If you’ve been following my blog for long, you’ll know that Cindy (C.L. Schneider) is a dear friend of mine who has been incredibly supportive. Today I have the distinct privilege to offer her my support.
Her Nite Fire series has a new edition, and I get to show you all the cover! I read Flash Point, and you can see my review for that here. As I usually do, I’ll wait for the saga to end before I jump on any other books in that series (unless the audio books come out when I have a credit or two). But I am excited to see where the series goes.
Without further delay, I present to you the cover for Smoke and Mirrors, the third book in the Nite Fire saga.
I love the color of this image. Backs of heads are usually a no-no in the image business, but given the cool dragon in the mirror, it works. The warm of Dahlia’s hair (the fire is so well done) contrasts perfectly with the cooler surrounding colors.
Here’s the cover blurb:
Secrets are a dragon’s best friend. Deception is a close second. Both provide a sturdy armor, allowing half-dragon shapeshifter, Dahlia Nite, to live undetected among the humans. Walking in two worlds, belonging in neither, she wraps herself in a shroud of lies to hide in plain sight. But nothing stays hidden forever.
When dismembered bodies of multiple species are dumped on the riverbank, the case falls to Dahlia and Detective Alex Creed. Backed by Sentinel City’s new task force, the pair find themselves urged along by clues that seem too good to be true. Bouncing from one crime scene to the next, they hunt for a clear motive in a murky sea of conflicting evidence. Already on edge from the recent string of unexplained crimes, the city begins to unravel.
Drowning in missing creatures, slaughtered remains, masked men—and the search for her sidekick’s missing sister—Dahlia burns the candle at both ends. Seeking answers, she employs her empathic abilities, and uncovers something deeper and more sinister than a simple serial killer’s web. As the dots connect, and worlds collide, she struggles to shields her friends from the truth. But secrets can be deadly. And Dahlia’s not the only one who keeps them.
Smoke and Mirrors is scheduled to be released in May of 2019. So if you’re interested, and you want to catch up, you have plenty of time (especially since book one is on Audible).
Cindy truly is an amazing author, and I’d recommend her book to just about any fan of fantasy, but her books are best suited for fans of dark fantasy with some steam (if you catch my meaning). She doesn’t get graphic though.
Please check out her work; you’ll be glad you did.
It’s a new year, and before I kick of my 2018 tour, I wanted to share my top three reads of 2017 with you all. Goodreads says I’ve read 39 books in 2017. I didn’t quite hit my goal of triple last year (that would have been 42), but I’m still pretty happy with the rate at which I’m reading. This list was made without regard to publisher, format, or author.
How I did it: This time, I knew I’d be doing this list, so I kept track of books I liked and mentally compared one to the other. Without further delay, here’s my list.
#3 Flash Point by C.L. Schneider: You can find my review for that book here. I had this book ranked as high as second place for a while. I’m a fan of mystery in fantasy. I’m a huge fan of the Dresden Files, and (as I said in the review), this book did a lot to fill the gap left by no Dresden. This was the first book in a series, so I’m looking forward to more, though I may wait for the series to end, as I like binge reading a series. My heart can only handle so much waiting.
#2 Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson: Before you call me out. Yes, it just so happens that numbers two and three from this year are the same as numbers two and three from last year in terms of the authors. It’s not intentional. I just like who I like. I’m honestly surprised this book didn’t take the top spot, but I have some explanations for that I’m saving for a future blog post. Oathbringer was a fantastic edition to the Stormlight Archive. My review for it is here. This book is packed with fan rewards and easter eggs that have me more excited than ever about the Cosmere.
#1 Betrayer’s Bane by Michael G. Manning: You can find my review for this book here. This book was my first ever Book Cover of the Month winner. It’s currently in the Book Cover of the Year Bracket. I read the book and was simply awestruck. It’s so powerful and tragic. That book caused me to leap at every book Manning wrote. I simply can’t post all the reviews for it. Here’s the review for The Final Redemption, which will have most of the other books linked to it. The rest in the series are good, and I’m enjoying the follow-on books, but this book grabbed me by every emotion I have and didn’t let go.
So that’s my top three. What are yours? Why? Do you have a review you can link it to? I’d love to reblog it for you.
Spoiler Free Summary: Flash Point is the first book in the Nite Fire saga. Dahlia Nite is a half-dragon shifter who patrols Sentinel City for magical creatures who’ve gotten out of line. If they snack on humans, she’s the one who enforces the diet plan. But when the secrets of the past she thought she’d escaped return, she’ll have to protect humanity from the ghost of her own history. NOTE: remember, this book just won the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Silver Medal in the Adult – Fiction – Urban category.
Character: Strong female characters are so rare in fiction these days, but Dahlia delivers. Schneider’s strength is in her character (and world building), so this isn’t surprising. She does have weak moments, and some of them are even traditional problems women are given in fiction, but that is a sub-plot in a complex story, and not the main crux of a plot that most other authors use far too much. Dahlia is strong, smart, resourceful, and proactive which are all things I love in any character. The biggest problem some authors have when they use female characters is they give them nothing but relationship problems. This character is a woman who is a cop. That character is a woman who is a mage. Dahlia is a bad-ass, half-dragon detective who happens to be a woman. This alone would have made this book stand out, but there’s more. I will say that, unlike her Crown of Stonesseries, I didn’t necessarily connect to the other characters the way I did with those in Stones. Then again, I didn’t exactly connect with to many people besides Ian in Magic-Price either. I do expect these other characters to continue to grow on me, but they didn’t quite snag my heart the way Dahlia did.
