Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Monday, December 5, 2011

Guest Post: A Daring New Christmas Book by Rick Daley

It's a Christmas Themed week! And there are lots of cool things ahead.

Last Friday, I kicked off the Holiday Theme by throwing a giveaway for anyone that posts a picture of Open Minds on my FB page (open until 12/20, so check it out). Today, I'm over on Goodreads doing an author Q&A about my books, writing, and publishing. Stop by and post a question!

But for the main event today, I have a guest post from middle grade author Rick Daley. You can check out my review of Rick's Christmas book, The Man in the Cinder Clouds, or gaze upon the awesome cover. This is one you'll want to tuck under the Christmas tree, and I'm looking forward to reading it aloud with my kids to usher in the season.

As a writer, I am constantly exploring ideas for stories.  I have a deep file on my computer, along with a stack of post-it notes on my desk, chock full o’ premises. 

The challenge is deciding which one to work on.

Sometimes what seems like a great idea is actually crazy.  Other times, though, what seems like an insane undertaking can turn into something special, if only you choose to take a dare.

I had one of those moments when I decided to re-boot Santa Claus.

Think about it.  There are few characters in modern culture that are more cemented in the public mind than Santa.  Trying to create a new canon…to re-write the history and origins of one of the star players in one of the world’s most beloved holidays…That’s crazy, right?  I mean, there must be a thousand ways to screw that story up.

The idea for The Man in the Cinder Clouds, an origins-of-Santa story revealed through a book found in an arctic ice core, had been simmering on a back-burner in my mind for years.  I always knew I would at least try to write the story someday, but was hesitant to start.  Could it really work, or would it be a monumental waste of time?

In a twist of fate, I lost my job last year and ended up with an unexpected chunk of free time.  So I got to work and cranked out the first draft.  By the time I finished my feelings had changed.  I was no longer afraid.  I was elated!  The story was different that I thought it would be; it turns out The Muse had stepped in and guided my thoughts in a new direction. 

The basic elements of the plot were the same, but the tone shifted from farcical to realistic.  Humor was still there, but now it was balanced with suspense and action.  The characters came to life, and not one or two, but three stories grew together, weaving around each other into one solid tale.

I sent the story out for critiques.  It had its flaws, and the feedback definitely revealed them, but the feedback also told me something important: the story worked.

After a year of revisions, I published it.  I feel as though The Muse gave me something special, and I am eager to share it with people. 

They say most people who start to write a novel never finish, and most that do finish never complete a second book.  I have written another book (to be published in the Spring), and I have a new work-in-progress, but no matter what levels of success those other endeavors reach (assuming there is a measurable level of success), The Man in the Cinder Clouds will always be a crowning achievement in my writing career.    

I’m glad I took the dare.

[Editorial note: I'm glad Rick took the dare, too. And thanks to Rick for sharing his thoughts today!]

By Rick Daley

A young boy and his scientist father made an incredible discovery at the North Pole—an ancient book embedded deep within an ice core.  Even more incredible is the story the book tells: the long-lost history of Santa Claus you never knew…and will never forget. 

This origins-of-Santa story is a great holiday read for the whole family.  Its mix of action, humor, and Christmas spirit keeps younger readers turning the pages, but The Man in the Cinder Clouds is not just a kids’ book. 

As one reviewer puts it, “THE MAN IN THE CINDER CLOUDS is one of those middle grade books that the grown-ups get sucked into along with their kids. You think you bought if for your young reader but after you browse chapter one you just sort of... can't stop.”

This story-within-a-story reveals the origins of our most familiar Christmas traditions: from Christmas trees, stockings, and lumps of coal to jingle bells, the North Pole, and flying reindeer.  Highly original and thoroughly entertaining, The Man in the Cinder Clouds will show you how Kris Kringle came to be known as Santa Claus.  It wasn’t easy.

About the Author
Rick Daley has been writing professionally for over 15 years.  His experience includes marketing copy for print and web, press releases, business proposals, training and technical manuals, and whitepapers.  His essays, ranging from family life during the holidays to his first skydiving experience, have been featured in The Columbus Dispatch

Rick lives in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife and two sons (and a neurotic schnauzer).      


  1. Thanks for having me again, Sue!

    I just posted a giveaway on Goodreads. You can enter for the chance to win one of 5 copies here:

    The Giveaway should be open later today (still pending approval as I write this) and it will be open until Dec 14th.

  2. I'll be watching for comments, if anyone has questions about the story, fire away!

  3. I remember the last time you reviewed this. I meant to get it then and forgot, so I'm off to get it RIGHT NOW. :-)

  4. Thanks Shannon, I hope you enjoy the story.

    Merry Christmas!!

  5. This is a story I have already and am eager to read with my chipmunk as we near Christmas. Thanks so much for taking a leap and landing on this gem, Rick. Thanks for the spotlight, Susan :-)

  6. Angela- Thanks for your support, I hope you and your chipmunk enjoy the story ;-)

  7. I'm looking forward to reading it to my daughter, jingling all the way.

  8. I read the first 4 chapters to a group of 4th graders today. It held their attention, than I had a blast guiding them through a writing workshop on the elements of storytelling. I want to do this writing thing for a living, it's awesome!