Sa’iyda Shabazz: Sometimes I’ll hear a song lyric (e-Interview)

I’m always amazed by the variety of people I encounter when I receive their e-interview responses. Sa’iyda Shabazz was an actress who has now turned her attentions to writing. Somehow, she manages to juggle childrearing, freelancing, writing and pitching agents. On that latter subject, it seems she has opted to go the traditional route, and she shares a bit about her pitch experiences in this interview.

Occasionally I need coffee. Sa'iyda Shabazz / Cynthia T. Luna /

Name/ Age/ Website… Sa’iyda Shabazz, 30


Twitter: @xoxsai

Title and synopsis of your debut novel. The title is currently in flux. It is about a teenaged brother and sister (twins) who move from England to Los Angeles. It is a fish out of water story, complete with love triangles and typical issues teens face like social hierarchies, making new friends and fitting in.

Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? I currently live on Staten Island, NY. I also grew up here.
Can you share a little bit about what prompted you to write this book? I was inspired by the reboot of the show 90210. I liked the concept of the fish out of water story and there is no better place than Los Angeles to set it. I had recently lived there, and I was fascinated by the culture. It really is a whole new worl.

Ah–East coast, West coast. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience moving to the West Coast and some of the differences you noticed? I think the biggest difference is the people. New Yorkers are tough but there is a certain level of friendliness that goes unnoticed. People on the west coast are super laid-back but there is a certain sense of entitlement, especially in the higher end neighborhoods like the ones in my novel. But I loved living on the west coast and look forward to returning!

You’ve shared you’re getting ready to pitch your debut novel for the second time. It sounds like you’re taking the traditional route to publishing. Can you talk about the process (your process) a little? What was the first round of pitches like?  Finding an agent is not for the faint of heart. It takes months of research before you begin to pitch. I looked up a lot of agencies and agents through Google and then looked up agents I liked on social media. I also looked in the acknowledgement sections of books by my favorite authors to see who their agents are. I pitched to about 5 agents. I got back a few rejection emails. Even though they said no, it was a positive because that means they took the time to really consider my work.

Did you learn any lessons from the first round of pitches? What, if anything, would you do differently this time around? I think my biggest takeaway is that I need to make my query letter a little more dynamic. I think I have a good story that needs to be a little more exciting to get an agent’s interest.

Do you remember the moment you knew you had to be a writer? I don’t think there was a moment. I had always thought I would be an actor and write for fun. Then I started putting more attention into my writing than my acting career so I just changed trajectories. It was a very organic transition.

You don’t mean you gave up acting do you? Do you still act? What was your latest appearance? I did give up acting actually! I sometimes miss performing and I’m sure I’ll go back to it one day, but right now I don’t have the energy or the time to do both.

How do you come up with your story ideas? How do they present themselves to you and how do you interact with them? Story ideas present themselves in different ways. Sometimes I’ll hear a song lyric that will inspire a scene or a short story. Or I’ll see a picture or sometimes I’ll just have random ideas pop into my head.

You also freelance. Can you give us an idea of your daily routine? How do you balance writing a book, freelance writing and your “personal life” in a day/ week? Are you really good at compartmentalising or does it just work effortlessly? I’m still very new to freelancing so I’m not doing a ton of pieces. I have a list of pitches I’m working through. It usually takes me a few hours to write a piece and then I edit sporadically. This book is in the editing phase so again I do a few hours a few times a week. I also have a two year old son and I work as a babysitter. As a result, I do a lot of my work on my phone. I have the Docs app so I can work on the go.

Coffee or Tea? Tea most of the time but occasionally I need coffee. I prefer regular black tea with milk and sugar or a Dunkin’ Donuts french vanilla iced coffee with 7 sugars and half and half. Occasionally I go to Starbucks, but that’s a treat.


Lynette Phillips | e-interview | | Cynthia T. LunaIf you’re a writer, new author or aspiring author, send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.

Scariest book déjà vu ever? Five Days in January by @TheRTLowe #TuesdayBookBlog #SciFi #Fantasy — Barb Taub

As an occasional book reviewer myself, I could instantly appreciate how Barb Taub made me run to Amazon to get my own copy of R.T. Lowe’s “Five Days in January”. I’ll admit off the bat that I’m not a science fiction/ fantasy reader but a good story set in a (scarily) realistic context will win me over. I’m looking forward to reading this (and its debut) novel.

