Monday, December 23, 2013

The Crimson and the Frost, by John Williams and James Colletti

Good morning! 
It's been snowing non stop for days over here, and we've received over 2ft of snow this past week. No doubt it'll be a white Christmas. So join me around the fire and take a moment to hear from the co-author of The Crimson and the Frost. 

First off, thank you for allowing me a voice here on your blog.
You are most welcome! And I must say...I LOVE the book cover

Take a journey to a world full of wonder and mystery, where magic rules and a war between two legends looms on the icy horizon…

Late one night, young Billy Hampton investigates a strange presence in the woods behind his house, where he discovers a curious transport. He makes the hasty decision to climb aboard, and suddenly he is whisked away to the remote winter wastelands of the far north.
Billy finds himself in a town full of mystery and wonder, built by the legendary Crimson Wizard and his devoted followers. The residents had lived here in peace for centuries, protected by a powerful magic jewel known as the Heart of Polaris. It is their only defense against the wicked and covetous King of Winter who wants them cast out of the lands he claims are his alone.
Now, Billy accidentally loses the Heart of Polaris and without its protection, his newfound friends become vulnerable to the power and fury of the King of Winter and his army of savage grimghouls. 
Its desperate race against time as Billy and his friends search for the Heart of Polaris before they fall victim to the impending onslaught.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
I used to write as far back as I can remember. I would invent my own superheroes and villains and draw them into comics as a child. Then, when I was about 8 or 9, my brother introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons. He and I would invite over friends and we would all create adventures for our characters to play. The natural progression from that was for some of those friends and I to dabble in novel writing…mostly sword/magic/fantasy stuff.
After college, I began a career in broadcast television but that work didn’t involve any writing. It was mostly, producing, camera work, editing etc. I have traveled to exotic locations and met plenty of celebrities but there was a creative outlet that was missing for me...writing. So, on the side, I started writing screenplays and used some of my entertainment industry connections to shop them around. There was one screenplay in particular that I had co-written with my cousin James that both of us absolutely loved. One film producer in England read it and said, "I love this! It would make a great movie but we’ll never be able to raise the 150 – 200 million it would take to make a film this epic and is too new and unknown by the masses. There is a reason the Harry Potter movies get made...the huge built in audience they come with."
So, instead of letting that script sit on a shelf collecting dust, James and I decided to transform it into what had become our first novel "The Crimson and the Frost." During the writing process the story became so much more than the screenplay ever was and we are even more proud of it.
That sounds amazing. I am looking forward to reading my copy of it even more!

Tell me about why you chose to co-author your novel as opposed to writing it on your own.
My cousin James and I are close in age and always had the same interests. James I used to create since we were teens. We put together a handful of rock bands. Our last band was called Soulvyne and you can find some of our songs on the internet if you look hard enough. Since then, we’ve always been attached at the hip creatively. We directed 2 music videos for the band (Queensryche) that have aired on VH1 and live on the internet, directed a 'found footage' horror feature film that sold overseas, wrote all of our screenplays together...and now the novel.  I prefer teamwork than writing solo. I find that James and I take each other’s ideas and spin them in new, exciting directions the other person may not have thought of. James actually wrote two of my favorite chapters in the Crimson and the Frost... Fear the Frost and The Polaris Odyssey.I find that fascinating, since I have been toying with the idea of co-writing a novel. You have definitely convinced me to give it a try.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?
Late one night, as young Billy Hampton investigates a strange presence in the woods behind his house, he discovers a curious transport. He makes the hasty decision to climb aboard, and suddenly he is whisked away to the remote winter wastelands of the far north. 

Billy finds himself in a town full of mystery and wonder, built by the legendary Crimson Wizard and his devoted followers. The residents had lived here in peace for centuries, protected by a powerful magic jewel known as the Heart of Polaris. It is their only defense against the wicked and covetous King of Winter who wants them cast out of the lands he claims are his alone.

Now, Billy accidentally loses the Heart of Polaris and without its protection, his newfound friends become vulnerable to the power and fury of the King of Winter and his army of savage grimghouls.

Its desperate race against time as Billy and his friends search for the Heart of Polaris before they fall victim to the impending onslaught.    

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?
There are a lot of messages that show up throughout the story and most of them developed as the characters and story came to life.
One the surface, this is an adventure with a lot of fun, and thrilling action but at the heart of it…it is simply a battle between generosity versus greed…compassion versus indifference. That’s what I hope stands out amidst all of the events of the book. In all, it is my wish that the readers enjoy their trip into the world we’ve created as much as I have enjoyed so many great stories of others through the years. Movies, books and TV have been a big part of my life. They’ve touched me, made me laugh, cry, feel inspired, taught me lessons, etc. If my stories do that for someone else...well, let’s just say I would be humbled and honored. I really understand where you are coming from with that, and I wish it to be so for you. That is definitely a nice thought.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?
I usually start out with a ‘notepad’ document where I just slap down my own thoughts as come, whether it’s research, character ideas, scenarios etc. I call it, pardon the expression, ‘pukin’ on the page.’ Lol.

