn’t in him— okay, especially with Zoe.

Sweat dribbled down his temples. Removing his Steelers ball cap, he swiped the sweat from his brow with his forearm, and then plopped the cap back on his head—crooked. The right side of his mouth sucked in with frustration, as he tapped the button for the air conditioning unit, but warm air poured from the vents. Damn, he meant to have that fixed last spring, but time got away from him, and now the blazing heat of summer was punishing him for his procrastination. B.O.B. was rapping on the radio that he could use a wish right now, and Punch was wishing that some damned cool air would miraculously blow through those freaking vents. Not happening.

The truck bumped and rattled over the old abandoned railroad tracks. No trains had traveled the tracks in over twenty years, but they remained as an annoying hump in the road that everyone forgot to slow down for until they found themselves bouncing on their seats, with their brain clattering inside their skull, while swearing at their car’s suspension system. The tracks disappeared into the tall weeds and then over a rusted-out, boarded-up bridge that spanned the wide white water section of Reardon’s Run.

Except the bumping and bouncing in the cab of his truck, and the slight rock of the heavy pallet piled with cement blocks was not his focus at the moment. The dysfunctional air conditioning unit, and Zoe Miller was all but forgotten when his gaze fell upon an older Honda Civic smashed against a tree. Ashen steam billowed out from under the hood that was curled almost to the cracked windshield, and the driver’s side door hung open. Eyes narrowed and his brows pinched together, Punch slowed the truck to a stop and slid from the seat, measuring the wreck with caution.

As he slowly approached the vehicle, his eyes scanned the area. The dirt road wound into the hazy distance. The locust and maple trees spread their branches overhead, and the sun beat down on the brittle and singed tall grasses alongside the road. The air was tight and still in the cloying heat. The only sound was that of the car hissing, as the steam slithered like a phantom serpent into the air.

Punch peered into the car. The airbag slumped from the steering wheel. The interior was pristine, without any personal belongings lying on the seats or on the floor. He straightened with his hands on his hips, pushing his ball cap above his forehead.

“Hey!” Punch called out. Surely whoever wrecked the vehicle couldn’t be very far. And then his gaze fell upon the tall bristly weeds across the roadway. They fell away as if someone had just tromped through toward the old bridge. Taking a braced breath, he followed the newly beaten trail. He could see the bridge in the short distance, and could hear the water running fast; slapping over the rocks in Reardon’s Run.

Emerging from the brush he came to a dead stop, as if someone had splashed him in the face with a bucket of ice water. Narrowing his eyes, he slowly inched his way to the broken and rotted boards that blocked the entrance to the abandoned dilapidated bridge, where a hulk of a man stood on the other side of the rusted railing, with his eyes fixated on the rushing water far below. His huge wide hands clenched the rickety railing, sweat rippled down his reddened face. He seemed frozen, almost in shock, but he didn’t look injured. Punch had to assume that he belonged to the wrecked Honda. He looked fraught and flushed and filled with angst.

Tentatively Punch climbed over the boards and quietly made his way toward the man desperately clinging to the railing on the very edge of the bridge.

Punch wrinkled his nose and then he said, “Whatcha gonna do?”

Startled, the man’s head jerked toward him. His eyes were as big as dinner plates, and the skin on his knuckles was so stretched that it looked like they could burst through at any second. Dripping sweat, his brows pinched in sudden irritation.

“What’s it look like?” He growled at the uninvited black man.

Pursing his lips, Punch raised his eyebrows at the man, and then he peered over the railing at the rushing white water, and the jagged rocks in the fast creek bed. Cocking his head, he expelled a long downward whistle. “It’s a long way down there,” he began. The man dared a glance at the water, and then thought better of it, rotating his eyes back toward Punch. “Ya know if you hit those rocks…it’s gonna hurt like hell…while you’re drowning, dude.”

The man’s mouth dropped open a bit, and then his brows formed a disparaging V between his eyes, “Good thing you’re not a counselor, cuz you suck at this.”

“At what?”

“At talking someone out of suicide.” The man said.

“Ooh, you want me to talk you out of it?” Punch lifted a beefy shoulder, “I dunno, seems like you’ve got you’re mind made up, right?” He said, as he leaned against a rusted flaking bracket, folding his arms over his wide chest.

