I’m always happy to feature fellow Slush Brain authors, and I’m especially happy with that author is someone whom I consider a mentor and dear friend. Cindy (C.L. Schneider) is currently very busy setting up for the release of Nite Fire, which is her fourth novel and the first in her Flash Point series.
She was not only kind enough to allow me to post her cover on my site (which you’ll see again on my Facebook Page March 12, and in the March Book Cover of the Month Bracket), she was also kind enough to answer a few questions about the book. But first, let’s show you this beautiful cover:
I think this is a pretty dynamic cover. I’ll cover that more on my FB page next month. Right now, it’s all about Cindy and her newest project.
Cindy, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I hope the weekend is going well.
What were you looking for in the cover?
In the Crown of Stones books, each cover was a pivotal moment from that book. This allowed me to see them perfectly in my head before the covers were created. The focus was on bringing a particular scene to life and conveying the overall mood of the story. Each of the Crown designs had this sweeping epic feel, which was perfect for the stories. You never see Ian’s face clearly in any of the three covers. His story was very personal and tragic, and I felt like to dive so deep into his tortured psyche, it would help the readers to envision him however they needed to.
For Flash Point, the first book in my new series, I wanted it to be a little more conceptual, more of a general introduction to the main character and the style of the series, rather than a direct reflection of the actual story. While Dahlia has her own troubles and flaws, she is not quite as psychologically tormented as Ian. Not yet anyway ☺. I can’t make any promises for later! To put it simply, Dahlia’s story may still be a roller coaster, but instead of the ride taking you through so many long dark tunnels in a row, this series offers a bit more light.
I wanted the cover to help establish Nite Fire with its own identity and to help set it apart from my other series. I think it does that. The cover of Flash Point has a definite urban fantasy feel.
You went with the same artist you worked with in Crown. Tell us about him and your process for this cover.
My cover artist is Alan Dingman. We met over ten years ago after our oldest children met at an indoor park. Our kids became instant friends that day, and so did his wife and I. Of course, I was scribbling away on some story in a notebook, but once we started talking, I discovered she was a freelance graphic designer and her husband (Alan) was designing covers for a well-known publisher in NYC. Our conversation turned to books, and that was it. We’ve all been friends ever since.
Alan is a portrait artist and illustrator whose work history includes St. Martin’s Press, The NY Times, Rolling Stones, Simon & Schuster, as well as privately commissioned portraits and murals. Alan illustrated Stephen King’s 3D pop-up book, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Currently, three of his cover designs for Simon & Schuster authors are on the New York Times paperback bestseller list.
When I decided to self-publish, I looked at the variety of covers available at CreateSpace. There was nothing wrong with them, but none lived up to the image that had lived in my mind for well over a year. As a lifelong reader, I’ve always had a huge thing for cover art, especially when it comes to fantasy. Many times over the years (in many bookstores), I’ve fallen in love with a book on the art alone. Just as often, I’ve made purchases simply on how the cover image makes me feel. It’s a fascination that made the cover of my first published novel even more important to me.
I knew Alan had the talent I was looking for. I approached him with my idea for Magic-Price, and I was thrilled when he took the job. We worked closely together to ensure he understood my vision. He was incredibly patient. I wanted to convey a very specific mood with my main character’s pose, and Alan went above and beyond to get it right. He took the image for Magic-Price (and the subsequent Crown books) right out of my head, recreated it beyond anything I expected, and then added his own flair.
For Flash Point, I gave him my ideas, including a detailed description of my main character. We had some discussions, and I provided him with photo images for reference, and then he ran with it. After he had the initial design down, we went back and forth on the details. This time, the focus was my main character. He had creative license for a good deal of it, but I wanted certain parts of her depiction to be as close as I pictured her as possible.
Tell us a bit about the new book?
Flash Point is the first book in an urban fantasy series featuring shapeshifting creature-hunter, Dahlia Nite. The series will be set mainly in the fictitious Sentinel City, a supernaturally-plagued urban sprawl. Readers will also travel with Dahlia to parallel worlds, including her own home world of Drimera. Nite Fire is based on the premise that many of our myths and legends are actually tales spun with the purpose of concealing the truth from humanity: that these creatures actually exist and ours is not the only world.
The decision to hide the truth was made long ago by the dragons who rule Dahlia’s world. Humans are not the only ones kept ignorant. Any species that could threaten the health and future of Drimera are kept in the dark. The dragons regulate much of the travel between world by way of an organization called the Guild and the use of dragon-hybrid shapeshifters called lyrriken. Dahlia is a lyrriken, which is the product of a human female and a male dragon in human form. She has some of her dragon father’s abilities, but her human half keeps her from shifting into a full dragon. Dahlia was a decorated and respected executioner for the dragon-queen, Naalish. She was formidable, driven, and fierce. Then one night, one mistake, and Naalish condemned her. To survive, Dahlia fled her world for the only other one she had a hope of blending in: ours.
Flash Point is set many years after Dahlia left her world. She has spent her time among humans hiding and hunting; traveling the country to track down the creatures that sneak in illegally and wreak havoc in the human realm. Though she is considered a traitor on her world, she disposes of these threats and conceals the crimes, continuing to keep the secret and maintain the legends. Advancements in human science and technology have made her job increasingly difficult. Failing, however, would risk invasions no one could afford or likely even survive. But when Dahlia is called in to investigate a brutal (and unexplainable) triple murder in Sentinel City, covering up the crime soon becomes the least of her worries.