From there I will start to lay out a very skeletal chapter list leaving it open for plenty of fleshing out and expansion.  Next, James and I will meet a few times and just talk out our ideas, build on each other’s good ideas or make fun of each other’s bad ones (that makes for some good laughs).
From that point I go back to the chapters list and make it more true to how the story is going to play out. Once that is finished, James and I will divvy up the chapters and start writing. Once we both finish, we put everything together and that becomes our first draft (the first of many…many)
Just a point about ‘not’ writing by going with the flow, as fun as that might be. Always know where your story is going, and most definitely know how it ends before your start writing. This way the road getting to the end is easier to navigate. When I first started writing screenplays, I was working on a supernatural horror. I came up with a premise and began writing. It was fun not knowing where the story was heading as I was writing. It was like I was the writer and the reader at the same time, watching the story unfold before my eyes. But then I got to the last act and was like ‘now what? How does this story finish?’ Needless to say 15 years later…that script sits on my computer without an ending, lol.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?
The first chapter starts out as a flashback from over 500 years ago. Then the story jumps ahead to the present. The events of the book take place over the course of 3 days.

There wasn’t much research that went into this story at all. That is one of the benefits of writing fantasy. You are creating your own world with its own rules as opposed to say, writing a crime drama involving the FBI or a political thriller, or a war story, etc. You have to do your homework when writing those kinds of stories because those environments and institutions are real and you have to get the details accurate and believable or the readers will call you on your inaccuracies. 

One script James and I wrote, called “Empire of Crows”, is based on true events that happened in Rome occupied Europe around 9 A.D. Now, that took some research…The Crimson and the Frost, not so much…it was mostly our creation.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past? 
Well, in terms of novels this our first. But we have written some screenplays that span many types of genres. We have a handful of horror scripts, one historical epic, a crime drama, a family adventure, etc. Interestingly, I would have to say my favorite genres to write in are horror and family fantasy about a dichotomy, lol. Good for the imagination, I suppose. You are not boxing yourself into a single category.

Describe the place where you like to write.
I’ll write just about anywhere, as long I have some music playing. I love listening to appropriate movie soundtracks or instrumentals to go along with the story I am delving into as a mood setter. However, the ideal place for me is at night in my office/study with some candles, some atmospheric music and I am good to go. That’s when the creativity starts to flow and my typing has a hard time keeping up with the  ideas flowing out of my brain. I can really lose track of time during those sessions.
When James and I talk out the early stages of a story, we love to sit outdoors by a fire pit... there is something about the openess of the outside and hypnotic dance of the flames that opens up a creative flow in me. Maybe the human brain is wired to be open to creativity under those conditions...after all, man sat and told stories around campfires for thousands of years. How true. Even when we are out on manoeuvres or survival training, we sit around the fire at night and exchange stories.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
Right now James and I are working on transforming another of our screenplays, a supernatural tale called “Pray for Light”, into a novel. That one takes place in the present with large flashbacks to 1700’s Louisiana. It deals with the early days of paranoid religions (like the witch hunts of Massachusetts) that are quick to condemn, voodoo, necromancy etc. I really enjoyed writing that script and working on the novel, expanding the story is even more fun.   

We are also developing two more instalments to The Crimson and the Frost. 


Cousins and co-authors John Williams and James Colletti are close in age and always had the same creative interests. As teens they wrote music and formed a handful of rock bands. The pair shares a long and successful creative history that includes writing music, playing in rock bands, writing screenplays, producing shows and music videos for broadcast television, and directing an internationally released movie. There was one screenplay in particular they had co-written that they absolutely loved. One film producer in England read it and said, "I love this! It would make a great movie but we’ll never be able to raise the 150 – 200 million it would take to make a film this epic and grand-scale. It is too new and unknown by the masses. There is a reason the Harry Potter movies got made, that series had a huge built in audience from the books."
So, instead of letting that script sit on a shelf collecting dust, John and James decided to transform it into what had become their first novel "The Crimson and the Frost." During the novel writing process the story became so much more than the screenplay ever was and we are even more proud of it.

Out of all the stalagmites jutting from the cavern floor of Hailstones’ Peak, one stood
apart from all the rest. It was smoother than the others and its top was carved into a claw-like
holder. It clutched a rough-hewn orb of ice.
The King of Winter stood nearby admiring the prize he had painstakingly constructed.
Centuries had been spent meticulously infusing it with doses of his wintry magic. For eons, he
had been waiting for the day he would have the chance to use it…and it looked as if that day
was finally coming to pass. It was time to inject this dormant, yet powerful artifact with its final
Now in deep concentration, he stood perfectly still with his eyes closed and ignored the
powerful rush of wind. His hands were outstretched as glowing hues of blue light danced across
his features. The surge of frigid air carrying an immeasurable number of ice particles raced past
him, pelting him, as they were sucked from the sky above and speeded through the many
tunnels that led from the surface. Cracking and shattering ice echoed throughout the vast
structure as the mountainous formation of ice that was Hailstone’s Peak was beginning to be
sucked inward upon itself, threatening to implode. It too was being absorbed as the vacuous
mouth of the cave grew ever wider from the fury of wind that was tearing away at it.
Suddenly, The King of Winter’s eyelids snapped open to reveal two pupil-less, white orbs
as he released the gathered power.
The rough-hewed orb of ice radiated a blinding luminescence as The Winter King
imbued it with an unimaginable amount of power. The block of ice began to rise and spin with
blinding speed as the magic gushed into it, filling it to the point of nearly shattering, while
mutating its surface.
As the final bit of magic entered the orb, The Winter King’s eyes closed once more as he reached deep within himself and searched. He felt his essence and allowed the icy magic flooding the orb to latch onto his immaterial spirit. He found his essence being sucked through a dark tunnel that crackled with veins of energy as his spirit raced toward a brilliant light at the end of the passageway. His body shuttered as his very being was ripped out of its physical form.
Reaching the end of the tunnel, he knew that he and the icy orb were now one as the sense of nirvana flooded his being. Although tempted to give himself over completely, he fought against the overwhelming need to allow the magic to fully absorb his spirit. With the last bit of strength and clarity he possessed, he moved away from the purity of magic that was beckoning him and his spirit raced back through the dark tunnel.
The Winter King’s eyes opened and his body crumpled to the floor. He lay there a long time, sapped of all strength. He wondered if this is what death felt like for mortals. He then eyed the orb that lay in the snow next to him. Finally, after centuries of crafting, the once ordinary block of ice was completed, its surface covered in intricate patterns of facets as it pulsed with an inner brilliance of frosty magic. It was so clear and so expertly crafted with symmetrical perfection that it appeared more like cut glass than ice. He smiled a wickedly confident grin. The Soul of Winter was born.