The man took in a deep disgusted breath. He managed another peek at the water thrashing over the rocks. He groaned. “Why don’t you leave me be?” He expelled a hopeless sigh, “I can’t do anything right. I thought if I slammed my car hard enough into that tree—“

“Damned air bags.” Punch interjected.

“Yeah…I tried to shoot myself yesterday, but I flinched.” He turned his head so Punch could view a burned graze across his temple. Punch winced. The man sighed at his miserable failure. “So I figured I’d jump, and as you pointed out, either the rocks will kill me or I’ll drown.”

“Well, it sounds like a plan.” Punch said, slapping the man on the shoulder, the man flinched, grasping the railing more tightly. Punch took several steps, and then hesitated, turning back toward him. “Is there anybody you’d like me to call? Family? Friends?” He asked.

The man sighed again, sadly shaking his head. “No…there’s nobody.”

Punch stepped toward him to extend his hand out to him, “My name’s Punch McMinn. And you are?” The man looked at Punch as if his nose had just grown ten inches out of his face, and then he looked at his big hand. Punch shrugged, “I mean, I gotta know. So I can tell the police whose floating in the creek.”

Apprehensively he let got of the railing, and extended his hand to him, “Eugene…Eugene Strom.”

Punch half-smiled, “Nice knowing ya, Eugene.” And with that Punch grabbed the large man’s hand and yanked him toward the inside of the railing. But Eugene wasn’t having it. He was big and he was strong. Wrestling against Punch’s grip, he pulled him closer to the edge. The old railing groaned in distress, and the bolts that still barely held it in place jerked. Punch managed to wrap his arms around Eugene’s waist and heave him over the railing. The two enormous men crashed onto the floor of the bridge, but the boards that Punch fell against gave way and he fell through the rotted splintering wood.


Cindy McDonald
 People are always
asking me: where do you come up with the ideas for your Unbridled series? I
always chuckle a little bit and then I explain: Well, hanging around the
backside (stable area) of a racetrack for twenty or so years will give you
plenty of fodder for story lines—trust me!

It’s true. So many
characters hang out at the racetrack: gamblers, liars, jockeys, agents (yes,
jockeys have agents), liars, horse trainers, exercise riders, veterinarians, crazy
blacksmiths, and did I mention liars?  There
are lots of liars. Oh yes, the racetrack is a treasure trove of characters, and
if you are paying close attention (I’m a watcher by nature) they will give you
as many storylines as your little heart desires.

Now just to be
clear, I have never seen anyone murder anyone else, nor have I been murdered
myself at the racetrack, so there is quite a bit of exaggeration placed in the
Unbridled books. And although the Unbridled books are fiction, there is a lot
of truth that lies between the lines.

Another question
people are always asking is: Cindy, where do you find the time to write? The
answer is quite simple, I make time. I write everyday. Sometimes I feel as
though I am handcuffed to my computer, but like anything else that you want to
do well, writing is a commitment.

I love to write in
the evenings. It is the quiet time of day, and after I have finished cleaning
up dinner, I pour a glass of wine—usually a chardonnay—I never drink red, it
makes me sweat. Wait a minute.  Maybe I
should reconsider—the sweating might help with those love scenes that I pen.

My stories are
taken from the original telescripts that I wrote for the TV drama series,
Unbridled. Warner Brothers sniffed around it, but the show never got sold, so
my telescripts are excellent outlines. Even with the scripts, it takes me
approximately ten to eleven months to write an Unbridled story. After months of
writing, rewriting, thinking, and yes banging my head off my desk the
manuscript is read to upload it to my editor, right?

Whoa, not so
fast—not for me anyway. This is where my writing and publishing habits may
differ from other authors. This, my friends, is where patience must persevere, and
sometimes that’s a mighty big order.

Okay, take a deep
breath, because it’s time for the marinating process to begin. Yep, that’s what
I said “marinate”. You’re probably wondering if I’ve hit my head off the desk
one too many times, not really. When I’ve finished a manuscript I do the same
thing most authors do—I start over from the beginning and read, tweak, read,
tweak, and then read and tweak some more. And after I’ve gone through this
procedure several times I close the file and let it marinate.