Check out Barb’s review here:
Scariest book déjà vu ever? Five Days in January by @TheRTLowe #TuesdayBookBlog #SciFi #Fantasy — Barb Taub

This is a book which was written last year, and released over a month ago. It’s a dystopian science fiction tale, and yet chillingly prescient, especially for someone reading it as I did—while news reports unfolded of a mass murderer slaughtering innocent people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Thank you, Bloggers Bash 2016! #BloggersBash

Ah! London! Home of the annual Bloggers Bash and Indian food. (Thank you, London, for Indian food!) This blog post is a small roundup of my experience with links to some others’ sites and their roundups.

I had heard about the Annual Bloggers Bash sometime in November or December, and signed up to participate right away–months before I found out someone had nominated this blog, Living in Cyn, for Best Newcomer Blog. (Spoiler alert: that award went to the highly deserving Noelle at Crime Book Junkie.)

Cynthia T. Luna and Sacha Black at the 2016 Bloggers Bash
Cynthia is not used to taking selfies… Sacha is! Must ask her for tips. So great meeting a blogging friend!!

About the Bloggers Bash

Just as Big Ben struck 2 o’clock somewhere near the Thames, I stepped into the second floor of The Driver, where the event was held. (Side note: this is a sexy little gastro pub in the Camden area of London and a place worth checking out for future visits to London.) Smiling Bloggers Bash committee members greeted me there: a purpley-bearded Geoff, an iPhone-wielding Hugh, guardian of the Bash and cash registers, Ali, and lover-of-the-strange-unusual-and-red-soled-Louboutins Sacha.

Bloggers Bash / #BloggersBash / Cynthia T. Luna / Living in Cyn /

To Reblog or to Press This? That was the Bloggers Bash Question…

Besides booze at the bar, bloggers on the floor, sustenance in the forms of cake and gastro fare, there was boundless conversation about blogging.

Luca Sartoni Bloggers Bash 2016
Luca Sartoni, Automattic growthketeer, zeroed in on his targets…

Lance Greenfield Mitchell posed a question about Reblogging versus Press-This, to which Luca Sartoni (an Automattic “growthketeer”, apparent fan of “The Governator and Bloggers Bash special guest) responded, “Wait. How many of you reblog? Why do you reblog?”

It seems that this room, containing a good many rebloggers, was all about sharing the love. (What’s not to heart?) A note to, reach for your Press-This bookmarklet if you’re visiting a Self-hostie. 🙂

Brushing Up Against Bloggers Bash Biggies

Truth be told, I am an introvert, so I had to mentally prepare for this afternoon with a room full of the people who create the posts I follow and admire. Looking back on it all, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in a daze, and maybe even a little star struck. Among others (I follow a bunch of the blogs featured in the Bash awards), I got to meet some Bloggers Bash celebs:

In no particular order…

  • Suzie of SuzieSpeaks writes posts about a wide array of topics. Somehow, she has her finger on the pulse of what people want to read. I’m certainly hooked. She noted a funny little story about how we ran into each other after the party in her own Bloggers Bash roundup.
  • Lucy Mitchell a chick lit writer and blogger of Blonde Write More. Lately, I have been reading the hilarious diary entries of her fictitious main character, Tina–a slightly crazed aspiring authoress. I find myself chuckling with self-recognition to this series. (I wonder why.) Catch her roundup of bloggers air-bashing madness here.
  • Sacha Black queen bee on the Bloggers Bash organizing/event committee and a prolific blogger to her namesake blog provides writer tips, inspiration and reflections. (In case this is your first time here, Living in Cyn had her on as a special guest.)
  • Icy Sedgwick is a fellow writer and published author who is newly exploring self-publishing possibilities. I met her through the inter-tubes days before the event, so it was thrilling to see her at the Bash. We chatted a lot about book marketing, and she gave me some tips that I’ll be sharing in this blog over the next couple weeks!
  • Ritu from But I Smile Anyway. I just found out that she is also on the verge of publishing a collection of poems. (A word to introverts: Seek Ritu out at a party. She will instantly make you feel like you arrived with a friend!)
  • Helen Jones of Journey to Ambeth. Helen participates in various blog challenges. My biggest fascination with her blog comes from her writing voice. Her observations enchant me, and she stumbles on natural or historical wonders that pique my interest.