Barnes and Noble:

Talebearers Publishing:

     “A world of fantasy awaits older kids in this magical and fun read. Journey Into the frozen wastelands ruled by the King of Winter. Enter the Crimson Wizard and watch as an epic battle unfolds :) This story line is so involved and intriguing with characters that are very well developed and yes, believable. The plot of the book has intricacies that point to a creative imagination and confidence in the authors writings. We are taken from a tragic story into a place of hope. Where did these writer's come from, and how is it possible that this accomplished work is a début? It is sure to be one of the highlights of my family's holidays!”
     I was transported into my childhood with every page I read!
(from author Jami M. Brumfield)
  “Wow! What an amazing read! I stepped out of my usual genre when I got this book and I am so happy I did. It was a fantasy thrill ride from page one to the end. I was transported to my childhood with every page I read. This book is great for all ages, young and old. The characters were amazing and very likable! The description throughout the book painted a beautiful picture scene after scene. I highly recommend this book for the holidays and the rest of the year!!!”
Invincible Summer: Disney or Dreamworks For the Movie?
(from author Thomas Baker)
     “First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed the amazing artwork on the cover of this book. It sets the reader up for a fantastic journey with memorable characters, an intriguing, good vs evil plot, and a final confrontation that will leave the universe as the reader wants it to be (good), or changed forever (bad). The opening quotation is a foreshadowing device that caught my attention immediately, namely: "In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer." --Albert Camus
   I took a moment to actively digest how that made me feel. Instinctively, I agree that it is when things seem darkest, seemingly hopelessly lost, that I usually find within myself some unknown source of imagination, creativity, or pure refusal to submit to reality, call it whatever you like, but I can tell you countless stories of when I was on the very edge of defeat or some other negative, undesirable consequence, that I found something inside of me to overcome and triumph in the face of overwhelming odds to the contrary.
   Accordingly, my anticipation, for a story that would exhibit similar characteristics, was already in place, and I began to read from this perspective, namely, a heroic struggle. I was not disappointed. The plot is meticulously well developed, the characters memorable, and the climax leaves you breathless, a real roller coaster thrill ride. 
     The book has an unmistakable flavor of C. S. Lewis, and it is a very good fit. Children and adults of all ages will enjoy reading this book, and it is a good candidate for a Disney or Dreamworks movie. The possibilities are endless in the hands of the talented and creative movie-makers at Disney and Dreamworks. 
     Finally, I most enthusiastically recommend this book for readers of all ages who enjoy
great storytelling, magic, and fantasy. This book has all of that and more.”
Great Read!
“My 10 year old son and I both read the book and really enjoyed it! We love fantasy
fiction and he is the ultimate critic! In his words "This is right up there with Harry Potter


Friday, December 6, 2013

Kristine Mccord and The Santa Society

Christmas is fast approaching, and with it the onrush of crazy. Between holiday preparations, shopping and family visits, (not to mention sheer exhaustion), what better way to unwind than with an wonderful Christmas romance to take you away?


Magic. Myth. Miracles. They say there's truth in legends.
The real Santa Claus is nothing like you’ve imagined. Get ready for the Christmas love story of a lifetime.
Last Christmas, Erin came home to be with her dying mother. This Christmas will be a year, and Erin still can’t move on. Fortunately, everything in her life is about to change. A behemoth dog named Klaus and Reason-the-handsome-realtor enter the picture, and together they turn Erin's life upside a good way.
Reason offers to help Erin sell her mother’s house, an effort that turns into a circus of fiascos. Just when it seems her luck can't get any worse, Erin finds herself falling in love with Reason, the man of chaos himself. But he’s more than he seems, and now Erin is immersed in the clandestine world of the Santa Society, a centuries old secret organization that protects the truth behind Christmas.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

I was born and raised in Georgia. I was the shy kid who spent most of her time reading and stocking up on books at the local library. By the age of nine or ten,  I knew I wanted to be a writer. I remember scrawling out the start of a novel on notebook paper, but I abandoned it when I realized I didn't know enough about subways or life as a runaway in New York City to write it. 