Exposition: As the first book in a series told from first-person, I expected a bit more exposition than I would have liked. Honestly, I got about as much exposition as I thought, but I didn’t get any more, and what I got all connected to the story. Schneider doesn’t overwhelm the reader with too much foreshadowing. There is more going on. This story hits at that, but what the reader sees is what the reader needs to have a sense to this story.
Worldbuilding: Like I said, this is Schneider’s other strong suite. She does a great job of helping the reader understand the two worlds we see and how they interact. She provides human context (employment, friendship) on Earth and political intrigue in the other world. Even if I hated Dahlia, I’d still probably read book two just to learn more about the other dimensions in her universe.
Dialogue: I’m a bit neutral here. It wasn’t boring or stilted by any means, but it wasn’t overly memorable either. It didn’t have the same punch as her previous work, but holding someone to that high a standard is perhaps unfair. The dialogue is effective, but not crisp.
Description: What helps Schneider here is her use of intense detail in key moments. My imagination does a ton of work for writers, and when someone beats me over the head with detail, it slows me down and frustrates me. Here, Schneider gives general settings, but hones in on the key parts (Dahlia’s shifting and empathy come to mind first).
Overall: CONTENT WARNING: There are some steamer scenes here, though none as visceral as those in Crown of Stones. I still think the Mageborn saga (all eras) is my favorite story of the year so far, but I give Flash Point a solid second best book I’ve read in 2017 so far. I can’t remember the last Dresden Files book (when it came out) I read was, but Dahlia stepped in and filled that void quite nicely. I’m confident fans of that series will enjoy this one.
I was surfing the social media waves today when I noticed a few friends of mine have earned some recognition. I love it when people I respect get some props, so what better way to offer my congratulations than to post a brief announcement for them on my humble little blog?
Without further chatter from me, let’s spread the good news.
Anaerfell by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd: Winner of the contest’s bronze medal in the Young Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category. Just to point out a humble/not humble fact. Every book I’m about to mention was a book I discovered by it’s cover. Anaerfell was put in my February Book Cover of the Month and is still one of the most voted on books in the bracket’s history. Joshua and I became friends during that bracket. To put a final touch on the coincidence, Anaerfell is actually next on my TBR list.
Magic Price by C.L. Schneider: Winner of the contest’s bronze medal in the Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category. A few years back now (has it really been a few years Cindy?), I was surfing the aforementioned social media waves when I saw the gorgeous cover. I sent a message saying as much. We got to talking, and I tried her book out. Here’s the review on THAT particular book. That book’s sequel was actually one of the best books I read in 2016. This book’s magic system is flat-out awesome, and Ian is an amazingly sympathetic character. If you check out the reviews, not the content warnings on this. There’s some steamy stuff in there. As if that wasn’t enough, Cindy plucked another medal from the contest!
Flash Pointby C.L. Schneider: Winner of the contest’s silver medal in the Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Urban category. Flash Point was in my March Book Cover of the Month. I’ve read it. The review is actually scheduled to drop on this blog Wednesday. I didn’t read the book that won this category’s gold medal, but I’d stand behind how well Flash Point did. Flash Point is an urban fantasy with great mystery, action, and dragons. I’ve missed Dresden Files, and Flash Point filled that hole for me. Dahlia is a deeply complex character (a strength of Cindy’s). There are still four months left in the year, but this book is currently on my top three for the year.
These authors are wonderful people, and the books I’ve read are great. I expect Anaerfell to be equally enjoyable. Any time someone I care about gets credit or accomplishes something, I want to leap in the air an pump a fist. This is just blog version of that. If you haven’t tried these books out, add these awards to my firm recommendations.
The dawn of a new month has become a bit of a present for me. It means I get to kick off a new bracket. If you’re curios or new, check out the Book Covers for December,January,and February.
I’m happy to say February was pretty darn successful. It only came a few hundred away from breaking a record! This month has 31 outstanding new covers and Age of Myth has another chance to seize the day! I’ve been tracking this set of books for a while, and I honestly think it’s the strongest so far. Look, I know I might say that every month, but isn’t that the point?
If you know the authors or the artists, please share this and tag them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.
If you are the author, I feel the need to establish a few guidelines. 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you. I want your cover to win because it was the best, not because you had the most stuff to give away. When we get to the Final Four, I have a plan or two myself in that regard. Don’t take this to mean you can’t ask for support.
Even if this becomes nothing more than a popularity contest, that’s fine. Why not celebrate with your following? Why not be proud of the platform you have and the number of people who support you? But my biggest goal is to honestly reward the best cover. It’s about the artists. I see TONS of support for authors, and what I want is an honest way to give cover artists/designers credit. The only way that’s possible is to get as many people to vote as we can. Your fans will (and should) vote for you. Your opponent’s fans will vote for your opponent. But it’s when we get to their friends and their friends of friends that impartial voters can help the separate the field. This will ensure the winning cover was decided by the people.
Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.
A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.
Round 1 will go from today to April 8.
The Sweet 16 will run from then to the 15th.
The Elite 8 will take it from there until the 18th.
The Final 4 runs from the 18th to the 20th.
The Finals will go from the 20th to the 22nd.
I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.
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.