I let the file sit
for up to six weeks without opening it, without re-reading or tweaking it. But
I never stop thinking about it. I keep a notepad close by to jot down thoughts
during those six weeks that the manuscript is becoming juicy and succulent. It
is definitely an exercise in fortitude, but hey, ya know what? It always pays
off in a very big way because when I open the file to re-visit the story, I’m
reading it with fresh eyes and fresh thoughts and the results are always well,

Hurrying my
manuscript is never an option for me. I want to make sure that it is a story
that my readers would not be able to put down. Every author has their writing
rituals, for me it is contemplation. Beyond marinating my manuscripts, I
usually take short breaks during the writing of a book as well. Sometimes, I
will walk away from a manuscript for a week or so. If I find that I am becoming
frustrated with my story, I know that it is time to take off my glasses, turn
off the computer, and go for a walk or take my dog, Harvey, for a nice long
The sunshine clears my head and it feels good to stretch my legs for a while—I
was a professional dancer for twenty-six years, I need to move around a bit!
But if I return to the problem pages and nothing has been resolved, then its
time for a break from Unbridled for possibly a week or so. Honestly, it doesn’t
take long until I’m missing my characters and I’m back in the saddle tapping at
the keyboard once again.

Yes it’s true,
marinating and contemplation is a long process, however I am always pleased
with the outcome. I am usually able to publish two Unbridled books per year.
How? Well, I am always a book ahead—sometimes two books ahead of what you are
finding on 
Amazon.  Example: the fourth book of the Unbridled Series, Against
the Ropes, will release on June 1
st. I am almost half-way through
the fifth book, Shady Deals—it will be marinating by July. 


I must admit
that no dust ever settles on my computer and those handcuffs come in darn
handy, too. ;}

Other posts on WWBB from Cindy McDonald:
Memories of Presque Isle
When writing romantic scenes where does one draw the line?
When reviews count for nothing.
by Cindy McDonald


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
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.

Enter the giveaway:
One signed paperback or ebook (winners choice, US/Canada), International – one ebook: DEADLY.COM HOTCOCO or DANGEROUS DECEPTION


Make a note: never agitate a madman. Successful Thoroughbred trainer Mike West just made that mistake, and he’s gonna pay—more than her 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 site “My Town”. Her constant rejections have infuriated him. People who seem to be in the way start turning up dead, and he’s got Kate and Mike 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 for a wild ride through a maniac’s mind.


The heat of a summer night wrapped its arms around Westwood Thoroughbred Farm. The farm’s vast one hundred acres nestled in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania outside the small town of Grantville. Westwood was a lucrative, bustling horse farm. In the mornings exercise riders would put the horses through their daily workouts. The stable hands would scuttle about the barn chattering in Spanish while cleaning stalls and filling water buckets. In the afternoon, the farm manager, Punch McMinn would deliver the horses to the racetrack where they would dash hell-bent–for-leather toward the finish line. 

Not tonight. Not for Kate West anyway. Kate was only looking for peace and quiet tonight. The glimmer of candlelight and the comforting scent of sweet lilac filled the room. She took a long, gratifying sip of her Sleepy Time tea with a drizzle of honey, a tiny indulgence to help her unwind. She ran her fingers through her blonde, silky hair. Dressed in a soft cami and a pair of pajama pants, she was feeling cozy and glad to have the evening off. She often worked late into the evening as a veterinary assistant at the racetrack. Tonight was going to be a hot one.

She stretched out on the sofa in her father’s study. The sweat dribbled down her neck to between her breasts. Her cami clung to her like a contestant in a wet t-shirt competition. She propped her feet on the coffee table. Her lips curled devilishly as she thought how her father would disapprove. 

Twenty-five-year-old Kate was much too old for scolding, but Eric West could be somewhat over-bearing. He loved the grandeur of the old Victorian-style farmhouse. He claimed that installing a modern convenience such as central air would compromise the home’s integrity. But he wasn’t home. She wiggled her toes, lifted her laptop from the couch, and logged onto a local networking website. The Wi-Fi delivered the site speedily to announce “MY TOWN” across the screen in bold letters. 

The blueness from the laptop’s screen illuminated Kate’s face. She arched a brow and she bit her lip softly when the picture of Giorgio appeared on the screen.

He’s logged on! Oh yes! There he is a delicacy of pure eye candy.