I grew up, studied religion, and became a wife and mother. And I continued to dream of writing a novel, until a New Year's resolution in 2012 resulted in my first novel. Life deepened me and  gave me something to say, something I couldn't have said when I first daydreamed of writing as a little girl.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

I do most of my writing in the mornings. That's when I'm at my best.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

The Santa Society is a love story that takes place at Christmas. It offers romantic comedy, suspense, a touch of fantasy, and an original retelling of the Santa Claus legend that will totally surprise you with the way it weaves folk tradition with Christian themes.
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world youve created?

The story takes place in the fictitious town of Christmasville, Idaho where Christmas is the focal point year round, the community depends largely on holiday tourism, and The Santa Society is a global secret organization that is headquartered there. I don't want to give away too much, though :)

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?

I was inspired to write this novel while driving cross-country with my kids in the middle of December back in 2011. The trip took five days, and we passed the hours by singing Christmas songs. It was such an amazing thing to experience this beautiful country out on the road during winter and to follow the landscape as it changed from day to day and hour to hour. And above it all was this magical starry sky. It was a special trip, being with the kids and feeling the excitement in the air. It was the first time since I was a a little girl who wanted to b a writer that I'd felt so much was possible. I decided I would write a novel that brought back that magic.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

I didn't sit down to write a specific message, only to communicate a feeling--the one I experienced during that road trip, which was similar to what I remembered from my childhood back when I believed in Santa Claus. The message of faith, hope, and love emerged as the story unfolded and revealed itself of me.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

I don't work from an outline. I hold in my mind only an idea of the journey of the story, which usually changes so much it doesn't turn out anything like I expected. I like to write this way because it lets me experience the surprises in an organic way, similar to the way my readers will.

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you catalogue information to make it all work?

I write on my iPad, and I try to do it fast enough that I hold all the plot details in my head without extensive notes. I do keep a notebook where I make notes for things I need to remember to check or fix later in my editing for factual accuracy, consistency, or deepening of the story.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

My first book, Outrunning Josephine Finch, was as serious as the first day of school. It was written in the spirit of Southern literary tales, focusing on family relationships, female belief systems, purpose, and the meanings we place in our mother/daughter roles.

In contrast, The Santa Society is my second book, and it was like the last day of school before summer or Christmas Break. It was just a lot of fun. It thrilled me to write it and when it ended, I felt that same bittersweet satisfaction as though I'd just finished reading a favorite novel.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

They haven't impacted me except that I no longer think years must pass between releases. I realize my career as an author is in my own hands, and I think readers today want to feel some sense of interaction with their favorite authors. So I think the changes we've seen and the whirlwind of social media all point to an emphasis on authors as real people.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

The two best pieces of advice i can give are: Don't give up. And make sure you join a critique group.

If I hadn't done the latter, I'd probably never have had the guts to put my stories out there for others to read. Critique groups really help you learn to look at your writing critically and figure out how it make it better.

Could you tell us what youre working on now?

Right now I am working on an inspirational contemporary romance. I can't talk too much about it yet, but look for it in early 2014.

About Kristine McCord

I’m currently a stay at home author/weathered mom living in Idaho. I grew up in the South among the tall Georgia pines. I miss the South and Southern culture a lot, but I’m really blessed to be surrounded by the wide open spaces, rugged beauty, and wonderful people I’ve met here in the Northwest.
I spent a lot of time in school figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but I didn’t dream big enough to really commit to it, and instead, tried to pursue more practical things, like science and IT. I’m more of a creative, abstract thinker (read: scattered) so many of those practical things didn’t really feel like a good fit.  Instead, I changed to things I wanted to know about that interested me. I completed a B.A. in religion and went on to study Marriage and Family Therapy. And of course there was all that life learning I did. Finally, I made a New Year’s in 2012 and completed the rough draft of my first novel that February, followed by my second in November of that same year. I sometimes wish I would’ve done dreamed bigger much earlier and wonder about all the books I had in my head and never wrote, but mostly I try not to think that, because in the end, I wouldn’t be able to write the books I can write today—the ones that will be shaped by all that learning and living I did in between.
The Santa Society is my second novel. I first decided to write a Santa Claus novel after traveling cross-country in December with the kids, singing Christmas songs and feeling like we were on an adventure. We had so much fun being together, seeing the beautiful countryside. It put me back in touch with what it felt like to be a kid, while seeing God’s signature in creation through my adult eyes. Winter seemed more beautiful than I’d ever seen it, especially beneath the starry sky. I wanted to write something that captured  that feeling and the magic we leave behind in childhood.
So a year later, I brainstormed The Santa Society with my writer’s group and began writing about a real life Santa Claus. I think they thought I was a little crazy at first. I didn’t have an outline, but from scene to scene I just “knew” what needed to happen next, and I discovered a lot of surprises along the way. It was published in October 2013, and has been an Amazon bestseller in Inspiration Romance and Christian Romance. And recently, The Santa Society was awarded a 2013 Idaho Top 10 Book Award. It’s been a really exciting way to start off the Christmas season this year.