Caught on Camera!

Most of the bloggers mentioned above were nominated for a highly coveted ABBA. Many of them (not surprisingly) walked away with a trophy and/or an honorable mention. It was all very exciting. You can see some intros here or by visiting Hugh’s Views and News.

My prize was being in a room full of the very people who keep me company on my lunch hour, during a slow morning at the day job, on Twitter during my long commute, or at any other given time I feel like being pulled away from my “real” life. 🙂

Biggest Bloggers Bash Regret…

I don’t usually leave festive events with regrets–happy to coast on the positive vibrations for hours and days. But I do have one regret this time: Not taking (many) pictures during the event — and later, not having the courage to click away with abandon. Still, I managed to squeeze in a few, just to prove I was there! Next year, I’ll do better–much better!

Icy Sedgwick and Cynthia T. Luna Bloggers Bash 2016
I got to meet Icy Sedgwick and we spoke forever about book marketing and writing fiction. (Not to self, ask Icy for some tips in taking selfies…)

Coming Down from the Bloggers Bash High

The wave of elation and exhaustion is only now beginning to abate and I have another post about London in general that I will post here over the next couple days, but in the meantime…

Behold, the list of bloggers recognized for their various bloggerly talents!

AND…The Winners of the #BloggersBash Awards 2016 Are…

Many Thanks to Everyone…

People at the Bloggers Bash were awesome. I also want to thank you for nominating me to join such exalted bloggerly company. Some of the nominees (and award winners) post new blog posts every day (and some even more than that). Thank you for considering me among them. It’s like qualifying for the Olympics!

You’ll find me in London next year on June 10 at the 3rd Annual Bloggers Bash Awards!

If you like what you read, consider signing up for occasional email updates to my blog posts at I write about writerly things, mostly–things I learn while marketing my nonfiction book and also more things I learn while writing my first novel!

In the Merde: An e-Interview with L. Phillips on Living in France, and Her New Book, Houses, History & Humour

Amazon US | UK | DE | FR
Amazon US | UK | DE | FR

If you’re anything like me, you are thinking about your summer vacation. (I’m always thinking about my vacation.) Perhaps in reading today’s e-interview with L. Phillips, new author of Houses, History and Humour (A British Estate Agent in France), released in the Fall 2015, your curiosity about things français might be piqued and you might decide on a trip to France, or at least the travel section of your bookstore.

L. Phillips’ book is an adventure into the unexpected, “filled with stacks of amusing incidents and Continue reading “In the Merde: An e-Interview with L. Phillips on Living in France, and Her New Book, Houses, History & Humour”

#Whatif you lived “A Blast from the Past”? (Time After Time, by Hannah McKinnon) — #whatif Blog Tour Sample Pages

Time After Time, by Hannah McKinnon #whatif #booktour
Available on Amazon (US ¦ UK)

How many times have you had a “What if…” moment in your life? There are smaller what ifs–the kind you can hashtag for Twitter, like, “#WhatIf I hadn’t put cream in my coffee…?” (okay, maybe that’s not so small!) or “#WhatIf I didn’t work a day job…?“—and then, there are bigger what ifs, like the one Hannah McKinnon explores in her newly released debut novel, Time After Time:

#WhatIf I could turn back the clock and do things differently?

Hannah McKinnon Writer #whatif #timeaftertime
Hannah McKinnon, author or Time After Time

Time after Time (US ¦ UK), Hannah McKinnon’s debut novel, recently released on June 2, 2016, explores just that question–and I am thrilled to share with you the novel’s first chapter. So, get your cup of coffee (hold back on the cream, your jeans will thank me for that…) and enjoy.

CHAPTER 1 – A Blast from the Past

It was the odd silence that woke her.

Where are the kids?

Hayley tried to burrow back into Sleepland. Fat chance. She’d become too much aware of her tongue that was stuck to the roof of her mouth. It felt like she’d been chewing on a ball of fuzzy felt rolled in a slice of Gouda.

‘Ugh,’ Hayley groaned, her eyes still tightly shut.

She remembered getting a taxi back from Ellen’s but her throbbing head didn’t make sense. They hadn’t had that much wine, surely?  Hayley briefly wondered if her best friend felt equally queasy. Then her stomach rumbled, a sure indication of how late it might be.