Giorgio had smooth olive skin. His long, dark hair swept across his broad shoulders. His eyes were a cool, inviting green. His jaw was square and strong. It was as if he wasn’t real, as if he was one of those erotic-looking characters on the cover of a romance novel. 

Kate chuckled to herself. She could easily picture this half-naked Adonis, embracing a buxom beauty with her brunette hair cascading over her shimmering bare shoulders with a title like Desire at Dawn scrawled over their heads. 

She had been cautiously chatting with Giorgio for several weeks after he had requested her friendship on the site. His picture was so stimulating, how could she resist? A congregation of attractive woman worshipped him with suggestive messages and invitations on his page. And why wouldn’t they adore him? His half unbuttoned shirt clarifies one thing. He’s ripped.

Among the women who paid daily homage to Giorgio was Ava West, Kate’s ex-sister-in-law. Kate had a healthy disdain for her. She was unfaithful to Mike, Kate’s older brother. Ava blatantly flaunted her beauty in men’s faces to get what she desired. Tall and leggy, beautiful Ava allowed her auburn hair to dangle so she could brush it back with a coquettish smile when in seduction mode. Like Giorgio, she too had green eyes, but they weren’t soft. They were definitely piercing. 

Every man’s wet dream featured Ava, and she knew it. She could be quite the smooth manipulator. Her messages to Giorgio weren’t so much suggestive as straight to the point. Ava liked men in multiples. One man, no matter how handsome, was just never enough for very long.

In general, Kate thought little of women who participated in cyber-sex; she considered it a pathetic, desperate activity. But merely flirting with a gorgeous man in cyber-space couldn’t hurt, right? She laid her fingers thoughtfully on the laptop’s keys just as a message popped onto her screen. 

“Want some company?”

Her fingers jerked from the keyboard. Giorgio! Has he been waiting for me to log on? Hmmm. Maybe he prefers sultry blondes over auburn, green-eyed manipulative monsters.

The cat and mouse game she’d been playing with him for several weeks had been a lot of fun. He had suggested hooking up several times, but she wasn’t prepared for a face to face meeting. Not yet anyway.

She licked her lips in delight as her fingers found their way back into position. I have to hold him off a little longer… make him want me… make him really want to be with me. She typed, “Soon… maybe.”

Old Age Ain’t for Sissies!

An interview with Cindy McDonald

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 Thoroughbred farm, Westwood, he becomes enraged and teams up with two greedy stable hands in a scheme to kidnap the youngest son, Shane. 
Things turn ugly when Vic discovers that his new-found friends have murder on their minds. Suddenly Vic finds himself between a rock and a 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 at home 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!

Who is the protagonist; their
background? What makes them them?

There are quite a few protagonists in
the Unbridled Series, that said let’s just focus on one: Mike West. Mike is the
oldest son of Eric West, the imposing patriarch of the successful Thoroughbred
farm, Westwood. Mike grew up at the sprawling farm caring for the horses with
his two siblings, Kate and Shane.

Mike tends to be on the OCD side. He
has a “must win” attitude, and he takes being the eldest of the West children
very seriously. He was married to Ava—Unbridle’s resident antagonist—for five
years. But her wandering eye and vagina destroyed the marriage.  Regardless, she still owns a piece of Mike’s
soul, and no matter how he tries not to, he still has feelings for Ava.

Mike deals with his loneliness by
caring for the horses and the stable that he loves.

What are their likes/dislikes? Why do
they hate/love character A or B?
has a healthy dislike for Lieutenant Carl Lugowski. Why? Because he is the man
Ava sleeps with. Much to Mike’s disgust he finds himself having to tolerate
Lugowski more often than not. It seems the two men are thrown together when bad
situations arise, and in the Unbridled Series those situations are always a
heartbeat away.

would the protagonist change about her/himself if they could wave a magic wand?
If they have a magic wand what’s stopping them from waving it?
If Mike could change
just one thing I believe it would be his marriage with Ava. He loved Ava and I
think he would have loved to have children, perhaps a little girl to spoil
rotten. She would easily have her father wrapped around her tiny pinky finger.
Mike would have been thrilled with a son to cheer on the Steelers with, and of
course to teach the horseracing business to. But it was all for not. I’m afraid
Mike will have to wait to see if this author writes in a pretty little
character to seduce him, and possibly heal his broken heart. On that note, I
guarantee that Ava would be simply furious!