     WE SIT AT A TABLE near the back, in a private corner of the North Star Inn’s upscale restaurant. I would have been quite content with a barbecue sandwich or an all-you-can-eat buffet, but I’m in heaven as I take my last bite of elk filet dipped in béarnaise sauce.
     I chew with abandon, wondering why I’m not taking delicate bites and worrying about how I look while I’m eating. My disastrous dating history tells me I shouldn’t neglect this particular female tradition, but my frame of mind takes his relaxed, easy manner to heart. I’m not in New York sitting across from Don the stockbroker guy, or Thomas the international trade expert, or even Trevor the plastic surgeon. He’s not telling me about his last bad date, his first failed marriage, or how wealthy he’ll be in seven years with his diversified investments and eye for opportunity.
     He lifts his wine glass with enormous fingers and takes a sip like he’s plucked a tiny flower. He still wears his red and black plaid flannel jacket, reminding me of a giant lumberjack with a child’s tea set. No, this is not New York, and he’s not like anyone I’ve dined with before—thank the Lord.
     “The wine is excellent.” He closes his eyes and swirls the liquid beneath his nose. It’s not pretentious, just appreciative.
     “Would you like another glass, sir?” The waitress tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and lowers her lashes as she offers him a demur smile.
     “No, thank you.” He returns a polite half-glance in her direction.
     Rick the hairdresser probably would’ve offered her a coupon to be his for an hour. Not Reason. He doesn’t care that she keeps flirting with him.
     Instead, he looks at me with a grin that twists on one side in a way that makes me flush. “Are you sure you don’t want a glass?”
     “Sure. I’ll try it.” Or maybe I’m just showing off in front of the waitress, who hasn’t looked at me once.
     “Please bring the lady a glass.” He looks in my eyes with a steady gaze.
     “Of course, right away.” Disappointment flattens her voice.
     He’s definitely a handsome man. Not just when you first meet him. With each encounter, he grows even more magnetic. She’s probably visited this table, all together, as many times as I’ve seen him since I first met him. I wonder if the effect is similar for her. He doesn’t seem to notice this about himself at all, which is probably the essence of his magic.
     Minutes later, I take my first sip of wine—the first in years. At least since Benjamin the banker thought two glasses of it would allow him to maul me in the theatre. Since then I’ve abstained altogether.
      He’s right. The wine is excellent.
     “So, I was thinking, would you like to be in the Christmas parade with me on Saturday?”
     I almost choke.
     “The Christmas parade?”
     “Yes.” His eyes twinkle.
     “What will you be doing in the parade?” I imagine his truck decorated with S & S Realty banners hanging from the sides, with the two of us inside waving.
     “I’ll be Santa.” He leans forward and watches my reaction.
     “I didn’t expect that.” I totally didn’t. I try to imagine him in a Santa Suit.
     “No, I wouldn’t have pegged you for Santa.” In my mind, I’m trying to make the image of a big belly, Santa hair, and the whole white beard thing come together with the man I see across the table.
     “Not jolly enough? Or maybe it’s the hair?” He scrubs his palm over the stubble on his head then rubs his knuckles across his smooth jaw. He casts a sideways glance at me while his face is tilted to the side, as though I am a mirror.
     “Well, it could be that, but I don’t know.” I can’t help but laugh, he looks so endearing. “What part will I play? My mother kept a lot Christmas stuff, but I don’t think I remember her having any elf suits. I just can’t really see myself riding through downtown wearing a tunic and green tights.”
     He chuckles. “Elves always complain about that.”
     “You have a lot of elf friends?”
     “Don’t you?”
     I take another sip of wine and warmth spreads through my veins, relaxing me all over. “No, just Klaus. He probably wouldn’t mind being an elf. But if you need a reindeer, he’s your guy. I’m telling you that’s one strange dog. Somehow he fits himself through a poodle sized dog door, if you can believe that. I never catch him in action, but I’d love to see it. Maybe he flies too.”
     Reason laughs—a little too loudly. It bursts from his throat and startles the elderly man at the next table. “The dog door, huh? What a clever guy.” He lowers his eyes and leans forward on his elbows.
     Just as I wonder if it’s something I’ve said, he lifts his eyes and resumes his steady gaze. I chalk it up to nothing. For all I know, the server winked at him over my shoulder.
     “Actually, I don’t have a Mrs. Claus.” He has a sheepish look about him now, complete with reddened cheeks. His face intrigues me. The expressiveness in it reminds me of the colors of sunset spreading across the sky.
     “No Mrs. Claus? Well, that’s good news. You’d be in a lot of trouble right now, Mister.” I use my hand to gesture at the interaction between him and me.
     His laughter rumbles like low thunder.
     It lulls me forward and I rest my chin on the heels of my palm, propped on my elbow. In fact, we are sitting in exactly the same position. Out of the corner of my eye, I see our reflections in the window. In profile, we form the shape of a lopsided heart.
     I forget I haven’t answered him, until he says, “I think you’ll be much more comfortable in the Mrs. Claus suit. It’s much warmer, and far less revealing. ”
     “Okay.” How can I turn down being married to Santa, especially this Santa, for a day? “But I have to forewarn you, I’m very shy in front of crowds.”
     “That’s okay. I am too. We’ll be in this together.” He’s like a force of nature—elemental and powerful. He watches me take another few sips of wine. As I set the glass back on the table, our server returns to clear our plates.
     When she’s gone, he leans toward me like he wants to tell me a secret. Instead, he asks, “Do you ice skate?”
     “No, I don’t. Sorry.” I wince as I remember the last time I tried.
     “That bad, huh?”
     “I promise I won’t let you fall.” He still leans forward.
     I look deep in his eyes...and I believe him.