Well I’m hooked! Where did the idea for this new book come from?
I’ve been intrigued by anything supernatural for as long as I can remember. I’m a huge fangirl of pretty much any show that deals with fantasy, scifi, and everything in between. The X-Files, Supernatural, Green Arrow, Lost Girl, Grimm, The Walking Dead, Buffy, Haven, Stargate, Sleepy Hollow, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Killjoys—the list goes on. So yes, my DVR is very full and Netflix is one of my best friends! I’m a very character-driven person. If I connect with a character, I can forgive a lot on the plot or production values. As a rule, I don’t enjoy reality shows. I want to be swept away and can easily suspend disbelief if I can latch onto at least one character. But if I don’t care who lives or dies, it doesn’t matter how kick-ass the hero or heroine is, or how cool the premise, I stop watching.
Another long-time interest of mine is myths and urban legends. I’ve always wanted to write a story revolving around one. While one specific urban legend isn’t at the heart of it, The Nite Fire Series was inspired by my interest in those legends, and my fandom for some of my favorite shows. Like episodes of a TV show, each book will take place over a short period of time, approximately 2-4 weeks. Each one will feature a current threat to the city and her citizens, as the underlying mythology and mystery surrounding Dahlia, the dragons, and the parallel worlds, unfolds throughout.
Is this the beginning of a series? If so, how many books?
Flash Point is the first book in the series. Right now, I’m not entirely sure how many books it will be. I have ideas for four or five, but it will depend on how quickly I decide to bring things to a head. If the overall plot wraps up naturally in four books or eight, I’m fine either way. Though there are plenty of creatures out there to work with, I won’t stretch out the series just for the sake of it, or the overall storyline will suffer.
In conversations with you, you’ve been quite open about how different this book is from Crown. What made you decide to go in such a different direction?
I loved writing Crown of Stones, but I spent years in that world and in Ian’s head. I needed to remember what it was like to do something else. Crown is also a complex and emotionally heavy story. I enjoyed every minute of it and couldn’t be more proud of how it turned out and the impression Ian’s tale has left on many of my readers. But when the trilogy was done, I was ready for something new. That’s not to say Nite Fire isn’t dark and graphic, and it will become more complex as the series progresses. It just has an entertaining atmosphere, sprinkled with pop culture references and some amusing characters that help make it a less emotionally taxing read. I also think the fast-paced, nature and short time frame of the Flash Point allows the reader to discover who Dahlia differently than Ian. You will definitely get a good idea right away, but some of her complexities and her past might not necessarily be known as immediately or deeply.
Simply put: Crown of Stones drops you unapologetically into Ian’s tragic existence and instantly starts putting your emotions through the ringer. That was the point. But sometimes you want a different ride.
In this book, we meet a new character. What do you think fans will love most about her?
Dahlia is resilient. She’s strong. She is confident and snarky at times, yet like all of us, she has her hidden vulnerabilities. She’s survived in the human world for so many years by lying and manipulating. She’s lived on the road, with one fake job and fake identity after the next. Now, she wants all that to be over. Even if deep down, she knows she can’t come clean, Dahlia wants nothing more than to be herself, to live her life without judgement. To be accepted. I think that’s something a lot of us want.
Dahlia is a bad-ass, shapeshifting creature-hunter, yet she still has her insecurities. She wants friends and stability. She questions her faith and her future, as she tries to find her place in a world where she doesn’t belong. Dahlia also has her own clear sense of right and wrong. She works to uphold a greater good. It may not be the one everyone else agrees with, but it’s the ‘good’ she’s chosen to protect. In a bad situation, even knowing the consequences and her odds of succeeding, she still has hope. It’s a human trait that challenges the austere, pragmatic way in which the Guild raised her.
What about this project do you find the most motivating?
Starting a new series can be nerve-racking, but it’s also a lot of fun. There are so many unexplored possibilities, new characters, and plot-lines just waiting to be tackled. And the material for Nite Fire is something I’ve always wanted to work with. I love the obscure myths and urban legends. I find myself doing more research than I actually need to!
Now for the important part. When does the book launch?
The paperback will be available for purchase the last week of February. (NOTE: The Paperback JUST went live! Order your copy here!) Shortly after, I will set up the ebook for a discounted preorder. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter and/or keep an eye on my website for details.
Are there any online events or conventions (real life) where someone might have a chance to meet you and steal an autograph?
I have two in-person events scheduled so far this spring. One is on March 11 -12 at the Big Apple Con, located at the Penn Plaza Pavilion in NYC. The other is May 6-7 at the Hudson Valley Comic Con in Poughkeepsie, NY. I hope to be scheduling more soon. I don’t have a date for it yet, but at some point in March I will be having an online Facebook event to celebrate the release of the Kindle version of Flash Point. I will also be online at the Brain to Books Cyber Convention in April. You can find information on that event, and any of my other online and in-person appearances, on the News & Events page on my website, subscribe to my newsletter, or follow me on social media.
Signed copies of my books are also available directly through me (via email or the contact form on my website) for anyone who cannot attend one my in-person events.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I hope anyone who decides to pick up Flash Point enjoys reading it as much as I did writing it. My plan is to have book 2 out in the fall, so hopefully you won’t have long to wait to continue Dahlia’s story.
Thank you for stopping by, Cindy! I’m glad you had the time, and I look forward to snagging my copy of Flash Point.
I’d like to thank my readers for joining me. I hope you decide to give Crown of Stones a try, and, when it comes out, Flash Point.
Thanks for reading