protagonist is in a lift with their favourite TV movie star, how would they
Ha! If Mike were to
catch a ski lift with Angelina Jolie (although I don’t know why Mike would be
skiing—but I’m going with it) I think he may peek at her askance, and then half
way up the hill he may dare a smile at her. By the time they reached the top it
very well may be Angelina who speaks, as Mike is very handsome—dark thick hair,
hazel bedroom eyes, a bold square jaw line, broad shoulders that ease into lean
hips. Poor Brad might very well be forgotten by the time the ride was over.

your protagonist happy now their story has been told? Is there more to come?
I don’t think Mike
cares one way or the other if his story is told. Mike is a rather private
person. But yes indeed there is more to come. Mike West and his fellow cast of
characters have three books thus far: Deadly.Com, Hot Coco, and Dangerous
Deception. The forth book from the Unbridled Series will release in June,
Against the Ropes. This book will feature Punch McMinn, the West’s soft hearted
stable manager, but you can be sure that I won’t leave out Mike or the other
Unbridled characters in the story. I work with a large cast—and I’ve had
some complaints about that, but there’s not a character that I would
eliminate—they all have their up and downs, loves, hates, and quirks.

How many unpublished books/stories do
you have lurking under your bed?
My Unbridled Series started out as a TV
series. I had written nineteen telescripts in all—an entire season for the
show. So I have nineteen fabulous outlines for my series. Okay, that said at
this time I only have six books planned. We’ll see. I also wrote three MOWs
(movies of the week). Will I ever turn them into novels? Jeepers, I just don’t
know—I’m taking it two books at a time right now. I’m always a book ahead with
the Unbridled Series, and I’ve decided to write a romantic suspense series this
year as well. So that means that instead of publishing two books per year, I’ll
be publishing three. Yikes, we’ll see how I survive that.

How did you find your publisher? How do
they treat you? Would you recommend them?
As I said, I wrote telescripts for four
years—dealing with the Hollywood crowd—impossible!
Anyway, I decided to ditch that and turn my telescripts into manuscripts. I
didn’t know any authors or who to reach out to for guidance. One Sunday in
church a friend told me about a local indie author. I emailed her.  She encouraged me and after I published my
first book, Deadly.Com, she contacted me again. Lauren Carr was starting up
Acorn Book Services, and I was the first author to sign up. I’m still with
Acorn. I love their services, and Lauren and I have become very close friends.
We swap ideas and I even look at her manuscripts now before she sends them her
editor. She is excellent with new authors. She has very good insights and is
willing to share her experiences as an indie. Yes, I would recommend Acorn Book

What’s the best/worst part of being a

The worst part of being a writer, for
me, is that I used to be a professional dancer. Writing is sedentary. I’m used
to jumping, turning, and stretching for hours on end. It has been a hard
transition for me, and I have to work out on a daily basis to get through it.
I’m also used to excitement: applause and audiences. My life is very quiet
now—I’m adjusting.

The best part of being a writer is the
creating. Watching my characters grow. Moreover, I love when people come to me
and say: I just read one of your books and I loved it!

I also enjoy book tours. I enjoy
writing guest posts and look forward to waking in the morning to see what is
waiting for me at whatever blog I’m visiting. The applause that I get nowadays
is in a more quiet form: the review. But when I get a good review it is like a
standing ovation! A bad review: eh, not so much. It’s more like being
booed.  As a dancer I was never booed, as
a writer I’ve received my fair share. Hey, you can’t please everyone. 

Do you start your projects writing with
paper and pen or is it all on the computer?
Every bit of my writing is done on my
computers. I have a PC downstairs in my office and a laptop upstairs in the
living room that I use when I am sitting in my comfy chaise lounge. I have
found that since I started using computers as the single source of writing, my
handwriting has become an absolute mess. Sometimes when I’m holding a pen in my
hand it feels very foreign. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.

 How do you deal with bad reviews?
Hey, bad reviews happen—to everyone. But when I receive one, I will
read it carefully to see if the reviewer has a justified complaint. Sometimes
if we read these reviews with an open mind we can learn for them. That said I
have no use or respect for a scathing review. It is completely unnecessary to rip an author’s work
apart—it accomplishes nothing.