This is what people are saying-

5.0 out of 5 stars Santa Redefined - Beautiful Love Story! October 9, 2013
Amazon reviewer
Format:Kindle Edition
This novel completely caught me off guard. I got swept up right away. The story had something in it for everyone, and the reinvention of Christmas legends was so surprising. I really enjoyed it from start to finish, and I doubt I will ever forget it.

Can't wait for this author's next book!

5.0 out of 5 stars LOVED IT! October 6, 2013
Amazon reviewer
Format:Kindle Edition
A holiday story about a grieving woman, a man with a "gift" and a whole lot of Christmas magic!
I LOVED how the author blended the Santa legend with the more traditional baby Jesus in the manger and put a truly new spin on the whole thing. And the dog pretty much has super powers :-)
There's also a little suspense thrown in, a wedding, elves, mistletoe and a town all about Christmas.

This is your holiday version of a "beach read". Highly enjoyable

5.0 out of 5 stars
Fun, Heartwarming Holiday Romance October 5, 2013
Amazon reviewer
When the hustle and bustle of holidays approach, I want something to read that puts me in the Christmas spirit. This fit the bill. With real heart, humor, and just the right amount of suspense, I found myself wanting to crank the holiday tunes, put up the lights, and make myself a cup of hot cocoa. A very fast read with a satisfying amount of twists and turns--a truly original and enjoyable take on Santa that will put a smile on your face.

Connect with Kristine here:

Amazon author page:

You can purchase the book from Amazon here:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Diane Astle

It would seem winter has settled here already. In my case, a couple of logs on the fire, a steaming cup of organic chai latte and a good book...perfect.  Read on, you might feel the urge to lose yourself in the world Diane has created. 

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

I never expected to be a writer.  In fact, as I left high school I didn’t expect to be much of anything.  I had learning disabilities and failed out of pretty well everything I took in school.  My writing skills were so bad that I was embarrassed to write a letter.  The wounded child within needed a lot of healing for me to believe that I had anything to offer the world. But love heals, and unconditional love is tremendously healing.  The years passed and I graduated with a Masters of Divinity and became a pastor in a church.  A few years in I overdosed on people and needed a break.  The only thing I had the remotest interest in taking at a nearby retreat centre was a course on writing fiction taught by Joanne Gerber, author of “In the Misleading Absence of Light.”  I thought it would be an easy undemanding week; a puff ball course.  It wasn’t.  I had no aspirations to be a writer up to that point.  To this day I believe Joanne was just being kind when she said I could do it if I choose to.  On the way home I had the idea for Ben the Dragonborn and started writing.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

I am still a pastor and for the moment that is my full time work.  I have a lovely congregation that is very supportive and appreciative; however, in the not too distant future I hope to give writing a more central place in my life.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

Ben the Dragonborn is a YA fantasy.  It is your basic unlikely hero story.  Everyone, including Ben
thinks a mistake has been made when he is chosen and called to go forth to help solve a problem on another world. The first person he meets on this world is a mermaid with attitude named Charla, who is not overly fond of humans.
Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

Ben the Dragonborn opens on a mysterious island off Canada’s west coast.  On this island there is a little known school where students from around the world are trained and prepared to go through portals to others worlds.  There are six worlds bound together under the care of one known as the Guardian.  Each world has a school.  The principal of the school is also the Watcher.  He or she has a mystical connection with the Guardian, other Watchers and with their own world.  When their world is in pain the Watcher knows it.  Ben is sent to see Miss Templeton, the Watcher of Earth to talk about his fear of water, and finds himself unexpectedly sent to a world full of water. Chosen and sent by the one known as the Guardian.

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?

I am really not sure.  I’m astounded that I am the writer of this book that makes my heart sing.  It seems incredible that I had the imagination and the ability to do this.  All I can say is that Ben is an unlikely hero, and I have an affinity for unlikely heroes, perhaps because I am one.  I have also always been drawn to dragons.  So it makes sense that dragons, both hero and villain have a central role in my story. 

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

Any story I wrote would be grounded in the values that undergird my faith; however, Ben the Dragonborn could not be described as a Christian book.  It is a value based book with a spiritual thread.  I did not start out to write a book with a message in mind.  Any message people find in it developed as the characters came to life.  The message that I hope people read into it, is the message that we are all more than we think we are.  I would love people to feel inspired to do what they can to make the world a better place for us all.  I would like people to see themselves like Ben, as chosen and called to make a difference in the world.  However, Ben the Dragonborn was first and foremost intended to be a good story, and if that is all it is then I am content.   Of course it will be the readers that will determine whether it is a good story.  The jury is out until people read and review it.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

I had no idea where I was going when I started writing.  I had the basic idea:  A boy who was dragonborn, six worlds, six schools, and a guardian of all.  I started with those basic concepts and started writing. 