Breakfast is going to be fun. Serves me right for getting back so late.

Hayley squinted, barely able to make anything out in the dimly lit room. She looked at her old-fashioned Mickey Mouse alarm clock that ticked loudly. Her parents had bought it for her fifteenth birthday as a joke because nothing short of a sledgehammer ever seemed to wake her. She’d used it ever since.

Mickey’s glow-in-the dark gloves showed five minutes to nine.

Where are the kids?

She couldn’t believe they weren’t up yet. It was total bliss that she’d got an extra hour and a half of much-needed sleep. As she rubbed her head again she heard Rick’s gentle breathing next to her. Her husband had always been a quiet sleeper. She was the snorer – he’d even recorded it once on his phone and played a frighteningly realistic warthog impression back to her with a grin on his face.

It’s not like him to be in bed this late on a Saturday morning.

He usually went out for a run and did push-ups at the park while she got the kids up and made breakfast. He reckoned it was the reason he could still eat Fish and Chips and not turn into a lard-arse.

Hayley thought about Rick’s firm legs and trim waist. She briefly considered slipping her hand down his boxer shorts – they hadn’t had morning sex in months, probably years, even – but that pint of water she’d downed just before she left Ellen’s had turned her bladder into a bouncy castle. She was busting for a pee and wanted to move her legs but they felt like lead-filled sausages. Slowly she started to drift off to sleep again.

‘Yougonnagedup? Gedsumbrukfast?’

God, he sounds rough. I bet he’s coming down with a cold. Oh joy. Man-flu alert.

‘In a minute,’ she mumbled, then remembered their row from the night before. At least an eight and a half on the Richter scale of arguments. Maybe even a nine. Bad enough for her to walk out, fleeing to Ellen’s for wine and moral support. It wasn’t the first time she’d speculated if Rick had found someone else. Wondered if he wanted to leave, then wondered if she wanted him to.

She sighed and decided she should take a few steps towards reconciliation. Besides, she had a brief to finish. Washing to do. Costumes to pick up. Parents to see. And with all of that on her list, it was hardly a practical day to put a bullet in her marriage.

Hayley crawled out of bed, eyes barely open, headed for the door and walked straight into a chest of drawers.

‘Ouch.’ She rubbed her leg.

‘What the bloody hell are you doing?’ Rick’s voice really was rough.

Hayley opened her eyes properly to take in her surroundings.

Hang on a second.

The bedroom seemed smaller than usual. The window was in the wrong place, surely, and she felt carpet under her feet, not hardwood floor. Instead of the door being straight ahead she could make it out to her left. Pictures hung above the chest of drawers. She squinted at them, but couldn’t see them properly in the dark room.

It all had a certain familiarity about it that she couldn’t quite place.

God, we must have got completely trolleyed. But why can’t I remember?

Hayley grabbed hold of the chest of drawers to steady herself and knocked over a vase.

‘I’m trying to sleep, keep it down.’

An alarm bell went off in Hayley’s throbbing head. She spun round faster than she intended, lost her balance and landed on the floor on her bum.

‘Ow. Fuck it,’ she said loudly.

‘What are you doing?’

Hayley popped her head up, quickly brushed her brown hair away from her face, and gasped. The person she’d thought was Rick now sat up in bed, staring down at her. She shook her head and quickly rubbed her eyes. Despite the dim light there was no mistaking him.

No … No way … It can’t be.

‘What are you playing at?’ he said. ‘I didn’t get to sleep until four.’

With wide blue eyes and her mouth forming a perfect ‘O’ of surprise, Hayley stared at the man for so long, she could practically feel the seasons change.


Hayley blinked three times thinking that she’d never, ever, cheat on Rick. Never.

And she hadn’t seen Chris – her first boyfriend, her very first love – in over twenty years.

So when … no, how had she ended up in bed with him?

Did that get you thinking about #whatif?

I don’t know how I’d react if I woke up next to my first boyfriend. I shudder to think… I’ll be hanging around Twitter intermittently today (because I’m traveling) tweeting #whatif hashtags, and I’ll be checking into comments if you have a #whatif or #timeaftertime tweet to share.

#WhatIf you could connect with Hannah McKinnon through the interwebs and find out more?

Hannah McKinnon Writer #whatif book tour
Connect with Hannah McKinnon! Chat with us: #WhatIf

Here are some of her details…

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