Author Cindy McDonald

For the past twenty years
Cindy McDonald
 has helped her husband raise, train, and race Thoroughbreds at their
forty-five acre farm known as Fly-By-Night Stables near Pittsburgh.

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.

See more of Cindy’s posts on WWBB: 
When writing romantic scenes where does one stop. 
When reviews count for nothing.
Never judge a book by its cover.
Memories of Presque Isle

When writing romantic scenes where does one draw the line?

Cindy McDonald

E.L. James certainly took boundaries to another level but even the most timid romance readers were picking up her books and diving in. The critics went nuts, but hey ya know what? Everyone, yes, everyone, was reading the Fifty Shades trilogy.

I love a well written love scene, and I make a concerted effort to read a lot of them. Why? Because when I write a hot scene I want it to be hot. I don’t want it to fall flat, and for the reader to roll their eyes with a grumbling “Eh…” tumbling from their lips. But not everyone is comfortable writing the kind of scenes like that of Christian Grey’s “playroom”. As for me, I find myself walking a very vigilant line. Let me explain…

When I published my first book, Deadly.Com, I informed my husband over dinner one evening that there were a few “suggestive” scenes within the pages. He stopped with his fork almost to his mouth, looked at me over his glasses, and said, “What do you mean by suggestive?” Uh, oh, I could see this was going to be a problem. You see my husband and his family are an extremely conservative group of people, and I could see in my husband’s face that he didn’t want to have to explain to his family that his wife was writing dirty books. In fact, after Deadly.Com was published and the family read my book, they have never mentioned my writing or my books again. It is sort of a taboo subject at family gatherings. Hmmmm.

Okay, so while I was writing my second book, Hot Coco, my husband decided to broach the very sensitive subject over breakfast on the deck one morning. He very casually said, “I hope you’re keeping those suggestive scenes in check. I mean you spent twenty-six years as Miss Cindy, the dance teacher in this community. People entrusted their children to you. What would they think?”

Wow! That put a whole new spin on writing romance—which is exactly what Hot Coco is, a romantic comedy. And yes, there are suggestive scenes in the book. I was taken aback. Should I concern myself as to the position that I used to hold in the community? Is this a problem for romance writers in general? Are their reputations in the community tarnished because they write books with sex or suggestive moments? I had never thought about it before. When E.L. James’s neighbors see her in the grocery store, are they wondering if her playroom is red? Are they speculating as to how many different kinds of whips she might own? Yikes!

You may be asking yourself, what is this writer going to do? Is she going to allow her in-laws and her former occupation to dictate what she writes? Nope.

When I posted the excerpt from the third book of my series, Dangerous Deception, on my website I featured a very sensual scene between Ava and Lugowski. As a matter of fact, it is also the featured excerpt announcing the book at the end of Hot Coco as well. That said my scenes are of a sultry suggestive nature. I have never written an in-your-face sex scene naming body parts or taking the reader into the steamy tangle of desire between the sheets with the characters—yet.

My Unbridled series has been mainly murder/suspense storylines with one romantic comedy thrown into the mix for fun; however I have an ardent desire to write a romantic suspense series, and have decided to do so in 2013. I have some decisions to make as I write my new series. Will I cross that line to pen those hot sex scenes? Or shall I protect my sweet Miss Cindy dance teacher reputation and remain steadfast on this side of the line: very sensual yet strictly suggestive scenes?

I think through it all an author has to find his/her own comfort level, without becoming too comfortable, too complacent in one’s creativity. I truly admire writers like E.L. James, Cindy Gerard, and Maya Banks. They are able to toss all inhibitions aside and write smokin’ hot romance. I am toeing the line. My eyes are fixated on it like I am waiting for someone to shoot a pistol into the air so that I can leap forward. Can I cross it? Do I want to cross it?

Dangerous Deception
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 Thoroughbred farm, Westwood, he becomes enraged and teams up with two greedy stable hands in a scheme to kidnap the youngest son, Shane.

Things turn ugly when Vic discovers that his new-found friends have murder on their minds. Suddenly Vic finds himself between a rock and a 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 at home 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!

Cindy McDonald Contacts
Author Cindy McDonald

Never judge a book by its cover?