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?

The time span in this book is a matter of weeks.  I did a limited amount of research.

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?

I went to the swimming pool and asked about life saving techniques and searched on line for other information.  A catalogue would be too organized for me.  I can see the value, but organizational skills are not my strong point.  Perhaps I will try to have a card catalogue system next time because there were times when I forgot a minor character’s name.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

I have never tried to write a novel before.  I once had a puppet skit published, and a sermon I wrote after the attack on the trade towers was published, and the occasional article for the local newspaper was published.  And of course I write a message for most every Sunday.  There are a lot of creative opportunities in ministry.  Over the years I have written several short skits and dramatic monologues and  always had people willing to act in them.  I have really been blessed.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

I know very little about present day publishing as this is my first book.  All I know is that it is hard to find time to work on the sequel to Ben the Dragonborn with my job, volunteer activities, and remodeling my house.  I also need to make sure I walk the dog every day so his evil twin does not show up.  Now that Ben the Dragonborn is published I am finding other distractions to keep me from writing.  I spend more time online, and I am meeting authors who have written some wonderful books.  I hope to carve out some time for the sequel as I have an idea for a third book. 

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

I read Mark Coker’s book on Marketing and implemented at least two of his suggestions: I made a signature for my email and joined Twitter.  I also made up bookmarks.  Twitter was an excellent idea, which has opened up other possibilities.  My next step is to do a trailer for youtube and put in place some advertising.  I also plan to write something to give to the local newspaper and contact a training centre that has an independent book store.  I also thought I would see if the local used book store would take print copies of my book.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.  Edit, edit, edit.  If you can afford it hire an editor.  I wish I would have.  When you think it is ready, rewrite and edit some more. Make sure it is the very best it can be before you release it.  After editing Ben the Dragonborn a zillion times I still found mistakes short days before it was to be published.  In fact the person who is doing the Youtube trailer for me found a half dozen mistakes.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I am working on a sequel to Ben the Dragonborn.  Ben will need to go to his mother’s home world to learn how to transform safely.  A strange boy named Willie, with a knack for just knowing things without being told will go with Ben.  As will Allison, a girl who makes Ben’s heart go pitter-patter. 

Available at Kobo

Available at Barnes and Noble
Available at Smashwords

Available at Kindle

Ben the Dragonborn is also available on able as an ibook and will be available from Amazon as a print book.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sally Ember and This Changes Everything

Who is Sally Ember ?

Sally Ember, Ed.D., is a published, nonfiction author and produced playwright (children's theatre, Crystal Dreams; Grading System for adults) whose sci-fi romance/speculative fiction, YA, New Adult and adult series, The Spanners, starts with Volume I, The Changes Everything, uploaded in e-book format by Smashwords and for sale December 20, 2013 at ebook retailers worldwide. Volumes II - X are planned. Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is coming out in Spring, 2014, and the others are in various draft stages.

Sally also has short stories and articles published in Out of the Kitchen, a journal available in the 1980s in print format only. She has co-written, edited, and proofread many nonfiction books and worked for a some magazines in the early 2000's.

Sally, what inspired you to start writing?

I've been writing since I was in 2nd grade: stories, songs, articles, plays, in my journal, letters, emails, posts online; nonfiction and fiction. My first story, "Princess Why," was published in the school newspaper and I believed I would be world famous from that. I sat on the couch by our picture window that overlooked our busy street and had a view of the school parking lot day after day for months, reading, looking out the window regularly. I was waiting for the news trucks and reporters to arrive. They never did....
Well, I may become world-famous...just a lot later than that, and not from that!  Help me get world-famous!  That 7-year-old is waiting for her tiara!

What is your favourite book? (aside from one of your own!):

Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land was pivotal in my life as a reader and a writer. Read it when I was 15; re-read a few times since. Not knowing that, one of my reviewers, Alexander Crommich, compared TCE to that and just about made me fall off my chair in delight!

Your favourite genre and why?:

I love well-written, uplifting, inspiring sci fi, sci-fi/romance, and speculative fiction veering into fantasy (but without a lot of techno-speak, gnomes, elves, and dragons and definitely not a lot of battles). I like to visit other worlds, other versions of this world, and other universes that are written so well as to be captivating, seemingly "right here" in my life. Thanks to every author who has that gift, which I strongly aspire to acquire.

Tell us about This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series:

After several millennia of mostly secret visits and contact with Earthers, members of the Many Worlds Collective (MWC) Council decide that a liaison, dubbed the Chief Communicator (CC) must be contacted and that this contact must be made public in order to avert multiple types of disasters on Earth. The visiting members of the MWC come in hologram form to the selected CC (Clara Branon, 58, living in northern California) for the first time on December 21, 2012.
As a “Spanner,” Branon is one of millions of “Baby Boomers” who survive across two centuries and bridge the divide (hence, “Spanners”) between nonpublic and public contact with the MWC and many other major changes that occur during these decades.
This Changes Everything is the first of The Spanners series, which chronicles the public contact between the CC and the MWC and the impact of these contacts on Earthers and the MWC over the over 30 years that Branon is the CC.