Oh, but it IS judged. So get it right!
Cindy McDonald

I love the cover of Hot Coco. I was
thrilled the way the designer, Todd Aune, placed the horses behind my name, and
then to make the details complete, he put 
Keystone on the saddle towels in the picture—you have to look close, but
it is there. Keystone Downs is the fictitious name of the racetrack where the
Unbridled Series takes place. This wasn’t the first cover, oh no, we adjusted
the design four times before we decided upon this one.

The first one had the same two characters
on the front, only she was clutching his gathered shirt in her hands, exposing
his chiseled abs, whispering in his ear, as he gazed upon her longingly,
clinging to every sultry word. Okay, at least that’s the way I interpreted the
pose. It was hot! I was enamored! My publishing manager, Lauren Carr—God bless
her—let me enjoy a full day of dancing around my living room in love with the
really hot cover for HOT COCO, until she decided it was time to reason with me.

“If that’s the cover you want, that’s fine,”
Lauren carefully began, “but I think it projects the wrong image for your
book.” She took a deep breath, “This cover will insinuate that there is sex in
the story. You don’t do sex scenes, Cindy your scenes are suggestive but not
sexual. Therefore, some readers that are looking for erotica will be
disappointed, and those readers that are not, won’t read the book because the
cover gives them the wrong idea. You will have upset two groups of people that
will never buy your books again.”

Drats! She was one hundred percent correct.
The fact of the matter is you must choose your cover very carefully. You want
to tell a story with your cover, but you don’t want to tell too much, and you
certainly don’t want to tell the wrong one.

The back of your cover is just as important
as the front. The information on the back can sell your book, or have the
potential reader return it to the shelf. Not good.

A good blurb is essential. I’m rather tickled
with the summation I’ve written for Hot Coco. It’s short, sweet, snappy,
and pretty darned clever, if you ask me—I may be a bit biased. 

Am I thrilled
with the blurb on the back of my other title, Deadly.Com? Mmmm, not so much. As a matter of fact,
I’ve had people tell me that the synopsis is totally wrong
for the book—one person told me that it gives too much away. Uh, oh, there’s
something that you really don’t want to do—give away the ending of your book.

Believe it or not some authors have done
just that. They write a very detailed synopsis that includes the ending, such
as: And in the end, Charlatan wins the race to seize back Westwood Thoroughbred
Farm’s reputation! Oh dear, why would anyone want to read the book now when the
suspense has been ruined and they know who will win the race, and that Westwood
will be exonerated? (BTW, I did not do that.)

Some authors believe that if they write a blurb that includes an uplifting ending, people will want to read the book
to see how Charlatan wins the race, and to find out why the horse farm needed
to be exonerated. I doubt it.  The reader
will most likely bypass the book and move on to another with a synopsis that
leaves them wondering how the story will end. It would be a better idea to write:
Westwood’s future depends on the mighty grey gelding, Charlatan. But can he
pull off the big win? 

Makes sense?

Confession: I keep a print of the original
cover for HOT COCO on the bulletin board in my office. Why? Well to tell you
the truth, because I really like it, and it was really hot. More importantly it
is a reminder that the right cover, conveying the right message is crucial to
good marketing.

When reviews count for nothing.

An article by Cindy McDonald


When Louise emailed me the topic of discussion for this blog as “sock puppets” I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about! 

Sock puppets? Sock puppets? 

Did she mean the puppets that my kindergarten teacher used to make out of her husband’s old worn-out tube socks to help her tell the class a nap-time story? I was most fond of Shari Lewis’ little sock, Lamb Chop—she was an adorable sock puppet—her little curly ears and long lashes and cutesy little lamb voice. Hmmm…somehow I was having a difficult time believing that the sock puppets from my childhood were what Ms. Wise was referring to…and with a little digging, a little Googling, I soon discovered that I was right. Nope, Louise was not interested in a blog about Lamb Chop—maybe some other time.

Please note: This lamb is a stand-in.
The original Lamb Chop isn’t available for promo shots. 

Hokay, call me naive or uninformed but I didn’t realize that authors creating anonymous profiles on such sites as amazon and goodreads to write glowing reviews about their book was a problem. However as I read the forums, it soon became apparent that I was uninformed…naïve. 

But is it really a problem? 

Yes, I understand that it is rather unethical and even dishonest, but really who are they hurting? Are they really boosting their sales with such trickery? Are the readers who take-out the time to read reviews fooled so easily? I think not.

As a matter of fact I’ve read comments in the forums from readers who claim that they are actually turned-off by authors whose book have nothing but five/four star ratings, accompanied by countless rave reviews. In fact those readers find these books…suspicious. Many even claim to “steer clear” of such authors/books.

These authors are actually hurting themselves, or not. Consider this: Are they taking down authors who are earning honest-to-goodness five stars and positive reviews? It’s looking that way.

Sad…don’t you think? C’mon, how many writers out there sit down at their computer and announce: I’m going to take months and months (possibly years) to write a novel that will earn me two star ratings, and poor reviews. Nonsense! We are pouring our heart and souls into our stories striving for those five stars and glorious reviews only to be looked at with arched brows of suspicion, as the question tumbles from the potential reader’s lips…is this author a sock puppet? Yikes!

What’s an author to do? Truth-be-told, there’s not much that we can do. We must hope that our colleagues come to their senses and patiently wait for those stars and reviews to blow their way—like the rest of us. But while you’re waiting for that to happen, you’d better pray that you don’t fall victim to a different kind of sock puppet lurking in cyber space. This sock puppet is ugly and stinky and nasty. This sock puppet mirrors the missing sock from the dryer that lands up alongside the road in a filthy puddle, and it doesn’t give five stars or thrilling reviews. Oh no, this yucky sock wants to undermine the author’s credibility making them look foolish, and their work undesirable and undeserving of any reader’s consideration. They torment an author and are cruel beyond belief.

Case-in-point: I was out to lunch last fall with a dear friend. As we sat in a quaint restaurant, we were discussing the latest books that we had been reading. My friend said that she had purchased a book from Amazon off a very bad group of reviews. She went on to say that the reviews were brutal to the point of claiming that the author should never attempt to write anything ever again. Wow! That’s just plain vicious! My eyes popped, and I asked my friend what she thought of said book. She loved it. She thought the writer was delightful and the story was most engaging. She couldn’t understand why the reviewers would write such awful things about the book or the author. I immediately encouraged my friend to write a positive review, and she assured me that she would.

At the time I was flabbergasted by the situation, but I had no idea that the sock puppets were out there, nor how serious the situation actually is. Many authors are targeted for such abuse—who knows why. My understanding (from the forums) is that Amazon is not very compliant to the removal of derogatory reviews, so if you fall victim to a stinky sock puppet’s remarks—you’re stuck with it, and you must hope that the readers, like my friend, will be forgiving and purchase your work to judge it for themselves. However, I did read that Goodreads does take this problem seriously and is trying to find ways to eliminate these pitiful puppets—both types.

I’m afraid that I am ruined for life. I will never look at a sock puppet in quite the same light—sorry Lamb Chop. The next time one of the kids yells from their bedroom “Hey I’m missing one of my socks from the wash!” The hair on the nape of my neck will stand on end, my spine will stiffen, and I will pray to the review Gods that I have not just unleashed a dirty little puppet into the world.

This brings me to my questions: How much leverage do you give reviews? Do you require good reviews and high star ratings to consider a book? Could you identify a sock puppet whether it is an obnoxious author looking for praise, or a dirty little snipe trying to undermine an author’s career?
Cindy McDonald
Author of The Unbridled Series

Hot CoCo
The Unbridled Series
That’s right, Coco Beardmore is sizzling hot and she’s landed in Mike West’s lap. Problem is Coco’s middle name is chaos! 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.

But what’s worse is her mischievous Thoroughbreds ability to mimic their owner’s habit of screwing things up. It’s enough to send a normally calm and collected Mike West to the very edge.

But Mike’s not the only one having problems with women, his father Eric has bitten off more that 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!

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.

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 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 and owned and operated a dance school 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.

Cindy’s Unbridled telescripts has received recommends from three film industry readers and has been a semi-finalist in the Scriptapalooza Contest, and finalist in the Extreme Screenwriting Contest, and now will become a book series. The first telescript to become a book is Deadly.Com which is available NOW on and Kindle as well!

Virtual Book Tour Link