Can you share a favourite snippet from your book:

From Chapter One,  This Changes Everything, Volume I,  The Spanners Series,in which Dr. Clara Ackerman Branon, Ph.D., first meets the visitors from the Many World Collective:
my mind is racing through possibilities. They are aliens! I am feeling excited and intensely interested. I assume that if they meant to harm me, Id be harmed, already, so I am rapidly becoming less scared. Brimming with questions and curiosity, I go right over to them.
My upbringing kicks in, maybe because they are around my dining table, and I ask them kind of automatically,"Would you like some tea or something cold to drink? Are you hungry? Then, I laugh, and they make some noises that must be their ways of showing amusement; they arent here; they are holograms. They cant eat or drink anything. Duh.
I sit down in my chair which they seem to know is mine because it isnt blocked or occupied. I look towards them, expectantly, and realize I dont know where to look. Only one of them has anything resembling eyes, and the other four do not even really have anything I would call a face. Still, reflexively, I guess, I keep my focus on their upper bodies uppermost sections and on the zeppelins middle.
I ask, How may I be of service? Why have you come to see me?

Does your book try to convey any message for the reader?

I strongly believe that Earth is in serious trouble, politically, economically, environmentally, socially: in every way. I do wish we could be rescued by stronger, more intelligent, compassionate, capable beings! How would things change if Earthers are certain that we are not "alone"?
Fascinated by physics, multiple timelines/multiverse concepts, alien life and psi phenomena, family relationships, world affairs and the environment, and unrequited/requited love, I have incorporated all of these themes and topics into my sci-fi novels.
I also believe in the inherent intelligence and value of all species, so interspecies communication between equals both on Earth and off-planet becomes central to the Series. 

What inspired you to write this series?
I'm not sure exactly what "inspired" me to write this series. One night in February, 2012, I was awakened by a very clear voice that said: WRITE. I went to the computer, hearing sentences and seeing scenes in my mind. Five hours later, most of the first Chapter, all of the summaries for all the Volumes, and the Chapter outline for Volume I were drafted. I kept going from there and finished the first draft of Volume I, over 80,000 words, in 8 weeks.
I feel very driven. Part of the reason is that I identify a lot with Clara. The line between fiction and nonfiction is very blurred in these Volumes, intentionally, and my life seems that way sometimes as well. I'm curious as to what the readers will decide is "real".

Who are your target readers?
I place these novels in the sci-fi romance/speculative fiction genres, targeting adult, YA and New Adult audiences. Buddhist, physicists, sci-fi/speculative fiction readers, paranormal romance readers, aspiring/actual UFO-logists will all like this series.
The narrative is unique in that it includes history, poetry, literature, music/lyrics, science and technological advances, paranormal skills, law and government, Buddhism and other religions, meditation, social-emotional intelligence, time and space travel, interspecies communication, and social/futuristic depictions of the Earth, post-MWC public contact.

Any tips for aspiring authors?:

I still consider myself an "aspiring author," I suppose! The tips I provide and use myself are usually having to do with the types of perspectives I bring to first drafts vs. subsequent drafts and revision, and each requires a different point of view, in my opinion. 

Being wide open, allowing it all to flow and not self-censoring for first drafts work best for me. Except for typos or wrong words, I just write and do not revise. Then, I usually let is sit for a little while and write other things before returning to it for a first look at the first draft from a revision point of view.

I tend to write backwards a lot, meaning, the best or most importart of a sentence or section, or even the book, are not written first or initially placed at the beginning. I am now in the habit of "flipping" sentence pieces, chapter sections, entire chapters, until I find the right sequence.

My drafts go through many revisions,as I said,but some are very minor. Some are major. At several points, I re-arranged almost all the chapters: working with multiple narrators, timelines and topics allows me to do that. 

Another tip: if you know your grammar, sentence structure and/or spelling are not up to professional standards, you HAVE to get a professional editor. I can't tell you how many uploaded excerpts, even titles and blurbs, I stop reading because of typos, poor grammar and just bad writing, even though I enjoy or think I would like the topic, plot or characters. 
Important: Don't use sexist, racist or outdated language

Upcoming news and plans for the future?

Volume I, The Changes Everything, has been uploaded in e-book format via Smashwords and is available there and on iBooks, nook and Kobo for pre-orders 11/5- 12/19 at half-price ($1.99). Release date at full price ($3.99), to all retailers, is 12/20/13. Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, narrated by young adults and new adults exclusively, is in the final revision stages and set to release Spring, 2014. Volumes III - X are in various draft stages.

I change my books based on readers' suggestions! Also, I would be delighted to visit your Book Club or class if you are using one or more of the books in The Spanners Series. Ask me to co-develop curricula, projects and activities for your group/class members!

I am experimenting with CROWDCREATING sections or entire upcoming Volumes of The Spanners Series. If you'd like to participate, please email and tell me a little about what Volume or portion you'd like to help create! Put "CROWDCREATOR" in the subject line.

I'm being interviewed LIVE on BlogTalkRadio's SciFi station, by Will Wilson, 11 AM EDT, 12/27/13, and available in the archives after that:

Please write a review and give This Changes Everything a rating on SMASHWORDS, iBooks, Kobo, nook, whatever retailer you use for ebooks, as well as many other sites that bring readers to this book:,

Many thanks to Sally for sharing with us. For more info on Sally and her writing, check out the links below.